What It Feels Like to have a #MeToo Essay Published

You write the thing in a flurry in November. You write it in response to a journal’s call for submissions. The journal has feminism in the name. You consider yourself feminist in the “women are equal (and also kickass)” way, but you’ve never written a *feminist* essay before.

The words come easily, somehow. You’ve been thinking about it for a few months by now, and you know what you want to say. You throw it into a Google Doc.

Your first draft . . . isn’t . . . trash? It’s short; it’s basically a five-paragraph essay, but it’s succinct. It’s concise. You even properly used some repetition to bolster the language’s complexity and add to the overall theme and effect.

You kinda like it. Or, you don’t hate it.

You have your best friend, who edits everything you write, look at it. She texts you back: “...”

“I love it. It’s awesome.”

“Don’t change a thing. Publish it.”

You look over it again. Fiddle with some things. Is it too . . . revealing? Yes and no. Quick, send it out before you bury it in your folders of abandoned writings!

You stare at it on Submittable for two months. TWO months. (This is before you have submissions languishing for way, way longer.) It’s the first thing you’ve submitted on Submittable, actually. It sits at the bottom of your list, “In-Progress.” You read for a literary magazine, so you know that “In-Progress” means absolutely nothing.

You go on vacation and kind of forget about the essay.

Then one day in January, you get an email from the journal. Ah, at last, a rejection, you think. You’ll be able to stop thinking about it.

But no. It’s an acceptance. The editor likes your essay and wants to know if you want to move forward with publication? You say yes, of course, and don’t reread your essay because there’s a decent chance that if you do, you’ll get scared and withdraw it.

You freak out a bit. That email showed up right before you took a bunch of medicine to combat bronchitis, so you’re a little out of it. You go to sleep in a drugged-up haze and think about your essay.

A few days later, a link to your essay shows up in your inbox. It’s published, and the editor wants to make sure you’re good with the very small edits she made before the journal promotes it on social media.

That means you have to read it.

You read it.

Your chest gets tight. And it’s not the bronchitis.

You stare at your essay online. Anyone in the world can see it. It’s you. It’s more than you—it’s about other people, too. They can see it. They have no idea it exists, yet, but they could find it.

You start to feel nervous—pre-job interview, pre-flight nervous. Stomach is in knots; you can’t concentrate on your day job. What if someone in your family reads it and gets mad? What if that guy reads it and decides to stalk you again? Perhaps worst of all, what if some random stranger reads it and hates it? What if someone tweets about it and says it’s terrible, it’s disingenuous, it’s not feminist enough.

But you like the edits; they’re tasteful, minimal, and unintrusive. You email the editor back and say it looks great.

You tweet a link your essay and say, “Don’t read this.” People keep liking the tweet.

The journal tweets about your essay. The editor tweets about your essay and says nice things about your writing. Some people like the tweets.

A friend from college posts your article on Facebook and says, “Thank you, Carolina, for putting into words what I have wanted to say since this whole thing began.”

Every month when you schedule social media posts of content you’ve written, you wonder whether the essay is still relevant. Whether you should post it yet again. You know that each time you tweet it, more and more people will see it—and that’s scary.

You keep a Google Doc and record how you feel about the essay for months. You wonder whether you should publish that—is it relevant, etc. You think it probably still is.

In October—almost a year later—a friend mentions that she still thinks about your essay and that she, too, is going to write about #MeToo.

-Carolina VonKampen

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Carolina VonKampen graduated with a BA in English and history from Concordia University, Nebraska and recently completed the University of Chicago’s editing certificate program. She is a freelance copyeditor and proofreader and an editor at Capsule Stories. Her work has appeared in FIVE:2:ONE’s #thesideshow, Moonchild Magazine, and Déraciné Magazine. Her short story “Logan Paul Is Dead” was nominated by Dream Pop Journal for the 2018 Best of the Net. She writes blog posts at carolinavonkampen.com and tweets about editing at @carolinamarie_v.