Queen of Analog

I am a huge proponent of index cards.  I have been tracking my submissions to journals and contests on alphabetized index cards for years.  Some years, there are fewer cards in the box than others (though last year and this year, there are a ton).  I like that I can thumb through them, find what I’m looking for, and move on.  I like their tactile quality, that I can hold them and smell their papery-ness, that I have tangible proof at all times that I am working on publishing.

I keep my pack of cards with me in my purse or bag—I sometimes joke, à la Gollum, that the cards are “My Precious.”  They are precious to me, like a talisman or a charm, and I don’t like to be far from them.  It sounds a little wacky, but then, writers are by definition, wacky folk, so I don’t let my little partiality to (I won’t say “obsession with”) the cards bother me.

The red plastic case that holds them has the space for about 120 3x5s.  Inside, there’s a tab for Sent, Rejected, Accepted.  When I’m feeling like I need a boost, I just look through the cards and tell myself, “JC, you are working it.”  Seeing the Sent and Accepted piles is naturally pleasing (and self-affirming), but I even like the Rejected tab, because after I look for some new journals, I will mine the cards in there for submissions that I can send somewhere else.  And I don’t have to think about what pieces go with what, because the submission groupings have already been created—I’m just reusing the card with new journal title on the top.  Easy peasy.

But this is all by way of saying, that in February, I bit the bullet and got a Duotrope subscription, due in part to a young writer friend who mentioned that he was going to subscribe in order to take his writing more seriously, and that getting a subscription to Duotrope was one way he could feel “professional” about the work.  I thought about that and could see his point.  For myself, I wondered if I could justify the expense; after all, I already subscribed to Allison Joseph’s CRWROPPS list in Yahoo Groups, and got a weekly digest from the New Pages website.  So did I really need a Duotrope subscription?  It turns out, I did.

Now, let me be very clear, that I am in no way shilling for Duotrope—they haven’t promised me a free subscription for next year if I tout all their great qualities or anything.  But I like Duotrope for a number of reasons (and not just for the submission tracker element): I like to see the Response List—it’s quite illuminating about the journal process because people who subscribe are really serious about entering this data.  So you’ll see, for instance, one day, BOAAT will have accepted one person’s work, and there will be 15 rejections, or 32Poems will have accepted one or two pieces, and there’s a ton of rejections.  What it helps to do, in my mind, is to let me see the reality of the journal process—I’m not the only one getting rejections here.  It helps to see that other people’s work also is rejected—not from a “ha ha haha ha” schadenfreude perspective, but more like a “we’re all in this together” perspective.

The other thing about Duotrope that I like is that it is constantly updating when markets are open or closed as well as listing new markets that are available.  Having an academic background (and having worked as a reader on Prairie Schooner back in the day), you kind of have a sense that a lot of journals at university presses take the summer off.  But other journals have different submission cycles, so Duotrope is handy in that they let you know when these cycles are happening.

And finally, Duotrope offers metrics for lots of stuff—because people take a few minutes to record data about their submissions, I have an idea about how long it takes some markets to respond.  I’ll give you an example.  Last May (of 2014!!), I submitted poems to a journal and I just never heard from them–until I queried them in December and said, hey, what’s the deal?  I was told by a very harried editor that this was a Name Brand Journal, and they were Very Busy, and I just needed to wait.  And so I did.  Wait, wait, wait.  I finally got a rejection from them on June 10th—a 384 day wait, according to Duotrope.  The average response time for this market is 155 days; the longest reported was 401 days.  I wouldn’t know that, except that Duotrope offers that data.

Now, it’s probably obvious that I’ve become a fan of Duotrope.  I record my submissions and responses there; I look up new markets (and have had some acceptances directly because I found them on Duotrope)… but I still keep my cards.  Because they’re mine.  Because they’re easy to hold onto and easy to maintain, and I don’t need a computer to check on them.  I can keep My Precious with me at all times, and remind myself when I need to, that I’m doing what I can to get my writing out into the world.

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.

Feeling Productive (For the Moment)

I read this post on Facebook about annoying status messages, and the gist of it was, “Don’t post things that make you look like a smug bastard.”  And it’s a valid message for blog posts as well.  So, I’m hoping that I don’t come across as smug when I say that I have been a submission queen lately–in the last 2 weeks, I’ve sent 2 different chapbooks out to contests and poems to 14 journals.  I am not admitting this for praise (because, after all, no one reads this blog), but just to show (myself) that I’m trying to take my writing more seriously.  Which I’ve been needing to do.  (As we know, if you write something down, it becomes more real.)

Submissions are hard for everyone.  But they seem especially hard for me, as I don’t have a good sense of how to put poems together in batches that make sense to me, let alone editors.  Often it seems that my poems are really just very different from each other, so trying to group them is like a nightmare.  So, I wind up not sending poems out–not the best idea, if I actually want to be a writer that people actually read.

But I’ve been trying (as I mentioned)–and while I don’t know when I’ll be successful with any of these 16 submissions (and already I know 2 weren’t, as I received rejections today), I feel like if I can just keep trying–maybe just sending one or two submissions out every day–maybe I can start getting my name out there and seeing that name in print.

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!