September is the Start of Submission Season
by Bill Glose

Summer is over and the kids are back in school. And by “kids,” of course, I mean the students who fill out the staffs of university-run literary journals all across the country. Most of these journals go on hiatus over the summer, but with the coming fall they get back to the serious business of seeking

out and publishing the best literary work possible. And that’s where you come in.

So many writers are procrastinators. When they see a submission calendar runs from September 1 to May 31, they put off sending in their work until that last day in May, figuring that will give them the most time to edit and perfect their work. Unfortunately, by the end of their submission cycle, most journals are already locked in on their choices.

Here’s why: At the beginning of the submission period, readers sift the slush pile in search of anything worthwhile. Most submissions, unfortunately, are deemed unworthy and are then mated with boilerplate rejection notices that are sent back to the authors. But some go forward into a “Maybe” pile. These submissions are then passed on to a decision-making editor or an editorial board that votes on which work makes it into the journal.

Regardless, as the pile of "maybes" grows larger, the culling process for submissions becomes less forgiving. Think about it: these readers and editors have already attached themselves to certain stories and poems; to oust those submissions from their journal’s limited pages, another submission must strike them as significantly better. The same poem that gets forwarded to the poetry editor in September might only earn a shrug from a first-line reader and a quick trip back to its author in May.

And that means one thing for everyone wishing to see their works in perfect-bound splendor: The time to submit is now!

There are hundreds of excellent publications to choose from, and Charlottesville author Clifford Garstang has compiled a ranked listing of literary magazines whose work has been recognized by The Pushcart Prizes. On his website, he explains his ranking system and provides separate lists for markets publishing fiction, poetry, and nonfiction.

There are also many excellent literary journals in our own home state. I’ve put together a web page listing literary journals in Virginia. If you click on any of the covers shown on that page, it will send you to the page showing the submission guidelines for that particular journal. So get clicking and good luck!


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