The following craft essay was previously published by Maryland Writers’ Association – Pen in Hand – Fall 2012 – vol. 25, n. 4.
Writers Need a Tough Skin
by Jan Bowman
If you’re a writer new to the business, it might be useful to know that while you will wish to be published and hopesome editor likes your work enough to publish it, the cold reality is that your artistic offerings will receive and survive rejection. Even famous writers get rejections, although probably not as often as the rest of us.
As a writer you must develop a tough skin to deal with the ‘not for us’ that cuts your ego a bit. Months can pass before you learn the fate of work that you sent out into the world bearing your best hopes. Unfortunately rejection letters often arrive in your own self-addressed envelope, as a mass-produced note on a coffee-stained scrap of cheap paper.
Take heart. You must plan to be published. Eventually someone out there will get what you’re trying to do. And they’ll have budget and space for your work. In this economy even that can have an impact on your publication dreams.
As a writer I have collected more than a few rejection slips for work submitted to a wide range of literary journals, and not necessarily because the work wasn’t good enough. Happily, I’ve also gotten ‘We Love It’ letters. But for every acceptance, I’ve gotten at least twenty non-acceptances.
So when you’re sending out work that you think is ready for publication, it helps to remember that you need a plan, just as you do with most things. Read a range of literary journals. Think about whether any of your work fits the genre, style, setting, narrative style, length, or theme.
|Photo Credit – Jan Bowman – 2012
Send your work to publications you enjoy reading. Follow submission guideline to the letter. Guidelines are available online, and sample copies can be found online or in your local bookstore or library. Subscribe to a few of your favorites and develop a target list of five-to-ten markets that seem to be a good fit for your particular style of work and send them your work before trying other markets. Your goal is to have your work published in one or more of these journals within a set period of time, perhaps one-to-three years. And yes, I did just say years. Learn to live with rejection and don’t take it personally.
Jan Bowman’s work has appeared in Roanoke Review, Big Muddy, Broadkill Review, Folio, The Potomac Review, Third Wednesday, Trajectory, and many other journals. A recent story was an Honorable Mention in Glimmer Train’s November 2012 Short Story Award for New Writers. She won the 2011 Roanoke Review Prize for Fiction, and her work has been nominated for two Pushcart Prizes, two Best American Short Stories, and a PEN/O. Henry Prize. She is working on two short story collections and seeking a publisher for a third collection. Learn more at www.janbowmanwriter.com
Visit or Join Maryland Writers’ Association by going to their website. Pen in Hand accepts submissions from MWA members for feature stories, essays and fiction (300-400 words) and poetry (100 words) Query for guidelines and editorial calendar – contact Paul Lagasse: