I would have given up on trying to publish if…

(This is the first post in a new series where we spread the love about our favorite websites, books, and tools for writers. The companies, writers, and websites are not asking us to promote them--we are doing it because we love what they do and want writers to know about it.)
By Albert Liau

I would have given up on trying to publish...if it weren’t for resources like NewPages and Sapling. These two informative internet entities brought me back from extreme publishing procrastination. That’s it in a nutshell. If you’re looking for ways to pursue publishing work, you can stop reading this post now and go get invigorated by those resources.

Oh, you’re still here? Then I’ll tell you how I found out about and have since been enriched by these websites.

Marginalizing the pursuit of publishing was an easy habit to acquire and perpetuate. It fit right into the modus operandi of writing I’d acquired as an undergrad, when my friends and I would eagerly swap story drafts with friends, like ecstatic baking aficionados sharing their latest, tasty (well, latest at any rate) oven-wrought goods crafted from newfound recipes. We were engrossed in fiction writing for the heady thrill of exploring ideas, getting to know our characters and the building out of our social lives with artistic interaction. That’s not to say writing was confined to the realm of pure pastime. We took it as seriously as we could, nitpicking sentence construction, dissecting narrative consistency, etc. But, as I imagine it is for many students, publishing did not enter our conversations; like the vague ambition of launching a startup, “getting published” was something we aspired to do one day.

And publishing remained almost that remote for a while. During grad school, with no one but myself to push me to pursue publishing, I would occasionally send out stories when I stumbled across calls for submission. Then SASEs would at last return carrying rejections, and all I was left with was to revise and eventually enact the same approach. And there’s nothing like repeating a process that yields no results to break one’s enthusiasm. “Whatever,” my coping mechanism soon declared. “I’ve got time and a not totally unfulfilling semblance of a viable career path. Continuing to write is what's important. I can look for publishing opportunities later.”

Then, during a lull between jobs, having several completed manuscripts, I decided to give publishing another shot. A web search quickly led me to NewPages. Confronted suddenly with its phenomenal aggregation of writing contest descriptions, listings of book publishers and links to helpful resources, how could I not re-attempt publishing? Provinces of possibilities sprawled out before me, beckoning. The publishing scene was no longer nebulous. A map of stunning detail was unfurled before me, the landscape still intimidating but now navigable. My attitude toward publishing went from look into that later to do this now, or in the lingo my Project M peers created and embraced, JFDI.

As using NewPages took me on excursions into the colorful territories of indie presses and niche lit mags, I (inevitably, in retrospect) came across Black Lawrence Press. After submitting to a couple of their regularly running book contests, I ended up (as so often happens in such situations) on their mailing list. Soon, one of their messages jostled my attention; it announced the launch of Sapling, an email newsletter that would each week profile a contest, indie publisher and lit mag as well as feature an interview with a person in independent publishing. Delighted by the prospect of having potentially uplifting and useful information regularly delivered to my inbox, I subscribed immediately. I’m still very glad I did. Sapling keeps me delightfully, manageably and practically connected with independent publishing opportunities.

With the abundance of NewPages nicely complemented by Sapling’s paced-out parceling approach, I’ve got reliable ways to invest some of my attention in publishing. Both remind me that there are plenty of potential ways to move writing from one’s hands to print or electronic media, giving an essential realness to my contemplations of publishing. Both put me into contact with deadlines and the possibility of serious consideration by editors, and that spurs a fantastic ferociousness for timely and critical revision that I hadn’t even been aware I was lacking. Although I developed diligent revision habits in grad school and have racked up reams of thoroughly marked drafts, there’s an almost irreplaceable gravity that submission provides, one which really grounds and orients me in journeying through the worlds I’ve created with a keener eye and more eager hands. And as the stories are then made stronger, so too is the desire to see them published. Maybe it was obvious all along and I missed it, but NewPages and Sapling made this clear: the pursuit of publishing is really the pursuit of perfecting our craft. 
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About the Author

Albert Liau teaches Biology and Environmental Science courses at Lesley University where he often encourages students to explore the exciting realm of social enterprise. Ever since he came across the sudden fiction of Barry Yourgrau as an undergraduate, Albert has been writing quirky short and flash fiction. When he later encountered Prof. George Lakoff’s work as a grad student, Albert became causally engrossed in Cognitive Linguistics and Cognitive Science, especially as they pertain to our experiences of narrative. Through workshops and conversation, Albert enjoys sharing both sudden fiction and Cognitive Linguistics with college and high school students. 

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