When I turned forty, my husband, brother, and older sister threw a surprise party for me at Krony’s, a local pizza shop. I remember the event as a jumble of joy: laughter, strewn wrapping paper, the loud antics of seven kids, the pop of a balloon, and a mess of cake and ice cream and pizza crusts. In contrast to the cacophony was something else. A quiet celebration. A piercing thrill. Only the day before, I’d received an acceptance from a literary journal—my first acceptance, after five years of faithful writing. My story “Practical Solution” was to appear in the next issue of Oblong Magazine. I couldn’t have asked for a better birthday present.
That acceptance affected me in powerful ways. It fueled my creativity, confidence, and commitment to writing. It prompted me to read and submit to more journals. Subsequent acceptances emboldened me to query agents with longer works. It sounds like a cliché, but it’s true: Publishing changed my life.
I never would have guessed my forties would turn out to be so exciting.
You can pursue your publishing dreams at any age. I’m a late-bloomer in this business, but others bloom early. Very early. In fact, several literary journals even accept work by teenagers.
Earlier this year, I ran writing workshops at various high schools and libraries. One question came up repeatedly: How do I get published? These students’ interest in finding homes for their poems, stories, and personal narratives prompted me to reach out to Twitter’s wonderful writing community. I asked for suggestions and, based on several writers’, editors’, teachers’, and readers’ feedback, made this list of journals (in no particular order) that are accepting creative work by young people:
Lunch Ticket, Parhelion Literary Magazine, Crab Orchard Review, Adroit Journal, Hippocampus, Black Bough Poetry, One Teen Story, The Passed Note (contest), Brittle Paper’s Young African Poets Anthology, Counterclock, Broken Spine Arts, So to Speak Journal, Atlas and Alice, Body Without Organs, Nightingale & Sparrow, The Centifictionist, elsewhere, fingers comma toes, Blue Marble Review, Chautauqua Literary Journal, The Kenyon Review (Patricia Grodd Poetry Prize), Folio, Honey & Lime, Crêpe & Penn, Literati Magazine, Aurora & Blossoms Poetry Journal. In addition, Writopia Lab puts out a newsletter with many opportunities for young writers. And here’s a link to even more publishing opportunities for young people: https://www.newpages.com/writers-resources/young-writers-guide
Before submitting, writers need to accomplish some things, like making note of journals’ submission periods, composing a bio and short cover letter, reading journals and learning which publications fit one’s work, and revising and polishing pieces until they shine. But these tasks are doable, interesting, and enjoyable.
The hardest part of the process is learning how to deal with rejection. Almost all writers receive more rejections than they do acceptances. Editors don’t necessarily decline a piece because they dislike it. Sometimes the piece doesn’t match an issue’s overall sensibility. Sometimes there’s no room for the piece. I saw dozens of my submissions rejected before Oblong accepted “Practical Solution” and tried, as well as I could, to let those rejections galvanize me to work harder, write more, and get better. If an editor declines a submission but provides encouraging feedback, a writer should count that as a win, hone the piece, and submit it somewhere else.
Some writers turn peevish after receiving rejections. Their screw-them-they-suck attitude is unfortunate and foolish. Editors have no interest in hurting writers’ feelings. They’re not exercising vendettas or playing popularity games. The fact is, editors want to send out acceptance notices, need to find gems, and love good writing. The success of their journals depends on the quality of their publications’ contents.
The literary community is warm and welcoming, and editors, readers, and writers keep it that way by sharing excellent stories, essays, and poems with one another and celebrating writers’ successes—especially new writers’ successes.
Editors are always on the lookout for exciting new voices. The outpouring of journal suggestions I received is proof of that. You may very well be that exciting new voice.