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Tuesday, October 8, 2019

Publishing Strategies for 2019


Has anyone noticed that it has gotten immeasurably tougher to get a single poem published in a literary journal? Over dinner with a bunch of poets, the Steiny Road Poet raised the problem and the overall agreement is that Submittable, the electronic system that helps literary journals and publishing house with online submissions, has exponentially increased competition.

 

One poet in that discussion said that what she is doing is looking for journals that are not using Submittable. She figures that these journals are getting fewer submissions which increases her chance of being published.

Another poet that evening said his tactic is to blitz—he sends out the same poems to different magazines maybe as many as 100 times. Yes, he has to send out a lot of withdraw letters when a poem is accepted but he is getting poems accepted. He also said it doesn’t matter if the publisher takes a long time.

Poets who show up in the literary arena and stay visible sometimes are solicited for poems. So Steiny thinks the only answer is to work harder and faster in submitting work.

Sunday, September 1, 2019

On Finding Grace at the National Book Festival

When I heard Grace Cavalieri was reading at the National Book Festival, I was motivated to go. So on Saturday, August 31, 2019, without any tangible evidence that she would be reading there, I packed a lunch and set out for the Walter Washington Convention Center in Washington, DC.

My understanding was that the twelve poet laureates who had won substantially large grants from the Academy of American Poets would be reading on at the Library of Congress Stage. Steiny had already written about this in her column The Steiny Road to Operadom.  




So after getting through the long security line, I stopped briefly in the South building but knew I had to get to the North building.

Along the way, I bumped into Anthony Kolasny, who would have been glad to hear Grace but he was with a friend from out of town who preferred to hear a fiction writer and the uncertainty of finding Grace persuaded him to stick with his friend's agenda.



For scale, relative to the size of this event, I took this photo from above the booths pertaining to states of the United States and what they do to celebrate books.


While passing the book signing lanes where people would line up to get an author autograph, I got this shot of poet Dorianne Laux's location.


Was Grace's reading on the Poetry and Prose stage where I found Jericho Brown wrapping up his program of Poetry Out Loud Winners?


Don Ilich whom I found in the back of this auditorium said no. Grace was not here and he had given up on finding her.

However, I persisted and found Grace not far from very active children's programs down on the lower level of the North building. 

I got there just in time for his last poem and then stayed on to hear and meet some of the other poet laureates—Molly Fisk, Jaki Shelton Green, and Raquel Salas Rivera.



Officiating was Rob Casper.


So at least two fans of Grace Cavalieri made this reading—Karren Alenier & Dr. Fred Foote.










Sunday, July 7, 2019

The Value of Comments from a Publisher


Recently Steiny sent a group of poems to a magazine that offered feedback for a minor fee that was less than a dollar per poem. Among the poems sent (and rejected) were two in form: a villanelle and a pantoum. For each poem (there were six submitted as allowed), the publisher offered a paragraph of comments, showing that commenter was earnestly trying to fulfill the promise of feedback.

Steiny was shocked to read that her villanelle was referred to as a “broken sonnet” and the pantoum as a “repeating formal poem, highlighting repeat offenses.” The comments of course revealed that the publisher, while not preferring formal poetry, was unschooled in poetic forms. One other jolt was the conjecture that a father-daughter relationship dealt with incest and furthermore, if the topic was incest, no one would publish the poem: “is this incest, or merely young Freudian thought, and who is the voice jealous of? Consider: If it is incest or could easily be read as that, you will have very little luck publishing it and few will want to read it.”

So what did Steiny learn from this feedback? First of all, check the submission guidelines more carefully regarding whether this publisher invites formal poetry. Next, be sure if the publisher is stating that they offer feedback that you check up on who these editors are—do they write poetry? What kind of poetry do they write? Where are they published?  And, of course, read what they are publishing to understand what they select.

Would Steiny submit to this magazine again? No. Steiny cannot respect publishers who set themselves up as critics without having learned all elements of the craft.

Saturday, May 11, 2019

On the Rejection Message


The question is: are all rejection notices the same from a given publication? The Steiny Road Poet would love feedback on this.




For example, Steiny sent poems to The New Yorker on September 2, 2018, and finally got back an answer eight months later on May 6, 2019 which read:

Thank you for submitting to The New Yorker, and for your patience in awaiting a response. Although we won't be carrying your work in the magazine, we are grateful for the opportunity to read and consider it, and we look forward to reading new poems in the future.

Sincerely,

Kevin Young, Poetry Editor
Hannah Aizenman, Poetry Coordinator

Sunday, March 24, 2019

On Rejection


How does a working writer weather rejection, whether it is delivered as work declined or negative criticism?

The Steiny Road Poet offers a story which does not sufficiently cover everything asked but points at something that is possibly helpful.

The year Ronald Reagan was elected president of the United States, Steiny was working for the Department of Energy in the office of the Special Counsel Paul Bloom who had been tasked by Carter’s administration to audit the major petroleum producers to determine how much we consumers had been overcharged at the pump and in other petroleum markets. Being angry that no money had been returned to the public, Bloom decided to give $1000 each to four separate charities which in turn enraged Reagan’s people. So Steiny’s office was unilaterally handed reduction in force (RIF) notices, meaning she (and her colleagues) were fired.

When Steiny reached home that evening, her telephone rang and a voice on the other said, “Congratulations—you have won the Billee Murray Denny award. “Really?” Steiny responded in a weary somewhat skeptical voice. The man paused and then said in a rather disgusted angry way, “You aren’t even excited and you wouldn’t have won except one of the judges had just returned from Australia and your poem mentions Australia.”

So here’s a story of acceptance that turns into a rebuke. Did the Steiny Road Poet then doubt the worthiness of her poem, which by the way was titled, “Bearing Up”? No. The reason was that Steiny had previously sent this poem in an earlier version to a Virginia poetry society contest and they had generously given her feedback which she used to improve the poem.

The lesson learned that day may prove serendipitous but is possibly this—if you send out your work to be judged, be sure you have made every effort to make it your best.

One other tidbit of advice Steiny got from the multi-genre writer Richard Elman is this—not everyone can speak to what you are writing and therefore should not be listened to. More on this in another post.