Why is Submitting so Scary?

Good evening everyone. My name is Hagan Maurer and I am the new blogger for Periphery Art and Literary Journal. I hope to entertain and say some smart things sometimes for this spring semester!

Since it is less than two weeks away from the writer’s submission period deadline, I thought I’d spend some time on submitting work to literary journals. I sat down with Yasmina Madden, an editor for Smokelong Quarterly, a teacher of fiction and a published author, to discuss submitting and all the fears that go with that process. The fear of submitting is something most writers can relate to. It is a vulnerable place to put oneself in. In your private space, you create something very personal and to send it in to an editor, to be marked as publishable or not, is a scary business. But it is a part of the business of writing. “You can’t have your work published…if you don’t submit,” Yasmina says. “I understand the fear of doing that especially if you’re a young writer who’s never submitted even to a literary magazine on campus. That is where I started.” For some of you reading this, this might be your first time ever submitting anywhere. It may seem like a big step to submit. And it is a big step! “As an undergraduate…I couldn’t imagine anyone outside of my college, like a journal outside of my college, thinking my writing was worth anything.” Yasmina Madden is now a successful writer published in numerous journals and a teacher of fiction. “The first time is always the hardest,” Yasmina says with a slight smirk on her face. “But when you do it, it becomes a practice.”

I remember my first time submitting anywhere. It was to the very same Periphery that I write for now. I submitted six pieces of work that I scrambled together because former Editor and Chief, Graham Johnson, hounded me to submit my work. I had zero confidence in my writing capabilities. I thought my writing wasn’t worth publishing, but simply to remain in my own notebooks at home. But Graham pushed me to submit and now I find myself in the same position: attempting to convince fellow undergraduate writers to submit their work.

            “Start with university publications,” suggests Yasmina. And this is plainly a plea to submit to our journal, but I think that submitting to a college journal is an amazing way to begin the submission process. Mainly because most college journals’ goal, and periphery included, is to facilitate an artistic community. Our end goal, of course, is a literary journal, but as an editor I want to find out who at my school is writing and what they are working on. I often feel alone as a writer. I have no idea who around me is writing on their own and I absolutely have no idea what they are working on. As an editor, I have the privilege of seeing a collection of submissions to prove to myself that everybody is working on something and is proud of their work and that I should continue working on the projects I have given up on.

Submitting to a journal is scary. Writing is scary. But the point of writing, to me, is to share one’s work. To submit to a college journal is to actively engage in the writing community on campus. And you have ten chances! Ten excuses to fulfill that weird idea you had on the drive home from work that you, hopefully, had to pull over to write down. Ten excuses to continue editing that list story of queer teen vampires. Ten excuses to finally finish that poem you have been working on since high school about the nuclear apocalypse and how that will lead to you finding your soul mate. There’s nothing to lose!

The worst that can happen is being told no. Yes, that does happen. Writers are told no more often than told yes. Why do I include this fact in an article attempting to encourage submissions? Because no is an opportunity to learn how your writing works and how it doesn’t. No is an opportunity to reevaluate what you have written and to ask the question: how do I make this better? How do I become a better writer? So please submit to Periphery within the next two weeks. All of us editors are dying to read the weird, whacky work all ya’ll are writing. It is a tricky business writing for the self and then allowing others to look at it. But it is all part of sharing the works of art that we create and growing as writers within our community.

Periphery Blog: Giving and Taking

            Giving and Taking by Kyle Cornell is a story from Periphery 56 and can be found in the archives as well as the story of the week.  The Periphery Blog is a blog about writing, narrative, art, and everything in between.  This weeks blog comes from Deanna Krikorian, a staff editor for Periphery 56 and the future Editor-in-Chief for Periphery 57. 

            Kyle Cornell’s Giving and Taking, which opens the Prose section of Periphery 56, examines the complex relationship between life and death as seen from the perspective of a dying vulture.

Giving and Taking begins with our protagonist speaking to its Young Egg, desperate in its final moments to pass along information on how the world works. What follows is the story of our protagonist’s life, the lessons they’ve learned, and the rules they stress must be followed. The rules are about “Waiting”, a crucial element in the feeding process, described by the protagonist as receiving the “Gift” of life from dying animals. These rules provide the protagonist with a distinctly human quality: they include avoiding feeding on children, remaining out of sight of the animal, and not attacking the dying animals before they’ve passed. The vultures have morals, a system of feeding based not on instinct but on respect. The rules emphasize gratitude toward the animals they feed on, admiration toward the very process of dying. “You receive a Gift, you do not take it,” the protagonist states. “It’s disrespectful”. Not only does breaking these rules lead to devastating consequences, it also goes against the humane morality of the animals, as our protagonist soon discovers.

The concern for decorum within the rules highlight one of the most interesting elements of Giving and Taking: the portrayal of survival, and the importance placed on fighting against your instincts. Survival is not an accident – it requires patience, understanding who you are and, more importantly, who you are not. Pretending to be something else, someone else, is a mistake many have made, and one the protagonist implores the young egg to avoid. The protagonist repeats this sentiment throughout the story, stating in the rules that “You are not a lion. You do not pounce.”

Despite the fact that the protagonist is not human, the tensions prominent within Giving and Taking echo elements of a Man vs Nature conflict, as well as Man vs Self. In order to maintain balance within the natural world, the protagonist must learn to resist the temptations of the “sun sounds”, the pressure both from nature as a whole and from its own natural desires. The perspective of the story is inherently animalistic, but the internal struggle combined with the maturity of the bird allows Cornell to explore an incredibly human feeling: the search for purpose in life, and the desire to understand one’s identity and place in the world.

The thought provoking morals presented within Giving and Taking are not surprising considering the tone of the piece. Giving and Taking feels reminiscent of a folk tale, a story passed down generations, a cautionary tale about finding and understanding one’s purpose. There’s a self-aware, nearly meta quality to the story, as it’s being told both to us and to the Young Egg. As a result, the voice that Cornell constructs is one that speaks directly to the readers. The vulture is passing wisdom down to its Young Egg; simultaneously, it’s passing wisdom down to the readers themselves, disguised as lessons about feeding and Waiting. The sentence structure also helps Cornell achieves this voice. Because the majority of the story is written in longer sentences, shorter sentences stand out from the rest and sound different in the minds of the readers. These sentences contribute to the vocal quality of the story as a whole, an element that sets it apart from other short fiction, both within Periphery 56 as well as in general. In the second paragraph of this piece, the protagonist warns its Young Egg before telling its story:“It will be like this”. The words call for the egg’s attention, as well as the reader’s. The line – and the story itself – is simple in its purpose: it asks the reader to listen.