College students do internships to experience first-hand what it is like to work in a field they are interested in. For a while now, Iíve been looking into publishing and magazines; recently, literary magazines have caught my interest and so I contacted
Houstonís Gulf Coast Literary Magazine and asked if I could intern with them for the summer.
The internship program is only five hours a week so nothing too strenuous. I go to the office on Mondays and stay around to help. The past two weeks, the most urgent task was to file and enter the rejection and submission letters into the database. Right when you walk into the
office, six big tubs stacked along the wall contain all the rejected short stories, poetry, and creative nonfiction pieces you can handle. All of these works didnít catch the editorís interests and so were to be rejected and mailed a rejection slip that basically said ďthank you-try again.Ē
As I went through these big manila envelopes about to reject yet another doomed hopeful waiting to be published, I realized that some of the writers have started continuously sending in works years ago. Going through the database history, it looked like every single one of their
pieces had been rejected for the past five years. Itís amazing how some people persevere in the face of continuous disappointment. I guess that shows you can never fail if you keep trying.
Another cool thing was that the magazine received stories from all over the country. From Tennessee to Hawaii, a lot of the rejected stories had a local sweetness to them that was at once comfortable and exotic. I found myself slacking off on the filing a little bit to read some
of these pieces. The topics too were as varied as the states they came from. Occasionally, I would be super-excited to find a story submitted from France, or China, or India, exotic concoctions that promised a global experience.
Submissions are pretty much the same as rejections. I look through them, enter the writerís information into the database, and separate the pieces into fiction, poetry, or nonfiction so the respective editors can peruse them. I like going through submissions more because I donít
have to mail out any rejection slip to crush someoneís dream, and I always have fun guessing which one will actually make it into the magazine.
Two interesting stories: one of the submissions was this guy who was sentenced to life in this Wyoming penitentiary. In his cover letter( where writers state their purpose and background), he revealed that heís killed his parents and siblings and set his house on fire at the age
of 15. After being in prison for 20 years now, heís taken up creative writing. He submitted a creative nonfiction piece with the return address as the jail.
Another cover letter was from a creative writing teacher who was teaching at a prison. One of his studentís pieces really moved him and so he was submitting it on the studentís behalf...Itís amazing how we get these random but really interesting stories coming into the magazine.
The magazine only accepts around 2-5% of all submissions-which is basically nothing since Iíve personally gone through several bins full of them all with potential stories. If getting published is the writersí main goal, then most of them will need more than luck. However, Iím
willing to bet that the majority of them, even if they get rejected again and again, view getting published as an added bonus; whatís really important here is the process and enjoy ability of writing itself.
Check out Gulf Coast Literary Magazine at www.gulfcoastmag.org.