I am a year old. At least by WordPress standards. I am now a poet. Or, at least according to my latest publication. I am also insane. But that’s always been a given.
Yesterday I received a WordPress notification that it’s my 1 year anniversary as a blogger. That in itself seems very surreal, since I’ve been at this short story publishing game for about two years already. It was actually in June of 2012 that I sat down and sent out my first short story submission. At that point I decided to keep sending out submissions until I got published. It was a promise to myself that I had failed at before. Numerous times in the past, in fact. After I wrote a manuscript in highschool, I sent out query letters during that summer and pretty much gave up on it after 3 months and a dozen rejections. It’s not that the rejections got to me, but it was the pre-internet age and letters were hand typed, folded and stuck in an envelope with a SASE. It took a lot of effort, and a lot of patience to await those replies. To an 18 year-old during the summer, that’s a lot of work and I didn’t have the patience to keep it up. And these were simple queries explaining that I wrote a book and would so-n-so be interested in reading it. But much has changed in the last 20 years. Now, everything is email or, my personal favorite, Submittable. Not only can you submit an inquiry, but you do so with your completed work. This goes for both short stories and novel manuscripts. I can whip up several query letters in an hour. That made my goal more productive and much easier. Two years ago I decided that every Sunday I would make at least 3 short story submissions to various journals and magazines. Once I got a reject, I would immediately make 3 more submissions. Eventually I had 100 submissions. (today the tally is 221, and that’s where the insanity part comes in.) But my persistence paid off. It took about four months before I got my first acceptance letter, informing me my story would be published in eight months. Yep, eight months. I was freaking excited, of course. But I felt that the wait of eight months was going to drive me crazy. But I waited, and continued submitting. And submitting. And submitting.
One year to the month that I had decided to start publishing my short stories, I had my first publication in the ezine Ascent Aspirations Magazine. As well as two other acceptance letters, about 50 rejections, and about probably about 50 or so still pending. To celebrate my small accomplishment, and at the encouraging advice of one of my best friends, Raydeen, I opened my blog. After all, if there was one thing I learned by sitting through agent and publishing panels is that writers who want to go far have a blog and “web presence”.
So, here I am, one year later, with 15 publications and a book for sale that I co-authored, spreading my author goo all over the internet like Slimer from Ghostbusters. Happy birthday to me!
And as if the year hasn’t been exciting enough as a full-fledged author, I am now able to add poet to my list of creative abilities. Last month I received an acceptance letter from The University of South Dakota’s Vermillion Literary Project accepting a poem I wrote entitled, “Umbrella”. I was literally shocked. You see, I’ve been sending out a few of my poems here and there if I came across a call for submission that looked promising. Sometimes, I sent out the poems just to do something different. Really, I did it for shits-n-giggles. I’m not a poet. And as a writer, I’ll be the first to admit I don’t understand poetry – not in the sense of how a true poet understands poetry. I started out writing poetry as a depressed pre-Goth era teen after my brother died and I was trying to get the emotions and thoughts of suicide out of my head. It was typical teenage “woe is me, nobody understands me, life is so dark, look at my collection of black clothing, I’m smarter than everyone, look how artsy I am” drivel. And I say that with an extreme amount of affection to my old teenage self. It was poetry that rhymed. And it was poetry sometimes written to the tune of my favorite song at the time. It was as if I was rewriting lyrics to my favorite songs about what I perceived was my shitty life at the time. It wasn’t brilliant, it wasn’t cutting edge; it didn’t make the angels weep. But it did win me the Poet Laureate award of my high school’s graduating class. And it was printed in my high school’s monthly newsletter. So, I supposed that was my first publication.
But despite that, I still didn’t understand poetry. Flash to 10 years later when I was back in college and I had to take a poetry class to fulfill my degree requirement. It was still a mystery, and even more so that, with the exception of sonnets, we read a lot of poems that didn’t rhyme, didn’t have an understandable flow, that, while beautifully written in language I’m still envious of, didn’t make sense in my head as to what made this particular poet a National Poet Laureate over the next. Prose is easy for me. I see patterns in prose, I see methods and craft. It’s a language I understand. Now, while poetry has its own patterns, methods and craft, it’s a language I don’t understand. But I did the assignments, I did the readings, I tried to understand poetry and I made my A’s in class.
Flash to another 10 years later, I submit some poems along with my short stories and here we are – not only has one of my poems been picked up, but picked up by the Vermillion Literary Project, a yearly publication that has a 1% acceptance rating. Maybe I am a poet after all.
And after all that, poetry is still not where I want to leave my mark. My calling is prose. It always has been. Exceptionally long prose, if we have to get down to the bottom of it. This is where the insanity comes in again. Yesterday I hit another benchmark with the novel. I’m currently at 150,000 words. And if I’m lucky, I might be 2/3 of the way through. Only if I’m lucky. Chances are I’m barley at the halfway mark. I use the 7-point story structure, so there are more than a few critical pinches and plot turns. As it stands right now, I still haven’t’ reached the novel’s critical climax, but it will happen in the next two chapters. Then after that, most of the mystery surrounding my heroine will be resolved just in time for the final buildup, climax and resolution. I hope I can get that done in the next 100,000 words. Which will put it at what I initially imagined it to be as a 250,000 words. Here’s where the insanity truly comes in. Most publishers only want books between 90,000-120,000 words. So how the hell am I going to sell this when it’s finished? A couple of people have brought up the idea of splitting the book in two, or even three. But I’m not a series type of person. If it can be split, it will be done so at about 175,000 words, leaving the last 75,000 or so to be book two. Not the “Book 1” and “Book 2” dynamic publishers want. All I can really do at this moment is keep writing, keep building my name and reputation and by the time it’s finished (hopefully in the next 16 months) I can convince a publisher to take a chance on me and my Game of Thrones length “first-time” novel. It’s a gamble, but in the end it’s really about the creation and keeping the story true to itself. I feel it only works as a 1-book story. I pray others do as well.
In the meantime, I go on being me: writer, author, poet, still-to-be novelist. And planter of very slow tomatoes. Yes, this moment of randomness is brought to you by our sponsor, ADD, as I look out my window and wonder why after two months my tomato plants only have a few small buds so far. I was told tomatoes grow in abundance, but one must be patient. I’m patient with writing. Not so much with tomatoes.
Until next time, check out VLP Magazine 2014. Check me out on Goodreads. And if you’re one of the lucky ones who bought our anthology, Time Out of Darkness, you can get it autograhed on Authorgraph. Yes, I’ve had a busy week spreading my slime through the interwebs. Enjoy!
Cheers and Slainte!