Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Po-Biz: The Dreary

I have just spent the better part of the past two hours researching local (to Utah) presses and writing query letters on the off chance (really off chance) some of these smaller presses will be willing to take a chance by considering a poetry manuscript.  I know my chances are not that good, but this is the place I find myself because the book I have written has a much better chance of being appealing to people from the Utah area. 

So picture me, sitting here while my student have study hours (because we are on a testing schedule and half my student are testing during class) dutifully writing query letters aimed specifically at one press or the other.  The good news is I can honestly say all of the presses received a sincere letter.  One in particular, which likes to focus on the West and seems to be interested in Utah was a real pleasure to query to when all was said and done.  I even offered to send them a pdf of my manuscript even if they weren't interested in publishing poetry.  They just seemed to have a sincerity I liked.  Not to say the other places weren't sincere, but their focus seemed to be a really good fit. 

Besides, I don't really know how to write a 'form' query letter.  I just don't know how people do it.  I don't know whether it feels like cheating to do that, or if I really want to talk directly to the people on the other end of my giant e-mail machine, but I do.  I don't think it's a fear of form letters because I will write form submission letters when I have a really big push, but query letters seem to be a different animal altogether.  I think because when I write a query letter it's usually to a place not really comfortable with poetry publication and I see part of my job as putting them at ease as much as I can, convincing them I am not some holed  up writer who writes about his 'feelings.'  I am in a way, selling myself with query letters which doesn't happen with your standard submission letters.  Well, at least not mine.

It's got me thinking.  I may even have to amend my submission policy for Hobble Creek Review.  I may have to start insisting on cover letters.  I think it is becoming increasingly important to stress courtesy and manners among writers.  So many are entirely rude and cold with their submissions, expecting I will be thrilled that __________________ finally decided to submit a few poems.  A cover letter, even a mass produced cover letter requires some effort, some care.

Take care, those of you who still read blogs.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Coming Down off My Writer High

It's happening now. 

I am getting to the point where I am going to be able to see my poems as the raw material I need for a book. I am starting to see the flaws in my poems, the little imperfections which serve to annoy me rather than please me.  In short, I am falling out of love with my recent manuscript.

That's right.  When I first finished my manuscript I was still high on the contact buzz with writing a helluva lot of poems in a relatively short period of time.  I was floating.  I was a spaced out cowboy with no reference point to the earth.  I was absolutely convinced I was adding to the oeuvre of my lifes work with a bold, significant stroke.  This book was not going to be my opus, but it was going to be my announcement that my choice to write about rural America was not a whim, and certainly not a passing fancy.   

Now I still think what I have written is among my best writing ever, but I am getting more realistic.  I am starting to see my book from a more objective point of view, and I am beginning to reach my saturation point---that point where I can stop writing these kinds of poems in favor of new work and not feel as if I am neglecting my manuscript.  It is there where my poems will harden, sharpen, and run themselves through the crucible of the critical eye.

I have my manuscript out to several readers, and as they send back word, give me their impressions, I am able to accept what they say without automatic rejection.  The same goes for poems being sent out to journals.  I am doing the work that needs doing.  Even in the face of my mentor who asked about who my audience is supposed to be (because I am alienating those who would logically be my audience) I was able to say, "I am not interested in writing the book that can get published.  I am concerned with writing the book that needs to be written."  My thought?  Why can my book be both of those things?  And that is what I am going to find out in the coming months.

Monday, October 1, 2012

Update: Hobble Creek Almanac & other such nonsense

I have been plenty busy as of late.  Mostly, I have been busy with revisions to my manuscript.  A big "Thank You" goes out to the readers (to be named at a later date) who have really been kicking my butt to help make my poems their very best.  I have the good fortune to also have friends from my home town telling me to "keep it real" when talking about certain issues within historic context.

Major changes include: 

Getting rid of poems which are too prosaic.
Changing the tone and structure of some poems to reflect a more realistic attitude.
Writing a few new poems to put into context things not as of yet adequately stated.
Standardizing the formatting for consistency and best effect.
Spelling and punctuation (always, always spelling and punctuation).

I have also the pleasure of announcing to you nine of the poems in my collection have been accepted for publication---always a reason to celebrate.  I have hopes that at least 10-12 more poems will be accepted before I start submitting my manuscript, though I will not be submitting this manuscript to any contest.  As you are well aware, I am becoming less and less enchanted with the contest scene.  reading Fees are okay, but contests are losing their luster with me in many ways.

* * *

I just returned from my 25th high school reunion.  That makes me 43 years old for those of you who like to keep track of such things.  I had a really good time, as did my wife.  For those of you who are hesitant to attend any of your reunions, maybe you should look at them this way:  They are an evening out with people who started with the same set of experiences as you in a general way and have grown up with entirely divergent experiences.  They are excuses for having a good meal, and a drink or two (even though I don't drink) with some old friends.

I had a really great time talking to these people, many of whom (perhaps because of age) are not on Facebook or the like.  To tell the truth, I had such a great time with them, I wish I could get with many of them every year, not just every five years or so.  The world may have grown old and weary, but I have not, and my friends from high school have not either.  If any classmates are reading this, then let me say "Thank you" right here and now.  I had a great time and I owe that to you.