The accountability of a one-year submission report

grass through a reproduction cycle progress progression
Progress

I used to give detailed reports about my manuscript submission practices here in this blog.

I found that it was useful for accountability. I could use the practice to remind myself that much of the hard work of writing doesn’t involve composition or revision at all, but finding the right home for my work out in the wilderness that is publishing.

I’m not sure when I stopped doing this, but I’m pretty sure I know why. It was just another project.

Project management 101

As a working mom for 24 years, I could write volumes about project management, whether it comes from motherhood (the ultimate project) or community volunteering or paid work or household management or, yes, my writing life.

Maybe it’s misguided to imagine that, were I to stick to a single form or genre—say, just poems, or just food writing, or just speculative novels—that my writing life would be less of a project.

After all, the processes for writing and publishing poems, essays, blogs, novels, short stories, etc. are completely different.

So is the brainspace they require.

But that’s not how my writing life works. At some point, you have to accept that the creative life is not a maverick to be wrangled, but a wild horse that needs freedom to run.

Frankly, I would fail myself were I to choose efficiency and organization as priorities over the richness and depth that my writing life rewards me with daily.

The art of decommissioning

At some point—probably inspired by a combination of an MS diagnosis and the Empty Nest—I had to put the brakes on “all the things”: the projects. It was, for one thing, doctor’s orders.

But it was also common sense.

Busywork is still busywork. Saying no to busywork is saying yes to living one’s creative life on your own terms… to valuing your time, talent, energy, resources, and place in the world.

It’s a message I share with others in my life who are similarly ambitious: if you are good at a lot of things, everyone will want you to be part of their own projects.

Like attracts like, no?

But.

If you don’t say no to the projects that keep you from thriving as a whole human being, you merely add the busywork of everyone else’s projects to the weight of your own journey as a creative person.

When you don’t learn how to say no…

Things fall apart. Lights burn out. The soles of your shoes disintegrate. A starvation sets into your solar plexus. Your throat chakra can’t clear itself. There’s a seemingly permanent blurring of the third eye.

At some point, you could find the most neglected project of all is yourself. Your health, your creative life, your peace of mind.

And yet… progress

Keeping track of my submissions on a monthly basis is a thing of the past for these reasons.

But I give you the year-long view today because I have learned something new about myself: I tend to write and submit more creative work in the summer. And when I pay attention to my efforts, I tend to be more positive, more fruitful, more motivated.

The laundry list

I’m busy with several projects of my own choosing: a hybrid collection in search of a publisher, the cobbling together of a short story collection which I will likely self publish within the year, a new dystopic novel unfolding in its first draft, poems about a loved one’s addiction that are pouring out of me.

Not really projects at all. Like doing the thing you love for a living, it’s not work when you get up every day looking forward to what you “get” to do as a writer.

That is not a project… that is a dream come true.

I don’t write to store the narrative in a shadowy corner somewhere… I write with the hope of connecting with readers. So here’s a glance at the last year’s manuscript submissions (since August 13, 2018).

It’s worth noting here that part of the purpose of “showing your work”—including rejections—is to verify you are actually doing it!

Nonwriters don’t tend to understand the volume of rejection one must endure just to land an acceptance, or how long the waits might be. For instance, I still have seven submissions that were sent out 10 to 12 months ago which have not yet received an acknowledgment or a response (1 poem, 3 prose poems, 1 creative nonfiction piece, 1 book manuscript, and 1 book manuscript query). That’s another thing about this business: Writers must jump through crazy hoops just to get their work considered, and yet they may never receive the common courtesy of a response.

Meanwhile, most writers who don’t garner many acceptances are often fine writers who do not submit very often. This can lead to a kind of surrender to the despair that rejections can lead; it also means their great work has less chance to be read.

For what it’s worth, I fall somewhere in the middle of the pack.

—Also, this practice helps me to keep my records clean and up to date. For instance, while performing this little annual inventory today, I realized one of my favorite pieces was accepted and published over six months ago and I had completely forgotten about it!

A year’s worth of acceptances, rejections, publications, and mystery outcomes

Poetry (free or formal verse)

  • 26 individual poems went out to a total of 67 potential publishers
  • 9 were accepted, published, and/or are forthcoming, including 4 reprints:
    • In Adolphus Journal, Fall 2018: “Breath
    • In Cirque, Spring 2019: “Kanab
    • In The Coil, TBA: “Uhthoff’s Phenomenon” (reprint forthcoming)
    • In Collective Unrest, Fall 2018: “American Blackshirt,” “On September 22nd,” and “Slow Information” (all reprints)
    • In Gargoyle, Summer 2019: “Blue Tarp” (forthcoming)
    • In the Kissing Dynamite anthology, “Lift Every Voice,” September 2019: “Visibility” (forthcoming)
  • 37 were rejected
  • The rest are either still waiting for a response or have been withdrawn, lost, or did not receive a response after followups

Prose poems

  • 8 individual prose poems went out to a total of 20 potential publishers
  • 2 were accepted and/or published: “Sideways” in Postcard Poems and Prose, Fall 2018; and “The Expert” in Halfway Down the Stairs, Sept 2018
  • 11 were rejected
  • The rest are either still waiting for a response or have been withdrawn, lost, or did not receive a response after followups

Short fiction (stories or flash fiction)

  • 5 individual pieces went out to a total of 12 potential publishers
  • 1 was published: “April 9” in Crab Creek Review, Fall 2019
  • 3 were rejected
  • 1 is still waiting for a response

Essays or creative nonfiction

  • 3 individual works of short nonfiction went out to a total of 12 potential publishers
  • 1 was accepted and published: “Zebrafish Husbandry” in Blanket Sea, January 2019
  • 2 were rejected

Book manuscripts

  • 8 submissions of my hybrid collection, INTENTION TREMOR, were submitted
  • 1 submission earned Finalist distinction in the Concrete Wolf Louis Award competition
  • 5 were rejected
  • 3 are still waiting for a response

Manuscript queries

  • 2 book manuscript queries (for INTENTION TREMOR) were submitted
  • 1 has not received acknowledgment or response since it was submitted last September
  • 1 is still under consideration


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