You’ve written it, but now it needs a home. How does a submission make the cut? In this series, the editors at Literary Mama offer their thoughts on the process. This month, blog editors Rudri Bhatt Patel and Laura Roberts share with readers some insights into the pieces they love and the submissions they seek.
On the blog, we do things a little differently from the rest of the departments. We often curate lists like the Calls for Submissions and the Writerly Roundup. We publish reading prompts and share what our editors are reading and what they’ve published. We don’t, however, read submissions for the monthly issue of Literary Mama.
That’s why we love our After Page One series. It’s our chance to read your submissions. After Page One is a small serving of writing about writing. (We know – totally meta.) What are we looking for in an After Page One submission?
What We Seek
On our submissions page, you’ll see that we’re looking for 300- to 500-word guest posts that motivate, inspire, and encourage other mama writers about getting started, returning to a writing project, integrating writing with motherhood, reading, or having a positive attitude.
That positivity is key. After Page One runs on Monday morning, and there’s no better time for a shot of inspiration. Our guidelines offer a few suggestions, but we really love originality. Are you a mom of adult children? A mother of an autistic child? A grandmother? What have you accomplished? What have you overcome? Tell us what you’ve learned through writing and about writing. And tell us how it affects you as a mom.
By positive and inspiring, we don’t mean we want perfection. We don’t need a triumph, and you don’t have to be a hero. Tell us how you struggle, fail, and succeed. Make us guffaw or ugly-cry. Be real. Be honest. Look for inspiration on any scale. Maybe you’ve accrued some wisdom; maybe you’re a newbie. We know that every mother writer has something to teach us and our community of mamas. We want to hear it because we’re all right there in the trenches with you.
What We Love
Here are few examples of After Page One Submissions that we love:
In “Climbing Off the Ladder: Community vs Competition,” Andrea Jarrell effectively uses the metaphor of her yoga practice as a way to explore her writing. The theme of writer envy is a relatable theme and Jarrell adeptly weaves this concept through her narrative with visual language. The takeaway is apparent in these lines:
Whether my community is my mother, thirty other yogis breathing beside me, or the scores of writers with whom I connect on a weekly basis – I’ve learned not to make life a sharp-elbowed competition. There’s enough good stuff to go around. In fact, there’s more when we’re all in it together. From helpful critique to publication and agent leads to career-making breaks, I’ve seen that first hand in my writing communities.
Navigating transitions and maintaining a writing practice is a common theme among those who want to balance their professional life and still produce meaningful work. In this “Chasing My Autumns,” Candace Alnaji shows how she leans into writing as she navigates her roles as a lawyer and mother. For her, “writing was always the consolation.”
Writing through the season, especially fall, is a source of melancholy and joy for Ann Klotz. Her opening paragraph is relatable and draws the reader into her piece, “On Embracing the Unexpected.” July’s end is eclipsed by a trip to the Cape, a trip to Michigan to write fiction, an overnight in NYC to see Indecent. When I return to our summerhouse, I notice the bittersweet outside the kitchen window has oranged; evenings are cooler. August feels melancholy, as if summer is fading away, and with it, my intention to write a lot.” The reader roots for this writer and wonders whether she will follow through on her intention. This piece demonstrates lyrical prose and every sentence builds toward the conclusion.
What Really Works
Lyrical writing, a strong narrative arc and a personal epiphany that is relatable are key elements in a well-crafted After Page One submission. When the reader feels the texture of the piece it is usually because the writer shapes her personal truth into a universal.
Since the word count is limited, every sentence must build the narrative and provide an ending that is earned.
The purpose of an After Page One submission is to make our readers feel less alone. The submissions that are unafraid to tackle and explore vulnerabilities tend to resonate the most with our audience.
What Doesn’t Work
The most common theme we see is finding time to write with a new baby. Now, if you’re a writer and a mother, you’ve been there. We all have. We write when the baby sleeps. So many of us have done so, in fact, that it’s our most frequent After Page One subject. If we detect that theme, we probably won’t use it.
We get a lot of submissions about where you write, e.g. a hidden desk, a quiet alcove, or a bustling coffee shop. Sneaking off to write is the first step, but it’s what you do when you get there that most interests us.
Sometimes, submissions feel underdeveloped. You’re kind of talking about writing, you touch on your kids, but the narrative feels unfinished, as though you’ve tugged at several threads but committed to none. We know it can be tricky to do so in 500 words, but we want to see a narrative arc. Take the time to finely craft your submission. Shorter pieces should still contain strong writing.
If You Follow, We Will Read
Please follow the submission guidelines. They’re important to us. We won’t read a submission if it doesn’t conform to our guidelines. Count your words, check your work, and don’t send email attachments. We’re frightened of attachments. Sometimes they contain viruses, and you know how it goes with viruses: if one of us gets sick, we all get sick. Protect your Literary Mama editors.
We look forward to reading your submissions!