why I turned down my chapbook acceptance

As a writer, whenever an email from a press sits in that inbox, unopened, you get a little thrill of excitement, scanning the preview for the expected “Unfortunately, we have decided not to . . .” or the unexpected “We would like to publish…”.

A couple months back, I put together a chapbook of poems. I published three chapbooks before publishing my two full-length books, and I enjoyed getting to know different publishers methods, the experience of curating a collection, and learning how to promote my work. It was excellent practice for a full-length, and they are nice little books on their own, I’d still say.

I know I’m a couple years away from finishing my current 3rd manuscript. I could scramble it together in the next year, but the book will be better if I sit on it awhile, so that is my plan.

Then I have these twenty-or-so poems on a different topic, that one day may be the seed of a 4th manuscript, but that I had no plans to do anything with for years…until I had an idea in the middle of the night for a chapbook and pulled them together, along with a few new poems. Excited, I sent them off right away: 1. to a very large contest (Rattle: I did not win.), 2. to a chapbook press, 3. to a smaller contest.

I didn’t expect it to get picked up anywhere, but #2 emailed me an acceptance last week. Ultimately, I decided to turn them down. I realized I shouldn’t have sent to them in the first place for much of the same reason that I am not sending out my book yet– I do not have much time to promote a chapbook. Now, with a contest, you get a fair amount of Immediate Promotion because you won a *CONTEST!* and it is exciting and people hear about it. But just being published quietly with a small chapbook press? That requires a lot of legwork to promote, legwork I don’t have the time to put in.

So, if the chapbook somehow wins the smaller contest, I will of course work to promote it as much as I can–I did just read PR for Poets (Jeannine Hall Gailey), after all– but this acceptance helped me to realize that I shouldn’t send to smaller presses / non-contest submissions right now, because I need a press or a contest that will come with a fair bit of promotion on its own.

Though I am glad to know my chapbook is up to the standard I hoped it was, I did learn that I should not send out my work if I am not ready, even if it is beyond ready. I need to make sure I have the space to promote and edit and do it due service if I plan to hand it off to editors. It is hard to wait on sending out poems, especially when they feel so ready and I’m so ready to share them with readers, but I need to do what is right by my publishers and by the Work itself.

ambitions, love languages, and the fleeting quality of time

I find that most often the biggest frustrations I find in writing are when my visions for a project / poem / etc don’t match up to my ability to execute. More often than not, my ability to execute is limited by TIME (lack of time, lack of time). Everyone gets the same 24 hours but not everyone has so many people pulling to have some of that time. And my love language is quality time so I give my time to what and who I love–I’m not going to go to something I don’t care about or spend time with you if you mean nothing to me. I realized recently at a church ladies women’s retreat that Quality Time being my love language trickles down into a lot of decisions I make–my biggest fear in parenting? that my children won’t get enough time with me (and won’t feel loved–but that is how I feel loved, not necessarily how they feel loved!). one of my main reasons for homeschooling? so we can spend our time on what we love to learn about (not what the government bids us learn about). my favorite ritual of the day? coffee + chat time with my husband in the mornings. Time weighs heavy on me. As it should–it’s fleeting (favorite book of the bible: Ecclesiastes. A time for, a time for, a time for….).  and also this: Teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom (Ps. 90:12). Like any quality a person has, my appreciation/ apprehension of time can be a strength (wisdom) but it can also be a weakness (fear). I pray that God mold me to turn this to wisdom and set my eyes on things above rather than cling to my minutes and hours with a cold-hearted fear.

an invitation to poetry


I love the feeling of finishing the poem. when I finally get that title right, find the right image, and the ending clicks-closed.

As I’ve started timidly sending out my second collection (or, honestly, just really thinking and thinking on sending it out), I’ve felt like it is another rose petal to throw into the grand canyon, what difference does it make really?

then I write my first poem in four months or so and the first thing I really want is someone to read it. because poetry is communication and should be read.  I want someone to read it and say “oh, me too. I feel like that too”.

But I hardly ever have someone read a poem when it is fresh-written and by the time it is published (if ever) and put in a journal and linked online, that I-just-wrote-this feeling is past and I’m onto something else, maybe an entirely different book and direction of poems.

If you’d like to read some fresh-written poem-drafts let me know in the comments. I’d be happy to email them to you just to feel like a real-live person (besides an editor—are those real people?) is reading them (no critiques, compliments or responses required).