How to Submit: Leesa Cross-Smith

Interview By Robyn Ryle

I first encountered Leesa Cross-Smith as the editor of the exciting online literary journal, WhiskeyPaper. The stories there reflect Leesa’s own unique style and taste—bright, sexy, and sweet. When I began to read Leesa’s own stories, I was blown away. So I was pretty excited about being able to pick her brain about how she negotiates the process of submitting her own work.

In this series, I ask writers who are out there, in the slushpile trenches, about some of their strategies for submitting their work. What I’ve learned so far is that the answers are as unique as the writers themselves. Here’s what Leesa Cross-Smith had to say.

How do you know when a piece is ready to send out?

It’s hard to explain but I just know! I’ve read the piece about a billion times without cringing and checked it carefully for typos/grammatical errors, then I push it out of the nest like the little sweet baby bird it is.

What’s your process for picking which literary magazines to submit to? Do you make a list?

If/when I read a story I really love in a literary magazine and if that story is written in a style that I like…and if that magazine doesn’t have some kind of crazy response time/the editors seem like good, decent people…I’ll probably send a story along. Conditions have to be right. I don’t usually make a list, I just let it happen!

What resources do you use to choose where to submit (websites, fellow writers)?

I just poke around and see what’s out there, now. Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr, fellow writers.

Do you have favorite magazines that you go back to over and over again, even though you’ve been rejected, and what makes them your favorites?

Not really. If a place rejects me more than a couple times, I let it go. It’s okay and not meant to be. No worries. I used to have a list of dream lit mags I wanted to be in and I got in a lot of those and some of them I didn’t…I don’t have a list like that anymore. It’s all good.

Are there certain types of magazines you avoid and why?

I avoid magazines with editors who are super-snarky or mean and say grumpy things about people who submit b/c I don’t have time for that sort of thing. I also avoid magazines that publish stories I don’t get/dig/think are very good or aren’t my style.

How do you feel about contests?

I think contests are fun! I’ve lost many! I’ve won one.

How do you feel about non-contest submitting fees?

I understand them. I used to pay them. I don’t really pay them anymore.

Do you re-submit to magazines that have already published your work? Why or why not?

I do! And I have. Mostly because I love working with the editors and want to work with them again and/or feel like I have piece that would fit in somehow.

Will you edit a piece while you’re sending it out?

Nah. Once it’s out there, it’s out there. I start working on something else.

Would you say you have an overall, long-term strategy to how you submit, or is it more just fly-by-night, make it up as you go along?

I don’t have an overall, long-term strategy. I think I used to…or at least I thought I did. I haven’t submitted anything new in a while so we’ll see when I start doing that all over again!

What’s the most number of times a piece you’ve sent out has been rejected before finally being accepted somewhere?

Eight or nine! 🙂

How do you know when a piece should just be put to rest?

I’d say when I don’t like it anymore. Maybe. Even if a piece gets rejected a bunch of times, it doesn’t make me feel like I need to put it to rest if I still love it. Maybe it just needs to change forms or get chopped up or smashed into something else!


Leesa Cross-Smith’s debut short story collection Every Kiss a War is forthcoming from Mojave River Press (Spring 2014). Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in places like Midwestern Gothic, Nano Fiction, Carve MagazineWord RiotSmokeLong Quarterly, Little Fiction and Monkeybicycle. She and her husband run a literary magazine called WhiskeyPaper. Find more @


Robyn Ryle spends much more time than is probably healthy checking Submittable. She has short stories in Bartleby Snopes, Cease, Cows and Pea River Journal among others. You can find her on Twitter, @RobynRyle.

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