Friday night I returned home from running 15 miles at the gym to find an envelope on the table. An envelope addressed to my name in my own hand.
Anyone who submits to literary magazines knows what that means: A rejection letter. A rejection letter sent so long after you submitted that you don’t even remember what you submitted.
I almost threw it away. I picked it up and said to my boyfriend, “I should throw it away.”
I opened it instead, and thank god. For inside was something rare and wonderful: An acceptance letter from Gordon Grigsby at the Evening Street Review.
Better yet, Evening Street Review accepted three (three!) poems, not just one.It was a welcome surprise.
Here’s what I’d like to say to everyone: Submit! And I mean that literally (that’s a pun, get it? Literally submit to literary magazines). Submit your work because it deserves to be heard. It deserves an audience. It deserves to shine. If not, you probably wouldn’t have written it in the first place.
Some people think that I’m especially lucky for nabbing as many publications as I do, or that I’m extraordinarily talented. I’m neither. I’m an ordinary writer with a stubborn and unflinching determination. I submit because I believe in my work. I believe in the power of my work.
Of course I rack up huge piles of rejection letters. It’s inevitable. Anyone who submits knows that the odds are against us. Most literary magazines accept between 1-5% of the work they receive.
Those are really slim odds. In fact, they suck. The only way to improve them is by getting yourself out there. You can’t be shy. You can’t be apologetic. You have to suck up your doubts and insecurities (and believe me, we all have them) and send out your work.
Years ago when I was in graduate school, Mark Doty came and gave a talk. I don’t remember everything he said but I do remember this: He looked around the room and said: “Only one of your will make it, and it won’t be the most talented or gifted or even the most natural writer. It will be the most persistent one.”
I think he was right. I think writing is talent and voice, yes, but it’s also verve and grit and nerves and determination.
So do me a favor. As soon as you finish reading this, submit a piece of your work to a magazine of your choice. It doesn’t have to be a top magazine or even a well-known one, but a magazine that you read and respect, one that you would proud to see your name inside.
Then sit back with a glass of iced tea or a cold beer. And if you have time, send me an email or tweet (cinthiaritchie1) and I’ll send you a nice, loving, affirmative pat on the back. Heck, if you submit to more than five publications, I might even send you an Alaskan candy bar.