It’s glorious July, and in San Diego Writers, Ink-land, that means anthology time. Yes, we are gearing up for our fifth (fifth!) volume of A Year in Ink and that means we want your scribblings to put forth into the world under our very own award-winning banner.
As you may know, I’ve worked behind the scenes for the last two volumes of the anthology, and I have skimmed through many, many entries in the process. It’s been an extremely educational experience.
For example, it is really easy to leave something identifying on your document, so I do a search and replace for my name or email or nickname before I submit a piece. I’ve found “Kim” in the headers of documents for my read-and-critique group, or even “Kim’s Story about Those Horrible People” as a placeholder title, and I wouldn’t want the judges to find that. I have terrible times picking titles, but even I know that’s not a good one.
Also, I take off any password-protection. An extremely kind and forgiving submissions manager may find an error, like your name or working title without having to email you for a new file. Once I submit something, I like to never look at the file again so I do not find the one typo I missed, and allowing the submissions manager access to my file allows me to hold up the pretense that the file I emailed was perfect.
I also strictly adhere to the word limits. I remember Blaise Pascal’s note: “I have made this letter longer than usual, only because I have not had time to make it shorter.” (I know, I thought it was Twain too, but it’s Blaise Pascal.) When I want to submit something from my novel, I make sure it’s a complete piece in itself. How? I give it to one of my friends who hasn’t been privy to all the details of my novel’s inner life and ask, “Does this have a beginning, a middle, and a satisfying end?” When I find myself explaining that Ana and Fred have had an ongoing rivalry from Day 1 but it’s from Ana’s point of view but the reader should understand that Fred is more competent, I grab it away and find something else to submit. When it comes to the anthology, the piece, like the cheese, stands alone.
I always sign up to become a first reader, if they’ll have me. It is an eye-opening process for any writer to read a lot of entries to get an idea of what’s out there; I have a better idea of the sea of slush my submissions float in on. The horror for a first reader, of course, is that all decisions ultimately come down to the editor. Every year there is some piece that I think would elevate the anthology to new heights that the editor in his or her infinite wisdom overlooks, so I end up sidling up to someone at the anthology release party and saying, “I was sad to see that your piece didn’t make it in; I thought it was excellent.”
And when I submit a piece that was really good—I spent serious time with it, my writerly group seems to like it and they don’t have significant improvements, and I cannot improve it any more—and it was rejected, I submit it again. Each editor has his or her own quirks, and you never know what the new editor will like. Rejection doesn’t mean not good; it means not now.
Kim Schultz used to write about cell phone test equipment, particle counters, and nuclear waste disposal facilities for money, but now writes aridly acidic prose for her own amusement when her children are asleep. She’s the secretary and volunteer coordinator for SDWI and is working on her novel, really.