Leahy, Anna

Anna Leahy, Associate Professor of English and Director of Tabula Poetica

What was the biggest mistake you made when first trying to get published?
It’s not a mistake to get rejected.

What is the most important thing you have learned?
You can’t win if you don’t play. Paying attention to when you’re submitting and getting into regular habits for submission are really important. Eventually you need to take the risk.

What should you be looking at in your field (conferences, festivals, journals)—forms of publication or exposure?
Look at copies of the journal and their particular aesthetic no matter what field they are in and submit your work more widely. Think to yourself, “Where do I want to see my work?” not only with publications, but also with grants and fellowships.

Most important things you need to know to get published?
http://www.shewrites.com/ has a lot of good information.

In creative writing, summer workshops (such as the Iowa Summer Writing Festival) and other academic activities help to hone skills, make connections, and create opportunities. Be persistent—sometimes you don’t hear back for months.

What publications are they fond of in their field—recommend certain publications?
There are several undergraduate journals so you are competing with only other undergraduates:

Prairie Margins
The Allegheny Review
The Susquehanna Review
The North Central Review
Elephant Tree (Chapman)

Fifth Wednesday Journal: allows you to be a guest editor/reader for a journal. This is good for young readers because you can see what people are writing today and learn more about the submission process.

Worst possible way to get published?
Creative writers need to think seriously about self-publishing. Young writers who self-publish because they are rejected during the editorial process are making a mistake. The editorial process can be a good thing. When you post a poem online you can’t publish it elsewhere because there is no value.

What is your inspiration for writing/creating—how do you balance your life with your work?
I started writing when I was little and I felt as if I was good at it early on. Once you figure out that you’re good at it you like it more, spend more time doing it, get better at it. I really like language. So much of our culture and relationships involve our language.

I have been busier and have had to cut back on housework, but when making the decision between a pristine kitchen and an hour of writing, writing is more worth it.

Why publish?
It is fine to write for yourself and share your work with whom you want. But I want someone else to read my work and to connect with the idea, image or voice of what I’m trying to convey in a poem or an essay. I think art is one of the most basic human activities—it’s how we understand each other and ourselves. Publication allows for that community and conversation.

It’s really cool to know that a stranger has read your work. It’s still about the writing, which is the most important thing, but there is a benefit when you’re thinking, “I’m writing and someday I want to publish.” It makes you hold yourself to a different standard. You push yourself harder at some point if you know other people might read this. And if you’ve already done the work, then why not?

If you’re in creative writing, you have to get used to rejection. Workshops help students understand how to take criticism so that rejection isn’t equated with devastation. There’s so much good work out there that is still good work.

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