i was thinking about my second column for gloom cupboard and two thoughts struck me. it might be more than two but for the moment it’s two.
initially i thought of a girl i dated in college. this is 20 some odd years ago so the details are a bit fuzzy. and i should clarify. when i say girl, perhaps transgendered human would be a better fit. and it only took five dates to figure that out.
secondly i thought about getting published, and not your first, great american novel about whores and wars and deadbeat living, rather that first poem you get published in the local fish wrap. the one where you take a bunch of copies, send them to family, including grandma, and you tape a copy to the wall of your workspace. the first published piece is amazing, a feeling almost like the first time you fuck a really hot girl, (or guy, i want to be open to homosexuals and females.
which leads me back to the girl i dated in college.
victoria stood about 6 foot, which seemed a little odd but she had a great body and a beautiful face. i never questioned anything and she never brought it up. until after the fifth date. no one questioned it. she worked part time at the school library and we had a couple of classes together, including an creative writing class. it didn’t take long to become friends. i think if asked, she would say she sought me out, if only because i stood five inches taller than her.
initially we traded stories, critiqued each others work, and drank coffee at a local shop for hours on end. victoria could turn a phrase better than any person i had ever met. she submitted poetry all over and received acceptance at every turn. i, on the other hand, did not and i finally quit submitting.
victoria and i dated easily. simple, comfortable; a growing friendship that edged toward love, we had a great time. and at the end of the fifth date victoria sat me down and had the standard boy-becomes-girl story. i found it fascinating. we continued to date for a couple of years. and it became, quite fascinating.
time went on and i discovered that victoria had a definite technique to getting published.
“it’s like fucking,” she would say. “you’re not good at first, you have to study, practice, know your stuff.”
victoria would spend hours reading journal, lit zines and anthologies. after a while she could hone in on a style of writing that would echo how she wrote, and bam! published. she wrote these really tight, short introduction letters that explained how much she loved the journal she was writing to and a little love for the editor. of course, her writing stood above almost everybody.
after graduating, victoria and i drifted apart. she became a prominent poet and playwright based in the lower east side of new york city. i heard she became lesbian as well, which always confused me. lesbian transgendered is just going backwards, right?
flash forward 20 some odd years and i find myself a full time writer. broke but full time. pretty typical. i write poetry, short stories, novels, erotica, screenplays and plays. just about everything.
about a year ago i got published for the first time in print, in a magazine called cause & effect. my first poem, their second edition. it’s a solid zine and you should check out. and i all honesty i didn’t really study or research what they like. i got lucky. sure i can write, but when you see who i am in the thing with you have to wonder how i got in. i am a confident writer, but a less than confident poet.
it’s a great rush and i remember ordering a bunch of extra copies. and then i realized that all the great poets in the edition with me wrote daring, open, hardcore, street level poetry and some of the word choices would have put grandma straight in the fucking grave.
of course, my grandmother met victoria at a wedding. most of the family had figured out the clinical sexual status of victoria and enjoyed a good whisper in the shadows. but i never figured grandmother knew.
she walked up to victoria after a few glasses of champagne and proclaimed: “You’re the broad with the cock, ain’t cha?”
i decided to show the first poem published to grandma but not my parents. they would definitely end up in the grave, but not grandma. grandma rocks.
that presented an important lesson when submitting that poem or story or whatever for publication. not only do you study the journal your are sending your piece to, but you have to be fearless in what you submit. if you couldn’t send a poem about transvestites fucking midgets on the steps of the white house, you should submit. now i am not saying you are the type to write like that, actually, that is my area of expertise; rather, i am saying that your words should not be timid.
so you go on line, find that zine and email it off. and wait. and wait. and wait.
when i first sent stuff off with victoria 20 some odd years ago al gore had yet to invite the internet so we had to mail stuff with the SASE. and wait and wait. and…you get my point.
nothing changes over time. you always have to wait. that’s how it works. i run a zine as well and it is interesting that when you comment back right away, some people are thrilled and some not satisfied. very odd. and if you take more than a month, god forbid! the angry rants start coming. another lesson: if you bitch at the editor, they won’t publish you. it’s their zine, not yours. and i think this is why a lot of zines pop up every day on the internet.
i have waited four months for rejection notes and 10 months for acceptance. i can never figure out what is going on. to be honest most get back within a couple of days, to a week, and that seems pretty good.
victoria once received acceptance by phone. she mailed on a monday and received a phone call on thursday. i once received acceptance by text but submitting to a friend’s journal doesn’t always count. of course, i am at the mercy of my friend’s and everything i get published counts… so friends, keep it going… haha.
anyway. i keep all my rejections, print them out and tape them to wall. and they cover the wall. victoria’s rejection would barely cover her ass, i remember three; but mine would fill a room of walls and most of the ceiling. don’t get me wrong, i am quite proud of this.
recently i received a rejection exactly 12 minutes after i sent the email. twelve minutes! i was amazed. the rejection read:
thank you for your submission. we read your poem(s) in detail and appreciate your consideration of xxxxxxx journal.
please feel free to submit again in six months.
as if i can write any better in six months. unlikely. and i submitted the maximum amount of poems at 6. twelve minutes to read those in detail and write a form letter and hit send in twelve minutes? more than impressed.
i have kept the acceptances as well, but they are fewer and usually more to the point, which i find interesting as well.
this acceptance came after six months of waiting:
dear mr. jack
we at the yyyyyyyy journal are thrilled beyond words and very excited to have your poems in our publication.
your work will appear immediately on line and in a few months in print.
we want you to keep sending to us because we love your style.
while i made it onto the web page, the zine folded before they could must forth with a print edition. it happens. they come, they go, they reconfigure from one thing to the next. in the end you just keep trying.
another important aspect is to read the submission guidelines with great care. when i found out victoria had a four inch clit (hormones tend to shrink the remains of the male genitalia, for those didn’t know) i discovered a little more than i bargained for, which is not unlike the guidelines some editors have. they do it for a reason, sometimes obscure, but it is there zine so abide by them. embedded to the email, attachment in .rtf format only, single space, triple space, and so on. another one is simultaneous. so don’t mind, so freak the fuck out. as a general rule it is not nice to double or even triple dip, but if you can fuck more than one woman at a time, i don’t see why you can’t submit the same poem in more than one place. variety is THE spice of life, as victoria always said.
once i submitted the same poem to over 30 zines. as a test, of course, but my own vanity thought it would get accepted 30 times. i have 30 rejections on one spot of my wall to remind me of my own failures, and stupidity. simultaneous is your call, but i stopped. just as i could only handle one trannie at a time, i can only handle one rejection at a time.
– – –
i haven’t seen victoria in many years and i have never dated a transgendered human since, although the thought has crossed my mind. my submissions are still rejected but not as frequent, i spend a great deal of time reading and learning where i fit in, and, to my surprise, i fit in more than i don’t, especially in england. (i am not sure why.)
you should always know the zine you are submitting. and follow their guidelines. unless you are a big name, you still have to play by the rules, as annoying as they can sometimes be.
and last, and to me, most important, if grandma can’t read it, think twice. poetry is about freedom of voice and expression and content, and any hesitation denies your truest voice. my grandma is dead now, she went screaming all the way down. my mother still claims to hear her bitching her out from time to time.
if i can write about a relationship with a trannie, i think i can write about anything. even grandma didn’t have a problem with that. of course, i changed my name to protect the rest of the family, and that might be a truer reason that i write like my balls are on fire. that and i am a notorious liar.