Gimme Your Ten Cents (Opinions Wanted)

On principle, I don’t submit scripts to opportunities that require a submission fee. While still a student, I was strongly (and smartly) advised to never submit to anything that requested money, and I have remained thankful for that advice ever since. A writer could go broke paying submission fees, and what’s more, it should be a theatre or organization’s pleasure to read our work. Yes, it requires time and resources on their end, but that burden should not be passed along to the writer; we’re no more suited to handle that financial strain than they are.

business-money-pink-coinsPostage and printing costs aside, I have never in nine years paid a submission fee, no matter how little the fee or how awesome the opportunity.

Here’s the dilemma:

There’s a deadline towards the end of this week for one of Max’s resubmissions. It’s for a fairly good short play festival put on annually by a prominent organization, and I have submitted to it more than once as myself. Turns out that in the years since I last applied, they now require a submission fee.

The amount they are asking is nominal, but this organization is well-known and I find it hard to believe they’re too strapped for cash to otherwise fund the application process (for reading SHORT plays, mind you). What’s more, they are one of these festivals where, if accepted, you are expected to self-produce and mount your entire production, footing all the costs for props, costumes, AEA transportation reimbursement, and rehearsal space. I’ve done these sorts of festivals before, and if I’m lucky, it costs me only $200—often more—to do even the most basic production. And in the case of this festival, there isn’t any sort of stipend, shared ticket money, or even prize money being offered. For a well-established organization to ask for a submission fee for this type of opportunity is like rubbing salt in the wound; this was already a really raw deal.

Normally, I’d run screaming in the opposite direction from this sort of submission. But…the project. I want Max to reapply to as many of my previous submission opportunities as possible. A part of me feels like the fee is nominal, and I’d be paying it for the sake of the project, and I should just suck it up and pay it. Yet at the same time, giving my money feels so wrong, and I don’t want to support the notion that it’s okay to charge writers for submissions. Plus, Max is only applying to things that I, myself, would apply toand I’d never apply to this (not under these circumstances).

So, I’d love to hear your thoughts. Do you think submission fees are justified? Do you hate submission fees but think I should pay it, just this one time, since it’s nominal and for the sake of SLAM? Or do you think Principles Above All, and that by charging a fee this submission op has disqualified itself from being part of the project?

Leave your ideas in the comments below, or get at me on Twitter @theSLAMblog using #MaxMustApply or #SaveYourMoneyMax.

Am I Man Enough?

In order to launch Submitting Like A Man and begin resubmitting my scripts as a dude, one of the first things I had to do was create my alternate male self, who I’m calling Max. Max isn’t the real name I’m using, but I can’t blow his cover and reveal the actual pseudonym; the only person who knows it is my partner of eight years, and that’s because he’s the one who came up with it.

As a playwright, I am basically a professional character developer, so before I could do anything, I had to get my head around who this person was. On one hand, I felt the need to make Max as realistic as possible, and for him to truly be a realistic man, there were things about him that inherently seemed like they would have to be different from me. On the other hand, I felt obligated to maintain integrity to this project’s main concept—that the only differing factor between Max and I would be the gender a person would assume based on name.

Mya Typing

In case the bold text wasn’t a giveaway, I ended up settling on the latter. As I’ve discussed before, this project is far from scientific. Since there are many factors that I can’t control, I decided I should keep steady whatever components I could, and Max should be exactly like me, with no differences except for his name and the gender it implied. Creating a personality for Max would have been too much like creating a fake person and not enough like me working under what is essentially a pen name.

Max also needed to be exactly like me because it was important for him to maintain all my same demographics, other than gender. Just like me, Max would be 31 years old, white, heterosexual, and Jewish. Submitting Like A Man is about examining what happens when the gender changes—not a free-for-all way to make myself eligible for every competition out there. Max will not suddenly become Latino or gay just so he can apply to a festival meant for Latino or LGBT writers. Max is only applying to things that I am eligible to apply to as myself.

After SLAM launched, I heard from a lot of men who admitted they had been tempted to change their names and apply as women so they could be eligible for female-only opportunities (my impression is that none had actually acted on the temptation). It’s my opinion that it would be unfair to change my name in order to gain entry to something for which I otherwise would not be eligible. In fact, Max is excluded from some of the opportunities on my list I am eligible for as a woman. So in those cases, I had a foot in the door that Max does not. (Take that, fake alternate male self!)

Even though Max may write like me, think like me, and interact with the world like me, the world’s response back to him is different than mine.

What’s been interesting to discover is that, even though I chose to make Max identical to me, being him does not feel the same as being my regular self. Take Max’s Twitter, for example. Yes, that’s right—Max has his own Twitter, which means I now administer three Twitter handles: @Mya_Mya for myself, @theSLAMblog for this project, and @HaHaYouThoughtI’dTellYou for Max. (See what I did there?) What’s been unusual about managing Max’s Twitter is that for the first time in my life, I’m on the flip side of targeted marketing. Instead of Real Simple Magazine and fashion blogs, Twitter suggests that Max should follow sports, finance, and business. So even though Max may write like me, think like me, and interact with the world like me, the world’s response back to him is different than mine. And even though it’s no secret that there are ways in which men and women are treated differently (especially in marketing), it’s bizarre and somewhat enlightening to actually experience it from the other side.

The other notable experience is that even though—or perhaps, because—Max is exactly like me, I sometimes find that I resent him. For example, if I stay up late finishing a submission he’s sending out, I grumble; it feels a little like doing someone else’s homework. What’s more, it feels like doing someone else’s homework when you expect that person to get an A even though you already turned in the same assignment and got a B. Obviously that’s a generalization that works on the assumption Max will be more successful than me, which will not necessarily be true, but considering the statistics that around 80% of shows produced in the US are written by men, it’s hard to avoid the feeling that Max will have a better shot at this than I did. Think about it: his qualifications are identical to mine—no more, no less—and yet he stands a four in five chance of being produced, whereas I had a one in five chance.

Max’s qualifications are identical to mine—no more, no less—and yet he stands a four in five chance of being produced, whereas I had a one in five chance.

Does this mean I resent all male writers for their four in five chance? Of course not. Their scripts are different than mine, so their chances are also different because of their plots and characters and word choices. But in Max’s case, his plots and characters and word choices are exactly the same and yet, at least statistically speaking, his script is four times more likely than mine to be produced. And what did Max to do increase his odds so dramatically? Nothing. Just change the name on the cover.

In moments like that, I have to remind myself that Max is on the side of gender parity. Like me, he supports efforts to create equal opportunities for men and women alike. But for now, he’ll be here, submitting like a man.

Originally published on Howlround.