Publication: The Nightmare You Wish For
I have been writing creatively for a whole fifteen years now (I know, I’m a baby) and started submitting works to contests when I was sixteen. I began submitting work to literary publications when I entered VT. If I recall, I have submitted to Silhouette 4 times and Philologia and Glossolalia once each, and have applied to about ten journals outside of VT. I have an inbox full of rejection letters and acceptance to one of those journals thus far, and have yet to hear from some of them. I read five poems at Glossolalia 2012; my poem was read aloud at the Steger Poetry Contest; four of my poems have been published in Silhouette; confirmed future publications include 2 in Silhouette Fall 2013, 2 in Philologia Spring 2013, and 1 in the Spring 2013 Roanoke Review.
I have also been writing for my local newspaper since I was 16, everything from Op-Ed to “actual” reporting pieces. Two of my opinion pieces have been printed in the Collegiate Times. I have this blog, my Facebook, and my Twitter account as well.
In short, a lot of my writing is out in the world for judging. There is a lot of hearbreak in the publishing world, and you cannot take anything personally… Except, poetry is personal. All creative writing is personal, because writers always put a sliver of themselves in print. When my essay entitled “I Am A Woman” was denied, I was livid. How dare they! How dare they say that this piece of writing that I had been working on for six month, the work that I had poured my heart onto, is not worthy of publication?! Of course, it wasn’t fit for publication in that journal. It was ragingly emotional and absolutely personal. It was not what they were looking for.
My poetry is inherently personal. I don’t do research based poetry; no matter where I go, I start with my experiences and myself. While my poetry is often heavily exaggerated or based off the experiences of those around me, it remains what I am saying about a topic or emotion.
I have been writing most of my life, but I never fail to get uncomfortable when someone blissfully plops down beside me (or Heaven help me, LOOKS OVER MY SHOULDER) and says, “Whatcha writing about?” Because the answer is usually, “Oh you know, a poem about how I want to die when I’m fifty” or “A non-fiction piece about my raging insecurities” or “A poem about love that is loosely based on this one guy that I cared about once.” Think about your favorite three books or poems… And try to explain them quickly, on the spot, in simple English.
Don’t you just want to die a little inside?
I am also against my work being read before I have time to edit. And if anyone touches my notebooks, so help me. There are things in there that no one has the right to read but me.
And yet, I chose to put myself out there. I chose for my work to be published for a general audience, my name at the top of a page that anyone can read. My poems out in the world make me nervous. I am not there to explain things to the audience. I have to trust that my words will speak for themselves.
I want my work to touch people, somehow, and make them think. I will never forget the first time I read T.S. Eliot’s “The Hollow Men,” pages of Emily Dickenson, Nikki Giovanni’s “Convication Address,” or Langston Hughes’ “Theme For English B.” I cannot explain the emotion that those works made me feel, as if there was more out there than what I could ever understand, but I could try my whole life to manipulate words and emotion the way that they had to make an audience cry, gasp, clap, and keep reading.
Writing isn’t hard for me—editing is hard. Criticism is hard. Cutting out an entire verse that I thought was perfect is hard. Accepting that sometimes my writing is horrible is hard. Accepting that rejection is part of the process is hard. Wanting to have my name out there but being unwilling to write anything that could blurb with “love triangle YA” is hard. Loving my art so much that I get offended whenever anyone trivializes it is hard. Being asked what real job I want when I get older is hard. A person telling me that English isn’t a real major is hard. Working tirelessly on a CW portfolio and obsessing over adverbs is hard.
Wanting, more than anything, to write for the rest of my life is hard.
There is no guarantee in publishing. For every J.K. Rowling and Stephanie Meyer, there are thousands of writers barely scraping by, their books languishing in obscurity or rejected. While my dream career is to teach English at the university level, my dream life is to write endlessly and publish widely.
I will have to get used to slivers of me sitting around everywhere.