You Must Submit!

Recently, I moved into a new apartment. After six years living in a house with four other people, I now find myself foot loose and fancy free, living in a studio apartment all by myself in East Harlem. I miss all of those great people I used to live with. I don’t get to see them as much these days. But I love having my own space and what feels like having control of my time again. Because there was always something distracting going on around the house and I have difficulty writing with distractions. I had to get up at 5:00 AM to get anything done at all. Now, if I decide I want to get up early and write, I do it. If I decide I want to go home from work and write, I do it. It’s really helped me get my work schedule organized.

So to celebrate I’ve taken up something that I apparently forgot to do for two years: submit my stories to publications.

Now the first two stories that I ever submitted to anything followed a very unusual path. The first was a story called “Joy Ride” which I submitted to the Hopwood Awards in 2001. The second was a story called “The Royal Flush Saga” which I submitted to the Iowa Review Awards in 2006. In both cases, the story won second prize in the contest in question, got published and I was paid money.

This was a very nice way to start off, but of course it was too good to last. My third attempt at short fiction, a story called “Trio” which I hold in higher esteem than the first two (perhaps, unreasonably) was roundly rejected everywhere it went. After that, I got so caught up writing theater and then taking some time off, and then trying to fashion a series of short stories with interconnected plots and characters, and then trying to start my first novel, that I sort of forgot I was supposed to be submitting my short fiction to publications.

So this September, when the literary journals opened their doors to unsolicited manuscripts again, I did some final edits, printed my manuscripts and started mailing my three unpublished short stories that I consider finished: “Trio,” “Norwegian Blues” and “Finistère.” “Trio” went out to The Missouri Review and Ecotone. “Norwegian Blues” went out to The Iowa Review, Fiction and TriQuarterly. With “Finistère,” which is everybody’s favorite but mine (I like “Norwegian Blues” the best but suspect I’m not objective), I decided to shoot the moon, so I sent it to The Atlantic. I’ve given it a couple of weeks head start there, by it’s such a long shot that if I don’t hear back by late October I’m goig to send it to One Story, Ploughshares and The New England Review. And, of course, as the rejections come in, I’ll send a different story.

And sure enough, they’ve started coming. Missouri just sent back a rejection notice for my beloved little ugly duckling, “Trio.” And, with that, we’re off to the races!

Leave a comment! Have you ever submitted your work to a publication? If not, you’d better have a good excuse!

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