April 23, 2020 by Carol Brennan King

I was thinking about what to bring to you this week, and wouldn’t you know, Poets and Writers magazine showed up in my mailbox. The cover shouted Writing Contests, and just this week I had suggested that a couple of my students should submit some of their work somewhere. I didn’t tell them where because that had to be the choice of the writer. And honestly, it takes time to find the right fit.

This May/June issue has the usual Deadlines section where you can find a market for most anything, from short to long works and from contests with money prizes to publication with the deadlines and payments. But there is way more.

Like a article on Finding a Home for Your Work. The subtitle tells it all: Should you submit to contests or during open reading periods? For those who believe that old saw that you should never submit anywhere that charges you something for the submission, I loved this line from the author Emma Hine. She says, “Other than paying for the tiny possibility of a huge reward, one way to look at entry fees is to consider them a form of desperately needed support for the publications you admire.”

That struck me! How many of you look to google in search of everything? Even something just to read or learn from? After all, it’s totally free. But the idea of paying a publisher to evaluate your work seems counter-intuitive. Why subscribe to a magazine or pay to enter a contest when you can get something for free?

Let me tell you, whatever feedback you might get by talking with a professional and the experience itself of engaging with a professional will teach you much about writing. If we want the help of professional, shouldn’t we be willing to pay just a bit? Well, enough of that hobby horse.

Oh, one more thing: how does this article title strike you? Putting Your Best Foot Forward or Application Tips for Fellowships, Grants, and Awards. This piece is full of very practical advice.

Now on to my second thought: what kind of help do you have on your computer, or what kind of program that helps you edit your work…and for free? Can I encourage you to check out Grammarly? Just google it. Although you can get advanced levels of this program, I am using the free version.

I can’t tell you what a help it is to have a built-in editor who highlights spelling errors or punctuation errors and tells you how to fix them? What if that program helped you in more than your creative writing? What if it also helps you catch errors in your e-mails? Or tells you that you are writing in a casual tone or familiar tone or professional tone? And sends you regular notes on your work as a writer?

For less than $12. a month, Grammarly will even gently nudge you that you are being inconsistent in your spelling and punctuation or that your work is not flowing. It will prompt you when there is an issue with the variety of sentences you are using or even the vocabulary, especially when there are better choices – which they will give you.

Well, that is a lot to think about, but let me tell you it is worth it. Maybe you might like to start with the free version and then you will have a better idea if you want to invest more.

So for your assignment this week: here’s one right out of the pages of Poets and Writers but slightly modified. Write a short story that begins with a main character coming face-to-face with an old acquaintance. Do sentiments that went unarticulated as children surface in unexpected ways years later? And how?

And finally, two personal things: You always want to see your students succeed. This week one of my students messaged me that the article I told her to submit somewhere arrived, on a desk in an office, and they liked it.

Finally, because of the Covid virus, the library is continuing to be inventive. On May 6, I will be teaching an introductory fiction class using Zoom. More details to come!!

One thought on “You must start somewhere!

  1. Carol, Although not at a point where I’m actually writing much other than a research paper and prayer updates, I wanted to let you know how much I appreciate these posts. So much to think about and maybe someday. We often joke that someone needs to write the new Daktar, the book that compelled many of us to service in Bangladesh. Keep on challenging, encouraging, and nurturing. Thank you! Heather Fowler ________________________________


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