Sunday, December 1, 2019

Book Manuscripts & Rejection Letters

Getting a book manuscript published is difficult because competition is stiff due to the numbers of other manuscripts in circulation. Lately I have had the experience of getting rejections that didn’t sting so much. In one letter, the publisher used the name of my manuscript so that I felt that when they wrote: “We were overwhelmed by the abounding talent and strength of the submissions we received, we’re honored that you chose to trust our team with your manuscript” that their words were sincere, respectful, and appreciative. I also felt like they went the extra mile to acknowledge my work in spite of the deluge of submissions. Moreover this publisher issued an invitation to come meet them at the next AWP book conference.

Another element that has made me feel OK with a publisher’s decision that didn’t choose my manuscript is that they sent a list of finalists and semi-finalists. At the same time, they acknowledged that they as a publisher are dependent on writers like me to make their publishing choices successful. Yes, my entry fee helps that publisher with the cost of publishing a book. And yes, my good will is necessary if that publisher wants to sell books.

Probably, the worst rejection letters start with the word unfortunately. If the letter does not begin with congratulations, the gentler, kinder letter begins with thank you.

Sunday, October 20, 2019

Publication Brings Invitation to Read at a Concert

As the result of getting my poem "A Widow Starts a Letter to Her Beloved" published, I was invited to do a short reading at a house concert featuring the Milo Trio headed by pianist Carl Banner with violinist Celaya Kirchner and cellist Emma Johnson. Our host was the man of all seasons Captain Richard White.

 I felt it was somewhat awkward to present a political poem despite it being wrapped in an envelope of loss and deep love at a classical music concert featuring the works of Beethoven and Schubert. Nevertheless, the comments from audience members after the conclusion of the much appreciated and well executed musical performance were thoughtful and informed me that there was room for my poetry.

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.