How to Get Published and Recognized as a Writer Pt.1

A few posts back, I received this comment from my old friend Jeff. (By “old,” I mean that we met in fifth-grade.) What I remember most about him was that he was a really good artist and that he was smart. Many years later, following his internet trail, it makes sense that this attractive website is his. I look at his CV and I think–wow, he started with something he was good at, and then stuck with it long enough for it to produce an actual income and garner a reputation in his field. And the field– design and advertising–is one that to me still feels kind of glamorous. While I’ve seen enough “trading places” comedies to know better than to wish for someone else’s life, there are aspects of his career that I look upon with envy.

Thus, it might fall into the “isn’t it ironic?” category, that Jeff writes:

“I’m not sure if I’ve mentioned it before – but I write as well. I’ve written some shorts, poetry off and on for years, have a growing stack of story concepts and I’m well into a novel (psych-thriller) that has included an inordinate amount of research (began more than 2.5 yrs ago).

I say that – to say this…

You’re obviously closing in on what any writer wants – definitely further along than I am, and I was wondering if you might have any advice regarding the path to publication and/or recognition, or at least growth. (aside from writing ability which I’m hoping I have covered).”

Wow. I think this is the first time I’ve been asked any question like this–and my first instinct is to feel completely unqualified to answer it, since all I’ve really done is get published in a couple of literary journals and win one contest…

But then, I guess I’ve gotten published in a couple of literary journals, and won one contest, and I felt pretty good when those things happened, so hey, welcome up to my slightly-higher-but-still-pretty-low rung of the ladder.

I think my answer will probably come in parts.

Jeff has shorts and poems, and a large portion of a novel.

The area I’m more familiar with is shorts and poems, so I’ll start with that.

STEP ONE: Start to get familiar with the lay of the land…

There are big magazines that occasionally publish fiction and poetry, like The New Yorker, The Paris Review, The Atlantic. I don’t know anyone at those places, and often can’t even find their submission guidelines, thus I have never tried to jump into their slush piles as it seems a bit hopeless. But if you think your style is a good fit, it’s just one more envelope and cover letter, so why not?

Closer to the ground are the many literary journals. Some you may be familiar with and see at your local bookstore (if it hasn’t yet closed down). Ones that I notice are Zoetrope All-Story, Tin House and McSweeneys Quarterly Concern, but there are many others that you see less often on book racks. Often they are published by small independent presses, or presses affiliated with academic institutions. These journals almost always have websites with submission guidelines.

A GREAT place to check out the scene is Duotrope, which is a well-maintained and FREE database for people interested in submitting to journals. (They seem always on the verge of going under–so if you use them a lot and can spare a dime, please consider donating.)

I have more to say about submitting, but my bus is coming, so I’ll leave it here for the moment.

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