Wednesday, September 10, 2008

At last, a reply to one of my submissions.

It's a rejection, but rather than being miffed or upset I'm actually quite delighted! It's a letter from Chapman, Scotland's quality literary magazine. I knew I was being extremely optimistic when I sent my poems in to Chapman, but where's the harm in aiming high! I got a lovely letter back from the editor, Joy Hendry, saying that my poems had reached the 'final selection'.
The letter says: "I very much like these poems, and enjoyed reading them. You have real poetic talent. There's a lovely sense of the music of words, of rhythm and a sense of form and focus. Descriptively, these are first rate".

So what's the problem? The letter goes on to say "I'm looking for that extra 'something', a 'third dimension' of meaning, reference and relevance, which is largely missing here".

I can't disagree, what she points out has always been my weakness in writing. The question now is how to work on those areas in my poems, suggestions anyone? She also says that if I do any work on the poems I submitted she'd be happy to look at them again.

Of course I am disappointed not to get them published, but such a lovely rejection letter certainly softens the blow.

18 comments:

swiss said...

i shouldn't be too disappointed. i shan;t share my cynicism at this early hour! lol

shug said...

I get increasingly peed off with magazines (I'm not talking specifically about Chapman) that take 6 months to reply to you- if they reply at all- then pay you a few quid for the privilege of being read by a tiny handful of people. I only send to a few magazines now, and then very infrequently. I do send to lesley Duncan at the Herald- acceptance/rejection quick, readership large.

Being told you're a good writer but lack that certain something seems a brand new way of being patronised. It's certainly not useful advice, is it?

Keep sending out what you think is good. Act on sensible advice but don't be intimidated.



Being told you're a very good writer but lack that 'something' is a new

shug said...

wooooops. Repeating mesel.

Rachel Fox said...

She called my poems 'trite' so it's hard for me to think her judgement anything other than impaired! She probably does have an 'extra something'...whether it's something you would want is another matter entirely.
xx
And yes, work on your poems as much as you can...but because you want to...not because she says so!
x

Sorlil said...

swiss, it's never too early for cynicism!

shug, I didn't realise you could send poems directly to the Herald! I must admit there's little hope of me revising the poems I had submitted to Chapman to make them somehow 'deeper', I wouldn't know where to start.
I'm basically trying to clock up publications so that a chapbook publisher might consider publishing me, though I've heard in other quarters that that's not the way it's done these days.

crikey rachel, a lot of it is down to personal taste isn't it, esp when there is only a single editor judging your work.

Rachel Fox said...

It worked out OK...trite's not a word I use much but I put it in a poem (the Radiohead one) and that way it turned into something good. That poem is one of my lucky ones now - gets chosen for all sorts of things.
Yes, send direct to Herald. That's what I did and she put one in and called and was very professional and pleasant.
x

Sorlil said...

yes I like that one, good for you turning a negative into a positive!

Rachel Fox said...

See..who wants to be an editor when you can be a magician!
x

Jim Murdoch said...

That any editor, let alone the editor of Chapman, would take the time to write a personal response is a good thing and not to be sniffed at. Her opinion is her opinion. My gut feeling would be not to mess around with the poems you've sent and look for something else that might work. You write what you write. Chapman may simply not be the outlet for your work.

Sorlil said...

yes, it's great to get a personal response instead of the usual 'we won't be using your work this time'. Perhaps you're right Jim, thanks for that.

ken armstrong said...

I'm with Jim (only on this point, not in the life/relationship sense).

If someone took a little time to respond personally then they were spurred to do so by your poetry. Ergo your writing 'reached' them - that's the Primary Objective, I think, to reach...

Rachel Fox said...

They're right, Ken and Jim, you should take the positive and do what you can with it.
Ignore all the bitterness elsewhere in this comments section...
x

Sorlil said...

thanks ken, that's nice of you to say so! hi rachel, yes I think I will dust them off and post em out somewhere else tomorrow!

Jane Holland said...

As an editor myself, I have to jump in here and say that I tend not to make individual comments at all if the person in question is, in my personal opinion, beyond all hope. If I make an individual comment on a rejection, it's because the poet simply hasn't sent anything that time which has touched me in any way, but that doesn't mean I think they never could or will.

For Horizon, as with all Salt outlets, I believe, the 'official' procedure is for rejected work not to receive a reply at all. Sounds cruel but it's quick. If you haven't heard back within thirty days at Salt, it means your work hasn't made the cut.

But in actual fact, I almost never fail to reject with a personal email, and indeed almost none of those are formulaic but are individually written for each submission. It's massively time-consuming, but seems like the only polite thing to do.

Though perhaps if the submission rate tips above hundreds every week, that policy will change! I'm only human, after all.

So a personal reply from Joy at Chapman is an excellent sign! Wait a few weeks or months, then try her again with some new material, bearing in mind her comments. It sounds to me as though what she was saying is that she couldn't hear you individual voice clearly enough in the work you sent. So work on developing your own voice rather than writing in any way that seems like 'the way it should be done', if you see what I mean.

Always be yourself and don't be afraid to take risks, in other words. And good luck!

Sorlil said...

thanks jane, it's great to get an editor's perspective. yes, I think you're right, risk-taking is the way forward!

Rob said...

I wouldn't ignore what Joy says either. It's best to learn what you can from comments, both positive and negative, whether you agree with them all the way or not.

That 'extra something' - well any poem might benefit from an 'extra something.' Nothing's perfect. Maybe she wants poems that get under the skin, seem 'different' somehow to the hundreds of poems she gets sent every week. It's worth looking at a draft and thinking how you can push things that bit further so that, whatever else anyone might say about it, they won't say it's ordinary.

I imagine that's what many chapbook publishers will want to see as well - poems that demand attention, as opposed to poems that are simply well written but standard.

Sorlil said...

thanks for that rob, I'll have a look at the poems in question with that in mind.

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