For some writers, submitting is an obsession. Not the act of submitting – which might be a good thing to be obsessed about. I’m talking about the aftermath of submitting. The waiting game. I know writers who check email and snail mail constantly like a teenage girl awaiting a call following a first date. If they haven’t heard in a specific amount of time – sometimes a time line defined by the recipient, sometimes defined by themselves – they start to panic. And then they follow-up. Emails. Phone calls. Visits to the submittee’s home. (Okay, that’s an exaggeration. At least I think it is. I hope.) What they don’t realize is that not only are they helping the stock price of Tums, they are also making the job harder for all writers. It irritates agents, contest readers, editors or whoever you have submitted to.
Do us all a favor – send it and forget it.
Several years ago I received a phone call from Teresa Marafino, Artistic Director of Mountain Playhouse in Jennerstown, PA. She was very excited to tell me that my play Harps & Harmonicas had won their contest. I had no idea who she was, what contest she was talking about and where the heck Jennerstown was. But I kept chatting with her about the theatre and my play and, I’m sure, the weather. Anything to fill the space while I dashed upstairs and grabbed my submission notebook. I began to flip through it frantically trying to find something that fit the few words I remembered Teresa saying: Harps, Pennsylvania, comedy contest. (Turns out I had missed the deadline for the previous year’s contest so they added my script to the next year’s submissions. In other words, I had submitted more than a year before the phone call.)
And as strange as that conversation initially was, it’s not the only time I’ve been in that place. You see, once a script has left my hands, I completely wipe the submission out of my mind.
What is my actual Submission Process?
Glad you asked.
Physical Submission Notebook
This used to be a physical notebook with two different sections – one with A-Z tabs and one with Jan – Dec tabs. I alphabetically filed a copy of the letter with the information page about the theatre or opportunity attached. Then I filed – by month – a copy of the letter I sent to the theatre. On the letter, I wrote down the pieces included in the query: synopsis, excerpts, full script – whatever. I also filed information about upcoming opportunities in the month or so before their deadline so I wouldn’t forget to submit. As the postcards I sent with queries came back (do you want the full-script – check yes or no and drop it in the mail) I would staple them to the right page in the A-Z section.
But if you read carefully, I said “used to.” (I included that info for those who prefer hard copies of things.) Today I use an . . .
- A table I created in Word. Here is an excerpt from it. I can sort in different ways to quickly find the information I need.
- An electronic folder (Submissions) with subfolders by year and then the file slugged as play/theatre. For example, the first submission in the chart is PWUpstage.doc. The .doc includes the letter as well as a page listing other pertinent info – what was included in the query, the submission requirements etc. For electronic submissions, I copy the email and save it as a .doc.
- I keep a 2nd electronic folder (Submission Opps) with files of the info for upcoming opportunities.
- I put reminders on my calendar of upcoming opps so I don’t forget them.
- I have a physical notebook where I file responses alphabetically.
So Where Do I Submit? If you aren’t a playwright, you can skip this paragraph!
- The Dramatist Guild Sourcebook. Every member gets one, and if you’re not a member you’re not a serious playwright.
- I have two blogs on my bookmarks bar. I check them at least weekly. http://nycp.blogspot.com http://www.womenplaywrights.org
- Twitter #newplays
What do I submit?
Whatever they ask for. Research your submission opportunities. Does your project fit their needs? The biggest complaint I hear about submissions from theatre folk is scripts not appropriate for their theatre. (Second biggest complaint – bad formatting! Topic for another blog post.) Then submit what they ask for. Nothing more, nothing less. Except . . .
If you want a response, enclose an SASE (I tape it to the back cover of the binder). I also include a postcard. If I am submitting to a contest or submitting a full script the postcard just acknowledges receipt of the script. If I am submitting a query with anything less than a full-script, the postcard asks if they want to read the full script.
When do I submit?
Every Friday I set aside time to research or submit work. (cough, cough) In reality, every week I intend to put aside time but frequently don’t do it. And, as I mentioned last month, I just completed a SuMo – something I plan to do again.
What do I do next?
Write. Rewrite. Submit more work. Go to a play. Do laundry. Drink heavily. But I move on.
Because, frankly, the teenaged years were rough enough the first time. Go back to the days of sitting and waiting for the phone to ring? Fugetaboutit.