In Praise of Submission Fees

February 2, 2018 § 10 Comments

zz Nik book fest high resBy Nicole Walker

There is among controversies, a controversy that can divide liberal from progressive, intelligentsia from academic, diversity embracers from intersectionality champions. It is the great issue of of Submission fees, especially via Submittable. And I am here to claim my stake on the wrong side of this story because I just spent three hours sending three submissions to three different journals. First, I googled the magazines and saw, to my distress, that they wanted me to send them via mail. But instead of saying no no no no no, I said, OK. I have half an hour before I pick Max up. I can do this. So I looked at the guidelines. I had to back into the document because some of the journals needed page numbers on the upper right hand corner and some wanted my address and my email and some wanted blind and that was just three so I said, OK, no more than three. I fixed the documents. I pushed print. I went upstairs to my printer. Forty-eight pages of different documents covered the carpet. Thank god the submission guidelines had called for page numbers. I collected the pages into their constituent essay and put a staple into each of them. And then I thought, I should check the pages to make sure I have them all. So I checked the number of pages and their order and page 12 was missing on one and page 5 was between 9 and 10 so I unstapled and went back upstairs to find page 12. I found page 12. Resorted. Restapled. Then I remembered, I have to write cover letters. So I went back to the websites to find the addresses and opened some cover letters I wrote in 2015 the last time I tried this experiment. Then, I printed each cover letter and went upstairs to get the cover letters. I came back downstairs and remembered I needed Self Addressed Stamped Envelopes and where do I keep envelopes? Upstairs. I addressed those envelopes and then looked around for some big envelopes for the big essays and cover letters and SASE’s but couldn’t find any so I said, that’ll do and I went pick Max up from school to take him to a haircut and while we waited our turn we went into the crappiest Family Dollar that ever existed and wandered and wandered until I found 6 big envelopes for, guess how much, one dollar. Max got Cheetos (Flaming hot. I tried not to look) that cost $1.50. Then we went to the car to address the envelopes and stuff the envelopes. I put one cover letter in the wrong envelope so I had to unstick it and pull out the wrong cover letter and restuff that one and restick the other one and also use the little claspy thing for safety. Then we went in to get Max’s haircut which took an hour because Great Clips is apparently the new Aveda and the woman cut each of Max’s hairs one at a time so we were late to get Zoe and she had been waiting in the cold and was frozen and I felt bad but we still had to go to the post office. Max and Zoe waited in the car and I just walked in right after some guy with nine envelopes headed straight for the self service machine, and even if you are expert with the machine you have to answer 19 questions for each envelope to certify no you are not a terrorist and I waited and waited and kept checking the nice-people-will-serve-you-but-you-might-die-waiting line and realized I was going to die either way and the woman inside did not care nearly as much about what I was mailing as the machine did and she said that will be $4.03 cents and now it was almost five o’clock and traffic was bad and I had to call everyone who was driving a jerk which my kids hate because it just makes me look like the jerk but I am here to say please, poetry gods, please allow me to pay you $3.00 a submission for the rest of my life from the comfort of my chair and with the click of two buttons.

Nicole Walker is the author of two forthcoming books, Sustainability: A Love Story and A Survival Guide for Life in the Ruins. Her previous books include Where the Tiny Things Are, EggMicrograms, Quench Your Thirst with Salt, and This Noisy Egg (only every third book has the word “egg” in its title)She also edited Bending Genre with Margot Singer. She’s nonfiction editor at Diagram and Associate Professor at Northern Arizona University in Flagstaff, Arizona where it rains like the Pacific Northwest, but only in July.

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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