Monday, April 17, 2006

The Secret Handshake

OK. I admit it; when I first started submitting my writing to various mainstream and literary magazines, I thought surely there was an ‘insiders’ club; what other explanation could there have been for my failure to place my stories and poems exactly where I thought they should be published? Even as I began to hone my craft and accumulate publishing credits, I still suspected there was a secret handshake I just wasn’t privy to.

In many ways, I began to develop my own ‘insiders’ club’, routinely exchanging publishing leads with members of my critique group and other networking channels that I continued to build. This secret networking did result in the placement of several of my pieces, as well as the work of other writers I knew. However, the sum total of our ‘insider’ information was nothing more than exchanging leads regarding calls for submissions and/or contests where we felt one of us may have had a specific product that was a match.

But, now I’m on the inside, and I can vow first hand, that there is no ‘secret handshake’, at least not as far as I’m concerned. In advance of my name and contact information being added to the masthead in next month’s issue, I have been sending out my own call for submissions within my networking channels. Several of my writing friends and acquaintances have sent me their stories, and even though they qualify as ‘insiders’, because they received my personalized invitation to submit, I now have to send all of them my personalized rejection letter; because none of them sent me anything that matched the tone and style of the magazine.

For me, it is a relief to discover there is no ‘secret handshake’. Friends don’t publish friends; friends publish quality work that is a good fit for a particular magazine. And my experience with having to pass judgement on work created by writers that I actually know, is a perfect example of why writers need to realize that when their work is rejected, they should never take it personally--once a writer begins to submit with the goal of publication in mind, their work becomes a product, and the act of correct product placement is critical, and not a reflection of a writer’s creative and artistic strengths.

By weeks end, I will have word of who’s work did make the cut--sans any secret handshakes. In the meantime, I’m looking forward to crafting my preliminary acceptance letter :-)

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