We all have our endeavours, the things that give us pleasure, meaning, recognition, status. For me, and a lot of other writers, that recognition comes from having my work accepted into literary magazines.
Outside of the world of writers, no one cares about these magazines. Most people don’t even know what a literary magazine is, let alone which are ‘reach’ publications, and the meaning a writer like me would derive from appearing in one. My husband is a scientist, and so are most of our friends. No one I see on a regular basis would ever think to pick up a literary magazine for a lazy afternoon read. Talking about my desire to appear in them, or a rare success and publication in one, is like one of our friends bragging about discovering a new species of weed. “Weeds?” I would think. “Who cares?” But this friend cares, deeply—it’s his world, his form of recognition, contribution, status. And that’s what literary magazines are to me.
We all have our small but important ways to feel as though our lives, our existence, matters. We have our schemes and ploys to be seen and heard by the people whose opinion matters to us. For my twin sister, it’s publishing in academic journals focused on South East Asian studies. No one I know has ever picked up one of those journals and read it, besides her. But it’s her driving force to share her research and conclusions, to contribute to this niche scholarly conversation. Publishing in my own niche set of publications is my own way to feel as though my stories and experiences matter, that I can shape them in such a way as to be moving and appealing to people I don’t know. The fact that there’s rarely any pay doesn’t matter, not when the endeavour hits so deep.
It’s preposterous, really, how getting an acceptance can alter my mood for days, and give me such a sense of pride and accomplishment. Someone I don’t know read my work and LOVED it. What a rush! With just my words, I connected to someone, and now have the chance to connect with new readers, to move them as so many other works have moved me. I’ve deeply appreciated so many beautiful essays and stories—given to me by teachers, found in dusty corners of bookstores and libraries, or some small corner of the Internet—and have since striven to be among those writers. I am ever aiming to effect that same level of emotion, memory and sense of possibility in my own readers.
Why doesn’t this feeling come from simply posting in my own blog, you might ask? To me, it’s not the same. I love writing here, but it’s my own platform. I can post whatever I want. No one is doing any quality control except me. For someone who wants praise and recognition, my blog isn’t enough.
Typically, blogs are for those raw and real posts, the off the cuff take. There’s no denying the power of that kind of writing. But I also feel called to write another way, to be reflective and considered, to craft a weaving, loping yet compelling tale. I don’t think my blog is the place for that, although plenty of other writers do. I want that kind of writing to sit alongside other pieces like it by other writers, to reach a new and wider audience than I can right now with my small rented space on the Internet.
I’ll end with a screenshot of my Submittable page. I focus on those green Acceptances and take those Declines as part of the game. It’s not a game I will ever win completely, but I’ll keep going. I have to.
You see a few ‘Withdrawn’ at the bottom because that essay—My First: A City of Promise—was accepted by another literary journal, so I had to withdraw it from consideration in these other magazines. As you can now imagine, this acceptance has sent me dopily smiling for the past couple of days.