Author: Cady Vishniac

How Not to Follow Up

Hey, writers, let’s talk submissions again! It’s been a while. I’ve previously written about what cover letters should look like, what stories you should probably not show litmags, other stories you should probably not show litmags, etc. I’d like to add to this a list of behavior you should never ever indulge in when following up on a submission, from the no-bullshit perspective of someone who spends a lot of time reading slush. If I reject you, please don’t write me back with some snide remark about how I’d like your work if only I were smarter or nicer. Why would you do this? All you have accomplished is that now you are on my permanent blacklist, and if I’m having a really annoying day, I will forward your mean email to your MFA program director or whichever magazine most recently published your work. Stop. Accept that you didn’t get in this time. I don’t get into places all the time. It happens. Please do not wait TWO DAYS and then email me to ask …

Don’t Work Your Way Up, Actually

Why take yourself out of the running for the thing you really want?

Let’s Find You Some Help

You should show your actual writing to as many people as possible, getting all the advice you can wrangle out of them, before you spend hundreds of dollars applying for grad school. In this article I list specific venues for you to get critiques from other people. 

The Only Cover Letter Template You’ll Ever Need

Once, in undergrad, I submitted a story I wrote for my sophomore workshop to n + 1 and got a positive response, an interest in putting the thing in their next online issue if I could only revise it enough. I couldn’t revise it enough, because I was secretly the newest of writers, and anyway, I was busy working a job and an internship while carrying a full-time undergraduate course load and also raising a small child. Eventually, the editor who had expressed an interest stopped being as interested and moved to The New Yorker instead, and I published the thing in the print issue of a far less well-known magazine. It happens. That story was not my mature work, it was written before I’d had a good long sit-down-and-think about the politics of my art and my person, and I’m sort of (read: very) relieved it doesn’t exist on the internet. So there’s that. But at AWP this past week, I went up and retold the story to the current n + 1 staffpersons …

How to Win Contests, and Why

So I’ve won some contests. This started at the tail end of undergrad, and has continued into the present day. In the past year, I’ve won contests at New Letters, Mid-American Review, and New Millennium Writings. I placed second at Wag’s Revue immediately before that magazine shut down forever, and placed third in Glimmer Train, which was a pretty sweet get. I’ve been a finalist often enough that I no longer remember how many times that’s happened and where. I am currently, so far as I can tell, in second readings rounds at a couple places, and will probably, G-d willing, win some more contests in the future. But I actually have some mixed feelings about contests, and this is as good a place as any to discuss those feelings. First off, what kind of work wins contests? Highly polished work, sure, and good work, yes, but I think there’s more to it than that. This summer I attended the Kenyon Review Writers Workshop. We ended up discussing contests during one workshop, and our instructor, …

What I Learned in Year One of an MFA Program

In this post I’m supposed to be wrapping up my academic year, only I’m in the odd situation of having no year to discuss. Which isn’t to say I haven’t, you know, been alive and attending an MFA since August. It’s just that I’ve used my platform here to give out advice about publishing and applying, because probably that’s the most helpful thing I can do for anybody reading this blog. And I don’t like to mention the inner workings of my program, the glory and the drama, because I’m trying to be discrete. Chill. Classy. As the great Amy Poehler once wrote, “I don’t want people to know my shit!” But fine, let’s discuss what I’ve been doing, and if y’all glean any lessons from it, then good for you. *** First, the boring professional stuff. The application story from my undergrad writing workshop at UMass Boston, which I submitted in order to get into this MFA, won a contest at New Letters. The first story I wrote was a huge floop that needs …

So Your BFF/Child/Spouse Is Applying for an MFA

The application process is so angsty. You assemble this huge, painstaking packet, send it out, notice all your typos…

What Should I Look for in an MFA?

  I’ve spent two months posting about literary magazine submissions here and here, and now it’s time to get back to the mission of this website. Now it’s time to discuss the MFA. Some of you will be figuring out which offers to take in the next month or so, and some of you are just beginning to research the whole process for applications this fall. (And if you’re researching right now, I’d suggest hitting up MFA Draft for some answers.) Money First off, you probably want money. Fortunately, this website has a list of fully funded MFAs and lists the stipends available at each. Check the list out, then check out the school website or email an administrator to make sure the numbers are still accurate, then ask yourself how much money you want. “Fully funded” at some programs has in the past meant that MFAs get a zero dollar stipend but have their tuitions waved. Ask yourself if such an arrangement is really useful to you. Many people look at this question and …

Dealbreakers: Reasons I Vote Not to Accept a Story

Hello hello, Cady again. How are you? Want to hear something neat? My post from last month has garnered thirty-six comments (more actually, but some of those comments were unhelpful and got deleted) along with about 4700 views. Clearly y’all like to get the inside scoop on literary magazine submissions. That’s cool. Always happy to oblige. Especially because many of you, who started reading this blog for help with your MFA applications, are probably thinking about sending out those application stories. So the important lesson with submissions is not to be wasting your time and effort (and Submittable fees) the way I did in undergrad, throwing stuff at whatever literary magazines you’ve maybe heard of and seeing what sticks. Don’t submit the same story forever and tell yourself it’s getting turned down because you’re too innovative, or because you don’t have an MFA, or because the process is just so random. Probably none of these things are true in your case. Really. And more importantly, believing any of these things is a way to hurt …

Some Myths About Your Litmag Submissions

I read stories. A lot of them. I am the sole fiction editor for Reservoir, and I read (and edit copy) for Raleigh Review, an up-and-coming litmag founded by MFA alums from North Carolina State University. I’ve read for a couple other journals in the past, and been a preliminary reader for a couple of literary competitions in fiction, nonfiction, and poetry as well. I’m fairly sure this all added up to about two hundred stories last semester, from flash to novellas, and maybe another fifty poems, dozen essays, and thirty-five poetry collections. And sometimes I come across people online or in real life who have no insight into this process, a great many misconceptions as to how their work is being read. People who submit scattershot for years on end without success, or—and this is sadder to me—talented, sensitive writers too intimidated to submit at all. So let’s provide a little insight. Let’s clear up some misconceptions about submissions. Nobody gets published without an MFA.  This is simply not true, as demonstrated by my experiences …