May 5th, 2014 / 6:29 pm
Behind the Scenes


There was a year during which I essentially told my brain that the way to become a writer was to get published by McSweeney’s Internet Tendency. During that year I wrote a loooooootttt of things that are totally unusable for any other place and which were trying to get the right tone for that site. In retrospect, I fully blame the editor for always sending me back kind and personalized rejections which encouraged me—or at least I thought they did—to try again. Eventually, I stopped writing Open Letters, Monologues and Lists, but I think I owe my decision to try writing more to that editor and his charming rejections.

So, there’s this other site, TOTES V HIGHBROW I tried next. It’s called Thought Catalog, perhaps you have heard of it? Well, that was the home of my first published submissions. In my defense, it was a different time and the “content” was a percentage of what it is now, in terms of volume. Additionally, “content” was then equivalent to the URL versions of articles one might have seen offline. TC—which in my head translates to Triple Canopy, but LOL not in this case—was responsive and published some shit I wrote.

In the meantime, a friend of mine from college I had a huge crush on, who was an editor for the URL companion of BOMB, saw the aforementioned shit and asked me to write “party stuff,” because I was going through my cokehead phase. So, I did that! It was fun. It was good.

From that, I slowly moved on to more extensive—and perhaps too long for most online readers—essays, the first of which were produced for Berfrois, which I still write for. I like that site a lot, check it out if you don’t know it, there’s lots of solid writing there.

From that point on the way I was submitting things becomes a little blurry in my head. I am not sure who I pitched, who came to me and who I had a very bitter email exchange with, but here are some of the places that were extremely very responsive or total douchebags, according to my utterly subjective memory and personal experience:

HTMLGIANT: omg, totally supa-responsive, and kind and helpful, and eventually even a home of sorts for a bunch of thing I wrote during my transitional period from “party” writer to “not-so-many-parties” writer. Though I do recall sending a lot of annoying emails to Blake at one point, but it’s okay. I think he forgave me. (IF NOT: SORRY BLAKE!)

LRB Blog: tried once, ignored completely. Will live with it.

The Awl: totally unpredictable, fickle and worth it as a submission process. You just never know what to expect! A hilar response dictating you to “go ham” on a pitch or zero words, silence and I guess the chance to pitch something different once enough time has passed to not become annoying? Anyway, a very unconditional process.

n+1: two attempts to pitch essays that—to my biased eyes—seemed a good fit. totes ignored, decided “long hurr he don’t curr,” because to be honest I personally don’t dig the mega-vitriolic sad cynicism that is the tone.

V Magazine: some issues here and there, especially when my subject/ content wasn’t all “WOOHOO I LOVED THAT EXHIBIT” but overall pleasantish experience. Never ignored pitches/ ideas, so that is a plus in my book.

DIS: one email sent for that PRETEEN interview that eventually was my first HTMLG piece ignored. Whatevs. Still really like the things they publish, usually very interesting ideas.

Fullstop: I think they received my most unkind emails sometimes for time related-shit, but overall the editorial work is taken very seriously and I am very happy with everything I wrote for them. Cool people too, I think, but DUH! I only know them online.

3AM Magazine: Sent a couple of emails for various stuff I never heard back on. Then I tried again for a crazy essay I wrote on Zweig, and heard back immediately. Things moved quickly and smoothly, good edits. Should send something their way again, pretty happy with that experience.

LARB: My worst experience by far in miscommunication with editor for a piece. Lots of frustration experienced, and a kind email at the end saying an essay is intelligent, “but not the right fit for us” does not always suffice after a piece is written following a pitch which kind of set up the content. Should probs try them again, but I am too stubborn and stupid, so I might not. (YES, I am *sure* they’ll be mad upset.)

The Toast: Very excellent experience overall. Communicative editors, who are respectful and kind, choosing good content, original and appreciative of the freelancers’ labor structure.



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  1. Brooks Sterritt

      Time Magazine

  2. Brooks Sterritt

      enjoyed the hell out of this–good, useful (makes me want to pitch things)

  3. shaun gannon

      i am terrified of doing that

  4. Brooks Sterritt

      just go ham on it

  5. A D Jameson

      Try HTMLGIANT again.

  6. Jeremy Hopkins

      LARB have very vague submission policies. Which is cool, I guess it means they deal with each case individually. They say they can’t reply to every rejection, but they don’t say they allow simultaneous submissions. I guess that means they don’t forbid it?

  7. mimi

      i’ve only ever submitted once
      it was to McSweeney’s
      it was A List – LOL
      it was rejected
      i got a Very Nice rejection – from a gal –

      WHO TRY NEXT? ermm,,,,,, McSweeney’s??

  8. Usedtocould

      I’ve never actually followed any simultaneous submissions policy that forbid the practice, and for good reason. On average, I think most of my essays/ fiction go through 20-25 rejections before being picked up, so if I let a market have a piece for even a month without submitting it someplace else, that means it could be two years before it gets published.

      I know it pisses off certain editors, but that’s the game.

  9. Jeremy Hopkins

      [Disqus is being weird, so apologies if this turns out to be the third reply.]
      Unless a journal is severely understaffed, I can’t see why anyone accepting online submissions wouldn’t allow sim-subs when they can be withdrawn in an instant.

  10. elias tezapsidis

      NAHHHH. :)

  11. mimi

      i used to think of McSweeney’s as some kind of ‘gold standard’ (or ‘silver standard’ maybe… Kenyon Review = ‘gold standard’)

      but now i think of McSweeney’s as ‘postively olde skool’ (not a bad thing, particularly…)

      : )