I usually don’t answer calls for writing submissions. That’s not to say I don’t read the calls but knowing that my writing is up against the caliber of professional writers is enough for me to retreat and surrender. My inner critic moves me along to the next call for submission when she reminds me my ho-hum writing may not being at a level yet to be recognized. I reasoned unless I could answer a call with a unique idea, perhaps a one-of-a-kind piece of work, I would move on.
When She Writes Press (SWP) put out a call for submissions for their new anthology “The Magic of Memoir,” I threw the comfort of being in my own zone to the wind. I submitted my essay for publication with confidence that I would be a contender. Though I could never be in the minds of the SWP judges or judges of any other writing submissions to understand what exactly they would be looking for, I believe two influences – countering an assumption with a different or unique writing approach and having a passion for what I was writing about – made me a contender.
When SWP put this call out, I understood that writers who would submit might have a few acronyms in educational degrees accompanying their name while wearing many hats such as educator, researcher, journalist, or social worker to name a few, and might also have numerous national publication credits to their name. I am neither a professional writer nor have an advanced degree but maybe if I searched hard enough I could find a nice fitting hat or two of my own to wear.
I had made an assumption that I didn’t stand a chance of being considered because the contributing writers were well accomplished, well-educated and nationally published. Maybe this was my inner critic speaking over me but regardless it was a reality I needed to counter in order to believe that I did have something to write and that it was just as good as the next writer’s work.
I reflected on how I could be different, a stand out, among the other submitters to the SWP call. I imagined what kind of essays would be submitted and how they would be written. Would the writer use excerpts from his or her memoir? Would the use of metaphors and rhythmic prose be woven throughout? Would the essay read like creative nonfiction with fact mingled with creative writing?
SWP’s call listed a dozen prompts to help writers execute their essay. As I read each prompt question, I had an immediate response like a dialogue unfolding in my head. The Q and A was if I was narrating the ancestry of my memoir with each question answered. And there I had it! In one sitting I had the bones of my essay.
After three edits, I had the final essay. I knew how I would present it – a conversation with my memoir as if it was just the two of us in a room revealing our secrets, our worries, exposing insecurities and challenges. I wrote it simply and understated, “I was once eager to find complicated significance in what I now see as simplicity,” just as how I had written my memoir. I didn’t want to necessarily recount parts of my actual memoir in the essay, but rather offer inspiration, weaving in answers to a few of the prompts as suggested, in a unique, personal way that would resonate with a fellow memoir writer.
I was no longer in my comfort zone when I decided to take a leap of faith knowing I had something to contribute, something that was worth reading. I had not only confidence in what I was writing but also a strong belief in what I was saying. My passion for my words negated any inferiority I previously harbored with my assumption – that professional, many-times-over published writers would automatically rise to the top of the submissions pile.
Writing from the heart with passion and conviction was what I have learned to recognize. And sometimes simple and unadorned writing carries the most uniqueness that will be the difference in being accepted for publication.