Happy Blue Monday! It’s like the solstice of SAD. If you can get through today: congrats! You made it half way! Days are getting brighter and while yes, it is still fucking cold, eventually it will warm up. Possibly a lot. Probably too much. That… is not an issue this blog is equipped to address.


I have to admit I will not be doing a challenge myself this week as:

  • all my stories are out at various markets
  • all those markets are incredibly overdue to get back to me
  • all those markets have not yet responded to my emails asking, hey, did you drop my story(s) behind a desk or something

I am still technically querying but I have declared a moratorium on that for the moment because I might need to revamp my query letter; I am waiting until a couple more rejections come in to make sure it’s the query letter that’s the problem before scrapping it and starting over.

Feeling a tad frustrated, spinning wheels, etc. But that’s okay, I have been along this road enough times to know that ruts come and go. Or to always keep a bag of salt in your trunk. Or something. I don’t drive, I shouldn’t have picked a car metaphor.


There are three tiers this week: Beginner, Intermediate, Advanced.


This is going to sound very very easy, but if you do it right, it will be actually quite difficult: pick a market. Not just any market, but the market, the one that you have been saving. The one that you’re too afraid to send to because you might blow it.

We all have one. Usually they are pro, top tier magazines, magazines that make careers. Sometimes it is just the magazine that your mom reads. But you know the one I mean. And I know that you know that I know you have one.

And then I want you to write down, in full, that you will submit to this market by the end of the year. ON PAPER. You can tape it somewhere, or just write it in your planner/journal. You can scratch it into your drywall. Whatever works for you, but write that shit OUT. Make it REAL. YOU WILL SUBMIT TO THE SCARIEST PLACE YOU CAN THINK OF BY DECEMBER 31st, 2020 and then sign it.

That’s it. That’s all you have to do. If you’re just beginning, you need to work up to submitting to the scary places, because a rejection from the New York Times or Analog when you’re first starting out can break people’s will to continue. I’ve seen it happen. I’ve been there. But like running a marathon, you have to know what the end distance that you’re working towards needs to be.

Will you be good enough to submit to Your Dream Magazine by the end of the year? I don’t know. But hopefully after a year of challenges you’ll be ready to face the notion without wanting to throw up.


“That’s too easy”, you might be saying. Well, if it is, then you’re either not pushing yourself to think of the scariest, or you are not a beginner. You decide.

This week’s intermediate challenge, for the people who have been submitting for a while, is: pick the market, the one that you have been saving. The one that you’re too afraid to send to because you might blow it.




It’s January, everyone’s caught up from their Christmas overloaded inboxes. You already have a few rejections under your belt and you want to level up your game. You have perfected your cover letter and you’re looking around to see what else to do.

Well this is it. Mini-boss time. Save your progress, gather up some healing potions, and see if you can pass the challenge. One rejection does not mean your career is over, and you know that now, right? Prove it to yourself.

I told you this wasn’t going be as easy as you think it is.


“I’ve already done that! I am totes submitting to top-tier places already!”

Excellent. Now follow up.


Oh I know. I have heard all the excuses, I have all the reasons written here on this card, there are so many ways to get out of sending follow-up emails. You don’t want to bother the editors. You don’t want to be one of “those” writers, the needy, oblivious ones. Besides, you understand, they have stuff to do, they’ll get back to you when it’s good for them, even though their website says they aim to get back within 90 days but it’s been more like 150. 180. 720.

But I know the real reason: Schroedinger’s Submission.

As long as you don’t hear back, then your story is still under consideration. As soon as you email the editor, they will have to make a decision and–poof!–it might be a no.

But it might also be a yes.

(And, by the by, it is never “wrong” to politely inquire as to whether there are any updates after a due date has sailed by. No one will get angry at you for professionally asking for information on a piece, especially if you are abiding by their guidelines. And if they do? They are the asshole. Not you.)

So often I see writers asking if it is “okay” to write to a magazine and ask what the status is on their work. As if the editor is going to snarl at the asker’s audacity and bin the story right then and there in retribution. Publishing is a business; people are generally professional; sometimes there are assholes. But I think beyond the ask is the fear that the story is somehow hanging precariously, waiting for something, anything, to topple it into the ravine of rejection. It’s so much easier to wait another week, month, season, to see if an acceptance comes naturally.

But until you have an answer you can’t move forward with the story. You’re on hold, just like it is. A rejection is better than the endless limbo because you can pick yourself up, dust yourself off, and move forward.

So follow up, mmkay?

That’s it for the challenges this week. Let me know how they go on twitter or in the comments. Let other people know. We’re all in this miserable season together, and it really does help to know that other people are struggling too. So share the work you’re doing–not just the finished, polished stuff, but the admin. The research. The endless emails. The terror of hitting send–so that when the answer comes, we can commiserate or celebrate along with you too.

You can do this. One step at a time.

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