Update On My Writing: Why This Short Story Writer Turned Poet

Well guys, I am now a poet pursuing publication. For those of you who don’t know, for the last five years, I have written what I have affectionately called “stoems,” a cross between a short story and a poem.

I went an unconventional route with getting feedback on my latest stoem. After sharing it with my Alpha/Beta writing friends editors, and my pastor (who is also my dad), I sought the feedback of pastors within my church’s association. My ideal readership is church members, particularly Reformed Baptists (see what I did there, RBs?) So I wanted pastoral commendation for my work. I am keenly aware of the fact that I am a young woman, with no claim to ecclesiastical authority. I wanted to make certain that my writing was a blessing to the church, not a hindrance. And if my writing needed more time to season, so be it.

But the feedback I received from my pastor friends was overwhelmingly positive. One, in particular carved time out of his day to call and talk about it with me. He encouraged me to pursue publication. Wow! I was blown away by his enthusiasm for this project. He even sent it to a friend of his who is an executive at Crossway for feedback! The executive at Crossway spoke very favorably of my writing but said that the market for Christian poetry was just too small. He reccomended exploring the secular poetry market which is currently booming, especially for female writers.

Poetry? He classified my writing as poetry.

So I bought this year’s copy of The Poet’s Market. I highly recommend this resource for poets! The articles are very helpful and there are pages and pages of publishers, contests, magazines, and conferences for poets. For weeks I’ve carried this book everywhere and combed through it cover to cover, crossing out and circling my options.

The first thing the book did for me was show me that I can find a home among poets. These are my people!

With the lack of meter and presence of block paragraphs, I haven’t thought of my writing as poetry and yet, I broke enough short story rules to confuse those expecting a traditional short story. My imagery was tight, vivid, and required multiple slow readings to understand. Hence the name mashup, “stoem.”

I have discovered that my stoems translate well into free verse poetry. I had encountered this form before but I never saw the similarity. I was still coming at my writing from a primarily short story perspective. But it works.

The appeal of free verse is the control over emphasis. By strategically breaking the lines, I can draw attention to key words in the middle of a sentence. I can have rhythm without having to follow a regular meter. The meter of a line is dictated by what is being said. Hence “free” verse. I have now reformatted all three of my stoems in this style and I love it.

Four Words I completely rewrote. I wanted, if possible, to publish my three stoems together because of the way they build on each other. Four Words is wrestling with God’s love for an individual, The Soul You Loved, with God’s love for others, and Living In Heaven’s Shadow, God’s love for His church. I love this symmetry, but Four Words was written my graduating year from high school. It lacks the depth and maturity of my later stoems. The cliches and the teenage angst frustrated me. So I rewrote it. And then scrapped that. And rewrote it again.

I now have three stoems ready for publication.

I have identified a contest I want to enter, the Cutbank Chapbook Contest, with a deadline of March 31st. A “chapbook” is a small poetry collection, perfect for my stoem trilogy.

What They Are Looking For:

“Startling, compelling, and beautiful original work. We’re interested in both prose and poetry – and particularly work that straddles the lines between genres, in a fresh, powerful manuscript. Perhaps yours will overtake us quietly, gracefully defy genres, or satisfyingly subvert our expectations. Maybe it will punch us in the mouth page in and page out.

Manuscripts should be cohesive and coherent; in other words, your manuscript should resonate and make sense as a book.”

This was a contest I read and said, “that sounds like my writing.”

The prize is $1,000 and publication under 1st North American Rights (FNASR) with 10% royalties if they republish. What FNASR means, is that the rights revert back to me upon publication. I can add to or subtract from the manuscript and publish it under another publisher. I don’t lose control over my writing, which is something very important to a writer.

I am cautiously optimistic about entering the contest. I think my writing has a chance as far as quality goes. But the difference between “good” and “competitive” writing is intimidating! I also don’t know whether the Christian content will be a deal-breaker. I can see it going either way: being a curiosity for even unbelievers, or being too narrow of a niche-market to sell.

If I do not win the contest, my plan is to submit my stoems to several magazines. The other advantage of moving to a poetry market is the flexibility with publication. Unlike with short stories, many publishers do not care if your poem has been published before, as long as the exact collection of poems has not. So I can submit to magazines and still try another chapbook contest!

Wish me luck! I will keep y’all posted here on the outcome of my submissions.

3 thoughts on “Update On My Writing: Why This Short Story Writer Turned Poet

  1. There’s a book I feel you would really enjoy. I’ve read it several times studied it cover to cover, and finally bought my own copy, when I got tired of paying library late fees. It’s called Unleash the Poem Within by Wendy Nyemaster. It’s casual, but educational, and she covers many forms of poetry, both classical (i.e., a sonnet), rare foreign formats (a ghazal or villanelle), or very informal (a simple list). It’s incredibly fun, relaxing, and very educational. She teaches well. I’ve been meaning to tell you about it for quite awhile.

    Liked by 1 person

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