The Digital Poet

On the Digital Poetry Life

I’ve more or less decided not to submit to print journals anymore. When I started submitting my poetry, more than 10 years ago, some friends frowned on the idea of publishing online. I know, those were the olden days. Online journals were considered less prestigious. Or were believed all to be of poor quality. One friend scoffed when I announced a recent publication: “Well, anyone can publish online.” That might have been true, but I was at least somewhat selective in the journals to which I submitted. In fact, my first publication was in The Pedestal Magazine, which has always been respectable as far as I know. I don’t know what its acceptance ratio was at the time; today it’s a bit under 4% for poetry. The Pedestal is still going strong after 17 years (having been launched in 2000) and is still one of the best online journals. Take a look at the current issue of The Pedestal Magazine celebrating 17 years!

Perhaps years ago (and perhaps still), people needed print publications to meet criteria for tenure. That’s one theory I heard. But I remember attending a session on the print vs. digital topic at an AWP meeting in the early 2000s at which a young poet said, “We’re going to continue publishing online and we’re the tenure committees of the future.”

Another argument against online publication is that the journals come and go, sometimes quickly. Yeah, sure they do. But in my experience, so do a lot of print publications. I’ve had about 100 poems in journals that no longer exist, mostly online, but a few print journals, too. Some of the digital ones have left their archives up and some haven’t.

A major advantage of putting your work out electronically is that people can find it. People who read my work and like something I’ve written can search for more of my work online. As long as defunct journals leave their archives up — and I wish that all of them would. One way to deal with this is to try to have some of the poems reprinted in other journals. Editors are often quite amenable to this if the original poem cannot be accessed elsewhere on the web. I think there’s a lot greater chance of having my work found online than in print journals. Admittedly, any single issue of a journal, no matter whether its print or electronic, has a pretty small readership. But once a print journal isn’t current anymore, the likelihood of someone reading it is almost nil. And how about an issue from, say 2008?

Another deterrent to submitting to print pubs, for me anyway, is the (usually) far longer turnaround time, from submission to reply. I’m too old to wait six months for someone to say no thanks. And any editors who say they won’t take simultaneous submissions . . . well, maybe they’re not writers. It’s ridiculous. (That said, I try not to send out simultaneous submissions, as long as I’m submitting to venues with a quick turnaround, because it’s just more work for me. But I believe everyone should do so if they choose.)

I can’t tell you whether or how much times have changed. It seems to me more acceptable to publish in online journals these days. But maybe I have a skewed view, since my poetry life is largely online. I’m not in academia. I don’t need tenure. I’m not even a part of a local poetry scene in my town, but I read constantly online and manage an online poetry forum. So, aside from the occasional conference, online is where poetry takes place for me. In a future post, I’ll talk about how to evaluate online poetry markets and choose the ones that might be a good match for your work.


GOAL: 100 Rejections a Year

I’ve been hearing poets online say they have a goal of accruing 100 rejections a year. I’m not sure where this trend started, but in mid-2016 LitHub carried an article by Kim Liao “Why You Should Aim for 100 Rejections a Year,” about flipping your perspective on submissions and failing best. The advice is simply this: “Collect rejections. Set rejection goals. I know someone who shoots for one hundred rejections in a year, because if you work that hard to get so many rejections, you’re sure to get a few acceptances, too.” It’s Samuel Beckett who wrote, “Fail, fail again, fail better.” It’s good advice. Obviously, you could send out 100 submissions to The New Yorker. That would be missing the point. Each submission should make sense given the fit between your work and the target journal, taking into account the journal’s acceptance ratio. Keep writing. Keep submitting.

I’m taking the advice to heart. I haven’t been sending my work out much over the past couple of years and a major goal for 2018 is to remedy that. In the past week, I’ve sent out over 50 poems. Two acceptances so far (one being a same-day turnaround). Not bad, or so I tell myself.

Reading in 2017

GOAL: Read 100 Books in 2018

This is my annual reading goal. I slightly exceeded my 2017 goal. My Goodreads tally says 106, but I know that includes one short story, some poetry collections, and some rather short nonfiction books.

Favorite Books in 2017.  Out of 106 read, these deserve special mention, though there are even more that I liked a lot!

Fiction General
A Gentleman in Moscow, by Amor Towles (An All-Time Favorite!)
Exit West, by Mohsin Hamid
The Underground Railroad, by Colson Whitehead
The Women in the Castle, by Jessica Shattuck
Shelter, by Jung Yun
Young Jane Young, by Gabrielle Zevin
Little Fires Everywhere, by Celeste Ng
The One-in-a-Million Boy, by Monica Wood
A Man Called Ove, by Fredrik Backman

Fiction Mystery
All Things Cease to Appear, by Elizabeth Brundage
A Deadly Affection, by Cuyler Overholt
Miss Kopp’s Midnight Confessions, by Amy Stewart
Magpie Murders, by Anthony Horowitz
Murder on the Orient Express, by Agatha Christie
The Woman Next Door, by Cass Green
Liar, by K. L. Slater

Short Fiction
Roy Spivey, by Miranda July

Nonfiction Memoir
Don’t Let’s Go to the Dogs Tonight, by Alexandra Fuller
Hourglass: Time, Memory, Marriage, by Dani Shapiro
My Reading Life, by Pat Conroy

Nonfiction General
The Undoing Project: A Friendship That Changed Our Minds, by Michael Lewis
The Case Against Sugar, by Gary Taubes
Secrets From the Eating Lab, by Traci Mann
The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, by Rebecca Skloot

Audio Nonfiction
Born a Crime, by Trevor Noah (Best Audio Ever)
Born to Run, by Bruce Springsteen
Light Falls: Space, Time, and an Obsession of Einstein
The Wordy Shipmates, by Sarah Vowell
Idiot America: How Stupidity Became a Virtue in the Land of the Free, by Charles P. Pierce

The Billy Collins Experience, by A. M. Juster
The Whetting Stone, by Taylor Mali
Application for Release from the Dream, by Tony Hoagland

Writing Books
The Successful Author Mindset, by Joanna Penn
How to Make a Living with Your Writing, by Joanna Penn
How to Write Pulp Fiction, by James Scott Bell