How Writing Byproducts Became My First Nonfiction Publications

I didn’t expect to get another acceptance for publication so soon after my very first acceptance, but now I have two to be thankful for this Thanksgiving!

Acceptance from Shut Up & Write(!)

First, this email came from Shut Up & Write(!) and their inaugural zine:

Hello Art,

Congratulations! Your submission has been selected to be published in our first ever Shut Up & Write! Zine! We are so honored and humbled by the both the quality and number of submissions we received, and your piece in particular really made an impression on our judges.

We very much hope that you can present your work in person as part of the Zine Reading Party. It will be held in San Francisco in early 2018. We will be both honoring our writers and celebrating the first publication for Shut Up & Write!. We hope you’ll be able to make it!

Thank you so much for your submission and most particularly your patience with this process! :) Stay tuned for more information about the Zine Reading Party and about how you’ll receive your own copy of the finished Zine.

Malaika Santa CruzCommunity Manager, Shut Up & Write!

I submitted “A Homesick Wanderlust,” an essay reflecting on my time at the Lemon Tree House Residency in Tuscany. I spent my residency working on two new short stories. Both have since been heavily revised and submitted 31 times. Yet it’s the sentimental reflections on the residency itself—with only 1 revision and 3 submissions—that will be published first!

This lovely response came 228 days (7+ months) after submitting. This year of aiming for 50 rejections has developed my patience. Waiting became easier with other pieces to write or (re)submit—like those stories from the residency still looking for a home.

Writing friends at The Lemon Tree House Residency
Writing friends at The Lemon Tree House Residency

Acceptance from Fiction Southeast

This response from Fiction Southeast was even more remarkable:

Dear Arthur,

Thank you for sending us Why I Write. We love it, and we’d like to publish it in Fiction Southeast. When you’re done celebrating, please proceed to our Login Page…

Thanks again for sending us your work and congrats!

Chris Tusa, Editor
Fiction Southeast

Inspired by students in my recent One Story class, I sent off “Why I Write,” a tiny piece I’d already published on this blog to Fiction Southeast. It previously earned me the Kevin Smokler scholarship to the San Francisco Writers Conference (thank you Kevin!). Only 21 days after submitting, “Why I Write” was accepted again. It will appear in 2018, depending on Fiction Southeast’s editorial calendar.

I don’t fail to see the ironies. I wrote “Why I Write,” a reflection I imagined would be far more insightful after years of words and publications, when my writing credentials were nil. I yearned to attend that conference and pitch my novel. While the novel still seeks a literary agent, “Why I Write” will be another writing credential and a nonfiction publication on a site devoted primarily to fiction.

2016 San Francisco Writers Conference with Cat Ellsworth
2016 San Francisco Writers Conference with Cat Ellsworth

Accepting Writing Byproducts

What do these two acceptances have in common? They’re byproducts. I wrote each piece on the path to other things—a residency and a writing conference. I didn’t set any expectations for them, like my short stories. I even wondered if I was spreading my submission efforts too thin by sharing nonfiction when I most wanted to see my fiction in print.

But they were worth writing. And that’s the instinct I heeded. Now they’ll find readers beyond the kind friends and critique partners who’ve seen them thus far. I’m proud that “A Homesick Wanderlust” and “Why I Write” will be my first nonfiction publications.

Don’t underestimate the byproducts of your creative life, even if they’re not the kind of words you tend to write. Which byproducts can you cultivate and share?

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