Writing is an exploration. You start from nothing and learn as you go. ~ E. L. Doctorow

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

First Submission

Since I'm cultivating a freelance writing career, submitting my work for publication is Step One, I thought, to determine if my work is worth reading, letting me know if I could succeed. So, I drafted an essay for an online collection of commentary on trials, tribulations, and triumphs in the Philadelphia area called Metropolis.

To get an idea of the site's style preferences, I read a few essays. They ranged from writers discussing their love life to a play-by-play of trash picking in Society Hill to a woman complaining about the misuse of sidewalks by bicyclers, strollers, and alfresco dining in the city.

Thinking of events that occurred to me in the past month or so, I decided to write about a frustrating experience with the professor I intern for in Upper Darby and describe my attempt to steer clear of bruising his fragile, inflated ego.

Once I finished, I realized writing this piece was a difficult undertaking, much harder than writing blogs, prompts, and short stories. My essay had to follow guidelines if I wanted to get the editor's approval for publication. I also wanted to ensure I addressed the topic professionally, approaching it with sensitivity and maturity, and protecting the identities of the subjects, incase they were to read it.

After completing the essay, I reached out to two trusted, well-read friends for revision and editing purposes, and I tightened the essay and began the submission process. I wasn't sure how to go about it, so I read Metropolis' guidelines and a few articles, and decided to introduce myself and explain why I contacted them. Then, I thanked the editor for his time and consideration, and attached the essay.

All of a sudden my confidence was no where to be found. I nervously stared at the send button thinking they might hate my essay. A few minutes passed while I considered whether I should revise it one more time or if I should just abandon the whole idea. Before I could psych myself out, I quickly hit send.

I crossed my fingers and anxiously checked my email every hour for a few days, until I finally got the response. A sense of relief calmed some of the panic, but remember, I didn't open the email yet. I had to get over myself. I took a deep breath and opened it. My fears became reality. The essay was REJECTED!! I read the response with chest pains and an inability to catch my breath:

"We regret it does not meet our needs. It is more of an interior essay -- mostly about your thoughts -- that about an interesting life experience." Senior Editor, Tom Ferrick

First came the devistation. I put myself out there, and they refused to receive me.

Second came the analysis of the email. Well, the rejection was based on the type of essay, rather than my ability to write. I'll take that over being told I suck.

Third came the anger. What was he talking about? I read plenty of essays that came across as more of an interior essay than retelling of an event on the site.

Fourth came the acceptance. Looking back over my essay, he was right. I didn't focus on an event. I lead the readers through my intellectual and emotional journey surrounding the event. So, maybe he was right to reject the essay.

Fifth came the reanalysis of the email. Did this "senior editor" have a typo in his email? That left me with little confidence in him or his web site.

Finally, I put all my emotions aside and realized that rejection is a large part of a writer's life. My journey just began, and this will not be the last time my work is discarded. I also realized I was trying to walk, before I crawled. Since changing career paths from an English teacher to a writer, I realized I didn't have a tremendous amount of writing samples. Actually, I didn't have anything, except papers I wrote in college. Step One: Focus on developing and strengthening my style and building my portfolio. Step Two: Repeat Step One. Step Three: Submit work. The only thing left to do now is get back to writing.


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