I have realized that I do not like researching publications, whether they be literary journals, magazines, e-zines, etc. Reading them, for fun, when the mood strikes me, yes. But sitting down and dissecting them like squid back in high school Biology, not so much. Yet, that is exactly what I need to do.
Recently, despite only ever having one poem published in a fifth grade class anthology and an academic paper published during Grad school, I had the audacity to submit a short story to Tin House Magazine. Yes, audacity. I can hear supportive friends and family now: “What do you mean? You’re good enough! They’d be lucky to have you.” I love you all, but let’s be honest – Tin House is an elite magazine, reputed to be one of the most difficult to break into, with a less than 1% acceptance rate. I didn’t have a chance! That didn’t stop me, of course. What has given me reason to pause was the time invested.
I submitted my short story online through the Submission Manager and watched as it stayed listed as “Received” for two months. I tried not to check often, but one naturally wonders. “Received” was always better than “Rejected.” Then it finally changed to “In-Progress,” and for another month I entertained secret fantasies of what this publication would look like on my CV and what it’d feel like to announce to the world I’d been published…in Tin House! Then almost three months to the day, when I wasn’t even thinking about it, I received the rejection email. It was standard, short, and polite: “Thank you for sending us ‘French Lessons.’ Thank you, also, for your patience in waiting to hear back from us. Unfortunately, we must pass at this time. Best of luck placing your work elsewhere.” And like that, I was out three months.
So tonight and tomorrow, instead of saying, “The Paris Review, Ploughshares, Glimmer Train, [insert name of elite publication] sure would be nice,” I’m doing the right thing and trying to find the best possible home for my story. Ah, yes, that important factor: what’s best for the story? Researching publications with this in mind is hard work. It takes time…first, finding the magazines, then looking through their sites, reading stories, and more often than not, moving on to the next. It’s easy to get exasperated, exhausted, feel the press of time, and want to fall back on picking a prestigious name and submitting. And while that’s quicker and immediately satisfying, it’s risky, a potential time-waster, and just not what a real writer does.
I think this is a good time to bring up Princess Merida. I took one of those highly scientific and accurate online quizzes popular on Facebook (please read with a note of sarcasm): What Movie is Actually Based on Your Life? I got Disney’s Brave. I had never seen it, so out of vain curiosity, I watched it. As it turns out, there’s a lot I don’t have in common with the heroine, Merida, such as, I’m not a princess, I’m not Scottish, I’m not a redhead, and I would never treat my mother that way. That said, I have to admit that like Merida I want the life I want. (I also would follow will-o’-the-wisps if they appeared…maybe that’s what this blog is!) And I may be fearful at times, but I guess that when it comes to my dreams, I am rather brave and I’m certainly not afraid to aim high. Aiming high is important, but so is aiming true. And so, a little squid dissection is in order.
The banana bread turned out great. It had olive oil, lemon zest, and Greek yogurt in it!
Check out the blog, Muffin Bites, for the recipe: