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Michelle's Musings

Time and Effort

Giving away one's writing without monetary compensation has been the subject of debate for years. I've written for free to build my portfolio of publications, but this last go-around, I decided that my time and effort were worth more.


In the last 12 months or so, I've developed a decent relationship with the submissions editor of a local newspaper in which a few of my opinion pieces appeared. Earlier this year, I submitted another piece for consideration, which the editor deemed "strong" work. However, the political season was upon us, and publication of that work would be put off until May. Indeed, during the third week of May, I received a follow-up email from the editor who invited me to update my submission since considerable time had elapsed. The plan was to publish it before California's June 7 primary election.


I updated a couple of national stories cited in my 740-word essay then resubmitted. The editor asked me to remain on standby in case additional changes were needed, which has been the protocol for past submissions. However, four days before the primary election, she informed me that a backlog of other submissions precluded publication of mine. In addition, she requested that future pieces on national issues better reflect the local community, and she suggested that I write a piece about the upcoming Juneteenth holiday.


My first thought was, Why didn't she mention this deficiency when I was asked to update my work? During the three months that it sat, I could have easily made that change if the need had been identified. Moreover, my earlier submissions on national topics had not been subject to this directive. I'm guessing that the backlog of submissions was not the main issue and that the editor felt a tinge of guilt about not recognizing the need for further revision of my work, which someone else apparently deemed necessary. So she threw me a bone by inviting me to submit on a different topic.


I realize writers are at the mercy of publishing industry whims; however, I believe a promise of publication for an imminent date should not be made without the identification or mention of deficiencies that, if not corrected, would quash such publication. While I appreciate the significance of being published, I declined to put other projects on hold for what felt like a token request to satisfy the paper's last-minute editorial needs. Call me naïve, but it was time to stand up for the value of my work.

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Dare to Share

This time of year must be writing contest season. I've received a ton of notices about submission opportunities in just about every genre from poetry to memoir, short story to creative non-fiction, novel excerpt to literary journal piece. The word count requirements are just as varied.


It feels good to be at a point in my writing where I'm confident enough to submit material for judging. Yet as I strive to meet deadlines, I realize that most, if not all, responses to my submissions will be rejections. But my efforts are not wasted, as there is always room for learning. As needed, I refer to notes from classes or conferences I've attended and review salient advice for the revision process. I proceed accordingly, sharpening my revision and editing skills with each pass. Some contests even inspire me to create new work. Social isolation during the Covid-19 pandemic has also provided more opportunity for me to hone my skills with fewer distractions. In fact, I'm not entirely sure I look forward to a return of all those external sources of diversion!


Spring has arrived, however, and so has the season of showcasing one's talent. Not only am I proceeding full steam ahead with my craft, I also may have discovered a flair for photography. I seem to have an eye for photographic composition and plan to submit one or two images for competition.


As my vegetable and flower gardens flourish, birds awaken, and temperatures rise, so, too, does my creative energy. I hope yours is also roused and that you dare to share your work with others!

Timing is Everything

I recently started another revision of my novel, Hide and Seek, a magical realism story about a 12-year-old girl with a special gift that she must properly embrace if she is to help her deceased brother cross over to "the other side." Though the intended audience is adults, I have attempted to write it from the perspective of a 12-year-old narrator. I've been advised by experts in the publishing industry that such an endeavor would be hard to pull off. Indeed, it's been difficult to find other stories written this way. The few that I did find tend to take liberty with the child's capacity for an advanced vocabulary, which did not bother me so much. However, I recognized the same in my own work and had made several notations about correcting the language in a future revision—admittedly, a daunting task.


Well, this go-around, after being satisfied that I'd composed the storyline I wanted, I began another revision. At the second chapter in, something "clicked," and I realized that the mature vocabulary of an adult gives me more freedom of voice. So, I changed the narrator to that of a young adult looking back.


The timing of this epiphany was perfect, as I'd contemplated submitting the first 15 pages of my novel to a couple of fellowship-type programs designed to guide writers through a professional revision process. I immediately went back to my opening chapter and made appropriate changes. My deadlines are in a couple of days, so I've been devoting most of my writing time to the novel revision.


As the saying goes, "Timing is everything."