When I started this blog, it was with somewhat mercenary intentions. My husband and I had just fallen off the same cliff as a bajillion other Americans, in that his unemployment benefits were about to run out, with no job in sight (and no extension this time).
So I was going to be the family hero, riding in with my red pen to rescue us all by building a freelance editing and writing business — in my spare time. And … I was going to do that using the power of SEO. Someone had told me blog posts were really great for that, because each one is a new shot at climbing that Google ladder. I was going to build a great website, blog a lot, have the two things play off each other, and BOOM! Skyrockets!
What’s happened since is that I’ve been enjoying blogging about writing, and reading other people’s blog posts about writing, and about editing. And about reading. You get the drift. I’ve been enjoying it so much that the Designing Women-type business-getting drive, at least in terms of this blog, is all but gone (seriously, I envisioned myself in the shoulder pads).
So much for SEO mastery.
And yet, it’s all working, somehow. I do get freelance assignments — through good, old-fashioned word of mouth. All have been interesting, all have taught me new things — and just when I wonder when/if a new one will arrive, sure enough, it does. I am profoundly grateful.
But … If you need an editor or writer, please do let me know. My assignments thus far have run the gamut from academic proofreading to manuscript revision of all types to simply sharing some tips with an aspiring poet and nonfiction essayist.
I would particularly love to find more creative writing clients. I can proofread, give you an honest opinion, share some thoughts on where you might submit your work, and generally be your editor friend (well, OK, a friend whom you pay) who knows how it is because she’s also a writer. If that interests you, please let me know.
And if not, then please do stick around and I’ll get back to blogging about writing soon. As a matter of fact, I’m taking off my shoulder pads right now. Ahh, that’s better. Those things get heavy, you know.
I have often said that I’ll know I’ve made it when I see my name in Poet’s Market. No, not in an interview or other feature, accompanied by a suitably poetic-looking headshot … in the actual listings, where the publications name a few poets whose work they have published recently. It would be maybe a little spooky to see my name there, but it would also be really, really thrilling.
I have a long history with Poet’s Market. I may have bought my first one while I was still in high school. I know I had at least one when I was in college. I would read through all the different listings and dream, and sometimes submit poems — and once or twice, I actually got something published.
Then came the long fallow period after college. When I wasn’t writing for a grade anymore, when no one particularly cared whether I wrote poetry or not, I found it very difficult to keep doing it. I threw my energies into other things, some more worthy than others. The career-marriage-family nexus I don’t regret at all, but if I had diverted some of my attention away from horrible/engrossing daytime TV or obsessive, but not so skillful crafting, who knows what great poems I could have written during that lull, which lasted more than a decade?
I know there were at least a couple of times during those years when I bought the latest Poet’s Market but didn’t use it. It felt good, anyway, just to have it around — as if I might need it again someday. Once my writing life was restarted in earnest, I knew just what I needed to get, and I continue to buy the new one when it comes out in the fall.
I highlight, cross out, star, and otherwise make a path through the listings — a path that becomes a rough plan for where I’ll submit in the coming year. I divert from the path as needed, and sometimes I scrap the plan completely and start another one. Lately, I have been putting little hearts, in highlighter, by the publications that have accepted my work. Yes, really.
On my many trips through Poet’s Market, there are certain poets whose names I encounter over and over, and whose names have become indicators for me. That is, if I see a certain name listed, I have a sense that the publication is looking for the kind of work that I enjoy — and that maybe it would be a good home for my poems, too.
Now that I’m having a measure of success, I sometimes discover that one or more of these indicator poets is in the same publication and same issue that I am. I love it when that happens. I don’t personally know any of these poets, but I feel as if I do, and I want to thank them for helping me find my way in:
Ruth Moon Kempher (Hey, look — Lyn Lifshin is there, too.)
Please know that I’m not saying my own work is comparable to any of theirs. It’s just that nine times out of ten, when I see one of their names, it leads me to a publication that I am glad to know about and enjoy reading — whether or not it ultimately accepts any of my work.
Maybe someday, I’ll join my indicator poets in those Poet’s Market listings. Until then, it is always a pleasure to read their work, and a special thrill whenever our paths cross in the pages of a literary publication.
I’ve chosen the poems to send to one of the publications I had in mind, and now I *just* have to write the cover letter. Well … that, and do a little more editing, print the poems again, stare at them for a while longer, and carry them around with me until I’m sick of them and myself. This will involve reading poetry on public transit — my own poetry, no less — which always makes me feel a bit effete, and as if I’m hoping someone will notice. Which I’m not. Really.
But I digress … What I was going to say is that I find cover letters really difficult to write. I know they won’t make or break anything, but I fear sounding like a total jackass, and then this really might jaundice the editors’ view of my work. Will my attempt to sound humble and normal instead come across as false modesty and tweeness? Now that I have some publishing credits, how many of them can I armor myself with to make the point that other people think I’m good — or at least, have thought so in the past (butmaybemybestworkisbehindmeandI’llneverpublishanotherthing)? Past a certain point, a long string of credits must look pretty desperate, as if you believe your work can’t stand on its own. <Cough> And I don’t feel that way at all.
Writers, do you find cover letters difficult, too? Editors, what makes a good one?
And what better way to end a post on cover letters than with a list of credits? Thank you very much to the following publications, which will always hold a special place in my heart (evenifIcan’taffordtosubscribetothem AND eveniftheyhavesubsequentlyrejectedme — what’supwiththat?):
Cider Press Review (upcoming)
Exit 13 (upcoming)
I am now deep into another submitting phase, which means I temporarily have zero interest in writing any new poems because I am so wrapped up with looking back at the ones I’ve written in recent months, and with trying to find good homes for them — and for some that previously came back rejected but that seem to deserve another chance.
When I first got restarted writing poetry, I feared this phase. Why did I no longer feel like writing? What if I never wrote again? But now I know better than to fear it — or fight it. When I try to write during a submitting phase, the lack of engagement with what I’m doing is very apparent. It is all too clear that I’m not doing what I really want to do, which is to take another flip through Poet’s Market, get some sample copies of publications I haven’t read before, and start sending things out.
Both phases have their appeal, and each has different things that make them exciting. During the submitting phase, I love reading different publications, admiring what other poets have written, and getting a sense of whether I can imagine certain of my poems in those pages, too. I love dithering around and agonizing over which poems to send to a particular publication. I love making myself so crazy that I eventually have to pull the trigger and just send it already. And then I love the time of possibility, when every day might bring an acceptance in my mailbox — virtual or actual. That I sometimes (often) get the opposite result doesn’t dampen my excitement … or at least, not by much.
Here are a few places to which I’ve already sent poems, or intend to soon:
As for writing, the only thing I’m doing, really, is following Robert Lee Brewer’s weekly prompts — because I love them, and the community that convenes at his blog on Wednesdays.
Other than that, I am reveling in not writing a single thing. Little whiffs of ideas come up from time to time, and I feel wonderfully, luxuriously lazy because I don’t try to chase them and wrestle them into words. Why? Because I’m in a submitting phase. It feels like I’m gorging on cake frosting — and like this is totally OK.
But when you eat a lot of sweet, empty stuff, eventually it gets to be too much, and then a salad tastes really good to you again. April will bring another Poem-a-Day Challenge. Until then, I’m really enjoying March. More frosting, please!