On Manifesting the Manifesto
Sometimes I forget.
I hate that, and it makes me desperate–to get so caught up in the non-writing life that I forget that first and foremost, I am a writer. I don’t forget for very long, of course. That would be rather like forgetting my own name, and I have yet to go that far into oblivion. Still, when it happens, and I discover that I’ve gotten away from my notebook and my pen and my words–I feel sick. Physically ill.
With that in mind, this year, for my birthday, I developed The Birthday Manifesto. And I’ve been manifesting it every day in the 165 days since.
Every day I will do at least one thing to promote myself professionally.
That’s it. One sweet sentence I can repeat to myself as a mantra. One sweet sentence that allows me to remember what I really am: a writer. Before all else. After all, as we discussed in my writing class, if you are a writer, and that is your passion, rejections don’t matter. Criticisms don’t matter. Writing is something you can’t not do. It’s like breathing. If you don’t do it, you die.
I’ve always written every day. My notebook attests to this. Words, sentences, lines, paragraphs, stanzas. Ideas. Notes for things I’ll write when my brain sorts things out intelligibly. However, I have not always been consistent about getting my writing out there, in front of an audience. I’d go into a fever one day every once in a while, and submit everything on my desktop. The Manifesto tells me that I must do that more methodically.
Thus, every day, I research one market. Just one. After a discussion about the changing landscape of the submission process, which I had back in February at the 8th annual Simply Not Done winter writing weekend, I’ve embraced the incredibly useful Duotrope database. Duotrope is a service which operates on a budget largely generated through donations; thousands upon thousands of publication venues are listed there, with information on the kinds of work those magazines are interested in seeing, acceptance rates, and payment (if any). Each listing has a direct link to the online presence of the magazine or publishing house itself; once I find a place that looks interesting, I can peruse its website, read sample material, and judge whether what I’ve got to offer is likely to fit there.
Most of the places I’ve come across on Duotrope accept submissions online: some through email, some through the submission service now known as Submittable, and some using their own submissions managers. This is a boon to people like me, who have been submitting since the ice ages, and in that time have single-handedly supported the US postal service. Let’s face it, kids–submitting through the mail is expensive, what with having to include postage out and an SASE for the return of manuscripts. Also relatively time-consuming–the waiting alone would be enough to put anyone but the hardiest writer off. With online submissions, it’s a matter of putting together the files into a package and pressing the send button–BAM! The stuff’s out there. An added excitement to online subbing: until I started doing it, I shied away from submissions to markets outside the US, because the mailing was prohibitive. In the past 165 days, I’ve found myself accepted and published by magazines in Canada and the United Kingdom, and I’ve got subs out to English-language markets in other strange corners of the world as well. Why not?
The great thing about the Manifesto is the leeway it allows me. Every day I will do at least one thing to promote myself professionally. What does that mean? It means doing the work of writing, of course. It means subbing. It means doing a reading. It means workshopping with other writers, such as the women of Simply Not Done. It means researching. It means attending a book publication party in London (yes!). As long as I’ve done at least one of those things, I can tell myself at the end of the day–goal met. It’s an affirmation. I am successful. Of course, the added benefit of doing this repeatedly and consistently is the number of acceptances I’ve been racking up in the past 165 days–some of them even paid! Yes, I’m successful, and also professional. It rocks out. Of course, much to the disgust of one of my heathens, I am not yet rich and famous. I still have to get up and go to work in the morning. However, right now, aside from small submissions to magazines, I have two full manuscripts floating around in the great big world, and I’m generating enough material to compile a third shortly. So I can just smile at the heathen in question and say–eventually.
I no sooner began writing this then I received another acceptance through email, this one from Big River Poetry Review, out of Baton Rouge. The poem in question is about my daughter, who is now 29, and who no longer cuts worms in half. This is a good thing.
This is on top of the publication notice, from Friday night, for From the Depths Quarterly, where my poem “Coven” now lives.
My paying job is teaching school. There are parts of that–students, mostly–that I adore. However, last fall I suddenly realized that all my clothes were marked Central High School Staff, and I panicked. I felt as though I was being subsumed into the system. I do not belong to them! I have a life outside of school, and it’s immeasurably important! So I rebelled. In more than a year, I have not worn an article of clothing from school. Which means that my wardrobe is considerably limited…but I feel more like an individual now, rather than a cog in the machine. The Manifesto is just another part of that redefinition.