Yesterday tied together everything we have learned so far at the One Story Workshop. In the morning, writers had their final group workshops with Marie-Helene Bertino and Will Allison. Then, in the afternoon, we met for a craft lecture by Editor-In-Chief Hannah Tinti.
Hannah’s talk was on the business side of publishing. She discussed launching our writing careers by finding agents and submitting to literary magazines. The way to tell a piece is ready for the world, according to her? You have gone through a few drafts to get pitch-perfect prose, workshopped it, showed it to all your friends, teachers, and your pet turtle, taken their suggestions (if you feel they are right). When you get to a point where nobody you show it to agrees on what’s actually wrong with the piece, that means it’s pretty good. Obviously, no matter what, somebody somewhere is always going to find something they don’t like about it. It’s when all of the glaring, objective errors that everyone notices are gone that you have gotten it to a point where it is publishable. You can’t please everyone.
At that point, Hannah told us to send our piece to the top 10 literary magazines we’d like to see our piece published in, accepting probable rejection as inevitable as death and taxes. Good resources for literary magazines are duotrope.com or Poets & Writers magazine. When those rejections come in (or maybe you will get accepted at one! Yay!), send it to the next 10. And the next 10. And the next 10. Keep trying, and don’t take rejection personally. Hannah told us she sent in a story to 50 magazines until it got accepted, and the story ended up being one of the best in her collection Animal Crackers. In the case of acceptance, celebrate! Don’t just shrug it off – congratulate yourself for the accomplishment.
Hannah told us industry standards for submissions: 12-point, double-spaced format on one side each of plain white copy paper with a normal font, your name and contact information on the first page, and page numbers included. The cover letter (the purpose of which is to demonstrate that you are not crazy and show some writing experience, whether MFA programs, previous publications, or otherwise) should be on a separate page or the “Notes” section often included in online submission websites. She also told us of ways to continue our writing education with conferences, fellowships, literary volunteer gigs, and writing buddies.
After the lecture, we took a break and the workshoppers got dressed up to read their work. The writing presented ranged from shocking to hilarious to heartbreaking, and the styles were as varied as the personalities there. It was exciting to see it all coming to a close: after a week of hard work, the writers and staff were able to kick back and listen to some great stories.
We said a sad goodbye to the beautiful Center for Fiction and then headed over to Tricolore Trattoria, passing the diamond district on our way and giving the out-of-towners a chance to check out Times Square. At dinner we watched a slideshow that showcased the friends made, professional connections established, and lectures given over the course of the week. Then we all raised a glass and cheered. The One Story Summer Workshop is over, but hopefully, all the attendants will keep in touch with us and extend their new knowledge and relationships far into the future. We will miss you all!