I’m often asked about the practice of being a writer outside / after academia, so I’ve gathered a few resources here that I think are useful in terms of understanding the business of creative writing:
Researching Literary Journals
- Dan Chaon “What Writers Can Learn from Rock Stars,” or, why it absolutely counts to know your literary journals well before you start submitting.
- Journal of the Month Club: an all-around excellent idea. Add it to your wishlist. An affordable way to get a primer in contemporary literary journals while still remaining well-read.
- The Best American Series, while not a definite list by any means, can provide a great introduction to current writers doing great work in your genre.
- New Pages, the most comprehensive list I know of contemporary presses and literary journals, indexed and searchable. Also maintains updated called for submissions lists, and reviews of some current issues.
- The Review Review, founded by writer and editor Becky Tuch to help writers navigate the world of literary journals. Provides excellent, detailed reviews of magazines, plus updated lists of calls for submissions, residencies/retreats, conferences, and more. Make sure to check out the “Tips” page for lots of practical advice on submitting and craft from working writers.
Both of these organizations (and there are many others) provide excellent educational resources, from job postings to searchable guides to MFA programs and
- “Just Wait,” on the value of spending significant time in revision before you try submitting!
- “What Editors Want:” Start here. This is your definitive guide for how to approach submitting your work, both practically and ideologically.
- “What the Editor Sees (That the Writer Does Not),” insights from a lit mag editor with lots of easy submission advice.
- “8 Reasons Your Submission Strategy Sucks,” common pitfalls and easy ways to avoid them.
- “Finding a Submission Strategy that Works for You,” beginning with research and organization!
- A basic and spot-on lit mag cover letter template.
- Submittable, my personal favorite method for organizing submissions. Free and easy–the only downside is you can’t manually enter submissions made through another engine.
- Duotrope, a paid service that helps you organize submissions.
- Tell It Slant, another excellent, free submission engine with a limited list of journals associated.
- Three Methods for Coping with Rejection
- How to Survive Rejection
- Invisibilia: Making a Game Out of Rejection (a parable for writers)
Meet / Mingle with Contemporary Writers
I have gotten so much mileage out of simply listening, on a regular basis, to other practicing writers. There are many ways to come into contact with writers, and I strongly encourage you to find a local community of writers. Here are a few places to start:
- Small Press Pittsburgh provides a fairly comprehensive list of Western PA readings and events, including recurring events or series, which can be great community-builders.
- The Pitt Contemporary Writers Series brings luminaries to Pitt-Oakland every year.
- Cave Canem is a nationally-recognized home for black poetry, based in the Burgh.
- Shameless plug: I run Acquired Taste, a food-themed mixed-genre reading series at roving Pittsburgh locations.
- Keep up-to-date with the events calendars of local booksellers. East End Book Exchange is incredibly active, as is Caliban, The Big Idea Bookstore, and Amazing Books.
- Conversations & Connections: one-day affordable conference of practical advice for writers, including one-on-one sessions with editors. Alternates between Pittsburgh and DC for its biannual locations.
- Three-day intensive Creative Nonfiction conference, held every spring by the magazine in Pittsburgh.
- Chatham’s Summer Community of Writers, a mini-MFA. Ten days of intensive workshops and activities with stellar writers. Not cheap.
- Can’t afford conferences or to travel to readings? Listen to podcasts! A great, free way to hear contemporary writers talk about their craft. Some of my favorites include the New Yorker Fiction and Poetry podcasts, The Workshop, Book Fight, All Write Already!, Late Night Library, Reading Lives, and Prosody (from WYEP).