Pitch, Bitch! is an exhortation and a resource. We wanna close the "confidence gap" and the gender disparity in pitching and getting published. Here you will find advice, enthusiasms and conversations about being a female writer.
Female writers: go forth heartened and equipped and encouraged.
The first Wednesday of every month is #pitchbitch day. Use it to work on a pitch, research a pitch, or send a pitch.
Yaaaaaaaassssss it’s pitchbitch day! Work on a pitch, discuss a pitch, research a pitch, email a pitch TODAY! Tell us about it using the #pitchbitch hashtag. Godspeed ye female writers!
We spoke to Francesca Ohlert, deputy editor of newish literary journal The Suburban Review. Their next issue, the Stellar Edition, is going to include only work by women, in celebration of The Stella Prize. The team created a Pozible campaign to fund it that I was going to spruik except that it’s already reached its target! Niiiiiiice. Here’s Francesca.
Tell me a bit about yourself and The Suburban Review.
The Suburban Review is a Melbourne-based literary journal that’s blossomed over the past year and a half, driven by a team of hardworking volunteers who want to support and celebrate Australian writers and artists. We’re committed to paying all of our contributors and producing beautiful print and web collections. You can find us online at thesuburbanreview.com or stocked in independent bookstores around Melbourne. Me, I’m usually the deputy editor, but for the upcoming Stellar Edition I’ve slunk my way up to guest Editor-In-Chief! When I’m not doing things for the journal I study Literature and Creative Writing at Melbourne Uni and work in a little bookstore — my life has accidentally/not-so-accidentally come to revolve around words.
2. You’re looking for submissions from emerging female writers — why is that?
That’s right! Our fourth issue is a nod to the Stella Prize, an award that celebrates the work of Australian female writers. We’re publishing an all-female issue for two reasons. The first being that, even though females have dominated my university creative writing courses, there is still a discrepancy in the visibility of male and female writers in Australia. Especially when you think of the cannon of ‘great Australian voices’. Secondly, and beyond any political agenda, we want to celebrate female narratives, because they are so richly diverse and rewarding for us to collect…and share!
3. What are you looking for? What are you not looking for?
We’re probably looking for you, dear reader! Submissions for our Stellar issue have just closed. But we’re always hunting for next issues’ stars. As a journal team we’re open-minded; we publish a huge spectrum of work. I’d like to think that here at The Suburban Review we’re casting a net into the pool of Australian talent and pulling up treasures, many of which we never anticipated to find. Me personally, I look for works of love where you can see that the author has taken time are care with both their writing style and their subject matter. Pieces that come across as spiteful, half-hearted or half-finished make me cranky.
4. Are you a writer yourself? Can you tell us about your own approach to pitches?
I write often for university and have had several other publications. I’m hopelessly insecure about my finished pieces, so there’s an irony in my talking to Pitch, Bitch! (I’m a classic case of being willing to hear the, ever lurking, negative critiques of my work and hesitant to take any positive reviews seriously). It’s a condition I see in many — often other female — writers. I haven’t found a cure yet, I look to sources like yours to help me out. In terms of actually pitching, I make an event in my calendar when I want to pitch/submit something. An alarm will go off a few days before I’d promised myself I’d send work, then another angry alarm will go off around 3pm on D-day. By making a pitch a concrete event or an obligation I’ve found I’m more likely to just do it. So, to all those tentative submitters out there, I salute you, and use my other hand to point you in the direction of The Suburban Review.
Yea verily it is the day to get your pitch on. Work on, research, or send a pitch and tell us all about it using the #pitchbitch hashtag! seriously, friends.
Could you tell us a bit about yourself?
Not as easy as it might appear! I do lots of different things. I am the founding editor and publisher of Belt Magazine (beltmag.com). I teach at Oberlin College. I am writing a book on handwriting (Bloomsbury 2015) and I freelance.
As an editor, what kinds of ideas immediately speak to you, and what do you respond well to in pitches?
As an editor, a story I haven’t heard before with a good angle. Getting the right angle is key. “there’s a new development in Buffalo” doesn’t do much for me, but “what does this new development say about Buffalo’s corrupt politics?” will catch my eye (I’m making up that corrupt part—sorry Buffalo pols!). As for pitches themselves: it’s amazing how many people forget to tell me about themselves in their pitches. That last paragraph where you sum up your bio? It’s very important!
Have you noticed a gender difference in who pitches you that reflects the VIDA statistics, which showed more men were being published than women?
YES. I get very few pitches from women—and most pitch the essay section not the feature or commentary one. I am a very outspoken advocate for women writers, and I blasted social media and said “the site will go dark unless women pitch!” a few months ago. The posts were very widely shared and everyone was like “Yes!” but very few women actually sent pitches. We had a small uptick, and now, back to the dudes. Also, I hired a new (male) editorial director and after he introduced himself in our weekly newsletter, we got several pitches from well-known male writers immediately after—-these men already knew about Belt and knew me, but had never reached out before. It was amazing to watch.
As a writer, what was your most intimidating/scary pitch, or the pitch you were most invested in? How did it work out?
A pitch is just an email! One that, if you are sending to a new-to-you publication or editor, may never even be read. I don’t stress out over a pitch—I write them quickly and then send. No luck? I revise to make it better and send somewhere else. Now turning in a story? That can be scary. Not pitching though. Just. Hit. Send.
Tell us about your courses at The Thinking Writer.
I started The Thinking Writer to help women learn the ins and outs of pitching—it seems that transparency aids women particularly, as it can be hard for us to ask questions to better understand a process. If someone lays out the terms and rules, it’s easier to join the game. I also made the courses welcoming for academics seeking to reach general audiences, because I made that transition myself. The courses are online, last 2 weeks, and contain tons of helpful information—sample queries, editor back and forths, a large database of markets, and a growing number of editor Q&As. Classes are limited to 12 people and aim to create a community. And afterwards, all “alums” have access to a private FB group where we ask questions, share our latest clips, exchange leads, etc. Lots of people have received their first or “biggest” sale *during* our courses, and lots of friendships have been forged. It’s super fun.