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Submissions- on Hold

” Writers are not just people who sit down and write.Т  They hazard themselves.Т  Every time you compose a book your composition of yourself is at stake.”

Т  ~E.L. Doctorow

Publishing is risky business.Т  There are all kinds of concerns one might have.Т  A few of these are logistical (Is this the right draft?Т  Have I edited this enough?).Т  However, most of the concerns are emotional (Will this be valued by others?Т  Will people understand me?).

Through the Pages program, we ask our students to take these risks all the time, and if you are anything like me, you probably wondered why they didn’t follow through, their faces brightly shining in the knowledge that they could be a published author soon.Т  However, with all of the risk involved, they may not always see the intrinsic reward right away.Т  As a matter of fact, as much as I hate to admit this, they might never (until it is published and they have that tangible reward they crave).Т  However, I have found a few means of encouragement.Т  I am not sure which have worked, but fortunately, something finally has, so I decided to share my experience with all of my fellow Pages teachers.

For months, I have treated every writing assignment like a project on it’s way to publication.Т  It has, at times,Т  been a frustrating process for myself and my students.Т  They were tired of getting papers back covered in ink, and I was frustrated at the end of the units when no submissions were coming my way.

The intense revision process did, however, eventually start to pay off in their writing, and by our poetry unit, I was blown away by the work I was getting from students.Т  But regardless of how much I encouraged, hinted, or blatantly begged, little to no work was submitted.Т  So at one point during a private conversation with a student, I decided to just ask: Why is no one turning in work to me for submission?Т  Is it because they are nervous it won’t be accepted?Т  Her answer was interesting.Т  She said, “We are worried about what will happen after it is.”

Like most of us would probably feel, my students were scared of exposing themselves.Т  They were embarrassed of what they offered to their audience.Т  I can understand this.Т  As part of the process of writing, my students asked me to do what they had been doing for weeks, share my work.Т  One day in class, as I sat red-faced with my hands shaking, I read a short poem I had been working on over the weekend.Т  It was truly terrifying, and I am a (very recent) thirty-year-old woman who teaches English.Т  I try to just imagine being my sixteen-year-old self-consciously-apathetic self sitting in a classroom doing the same thing, and I truly cannot.

I would like to say that my students ultimately understood the value of sharing their work through publishing, and I can be hopeful that they did.Т  However, the one thing that turned the tide and flooded my inbox with poetry and prose was a very tangible reward: extra credit.Т  I didn’t even say how much, but simply the offer was enough of a carrot to help them move forward.Т  I’d like to think that this was just a fortunate coincidence, but regardless, I know that the sense of value they will feel seeing their name in print will have made it worth it.

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