Joyce B. Hicks
The spreadsheet I’ve kept of submissions shows more entries in the red “Accepted” column in the last three years. Naturally, one hopes more acceptances indicate better writing, but I’m also much more savvy about how to find markets and match my submissions to them. Let me share a few observations, and perhaps other IWC readers will add more.
Though your entry may meet submission descriptions of “seeking excellent writing, etc.”, you may have the best luck in markets where you or your submission has a distinct life-phase (or other) relationship. For example, your fiction about a woman feeling depleted by a new baby may be more appealing to Literary Mama or Brain, Child than to the Alaska Quarterly Review. As another example, poetry, narrative, or fiction about life events or illness could go to the Bellevue Literary Review that “examines human existence through the prism of health and healing, illness and disease.” Exploring markets beyond simple genre matches is definitely worthwhile.
In another angle related to life-stage, new markets are centering on the Boomer generation for readers, writers, and themes. Passager, an attractive print magazine, looks for writers over fifty. The Boomer Café offers short narratives weekly; Still Crazy appeals to the Simon & Garfunkel set, both readers and writers. These outlets respond to more traditional story telling and poetry.
Markets for younger to mid-life writers and readers may be edgier and encourage experimentation. This may explain why my story, “Harvest Time,” about an Indiana farmer who retired to Florida, was rejected by academic literary magazines in these states. Their readers, and maybe the editorial boards, were not vested in this life phase, and the style was character-driven narrative. The story found a home in a less competitive online magazine, The Feathered Flounder, for an older generation.
Right now the Midwest is hot! Flyover Country and Great Lakes Review are relatively new markets for fiction and personal narrative. So exploiting your Midwest connection is worthwhile. In fact, until September 1, there is a call for narratives for Undeniably Indiana, a crowd-sourced book by Indiana University Press to celebrate the bicentennial. August 31 is the deadline to enter the Lake Prize and Midwestern Gothic is open to submissions on August 1.
Editors say that they receive many entries that ignore the spelled-out parameters. However, something that meets them in new way may be welcomed. Literary Mama: Reading for the Maternally Inclined published my story “An Outing for Betty” about an octogenarian and her daughter—not the usual mother for the magazine. This success spurred me to use the story for the first chapter of my debut novel, Escape from Assisted Living. Another time, after rejection by two magazines and a contest that seemed like perfect fits, I took a chance on an environmental magazine’s invitation for stories on the theme “feral lands or feral people.” “The Bookstore,” about books falling out of the sky, appeared in the summer edition of Kudzu.
The lesson is be creative in matching your work to a market, and include details in your bio the show the authenticity of your voice for that market.
I’ll be trolling sites like Duotrope, Poets & Writers, Every Writer's Resource, and the September calls list on Literary Mama again to place my story “Waiting for Santa” that’s chalked up only rejections. It’s about a grandmother’s fears about dementia as she visits Santa in a Chicago store with her grandkids. An unusual holiday tale, it’s still looking for a home. All suggestions are welcome!
Joyce B. Hicks is a member of Blank Slate Writers and the Indiana Writers’ Consortium. You can find her website at www.joycebhicks.com and can contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.