We Submit, and We Submit

June 16, 2014 § 14 Comments

A guest post from Risa Polansky Shiman:

Young woman winkingWe call them Summer Submission Parties. Every two weeks, my MFA friends and I reserve a classroom from the English department. We spread out around the long, conference-style table in front of our respective laptops, armed with bottles of water and Fig Newtons and a community bag of almonds that we agree somehow taste like walnuts (walmonds). Someone writes each of our names on the big, white board at the front of the room, and we get started.

“So-and-so, I think XYZ Review would be a good fit for your stuff – check it out.”

“Guys! Such-and-Such Magazine is calling for experimental nonfiction!”

“Ugh. ANOTHER one that charges three dollars to submit. It’s not the money – it’s the principle.”

“Shoot. I just missed the submission period for Journal That Definitely Would Have Published My Piece Had It Been Accepting Submissions.”

You know. A Submission Party.

Our Facebook invite reads: “Really, just a gathering wherein we can actively encourage each other to submit pieces, share knowledge about journals, explore the inner workings of Duotrope, and make recommendations as to where we think we (and our friends) should submit. The goal is to bite the bullet and officially press ‘send.’”

Whoever does press “send” then documents it on the board underneath his or her name to a heartfelt but kind of distracted smattering of whoops and applause, like when you put money in the tip jar at Cold Stone Creamery.

A Submission Party is about community. About encouragement. About ambition and confidence and tenacity. About doing. A Submission Party is where writers’ dreams start feeling a little more like reality.

“Submission Party,” my husband said. “Sounds sexual.”

If you Google “submission,” here’s the first entry that pops up:

The action or fact of accepting or yielding to a superior force or to the will or authority of another person.

And the second:

The action of presenting a proposal, application, or other document for consideration or judgment.

Riddle me this: What’s the difference?

When writers submit work to a publication “for consideration or judgment,” we are most definitely “yielding to a superior force.”

We are submitting, and we are submissive.

Literary magazines are the doms and writers are the subs. We share pieces of our souls, receive rejection letters in return, and say, “Thank you, sir, may I have another?”

Of course, the editors are just doing their jobs – selecting the best writing most fit for their venues.

A lot of the time, it’s just not mine. Yours. Ours.

A lot of the time, it’s discouraging.

The director of my creative writing program, in an end-of-term address, told this year’s graduates that for a while it will seem like no one cares about their writing.

“It will seem this way because it will be true,” she said.

We submit, and we submit to this reality.

We submit to vulnerability, offer up our egos for bruising, pucker our lips and lean in again and again knowing editor after editor will likely turn their heads, letting our kisses land on their cheeks or somewhere near their eyes.

We submit to wondering, some days, whether we’re any good. Whether we should bother.

My professor also said that no one caring won’t be the case forever, but until it’s not, we need to be the ones invested in our work.

“Continue to give a damn about your writing, and persist in producing, honing, shaping, and sharing it,” she told us. “That is your job now.”

So we do.

We write. Crunch our walmonds. Hit send. Put our names on that big, white board.

An antonym for “submission,” according to Google, is “defiance.”

Writers submit in defiance of rejection. In defiance of the odds. In defiance of the part of ourselves that questions whether we have what it takes.

Writers submit to honor the other part of ourselves, the bigger part, the part that is driven to write, moved to put words on a page and to share them. We keep writing the truest pieces we can, whether or not anyone wants to read them, but holding out hope someone will.

You know. A Submission Party.


A former news reporter, Risa Polansky Shiman is now an MFA candidate in creative nonfiction at Florida Atlantic University, where she also teaches. She was recently selected to read a piece at Lip Service, a South Florida storytelling series, and her written work can be found in publications such as Harlot, Miami Today and Gainesville Magazine. Find her on Twitter @RisaAriel.


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