God I hate submissions. ‘Please, Sir/Madam, please look at my poems and please, please, please publish them.’ I hate anything where I have to beg – feels too much like Oliver Twist.
The worst thing about submitting your work to literary journals is the time it takes. I’d rather spend those hours actually writing. With a full time job, a husband and two cats and a dog – time is precious. Just tonight I spent three, yes, three hours putting together submissions for poetry journals overseas. The boring fucking printing, writing of covering letters where you try not to sound desperate and end up coming across way too aloof, the collating of poems, the stamp-licking. My wrist is sore from folding one too many letters and signing my name one too many times.
If only I could simply write my poems and then have some kind of fairy work it’s way into my computer and decide which poems to publish to which poetry magazine. That’s what I need – a submission fairy.
Getting published used to be thrilling, but now it’s mundane and disappointing. Instead of being excited that I’m again in print, I pick holes at everything. ‘Why did they pick that poem and not the other one? That one’s the worst!’ Or I have the audacity to complain at where in the journal or magazine my work is placed. ‘You can’t even see it there, yes, down there, in the corner.’ Maybe it’s like heroin. Not that I have any experience with that drug, but I’ve been in hospital plenty of times, have had my fair share of hard-core painkillers, so I’m pretty sure I can understand the feeling. Your first hit is amazing, brilliant, a total buzz. It’s like the first time you’re published. The next time isn’t as good, but you’re reminded of that first time, so you think the sensation is good. It’s down the ladder after that. You’re always searching, searching, searching for that feeling, but like everything, the first time is always the best.
The other side of submitting your work is the rejections. They’re the worst. Especially if you are innately as insecure as I am. Rejections tend to stab you in the heart rather than the head. I’ve been far more heartbroken over a rejection from a literary journal than I have from any man in my life. Is that sad? I guess it is. Sad, but true.
The most annoying thing about submissions? The wait for the reply. Imagine if you propose to your partner and they say, ‘I’ll let you know in 4-6 months what my answer is.’ Fuck off! 4-6 months to find out whether you’re a hit or just okay or that they can’t be arsed to write back to you at all because, well, they can’t be arsed.
It’s the ‘we don’t accept email submissions’ that shit me the most. Really? It seems ridiculous to even say ‘in this day and age?’ Understandable, perhaps, if this was 1999. But now? Who doesn’t have a computer or access to email? Who doesn’t use email? Actually, I should backpedal here. I work with a bloke who flatly refuses to use email. The trouble is, everyone else uses email and refuse to communicate in any other way. So who gets his emails? I bloody do. And I can’t forward them to him, saving paper and all that bullshit. No. I have to print out each email, putting the whole paper-free movement to shame. Paper-free my arse. Computers and emails have increased our paper usage, tenfold. I’d put money on that.
Sometimes I think literary journals don’t accept email submissions (even from internationals, which is ridiculous – do they know how expensive international mail is here in Australia?) because then they can’t really use the ‘it’ll take 4-6 months to reply’ excuse. Otherwise, I can’t work it out. Firstly, their desks wouldn’t be piled high with submissions. You can usually take a quick glance of one or two poems to realise whether the submitter is any good or not. If they like what they see they can print it out, if not they can press that button called ‘Reply’ and say thanks, but no thanks. It’ll take them about five minutes. The thing is, a lot of these journals probably have committees and all kind of bullshit. No wonder it’s so hard to get your work published; there’s four or five people sitting around a boardroom with their tea and biscuits deciding on whose good and whose not. I suspect it’s like a courtroom jury; only unanimous verdicts go through. If I could email submit my work the job would take half the time.
Shit balls banana. Has just occurred to me that every single one of the publications I’ve sent submissions to will be able to view this blog. And I’ve just slagged them all off. Particularly the ones who made me slave over paper for three hours, rather than my keyboard. You know what? I don’t really care. If they can’t accept freedom of expression – however detrimental to them it is – then they’re in the wrong business. At least; that’s my story and I’m sticking to it.
So. Submissions. Not my most favourite thing in the world, not by a long shot. A necessary evil.
I’ve a cat sitting on each side of me which is a reminder to me that their dinner time is now! So I should be off before Penelope starts gnawing at my face out of hunger…