Have you ever thought about trying to get some of your work published? Dr. DeMisty Bellinger, one of the newest additions to the Fitchburg State English studies department, has some tips to offer from her experience as a editor and published author.
She volunteered as a reporter for Milwaukee’s Riverwest Currents, wrote columns for the Lincoln Journal Star, and contributed to Lincoln’s Star City Blog. She currently has twelve short stories published, six poems published, and she just sent in the last chapter of her novel to her agent.
About the publishing process, Bellinger says, “You go through a lot of revisions, especially short stories.” Along with revision, “peer review is important. I’ve had professors that said, ‘don’t send anything in until someone looks at it.’ If you don’t know if anyone else likes it beside you, why send it out for someone else to reject?”
Bellinger also recommends researching the publishing companies before you send in your work. For example, there’s no point in sending in your fiction story to a food magazine. It’s important to research the publishing houses to see if what they publish matches up with what you write, that way they are more likely to want to publish your work. Bellinger says, “New literary journals are usually what work for me. Niche markets work too, the last place I applied to was for women of color.” Look for a place that publishes your niche next time you send out your work. “For my book, school was helpful. The professor that I had suggested I send my work to his agent.”
As for people whose professors don’t have agents or don’t offer to send your work to them, Bellinger says, “For fiction, you can find agents by looking through the acknowledgements section of books and just find out people who write books similar to what you write, and look at their acknowledgements.” Bellinger says, “Writing conferences are also important, agents go there too so it can be a good place to get picked up if there’s some known artists there as well. However, with poetry you usually don’t have an agent, not a lot of money in that one.” It’s better to write for yourself and not for the money anyway.
Before a work gets published, it must be approved by the publication’s editorial board, Bellinger has worked for one such editorial board at Prairie Schooner. When deciding whether to publish a piece or not, Bellinger says she looked for two big things: “If a story was compelling [whether] I would want to read it again. Also, the story had to be universal in some way. If there’s no way we can relate, why should we read it?” A story has to have the ability to make a connection with people, even if they haven’t been through the exact same thing. “Also [whether] it fit the style of the magazine,” which goes back to the point about researching the publishing houses. Even working for an editorial board like Route 2 can help you understand so much more about the publishing process, it is important to see things from the other side.
As far as advice, Bellinger offers, “get used to rejection.” If you have ever tried to get something published before, Bellinger’s words should be no surprise to you. “You get rejected a lot. Sometimes I got close to tears. It can take a long time before someone actually accepts your work.” However, Bellinger says, “Rejection can be a positive thing. At Prairie Schooner there was a ‘slush pile’ of non solicited submissions. I wouldn’t call it a ‘crapshoot’ though; it is possible to get published. Working there made me realize that it’s okay to be rejected. There are literally thousands of short stories and poems that get rejected by one magazine.” Her final words of wisdom? “Read a lot, and write a lot.” That is the only way to become a better writer.