Jerri BellThis week I had the great pleasure of being introduced to Jerri Bell, who was kind enough to share some thoughts with us on the process of editing and how she got to this point. Jerri Bell served in the Navy from 1988-2008. Her fiction has been published in Stone Canoe; her nonfiction has been published in The Little Patuxent Review and the Charleston Gazette-Mail, and on the Quivering Pen and Maryland Humanities Council blogs; and both her fiction and nonfiction have won prizes in the West Virginia Writers annual contests. She is currently the managing editor of O-Dark-Thirty, the literary journal of the Veterans Writing Project.


Submitting Poetry and Short Stories

Poets and WritersFor all of us writers, publishing at least SOMETHING can be the difference in our lives that keep us writing. It’s what makes you feel like a writer, and feel justified when you tell others you are a writer. Today I would like to discuss the process of submitting short stories and poetry for publication.

I am not going to go into the craft of short fiction or poetry, as there are so many great books and blogs out there on this subject, but simply discuss the advice I have received and lessons learned regarding publishing.

Tiered Submissions

One of my early workshop teachers told me a great idea – submit your stories in tiers. For example, tier one would be the big-dogs, the literary magazines that we don’t likely have a great chance of being published in, but what they heck. Why not try?

Tier 1 examples: The New Yorker, The Atlantic, Tin House, Ganta, Ploughshares, The Paris Review. etc. 

Tier two publications would still be pretty tough to get into, but maybe less impossible. What I mean here, is I’ve known people to get into them, but no one I know has ever been published in a Tier one publication, that I know of. Tier three, even more so.

Tier 2 Examples:The Gettysburg Review, Zuotrope, Kenyan Reivwe, Missiouri Review, Iowa Review, etc. 

Tier 3 Examples: Indiana Review, Mississippi Review, Virginia Quarterly, The Colorado Review, etc. 

However, I want to get into the reality of publishing now. Until you are awesome (I’m still working on that), getting into any of these publications will be tough. If you have done so, that is terrific. Congrats! But what do we do when we really just want to be published, and the big named publications aren’t giving us the time of day?

Duotrope and Poets & Writers

Two great places to look for publications, and to narrow your search by genre, word count, and other categories, are Duotrope (which now costs money, unfortunately) and Poets & Writers (which is still free, I believe). This is great for those writers out there writing fantasy or scifi, or other niche categories, such as military, nature, etc. Even if you are writing literary fiction, you can find a great deal of publications through these resources.

Niche Publications

As I mentioned above, you may be targeting a niche. That is how my first story was published. I was a Marine for five years and wrote a short story that was inspired by that time and had a military angle going for it, so when I heard of the veteran focused publication “O-Dark-Thirty,” I was sold. You can find it at here, and more information on it and The Veterans Writing Project. I also published my first poem in a niche collection, this time focused on nature. If you have a niche you can target, go for it. I promise, it isn’t cheating.

Writers Conferences

Another great source is writers conferences, where you get to actually meet the editors of these publications. It’s great to chat with these folks and see what they’re looking for, and when you submit you may get some feedback, which always helps! Just to warn you thought, some of these conferences can be very overwhelming. Don’t be ashamed of brining a good book and hiding out in Starbucks for a break from the crowds.

Some I have enjoyed include the San Francisco Writers Conference, LitQuake, AWP, and Conversations and Connections.

Writer’s Market Guides

The Writer’s Digest offers a great resource for getting published, the Writer’s Market. In addition to listing sources of publication, this tomb offers advice for getting published, samples of query letters and all sorts of other helpful advice. The Writer’s Digest also offers advice for screenwriting, novels, etc., and I highly recommend it.


Finally, I would like to discuss Craigslist and other such avenues. Maybe you have a story that you love and for some reason it isn’t getting published, but you’re sure it is complete and you love it. You could always pop on Craigslist and find an up-and-coming publication that may love your story. Are they a big deal? Probably not, but who cares. They may become something someday, it may just be that your story helps them shine, or it may just go on their website and no one reads it except the people who follow the link from your tweet. I say go for it, but only if you’ve tried the other avenues first. A lot of these publications are started by college kids, maybe MFAs, and they mean to go somewhere someday. If your story touches them, you may have just made a connection, and who knows where that can go.


So in conclusion, my advice is to work through the tiers, search the sites and network at writers conferences, and if you just want it out there, give Craigslist or something like it a try. Whatever it takes to get you to keep writing and feel happy with yourself as a writer.

Let me know when you have some success, and I hope this helps.


Developing Characters in Fiction

Tyrion Lannister from George R.R. Martin's Game of Thrones

Tyrion Lannister from George R.R. Martin’s Game of Thrones

Writing great characters is, for me, at the top of the priority list for writing fiction. Whether you’re looking at the next Tyrion Lannister (Game of Thrones, or A Song of Ice and Fire), or Billy Lynch (Charming Billy), you are seeing a well thought out character that an author spent many an hour contemplating. If you want your fiction to shine on the level or anywhere near the level of such authors as Martin or McDermott, you can’t just pick up a pen and go, you have to spend the requisite time getting to know your characters. (more…)

Places to Write

tabard innWe all find ways to inspire our writing. For me, it is often a location. I am especially partial to a nice café, a local Starbucks, or a bar with a nice ambiance. Most of all I find places that inspire memories and a sense of nostalgia to be the best writing environments.


Revision Techniques Part 1: Openings

Revision Techniques Part 1: Openings

revisingAs we all know, writing is rewriting. It is with this in mind that I plan on writing several posts here on the topic of revision. When revising we go through and find areas that need cutting or expansion, to tie up loose threads, create setups and payoffs, and any other areas of improvement you can think of. A great resource, though perhaps hard to get through, is the book “Revising Fiction: A Handbook for Writers,” by David Madden. In Madden’s book, he looks at some famous authors’ early works and compares them to their revised later works. I would like to do the same today, but with my own writing. Furthermore, I would like to focus on openings for today’s post. (more…)


redwoodsThis year I had a wonderful time at the San Francisco Writers Conference and am committed to returning next year. It was a weekend full of great dinners, wonderful people, and amazing discussions on the power of prose. A very valuable aspect of attending these events is that you learn about other upcoming events, and one of those that I would like to share with you today is the “Women Writing in the Redwoods” writing retreat, presented by the San Francisco Writers Conference.

 You can click on the following link for the beautiful flyer, but as you wait to click, let me tell you why the retreat looks great. (more…)