By Traci Skuce
This story’s publication journey began when I submitted it to the CBC Fiction contest. Then The Malahat Review and The Fiddlehead, then Grain.
Grain has published several of my stories. So it’s really great, after being published for a while, to have those go-to publications. They like your work, you know they’re likely to publish you again. I did submit “Something Infinitely Old” to The Malahat Review because I’m still looking for some external validation from them. I’m kidding. Sort of. I have a list of journals I haven’t been published in but would like to be. Fiddlehead is another of these.
Back in the early days, I always wondered where the writing would take me. For sure I had dreams of becoming a bestseller, but really I mostly wondered. For me, it’s like, if I didn’t keep turning the page of my life, so to speak, if I’d given up on my writing journey, I’d be disappointed in myself. I’d feel like my life was a book I loved but never finished reading. My curiosity has always been much stronger than any desire to give up.
My advice to other writers is: don’t give up. Of course, read the guidelines. But also, read some of the work in the journal. I remember wondering why The Capilano Review never accepted my stuff. When I finally got a subscription, I realized my work isn’t in alignment with what they publish. So, I recommend writers get a sense of the journal. Also, polish your prose. Make it true and make it shine. Write beautiful sentences.
When receiving rejections, it’s important to feel the disappointment. The anger, whatever. And let yourself just feel it. I always throw a little tantrum when I get rejected. It’s my inner teenager or something. But once the feeling has passed, revisit your story, read it again. Read it aloud. And notice if there’s room for improvement. If no, send it out again. If yes, make those changes and send it out again. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat. Until it ends up published.
That said, a lot of my self-care is taking pressures off. Like right now I’m giving myself permission to not work on a project. Instead, I’m asking myself what inspires me. Where can I find inspiration? And I’m seeing where that inquiry takes me.
My writing is definitely fed by being in community with other writers. The playfulness comes out more. Either in shared prompts or watching another beloved writer-friend publish/succeed in their work. It feels like an invitation to be part of a great conversation. The rejection is part of the process, so I think the community piece helps buoy you up. Holds you accountable and also you feel like you have your own little cheering section. Yay–more of your work! You can do it! If you only relied on what you heard from the journals, you might forget about it. But the community is there to share with, to help you grow as a writer, to both champion and challenge your writing.
Places I’ve submitted my work are:
- CBC CNF / Fiction prize
Every year, I try and submit a piece to one of these contests. The tricky thing is the word count, so you have to be really intentional about writing for the contest. In my opinion. One year I got very intentional and rather determined, and made it all the way to the finalist round.
- The Malahat Review
I always aim for the Malahat Review, and have been consistently rejected by them. Now that I’m writing this, I wonder what kind of approval I’m looking for here. They publish high quality stories and poems and probably part of me is waving my hand going “Pick me! Pick me!”.
- New Ohio Review
I’m adding this journal here because it was one of my best editorial experiences. My story “At the Edge of Everything” had been rejected something like 15 times, and then these guys wrote that they wanted to publish it if I could get the word count down. That the beginning was a bit draggy. I suggested I eliminate an entire scene, and the editor said, no, do it sentence by sentence. And I did. It was like cleaning out a closet (and I love cleaning out closets), getting rid of words and descriptions I didn’t need.
- The Fiddlehead
It’s another one of those journals I’ve been trying to get into since I started submitting. So I keep submitting. I even met Mark Anthony Jarman and told him he kept rejecting my stuff. Once I received a rejection in his handwriting that said something about the volumes of high-quality stuff the journal couldn’t except. But when I saw him at his reading, he gave me his personal email so I could send a story directly to him. But I don’t remember where I put it.
Traci Skuce lives on the traditional and unceded territories of the K’omoks First Nation. Her work has appeared in several literary journals, including past issues of Grain, The New Quarterly, Prairie Fire, New Ohio Review, and Caigibi. In April 2020, her short story collection, Hunger Moon, was released by NeWest Press and was a finalist for the Rakuten Kobo Emerging Writer Prize. Traci also founded The Writing Journey, an online creative writing school for fiction and memoir writers who want to finish their stories and get them out into the world.