Last week I received a real, concrete deadline from the universe that forced me to do something. The school that I work for has an annual artsy publication where faculty and staff can submit photos, articles, artwork, and fiction. This is a cool idea and great for morale, but I probably would have ignored if it weren’t for the $100 reward you get if your work is published.
I will repeat that. If your work is published, you get one hundred dollars. Now, that may not be a lot of money to most of you, but to this young recent college-grad that’s like, my loan payment for next month. Or 20 bottles of cheap wine. Or like 500 packages of ramen noodles.
So I dredged up my external hard drive and went through my old pieces I’d written for classes through college. Nothing really felt appropriate. I mean, all of my co-workers were definitely going to be reading with their judgy glasses on, so it had to be something I actually believe in. So I used the deadline as an opportunity to challenge myself. “Self,” I said during my internal monologue, “you will choose a selection from your manuscript.”
My initial feelings on this were that it was going to be horrible and I thought I might puke. I ate some chocolate and told myself it wasn’t a big deal, no one would read it anyway, and I got to work going through the first few pages of my manuscript. I changed some things around and copied the pages into a clean document and sent them in before I could look back.
Twelve hours later I had a response. The work was good (enough)! I am now one hundred dollars richer. I have not yet received these monies, but I like to think about the things I will buy with them, or how nice they will look in my savings account.
What I learned from all of this is that submitting to publications is a great idea. This one was ideal because the selection pool was considerably smaller than most, there was no fee to enter, and the reward for being chosen was a nice little chunk of change. But what’s good about them more generally is that they make you look at your work with the assumption that other people are going to read it, and that’s a mindset that can take some practice. I know embarrassingly little about anthologies and other publications that writers are submitting to, and I would love it if you all would share some great publications in the comments below. Tell us about places where you’ve had a positive experience and things you’ve heard good stuff about.
The more long-term effect of this whole ordeal was that I started reading through my draft and actually changed things. I dipped a toe into the pool, so to speak. And you know what? It wasn’t so cold. I think I might actually wade in now.