So I have an exciting (if lengthy) story to tell you guys.
Sometime in early 2008 I wrote this article called “Ten Tips to Sneaky Editing.” (I actually posted a simplified version of it here.) When I wrote Sneaky Editing, I was trying to find something to discuss with my writer’s group. Nothing special. But once the article was written, I started getting comments on what a great checklist it was, how I should publish it, etc. One lady said she printed it out and kept it taped beside her computer. I started to take my article seriously.
At that point, I was not submitting anything. At all. Never had. Many online friends had told me my work was special and I should submit, but I’d known I wasn’t ready, and had made a rule that I wouldn’t submit ANYTHING anywhere unless it fit a certain criteria: 1) It could not find a single thing else wrong with it and neither could my crit partners 2) It was as good as anything else I could find in stores, and 3) I had the overall experience and talent to continue writing publishable pieces.
Hefty criteria. But I knew I couldn’t respect myself if I published anything that wasn’t worthy, and I also knew once I started submitting, I would never want to stop. Was this article that would in essence begin my career?
I thought about it.
I decided yes.
For those of you following the timeline, this was maybe April.
As I discovered how hard it was to publish an article about writing in a writer’s magazine, I almost gave up. Most magazines want you to be part of their staff, or to be an author with published novels, or at least have other how-to-writing articles published. But I finally found a market that would accept my work.
ByLine Magazine published columns, writing news, fiction, poetry, and articles on writing on a bimonthly basis. The magazine had recently been purchased by Robbi Hess (which may or may not have been a good thing.) I wrote a shiny cover letter and sent it to her. Then Robbi responded – responded!!! – with a handwritten note scrawled on my own letter. The good news: she liked the sound of my article. The bad news: I hadn’t actually sent it with my cover letter.
I thought maybe I’d die of humiliation, or turn into a pile of scrambled eggs, but I told myself I was an author now and I had to salvage this. So I ran downstairs and screamed at my family that I was going to be published. Then I ran back upstairs and sent Robbi a very businesslike email (with my article attached – I made darn sure of that part.)
Then I waited. Weeks. I knew the querying part could be slow, but she'd already requested my article, so what was the holdup? Had she changed her mind? Was she fed up with my improper submission methods? Had she discovered an article even better than mine?
As it turns out, none of the above. Instead came something both exciting and worrisome – and e-mail with the header "Bio for May/June article." It said, and I quote: "I just realized as we were going to press that I don’t have your bio. Could you send it? Thanks.”
That was all.
I knew something was off about it, but I wasn’t going to deny her my bio. I did ask as politely and tactfully as I could, did this mean my article was accepted? If not, could she please let me know?
Robbi never responded to that email.
It was late May when I sent it, and I waited through June. I checked the website weekly. I hoped that Robbi was just an overworked, harried editor who’d published my article, but hadn’t gotten around to paying me. Or telling me. Or sending me the issue of the magazine in which my article appeared. Because the May/June issue had been published – you could buy it on the website.
I decided to wait a little longer; then contact Robbi; and if that failed, I’d buy a copy of the magazine to see if my article had even been published.
Then a couple things happened all at once. The website for ByLine Magazine changed, and the programming for their online store got funky, so I couldn’t buy the May/June issue. Then there a notice appeared on the website. It read, and still reads:
“The owners of ByLine Magazine are currently experiencing personal problems that make it impossible for it to continue publication at this time. We are therefore suspending our print publication until further notice and are no longer accepting submissions”
I remember thinking, Crap.
I did some research. No one had a clue as to what had happened at ByLine. Robbi wasn’t responding to snail mail, phone messages, or emails sent to both her personal and business address. Had my article been published? Nobody knew. Nobody could find out. In March of this year, I thought about trying to publish (re-publish?) my article somewhere else and started a thread on AW asking for advice. But then I realized I still didn’t have anywhere to publish it, and decided I’d let the whole thing go until some kind of opportunity presented itself.
I resigned myself to the fact that there was nothing else to do, nothing I could change. I stopped checking the ByLine website. I forgot about the whole thing.
Months went by.
Then a week or so ago, out of the blue, I got this funny e-mail from some lady named Carol Ayer. She’d found my post on AW and somehow tracked down my e-mail. See, she had a copy of the May/June issue of ByLine Magazine, and was this my article, and was this my name?
It was like winning the lottery. Because the article was entitled “Sneaky Editing Tips to Make Your Prose Sing.” And it was written by Amanda Savage – my pseudonym. That was my article. It had been published! And even more – Carol sent me that issue of the magazine, which I received a few days ago. I’m holding it in my lap right now. Here's the three-page spread:
On those pages are words that I wrote, published in a real writer’s magazine, where other writer's read it.
And these are words I wrote a year and a half ago.
If I could get published then, what’s stopping me from being published now?
I don’t know if I’ll ever get payment for Sneaky Editing or not, and to be completely honest, I don’t much care. Of course the money would be great. But that article was about more than money. It represented my worth as a writer; it was my measuring stick of being "good enough" or not. It was the first thing I ever submitted for publication, anywhere. Having it actually published is like a gift.
This is really a God thing, because I've been so insecure about my writing lately, and very conflicted about how it relates to my spiritual life. This discovery seems like a quiet reassurance from God that I was right to slow down, to not push myself so hard. I don't have to keep worrying about being "good enough." I was publishable a year and a half ago.
After I think about all that, the money doesn't seem too important, yeah?
I do really appreciate all of Carol Ayer’s efforts contacting me. As it turns out, she has a novella being released this month. And I thought I’d just, you know, interview her :) It'll be up June 16th, and I would love it if you guys showed some support by commented on her interview or checking out her book!
(Additionally, at some point this month, I’ll be posting a list of the authors/articles/prizewinners that made it into the final issue of ByLine magazine. I think it's important to have some kind of reference out there for others who were left hanging. If you read this before I have the listing up, shoot me an e-mail; I could definitely check for you)
Truly and always,