An aside about publishing
One of the hardest parts of being a writer is finding an audience. You want to feel that your work is being heard, that you have found readers who value and appreciate the words you have put down on paper or typed onto the computer screen. Writing is a solitary task, yes, which can feel rewarding in itself. But it can also feel more complete when your writing has connected with someone who enjoyed reading it. That is one of the lovely things about blogs! The blogging community, especially here at WordPress.com, is welcoming and universally encouraging. We read each other’s work and share our own thoughts and observations, and it is particularly joyful when someone tells you your writing made a difference in their life or in their thinking. THANK YOU to everyone who has read my work and encouraged me over the past few years here on WordPress.com. And I am glad I’ve been able to return the favor – I have been touched, delighted, and changed by reading your work over the years.
Beyond blogging, however, I decided last year for the first time in NNN years (hah!) to try to submit my work to publication markets. It’s something you’re “supposed” to do, send your work out, get it rejected, send it out again, get rejected again, etc., etc.. The world is full of stories of repeatedly rejected works that “finally” found a publisher (e.g., Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, The Catcher in the Rye, and others). Still, even though the mythology is that you have to take rejection without feeling defeated, that you must persevere despite repeated turn-downs, it still feels painful and frustrating to have one of your own stories sent back, returned and rejected. “I shouldn’t take this personally,” you tell yourself. But, hey, it IS personal, isn’t it? The story is your own creation, something you painstakingly edited and changed and rewrote to make it the very best you can, and then – WHAM! – “no, thanks”, or even worse, “we can’t take the time to tell you why we’re rejecting it,” or worse yet, S I L E N C E. You bring back your bedraggled, footsore story and put it on the shelf, debating whether you should have the courage to send it out again, or whether you’re just feeling too beat down to try again.
Last year when I started sending out my work again I told myself not to expect success. I was hoping to find some acceptance, but I knew the odds were against it. The short story market is hugely competitive these days, with everyone having a computer and an idea and a conviction that their story is the perfect one to be published. And likely most of these stories have merit, but the numbers of journal subscribers and the numbers of writer-submitters don’t quite balance each other . . . and so, it’s increasingly harder to place a story in this shrinking short-story market.
So, I was fortunate last April to receive a story acceptance in email, and not only that, but that the publisher said, “I’ve never read a story like this before.” And not only that again, but it was a paying market. Those are rare. So I persevered; I made 44 submissions last year, to 20 publications, of 19 different stories. A couple of stories I have retired, several have been significantly rewritten and still they continue to be rejected. I always ask myself, “Do I still like this story, do I still believe in it?” And if so, I continue to keep the story active and search for a match in a publication market.
Is it worth it? I’m not sure I could say one way or the other; it’s a personal decision for each writer. It depends on how you feel in the face of rejection, and to be very honest, if rejection from publications makes you consider STOPPING writing, then I’d say, no, it isn’t worth the price. I like to think of Emily Dickinson, who only published a handful of her poems during her lifetime. Yet today she is one of our most revered poetic voices. The important thing, I’m convinced, is to build a body of work. Keep writing, keep creating, keep finding your own voice. The external approbation isn’t going to come easily (in the usual case), but a lack of publication recognition does not say one thing about the quality of your work. You are the only person who can determine whether your stories or your writing is valuable, whether it is worth continuing. That said, the positive response of fellow bloggers and writers has made a huge difference in my acceptance of myself as a writer. Again, thank you!
I think you’ll enjoy these two “microfiction” (fewer than 500 words long) stories that appeared in publication late last month, about monsters who live in graffiti walls. I hope you’ll see the whimsy that I was striving for!
“soul mate, soul meet”
Inspired by the Flickr Creative Commons image here, I wrote this little microfiction story (220 words!) last year. I loved it, but it got turned down by a lot of publishers. Until I sent it to Charles Christian of the UK’s Grievous Angel last fall. He loved it too!
You meet the monster who lives in the graffiti wall on a Thursday evening, just when you were planning to go slalom skating on the pier with the group from work. . . .
This little story was near and dear to my heart, and I’m delighted that Charles liked it too. Link to the publication of both stories here.
“they are in search of a lonelier planet …”
After writing the story about the blue monster above, I wrote a little companion piece about monsters hanging out in a different place, the graffiti wall near the shopping mall. Here’s the opening:
The homeless who are monsters hang out in the graffiti wall by the mall. There is plenty of scrap food for them to munch on. The street musicians like to set up in front of the wall and play for tips from passing shoppers. Monsters in the wall sometimes hum along.. . .
Thanks for visiting! Do you have any thoughts about writing or about submitting and publication? Have a wonderful week!