When I work with dedicated young writers, there’s almost always a point where they ask how they can get published.
This is a tough question for me, because my instinct is to protect young people. And I know ﬁrsthand how much disappointment, rejection, and self-doubt often accompanies the quest for publication. Writing was honestly a lot more fun for me before I was focused on writing for publication.
The two things — the act of writing, and being published — are not the same thing. But in a society where we place so much emphasis on winning and ﬁnancial success, it’s easy to get caught up in equating “getting published” with “winning the writing race.” With assuming there’s no value in writing something that doesn’t lead to an oﬃcial “look what I did” product.
And trust me, I totally get the allure of seeing one’s name in print. It’s the same each time a box of author’s copies of a new book arrive. If past experience means anything, I will likely leave the box in my front entry for a few days (weeks?) so that each time I walk into my living room I feel that same buzz of excitement: it’s a book! A real, check-it-out-from- the-library book! And I wrote it!
So telling young writers that getting published doesn’t matter would be truly disingenuous of me. I just want to help them separate the quiet enticement of writing as an important form of self-expression from the admitted thrill of getting published.
Where does that leave me when I’m faced with the “how do I get published” question? I try really hard to make sure students understand what a joy the act of writing, in and of itself, is for me. I remind them that their family and friends, their most important audience, will treasure anything they write from their hearts.
And then for the persistent ones, I point to some of the places where young writers can submit their work to magazines, online journals, and contests. Here’s a fairly comprehensive list of contests and submission destinations from New Pages.
The race might be tough, and winning isn’t everything — but running races we might never win is also a significant part of the human experience.