Thursday, August 27, 2020

Why a personal goal of 100 rejections this year? (updated 8/31/2020)

Note: deadlines listed at the end as per usual, clickable and updated.

But first, today, since I seem to be drawing closer to my goal, I thought I would start by revisiting some of my personal history behind my current goal of 100 rejections. It's a history of not quite making it or giving up too soon or life getting in the way. What happens to many of us creatives I suppose.

I've always loved reading and writing from early on. There's some book I cannot recall the title of, but it was a prefect creative, artistic journal with lots of open-ended, dreamy exercises that I remember toying with at an early age. Not to mention playing with my siblings in the various yards of each house my family moved into based on whatever latest deal my mother found. We pretended to travel into fantastic worlds while explore the amazing environment of Oregon. And lots of imagination-based gaming and whatnot with my friends. In elementary school, I smothered journals with words and pictures for my teachers, in particular Mr. Covey, with maps of fantastical lands, mind working through how I would immerse myself in those places.

I won an elementary school essay writing contest at one point, snagging grand prize. A whole set of massive, shiny, gold-flaked encyclopedias and dictionaries was an awesome prize at the time. I joined a writing conference for young writers which pushed me to develop my immersive writing further; the only sketch I remember is this piece set in the jungle with a leopard that drew a lot on the suspense and darkness of Ray Bradbury's The Illustrated Man. I read stacks of books, played a ton of games, and felt poetic about the world. In high school, I was writing a ton of rhythmic poetry and I joined a slam poetry event once wearing the perfect grungy beatnik style get-up, an experience I carried into college. Landed me on the front page of the newspaper.

Later on, I won an essay writing contest in community college. After a year of community college, I traveled around Europe for five months, and wrote a ton of poetry and story sketches, immersing myself in scenes that I would use later in a few university writing courses, in particular one on meshing multi-media with writing, and with a travel writing course. Plenty of writing and literature courses, but the best was the KIDD intensive writing program, during which I worked on a thesis project related to Japan-USA relations, implementing character studies, social studies, relationship issues, and language issues. That program was such a wonderful experience, joining forces with the other writers in my group. I won 3rd place for fiction for a story (novel excerpt) I wrote called Lost Woman. It included Japanese language and dealt with feminist and international culture clashes. I believe it was 5000-7000 words. They paid about $100. Most I'd ever been paid for my writing.

At the time, I thought I'd done a lot. Looking back, I could've done so much more. But regardless, it was a terrific experience. I dropped the ball for a while after.

I wrote scattered poems about ghosts and loneliness in my neighborhood in greater Tokyo, since lost along with everything before 2012, I believe. From 2012 or so I started reading more speculative fiction, especially the online magazines. Eventually, a friend invited me to join his writing group and we tried out some NaNoWriMo writing and other writing. It was great. So much motivation and I now have 3-5 novels I need to fix up and send out. I even pitched two of those novels to agents at the Willamette Writers Conference in 2017. There was a lot of interest. I just needed to send them samples! 

Then I got back home. The difficulty of balancing work and having a family and writing landed on me, and I never got those samples sent out. Then family life worsened and a sudden child custody battle and divorce tore apart my life. I pushed through the battle to make sure my children would have a father and I pushed through the recovery phase using workouts and DJing to try and stay focused and forward-thinking. Finally, I got back to writing and submitting to Writers of the Future from 2019. Rejections, even though I was putting in the work and the stories were great. I knew I had good writing on my hands so I kept at it. I also knew I'd need an extra push, so I found Wulf Moon's writing group on the Writers of the Future forum. And after seeing another writer mention such a challenge to write more (I believe it was Eric Witchey), I pushed myself to try and make at least 100 submissions in 2020. I assumed they would be rejections, but that act of submitting would push me to revise and create more anyway, much as workouts and DJing had pushed me to crawl out of my dark hole of broken family and destroyed fatherhood.

I want everyone to consider how important pushing through rejections to keep submitting can be. If I had continued doing that from 2005 until now, I certainly would have been a happier person, realizing my dreams, instead of crawling back toward them while trying to meet basic needs.

Whatever excuses I make for having done nothing much from 2005 to 2014, it was a mistake. Since 2005, I haven't received any wins to speak of, not really, but the energy I've put in this year, has helped me get closer and closer to my primary dream of sharing my fantastical worlds and stories with the public at large.

Here is my past writing submission experience 2005-2019 (contrast with the energy of 2020)
2005        Won 3rd place for fiction in the KIDD writing competition at the University of Oregon for the                 first chapter of my "Lost Woman" (fittingly, it's been lost to a broken hard drive, but,                                nevertheless, I'm loosely basing my WotF Q4 submission on it...)
.......        Sadly, few attempts at successful writing until 2014
2015 Rejections: 5 (2 short, 3 flash)
2016 Rejections: 7 short; 2 Honorable Mentions at Writers of the Future
2017 Rejections: 8 short; 2 Honorable Mentions at Writers of the Future; writing conference                            experience with connections and novel pitching experience
2018 N/A (recovery from shattered life via workouts and DJing classes/practice as Ryje Ryder)
2019 Rejections: 5 (4 short, 1 flash)

Personal Goal of 100 Rejections in 2020 (current stats)
2020 Rejections: 60 (35 short, 23 flash, 2 poems)
                Pending: 16 (13 short, 2 flash, 1 novel grant app)
                Total 2020 Submissions:  76

Last week I received 4-5 rejections. One rejection said "your story was close". This was from a top tier publication. The last three stories I submitted to that magazine were direct rejections. No interest. But to have that rejection be closer than the other three has sent me on an emotional rollercoaster. It is wonderful to have that positive feedback, but also frustrating to still be climbing up out of not quite there. In the long run, the most important thing is to keep going through the process of writing fresh, revising, submitting, and doing it again and again.

New/unpublished writers should plan on submitting to these three: Grimdark Magazine's Matthew Ward's Pay It Forward Writing Competition (8/30-9/5), Writers of the Future Quarter 4 (7/1-9/30), and Dream Foundry Contest (8/10-10/11).

Note: Upon a Once Time deadline is now 9/18; added 3 Zombies Need Brains LLC anthologies w/ 12/31 deadline; added Lost Contact deadline of 12/31

Lists in order of appearance: 
1. Submissions Deadlines in August and Beyond (pay 5¢-20¢/word USD or equivalent
2. Submissions Deadlines in August and Beyond (pay 1¢-4¢/word USD or equivalent)
3. Publications Open for Submission (No specified deadline; pay 5-20¢/word USD or equivalent)
4. Publications Open for Submission (No Specified Deadline; pay 1-4¢/word USD or equivalent)
5. Conferences, Conventions, and Workshops to Sign Up For
6. Where to search for submission windows on your own? 
7. Need motivation for the submission game?

Updated lists below. Click each item to reach the submission page or closest available equivalent. Comments and suggestions are welcome.

Submission Deadlines in August and Beyond (pay 5-20¢/word USD or equivalent)

8/29, Community Chest Contest (Pacifica Literary Review), ~5,000 words (up to 3 poems), $350, Genre: General, one winner per contest category (fiction, poetry, creative non-fiction), Theme: no theme but slighly favors entries dealing with our current reality in some manner

8/15-8/31, Cast of Wonders (Flash Fiction Contest), ~500 words (including title), 8¢/word, Genre: any YA (12-17 year old target audience)

8/31, The SLF $500 Diverse Writers and $500 Diverse Worlds Grants; these are two different grants; to apply provide a ~500-word description of projects, a ~5000-word writing sample, a bibliography of previously published work if any, and for the Diverse Writers grant only provide a brief statement of what aspect of your background relates to diversity; Application Process: Send the 3-4 items listed above to our diversity grant jury as attached .doc files, at Include a brief cover letter with your name and contact info (e-mail, phone in case of emergency), and please note which grant(s) you’re applying for; Note: "Writers may apply for either or both grants. Please note: your project does not need to center on identity issues. We also do not expect or want work that simply attempts to check off all the boxes in a tokenistic way, but rather are looking for writing that offers deep characterization, complex cultural landscapes, and strong literary quality overall."

8/31, Strange Horizons (Mexico Issue), ~4000, 10¢/word, Genre: any speculative, Note: only for Indigenous people in Mexico, Mexican people, and people of Mexican origin

5/1-8/31, The McNeese Review, ~6000 words, $50/story, Genre: General/Fantasy/SF, Simultaneous OK, Poetry OK (up to 3 poems, pay unclear, same as story?)

9/1 or early September, A Multiplicity of Stories, 900-10,000 words, $100CAD/story ($50CAD reprints), Genre/Theme: various spec/various interests that include city planning, climate change, possible futures, and alt history

8/12-9/4 Uncanny Magazine, 750-6000 words, 10¢/word, Genre: SF/F Wants: "intricate, experimental stories and poems with gorgeous prose, verve, and imagination that elicit strong emotions and challenge beliefs. Uncanny believes there’s still plenty of room in the genre for tales that make you feel." Note: currently closed to poetry.

9/4, On the Premises Short Story Contest 36, 1000-5000 words, prize money (1st $220, 2nd $160, 3rd $120, HM $60), Theme: Smell, Genre: any except children’s and gross horror,

8/30-9/5, Matthew Ward Pay it Forward Writing Competition (Grimdark Magazine), ~4000 words, Genre: grimdark (SF/F), 1st Place = 7¢/word (AUS), Note: only eligibile if you haven't sold a short story that pays more than token (~US$100) or royalty only (also no published novelists)

9/7-9/13, Nightmare Magazine, ~7500 words, 8¢/word, Genre: Dark Fantasy/Horror, BIPOC authors only, Poetry (up to five poems, $40/poem), Reprints OK

9/14-9/20, Nightmare Magazine, ~7500 words, 8¢/word, Genre: Dark Fantasy/Horror, Poetry (up to five poems, $40/poem), Reprints OK

7/1-9/18, Upon a Once Time, 1000-3000 words, 8¢/word, Theme: mashup of two fairytales, Genre: SF/Fantasy/Grimdark/New Weird/Dying Earth/genre-bending

8/28-9/20, 2000-4000 words, 8¢/word, Genre: Horror, Theme: Terrifying Ghosts, Reprints OK, Simultaneous OK, Multiple OK, Note: send stories to and "include Terrifying Ghosts in the subject header of your submission email," Note: subscribe to Flame Tree's newsletter for advance notice of these submission windows

9/22, Reckoning: 5th Issue, ~20,000 words, 8¢/word ($30/page for poems), Genre: SF/F/General, Theme: enivironmental justic, Simultaneous OK, Poetry OK (prefer multiple 3-5 poems <10 pages, but send only one if longer)

9/25, Incoming Magazine, Pitches for 20-page black and white comic, Genre: SF, £ 800/$1000, email story outline (text/storyboard) and a selection of concept art/past work to:

9/1-9/30 PodCastle, ~6000 words (3000-4500 best), 8¢/word, Genre: Fantasy, Simultaneous OK, Reprints ($100 for >1500 words, $20 for flash)

9/30, Future Science Fiction Digest, 500-10,000 words (~5000 preferred), 8¢/word, Genre: SF, Theme: positive East Asia

7/1-9/30, WotF Q4, ~17000 words (aim for 3000-10,000), 8¢/word, prize money (1st $1000, 2nd $750, 3rd $500, annual grand $5000, plus Hollywood workshop; semi-finalists get feedback), Genre: F/SF, Note: contest for new writers w/o 4+ pro-level publications; the forum is very helpful, especially the Super Secrets thread; free workshop available on website

9/30, Ombak Magazine, ~4000 words, 8¢/word, Genre: F/SF/H (weird fiction), Simultaneous OK, Limited to authors from Southeast Asia

8/10-10/11 Dream Foundry Contest, Words ~10,000, prize (1st $1000, 2nd $500, 3rd $200), Note: contest for new writers (have published 4000 words or less, earned $320 or less from those words and never been nominated for a major award), Note: winners are not published but do receive critiques along with the financial reward

10/31, Chiral Mad 5, ~5000 words (poetry: ~50 lines, up to 5 poems), 6¢/word (poems:$1/line) Theme: The End Is The Beginning / The Beginning Is The End, Note: for underrepresented demographic only, "If you are not part of an underrepresented demographic (POC, LGBTQIA+, female), please do not submit at this time, but feel free to send recommendations", Note: proceeds go to BLM

11/1 Weird Christams Flash Fiction Contest (3rd annual), ~350 words, prize money (1st=$50, 2nd=$25,10+HMs=$5, Genre: SpecFic/SF/F/H/Humor/Weird, Reprints: query, Note: accepts narrative poetry, multiple entries OK

10/15-11/2, PseudoPod (General Submissions), 1500-6000 words (4500 best), 8¢/word, Genre: any horror, Reprints OK 

11/30, ServiceScape Short Story Award, ~5000 words, $1,000 USD (one winner), Genre: any

11/30: Cast of Wonders (General Submissions), ~6000 words (best 3000-4500 or flash <1000), 8¢/word, Genre: any YA, Note: good feedback provided last time I submitted

11/30-12/4, Fireside (Autumn 2021 Issue), ~3000 words, 12.5¢/word, Genre: Any (English or Spanish) 

8/7-12/26, Campfire Macabre (Cemetery Media Gates), 500-1200 words, 8¢/word, Genre: Horror, Theme: Cemetery Chillers, Spook Houses, Supernatural Slashers, Witchcraft, Within the Woods, Simultaneous OK, Multiple OK (submit 1 story per theme, up to 5 stories)

12/31, Lost Contact, 1000-7000 words, 5¢/word, Genre: Horror/Weird Science, Theme: use lost contact idea as you please and link it with horror and technology, Simultaneous OK

8/27-12/31, THE MODERN DEITY’S GUIDE TO SURVIVING HUMANITY, DERELICT, and WHEN WORLDS COLLIDE (three anthologies from Zombies Need Brains LLC), 7500 words, 8¢/words + royalties, Theme 1: urban fantasy w/ a god/deity, Theme 2: SF/F about abandoned ships, Theme 3: SF/F about colliding cultures, Sub to w/ name of anthology and title of story submitted, Multiple OK (separate emails), Reprints/Simultaneous NO

7/1-2/28/2021, The Wild Hunt: Stories of the Chase, 1000-3000 words, 8¢/word,  Theme: The Wild Hunt's folklore, myths, and drama), Genre: SF/Fantasy/Grimdark/New Weird/Dying Earth/genre-bending

8/10/2021-8/31/2021, PseudoPod (Flash Fiction Contest), ~1500 words (500-1000 best), 8¢/word, Genre: any horror, Reprints OK, Simultaneous OK (if not an Escape Artists podcast)

Submission Deadlines in August and Beyond (pay 1-4¢/word USD or equivalent)

8/30, Heartwreck: Romantic Disasters at Sea, 2000-5000 words, 2¢/word, Seeking personal essays and creative memoir about love gone wrong at sea

8/15-8/31, Apparition Literary Magazine, 1000-5000 words, 3¢/word, Genre: Speculative/Fantasy/SF/Horror/ Literary, Theme: Satisfaction 

5/1-8/31, Under the Hooded Monster Contest, 1000-10,000 words, grand prize $100, Theme: YA fantasy short stories about a person facing and overcoming a monster

8/31, Spawn: Weird Horror Tales About Pregnancy, Birth and Babies, 1500-5000 words (not strict), 6c (AUD) per word, Genre: speculative, Theme: body horror related to pregnancy/birth/babies, Note: for Australian writers only, Reprints OK (sort of)

8/1-8/31, Curiosities, ~7500 words, 4¢/word (reprints 1¢/word), Genre/Theme: dark corners of retropunk (steam,diesel,dread,bronze, and others, but no atompunk)

9/15-11/15, New Tales of Fairy Godmothers by Kate Wolford, 4000-7500 words, 1¢/word, Genre: fairy tale fantasy, Theme: new fairy godmother tales that refresh/subvert the trope, simultaneous OK

9/15-11/15, Lamplight Magazine, ~7000 words, 3¢/word, Genre: Dark/Literary

1/4-11/15, In Darkness Delight Anthology (Corpus Press), 2500-7500 words, 3¢/word, Genre: Horror, SF (soft)

11/30, Women Destroy Retro Science Fiction, 750-1500 ($10) or 1501-2500 words ($15), Genre/Theme: retro-futurism with a female filled world of impossible wonders, Note: Women authors only (Transwomen authors accepted because transwomen are women)

12/1 Worldbuilding Fantasy Anthology, 3500-7000 or 9000-15,000 words, flat payment (short $100; novella $200), Theme: Politics as Conflict. Genre: any Fantasy (PG-13)

3/15/2021-5/15/2021, Lamplight Magazine, ~7000 words. 3¢/word, Genre: Dark/Literary

Publications Open for Submission (No specified deadline; pay 5-20¢/word USD or equivalent)

CLOSED TO SUBS UNTIL FEB 2021 Hybrid Fiction, 500-5000 words (or serialized novellas), 6¢/word, Genre: speculative hybrid/cross-genre (blend of 2+ genres, such as dark fantasy, steampunk western, historical fantasy, weird western, crime fantasy, etc.)

Where to search for submission windows on your own?

Where to Submit Short Stories: 30 Magazines and Websites That Want Your Work, a decent list with a literary focus

28 Themed Submission Calls for August by S. Kalekar, submission possibilities including a few good ones I haven't had time to add to the lists above

Publishing ... and Other Forms of Insanity: plenty of updated lists of agents, calls for submission, contests, conferences, recipes, and more

Need motivation for the submission game? 

Submitting Short Fiction: Science Fiction, Fantasy and Genre Edition by Holly Lyn Walrath, a useful guide on playing the submission game written in 2019

Submission Tetris: An Analytic Approach by Laurence Raphael Brothers, a brief but useful consideration of what and where to submit in the submissions game from SFWA

Also, great advice at these links below

Charlie Jane Anders' advice: chapters from her forthcoming non-fiction book Never Say You Can't Survive with new chapters released every Tuesday

Delilah S. Dawson's page of links, including her advice on how to get published

And here, more links

This is a listing of speculative award winners. Go read, study, and improve yourself.

Here are grants to apply for with the Speculative Literature Foundation

This is a listing at that shows general response times of various publishers and magazines


  1. You're dedication always inspires me. You're going to get there!

  2. Thanks, man! I've had to learn to start putting less emphasis on what I don't want (what I do just to pay bills) and risk stability to allow for my dedication. We'll see how it pans out. It also helps having the support of a couple writing groups.

    I'm about to start a two-hour sprint now to get a few projects ready for deadlines. Best of luck with your own work as well!