The Writing Life: Top Seven Takeaways from Writing Conferences (Part 3)

Of all of the tips and takealight bulbsways I carry with me from my year of attending writing conferences, this one (#3 on the list, a list which is in no particular order) struck the deepest chord in me. This tasty tidbit was given at almost every conference I attended, but somehow at the most recent it was presented in way that caused not just one but several light bulbs to brighten over my previously dim head. Here it is in a nutshell:

Keep submitting.

Yes, that’s it. Deceptively simple. Two little words that appear, at first glance, quite obvious. We’ve all heard the story about one famous author or another whose bestselling blockbuster was rejected umpteenth times before finally sticking.

But what about the rest of us lowly humans? Those of us who are maybe submitting a poem or work of flash fiction? Those of us with a manuscript that probably won’t yield millions upon millions of sales (but is still a darn good book)?

Keep submitting.

image manAt the last conference I attended in 2015, I spent one of my precious time slots listening to a panel of writers and editors talk about submissions. And I’m glad I did because this is where I had my aha moment. One of the panelists, a co-founder of Tin House, explained that some writers do not let rejection stop them from submitting again. These writers do not wait before they submit wholly new pieces or revised pieces. And she explained that these writers tend to be men. Why men? Because they …

Keep submitting. 

In the world of literary journals, women are published less often than men (see e.g., VIDA). The panelists at the writing conference I attended seemed to think this is at least partially due to the way women submit. Or rather, don’t submit. According to the panelists (and several articles, such as this one, which I read after I got home), women are less likely to resubmit to the same journal even when encouraged to do so by the editors. Men, on the other hand, do. They …

Keep submitting. 

That being said, I’m fairly certain (okay, I’malpha wolf actually certain) that not all women fall into the “shrinking violet” category. And not all men are the fearless alpha males of submitting. I don’t think it matters. I think what matters is the takeaway – submit like you are the alpha. Don’t take rejection personally (though do take feedback into consideration). Don’t wait a year or longer to resubmit – editors receive hundreds, even thousands, of submissions so strike while they still remember your name.  If a publication accepts you, don’t worry about letting someone else have a turn – send more or your own work! And above all …

Keep submitting. 

successNot submitting to journals? Trying to get a full-length work published? That’s fine. This advice holds for manuscripts, too. Listening to the panelists, I was embarrassed that it took me this long to truly accept the obviousness of what they were ultimately saying, even if they didn’t say it outright: the decision to accept or reject is subjective. And because we human are imperfect, editors and agents make mistakes. Looking back at some of the famous cases of authors who were rejected again and again only to eventually make it big, we can imagine editors and agents who were/are kicking themselves at the missed opportunity.

The lesson?

Keep submitting.

How about you? Do you have any submitting (and submitting … and resubmitting …) success stories? Have you thought about giving up but decided to stick with it? What inspires you to keep sending your stories and poems in to publishers? I’d love to hear from you!




About Kaecey

Writer, Poet, Teacher, Artist, Freelancer

Posted on January 31, 2016, in The Writing Life and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 11 Comments.

  1. Once again, thank you for doing this series, Kat! I’ve been waiting for them! February 20th is coming up fast, and I’m trying not to panic, haha.

    It’s an excellent point, and so true. Elizabeth Gilbert has quite a bit to say about submitting and continuing to send your work out, in Big Magic; she says that every time you get a rejection, you should reply with another submission. It’s a great way to look at it. I need to do quite a bit more writing before I can be as effective in the keep submitting category, but that soon, will change, along with those rejections!! 😉 Thanks again, Kat!

    Liked by 1 person

    • I love that!!! “Every time you get a rejection, you should reply with another submission.” That book has been on my list since your post – I need to move it to the top, pronto!

      I’m thrilled to be able to write enough to get this posted. I think I’ll be having surgery soon (ahhh!) and keep telling myself that it only means I’ll be able to write more frequently and for longer! … Which means more submitting!

      I’m excited about your upcoming conference – keep us posted!!!

      Liked by 1 person

      • Indeed, it’s certainly stayed with me (obviously), haha. I heartily recommend it! There are a lot of great nuggets like that throughout. Oh my, I can understand your frustration. I wish you a safe and successful surgery and a speedy recovery! Hopefully that will indeed be of help to you in the future, whatever the cost now. Just do your best, right?

        Liked by 1 person

  2. This is a simple but huge piece of advice. I’m fairly new to the writing world, but I have submitted to three (I think) different contests over the past couple of years. None of them placed, but I’m getting ready to submit a different story to one of the previous contests. I tend to have pretty thick skin, so I refuse to allow non-winning stories stop me from submitting over and over again. Thank you for sharing this encouragement!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. The first time I sent a piece out and it was rejected, I was gutted, it nearly stopped me. I thought, why am I doing this to myself, I can’t take this! After a couple of days of wallowing I got back up, brushed myself off and realized I was just going to have to develop a thick skin, and become more like a machine. So now I take a deep breath, hit the send button, and let it go–it doesn’t matter if it gets accepted or not–just hitting the darn button is the important part.
    I am by no means impervious to stressing out whilst the work out, but the important thing like you said is to “keep submitting”. Awesome post Kat, thanks for sharing!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yes, thick skin is essential! And we all know that we only build calluses from practicing something over and over! I think you nailed it when you wrote that hitting the send button is the important part. That is not a quick (or easy) thing to learn and understand, but without accepting this it is a steeper climb to the top.


  4. I must admit that I submit constantly – and I’m a guy – but never have I thought I was alpha. I started submitting because I read somewhere that you need a decent bio for agents to even consider you – and so began my quest to have a bio say more than that I had self-published. I now have a fairly decent bio – so I whole heartedly agree:


    Thanks for the post. Looking forward to the next one.

    Liked by 1 person

    • James, I have definitely heard that, too (about the bio and agents). I don’t recall where, but I know I read it or heard it.

      I love to hear that the “Keep submitting!” mantra has worked for you! I admit that I’ve been lazy in this regard. I could make excuses, but the bottom line is that I need to heed this advice!

      Thanks for the comments!


  5. Your article is very useful. Thanks for sharing the information. I submit because when I want something to be published, I don’t care how many times I have to. Though I have been fortunate that on numerous occasions my articles got accepted the first time. However, for my memoir I keep submitting, irrespective of rejection because I usually don’t get affected by them. Talking of rejections, I have never received feedback or critique of my work. All rejections have a generic answer: it doesn’t match our style or something of the sort.


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