If, like me, you can hardly believe today's young are so gullible, look here in the NYTimes where Ashbery's poems were picked for "commercials" on "MTVu" -- MTV's special station for college campuses. Poetically, college-campus popularity is the last exit to Brooklyn. In the same way, the Boomers dug Richard Brautigan. Woot. To stay sane -- and write well -- don't trouble yourself with "most influential living poets."
1. Don't submit to a brand-new literary journal. They don't have subscribers, and their newbie editors don't know enough to nominate their contents for Pushcart or other prizes.
2. Don't submit exclusively to journals edited by students in MFA programs. Because the editors change yearly, their contents are unpredictable and can be uneven, and because of this they are not taken very seriously. In fact these journals are referred to in the aggregate as "MFA rags."
3. If you win prizes from your local literary organization's contests and get that good work printed in the awards-ceremony program, or on the organization's website, that may be the last daylight your prizewinning work will ever see. Some litmag editors consider that work to have been "already published."
I think some MFA rags are wonderful, but if you're career-minded, learn to think differently. The above information from a seminar I attended last Saturday on poetry publishing.
On the other hand, insatiably I read myself raw on any first-person books about the writing life, like Bird by Bird, One Writer's Beginnings, and The Artist's Way. My Unabridged Journals of Sylvia Plath fell to pieces and I'm annoyed they don't sell it in hardback.
This would be weird if I were unique, but it seems writers at all levels, all of them dying to publish, prize those esthetic-autobio-musings-type books, but can't swallow how-to-write books, even if they can be had at any library for free. Instead writers will pay flaming cash and cross a time zone to hear a living published writer TELL them about these publishing things that seem to them so magical and mystifying.
That's because we are soulful & don't believe what those how-to books and articles say. For the majority of writers (and other people!), magic and mystery trump planning and common sense. We live in a sort of Bronze Age of the mind. We want to see and hear in person the writer who has pulled the sword from the stone. Then we believe. Maybe we hope too for a little dharma transmission.
The effort was all worth it! All worth it!
1. I should do any chore that has even a remote possibility of helping me toward my goals.
2. Fourth time's the charm.
3. If a publisher's interested, they'll respond ASAP!
1. Tough to part with the money for the conference or workshop? Consider it an investment in yourself.
2. Put your genre and the town and state you're from on your nametag. This increases the chances that you and others there will have something in common.
3. Carry extra pens and notepads (cheap ones) so that when someone says, "Wish I had a pen," or "Wish I'd brought some note paper," you can be their hero.
4. Stay at the hotel where the conference is held, not across town.
5. Go to as many sessions as there are. Even if there isn't a romance-writing session at 2:00 p.m., attend the poetry session. You might learn something. And go to the banquet thing even if it costs money and you don't really want to.
5. Pick up all handouts from all sessions. Put post-its on those you want to read carefully later, at home.
6. Don't feel bad about taking freebies such as bookmarks, tote bags, etc.
7. If you see someone who seems all alone, invite them into your group or to your table.
8. If you're meeting with an editor or agent, do NOT sit down and start reading to them the first chapter of your novel.
9. A conference is not a vacation. To get its benefits, work it.
10. Buy books from the authors there, and have them autographed. You might meet somebody.
11. Be liberal about giving out your business cards (the ones that say you're a writer). You do have some, don't you?
I didn't! And suddenly bizcards made sense! They'd make me more confident! So I checked out the free ones offered by vistaprint.com and finally designed and ordered some quite cheaply from 123print.com. Can't wait to get them and show you.
Worried that he was there to write a funny column about a meeting called "Networking for the Writer," I un-introverted myself and said hi and complimented his column and asked why he was there; I figured he wouldn't need to network. Turns out he can't get syndication or an agent, has published a P.O.D. book but wants a "legitimate publisher" (his words) and hasn't one. This is a writer with thousands of local fans and popular appeal. He isn't a journalist; he started out as a P.R. guy who happened to write amusing office e-mails. P.R. guy has to learn to network? Guess it's that old artificial difficulty.
For a while I've wondered: Where are today's female humor columnists? Nora Ephron feels bad about her neck, but she's not funny. Did the art die with Erma Bombeck? I know scores of witty women. (The presenters at the meeting were sharp, witty women: Tricia Sanders and Tricia Grissom, of coffeeandcritique.blogspot.com.) But the stakes are higher now. Women can't afford to risk sending amusing office e-mails. Caring for kids and aged parents and grumpy mates of the kind Phyllis Diller called "Fang" and I called "The Missing Link," worrying about their necks and moles and the church people, keeping at all costs menial, ill-fitting jobs, not enough sleep -- these days a woman who laughed about these things in print, or even shut her door to start writing, would get visited by Child Protective Services. Lady, if you're out there: We need you!
I didn't capture the man's genius. He looks like your Italian granddad or grocer taking an afternoon off to play bocce ball.
Somehow a halftone of one of those photos, printed in an obscure newsletter, got scanned into the Internet. It has been online at the music site furious.com for years, with my name on it as a credit. Mr. Macero died on Feb. 20 and I got emails from as far away as Germany from jazz fans and obituary writers wanting permission to reprint the Macero photo. Like I care! I wish my name weren't on it! I retrieved 7 original b&w glossies of Macero out of an archive and scanned them at 300 dpi (better than the halftone dots) and put them online at flickr.com, licensing them for public noncommercial use through Creative Commons. (I also use CC's free license system to copyright this blog. And you should use it for anything you put on the Internet.)
With a digital camera I would have made much better pictures, in color, without the flash, which doubled the difficulty of any photo assignment. But in 1996 those things were science fiction. (At left you see the Sony Cybershot, 1997 -- with its floppy-disk storage.) It's odd that this one obscure photo I made, justly forgotten, should interest anyone 12 years later. Let that be a lesson to us all: Published is forever.
Don't dwell on the book's reception. The point is to get on with it--you have a life's work ahead of you--no point in dallying around waiting for approval. We all want it, I know, but the point is to reach out honestly--that's the whole point. I keep feeling that there isn't one poem being written by any of us--or a book or anything like that. The whole life of us writers, the whole product I guess I mean, is the one long poem--a community effort if you will. It's all the same poem. It doesn't belong to any one writer--it's God's poem perhaps. Or God's people's poem. You have the gift--and with it comes responsibility--you mustn't neglect or be mean to that gift--you must let it do its work. It has more rights than the ego wants approval.
I'm wondering whether Sexton was right, or if it's "Writer, Keep the Faith While Society Flays You" feel-good wishful thinking that Sexton herself did not believe -- which would explain why she wrote this using so many qualifiers -- and that she herself could not use.
Quoted from: Seducing the Demon: Writing for My Life, by Erica Jong. New York: Jeremy P. Tarcher/Penguin, 2006.
1. “I’ve googled myself and what’s on the Net is fragmentary and totally inaccurate!”
2. “Why have an email address and get bothersome letters from every Tom, Dick and Harry?”
3. “I’ve found my poems online – used without my permission!”
4. “Call me old-fashioned, but I favor the printed page.”
5. “On the Internet, people can get directions to my home; it’s appalling!”
Miss Moore, you once wrote, "Patient or impatient repudiating of life just repudiates itself. There is no point to it...."
Repudiating the Internet won't make it go away. Here are some facts:
- You can post correct information about yourself and your books, anytime, and quite easily, on authorsden.com. Or ask your publishers to do it.
- Seems to me that you did your share of letter-writing, sometimes 50 letters a day, but, that aside -- fewer people want to contact you than you think. Out of 350 million people in the U.S., only about 10,000 have heard of you, 150 would like to talk to you, and 100 of those are too polite to bother you. Of the remaining 50, 30 are too lazy to send an email, leaving 15 grad students who want to email you about your poems, and 5 professors of English interested not in your poems or even your sex life, but in The Dial or why you were snide to Sylvia Plath. These are the people who have always sent you letters.
- Be flattered! Some stranger liked your poems enough to type them out and post them online. Readers now needn't travel miles to a library or pay $18.95 to savor one. English teachers can instantly show your poems to their classes. Your works are being read, admired, shared and talked about, far more so than when they were first published! Isn't that why you wrote them? Perhaps you wrote them for the money? All this online chat about your "illegally" published poems will only sell more of your books.
- You got to like the printed page when you were admitted to its exclusive club of "legitimately" published writers. Before then, The Dial and The Egoist, not "legitimate" outlets, helped you amass poetic street cred and friends, published your first book, and got you the "legitimacy" you are now stuck on. Books will always exist and you can enjoy them. But no literary revolutionary should plume herself on being "old-fashioned" -- unless she's doing it to hide her fears about the new.
- Directions and maps to anyplace are available on GoogleMaps and Mapquest, so the Internet isn't picking on you. Besides, you never hid the fact that you lived in Brooklyn – as embarrassing as that must be for a native of fine Kirkwood, MO.
Oh, and, Miss Moore, until we meet again: Think of the Internet as an imaginary toad with a real garden in it!