Monday, February 28, 2011

You Take the Good, You Take the Bad

56ยบ ~ skies wavering between cloudy and clear, a strong wind earlier, easing off now, Bradley pears blooming on campus, tulip trees getting their blush on around the neighborhood, pollen returning to coat the cars after the rain

Anyone following along on Facebook knows that I've had some acceptances lately, but just to keep things even, the universe also saw fit to send along some rejections as well.  "And there you have the facts of life." 

First, let me start with an acceptance that has gone unannounced for a few weeks as it isn't a standard journal acceptance.  A few weeks back, Nic Sebastian was kind enough to accept one of my poems for her project in reading OPP (Other People's Poems) over at Whale Sound.  I sent in a set of poems that had appeared online in the past (the requirements of the site), and I'm delighted that Nic chose "The Interior Weather of Tree-Clinging Birds."  This poem appeared originally in the print-only journal Copper Nickel (one of my faves!) and then later in the online anthology Other Voices InternationalThe poem is a touchstone for me and now bats lead-off in the manuscript.

When Nic accepted the poem, she invited me to be part of a group read of the poem.  This means that not only does Nic read the poem (and she has one of the most amazing reading voices) but also two others.  I submitted a recording and Nic also received a recording from Mary Rose Betten, someone with whom I was unfamiliar.  When you listen to Mary Rose's reading, you'll see that she has a background in drama.  Both she and Nic do such a wonderful job with the poem.  I've commented before about the power of reading out loud the poems of others and how it requires a concentration that benefits me as both a writer and reader; however, I was surprised that listening to two other versions alongside my own was also incredibly informative.  I heard how a word like "memory," a word that can be pronounced as two syllables or three, changes with each reader and how that small change adds something new to the poem.  I also heard how important my choices about line breaks and punctuation were, as the poems performed matched the reading in my head fairly closely.

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Now, to the two more traditional acceptances:  I must confess, Dear Reader, that I have been Submitting Like a Man, and guess what?  It turns out, it does pay off.  A few weeks back, I received solicitations from two different journals, one from an editor I've come to know via blogging and another one that was completely out of the blue.  Here are the two stories.

First, blogger-friend Kathleen Kirk emailed to request a batch of my fairy tale poems for consideration at Escape Into Life.  (If you haven't checked out this incredible online journal of poetry and art and so much more, you need to click over there right now.)  As many of you know, I'm a bit of a slow writer & reviser, so while I have nine poems in this series so far, I only had a handful that I felt were ready to send.  In the past, I might have sent a "thanks for the thought" email and failed to follow through.  However, with the recent discussions of submitting like a man in mind and Kathleen's encouragement to toss in a few older poems, I sent her a mix.  I'm so thrilled that she accepted four poems: two from the fairy tale series and two from the saint series of days gone by. Woo hoo!  Many thanks to Kathleen and all the fine folks who make EIL happen.

Second, about the same time Kathleen emailed with her request, I received an email from Eric Smith, one of the managing editor of Cellpoems.  I've subscribed to Cellpoems for quite a while.  This groovy project is both an online journal and a text message delivery system.  The editors only accept poems that are 140 characters or fewer, and each poem is texted to a wide and diverse audience as well as published on the website.  While I've loved the project, I never considered that I could work on such a minute level.  Then, Eric emailed with some kind words about a few poems I had in a print journal recently, and he asked me to consider submitting.  Again, I was ready to let the opportunity pass me by; however, Eric's email contained this sentence "If you have any super-short poems, aphorisms, monostitches, or leftover/homeless lines, I hope you'll consider sending them our way."  Leftover lines!  Everyone has those!  Maybe I could do this.

I flipped through my journal and my barely breathing drafts and sure enough I found some lines that could be worked upon.  I must admit, Dear Reader, that I've become a bit addicted to trying to create something meaningful in 140 characters.  Even the spaces count!  As I revised each of the fragments into a short-short poem, I had to question every strike on the keyboard.  Asking myself whether a certain article, preposition, or adjective was truly necessary took my attempts at concision to a whole new level.  What a great lesson for all poets to learn.  Even if Cellpoems would have rejected the selection I sent in, the act of attempting this was worth it. Happily, I received word today that not one, but two of my super-short poems have been accepted.  Woo hoo!  Many thanks to Eric and to the other editors at Cellpoems!


Finally, I'm thrilled about these acceptances, of course, but there is a little voice nagging at the back of my head.  The little voice is saying something about not really "earning" these because one editor is an online friend and the other sought me out based on previous work.  I'm wondering how much gender there is in that little voice.  Is "networking" a bad word?  Does it devalue the work itself?  And then I think of all those DWG poets (dead white guy poets) who were all closely interconnected (I'm thinking of the Romantics in particular) and who exchanged letters and social visits with the editors of the major journals of their day.  And then I think about the fact that I've had requests for poems a couple of times in the past and those requests did not lead to publication.  Hmmmmmm...I'm going to keep working through this, and you can bet that I'm going to keep Submitting Like a Man!

14 comments:

mariegauthier said...

Sandy, the more great stuff you write, the more you publish, & the more you publish, the more well-known you become, & the more well-known you become, the more invitations such as these will come your way. And that's called earning it.

Congratulations!

Sandy Longhorn said...

Ah, Marie, thank you, as always, for the reality check! Wish we were closer in geography so I could take you out for a drink of thanks.

Kathleen said...

And remember, I read an entire book of your poems and a bunch of the online poems before I asked to see the new work I'd been reading about. Plus, we've never met! I kind of hate networking. I'm sorry. And I don't know how to do it, anyway. I just like poems, and the poets who write them. But I do understand nagging-doubt mode. Prefer pie a la mode.

Sandy Longhorn said...

Oh, Kathleen. I didn't mean to suggest anything about you! Networking is weird. Definitely self-doubt mode. Will now have some of that humble pie a la mode.

Kristin said...

You bring up important points about the dead white guys. The reason that we know many of them is that they had a circle to sustain them before they had fame and acceptance, and then they networked and/or became fiercely self-promotional--or they had others who were fierce for them (like Keats and PB Shelley) either before their death or after. We would hardly know the work of PB Shelley if Mary Shelley hadn't devoted a chunk of her widowhood to promoting his work. Of course, she needed the money that could come from PB's posthumous fame/acceptance.

I do wonder about what would have happened if she could have freed up that energy to use in her own work and self-promotion. The work of hers that we have is incredible, but so little of it, alas.

Keep submitting like a man! And I feel lucky to be part of your literary circle. Some day, people will write about the blog networks we're all in the process of forming, and many of them will use the same breathless admiration as literary critics who discuss the Lake District time of the early Romantics.

Sandy Longhorn said...

Kristin, thanks for the historical perspective. It helps! I wonder what those future critics will call our "Lake District."

Sandy Longhorn said...

As an addendum to interested parties, I think one of the reasons I had those nagging doubts became clear this morning. So much is made (and not in a positive way) of people getting book deals because of who they know, who they studied with, or who they slept with. This type of cronyism is whipped up into such a negative fervor that I guess a bit of it spilled over, for me, into networking. Sigh.

Kristin said...

I couldn't resist the impulse to comment further--but I decided the subject deserved a full-blown blog posting (find it here: http://kristinberkey-abbott.blogspot.com/2011/03/lake-district-to-call-my-own.html).

Again and again, you inspire me in so many ways. To echo your earlier comment, I wish we were geographically closer so I could buy you a drink of thanks!

January said...

Congrats on the acceptances. All that hard work is playing off. Woo hoo!

Sandy Longhorn said...

Thanks, January!

Hope every checks out Kristin's blog post about this topic.

Kathleen said...

I wasn't troubled, was just trying to reassure you that the poems are wonderful, even if you sort of know me.

And I meant that I prefer pie a la mode to my OWN nagging-doubt mode! Yours has been enlightening, and also deserves ice cream!

Sandy Longhorn said...

Blogger really does need to institute a "like" button for comments! Thanks, Kathleen!

Penultimatina said...

Oh Sandy, almost everybody knows everybody, and it's all fine! I get rejected by my friends and accepted by my friends, and sometimes my solicitations get rejected, and it's all just la dee da. I've stopped putting a bio in a lot of subs and just using my website in case somebody wants to know more. And I just started trying to organize my poems and have been sending out again. It's impossible not to know people, and I think that's what makes poetry a community.

Okay, back to annotating student poems.

HUGS!

Sandy Longhorn said...

Thanks, Mary! I guess I hadn't realized how much of a part of the community I've become. Not sure that makes any sense. Been teaching Composition for three and a half hours. In any case...THANKS!