We just finished our first workshop in my fiction class and now my students and I are talking about revision and what students should consider, if and when they choose to submit writing to literary magazines. I want to make clear to my students that publication isn’t what they should be thinking about right now but I still want them to start to understand what it means to submit work, receive editorial feedback and face rejection or acceptance. Most of the students are, understandably, intimidated by the submission process and what it means to put their work out into the world. Hell, I’m still intimidated by the submission process. For newer writers, it is hard to grasp what editors really want. It’s hard to break yourself of the mindset that you need to worry about what editors want. I went over some of the basic etiquette of submitting–address the proper editors, spell their names correctly, don’t explain your story, don’t ramble, proofread your work, read it aloud, proofread it again, research the magazines where you’re sending your work, read the magazines where you’re sending your work, and more than anything, make sure you’re submitting writing that matters.
When I first started submitting work, there was a ritual to it. I’d print a story out on my dot matrix printer and tear off the perforated edges dotted with tiny holes. I’d consult my Writer’s Market, write a cover letter, address a return envelope affixed with enough postage for a response and send off a story I now know had no shot in hell of ever being published by the likes of those glittery magazines I foolishly hoped would love my work. I am not nostalgic for that time. It was pretty terrible. I did learn, though, that becoming a published writer required patience and effort and sometimes that effort was secretarial.