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Sunday, October 18, 2015

Help A Sister Out?

Oreo's sleeping nook
Ariel's  writing corner ... with Oreo sleeping. 

I have been conflicted - so consider this an invitation into my Think Tank. … Let me take you behind the scenes.

I admit that most of the poems on my poetry blogs are older ones, a developing voice. Many of the motifs are not fully formed nor apparent. I hesitate putting the bulk of the newer polished work out there.  Even though I know they need to be out there in the world.

Blogging is immediate, though uncredited, publishing. There are other more traditional ways to get my poems out there; getting them published in magazines and Journals, anthologies, online journals. And I do have a few out there (Interested? Check out sample of published links on right side of page).  If I honestly want to publish the chapbooks everyone is asking me for … I need a few more credits than I have. Well, much more. 

But I have been held back in that.

One – the most pressing – is it takes money to submit. Envelopes, stamps, paper. It adds up – and adds up to “luxury”.  With my recent thin finances the past years, budgeted money goes towards bills, pinched pennies go towards food. 

Which means entry fees for poetry contests & awards, which really increase recognition, is definitely a luxury I wasn’t able to afford most times. You see, with poetry there’s typically a fee per piece you enter. (Deep sigh!) Now I feel very confident on my poetry, but there are others just as skilled as I. I know the more pieces I enter, the more likely one will deeply resonate with a judge; it’s a matter of leveraging.  I couldn’t afford one entry, let alone two or three or ten. This year I couldn’t even afford the Oregon Poetry Association fall contest … and these are my people, my tribe!

Secondly there’s the two-prong matter of time – both to hunt out the right forums, the right audience and then the soul-grinding  … Will it be accepted or declined?

I am lucky, with the internet now, there are many tools to help find Poetry Forums. My beloved Poet’s Market (published by Writers Digest, edited by Robert Lee Brewer) is now available digitally and is downloaded on all my Kindle-friendly devices. I pay a nominal fee for Doutrope, which keeps me current with submission opportunities out there. In my social networks’ families, my poet & writing friends share submission opportunities we come across. What used to take me days of research, now at times just falls into my lap.

Yes, pre-internet submissions used to be a very frustrating experience – one I fell back into over a year ago for approximately a 10 month period. That’s when I decided internet access was now a needed utility and no longer a toy.

There is an editorial practice that most editors will accept a poem only if they have First Rights, meaning the poem must be unpublished in ANY form (even personal blogs). This means a poet needs to be careful to select the most appropriate venue; who & what is the audience, how many, when will it go to print. (I like e-zines for these, usually accessible right away.) So you’re weighing one forum against another. There are times I have sent a poem off – and then was notified of an anthology call-for-submission which would have been a better fit.  And I think to myself ‘If I had just waited one more day ….” (Luckily, I did get three pieces to find their forever-home in The Widow’s Handbook)
… And I literally have more than a thousand poems … which one to send?

But more importantly, the big hurdle has been that interminable sentence of time an editor takes to let you know if a piece is accepted or not. It is not rare to wait six months for any type of response. And my poem waits during that time, a type of suspended existence. Most editors won’t consider a poem that another may be considering.  And I can’t offer it to another until I receive a “Sorry, not the right fit”. And then it’s off for another 6 month sabbatical. So it is in only one hand at a time. Can you imagine doing that with your child? “No you can’t go out to play right now; you have to wait 6 months in this drawer until this person decides whether you are a friend.”  I find it heart-rending.  
Seldom do you find any forum that accepts simultaneous submissions. (That’s offering it to more than one venue at a time.) Can you imagine selling a product that you can offer to one & only one customer at a time, and giving them a 6-month option on it? For some reason it became the norm for marketing poetry.

Here is why most of my exposure is the Open Mics; I can perform & share my poems without them becoming that limiting “Published Piece”.  Performing a poem does not limit future opportunities.
Marketing – submitting poetry – should be a full-time job. I am a poet, here is my poems; it’s my life. But I do not have that time.

I don’t have that time because “my living”, my day job of working for the State is what pays my bills and buys the food. There’s forty plus-hours I can’t utilize. That’s just survival. Add to that the living of life: being Mom, being Sister, being Friend, or doing my other passions like acting (which is a family activity – at least for MY family). You can’t write without experiences.

There’s the Cons. Here’s the Pros to submitting traditionally.

My expenses have dropped to within my income now and finances are a little more fluid. I can afford stamps and envelopes, and soon those sundry contest fees.

As stated before, I have a greater access to submission ops.

Many poetry forums are now taking submissions online, using Submissable. Or email. There’s been a big surge to it this year!

I have better contacts. Bigger audience. Name recognition.

So I could submit & just hold off not posting a poem in Chasing Tiger or Waiting Room, or in Bits Of Cyn until after it is published.  If it gets accepted for publishing … which could take years.  Unless I die first – in which case it, and its siblings, just stay is a dusty closed box.

Oh my … back there again.

You see my dilemma?

Blogging gets my poems out there immediately – so they can find the readers they are supposed to. It lets my poems whisper to the right ears. It gets ME out there, connecting with those I can help. I’ve been through a lot; my poems are often raw with emotion and experience. Translating those into poetry, writing it down, sifting out the life lessons, sharing them has helped me to survive intact. (When my husband died, The Waiting Room emerged.) My poems helped others by being shared. I really feel being a Poet is my purpose in life, my reason for existence. I’m to be a voice for it.

And really – I don’t often have a choice. A poem will form and clamber around my head until I write down what it is shouting. (Yes, a Poet hears voices!) Except for a rare fallow season, like this year, I typically would write 3 to 10 poems a day, most of them publishable.

Add to that, a number of my poems are addressed to my “Tiger”. They will not reach their intended audience if they are not “there” to be read? (Hence the reason for  ”Chasing Tiger”.)

But blogging a previously unpublished poem will limit IF and HOW it gets published.

Published – fixed in hard copy – it may survive the ages. A blog … is a transitory thing, an unlikely legacy. I love technology, good at technology - and if there’s one thing I know, it is that Technology rages on, leaving last month technology outdated and untranslatable.

So help me out here, My Friends! Should I continue adding my poems, unpublished along with published, to my blogs?

Or trust in “the system” and wait until they are published in another form first?  This one, definitely, will push the timeline waaaaay out there.

Let me know your take on it, please. Comment, private e-mail, tweet me. Help me settle this question.


  1. I related to your question and dilemma because much of it also applies to articles, and short stories. Like you I wrote and wrote...started sending and .....waiting....and waiting..... six months to a year. I don't really have any concrete answers.... I think it's a personal choice. I have ended up blogging.... no pay, but I can write! Ultimately, like you, I believe this is my destiny..... Writing is my passion. I've got to believe if I can touch lives and make a difference, even without pay, then it's been worthwhile. That said, I am praying that eventually the right person will read the "right blog" and it turn into a paying job. Keep writing.....and moving forward!;

  2. Thank you, Margie. It is a hard choice. so you choose to blog anyways! I keep being pulled toward that direction ...After all, a written piece does no good in a box.

  3. Anyone go the opposite direction? Submit rather than post? I am interested in hearing ...