Thank you to the folks who’ve been leaving comments here! I am sorely behind in responding to these excellent comments, so I will try to address some of your points here.
My notes and presentation for the How to Submit Your Work for Publication workshop, start with this: Why publish? Why do you want to publish? Who is your audience? Who do you envision as your audience? Who do you want to reach with your work? In other words: Why do you want your work to be read, and by whom?
Also, I think there is something to be said about immediate, short term, and long term goals, for specific works, and in a larger sense. We can self-publish chapbooks for specific events, and submit to as many different kinds of journals, magazines, and anthologies — as many as suits us. We can submit chapbook and book manuscripts to different kinds of publishers. All of this, I believe, is dependent upon what we want each specific work to do. So perhaps this addresses some of Rachelle Cruz’s questions about submitting to “prestigious” publications, when to start doing this, and whether we should at all.
At the PAWA/Achiote Press Writing Panel at SFPL last year, an audience member asked whether “prestige” was a good enough reason to apply for MFA programs. One of our panelists, Saint Mary’s College MFA graduate Rashaan Alexis Menesis warned against chasing prestige for sake of itself. One you achieve something, nail a big prize, etc., there’s always something bigger. If we get caught up in that game, then I think we’re devoting less energy to creating kick ass work. I think perhaps some of the anxiety around diving into that world of publication and possible recognition has to do with, as Sunny Vergara says, the uncertainty that we are creating work good enough to warrant publication. So that’s something more important to worry about, honing our skills as writers, such that we can be confident standing behind our own work and sending it into the big world outside of ourselves and our circles.
I also think “prestige” is relevant. There are folks in my community who probably couldn’t give a fuck what “impressive” items are on my CV; there are folks out there in the big po-biz world who couldn’t give a fuck about PAWA, and that’s just the way it is. So all I can do is continue to work and publish in all the places that I do.
Another thing: Years ago, one of my mentors advised me that nailing a big prize, getting “stuff,” is just a means to get more “stuff.” As Ire’ne Lara Silva comments on my previous post, “every publication, every book, every prize, opens the door a little wider.” Yes! I will add that I particularly appreciated my mentor’s use of the word, “stuff.” That’s all it is! In other words, in my mind, there are other things we ought to focus on. Like again, my questions above. Why do we want to be read, and by whom? The next question, or set of questions for me is this: how, then, do we go about getting our work to that audience/readership? What do they read? Where do they access what they read?
But, as I bring up immediate, short term, and long term goals, can we be forward thinking in answering those questions? I am frequently told that the readership for my work perhaps doesn’t exist yet, though as I was told that years ago about Poeta en San Francisco, I am seeing a readership emerge. By extension, I am also starting to see an emergence of the educators who would take this on.
I saw this in Margaret Rhee’s UC Berkeley classroom, with Margaret herself, and her students, and I was thrilled to no end, especially given claims in the past that Poeta en San Francisco was difficult to teach. I think it is. It is as difficult to read as it is to teach. It was difficult to write. This certainly does not mean we should chuck it aside for more “easy” work. And this certainly does not mean I should not have gone through the difficulty of writing it, because it continues to surpass what I believed I was ever capable of accomplishing, though I write with the hope that my words will be remembered beyond me, even discussed as necessary as the works of Gloria Anzaldúa, Theresa Hak Kyung Cha, and Audre Lorde.
Arrogant? I sure hope not. Ambitious, for sure.
The same goes for Diwata; I also hope it will continue to have a consistent trajectory and a long life, as (again) I’ve been told it’s before its time, despite my thinking of its themes in terms of other Filipino American artists’ forays into exploring mythology, indigeneity, and transnationalism.
I say all these things now about my own work, because I wonder how to balance a discussion between the nitty gritty, concrete details of submissions process, with the more interesting and important discussion about envisioning our work beyond our immediate needs for recognition, gratification, and/or affirmation, that desire to be “understood,” and praised today, right now, subscribed uncritically to the romance of being “discovered.” Even the mighty Eduardo Galeano blows this one out of the water; to paraphrase him in his Lannan interview, no one was going to come up to him out of nowhere, and exclaim, “It is YOU! We’ve been looking for YOU!”
I am thinking also of Ire’ne’s comment, that acceptances and rejections shouldn’t mess up our equilibrium/purpose, and I agree. “Submission” is a terrible term, as Dwayne Betts points out: “bow down, acquiesce,” to some power structure. This is a polarized dynamic that does not suit me, and really should not suit us. Still, because I believe publishing is necessary, then we should know how to do it efficiently, not get caught up in that scene and its seaminess such that it compromises our vision, and move on to the most important things.
It always comes back to why we write, who we want to reach with our work, and ultimately, stretching far beyond ourselves, our niches, our circles. I advocate for publishing in many different venues, but this is because for myself, I envision a readership that is varied, that can access and read my work on multiple levels. This is a vision I’ve grown into over time, having (hopefully) acquired some wisdom along the way. Lyle Daggett comments that publishing “has the advantage of creating a record that can (at least theoretically) last longer than the moment of the writing.”
“Theoretically,” Lyle writes, though the ramifications of publishing are indeed concrete, as in Serafin Malay Syquia’s “Poetry and Politics,” essay from Liwanag (1975). I’ve previously mentioned that we will be reprinting it at Doveglion Press, and I have included it on my syllabus to teach to undergrads at USF during the Fall 2011 semester. Syquia’s writing has indeed lasted longer than the moment of the writing.
[Baybayin source: http://www.baybayin.com]