Do you submit poetry for publication?

Photo courtesy of <a href="http://coffeehousejunkie.com/">coffeehousejunkie</a>.

Photo courtesy of coffeehousejunkie.

So, you write poems. Maybe you read your poems at a local bookstore, music venue or coffeeshop at a monthly or weekly open mic. And maybe you even sign up for a writing workshop and the teacher hosts a public reading at a fine art center or library at the conclusion of the course. But do you submit your poetry for publication?

Last month I submitted over 50 poems for publication. So far I’ve receive quite a few reject letters. Some replies were so quick I wonder if the editor read the submission. A week after I submitted poems to one editor I received this:

“I enjoyed reading your poems but I’m unable to use them…”

A day later I received this from a different editor:

“Thank you for your recent submission…. This group of poems wasn’t right for us, but we’re grateful for the opportunity to consider your work…”

These replies are courteous, non-confrontational and sterile. Last weekend I received my favorite rejection letter so far. It reads,

“We sincerely appreciate your interest … and are very glad you are getting your pieces published….  we wish you the best of luck in your continued writing. Never give up on what your high school literature teacher told you!”

Why do I like that rejection letter? Here’s three reasons:

  1. The editor actually read the cover letter. Not just the first few lines of the cover letter, but all the way to the third paragraph. You see, buried in the third paragraph of my cover letter is an homage to an inspirational high school literature teacher.
  2. Clearly it is not an automated reply to a submission for publication.
  3. The way the letter is crafted is a sandwich. By that I mean, the letter opens positively, nicely rejects the submission with two reasons and concludes with a personal and positive note.

Literary journal editors should take note of this rejection letter. It is a good model to follow.

If you submit your poetry for publication, I am interested to learn how it is going for you. If you don’t submit your poems for publication, I’d like to know why.

Do children’s books sell as e-books?

DoKidsEbooksSell_zhivago_lomo

Photo courtesy of @mxmulder

Let’s face it, e-books are no longer a novelty. With the Kindle, Kobo, Nook and other e-reader devices, the transition to a digital reading experience is no longer a discussion. They are here to stay. But is the e-book market just for adults? How well do children’s books sell on this new platform?

Last year, I worked on a half dozen or so children’s books. Not books I’ve written, mind you, but I did design covers, inside layout and typesetting. All of the titles are available on various e-reader devices. Each book features fully illustrated pages (the industry trade refers to them as picture books) and they print at various formats. The most common — and standard to the trade — is a 32-page, 8.5″x11″, colored ends hardcover book.

This is where the question gets interesting: Do children’s books sell as e-books? According to one report,

“children’s and young adult digital book revenues exploded nearly 300 percent…”[1]

Those sales numbers are quite convincing. Authors request e-books of their picture books in addition to their traditionally printed picture books. At least, the authors I work with are convinced by the published industry sales reports. Best I can tell is that young adult books perform much better than picture books even though children’s and young adult books are lumped together in a single category.

My experience is that the iPad provides the best possible interface as an e-reader with brighter colors and fluid user experience. The more popular e-readers (i.e. Kindle and Nook) seem clumsy by comparison leading some to believe that the e-reader device is a transitional technology that is soon to be replaced by the tablet.[2] Both Kindle and Nook scale down a large format picture book to the default viewing area specific to the individual device. Though the iPad has the better picture book experience, I’ve noticed that children are more interested in apps than e-books.

So, what is an author of children’s picture books to do? Here are some things to keep in mind as a children’s book author:

  • A picture book that is interactive (using apps to feature audio, video, etc.) sells better than a static digital e-book.
  • Young adult fiction titles sell better as an e-book than picture books.
  • Publishers typically provide both print and digital products, and it is wise to have the book in as many formats as financially viable.
  • Scholastic published a report on the reading habits of children stating that: “Eighty percent of kids who read ebooks still read books for fun primarily in print.”[3]
  • The same report shares that: “Fifty-eight percent of kids… want to read books printed on paper even though there are ebooks available”[4]

The tactile interaction with a physical book is an important part of the reading experience for children. In her book The Writing Life, Annie Dillard writes,

“The written word is weak. Many people prefer life to it.”

As e-books gain market share, the written word — whether print or digital — will always compete with life. Readers still seek to retreat into books that don’t offer the distraction of emails, hyperlinks, social media updates, Youtube videos and the like. It’s a choice the reader and the author must make.

NOTES: What prompted this post is a discussion posted on the LinkedIn group Ebooks, Ebook Readers, Digital Books and Digital Content… The specific discussion thread is here http://www.linkedin.com/groups/Do-childrens-books-sell-as-1515307.S.212309551
[1] Jason Boog, “Children’s & Young Adult eBooks Saw Nearly 300% Growth,” Galleycat, September 7, 2012 accessed February 19, 2013 http://www.mediabistro.com/galleycat/category/sales-stats
[2] Dan Eldridge, “The Disappearing Market Share of the E-Reader: Is it now a transitioning technology?,” Teleread.com, November 1, 2012 accessed February 19, 2013 http://www.teleread.com/e-ink/the-disappearing-market-share-of-the-e-reader-is-it-now-a-transitioning-technology/
[3] Kids & Family Reading Report, Scholastic, accessed February 19, 2013 http://mediaroom.scholastic.com/kfrr
[4] Kids & Family Reading Report, Scholastic, accessed February 19, 2013 http://mediaroom.scholastic.com/kfrr

Interview: Caleb Beissert on Beautiful translations of Federico García Lorca and Pablo Neruda

Beautiful by Caleb Beissert Caleb Beissert is a poet, translator and musician. His published work appears in International Poetry Review, Tar River Poetry, Asheville Poetry Review and Beatitude: Golden Anniversary, 1959-2009.

This week, Poetry at the Altamont celebrates the release of Caleb Beissert’s first book, Beautiful, a selection of poems by Pablo Neruda and Federico García Lorca translated into English. During the last few weeks, Beautiful was well received by enthusiastic audiences at Montford Books & More and Malaprop’s Books & Cafe and is a Small Press Distribution best-seller.

The Altamont theater doors open at 7:00 P.M. for Poetry at the Altamont. Admission is $5 at the door. Beer and wine sold at the bar and lounge will remain open for drinks after the reading. Event link.

UPDATE: Caleb Beissert is the featured guest of the Coffee with the Poet Series, Thursday, February 21st at 10:30 a.m. at City Lights Bookstore. Event link

Caleb graciously agreed to an interview to discuss poetry, translation work and Beautiful.

Coffeehouse Junkie Blog

First, for those who don’t know you, Caleb, please share a little about yourself and how you came to poetry.

Caleb Beissert

I arrived naturally at poetry. I had a strong interest in writing as a child, which stemmed from my mother’s and father’s both being journalists. They read to me constantly, even while I was in utero. I still love being read to, hence the poetry readings I attend. During my fugitive teenage years, I wrote notebooks full of song lyrics—songwriters such as Bob Dylan, Tom Petty, Robert Hunter, Kurt Cobain, Roger Waters, and The Beatles among my influences. When I went to college and took a poetry writing class, I discovered I’d been writing poetry for years. Of course songwriting is a different beast, but one does inform the other.

Throughout my time at Western Carolina University, I studied writing, foreign languages, philosophy, music, art—I wasn’t satisfied with the notion of going to college to get a job, rather I wanted to learn everything I could for the sake of knowing. I began publishing my poetry, traveling abroad, corresponding with accomplished writers, and I participated in the Gilbert-Chappell Distinguished Poet Series.

My literary heritage largely came from the American Beats, especially Allen Ginsberg and Richard Brautigan; the British poets, namely Blake and Coleridge; and mystics, like Hafiz, Rumi, Kabir, Mirabai; as well as Walt Whitman, E.E. Cummings, W.S. Merwin, early on Shel Silverstein, and then later the great Hispanic poets, particularly Federico García Lorca and Pablo Neruda. Now I’m living in Asheville, writing, producing poetry events, and also working as a musician.

Coffeehouse Junkie Blog

How did the translation work of these two poets, Federico García Lorca and Pablo Neruda, come about?

Caleb Beissert

As I glossed over previously, I was at WCU studying poetry and foreign language when I began translating these two poets. It must have been my attraction to Surrealism that led me to García Lorca. I had read a few translations in Bly’s Leaping Poetry, eaten up Lorca’s lecture Theory and Play of the Duende, and fallen into Poema del cante jondo. I was fascinated by this idea of the duende and also with the marriage of poetry with music, seen in the influence of Andalusian flamenco music on his work.

An interest in Neruda also came through my gravitating toward Surrealism, though I must acknowledge that neither of these poets wrote exclusively or even primarily in this style. One day my Spanish professor assigned the students to attempt a translation of Neruda’s famous “Poema 20” from Veinte poemas de amor y una canción desesperada. I thoroughly enjoyed the assignment—probably the only one who did—and it was then I realized I could translate. From there, of course, the complexities of poetry translation began to unravel. I studied essays by Gregory Rabassa, John Felstiner, Margaret Sayers Penden, Eliot Weinberger, and read many bilingual or “bisexual” editions, as a good friend likes to call them.

Eventually, I timidly showed my translations to a few trusted poet friends/mentors, among them Dr. Mary Adams and Thomas Rain Crowe, who encouraged me to continue the work. It has been a process of frustration, learning and accomplishment. Many late nights of pulling out my hair. I’ve dabbled in other Spanish-writing poets, such as César Vallejo, Rafael Alberti, Pedro Salinas, Vicente Aleixandre, Nicanor Parra, and Manuel González Prada; however, it was García Lorca and Neruda I spent the most time with, grew to know them through their words, heard their voices, conversed in dreams, and eventually compiled enough English-language adaptations for two books.

Coffeehouse Junkie Blog

How the translation work inform the craft of your own poetry?

Caleb Beissert

I find myself writing odes to people and places I’ve never known. I’ve written poems to or after these poets, places and ideas from their poetry, even employed mimicry for effect sometimes, but going deeper, I’m sure it has changed the way I think about language, construct lines, choose words, though the translation process itself does that as well. I have developed my own poetry while spending a great amount of time with these poets, therefore their impact on my work is tremendous. It is hard for me to see, because often one must step away from his or her work to get an accurate picture of it, but I know the influence is there.

Found poem: The courage to live [annotated]

POET’S NOTE: As an exercise to try something new in composing a poem, I wrote this short piece as a found poem based on news headlines and related blog posts. John Hollander wrote in Vision and Resonance: Two Senses of Poetic Form that “anyone may ‘find’ a text; the poet is he who names it, ‘Text’.” With that introduction, I offer this found poem.

The courage to live

1.

It seems like the very heavens [1] rupture [2]
with news of the Pontiff’s decision [3]
to abdicate the Holy See.

2.

Somewhere in America, for nearly a week,
film and fiction collide with a John Rambo-like [4]
manhunt [5] that ends as expected. [6]

3.

She sings, [7]
When you get to Asheville
send me an email…. 
[8]

Will she tell me that the President is coming to town? [9] [10]
Will there be a hollywood celebrity to greet him, [11]  when he arrives?
Will he retire to the Paris of the South [12] after this whole presidency thing[13]

4.

Whether it comes from above [14] or snakes its way through the dark depths below, [15]
the number one regret on the lips of the dying is
to have lived true to one’s self rather than the expectation of others. [16]

NOTES:
[1] Phil Plait, “BREAKING: Huge Meteor Blazes Across Sky Over Russia; Sonic Boom Shatters Windows [UPDATED],” Slate, Feb. 15, 2013 accessed February 15, 2013 http://www.slate.com/blogs/bad_astronomy/2013/02/15/breaking_huge_meteor_explodes_over_russia.html
[2] CBS/AP, “Meteorites slam into Russia as meteor seen streaking through morning sky,” CBSNews.com, February 15, 2013, accessed February 15, 2013 http://www.cbsnews.com/8301-202_162-57569551/meteorites-slam-into-russia-as-meteor-seen-streaking-through-morning-sky/
[3] Mark Memmott, “Pope Benedict XVI Is Resigning,” NPR’s The Two-Way, February 11, 2013, accessed February 15, 2013 http://www.npr.org/blogs/thetwo-way/2013/02/11/171680715/pope-benedict-xvi-is-resigning.
[4] “Christopher Dorner manhunt: police hunt ‘Rambo’ cop killer” The Week, February 8, 2013, accessed February 15, 2013 http://www.theweek.co.uk/us/51429/christopher-dorner-manhunt-police-hunt-rambo-cop-killer.
[5] Halimah Abdullah, “L.A. manhunt reminiscent of D.C. sniper case,” CNN, February 9, 2013, accessed February 15, 2013 http://www.cnn.com/2013/02/08/politics/lapd-attacks-dc-sniper/index.html?iid=article_sidebar.
[6] “Dorner manhunt: Charred human remains found in burned cabin,” Los Angeles Times, February 13, 2013, accessed February 15, 2013 http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/lanow/2013/02/dorner-manhunt-charred-human-remains-found-in-burned-cabin.html.
[7] Jennifer Saylor, “New single from Steve Martin and Edie Brickell: ‘When you get to Asheville’,” Ashvegas.com, February 14, 2013, accessed February 15, 2013 http://www.ashvegas.com/new-single-from-steve-martin-and-edie-brickell-when-you-get-to-asheville.
[8] Alec Wilkinson, “EDIE BRICKELL AND THAO NGUYEN,” The New Yorker, February 5, 2013, accessed February 15, 2013 http://www.newyorker.com/online/blogs/culture/2013/02/listen-to-new-albums-by-edie-brickell-and-thao-nguyen.html.
[9] Jeff Willhelm, “Obama in Asheville,” The Charlotte Observer, February 13, 2013, accessed February 15, 2013 http://www.charlotteobserver.com/2013/02/13/3852979/obama-in-asheville.html.
[10] Jennifer Saylor, “Obama in Asheville, Part 1: Fourth visit,” Ashvegas.com, February 13, 2013, accessed February 15, 2013 http://www.ashvegas.com/obama-in-asheville-part-1-fourth-visit.
[11] James Franco, “Obama in Asheville,” Yahoo! News, January 21, 2013, accessed February 15, 2013 http://news.yahoo.com/president-obama-in-asheville-a-james-franco-poem–231846640.html.
[12] Jennifer Saylor, “Obama in Asheville, Part 2: President says he might retire here,” Ashvegas.com, February 13, 2013, accessed February 15, 2013 http://www.ashvegas.com/obama-in-asheville-part-2-president-says-he-might-retire-here
[13] Donovan Slack, “Obama on barbecue, life ‘after this whole presidency thing’,” Politico 44, February 13, 2013, accessed February 15, 2013 http://www.politico.com/politico44/2013/02/obama-on-barbecue-life-after-this-whole-presidency-156963.html.
[14] Joel Achenbach, “Asteroid’s pass near Earth a close call in cosmic terms only,” The Washington Post, February 14, 2013, accessed February 15, 2013 http://www.washingtonpost.com/national/health-science/asteroid-to-pass-near-earth-but-you-dont-need-to-duck/2013/02/14/615d5848-73cb-11e2-aa12-e6cf1d31106b_story.html.
[15] Mark Wilson, “Infographic: The 550,000 Miles Of Undersea Cabling That Powers The Internet,” Co.Design, accessed February 15, 2013 http://www.fastcodesign.com/1671777/infographic-the-550000-miles-of-undersea-cabling-that-powers-the-internet#1.
[16] Susie Steiner, “Top five regrets of the dying,” The Guardian, February 1, 2013, accessed February 15, 2013 http://www.guardian.co.uk/lifeandstyle/2012/feb/01/top-five-regrets-of-the-dying.

50 poems in 30 days

Over two months of writing a poem a day

Photo courtesy of coffeehousejunkie.

More than 50 poems were sent to publishers in January. Encouraged by another poet who submits somewhere in the neighborhood of 60 poems a month, I thought it would be a good discipline as well. It’s exhausting as well.

A few years ago, I was encourage not to post my poems on this blog (or Facebook), because a lot of small press publishers consider those poems “published.” So, I’ve been writing offline and sharing the new poems at private salons, a poetry festival and with friends. But I have not pursued publication until this year.

Talking with Al Maginnes after his recent reading at Malaprop’s, he told me how is first poetry submission was accepted immediately. Encouraged by this, he submitted more poetry to publishers. He said it was years before anything else was published.

So far, two publishers replied with rejection notices. That’s alright. I will submit those poems to other publishers.