Where: Mixed Remixed Festival 2016, Democracy Lab at the Japanese American National Museum in Los Angeles, CA
When: Friday, June 10, 11:30am–12:20pm
What: interactive workshop to discuss literary submissions
Who: moderator and poet Ashaki M. Jackson
Writers Talk Literary Submissions at Festival Celebrating Mixed Race and Multiracial Stories
This workshop was open to literary writers interested in creating a submission practice and/or increasing their readership by being published in top-tier journals. Ashaki and her colleague, Ashley Perez, provided an overview of basics, including creating a submission schedule, submission tracking, and cover-letter development. Participants left the workshop with simple submission materials.
Women Who Submit (WWS) seeks to empower women and non-binary writers by creating physical and virtual spaces for sharing information, supporting and encouraging literary submissions, and clarifying the submission and publication process. In their fourth year of operations, they have chapters in California’s Bay Area, Long Beach, and Las Vegas—with new possible roots in Arizona and North Dakota. The founding body has a membership of over 30 women, and their virtual communities each exceed 1,000 people.
On the second Saturday of every month, women congregate at a member’s house for a “submission party.” Amidst the wine and cheese and chips, writers sit down and write out their submission goals. Sometimes guest speakers visit to discuss writing craft and publishing. They welcome women and non-binary writers to register and partake in a new-member orientation. It’s no secret society, and it’s an incredibly nurturing one.
The “Why” of Literary Submissions
After informing an eager audience of Women Who Submit’s history and mission, poet and co-founder Ashaki Jackson asked us this seemingly simple question. I scanned the faces of writers in the filled room. Confusion, unease, and ponderous looks. Maybe I was merely projecting my own feelings, but I think these resonate.
Ashaki, in her calm wisdom, asked us to materialize these fears through words. She pointed to the sticky note in the green submission booklet each participant had. We needed to write down our hesitations—and then stick them onto a board. Seeing the little pink and teal squares against the white background almost felt comical. “This is the Wall of Terror,” she joked. We laughed, partly because it was funny, but partly because the metaphor hit truth.
The two most common concerns/fears that Ashaki read aloud?
- Where to begin?
Let’s explore them.
Why we submit trickles from why we write. As Ashaki said, “you’re writing for yourself; you don’t have to write for your readers.”
Ashley Perez, a WWS member, agreed. “We submit to silence that voice in our heads that says we’re not good enough. I write and [submit] because there’s something in me burning…I have to get this work out of me and onto the page.”
An attendee, Maria, had similar thoughts. “I submit almost as a writing exercise. I now feel like a door has opened and I want to share [my writing] with the world.”
Rejections will always hurt, at least a little. But for Ashaki, WWS encourages us to “celebrate rejections because we’re exercising our submission muscles; we normalize rejections.” When rejected, “we just need to find a better fit.”
One easy way to self-encourage? When submitting an self-addressed stamped envelope (SASE), “write an encouraging note to yourself on the envelope.” If you receive a rejection, the first thing you’ll see is your comforting note, and your familiar handwriting. It’s a little way your present self can make your future self feel better.
Drowning in Too Much Information
Google’s great. Perhaps too great. Type in a single word and you can receive 1,470,000,000 results in 0.39 seconds (literally: I just searched for “submit”). Where do we begin when we don’t know about or don’t have access to journals, top-tier or not? WWS to the rescue! At submission parties, members bring a portable journal library, and are happy to share those glossy in-print pages. Go to the library to check out ones you like to read. (Would you want to submit to a journal you hate? I hope not.)
“Familiarize yourself,” Ashley advised, “with the same spaces writers you admire occupy.”
Ashaki encouraged us to note where our peers have been accepted. “What do you read, and where do you want to be? Access who you think you are as a writer.” Think beyond the big-name journals to find “your personal tiers.” Again, submit for yourself: “you don’t have to follow the traditional system.”
Once you know where you want to submit, materialize your goals—ink them out in a list.
Also, if you’ve got a forthcoming publication, Ashaki especially believes in submitting. She submits 6–8 months prior to her work being published.
Katrina and Liane both found the session helpful and informative, and thought that WWS gave them direction and inspiration.
Via really appreciated the booklet WWS provided, and thought that Ashaki and Ashley made the submission process less intimidating.
Aurelia said that she’d been writing all her life, but until now hasn’t had the courage to submit. Through Ashaki’s workshop, she’s now listening to the possibility.
The Founding Mothers of WWS
Women Who Submit co-founder Xochitl-Julisa Bermejo is a high school English and drama teacher, as well as a poet and fiction writer. Sundress will publish her poetry collection, Built with Safe Spaces, in fall 2016. Co-founder Ashaki M. Jackson is a social psychologist and poet. Her chapbook, Surveillance, is available through Writ Large Press. Senior member Tisha Reichle is a high school teacher and fiction writer whose work is included in The Acentos Review and the Santa Fe Writers Project.
This is one story in a series about the programs held at the Mixed Remixed Festival 2016. Please read through them all by searching our blog with “2016 Festival Re-Cap.”