Writing and Publication – NVWP Summer Institute – Day 7 pt. 3


Pete Pazmino on Publication

Pete joined the NVWP in 1998. He helped start the Journal of the Northern Virginia Writing Project. It went strong for around thirteen years until Congress stopped funding. He is going to talk about publication specifically related to fiction. He will also talk to us about traditional publishing (vs. self-publishing, which is strong now).

Quickwrite1: Take ten minutes, and as thoroughly as possible, answer these two prompts. You can combine them or keep them separated. 1. Describe your experiences (successful or not) with publication. If you’ve never tried to publish before, why not? 2. What are your publication goals? Do you feel as though you are making progress towards accomplishing them? Why or why not?

My first encounter with publishing occurred after I took a course on Hip-Hop during college. A few weeks after the class ended, the professor contacted me and asked whether or not I would be interested in publishing my final term paper in a new journal he was starting: The Journal of Hip-Hop. As a side note, I can’t seem to find much mention of the TJoH on the internet, suggesting the journal closed up shop. So I made sure my paper (a sophomoric attempt called ‘Hip-hop, ghetto-centricity, and the commodity fetish) looked good and sent it off to him. A few weeks later he invited me to the launch party in D.C., a swanky affair with a few rappers like Common in attendance. Although I remember feeling bummed out that I never received any galley proofs, it was my first taste of sharing my writing with a larger audience. A few years later I “published” my MA thesis (with an equally torturous title: ‘Becoming TRL: A Deleuzian-Guattarian Approach to MTV’s Total Request Live’). I’m not sure that really counts, but I remember my parents telling me to list it as a publication on my resume at the time. 

Since then I’ve pretty much ignored the realm of publishing. What a scary thought! As soon as I picture my writing appearing somewhere other than the saliva-flecked screen of my laptop I freak. Who am I to put my thoughts out there? What on earth could I possibly add to the various conversations taking place in the public sphere? When will I have the time? Ack! Gotta stop writing! 

BTW, I just randomly googled that cruddy hip-hop paper I wrote and found out that someone cited it in their own work! Crazy. 

Pete tells us he only writes if it’s something he wants to get published. He doesn’t journal. He’ll jot down an idea, but he won’t spend time journaling unless it’s for a story for possible publication. He tells us about his publication history. He shows us his very first publication from 2003, a crime story published in some long since defunct journal called Detective Mystery Stories.

Networks are essential, Pete says. Writers need to form networks with other authors, local journals, small presses, etc. So he knows where to turn to get feedback or find out where to send a particular draft. This dude is impressive.


Pete, btw, doesn’t like the previously posted Betty Flowers demarcation of the writing process (see previous post). He says he wears every writer hat at the same time. Here is his process.

Draft to publication is a six month process.
1. Draft, Revise, Edit: write, revise, edit until as perfect as possible. This takes time.
2. Set it aside and come back for a while. Lock the manuscript up somewhere.and return to it with fresh eyes
3. Work on more than one piece at a time. This helps out with boredom by letting you cross-pollinate your work.

Some Words of Wisdom
-Show, don’t tell: this is about ensuring your story is active, is drawing the reader in. Remember that backstory isn’t present action (and that’s a bad thing).
-Kill your darlings (Faulkner!): The darling is a line or character or scene that you think is so good.
-Everything has to be on the table: Be willing to change anything and everything you’ve written.

Choose Your Market
-Learn their submission guidelines (and follow them)
-(except for the whole ‘no simultaneous submissions thing’)
-You will get rejected a lot.
-Read back issues to see what kind of stories they publish.
-Select 4-6 of the same tier markets for the first round
-Don’t post what you want to publish on your blog.

Submission Websites
www.duotrope.com : Start here! A great place to search for publishers of writing. You can search by genre, style, payment, etc. $5 a month. Although the site is for fiction and poetry, if you search enough on it you’ll find journals that also accept non-fiction.
www.pw.org : Poets and Writers.
-CRWROPPS (Creative Writing Opportunities List; Yahoo group) : A yahoo group. Send an invite and you’ll get it. Daily email lists of places to submit your pieces. The list connects you to journals. Don’t use your primary email for this because you’ll get between ten-twenty emails a day.
-Calls for Submissions (Facebook group) : Another private group requiring invitation. Good place for beginners to go.
www.submittable.com : A tracker service

Submit Your Work
-Follow guidelines
-Include brief cover letter/bio
-Thank you & here’s how to contact me
-Be wary of submission fees (but not too wary)

Wait for Responses
-Can take anywhere from one month and one year
-Track rejections and make notes of positive ones
-Follow up as necessary (but don’t be impatient)
-Don’t resubmit unless all replies are back (unless you really want to)
-Use time to begin new work, revise, or submit new material

Accept, Resubmit, or Table
-For publication offer, accept immediately and notify other markets that story is no longer acceptable.
-If everything is rejected (which it will be, repeatedly), resubmit to a lower tier
-If on the 3rd/4th round of rejections, consider tabling the story and coming back to it later

Some Words of Wisdom (about being a “writer”)
-Join a writer’s group: It’s easy and cheap! Create a space for writing. Find people who are at your same level and have the same end goals
-Attend conferences
-Attend workshops and residences
-Look into writers’ centers (Bethesda)

-Attend an MA/MFA program

-Create your own writing space



One comment

  1. Pingback: Writing Resources from the Northern Virginia Writing Project | Mr. Anderson Reads & Writes

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