This week for The Published Perspective, we spoke with Molly Hamilton. Molly is a former Lindenwood student who recently graduated from Lindenwood’s MFA program in December of 2018.
Q: How long have you been writing?
A: Well, this sounds cliché, but I have been writing since I was six-years-old. My older sister, Meagan, inspired me. She was always telling me stories and writing stories, so I wanted to tell stories, too. My stories were supposed to make people laugh. I wanted to bring some joy to people. I kept up the hobby. I was always creating as a kid. Meagan and I made worlds together and still do!
Q: How was your experience at Lindenwood?
A: It was a great experience. I even got to “meet” Kevin J. Anderson. He writes Star Wars stories!
Q: How has Lindenwood helped shape your writing?
A: Lindenwood provided me a place to mingle with other writers and workshop. I’ve had a history of being shy with my work, and the classes forced me to be more open so I can get better feedback. The best lesson I learned is audience awareness. I learned that my “clues” are way too subtle for readers to pick up on and that some of my fantasy worlds need more explanation! Being in the MFA program made me hyper aware of how I’m relating key information to readers in my writing. As an undergrad, Professor Spencer Hurst and Dr. Plate were super supportive. They made me feel like a “real” writer and gave me hope.
Q: What are some goals for your future career?
A: I have a MFA in writing now. I got that degree for three reasons. First, to improve my writing. Second, to give myself more credibility as a writer so I can better attract an agent. Third, so I can teach Creative Writing at a college level. There’s things I taught myself that I want to share with Lindenwood’s students, most of which is about publishing. However, I’m leaving my options open. I’m just going to see what happens next.
Q: How many pieces do you currently have published? Where?
A: I have been published seven times. Three of those publications are gone now because the magazines have closed. Understand, I’ve been sending work out for about seven years and many literary journals and magazines are volunteer run. Some lifespans are short. But, currently, you can find my work in an anthology called Harvest Time—edited by Glen Lyvers, Scarlet Leaf Review, and in World of Myth Magazine.
Q: How many pieces have you sent out?
A: Oh my. I have no idea. But, I can tell you I have 106 rejection letters. However, some editors didn’t even bother to send me a rejection. It’s very competitive. It’s gotten to the point to where I’m genuinely excited if an editor bothers to give me a personal rejection letter instead of the classic “copy/paste” ones.
Q: How often do you send out work?
A: I try to have at least three submissions out at all times. Now, when I was an undergrad and a grad student, I didn’t usually make that goal. I was so busy! If you were to look at my publishing record, you can see the activity go to nearly zero while I was in school. Most of my publications came from my summer time submissions. However, now that I’ve graduated, I’m making my “at least three” goal.
Q: How long did it take to get published?
A: My first short story was published when I was 20. That story was rejected 14 times before Inwood Indiana published it. So, I was trying to get that one published for 9 months. It isn’t usually a fast process. On average, I wait about four months before I get a “yes” or “no” from an editor. That’s why I look for magazines and journals that take “simultaneous” submissions. That means I can send the same story to multiple magazines and journals without suffering great wrath. The more I submit something, the better my chances of finding a publisher are.
Q: How do you navigate rejection?
A: I took my first rejection hard. I was 19, and I just had a professor from Washington University tell me how wonderful my story was. This professor raved about it and insisted that I send my story—the one that got rejected 14 times— to The Fairy Tale Review. So, I smugly submitted. And, I got the kindest, sweetest rejection letter I have ever gotten. This editor took the time to write me an explanation. She complimented me. She even asked me to email her when I got my story published so she could read it again. I didn’t even know I should appreciate that. I was angry. I was hurt. I went straight to my mother to man about my misfortune. But, after a few days to cool down, I realized rejection is just part of it. I swallowed my pride and got over it.
Now, I keep an open mind. Most of the time, rejection letters are copy/paste or “form” rejections. They don’t really say why the editors didn’t pick it—problem spotting is best done through a beta reader or a workshop. However, if I get several form rejections for the same piece, I’ll go back and re-evaluate it. A “resting” period helps so much with revision. I can usually guess why my piece isn’t working when I take another look after a while. Getting a distance between myself and the piece is so important.
If an editor actually specifies what was a hangup for him or her, I’ll consider the advice for a few days and then decide whether or not the advice would help. It’s easy to get defensive about artistic choices, but, in the end, the advice is often very helpful.
Q: Any tips for keeping your spirits up?
A: Just remember the publishing world is super subjective. You have to keep trying. My sister, Meagan, once had a story published almost immediately after she sent it to a snobby magazine. I was so happy for her, but so jealous! She didn’t even revise her story. It was a first draft. But, the editors connected with it and loved it. Plus, my sister is an excellent writer. you never know what will click for people. I just had a poem published called “Romances.” It’s about medieval literature. I didn’t really think anyone would like it, but I was wrong. You just have to try and see where it goes.
Q: Any expert advice for fellow writers?
- Don’t rush editing and revising. You want your writing to reflect your best work.
- ALWAYS read an editor’s guidelines. Messing up a format or rule is a great way to get instantly rejected.
- Get support from other writers.
- Look for publishers on duotrope.com. Just pay the 5 dollars a month. It’s worth it. It has saved me hours of time in searching, and it keeps track of my pieces when I should query.
- Finally, to learn about publishing you can come see me at the Writing Center (LARC 333) or check out our PowerPoint on publishing. It covers everything from format tutorials to finding editors.
Since interviewing with Arrow Rock, Molly has had another piece published in World of Myth Magazine. She is crushing the publishing game!