By Elizabeth White-Olsen, Executive Director of Writespace
Twenty-three poems, stories, and essays were submitted to editors and agents at Writespace this past Saturday, March 31st, at our very first Get Published Party. Twenty-three pieces that on that day, at that hour, probably would have otherwise stayed in the dusky purgatory of ten Houston writers’ hard drives. I love that we helped this happen.
But at 4:15 p.m., fifteen minutes before the event, I still didn’t know how our first Submissions Party would go. I assisted our event leader, Hilary Ritz, who pitched the idea to me a little over two months ago, by wiping down the whiteboard and pulling out nametags from the bins in the bookcases as she set out chocolate to fuel our adventure. I greeted writers as they arrived and made their name tags. Things were revving up, but regardless of how much we plan, every time we host a new event, we take a hearty step into the unknown. Every attempt to support writers in a new way delivers a thrill of creative adventure much like the thrill of writing, and this is one of the reasons I love my job.
When ten writers were seated around the table, Hilary introduced herself and asked the group, “What will you be sending out?” The range of genres was amazing, from poems to personal essays to literary fiction stories to fantasy novels. Hilary’s helper, Marcia Dao, asked, “What kind of music do you all want to listen to?” We landed on the “Nightmares on Wax” Pandora station, which provided the perfect chill atmosphere for what might have otherwise, had we been alone at our desks at home, been tense moments, in that here we were taking the culmination of dozens or hundreds of hours of hard work, these precious words we’ve poured our hearts into, and sending them out into the vast reaches of the publishing universe, to be read by people we do not know and may never meet, propelled by the hope that these strangers will like or even love our words well enough to publish them, so that our words can reach hundreds, thousands, or even millions of others we do not know and may never meet.
When you consider what it means to submit writing, when you contemplate the depth of courage it takes to give complete strangers the power to accept or reject that which is precious to us, that which we have stolen valuable time from our family and work lives to make, when you realize how brave we must be in order to intentionally and repeatedly make our deepest selves vulnerable to strangers, for the sake of bringing others joy or communion through our words, the act of hitting “Submit” is heroic. Writers are courageous, and this is why I love you all and why I am devoting my life to supporting you.
At the party, each time one of us submitted, we clapped and cheered, delighted that one of us had been brave again. By the end, we had submitted to twenty-three diverse places, from obscure sci-fi journals to Brevity: A Journal of Concise Literary Nonfiction to New Republic and The Atlantic to literary agents in NYC. And we did it together, with questions and laughter and cheering and popcorn and chocolate and cupcakes keeping us going. In the moment, lulled by the soft electronica music and the sound of typing and other writers breathing and hoping right beside us, hitting the “Submit” button could almost feel easy, but it never was. We knew what we were doing, and it was big.
Learn more about Writespace Get Published Parties here.