Winning the Road Race?

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.

Pre-Teen Writer. Source: ©Drobot Dean - Adobe StockThe 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 matt‚er 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.

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Aimee Bissonette
4 years ago

Wise words, Lisa! Thanks, too, for the tip on how to answer this ques­tion when posed by young writers.