EDITORIAL – Bye Bye Bug. Writing For The Voice: An Opportunity Like No Other

February 26, 2003

EDITORIAL – Bye Bye Bug. Writing For The Voice: An Opportunity Like No Other

BYE BYE BUG

Alas, the time has come to retire the bug. He’s been with us for many years, but to me has come to symbolize Tammy Moore, as he graced so many of her articles and letters over her years as editor.

So, it has not felt right for me to use the bug for my editorials, and I have decided instead to retire the chipper little critter, and reserve his use for Tammy when she submits future articles [hint, hint, Tammy, are you still reading?]

Soon I’ll introduce a new graphic and title for my editorials, but this week we must say goodbye to our antennaed green friend.

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WRITING FOR THE VOICE – AN OPPORTUNITY LIKE NO OTHER

This week I posted a notice for a Voice contest [see below] requesting feedback on the paper. Among the many responses I have received so far, was one from an AU student who indicated that she was a little intimidated about submitting her writing to a university newspaper.

I can understand where she is coming from. I was also intimidated the first time I submitted to the Voice. My fear was partly based on the many harsh rejection letters I had already received from editors of much larger publications.

For a long time I viewed editors as these infallible writing gods. It seemed that an editor was to a writer as a judge is to a lawyer – superior in knowledge and skill, and the final word on what is correct and proper.

Time and experience have taught me that this is not necessarily so. In particular, I recall a letter from several years ago penned by the editor of the revived legendary horror/fantasy pulp, Weird Tales. The editor’s name was one I knew well – I had aspirations of working with him one day. You can imagine how I felt when I saw this familiar name on the top of my rejection letter. But, I’m not sure you can imagine how I felt when I saw the salutation: “Thank you for your submission Tamara,:”

The letter went on to criticize my writing in a few brief but callous sentences. In retrospect the story was poorly written [though the criticisms bore no relevance to the true failings of my story, and instead ridiculed my use of a phrase that the editor disliked], but I was new to writing and had a lot to learn. Somehow, noticing that this famous editor was not capable of getting my name right – my five letter name that was clearly printed in letter-perfect text on every page of my manuscript – accomplished the equivalent of painting glasses and a moustache on my mental portrait of the All Powerful Editor.

It has the same effect as the imagine-your-audience-naked technique of public speakers. It allowed me to accept editorial criticism without being crushed by it.

I’m glad of this, because finding the courage to submit your work is about 50% of becoming a successful writer. Another 30% is a willingness to learn from your critics, and evaluate your work without personal prejudice. The rest is simply hard work and talent, the proportions of which vary considerably from writer to writer – the lack of one requiring an abundance of the other.

Courage can be hard to find, but some publications are more approachable than others. I know of no better opportunity for beginning writers than the Voice, and I say that as someone who started with the Voice as a writer nearly two years ago.

As a publication of the students’ union, The Voice is not only a service for students, but also a forum where new writers can start out and get some feedback. It is true that The Voice does not accept everything that is submitted – we have standards, and these standards will continue to rise as we receive more submissions – and at times we print stories from other university newspapers and writers who are not AU students. However, we will always prefer submissions from our students.

No one should feel intimidated about submitting to the Voice. In fact, this is true for any publication. The very worst that can happen is that your submission will not be accepted, and if this occurs you will be given an opportunity to revise your work. An important reason for submitting articles, is to obtain feedback on your writing. Any successful writer can tell you how valuable this is. Unfortunately, editorial feedback can be very hard to come by. I can tell you that very often when you submit manuscripts you do not receive any response indicating why an item was not accepted. I once received a reply reading, “Thank you for your submission, alas it is not working for us.” Occasionally I have received a sentence or two of criticism from which I attempted to glean as much insight as possible. My recent submission for Bitch Magazine [a really good publication] was refused because it was not “quite right” for them. That’s all they said. Does this mean my writing is not appropriate to their style? Or was it my subject matter? Should I bother to submit again?

Some writers spend a lot of money to obtain professional feedback on their writing. Even seasoned professionals can benefit from the scrutiny of another writer. I was humbled last week by an honest critique from an editor friend. It stung, but his observations were dead-on and I will not make the same mistakes again. The more I write, the more I value such observations.

When you submit to The Voice you will get feedback. If your item is not accepted, I will tell you why and give you suggestions for improvement. Editors of commercial publications are only responsible for finding content for their magazine. As the editor of the university newspaper, I am responsible for helping students who wish to write. If nothing else, article writing can teach you about writing and research, which may help you write better papers for your courses. Whether you like to write or not, you must write to be successful in university, regardless of your major. No one wants to receive low marks for a brilliant thesis because their writing obscured the brilliance of their ideas.

The Voice is the first place I published my writing, and this gave me the confidence to begin submitting to other publications again. Last year I, along with two other Voice writers and members of the students’ union, submitted a paper to the ISEC conference, which was accepted for presentation. We were the only undergraduates on the list of speakers. I would not have had the confidence to submit this paper had I not published many articles with The Voice. Also, I recently had a creative essay accepted for an upcoming book project. Again, my experience with The Voice was instrumental in helping me hone the skills I needed to become published. I still receive rejection letters, but the most recent one praised my writing sample and gave me the contact information for another magazine that might want to purchase my work. Experience pays off, and the only way to become a good writer, is to write!

Experience with the Voice pays in cash as well. Rates vary, but for most submissions you will receive $30, which is far more than most university papers, which often do not pay at all.

If it is your goal to become a published writer, The Voice is the very best place to begin. If this is not your goal, and you simply want to express yourself to other AU students, then that is another wonderful reason to try. One of the most popular parts of The Voice is the AU Profiles column, which provide short bios and comments from other AU students. However, many of the students who’ve done profiles have told me that they feel they are boring and have nothing to contribute. I have had to strongly encourage them to submit, and the readers find these submissions very valuable. No one thinks that they themselves are interesting, and yet it is the regular students who are finding a way to succeed at distance education who are of the most interest to our readers – other regular students. Whatever experiences you would like to share are probably ones that other students can relate to and would like to know about. No one expects you to be extraordinary – they just want to know if you are like them. If you feel that you are boring, think about how much interest you have in the lives of other people like you.

Tamra Ross Low
Editor in Chief


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