I began submitting to literary magazines when I was in graduate school. I’d published a professional article or two, gotten some poems into college publications, but it didn’t occur to me to aim bigger until I went to a meeting that some of the second-year fiction writers got going. My program’s fiction writers tended to be more worldly, more openly ambitious than the poets. They gathered in a lounge on campus, sat in a circle of couches and chairs, and one by one announced which pieces they were sending and where. Often they brought the actual envelopes—this was back when everything was print on paper—stiff manila packets holding their stories, cover letters, and return postage. Sometimes after each person took his or her turn we’d all head out together to the nearest mailbox, watch the writer slide it in and close the metal door, the sounds of hope that sequence of thump, creak, clank.
I was skeptical at first. Wasn’t it a little premature of them? Really, The New Yorker? But before long I got caught up in the spirit of things. It was a good habit to develop, to see your work as a potentially published thing. It was what writers were supposed to do. So I began, first with batches of poems, and then with portions of the essay collection I was writing for my thesis. I went to the library, bookstores, read and copied down addresses. The first ones rejected me, of course, but I kept trying. My first acceptance disappointed me because I didn’t care for the zine’s rough layout, the grainy photo they’d stuck on the page with my poem. Later I got excited when I made it into a hip political journal, even after they cut the last stanza to make my piece fit their cynical stance. But mostly I just felt grateful for the ones that made it anywhere, and unfazed by the corresponding mountain of rejections. For a while I’d tape the little slips onto my study wall to mark my progress, but eventually I tossed them out. Continue reading “No Postage Necessary | Margaret Young”