inasmuch as it concerns Selling My Soul:
"Psst! Wanna buy a story? Hot new manuscripts, exclusively yours to publish! First American, First Serial, E-rights and reprints! Get 'em while they're hot!"
things that make rewrites hard (a non-exhaustive list)
- 1,633 words (if poetry, lines) long
Over the month of August, and not counting those stories that just needed a quick once-over before being submitted, I successfully revised to completion (as defined by "I'm willing to submit it to all the top pro markets") one story. That's it! One. One measley flash-length short story.
Revision is hard.
One thing that made the task so hard to complete was skipping a bunch of the days I was supposed to work on it. And not always because I was busy driving to Kansas, cheering for and hanging out with my Boulder County Bombers peeps, and recovering from all of the above (hi! I'm a lifelong introvert! Unusually high levels of peopling will require unusually long levels of downtime afterward!) But sometimes it was just because I know revision is hard, so I run away.
This may be a bit of a catch-22.
But I'm discovering that it's really only some rewrites that are hard.
The aforementioned quick once-over before manuscript submission is relatively easy and--well, I wouldn't call it fun, not when I'm stressing out over "I should have had this submitted by now, this is taking up a lot more time than I budgeted for, whyyyyyy" while I white-knuckle my way through the piece line-by-line. But it's oddly compelling. Unless midway through I decide the piece isn't actually going to be submittable, I'm going to do it and I'm going to finish it so that I darn well can submit it. So. Not fun, but easy, for certain values of "easy."
There's also the revision process that's more like a controlled demolition of the existing draft so that the components can be used to build a new story. That one actually is fun. So while it's not easy or quick to complete, it's easy to return to it day after day.
The revisions that suck like supermassive black holes are somewhere in between. That's when a story is mostly there, but it needs fixing on a deeper than line-by-line level. But I can't see how to do it. Sometimes I can't even describe the problem(s) in a useful way. And I can't make myself feel, on a gut-instinct solid-knowledge level, that any amount of pushing words around will improve matters. I start to feel like any changes I make will only break those few things that actually work.
That's what it was like revising last month's story.
But I got it done on time and I submitted it to Uncanny Magazine with two hours to spare before deadline and got to log the rejection 3 days later so YAY! And I mean YAY because, YAY, moving closer to 100 rejections in 2019, but also YAY, one more story I can submit to all the usual places!
And the fact that the next three places I sent it rejected it in under 24 hours just means three more rejections toward target 100 and also three more steps closer to finding the editor who will love it. And those three places are in fact well known among working short story writers for preternaturally speedy rejections. We all send our new stuff there first because 1. hey, they might say yes, and 2. if they say no, they'll do it quickly, so you can send it to the next place sooner. Their slush pile is big, and they publish only a very small percentage of it, and they would even if they only published stories found in the slush pile, which they don't. But we jump in that slush pile anyway, because that's the only way to give them the chance to tell us yes.
Those are the things I tell myself, consciously and repeatedly and determinedly, because they are true. And I need to focus hard on their truth whenever that sadistic little voice in my head pipes up saying "This piece got four rejections in four days; shouldn't you take the hint and accept that you wasted all that effort last month producing GARBAGE?!" Because that little voice totally lies.
(And that's something else that makes revisions hard.)
coming soon to a horror fiction podcast near you
I signed a contract shortly after getting back from Kansas, which means it's real. So! Announcing a forthcoming Nicole J. LeBoeuf publication: My short story "Lambing Season" will be featured in an upcoming episode of the podcast Tales to Terrify. It will probably be before the end of the year. If I learn more, I'll announce it here. I'll definitely announce when it's out.
While you wait, why not subscribe to the podcast and put some fantastic horror and dark fantasy fiction in your ears on a weekly basis? Tales to Terrify episodes come out each Friday. Your host, Drew Sebesteny, will typically lead off the episode by relating the supernatural legends of a particular North American town. Then there'll be a story or two. Often, the first will be from someone writing today, and the second will be an earlier classic. The production is always top notch and narrators do a great job. Tales to Terrify episodes made my drive to and from Salina that much more enjoyable. I would definitely recommend them for your commute.
Previously at the intersection of me and Tales to Terrify: Episode 350, featuring my story "First Breath" (originally published in the anthology Blood and Other Cravings and recently reprinted by the Denver Horror Collective) as well as Victoria Glad's 1951 classic, "Each Man Kills" (which was originally published in Weird Tales). "Lambing Season" was first published in NAMELESS Digest #3.
In other news, I intend to release two Friday Fictionettes a week for the month of September: the one that's due, and the one that's precisely a month overdue. In that manner the project will be all caught up and back on its proper release schedule by September 27. So this Friday you can expect to see the August 2 release, working title "Eyes in the Rain", and the September 6 release, working title "the one about time travel and deathbed curses".
The Friday Fictionette project is a flash fiction subscription service powered by Patreon. For $1/month, you get a new story-like object every first through fourth Friday (that's the aforementioned proper release schedule) in the electronic text format of your choice, as well as access to all the archived Fictionette since August 2014. For $3/month you also get to download the MP3 where I read it to you, as well as the archived audiofictionettes going back to April 2015.
If you yourself like to write, you may enjoy the Monday Muse feature, where I share the writing prompt associated with the upcoming Friday Fictionette so you can play along at home. The Monday Muse posts are unlocked, which is to say, free for all regardless of whether you subscribe.
Hey, tomorrow I might actually wind up blogging about how rewrites are hard. I've been mentioning that for a while, but as it turns out, blogging regularly is also hard. You may have noticed.
A bunch of yay and also driving
- 29 words (if poetry, lines) long
- 46 words (if poetry, lines) long
Hello. I have just driven through a lot of Kansas. This weekend is the War of Wheels tournament in Salina, and I'm here to cheer on the Boulder County Bombers Screaming Mimis as they compete. It's going to be a lot of fun and very exciting and I am looking forward to it but what I'm really looking forward to right now is a good night's sleep because, woo, driving through a lot of Kansas.
Currently I'm at the Ambassador Hotel and Convention Center, and it's... weird. Which I supposed I should have expected. I know better than to take the cheapest hotel Google finds me. I mean, I've seen what happens when teammates do that. They come up to you at the afterparty asking wistfully, "Does your hotel have towels? Clean ones?" But in this case, the very cheap price was tacked onto a convention center. They host conventions! How bad can they be? Also, free breakfast.
And, well, they're not sketch. They're just weird. OK, from the outside they look sketch. To start with, the signage is difficult to make out--I went up and down the block a few times before I spotted it; Google unhelpfully told me "turn left (after the Subway restaurants)" and, well, that describes the driveways of about four hotels as well as an ice cream shop (Braum's) and something that looks like a rebranded Steak & Shake (Spangles!). All I could see was a big red A on black sign presiding over a seriously depopulated parking lot in front of an extinct Irish pub. But inside, it's this huge, cavernous space, four or five levels of balconies jutting out over what's unmistakably a hotel and convention center lobby, with lots of brass banisters and foliage-topped half-walls partitioning out the wide carpeted areas containing tables and chairs and, incongruously, random toy dispensers. You know, you put in a quarter and you get out a little plastic egg with a trinket inside? Yeah. And those toy dispensers make more light than the actual interior lighting of the space, which is super dim. I mean, I described it as "cavernous" advisedly. It's like a town carved into the walls of a great big cave. Also it kind of reminds me of the Christie Lodge in Avon, that one time I stayed there, only, like I said, not as well lit, and instead of pho there's BBQ.
And the place is simply deserted, undoubtedly because there are no conventions going on at the moment (unless you count the "Welcome Baptist Church!" signs visible through the windows near the locked and unlit convention center entrance; maybe it's a convention every Sunday morning) and also because the roller derby tournament hosts reserved their special rate block with the Quality Inn on the other side of the highway. I've run into a total of... three other guests, I think. Hardly anyone seems to be staying here right now. This underground cliff-dwelling is a ghost town. Or, at least, so it seems tonight. Maybe I'll get a better sense of the hotel's current population when I go over for the complimentary breakfast in the morning.
My room is pretty basic. It has the usual assortment of hotel furniture. There is a bathtub, which puts it ahead of some hotel rooms I've stayed in. Honestly, I can't complain.
But back to the actually writing, about which, this blog.
This week has been rough in terms of productivity. I managed about half of a late-starting Monday before getting pleasantly distracted by John's playing Dicey Dungeons. (That's an excellent fun time, by the way. Totally worth whatever Steam is charging for it. I may end up buying it myself.) Then neither of us managed much sleep (and not for lack of trying), so my Tuesday turned into pretty much nothing but recovering from that sleepless night in time to be functional at derby practice. I missed my daily submissions procedures and everything.
Then Wednesday I opened up my mail and found responses to five different submissions.
That's a lot. I've just gotten used to the idea that, with my one-sub-each-workday challenge, I may well have a rejection to log more days than not. OK. Fine. But five? Five submission responses? Accumulated only over 48 hours? That's... well, that's something that only happens when you have a lot of manuscripts out on submission at once. Which isn't something I've ever had before this year.
Here's the thing. Only two of those five responses were rejections.
One of the remaining three was from the Denver Horror Collective, which just reprinted "First Breath", to square away payment details with me. The contract said X amount within Y days of publication, and, hot damn, that's exactly what happened. That's always nice. Well, I say "always," but it's not like I get to deal with the post-acceptance part of the submission process often enough for "always" to mean a lot. This was only my second sale of 2019.
The other two? Were my fourth and fifth sales of 2019. Which is to say: ACCEPTANCE LETTERS. Yay!
I may have yelped and run out into the living room shouting, "It's a two-acceptance day! Eeeeee!" And then I may have tackle-hugged my husband. If so, he took it in stride.
One of those acceptance letters was for an old poem ("Your Disembodied Friends Would Like to Remind You") that I pulled out of the archives for a serious overhaul in order to submit it to a brand new horror quarterly. The other was for a previously published story ("Lambing Season") I'd submitted for reprint to an established podcast. Both should go live later this year. As usual, that's about all I can say until things develop further. In the meantime, please enjoy imagining me doing the happy dance. Any kind of happy dance. What kind of happy dance would you do? That one will be fine.
(If you are wondering, "Fourth and fifth? What happened to the third publication?" the answer is, "Didn't I mention that I sold a poem a couple weeks ago? I sold a poem called 'At Night, the Dead' a couple weeks ago. It'll be out later this year." Again, more details later.)
So my week may have slid into a rough patch, but Wednesday's inbox goodies really perked it right up! ...just in time for it to get all chaotic again what with the solo road trip and the roller derby tournament.
we pause in our endless slog through the Great Overdue for some good news
So I've spent the last week or so getting even farther behind and am now in the middle of a frenzied new push to Do All The Things Every Day, which is why you're getting a blog post again at last.
I did say I'd let you know when the latest reprinting of my story "First Breath" was out, didn't I? Well, as of... er, about a week ago, actually--sorry?--it's out! The Denver Horror Collective is soon to release their local horror anthology, Terror at 5280', and in celebration of that they're posting some stories to their website ahead of release day. My story is not in the anthology proper, but it's part of the run-up festivities, and you can read it here.
In other very pleasant news, I got an acceptance response to a recent poetry submission. Since nothing's real until contracts are signed, further details will have to wait until probably September. But the acceptance letter was definitely real, for pre-contract values of real.
For those keeping count, we're up to three acceptances in 2019, two of them poetry. The poem that just got accepted, I more or less wrote on the bus from Boulder to Longmont. Clearly I should be writing more poetry.
In case you're interested in how the submit-every-day, get-100-rejections challenge is going, I shall paste in the table with all the 2019 numbers. They are good numbers. I am quite proud of them.
|Jan||Feb||Mar||Apr||May||Jun||Jul||Aug||Total for 2019 (so far)|
In other news, revisions continue to be hard, and Friday Fictionettes continue to be way behind schedule. More about that quite possibly tomorrow if I manage to Do All The Things again.
a list of things which are not excuses followed by a list of things which are good things
- 1,299 words (if poetry, lines) long
Last week was eventful. Not the good kind of eventful, either. I had a headlight to get replaced on a car, a sudden flood of water from the ceiling to investigate, and, most worrisome of all, a computer that wouldn't power on. It all pretty much hit last weekend and overshadowed the week. Not that these things are precisely what made last week so dire in terms of productivity, but it can't have helped, you know?
In any case, the headlight was easily taken care of. The mysterious leak less so, as it involved coordinating with my upstairs neighbor; thankfully, the maintenance crew who responded to the emergency call took point on that. As for the computer...
Well, it's amazing how much I was able to get done, or at least could have gotten done, despite not having up-to-date backups of my Scrivener files available. These days I mostly do my composing and editing on 4thewords, which meant all my current projects were accessible as long as I could remember my 4thewords password. Which I could. And so many of the places I submit stories to use online submission management systems (Submittable, Hey Publisher, Submission Manager) that I never had trouble keeping up with my daily submissions; I just logged onto whichever system I'd submitted a given manuscript through last and downloaded a copy. I had recent enough versions of many useful things on the two Asus laptops that were my previous two workspaces before this Dell. And I was able to keep up with email via the webmail options my domain host offers.
Which is not to say I didn't breathe a huge honking sigh of relief when, after the Dell onsite technician installed the replacement motherboard not 6 days after the power-on failure (always spring for the extended warranty if you can afford it; Dell's is particularly good), the computer booted up to windows and demonstrated that all my data was sound. And you can bet I initiated better backup habits that very night. (Did you know Mega.nz offers 50 gigs cloud storage on just their free account?)
It turns out I could have accessed and backed up my data at any time. I assumed that my hard drive would be buried under intricate layers of machinery, but no, it is surfaced for customer access just like the battery is. I could have yanked it out and slipped it into a usb shell that I already possess and ported my entire life back onto the old Asus machine that became my workstation during that week. Well. Now I know, should a similar calamity befall me in the future.
(And it might. I seem to average one computer crisis per year. I'm kinda death to laptops. Again, spring for the extended warranty every time you can afford it--it is so worth it. I know mine's got me covered through December 2021 or thereabouts.)
However. During that time I kept up with my daily submission procedures and nothing else. Failed to do my short story revisions. Got another week behind on Fictionettes, Just kinda sucked in general. It was like my own personal physical/mental/emotional system wouldn't power up any more than my Dell would.
But the first two days of this new week have been a lot better. Like, oodles of percents better. And I have good things to report! To wit:
The Friday Fictionette that was due July 5 is finally out. It's "A Practical Guide to Your Magical Hero Destiny" (ebook, audio), which is an ironic title because you don't actually get an instruction manual for that kind of thing ha ha ha are you kidding? I'm hard at work on the July 12 release as we speak, with hopes of getting entirely caught up by sometime this weekend.
Since I last blogged, I've received notification that two more of my submissions have survived the first slush-culling and have been "bumped" to a secondary round of consideration. Both of them are currently unpublished drabbles, or 100-word short stories, which I had considered long shots unlikely to find favor at any market. You just never know.
And I'm going to suggest that you go ahead and subscribe to The Epitaph, the newsletter of the Denver Horror Collective, for no particular reason other than that you are clearly a fan of Denver-area horror writers, right? Or at least one particular writer who resides in the Denver area and writes things that might be classified as horror? Anyway, it's only monthly, so it won't fill up your inbox like some newsletters I might mention. And you may be intrigued by what shows up there.
And that's the news for now. With any luck I'll manage to post more tomorrow.
the hardest working little story in my stable
- 1,129 words (if poetry, lines) long
- 1,362 words (if poetry, lines) long
So this blog post is mainly to announce that my short story, "First Breath", will be reprinted again. I'm not sure exactly when and I don't think I'm at liberty yet to say exactly where, but I have Signed a Contract so it's pretty darn definite.
I'm tickled to now be able to call this story "my most reprinted story." It will have been reprinted a whole two times. Go little story, go! On the other hand, I'm less than impressed with myself; my last two prose sales--that is, counting only short stories, not poetry--have been reprints of this story. And while I remain quite proud of this story, it first saw print eight years ago, you know? I've been writing all sorts of things since then! I would very much like to get an acceptance letter for a new thing! It would help reassure me that I am still capable of writing publishable stories!
But I'm not complaining too hard here. Yay, a second sale in 2019! The numbers game works!
Speaking of the numbers game, here are those numbers:
Meanwhile, I'm still behind on all things Fictionette. But as of Monday, the Friday Fictionette for June 28th is up: "Right on Time" (ironic title, that--ebook here, audiobook here). Like many stories, it's about how things can always get worse. In this case, things get worse when the wrong miracle happens to the absolute most wrong person. Also, as of today, I've released the Fictionette Freebie for June 2019 to the world at large. You no longer need to be a Patron to access the Friday Fictionette for June 14, "Love in the Time of Lizard People".
I have a whole 'nother rant in me about how REWRITING THINGS IS HARRRRRD but how about we save that for tomorrow? Yeah, lets.
in praise of those arsonists who light fires under my butt
- 921 words (if poetry, lines) long
So my roller derby league does this thing where on Mondays they post a member profile to their public Facebook page, and this week the member being profiled is me. And that feels weird. Like, one, Anxiety Brain is sure that this makes me look like the biggest ego on the planet, despite how patently ridiculous that conviction is. I mean, it's not like I thought that about anybody else; why should anyone think that about me? ("But it's true!" says Anxiety Brain. "Doubly so now that you're boosting the signal on that post. You must want everyone to think you're a total narcissist." You know what? Anxiety Brain can take a hike.) And secondly, Perfectionist Brain is all, "Why'd you give them your Patreon link? Now everyone is going to look and see just how woefully behind schedule you are!"
Well. I'm a lot less behind schedule than I was. The Friday Fictionette for June 21 went up yesterday: "Thinking Outside the Dollhouse." It's kind of what happens when you cross Peter Gabriel's "Big Time" with Cat Steven's "Wild World" and then you miniaturize the result. (Patron-locked post: ebook here, audiobook here.) And today I got a metric shit-ton done on the Friday Fictionette for June 28; I hope to produce that one tomorrow night, then have the rest of the week to get July 5 done on time. Which means the only thing I'm really, really behind on are the Fictionette Artifacts for my $5 Patrons, who have been immensely understanding.
That aside, I am getting a lot done on the writing front. My week-daily submission streak continues with only one missed day since April 18. That missed day did not send me into a spiral of avoidance and despair; I got right back on the horse the next day and haven't fallen off since. So I guess we can cautiously pronounce that new work habit solidly implanted. This month I'm working on a new streak to carry simultaneously: at least 25 minutes of commercial fiction revision every weekday. It's not like that wasn't already in my list of Habitica Dailies for Monday through Friday, but it's officially no longer in my mental category of "eh, nice to have, but if I can't, that's cool--I'll just use my Stealth skill to avoid damage." Two days in: so far, so good!
Credit where credit is due: The support structure for both these endeavors comes from Guild Challenges hosted by the Habitica Guild "Ink Slingers". I won't bother linking it because you have to be logged in to see it, and if you're logged in, you can just search for that Guild by name. But, briefly, "Ink Slingers" is a Guild headed up by the fabulous, hard-working, and much-decorated writer Mary Robinette Kowal. In addition to writing top-notch science fiction and fantasy, she teaches writing classes and hosts monthly online writer dates via her Patreon. She's logged a number of years on the board of SFWA and has taken the reins as President as of yesterday. She's part of the team behind the podcast Writing Excuses. She's also an award-winning puppeteer. Somehow she still finds time to be active in various online writing communities, one of which is the aforementioned Habitica Guild.
Guilds serve as small communities within Habitica. And because those communities tend to share overall goals (like, say, "be a writer"), Guilds can create and host Challenges for their members. The Ink Slingers Guild hosts a lot of challenges, some created by MRK herself and others by enthusiastic community members. My recent successes at improving my work week can be attributed almost entirely to two Ink Slingers Guild Challenges in particular: the Rejection to Acceptance 2019 Challenge, in which participants strive to receive 100 manuscript rejections in a year, and, just now, the July Wednesday Writers Challenge, in which participants set a big goal for the month and then break it down into smaller weekly goals that will help them achieve the big goal.
The Rejection Challenge you already know about, because I've been yammering about it here for the last three months. But this is the first month I joined the Wednesday Writers' Club, despite having seen guild members reporting in and cheering each other on ever since I joined the Guild. So I set myself a goal for July of adding two stories to my stable of submission-ready manuscripts; and the weekly goal of sitting down to a 25-minute minimum story revision session every Monday through Friday. Tomorrow being Wednesday, I get to report on my progress so far, which, assuming I'm as diligent tomorrow as I have been today and yesterday, should be all smiles and thumbs up.
I've encountered people who will haughtily assert that real writers don't need tricks or brain hacks or special challenges or communities in order to write. They just write! Because they can't not! And anyone who relies on the aforementioned list of crutches shouldn't dare arrogate to themselves the lofty titles Writer or Author. Well, I can say without hesitation or exception that every encounter with such a person has been an encounter I regretted having. Such people should own the claims they are making and absent themselves from any sort of community forthwith, is what I think, because who needs that kind of attitude? Look, brain hacks can be necessary. Community can be life-saving. And I am here to tell you that a friendly peer challenge can be a game-changer.
Hence today this post expressing gratitude for one those communities whose challenges have changed my game. Thanks, y'all!
i distract you with poetry and sanctioned violence
- 45 words (if poetry, lines) long
So have I posted the Friday Fictionettes that were due last week and today? No. No, I have not. They will not be appearing tonight. Fridays suck, this week has sucked, I suck. It's true. But hey! Let me distract you with the Summer Solstice 2019 issue of Eternal Haunted Summer! I think if you read the table of contents you will see a familiar name.
If you're local to the Boulder, Colorado area, I could also distract you with roller derby. We're playing the teams from Fort Collins and from Cincinnati tomorrow in a round robin tournament of full sanctioned games. $15 gets you in all day. Come check it out, it'll be a fun time! Also we owe our Cincinnati visitors just as much love as they showed us when we visited them last year. That means we need a great big noisy crowd. Don't you want to be part of a great big noisy crowd? I think you do.
If you're there, make sure to say hi--I'll be the one with the long braid, the upside-down fleur-de-lis on my leggings, and the tall hand-knit green and purple stockings that make everyone say, "Aren't you hot in those things?" (Friend, I'm hot in everything. It's a gift.) Also the great big 504 on my back and arm-bands, which might be the more significant giveaway.
My intentions at this point are to do my Saturday AINC reading tonight and be in bed by midnight. Tomorrow's gonna be a long day, what with skating in two games in the evening, helping to set up the track in the morning, and trying my darnedest to get some writing in--including on the overdue Fictionettes--in between. So I'll sign off here and get to it.
See you tomorrow or just as soon as possible thereafter!
confessions of an epicurean nature
- 10 words (if poetry, lines) long
So I'm in the bath right now. This is the sort of thing you find out about me when you read my blog. Sometimes, when I'm too cold, too tired, too reluctant or too neurotic--tonight it's the "too tired" case because of roller derby scrimmage--in order to write anything at all, I need a tub full of hot water and a selection of cold beverages. (Tonight it's a mango Waterloo and an Abita "Andygator".) As this is a habit of many years, I've perfected the process. I have a pressboard plank that sits across the tub and acts as my desk. On that desk are a wireless keyboard, a wireless mouse, and my drink de jour (de nuit?). My laptop sits on a tall stool near enough that I can read it without squinting. Oddly, no candles or beauty concoctions are involved. Sometimes a cup or two of Epsom salts, because derby, but that's it.
And eventually I do the damn writing. Something about sweating my brain out my ears in water that's just as hot as I can stand shakes something loose. Also, after so many years, the association is well and truly built up; I might as well use it.
Today was a good Doing All The Things day. Yesterday was not. Yesterday I was running on too little sleep and too many errands. Today went a lot better:
- I revised a very short poem and sent it somewhere that particularly likes short things (compressed things, in fact). (It is not actually 10 words long. It is 10 lines long. I still need to write the if/then case into the manuscript stat box so that it says "lines" instead of "words" if the manuscript is a poem.)
- During my freewriting session, thanks to the Writer Igniter prompt generator, I got very invested in a retelling of the folk tale known as Aarne-Thompson type 706 ("The Armless Maiden") involving an apprentice tattoo artist. It's going in the revisions queue, which means one day this millennium I might actually finish it.
- I didn't finish the draft of this week's Friday Fictionette, but I finally figured out how to finish it.
- I typed up the first page of the second of the November Fictionette Artifacts I want to put in the mail by the end of the week.
- And I did this blog post. Ta-da.
Obligatory running submissions tally in handy tabulated form (copied from the source of the handy PHP page I wrote to pull up these stats from my database):
Aren't you glad you asked?
piece of childhood reclaimed or something like that
- 55 words (if poetry, lines) long
I've been writing poems again. It feels good.
I used write poems a lot when I was in school. I mean, elementary school. When I was wee. Maybe that was the problem--as I got older, I associated the writing of poems with the production of the specific caliber of poem I wrote when I was just learning how to do creative writing at all. So maybe I got more embarrassed about it as I got older. Maybe I never felt confident in my sense of what made a poem good. But I could always tell when one of my poems was bad. I'd read it and cringe; that was how I knew.
But at least in high school and thereabouts I had teachers and other students giving me feedback. I had other people giving me the feedback I couldn't give myself, which is to say, they told me if they thought it was good. (I will always treasure the time a teacher told me, "Your poems almost always have that moment toward the end that makes me gasp." Not primarily because it was a high compliment--it was!--but because she had put her finger on something that makes a reader like a poem. She gave me a yardstick I could use. I learned to look for those "gasp" moments after that, though as always it's harder to give them to myself than to get them from others' poems.)
After I got more exclusively into short fiction workshops, I got out of the habit of writing poetry.
It may also be true that when I no longer had a regular writing workshop, I temporarily got out of the habit of writing short fiction.
I'm making headway getting back into both habits now. I'm dedicating a little time every workday to coaxing a manuscript toward publishable shape. And I dedicate one freewriting session every week specifically to poetry. I've been using the weekly poetry prompts on the Poets & Writers blog when they come out on Tuesdays, and I'm responding to them in verse. Maybe bad verse, I don't know. Maybe I'm choosing my line breaks in a sophomoric manner or falling back on cliched metaphors. Maybe there isn't enough sensory data to captivate a reader. Maybe the themes are preachy. But I don't know--that's the point. If I don't feel like I have a grasp on what makes a poem good, maybe I should be less self-assured in my sense of what makes a poems bad. Or at least, one of my poems. I generally know whether I like someone else's poem, and why.
Obviously I should be reading more poetry, too.
I'm certainly thinking in poetry a lot more now since I've dedicated Tuesday freewriting to verse. It'll sneak into my other freewriting days, too, right in there amidst the prose and the babble and the streams of consciousness along the lines of "I don't like this prompt and I don't know what I'm going to write but here are the thoughts I'm having right now."
And between yesterday and today I wrote a brand new poem. And I submitted it to a paying market. And that market turned right around and rejected it in under two hours flat. Which means I have a brand new poem that has already made a complete two-way trip to slush and back, and I can send it out again.
It feels good.
Meanwhile, I just got paid for the poem that got accepted last week. I'm told that means it will go live sometime next week. I'll be sure to let y'all know when that happens.
(Obligatory submissions tally: Submissions in June, 8; in 2019, 44. Rejections in June, 9; in 2019, 26.)