Tuesday, January 10, 2006


Poets & Writers is reporting on the recent trend for presses to award no winner in contests. The most recent one returned all entry fees and manuscripts, and gave complimentary copies. So they are being praised. But, I'm wondering. Could there be any other reason for not awarding a winner? After all, they are garnering extra media attention by making such a bold move. Or perhaps they didn't get enough entry fees to make awarding a winner profitable? Whatever the reason, how would you feel if you entered this contest and no manuscript was deemed worthy? Yikes. That's worse than just not winning.

I have over 60 pages of poetry that I'd like to publish, but so far have hundred of rejections and few publications. Don't get me wrong, I am very proud of those few. So here's where I'm at: keep plugging a way at submissions and try to get a few more published, enter chapbooks contests, enter full-length book competitions. I'm just not sure if I can stomach (or afford) contests, and I may be fooling myself if I try to skip steps along the usual "way." The last option is to save up and publish my own book in a couple of years. I know nothing about that process, but I figure I'd have more control, I'd learn by doing, I'd have all my work in one volume, and I'd get the closure I need to move on in my writing life.

Any advice or insights out there would be much appreciated!


Blogger reniebob said...

About contests... it does make one question the motivation behind them. I would like to believe that the point is to support poetry in general as well as give poets motivation to actually share their work. It would be nice if contests are actually about helping people. And how great to discover talent, or be discovered? I have had judges tell me they had difficulty choosing a winner in contests that I have run. Quality does vary from contest to contest, but generally I feel like this complaint says more about the judge than the contestants. And my response is this: Do your best. Make a choice. The point is to encourage people to tell their stories, not discourage. Experience is the best teacher.

9:33 AM, January 10, 2006  
Blogger J.B. Rowell said...

I agree, thanks Irene. It seems that if a pub commits to a contest then they take their chances and award the best. Just like the writers who are writing the checks and sending their best are taking a chance. Saying that none of the work is good enough is seems like the judge is just bolstering him/herself . . .

6:53 PM, January 10, 2006  
Blogger reniebob said...

As for getting a book published, I got my first chapbook out of winning a chapbook contest (cost me $15, I think). The book I've got coming out this spring is one I submitted to a press as a chap (not a contest), but they decided they wanted to add poems and make it perfect bound. There are lots of chap presses out there... you might consider putting together a chap first. Although I've been told that printing costs have gotten so reasonable that chaps almost don't make sense any more. Depends on who you talk to. Think small and local. You'll find these people at state poetry organization meetings or other more localized places. One of my goals in life (after I get done raising these kids!) is to have my own press so I can get good writers (like you) in print. Don't wait for me, though! Your work is too good.

7:01 PM, January 10, 2006  
Blogger J.B. Rowell said...

I can't wait to buy your perfect-bound poetry book Irene! And you will be a great publisher. Right now, I have too many decisions and not enough time . . .
Thanks for the encouragement,

7:13 PM, January 10, 2006  
Blogger Michelle e o said...

Re: No winning contests. I don't feel that's fair to writers and I think an organization that does that doesn't really love lit or writers. Not only did you spend the time putting the submission together, sending money in, you wait....you hold that work back from other publications as well, while you wait. So you finally get that envelope in the mail, they return your money and tell you there was no winner? I'd be really pissed off.

As far as advice, I have none to offer. I'm just in the process of my first chap. I was doing workshops a local press was holding and I actually wanted the publisher to mentor me. He read some of my work and said he'd rather publish me. I felt very honored. I think some poets self publish, some find local presses, some do the chap contests. Or some do all three.

I take a self published book as seriously as I would one that was published out. I'm either going to like the poetry or I'm not.

The advantage of a press is that they will do press releases for you, make the books, sell the books and help you set up readings, involve you in local events they do, etc.

Self publishing will take a lot more of your time I think.

Either way I'm sure it will be GREAT, and can't wait =)

10:28 PM, January 10, 2006  
Blogger Michelle e o said...

And renie, congrats to you too on the book coming out this spring!

JB, I emailed you some info from my AOL s/n

8:04 PM, January 11, 2006  
Blogger J.B. Rowell said...

Thanks for the info Michelle . . . much appreciated!

8:40 PM, January 11, 2006  

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