Submitting Creative Writing for Contests and Publications
A Personal Experience
This hub is about a personal experience I have had recently in submitting poetry for an anthology "best Australian Poems 2013" advertised by a publishing company called Black Inc.
I discuss the process of trying to select appropriate poetry from my collection on Hub Pages, through to corresponding with the publisher and ultimate rejection, rejection, and rejection.
Hopefully this helps other budding poets and authors to understand a little of the process of submitting their writing to publishers and for competitions.
What have I learnt from this? Don't take rejection from one publisher as an indication that your writing is not good enough, just that it doesn't suit the style or purpose of their proposed anthology, or that the contest has attracted a high number of high quality entries. Most of all, don't give up! Just take what you can from the publisher's reasons for rejecting you and use the advice to make your future writing even better.
The Best Sites to Access Poetry and Fiction Contests and Marketing Your Writing
The Call for Submissions
A few days ago I came across a publishing house called Black Inc. calling for creative writing submissions "The Best Australian Stories, Essays and Poems 2013/2014." Until now most creative writing competitions and calls for submission that I have found have been USA based, so this was a pleasant surprise and right up my alley.
The only stipulations for the poetry submissions is that poems should be recent and,if already published, must have been published between 1st August 2013 and 1st August 2014 . A maximum of three poems can be submitted and of a maximum length of 70 lines. The best part is that there is no entry fee and $40 is paid for the rights to publish each poem selected. The deadline was 1st August 2014.
Now's My Chance
Wow! I thought this was my chance to get at least one poem published and make some money. So I have been busily reading through my poetry to select three suitable poems. That has proved to be easier said than done as I have written over 100 here at Hub Pages.
The 70 line limit helped me to whittle it down by a few, then it was a matter of selecting poems with a somewhat "Aussie" flavour.That still left a considerable number to choose from and it wasn't easy.
One other stipulation was "Submissions should be able to be enjoyed by 'general readers' who don't necessarily read much poetry - as well as by those dedicated ones who do."
Eventually, after much deliberation, I chose three of my poems. The funny thing is these poems aren't even close to my most popular on Hub Pages judging by the number of their views and comments. Sometimes what an author likes and what there readers like are two different things.
Because of this fact I don't know if I made the right choice. I will just have to wait and see if they are chosen for publication. The three poems I chose are:
- The Dying Land (Beyond a Reasonable Drought)
- Wake in Fright (Counting Sheep)
- The Boxing Troupe
I was about to ask for the opinion of any of my Hubber friends who have read these particular poems, but as I write this I received an email from 'Black Inc."
"These poems make strong points, John, especially the first one but the technical side of them still needs a bit more work, I feel. They're not sufficiently faultless for BAP 14, I'm afraid.
Ok, so these first three poems were rejected but there were some positives. Geoff said, "these poems make strong points". They were just not technically strong enough. Fair enough, I can accept constructive criticism, so I decided to submit three more. I still have a few days until the 1st August deadline.
I browsed through my poetry once more and selected:
- Windows of Rainbows
- Grandpa's Chair
- Help Save This Good Life
This time I was confident at least one would be accepted. Well, I shouldn't have been! within minutes of sending the email I received one back from Black Inc. as follows:
"Hello again John
I fear these are not any more sophisticated technically. They tend to be too direct (too many abstract nouns) and there's a cliché or two scattered through them. e.g. 'The world in all its glory' and 'If you have to search for happiness
Through all the pain and grief'.
All the best..."
If At First You Don't Succeed...Ask for Help!
Well if I have any character trait I'm proud of it's that I am competitive, and not a quitter. I still have six more days before the deadline and I am determined to keep submitting poems until then. Geoff at Black Inc. will probably be sick of the sight of emails from me, but hey, I have to give it my best shot even if every poem is rejected. At least they are being read by a publisher.
So, now is where I need some assistance. If any of my Hubber friends are reading this and have read any poem of mine that they particularly like, please let me know. I need your help in selecting three more poems to submit for inclusion in "The Best Australian Poems 2013".
If you have any suggestions please leave them in the comments below, thanks.
My Third Attempt
After reading through my wonderful followers comments I decided on these three poems for my third submission:
- My Friend the Oak
- When the World Explodes
- The Last Supper of Judah
Unless there are specific requirements or particular topic specified for submission it is difficult to choose poems for competitions.
Which of these poems do you think I should submit next?
Final Update on Submissions to Black Inc.
Well, it seems I have submitted my last poems for 'The Best Australian Poems 2013". I think it's clear from the following email from Geoff at Black Inc. that the last three weren't good enough either and he wasn't interested in receiving any more from me.
"The BAP 14 poems have to be faultless, John, within their own terms and both of these have troubles within the first couple of stanzas. There's nothing wrong with the subject matter and at a reading people might well relate to them, overlooking the awkwardnesses. I think that's about it for this year anyway. Thanks for sending them in.
Best wishes Geoff"
If nothing else with was a learning experience for me and I will direct my efforts to other competitions and magazines, eBooks etc. Maybe when I have polished up on my technique and fundamentals I will resubmit poems in future years for "Best Australian Poems." Look out Black Inc., you haven't seen the last of me.
(please feel free to do complete the polls and leave me comments. Your advice and recommendations will still be helpful, as will constructive criticism of my poetry.)
The Twelfth Annual Dogfish Head Poetry Prize
I came across this poetry competition that I can't enter but one of the other fine poets among you may wish to. Details follow:
The Twelfth Annual Dogfish Head Poetry Prize for the winning book-length manuscript by a poet residing in the Mid-Atlantic states (DE, MD, VA, PA, NJ, NY, WVA, NC and District of Columbia) will consist of $500, two cases of Dogfish Head Craft Brewed Beer*, manuscript publication by Broadkill River Press, and 10 copies of the book (in lieu of royalties).
Manuscripts must be received by midnight, September 1 (Labor Day).
Even though I am not eligible to enter this contest the name "Dogfish Head" jumped out at me. I had just recently written a limerick in my hub "Lessons for Life Through Limericks" which really suited the name of this place, The Dogfish Head Restaurant and Brew Pub.
"I knew a young lady from Parkes
who was terribly frightened of sharks,
but she'd swim in the sea
with dogfish you see.
She thought that they'd warn her with barks."
Cutting a long story short, I emailed the co-ordinator of the contest and offered her the use of this limerick to use however she saw fit. I received this lovely email in return.
"Hi, John -
Love the limerick. And I'm thinking that I might use it at the celebration for the winner of this year's contest. We always have a presentation party at Dogfish Head Restaurant & Brew Pub and your limerick seems just the thing to recite before the presentation. Thanks!
* I may not be able to enter the competition, but I feel the acceptance of this limerick to recite before the presentation of the winning poetry collection at the party is a success.
Have you ever submitted poetry, short fiction or other creative writing for publication or competition?
A friend and fellow hubber Billrrr suggested I check out a site called 'fiverr' where you can advertise various services and your skills for $5.00 per gig.
Well, I did as he suggested and actually signed up, advertising to write a poem on any topic for special occasions etc. I had a booking immediately for a poem, but not just a poem..but to actually write a poem to be used as the rhyming text for a children's picture book.
Because you could only charge $5.00 per gig he agreed to pay $5 per four line stanza (one stanza per page). Not only that but I will get a percentage of each book sold. He loved the finished poem and has already approached a commercial digital art studio to illustrate the book. He has another idea for the next book as soon as this one is up and running and wants me to provide the rhyming text for it as well.
I am stoked, and my ego received a welcome boost after the previous rejections mentioned in this hub. Thanks again to Billrrr.
Another Poetry Contest
I since submitted some poetry to the Hermeneutic Chaos Literary Journal, and received this wonderful acceptance email:
Thank you so much for submitting your work for The Jane Lumley Prize. We are truly humbled by the faith that you have placed in us, and we promise that your work will receive our best attention. We are so excited to go through it!
We write this email to you to inform you about a few things pertaining to the contest. We plan to notify all the participants about the status of their submission by 3rd December. However, we will officially announce the winner, finalists and the honorable mentions on 5th December.
The contest will yield one winner, two finalists and seven honorable mentions. Please note that if you win the competition, you will be rewarded a cash prize of $300 via Paypal within a week of declaration of the results. Your poem will also be converted into a broadside and sent to you, along with a certificate. If you are a finalist, you will receive a broadside of your poem and a certificate that will be sent to you by post. Please note that the broadsides and certificates will be mailed to you by the end of January. Your poems will also find publication in the January issue of Hermeneutic Chaos.
If you are an honorable mention, we would love to publish your poem in the January issue too. However you are most welcome to withdraw your poem and submit it somewhere else mentioning its achievement in The Jane Lumley Prize. If you choose to publish your poem with us, we will make a broadside of your poem which will be made available for download in a PDF format, along with those of the winner and the finalists, in January.
Thanks again for participating, and all the best!
This is an encouraging email that, unlike Black Inc., actually sounds like the publishers welcome your submissions. Although it doesn't guarantee I will win the competition or have my poetry published it is written in a kind and welcoming way which makes you feel like your efforts are appreciated.
Persistence Pays Off
Sometimes the writing you think your best chance at being accepted for publication, unfortunately, is not seen with the same eyes by publishers.
As you can see from this article I have persisted in submitting my poetry to competitions and publishers in the hope of being discovered and published. Apart from having one poem accepted for (unpaid) publication in an anthology about sex trafficking and being hired to write the text for two childrens' books I haven't had a lot of success to brag about.
Now something has happened that has made me reconsider where my focus is in regard to my writing. I submitted one of my poems "Counting Sheep" and a short story "Just a Humble Hero" for consideration for inclusion in: We Go On – A Veteran’s Anthology for Charity. Well I received an email congratulating me that my short story had been accepted for publication and subsequently sent a non-exclusive contract and payment. I will also receive a free copy of the anthology when published.
The poem wasn't successful. So although poetry remains my first love, perhaps I now have to concentrate my efforts more towards submitting short stories for publication. The point is though..keep persisting and you will succeed eventually even if it is in a different area than you expect.
© 2014 John Hansen