I Have a Problem With Authority...
Plus a list of resources for writers who want to start pitching and submitting work
On Being a Reluctant Authority
If you know me IRL, you probably rolled your eyes at the title of this post. I’m a recovering teacher’s pet who’s been through nearly a decade of therapy, ever hopeful for an A (therapists don’t give grades, or so mine keeps telling me). I don’t have a problem with authority; I have a problem being an authority.
I’m forever worried about the other shoe dropping, someone revealing that I, in fact, know literally nothing and have been intentionally scamming everyone who thinks I do. For years, I held off on sharing my perspective unless I can certain it would be shared by my audience (outside my friends and family – yes, Dad, I’m very opinionated with you), and when I did offer a thought it was so couched in caveats as to be nearly unrecognizable.
But ever since I became more active in online writing communities, even starting one of my own, I’ve discovered that withholding information – even if it’s imperfect or might be challenged – does nobody any good. And sharing it might do quite a lot of good, which is all I’ve ever wanted.
I just want to be helpful, and if my experience can help someone else then it’s worth sharing, even if I’m not an expert. Slowly, I grew bolder, replying to questions and (eventually) not even wasting people’s time with caveats about my inexpertise. In fact, I’ve come to think of my lack of authority as its own kind of useful tool: I’m always learning new things, attending free panels with editors and taking paid classes and signing up for educational newsletters that I read in one long sitting after they’ve piled up for two months. And that means I have a ton of great information to share, even if it’s secondhand.
A few months ago, after many questions in my Creative Nonfiction (CNF) group about how I’ve been landing pitches with editors, I took my inexpertise and turned it into a presentation to help other writers: not being great at pitching for a long time has caused me to do a ton of research/self-education on the subject, and it turns out I do have some contributions to make.
The same is true with querying, and with writing itself – in so many ways, not thinking of myself as an expert has actually turned me into somewhat of one…or at least someone who can give good advice that acknowledges the difficulties we all face.
And now, a few resources, some more authoritative than others
If you’re a writer who wants to pitch their work but has no idea where to start, here’s a handful of suggestions that have worked really well for me:
Sonia Weiser's newsletter pulls pitch calls from social media and direct messages – she circulates them twice a week, with rates or further information whenever possible. I’ve gotten some great ideas from this newsletter and sent pitches I never would have thought to write, to publications I never would have known existed (including the therapy essay in this month’s round-up below). It’s more than worth the $3/mo fee.
Bitchin' Pitchin' is another fabulous newsletter, where freelance Journalist Abby Lee Hood analyzes her own successful pitches to give subscribers a window into the making of a successful pitch. Again, totally worth $3/mo.
If you can’t or don’t want to pay a subscription fee, you can search for pitch calls yourself using Twitter’s advanced search. Just put in ‘pitch call’ and ‘call for pitches’, plus hashtag versions of those, into the search terms field and scroll through the results. This can be time-consuming, which is why I pay Sonia to do it! Catapult also does a free opportunities round-up on their Don’t Write Alone vertical, which is much less extensive than Sonia’s but has some great opportunities.
Submittable, which is one of the most popular submission managers for literary magazines and some commercial publications as well, has a ‘Discover’ feature that lets users search for open submissions by genre or keyword. This can be a great way to find a home for an essay or story you’ve already written and are ready to submit, when you aren’t sure where to send it. It’s free to sign up as a writer (not as a publication) and it makes submitting work so much easier and more organized.
If you’re already in or plan to join our CNF group, the recording of my pitch talk is here (email me if you're not on Facebook and want to see it).
That’s it for now, but if you have any resources you’d like to add, please share them in the comments or reply to this email. Helping each other is one of the best ways I’ve found to make writing less lonely!
My second piece for Catapult went live this month, and in a semi-coincidence (because obviously I’m thinking about these things a lot lately) it’s on the theme of pitching! I also published this essay about therapy for Clerestory (the direct result of a pitch call shared in Sonia’s newsletter) AND this piece on accommodating your body’s changing size for The Good Trade. Phew! No wonder I’m exhausted…
What I’m Reading
This month I’ve been doing some beta reading for a couple of novelist friends of mine, and loving every minute! I also read Animal, by Lisa Taddeo, which was as unsettling and accurate-feeling as everyone said, and Fun Home, by Alison Bechdel, which was fascinating and totally worth having to purchase rather than borrow from the library. Oh, and I listened to The Midnight Library, by Matt Haig, on audio. Now I’m halfway through The Secret Commonwealth, by Philip Pullman and loving it – I have a hankering to re-read the His Dark Material trilogy, if I can ever find the time...
A Random Joy
I spent a very lovely, if a little bit Delta-panicked, weekend in Seattle this month with my friend Rachel and her friend Cleo. We ate all the raw seafoods and drank a bunch of very tasty wine/cocktails and I just generally enjoyed being around interesting women in a real city (no offense to my little town, but I’m pretty sure you can’t get burrata here).