Sunday, April 08, 2007


Last week I got two more "returns" from revues to which I had circulated work -- check here for a nomenclature I came up with to replace those stinging, tail-between-the-legs terms, submission and rejection -- and found I now have practically nothing out there: one set of poems sent to one tardy review, and a couple of contests.

Time, this Easter weekend, to resurrect myself -- at least as far as poem circulation is concerned.

Yesterday I spent a couple of hours organizing my return slips and letters into alpha-order in a binder for easy reference, with acceptances under a separate category. I've found Excell spreadsheets too time-consuming, and am using this simple system: simply mentioning names of the poems sent in the cover letter, printing out an extra copy for myself and sticking it in a binder. That way I have all the information about names of editors, poems sent, etc. Is there a simpler system, a better spreadsheet that works for you?

My record over the last two years or so: 45 returns, 10 acceptances (14 poems in total), a finalist for a major contest. On the return slips, I have 9 positive handwritten comments.

Not too discouraging, but I'm very slow at this stuff. My batting average may be quite good (.182, by my calculations, apparently not bad in the Literary League), but I just don't get to bat enough. I lag, procrastinate, spend a long time mulling on what to send where, lose focus, make all kinds of absurd mistakes. It's a task for which I have to make special efforts to psych myself up. For years, I sent out nothing -- demoralized by the process, the editors, the reviews, everything. But if, like most writers, I feel underpublished and underappreciated, I have only myself to blame.

Kelly Russell Agodon wrote a recent post about her over-thinking of submissions. I like the advice a friend of hers gave: send three you think the review will love, and one you think they'll hate. Chances are they'll take the latter. Kelly, by the way, just won a prize.


Kelli Russell Agodon - Book of Kells said...

RE: Is there a simpler system, a better spreadsheet that works for you?

Hi B--

Because I'm notorious for not updating my Excel spreadsheet, I keep a journal where I wrote Name of Magazine, Poems submitted and the date. If they are accepted, they get a yellow highlighted A by them, if they are Rejected, an R.

I do keep an Excel spreadsheet of all of my poems (whenever I finish a new poem, I try to add the title to the spreadsheet). When I submit, I write the date & magazine name horizontally next to in black. If it's accepted then I highlight that cell in blue, if rejected, then I highlight it in red.

As you can see, I'm all about colors.

Definitely not the most streamlined process, but it works for me.

And thanks for the nod...


Brian Campbell said...

I have an Excel spreadsheet with the poems on it too, with columns for sent, returned, accepted. I'm interested in keeping stats on how often a particular poem is turned down before it's accepted. It's a kind of game. So far the record is nine. (Marianne Moore said she didn't give up on a poem until it had been turned down 40 times --well, I have some I highly esteem that have been turned down 20)

This aside from keeping the cover letters in a binder for info on specific submissions (which I like to call assertions, by the way.)

I still hope for the day when I can become efficient at this. Charles Jenson once wrote about doing 25 submissions in one day. That floors me.