Monday, December 17, 2007

Waiting for the Man(uscript)

In Anne's post that I mentioned below (scroll down if you want...I'm too lazy to do the linky thing) she wondered if editors cleared off the desks and their submission business for the holidays. I've been wondering that too. Mainly because I'm obsessing about the last packets I sent out. Usually I'm fine for about the first six to eight weeks...then after that I start wondering. At 10 to 12 weeks I get slightly more neurotic et cetera et cetera.

A lot of this I attribute to the first time I sent out a bunch of poems while in grad school. We had to do it as part of our final portfolios for a creative writing class. The gist was this: choose three magazines you really admired and wanted your work in. Do up a cover letter and submission, making a copy to reserve for the instructor's comments later. This was 1996 or 1997. I can't remember two of the magazines that I chose for submitting, but the third was Colorado Review. I was in my Jori phase then.

About a month later I got my first rejection--a sort of fortune cookie rejection: skinny skinny strip of paper, wide as a letter sized sheet, but maybe 3/4" tall. Seriously. That means they could reject approximately 14.67 poets per page depending on margins. About two weeks after that I got my second. It was about the size of a postcard. No notes, no sign really that the entire thing had been touched by a human hand except to reinsert my stuff back into the SASE.

So the semester goes on, still nothing back from CR . My instructor was really pleased that I hadn't heard anything back by the end of the semester. I was the only person in the class at the point with work still being considered someplace. Blah blah blah...there were moments I was a little proud of that, but at the heart of it, I just wanted to know. The semester ends, I relocate back to WV. Later that summer I sent a query letter , it had been about seven months since I submitted, including a new SASE with my updated address and went back to my life. No response to the query. So I just wrote it off and went on with classes and drinking and dying my hair. My poems changed, my reading changed, I didn't think much about the whole thing, when almost a year later I got my last SASE back. With a hand-written letter. Over a page. Thanking me for my poems, apologizing for the length of time they held them and for ultimately not being able to fit them into the magazine. I had that letter tacked up above my writing area for a couple of years and moves, eventually losing it about 5 years ago. I've been wracking my brain trying to remember who the editor was that was kind enough to do that and I'm coming up blank.

Considering it was my first time at the rodeo, I feel sort of lucky--I got the entire range of editorial response. I've kept that in mind the last couple of years while submitting--not everyone's going to get it, or like it. Time and resources are at a premium. But I do keep track of how they choose to respond (or not.) I have yet to decide if the fortune cookie rejection slip is worse than just getting my poems shoved back in an envelope or not. But ultimately, that doesn't matter. I look at the poems and I send them out again.

No comments: