I recently answered interview questions for an upcoming issue of the NESCBWI newsletter as the Ruth Landers Glass scholarship recipient this year, and I still can’t stop thinking about one of the questions.
I was asked about breaking into the magazine and anthology market, and my response was that targeting submissions–and continuing to submit in spite of the inevitable rejections–helped get my work published.
The more I think about it, the more I realize how true this is.
When I first began submitting queries, my acceptance rate was pretty dismal. I really, really, really wanted my work to be published, so I tried many magazines, whenever I thought their submission calls or assigned themes seemed interesting.
Without realizing it consciously, I changed tactics in recent years, submitting queries almost exclusively in my field of expertise (languages). In my mind, I was taking the easy route. These articles would be easier to write, since I have an advanced degree and shelves of reference books in my own house. Having worked in the language software field for years, I’ve dabbled quite a bit in languages I don’t even speak, so I already have some understanding of the difficulties in learning them.
Yet every time I get an acceptance for one of these articles, I do a little jump for joy. Why? I realize now that it’s more than getting them published–it’s because they’re so much fun for me to write. In the end, it’s all about the passion. As an added bonus, my acceptance rate has improved with this change in tactics.
Anthologies are different from magazines because you generally need to write and polish the entire story before submitting it. For me, passion for a piece plays an even larger role with this type of writing.
My first published piece was a story called “First, un Bocata de Calamares” in the SPAIN FROM A BACKPACK anthology. I adore Spain; I love backpacking; I am currently drooling over the thought of a good bocata de calamares. Needless to say, I was thrilled when my piece was accepted and published!
My second piece is about to be published as part of the TIMELESS anthology of YA romance. As soon as I saw the call for submissions for historical YA stories, I knew it was completely up my alley and I threw myself into brainstorming ideas for a piece. In the end, the idea that formed in my head drew on my passion for German Literature. My story, “And the Nightingale Sang,” is based on a poem by Walther von der Vogelweide, a German troubadour who lived from 1170-1230.
My main character, Elisabeth, is the fictional love interest who inspired “Under der Linden,” a poem von der Vogelweide wrote from a peasant girl’s perspective. As I worked on the story, I spent my free time re-reading his poems and listening to the medieval songs of Hildegard von Bingen to get in the mood of the story. Bliss!
I hope readers of my story will be able to see how much fun it was to write! Writers, do you have any similar stories about writing about your passions? I’d love to hear about them!