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Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Share Your Submission Stories

Until Robert Hershon, editor of Hanging Loose Press, took a chance on Sherman Alexie, he was just a Wellpinit Indian from Spokane, WA, you'd never heard of. William Stafford often told the story of not feeling quite legitimate until the The Hudson Review (correct me if I'm wrong? Was it Poetry?) took his poem, "Traveling Through the Dark." 

I don't know about you, but when I get together with other poets, I love swapping submission and publication stories. I love hearing about someone who sent relentlessly to a magazine for 12 years, collecting a half a dozen or more blank rejection slips, then finally getting the word on acceptance. I love hearing about the little poem that could--a poem that came back in the mail ten or twenty times, and then BOOM: acceptance, Poetry Daily, six anthologies, the works. 

But I am not picky. I am not looking only for stories about big magazines or huge sums of money for book contracts. I love first poem acceptance stories (my first poem was published in Denali, the literary magazine of Lane Community College in Eugene, Oregon (don't tell me you've never heard of Denali?): I was thrilled to pieces to see my work in print).  And I love hearing what's been said on rejection slips, both the form part ("Dear Poet . . . ") and what gets scribbled beneath it. 

If you care to share your stories, please post them here or send them to me via With your permission, I will use your name and story at an upcoming panel on the submissions process, which I'll be sitting on this April at Get Lit! in Spokane, WA, where I hope to run into Sherman Alexie, that National Book Award author. 

Thanks in advance for sharing!


Kristin said...

After waiting years for Garrison Keillor to stumble across my chapbook, I finally got brave and mailed a copy to him myself, with a cover letter that mentioned how much I enjoyed "The Writer's Almanac" and that I thought that some of the poems in my chapbook would be a good fit for his program.

And he actually chose one (or his staff did) and read it on the air! And now it's archived, hopefully forever (May 11, 2007).

My chapbook submission and publication is my happiest-ending submission story thus far, but having one's poem read nationwide on an NPR program is pretty hard to beat in terms of inspiring happiness. I'm hoping to see (soon, I hope) what kind of happiness is induced when one publishes a book with a spine!

Joannie said...

What a cool story, Kristin.

My first acceptance was in the poetry slot of the Pictorial/Pacific magazine section in the Sunday Seattle Times. They discontinued the slot before my poem made it into print.

My second acceptance was from Famous Last Words, which was one sheet of paper, poems printed in small type, and folded up like a travel map--small and very portable.

My favorite acceptance story remains the Floating Bridge Press chapbook award. That was a dream.

I, too, am hoping to experience someday soon the happiness when one publishes a book with a spine. Time to send the mss out again.