Los Angeles: the city of glitz, glamour and beautiful people. Not to mention shorts-in-November weather. We here at the Writers’ Program know this city is filled with a thriving community of every kind of writer, most of whom are hunkered down in a cafe, laptop opened and coffee cup in hand. We sat down and chatted recently with Writers’ Program instructor Michelle Meyering, who, as Director of Programs and Events at PEN Center USA, and founder and editor of The Rattling Wall, has her finger on the pulse of the Angelino writing community. We asked Michelle about her upcoming winter course, Submitting to Los Angeles Literary Journals, and for advice for aspiring writers.
Writers’ Program: What makes the Los Angeles Literary Journal unique?
Michelle Meyering: Each issue of a literary journal reflects a pocket of time in the city in which it was created. Across issues, readers can grasp a fascinating sense of that unfolding, a sense that the literary journal is a living record of their city’s politics, interests, and art. Los Angeles literary journals are no different: they are unique in their currency. A good editor is continuously taking the pulse of the city and reporting on it.
Wp’: Would you say LA writers have a particular “flavor” in common, or are we a diverse bunch?
MM: Los Angeles writers are as diverse as the city itself. One shared trait, though—perhaps inspired by the city’s own balls-out brashness—is a willingness to take creative, sometimes bizarre leaps on the page, which can be thrilling for the reader.
Wp’: Any advice for writers out there who are new and getting geared up to submit?
MM: The best advice I can offer a writer who’s gearing up to submit to any literary journal is simple: familiarize yourself with the publication, read the submission guidelines carefully, and follow them line-by-line. Submission guidelines are not riddles. Editors aren’t trying to trick writers into flubbing their submissions, so give ’em exactly what they ask for.
Wp’: Any tips for handling rejection?
MM: The quality of our writing is not only affected by our reading and practice, but also by the sense of sacrifice, fear, and, ultimately, joy that we feel when sharing writing with editors and—fingers crossed!—readers. Rejection is, sadly, a part of this process.
Know this though: there isn’t always an ogre at the other end of the slush pile, some beast trying to douse your new career. Literary journal editors, and their readers, are often underpaid, sleep deprived, literature enthusiasts, who are tirelessly looking for the writing that they believe best suits the issue they’re constructing.
Just because the piece you submit is rejected from one issue doesn’t mean it won’t work for another. So, how do I recommend handling rejection? By handling it: be respectful, be willing to turn a critical eye on your work, be energized to start your submission process again.
Wp’: Tell me a bit about your upcoming winter course, Submitting to Los Angeles Literary Journals.
MM: It has two main goals that center on teaching students how to prepare and successfully submit a piece of fiction, creative nonfiction, or poetry to a major Los Angeles literary journal. The class encourages the traditional practices of reading and writing, but also provides access to practical publishing tools, including the opportunity to meet with professional literary journal editors. By the end of class, students will have created a polished submission packet and a plan for submitting it.
Wp’: What are you working on these days?
MM: I’ve just started editing The Rattling Wall, Issue 3, and am working on a collection of poems titled Sores & Hollows.
Sara Bond is the Program Assistant for Creative Writing.