Thursday, January 6, 2011

On Solicited Submissions

One benefit of the MFA followed by the PhD, is that I am slowly but surely amassing contacts. AWP is now an event where I can meet up with old friends, who, theoretically, should all one day be directing programs and will naturally want their old crony, me, as the visiting writer. Well, maybe someday.

I did experience a little brush with schmooze payoff recently when I received the call for my first (insert coronet herald here) solicited submission from a friend who is fiction editor at a lit mag. Finally, a bit of nepotism working in my favor. Of course, when I was first starting out the idea of solicited subs appalled. But when I read for Cutbank I learned how hard it is to find work you are actually excited about. I was nonfiction editor for a year and never came across one publishable piece (aside from the contest we held). I see that the essays in the latest issue are by Montana luminaries William Kittredge and Judy Blunt.

Anyway, I sent a story I wrote while at Montana, my first story that got “the nod” from workshop, and was nominated by the faculty for Best New American Voices. Given this stamp of approval, it seemed to me some lit mag somewhere should take this story. To date I had sent this story out to 12 places. Granted, one of these rejections was from The Atlantic Monthly (among other luminaries). I had received two “almosts” as well. But as we all know “almost” is simply “no” with a “thanks” tacked on.

Then I was ASKED about this story (in particular). Dee McNamer at Montana used to call getting a finished piece published “finding it a home.” While much my work goes in the RIP file on my desktop, I also keep a file of those stories I believe deserve adoption. This poor, orphaned story had languished in a folder surrounded by twenty other versions of itself for two years.

Now, “solicited” does not mean “guaranteed publication,” although I suppose this changes from mag to mag, and depends on the writer. A new J.D. Salinger story I’m guessing = automatic yes. At NOR, solicitation does not guarantee publication. I happen to know that the editors have asked colleagues for work only to find themselves in the awkward situation of turning it down. This, apparently, has created some major AWP dagger eyes moments. Imagine fancying yourself an “established” writer only to be told 1) your work didn’t cut it and (worse) 2) you aren’t famous enough that someone would publish it anyway.

As a newbie I didn’t have huge expectations. But I hoped. So I sent off my story that has a baseline narrative about a young woman who struggles with a possible pregnancy juxtaposed by a quirky, wordplay thru line, only to find out that the editor had just accepted a story that has a baseline narrative about a young woman who struggles with a possible pregnancy juxtaposed by a quirky, wordplay thru line. Scooped.


Belle said...

That really, really sucks.

Naomi Kimbell said...

How does this keep happening?