Making It

Every week, I receive an email from Duotrope, an online database for writers to find publications for their work, track their progress, and now with a new submission manager for submitting directly to some publications. (If you know anything about my day job in nonprofit fundraising, you know that I love databases!)

Duotrope: an award-winning resource for writers

This “Weekly Wire” email tells me about updates to the database — new publications, publications that have opened or closed submissions, gone defunct, or have upcoming themed deadlines — and I mine it carefully to populate my own custom database with publications and upcoming deadlines that might be well-suited to my work, even occasionally that rarest of opportunities to reprint a piece I particularly love.

There’s another section of the “Weekly Wire” that I particularly love. As a subscriber to the database, you can choose to be recognized in the newsletter for your recent acceptances. It comes at the very bottom of the newsletter, saving the best for last, and I always look there for names that I recognize.

This morning, at the bottom of the newsletter, I found not just one, but three names I recognized!

My name is in there — I’ll be included in the anthology How I Survived 2020: A Collection of Poems, Essays, and Affirmations from City Limits Publishing later this year — but that’s not what got me so excited.

Bailey Bridgewater and I went to college together, in the same English literature and creative writing programs, and I’ve followed her career as the director of a campus writing center (a critical department for students that paid my own grocery bills through grad school), and as a writer. We’re still friends, and recently we’ve been passing opportunities back and forth between us. Bailey has mastered the “flash fiction” form that is all the rage across the literary landscape, and even won one contest I recently pointed her towards. Right now, she’s giving me very thoughtful, informative feedback on my essay collection.

MaxieJane Frazier is not just a writer, she’s a phenomenal editor. While she was at CONSEQUENCE Magazine, we had an extended exchange of edits and emails around my piece “Sid Ismahan’s Brothers and Daughters.” I was a civilian submitting to a magazine by, for and about people with military experience, a magazine about the terrible consequences of war that I had not directly experienced. Max Frazier was generous in sharing her perspective as a veteran, both the parts of my work that didn’t accurately reflect the facts, and the parts that resonated with her experience. She pushed me to dig deeper into the assumptions underlying my work, including some assumptions I’d been blind to in my own perspective. Of more than two dozen publications that have accepted my work, few editors have done more than a cursory edit of my work. Only two have dug as deeply as MaxieJane Frazier.

Finding my name next to these amazing women was a thrill.

As a writer, it can be a struggle to see yourself as a writer, an author, much less part of a community of writers. We work mostly alone, now more than ever, pushing aside our partners, our family, our friends, as distractions so that we can focus inward. We wonder often if it really means anything, if anyone really cares about the inside of our heads.

The imposter syndrome is real. In the last six years, I’ve submitted hundreds of times to publications, publishers and agents; almost 93% of those submissions have been rejected, only 7% accepted. I’ve spent thousands of dollars in submission fees, and made hundreds of dollars in payment for my work. (I know this because database nerds like me over at Duotrope make statistics like that available to subscribers.) My eldest cousin, over and over again, declares me and introduces me as “my published cousin Maryah!” I still frequently find it hard to call myself a writer.

But today I not only feel like a writer, I feel part of a community of writers.

Some of the images below will click through to to some of my publications.

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