Nods from the Universe: Interviews

Khadijah AbdulHaqq on Submissions

Khadijah AbdulHaqq lives in Memphis, Tennessee, with her husband and children. She holds an MFA from Vermont College of Fine Arts. Her work can be read at Herstry, Torch Literary Arts, and is forthcoming. When she’s not writing, she’s cooking and trying out new recipes. Currently, you can find her trying to keep aphids from eating her cucumbers before they’ve had a chance to be harvested.

Jocelyn: You’ve recently been on a submissions spree, about how many pieces do you currently have out for review? 

Khadijah: My spree is over. I wanted to capture the momentum of graduation. I sent out over twenty submissions. I was accepted and published by Torch Literary Arts and two writing conferences. I’m proud of that.

J: Being both a fiction and nonfiction writer, what is your submission process? That is, how do you choose among the thousands of places, where and what to submit?

K: For fiction, I had a plan: Submit to places where I saw work that was comparable to mine. But for nonfiction, which was my original wheelhouse, I just spammed journals. Which turned out to be not a good idea.

J: You are a published book author, does that experience or recognition help you in this process or in your acceptance rate?

K: Nope! Not at all. I’m an emergent writer. I am learning the ropes. I am putting in the work and grinding it out. Whatever comes from that comes from the work.

J: So how influential is your writing community, writing groups, or overall networking to where you submit?

K: Not much. I love the various writing communities I belong to. However, I have an idea of what I want my writing career to look like and I work towards that. You can be distracted by all of the contests and submissions, but I believe you have to be focused on your goals.

J: Indeed, submitting work is an entirely different business task—researching, sifting, formatting—to the creation of writing. How do you balance or set aside time to do both?

K: I think everyone has their schedule for submitting. But most of the places I’ve submitted to have been on purpose. So I know the kind of work they’ve published before I submitted. That’s not to say that I haven’t missed submission due dates. Which I often do. I just keep an eye on publications where I want my work to be showcased, especially where writers with similar identities are celebrated.

J: What are your biggest challenges when submitting? And your biggest wins? 

K: My biggest challenge within the literary community as well as submitting is being a Black Muslim woman. Which is also an opportunity to highlight the complexities of such a reality by sharing my stories, which deconstruct monolithic views of Black and Muslim women.

So far, my biggest win has been graduating from my MFA program. It was a trying experience. I feel like anything after that will be a cakewalk. But if we’re talking about submissions, I’d like to keep that on the low, for now. I’ve learned not to count my chickens before they hatch. But if you follow me on the socials or are in our group, you already know. (Enter laugh here)

J: What are your thoughts on simultaneous submissions? Have you ever withdrawn a piece because it got picked up elsewhere or due to the ever-longer wait time to hear back?  

K: So far, I haven’t had to withdraw any work. However, I mean, I don’t really have a solid position on simultaneous submissions. I guess I try to follow the publications rules. I guess I’ll cross that bridge when I get to it.

J: And how do you feel about contests, love them or hate them?

K: I like contest that have a good history. I try to stay away from ones that have less favorable stakes like high entrance fees and no real history. Those fees can stack up.  

J:  What does your work tracker look like? Do you have your own spreadsheets or another program like Submittable or DuoTrope?

K: I have a spreadsheet and Submittable. It does the accounting for me.

J: How do you ward off the imposter syndrome or the “this’ll never get published” rejection woes?

K: I don’t think I do. In Islam, we have a saying “Bismillah,” which is a way of blessing whatever we do. So, I just Bismillah it and sweat it out with you and other supportive folks.

J: Aside from hearing “Yes! We can’t wait to publish your work,” what’s the most interesting, awful, or awesome response you’ve ever received from a literary magazine?

K: I was sent what I’ve been told is a level-four rejection: “Sorry we won’t be able to publish this story but would love to read more of your work. Please keep writing. The world needs your work.”

J: What would you recommend to those writers just starting out in the business of submitting their work?

K: Submit. Submit. Submit. Don’t give up. Don’t be pressured. Do what you do and let the chips fall where they may. Rejections don’t define you( Enter self berating laugh here.) You’ll miss 100% of the shots you don’t take.

J: Anything else you think readers should know about submitting?

K: Take care of yourself. It’s easy to get down on yourself. Make sure you take time away from writing and soothe and nurture your soul.

Thank you Khadijah!!

Find Khadijah Here: