I proudly announce the publication of two of my poems in Tuck Magazine this week! Please check them out by clicking here.
Today was a banner day. I received not one, not two, but three rejections. Rather disheartening, especially for the short story that was only submitted four days ago. Rejection form letters, or as it’s done these days emails, assure us writers that each and every submission is read completely and with care, yet when a nearly 2,700 word story returns so quickly, one cannot help but wonder. And become dejected.
I received two of the rejections while I was still at art school this afternoon, but I kept the news to myself. One rejection was, dare I say it, expected. Each week Rattle publishes a poem based on that week’s news. I sometimes submit but have yet to be published there. Writing on the week’s news is an interesting exercise. The news these days certainly provides much fodder for contemplation and reaction. Yet, writing quickly for a weekly, Friday night deadline is tough. Sometimes, the poem is a bit raw. This week’s poem has promise but was not quite ready–particularly in finding a title. I was not surprised, yet still disappointed.
The second rejection was harder. It was another poem that had originally been written for Rattle’s Poet’s Respond, but this one was a week or so old, and therefore, I have had time to do some revising. I think it is a good poem. But, alas, this site I sent it to, only four days ago has (foolishly, in my opinion) decided it is not for them. This was disheartening for me because I debated with myself at length whether or not to even submit to this market as it is a non-paying market. Usually, I don’t submit to non-paying markets; if I’m not going to be paid for my poetry, I’ll publish it here. Yet, this particular site notes on their “About” page that the editors are volunteers. That swayed my opinion towards giving them a shot.
Then, there was the third rejection, the short story. As I was driving home, my phone chimed that a new message came in, but, of course, I did not look at it. Yet, then once I parked, I called my husband to help me with the packages, and while I waited for him, I succumbed to opening the email. Dismay.
I cannot say that I did not get discouraged. I did. For a fleeting moment, I thought, why do I do it? But that moment passed, and I got back on the horse, as they say. This evening, I did some revising and then sent out three new submissions: the short story, the poem from this week’s Poet’s Respond, and other poems. Back to crossing my fingers and wishing on a star. Send your good thoughts my way, and to my prospective editors!!
And now to a new story…
Scaramucci, Scaramucci, can you do the fandango?
A lively three-step, him then you then him again,
The castanets tweet out the rhythm.
Will this couples dance take the spice
Out of the daily press briefings?
Only time will tell, but for now
I just read the article about Sean Spicer resigning as White House Press Secretary and Anthony Scaramucci, a financier, being named his replacement. (http://www.truthdig.com/report/item/sean_spicer_resigns_as_white_house_press_secretary_20170721) The first thought that popped into my head was the first line of this poem. Then, there is that wonderful word fandango which means both a Spanish dance in triple metre, and a foolish or useless act or thing. Unfortunately, both apply to the position these days. I couldn’t resist the rest. Enjoy.
Yesterday, I spent the day researching markets for my writing and sending out some pieces. (Wish me luck!) It is an arduous process, the least favorite of my writing career–well, let’s say second-least favorite. Receiving rejection notices is my least favorite.
First, let’s talk about submission guidelines. Some are very specific: “All manuscripts should be in 12-point type, with at least one-inch margins, and sequentially numbered pages. Fiction and nonfiction should be double-spaced. Poetry should be single-spaced. The author’s name, address, telephone number, and email address should be typed at the top of the first page.” (Narrative Magazine) or “Upcoming premises (target themes) and deadlines for submission [postmarked]: Dancing in the Wind [November 1, 2017]” (Thema) Others are rather vague: “There is no set theme and no entry fee.” (Pockets) Some magazines only accept electronic submissions, others only postal mail. Very few want emails, but still there are a couple. Submission guidelines run the gambit, and writers do themselves a disservice if they do not read them carefully (and follow them).
Simultaneous submissions is another area of differentiation. Some magazines do not accept simultaneous submissions; others do. There are some, too, that say they do, but in a way that makes you think that they do not really mean it. Take, for example, The Gettysburg Review‘s stance on simultaneous submissions: “Should you decide to engage in this practice, indicate in your cover letter that your manuscript is under concurrent consideration, and notify us immediately if said work is accepted elsewhere.” What the site says is the standard line about letting the magazine know that the work is being considered elsewhere and the reminder to let them know if it is accepted elsewhere. These are standard industry practices. However, the “should you decide to engage in this practice” leads this writer to believe that they discourage such action. The onus is on you, the writer, who makes the decision to do such a thing. On the other hand, the Colorado Review states, “Simultaneous submissions are accepted; writers must notify us immediately if the work is accepted elsewhere.” Notice the difference. Here the emphasis is on what the review does–accept simultaneous submissions–rather than what the writer does–submit simultaneously. And then there are the magazines that do not say one way or the other, leaving the writer in a quandry: submit simultaneously or not? My favorite notice on the topic though comes from Narrative: “Simultaneous Submissions: We accept multiple submissions, since we feel that it’s unreasonable to expect writers to give a magazine an exclusive look at a work unless the magazine can respond within two to three weeks. We want writers to have every possible opportunity for success, so we’re willing to risk losing a story we want when someone at another magazine may have done their reading before we have, and in that case we’ll be sorry to lose the piece but happy for the writer.” They are right! It is “unreasonable to expect writers to give a magazine an exclusive look at a work” for three, six, nine months. They do understand the hard work of finding a market and the difficulty of waiting for months and months before hearing back and being able to send the story out again.
Then there’s the BIG QUESTION: Do you pay a submission fee or not? As you writers out there know, some magazines charge a nominal fee to submit. Years ago, these were called reading fees and highly frowned upon. In fact, writers were often advised to avoid markets that charged a reading fee, saying that such markets were perhaps not reputable. But those days have changed. In the age of electronic submission and and the advent of electronic submission sites like Submittable or Submissions Manager, many highly regarded, reputable sites are charging, not reading fees, but submission fees. And I get it. The magazine has to pay for the use of the submission sites, and need the organization and computer safety that they offer. And these literary magazines are run on shoe-string budgets. However, so am I. While most of these fees are small, usually $3.00, they add up. It is not unusual to send a good story to ten different markets before finding a home for it. That’s $30 spent finding a home for one story. What if you are sending out poetry? You might send out four or five poems at a time, but if it takes ten tries and the market takes one of the five and pays you $20 for it, you’ve lost $10. Is it worth it to have been published? to have been published in that particular market? I don’t know. I’d love to hear your thoughts on this practice.
One final thought on submission guidelines and the like: How much does the market pay? Frequently, the websites and guidelines do not say. Perhaps you will get paid; perhaps you will get contributor copies. And yes, many markets indicate the latter, but just as many indicate nothing. And some of those that do not say, charge the submissions fee. Should I pay a fee with no guarantee that I will be paid for my work should it be accepted? Should I submit to markets that are clear that they do not pay at all? These are burning questions. I hope some of you will engage in a dialogue here about submitting your work.
A friend of mine writing his memoir once said to me, “I expect to publish and I expect to get paid for it.” Why shouldn’t we?
I give my students packets of poems
With the publication data: cover pages, copyright, pages with the
Poems printed off the Internet too,
With URLs and website info and even where
They were first printed.
And they studiously flip the pages, scouring them
For every tidbit of information they need to create
A Works Cited page–properly formatted and informationally complete.
And when they finish, they put their heads down
On the desks, exhausted, and bored. Some
Stare off into space; others twiddle their thumbs, waiting
For the packets to be collected. So they can do something else:
Read a book, doodle a drawing, study for the next final exam.
What they do not do,
What they do not even think to do,
Is read the poems.
–With Apologies to Walt Whitman, on this, the anniversary of his birth —
Out of the classroom, endlessly grading, essays, quizzes, tests, projects,
Students querying, teachers conferring, adminstrators requesting,
My world seems harried with
Deadlines, disagreements, discernment, and classroom dissonance, but
I go forth once more into the dusk, the light of the day having passed me by, yet
The twilight is enchanting as I enter the park in search of
Leaves of grass and blooms on the trees to turn this urban jungle
Into nature’s bounty. And the park is crowded, I am not alone, now
That the sun has been shining and the skies turned blue.
The runners in their teams, stretching before the race, gathering in their teal t-shirts,
The casual joggers getting their exercise glance lightly as they saunter by,
The tourists with their cameras capturing Bethesda fountain, the buskers singing
Lennon around the Imagine mosaic adorned with flowers,
The artists, masseuses, and psychics hawking their wares,
The policemen watching it all, hearing the buskers’ songs
And the people talking in English, French, Spanish, German, Hindi, Farsi, Mandarin,
And so many more, melding into one giant song, a harmony of humanity,
One day, one moment, when the mass of man – and woman – kind
Coexists, lives side by side, enjoying the evening and
The leaves of grass.
And these days, these moments, quietly stack themselves
One after another in peaceful concord without
Notice, until order is broken and dissonance
Reigns, convincing us all that strife and discord are
The Way of the World and the Solution to whatever
Problem arises. Return, oh friends, to Strawberry Fields,
Hear the songs of peace, feel the sun on your face,
Lie in the grass, listen to the gurgle of the fountain, hold
Hands with your neighbor and form a bond that
Knows no bounds and admits no disorder.
What I see is red.
But why do you wear
For blood perhaps.
But then which blood?
That which you don’t
Want to see, menstrual?
Which means that you’ve
Or that which you do,
Do you really
Want that child though,
Who is not yours
Though you gave birth to
And what if she’s a she?
What of this world you’ve
Birthed her into?
Where will she fit?
How will she be used?
And if a he?
What, how will he
Grow up to be?
An oppressor? A user? A savior?
But not an equal.
Not in this world.
And in our world?
(PAD 30 prompt: The _____. Fill in the blank, make that your title, and go. I wrote this poem in response to seeing an art installation on The Handmaid’s Tale. )
How can a smell be warm?
Or welcoming? or comforting?
But on a rainy Saturday morning,
When you are snuggled up
Under the covers
Stretching awake, yet
Reluctant to get out of bed,
That first cup of coffee
Brought to you in bed
By your sweetheart
Smells like love.
(PAD 28 prompt: write a smell poem. Help me title this one!)
A cool spring evening–
The trees festooned with buds–
A new season beginning–
New life, new hope, new love–
Off you go, to ramble
Through the park
Amid the green and pink and purple and yellow
The white and red–
The cracks in the pavement
Showing signs of winter’s stress
Are but a small hiccup to the
Peace of the day, of the season–
Don’t let the pests of spring blind you
And cause you to wince
And miss the beauty of the world
Waking up to a new day.
PAD prompt for April 27, 2017: use at least three of these six words in your poem: