Saturday, December 11, 2010

Submitting Like a Man

57º ~ doom and gloom skies today...working our way up to 62 and stormy weather, all heralding a serious nosedive in temps as a cold front invades

To understand the title of today's post, you'll have to click over and read Kelli's post "Submit Like a Man."  As one of the editors of Crab Creek Review, Kelli discusses the gender difference when her journal sends out a rejection that asks the writer to submit again.  Apparently, male writers submit again right away and female writers wait too long.  While this is purely anecdotal, I'm mesmerized by it.  I confess, I've usually waited at least six months and most often until the next submission period if the journal has one. The world is full of stories about how swamped journal editors are and one wouldn't want to offend by submitting too often, right?   Well, after reading Kelli's post, I've changed my approach this fall.

In October, I resubmitted to a journal that specified they wanted to see more work and I should disregard the submission period.  I haven't heard back from this journal, but I appreciated their pointed comment that left no doubt about how long I should wait.

Today, I've just resubmitted to a journal that rejected me at the end of November.  I know this is a terrible time to submit as most editors and first-readers will be taking a break over the holiday, so my poems will just sit there gathering dust for a few weeks.  For me, however, this is fine.  I'd rather have them out there waiting around a bit because I tend to forget about resubmitting once I've filed the rejection away.  I've tried making notes on post-its or leaving the journal's file folder out on the desk, but the clutter usually wins. 

As I was working, I was also mulling over this word: submission.  Like many words, there are a variety of definitions, of course, but I was caught by the idea of giving up submit to some Other that holds some Power, to be submissive.  (Here, the idea of the Alpha dog kept insisting that I acknowledge it.)  In the act of sending the poems out there, we are also giving the power of judgment to the editor.  This means admitting that we value the judgment of that editor and are willing to lie down and lower our eyes in submission as good members of the pack.  Woof.

I know that this may seem obvious to many of you, Dear Readers, but I'm a slow learner.

In any case, as rejection (or being winnowed out as one blogger (name I can't remember) recently put it) will always be a part of my life as a writer, I'm always searching for better ways to make it work for me rather than against me.  Perhaps recognizing my own part in giving up some of my personal power will help with that.  If not....there's always chocolate!


Kathleen said...

I learned a lot from Kelli's post, too.

Also have been pondering the "submit" and "submission" thing. I know a couple of men who don't put their work out there by way of submitting to the judgments of others. One is a playwright who arranges the situation in advance and provides the play in time to be produced. (Lucky him, to be able to do so! But other playwright do submit their work to contests and theatres.)

Another can't even conceive of the idea of submission. He'll say, "You do a good job of promoting your work," not understanding that you can't promote your work until you have submitted it. If you submit it and it gets published, then you have the task of promoting it. I can't help him with the process if he can't...submit to the reality. It's a dilemma.

Sandy Longhorn said...

Ah, interesting stories of the flip-side. Thanks.

Submit to the reality. Nice.

Nancy Devine said...

yes, the word "submission." am i giving an editor too much authority over my work when i submit it to a magazine? perhaps. but i continue to submit work, because i really like getting published. getting published seems to mean that i'm officially participating in a conversation or conversations about writing. i sometimes wonder if i'd feel differently if i had an mfa. i'm a teacher; i have a degree and certification that says so. but a writer?
maybe what it really boils down to is this: getting published means someone other than my mother and my husband are reading my poems.

Sandy Longhorn said...

I don't know about the mfa, Nancy. I have one and still struggle. You are right about the ongoing conversation. Even with most rejections, someone other than family/friends has read the poems. And this is the merry-go-round that leads to a broader readership. Woo Hoo.

Justin Hamm said...

You know, Sandy, the subtext of "submission" never really ocurred to me that way before. Usually, by the time I send something out, I've had the experience of making and remaking that poem, and the process was its value to me.

Obviously I care about publication or I wouldn't send out work. And it is nice when people like what you do. But I hardly feel like I'm submitting to an editor's opinion as if that is what might validate my experience with the poem or give it worth. Those are internal assessments I've already made. Any "validation" an editor offers through publication is gravy.

Maybe I feel this way because I started writing poetry with no illusions about ever being able to publish it in the first place, and knowing I would write it anyway.

Justin Evans said...

I submit like a woman, only submitting once per reading period, and often not submitting again for years after, even when I get a good note.

My worst case was/is with AQR. I received a hand-written note (in blue ink) from the editor, and not only did I wait years to send to them again, I lost the note.

I think in some ways it's good that I lost the note. I know what it said, but it doesn't weigh me down.

Molly said...

Well, Sandy, if it's any comfort, this post and your last one (about drafty drifting drafts) really encourage me as a Neophyte. If even seasoned writers have difficult drafting days from time to time, and some ambivalence about submissions, then I can see it more as part of the journey, rather than as something to, well, submit to (ok, sorry, just had to). Thanks for being real.

Sandy Longhorn said...

Justin H., thanks for expanding on my post. Like you, I'd keep writing even if the poems didn't see the light of day, I hope anyway. The process of discovery through writing is truly invaluable. However, I've always written with the intention of interacting with a wider audience, so the writer-editor relationship has been with me on the whole journey.

Justin E., that's so interesting. I wonder...has your relationship with submitting changed much since becoming an editor yourself?

Molly, you're more than welcome. I want this blog to be a place where everyone can be real and I'm glad it's working that way!

Jeannine said...

You know, until Kelli brought it up, though I had worked as an editor at a bunch of lit mags, I had never really thought about the issue either, except to note that yup, guys tend to submit more frequently.

I would wait a year or two after a nice note asking me to send again on a rejection, and often the person who had written the note had moved on by that point. So that was probably stupid. Now I am trying to respond in a matter of months, which still feels hasty to me, but is really just practical.

Sandy Longhorn said...

Jeannine, thanks for the view from both sides of the desk. Yes, it still feels hasty to me, so I'm interested to find out if there is a change in outcome. You are right about editors moving on, esp. at journals housed in grad programs. Took me way too long to learn that lesson. :)

Amy Letter said...

I'm thinking now I should get in the habit of "emitting" my work to editors. :) Look at this lovely "mittere" tree: there has to be a better prefix in there somewhere:

Sandy Longhorn said...

Oooh Amy, I love this tree. Lots of word play going on for me. THANKS!

stephanie said...

Excellent link! I'm reposting it. Whenever I get a personal note like that, I absolutely freak out about how long I should wait and what I should do and on and on and on. Submit like a man. It's good advice.

Sandy Longhorn said...

Thanks for stopping by, Stephanie. Hope the link helps!