Last week we wrote about some cover letter don’ts, including the importance of doing at least a minor amount of research before submitting to a literary magazine. Today we’re offering a quick roundup of a few more no-nos.
Because again, while you’re unlikely to be rejected based solely on your cover letter, a crappy cover letter leaves a crappy first impression, and you don’t want an editor, upon entering the world of your beautiful writing, to be carrying a crappy first impression.
Equate your cover letter with the first few seconds of a job interview
Your resume and bona fides, your verbal eloquence, your brilliant time- and money-saving ideas for the company–all of this can be undone before it’s even done if you show up late, unkempt, with a turkey ‘n’ pesto sandwich on your face and a string of TP stuck to your shoe. Your resume, communication skills, etc.–in our case, your writing, the submission itself–is what gets you hired, but if your first impression (cover letter) sucks, well, you ain’t gettin’ the job. read more
During the five or so years I worked at Fringe Magazine I was the only dude on staff. Fringe was created by an immensely talented band of women who were tired of, among other things, the attention heaped on the writings of so many white male writers (particularly the dead ones).
Fringe’s first theme issue was Feminism.
So when a literary journal is staffed almost exclusively by women, and is particularly interested in matters related to gender, addressing a submission to “Dear Sirs” is like shooting yourself right in the ol’ onions.
But that’s what many, many dozens of writers did during my tenure there. I don’t have hard evidence to back up the following assertion, but I’m fairly confident in saying that we accepted 0% of them. read more
In response to our latest email, which itself was a response to WriteByNight writing coach Steve Adams‘ recent Talking Writing essay “Money is Random,” several of you addressed our sign-off question, “What do you think makes a writer legitimate?” We’ve selected a few of these to share with you today:
David R. reflects on the moment he sensed his own legitimacy confirmed:
I dunno. I wrote for free for years to get my name out there and was quite prolific. I thought of myself as perfectly legitimate then, but when I got my first advance that sealed it for me. I understand writing is an art form and writers should do it because they love it, but in my opinion that’s what everyone should do … what they love doing.
Meanwhile, for Jackson M. the answer boils down to two simple, but often elusive, attributes:
I’ll go with honesty and compassion. I think those are the two most important elements to making a writer “legit.” read more
Oregon writing boasts of eminences such as Richard Brautigan (Trouth Fishing in America); Vladimir Nabokov (he finished Lolita and began Pnin while living there); Sarah Winnemucca, known as the author of the first autobiography written by a Native American woman; legends Ken Kesey and Raymond Carver; and Gina Ochsner, who was born and went to college in Oregon, and who once won a writing contest I entered, which means, of course, that I will never forget her name.
Presented in no particular order, here are 15 Oregon writing resources, from conferences to local critique groups to literary magazines. If you are a beaver stater or are planning to become one, these are some organizations you might want to take a peek at. read more
Oklahoma, the Sooner State, is up next in our State Writing Resources series. Its motto is “Labor omnia vincit,” which means “Work conquers all,” which means “Get your ass out of bed, slacker!” Oklahoma achieved statehood on November 16, 1907, the same day that actor (and Rocky trainer) Burgess Meredith was born in … drum roll … you guessed it! Ohio. Ugh, so close.
Oklahoma writing features a cast that includes such greats as Ralph Ellison (Invisible Man), Sarah Vowell (The Wordy Shipmates is my favorite of hers), Blake Edwards (the Pink Panther guy), National Book Award winner Joyce Carol Thomas, poet John Berryman, and, OK, Chuck Norris, who apparently can kill you in every way possible, and in many ways impossible.
Presented in no particular order, here are 10 Oklahoma writing resources, from conferences to local critique groups to literary magazines. If you’re an Okie or are planning to become one, these are some organizations you might want to take a peek at. read more
So as you may have noticed, we took the summer off from our State Writing Resources series. (Because, come on, who is looking for writing resources in the summertime?) But, now that autumn (egads!) is on its way and school is heading back into session, it’s time we … sent … our State Writing Resources series heading … back … into session.
Ohio. An Iroquois word meaning “large river,” or thereabouts. We–or at least I–imagine Ohio as containing only two major cities, Cleveland and Cincy. But did you know that the state capital, Columbus, is bigger than the both of ‘em? And that Toledo almost matches Cleveland in population? Ohio is known as the Buckeye State, a buckeye being both a brand of tree as well as a brand of 300-pound lineman who kicks the piss out of my favorite college football team every season.
Ohio writing features a strong cast of characters, among them Sherwood Anderson, whose Winesburg, Ohio is–well, it’s a book I’ve never read, is what it is. Sorry. But another thing it is is (ugh) a short story cycle about a small Ohio town that reminded Anderson of his own. It’s supposed to be a stellar book. Also an Ohioan is Toni Morrison, whose Jazz, as many of you know, since I never shut up about it, is probably my favorite novel. Ambrose Bierce, who I believe is out there somewhere, alive, is from Ohio, and will someday return. Another great Ohioan: Erma Bombeck. And Donald Ray Pollock, whose Knockemstiff has been called a modern-day version of Winesburg, Ohio. And don’t forget James Thurber; we’ll touch on him in the list below.
For now, presented in no particular order, here are 15 Ohio writing resources, from conferences to local critique groups to literary magazines. If you are a buckeye or are planning to become one, these are some organizations you might want to take a peek at. read more
There’s a terrible saying out there: “Those who can’t write, edit.” I’ve never bought this for a minute, and, in fact, I’ve always looked at the one as informing the other, much like the way riding a road bike can make you a better mountain biker, or, in an even broader sense, how weightlifting can make you a better runner. It’s called cross-training, and guess what? You can even cross-train your brain.
This is what being on the editor’s side of the desk has taught me: Even if you are constantly reading someone else’s work, some part of you is forming your own personal aesthetic. Some part of you is picking up on what you like about this piece; what you don’t like about that one; what’s working and what isn’t in any given story.
Some of us take that one step further, and we try to either reproduce what we as editors like, or we aim to reproduce the emotion that the work evoked as we vetted it for our own publications. (Of the two, I’ve noticed that the former always comes earlier in a writer’s career; the latter, which is by far the more sophisticated of the two crafts, comes when one has more experience vetting what types of writing one likes to read.) read more