update to the chapbook update

Motivated by writing this post yesterday, I started searching for more opportunities to submit my chapbook for publication. After not finding any contests currently available – I could find lots for collections, but not chapbooks – I started looking through the Poets & Writers database of small presses that publish poetry.

I was looking for presses that are currently open for unsolicited chapbook manuscripts, but had to wade through broken links, the almost inevitable changes in schedules due to COVID, and the unfortunate number of presses that seem to have disappeared since they had listed with Poets & Writers two to three years ago.

I did manage to find what seemed to be a good match. The database said they accepted unsolicited manuscripts from September through December, but, when I visited the press’s site, I found out that they had moved up their open reading to the summer and were closing to submissions September 6. So, as it was September 5th, I stopped searching and got to work on the submission.

Given that I had the manuscript in my google docs, you might think that it would be relatively quick and easy to get the submission in, but it actually took a couple of hours. The press preferred a .docx in 5.5×8.5 inch format. I admit that I don’t know Word as well as google docs. I got the page format changed relatively easily, but struggled a bit to get the margins the proper size. I usually write short to medium length lines, but there were some lines long enough that they didn’t fit with the smaller pages. In some instances, I wound up changing my lineations. For the handful of multi-page poems, I had to be mindful of the page breaks to make sure that they weren’t falling in awkward places. I was grateful that there is an easy way to update the table of contents, as it changed considerably.

In the end, I was able to complete the submission yesterday, so, at least, I didn’t send on the very last day! It took a while, but I learned some new Word skills.

And the next time some press wants a 5.5×8.5 inch format, I’ll be ready.

chapbook update

This spring, I entered my chapbook manuscript in eight contests. So far, I’ve received five rejections, although I was a semi-finalist in one of them, which is encouraging, even though it is still a rejection. I expect to hear back from the other three sometime this month or next.

I did another round of revisions and have entered this newest version to one (knowingly virtually impossible to be accepted by) press. I have two other contests in mind, but should probably get myself motivated to search for others.

As long as we are on the topic of things I should do, I should also try to do some journal submissions. While I have made some strides in improving my poetry, I am still a neophyte when it comes to the world of publishing. Trying to choose among hundreds of journals which are most likely to consider the kind of poetry I write is perplexing. Sometimes, it’s easy to figure out where not to send something, such as the contest that wanted you to prove you had read all their requirements by quoting your favorite rap lyric in the cover letter – and I don’t know any rap lyrics. Most often, you read a sampler from the journal and try to guess if they might like your work. Because there are usually reading fees involved, it helps to try to figure out which journals are most likely to be interested. With so much else going on, I have trouble getting myself motivated to slog through lists and databases and spend time following all the different rules for submission, knowing that then you are looking at waiting periods of various lengths and most likely a bunch of rejection emails.

Still, if you want to be published…

Time to get to work.

chapbook update

In a too-rare burst of energy in the late-winter/early spring, I finished, workshopped, edited, and submitted to contests an expanded version of the chapbook that had been a finalist in a 2017/18 contest with QuillsEdge Press. By the way, part of being a finalist was inclusion in an anthology, IN TRANSITION, which was published in conjunction with the winning chapbook, Skin Gin, which is available here.

The rejections from that batch of submissions have started to roll in. I’ve received two so far, although I did make semi-finalist in the CutBank/University of Montana contest. While being named a finalist or semi-finalist is still a loss in real terms, it is encouraging to know that your entry has been well-received by some part of the reading team. I have six contests from which I am awaiting notification, but, the odds are that they will be rejections, so I am gearing up for another batch of submissions.

A dear and generous poet-friend recently did a close reading of the manuscript and I have done another round of revisions. There is one poem that has changed significantly enough that I’m workshopping it with my local poetry circle. After those revisions, I’ll be looking for more contests and open reading periods for the next batch of submissions.

Back when I was starting to think about the possibility of publishing a book, I set the age of sixty as a goal. I will turn sixty in October, so I’m definitely not going to have a book in print by my sixtieth birthday.

For now, I’ll hold out hope for the book while I’m sixty, although maybe I should make the mental move to in my sixties, so there is less chance of being disappointed.

If I do get an acceptance, you can read all about it here, although it’s possible that you may hear my excited screams first!

JC’s Confessions #7

On The Late Show, Stephen Colbert does a recurring skit, now a best-selling book, called Midnight Confessions, in which he “confesses” to his audience with the disclaimer that he isn’t sure these things are really sins but that he does “feel bad about them.” While Stephen and his writers are famously funny, I am not, so my JC’s Confessions will be somewhat more serious reflections, but they will be things that I feel bad about. Stephen’s audience always forgives him at the end of the segment; I’m not expecting that – and these aren’t really sins – but comments are always welcome.
~ JC

Poets are supposed to submit work to journals or publishers on a consistent basis. I confess that I have not been doing this. Not even close. Other than a few stabs at Rattle’s Poets Respond series, which only takes submissions written within the last week on news items and is a very, very, very long-shot, I have only done one submission this year, which I did because a poet-friend asked me to do. (I am not counting poems published in Binghamton Poetry Project anthologies because they are not a competitive venue.)

Given how complicated these last months have been, I suppose it is understandable that I haven’t been submitting for publication. I confess that I find the process of figuring out to whom to submit which poem daunting and incredibly time-consuming. I get nervous about the formatting requirements, which never seem to be the same among different publications. I also need to be in a mindset that can take a lot of rejection, because the vast majority of submissions will be rejected.

The result of all this is that it is even more difficult than before to get motivated to work on submissions. Not publishing also erodes my already fragile sense that I am a poet – or, at least, a poet good enough to be published.

Which makes it harder to get motivated to submit and adds to my lack of confidence, and so on and so on…

Later in the fall, I may/will have more time to devote to writing and poetry. Will I be able to get my act together to do submissions?

I don’t know.

Stay tuned.

first-time finalist

In December, I submitted to the QuillsEdge Press chapbook contest and I am pleased to announce that I was named a finalist. Though I didn’t win publication of my chapbook, I am thrilled to have made it into the final round.

Moreover, QuillsEdge does a really cool thing! They choose a poem from each finalist and assemble a mini-anthology to accompany the winning chapbook. Given that few of my poems are available in print, I am excited to be included in an actual physical book.

While I assembled the chapbook for the QuillsEdge contest, I have submitted a slightly revised version to four other contests. Two rejections came in prior to the news from QuillsEdge. The remaining two are big contests which will draw lots of entries.

Yesterday, I received another rejection, but it was a very hopeful one. Although I did not make finalist – their top ten – I was in the top 1%. I so appreciated their encouragement, knowing that my chapbook was noticed in a field of 1000+ entries.

When things calm down a bit, I need to research more places to submit, but at least I know that there are editors – plural! – who think I am on the right track. A poet friend told me that a chapbook should be submitted to at least ten presses. Halfway there…

waiting is hard work

I haven’t been posting much this week because I have been busy helping my dad, known here as Paco, and my mom, aka Nana.

Paco’s doctors had been keeping an eye on a partial blockage in one of his carotid arteries and his last ultrasound revealed that it had reached 70%, which is considered time to intervene.

So, on Wednesday, I brought my parents to the hospital for Paco to have carotid angioplasty with possible stenting.

After a morning of doing bloodwork, starting IVs, and asking more questions than you would think possible, the team was ready to begin.

Nana and I waited in the coronary care waiting room because Paco’s procedure was taking place in the same kind of catheterization lab that is used for heart vessel procedures.

It was the same room in which I sat alone in July 2014 when Nana was in the cath lab while Paco was in surgery.

Not my particular favorite place to be.

After an hour, a nurse came out to tell us that a stent would be needed, which would take another hour.

So, we waited some more…

I was using the hospital’s wi fi to read email and such to keep occupied. A rejection notice came through from a submission that I had sent for expedited review. I should have heard back over two weeks ago and had been anxiously awaiting hearing from the journal. Under other circumstances, I might have been upset by the rejection, but, current priorities and perspective definitely put my reaction in its proper place.

We waited for the second hour we expected – and for most of the next hour, too. Nana was very anxious that something had gone wrong. I tried to be reassuring, knowing that things often take more time than anticipated and that informing the family takes a back seat to caring for the patient, but I don’t think I was very successful.

Happily, a nurse came out and said that he was all set and doing well. We got to see him for a moment in the hall before they took him to his room in the ICU, which is best equipped to monitor the heart and other vital signs after these kinds of procedures. They were supposed to come get us after they got him settled.

After a few more minutes, the doctor came out to speak to us and explain some details.

Then, we waited and waited and waited some more.

When we could finally visit in his room, we waited for his nurse to get back to go over more paperwork and for other practicalities like ordering Paco some dinner.

When Nana and I finally left after having been at the hospital almost eight hours, we were both exhausted.

Waiting is hard work.

Postscript:  Paco stayed overnight and was released around 1 PM the next day. We are all still tired and trying to get back on track. And we have to change the clocks for daylight savings time tonight. Goody.

First poetry submissions of the year

I managed to get my act together to do two poetry submissions today, my first of 2016. I have had a poem published this year, though, which you can find here.

I submitted my poem “Crowning Glory” to Silver Birch Press in response to their call for submissions for the “My Mane Memories” series.  Silver Birch is looking for poetry and short prose pieces about your hair. It was a lot of fun to write! Submissions are open through the end of February, so there is time to participate if you like.

I also submitted four poems to The Tishman Review. I had submitted to them last year and received positive feedback, although not an acceptance. They encouraged me to submit again and I finally have. They read blind, though, so they won’t know that I have submitted again until they have decided whether or not to accept. I’m hoping to have chosen the best matches for their editorial preferences. Unlike most of the journals to which I choose to submit, Tishman has a fee to submit, $3 for 90 day response per set of 3-4 poems, or $6 for a two-week response. However, if they accept your work, you do get paid. I’m figuring that if I do ever get paid, I can consider myself a professional poet, instead of just a published one. 😉

So the wait is on. If I get an acceptance, you will be among the first to know!

Batting .500

A few days ago, I wrote about how I was copying poems into the cloud and setting up my submissions database before leaving for Hawai’i.

I had even done two submissions and amazingly, I have already heard back from both of them.

The first, to an anthology about fracking, was a rejection.

The second, to the Silver Birch Press blog, was an acceptance!  I had written a new poem for their June/July poetry series “All About My Name.” My title is “Becoming Joanne” and you can be sure that when it is published, I will send out a blog post here with the link!

I am planning to send out a big batch of submissions later this month, most of which will come back as rejections, but, for the moment, I’m batting .500, which is pretty sweet!

Fastest response ever

Yesterday, I submitted a poem to the blog of an independent press that features a monthly poetry series on a given theme.  Next month’s theme is “Me, as a child.”  I submitted a poem I had recently written about playing on our school playground. By evening, I had a rejection notice in my inbox, which is far and away the fastest turnaround time I have ever seen. They wanted poems that focus on the individual, whereas my poem focused on children as a group. The positive part of this is that they invited me to send another poem, which feels much better than most of the rejections I’ve received which don’t give any feedback. I don’t know that I will actually submit again for this series; the only poem I have written that deals with my childhood on a personal level would take significant revision to use for this series and I don’t think I have enough brain power to complete it by March 31st.  This does give me confidence, though, to submit to their series in the coming months.

Postscript:  I was entering my tags for this post and was about to type in “submission” as a tag, but, in these days of 50 Shades of Grey, I thought better of it and opted for “publication submission.”  (And, no, I have not read 50 Shades of Grey or seen the movie nor do I plan to do so.)

rejection letters

I happened upon this 2010 post from the blog of Shawn L. Bird, which I have been following for several months. I love how time has made her able to accept rejection letters with such equanimity.

I chose not to send my music compositions to publishers as a young adult because I felt I would be too discouraged by rejection to keep on trying. Now, in my fifties, changing to writing essays and poetry instead of music, I am able to send things out and get rejection letters without letting it stop me from writing and submitting again.

I admit, though, it would nice to get an acceptance every once in a while.

Maybe next time…

Shawn L. Bird

In the May 20th blog entry, “Why I Love My Job” I told you that in grade 5 I switched my career goal from writing to teaching.  I didn’t tell you why.

In grade 3 and 4, I was a writing star.  I shared stories with my grade 3 class during show and tell, and I know I kept them on the edge of their seats with my brilliant prose.  In grade 4 I won a Mother’s Day contest with a poem I’d written.  My star was on fire.  I had nothing but confidence in my skills as a writer.

In grade 5, I shared a poem I’d written with my school librarian, Mrs. Alex Harbottle , and she suggested I send it in to a magazine.  She recommended a children’s poetry journal called Jabberwocky.  I sent off my poem.  In due course, I received a letter back…

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