Some people watch The Twilight Zone. For others it’s I Love Lucy. At my house all last Labor Day weekend it was indeed a marathon of horror and comedy, only this epic was literary in scope—a three-day bender of journal submissions.
I’d been quite lax this year in my submission efforts. I’d probably sent out only 30 since January, which is nowhere near what it takes to get stories published amid the intense competition and just sheer odds in the journal world unless you’re Robert Olen Butler or Alice Munro or one of the other heavyweights.
Around September 1, most of the university publications and many of the independents come back from their summer breaks and open submissions for their upcoming issues. I imagine this is like the opening of duck season, with thousands of writers eyeing thousands of fat targets, dreaming of eventually coming home with a satchel full of booty.
So I decided to devote the entire three days to prepping and schlepping.
Any writer who submits regularly to literary journals knows what an intense process this can be. Journals are constantly changing submission guidelines and editorial staffs and styles, so I had to do some web research on each. Then I had to evaluate that information against the unpublished stories I have—and since I’ve been so bad about submitting this year, the number has grown to eleven, not counting the few stories I’ve temporarily given up on.
Add in the expense—not just time, but money. Many journals now charge two or three bucks to submit. Others—the literary dinosaurs—still insist you print copies of your stories and cover letter, add a SASE, package them neatly in a large envelope, and truck on down to your local PO, where you pay to mail them.
Morning until night I slaved away at my journal database. While others enjoyed a leisurely weekend of barbecues and baseball, I sat electromagnetically glued to my laptop screen. Would Phoebe like the story about the ex-con and the transsexual bar owner? Would Lumina go for the one about waiting in line to see Nixon’s dead body?
I came out of it Monday night, my shoulders and back aching, my head spinning. Near the end I dispensed with research and careful choices and went “shotgun,” spraying stories like pellets at unsuspecting journals. The final count: 75 submissions; 75 fervent hopes; 75 opportunities for literary glory or soul-crushing rejection.
Next year I’ll try to be better about submissions, so that if I want to become a Labor Day zombie, it will be from Twilight Zone reruns.