Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Submission Malaise

Each successive year, I've noticed that I send out less and less work, and occasionally, I wonder why.  Part of it has to do with the rest of my work life.  Once I had long, lingering mornings to prepare poetry packets along with the occasional short story packets and send them out through the U.S. mail.

But it's more than an issue of time.  There's a malaise, a "poetry angst," as Jeannine describes it in this post:  "People who can’t write poems anymore, who don’t want to send out their work as it seems under-rewarding, who are just tired, who published a book of poetry and found the experience disheartening. I was thinking of when I started a poetry blog back in in the early 2000s, you would hear from lots of different poets from lots of stages in their careers about their poetry anxieties regularly, but things like Twitter (too short) and Facebook (encourages people to post only the happy stuff) have decreased the amount we writers hear from each other about the struggles we might have. I realized yesterday as I made a mental list that a lot – a LOT – of my old poetry blogging buddies have dropped out of the poetry game altogether – they’re writing in other genres, or they’re working too hard/had kids/other things that just got in the way. Or poetry just didn’t reward them as much as other genres (see above, Beth Ann Fennelly’s book of micro-memoir essays – which is probably having an easier time selling than a book of poetry would.)"

I confess that after seeing some Facebook posts, I spent far more time this morning exploring artist Aurora Robson's website than reading poems.  She makes breathtaking sculptures out of trash, mainly plastic trash from what I can tell--and much of it is making a point about where that trash winds up.  She makes sculptures that look like exotic sea creations, and it's hard not to be aware that plastics and oceans are on a collision course, with oceans coming out on the losing end.

Her work seems much more vital than my work.  But that's not the reason why I send out less work these days.

Yesterday, as I was paging through my submission journal, I was struck by how many journals require a $3 fee.  I understand that the submission software isn't free to the journal, but I also know that those fees will add up quickly.

I know that journals will tell me that $3 is a good deal for me, cheaper than postage and printer ink and paper.  That is likely true when I send a short story.  But it's not true for poetry.

For years, journals didn't have this fee for electronic submissions--why now?  If it had been the case from the beginning, I might not be balking now.  But I am.

Once, sending out poetry packets felt more festive.  I would be getting mail in return, after all, and I love to get mail.  The rejections sometimes had personal notes.  I felt like I was getting closer to publication.

These days, sending electronic submissions feels a bit more like applying for jobs--I'm sending materials into a bottomless void, where there's lots of competition for not many spaces, and there's not much chance of a personalized reply.  I can live with that.  But I'm not willing to pay $3 or higher for that sensation. 

After all, it doesn't take many submissions until I can buy a book or two--and after a year or two of submissions, especially if I went at my pace of earlier years, I could easily afford a new laptop or something that would improve my writing life, like a retreat here and there.


Kathleen said...

So many good points here, Kristin. I've been in a slow period, too, in terms of both writing and submitting, but I am still doing it, if in slow motion! I connect with those feeling discouraged as well as those feeling encouraged. It's weird.

Jeannine Hall Gailey said...

It's a different world. I miss the community of the old blog-o-sphere.