A Call to Get Organized!
Say you’re in college and you share a huge dilapidated, 5-bedroom house with ten people. Say you and your nine roommates are all perma-stoned. Say it never fails that when you’re stoned you always want to color, but you can never remember where you last put your coloring book. That right there is a buzz-kill, a terrible situation in which to find your younger blazed-hippie self. What to do? How to keep track of all the necessary accoutrements your stoner identity is contingent upon? Simple. Learn the word organization.
Suggestions from older-sober Chelsey to younger-stoner Chelsey about how to get organized:
2. Use the drawers!
3. Screw a hook in the wall next to the front door and hang your keys from it!
4. Chart o’ Chores!
5. Write your name in Sharpee on the red solo cup!
While I am no longer a “dreadneck” (word invented by uptight people used to describe Texas hippies), I still remember (!) how organization eventually did help, by which I mean the Sharpee and the red solo cup directive became vital to the successful organization of one’s keg party.
College is where you learn things. Thus, here is the current-day application of the skills and knowledge I acquired during college: Submissions, meet Spreadsheet. This is called being an organized writer. While Georgia Review and Prairie Schooner don’t take simultaneous submissions, just about everyone else does, which means you need to keep track of what you send to where/who and when. Because, as it is always stated immediately after declaring that simultaneous submissions are allowed, the caboosed instruction to withdraw submissions when accepted elsewhere is really important. Withdrawing an accepted piece is all about being respectful of other people’s time. Makes sense. Don’t be that frustrating writer who doesn’t withdraw her work and ends up with one piece being accepted twice (such horror!), the fact of which most likely means you will encounter a frustrated editor. What’s up burned bridge?
I am proud to say that in the past four years, I have never been “that writer” thanks to my trusty Google doc spreadsheet...
…until a few days ago when I realized my lack of withdrawing an accepted submission from six months ago led to another acceptance, which led to me having to write that embarrassing and shame-filled email of, “Thank you so much for the acceptance. I would be honored to be published in your journal. However…”
There’s more. Getting organized won’t only help with the withdrawing process, but will also give you a sense of what type of writing a journal likes. When a lit mag rejects a satirical essay I wrote, then that informs my decision to not send another satirical essay the next time I submit. Basically, try something different and establish the way to keep track of your submissions that is not only helpful to you keeping good relations with editors, but can also help to more easily navigate your piece to its eventual home.
Aside from creating your own spreadsheet, there are also many programs/websites that can help to dot your i’s and diagonally slash your x’s. Which is to say not only help you get organized, but to do so with helpful details such as acceptance rate, length of waiting to hear back from publication and all of those statistics we obsess over while we’re waiting. Duotrope, Sonar, and The Writer’s Database are just a few places with programs you can use to organize your submissions.
Again, do what’s right for you.
I mean, hell, you can even get a big ol’ roll of butcher paper, some tape, and crayons and track your submissions and Doctor Strangelove-it by creating a Big Board!
Lastly, organizing submissions will help you to never submit a piece of writing to a journal that has already rejected it. You look kinda dumb if you do that. I’ve never done this, until twenty-seven minutes ago when I did just this, which made me feel like a doorknob. So now you know this whoopsy of a double-dipping-style-of-submitting is what incited this column.
Chelsey Clammer has been published in The Rumpus, Essay Daily, and The Nervous Breakdown among many others. Her essay “A Striking Resemblance” received an Honorary Mention for Water~Stone Review’s 2014 Judith Kitchen Award in Nonfiction, and her essay “Mother Tongue” was runner-up for Black Warrior Review’s 2014 Nonfiction contest. Clammer is the Managing Editor and Nonfiction Editor for The Doctor T.J. Eckleburg Review, as well as a columnist and workshop instructor for the journal. She is also the Nonfiction Editor for Pithead Chapel and Associate Essays Editor for The Nervous Breakdown. Her first collection of essays, BodyHome, is forthcoming from Hopewell Publishing in Winter 2014. Her second collection of essays, There Is Nothing Else to See Here, is forthcoming from The Lit Pub, Spring 2015. You can read more of her writing at: www.chelseyclammer.com.