Lucy Furlong is completing the MFA in creative writing at Kingston and currently writing a collection of poetry.  She had a poem included in English Pen’s award-winning Poems for Pussy Riot anthology, Catechism, and a poem recently in the Solidarity Park Poetry project in support of the Turkish uprising. Her poetry map, Amniotic City can be found at


How often do you submit your work and where to? It does of course depend on what you are writing. Short stories and poems can be submitted across the publishing stratosphere, and that can mean anything from twinkling blogs and zines, to esteemed literary magazines and journals, not forgetting competitions and anthologies.

Novels are a different matter and recently a friend prepared the first three chapters of her book to send, plus blurb, synopsis and covering letter to an agent. This seemed to me to involve far more of an investment than firing off poems into the ether and seeing if anything stuck…otherwise known as The Spaghetti Method of submitting…not actually a sure fire way of getting your work published but probably a good place to start if you  haven’t done it before.

In fact, although this may be a way to get over the initial fear of submitting your writing, if you are serious about getting published you will need to put in some time researching where your work might fit best. The web is a good place to start and many sites will have a submissions policy which advises you to read the publication, whether it is a blog, journal or annual anthology, first to get an idea of whether your writing would be suitable for it.

I would recommend doing this too. It will save you a lot of time and you get to know lots of different publications, which is critical if you are going to carry on with this mad writing lark you’ve got yourself into. Also, you might read some fantastic and inspiring poetry, short stories or experimental prose…If you are a poet the Saison Poetry Library stocks a comprehensive range of poetry magazines, zines and journals which you can browse to your ‘art’s content. It also supplies handy copies of the latest submission deadlines for competitions too.

What is the best way to deal with the inevitable rejection and frustration which comes from this process?  My advice would be to be business-like. Develop a system and be pragmatic. If you’ve gone through the creative-workshopping process for any amount of time you will be used to having your work critiqued, albeit constructively and with colleagues you know. This will help to prepare you for what may come next. It could be nothing, as in no response- and possibly will be many times over. Then again it could be rejection letters and emails from editors who don’t know you and don’t care for the short story you have sent them.

All writers face this. And if you are going to be successful you have to face it too. Some people find it very scary and there is no doubt it can be disappointing to get a rejection which picks apart a piece of writing which you thought was your best poem yet.

Muriel Spark writes in her autobiography, Curriculum Vitae about her system for keeping track of where she submitted her work:

“I used to keep a notebook which I called my ‘Despatch Book’…On the right hand side of the page I wrote the name of the journal to which I submitted my work as I wrote it. On the left I wrote against it, when the fate of the submitted piece was known, either the words ‘accepted’ or ‘returned’ – more often than not the latter.”

She goes on to list a number of her poems and where she had sent them, which gives the reader an idea of how often she submitted and how often the work was rejected. Out of the six listed submissions sent in one week, five were returned but the sixth won The Observer short story competition. Her tenacity and no-nonsense attitude, as well as her talent, paid off.

So, know your spaghetti and find out where it is most likely to stick. And then keep chucking it at those literary walls.


2 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. lucyfurleaps
    Jul 01, 2013 @ 20:02:38

    Reblogged this on LucyFurLeaps.


  2. emma strong
    Jul 03, 2013 @ 10:09:15

    V helpful! This autumn, I plan to be chucking my spaghetti …


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