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.