Wow, seeing and having my eyes and hands all over Diwata in typeset PDF’s makes it more real. It’s such a gorgeous production, and I am more than happy I’ve done things the way I have for Diwata. I always say this one took its own sweet time, and it’s true.
I didn’t really go through a hellish submissions process. I submitted to or queried eleven presses (nine independent publishers and two university presses), and entered into four contests. I didn’t place as semifinalist or finalist in any of these contests. Of the eleven presses I queried or to whom I submitted (and here, it was during open submissions periods):
- one took a week to send me back a form rejection letter,
- two never responded,
- two responded with polite rejection letters citing high volume of manuscript and budget/funding issues,
- four (of course, including BOA Editions) had editors who were so responsive to the work, which they really read and really thought about — the three besides BOA were West End Press, Heyday Press, and Graywolf Press.
Camille Dungy recently blogged at the Poetry Foundation about time and patience in the manuscript submissions and po-biz process. This is a good read. It makes me think about what we’re prioritizing when we succumb to the inanities of po-biz, what we compromise and how hastily we make decisions (or fail to make decisions) just because we want so badly to join the I Have a Book Club, to schmooze and be name-dropped at AWP. We want instant recognition now; we want it yesterday. We want to one up one other. We wallow in our entitlement. I don’t think these are good enough reasons for a book.
In all sincerity, I think there are writers who jump into the po-biz fray because they believe they have to, and that they can’t exercise any agency there, lest they jeopardize their chances of I’m not sure what. So this isn’t a diss on writers who engage the Poetic Industrial Complex. I operate within it as well, but I am realizing more and more that I have to operate by my own rules.
In terms of hasty decisions, I think of how many writers are so terribly unhappy with their publishers and editors, who feel downright disrespected, handled like cattle, who feel like they can’t have the kinds of conversations they need to have in order to make the book happen the way they want it to happen, who aren’t ever asked what they want, whether it’s in the editing process, the cover art, the production value, the distribution, the PR.
I think of publishers as homes for my books. I even think of my books as my children. I don’t create them half-assed or leave the writing, editing, and revising processes part-way through or handle them clumsily, and so my standard for a publisher it to handle the author, the manuscript, and ultimately the product that is the book professionally. In other words, I believe in all parties involved cultivating professional relationships.
OK. Diwata PDF’s are proofread. Sticky notes, notation, and initials are where they’re all supposed to be; I had two concise and helpful conversations with Thom about my non-AP format use of non-English words (i.e. not italics but roman). We agreed on how this is to be done. No drama; I just took a deep breath after my initial shock, then went through the copy editor’s italicizing, then went line by line through the entire thing, making notation on every single non-English word or phrase to be changed back into roman. I am off to the post office for USPS Express Mail.
BTW, Diwata is American Poets Continuum Series No. 123.