Dispatches | September 07, 2010

By the time I got to The Missouri Review office last Thursday, I was starving. It was 2:30, and I hadn’t eaten all day. I walked up the three flights of stairs in the building’s sticky, un-air-conditioned stairwell feeling exceedingly cranky, thinking about the carton of sushi that I had just walked all the way across campus to buy. I dumped my heavy bags on the floor of the office and started to unpack them. There were the napkins, the chopsticks, the little packets of soy sauce. But what about the sushi? It wasn’t in my laptop case or my gym bag. It wasn’t under my books. Oh, of course—typical. I had left it at the register when I paid. At least this time I hadn’t also left my wallet.

Heroic feats of absent-mindedness are a regular occurrence in my life; things tend to wander off if they aren’t somehow attached to my person. I’m continually amazed by those individuals I know who never misplace their car keys, or their passports, or those crucial notes for a presentation. Luckily, because I spend a good bit of my life surrounded by writers and academics—people who are often so much in their heads that they don’t see what’s right in front of them–I don’t feel so alone.

We’re a bunch of space-cadets. Which is why we so often need reminders—like the one I’m about to give you that it’s that time of year again: the time when the submission periods for a good number of literary journals are once again open and you should start sending in your work. One great resource someone recently turned me on to is Duotrope, a database where you can find out not only who is currently reading submissions, but also what they’re looking for. Just this week I got an email from Duotrope with a list of over 140 journals that have just re-opened for submissions, including the Bellevue Literary Review, Tin House, Western Humanities Review, Fugue, Permafrost, and many others.

I, for one, have always been horrible at submitting work; I’d much rather be writing new poems. And even when I begin a day with the good intention to send things out, I often get distracted mid-task and move on to something else. I have, however, found a couple of strategies that help: Subscribe to emails from sites like Duotrope or Allison Joseph’s creative writing opportunities listserv that deliver regular reminders to your inbox. Secondly, make a spreadsheet to track submissions—even better, use Google Docs to make a spreadsheet that you share with a friend or two. This has done wonders for me; my writing partner and I use a Google spreadsheet to keep tabs on one another’s submission progress, and we prod each other when one or the other slacks off.

Oh yeah, and while I’m at this reminder thing—don’t forget to submit to The Missouri Review’s Editors Prize: our postmark deadline of October 1st is coming up!

Sadly, I’m afraid I still can’t offer any advice on how to keep track of your cell phone or car keys….I am in the process of inventing a jumpsuit covered with Velcro and hooks, to which the wearer can attach every important article she’ll need for a given day, but until that comes out, you’re on your own.