Submitting – Here’s What You Want to Know

Written by Franque Bains

Do you know how awesome it is to submit to residencies and writing competitions? I’ll confess, I’ve been writing under a rock and didn’t know much at all.  Turns out, there’s a whole world of journals, residencies and fellowships out there that blew my mind once I was introduced to it. So I’ve dove in recently and begun to submit, here’s my experience and some tips from what I learned.

I fell into submitting at a time when I was pretty overwhelmed with my novel. I had plot constipation. A pretty serious condition. So, I treated it with a break and stepped away from the book.  About the same time, I saw an add for a short story contest and I thought, why not? It would be a great way for me to test out an idea for the book. So I took that break and wrote a short story and submitted it for a contest, then I wrote another short story for another contest, then I wrote a series of poems and about that time, a friend of mine saw what I was doing and encouraged me to apply for a residency.

That short “break” did extend a little longer than planned, but it was beyond worth it.  I’ve gained so much experience and confidence in my writing submitting these short pieces. Feeling a little bit of success writing is helping me to trust the whole process.   I’m glad I took that detour.

So, as of right now I am still submitting and I am learning a lot. Here are some tips and suggestions.

Join a critique group, no really, get on and join a critique group now!

Critique groups are wonderful ways to build community and improve your confidence and ability to revise.  You learn a lot by reading other works in progress. Particularly, it is amazing to see the growth that people can make. I gained so much more faith in my ability to edit and revise my own projects when I saw other projects transform and come to life in my critique groups. If you are in the San Antonio area, the Writing Compass is my new favorite critique group that doubles as an accountability group.  Here’s a link to their awesome program.

Be ready so you don’t have to get ready

Soon after I began submitting, many of the residencies and competitions that came my way had deadlines that were around the corner.  Make it easy for yourself to say yes to those opportunities. Have a Bio and pic always ready to go. Have your taxes done early on in the year. Many residencies want to know your income to see if you can be eligible for a financial break.  Set aside your favorite work samples have a few chosen and set aside in a designated folder. Create a resume for your writing career, you’ll be asked to submit this often times also.

Build relationships with established writers who have seen your work and like it- You’ll need references and letters of recommendation.

This is pretty accessible for people who are in school. For folks that are not currently in school, that’s another perk of joining a critique group.  Access to writers who are reading your work regularly and can vouch for you.  If you are not in school and don’t know many writers, you can read your work at open mics and develop relationships with writers there.  You can also take classes at writing centers. Like Gemini Ink in San Antonio and The Writing Barn in Austin Texas. Building relationships with the authors who teach classes there can help you gain you references and recommendations.


So where am I applying to?

Residencies my friends are encouraging me to apply for – Bay Area fellowship

Opportunities that are awesome for women of color

BLF Press / Now / Fiction by Black Women Writers (Apply next year)

Residency lists that I think are awesome

Entropy Magazine has a comprehensive list of places to submit (link)

Tip: their articles are broken up by Residencies, Fellowships, Conferences, & Opportunities. These sections are tagged or highlighted you’ve got to scroll and scroll to get to the different sections and types of submissions: The latest article is here  link

The Worldwide Network of Artist Residencies

Alliance of Artist Communities

Poets & Writers Magazine

I’ve submitted to several programs, residencies and competitions and I’m waiting to see where things land. However, whether or not this round of submissions lands a publication or opportunity isn’t the biggest win. I think it is the process of submitting that holds the magic. During the process, I had my pieces regularly critiqued, I drafted and revised several versions of my pieces, allowing myself to see growth in my works, I met lots of writers as I sought out support. Sometimes the process, and the doing of the thing is the thing.  Keep writing y’all.

Another great article with tips about submitting (link)

You can find out more about what she’s up to at


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