By Glenda Council Beall
I come from the old school where we sent “hard copies” through the mail with a self-addressed stamped envelope to make it possible for our work to be returned if the editor didn’t want it. We hoped we would also receive, instead of a rejection in a form letter, a few hand-written words telling us to “try again” or “sorry it didn’t fit our needs right now.” Saturday I sat in a class with five other writers and poets to learn how to electronically submit our stories and poems to publishers who use the new technology.
In today’s fast-paced world, editors hardly respond at all unless they want our story or can use one of our poems. The rules have changed in favor of the publication, I think. I do know that most editors of popular magazines and e-zines are overworked and already have a huge number of items to read, thanks to the internet and the computer, before my submission ever reaches them.
In our world today, everyone thinks he is a writer whether he has honed his craft or not. Everyone thinks he can write a book even if he has never studied one thing about writing. Too many writers are more concerned about publishing than they are about learning how to write. Therefore, all these would-be writers bombard publications with half-baked fiction, short stories with simplistic plots and poor characterization. Sadly, many of the journals print what they receive. Makes me wonder, who are these editors?
I visited http://www.duotrope.com to find journals that might want my personal essays or short stories. I checked out several of them and clicked off in disappointment. I am not the world’s best writer, but I recognize really poor writing and found that to be the norm in most of what I saw listed.
However, there are some excellent publications. Recently I subscribed to Sun Magazine, a fine literary publication, and received a sample digital issue. I am impressed with almost everything I read there. Today I received in the mail a copy of Creative Nonfiction which I have not yet opened. I feel sure this magazine will also contain good work. Will any of my stories fit their needs? I doubt it. My work is not gritty enough. My essays and stories are likely too touching or not edgy enough. My poetry is not deep or difficult to understand. Like today’s movies and TV shows, stories and nonfiction must include the lowest type of human beings doing horrible things to themselves or others. They must use coarse and crude language, come from the most dysfunctional homes and end up on drugs or worse. The darkest side of human nature seems to intrigue most editors.
I have not given up on using Duotrope to find a place for my writing. With all they have listed, somewhere I will find a home for my southern regional writing. My stories about my life, my time in history, and my thoughts and reflections on that time when man walked on the moon, before and during the time black people were given their civil rights, when women were unchained from their mops and brooms and allowed in the board room. An innocent time when life was all about discovering rock and roll, dancing till you wore a hole in your shoes, having a boyfriend, not a bed mate at sixteen, family gathered around the dinner table every night, summer evenings on the porch, Sundays at a country church for an all-day sing and dinner on the grounds, parents who lived together for sixty years.
That is what I came from, but we had our share of conflict and controversy. In fact I had planned to write about my dysfunctional family until I met other writers whose stories made my family appear completely normal. I have told the story of my father holding a gun on his neighbor, the little black boy who fell from the hay wagon and was caught in the harness of the runaway horses, the time my father lost his eye in a fishing accident, the car wreck that lingers with me to this day, how we defied medical opinion and brought Mother home to live another decade, and much more.
I hear editors say they look for reasons to reject immediately because they are buried under the files they have been sent to read. Somewhere in cyberspace, if I persevere, I’ll find a good place for my stories and poems. And now I know how to submit online through Submittable which will keep track of my work. Submittable will tell me when it has been read, accepted or rejected. Electronic submissions make for faster rejections, no personal interaction, and no hope written in human hand. But that is the new way and we must learn to use it.
As more and more writers and poets send work to all the new online journals, I visualize offices filled with sweating young men and women, fingers flying over their keyboards, clicking and sliding on touch screens, refusing thousands of pages of words as more continue to fill up their Inboxes.
Writing is fun. Marketing writing is work. I will leave this earth with most of my stories, essays and poems stored on my computers. I will have had the joy of writing them and that is all that really matters in the long run.