Brenton Booth

How to Get Published in The New York Quarterly

I sent my first submission to The New York Quarterly when I was 25. At the time I was living in a tiny studio apartment in the red-light district. The kitchen cupboards were missing doors, carpet old, smelled like failure and death, walls full of grease and ageing paint trying its best to stay vertical. The good thing was it was cheap. I didn’t have to work much to afford it. And better than that, there was a large bright red mailbox right in front of the building. I sent submissions to everyone from that mailbox, The Atlantic, The New Yorker, Poetry, The American Poetry Review, The Sun, Black Warrior Review, and The New York Quarterly. I dreamed of getting in all of them, but really wanted to get in The New York Quarterly. I’d seen a documentary where the original editor spoke about another writer I greatly admired’ work and was quite impressed. Back then everything was printed out and posted the old-fashioned way. Each submission cost me $5.30 once I paid for the paper, printing, envelopes, postage, and return international postage. At that time, I wasn’t earning much. It was really an assault on the budget. Though I think the best moments of my life then was the hope I had pushing each fresh envelope into the indifferent mouth of that mailbox. I always did it slowly. Imagining every submission would be successful no matter how many times I had already been rejected.  And the amazing feeling I would get when that acceptance letter finally arrived. I was single then. Hadn’t been with a woman for a long time. Living on boiled rice and tap water to keep the costs down. One day I went to a cage fighting gym. After the class the instructor took me aside. Asked if I was interested in having a fight. I told him I couldn’t. I was a writer. “You make money from writing?” he said. “No, I haven’t been published yet.” “I think you will make money from fighting,” he said. I told him I couldn’t. Writing meant too much to me. And I was sure I would get published sometime real soon. I was wrong about getting published soon. None of those magazines ever gave me anything but rejections. I almost quit writing completely 8 years later until a workmate the same age as me that was recently diagnosed with a terminal illness told me not to give up. I started writing and submitting again. Though this time I didn’t imagine getting published. I knew I wouldn’t. I’d made peace with that. The important thing, I realised, was to write what you believed, the rest didn’t matter so much. Years passed like this. I saw more and more fighters having great success. Struck by the reality I was too old to change my decision. More years passed. I had a 60 hour week at work. Was on the final day. Beaten, broken, wanting to call up sick. Barely slept the whole night. Got out of bed at 2AM–an hour and ten minutes earlier than I needed to. Checked the mail on my phone to pass some time. I noticed a response from The New York Quarterly. I was so experienced with them–eighteen years worth of schooling. I began reading the familiar form-response. After the first line I realised this was something else. This was the acceptance I had been waiting for all those years! I turned on every light. Got ready for work with the biggest smile. Ready for anything anyone could throw at me. 

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