Literary magazines and journals are one of the most difficult markets to break into. The competition is fierce, publishers receive hundreds if not thousand of submissions every time they put out a call. The challenge for us writers is finding the piece that fits.
Contests and calls go out all year, and depending on our projects and deadline, we won’t always have something ready for each individual theme. The pressure to sit down and create something new to submit can be crushing to our creative flow. The best thing we can do is be patient and wait for that call where we might have something already in our arsenal.
I was always afraid the call for submissions were rare beasts that would only cross my path when the sun, moon and stars had properly aligned, and if I didn’t jump on it in that moment, I would have forever lost my opportunity. This is far from true – in reality, the writing world is not so much a world as it is a huge universe teeming with opportunities for submissions. It really comes down to timing – having the right piece at the right time.
There’s nothing wrong with sitting down and producing a piece for a particular submission, but most of us don’t have that kind of time, especially if we are working on multiple projects or have deadlines that pay the bills. Most of the time I see a call and then check to see if I have a completed piece or even a rough draft I can edit to fit the bill.
The call for a new literary magazine in my city called ¡HASTINGS! arrived at a time when I was trying to complete an essay for a deadline. I happened to have a couple of poems that were looking for a home, as well as a short story written a couple years back. It only took a couple of hours to make my edits and submit – and then I said a little prayer and went back to work, fully expecting another rejection note to stick to my corkboard.
And as it turned out, it was all about timing not only did I get that coveted email telling me my work would be published again, but that all my pieces – three poems and one short story – had made the cut. Four months later, I am attending the launch of a new literary journal and sharing some of my work with a live audience.
Publishing can move at a snail’s pace – between the work we have to do and the work we want to do, we can’t submit to every single call, and maybe we shouldn’t. Maybe it’s best to wait for that providential request and be satisfied with knowing we sent the right piece at the right time.
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J.G. Chayko is a writer, actress, and international arthritis advocate who’s been involved in theatre for more than 30 years and has published poetry, fiction, and creative non-fiction.