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Your Stories Deserve a Nest
By Virginia Sánchez
In career-focused contexts, writers are told to aim for their "dream publications." Pick up a how-to book on jumpstarting your writing career and you'll find that advice. Scroll through LinkedIn groups for writers. Boom. It's there. I don't have a problem with this advice, per se. You should dream in life. Give yourself that permission. My issue is that mainstream, national publications—the dinosaurs—are the implied, or sometimes explicit dream publications, mentioned in these contexts. Because then the implication that if you fail to land bylines in those publications, you are a failure. How careerist. How Capitalist. How ew.
You are more than your bylines. Not every story is meant for mainstream, national publications, at least not as these outlets exist now. Many of them are only now beginning to reflect on expanding their platforms and practices, or at least performing such self-awareness. It remains to be seen whether they will make actual changes. And even publications that are open to publishing stories by women, people of color, people with disabilities, and a multitude of voices in general might not accept your work for various reasons.
Your story is no last valid and worthy because an editor turns down your query or rejects your pitch. Though your story did not find a home at that publication, it still deserves a nest. Look at it again, evaluate how it can be improved without sacrificing its essence (your voice, your core ideas), and keep sending it out until it lands. The flight might be a long and hard one. Beat your wings for as long as you have the stamina. Give yourself the courage to keep flying.
One of my professors once told me never to be too critical of myself and my work.
"You're going to spend your whole life facing criticism," she said. "At the very least, you need to be on your own side."
This is true for your stories. They will face criticism and rejection. You need to stand up for them. And you need to think critically about where you want your stories to go. Treat every submission with care. There's no reason to rack up bylines for the sake of achieving higher numbers. Your stories are too precious to be all about numbers. You want them to live where they have a place, where they are welcome—and where you feel welcome as a writer.
Write something about yourself. No need to be fancy, just an overview.