How to get your #poem, #essay, or #shortstory published: a presentation by Tanya Chernov

Image of swirly writing with a winged heart overlaid on a piece of crumpled paper

Image: iClipart

My summer blog posts are often about the writing process and how to get your written work out there for the average Joe to read. Today I’m continuing to share what I learned at the 2014 PNWA Summer Writer’s Conference, by offering my notes from a class entitled, “From Slush Pile to Printed Page,” which was presented by Tanya Chernov, author of the highly acclaimed memoir, A Real Emotional Girl.

This is what Chernov shared in her presentation:


When Writing…

Consider your unpublished work. Do you have a colleague or writing partner to help you edit and revise your material, to critique with you, to give you support and advice? This is crucial.

Do you ever see a piece of work that has been published and think, “I’m writing material that’s stronger than this. Why did they get published when I did not?” If so, ask a colleague to [analyze both works] and tell you why they think this person got published when you did not.

When Submitting…

If you send your material [to agents or publishers often], you will eventually become desensitized to rejection, so don’t let rejection stop you from sending your material in. Sometimes a writer’s persistence impresses an editor. Submit it again and again. Take courage.

When [reviewing other people’s] poetry submissions [from an editor’s perspective], Chernov always reads the first three stanzas before giving up. She’s often looking for a unique poetic topic, something she’s never read [in poetic form] before.

How are you grouping your stories or poems? Are you giving editors enough time to process? Don’t assault them with too many submissions all at once.

Be professional, be friendly, and be a literary citizen, offering your support and friendship to editors. Don’t get defensive after a rejection. If an editor says, “This is close, but not quite what I want. Please revise and re-submit,” don’t re-submit it the same afternoon. Wait for the next reading period to open up.

When Writing a Bio…

Make a list of your five favorite authors. Look at their websites and look up their bios. This should help you with writing a bio that you can include in your submissions to magazines and websites.

Another trick is to ask someone else to write your bio for you. If you have a writing partner or critique buddy, they can sometimes help you out in that arena. Write down some bullet points and hand it to them. Ask them to put it all together in essay format and then edit it to suit you.

When Building Platform…

Duotrope and news pages are hub sites for literary magazines. Their websites will give you the low-down, like submission requirements and such.

Write the stuff you like to read. Writing can be a miserable experience if you don’t, so don’t try to follow trends when being creative. You will find a home for your writing, as long as you give it your best shot.

Furthermore, writers should get in the habit of googling themselves to see what other people are writing about you. You want to make sure you see what’s being said about you and your work. In the Information Age, it’s a good practice.


Closing Statements…

At the end of Chernov’s presentation, one writer told how he kept submitting his material to a website. After a while, they sent him a suggestion that he should join their writing contest. Chernov said, “Be wary of contests that have reading fees.”

Another member of the audience asked, “Can you suggest some magazines that publish humorous essays?”

Chernov responded with this list:


2 responses »

  1. Thanks for sharing this information. I really liked the tip of studying your 5 favorite author bios and/or have a writing buddy write one for you. I never thought of that. I want to change my author bio to sound more professional, yet creative. These tips definitely came in handy.

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