Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Getting Over My Sad Self

39º ~ sun with a high thin layer of white

Dear Reader, I hope you'll indulge me as I continue Monday's conversation about my doubt in 'earning' my recent acceptances.  A few additional thoughts occurred to me yesterday after I processed the comments.

~ I never made clear my question about gender.  Here it is: do men worry about what others might say when a friend or associate publishes their work?  In other words, are men more natural at establishing professional networks and relying on them without second guessing their own value?

~ After Kathleen chimed in, it dawned on me that I hadn't even considered the situation from her point of view or that my doubt was an insult to her.  (I'm so sorry, Kathleen.)  As she rightly points out, I had succumbed to the doubt monster.  She also points out that part of the reason we even know each other is from reading each others' work and then forming a connection.  So why would I doubt?  Again, many apologies!  I'm so thankful to you has a poetry friend and as an editor who has given my work a home.

~ I'm thankful to Kristin for following up with a longer post about this, and I'm so happy to be a member of her virtual Lake District.

~ Finally, something clicked Tuesday morning in the shower and I commented briefly about it in Monday's post.  Several years ago now (now defunct) made a huge attempt to uncover biases in poetry contests, and for the most part I appreciated their efforts.  I even cheered them on when they uncovered the most blatant examples of cronyism.  No, I don't think that someone should get a book deal and an award check b/c of who they know, and I don't think a judge can be unbiased about someone with whom they've worked closely.  So, I champion the efforts of presses to limit that bias.

The other part of the 'click' was remembering a panel I attended at a past AWP.  Can't remember which year, but as the moderator did the introductions, it became clear that all of the people on the panel were editors of journals and almost all of them had published each other.  The moderator said: "I guess it's true that editors only publish other editors. Ha ha."  Dead silence from the audience.  The moderator waited a beat and I felt a shift in the room, then she said, "a joke, people, a joke."  Her attempt at humor was, obviously, not well received, because it pointed out something many beginning writers believe: it's not what you know (or write), it's who you know.  (Of course, beneath that glaring assumption would be the fact that the panel was about being a poet from a particular region and so it shouldn't be that unusual that the speakers had appeared in those regional journals.) 

~ Now, to my conclusions.  Isn't doing the work of writing and submitting a form of networking all on its own.  I've worked my ass off for 10 years to establish a reputation as a poet worth an editor's time.  I've striven to remain professional on all levels.  I have few connections with the major players in the game.  So, now that all of that work is paying off, I should embrace the success, pat myself on the shoulder, and shout out in jubilee.  And that is what I shall hope for when the next acceptance comes from a friend or acquaintance in the poetry world, and it is a small world, so I'm sure it will happen again. (Or at least I hope it will!)

Some may think me foolish for working through my own poetry drama online; however, when I started this blog, I wanted it to be a place where I could be honest with myself, and any readers I might attract, about what it means to be a poet today, especially a poet not attached to a prestigious MFA/PhD program or journal.  Thank you all for listening and helping me learn and grow along the way.  I am indebted to you, Dear Readers.


Kristin said...

I think it's great that you work out your poetry drama online--it's great for others to see, and it helps to see that as individuals, we're not the only ones with doubts.

It's like high school, where everyone seemed very cool and self-assured, and I was convinced that they all had the most amazing social lives, while I stayed home with my books or went to see a movie and have pizza with friends.

But probably no one had the kind of amazing social life that I thought they did--OK, maybe one or two. The rest of us went to movies and shared pizza.

Hey, in retrospect, we did have amazing social lives--just not the kind that popular media trained us to expect. Where was my special, gorgeous boyfriend? The one who secretly loved me and the only one who knew how special I was and would declare his love at the prom (yes, I have "Pretty in Pink" on the brain, even though it came out after my high school graduation).

OK, now I should stop working out my high school angst online and taking up your commenting section while doing so :)

I'm very happy you're part of my virtual Lake District too!

Sandy Longhorn said...

Kristin! You make me laugh at my 16-year-old self. I was so addicted to those myths perpetrated by John Hughes, et. al. Life in Waterloo, IA looked nothing like life in those movies, let me tell ya. :)

Happy wandering in the district today.

Kathleen said...

I agree that it's great to work out your drama online! I'm honored to play a small role in your drama! (And I was not the least bit insulted!) I think your nagging doubts are real and shared. I sure have them, and more! This is one of the ways we form the real connections, I think, in being honest and vulnerable, etc. Sharing our fears and doubts.

The work has to stand on its own, and you can trust that. No friend or friendly editor wants to publish a crap poem, you can be sure of that. (Well, I could be wrong. That's one of my nagging doubts, that indeed a bunch of people who can't or don't want to judge each other's work are nonetheless promoting it, but I'll set that aside for a moment.)

I used to work in the theatre. No director wants to cast someone in a play who can't really do the role. So if you audition for a friend, or get invited to audition because you have friends in the company, who can attest to your reliability as an actor (you won't come to rehearsal drunk, etc.), you are still only going to get the role if you are good. (And/or if your physical characteristics match the needs of the role and the other cast members, etc., an annoying reality for actors.)

I think you have indeed clarified the difference between an annoying cronyism that has unfairness built into it and a real network of writers and editors who admire and support and help promote each other's work.

Keep on sharing your process and the nagging doubts connected to it. It helps us all!

Sandy Longhorn said...

Thanks, Kathleen. It's a relief to know I didn't insult you! Your comments are definitely useful as I work through this.

Justin Evans said...

As just one person, I can't speak to what other men think, but I worry a lot about bias and the like.

I am constantly wondering if I can send my poems here, or there, whether I can send my manuscript to this contest or that one. I have even pulled poems after learning of the chance of bias. Still, there came a point when I learned to push through my fears and trust the editor (at least with journals) because I know quite a few---or at least I think I know them.

For me, especially with my second manuscript, I worry when I ask for people to read my work because I always think less of it and I am afraid people aren't telling me the truth, that my book sucks.

I mean it. I am now more afraid of people being 'nice' in giving me feedback than I am worried about getting published as a favor.

When I edit HCR, I never make bones about publishing friends. If I like a poem, it's going in the issue, no matter who wrote it. Well, except for me. Iwill never feature my own work, but that is an entirely different subject altogether.

Sandy Longhorn said...

Thanks for commenting Justin. It's comforting to know that a lot of us worry about these things.

Molly said...

Sandy, I don't consider what you shared to be drama. To me, it's the genuine struggles and reflections of a person generous enough to share them with others.

Sandy Longhorn said...

Thanks, Molly! I appreciate the support.