In late 2014 I started a blog. It had no real direction or theme and no one knew it existed. For three months I posted stories about motherhood before I realized that mom blogging was actually a thing, and that there were LOTS of great writers out there sharing stories just like me. I joined some mom writing groups on Facebook, I applied to have my blog picked up by my local newspaper, and I started working toward my own niche writing style.
That is when I accidentally stumbled on Scary Mommy…and oh, my goodness, I had found my tribe. Jill Smokler and her band of funny and brutally honest mom writers were posting exactly the kind of irreverent humor and honesty that I was quietly publishing in my tiny corner of the Internet. One night after I spent hours exploring the Scary Mommy website I found the Write For Scary Mommy link. I drank a glass of wine, followed the link, and submitted my very first story to a website that wasn’t mine.
It was rejected.
I resubmitted. That was rejected too.
This happened about a dozen times, but not once did I give up. You see, the thing is, they responded to every submission I sent. That may not seem like much, but I knew they were reading my work and I also knew that they must have been interested in my burgeoning style because they started to give me feedback.
I wasn’t getting in and I was beginning to fear that I would soon exhaust these women with my steady flow of short essays. I spent a few weeks making a list on a scrap piece of paper of all the stories they published. I began to notice something of a pattern. There were topics that kept popping up that had these things in common:
2) List style
3) Broad or general interest
4) Feel good, make you laugh, relatable
I tried one more time. After a particularly difficult day with my then 4-year-old headstrong son, I sat down and wrote a story called, The Mother of Rage. I submitted the story to Jill and Samantha and within one day Jill wrote back and said that she loved it and was scheduling it to go live on Scary Mommy for later in the month.
There was a lot of screeching and jumping up and down in my kitchen right after I read that email!
The three weeks between that email and the date it went live moved as slow as pond water. Up until the big day my most popular story on my blog had 120 hits. Clearly I was a hotshot. The day The Mother of Rage went live it reached 69,000 Facebook shares.
Think about that for second. The town I grew up in had 30,000 residents. This story had more Facebook shares than that town has human beings. I was dumbfounded.
But while I was celebrating my new-found Internet fame I simultaneously discovered the tough part of being published on a highly trafficked website like Scary Mommy; namely the comment section.
For the most part the comments people left me were positive and welcoming of my work. But there were a handful of truly hurtful comments from total strangers who took aim at me personally by calling me a child abuser, a psycho, and a bitch to name a few.
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That night I had a hard time sleeping. I was so upset by the trolls who came out to play in the comments section, but I was also giddy that Jill Smokler chose my work to be featured on her marvelous site. Over time I continued to submit and I soon found a niche writing style that I reserve specifically for Scary Mommy stories. To date they have published me more than a dozen times and my work was included in the Scary Mommy holiday anthology, Scary Mommy’s Guide to Surviving the Holidays.
A few valuable lessons I learned from my first featured post experience with Scary Mommy are:
1) DO NOT give up if you get rejected. Don’t be afraid to ask for feedback and have the sense to at least consider what the editor says (even if you don’t agree).
2) DO NOT let the negative comments from trolls get under your skin. Try to remember that you are not writing for them!
3) Once you get an article published do everything you can to use that to develop a solid relationship with the editor and staff of that website. You never know what projects they are working on behind the scenes and if you are gracious enough and hard-working enough you may get asked to participate in some amazing projects!
4) Hold on to the feeling of giddiness when a piece goes live on a site you love. That feeling is better than gold. I return to that feeling in my head when I am stuck in a writing rut.
5) IF YOU WANT SOMETHING THEN GO GET IT. Don’t wait to be invited to participate in submissions or writing projects. Use your voice and ask for help, ask for an opportunity, ask for collaboration, ask, ask, ask!
Good luck with your writing goals! Be tenacious! Be brave! Get writing!