Submissions: What Would Joyce Kilmer Say?

submittableSome of you poets out there have  encountered this email text:

“It is difficult to make a judgement about a poet’s work based on one poem. Therefore, I am asking you if you could, to send, say, 6 – 8 more poems by return e-mail? We would then have a better idea, and we can then see whether or not we can go forward.”

Six to eight.

I’m imagining a dialogue like this:

Joyce: I would like to submit my poem, “Trees.”

Editor: Dear Mr. Kilmer, while we enjoyed reading this one poem, it is difficult to make a judgement about a poet’s work based on one poem.”

Joyce: It’s a darn good poem. It has staying power.”

Editor: Yes, but we would don’t know whether or not we can go forward with promoting you as a poet with just this one sample.

Joyce: Dearest editor, I wouldn’t call it a “sample.” It’s a poem. It’s inspirational. Universal and timeless. It will resonate with the entire English-speaking world. How about if I send you 3 others at this time? I’m kind of busy getting ready to defend our country, to enlist in the National Guard, you know. Maybe you can wait until I return from fighting World War I on the European front? I might have some really good poetry for you then. Very graphic, you know.

Editor: Mr. Kilmer, that’s not all. This poem is but twelve lines.”

Mr. Kilmer: It speaks volumes. That’s poetry.

Editor: I’m sorry, sir, but please do get back to us when you have more to show, and possibly longer poems in your collection.

Or possibly the dialogue with Ms.Charlotte Bronte would have been like this?

Editor: Ms. Bronte, your poem “Parting” is really very evocative. However, we would like to see additional samples of your writing. Besides, we’re much more interested in prose fiction these days.

Ms.Charlotte: Dearest editor, as an artist I must be true to my “voice.”

Editor: My dear Ms. Bronte, let me be blunt. Literary tastes are changing. The
marketplace simply does not support poetry any longer. And may I continue?

Ms. Charlotte: By all means.

Editor: (clears his throat): Besides, for a female writer, Ms. Bronte, I would suggest you look into literary prose.

Ms. Charlotte: Dearest editor, it’s so easy to be anonymous on the internet these days. Perhaps I can just create a male moniker and nobody will ever know that I and my sisters are of the delicate gender!

Charlotte Bronte went on to write her great and enduring novel, Jane Eyre. She and her sisters Emily and Anne wrote, under false appellation, the volume of poetry, Poems by Currer, Ellis, and Acton Bell, published in London in 1846 by Aylott and Jones, which included the poem “Parting” but which sold only two copies.

trees_joycekilmer

Joyce Kilmer went on to write his enduring and beloved poem “Trees,” first published by the magazine “Poetry” in August 1913, subsequently published in his literary collection “Trees and Other Poems” before he enlisted and fought in World War I, when he died France, shot through the brain while he was out scouting for tactical information, in 1918.

kilmerhomemahweh

To all the great poets, and to all the rest of the pack.

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Poetry Submissions: What Would Joyce Kilmer Say?

submittableI’m sure many of you poets have all encountered this email text:

“It is difficult to make a judgement about a poet’s work based on one poem. Therefore, I am asking you if you could, to send, say, 6 – 8 more poems by return e-mail? We would then have a better idea, and we can then see whether or not we can go forward.”

I’m imagining a dialogue like this:

Joyce: I would like to submit my poem, “Trees.”

Editor: Dear Mr. Kilmer, while we enjoyed reading this one poem, it is difficult to make a judgement about a poet’s work based on one poem.”

Joyce: It’s a darn good poem. It has staying power.”

Editor: Yes, but we would don’t know whether or not we can go forward with promoting you as a poet with just this one sample.

Joyce: Dearest editor, I wouldn’t call it a “sample.” It’s a poem. It’s inspirational. Universal and timeless. It will resonate with the entire English-speaking world. How about if I send you 3 others at this time? I’m kind of busy getting ready to defend our country, to enlist in the National Guard, you know. Maybe you can wait until I return from fighting World War I on the European front? I might have some really good poetry for you then. Very graphic, you know.

Editor: Mr. Kilmer, this poem is but twelve lines.”

Mr. Kilmer: It speaks volumes.

Editor: I’m sorry, sir, but please do get back to us when you have more and possibly longer poetry in your collection.

Or possibly the dialogue with Ms.Charlotte Bronte would have been like this?

Editor: Ms. Bronte, your poem “Parting” is really very evocative. However, we would like to see additional samples of your writing. Besides, we’re much more interested in prose fiction these days.

Ms.Charlotte: Dearest editor, as an artist I must be true to my “voice.”

Editor: My dear Ms. Bronte, let me be blunt. Literary tastes are changing. The
marketplace simply does not support poetry any longer. Besides, for a female writer, I would suggest you look into literary prose.

Ms. Charlotte: Dearest editor, it’s so easy to be anonymous on the internet these days. Perhaps I can just create a male moniker and nobody will ever know that I and my sisters are of the delicate gender!

Charlotte Bronte went on to write her great and enduring novel, Jane Eyre. She and her sisters Emily and Anne wrote, under false appellation, the volume of poetry, Poems by Currer, Ellis, and Acton Bell, published in London in 1846 by Aylott and Jones, which sold only two copies.

trees_joycekilmer

Joyce Kilmer went on to write his enduring and beloved poem “Trees,” first published by the magazine “Poetry” in August 1913, subsequently published in his literary collection “Trees and Other Poems” before he enlisted and fought in World War I, when he died  France, shot through the brain while he was out scouting for tactical information, in 1918.

 

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Bye Bye Business!

balloons
It’s been a great run, really.

But two weeks ago I realized it was time to say goodbye. Goodbye to my business that I’d been running since 1995.

I’ve passed by many storefronts that have closed up, only to be opened again occupied by a different business. Then that one closes. I’ve read in the paper about businesses with hundreds, even thousands, of employees being laid off, let go. What becomes of these people? My favorite jewelry store where I always had my necklaces and earrings repaired is going out of business; tomorrow is their very last day.

This time it was mine and I was the one on the inside, calling the shots. I’d been watching my orders steadily decline for a while, while still feeling responsible to be accountable and available if any new orders came in, no matter where I was physically. Now clearly the business, and my life, went past the balance point. There was nobody to send out pink slips to because I didn’t have any employees. So that pain I didn’t have to endure or inflict. But it was painful for me none the less.

When business dries up, if we have a home-based business we can hang on a little longer when business slows down because we are not paying rent to a landlord or wages, salaries, health insurance to employees, and so on. But still there may be one day when you realize that carrying an infrastructure – telephone, fax line, internet, websites, amount of time cleaning out spam from my email, URLs, having to change my phone message every time I’m away for a day or two – all adds up. It adds up in terms of money, time and the amount of thought that occupies your brain.

In my case, my brain’s space is becoming more and more valuable real estate as I age (and as I deal with my aging-even-more mother).

The computer software business has changed, as the method of delivery changes. School software budgets have mirrored city and state budgets, and with each dot.com bust or Wall Street financial crisis, schools have been less and less willing to purchase software vying, instead, to find online learning materials. We cannot go backward. We cannot go back.

So one day about a month ago I decided to take those first steps. I prepared an email announcement for each customer who had ordered multiple times, saving them all in my “Draft” folder and then when I’d written every email, sent them out, one night, one by one. Within a half an hour, the deed was done.

That evening I gave myself some downtime and watched football.

A few days later I began taking down all my files of customers, scores of binders with scores of customers’ records. One by one I went through and discarded shipping air-bills and other information, putting credit card info in a separate pile to shred, leaving only the names of customers and what they had licensed. This took days. The 3-ring binders went into a bag for recycling. There were hundreds and hundreds of these individual records and each one was like saying goodbye to a baby that I had nurtured. Each one evoked a memory, and represented hundreds of students who had learned English and improved their writing through my software application.

It was so bizarre. I never realized how far and wide my software had an influence. Canada, New Zealand, UK, Singapore, Chile, Algiers, Saudi Arabia, Iran, Japan, Taiwan, Qatar, the UAE, even Malaysia. I wanted to REACH OUT! and say hello, thank you, and goodbye just one more time. No. That would be a bad idea.

Soon the papers alone were tucked into expandable manila folders, just in case I ever need to look at them, and a shelf in my closet was cleared out where I placed these folders, out of sight. No, I didn’t trash them. I’m hanging on just a little longer, I realize. I have a fantasy that these schools are going to call and ask for one last upgrade, one last license. I’m kidding myself.

It’s starting to hurt, but it’s also starting to feel better.

Along with clearing out these files, and others, I’m making room for something else.

But what?

Some writing, perhaps? Another book? More film reviews? Building up my blog?

Next comes the telephone number. I was resisting this one for a while. It would be the final blow. I removed the phone number from my website. I have had such a great little number for my business. Then my husband and I get a great idea. Our home telephone number really sucks. It’s impossible to remember and there’s no really clear pattern. My husband loves the idea of switching the business number to our home landline. Verizon says it’s possible! Thank you Verizon for allowing me to hold on just a little longer.

Still I dawdle.

Yesterday morning I sat at my desk and waited, and waited, for a message.

The message arrived. It was: “You’re hanging on! You’re not letting go! This software business of yours is the past, not the present or the future.”

Quickly I phoned Verizon – bushwacking through their horrendous menu – and made the switch. It occurred so quickly that I was still on the phone with the technician when the business phone switched off; within another 10 minutes the home landline number went dead. I phoned my old business number and our landline rang. Prominently displayed on the caller ID was already, the cute easy-to-remember and easy-to-say new/old number. Glad it happened so quickly or I would have had time to think twice about what I was doing!

I’m in awe of the process of endings and new beginnings. I’m in awe of what it takes to say goodbye to the old and to say hello to something new. I know how many people – hoarders, people in dysfunctional relationships – struggle with this. Or succumb to the fear of the unknown and the new.

Today lots of books about editing and writing (and a few other subject matters) sit on my shelves, where my CD disks, mailers and info about suppliers used to be. The shelf is nice and neat.

And I love our new telephone number.

*****

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Publishing House or Indie? Which Is the Way? And Whose Way Will It Be? The Miracle in Your Path

The path we choose is not always our first choice. But there’s no reason to fret. What we need to do is to make the most out of it and see the blessing in it.  

Most indie writers always start out wanting their writing to be accepted by a publishing house. There may follow a period of frustration and even anger when they realize that’s not going to pan out. But is it always the worst thing? 

There are many lessons that can be learned during this process. I first experienced this not with a book but with a software application that I had developed. As I was struggling with functioning within the world of indie writers, I realized that this was not the first time that I had found myself on this path.  

“We’re interested,” the Executive Director of a large, very large, publishing house had said to me.

So to their headquarters, for the big meeting, I went.

Years ago, I had developed a software program to teach writing to English as a Second Language students and remedial writing students. I was living in Brooklyn and teaching at several City University of New York campuses. For the last two years, we had been beta testing it and the students loved it. Mine was not the first or the only ESL software application on the market – these were published by big publishing houses that published academic books and textbooks – but mine was unique. I set out to contact the publishing houses to see if one would publish my software.

To my surprise and delight, one of the larger, or should I say largest, publishing houses was interested and I met with the Editorial Director and Developmental Editors. Things moved amazingly quickly: I barely had to “sell” the product at all. The publishing house wrote up a pre-contract contract, in which we said we would both bargain in good faith, and I was given an advance. There were meetings, and meetings, all the while I continued to develop my application. Soon we were talking publishing dates. The house set me up with individuals who would work directly with me. The house was heavily focused on what the product would be named. Contract talks were set up in which we would discuss the more financial arrangements. It was an exciting time. People were really happy for me. One day it came to my attention, quite by mistake, that the house had a marketing plan that would market my software for four years then phase it out. My eyes didn’t want to believe what they were first seeing, but I realized that YES this was TRUE because I was now dealing with a different world, the world of publishers and big business. I felt a little happy that my product was recognized but knew that I had to look out for its interest, and my interest. I knew that neither of these lay in this publishing house. They were going to get rights to – and then kill -my software!
I went home that evening with the knowledge that my relationship with this publishing house would end. 

For several days I ruminated on what had just happened. 

It was, in short, a miracle. 

I spoke to somebody at the college about what had happened. Then I wrote a letter to the Editorial Director in which I stated that I had decided to not enter into a permanent contract with this publishing house. I didn’t explain why. She was pretty angry – and I was very sure that that was not my problem. I stuck to my guns.

And so it began that I contacted a lawyer, created a corporation and marketed my software on my own.  Twenty years later I am still here, and so is Easy Writer, and now Easy Writer Deluxe, and it’s still popularly used in schools and colleges around the country and the world.

And here I am an indie writer, having gotten nowhere with agents and traditional publishers but plugging along with my Dogs Don’t Look Both Ways receiving 5-star reviews and loved by many. Familiar territory? 

It’s stressful to be an indie writer, I can’t begin to tell those of you who have not gone this route, but if we believe in our product, if we know our book is good and that there’s a market for it, then for some of us indie publishing is the only choice. There are many paths to that decision to go down that road, but any way we arrive there we need to embrace it.
 
Can you see the miracle in your own path?