River City Poetry

buffetI like the buffet as much as anyone.  I can stack my plate as high as I want.  If I don’t like it, I don’t have to finish it.  And if I can’t eat it all, who cares?  I’ll just dump it and go back for something else.

I actually hate buffets.  Human-horse troughs of congealing food.  All the precious smells get swirled together, and people take pride in that stack of plates.  I typically feel guilty, too, if I don’t eat enough to equate out to the value of the price of all I CAN eat.

But I do like the idea that my life is like a buffet plate.  I can put as much as I want on that plate.  I can shuffle things off if it turns out that I don’t like the taste of something.  And I have gotten to taste some great experiences over the last ten years.

I have also realized that I have a larger appetite than I gave myself credit.  For years, I’ve dreamed of running my own poetry anthology.  When I was in the Wichita State MFA program, I began to map out my own aesthetic for such a journal.  But I never did anything with it.  I worked for other people’s journals, reviewed submissions, worked out publishing budgets with submission fees, juried contests for youth and adults, and went through my own struggles as a poet to get published.  The whole time, I felt a great inadequacy for starting anything myself.  I’m too busy.  My teaching load is too heavy.  The girls are just at that age.  I’m committed to this or that at church.  And it’s not like I have time to write my own poetry.  My plate’s just too full.

But it really came down to the idea that I’m just not qualified.

It’s the same feeling I carried around for years about poetry.  It’s why I got an MFA in Fiction instead of Poetry.  It’s why I’ve avoided being labelled the ‘teacher poet’ that writes ‘mommy’ poems.  And I suppose there are folks out there that would agree that I’m NOT qualified and that my poetry remains two-dimensional.  But at this stage, I would just encourage those folks to head on down to the other side of the buffet where the wasabi peas and cucumbers are kept so that they could get something on their plates more to their tastes.

River City Poetry will be several things, but first–a poetry website.  We’ll use the model of small independent presses everywhere, but the internet will be our primary media.  We’ll showcase ten poets in the fall and ten poets in the spring.  We’ll run a summer writing marathon with daily posts and prompts in June.  And we’ll make it a special point to review chapbooks–because these little golden minutes of work never get the kind of attention they deserve.  We’re also going to be active collaborators in the Wichita area, tapping into the energy so inherently part of this place.

The website is currently under construction with a ‘soft’ open in May.  Want to be considered for our summer sampler of poetry?  You can submit up to three poems to rivercitypoetrysubmissions [at] gmail.com .  Our summer sampler will be a one-time issue meant to high light the aesthetic we want to encourage in future submissions.  Our first full reading period will be in August and September.

I sure am looking forward to it.  Come be a part of River City Poetry with me.

Moving Forward

When I first began blogging through this site, I envisioned a place to share my work and my journey as a writer.  At the time, it didn’t occur to me that I would be one of thousands all doing the exact same thing [don’t we all think our journey is unique?].  I also didn’t expect that the arrival of my second daughter and teaching full time would keep me so busy.

Jesus.  I sound naive.  Frankly, I still want to share my work and my journey and I’ve learned to acknowledge that I’m not, in fact, a special snowflake.  And when loss came to visit, I needed to set some things down to focus on that.

But now it’s time to be back in motion.  My work and writing have significantly shifted.  I’ll still be writing and sharing poetry.  But it’s also time to create a space where my fellow writers can be showcased.  And it’s to that endeavor that I hope to spend the majority of my time.  I hope to launch River City Poetry in the fall of 2017.

Turning 40 is significant.  I thought I would be more fully ‘realized’ as an artist. (I’m snorting to write that)

And yet, I’m not sorry for any of the deviations my path took through my 30s.  I started teaching public school.  I have two daughters now.  We moved to the ‘burbs.  And I have two chapbooks that, while I’m not completely satisfied with them, I can honestly say they were published by presses that believed in my work–and that’s no small thing.  It’s also no small thing that after teaching public school for ten years, over 1000 students have passed through my classroom.  And those students have inspired me to continue pushing as an artist, to balance my personal (private), creative life with my intensely external, energetic life as an educator.

I’m glad you’re still on this journey with me.

4 Reasons Why My/Your Work Gets Rejected

Reuse-Reduce-Recycle–> This is one of my favorite posts and is a gentle reminder to us all that rejection is just part of the game.  If you want to be a writer, expect it.

I write to be read.  I recognize that finding the right venue for my work is not always an easy job.  I spend a great deal of time researching journals and venues in the hopes of finding the right media.  Handling rejection… can be… tough, to say the least.  And yet, it’s an integral part of the writing process.  Not everyone is going to like my work—just like I don’t like everything I read.  I really held on to the fantasy that all I would need to do was write in a ‘room of my own,’ and all that other crap would be handled by some ephemeral agent/editor type because, yeah, I’m that talented—NOT.

Enough with the high school repartee…

So what are the reasons for rejection?

1. They’ve got limited space and have already promised it elsewhere.

Despite the effort I make to submit during a reading period, editors sometimes “close” the reading period when they feel they’ve received the pieces they want to showcase.  Not every journal waits to send out acceptance notices, especially when good items land on their desks.  Many major journals and publications allow for simultaneous submissions, as long as you notify them of acceptance elsewhere.  They then remove the poem from their own consideration pile.  This has led to a trend of very quick response times at some journals.  Visit Duotrope to check for submission turn-around time. So even though they may state that they are in the midst of a reading period, that door might be metaphorically closed already.

* side note—although duotrope has been free in the past, they are shifting their business model to a paid subscription plan.

2. It’s not a submission period

I don’t know why it’s so hard for me to get sometimes, but if it’s NOT the reading period, editors literally throw unsolicited items in the trash.

3. The aesthetics don’t align

Blanket submissions are insulting for everyone.  They are an insult to the editor/journal.  It means you didn’t even bother to check and see if your work fits.  Worse, blanket submissions are an insult to the work itself.  Simply put, you value your work so cheaply, you simply throw it away (along with your money at times).  But moving beyond this, I’ve submitted to journals where I thought my work really did fit the “feel” of the publication.  Rarely do I receive any feedback—just a polite, “Thanks for your submission but we do not have need of your work at this time.”  So why didn’t my poem get in?  Sometimes informal themes begin to emerge as submissions are considered.  Sometimes an inexperienced reader tosses things into a discard pile that might be accepted by a more discerning reader (I totally tell myself this, but it’s probably wishful thinking).  One thing to remember is that editors and ‘readers’ for journals are human.  They have good days and bad.

4. The work needs work

Nobody wants to admit it, but sometimes we just write crap. We get impatient and submit prematurely.  We get really attached to sentimental drivel.  I have a poem where I explore some of my deepest emotional fears.  The lines are awful and lack detail.  They sound like a twelve-year-old wrote them.  Maybe I’M the audience for that one.  No one wants to admit that they just aren’t good enough yet.  But mastering writing is a life-long process.  One teacher told me it’s the longest apprenticeship.

IApril Pameticky’m not much of an expert on publishing, but I keep plugging away.  And there are vast and distinct differences between poetry/short fiction anthologies that are sponsored by nonprofit entities and schools, and the for-profit publishing industry that focuses on mass market paperbacks.  Reminding myself of these four little answers to the question of ‘why’ helps me maintain clarity in the often-muddled process of developing an audience.

 

To Sell or Not to Sell

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A portion of this blog appeared previously, but given that new ‘venues’ for my work are now available, it seemed appropriate to see it here again:

There is nothing better, or WORSE, than marketing your own work.  I’ve downloaded the books, spoken to both Indie and traditionally published authors, scrolled through hundreds of blogs looking for tips… and in the end, I still have no idea what I’m doing.  And since I find many of the pushy salesmen types on Twitter to be insincere and annoying, I’m in a quandary.

How EXACTLY do I convince people to buy my work (at the price set by the publisher, no less!)?

I could and do mention the following:

* supporting my work benefits me directly (do you like me? are we friends? were you going to buy me a birthday present?)

* supporting my work benefits the small press that is taking the risk of publishing my chapbook (because let’s face it, no one is getting rich off of poetry and the relationship between press and poet is far more symbiotic than in mass-market publishing)

Beyond these two basic premises, I have a difficult time.  I wholeheartedly believe that my work is a contribution to the permanent body of poetry, a continuance in a very long tradition.  I also think there’s humor and honesty that many might enjoy, even those that wouldn’t normally ‘like’ poetry.  But I just can’t bring myself to constantly bring it up to people.

I was at an open mic last night and really enjoyed the camaraderie of the poets and audience.  I even read, not something I always opt to do.  But when it came time (even at that moment when it might have been socially acceptable to do so) I did NOT plug Sand River and other Places I’ve Been.

WHY NOT? It’s simple, really.  I didn’t want to destroy that fragile rapport by turning friendship into a commodity.

I suppose I’m going to sell far fewer books than I need to.

On that note–it’s available here.

Have an opinion on this? Run into a similar problem and have suggestions for solutions? Leave a comment below!

Trying to Organize my Poetry = Blech

real simpleI cyclically go through phases where I have a desperate need to clear away clutter and simplify my life.  Unfortunately, these tendencies rarely extend in all directions.  That means while I’m cleaning out the clutter in the kitchen junk drawer, the hall linen closet gets stuffed with unfolded sheets.  Martha Stewart I am NOT.

I’m not sure about other writers, but over the years, I’ve accumulated a great deal of POEMS.  Trying to organize these various documents and files has become a little overwhelming.  Why aren’t they just in alphabetical order, you ask? Because that would be too freaking simple!

No, seriously, they aren’t in alphabetical order because pieces are in various stages of editing and revision.  Sometimes they are bunched up as I consider themes and collections.  Sometimes they are leftovers from writing assignments in classes.  Frankly, I even have multiple copies of the SAME poem in ten different places (which makes things doubly confusing when I edit/revise in one location and then forget exactly WHERE that location Is).

One of the nice things about Nanowrimo is that the organization would send out weekly reminders to back up your novel.  I LOVE this because I would take time, right then, to save the document to the cloud.  It’s not like I don’t know to “save” my work, but how many of us do this with regularity? (Shut IT if you are one of those a-holes who is always on top of this)  By the same token, I’d like to get my work uploaded somewhere safe and in a cohesive manner that’s easily navigable.

This is one of those occasions when I would LOVE to hear from others about their suggestions.  Feel free to comment below, via twitter, or on my facebook page.  Right now, I’ve decided to put poems under “theme” headings, like “School/Teacher” poems.  Then if a poem gets published somewhere, I’m going to change the name the document is saved under to include the publication’s name and date.

I suppose I’m inspired to do this in part because I try to organize and simplify my life EVERY new year.  Even though I know some of my efforts fall apart over the course of the year, I’ve been pleasantly surprised to realize that I am NOT quite the same flitterbegibbit that I was at twenty-one.  Gosh, it’s been at least a month since I lost my keys!

Now where the hell are my sunglasses?