• Anna Leahy
  • THE SUBMISSION MISSION: A Project Statement
Written by
Anna Leahy
April 2011
Written by
Anna Leahy
April 2011



The Submission Mission Live Chat

First Friday of the Month at 3pm ET (Noon PT)

Instructions for Live Chats: http://www.shewrites.com/page/live-chats

Instigating Topics:

MAY 6: Developing Submission Habits

 READ about tips: http://www.shewrites.com/profiles/blogs/tips-for-developing-submission-4

JUNE 3: Where To Submit

READ about resources: http://www.shewrites.com/profiles/blogs/where-to-submit

JULY 1: Poetry, Stories, Essays, Etc.—Genre & Submissions

 READ IDEAS FOR SUMMER: http://www.shewrites.com/profiles/blogs/the-submission-mission-idea-1and http://www.shewrites.com/profiles/blogs/the-submission-mission-idea-2

AUGUST 5: Contests, Grants, Fellowships, Residencies with Guest Host Erika Dreifus

SEPTEMBER 2: Agents, Self-Publishing, Other Options, Etc.

OCTOBER 7: Print/Online, Envelopes/Submishmash, Etc.



In February, I got riled up. Word leaked out that gender disparity existed in literary publishing. This wasn’t news, but we finally saw the numbers. VIDA: Women in Literary Arts released a report that pie-charted top literary venues, including Granta, Harper’s, and Poetry. Darn those editors, I thought, for ignoring good writing by women.


But then, editors started responding. Tin House pointed out that the gender disparity in what they publish represents the gender disparity in submissions. Let’s submit, I thought. I put a call for “A Submission Movement” on Facebook and SheWrites.


I challenged every woman writer to send out a dozen submissions by the end of February, which gave us two weeks. Sending the same story or poems to twelve different venues was fine. The point was to let a dozen editors see my work and, on the larger scale, to change the submissions numbers. I didn’t want editors to blame women writers for their own lack of representation in The Threepenny Review or anywhere else. I didn’t want to reject myself from The New Yorker by not even sending them a poem.


Several women thanked me. One said my call just the kick in the pants she needed, and another received acceptances within a couple of weeks. It worked!


Except I didn’t send out a dozen submissions myself. I sent out three, but they were applications to residencies, not getting my work into the hands of editors. I rationalized that these applications took more time. I let myself off the hook. Another month went by.


Finally, in the last ten days of March, I submitted work to eight literary journals.


What took me so long? Why haven’t I sent a dozen submissions out in the last seven weeks? When I did submit, how did I decide where? How did I decide what piece(s) of writing to submit where? How did submitting encroach upon or fuel my writing time?


These are questions I hope will energize a wider discussion. When I posted that nudge, a friend wrote that a dozen submissions was too much. She thought a regular habit of submitting was more important to cultivate, and she’s right.


That’s why I formed a SheWrites group today and why I want to gather once every month, on the cusp of each first weekend. Let’s talk about why we submit and don’t submit, share strategies for making submitting a regular habit, and point each other to venues for our writing. Let’s set reasonable goals for getting our work into the hands of editors, and let’s achieve those goals! And when we fall short or receive rejections, let’s not give up!


Let's be friends

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  • Lynn Fisher

    Thank you for this. Setting goals and then following through...that's what I need. My usual setting writing goals and then following through with a quarter of them, is not serving me.

  • Anna Leahy

    THIS WEEKEND, Megz Pokrass is hosting a LET'S SUBMIT event on Facebook. She posts there: "have gotten lazy about submitting- if we (a group of us) do it we can celebrate and motivate and... oh crap. I'm lazy. So the goal is 10 submissions by the end of the day. Saturday. Tomorrow." She has reported that she's done 8 and that she hasn't done this sort of thing in a year.

    I'm submitting too--not sure how many, but several before the end of the weekend. You should too!

  • Very nicely done, thanks!

  • Anna Leahy

    Pamela, good point about being psyched and then weary. I think that's probably all too common. Maybe The Submission Mission can even out the weary periods.

  • Pamela Booker

    Yes, thank you for your feedback. My pattern mirrored yours, in part, with applications to several residences (two of which have been awarded for the summer) along with a frenzy of journal submissions. Of the at least a dozen plus submissions, I've so far received two rejections. others are pending over the next several months. I must say that initially I was psyched every time I opened up my vast excel sheet, comprised ofa series of columns that helped me navigate deadlines, which stories to send, and weblinks for quick reviews. as the months have dragged along though, I've grown weary and less enthusiastic. your posting has renewed my momentum!

  • Anna Leahy

    Thanks for all the feedback and participation on this project. If you haven't looked through the comments here, do that because there are some links and some good tidbits!

    And there's the group that's part of The Submission Mission, so feel free to join that: http://www.shewrites.com/group/thesubmissionmission.

    And the first chat is on Friday, May 6--tell all your She Writes friends!

  • Emily Lackey

    I had to share this article on here. I read it today and have been totally inspired to get organized, do my research, and begin submitting in earnest!



  • One more article we might like to look at in advance of the discussion:



  • Margo Roby

    Thanks, Anna.

  • Anna Leahy

    Ah, I didn't put THE SUBMISSION MISSION GROUP URL in the blog post. Here it is:


    I added two Discussions today too, one about successes that are emerging from The Submission Mission, and another about the different kinds of systems we create or use to do and track submissions.

  • Margo Roby

    Anna - Is there something specific to do to join the group? I looked for a join here button, but must be missing something, or do I just show up Friday for the chat?

  • Anna Leahy

    Kathy, I encourage you to join the group The Submission Mission. I'm going to set up some Discussions there, and I think sharing systems is a good one. Thanks!

  • It really helps to set up a submission system of some kind. I am a regular submitter (though not 12 per month), and I've had about 10 stories published in the last decade, including one coming this summer in Indiana Review and my first novel coming next year (I would count all those agent queries among my submissions!). As you can see, it's slow going (like many of you, I'm a mom too), but persistence does pay off. For what it's worth, here's my antiquated submission tracking system: I have a file folder with the first page of every story I've "finished" and an index card attached to it listing the journals it's been sent to, date sent, and date of response received. This way I can make sure I don't resubmit to the same place. To avoid simultaneous submissions of different pieces to the same journal, I have a white board by my desk listing the stories currently out in circulation and where they are.  Having it right out there also helps me keep in mind what's out there and is actually encouraging. I set up a submission list of journals I like, using Writer's Market listings and journals that come to my attention through reading and word of mouth. I have them organized in sets of about six, based on what time of year they accept submissions. So I will send off a story to my "C List," for example, rather than cherry picking journals each time I'm ready to send. If you're in the agent-querying process, I'd recommend querytracker.net, which has its own very helpful tracking system. I'd be curious to hear about others' systems for keeping track of their work, since mine is by no means the most efficient! Also, I don't keep my rejection letters--unless they have a personal note of encouragement on them, in which case they get filed away with the index cards as a reminder of journals that might like to see more of my work. Hope that's helpful!

  • Loraine Despres

    Great idea.

  • Anna Leahy

    I appreciate all these comments! It's good to hear about how different situations (family dynamics, genre and length, etc.) affect our submission habits. I agree that 12 submissions per month is do-able and maybe a good common goal. But I admit that I couldn't hack that myself, so I'm interested in how we can establish good habits and encourage each other too.

    In February, I didn't follow through, sending out three applications, but not exactly submissions. I managed 8 submissions in March--that felt as if I was pushing myself, but was manageable. And three poems were accepted by Zocalo Public Square (one is up today!). Uh-oh, April is almost over and I have no submissions in my log this month. Maybe submitting in bursts is okay and what I need to do, but I'd like to experiment with a more regular habit.

    Thanks, EBF, for sharing the "What Editors Want" piece. I read it yesterday myself and found some great, commonsense advice. And I agree, simultaneous submissions (which work differently for different genres, different venues, and different writers) is a subtopic worth sorting through at some point. There is a lot of advice out there, it's not all in agreement, and not everything works for every writer or every situation. Your comment also suggests that, if we expect others to read our work, we need to be reading too.

  • I don't mean to rain on anyone's parade, but this might prove interesting reading (and the whole journal a valuable resource)



    why I don't submit to certain places comes down to this:  I haven't read that journal.  I don't know what they publish, what their tone is, and whether I would fit.


    I do have stacks of The Kenyon Review, The Missouri Review, The Sun and Bellevue Literary Quarterly all over my apartment, mostly leafed through, none fully read.  Someone mentioned "fees" for submitting -- could she clarify whether those are actual reading fees, or merely the request that you buy a subscription to the magazine?  It's a fact that most of these journals receive more submissions than they have subscribers.


    I also have a cautionary tale about multiple submissions (of the same piece to different journals), but I'll save it for later.  Suffice to say for now:  Lucy in the chocolate factory.

  • Elizabeth Towns

    I have only submitted to one journal, and that was by request. I do query for writing gigs, and I am so interested in this project that I am researching how to submit to literary journals so I can participate. I sent out 3 query's for writing assignments today, so I am going to count that. However, I will get amped and get on top of my 12 submissions a month.

  • Brianna Soloski

    This is a great idea. 12 submissions a month is really only three per week. That's totally doable. I have eight things out at various places right now, but I am definitely in for this, starting next month.

  • Jessica Powers

    I write books, so it's hard for me to submit 12 things a month. Also, I have a six month old baby and my writing life in general has slowed down (though still chugging along, just slower than before!) But I'm with you guys in spirit. And when I can, I'll join you in submissions.

  • Gretchen Wright

    Anna - your enthusiasm is almost contagious. Almost! I have never submitted as many as 12 essays in any month. In fact, I had decided to completely give up on the whole journal submission thing until I read your message today here on She Writes;  now I'm having second thoughts. The gender disparity is alarming. I certainly wouldn't want to enable THAT to continue!

    Regarding "PeacefullDawn's" request for rejection letters....I don't get many. Usually I just send my literary children off into the world and never hear what becomes of them. In my experience, journals don't always take the time to formally reject.  However, I love the idea of chatting together about this to make the process of submission and rejection less  scary and to enable us to view  the process more as an adventure.

    Thank you, women of She Writes, for renewing my hope.

  • Anna Leahy

    Thanks for all these great comments! I hope you'll all join in on the chat on May 6. Whether you're struggling to submit at all or you're on a submission roll, other women writers want to hear what's going on.

    And the genre doesn't matter. It's about the process, the action, timing submissions to get our best work into editors' hands (not necessarily rushing it out). That said, we'll definitely talk about genre differences more specifically in the July chat.

  • Wendy Litner

    This is a wonderful idea and I feel better already about tackling my submission deficiencies! I have been thinking for a while now that if I want to be a writer, I need to let someone other than my cat take a look at my work. She is not even a good editor.

    Looking forward to joining the chat,


  • Judith C Evans

    Yep, this is definitely the kick in the rear I needed! Thanks for starting this group, and sign me up! :)

  • Deborah C Linker

    What a great challenge submission mission is.  I read somewhere that your work does nothing just sitting in your notebooks, let someone read it.  What do you have to lose,  and think of what you have to gain?  So  I started a submission log and so far in April I have made 9 submissions and also launched a website.  The month is over yet.  Thanks for She Writes encouragement and support.  Debbie Linker

  • Ok Anna, I hear you. I'm always encouraging my students to submit their work, to dare to be visible, to embrace the enterprise of submissions. Then, I counted how many sumission I had actually made in recent months and fell woefully short. Thanks for this wake up call. I'm joining you on this mission!