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Only the Best
by Monica A. Andermann

I poised my finger over the “submit” button where it remained, suspended, for several seconds. Then, after drawing a breath that felt like it reached as deep as my shaky knees, I placed my finger down. “Thank you. Your submission has been received,” read the popular anthology series’ cheery confirmation notice. My first submission was out. Gone. No way to bring it back. I shut down my computer and went to the dentist.

No, sending out my first submission did not set my teeth on edge. Simply, I was keeping an appointment for a dental cleaning. Yet later, reclined in the dentist’s chair alone with my thoughts, silently I wondered: Who did I think I was?  I was just some middle-aged woman, recently returned to college to chase a longstanding dream of becoming a writer. What could have ever made me think that at this point in my life I was skilled enough to get paid for my writing alongside the big boys?

With all I had heard from my writers’ group friends and read in various writing magazines about rejections, rejections, rejections, I viewed this submission and perhaps the larger part of any subsequent submissions as a necessary step toward gathering my share of “thanks, but no thanks” notices before earning the right to paid publication. Still, when I read the call for submissions for an anthology about the joys of cat ownership, I just couldn’t resist. After all, I’d been a “cat person” my whole life. So, I wrote a personal essay straight from the heart about a favorite subject: felines. After I wrote, re-wrote, edited, re-edited, double and triple checked the spelling and grammar, I finally cut my story loose on the day of the anthology’s deadline. Then I waited for a reply. After six weeks, when I had all but forgotten about the submission, I received an answer. My story, “Cat’s Choice,” had been selected for publication. Wow! I was a paid writer. I was one of the big boys.

With my newfound confidence in tow, I searched my college portfolio for my best efforts and submitted another essay and a poem to a literary journal. Accepted. I spent several long nights polishing a 200 word anecdote for my local newspaper and submitted that piece. Accepted.  I nurtured two more personal essays on subjects close to my heart for related anthologies. Both accepted. I was unstoppable; surely anything I wrote would be published. So I relaxed. I stopped working so hard, wrote on subjects I knew little or nothing about, didn’t check the spelling and grammar so closely. And then the rejections started arriving. Why? I asked myself. What had changed? The answer was simple: I had stopped submitting my best work. I realized that sending out my writing before it was fully tweaked was like serving a cake that wasn’t fully baked. At first glance, it looks fine, but deep inside, it’s soft and squishy. My writing, too, had become soft and squishy on the inside, not fully developed. Half-baked.

The next day, I returned to my computer, humbled, and tried to recreate the aligning factors that led to my first paid publication. With the same drive and determination used to create my initial success, I crafted an essay on a subject familiar to me in the style and tone of the targeted publication. I polished and re-polished until the piece shone, submitted, and waited. Honestly, I don’t recall if that essay was ever published. What I do recall, though, is the personal satisfaction of having given the piece my all and the commitment I made to never submit anything less than my best effort.

I’d like to report that following my little “recipe” is fool-proof. Sorry, it’s not. Rejection is just part of the writer’s life. Yet I don’t let that stop me. I just keep on writing and tweaking and submitting and eventually, the sweet smell of success wafts my way once more.

© Copyright 2010, Monica A. Andermann

Monica A. Andermann lives and writes on Long Island. Her work has been widely published both online and in print and she is a frequent contributor to the A Cup of Comfort and Chicken Soup for the Soul anthologies.

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