Posts Tagged ‘submitting’

Dear poetry newbies: “why is my work always rejected?”

Monday, January 20th, 2014

A version of this post first appeared at One Night Stanzas in November 2008.

1. The standard isn’t high enough.
And by this I just mean that your poems aren’t “fit” for publication yet… but not that they never will be! If you’re sending out first drafts, poems that have only been hastily redrafted or edited, or poems that even you don’t think are all that amazing, then it might well be that you haven’t done quite enough to catch the eye of an editor. It’s easy to write a poem and then be overcome by a fervent desire to get it sent out immediately, but resist! Never send first drafts, and always devote a good chunk of time to redrafting and editing your chosen pieces. If possible, put them away for a while (a week, two weeks…) and then come back to them. And never send anything you’re not sure about. Work on it til you ARE sure about it, or send something else.
(NB: One of the best ways to get your poetry up to publication standard is to read the stuff that poetry magazines actually do publish - and if you can get hold of a copy of the specific magazines you want to submit to, even better!)

2. You’re not following the submission guidelines properly.
Some editors are happy to chuck a submission onto the slush pile for the slightest thing, so it’s always important to read and follow the submission guidelines carefully. Make sure you do everything according to the guidelines wherever you can; it can be a total pain, but it can also make the difference between acceptance and rejection. And don’t assume that one magazine’s guidelines apply to all! Read everyone’s guidelines, and follow them every time!

3. You commit minor - but deadly! - submission crimes.
A lot of poets reckon they can get away with sending the same four poems in the same email round to a whole load of editors at the same time - don’t do it! This suggests to editors that you don’t really care who picks up your poems or whether they’re published simultaneously. You also shouldn’t send “speculative” emails out before sending a submission. It may seem like politeness, but if an editor receives an email saying “check out my website and then maybe I’ll submit later”, they’re going to think a) you’re arrogant and b) you haven’t read their guidelines. Just put your submission together and send it! And don’t send snotty or pushy emails to editors until at least three months (yes, really, I’m afraid!) after the date you sent your submission. If you haven’t had a reply, there’s probably a reason, and going “oi, what are you messing about at?” after only a week or so is not going to make you any friends. Basically, when it comes to submissions, put in the work, follow the rules and be patient - that’s all there is to it!

4. Your cover letter needs a rewrite.
Have a good look at your cover letter (if you have one! If you don’t - write one!) and see if there are any of these common mistakes in it: heaps of biographical information (3 - 4 lines should do it); anything that could be interpreted as dishonest or boastful (”my work has appeared in 300 journals worldwide,” or the like); excessive negativity (”you’ll probably just reject me, but…”) anything that criticises or questions the publication or editor you’re writing to (”I found your website really hard to navigate” — keep it to yourself for now!); and of course, typos, grammatical errors or any unnecessary rambling! Exorcise all these things! It may leave your cover letter very short, but a couple of lines is all you need.

5. You’re submitting to the wrong magazines.
There are a lot of creative writing magazines out there and most of them are open for submissions for at least part of each year… so technically, you can submit to any of them. However, if you’re new to the whole submitting thing (or even if you aren’t!), it can be hard to know which are the best to choose. The sad fact is that a lot of editors are wary of publishing people who have never been published before, but fortunately, there are more and more magazines out there whose mission-statement is to provide as many writers as they can with their first publication opportunity. Many others specify that they welcome “unknown” or “emerging” writers, and you’re probably better off submitting to these if you can. You do get “unknown” writers in, say, Poetry Review, but if you want to give yourself the best chance of being accepted, it’s better to walk before you run, as they say!

6. You’re not ready to publish yet.
Only you can really know whether or not you’re ready to publish, but if you’re trying to get your work out there and the rejections are getting you down in a big way, then maybe you’re not 100% ready for the submission process. This might be hard to accept, but it’s better to wait until you’re better prepared than to make yourself suffer every time one of those pesky rejection letters lands in your mailbox. Give yourself six months, even a year. Spend that time writing - and more importantly, reading! - and then try getting back on the horse. You might find you still feel the same and need more time… if so, no worries. Or you might suddenly find that there’s the odd acceptance letter among those rejections; or that the rejections don’t bother you so much. Either way, the “time off” will have been well spent!

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Like shiny things? Check out Edinburgh Vintage, a totally unrelated ’sister site’ full of jewels, treasures and trinkets. If you want to get in touch you can follow OneNightStanzas on Twitter, or email claire[at]onenightstanzas.com. I reply as swiftly as I can!

(Photo credit)

Dear Poetry Newbies: quit procrastinating!

Monday, January 14th, 2013

An earlier version of this post appeared at One Night Stanzas in September 2008.

Procrastination. You know, that thing where re-cataloguing your record collection or washing all the skirting-boards in your house suddenly seems really important? Here’s how to beat it.

1: Start.
When you have a task or tasks that you’re avoiding, for whatever reason, it’s often just the thought of getting started that’s daunting. It may be hard to do, but just sit down, shove everything else out of your mind, and start. Even if you can only write a title, or the first sentence, it’s something… you’ve given yourself something to work from. Get something done; knowing you’ve started can make all the difference, because that task is no longer “to do”, it’s “in progress” instead.

2: Make a timetable.
When I had my PhD thesis to write, I found I couldn’t empty my head of all the other stuff that I “should” be doing — laundry that I’d previously been happy to leave spilling over the top of the washing-basket, sorting out my bank-statements, writing to people I hadn’t been in touch with for years, etc. Of course, none of these things were essential, but my brain wouldn’t let me focus on my essay-writing until I’d removed these distractions. In the end, I made myself a timetable. I wrote up a mental list of all the “other stuff” I needed to do, and then spent a full morning completing these tasks. At 1pm sharp, forced myself to start writing. And eventually, I’d get into it… or maybe I just ran out of “other stuff.”

3: Unplug the internet.
Just about anyone you ask will tell you that the internet is one of the worst distractions there is. It doesn’t just eat into your writing time… all too often it disguises itself as a writing “aid”, so you feel justified in surfing when you should be working. If you’re reading writing blogs or other people’s poems, then surely that’s just research, right? That’s just helping? But you know, deep down, that it’s just not true.
Stop it! Pull the plug! Disconnect your internet… or move to another room, the garden, or anywhere out of range! If you don’t need the internet to do what you’re doing (and chances are, you really don’t), then there’s no reason for it to be accessible. For some people this feels like severing an arm, but try it, and see what a difference it can make!

4: Bitesize it.
As a tutor, I constantly get pupils complaining that they can’t concentrate for long enough to get their revision done properly, and I always send them in the direction of Bitesize. You can browse it by a subject - say, English Lit - and it will break your subject down into its modules: in this case, Reading, Close Reading, Speaking, Writing etc. The students find that it makes their essay-writing and revision sessions so much easier, because they are given managable amounts of work to do at once.
When you find yourself procrastinating, you have to do the same thing. Think about your task. Do you need to write an essay, put together a poem, do some editing? Think about how you could split the task into several smaller tasks. Could you edit a stanza at a time? Write your essay paragraph by paragraph? Doing something slowly is better than doing nothing at all.

5: Don’t go it alone.
You might think that having other people around would be even more distracting, but in fact, working in someone else’s presence can really focus you. Get together, have a cup of tea, talk things over, and then get to work. If someone else is keeping an eye on you, you’re less likely to leap up and say “I think I might just wash the car / clean out the kitchen cupboards / bake a cake” or whatever… and if the other person is working away diligently, you’ll feel the need to keep up. If you can’t concentrate with someone else sitting next to you, or if you can’t find anyone who’s willing to come and work too, just get your partner to look in on you every so often to see if you’re still working, or get a friend to text you for a word-count at the top of each hour. It might feel a bit like being in detention, but it’ll keep you going!

6: Take breaks.
I nag and nag and nag my students constantly about this. Your brain only works at its best for 45 minutes at a time… after that, your concentration starts to flag and the task you’re working on gets less and less of your attention. For that reason, you should only ever work for one full hour maximum before you take a break… and your break should be a proper break, where you set aside at least ten minutes to do something other than the task at hand. Not taking breaks can encourage procrastination, because if you work and work until you’re sick and tired of working, eventually you’re going to get to a point where you walk away from your task and don’t go back to it.

7: Go against your habits.
You may not like working in the evening (or in the morning, afternoon, whenever), but that’s tough luck if your deadline is looming. Your favourite library or internet cafe may be closed, your favourite writing pen might have run out. Deal with it! Don’t let these things become excuses not to complete your task! Procrastination is pressure enough without you placing further limitations on yourself. Even if you do have to work in the evening / in your living room / with a different pen, you’ll be glad you soldiered through once the task is finished!

8: Give yourself an incentive.
For some people, just the idea of getting a project finished is incentive enough. However, telling yourself that “eventually I will have a finished poem” or “some day I will get paid for this commission” or “perhaps this poem will get into a magazine once I edit it” might not be enough to get you worked up to the task. If so, you need some incentive, so think of a way to reward yourself once you’re done. Resolve to treat yourself to a takeaway, a long soak in the bath, a new book or whatever you think will make it all feel a bit more worthwhile. Sit down to work with your reward in mind, and you may well find that you suddenly feel more like putting your nose to the grindstone. No cheating though - don’t let yourself dial for a pizza or step into a bookshop before you’re done. Get the task finished… and then you can mix the relief of finishing with the sweet taste of a celebratory tub of Ben and Jerry’s!

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You can also visit Read This Press for more poetry (and typewriter paraphernalia!). Alternatively, check out Edinburgh Vintage, our sister site. If you want to get in touch you can follow OneNightStanzas on Twitter, or email claire[at]onenightstanzas.com. I reply as swiftly as I can!

(Photo credit)

Featured Poem, ‘Reducio Ab Absurdum,’ by Colin McGuire

Tuesday, January 8th, 2013

Poetry @ The Rag Factory 14/12/12

Reducio Ab Absurdum

Shakespeare’s more a performance poet
a throat poet, a fire and tongue type.
A poet of larynx, a diaphragmatic breathing poet
Not a serious poet in a gentleman’s jacket.

I’m a page poet; a take the time and consider
the exact length and breadth of the line poet.
I am an architect with form but never formulaic.
I am a master of design but not mastered by design.

Heaney’s more a performance poet;
a wave-your-arms-and-gesticulate-wildly-and-know-it.
A show it all and throoooooow it at you poet.
Not a serious poet who reads the classics and shows it.

I’m page poet, a literary allusions and allegorical conclusions poet.
A lay subtle structure which unravels a slow-burning conundrum poet.
I take the time to make something so delicate even a breath could break it
yet it withstands that breath, and you cannot fake it.

Sexton is more a performance poet; a shout at the top of your soul poet.
A rant in the mirror solipsistic I-alone-exist-and-will-prove-it-poet.
A should have been an actor instead but never knew it poet.
I wrote this on the loo and you can whiff it poet.

I’m a page poet with stable demeanour and quiet composure.
I build poem liners out of the thin matchsticks of words
and they set sail quietly on calm waters across oceans of eyes.

Rimbaud is more a performance poet.
A of the internet-attention-deficit-quickly-type-it-with-no-edit-poet.
A scribbler of slapdashery, a knee jerk reactionary bound to be burned
as waste under the well read eye of reality.

I’m a page poet. An on the crusade poet. Here to explode
the false dichotomy of page and perform it, show and tell it poet.
Let the words carry the weight we carry. Let tastes divide.
Quality lingers upon the shelf life longer than the debate will have it.

(In the jungle the soul’s wild eyes glare white in the shadow.
The cauldron of the heart sounds like a warm drum.
We continually reach out to that which is comprehensible.)

McGuire: A thin 30 year old Glaswegian man, touch giddy in the head, sometimes poet of mangled form and dirty prose, sporadic drummer, drunk grammarian, waffler, painter using crayons, lover, hater, learner, teacher, pedestrian, provocateur, wanderer, confronter of shadows, irritating whine. He mines the darker regions of Scottish Culture and Psychology. McGuire has produced a collection of poetry and short stories, printed by ClydeSide Press called - Riddle With Errors - and is currently working on a pamphlet due for release in 2013 with Red Squirrel Press. He reads regularly in Scotland and England. Find out more at: http://a-glaswegian.blogspot.co.uk/

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Want to see YOUR poem featured on ONS? Read this post first: submission guidelines are at the bottom. Good luck!

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You can also visit Read This Press for more poetry (and typewriter paraphernalia!). Alternatively, check out Edinburgh Vintage, our sister site. If you want to get in touch you can follow OneNightStanzas on Twitter, or email claire[at]onenightstanzas.com. I reply as swiftly as I can!

(Photo credit)

Guest post: why I don’t give in to submission by Mark Antony Owen

Tuesday, December 18th, 2012

pile of magazines

The other day on Twitter I was chatting with Mark about a poem he’s written recently, and he happened to mention that it’s his policy never to send his poems out for publication in magazines. As this is a bit of a break from the usual poetrythink, I was intrigued to find out why… and thought you might be, too. So I invited Mark to write a guest post! Enjoy…

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The thinking goes like this: if you write, you write to be read. And as a poet, I certainly want to be read. So why don’t I submit my work to respected journals and sites? Or rather, having had five poems accepted for publication and only one rejection, why did I stop submitting? My thinking goes like this …

Poetry journals, in print or online, can be a great way for readers to discover new writing, new poets. At their best, they’re a platform for excellence – a filtration system that keeps the ‘bad’ writing from the ‘good’.

But journals can also skew one’s view of a poet or their work – as I discovered by accident.

Having read some print and online journals, I found several poets whose work I admired and whose collections I went on to buy. What was shown of their work was, I found, representative of their style and subject matter. Bottom line? One happy reader/customer. But there were also poets whose output I initially rejected as a result of seeing their work, in isolation, in journals. Poets whose collections I later dipped into in bookshops, only to find I actually quite liked other of their poems.

Frankly, I felt a little bit misled.

Now of course, it would be terribly unfair to journal editors to castigate them for having their own literary preferences and choosing to publish only those works which they deem to have merit. And anyone who reads a particular journal for long enough will surely get to know an editor’s tastes and can then decide whether or not these match their own. But the fact remains that journals can only showcase a poet’s work as a ‘slice’ – at first, anyway. And that slice may not cut it for everyone.

So we come to my reason for not submitting. Is it fear of rejection? Is it fear of the agonising wait for a response that might be a rejection? Is it artistic arrogance? It’s none of these. It’s simply that I don’t believe my own poems stand up well individually. By which, I don’t mean each poem isn’t readable or even rewarding in its own way. I mean that I conceive my poems as details in a larger canvas. Yes, you can appreciate them close up. But I prefer them to be seen within the context of a collection. I just think they work better that way; and it’s completely unreasonable of me to expect them to be seen this way if they’re being published in ones and twos across various journals.

Let me be clear – I’m not knocking (or rejecting) journals. I’m simply saying they’re not for me or my work. At least, not now I’ve found my style and have a broad creative vision for my writing. You might think: ‘If you don’t submit, how will you be read?’ Good question – and one to which I don’t have a good answer. All I know is that I’m not about to give in.

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Mark Antony Owen is a poet who writes exclusively in syllabic metre. His poetry draws on that world where the English countryside bleeds into ordinary suburban living – a world he refers to as ‘subrural’.

Mark builds around details of subrural life to create economical poems; each obeying one of nine self-developed forms or variations on these – his subjects often painted a little darker than they really are.

From autumn 2013, Mark will self-publish ‘Subruria’: a multi-volume collection he describes as part sketchbook, part journal, part memoir.

You can find out more at Mark’s website or follow him on Twitter.

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Want to write a guest post for One Night Stanzas? Email me a short, informal pitch to claire [at] onenightstanzas.com and we’ll talk!
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You can also visit Read This Press for more poetry (and typewriter paraphernalia!). Alternatively, check out Edinburgh Vintage, our sister site. If you want to get in touch you can follow OneNightStanzas on Twitter, or email claire[at]onenightstanzas.com. I reply as swiftly as I can!

(Photo credit)

Dear Poetry Newbies: 10 Commandments! What to AVOID when sending your poetry to magazines.

Monday, December 10th, 2012

Rules

An earlier version of this post appeared at One Night Stanzas in September 2008.

1: Thou shalt not lie.
I know I keep banging on about “being yourself,” but it’s important! So when it comes to sending off your work, not lying means not pretending that you haven’t sent your work elsewhere if you have, not making up imaginary writing credits or other frillies to spice up your bio, and not using other people’s material without crediting them or asking their permission. OK?

2: Thou shalt not be rude.
Do you want these people to publish you or not?! Always be polite and respect magazine staff and eds.

3: Thou shalt not be lazy about your cover letter..
Any kind of correspondence that informs your editor that you “hav sum poems 4u guys 2 read” (or the like) is going to seriously damage your chances! And no cover letter is basically just rude.

4: Thou shalt not be negative.
Assuming that your poems will be rejected is not the way to go, and saying as much in your cover-letter (e.g. “I’m guessing you guys will just reject these”) is even worse! Don’t put the R-word in the editor’s mind… and better still, keep it out of yours, too.

5: Thou shalt not be boastful.
Whether it’s in your cover-letter, your bio or your writers’ group meeting… it doesn’t matter how many publications you have to your name. Nobody likes a show-off!

6: Thou shalt not enter into any nasty or aggressively competitive stuff with other poets.
Sadly, the poetry world contains a fair few people who like to see others fail. Please, please don’t be one of them.

7: Thou shalt not question the editor.
Unless they’re unnecessarily rude to you (unlikely, I hope) or you need clarification about something, do not try and question the editor’s decision. Pleading, arguing and mud-slinging are unlikely to change their mind… trust me, I’ve tried!

8: Thou shalt not listen to bad advice.
e.g. “you’re too young to be published” or “I never read the submission guidelines” or “why are you bothering with this? You’ll never get accepted!” People who say such things are best ignored!

9: Thou shalt not ignore feedback from magazine editors.
It’s a rare commodity - use it wisely!

10: Thou shalt not give up.
Don’t let rejection / submission fatigue / writer’s block / negative criticism get you down. Keep writing, editing, improving, submitting. You can do it!

Disagree? Think I’ve missed a commandment? Got your own ideas? Let me know!

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You can also visit Read This Press for more poetry (and typewriter paraphernalia!). Alternatively, check out Edinburgh Vintage, our sister site. If you want to get in touch you can follow OneNightStanzas on Twitter, or email claire[at]onenightstanzas.com. I reply as swiftly as I can!

(Photo credit)

Dear Poetry Newbies: Rejection Therapy

Monday, May 28th, 2012


Photo by Didrooglie.

An earlier version of this post appeared at One Night Stanzas in September 2008.

What are the eight words no writer ever wants to hear? “We are not using your work this time” of course! Most of us see that sentence and silently translate it to “you’ve been rejected, therefore you suck,” and for some people, that’s enough to throw their writing off track for days, weeks, months or even years.
However, if you want to be a writer, you need to accept that rejection is as much a part of the writing game as inky fingers and writer’s cramp (or, these days, repetitive strain injury). But if you’re still finding the rejection pill hard to swallow, then read on…

Everyone gets rejected.
The first thing you need to realise is that you are absolutely NOT alone in your rejection misery. I don’t think there’s a single writer alive who hasn’t felt the sting of rejection in one form or another - even the most famous, successful and established writer will be able to tell you the tale of their worst rejection experience (or experiences)! Basically, rejection comes with the poetic territory… so don’t allow that nasty, negative voice in your head to do the whole “what’s wrong with you? Everyone else gets accepted” routine. Don’t believe me? Join a writing group, workshop or forum and just mention the R-word… I guarantee that everyone will have a story to tell.

It’s not personal… or it shouldn’t be.
Why is it that your confidence takes a massive nosedive when you hear your work has been rejected? Probably because you make it personal - and don’t get me wrong, that’s not unusual, but it’s also not a good way of dealing with it. It’s important that you realise it isn’t personal - chances are, the rejection has nothing to do with who you are as an individual. The editor hasn’t turned you down because they have a personal vendetta against you, or because they hate young / old / gay / straight / male / female writers like you, or because they could tell from reading your stuff that you sometimes surreptitiously listen to Cliff Richard. And if they DID turn you down for personal reasons, then they’re just a bad editor - no two ways about it - and you’re better off not being associated with their publication. So there!!

It does NOT mean your writing sucks.
There are heaps of factors that can influence an editor’s decision. First and foremost, they have to find pieces that will physically fit into their publication - it might be that your poem exceeded their maximum length, or the formatting was just too tricky for them to work with. And your work also has to “fit” in a more abstract sense… so just because one magazine perhaps doesn’t think your work belongs on their particular pages, that doesn’t mean every zine in the world will turn you down. Reading submission guidelines is really important, because knowing what kind of place you’re submitting to and making sure you follow their rules to the letter can eliminate these possible-rejection factors. You also need to bear in mind that any successful magazine has a rigorous selection process, because only a small percentage of submissions can be accepted. Sometimes, editors are even forced to reject work that they actually really love.

All editors are different…
…and this is important for two reasons. One: there are some editors out there who will reject you for something as minor as a typo, or an uncredited reference to another writer. Others are more forgiving when it comes to the little details, but draw the line at things like an absent cover-letter when they specifically requested one. And there are some editors who’ll forgive you just about anything as long as your poems are good enough - problem is, you just don’t know what kind of editor is on the other end of your submission!
And two: at the end of the day, the editor you’re sending your work to is just another reader - and you can’t expect every single reader to love you, can you? Admittedly, a bigger, more democratic editorial team makes for a better magazine, and so most publications have a kind of “panel” system by which they decide who to accept. Lone editors often have to base their choices on personal taste, which seems unfair, but it’s the way the cookie crumbles. And just because one person - or even a four-person team - didn’t love your work, that doesn’t mean there won’t he heaps of people out there who do!

Rejection is no fun for anyone.
Believe it or not, most editors hate the whole rejection thing as much as you do. Sure, you meet the odd sadistic weirdo who loves to put eager young poets down (I’ve met with one of these so far), but generally - unless someone’s been really annoying, ie, ignored submission guidelines or been rude - sending the rejection letters is considered one of the least fun parts of the job. I used to HATE sending out the Read This rejections, because I know all too well that awful sinking feeling you get when your personal turn-down reaches your mailbox. So take comfort in the fact that, somewhere, there may well be a magazine editor squirming with guilt as they imagine you reading your rejection letter!

Or… you could just do this*:

*Don’t do this.

Your worst rejection? Care to share?

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You can also visit Read This Press for more poetry (and typewriter paraphernalia!). Alternatively, check out Edinburgh Vintage, our sister site. If you want to get in touch you can follow OneNightStanzas on Twitter, or email claire[at]onenightstanzas.com. I reply as swiftly as I can!

Dear Poetry Newbies: how to start publishing in magazines.

Monday, May 14th, 2012

foam mag

An earlier version of this post appeared at One Night Stanzas in August 2008. Please note, Read This Magazine is no longer an active publication.

About six months ago, I organised a small-scale poetry event to raise funds and awareness for Read This, and was delighted when a famous poet showed up to lend his support. Unfortunately, one of the young poets who’d come along to read ended up a couple of red wines past her bedtime, and accosted said famous poet while he was outside having a sneaky cigarette. She went in for the kill with something along the lines of “tell me how I can be a poet like you!” and – clearly rather startled, the famous poet could only respond with: “well… send your work to magazines. That’s about it.”
In throwing caution to the wind, the emerging poet voiced an anxiety that plagues many young writers. You want to produce poetry, and get that poetry ‘out there’ to be read – but how the heck do you do it? Where do you start?
Technically, the famous poet is right: the best way to begin, the best way to eventually become ‘established,’ is to get your poems printed in magazines. Magazine publishing – coupled with other poem-honing activities like poetry readings, retreats and workshops – can really help you climb the ladder… but I’m sure even the famous poet would admit that getting into magazines is often far from easy!

Be ready.
The very first thing you need to do is address whether you’re actually ready to send your work to magazines or not. It’s a big step up, to go from just writing for yourself to sending your stuff out into the world for editors – and potentially a whole load of readers – to see. It’s essential that you feel confident your work is good enough, so that when you eventually get that inevitable first rejection letter, you’ll be ready for it – and, most importantly, you’ll be able to grit your teeth and carry on with the process! Unfortunately, no one else can really tell you whether or not you and your work are ready to face the general public – it’s something you have to gauge totally on your own. “Being ready” has nothing to do with age, gender, nationality or anything else – at Read This, we’ve received and published fantastic work from 13-year-olds, but had writing from 33-year-olds who were just not quite ready for magazines yet – and vice-versa! Don’t let anyone tell you that you can’t do it because you’re too young, too old, not good enough, etc. And at the same time, don’t let anyone else push you into it before you’re ready. Mainly, it’s about feeling comfortable and confident in your work and yourself, and being prepared for what is sometimes a long and hard road to publication.

Learn about the process.
Knowing what happens to your poems after you release them into the world can really help you to decide whether or not you’re ready for the world of magazines or not. Of course, every magazine is different, but generally the selection process for poems is roughly the same. When your poems land in the magazine’s mailbox, chances are they’ll be surrounded by many, many others. (Even Read This, which has a print-run of only 150 per month, receives submissions by the hundred.) When your poem is read, it will be held up to the magazine’s personal benchmarks - see ‘Do Your Research’! - as well as being considered alongside the many other hopefuls. In some cases, poems will be rejected outright because of factors like length or subject matter, but most of the time, the editors really will sift through all the poems, reading each and every one before deciding what will make it into the issue. As you can imagine, this can take absolutely ages, so expect a delay of anything up to three or four months before they get back to you. (Some magazines don’t respond to the people whose work they’re not using, but you should still wait at least eight weeks before sending the same poems somewhere else.) Also, most magazines can only publish a very small percentage of the poetry they receive (as little as 2% in the case of some larger publications), so if you do receive a rejection letter, you have to be aware that space is a massive deciding factor.

Learn to love rejection (if you can!)
Because of the huge numbers of submissions that most magazines receive, you do have to accept that rejection may well become your new best friend as you delve into the submission process – that’s something that even established poets have to learn to live with! Don’t get me wrong, that “we will not be using your work this time” line really stings, no matter how many times you hear it – and no matter how many times you’ve been accepted in the past, it’s guaranteed to knock the wind out of your sails just a little. However, it’s important to find a way of dealing with it, so you can move on, get back to the grind, keep writing, and hopefully get published! (Need some Rejection Therapy?)

Do your research.
OK, so you’re sure you’re ready to send your work to magazines, you know all about the process and you’re totally ready for rejection to come along and bite you on the ass. Can you start addressing envelopes yet?
Well… not quite. First of all you need to do some research, which might sound boring, but it’ll pay off. Obviously, you need to choose which magazines you want to send your work to – some will be better for you than others (check out my list of featured creative writing magazines). Once you’ve chosen (and here’s the important bit!) read the submission guidelines for every publication very carefully, and - unless you have a really damn good reason not to - follow them to the letter! Nothing gets an editor’s goat more than someone who wants their poems to take up valuable space in a magazine, but who can’t even be bothered to read or follow that magazine’s system for submitting. Each magazine has its own guidelines and they vary greatly – some ban adult content, some refuse science fiction, some only take work in translation, some reject single-spaced poems. Although Read This just says “send us ANYTHING!”, most magazines are very specific about their requirements, and for this reason, you need to check the guidelines every time you submit. It’s time-consuming, but it’s a must!

Send your work wisely.
So, once you have the reading-guidelines-obsessively thing down, you can finally start sending your work out to editorial teams far and wide! The final thing you have to remember is just to send your work wisely – for example, while the occasional zine or two are cool with it, most magazines prefer you not to send work that has been published elsewhere, or that might be under consideration by another magazine (this will probably be somewhere in the submission guidelines, but if it isn’t, it’s best to assume they don’t accept simultaneous submissions). Send all your poems in one email or envelope rather than flooding the poor editor’s mailbox, and if you do email, make sure all attachments are in a standard file-type and will open at the other end. If you’re sending your poems by post and want the poems back, include a SAE with enough stamps on it – do NOT send cash or cheques in the post and expect the magazine staff to buy the postage themselves! Always be sure to include your contact details with your submission, and be courteous and lovely in all your correspondence – karma might well reward you!

Other stuff to read from elsewhere:
A quick cautionary note: there are LOADS of sites all over the internet which claim to help you publish your work. Be viligant! A lot of these are scams or money-making exercises. You should always be able to publish your work without paying anyone, so NEVER part with “reading fees” – if a magazine’s submission process is not free, it’s not worth getting involved with. Also, even the free and legitimate poetry-publishing-advice sites often leave a lot to be desired. For example, the first four my search-engine found were these:

About.com are a massive, corporate and non-poetry-specific site, but their guidelines are actually OK – though they don’t really take email submissions into account, so I suspect they’re a bit outdated. Also, I do NOT agree at all with what they say about cover letters – read their views, then check out this to get a balance.

Empty Mirror Books’ advice seems to be one big ad for a writers’ directory book, which makes me suspicious – they reckon it’s essential, but only part with your cash it if you think you’ll really use it. A lot of the info the book provides is probably available online for free.

There’s nothing wrong with SoYouWanna’s suggestions per se, but again, they’re a massive corporate site and they don’t specialise in poetry or publishing at all. The tone of the article is rather aggressive and they resort to mass generalisations like advising all poets to edit their work down to “the fewest words possible.” Altogether now… ARGH!

The best of the lot is probably Tim Love’s guide to publishing in the UK – its biggest flaw is obviously that it’s UK specific. Also, the advice is coming from a long-standing, plain-speaking poet who has weathered a fair few rejections – just don’t let the cynical tone put you off, young ‘uns!

Basically, if you want advice, click around. Read up. Don’t part with any cash unless you’re totally sure. Don’t be intimidated or put off. Take everything with a hefty pinch of salt. Follow your instincts. Go for it.

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You can also visit Read This Press for more poetry (and typewriter paraphernalia!). Alternatively, check out Edinburgh Vintage, our sister site. If you want to get in touch you can follow OneNightStanzas on Twitter, or email claire[at]onenightstanzas.com. I reply as swiftly as I can!

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Featured Magazines #16: Words Dance

Monday, April 2nd, 2012

Retro Vintage Colorful Purple Shoes on Green Grass

Words Dance
Editor: Amanda Oaks
Established: 2003
Based in: USA
Website: http://www.wordsdance.com
Submit via: wdsubmissions(at)gmail(dot)com

I first heard about Words Dance via the sadly-no-longer-functional Verve Bath Press, which published Heather Bell (one of my all-time favourite poets) with her first pamphlet collection, “Nothing Unrequited Here“. Back then the magazine was a beautiful, handmade quarterly print zine that I yearned to place work in, but by the time I discovered it, submissions were closed. Amanda is a super-busy lady — now a mama of two gorgeous boys, she also runs Kind Over Matter, a site full of free, happy-making craft ideas, writing prompts and general positivity. Recently, she decided that she wanted to re-open submissions for Words Dance, but that she could no longer devote the time and energy to hand-making an entire run of zines every quarter.

Therefore, in keeping with the ethos of Kind Over Matter, Words Dance has now become a totally free, all-access e-zine, widening its reach and spreading its good work across the globe. The magazine has recently featured work by poets I’m already a fan of — Audrey Dimola, Rebecca Schumejda — as well as introducing me to some great new voices. Amanda was also kind enough to take one of my own pieces a few days ago, with another to go up soon.

Words Dance is a seriously friendly, welcoming, laid-back e-zine. Amanda doesn’t care where else you’ve been published or what credits you have to your name. She edits 100% from the heart — if she likes your work and she thinks it fits with the publication, she’ll take it, and that’s it. That’s very refreshing, and makes Words Dance an eclectic and surprising online journal. Submit, and you’ll get an auto-response immediately, which also acts as a potential form-rejection. This may seem lazy, but Amanda’s time is precious — and she goes to the trouble of telling you exactly what will happen with your submission, and what to expect: “If you don’t hear from me within 3 weeks, it’s safe to say that your submission was not accepted. That doesn’t mean that your work was not good enough, & it certainly is nothing personal, it just means that I felt, in my heart, that it wasn’t the right fit at this time. Don’t be discouraged to submit at a later date.” Can you really argue with that?

The submission guidelines are pretty straightforward, too:

Submissions will be accepted based on the quality of the work.

I welcome a broad range of work, any style or form, formal or informal, experimental & conventional. [...]

Does it move me? Is it well-written?

If the answer is yes to both of those questions then the possibility of your work appearing will be greater.

Amanda’s approach to running an e-zine is just totally sane. Being an editor is hard, time consuming work — submitting poetry to publications can be a nerve-wracking and disappointing endeavour. Somehow, Amanda has managed to remove the hassle from both ends of the equation. What’s left is Words Dance — a simple, clean, brilliant e-zine that deserves as many readers as it can get.

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Know a publication that deserves a feature? Email me! –> One Night Stanzas loves mail. Say hello via claire@onenightstanzas.com. NB: I am physically unable to reply to non-urgent stuff unless I have a free afternoon and a cup of tea in my hand. Please be patient!

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