Four actively publishing writers on writing what you’re meant to be writing and publishing in your own time and your own way.
Ellen Chang-Richardson is a poet, writer and editor of Taiwanese and Cambodian Chinese (or Chinese Cambodian) descent, whose writing has appeared in The Fiddlehead, Vallum Contemporary, and Watch Your Head, among others—including Room, which you’ll hear about coming up.
Hege A. Jakobsen Lepri is Norwegian-Canadian translator and writer. She had her first story published in English in 2013 and has since chosen that as her writing language.
Lori Sebastianutti is a writer and teacher and former managing editor of the Fertility Matters Canada blog. She has published in The New Quarterly, The Hamilton Review of Books, and Nurture, which you’ll hear all about in this episode.
Angela Wright is a writer, historian, and political analyst based in Toronto, Canada. Her creative nonfiction has appeared in Catapult, The Fiddlehead, The New Quarterly, and The Brooklyn Quarterly. She has performed her poetry in venues across the United States and Canada, including at Canada’s National Arts Centre.
These are four writers who actively submit their work, who persist at it and who publish. Among what they have in common is that they each found their “lane” in writing, and that lane gave them the traction to publish in lit mags and succeed by their unique definitions of “success” for their writing.
They didn’t necessarily start out in their lane, so you’ll hear from them about finding that sweet spot, that place where what they are writing and where they are submitting fit.
- Ellen Chang-Richardson
- Hege A. Jakobsen Lepri
- Lori Sebastianutti
- Angela Wright
- “Notes for the Babysitter” in Nurture by Lori Sebastianutti
- “Looking for You to Find Me” in The Brooklyn Quarterly by Angela Wright
- Ellen Chang-Richardson & Hege A. Jakobsen Lepri’s work were both published in Room issue 44.2.
- The FOLD Festival Program with Ellen Chang Richardson’s piece “Tundra Mist”
- Ellen Chang-Richardson mentions Black Squirrel Books in Ottawa where she purchased the book, The Pol Pot Regime.
- I Become a Delight to My Enemies by Sara Peters
- Hege A. Jakobsen Lepri participates in this #HaikuChallenge on Twitter.
- In Episode 11 (not 15 as she said in the recording) of this podcast, Alicia Elliott talks about the piece that Angela Wright published in The Fiddlehead.
- Angela Wright’s piece, ”Looking at Australia, Looking at Me” published in carte blanche and edited by Jenny Ferguson.
Write, Publish, Shine Episode 54 Transcript
Welcome Luminous Writers to The Write, Publish, and Shine Podcast. I am your host author and literary magazine editor Rachel Thompson. This podcast explores how to write and share your brilliant writing with the world. In each episode we delve into specifics on how to polish and prepare your writing for publication and the journey from emerging writer to published author. This is a special episode of Write, Publish, and Shine all about writing what you’re meant to be writing, working on fit that way, versus writing what you think you should be writing.
Four writers who are alumni of my Lit Mag Love course are here.
You’ll hear from Ellen Chang-Richardson, a poet, writer and editor of Taiwanese and Cambodian Chinese (or Chinese Cambodian) descent, whose writing has appeared in The Fiddlehead, Vallum Contemporary, and Watch Your Head, among others—including Room Magazine, which you’ll hear about that in more detail coming up.
Hege A. Jakobsen Lepri is a Norwegian-Canadian translator and writer. She had her first story published in English in 2013 and has since chosen that as her writing language.
Lori Sebastianutti is a writer and teacher and former managing editor of the Fertility Matters Canada blog. She has published in The New Quarterly, The Hamilton Review of Books, and the inaugural issue of Nurture, and you’re going to hear about that experience up first in this episode.
Our fourth guest is Angela Wright is a writer, historian, and political analyst based in Toronto, Canada. Her creative nonfiction has appeared in The Fiddlehead, The New Quarterly, and The Brooklyn Quarterly. She has performed her poetry in venues across the United States and Canada, including Canada’s National Arts Centre.
These are four writers who actively submit their work, who persist at it and who publish. Among what they have in common is that they each found their “lane” in writing. I’m using scare quotes around the word lane there so insert your metaphor as you choose, and that lane gave them the traction to publish in lit mags and succeed by their unique definitions of “success” for their writing.
They didn’t necessarily start out in their lane, so you’re going to hear from them also about finding that sweet spot, that place in what they are writing and where they are submitting fits.
Here first, is Lori Sebastianutti on when she first started submitting…
Well, when I first started submitting, I would look at the journals, and then try to see if my work could fit with these journals so I would, it was more journal focused, and I would either write to a theme, a call out or I would see if any of my work fit, and I had zero success [laughs]. Either I didn’t publish the piece or I didn’t even finish writing it, you know like I remember Room had a food theme and I’m like okay I want to get in Room so I’m gonna write something about food, and I didn’t end up finishing the piece and I’ve had a few rejections too that way but then I started learning. No, I need to write what is inside me. What is calling to come out, and then see what journals might be interested in my work, and then I had a lot more success that way, because the work that I was creating to have published in a certain journal, it was forced, so that really changed my focus and I don’t submit to a ton of journals like I really admire those writers who submit, like 100, a year or 100 rejections a year that’s their goal, but I don’t work that way and I think that’s awesome but it’s just not my personality I get a little bit too attached to my work and so I really kind of think, oh, who would be interested in this, like, what journal publishes stuff like this, what editor might be open to this and so as a result it takes me a lot more time because I think a lot about it first, and then I let it out into the world, so I submit to both print and online. Luckily I’ve had success in both, but I do submit to a lot of smaller online journals with not like a huge following, and they have amazing editors like either they’re just starting out, you know great writers behind them great editors and I think, you know, even though they’re smaller you get exposure online and you meet like the other writers in that journal online of course, and that you start following them on Twitter so you kind of build community that way. I have submitted to some of the bigger ones, a lot of rejections, but a few acceptances from the bigger kind of Canadian print journals.
I so resonate with what Lori said about writing what is calling to come out of her instead of writing what she thinks lit mags want. Listen now to see what happened when she waited until her lane was literally created!
So I wrote a piece in 2017 in Nicole Breit’s Spark Your Outlier Story course, and we worked on it together and I remember her saying at the end of us working together, the piece is strong, it was a hermit crab essay, and she said, you’ve nailed it, there is a home out there for this piece, so that’s the first time I got really, kind of glowing feedback from a writer I really admired. So, I just started sending it out, you know, and I sent it here I sent it there I sent it to a contest, and it got rejected about five or six times over a period of like two years and I thought, I know you’re told that after three or four rejections, you should probably revise it but I believed in the piece and I had Nicole’s feedback to back it up. And I thought, maybe these journals just weren’t the right fit and so I just left it and I didn’t revise it. And then at the end of 2019, I saw on Twitter, it was a new journal starting up, a US journal, and it was called Nurture A Literary Journal and the theme was the complexities of care, and then a bell rang because that piece I wrote it was a hermit crab that I wrote as notes to a babysitter, which in this case was my child’s first babysitter, which was the embryologist in the IVF lab, and I wrote about those complex feelings of those first five days that they had to live outside my body and how that was a loss for me but at the same time I was so grateful to live in an era where that’s possible. So it was about the complexities of care and I thought okay, I’m going to submit this to this journal, and I got an acceptance pretty quickly so it took about two years, about five or six rejections. But it really was just waiting it out and seeing, almost like the Journal had to exist, for this for this piece to find a home because it fits the theme perfectly. Yeah and it was published in their inaugural issue and I was thrilled to bits and then the editor Colleen Rothman she was amazing. She did do a few copy edits, so it wasn’t like it was perfect, perfect, but she didn’t change form she didn’t change theme and so it found success that way, so I’m glad that I didn’t go back and think okay, something is inherently wrong with this piece I need to change it, I believe in it, I’m gonna see what happens in the future. That’s the direction my writing is going. I have to spend that extra layer of really looking into the publication, of really looking at what the editor has published before or the editor writers himself or herself and see is this a fit? Before I send it and so it’s an extra step but I think it’s worth it.
You can find Lori’s piece, “Notes for the Babysitter” on Nurture‘s website and I link to it in the show notes.
Ellen Chang-Richardson’s story starts with starting to believe in herself as a writer. It was a meeting with her friend Sam Hiyate of The Rights Factory who told her about Room magazine, where I happen to be an editorial collective member, and by the way, Ellen is now, too. But that’s jumping ahead, here is what happened with Ellen at that meeting with Sam:
You know it had always been a pipe dream of mine to write and be a writer, whatever that means. So we went for coffee and he was like, Look, you’ve got talent, but if you want to get published, here are some strategies that you need to do, for example, you need to spend the next year, polishing your work submitting to literary journals, and then he named dropped Room, and he was like if you don’t know them, Room magazine is the leading feminist magazine in Canada. You should read their work read their issues familiarize yourself with what they do. And if you can get published in it, submit to them, and get your work in, and I was like, okay.
And I didn’t know if I had anything that might fit. I was sending Room, all my best shit and getting rejected over and over and over again. I was submitting new poetry, at the time. And so, every single time there was an open call for submission, I’m like, All right, put together five poems send this bloody thing and another rejection [laughs], and then another rejection [laughs]. I was like okay that’s fine I’m just gonna keep submitting doesn’t matter because in the back of my head I could hear Sam Hiyate being like best feminist literary magazine in Canada, get your work in there if you want to be at that echelon.
So Ellen, like Lori, started with a focus on the journal itself, in her case wanting to publish with Room, but then she started digging into her personal history in her writing, finding a story that only she could tell. Here’s what happened next…
So, my father is a survivor of the Cambodian genocide and you know we have a very fraught relationship. I started researching into the psychology of surviving something as traumatic as that you know read Viktor Frankl Man’s Search for Meaning, great book. He actually looks at surviving trauma like that from a very clinical psychology, point of view, because I want to understand EQ development and that sort of thing and it’s still a project that I’m working on. I also wanted to learn more about the Cambodian genocide because no one teaches you that in school, it’s not taught hardly anywhere. You know, I went to high school in Shanghai and I had a very international curriculum, but it was still very American oriented, so I didn’t learn about it either. So I found this book called the Pol Pot Regime, buried in Black Squirrel Books in Ottawa, which is an amazing bookstore and cafe in the capital region. And I started reading this, and it’s about the rise of the Khmer Rouge. It’s a doozy. But then I started sort of trying to sort through my own issues by writing my story, tangled up with my father’s story or what I’ve been told is my father’s story. So the Pol Pot regime was like founded on lies. And I feel like a lot of that has trickled into, at least how my dad deals with surviving it. So, you know, I started writing this thing but I’m a poet… At the time, I was reading Sarah Peters, I Become a Delight to my Enemies, and it’s a novel that blows up the idea of what form might look like. There are no page numbers. There’s no chapters as we know them. There’s this marginalia all over the place. So I was writing this work on the side and thinking to myself well these are clearly nonfiction stories but I’m a poet who works very strongly with spatial form and concrete form on the page and I don’t want to lose that because I am trying to fit my work into what I know creative nonfiction to be so far.
So I was like okay, screw it I’m just gonna play around, so I ended up writing a creative nonfiction essay to, actually, that fit side by side and I’m still working on the project, it’s kind of taken a pause, but I wrote them in the way that I write my poetry. So I submitted that simultaneously to Room, and The Fold program, and Room, wrote me back in like I think it was a couple weeks, which is a really short timeframe, they’re like, We want this. The Fold wrote and were like I want this.
So Ellen went from multiple rejections to having two places asking to publish this one piece. That is the magic of finding your unique voice and story, and also of connecting your writing to bigger events in the world. The FOLD asked if she had anything else for them to read and she produced a companion essay for the original submission, publishing both.
I love that her writing both honoured her family story and also the form she intuited for her writing. You can find her piece “Tundra Mist” online in the FOLD program, which I link to in the show notes, and her work, “Storm Surge” appears in the print issue of Room 44.2, and I also link to that issue in the show notes.
Next we’ll hear from Hege who also persisted with a piece until it was published with Room Magazine (side note: there are a lot of us reading for the magazine, and I do not believe I was a reader for any of her submissions).
Here’s Hege A. Jakobsen-Lepri on what happened:
My relationship with Room Magazine started in July 2014. I have since then sent 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 and on my 11th attempt I did get a piece in. So that is quite a list of attempts. And then I have, I actually have one piece that I’m still submitting after more than 20 rejections, because it has received positive rejections, almost everywhere and I think it’s just a question of finding that one place [laughs]. It was a piece that got personalized rejections from The New Yorker, and it still hasn’t been picked up anywhere. It’s been going around since, 2017, and I have now I think I’m on my 32nd submission, and I just sent it out to two different places.
By the way, I also link to Hege’s publication which happens to be the same publication as Ellen’s, again I was not editing that issue nor did I read for that issue so it’s just a happy coincidence that they were both published at the same time.
Here’s Hege A. Jakobsen-Lepri:
Hege’s belief in her writing, believing in the work I think happens more readily when you’re truly writing what you’re meant to be writing. When you’ve found your luminous voice something that Hege has really going for her in her work in general. Hege also has a pretty methodical approach to gauge good places to send her work. And she also had to adjust her strategy and expectations about lit mags during these pandemic years.
Okay, since I write in every genre there is, and from quite traditional to very experimental I have tailored lists of places where I send certain pieces. Usually when I finish a piece, I will have an idea of which pile it goes into. And so I send out to, to do most of the Canadian ones, but possible. I think it’s a, it’s a three to four ratio of American versus, versus Canadian ones just because there’s so many more American ones and especially for stuff that is quite experimental. And some of them have shorter turnaround time so I will sometimes choose when I need a quicker response, I will tailor to a list where I know they have a shorter response time. That has backfired a few times when I did it during the pandemic because some of those truths that I had learned were truths were no longer so during at least the first year of pandemic where some of some of the readers and editors seemed to fall apart not and were not able to produce what they usually did so those things happened. So, I am pulling up now, my list of of places where I submit to. So, pretty much every Canadian one that doesn’t require to mail your, your submission in, because that usually is a huge showstopper for me so I don’t get around to it so I just don’t even aim at those. Then, when I have something that is they think is a fit, I will send it to The New Yorker because, who am I to stop myself from something, even though I know that with very hard, high likelihood they will not accept me. After that I will go for the top Canadian ones, if I haven’t been accepted or submitted there recently, like, The Fiddlehead, Grain, The New Quarterly, The Malahat, Prism, Room, etc. So what I figure will be top of my list will depend on both the exposure. Whether they pay or not. How they, ratio for certain prizes like the Canadian Magazine Awards, or The Pushcart or stuff like that. So it’s a long list, and there’s some that I were I like the answers I get better so I tend to send to those more frequently. One of those is The Missouri Review where I haven’t been accepted yet, but I keep trying and they usually give me a nice personalized note for whatever I sent them.
I have been published in Grain but I haven’t sent stuff there for a few years but I did submit through Submittable at that point. The only two that I know require to mail stuff in is The Fiddlehead and The New Quarterly. There may be some others, but those are the two, and then there are a bunch of American ones that I have largely edited out of my list because it’s too much of a hassle and especially if I can’t get any kind of feedback from them because they require for me to send a self addressed envelope with their stamps which is this point impossible. I did a few at a certain point I don’t anymore so there’s some that would be fit for some of my work where I don’t send anything at this point because of the demand of having hardcopies sent, and the inability to get feedback. If there is any because they require you to do stuff you can’t do in a pandemic.
You’ll recall Lori Sebastianutti saying earlier that she looks closely at editors who might be a good fit for her work and Angela Wright is another writer who finds really looking closely at editors most helpful.
I found it a lot easier to research the editor and try to fit something to the editor, rather than trying to fit something to the particular publication. Because, what I’ve done, especially on Twitter if you see there are certain topics that they like to talk about. Twitter’s a really good place to find places to submit especially editors for Catapult they’ll say I want to read certain pieces here are the topics that I really want, here are some of the essays that I’ve worked with before that I’ve helped publish and I really liked them and so it really gives you a good idea of what might be successful so I found it’s really important to be strategic and not just blanket your complete piece anywhere because there’s going to be a lot of places that will just not like it, even if it’s great. Maybe that editor doesn’t like that particular topic, maybe they feel like that the form has been overdone like it could be a lot of different reasons why they might not accept it, so it’s, I would say to do as much research on the publication but also, especially on the editor before you submit.
I’m interrupting these four luminous writers all of whom are alumni of my course called Lit Mag Love to let you know that if you’ve benefitted from what you’ve learned from this and other episodes of this podcast about writing and submitting your work to journals you might be a good candidate for my course that is all about publishing in journals. The Lit Mag Love course will help you get a big YES for your writing from a literary journal. The five week course runs twice per year. Our first session in 2022 starts February 1st, so you have time to plan your course sessions for the new year. Lit Mag Love comes with lots of support and feedback. You can learn all about the Lit Mag Love course. Find out what writers say about working with me and join the course waitlist to get exclusive enrollment offers rachelthompson.co/litmaglove
Now back to the conversation with four luminous writers who are all alumni of the Lit Mag Love course as they discuss finding their lane in their writing.
Angela talks about a specific piece she was writing that really required the help of another editor and I most appreciate how she sees editors as collaborators in her work and how she looks for that extra layer of care and sensitivity when she’s writing about communities that are not her own. Listen to this publication experience Angela had with editor Jenny Ferguson at Carte Blanche that was crucial to her piece, “Looking at Australia, Looking at Me” and it’s success.
Because I know that Jenny Ferguson is indigenous, and that piece was also very much about what I learned about the history of indigenous people in Australia. How I essentially went to Australia to study trauma, and I was looking at the history of convicts in Australia which is more widely noted that I kind of tripped over or I might say fell flat on my face and this kind of story of intergenerational trauma of Indigenous people, and so because I knew that she’s Indigenous, I was like this would be a good place to put this piece because I would want to work on this piece with an editor who’s Indigenous to ensure that there’s a good enough sensitivity, and I’m making sure that I’m approaching it but also she would be able to give me good feedback in terms of kind of how I’m understanding and working through some of these issues.
You can find Angela’s piece, “Looking at Australia, Looking at Me” in the show notes for this episode up at https://rachelthompson.co/podcast/54/
Angela also found her writing best fit with lit mags looking for pitches or excerpts of her writing before she even wrote the full piece. Also note how Angela’s description of her writing is an example of, like Ellen, digging into her personal history to find that story that is uniquely hers, in this case about her grandmother.
I was very lucky in the first journal I was ever published and it was called The Brooklyn Quarterly, and they were actually accepting full pieces but also kind of not pitches but summaries or an excerpt of a full piece, and so I had this idea, and for for the essay to end up being called, “Looking for You to Find Me,” and it was about my grandmother and my relationship with my grandmother she passed away 10 days before I was born. And so I had this idea, and I wrote that I didn’t have a complete idea for the essay I had no idea where I was going to go, but I workshopped it I was in a writing group at the time and I workshopped my first page, with my writing group and they are like this is great and so I sent that in and then the editor was like this is great can you send me four pages and so then I wrote four pages, and she’s like, Okay, this is great. Yeah, we’re going to accept this piece and so because I got that early acceptance, that was like my first kind of major submission when I started writing creative nonfiction I used to write poetry but I was very unsuccessful in poetry. And so that gave me a lot of confidence to keep submitting, and it was very similar with when I submitted to Catapult. When I submitted to Catapult is also good because they will accept pitches as well. And so I’ve found that I have been a lot more successful in submitting to literary journals that will take excerpts, or that will take ideas as opposed to writing a full draft and then submitting. So I tend to look out for literary journals that will accept ideas or pitches or excerpts. I also find it’s easier to handle because you’re not putting a lot of work in upfront, so you’re kind of mitigating. I would say even the rejection rejection is less painful if it’s just one page as opposed if it’s something that you’ve been working on for six months [laughs], you know?
One of my essays that I did spend, I would say almost two years on it, it ended up getting published in The Fiddlehead, and my first submission was to PRISM, it was one of their literary contests, and it was not successful, it did not make the long list or anything. And I actually knew the editor I’d worked with Alicia Elliot she was editing that journal edition, and she had asked me, she said, Oh, you know if you have any work, feel free to submit it and so there was this essay that I had that was done, I was like okay I’ll just send this and you know I worked on it for the past two years and she ended up accepting it. So that was also I would say very lucky, but I also because I had worked with her before she knew, she did know my work and so I think that was helpful, as well as getting an acceptance to The Fiddlehead.
Another little fun synchronicity side note: you can hear that same story of acceptance from the other side, from Alicia Elliott’s perspective when she talks about why she accepted Angela’s piece way back in Episode 11 of this podcast. Now here is a bit more of what Angela had to say about going the pitch route for her writing…
I actually really enjoy going the pitch route, because I find it very helpful, especially when you have an idea and you kind of have a roadmap to where you want to go I find having an editor, early in the process, working with you right with on your first draft can be very helpful in terms of giving you feedback. I mean, the piece that I wrote, I would say, a lot of the pieces that I wrote I also wrote a piece for The New Quarterly with Alicia Elliot, she was the editor, and that started off of me sending her essentially a Tweet, because she was relatively well known but still not as well known as she is now. And I’d read something that she had written in Room Magazine, and I was like, wow, this is great and I think I just tweeted about it. Then she responded to my tweet and then I sent her a DM and was telling her how I had this idea, about how I wanted to write an essay about the first Indigenous teacher that I had, she’s like wow that sounds so great. And then she came back to me later, and was saying, you know I’m editing this special series for The New Quarterly I would love to read this essay that you’re writing, and I had no real idea of where I was going to go with it, but then I kind of just typed up a draft and had I not worked with her through the process that essay would not have been as good as it was and so I find it can be really helpful, especially when you’re working with an editor that is a caring and careful and very understanding of what you’re trying to do. ****I find the work that you end up doing can be very strong because you can avoid all of the naysayers that might come through in your early drafts, especially if you’re workshopping a piece, amongst people that you don’t do not know very well or if it’s like you’re workshopping it in like an actual workshop and you can avoid the racists or the sexists or all those types of people who like who might have very unhelpful comments about your work. So if you can work directly with an editor, especially on very sensitive and personal topics, it’s, I find it very, very helpful. I also found that I learned a lot from the editors from their feedback right in terms of one thing I remember Alicia saying to me, you know you should not kind of presume what people are thinking in creative nonfiction and so she’s like you can’t say they’re thinking this or you have to kind of judge by how they’re how they’re acting, what they could possibly be thinking but you really cannot put their thoughts down because it’s creative nonfiction I was like yeah that’s actually really good. It was a good lesson to learn. I find that you can pick up a lot of very helpful tips. When you work directly with editors, through the drafting process. That essay ended up being published in Black Writers Matter.
Notice how working with editors also helped Angela hone her writing more, which is what we heard in Lori’s experience with her publication in Nurture.
So there you have four writers sharing some of their specific publication journeys that brought them closer to the writing they are meant to be writing, that luminous work that gets published in the right place.
Let’s now look closely at four ingredients that will help, I believe, any writer find their lane, i.e. the writing you’re meant to be writing and the places where your work is meant to be published:
The first ingredient is patience. If you listened to my last episode with Meli Walker, you heard me say a mantra that I use for my writing: “In my own time. In my own way.” These four writers all heed this edict. Hege has 32 submissions and counting for just one piece; Lori kept going because she believed in a piece even before the right journal to publish it existed; one of Angela’s essays found a home after she worked on it for two years. And here’s Ellen Chang-Richardson again talking about how she avoids being hasty…
Sometimes writing ebbs and flows. Sometimes we take time to, right now, for instance, I’m in a generating phase, like I have maybe five poems that are ready to go out to places and one creative nonfiction essay, and that’s not a lot [laughs]. And for a little bit I was, Oh, you got to submit submit submit and I’m like you know what, it’s okay to say no, and when you see like a call for submission from a journal that you genuinely want to be and you’re like, Oh my God. But if you don’t have work that fits it right now, don’t be hasty. Another submission period will open up again. Be okay with being patient.
Part of my process is the work that hits the slush pile for literary magazine is done, like as much as it can be before the final editorial tweaks here and there but it’s a polished piece. It’s not rough around the edges, it’s read ready. Writers should keep in the back of their mind when they’re submitting is have something that’s read ready.There’s some magazines that like that raw roughness, but most, from my understanding of it prefer something that’s not a draft.
The second ingredient in our list of four ingredients is finding your lane takes discernment. All four writers are very selective about who will get to read and then publish their work. They don’t send their work out scattershot.
My personal path to getting published is kind of very research oriented, like my work itself. I actually subscribe to multiple different literary journals that have piqued my interest, for whatever reason, or I get copies from like friends or I pick some thing up from a newsstand that looks interesting to me or something like that and I just start reading a variety of different literary journals either in print or online and I try to always get a feel of the work that’s been published in those journals and anytime I submit to a journal, it’s entirely because I, either have a piece or two that I think might fit their voice, or there’s like a specific thematic call that I have a piece that I think might fit as well, not always successful, but I haven’t changed my method because I think, you know from the other side like editors and slush pile readers appreciate when a writer has done research into publication before just instead in lieu of like form submitting everywhere. They really appreciate that because, you know, it’s like, you end up reading something that fits with the journal.
The other thing that all of these writers do is work at taking feedback for what it is worth. Here is Angela on learning this discernment…
Not everyone understands your work and some people can be malicious, you know, they might be jealous of your work and so give comments that are not helpful. They might just not like you personally, they could be racist they could be sexist and so not all feedback is helpful. And it’s important to I would say, if you have a choice to only share your work and take feedback from people who you respect or who you know, understand at least what your work is and what you’re trying to do. Because unhelpful feedback can make your writing worse or can make you feel very bad about yourself.
The third on this list of ingredients to find your lane as a writer is to define your own success. Listen to the success Hege finds when she balances out the slow process of submitting her writing to lit mags with instant feedback on her writing from a large community of readers.
Hege A. Jakobsen-Lepri:
I have a very nice haiku community that I participate in every day. And the nice thing about haiku is that it is always a work in progress, it is short and you can rework it, 100 times. And it gives you a feeling of having accomplished something, and we sometimes critique our works and sometimes we even go into a Japanese tradition where you write a haiku or a senryu, in response to something somebody else writes; that kind of community where your text dialogues with somebody else’s text, even though most of my writing is not haiku or poetry is really helpful. The feeling of being in a community and a writing community where you actually exchange the words you write there, live, really helps me.
I do that every day, and I do a haiku challenge every day. So I have that ongoing thing and I sometimes will use a sentence from a haiku or senryu, I’ll realize doesn’t work that well as haiku, but it would be a really good opening to a flash fiction piece. I get going, I get into Exchange mode where I exchange my ideas, not just sit on them, and, and mull and ponder who may say this, they’re sent out instantly, and I do it all the time. And I sometimes edit that one piece. Later that day and I spend and I discuss with others whether the first or the second was better, and it’s a really good way to for me to get past that threshold where I think that no no this is not good enough to send out and I’m not ready, or this, so it is I mean, in on Twitter I’m everyday out there putting my work out, even though that is not considered publication by most it is part of this literary community and sending things out and getting response to that and for me that really works and it’s helped me develop some haiku and senryu poems that in later rework have been published with and received a lot of feedback. You get lots of feedback, that’s also the thing. More than when you send other stuff out. You get feedback right away. I’ve been doing that every day for three years almost and it’s a way to see both how you improve and how you improve through dialogue and through sending your stuff out in the world. If I’m really lucky and it really strikes a chord, I will have 2500 people visualizing my short poem in a day and a half.
And defining your own success also means defining the role writing plays in your life. Here’s Ellen again.
When I found writing. I was like you know what, if I succeed in whichever small way that I define my own success in this then I will be happy there there are hard moments, there are moments where I’m like, What am I doing?! but for the most part it’s, it’s like, I find my writing to be self care. It’s how I work through a lot of stuff, it’s like if I’m frustrated at work, for instance, and I’m like, What is the point of even working here I think to myself, right now writing doesn’t put a roof over your head so why don’t you go to work, do your thing, make some money go home and write.
Finally, finding your lane takes courage. Here is Lori again on how she finds courage from other writers…
I think I do go back and read some of the essays that have had the most impact on me because if that author didn’t get the courage to submit that I would never have read it and never have been moved by it so that actually does help me quite a bit, I talked to other writers too. You know, people like me said before you know who have skin in the game the way we do and they get it. I don’t usually talk about it with non writers because they’re like, why are you telling that story about yourself?! [laughs]
I love what Lori says about how other writers just get it and non writers are like, what, what are you doing?! You heard more mentions of writing community from the writers in this episode, who are all vibrant parts of my course community.
You’ll hear more from these four writers in the next episode, so part two of our conversation which will be all about community and resilience. They will share mistakes they made submitting to lit mags and how they each manage the inevitable rejection that comes with being in the submission game.
So look for that episode out in two weeks.
My Lit Mag Love course will help you get a big YES for your writing from a literary mag that you love. Get ahead in your plans to publish in 2022 by joining the waitlist today. You will get special enrollment offers if you do. Learn more about the course and get on the waitlist at https://rachelthompson.co/litmaglove/
The Write, Publish, and Shine Podcast is brought to you by me, Rachel Thompson. You can learn more about the work I do to help writers to write publish and shine at https://rachelthompson.co/ When you’re there sign up for my Writerly Love Letters sent every other week and filled with support for your writing practice. Our podcast production assistant is Tamara Jong who paitiently helped gather all the interviews for this episode. Tamara is an incredible literary citizen who inpires us all with her support of writers in our community. Thanks Tam.
If this episode encouraged you to keep going and persist with your dreams to publish in lit mags, I would love to hear all about it. You can tag me on social media: @rachelthompson Twitter or @rachelthompsonauthor IG.
I’d love it if you tell other luminous writers about this episode. You can do this by sending them to the podcast at rachelthompson.co/podcast or tell them to search for Write, Publish, and Shine wherever they get their podcasts.
Thank you for listening and I encourage to find your lane that sweet spot where you’re writing what you’re meant to write and publishing in the places you’re meant to publish.
My guests spoke to us from Oslo Norway. From the land of the Algonquin Anishinaabe nation, what is colonially known as Ottawa, Canada. From the traditional territory of many nations including the Mississaugas of the Credit, the Anishnabeg, the Chippewa, the Haudenosaunee and the Wendat peoples in so called Toronto, Ontario. And the traditional territories of the Erie, Neutral, Huron-Wendat, Haudenosaunee and Mississaugas and what is colonially known as Hamilton, Ontario, Canada. Myself I’m a guest in the South Sinai, Egypt, on lands historically and presently occupied by the el Tarabin Bedouin.