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penman review blog post

Hi Everyone!

It’s been quite the week. I woke up extremely early this morning to get some work done, and then I actually just got back from a series of doctors’ appointments with the unfortunate news that I’ve got a labral tear in my right hip. They had Wifi so I was lucky enough not to fall behind in between all the no-fun news.

My sports medicine doctor, Dr. Lyle Micheli, is — for lack of a better phrase — the absolute best human on earth. .

Back to work for this busy bee, but in the meantime, I’m published over at today. Check it out for all the do-and-dont’s you might need for a literary submission.

1937 journal central.

1937 journal central.

closing time

Giant news! Today’s a big day in the Smith household.

In BOTH of them! That’s because today we became homeowners.

We’re psyched, obviously, but one of the reasons I’m especially excited is because now I can document a whole bunch of renovations that we’ll be embarking on in the coming months. This writer is about to revise a house.

More to come! I’ll be back in regular business tomorrow – so check in then!

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wowchallenge contest winners

Today’s blog post announces the contest winners!

Sometimes it pays off to wait until the end… as evidenced by last night’s Hail Mary entry, “Rooted,” by Melinda T. Falgoust! Read Melinda’s story in the first wowchallenge comments section . Congratulations, Melinda. Please e-mail me a good mailing address for you, because you’ve won:

Prize 1: A copy of Q & A A Day: 365 Questions, 5 Years, 1,825 Answers . This book was published by the Crown Publishing Group, a division of Random House. It’s been a lifesaver for me in terms of writing, teaching, deep questions, and truly just thinking.

For those of you who were curious: the two pictures from the first Week of Writing prompt were taken in New York City and in Barcelona!

As for Prize 2, congratulations to e-mail entry contestant Bob M. from Santa Fe. Bob M. wins a FULL edit of up to 10 pages of his writing, double-spaced. (My credentials include two stints as a editorial board member, 18 months as a copywriter for LivingSocial, a Creative Writing M.F.A., a number of published works, two novels in the running, and five years as a professor.) Contact me for details, Bob M.!

Congratulations to both winners. This contest was a lot of fun. Stay tuned for the next one come fall. Until then – keep writing and living well, everyone.

In college, I started my “literary career” (I use this term very loosely) by being selected, along with two other students, to be the editorial board of Providence College’s international literary journal, . The three of us were responsible for choosing the final selections for the journal. We received thousands of submissions, though it’s more likely that we received tens of thousands of submissions. Each submission first went through a group of about 30 students, who were in a “Literary Editing” class. They voted on pieces as a class, which cut down on the final choices in a major way.

Although it was very time consuming, it was also a very teachable moment – more so than the majority of my courses were, in fact. I learned some very valuable things about what editors look at. And more importantly, I learned what not to do.

The first time I saw my name “in print.”

Now, I’m on the editorial board for The Penman Review . It is an entirely different experience, but it’s one I value. For starters, it’s an online journal, which means that I need to think about submissions in a new light. It’s also phenomenal to have everything at my computer, rather than thousands of pages of marked-up material, paper clips, and folders taking up space.

I’ve also submitted work to various magazines. Some of it’s been rejected, but then again, some has been accepted. (Let’s face it. You don’t need to come to this blog to hear that rejection is a part of any writer’s life.) J. K. Rowling, for one, was rejected about a dozen times before the changed the world. Pre-Potter, J. K. also has had every other writer-cliché happen to her. I’m pretty sure she typed up the series without electricity, walking uphill both ways.

Just reading Harry Potter at the White House. No big deal.
Image by Executive Office of the President [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

For what it’s worth, here are my personal suggestions for any aspiring writer who plans on submitting to literary journals. This is coming from both sides: that of a writer, and that of an editorial board member.


  • Review all submission guidelines. If your piece does not work for it, then do not submit it.
  • Pay attention to each submission guideline . Some journals don’t want your name to appear on the page at all. Some journals request a word count directly on your work. (If it’s not specified, I’d say to include it.)
  • Include a cover letter. In the cover letter, you should include the word count, genre, and title of your piece. Perhaps write why your work would fit well within the magazine.
  • Include a third-person bio below your signature. You can point toward this in your cover letter: “I have pasted a brief biography, as requested, below.”
  • Read each word of your work out loud . If I see a spelling error, there’s probably a 97% chance I wouldn’t take it.
  • Start small. Because while it would be unreal to be a first-time writer published in the likes of The Atlantic , the odds are not in your favor.  Remember that you can add every publication to your resumeé, C.V., and bio.


  • Copyright your work. “This is the property of Joe Schmoe” stamped on the bottom of every page makes me think that you are paranoid. I’m not going to steal your work.
  • Have an extensive heading on your work. For example, if you wrote the piece for school, remove the professor’s name and other identifying information from there.
  • Stray from the beauty of “said” and “asked.” If your character is sneering, chuckling, growling, chortling, or any of the like, it’s probably time for a simple rewrite.
  • Submit multiple publications to places that do not accept multiple publications. You never know whose toes you might be stepping on, and networking is important in every industry.
  • Forget the importance of tense. Flipping back and forth from past to present is a big no-no.
  • Name people we aren’t supposed to care about.

For example, check out the following. The reader is swarmed with names (and a tense change) in a mere 39 words.
“Who wants breakfast?” asked Dave Johnson.
“I do,” said his 75-year-old mother, Anna, glancing over at him.
They sat at the small bar in their kitchen, where Dave’s father, Joseph, used to enjoy his breakfast every morning.

Here’s how I might revise that one:
“Who wants breakfast?” he asked Dave Johnson .
“I do,” said his 75-year-old mother , Anna, glancing over at him .
They sat at the small bar in their kitchen, where Dave’s father, Joseph, used to enjoy his breakfast every morning.

What about you? What are some of your absolute do-and-don’ts of literary publishing?