How I Published in X-R-A-Y Literary Magazine

By Lina Lau

X-R-A-Y Literary Magazine’s vision is to publish uncomfortable, entertaining, and unforgettable prose that shines brighter than the skeleton in your body, prose that sees through the skin and reveals something deeper.

I submitted to X-R-A-Y Literary Magazine last July in 2020, and I received a personalized rejection within two weeks, encouraging me to submit again.

I submitted again at the end of September and heard back in about two days. I remember receiving the email and intentionally not looking at it right away, assuming it was another rejection. I was thrilled when I finally read it.

Jo Varnish, the CNF (creative nonfiction) editor, commented that she was glad I had submitted again and said some validating things about my piece, which supports what I’ve often heard—that when editors ask you to submit again, they mean it.

Jo had some fantastic yet very minor suggestions for edits and it was a quick and comfortable process. The hardest part was waiting about three months to finally see it in print. My piece, ”On the Street Corner” is also now available to read online.

When I started submitting to lit mags in 2018, I didn’t really know much and didn’t do much to prepare. I just sent pieces out to contests and lit mags I had heard of, or places where friends had been published.

And now, when I look through my submission history in Submittable, it seems I submit pieces about five times before they get accepted or I take them back and try to re-work them. I have a handful of pieces that were never accepted and are waiting for me to revise again.

Some lit mags I’ve submitted to three or four times, sometimes with personalized rejections. I’ve always heard that when editors say they want to see more of your work, they mean it, so I haven’t taken these places off my list yet!

For writers submitting to lit mags, I think a publishing plan is helpful for researching lit mags and having a list that you think are a good fit for your work and reading and following submission guidelines. Before I started submitting, I listened to the Write, Publish, and Shine podcast which helped me understand the landscape of lit mags.

I also suggest you send in your best work. And before you do, workshopping with other writers is a great way to help you see places where tweaking the piece could strengthen it.

I handle rejection by leaning on community where I have supportive friends who understand the sting of rejection. I will also sometimes go back to read acceptances and positive comments/feedback about my work for extra validation.

Self-talk goes a long way to explicitly remind myself rejection doesn’t mean I’m not a good writer, and that so much is about external reasons beyond your control, like fit with the editor and the lit mag, fit with the other pieces already chosen for the issue, etc.

In my writing life, compassion is my best form of self-care. Acceptance of honouring where I’m at. I sometimes take breaks from writing, when life gets too overwhelming and I tend to beat myself up over it, telling myself I’m not a real writer if I’m not writing every day. I know that I work better with deadlines, and so I will sometimes treat myself to an online writing course when I feel I need extra motivation and support.

I’ve never thought about giving up writing, if anything, I’ve thought of how I can branch out from the CNF I write now, to perhaps pitching articles, or even…..gasp! maybe a book!

I didn’t realize how much of writing is community when I first started. There’s so much you can learn from other writers and so many things they can learn from you. The support from writing community is key in helping me to keep going. Writers in my community are cheerleaders for me in a different way than others in my life, because of the shared experiences.

I’ve been fortunate with my work in terms of receiving personalized rejections. I know the submission process doesn’t often allow for feedback, but I find the kind words from editors that they liked my work motivating and confirming as an emerging writer, as I still consider myself.

There are a few lit mags that I have submitted to a number of times, including:

  1. JMWW—I’ve submitted here five times with four personalized rejections!
  2. pidgeonholes—I’ve submitted here three times and received personalized rejections each time.
  3. Pithead Chapel
  4. River Teeth

I’m hoping one day soon something will be a better fit for these journals. Writing and submitting can be a slog, but I do love the opportunity to create something just with words on a page, and to hopefully find connection with others, maybe even helping them feel seen.

Recently, a piece of mine was accepted as a finalist for a contest. I cannot say more about this right now, but I will say that I submitted this piece about ten times for almost two years with rejections. So, sometimes, perseverance is key.

Lina Lau is a mother, green tea drinker, and writer based in Toronto, Canada. Her work can be found in X-R-A-Y Literary Magazine, Hippocampus Magazine, carte blanche, and others. She writes during the in-between moments of parenting her two young daughters.

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