Even YOU Can Write
(and sell) Poetry!
Jennifer St. Clair Bush
Jennifer St. Clair Bush
have a confession to make. A long time ago, when I was but a child of thirteen
and didn't know any better, I submitted a poem to the National Library of
Poetry's contest. Imagine my delight and surprise when I got an Honorable
Mention in the mail a few months later, and an invitation to publish my poem in
a deluxe edition of poetry. If I remember correctly, they even sent me galleys,
the final proof that my poem was to be published in one of their anthologies.
parents were thrilled. I was thrilled (not enough to buy the book; at $60 a pop
we couldn't afford it, but they assured me my poem would be published.) I even
sent them, and published, a second poem not too long after that.
then, years later, I discovered that The National Library of Poetry was in
effect, considered a scam, since it was highly doubtful they published a poem if
the writer didn't buy the book, and they sent those 'Honorable Mention' letters
to everyone. (Seriously, folks; on one of my mailing lists, there was an
unofficial contest to see if they would accept any piece of drek that was sent
their way, and they did.)
discovering that piece of sobering news, I continued to write poems, but I
didn't submit a single one until the day I discovered that to submit a novel to
a publisher, I had to write a synopsis. The very word struck fear into my heart.
It wasn't the actual writing of it that seemed so difficult; it was the process.
How could I condense a 475-page fantasy novel into a maximum of three pages?
tried my best. My first effort was twenty pages, my second fifteen. By the
third, I was sick and tired of the word synopsis, so I decided to try something
different. Surely, I reasoned, any adventurous agent or publisher would be more
likely to look at a unique synopsis than a boring, scene by scene, block of
text. With that in mind, I sat down and wrote a synopsis... an 18-page long
called this literary effort 'Why I Hate Synopses', and thankfully never sent it
off to any agents or publishers. I'm sure they would have laughed me out of the
slush pile and into the annals of the Very Bad Idea. The poem languished in my
files for the longest time, until I heard about a very tiny new market. The
magazine only paid in copies, but I reasoned I needed to start somewhere, didn't
I printed out my 18-page monster, did the proper cover letter (with a two
paragraph synopsis and the story behind the poem) and sat back to wait. A month
later, I received an acceptance letter in the mail. The synopsis I didn't want
to write had found a home. The fact remains, even though I didn't get paid for
that particular publication, it was my very first, and will always have a place
in my heart.
even the strangest ideas can turn out to be good ones, if you wait long enough.