Twelve Cincinnati Writers Discuss the Ups and Downs of Publishing

Written by Pauletta Hansel, Writer-in-Residence, Cincinnati & Hamilton County Public Library

Our 2022 Writer-in-Residence, Pauletta Hansel, is a poet, memoirist, teacher, and editor. Attend her upcoming workshops and writers' office hours. And, listen to her as host of CHPL's "Inside the Writer's Head" podcast.

Interviewed by Cincinnati and Hamilton County Public Library Writer-in-Residence Pauletta Hansel as part of her blog post How to Get Published? Answers From Writer-in-Residence, Writers, and Editors. For even more advice, read her blog posts, Publishing Tips and the Circle of (Literary) Life.

Ellen Austin-Li

Ellen Austin-Li’s work has appeared in Artemis, Thimble Literary Magazine, The Maine Review, Pine Mountain Sand & Gravel, Rust + Moth, and other places. She’s published two chapbooks with Finishing Line Press: Firefly (2019) and Lockdown: Scenes From Early in the Pandemic (2021). A Best of the Net nominee & recipient of the Martin B. Bernstein Fellowship, she earned an MFA in Poetry at the Solstice Low-Residency Program. She co-founded Poetry Night at Sitwell’s, which meets the first Tuesday of every month at Sitwell’s Coffeehouse on Ludlow. Ellen lives with her husband in a newly empty nest in Clifton. You can find her at www.ellenaustinli.me. 

Lockdown

"The motivation to publish my work has evolved over this past decade. Since I came to writing late (I like to tell people I'm on my third life), I've been driven by the 'meaning-making' stage of my life. I write poetry of memory and witness. For a time, I was content with private publications only. I self-published three chapbook-length poetry books for family members in my earlier writing years. One collection went to my 90-year-old father mere months before we noticed signs of Alzheimer's. My sons received the other two poetry books as high school graduation presents. These collections were deeply personal. A labor of love. I turned to small press publications as I moved deeper into the poetry world. 

The more exposure I had to poetry, the more I fell in love with the art. I wanted to capture the magic I experienced when I read a successful poem. I wanted to write successful poems. The more I wrote, the more aware I became of how long I had lived in silence. I realized that I wanted to be heard. After so many years of invisibility, I wanted to leave something of myself behind. I began to publish individual poems in literary journals after having some work recognized in local contests. Eventually, the idea of a poetry collection took root. Much of what I've learned about how and where to publish, I've gleaned from paying attention—listening to the conversations of other writers, searching out online resources for publishing (there are many great blogs!), and looking at online and print journals. Each journal has its own guidelines, so (unfortunately) there are no shortcuts other than to say follow the directions.   

I know some writers get together to support one another in the process—hosting a sort of "submission party." I tried this approach once and found it wasn't for me. I'm a solitary submitter mainly because I need to be in a particular mindset to do this work. And work it is. Submitting to literary journals takes research. Reading sample poems published by a journal you admire or hearing about particular journals from other poet friends is an invaluable approach. It helps to have an account with an online tool like Duotrope if you can afford it. If cost is an issue, start using a spreadsheet system to track when and where you've sent submissions. Duotrope helps you keep track of your submissions and alerts you to new submission opportunities. Duotrope publishes statistics on each journal's publication rate and how long it typically takes them to respond to submissions. Plenty of poetry blogs also discuss publication; a simple Google search will take you there.  

For me, submitting can be a fraught process. I send out much less work than other poets, who put together manuscripts of 3-6 poems and mass-ship these out to multiple journals, tailoring each submission to the journal guidelines. I tend to submit in short bursts and compile different combinations of poems for almost every submission. Usually, I'm motivated by learning about a journal or the desire to see certain poems published. I might see a themed submission call and think, "oh, I have a few poems about transformation," so I'll submit there. 

Of course, rejection is the biggest challenge. All writers know this is part of the process, but it still hurts to have pieces of your soul rejected. A run of rejections can be demoralizing. My solution for this is to turn to reading, revision, and writing new work. The rejection cycle sometimes feels eternal. I get rejections, I feel like a failure, I question my writing, my writing takes a hit (I can't write well when I believe I'm "less than"), then another rejection makes me feel worse. A negative feedback loop. I practice positive self-talk, as I know "this, too, shall pass." I eventually get to the other side of negativity, whether I get publication acceptances or turn towards reading or creative expression. Time and patience are the keys. 

Michael Henson

Michael Henson is author of five books of fiction and four collections of poetry. His most recent work is Secure the Shadow, a novel published by Swallow Press/Ohio University Press. His stories, poems, reviews, and essays have appeared in various publications, including Threepenny Review, New Letters, Appalachian Journal, and New Ohio Review.

Secure the Shadow

Why do you want to publish your work? (In your case, you may want to focus on your original impetus, as you have been at this for some time!)

Part of it, I have to admit, is ego. Who wouldn’t want to see their name on the cover of a book? But it was also a kind of debt. I had been living in the inner city and in the rural mountains among people who opened their lives to me and accepted me in a way that was very healing. I had these stories that were gifted to me by people whose stories would never otherwise be told. I felt I had a duty to bring them out of silence. 

What have you done that has helped you meet your publishing goals?

The first thing, and really the main thing, was to learn the craft of writing. None of it means a thing if you haven’t learned to do the job. For me, that meant a lot of hours and lots of wasted paper, working to get it right. After that, and I hate to say it, but successful publishing means knowing the system. It means having clear goals and researching the means to reach those goals. It means a lot of things that have nothing to do with the actual writing and that feel crass and cheap and self-promotional. But if you believe in your work, those are the things you have to do. 

What is most frustrating?

Where do I even start? It’s frustrating to see the rejections pile up, one after another. It’s frustrating to see mediocre work get published when your own is turned down. It’s frustrating to see a press publish your work and then fail to promote it.  

What advice do you have to someone just starting out?

First of all, and above all else, learn the craft. None of it means a thing if you haven’t put in the hours and done the work. Beyond that, I have two bits of advice. The first of these is to be clear about your goals. A small, independent press may give you a great, personalized experience in which you have a lot of say in how your book is published, but they probably won’t sell a lot of books and your work is unlikely to get reviewed. The second is to make the contacts you’ll need to reach your goals. It’s very rare, if not impossible, for a book to get accepted when it arrives over the transom.

Rae Hoffman Jager 

Rae Hoffman Jager is the author of American Bitch (Kelsay Books ‘22). Her poetry has appeared in a wide variety of online and print magazines: Atticus, Contrary, The Moth, Honey Lit—to name a few. She has work forthcoming in New York Quarterly. Rae was named one of the ‘22 Emerging Artist Fellows for the Ish Festival in Cincinnati. Rae holds a BA from Warren Wilson College and an MFA from Wichita State University. When she is not writing, publishing, and teaching yoga, she is spending time with her spouse, daughter Ivy, and two old dogs. You can find her at www.raehoffmanjager.com. 

American Bitch

Why do you want to publish your work? 

I firmly believe that poetry, and other creative writing modes, have the power to heal, challenge, and save. By publishing my work, my motivation has always been to reach the people who might find witness in my words, camaraderie, and/or healing. A lot of the themes I work with are vulnerable things most people experience--car accidents, cancer, losing your child for a moment in a crowded grocery store, celebrating milestones, grief. If I were to merely write those poems and let them live in my laptop then they wouldn't hold someone in the way they need to be held.  

What have you done that has helped you meet your publishing goals? 

Most of my publishing goals came after my MFA and were self-taught through following poetry Twitter, small poetry workshops, a FB group focused on submitting, and exchanges with other writers in a private chat where we hold each other accountable to writing and publishing goals. To meet my goals, I track where I submit, whether it's a packet of contest, I consider revising when a poem isn't landing in a magazine, and I aim to submit a certain amount of poetry a month.  

What is most frustrating? 

There is no rhyme or reason to why a magazine accepts a poem. I would like to think that every poem with merit earns a spot in a magazine, but after working for three different lit mags I know this to be untrue. There are so many uncontrollable variables--what mood the editor or readers are in the day they open your work, what theme is emerging from other submissions to that same magazine, what poems they have already read and liked and is my poem suddenly at odds with that? Has my poem struck a personal nerve of a reader that makes or breaks an acceptance? That lack of control is frustrating, but also can be freeing in a way.  

What advice do you have to someone just starting out? 

Find a group of people who have the same goal as you, to commune with, submit with, and to hold you accountable. If you cannot find a tribe of writers, make yourself a reward system. It is a game of numbers--the more you submit, the more likely you are to be accepted. Know that rejection happens a LOT and it's not a testament to your writing. Be willing to revisit and revise. Find magazines that have a flavor or aesthetic you like and submit your work with an open mind.  

Dani McClain 

Dani McClain reports on race, parenting and reproductive health. McClain's writing has appeared in outlets including The New York Times, TIME, Harper's BAZAAR, The Atlantic and Colorlines. Her work has been recognized by the National Lesbian and Gay Journalists Association, the National Association of Black Journalists, Planned Parenthood Federation of America, and she's received a James Aronson Award for Social Justice Journalism. McClain is a Puffin Fellow at Type Media Center and a contributing writer at The Nation. She was a staff reporter at the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel and has worked as a strategist with organizations including Color of Change and Drug Policy Alliance. Her book, We Live for the We: The Political Power of Black Motherhood, was published in 2019 by Bold Type Books and was shortlisted in 2020 for a Hurston/Wright Legacy Award. She was the CHPL's Writer-in-Residence in 2020 and 2021. You can find her at www.danimcclain.com. 

We Live for the We

"As a reporter, I gather and synthesize information, and then work with an editor to publish the story that results from that interviewing and research. In terms of seeking publication, I approach longer projects (a book, for example) much the same way I would an 800-word article. The point is to share what I've learned with an audience. 

Establishing good relationships with editors has helped me meet my goal of having my work published. This has meant delivering what I've said I would when I've said I would. Being responsive and open to feedback on the work has also been important. My biggest frustration is not having enough time to take on all the projects I'd like to. 

My advice for someone starting out in journalism is to work on your pitches, send them to editors, and be open to collaborating with a publication to bring your piece to an audience."

MoPoetry Phillips

MoPoetry Phillips is both the co-founder of Regal Rhythms Poetry LLC and founder of Hit the Mic Cincy’s Open Mic. She facilitates writing circles, workshops, summer camps, and events within the community, schools, colleges, jail and prison systems to use her creativity to make learning fun and engaging. Also, she curates, recruits artist, and creates empowerment and educational workshops. As a Middlesboro, Kentucky native, she is part of the Urban Appalachian Community Coalition (UACC). She is author of Equals Greatness. Her passion is to unify spoken word artists to utilize their artistry to create a greater impact within the community.

Equals Greatness

"My desire to publish started in the sixth grade while in the Mt. Healthy School District. My teacher loved my response to the writing prompt, “I don’t believe it, me a bubble,” so much that she pulled me aside after class to tell me the poem should be published. That poem “My Way of Escape” along with 69 other poems and short stories, and my mini autobiography are part of my book Equals Greatness, but it did not get self-published until July 2019! My greatest frustration was that none of my peers, even those in college, were published authors and I didn’t know where to begin to accomplish my publishing goals.  

After stepping out as a spoken word artist in 2019, I finally joined a community of published authors who pushed me. Spoken word performance is a way of “publishing” turned to by many of us who still strive to both find publishing companies that specialize in publishing marginalized voices and to learn to navigate through the submission process. In the spirit of oral tradition, we travel to tell our stories to eager listeners nationwide. I have performed throughout several states including Ohio, Kentucky, Illinois, Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina, and the District of Columbia. In addition, I performed virtually for an open mic in India. We speak about current conditions and advocate for issues that are near and dear to our heart. We share our childhood to adulthood stories preserving those stories not in print, but in the minds of each attendee. Stage performance is exhilarating and fulfilling; however, the lack of diversity in publication is the driving force of Regal Rhythms Poetry’s Black Book Fair’s mission to create cultural inclusion in publishing, increase the representation of black voices, and make equity of BIPOC stories by making them more accessible to the community. 

My advice for aspiring published authors is to gather all their poems in one Microsoft Word document that is backed up to the Onedrive. Keep all text the same font, spacing  1.15 to 1.5 inches, and use layout statement size 5.5 x 8.5 inches. Also, do not worry about doing a Table of Contents until your work is uploaded to the publishing software. Most importantly, try to connect with a community of published authors who can help you create a writing space and help you set goals for dedicating uninterrupted writing time daily. Also, look for ways to publish individual poems or short stories before publishing your entire book, and include those publication credits in your new published book.  In addition, use YouTube and other sources to find information,  

You can also come to Regal Rhythms Poetry presents “Hit the Mic Cincy’s Annual Black Book Fair”. The next one is on Saturday, November 19, 2022. Admission is free, courtesy of our Season Funder, ArtsWave, and welcomes all races to be informed about the writing, publishing, and marketing process, and creates a space to support our book vendors who are black, indigenous, people of color (BIPOC) authors, who only account for about 6% of authorship. Free registration is required. Whether you are a BIPOC author interested in being a book vendor, or just want to be informed, visit our website."

Alissa Sammarco

Alissa Sammarco is a poet, writer and an attorney who has lived in the West and South before returning to her home in the Ohio River Valley. She is active in the Cincinnati Open Mic scene and was the featured poet at Word of Mouth Cincinnati in April 2022. Her work has appeared in Sheila-Na-Gig, Black Moon Magazine, Change Seven, and LexPoMo 2021 and 2022, the 2021 Anthology. It is anticipated to appear in Orchard Street’s Quiet Diamonds, Main Street Rag and Evening Street Review. Alissa’s debut chapbook, Beyond the Dawn, will be released September 2023 by Turning Point. You can find her at www.AlissaSammarco.com.

Why do you want to publish your work? 

The age-old question.  Beyond the obvious answer, “I want to be famous and live forever,” I think that publishing is sharing, and I write to share my experiences, my creativity and most importantly, my heart.  Growing up with my grandparents close, the stories they told shaped my life and my outlook.  They gave me a sense of home and duty, and most importantly love.  I have been a storyteller all my life.  I tell stories about my family, my children, my brothers, my friends and our crazy adventures.  I tell stories about heartache, great loss, as well as great love.  I tell stories to make a point or teach a lesson.  I want to publish my work to share all of this, and not so that I live forever, but the love that is shared with me lives forever. 

What have you done that has helped you meet your publishing goals? 

It has only been about a year since I started my publishing journey in earnest.  It is a long and slow journey, to be sure.  The first thing I did was to ask someone how they do it.  In this case, it was Pauletta and the others in her manuscript class.  As suggested by Pauletta Hansel, I started by identifying several poets whose work I enjoyed and researching who published their books.  The research included reading what they published.  This was much more useful than trying to figure out what the publisher meant in the description of work they were looking for.  From there, whether submitting individual poems or collections, I have tried to select works that is similar to what they published.   

Understanding that the journey is long and slow and that there are a plethora of journals and publishers, I began setting aside time each weekend to research and submit to a few publishers.  I do this regularly and try to select new journals as well as submitting to those that have accepted my work in the past.  I find it is a little bit of a numbers game. 

What is most frustrating? 

At first, rejection was the most frustrating.  In the manuscript class, I had prepared a chapbook and began submitting it without success.  However, several of the poems were accepted for publication in various journals.  That was the start.  I am less and less frustrated by rejection the farther along the journey I go. 

The second most frustrating aspect is the wait time. It can take up to 6 months for some journals to respond. This is usually the more prestigious journals, which means, if you submit work simultaneously, it may be picked up by a less prestigious journal first, and then you miss out if it is selected by the more prestigious journal later. This happened. I had to withdraw from a contest where I had been selected as a semi-finalist. Ah well – Next year. 

What advice do you have to someone just starting out?

If you are just getting started, keep at it. Make a habit of researching and submitting work just like you make a habit of writing.  Publishing is a business for the publishers, and if you are serious about getting your work out there, you should make it something of a business, at least by being persistent in your approach.     

Don’t let the “no thanks”, “we’re sorry to inform you”, and the “we hope you find a home for this work” emails get you down. Look at what the journal does publish and resubmit something else. Keep submitting your favorites until you find a publisher who loves them as much as you.   

You never know what a publisher will like. I’ve often been surprised by which poems have accepted for publication.   

Roberta Schultz

Roberta Schultz is a singer songwriter, teacher and poet originally from Grant's Lick, KY. Her poems and song lyrics have appeared in Women Speak, Vol.7, Sheila-Na-Gig, Panoplyzine, Riparian, Pine Mountain Sand & Gravel, Kakalak and other anthologies. Three of her chapbooks, Outposts on the Border of Longing, Songs from the Shaper’s Harp, and Touchstones were published by Finishing Line Press. Her latest chapbook of poetry, Asking Price, was accepted by Workhorse Writers for their 2022 series. Underscore, 2022, from Dos Madres Press, is her first full-length collection. You can find out way more than you’d ever want to know about her at robertaschultz.com.

Underscore

Why do you want to publish your work? 

I often think of myself as a late-life published author, but that’s not true. I’ve always had the bug to see my words “in print” since my 7th grade teacher, Mrs. Gosney, enshrined one of my snow poems in her ring binder notebook. It just seems like the natural order in the creative process to me:  make something, put it into the world. Musicians perform recitals, compose, record. Visual artists exhibit, install. Dancers dance, choreograph. Writers read aloud, script, publish. I guess it falls into that “have to dance” adage many artists feel. As George Balanchine famously said, “I don’t want dancers who want to dance, I want dancers who have to dance.” 

What have you done that has helped you meet your publishing goals? 

As a songwriter for most of my life, I have not had goals as much as I’ve had seasons—fertile periods of creation brought on by experiences, retreats or workshops during which songs emerge. Once a number of songs take form, I find vehicles for bringing them into the world, either through performances with my trio or through some form of publication, like recordings or anthologies. Once I began writing lots of poetry— around 2004 or so—the seasons model seemed to work for me as well.  Poems emerged from retreats, workshops, and life inspirations. Once I had created a crop of drafts, I began looking at how they were related or how they might flow into a collection, much as I would for what constitutes an album of songs. I also began sending small batches of poems out to print anthologies and online publications. 

What is most frustrating? 

Of course, rejection is always frustrating. Let’s face it, what publishers prefer is always fairly subjective and genre-driven. As I have never expected any of my songs to be “hits” in the popular music model, I have noticed that the poetry world also has biases regarding forms and emotional content. Finding the right fit for one’s aesthetic is an ongoing struggle. I recently had a publisher tell me that one of my poems was “emotionally inert.” I didn’t know whether to applaud the editor for hitting the theme of the poem directly on the head, or to try to edit the poem about feeling emotionally drained to contain more emotion so one reader would find it more acceptable as a poem defined by “feels.”

What advice do you have to someone just starting out? 

I would say to ask yourself why you want to publish. If it’s because you must as part of your artistic process, find some good regional anthologies to submit to. Read for some supportive open mics. Take a generative workshop or two.  Once you grow a bumper crop of poems, look around at how poets you admire have curated their bounty. Ask those you admire for advice. 

Sherry Cook Stanforth

Sherry Cook Stanforth is founder/director of Originary Arts Initiative, providing regional arts- and nature-inspired programming for diverse populations Her poetry collection Drone String (Bottom Dog Press, 2015) reflects the storytelling and music traditions of her Appalachian heritage. She performs in two bands, Tellico and Tangled Roots, and enjoys hiking, beekeeping and studying native plants. Sherry is a core member of the Urban Appalachian Community Coalition and editor of the Southern Appalachian Writers Cooperative’s literary journal.    

Drone String

Why do you want to publish your work?

I write in various genres.  Much of my published work features poetry, a scattering of short stories, and anthology-building, as I love to inspire collages of expression in collaboration with other authors.  Currently, I am bringing years of loose creative parts together -- two poetry collections, a short story collection, and a novel in process now have my writerly attention! 

What have you done that has helped you meet your publishing goals?

I cannot speak enough about the energizing spirit of a writing community. Leading and joining writing circles fuels my own sense of identity as a writer, and I am always learning from my peers and students. As iron sharpens iron, so one writer sharpens another.  

What is most frustrating?

I know that I need to make more time for my writerly self. I stay very busy designing and facilitating community programs and I need to embrace a writing ritual...I find myself weeding a garden or cleaning a closet in lieu of sitting down to write. Why? Because writing feels like an indulgence--a delicious, wonderful escape from checklists. I hear that voice saying, "Escape!" and this year, I am finally embracing my own writing escapes as a habit.  

What advice do you have to someone just starting out? 

My wish for all writers--especially those who are new to the publishing scene -- Surround yourself with literary friends. Commit to craft study through reading, unapologetic writing, and listening carefully to language. Join initiatives and collaborations that emphasize the power of writing in culture--workshops, retreats, public readings, open mics, feedback groups. For me, these communities almost always reflect an earnest value for curiosity, inclusion, and growth. 

Jessica Strawser

Jessica Strawser is the editor-at-large at Writer’s Digest, where she served as editorial director for nearly a decade and became known for her in-depth cover interviews with such luminaries as David Sedaris and Alice Walker. She’s the author of widely acclaimed novels including her latest, The Next Thing You Know, a People Magazine Pick for Best New Novel. (Honored as the 2019 Writer-in-Residence at the Public Library of Cincinnati and Hamilton County, Strawser has written for The New York Times Modern Love, Publishers Weekly and other fine venues, and lives in Cincinnati with her husband and two children. You can find her at jessicastrawser.com. 

The Next Thing You Know

"Publishing is such an uncertain business that especially when you're starting out, it's important to have strong reasons for writing (and goals for your writing) that have absolutely nothing to do with publication—which is another way of saying to focus on what you can control. Of course, we all dream of reaching as many readers as we can with our words—but I think it's always healthier and more productive to focus on why we want to write versus why we want to publish. Because here's the real secret: That kind of passion and drive is what will produce the most publishable work. 

My best advice is to take advantage of all the resources that are available to you, to the best of your ability. Since the pandemic has turned so many course offerings and events virtual, writing instruction and community are more accessible than ever before, with fewer barriers in terms of finances, travel, and other logistics. For this reason, it's also more important than ever to do your homework, because I guarantee editors and agents on the other end of your submissions will be able to tell who has (and has not) put the work in.  

If you can't invest in a writing conference, you *can* find a free event where Q&A is available with your favorite authors. If you can't subscribe to a magazine like Writer's Digest, you can get it from the library, or load up on reputable free e-newsletters from web-based publications like CareerAuthors.com. And locally, we're so fortunate to have programs through our very own Writer-in-Residence that are welcoming to writers of all levels. In terms of resources alone, it's an exciting time to be a writer."

Tim'm T. West

Tim'm T. West is a pioneering author, poet, educator, and Hip Hop artist who can be best described as a Renaissance man, leveraging a broad and diverse set of skills and interests to advocate for marginalized communities. As an author, he has published several books, including his critically acclaimed first project Red Dirt Revival: a poetic memoir in 6 breaths. He has been anthologized in nearly a dozen other works. Professionally, he has served as Senior Managing Director for Teach For America's National Prism Alliances since 2014, which advances safer and more supportive classrooms for students and their educators. Since returning to his hometown of Cincinnati in 2017, Tim'm has served his community as a CPS Strategic Planning and Engagement Committee member, current Board Chair of Wordplay-Cincy, and Chair of the Chase Elementary LSDMC (2019-present), among other points of engagement. A dynamic poet and performance artist, in September of 2019 Tim’m successfully competed to reign as a SLAM Champion at Cincinnati Poetry Slam. 

Red Dirt Revival

"I have always sought to publish my work because there were rarely stories, poems, narratives that reflected my unique experiences as a Black queer person in the world. When I came upon the poetry of Essex Hemphill and Melvin Dixon, in particular, it was life-saving, having felt like a unicorn for so long. Those men and mentors died from AIDS before the live-sustaining medications I now enjoy were available. So it’s been a privilege and great responsibility to extend that body of work amid the Black homophobia and even racism and implicit bias in the LGBTQ+ community that suggest my story and our stories do not have audiences who buy books. Ironically, so many who have been moved by my writings over the years do not share my identities at all, but to write in such a way that draws upon the empathy of people. To write in such a way that people connect the feeling, if not the experience, is the mark of many great poets and writers.   

With regard to publishing goals, I’m self-published, in part because I had too many tell me that I couldn’t mix genres of writing, like I know Essex Hemphill, Audre Lorde, and Gloria Anzaldua accomplished. My primary goal has been to build the personal time, amid a super busy professional life, to do better marketing and promotion of my work. I’ve written four books that are rather dated to me, but very new and current to others. That my first book, Red Dirt Revival: a poetic memoir in 6 Breaths, is being considered for a 3rd edition publication by a university press is something about which I am proud. My work has circulated in college classrooms and on poetry slam stages and Hip Hop documentaries. I think that my success as a self-published author might make it a little easier for people who’ve come after me to get deserved recognition. It’s been an honor to have Kiese Laymon and Darnell Moore say that my work had an impact on their own writing, even if I don’t enjoy their more popular success.  

For anyone just starting out, I’d say “just write” and encourage them to honor their truth and style enough to develop their craft. Read other good writers. Take a writing workshop or class. I think it’s a mistake to put the business before the purity and beauty of your story. I would also advise, which is something that I would have done more of in hindsight, to find others who have the business or marketing expertise, to work with you. It’s okay if you just want to write and let others manage the business of writing. I’d still love to find someone to help me with those aspects, in advance of a project in the making that I hope to release in 2023. Proud to have these 5 years back in Cincinnati at a native to release my first collection of work here."

Dick Westheimer

Dick Westheimer has—with his wife and writing companion Debbie—lived on their plot of land in rural southwest Ohio for over 40 years. His most recent poems have appeared or are upcoming in Rattle, Paterson Review, Chautauqua Review, Whale Road Review, Minyan, Gyroscope Review, Northern Appalachia Review and Cutthroat. His chapbook, A Sword in Both Hands, a collection of poems prompted by Russia’s War on Ukraine, is forthcoming from Sheila Na Gig Books in late 2022. More can be found at dickwestheimer.com 

"My world is rooted in friendship – and by publishing poetry I’ve found a new way to deepen conversations with new friends and old. I first noted a connection between friendship and publishing when a poem of mine was accepted in Pine Mountain Sand & Gravel. At a reading of work from that issue, I loved hearing the voices of now new friends. I felt like I was a member of a rich community of words and poets and readers of poetry. Since then, starting in early 2021, I’ve made a conscious effort to expand that circle by seeking more publication. 

At first these efforts were scattershot. I submitted poems on a regular basis to Rattle Magazine’s “Poets Respond,” sent some to another poetry-news-only online journals and began, without much thought, to send out work to other journals (most of which, eventually, rejected my poems). Then, in April, I received my first, “holy cow” acceptance - from Rattle’s PR. I was elated and felt real validation. And, as with PMS&G, I found that readers of my poem were interested in deeper conversations with me - both in correspondence and in poetry as I got to know their work. 

However, after that acceptance, I fell into a poetry-funk, convinced I’d never write a good poem again. I started sending in poems willy-nilly to journals without looking to see if I liked the work they’d published, without checking their mastheads, without purpose or direction except a craving to be “accepted.” The result: plenty of poems were taken, *but* on sites that are not well traveled and not shared by poets I admire. No real new relationships developed from those poems appearing in journals so few read. It was an empty exercise. 

Since then I’ve engaged in a discipline of reading a dozen or so poems in the journals I intend to send work to for consideration. I ask: “Do I like the poems?” “Would I be pleased to have my poems in conversation with poems like the ones the journal publishes?” “Do the poetics of those in the journal have some consonance with my work?” The result has been a much lower “batting average” - i.e., many (many!) more rejections, but an expanding community of poets whose work I admire and who, on occasion, wish to engage with my work. 

But publishing is frustrating. The words associated with it – “submission,” “rejection,” and “acceptance,” are ones one might address with a therapist! The rejections most always sting - even though I realize that not all are because of the quality of my work but due to the large number of poems good journals have to consider. (And yes, many rejections I am sure have to do with both the quality and qualities of my work.)  

What I tell myself - and offer up as advice:   

  1. Submit for publication if you want your poems (and you) in conversation with others.  
  2. Take rejection personally - meaning go back and read your poem and the poems the journal accepts and judge for yourself if you work belongs among the published pieces.  
  3. Build networks of poetry friends on social media (if you are a habitué of social media). Join active social-media communities/groups that share, appreciate, and celebrate each other’s work. (I find FaceBook has the most active poetry groups.) “Follow” your poetry finds into journals that they’ve published in and see if yours might also be at home there. 
  4. The hardest one for me: Publication ≠ success. Friendship, community, rich conversations, honing your craft, discovery: These = success. Journal publication is only one way to cultivate these other rewards of writing and reading poetry."

Annette Januzzi Wick

Annette Januzzi Wick a writer, teacher, speaker, and author of two memoirs on love and loss. A combination of Italian roots, small-town footholds, and urban living, her writings span food and the arts, women’s issues, cities, aging and memory. She’s the author of I'll Have Some of Yours, What I Learned From My Mother About Dementia, Cookies, Music, the Outside, and Her Life Inside A Care Home, and a frequent contributor to Cincinnati.com, with work appearing in Cincinnati Magazine, 3rd Act Magazine, nextavenue.com, Promedica, with Belt Magazine, Ovunque Siamo and Italian Americana forthcoming. Visit annettejwick.com. 

I'll Have Some of Yours

"Oftentimes, I’ll read an article or essay to discover new writers. It’s also an additional way for my words to be discovered. One of my pandemic goals was to publish my work for a wider audience in targeted magazines and journals. This process exposed me—and my writing—to a critical base of editors, including an Italian editor, all who pushed me to delve further into my work, and into my craft. This is important. Not only was I paid for my work, but the editorial advice made my work infinitely more readable. 'We're not good enough to not practice,' says Kiese Laymon, the well-known Black southern writer.

While some of my publishing has appeared in memoir form, more often, my writing now appears in smaller corners of the world. At the present, essays or articles of mine have been published or are forthcoming in an Italian Americana journal on food writing, a magazine centered on the Midwest, a creative writing magazine about finding one’s writing voice, and a life balance and aging blog. I began with an audience of caregivers and those in mourning when I published my first book. I’m looking forward to readers who will relish in stories about Italian Wedding Soup, as part of a larger culinary memoir, and challenging myself to complete a novel.

Get your writing out from under a rock—there will always be an editor willing to shine a light on it."

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