AWPost Mortems

It’s no secret I didn’t want to go to AWP.  In fact, when Karen Head announced to me that she had arranged it, fait accompli, that I was going to the conference, I pretty much decided to permanently take to my bed with the vapors.  My attitude wavered between considering how amputation of all my limbs or a lobotomy without anaesthesia would be preferable to flying out to Los Angeles (a city I was happy to be rid of the last time I left in 2002) and being thrust into a situation where I always have to be “on” and charming and cheerful, like a carnie, trying to tempt people to part with their cash.  (Although, of course, buying poetry is a better deal than any carnival game—and at least you don’t get snookered.)  But I’m always fine once I get to a place.  It’s the getting there, and the pre-anxiety (and the fact that I had a raging case of bronchitis—can I ever get through a Spring without it?  Geez!), that always cast a pall.

2016-03-31 08.53.04But I had a great time at AWP.  While I missed some interesting panels (being married to the booth for the entire time), I made up for it by being excellent at getting people to subscribe to the Atlanta Review.  Among the three of us—Dan Veach (now Editor Emeritus of AR), Karen (the new Editor), and me—we sold 42 or 43 subscriptions, sold out of all the journals that Dan brought with him (he brought 120 copies!), and met and encouraged lots of poets to send us their work.  I expect we’ll have quite the slush pile once Karen and I take over!  And that’s good because the more people who know about the Atlanta Review, the more we can spread our influence and get new readers and conquer the poetry world, Mwahahahah!  (Ah, sorry, I lost my head for a minute.  But you take my point.)  We want to continue Dan’s success with the journal, and between Karen and me, I think we waded into this new endeavor with aplomb.  And Collin Kelley was at the table off-and-on, and he is always one of my favorite people.

write buttonsOf course, what I always forget about AWP is how much fun the Book Fair is.  Especially when the swag is so good.  And it was pretty good this year.  The hot giveaway was buttons—everyone was giving away buttons, and so my AWP lanyard was bespangled with them from all manner of journals, the London Review of Books, PoetLore, Five Points, Sierra Nevada College’s “This Sh*t Is Lit,” “Poetry Changes Everything,” and nearly two dozen more. (I was all about the buttons—and even got several compliments from random peeps about my lanyard.  The best one sported a picture of a catalope (cat with antlers)—of course I can’t remember what journal I picked that one up at—I really wanted to buy a tee shirt from them, but they were out.)  (Also, we’re totally giving away buttons next year at the AR table—we totally need to swag it up.)

write poetry fresher

 

Other swag of note:  Poetry gave away car air fresheners.  I am totally mystified by this choice.  It smells vaguely piney, and also like antiseptic.  And ass.  Not really the smell your car longs for.  But on the back is the poem “Trees” by Joyce Kilmer, published in Poetry in August 1913, which is kind of nice.  Permafrost gave away a squishy stress-ball in the shape of a polar bear (awesome) as well as free copies of their journal.  There was one booth that as I was leaving the Book Fair for the day had some earbuds lying around.  I’m pretty sure they were giving them away…they had several pairs sitting on the table… but if not—if I accidentally liberated them—then I can add kleptomania to my list of skills, along with poetry and sarcasm.  (It’s good to diversify, you know.)

write bear

 

Then there was the booth with this one woman who apparently is a self-publishing machine. (I’m withholding her name in case my ridicule gets out of hand—but she shares a name with a famous early 20th century woman poet.)  I mean, she was probably 80, wizened like the Southwest—she looked like New Mexico—and draped in scarves and flowing skirts, and had stacks of her books in front of her like a fortress—all published through Amazon.  No matter how I tried to extricate myself from her clutches, she would not let me leave—she kept wanting me to purchase her books.

As soon as I’d inch away, she’d thrust another of her books into my hands, telling me how her life had been changed and how these poems represent her experience.  She gave me one book to take with me—which I totally thought was a catalogue describing her various books, with a few poems in between ads for her other books—and when I got back to the hotel, it turns out she was actually selling that book—there was a price of $18.95 stamped on the back.  (I was like, dafuq?  Really? Who would buy that??) Anyway, when she saw she could not entice me to purchase her whole corpus of books, she foisted her most recent one on me—which actually, from a graphic design standpoint, seems really kind of nice—the cover is lovely, and it looks like a real book of poetry, not something from a vanity press.  But I mean, how good can these poems be?  The first line of copy on the back cover states, “These new poems were all written during the first two months of 2016…” and the pub date is March 5.  I guess I am being a poetry snob.  I haven’t read the book yet—it could be wonderful.  But I’m not holding my breath.

Another book that was given to me for free was Jessie Carty’s Practicing Disaster (Kelsay Books/ Aldrich Press 2014).  I have a bit more faith in this book, although its title on the cover is written in shitty Comic Sans.  (Really?  Like who thought that was a good idea?)  The inside cover has the author’s name signed and the line “Not a joke—free poetry” with a smiley face.  And the acknowledgements list at the front of the book is quite impressive—among the places that Carty has published work include Eye Socket Journal, The Dead Mule, Blue Fifth Review, and Poet’s Market 2013.  So, I’ll try to read through it at some point.

write booksAs far as purchased books, I bought Parades by Sara Deniz Akant (OmniDawn 2014), and Hungry Moon by Henrietta Goodman (Colorado State 2013) (which kind of got banged up on the flight home—c’est la vie).  And the stack of journals I picked up is impressive—Moon City Review, New South, Southern Indiana Review, Rock and Sling, Michigan Quarterly Review, Sugar House Review (which has a beautiful cover), the Laurel Review, and several others—all of which will be seeing submissions from me in the near future—hahah.

write journalsOf course one of the things people flock to AWP for is all the famous people, as well as catching up with old friends.  I didn’t meet any famousy-famous people, though I did get to meet Kelli Russel Agodon, of Two Sylvias Press (a press that makes lovely little books), who is one of my heroes (I love her as a poet and as an editor), and who tweets great material always (follow her if you don’t:  @KelliAgodon).  So meeting her at the Two Sylvias table was so nice—I was fulsome enough in talking to her, I think she felt like she had to hug me.  But we had a nice little convo.  And I did get to see some old Nebraska alums—Liz Ahl, who I always forget how divine she is (we had drinks with her at Tom’s Urban, in L.A. Live, across from the Convention Center), and Darryl Farmer, who was here at Georgia Tech too for a little while, before moving off to the wilds of Alaska.  But overall, not as many Nebraska folks as I expected to see.  (I went over to the Prairie Schooner table, thinking there might be someone from the old days, but I didn’t know any of those people.)  I would have liked to see a few more, at least.  (I did see another UNL alum, who, as always, looked right through me, the putz.  I refuse to mention him by name, but a pox on his head.)

2016-04-01 16.41.19

View from the Santa Monica Pier

Not at the conference, I met up with my old best friend/ enemy/ boyfriend-ish/ not boyfriend-ish/  “I’m gay” “No kidding” “Why didn’t you tell me?” “I thought you knew” / best friend again from back in my USC Trojan days.  We spent late Friday afternoon and Friday evening walking all over Santa Monica—we walked from Wilshire Blvd. to the Pier, and up and down the Pier, and along the beach for a long stretch (geezus, the water was cold as fuck), and then up and down the Third Street Promenade about three or four times, tried finding a movie to watch (we went to the movies all the time when I lived out there), went out to dinner, ate liquid nitrogen ice cream at Creams & Dreams, and then hung out at his place in Venice to watch Brooklyn—a great (if slow-paced slice-of-lifey movie… about 10 minutes into it, I thought, “This is so my Mom’s kind of movie”).  I didn’t get back to the hotel till well after midnight.  But it was so good to see him… and fun to tool around L.A. like we did when we were younger.

Anyway, I’m glad to be back, I won’t lie.  I need to recharge my introvert batteries which were sadly depleted while I was away.  And mostly I need to…

write like a mofo          …And so do you.

Big News in My Writing World (But Not a Manuscript Acceptance, Let’s Not Get Crazy)

It’s chilly—44 degrees out, and blustery.  There are few leaves on the trees, but they rattle as the wind blows, and somehow the weather is fooling me into believing it’s October.  I want to believe Halloween is right around the corner…because it would mean that November was right around the corner too, and that would mean it’s time for another NaNoWriMo.

I’ve been missing the energy of NaNoWriMo.  I’m still in the early stages of Hecate Applebough 3 (still untitled), and part of my lack of progress has to do with a weirdo persistent migrainey exhaustion I’ve been suffering for the last month (and which my Mom has nagged me about going to see a doctor for—ugh), and also not feeling that compulsion to write every day those 1,667 words because I have nowhere to chart the progress, no pep-talk e-mails from the NaNo people coming every few days encouraging me.  It’s just me now, and it’s harder to write, without the community.

But, a couple of days ago, a fortuitous tweet put me on to an app called Writeometer, which exists only for Android (sorry iPhone folks) and which gamifies the writing process, kind of the way NaNo does—you can set a daily/ monthly/ word goal, use its timer, enter your daily word count, and get reminders about writing, and you can earn “guavas.”  I don’t know all tricks of the app yet, so I’m not sure what earning the guavas can do for you, but I’m sure I’ll find out as I become more familiar with the app.  I’m looking forward to using it—I need the motivation.  So I’ll let you know how it goes.  (If any of my Five Readers have tried the app, I’d be curious to know what you think about it—but I suspect most of you are Apple users.)

Other than working on Hecate, I’ve produced a few short pieces lately—a few honest-and-for-true prose poems—one of them came out so well that I’ve “given” it to Hecate, and shoehorned it into the second book…although if I can get it published on its own, I will—and a few bits of flash that I want desperately to be prose poems, but I knew they aren’t.

Prose poems have a certain surreal quality—and so does my flash, except that the surrealism of prose poems is its own little thing.  When I try to do surreal flash, it just comes out as nutty.  Like maybe I’m trying too hard.  But hey, two pieces of just such flash were accepted by a journal on Monday, so I guess nutty works too.  In general, I just have a little “heart on” for prose poems, because they’re hard to do well, and because I think, in my mind, I still privilege poetry over prose as being Important and Worthwhile… while fiction just seems like something you do for cash.  (Not that I have received any cash for ANY bit of fiction I’ve produced—not ever—but you take my meaning, I’m sure.)  And of course, even as I write that, I know that’s a false dichotomy—but there it is.  The poet’s bias against fiction writers.  Hmm.

How’s this for burying the lede?  In other news, now that Dan Veach is passing the editorial reigns of The Atlanta Review over to Karen Head, she has asked me (WHAT????) to serve as the managing editor.  OMG OMG OMG.  This is an amazing opportunity, and I can’t wait to sit down with her and discuss all the ins-and-outs, and really sink my teeth into this project.  Reading some brand-new poems (that aren’t mine—haha) that are searching for a home is exciting.  It’s been a long time since I did any work on a literary journal, and The Atlanta Review is a Big Deal—this isn’t any dinky fly-by-night online journal, this is prize-winning print journal with an international following.  The work that Dan Veach has done on the journal (founding it and running it) is amazing and impressive, and I’m so thrilled that I get to be involved…and so grateful to Karen for asking me to assist her.  Read Collin Kelley’s article in Atlanta INtown, about the transition of editorship to Karen, because it’s interesting and offers some history about the journal.  (As my first order of business as managing editor, I propose we update the website!)

What else is there to share?  I’m still working on reading those three books of poems I mentioned in my last blog post—I got a little distracted by my manga habit, and my weirdo exhaustion that makes me want to fall asleep at 6 p.m.—but I hope to finish them this weekend (in and around the 85,000 tennis matches I’ve scheduled).  And, I’ve gotten yet another rejection on my poetry manuscript, but I sent it out to two more places, and I’m crossing my fingers. At some point, SOMEONE is going to want it, right?  Maybe I need to “attach a few more zeros” onto the contest fees I send off… maybe bribery would work?  (You never know!)

Keeping Track

I haven’t been a publishing machine in the months since last I wrote.  That said, I have been writing and sending my work out with the rigor that I should have been applying myself yea these many years.

To wit:

  • Submitted my book manuscript to 18 contests (so far, 3 rejections)
  • Submitted poetry to 14 journals (so far, 7 rejections)
  • Submitted an application to a fellowship
  • Submitted a play to a journal
  • Submitted creative nonfiction to 3 journals (one journal took a story 2 days after I submitted it!)
  • Submitted flash/ fiction to 5 journals

Every time I open up Submittable and I see all my active submissions, I feel a little self-impressed.  Which is not the worst thing.  I need all the encouragement I can get, because the last few rejections have really bummed me out.  (Especially the one I got on Friday which just infuriated me… unfortunately I can’t go into it because there’s no way to be anonymous regarding the journal and say what I REALLY want to say about them.)

What I really need to do is to get some quiet time and try writing something unusual, something hybridy, maybe.  What that would be, I couldn’t say.  Maybe tomorrow…

Anyway, I’m reveling in my dedication.  And I didn’t post this so that I could be all “look at me, look at me,” but just to remind myself that I can make writing a priority, and that it’s good for me.  And, to have a record of it, for when I’m feeling kind of down about my writing successes, or I reach a dry spell.

I hope all of you are having good luck in your writing too.

Even Better than Well-Written Rejections Are Sweet Acceptances

My phone just dinged at me.  It dings at me a lot.  It tells me when I need to go to meetings or to tennis matches.  It gives me the score to football games I care nothing about; it tells me how long my trip from work to home will be; it reads my e-mails.  So whenever I hear it ding, I cringe.

But this time it dinged, and there was happy, happy news.  Again, I’m reproducing the message to share with you:

Dear JC Reilly,
     Thank you very much for your interest in Howl. We would like to congratulate you on the acceptance of all five (5) poems you submitted. Your submission was unique, creative, and we believe that our readers are going to love your publication. Please let all other literary journals simultaneously submitted to know that your work has been accepted here and please send us a brief bio to accompany your submission upon publication. Congratulations again and don’t forget to tell everyone where to find great work like yours.
Sincerely,
The Editors,
Howl
Howl took all five poems!  I don’t think any journal has ever done that for me!  I am so happy!  (There is a little bit of margin issues on the poems but I can live with it!  A pub is a pub is a pub.)  Read them here.

*Does a happy dance*

Well-Written Rejections Are Almost as Appreciated as Actual Publications

Today I received a rejection that was so thoughtfully (and kindly) written that I am reproducing it here for you to read:

Dear JC Reilly,

Thank you for giving us the opportunity to read “JC Reilly–4 poems.” After careful consideration, we decided the work was not a good fit for Rivet.

Your writing is great, and we really enjoyed reading your work. We encourage you to keep sending it out and hope you find the right home for it. Our reasons for declining it were not based on quality but rather on kind. Rivet focuses on writing that goes well beyond mainstream realism and takes some big risks with content and style. If you do some more experimental work in the future, we’d be glad to see it. We invite you to subscribe to our newsletter (link below) to be the first to hear about new releases and calls for submissions.

We wish you the best with your writing and look forward to staying in touch.

Sincerely,
The Rivet Editors

I don’t know if that is Rivet Journal’s standard rejection.  It may well be.  But what strikes me so much about it is that it takes a moment to offer praise (hey, I’ll take my work as being called “great” ANY DAY, even if it seems a little bland) and then to clarify what their aesthetic is.  Now, when I sent them the four poems initially, I sent them what I thought were “experimental” poems–but clearly our understanding of “experimental” is quite different.  And that’s ok.  I also like how they invite me to send them more experimental-as-they-understand-it work in the future.  It’s a nice touch.

Of course, what’s nicest about their invitation is that knowing that the four poems I sent were experimental to my mind but not to theirs tells me that I probably won’t ever write something that would strike the right chord with them.  So I don’t have to worry about sending work to them again.  (Unless, of course, my style radically changes, and I don’t think that’s likely.)

But I encourage any of you who do write much more experimental work to send it to Rivet Journal.  It’s a lovely journal, and I like what I’ve seen of their publication, and imagine how effusive and praise-worthy they will be with people whose work they accept, if this is how gentle and praising they are of people they reject.

When Poetry and Drama Collide

Saturday was the July quarterly meeting of GPS–it was actually a very good day over all.  I got to meet and talk with Tammy Foster Brewer, whom I know from Facebook and whom I’ve asked to read on the Java Monkey stage at the Decatur Book Festival,  and Robert Lee Brewer of Writer’s Market and Poetic Asides blog fame.  Tammy was warm and charming, just like her online persona, but I found Robert surprisingly shy, considering all the famous people he’s talked to and his very gregarious/ ubiquitous presence online, though he was also very nice.  I really enjoyed talking to them, and I liked hearing them both read.

It wasn’t as long-seeming a meeting as it usually is; maybe for  me, I was just engrossed and glad to be away from the  meh-ness that is my life.   On the other hand, I am pretty pissed off about  about the rampant jealousy being demonstrated by several people I thought were nice.  Oh, they’ve played it off as if they’re just “teasing,” but when you hear variations on the same theme from twelve people over the course of two meetings, it stops being funny and starts smacking of unkind pettiness.  And I don’t think I’m being oversensitive or paranoid–I think several people are being ugly.

First of all, let me preface this by saying, if I come across as bragging or “I’m so much better than them,” that’s not my intention at all.  I respect and like the people in GPS a lot, and I never, ever, EVER believe people have any reason to be jealous of my writing, because that’s just not how I think.  That said, when I entered the 2009 contests, OF COURSE I hoped I would win, and, as a member in good standing, I have every right to enter.  So, I sent in my poems last October, and they sent notices in early January–and I won a First prize, two Second prizes, and an Honorable Mention.  Well, I was elated, in my quiet-I-don’t-ever-say-anything kind of way.  So when they announced the winners at the January meeting, I was barraged with congratulations… and then the muttering, snotty comments started, the first of which was (and this is a direct quote):  “I don’t think anyone should be allowed to place in more than one contest.  It’s not fair.”

This was from someone who himself placed in one of the contests, and Someone Who Should Know Better.  Let me point out, that are 6 or 7 annual contests, and there are no rules that say a person can only enter one  of those contests (which would of course prevent her from placing in more than one contest if she won).   And the comments continued from lots of different people.  Here’s a sampling:

  • “You should let other people have a chance!”
  • “Wow, that’s really great that you won, but leave some prizes for the rest of us!”
  • “I got tired of hearing them announce you as a winner. (Ha ha.)”
  • “I was  sick of seeing your name!”
  • “I wish I was as …lucky… as you are!”

The editor of GPS’s journal did say some genuinely complimentary words to me (and, to be fair, there were a few others), and I was grateful… but she too commented about the quantity of poems that I’d won for (not in a mean way, though), and I mentioned to her that I was thinking of not participating at all in the 2010 contests, and she said that she’d noticed I hadn’t submitted any poems for publication to the Member Section, and she had wondered why.  Truthfully, I was afraid I might submit a poem that could wind up winning one of the Awards for Excellence, and the very last thing I wanted to do was open myself up to more back-handed compliments and complaints.

I’m still pretty seriously considering not submitting poems to the 2010 contests.  You know, maybe I really do need to give everyone else a chance.  I really wasn’t trying to make a sweep last year… but fair is fair, right?

We’ll see though.  I can always use the money (if I win).

    Hmm… How to Take This?

    Today, I saw in my inbox I had received a response to a poetry submission I sent off maybe 3 or so months ago.  This is what they said:

    Thank you for your interest in and submission to [Journal Name].  We are currently reading submissions and will make our final selections by the end of September.  Please feel free to contact us if you have not received a reply to your submission by October 1st.

    I  guess  it’s nice and all to  receive this, if I was wondering what was taking so long. . .  but now it’s given me false hope.  I think I’d rather they just have said, “Dear JC, um. . . no,” as opposed to this in-between fandango.  

    Editors, kindly note:  Either a yes, or no, please.  Or,  if you must “thank” me for the submission, send it as an auto-reply just as soon as I sent the poems to you.  Don’t prolong the agony, and wait till 3 months have already passed to tell me you received the submission and wil be making a decision soon.  I’ve pretty much already decided it’s a lost cause. 

    Talk about procrastination!