I was excited to find my contributor’s copy of the Evening Street Review in my mailbox.
I don’t know about you but when I receive a literary magazine featuring my work, I open it with fear and awe. Because no matter how many times I’ve seen my name in print, it’s always a small thrill, and a small scare.
I’m not sure where the fear comes from. Maybe I’m afraid that my work isn’t as good as everyone else’s in the issue. Maybe I’m afraid of success. Maybe, and probably, I’m scared of having revealed so much of myself across the page, of splaying my deepest feelings and desires for all the world (or as much of the world that reads literary magazines) to read.
Two of my poems, How We Saw Her and How She Died, have to do with my sister, who died of complications of an eating disorder over ten years ago. I don’t think I’ll ever get over her death, or her life. She haunts me, and in that respect I’m lucky: Being haunted is nothing but another way of warding off loneliness.
I devoured the issue in practically one sitting, and it features impressive work: James Scruton’s Just Keep Talking; Roy Bentley’s God Shows Up in Iowa, one of my favorites in the collection; Mary Carpenter’s nonfiction piece Wolves and Pessimists; and everything by Lyn Lifshin, who is my poet/writing girl crush of the moment. Her poetry book, Light at the End: The Jesus Poems, is nothing short of brilliant. (Oh, Lyn, if you’re ever in Alaska please, please, please have lunch with me, okay?)
But poets aside, what I want to say to everyone reading this blog post is: Submit your work. Send it out. Release to the world. Yes, you will face rejection and crippling blows to your ego, but no matter. The only way to publish is to suck in your breath and take a leap of faith.
I have received SO many rejection letters that it’s almost funny. Some magazines don’t even contact writers; they don’t bother with the formality of a rejection letter, which is lame yet understandable (but still not forgivable). Each rejection stings. Some hurt terribly. While a poem might just be a poem to an editor, to me it’s a piece of my flesh, an offering of my blood, a map to my soul. (“Why don’t they like my poem/my story/my essay?” I cry upon each rejection letter. “Why don’t they like me?”)
Of course, aside from the first initial moments, you can’t take rejection personally. You have to straighten your shoulders, revise your work and resubmit. And then resubmit again, and again, and again.
I hope that everyone reading this polishes off that poem, that story, that creative nonfiction piece they’ve been working on and submits it to five publications this week. Be sure and write back and tell me about it, okay? I’ll send a little writing good karma your way.