Email to a Young Poet (or spammer)

 

I got an email as an editor for Moon City Press, something that happens all the time, but virtually all of it is through Submittable. This came over the transom and I’m quoting it here with the assurance that I was not the only editor to get this–fairly public to the point that I suspect it could be spam trying to get me to open the file, which of course, I did not. The sig though, was very real-world, and I think this actually may be a real person who is young in experience. I’ve expanded my response here because this is a blog and I can, but if this person is real, we have all been there–hungry to get our poems out in the world because we just know that what we bring to the page is new and needed. So, I responded.

The email:

Hello,  

My name is xxxx. I was born in Sri Lanka where the doctors said I would never walk or talk. My parents decided to move to Australia when I was two years old. In Australia, we were fortunate enough to access appropriate therapy services which dramatically improved my physical and communication skills.  

I love writing poetry. Please find attached my submission. I hope you enjoy reading my poems and will publish my poetry book.  

If you had any questions, please let me know.   

Many thanks,   

My response:

xxxx,

My press and journal only take submissions through Submittable. Our Submittable page is at mooncitypress.submittable.com

In general, when submitting to a press, it’s a good idea to read the submissions information on the press’s website. If you had done that, you would know we only use Submittable and that the press’s annual poetry contest is the only venue for poetry books with the exception of the Missouri Author’s series, which is by nomination only. The same goes for literary journals–they say how and what to submit. Buying a book or journal and reading it to see what kinds of things they publish is a good idea too.

Your email speaks volumes about experience and also about the level of time and care you took to research who you sent your manuscript to. Both were low. Your email says that you are either a spammer or someone who needs to pull back and learn more about publication and literary publication in particular. I decided for once to respond, even though you are most likely a spammer seeking who-knows-what. Of course, I did not open the file and even opening the email is dicey at best, so I took this risk once to give advice once: Hone your craft. Take classes at your university. Meet and know others who write. Research where to send and note honestly the quality level. I looked and the acceptance rate for our journal is currently 1.62%. There is no acceptance rate for the poetry prize, but we take one and we average 300 entries. However, we can and will not choose a prizewinner if none are at the quality level we desire. 

You led with your personal story and your personal story shades what you write, but ultimately, what you write is what counts–not your personal background. From an editor who started being published at fifteen using handwritten letters noting my age, I understand why you did that. From the young writer I was to another young writer eager to get her poems out there, keep writing and hone your craft. When your work is at the same level of work that is already out there, also hone your professional knowledge about the business and only then start submitting and don’t start with a book. Send out packets of poems to journals. That is how you start. Know your market and send to journals. If they reject (they will), regroup, revise and try another that may be a better fit. You may never get an acceptance. Many don’t. However, if bit by bit your participation in workshop at your university class gives you growth, if your professor says you are finally ready to send out, then submit a packet of poems.

Best wishes to you. This is not an easy life, but I have been writing poetry since 1967 because there is no way I can NOT write poetry. The publication happens along the way, but I did have to learn the business. Read. Read a lot. If you haven’t read Letters to a Young Poet by Ranier Maria Rilke, then read it now. He gives good advice.

Best wishes,

Dr. Lanette Cadle 
Professor of English
Missouri State University, Springfield, MO 65897Editor, Moon City Press | http://mooncitypress.com

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Author of the poetry collection The Tethered Ground and Professor of English at Missouri State University. Contact me for readings or for workshops on writing/publishing and on teaching writing online.

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