When I first started writing and submitting stories, back around 2005, you had to really mean it when you submitted something. You had to get an envelope, print the story, get the address correct (they were usually long and weird), and include a self-addressed stamped envelope or post card. If you didn’t want your story back (which I always felt suggested you didn’t care about it), you didn’t have to include the S.A.S.E, just a note that said “please recycle!”
Many places didn’t want any creases in your story, the one they’re going to recycle, so you had to buy special manila envelopes. These cost several dollars for about five of them and also required that you go to the post office unless you owned a machine that weighed mail, put enough stamps on to cover the cost, then had a mail box big enough to not crease anything. You also had to keep detailed spreadsheets of where you had sent things and when so as not to overlap reading periods and anger an editor who would (surely) remember you and your repeated submissions. Or, a story would be floating in some black hole, having been submitted months ago with no response, but you only knew thanks to that spreadsheet. And made you mad (see previous paragraph).
*brief pause for headache*
But to get mail back. To receive that letter from a press — it was like magic. It was better than Christmas. And, if you were like me and lived in your very own apartment and all the mail was your own, your own, dammit, then it was even better. Of course, they were all rejections, but whatever. Get creative! Save the rejection letters in a metal Beetlejuice lunch box, like I did! Keep stuffing them in there until the lid barely closes. One writer who has been very kind to me, who now has 27 books published, used to paste his bathroom wall with rejection letters. That gives me hope.
But how did young writers find places to send their stories? The Writer’s Market. A fat, expensive book that told you which magazines were still open for business, their brief history, the magazines aesthetic, famous people who had been published by them, when they took submissions, and the chance of you actually being accepted (percentages were usually 0.5% to 5%). You had to buy a new The Writer’s Market every. year.
But then everything went digital. Magazines accepted writing largely through a site called Submishmash, which allowed you to upload a single cover letter, brief bio, and contact info. No more tailoring everything how a certain publisher wanted it! Publishers previously had demands about using/not using staples, paperclips, folding, pagination, font, spacing, including personal info, etc. — and no publisher ever agreed on what they wanted! You got to Submishmash by visiting every magazines’ website.
Even better, Submishmash turned into Submittable — one site with all the magazines listed. Everything is streamlined, and the site keeps track of what you’ve submitted! Stories are marked as “received,” “in progress” (whatever that means), “declined,” and “accepted.” While I used to send out one story, get it back 6 weeks later, put the story in a new envelope and send it somewhere else, I can now submit the same story to dozens of journals at once and see who bites. If it’s accepted, simply digitally recall it from all the other publishers.
So, today, I spent my writing time editing a story I wrote who-knows-when. It goes back and forth between the present, where Melissa and Eric have an organized life, to the chaos of Melissa’s childhood. I’m not sure I nailed the ending, but I also didn’t want the piece to turn into a long story when I always envisioned the content being worthy of a short story. #NoBloat
I submitted it to a journal called storySouth. I also found a magazine called Meow Meow Pow Pow Lit looking for crow-themed flash fiction (most magazines have themed editions), and I just so happened to write an Ojibwe-inspired crow-themed story in 2010, so I sent it in. I submitted a poem — I don’t know how I feel about poetry yet — to a magazine called Inklette. Finally, a submitted a flash piece about high school to a magazine called Glassworks. *fingers crossed* The poem is labeled as “in progress” (again, no idea what that means).
And in case you were wondering, a quick Google search tells me The Writer’s Market is still alive and well.