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Publishing Tips

By: Kelsey M. Bee

As writers, many of us can agree that the publishing process is exciting, but at times, it can be equally panic-inducing. So often do we pour ourselves into that one piece that inevitably becomes a tender extension of ourselves. We owe it to that piece to let it breathe outside of our notebook; we know it deserves a life beyond our laptop. But then, we start to think about the logistics of sending that piece out, and the alarms in our heads go off: How do I go about doing this? What if it gets rejected? What if it gets accepted?!

When it comes to publishing, it is okay—normal even—to feel a little out of the loop. Publishing know-how comes with trial and error, familiarizing oneself with the market and the process, and consistent research. Below are some tips that might help those who are considering sending out pieces for publication, to 13th Floor Magazine or otherwise.

Tiered Lists

To help combat some of the fear and frustration, it is a good idea to compile a tiered list of journals or magazines in which you hope to be published. This list, which often has three or four tiers, enables you to narrow down the possible outlets for your work while also pushing you to research the publications. If that sounds tricky or time consuming, that’s because it is. Luckily, websites like Duotrope, Submittable, and Poets&Writers have gathered information about numerous publications, their submission deadlines, and any upcoming writing contests. These sites are great starting points for crafting your own tiered list. It will help you assess which publications are top-tier, second-tier, or third-tier. This might depend on the reputation of the publication, but it can equally depend on what you value in an outlet for your creative work.

Submission Guidelines & Masthead

When sending out your work, it is imperative to look through each journal’s submission guidelines and masthead. Often times, submissions can get rejected for not adhering to the guidelines, and we can all probably agree that if we are to get a rejection letter, we’d rather it be for the actual work rather than submitting incorrectly. Many publications have a masthead, or a Meet the Staff page, which identifies editors and their specific positions. If this is available, it is beneficial to know a little bit about which editors will likely be reading your piece. Additionally, it might be a good idea to address your cover letter to the lead editor of the genre that corresponds to your piece.

Attend Conferences

One way to help ease the stress of sending work out for publishing is to attend conferences. This can sometimes be expensive, but universities frequently offer travel funding for students, and it is definitely worth looking into. Conferences are a great place to network with fellow writers—established or up-and-coming—with representatives from MA or MFA programs, and with representatives from literary magazines or journals. Although networking might seem just as frightening as sending work out for publication, it can be a lot of fun even for the most introverted of writers. Conferences are great opportunities for like-minded people to learn from one another about the ins and outs of our industry, something that has proved invaluable over and over again.

If you’re feeling nervous about publishing fiction, nonfiction, or poetry, that’s natural and understandable. Just be sure it doesn’t hold you back from submitting your work.

Creative Writing + Nonfiction

By: Madison Larimore

My mom gets nervous at the thought of my concentration, creative nonfiction.

“Are you going to write about me? What are you going to say? Does the creative part mean you get to lie?” she asked, when I explained my degree to her for the fifth time.

I don’t blame my mom for having so many questions. I even find it difficult to answer those questions as a student who has studied the craft for three years. But creative nonfiction is not unfamiliar to us, no matter how hard to define the term may be.

The last time my mom asked me about it, I mentioned that the way we communicate on social media is a form of creative nonfiction: we use creative tools to best represent the nonfiction elements of our own personal lives.

In the craft of creative nonfiction, the creative tools are generally literary devices commonly found in fiction and poetry to tell the story well by crafting a scene, establishing character, etc. Of course, in creative nonfiction, the subject matter is true.

Creative nonfiction is not an oxymoron.

In other words, nonfiction, or the truth, does not have to be told boring and lifeless, and good writing does not have to be made up or imagined to be creative. Creative nonfiction can have literary merit, and those pieces that do represent the truth in a way that allows the reader to experience it in the most realistic, purposeful way possible. Creative nonfiction gives you an opportunity to directly expand your perspective through experiencing a piece of someone else’s.

In creative nonfiction, instead of the imagination, our main tool is memory. That’s where we get the term memoir, which is one of the largest sub-genres within the autobiography category. Another popular sub-genre is the personal essay, which commonly explores a question in the writer’s life. Sometimes you will hear both creative nonfiction and fiction referred to as prose, as opposed to poetry.

At the University of Nebraska at Omaha, students are lucky to have two departments with programs in creative nonfiction: the Writer’s Workshop in CFAM and the English department in ASH. Both of these departments are great resources to learn more. And of course, 13th Floor magazine, our campus literary magazine, publishes creative nonfiction. If you have any questions, please email me, the Lead Creative Nonfiction editor, at mlarimore@unomaha.edu.

Save the Date for the 700 Words Prose Slam!

Have you ever wanted to read your work before an audience? UNO’s Writer’s Workshop and English Department will be holding a prose slam at Apollon Art Space on Thursday, April 6, 2017. Come out at 7:00 to read your work. Or, if you don’t have anything to read, stop by and support the readers for free!

Process: 3 Electrifying Brainstorming Tips

It’s almost unfathomable, if you think about it— that the entire world is able to exist, simultaneously, before our eyes and in our heads. Often, though, we think of brainstorming for writing like powering up an old machine: press the power button, crank the handle, oil it a little bit when it starts to squeak. Sometimes, being conscious about what we want to write inhibits us from writing anything at all. We absorb too much of the world, and the internal critic takes over. When this happens, we have to train our brains to relax, and remain purposeful, but open.

lightbulb idea“Life is ‘trying things to see if they work.'”

–Ray Bradbury, author of The Illustrated Man

Bradbury is spot on. That’s how brainstorming works the best: when it’s unafraid to take a chance, and go with that chance, even with the risk of failure. It’s always okay to try. The next time you brainstorm, think about these tips to help keep your mind in the clear and cloudless.

1. DO write down whatever comes to your mind. Yes. Everything. You thought you would humanize your canine-loving protagonist by giving him or her a dog allergy? That’s one idea. There are probably more where that came from. The point here is to extract everything you can onto the paper because you never know when that wacky idea might just work.

2. DO set time limits (optional). One way to ensure that the brainstorm isn’t too thunderous is to lasso it in with a time constraint. A time constraint normally goes hand in hand with free-writing, but this is a method you can use with your more structured work, as well. Time tricks your brain by giving a reason to work efficiently. It would be inefficient to waste time worrying about polishing and bedazzling your writing. Tack the jewelry on later, and make the time about nitty-gritty writing.

3. DO value quantity over quality. The great thing about brainstorming is that no one else is in your head or on that page except for you. The only person who will read what you wrote (at this stage) is you.

The most important thing is to enjoy writing as it comes and create a technique that is tailored toward your needs as a writer. Some methods may not work for you at all, and that’s okay—focus on the ones that do, and practice them. You’ll thank yourself later.

For more brainstorming tips, check out this page to learn more about other brainstorming strategies, like mind mapping, word storming, and word associating. Don’t forget to also check out the rest of our blog posts for other ways to enrich your writing process. Happy writing!