Submissions Industrial Complex
This year I made 54 literary submissions – 38 rejections, 3 acceptances, 1 publication going under before they had the chance to (most likely) reject me. I'm still waiting for a response from 12 places.
12/01/22 - The Forge Literary Magazine (flash) REJECTED
13/01/22 - Smoke Long Quarterly (flash) REJECTED
14/01/22 - Neon Books (short story) REJECTED
14/01/22 - PFD agent (short story manuscript) REJECTED
16/01/22 - Magma (poetry) REJECTED
31/01/22 - Fourteen Poems - (poetry) REJECTED
31/01/22 - Finished Creatures (poetry) REJECTED
31/01/22 - Butcher’s Dog (poetry) REJECTED
13/03/22 - Recommended Reading (poetry) REJECTED
23/03/22 - Gutter (short story) REJECTED
28/03/22 - Travesties Press (short story) REJECTED
29/03/22 - Wrongdoing Mag (short story) REJECTED
31/03/2022 - Granta (poems) REJECTED
01/04/2022 - Spam (poems) REJECTED
03/04/2022 - The North (poem) ACCEPTED
08/04/2022 - Bothy Project (life writing) REJECTED
12/04/2022 - Wrongdoing (poem) REJECTED (but long listed)
01/05/2022 - Readers Digest (100 word flash) REJECTED
07/05/2022 - Tin House Press (fiction) REJECTED
19/05/2022 - Live canon (poems) - REJECTED
21/05/2022 - Creative Future (poem) REJECTED
29/05/2022 - PfA (poetry/performance proposal) REJECTED
30/05/2022 - The Storms (poetry) REJECTED
12/05/2022 - Extra Teeth (fiction) REJECTED
14/05/2022 - Fourteen Poems (poems) REJECTED
08/07/2022 - Tolka (memoir) REJECTED
28/07/2022 - Ambit - short story competition REJECTED
01/08/2022 - Impossible Archetype (poem) ACCEPTED
01/08/2022 - Propel (poems) REJECTED
01/08/2022 - Forge (life writing) REJECTED
19/08/2022 - Derek Jarman residency proposal (poetry) REJECTED
31/08/2022 - Oxford brooks poetry comp (poetry) REJECTED
31/08/2022 - Aesthetica (Short story) SHORTLISTED!
4/09/2022 - Fractured Lit (flash fic) REJECTED
15/09/2022 - 14 Poems (poems) REJECTED
15/09/2022 - Gutter (short story) ACCEPTED
24/09/2022 - Masters Review (short story) REJECTED
24/09/2022 - Masters Review New Voices (short story) REJECTED
30/09/2022 - Stanza (poetry pitch for 2023 fest) REJECTED
30/09/2022 - Acropolis Blood issue (poems) REJECTED
30/09/2022 - Morra Library Poetry Prize REJECTED
01/10/2022 - Astra (poems) MAGAZINE FOLDED!
30/10/2022 - Northern Gravy (poems) REJECTED
TOTAL SUBS 54
REJECTIONS - 38
ACCEPTENCES - 3
MAGAZINE FOLDED - 1
TBC - 12
I make this list every year. It's mostly subs to literary journals and a few prizes but there is also the odd residency or performance event I applied to. I began making it for myself to keep a track of what I'd sent out and where, my personal list includes the titles and places I'm waiting to hear back from. I've put the names of publications not because I have some resentment towards them (everywhere is oversubscribed and some of these journals gave really encouraging feedback) but I feel like writing a list rather than just a number conveys how relentless a slog writing can be. Some people never submit to journals, and I can see the value in that, just working on your writing until you have a longer piece you can decide to try and get published or not, some people self-publish, some people write only for their own eyes, there is no right or wrong way to do things. I suppose I am seduced by shiny things and the gratification of having someone want to publish me.
I also like to share this list because of the fact that what a writer has published is generally just the tip of the iceberg. There's the famous narrative about authors getting hundreds of rejections before one day 'making it big' but most writers never 'make it big' (whatever that really means) and rejection remains a constant, daily fact of life. Sometimes it does get you down because it's frustrating to dedicate so much of your time and life to something and so regularly see it returned. It's never nice being rejected but it generally is just something you get used to.
I think there is sometimes the assumption from those starting to send stuff out that six rejections in a row means you are useless and should quit, but that's the rule not the exception. When I started sending short stories out to places in around 2005, miraculously, the first two I wrote got published, one of them also coming third in a prize. I didn't know at that time this was mere beginner's luck and rejection is the general rule.
The part of me that has the impulse to create and the part of me that has the impulse to get work published are two different things, I sometimes think the latter is detrimental to the former. The creative part works best when not thinking about getting work published, when not even thinking about anyone reading it, trying to disconnect the part that thinks about that is hard, especially when barraged with various critiques of art on social media all day, and I don't think it's 100% possible for me to disconnect, but I try. The part that wants to get published is probably more to do with ego.
I am proud of what I achieved this year, it has been one of the best years for writing for me. I had two of the best stories I think I ever wrote published, one of which is the only new story I've written this year. I had one unsuccessful attempt at getting Creative Scotland funding to write a poetry collection, re-applied and got the funding (yes, I would have written it anyway, I know most poets don't get paid to write collections, but it's incredibly helpful to have the support). I had my first pamphlet published by Broken Sleep Books. Last year I had a frustrating time trying to get an agent or a publisher for my collection of short stories, I had some interest but ultimately rejection. I still haven't been able to get it published and now I keep going back to it and trying to make it into something more interlinked/novel-like which I do think would improve it, but I'm concerned I just keep returning to it and chopping it up again and I'm too close to it and it'll never work and I should just leave it and move on to something else. But probably not just yet.
The best things that happened to me this year were around writing — I discovered the online Writer's Hour run by the London Writer's Salon which runs four remote silent writing hours a day. I can't explain it but this writing with others for a set period of time really helps motivate me to write in lieu of much self-discipline, something I have always struggled with. The other thing was going on an Arvon course at Lumb Bank. Honestly one of the best weeks of my life, it reinvigorated my love of writing fiction and my enthusiasm for the novel-in-short-stories-or-whatever-it-is-I'm-doing. The joy of being around other writers for a week and having the luxury to focus only on that was amazing. Of course it was excellent to have my pamphlet published and get funding from Creative Scotland, but being away reminded me how much I do actually love the process of writing, and things I love about being in a community of writers. Though I'm on social media I don't find it fulfilling as a community space, so those two things reminded me how much I needed it. The writer's hours are free and Arvon provide bursaries for low income writers and those on benefits, I would highly recommend both.
Sometimes I get submission fatigue and pass up submitting to things, even stuff that looked appealing. Sometimes constantly sending work off and discovering submission deadlines to aim for can be a distraction from the work itself, another form of procrastination.
It was probably always a bit of a reach submitting to Reader's Digest.