If you've been following our Snapshots from AWP series, you've read reflections from a breastfeeding mother, a presenter, a participant in the Writer-to-Writer Mentorship program, and from mama writers who have attended multiple times. Each blog post is worth rereading if you're considering AWP 2016 in Los Angeles, AWP 2017 in Washington D.C., or AWP 2018 in Tampa; but if you're still finding it difficult to imagine the energy released by 12,000 people in one facility, I encourage you to picture one word: hunger.
You know this type of hunger. It's what turns an interest into a passion, transforms hope into desire, and motivates strangers to become a community.
In Minneapolis, I saw this hunger as attendees peppered presenters with questions, hoping to uncover the secrets to being published—and then, in the body language of the presenters who patiently and honestly responded that there is no secret formula, that they're simply looking for something to fall in love with. I heard it in the collective gasp from the audience when an editor mentioned that he receives approximately the same number of submissions in any given month as the number of people who were sitting in the room (a 500-seat auditorium)—but also in the high-pitched "it's-soooo-good-to-see-you-what-are-you-working-on" squeals of recognition that rose to the top of the hallway chatter.
Since returning home, I've been reflecting on your hunger for mama-centric stories and my role as Literary Mama's managing editor: Do we have relationships with our readers and writers similar to the ones I heard described at AWP? Do we have the same high expectations of craft? An editorial process that creates the best reading experience possible? A philosophy that helps writers succeed?
Take a look at the bullet points below. I've paraphrased each from one of the seven panel discussions I attended, but I believe they also reflect our mission. . . . and I hope they feed YOUR hunger.
- Look at the story from the reader's point of view.
- Craft your nonfiction so that the reader feels what you felt as it happened. Think of people in your life as characters. You'll write it differently, and it'll be more than a simple retelling of an anecdote.
- Ask: what questions arise from my material? Then, write to answer those questions.
- Look at your piece in a different physical form. Print it out on heavier paper or change the size of the font. Listen to the computer read it in its computer voice or ask someone to read it out loud to you.
- When you think you're done, put the manuscript away for two, six, or eight weeks and let it marinate. Don't look at it during this time; allow yourself to fall out of love with it. Then, reread it and consider submitting it for publication.
On Being Published
- Good work rises and eventually finds the right home and audience.
- One thing worse than not being published is being published in the wrong place.
- You are not your work. Your work is your work.
- I ask two questions of every submission: What is this piece trying to do? and Does it work? I look for something to fall in love with, a piece that might go viral or help us win awards. I say no to the trite, the familiar, and the sloppy, but I don't always know what I'm looking for. Show me something that is new, that challenges me.
- Read the magazine.