My article was published today at Women on Writing! Enjoy. :)
“Six Insider Tips for Poetry-Publication Success”
By: Melanie Faith
So you’ve been writing poems for months or years, and you’ve decided that you’d like to try for publication. Great idea!
You’re probably wondering where to begin and how to know which poems to submit. Here are some insider tips to encourage your poetry-submission process and to make it easier.
1. Put your best poem forward. Open your submission packet with your strongest poem. Make sure to edit that poem so that its first lines/stanza includes no warm-up or filler words. Grab the reader’s attention with an intriguing image or beautiful, meaningful language from the get-go.
2. Follow posted guidelines, to a t. Always check online guidelines (the vast majority of literary magazines have them posted, whether at Submittable or their personal webpage).
Many journals request three to five poems at a time, but there are some exceptions to that rule. Don’t send more poems than the maximum number listed; it would be a shame for your submission to be automatically rejected for not following instructions (I admit it’s happened to me more than once).
Guidelines will also include the specific genres requested (some journals only read prose, for instance, or they only read one specific genre per issue).
3. If in doubt—ask! What if you’ve written a prose poem, but that’s not listed in the guidelines? Or what if the submission guidelines don’t include a specific number of poems to submit? What if you’re wondering about simultaneous submissions? These are three excellent reasons to send a quick email to editors; I’ve certainly done so for these reasons and others.
Politely introduce yourself and list that you are a poet, ask your question, thank the editor(s) for their time, and include your email address and/or other contact information. Easy-breezy.
Do remember to respect their time: only contact them once; wait for an answer. Even a month isn’t too long to wait (remember that they often have hundreds of submissions per issue and busy lives outside of their jobs). Usually, though, you’ll hear back from editors within a few days or much less.
I’ve found editors quite generous with their time (many are also writers) and very willing to clarify or consider various types and themes of poetry even if they haven’t listed them directly in the guidelines. Just make sure, as a courtesy, to double-check and to send the query email before sending the work; never just assume you can send whatever you want.
4. Consider the poetry-publication process to be more of a marathon than a sprint. Adjust your (speed) expectations just a bit. Yes, I know— I’m also very used to the instant gratification of the internet. On the other hand, the pace of creating, editing, and submitting new poems is a slower, yet no less meaningful, art.
Set monthly goals for yourself (mine is to submit at least three submissions of poetry, photography, or prose per month, year-in-year-out), and then give yourself room to continue exploring your genre. Publication might not happen overnight (it’s not fast food or on-demand content), but it will happen. Keep submitting.
5. We’re living in an exciting time, where we can self-publish some or all of our content. You may feel free to share, from time to time, on your blog (or to guest blog) or on social media posts, but keep in mind that many online and print publications consider work published online anywhere as already published, and so it may knock that poem out of the running for submitting to literary magazines in the future. For 100% self-publishing poets that might not make any difference. For other poets, a more balanced approach might be of interest.
I’ve known writers who shared sneak-peaks of their poems or poetry-in-progress online to engage with readers, but they kept other poems for literary-magazine submissions, which is one great strategy for developing an audience while also pursuing publication. As you go, you’ll find a combination of withholding and sharing that works for you.
6. Continue to write and to develop your skills while waiting to hear back from editors and publishers. I started to submit work regularly around the time I graduated from college. I didn’t have the money to go to graduate school for my MFA right away, so for a few years I started my teaching career and kept writing in my free time while I also took a few other positive steps to continue to learn and to grow as a poet. I participated in open mikes and readings. I joined a writing group for a few months to meet others who were also on this poetry-penning path. I workshopped, both within a larger group and one-on-one with a new writing friend. I met some new writing pals online and we shared our work through emails. By the time, six years later, I had paid off my college loans and was able to apply to grad-school programs, I had steadily built my writing skills and had publication credits from several literary magazines.
Never underestimate the power of networking for growth as a poet. Join a poetry writing/reading group or start one in your community or online.
Take a noncredit poetry-writing class, again in your community or online at WOW!
Swap drafts with a poetry buddy once a month, to offer each other encouragement and helpful suggestions.
Read poetry journals and books online and in print to become aware of the markets for poetry as well as the work of your fellow poets.
Any or all of these suggestions will prove a great asset to your poetry-writing and -submitting processes.
Care to learn more? Consider my May class, Poetry for Publication: an Insider’s View. Here’s the scoop and skinny:
My craft article was published at Women on Writing today. Enjoy! :)
“3 Tips for Developing Theme within Poetry”
By: Melanie Faith
I started as a fiction writer before discovering the wonders of poetry at the grand age of 17. (Thank you, Mr. B!)
One quality shared by resonant poems I read in literary journals, anthologies, and from my students' pens is a strong theme.
How can we explore theme to deepen our own poetry?
1. Imagery is where it's at. As poets, we are all about compression. Can we say it in fewer words? Can those few chosen words be rich in the five senses? Can the chosen diction include a symbol for a bigger idea? All of these questions help lead us to imagery that razzle-dazzles our readers.
If I wanted to write a love poem about tentative love, it's unlikely my readers will be as stirred by my flat-out stating, "We were on-again, off-again," as they would with a simple mention of a flickering candle on the windowsill.
Imagery is economical and meaningful. It also creates vivid pictures in your readers’ minds that they’ll remember long after reading your work and, in many cases, invite them back for further reads.
2. Characterization and setting can get the job done. I hear a boatload of discussion in fiction and nonfiction classes about creating realistic characters, and for good reason. This same technique can be applied to poetry to create fantastic engagement from readers and underscore your theme without the dreaded (drumroll, please) telling instead of showing [shiver].
Writers can create poems from numerous characters’ POVs to underscore theme. Persona poems develop a narrative and can be read as individual works of art, such as Robert Browning’s “My Last Duchess,” or paired together to develop a longer narrative, conflict, and/or setting. Great examples include Edgar Lee Masters’ 1915 classic Spoon River Anthology, Traci Brimhall’s Saudade (2017 Copper Canyon Press), and poems in my most-recent collection, This Passing Fever (2017 FutureCycle Press).
Paired poems may move back and forth through time and setting (as they do in Brimhall’s work and my work) or remain in one town or place (as in Masters’ collection).
3. Subtlety is your friend.
Sometimes, once we have chosen a theme for our poem, we excitedly write lines that spell out our meaning with all the charm of a doornail. For instance, using the word “grieving” and “died” in a poem whose theme explores death, or stating “flowers always make me happy” in a poem about the therapeutic powers of gardening.
Many poems I see that run off the rails do so when poets begin to explain (or over-explain) rather than trusting readers to intuit the theme on their own.
How can we provide clues for our readers so that they will be sure to deduce the theme?
Glad you asked: figurative language aplenty. Figurative language is understated yet satisfying. Similes and metaphors are often great indicators of theme. As are usage of symbols and imagery. Incorporating sound effects, such as words with hard d sounds for dramatic or tense themes or words with soft m or n sounds for quieter or peaceable themes, can other excellent thematic indicators.
Try this prompt: Choose a poem where you have stated part or all of the theme directly in your poem. Make a list of three images, symbols, characters, or settings that could highlight your theme instead. Pick one detail from your list and, after omitting your theme-stating line, add in details related to your chosen image, symbol, characters, or settings. Compare drafts.
Looking for inspiration to jump-start your Muse in early 2019? Have I got a class for you! Vigorous and Vibrant Verse: an Online Poetry Workshop.
Books and prompts make the BEST holiday presents.
Get a jump-start on your shopping with one of my three AWESOME books and some prompt cards to boot. Hey, stockings also have to be filled, right? ;) I’ll be happy to sign the books with any inscription you’d like. :)
Peruse these classics, make your list, and no need to stand in line or check twice! :) Just break out your gift wrap and surprise them with these inspiring treats:
For the writer of fiction or nonfiction in your life: In a Flash: Writing & Publishing Dynamic Flash Prose. (New to my shop this season!)
For the poet in your life or your favorite poetry workshop or classroom (sponsor a classroom with this lovely book— guaranteed to make students from middle school through grad-school smile and make a teacher’s day): Poetry Power: An Interactive Guide for Writing, Editing, Teaching, and Reflecting on the Life Poetic. (New to my shop this season!)
For the history-buff, teacher, poet, deep-thinker, and/or librarian in your life, there’s this wonderful historical poetry collection: This Passing Fever: 1918 Influenza Poems. (New to my shop this season!)
For the journalers and writers in your life. Makes a perfect gift for Secret Santas or to tuck into a care package for your favorite college student. Renewed: 30 Affirmation Cards.
Does your friend, love, or family member prefer the ever-so-thoughtful and personalized? I’ve got you covered. Commission your own poem. Le voila! Meaningful Poem Art—Typed.
My Prompt Cards make the perfect addition for inspiration for any traveler, writer, teacher, student, or creative in your life. Also, a great stocking stuffer.