Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Link Corral: Jennifer Egan's Salad Days, Tips for Submitting Your Work

Here’s a great interview with Jennifer Egan that focuses on her early days, scraping to get by in New York and struggling to write a short story that her teacher would want to hear all the way through to the end:

You don’t know what it was that made you stick it out?

I think I just realized that [writing] was the thing that made life meaningful to me. But also, when I got to New York it was so hard that I think it was a dogged sense that I just wasn’t going to accept this level of failure. I had to come back swinging, in some way.

The other thing is that I started sending work out, right away. And that, I think, was actually really good for me. I would multiple submit. Of course, this was pre-Internet, so this was all snail mail. I would send to eight or nine places at once. I kept very careful logs of where I had sent things. And as soon as something came back, I would immediately send it back out, the same day. So I would sort of convert disappointment into hope, right away. And then I would feel very hopeful about the stuff that I had sent out.


Speaking of submitting…here’s an excellent piece that offers advice about how to submit your work properly and effectively:


So your job is to help the editor by sending work that is developed, complete, thoroughly revised, and—of great importance—appropriate for the magazine.

To do that last part of your job well, you have to read the magazines.

Yes, you do.

Not long ago, within a few days, three aspiring writers stopped me (in the office, in the parking lot, and at an airport gate) to ask: “Where should I send my story which is over 20,000 words long?” “Where should I send my work where it will be accepted as fast as possible? The agent I approached about my novel says I have to have a track record.” “What magazine likes grown-up fables that are a little weird?”

They were asking for a shortcut. It’s natural to want one, when you feel small in a big unknown world, and impatient, wanting results immediately. But I said, to each: “You can’t expect to be a professional if you don’t do your own homework.”

When I was starting out, I told my questioners, I spent at least one day each month in a library, reading literary magazines and taking notes on index cards. Yes, those were ancient times. It’s easier now, but you still need to read magazines and I still advocate having a set time to do this research, keeping it apart from your writing. And then you’ll be ready to send your work out.


Speaking of “salad days,” that term came from Shakespeare’s Anthony and Cleopatra, 1606:

CLEOPATRA: My salad days,

When I was green in judgment: cold in blood,

To say as I said then! But, come, away;

Get me ink and paper:

He shall have every day a several greeting,

Or I'll unpeople Egypt.

Read more:  http://www.phrases.org.uk/meanings/salad-days.html


DC-area author Leslie Pietrzyk explores the creative process and all things literary.