You can’t throw up a bunch of blog posts about pushing through writer’s block without God/the universe/your subconscious/whatever testing you. I haven’t written a post in a while, but I’m here now.
Maybe I don’t know everything there is to know about writing (obviously). The thing is, I’ve never had the thought, “I know everything I need to know about my writing. I know who I am.” Maybe I do know who I am, but I sure as hell don’t know everything there is to know about my craft. Maybe I forgot that I’m still learning. Just because I’ve had some success doesn’t mean I’m not shooting in the dark. In fact, just while writing this, I see how much editing I’m going to have to do for this post, and I’m reminded that I’m still rough around the edges. As a person and a writer. Thankfully, though, you’re seeing the cleaned up version of my writing!
The thing about writing is the pressure to be good. No one wants to put a subpar book out there and see a million bad reviews. No one wants to see one bad review, honestly. Elitism comes into play when writers buy into the pressure. We think if our work meets the criteria of Good Writing then we suddenly become the judge for everyone else. At least, that has been my experience.
A younger version of me was very judgmental toward other writers, and later in life when I was in my MFA program, I still struggled to remain nonjudgmental. Is part of it that I enjoy feeling superior from time to time? I hope not, but it’s more than possible. I can remember being a little girl and loving knowing that I was right about something, knowing that I knew something no one else knew, and the pleasure of enlightening them.
All of this feels a little too personal to write. I would hate for one of my writer friends to read this and feel that I must be inwardly criticizing them all the time. This post is mostly an exploration of my ideas – I definitely don’t have a clear cut, right answer for you, although, if you do please share!
One thing that I know is it’s more productive to critique your own writing that to critique someone else’s. What do I mean by that? I mean that, while reading and critiquing another writer’s work, whether it’s published or not, can teach you things about your own work, the only thing that actually changes your work for the better is when you critique it yourself and put the changes you need into place. I’m stating the obvious, but it’s easy to do the easy thing and the easy thing here is finding the faults in someone else instead of fighting the behemoth that is your own project’s flaws.
As much as I needed to be reminded that I still have a long way to go as a writer, I know that my writing has improved tremendously over the past year. This blog has certainly helped me learn to be clear and cut out the extraneous (although, recently, I’ve allowed myself to be more adventurous and see where the posts go), but another big part of my improvement has been having more time to revise.
While in my creative writing undergrad and MFA programs, every week was about writing the next poem, story, essay, and paper. I took a ton of workshops and forms classes, so I was constantly writing the next thing, only stopping to revise a few weeks before finals so I could turn in an edited portfolio to my professors. I was always brainstorming the next thing so revising was somewhat superficial. I didn’t have enough time to dig into my work and evolve it until summer breaks. Now that I’ve spent a year out of school, I’ve learn so much about tightening up my language, discovering the heart of the piece, and doing more of what works and cutting back on the rest. If I had to pinpoint the biggest way I’ve grown as a writer in the last year, it is in my revision techniques.
I’ve learned to let myself word vomit and let the future editor me mop it up. Looking back, I’m very proud of how far I’ve come on my own just from trial, error, and revision. Sometimes I forget that I’ve got a body of work to work with, not just a few flimsy poems. Granted, I’ve got a lot more to write and in ten years I’m sure I’ll look back and wonder how I thought the writing folder on my laptop consisted of a “body of work.” But still, I’m working with what I’ve got and I’ve got something to work with, and that’s enough for me.
Hearing nothing but the sound of your breathing is a rarity. I know that the common thing to do here would be to sell silence to you as a tool. It’ll make your life better and you’ll reach self-actualization or something along those lines. But that sound bite is overdone. Not everyone finds the quiet moments as fulfilling as I do, and I recognize that. To some people, a lack of stimulation is absolutely maddening. It’s not even about being bored or some subconscious fear, certain people just aren’t wired to crave quiet time like others are, and I get that.
For me, though, quiet is a fundamental need that has to be met for me to keep functioning. I know that silence may not be a true necessity the way water is, but I still feel as if it I can’t live without it. It’s at least partly my introversion, but quiet time is also just good medicine for me. The quiet moments I get by myself are the moments when I fell the most grounded. The most connected to the world and the most alone. The safest and the most vulnerable. I need time to be quiet to figure out what all the rattling around inside of me means, and I’m sure other introverts feel the same.
Earlier today, I stepped outside on my front porch to let the cat out, and it was surprisingly quiet outside. I live in the middle of dozens of acres of farmland and wooded areas where small houses are lined up in little loops but still far apart compared to other neighborhoods. It’s not as loud as living in the city or even in a subdivision, but it’s never this silent. There’s so much wildlife around that the trees are always rustling, the water is moving down the drainage ditches and creeks, or the frogs are calling to each other. It’s common to think that nature is quiet, but it’s not, except on days like today. We had a cold front come through, so I think the drop in temperature made all the animals hunker down for a while, and when I stepped outside it was completely calm.
It was striking how silent my world was in that moment. So quiet that there’s no other way to describe it. I forgot that the world could get that still. I felt surrounded, but the world had been washed clean of noise. All I had was my sight, and with that focus of sensations, I felt a clarity. Not simplicity, but a clear focus.
As a writer, I’m always linking moments like this back to my work. Today, I thought about how stories don’t come from the quiet times in our life. Stories come from the overheard conversations, the arguments, the friendships – the moments when we interact with the world and exchange something within ourselves for something out there. Stories are not born in silence… but they do mature in the quiet moments when we are left with our thoughts and the sound of our breath. Without silence, there is no room for the seeds of the story to fully take root. We can learn, gather information, interact with the universe, but everyone, even an extrovert, needs a quiet moment for the experiences to sink in and take root in the story of our lives. I think I needed the reminder today of what true silence is, and I honestly think it can be the best medicine.
I’ve spent a surreal amount of time wondering how writers balance multiple projects. Especially unpublished authors who don’t have to meet a publisher’s deadline for each project. It seems like as soon as I get grounded in an idea that I’m fired up about, a new idea comes along that throws my brain all out of sorts. Some people call this “shiny new idea syndrome” and for me, that term sums up the issue perfectly.
Case in point: I recently started drafting a nonfiction how-to manuscript that I’m excited about. I’m treating the project as an experiment since I’ve never written a manuscript this long, but I think with editing it could be a book I’m proud to publish. I outlined it weeks ago and let the idea simmer for a while. Then a few days ago, I started drafting.
Guess what happened today, literally 5 days after I started the project? I was reminded that April is National Poetry Writing Month. I’ve always wanted to participate, and I view poetry as my home genre. I am suddenly more excited about potentially completing NaPoWriMo than I am about the how-to book.
Even before I did some googling and learned about shiny new idea syndrome, I knew that this new idea was going to be a distraction. That’s not to say I can’t give it a shot but diving into 30 days of poetry will certainly make me question whether the how-to book should be a priority. True, I could probably draft a poem pretty quickly each day, and I should be able to continue writing my nonfiction manuscript at the same time, but the point of National Poetry Writing Month, at least for me, is not to write down 30 half-baked poems. If I undertook the challenge, I’d want to revise my drafts over the course of the month alongside writing the daily poems. That’s a time and energy commitment. One that I’m not sure I could reasonably sign up for knowing that I’d also be writing a book.
Yes, I overcomplicate things. I should just choose. The thing is, I don’t like thinking I have to pick a project or even a genre to focus on for a season. I’ve been writing long enough to know that this is how my brain works. I stupidly try to juggle a dozen things at once and drop all of them out of exhaustion. Sometimes I spend all my time trying to figure out which projects to juggle in the first place and go weeks without writing consistently.
I don’t know what the answer to all of this is. I see committing to a project as a sure-fire way to finish what I start. There’s no shortage of all the ideas a creative person could dream up over time, so if I continue idea-hopping I could potentially spend the rest of my life jumping from project to project without finishing one. I know that sounds dramatic. After all, I’d probably finish one of those projects eventually. My point is that once you get a shiny new idea, the previous one seems a little dull in comparison, and if the next shiny new idea comes along in a few weeks and your first shiny idea begins to look dull too… The old ideas begin to get buried in the pile. Then what?
Kristen Martin, an author who I’m subscribed to on Youtube, made a video about balancing multiple projects that I found pretty helpful. She suggests “tapping into your writer-brain” on a day to day basis to see which project you feel up to working on that day, but only picking one project per day. I like this approach. I translate it as taking a moment to listen to my creative side and see what she wants to write today. Since the only deadlines I have to work on are my own, this approach could help me be productive without putting pressure of me on to finish one project as soon as possible.
Kristen Martin also discusses “compartmentalizing projects” which I take to be a form of prioritizing. Once I’m rolling on a project and feeling good about it, I need to compartmentalize any ideas for other projects and save them for later. I should write them down, maybe take some notes in a new document, but then I need to put them away and make them wait their turn. I shouldn’t give up on my current idea or put it on hold unless I’m truly stumped or just don’t think I can make it work anymore. This seems basic to me, but I have such an impulse to do start on ideas as soon as they come to me.
Kristen’s advice is definitely helpful, and I’ll have to see how it fits into my own writing life over time. I trust that I can learn how to manages the ideas coming into my brain and the writing going out. It’s a matter of practice.
At the beginning of writing this post, I was tempted to drop my how-to project and start writing some new poems for National Poetry Writing Month, but I guess rehashing my dilemma has made me realize that I’d much rather complete a project than hop around. So I’ll keep trudging along on my nonfiction idea, and before too long it’ll be a full manuscript.
I know that consistently writing every day is what I need to focus on in this period of my writing life, and I am committed to that.
Do you struggle with project hopping or shiny new idea syndrome? I’d love to know what’s helped you and what your experience has been like.
“… a writer is the one who puts his arse in the chair when the last thing he wants to do is have his arse in the chair.” – Colum McCann, Letters to a Young Writer
Telling people you’re a writer, discussing your idea for a story but never writing it down, watching a third episode on Netflix and later saying to yourself, There’s no extra time in my schedule to write! talking about writing without actually writing, fantasizing about the day when you’re famous and doing book signings, reading books about writing, criticizing popular authors and jabbering endlessly about how those writers make no contribution to the literary world while you continue to not write anything publishable whatsoever, complaining loudly outside your writer’s workshop that no one “gets” your work, refusing to revise, sharing listicles about things *only* writers understand, complaining about your workload while refusing to shift anything superfluous around so you can actually write, spending your designated writing time tweeting about being a writer, glorifying [insert canonical author’s name] while you trash modern day writers, procrastinating on writing because you’re afraid you won’t be good at it, trash talking presses that rejected you, complaining about how no one appreciates “good” art anymore, using your writing desk as a clothes hamper, tweaking your blog without ever publishing posts, playing with the font, wasting time thinking of a title before you actually write a single word, accumulating “writing” notebooks that you never fill with notes or write in, sitting in a coffee shop with your laptop open to write but scrolling through Buzzfeed instead, laying down at night and dreaming about the day you’ll hold your own book in your hands without actually ever writing.
A short list of things that will make you a writer:
Putting words on a blank page.
Our Number Days by Neil Hilborn is a collection of poems dealing with grief, mental illness, and the realities of love. Neil Hilborn is a Button Poetry writer who has competed at spoken word competitions all over the U.S. Most recently, he traveled on his own tour reading his spoken word poems to live audiences and promoting his new book. Our Numbered Days is his first full-length poetry collection.
The Good Stuff:
Neil Hilborn does a great job of presenting complex emotions genuinely. If you’ve seen this book on twitter at all, you know that people play up how sad the poems are. Those comments have merit, but I think it short changes the poems to say they’re only sad.
Hilborn’s writing style makes me feel like he’s always choosing to be honest with me as a reader even when the details of the situation he’s referencing are clearly presented from his point of view. In other words, he’s good at speaking his truth but leaves the door open for interpretation.
In my mind, I can hear Hilborn saying the poems aloud, but I can also hear myself saying them. There were a lot of great lines that I connected with profoundly. Many of the poems read in multiple tones because Hilborn integrates complex emotions throughout, and I like the duplicity of that. For instance, I read lines such as “Life on earth will in some ways / be easier. I will not have to return / her phone calls.” From “Our Numbered Days ” with a sense of both mourning and relief. I like that those two emotions are being allowed to coexist without one being edited out to play up the other. Life is like that too – we often experience multiple conflicting emotions at once. I love that Neil captures that so well throughout the collection.
The epigraphs set the tone well for each piece. In several poems a half dozen or more epigraphs appear before a short poem which allows outside voices (of the people being quoted) to influence the piece. It seems like Hilborn’s way of giving us context about what he was feeling and thinking about while writing without oversimplifying it or detracting from the main story of the poem.
The epigraphs are a way of zooming out from the poem while bringing the reader closer to its meaning. That probably sounds ridiculous to some people, but in my head, it’s like unraveling and raveling a piece of yarn each time I read one of the epigraph’s in this collection. It had a strong effect me as a reader.
“MSP PHI LGA ALB PHI MSP”
“Ballad of a Bruised Lung”
“The Red Sheets”
There are several poems throughout the piece which are all titled “Our Numbered Days.” I liked the thread that these poems carry and the way they further developed the title; however, it really annoyed me that they weren’t numbered or distinguished in any way from each other. Every time I came across one, it pulled me out of the book and made me wonder if I had accidentally scrolled back to the beginning of the eBook (I was reading on an iPad, so it wasn’t as easy to recognize where I was in the book right away). It happened several times before I learned to ignore that feeling and stay engrossed in the book. I really didn’t like being pulled out of the book in that way.
There were a few poems that left me wanting more. It’s normal to find a few poems I don’t care for in a given collection, so this isn’t a huge deal, but I wish I’d walked away from those poems with a line or two to think about. “The News Anchor is Crying,” “I’m Sorry Your Kids Are Such Little Shits and that We Are in the Same Zen Garden,” and “Parking Meter Theory,” are examples of poems that left me feeling a little unanchored, a little insecure. I wanted to have more footing in the story of these poems to go along with the images and the voice.
Overall, I thought the collection was enjoyable and found some nice lines to dig into. I consider poems featured by Button Poetry (like many of Neil’s poems are) to be accessible reads for anyone trying to get into poetry and learn more about the craft. If you like poetry that focus on the narrative first, these will be enjoyable poems for you.
If you’ve seen any of Neil Hilborn’s performances on YouTube or read Our Numbered Days, be sure to leave a comment so I can hear your thoughts!
I’ve been writing for most of my life, but within the last two years, I’ve been published for the first time in a few literary journals. I’ve made a couple mistakes that make me cringe as I look back on them, but we live and learn. I’d like to share three things you can do to prep your poems before you submit, and hopefully you can avoid some mistakes I made.
1. Run it through a grammar check.
It doesn’t matter how much you’ve edited. You’ve looked at your work so many times that your eyes might be missing something. Take a few extra minutes and pop your poem into a grammar check like Prowriting.com and double check for any simple errors like your/you’re mix-ups or grammar mistakes like plural vs. singular usage. It doesn't take that long, and if you look at your poem a few weeks down the road and realize it has an embarrassing typo in it, you're going to wish you'd taken the extra step and used a grammar check website up front.
Granted, a grammar checker is going to flag a lot phrases in a poem that are correct because we often play with wording in poetry, but it’s easy to spot when the computer is flagging a sentence fragment (usually a line break) or when it’s flagging an issue with correct pronoun usage. I stand by this rule because I know from experience how frustrating it is to send your work out to five lit journals, get rejected by all of them, and find out later there were typos in my poems that I had somehow never caught in my dozens of revisions. If your work has a lot of typos in it, you’re making it easier for editors to write you off because it seems like you’re not really trying. In some cases, your writing may withstand the test despite having several typos, but why risk it? Run it through a free grammar check and then let the editors decide.
2. Double check the submission guidelines.
You don’t want to look like you weren’t interested in the journal and didn’t take time to check that you formatted your work as per their request. You don’t want to submit and then find out that the journal is actually publishing a themed journal that your work doesn’t fall under. You don’t want to waste three months waiting for a reply only to get a rejection because you didn’t do enough research up front.
Editors know that not every writer who submits their work is going to be super well acquainted with the publication, but they do expect you to look at what’s available – submission guidelines, about pages, and sometimes previous issues posted on their website - and submit with that information in mind.
3. Copyedit yourself.
Copyediting for a poem means making sure the information is consistent throughout. This is something a grammar checker won’t catch. That means if the beginning of your poem begins with night time imagery but ends with imagery that references the daytime, you may want to make sure that the inconsistency is intentional. I say this from experience. If you find inconsistencies in your poem and decide you like the poem that way, then no big deal, but double check yourself to make sure you didn’t just accidentally change the time of day during a rewrite.
It’s a pain in the butt to realized you submitted the poem to multiple places with errors, and even if the poem is accepted, it’s embarrassing to correct mistakes after the fact. Plus, once it goes into print, it is final, and sometimes due to deadlines, poems are printed with typos intact because proofing was done so quickly. Again, I’ve seen it happen. Copyedit yourself so you don't find an embarrassing typo in print later!
These are three tips I try to live by when it comes to sending my work out! I hope it gave you some useful ideas about prepping your work for publication. If you have more tips, tell me about them in the comments so we can chat!
Today’s post is probably going to get hokey-pokey pretty fast, so this is your fair warning.
This phrase is on my mind: “Travel lightly and deeply.”
I’m currently reading If You Feel too Much by Jamie Tworkowski, which is where I read these words for the first time. I couldn’t quite let them go once I’d read them. Not in a stuck-in-my-head kind of way, but in a I-need-this-idea way.
Sometimes I need someone else’s words to sum up what I’m feeling before I can ever fully explain it myself. Sometimes, other people’s words are a bridge to understanding myself as much as my own words are a bridge to understanding myself. One of the reasons I write is to be understood and known. That’s always been the appeal to me, and that’s why I know I make so much more sense on paper. I use books to understand others, and I use writing to understand myself and be understood.
When I speak audibly, I almost always fail at expression. It takes hours of thinking over a subject and rehearsing my own made up lines in my head to explain myself coherently to anyone else. During the last few years, I’ve put a lot less effort into that preparation because it’s exhausting. Do I really want to spend my life in that limbo when it’s so much easier just to make myself known on paper? Time is too precious.
All of the above feels necessary to say, but it also feels so necessary to look at that sentence more closely. The line, “Travel lightly and deeply.” speaks to me, but it also sounds like a dream, something to aspire to. It’s hard to imagine that it could be something I start doing today without preparation, but there’s a part of me that thinks it’s supposed to be that simple. I have a tendency to over complicate things, and I have a suspicion that, while this phrase holds a lot of weight, it may not take that much dissecting to understand.
Travel lightly: my first thought in response to these words is that I should give away all my belongs and only hold on to the few things that are near and dear to me, but I think this phrase means something much deeper (and who knows why I have this fascination with getting rid of things. That idea seems to glom onto any even remotely philosophical idea even have.) “Travel lightly” on a deeper level means “lay down your burdens.” Let it go. I struggle with this. I like to hold on to things, especially negative energy, and it’s so bad for me. I still do it. I hate the idea of laying down a thought before it’s fully processed. Before it is dissected, and understood, and mined for its value. But that thinking relies on a falsehood - you don’t learn from bad circumstances by dwelling on them. You learn by accepting them and staying open to learning. I’ve never once learned anything while I was angry about my situation and riling up my attitude every five minutes because I’m prideful and was born with a chip on my shoulder. Traveling lightly, in short, is about accepting life as it is while knowing that brightness and light are in even the bad places.
Travel deeply: give importance to meaning. Whatever is meaningful and good to me is what I should dwell on. Dive in, and experience life in whatever way I think will uncover meaning for me. Obviously, I wouldn’t encourage anyone to do something damaging just for the sake of experience, but by definition we’re talking about making our lives better here, so maybe that goes without saying. That word “deeply” just strikes me so much as the meat of life, the purpose. I don’t believe any of us were made shallow. The spiritual part of us that I believe in creates too vast an expanse within ourselves for me to ever think anyone is incapable of depth. The deep, inner part of our lives is one of the most meaningful aspects of human life, and it’s where meaning itself is derived. We go into our deep, inner space when we think about what’s meaningful to us. We’re in our deep space when we’re acting out our passions and being intentional with our lives. That deep space is critical, and we should not neglect time spent with it. I want to learn to be alone with my thoughts a little more often. I want to learn that I don’t have to chase the next idea, the next thought, the next piece of media to consume just to make sure I’m moving forward or not bored. I don’t have to always be moving forward. There is a time and a place to sit, be quiet, and look back.
This is the part when I realize the yin and yang of this whole idea: to go lightly and to go deeply through life are in some ways opposites, but married together they mean so much more. Their meanings rely on each other. You can’t truly go lightly without digging in and learning from the past because it’s necessary for acceptance, and there is no use in sitting down to contemplate the past if you don’t stand up and leave the burden on the floor, going lightly away from that place. A yin. A yang.
These are just some thoughts that are on my mind today. I hope you can find some kind of meaning in them. I hope you’re encouraged or inspired or thoughtful after reading them, but no matter what, just know that your life matters and you can make it matter to you. Keep your perspective on the light and the deep and reach out to others when you need to.
If you have thoughts, please share them in the comments, as always. Thanks for reading this far.
It can be difficult to find literary journals to submit your writing when you're first starting out in the publishing process, and it can be just as hard when you've been submitting for a while and feel as if you've exhausted your options. I want to share a quick list of places you can send your poetry. These journals either have cheap reading fees or no fees at all and accept submissions year round. I've written posts like this before that focused on literary journals and magazines that accept submissions from multiple genres, but today, I wanted to do a post specifically for the poets out there looking for places to submit. Let me know in the comments where you've submitted your writing lately, or whether you're just starting the journey to publication!
Asks for 3-5 poems. Looking for, “… unpublished poetry that demonstrates originality, intelligence, courage, irreverence, and humanity.” $3 fee. Submissions accepted year-round.
2. The Same
Send up to 6 poems. “We believe that the more things change, the more they stay the same…” Exclusively publishes female writers. $3 reading fee. Submit year-round.
3. Ellis Review
3-5 previously unpublished poems. “We believe the best poems often share several characteristics that can be summed up in intentionality.” No fee. Submit year-round.
Send up to 7 pieces, max 15 pages (accepts poetry and poetic prose). “We use the term ‘poetry’ loosely; if it's ‘poetic’ in any sense, try us.” No fee. Pays for accepted poems. Submit year-round with short response time.
Submit 3-5 poems. They, “… hope to publish poems that take some of the sky down to the page.” Exclusively publishes journal. $2 reading fee. Year-round reading period, bi-annual publication.
Note: I normally refrain from spoilers when I review books, but in this discussion, I share a few details that you may feel are too specific and spoil the end for you. This is just a heads up, so you can decide whether you want to continue reading this review or not. If you’ve already read the book, I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments!
Wink Poppy Midnight is a story about magic, loss, love, and what it means to be a hero. The narrative follows the three title characters – Wink, Poppy, and Midnight – during the summer before their senior year of high school. The whole story takes place over a matter of days. Wink, Poppy, and Midnight take turns recounting the events of that dangerous summer, and leave the reader guessing what will happen until the very end.
The Good Stuff:
The best image I can use to describe this book are the moving staircases in Harry Potter. You start out at the bottom of the staircase thinking you know where you’re going to end up, but by the time you get to the top, the destination has changed three times. You get off the staircase only to see that you must pick a new one to get where you want to go.
Each time the story switches between the three narrators, it’s easy to tell who’s speaking because the voices are distinct. The author manages to maintain an overarching voice of the novel which gives it a feel of mystery and intrigue without compromising the individual voices of each main character. I found Midnights voice to be the more grounding of all the narrators. He is straight forward, honest with himself, and very in tune with his inner life.
Wink and Poppy were also fun to read because they know themselves so well. Even though they are growing and changing throughout the novel, they are incredibly aware of their motives and desires, their faults and their strengths. Seeing such decisive, strong willed female characters was so refreshing.
Wink brings so much magic to the story. She believes in the unconventional, and I love that her whimsical ideas mix with the dark and dangerous situations at the center of the novel to create a haunting, dreamlike story. Wink’s narration leaves room for the reader to wonder. Is she telling us the truth as she sees it or is she covering something up? Is she the damsel or the dragon? I love that she surprises me.
Poppy is an unlikable character and honestly, a little scary, and still, I am drawn to her vivid voice as a narrator. Her deviant personality is clear in the first chapter and the evidence against her only builds. But, what I like so much about Poppy is how aware of herself she is. She knows she’s bad, and she eventually becomes aware of how others perceive her. The fact that the author uses Poppy’s actions and thoughts to reveal her moral character while still making her seems redeemable and capable of change at the very end is admirable to me as a fellow writer.
The character development overall showed that the author put a lot of effort into fleshing out each character while writing, and I find that kind of commitment admirable.
The Bad Stuff:
Some people don’t like plot twists, and if I had read this book over several days instead of in just two, I might have gotten a little aggravated by the plot turning and twisting so much. It can be mentally exhausting for some people to follow a half dozen plot twists while others thrive off the ambiguity. It depends on your taste.
The plot slows down about two-thirds of the way through. Some readers may see this as a needed breather, but I saw it as too slow. Things happen in this part of the book, and I think it serves as an information period in which we’re meant to learn more about the side characters. I would have preferred it to move a little faster while providing the same information though.
I don’t have many negative things to say about this book,. It may be a new favorite of mine. I had a wonderful weekend just immersing myself in this dreamy story.
Overall, Wink Poppy Midnight was an awesome read for me. Mystery readers will like the intrigue and suspense of this novel, and fans of E. Lockhart’s We Were Liars will enjoy the strong character development and the way the story pieces itself together. Wink Poppy Midnight gets a strong 95% out of 100% or 5 out of 5 stars from me.
I just got 2 rejection letters within five days of submitting to the journals. I received those letters within a week of each other.
Usually submission responses take several weeks or months to receive, so when you get a rejection letter within a few days, it can catch you off guard. I worked on my university’s lit journal for a semester, so I know that it’s easy to quickly read a submission and make a quick decision about whether it belongs in your journal or not, but it still stings (a lot). There’s nothing menacing about it. The piece works or it doesn’t. Really the only reason my teammates and I ever deliberated whether we should accept or reject a piece was because there were so many of us and doubt creeps into the decision making process when so many people with different tastes are in the same room. At the end of the day, though, I knew the pieces were either right for our journal or they weren’t. There was only so much space in our print version, so there wasn’t room to accept poems that fell in the grey area. That’s not to say that we only received a few great poems to put in the journal. We received a ton of great pieces, but they didn’t always fit the theme and feel of our journal.
Recently, I read Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert, and there’s a chapter that focuses on how Gilbert dealt with rejection, especially in her early years of writing. She describes using a “boomerang” technique to deal with rejections, which I have discussed in previous posts. She got the rejection letter and immediately took her manuscript out, stuck it in another envelop and sent it out to a different magazine. She did it automatically. Almost without thinking. Later in the chapter, she encourages writers to do what they need to do to deal with rejection (let themselves feel sad for a little while, get angry, whatever), but she encourages writers not to waste too much time before getting back to work, either by revising or sending their work right back out into the universe.
I’m trying to adopt this method, but so far it’s been a little more difficult than I thought. Finding places to submit to takes a while. You want to find a place that you’ll be happy to be published with and not just any old place that’s open for submissions. It also helps if your work just seems right for the magazine, either because you’ve looked into what they’ve published over time and it seems up your ally or you’ve read their about page and really feel pulled toward their publication. That process takes time, but it’s meaningful. I’ve never liked the idea of sending my work out at random where it could potentially be accepted, but not really appreciated or understood. Granted, it’s hard to know which places are going to treat your work well upfront, but knowing I have the publisher’s respect is important to me. Important in an “I’m not just random content for you to throw up on your website,” way. For that reason, I’ve been a little slow to send my work back out, but I am committed to continue. I really believe that 98% of the work you send out is going to be rejected whether it’s good or not (because, again, there’s only so much space), but you keep going so that you can see the 2% that does get published.
It’s not about accolades or recognition for me, (although to each his own). It’s honestly about having the chance to tell people a story. Storytelling, whether the medium be fiction, poetry, or nonfiction, is an art form I respect deeply and want to engage in. That’s why I keep writing despite the rejection letters, despite the negative workshop comments, despite people in my life just not getting it. I still want to be a writer, see where my stories take me, and see what readers the stories pick up along the way to enjoy the ride with me. We say that writing is so solitary, so lonely, but to me writing is all about people. You share something you worked hard on, and other people engage with your art whether it’s as an editor, or a reader of a journal, or someone reading this blog. Rejection may sting, but writing doesn’t. As difficult as starting out as a writer is, I hardly feel alone. I hope you don’t either.
Feel free to leave your thoughts in the comments. Let’s encourage each other.
Poet. Reader. Lifelong Student.