Monday, August 4, 2008

Finding ways to track submissions

As a first step toward getting over my increasing inability to submit my writing to outside publications, I took a workshop on Publishing for Poets and Fiction Writers with Nancy Naomi Carlson at the Writers Center this weekend.

One reason I hate to submit my stuff is that I have never figured out how to track it. Do I file the rejection letters or throw them away and move on? Do I keep tabs of all the publications I send things to, by individual piece submitted, or by journal title or both? If both, how do I cross-reference the two things? Do I set up a database and, if so, what kind? Excel?

My mind gets lost thinking about all the things I could do with submissions (I really don't know how to cross-reference things in a database) and then a sort-of panic sets in, especially when combined with the dread I always have of getting another rejection note.

Imagine how delighted I was, then, when Carlson pulled out a wooden box, a little larger than a shoebox, and from inside it bundles of 4" x 6" index cards--one for each poem she had submitted, one for each journal submitted to. Poem cards were in one section, journal cards in another.

Each poem card listed which journal the poem had been submitted to, in chronological order. Each poem card also had rejection letters attached to them with a paperclip. If accepted, the journal title was marked with orange highlighter and the card was pulled and put into a separate bundle for poems that had been accepted.

After 20 tries, she said, she revisits the poem to see if it should be revised or just put away.

20 tries? I don't think I've ever submitted 20 times all together. Light bulb moment: this may be one reason I have not been widely published.

Carlson keeps a separate card of all her rejections--761 in all, in chronological order. But, she reminded us, she has been published more than 100 times, and 1 in 7 tries isn't all that bad.

I'd love to hear from other writers about how you track your submissions. At this moment, however, I am aiming for Carlson's example of the primitive and tactile, as a start.

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