I've been posting one writing tip a week during my TPL eWriter Residency for Young Voices. If you are a teen writer between the ages of 129 and 19, you can submit writing for feedback (from me) via that page until Dec 8.
My path to getting published was a little different than most people's. When I first started writing, I got inspired by the indie publishing scene in Toronto and joined a writing group filled with people who self-published little magazines called zines. I made my own for many years, and if you hunt online, you can still find a few reviews of them online.
The zine world was a huge subculture when I was in my 20s. People were amazing designers, integrated visual art, reviewed each other's work, made their own paper, hand-decorated their books, and did all kinds of amazing things to the little books. We traded at fairs and mailed them to zine-making penpals who sent back lengthy critiques of our work. Ahh, the good old days.
Some of this action still happens at Canzine and Toronto Comic Arts Festival. But these days, so many other options are available, such as making your own web magazines and releasing your work as e-books and even e-singles.
After I had published zines for a while, and had written articles for some local magazines and papers, I began to apply for writing grants. There's one operated by the Ontario Arts Council that I found incredibly helpful as an emerging writer. It's called the Writers' Reserve Grant, and you apply directly to local independent publishers, who get to decide whether to set aside a small chunk of their yearly allocation to support your project.
Two of my earliest books (Better to Have Loved and A Girl Like Sugar) found publishers through this grant. Along with a form saying my grant request had been approved, I also received letters asking me to consider submitting my finished manuscript for publishing consideration.
And I did eventually get stuff published in literary magazines and other places. For those of you who are interested in sending your work to literary magazines, I'm going to point you to this fantastic pdf presentation about How to Submit to Literary Magazines that was created by Vancouver author Doretta Lau (How Does a Single Blade of Grass Thank the Sun?).
In it, she gives lots of great advice, including a couple of ways to tailor your submission process:
1. "Look at the acknowledgements section of a short story collection that you admire and see where the writer's work was previously published."
2. "Read a recent issue of each magazine you wish to submit to in order to get a sense of whether your story is a good fit."
She culminates with this pithy piece of advice about the sometimes-frustrating process of sending your work out to magazines: "What I've learned from this process is that rejection does not mean a story is bad. Sometimes it simply indicates that a story has not yet found the right editor or magazine."
Didn't catch the previous tips? Never fear! They're over here: Tip #1: Don't Give Up, Tip #2: Make Friends with Writers, Tip #3: Reread to Analyze, Tip #4: Make Editing a Game and Tip #5: Set Goals (and Stick to Them).