I’ve been thinking about Camille Dungy’s wonderful posts at the Poetry Foundation blog. Yes, my credo of practicing generosity, having dialogue, being open and answering questions that young writers, emerging writers have about the process of writing, the process of finding publication, figuring out where to find publication. Who do we envision as our readers, audience, and community? What is important for us as writers, in terms of connecting with some kind of community? There are no stupid questions, just the constant work of writing, reading, growing, and sharing.
Blake Butler has got an amazing post, “22 Things I Learned from Submitting Writing,” over at HTML Giant. I highly recommend everyone read it! Again, the reminder to put this submissions thing into perspective. I’ve been repeating here, broken record stylee, that I recommend focusing on more important things than allowing ourselves to get swallowed up in the seamy po-biz stuff. What are the more important things? Well, writing, for one. Writing, and growing stronger as a writer, through much practice, through much success and failure, which isn’t even really failure, and as a continually growing artist, always writing, always reading, always learning, being prolific, always in movement, and rather than creating work which merely satisfies the industry’s current trends and demands, aspiring to create great work that will grow beyond us.
Here’s something of note:
If you really want to publish a book one day you will publish a book. The time that you spend getting there is kind of wonderful. Don’t cut it short. The emotional range is valuable.
PAWA WORKSHOP with Barbara Jane Reyes: How to Submit Your Work for Publication
Bayanihan Center, Mission Street @ 6th, San Francisco.
Saturday, July 30th, starting promptly @ 10 am
Registration: Sliding Scale ($25-35 for students with valid student ID; $35-50 general).
Please make checks payable to:
Philippine American Writers and Artists, Inc.
P.O. Box 31928
San Francisco, CA 94131-0928
Include “07/30/2011 workshop” on the memo line.
Paypal option is here: http://www.pawainc.com/julyworkshop.html.
What to Bring: yourselves, your questions, your current submissions packets, your current submissions calls resources.
Who Should Attend: Aspiring and emerging writers with limited or no experience with the submissions process, or writers with some submissions experience, who would like to refine or clarify their own current processes.
Continuing on with what is now looking like a series of blog posts on submissions and publishing, I want to reiterate that I’m writing all of this to think out loud about my presentation for the PAWA 07/30/2011 workshop. I am anticipating a relatively specific community of writers, most likely emerging local writers of color who participate in local and grassroots arts orgs, and who have limited publishing experience.
As well, and again, back to author and friend Sunny Vergara’s blog post on self-promotion, as well as thinking back on so much of the writing I do here, as well as thinking about my recent conversations with Anthem Salgado including the Art of Hustle podcast interview, I believe there are cultural and even political reasons for the reticence I see in this community.
A friend of mine, a fellow writer, recently held a women writers submissions party somewhere in the Bay Area. I did not attend, but it was interesting to see the comments thread on Facebook. There really was a lot of articulated and admitted fear. I don’t know anymore what this fear is about; it’s no longer my experience. Maybe it once was. But the very reason why I am offering this workshop is because of those kinds of articulated and admitted fears.
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?
Really, is this what the goal is, and/or is this what the goal should be? And if so, how to attain Google-ability?
This comes up as I have been preparing for the PAWA Submitting Your Work for Publication workshop. I have been asking other writers questions about what some issues and hang-up’s around publication are. Google-ability has come up.
I believe that’s beyond publishing, not necessarily a separate issue, but one that detracts from the core work and efforts of publishing.
That said, I do believe in maintaining a steady and professional web presence. This is why I have this website (and all these ancillary sites: FB, Twitter, Goodreads, etc. Really, look at all these places, though I can only realistically be active in one or two, and just have RSS feeds lead back here), which I should be updating more regularly than I do. I used to post here nearly daily, but that’s becoming impossible.
I have been posting calls for submissions like mad, over at the new and improved PAWA blog, and have been a little surprised at the non-response to them. I know; just because I’m not hearing any feedback does not mean folks are being unresponsive. It’s just that I have been trying to gauge community interest in submitting work for publication.
Here is what befuddles me: There’s so much dialogue over our invisibility and non-presence on bookstore shelves and on course syllabi, coupled with reticence to put work out there in a major way. As well, there’s so much interest in self-promotion, in being recognized, so much desire to be given props and praise for being poets and writers, coupled with reticence to put work out there in a major way.
What gives, with the contradictions? I am interested in untangling that, and giving substance to the picture of “poets and writers,” and the necessary work to make it so.
As my friend and fellow author Sunny Vergara has recently blogged, it’s loaded, “self-promotion,” and the term, “shameless self-promotion.” Submitting work is part of the work of self-promotion. With every cover letter we write to accompany every submissions packet we send out, we engage in self-promotion. We’re submitting to the possibility that our work is good and/or interesting enough to warrant publication in a potentially competitive field. He’s listed some truths, which I believe are important to arrive at on our own schedules, after going through our own processes:
- You cannot sit on your ass and hope to be discovered.
- You cannot sit on your ass and hope to be invited to speak.
- You cannot sit on your ass and hope to be published.
I’ve been trying to figure out how to write about my many thoughts on the state of “Poetry.”
So let me start by shouting out Margaret Rhee, poet and scholar, and future Tinfish author. She is teaching Poeta en San Francisco to her Reading and Comp class at UC Berkeley in Asian American Studies this summer session. (Sometimes I regret not taking those AAS Reading and Comp classes, though, of course there is a lot of literature I would not have read were it not for English 1A and 1B.)
Well, my point here is that my years-old book is being read and discussed for the first time by a new generation of API college students, and taught by a poet and scholar who also was assigned my book a few years back, when she was at the beginning of her graduate education, when Truong Tran taught it in a SFSU Creative Writing course in February 2007.
I hadn’t read from Poeta en SF for a long time, until the Lyrics and Dirges series at Pegasus Books. And really I did in on a whim, because the book store had ordered copies of it specifically for the reading (which I hadn’t expected). [ETA: I didn’t even have my own beaten up reading copy with me; I used a copy from the used books section, and then Sharon Coleman bought it at the end of the evening.]
But you know, it felt hella good to perform those poems again. Their energy, that ferocity, was something I previously thought I’d outgrown and no longer suited me, and I was wrong. Fit like my favorite pair of old blue jeans.
First, we must always practice generosity. Few things piss me off more than folks who take, who always want stuff from you, who are always, “Look at me! Look at me! Me! Me! Me!” and who offer nothing in return. There are many of these folks crowding my inbox, and I can’t tell you enough what kind of off-putting, bad etiquette this is.
So that is my Golden Rule: Practice Generosity. In fact, considering the impending Rapture (see Gustav Doré’s beautiful “Four Horsemen” above), isn’t it even more imperative that we practice Hesukristo’s Golden Rule (minus the piss off part):
And just as you want men to do to you, you also do to them likewise (Luke 6:31).