Monday, December 17, 2007

Final Week

With the holidays coming up next week, I'm in the final days of AWY. There's still a lot to do, but I've been lucky enough to get this week off of work to concentrate on finishing. By Thursday night, I hope to have retyped all of my stronger poems into the manuscript and started the afterword I want to write about the process. That seems--at least from the vantage point of 9 AM on Monday--well within the realm of possibility. Talk to me Wednesday night and I will almost certainly be in despair. Well, we'll see.

Also, I'm very happy to have received a positive response from the Virginia Quarterly Review about a poem I submitted late this summer. Editor Ted Genoways wrote to suggest a few possible areas for improvement and invited me to return a revised version. I'm optimistic that he'll take the poem, provided that I do not manage to make it worse through my fiddling. Consequently, I'll also be spending some considerable time this week thinking through those edits so that I can respond soon after the new year. Needless to say, I would be enormously excited to place a poem in VQR.

How do I feel as I look toward the end of AWY? That's a question I've heard from many of my friends, and one for which I lack a clear or definite answer. Forlorn? Anxious? Relieved? It's complicated. It varies by the hour. It will have to be the subject of another post.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Rate the Rejection -- Shenandoah

Just days ago I wrote about Shenandoah's novel approach to subscription solicitation and noted--though not with a great deal of optimism--that my rejection fears had not materialized. Yet.

Sadly, I was right not to expect too much. But in the interest of science I'll put aside my disappointment and carry on. Let's assess:

Rating Summary: Shenandoah's rejection slip is printed on card stock and nicely formatted. It fits neatly into a standard envelope, which I realize isn't saying much, but it beats the carelessly folded and wrinkled rejections of some other journals. I think it's clever that they have left space on the slip for an editor to write comments. It's not visible in the image above, but the card is also printed on the back, with a short description of the journal and additional space for notes.

The content of the pre-printed note itself is mediocre. It's hard to get around the awkwardness of starting out, "Although the poems, story or essay in this submission...." They might as well have put a check box next to each possible genre. Why not just keep it to "your submission"? Also, though I appreciate that they appreciate my "fine work," I wish that they would have left out that particular adjective, which clearly is not sincere. I'd prefer to see something that recognizes that what I wrote took effort and a certain commitment, without making any claim as to its quality -- after all, it's a rejection, so that's already been done.

I can't tell from this note whether the penned "Thanks for trying us!" comment is actually or only apparently personalized, but I think that it was inscribed by a real human being. I suspect the hand of an intern at work, but I'm okay with that. I much prefer it to a blank pre-printed note, which is far more common.

As for turnaround time, Shenandoah was fast, responding to my submission in just four weeks. I appreciate that more than anything else.

The Grade: A-. Shenandoah got just about everything right. They lose a few points for the quality of the note's content, but give me little to complain about overall. See? It's not that hard.

Click here for more about the Rate the Rejection series and links to other rejections I've rated.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Counting Down

With the end of AWY fast approaching, I've continued to prioritize ordering and editing the poems I've produced so far. Now that I have figured out the basic structure, I'm focusing on organizing each of the four sections and revising the individual poems they contain.

Last Friday I spread each section across the floor and arranged and rearranged the sequences until I was satisfied with the basic progression. I also took out a few poems that I'm not sure are salvageable, and shifted a few others between sections. It looks like I'll have about nine poems per section. Now I'm retyping each of those poems into the document that will be the full manuscript. It takes some time to do, but I find that retyping my work draws my attention to flaws and possibilities for revision in a way that nothing else does. It has already helped me to identify significant improvements in two poems I felt needed a lot of work.

So that's the recipe for the remainder of this week: retype, revise, repeat. I hope to have at least three of the four sections in good shape before the end of the year, but that won't be easy.