For a writer there is the world of writing and the world of publication. Most of us who write know quite well that these two worlds often do not meet. In our writing community, most of us know writers who possess file cabinets and hard drives filled with writings that will never meet the light of day and see its way in print. Many writers write and what they write remains unpublished. There is a bridge however that connects writing and publication and that link is the submission process.
If a writer expresses a passion for submitting his or her work one of two things are taking place: A.) The writer is lying or B.) The writer is going about the process all wrong. It is a nerve racking and patience testing endeavor submitting poems or prose to a literary journal or magazine for consideration and publication. There are as many different guidelines for submission as there are places to submit work. Some of the publications are so selective a writer feels that there is a rejection slip just wanting for their self-addressed stamp envelope. There are many writers that could write books just with their experiences with the submission process alone. There are also the long odds that each writer faces when he or she submits their writing for publication.
Literary journals and magazines, depending on how popular and influential they are, receive hundreds of submissions each week. While a work is good and solid, it still will more than likely face rejection. The reasons for rejection varies: the work is similar to what has already been published, the author's voice is too experimental for the publication, the content of the work does not match the theme of the soon to be published volume, or the editors ate bad Chinese food for lunch. What is considered publishable and why one work is selected over another is not too entirely transparent. There are lot of chances to face rejection after submitting a work. Knowing all of this it is quite an appropriate question to ask then why do writers submit work?
The answer to this question can fill volumes.
There is an excitement and joy that comes with every publication. In my own writing career I have noticed a cycle. I received the news of a publication and that fuels my desire to write. I then receive several rejections. I receive so many rejections that I often wonder if my devotion to the world of writing is a joke and then suddenly, out of nowhere, I receive another publication.
During the month of April, I saved my tips from the work I do as a barista to enter four original poems into a contest. The American Poetry Review advertised their contest in a previous edition: The Stanley Kunitz Memorial Prize. The deadline was in mid-May. My submission undoubtedly was one of thousands. Many years ago I submitted writings into contests and expected to win. I would like to think that I am a far more humbled person than I once was. Whenever I submit my work to a contest, I realize that what I can control is not how well the editors and judges will receive my work, but rather how well the work is that I submitted. The task of submission will always be an important part of the writing process and the development of the writer because it requires the writer to judge each and every line and each and every word as if it matter--because it does matter. I am convinced that the submission process, as painful as it is, will always benefit the writer.
Devan Burton’s first chapbook, In Quiet Hours, will be available on Amazon in December 2016