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428Latinidad 6/13: 10th Anniversary - The Submission Process

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  • Marcela Landres
    Jun 4 3:20 PM
      Latinidad 6/13: 10th Anniversary – The Submission Process

      1. Saludos
      2. Q&A: Jotham Burrello
      3. Resources: Grants for Writers with Kids
      1. Saludos

      In continuation of my celebration of Latinidad's tenth anniversary, I am
      culling the best advice and advisors from back issues to help you get
      published. Previously, I've discussed managing money and time, writing
      classes, critique groups, and the revision process. This month's focus is
      on the submission process.

      A wise woman once said, "If you want a job, you have to already have
      done that job." If you want to land an entry-level job as an editor, for
      example, it helps to have an editorial internship on your resume. Likewise,
      before you can be published you need to have been published. In other
      words, it can be easier to publish a book if you have previously published
      some poems/short stories/essays in literary journals or articles in
      mainstream magazines.

      Use your writing classes and writing critique group to produce and polish
      your poems/short stories/essays or articles. (This month we'll discuss
      literary journals. Next month we'll discuss mainstream magazines.) Once
      you have several pieces that are submission-ready, find the right home
      for your work by watching the DVD "Submit: The Unofficial All-Genre
      Multimedia Guide to Submitting". To learn more, read this month's Q&A
      with Jotham Burrello, producer of the DVD "Submit".

      Helping Latinos get published,
      Marcela Landres

      To read past issues of Latinidad®, visit http://groups.yahoo.com/group/marcelalandres/
      2. Q&A

      Jotham Burrello is a creative writing instructor at Columbia College
      Chicago, where he directs the Publishing Lab, a resource for emerging
      writers, and the Review Lab, an online forum dedicated to keeping the
      art of the book review alive and thriving. In 2010, he launched ERP's
      publishing imprint Elephant Rock Books. Jotham's writing has appeared
      in literary journals and the Christian Science Monitor. He is the former
      editor of Sport Literate, a journal of creative nonfiction. He recently
      completed his novel, Fall River. For more information, visit

      Q: Can you briefly comment on the current state of the short story
      market place?

      A: It is a buyer's market, or rather, an editor's market.
      Thousands upon thousands of folks are writing and submitting short
      fiction and editors have the pick of the litter. Many literary
      journals have closed submissions because they have a backlog of
      stories. Thankfully, there are hundreds of markets for short prose
      (and more pop up daily). In terms of a writer making a career from
      writing short fiction, those days are long gone. The decrease in
      glossy general interest magazines publishing short prose means the
      lion's share of work published is by small literary journals, online
      magazines, and high circulation genre magazines like Ellery Queen and

      Given this publishing reality, one problem I see is that
      writers are not supporting magazines. One lit journal editor put it
      bluntly: "How can writers expect me to publish their stories if they
      don't buy my magazine?" Editors I speak with say submissions are
      increasing but their sales don't budge. While you can't be expected
      to be familiar with every magazine out there, you should be familiar
      with a handful to which you might submit. By buying a magazine you
      are entering into a larger writing community and developing your
      understanding of the craft. And you might be able to write off the
      cost of the magazine at the end of the year. Support the magazines
      that might launch your career.

      Q: There are numerous books on submitting work as well as directories
      of markets available--why are they not enough, and how does "Submit"
      complement them?

      A: I've come to believe that the market listings out there
      complement the DVD and not the other way around. For years I watched
      my students waste valuable writing time fretting over cover letters,
      time they should have put into their stories. Plus, emerging writers
      have no sense of the hierarchy of magazines. Many believe, through
      no fault of their own, that the eight or nine magazine at Barnes &
      Noble are the only ones accepting short fiction. So they send
      stories off to Glimmer Train or The New Yorker and get rejected. In
      fact, there are hundreds of markets. The DVDs spell out markets and
      the steps necessary to increase every writer's chance of success.
      There's a lot of video on those two DVDs—over two hours plus a 191-
      page book of stories and the market listings.

      Too much of what's out there presents the material at face
      value (most listings come verbatim from questionnaires). I only
      include directories and websites that I've used or my student brag
      about. We don't give you a phone book to sift through. (Have you
      seen how many pages are in those books?) Plus, on our webpage
      writers are getting current data. The market sheets listed online
      were generated by students at Columbia College in Chicago and
      represent an emerging writer's perspective on potential markets.
      They're reviewing the markets and rating them. The directories don't
      do that. We just redesigned the website to make the market data
      easier to find.

      As for the books on the submission process, none give you an
      editor's perspective. On the DVD you can see and hear editors
      discussing how they read, what they look for, how to deal with
      rejection, etc. It's very personable. And around all the concrete
      advice on cover letters, writers gain solid insight on good prose
      that they can apply to their stories.

      Q: What are the three most common mistakes writers make when submitting
      their work?

      A: Writer Bill Roorbach wrote an article for Poets & Writers
      titled, "The Secret to Getting Published, Long Withheld, is
      Revealed." You know what it was? Write something good. After
      revealing the secret, Roorbach proceeds to discuss manageable topics
      like cover letters and choosing markets. Like Roorbach, I won't take
      on the issue of craft or taste directly. (Though we do on the DVD.
      Atlantic Monthly editor C. Michael Curtis says he likes dynamic vs.
      static stories.) That said, my list of common mistakes will focus on
      how you can get yourself serious consideration, or as I tell my
      students, "a fair read."

      1. Be familiar with the magazine you are submitting to, and be
      familiar with contemporary short fiction. This is the editor's
      mantra. You can save editors and yourself time by matching your
      sensibility to a magazine's. Read a few stories in a magazine and
      ask yourself: what are the themes addressed? Is the work
      plainspoken, or poetic, or experimental? Do they publish genre work?
      You're not trying to match plots but discover an editor's taste as
      much as that is possible.

      2. Cover letters is a broad topic we address on the DVD but one
      pet peeve of editors is plot summary. Assume the editor will figure
      out what your story is about by reading it. You can argue that petty
      cover letter infractions don't change the strength of your story but
      what they do is tip off the editor that the submitter is not
      practiced in the craft, and this may bias their reading, or simply
      get the story returned unread. And you want nothing to get between
      your story and the editor.

      3. Be patient. Don't rush stories into the mail too fast. Allow
      stories to germinate. Ask writers and readers who care about you as
      a writer to read drafts. A fresh perspective on that scene with the
      prom queen and her date parked beneath the neon sign of the cheap
      motel may open creative doors. Editor Dinty Moore of Brevity
      magazine says on the DVD, "Even if you're sure the piece is
      wonderful, wait a few days to make sure you're really sure. If it's
      really, really good polish it even more because this could be the
      piece that makes a career."

      Q: In a nutshell, what do editors want?

      A: I asked editors the same question on the DVD; as I listened to
      their general answers I did glean some insight into good writing:
      A good hook. This is rather obvious. At an editor's panel at my
      college a novice editor at a nascent magazine commented if she's not
      hooked by page one, she puts the manuscript aside. I've heard this
      before (though perhaps not from such a young editor). Think about
      how high you set the bar for the entertainment you view/read; if
      it's not gripping you turn the channel or shut the book. Many
      contemporary short stories start in the middle of the action. The
      prose is tight and vivid. The other day I read the opening of Peter
      Carey's new novel, Theft: A Love Story in the bookstore. In the
      first two paragraphs of the book he summarizes his hero's hectic
      life history and establishes his conflict. I wanted to keep reading.
      What I took away is that sometimes you need to spell it out for a
      reader. Exposition as well as scene is necessary in good stories.
      Ask yourself, where does my story really start? What does the reader
      really have to know? What is implied?

      Well-plotted stories. Works that explore the minutia of place
      or contain five characters but no dialogue, or take three pages
      explaining the Vietnam conflict rarely get published. Short stories
      usually involve one to three characters that change or come to some
      sort of realization. Ask yourself, who is my protagonist? What is
      the change?

      Don't write quirk for quirk's sake. Editors have read every
      theme known to man. They want a fresh perspective, an engaging
      voice, and concrete specific detail. For example, the cancer story
      is a tired theme. You won't catch an editor's attention just because
      your cancer story involved a circus elephant and acrobats. Ask
      yourself tough questions about the subtext, pathos, etc. of your
      story. I once heard a writer say, "plot is character". This angle
      took a while to sink in but once it did I wrote with more
      confidence. Everything is seen though characters, interpreted though
      characters and spoken through characters.

      Lastly, for those creative nonfiction writers out there:
      editors tell me they want more researched nonfiction. They read too
      much personal memoir that relies too heavily on the writer's memory,
      and only the writer's memory. Writers need to be inquisitive in
      narrative nonfiction and see where the truth leads them. It can make
      for a more compelling telling.

      Q: Rejection is as second nature to artists as breathing. But how can
      emerging writers learn from rejection?

      A: Understand that an editor is critiquing just one piece of
      literature and not you as a writer. Once you receive a rejection you
      should get the story out to another magazine ASAP. I don't like to
      second-guess stories early in a submission period but after, say,
      five to seven rejections from magazines that match the writer's
      experience, the writer needs to revisit the work. Endings are my
      Achilles Heel. Of course double check that the magazines accept the
      type of work you are sending. But most likely there is a weakness in
      the writing. And to help with that buy our other DVD "So, Is It
      Done? Navigating the Revision Process".

      Buy the DVD: Visit http://www.erpmedia.net/

      3. Resources

      "I read How Editors Think in one sitting and was engaged from beginning to
      end. It is well written, highly informative, and humorous—I found myself
      laughing out-loud in a few spots! Thanks for sharing the secrets of the trade."
      —Mayra Lazara Dole, author of Down to the Bone

      Inspired by my experience as a former Simon & Schuster editor, How Editors
      Think: The Real Reason They Rejected You reveals what it really takes to get
      published. For more information, visit:
      Submission Period: June 1 – January 15
      Ploughshares welcomes unsolicited submissions of fiction, poetry, and a
      limited amount of nonfiction. Over the years, guest editors of Ploughshares
      have included Derek Walcott, Sherman Alexie, and Yusef Komunyakaa.
      Translations are welcome if permission has been granted. For more
      information, visit http://www.pshares.org/
      Dates: June 22
      The Teen Writers Conference is an event put together each year by Teen
      Writers Inc., a non-profit company whose mission is to encourage teens
      to learn the craft of great writing and better utilize the unique
      opportunities they have available to them at this time in their life. For
      more information, visit http://www.teenwritersconference.org/
      Deadline: August 1
      Fairy Tale Review is an annual literary journal dedicated to publishing
      new fairy-tale fiction, nonfiction, and poetry. They seek work for their
      upcoming Emerald issue that imaginatively explores Oz ephemera, from
      creative retellings of the Oz tales (the literary series or the classic film)
      to work inspired by the Wizard's Oz and Dorothy's Kansas. For more
      information, visit http://digitalcommons.wayne.edu/fairytalereview/
      Deadline: August 12
      The Emerging Voices Fellowship aims to provide writers who lack access
      with the tools they need to launch a successful writing career. The
      Fellowship includes a $1000 stipend and one-on-one mentorship with
      a professional writer. Past mentors include Sherman Alexie, Marisela
      Norte, and Aimee Bender. For more information, visit http://penusa.org/programs/emerging-voices
      Deadline: August 31
      The Sustainable Arts Foundation provides financial awards to writers
      with children under the age of 18. The grant can be used to pay for
      childcare, workspace, new equipment, research, travel, etc. For more
      information, visit http://www.sustainableartsfoundation.org/
      Submission Period: September 1 – May 31
      One Story publishes one great short story every three weeks. Writers
      whose stories are published are paid $250. They welcome translations.
      For more information, visit http://www.one-story.com/
      Submission Period: September 4 – May 31
      Tin House offers an artful and irreverent array of fiction, nonfiction,
      poetry, and interviews as well as columns on food and drink, out-of-print
      and underappreciated books, and a literary crossword puzzle. Every
      issue includes the work of an undiscovered fiction writer and poet. For
      more information, visit http://www.tinhouse.com/
      Submission Period: September 15 – April 15
      A Public Space is a literary forum for ideas and stories about things that
      confront us, amuse us, confound us, and intrigue us. They welcome
      unsolicited submissions. For more information, visit
      Michigan Quarterly Review is an eclectic interdisciplinary journal of arts
      and culture that seeks to combine the best of poetry, fiction, and
      creative nonfiction with outstanding critical essays on literary, cultural,
      social, and political matters. They try to include at least one story,
      essay, or poem by a previously unpublished writer in every issue. For
      more information, visit http://www.michiganquarterlyreview.com/
      Apex Magazine is an online prose and poetry magazine of science fiction,
      fantasy, horror, and mash-ups of all three. They seek multicultural
      approaches to storytelling, experimental contemporary fantasy, dark
      near-future spec fic that isn't dystopian, and atmospheric horror. For
      more information, visit http://www.apex-magazine.com/
      Please forward Latinidad® widely.
      For more resources, visit http://www.marcelalandres.com/resources.html
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      Visit http://groups.yahoo.com/group/marcelalandres/

      "When Fortune comes, seize her in front with a sure hand,
      because behind she is bald."—Leonardo da Vinci

      Latinidad® © 2003 by Marcela Landres

      Marcela Landres
      Author of the e-book "How Editors Think: The Real Reason They Rejected You"