My bank called me up. “Hello, there were two unsuccessful attempts this morning to charge three dollars to a company called…Submittable?”
I laughed. “I was wondering why it kept rejecting my card number.”
The bank employee continued. “Also, there was a two dollar charge to a company called Gulf Coast in Texas yesterday. Since you don’t live in either state, it came up on our radar as possible fraud.”
Damn, my bank is awesome. Fraud. Yes, I do feel like a fraud some days when I say I’m a writer. People are suspicious of a writer who can’t get published or paid. I give myself plenty of pep talks. I look myself in the mirror and say, “I’m a writer. I am a writer. I’m a writer. I am. I write, so I’m a writer.”
I am happy and willing to pay my dues. Mostly. I don’t like all the literary review reading fees, but it’s either reading fees or postage. It’s just that two or three dollars doesn’t seem like much at once, but it can add up. Especially when that same amount of money can be converted into a frosty Miller High Life. Don’t even get me started on the exorbitant story contest entry fees of fifteen to twenty-five dollars a pop. I also write screenplays and those contests are forty dollars and up. But such is my reality. I know the fees are used to keep the lights on and in some cases, to merely decrease the number of submissions. I won’t think about reading fees after I get my first acceptance. But what to say in the mean time to explain why I keep striking out?
I start pondering starting a drug habit, getting pregnant or getting thrown in prison. I want an excuse as to why I can’t get published beyond, “I’m trying, but it takes months for journals to get back to you and a bunch of people promised to read my screenplays, but film folks are so busy.” I need something more concrete. “I was too busy shooting up in a gas station bathroom,” or, “The baby was sick,” sound like plausible reasons why I am not getting published. Parent is probably the only (barely) acceptable unpaid position. I love the quote, “I wanted to go out and change the world, but I couldn’t find a baby-sitter.” And only a writer would think a memoir about a stint in prison involving drugs and a baby would be something no publisher could refuse.
But even if the establishment never confirms it, I know what I am. And I’m not the only writer struggling for a piece of the ever-shrinking pie. So, c’mon. Say it with me, even if it’s in your own head. I AM A WRITER!
A good article on reading fees: