Anyone who has spent even a little time in the book-publishing world knows that the industry is often a game of luck and waiting - lots and lots of waiting. Once you're done writing something and have sent it out, that's it. You've done the part you can control, and then, you wait. (In the meantime, you should, of course, work on something else/new.)
About a month after I told the world I wanted to sell a poem, I did. Strange Horizons accepted "Actaeon" in August 2015, and it was so unexpected and gratifying, not to mention validating. I'm still not comfortable calling myself a poet, but the fact that a selective market like Strange Horizons wanted what I'd written did a lot to make me believe in my abilities. In September, I received a close-call rejection on a different poem, but the note I received was encouraging. So I continued sending things out, reworking poems, and writing new ones.
Fast forward to 2016 and months of either rejections or waiting games ending in rejection. By August, when I was making my new The 30 List, I'd sold nothing since "Actaeon" a year ago, and I was feeling worn and discouraged - like maybe that first sale was a fluke. And it kind of was; it's lucky that I got through on what was essentially my first try.
To get myself out of that funk, I put "sell more poems" on my new list to firm up my resolve and just to send my intention back out to the universe. I looked at the good things "Actaeon" and all this waiting had brought me.
- It brought me to other poets, and these poets have humbled me and taught me so much with their work. There are 3, specifically, who ended up in my online sphere thanks to the publication of "Actaeon," and I'm grateful to know them. Roshani Chokshi constantly dazzles with her bejeweled and lyrical language. Shveta Thakrar's lush world-building and magical imagery leave me breathless. Tehlor Kay writes with such quiet intensity that I'm almost unaware of how powerful her poetry is until I've reached the end.
- It gave me time to work on my craft and to understand my own voice better. I'm a sucker for pretty prose, so it's no wonder I like to write it. But I've come to realize my natural "voice" is much more spare than the kind of prose I'm attracted to, and that's okay. "Actaeon" is actually a good example of that.
- It brought me closer to some writer-friends. For whatever reason, writing poetry is more personal for me, and my insecurity about it is way worse than it is over my other kinds of writing. So letting other people see it for feedback was kind of big step, and using their help to improve was not a small thing.
- It let me rest and write more. I write in starts and stops, and especially when it comes to poems, I have long fallow periods. Having started the submission process gave me the fallow time I needed (because hello, waiting) but also motivated me to produce more, shortening the non-writing time.
- Despite my dip in optimism, having sold a poem and working on more did give me more confidence about the whole endeavor. It also helped that "Actaeon" was nominated for a 2016 Rhysling Award - which is still surprising to me.
Despite knowing better, I do think I let that initial sale set a perhaps too optimistic expectation for the future of my poet-ing, and I let myself seek that outside validation too much. But the truth is the year that lapsed since my first sale was good for me, as you can see in my points above. I think it's important to recognize that sometimes these uneventful/ low sections are necessary and are opportunities for growth, and that this is something that happens to everyone.
So I readjusted my expectations and got back to work.
Here's where the timing of the universe comes in. As I said, by the end of August 2016, I'd readjusted my expectations, told the universe I'd continue to work at my poetry, and resolved to just write more in general. Try more things, etc. etc. I'd turned 30, and I'd put my recent funk behind me. September came along with Labor Day weekend, and I'd filled it with fun activities with my friends.
That Friday, I found out one of my favorite new poems had been accepted by Liminality. It was a great way to end the work week, that's for sure!
Buoyed by the news, I enjoyed my weekend even more. I went to a John Williams concert (lots of Star Wars music featured) and visited LACMA's fascinating, creepy-delightful Guillermo del Toro At Home With Monsters exhibit. The museum visit was followed by a trek through neighboring Hancock Park & the La Brea Tar Pits, catching Pokemon with the ConSquad girls. It was during this adventure that Labor Day Monday that I saw a new email in my inbox.
My other poem "Susurrus" had been accepted by Through The Gate. It was published to the weekly's site on September 13th, and you can read it now if you'd like.
Apparently, the poem had been accepted some time before but I'd never received the email. This wasn't discovered until I queried the status of the submission. Luckily, the news I got back was good!
Which is all to say, there is perhaps some method to the madness of the universe's timing, and maybe putting your intentions out there can help lure them to fruition. I don't know; this life lesson stuff is a little outside of my realm.
For me, I guess, I had to be willing to wait for it (thanks, Aaron Burr, sir), and just because there's a wait doesn't mean that time is wasted or that nothing will come of the wait. But again, we are only in control of so much (Aaron Burr has another relevant line for this), and we can't spend time worrying about the things that are not in our control. What will come will come.
I think the universe wanted me to remember writing shouldn't be about the external validation and that I shouldn't be content to rest on my laurels. The moment I realized that, admitted it, the universe answered me back.
- You can find my poetry currently at Strange Horizons and Through the Gate. It is forthcoming in Liminality.
- You can read about the inspiration for "Susurrus" & its poem aesthetics at Girl on the Roam.
- If you're subscribed to somaiya daud's myth maker's newsletter, my poem was included in September's issue!
- You should check out Roshani Chokshi, Shveta Thakrar, and Tehlor Kinney.
- Roshani's short story "The Star Maiden" made me cry. Her debut YA fantasy is The Star-Touched Queen.
- Shveta's poem "A Love in Twelve Feathers" was also nominated for the 2016 Rhysling & it's so staggeringly beautiful I have no idea how my poem ended up in her poem's company.
- Tehlor's poem "reflections on rainy streets" reads like a bittersweet song, atmospheric & lovely.