The year I was a submission machine | Opinion

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Shuly Cawood, Community Voice


Here we are again, my annual acceptance / rejection column where I summarize the results of my literary submissions from last year. This is where I tell you that no literary magazine has turned down my job because, you know, it’s my job and my job is PERFECT. And this is where I also tell you all the big publishers email me, Oprah calls me, and I was nominated for a Pulitzer or one of those other little ho-hum awards.

Or … this is where I tell you the truth: A writer’s world is filled with rejections, and I haven’t yet had a year where I don’t get many more rejections than acceptances. I expect no less. And I’m proud of my refusals, especially since – and you who have been my longtime readers know, I aim for 100 refusals a year.

Believe me, I achieved this goal in 2021. But, as always, there is more to the story.

So let’s start with a little return to the past: the penultimate year (2020), I received 88 refusals and 2 acceptances. Eek. I didn’t submit enough to reach 100 rejects, but with this track record, I surely would have.

In 2021 my goal was to publish some of my stories and, more importantly, to individually publish one third to one half of the poems in my second poetry manuscript. (Why? Because it helps to have certain poems from a book published individually in literary magazines in order to interest a press in publishing your entire collection.) This meant that, especially in spring and summer, i have submitted more widely and more frequently. I was a submission machine. If a person built muscle by submitting, I would step out of my clothes like the Hulk.

A few highlights before I get to the 2021 issues: One of my poems won an Alan Squire Publishing award and was nominated for a Pushcart. I got a second poem in my dream publication, The Sun, after another round of attempts. I finally got a track in The Pinch after many tries. I loved all the papers I got acceptances for. Because I had researched each of these journals in advance, I knew that getting an article accepted would be a giveaway, and it was. Many thanks to all the editors who accepted my work.

Now let’s come to the numbers. Drum roll please.

In 2021, I received a total of 174 refusals. And yes, that’s a big number, but I also got 30 acceptances. Woooo hoooo !!! I usually have a 10% acceptance rate, but in 2021 that was better. A second wooooo hooooo! As for my goals, I got a story accepted, and over a third of the poems in my second poetry manuscript have agreed to be published individually in literary magazines. I call it all a victory.

Take-out? Keep trying, don’t take refusals personally, and never let a no stop you from believing that a yes is possible. Because it still is.

Shuly Xóchitl Cawood is an author who teaches writing workshops online. Learn more at www.shulycawood.com.

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