Thursday, June 2, 2011

Submissions, Writing Seasonal Essays, Karma, Editors and Luck

Two things I've mentioned here before in the way of tips and insight for the submission process have just recently cropped up again in my own freelance writing life. I love when that happens, when I follow my own advice; and I love when on occasion something circles back in a positive way because of something I've done right in the past.

The first instance centers on how I go about writing and submitting seasonal essays, which I've noted before. Two years ago, on the day after a particular springtime holiday, I wrote an essay about it. Then I put the piece in a drawer for 8 months and made a reminder note in my calendar. When that date rolled around, I pulled the essay out, polished it up, added updated information, and began submitting.

A web editor I had worked with liked it—at first – then didn't, but by then it was too late to submit elsewhere. Back in the drawer it went, until…this past winter, when out it came again. I edited in a few new thoughts, updated (again), and made a new list of places to submit. One was the same website where the editor who had once liked and then rejected the piece, had moved on. The new editor accepted and published it.

Here's what I took from this: A. My carousel approach to seasonal essays continues to deliver. B. A new editor may have a different perspective and range of likes and dislikes than his/her predecessor; so it's worth a (re)try even there. C. If the piece involves kids, and their exact ages or grades are not relevant, leave those details out, which makes updating a bit easier. "The high-schooler" and "my tween son" will stand for a few years, while "the high school freshman" and "the 12-year-old" will not.

My second bit of recent good Karma concerned an opinion piece I wrote and submitted to a newspaper about a year ago. While not exactly seasonal, it would be best received if run at the end of the school year. As is typically the case with newspaper submissions, I did not hear back in the affirmative within two weeks, which usually means, "Thanks but no thanks."

But not always.

In this case, unknown to me, the silence meant a shuffle in the editorial job tree, a swath of submissions put on hold, and a newly editor assigned, who needed time to wade through the pile the departing editor had marked "maybe". Turns out, this newly assigned editor was one I'd written for twice before; she noticed my name, pulled out my piece and liked it enough to call (yes, on the telephone) and ask if the essay was still available, and did I have time – that afternoon – to do some updating and minor revisions?

Yes. And, yes.

The piece was still available mostly because I had written it so carefully to that particular column's specs, and wasn't enthusiastic about reworking it for another venue; I figured I'd do that the following year. And then between that time and now, I frankly lost track of the thing when merging an old Excel Submission Tracker spreadsheet with a new one. On one hand, this was a case of my not following two good pieces of my own advice -- Keep submitting to new venues until it sells! and, Be meticulous with submissions record-keeping. I guess I just got lucky.

I learned some new lessons, too: A. Unless you've received a firm "no," a submission could still be in play (rare, perhaps, but obviously possible). B. Every editor you ever work is also an editor you may one day want to work with again. Make friends. C. Be limber enough to turn something around fast. D. Try not to change your telephone number.

Wishing you some good writing life Karma, too!

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