Wrapping up the Guide to Submissions

I hope the last month of posts on how to submit your writing was helpful to those of you who are just starting out or getting restarted. In college, when I first started sending out my work, it felt like this big, bold, scary thing to do, but as I’ve made it just part of my monthly to-do list, it has lost a lot of the power and scariness. The key points to take away are:

  1. a few submissions every now and then are better than nothing
  2. don’t fret a rejection – send your work somewhere else!
  3. don’t be afraid

Let me know if there are any questions you have on this topic, and I’ll be happy to answer them!

How to Handle Rejection

I’ve been writing about submitting your writing, and I can’t do that without handling the tough part–rejection.


Every writer, even the most famous, already-published writer, faces rejection at some point or other. The trick is to not really care anything about it.

For me, I submit and forget.

I keep track of my submissions in my previously mentioned excel file, then I don’t think about it at all. I don’t think about deadlines, I don’t stalk the magazine, I don’t think about their typical (and mythical) response time.

Most magazines will not respond as quickly as they say they will (Except the Threepenny review–Lord have mercy, they are quick!), so if you are looking at typical response times, you’ll just drive yourself crazy waiting for a response.

Don’t look at submittable and get excited when your submission changes status–I’ve had submissions sit in the “under review” status for upwards of a YEAR before.

Really, I promise, the best thing to do is to send in your work and don’t think a single thing about it ever again, until you get the response.

If you get a rejection, don’t take it personally–editors change, tastes change, issues change. Maybe your poem was bad–maybe it truly just didn’t fit the issue.

Usually when I get a rejection (which is often), I look over the poems that got rejected and do some quick edits, then I send them back out. I don’t let it get me down–magazines and publishers can’t accept everybody.

I guess the main point of all this is to say, don’t take rejection personally. I know your writing is personal–it may feel like your heart wrung out on a page (my Kit poems are especially that), but you MUST detach a bit to be able to edit and revise anyway.

And even if the poem is bad and gets rejected by everyone? Just write another one. It isn’t the end of the world!

Swimming in the Slush Pile

Do you ever wonder where your writing goes when you send it to a magazine? The Slush Pile.

(Unless you are Robert Pinsky or something…in which case you wouldn’t be reading my blog).

I’ve had several opportunities in my life to swim around in the slush pile.

  1. as an intern at Agni.
    This was a pretty cool opportunity. My MFA program was at BU, and the old buildings are sort of castle looking. Agni, as fancy and covetable as it is, is in a basement (or was at the time). I took a dark winding little stairway down from the classrooms to the basement where I read through submission after submission and put them in piles of absolute not or maybe take a look at. It was really fascinating to see how people submitted–some so very professional, some on notebook paper and handwritten (all got equal reading).
  2. for the Basilica Review
    This is a literary magazine my friend started up. It was really fun to help create a literary magazine, and since it was new it didn’t get a ton of unsolicited submissions–yet I remember being surprised by the quality of what we did get. I think one day it may be fun to do something like this again–start a literary magazine. Maybe something extremely incredibly niche.
  3. for One (Jacar Press)
    I love this magazine because their rules are simple (and they are my publisher for my 2nd book!)– you can only submit one poem per reading period–hence “ONE” being the title. So being a reader for them was pretty easy, and they also had so many amazing submissions.

In my experience with all three of these places, it seemed like everyone gets a pretty fair chance at publication. There are some people who of course float right to the top, like your mega-stars of poetry, but otherwise to me the reading seemed to always be focused on the quality.

So I hope that is comforting to you! The great thing about poetry is that there really is a pretty low barrier to entry–you don’t have to be MFA educated or have good connections, you don’t have to live in a big city or have a fancy professor job–you can be a total poetry nobody or a SAHM homeschool mom, and still get your work published.