It's been a sad week for the writing world. Reginald Shepherd recently passed away, and David Foster Wallace committed suicide. I'm of course familiar with both writers, but probably like many, I couldn't get through INFINITE JEST. I tried to read it when I was 16 or 17, though, so that may be reason. That monolith is still sitting in my closet back home, so again, like many, it's on my list to perhaps begin again, give it another go.
Reginald Shepherd was known to a lot of folks from his blog. What's fascinating to me about blogs and the perpetual notion of one finding their place on the vast Internet is Reginald's last blog post. It's somehow sad, beautiful, inspiring, triumphant, all in one. I've been familiar with his work, but I need to read more, and of course after anyone has passed away, it's impossible to read their work with that in mind, for better or for worse.
Both writers will be missed very much, and my condolences go out to their families and many many fans of their work.
On a calmer note, i got my contributor copies of Eclipse today. I got the acceptance late October 2007, never had any contact with the editors (aside from the snail mail acceptance), and only sent an email of the bio and electronic copies of the poems to an email address at the college, who I assumed was doing the layout or was the magazine editor.
And about 11 months later, here are the contributor copies. Obviously they have their shit together, because the journal looks really nice, and I had to have little to no contact with the editors, something that sometimes makes me a little freaked out for what the final product's going to like like, but alas.
The cover painting is quite pretty, a railroad trestle drenched in background pastels. The journal is over 200 pages (they only do one fall issue a year), and some of the contributors include George Looney. William Greenway, Holaday Mason, Paul Hostovsky, and Charles Harper Webb. Check out the website and submit.
Heard from some others (mostly via blogs) that they also have their first books floating around for contests too. I just sent my first fall batch out a few days ago, with a second, bigger batch going out probably around the middle of October.
Sending my manuscript out this time, however, I was hit with another question that I never really considered: How many pages of actual poetry is my manuscript?
I asked because some of the contests were not 48-80 pages, but 50-80 pages, not including front and back matter, section breaks, end-notes, etc. -- actual poetry means actual poetry.
I counted, and luckily I'm right on the cusp at 51 pages of actual poetry, which to me is the perfect length for my manuscript. I've cut a lot of poems in the past year, and at one point I had the page count -- including all of the aforementioned "not to include" things -- at 68, which was way too long. I started to realize that length for me was a huge factor, since I do have many poems that are two pages long, which means the screener / reader / peruser's going to have to have double the patience as a one-page poem a decent number of times while reading my manuscript. I do believe the poems have a place in there, but making it as tight and cohesive as I can get it has been on the forefront of its revision and subsequent reconstruction for a long time.
That said, what if someone sends a manuscript that's 46 pages? 47 pages? 48 pages? When it needs to be 50? Is their check cashed but they're disqualified? Does the press send the check back to them and not consider the book? If it doesn't adhere exactly to the guidelines but is powerful enough and ends up being deemed the winner, is that revoked after the revealing of the non-guidelines-adhering smaller page count?
A rule's a rule, just like sending to single journals. If they accept simultaneous submissions and want notification too, you should notify them. If they don't accept simultaneous submissions, don't send if you are sending that batch to other journals (though I know many, many people who submit the same batch to journals who ask for no simultaneous submissions). There are perhaps rules that can be broken with journals, someone sending six poems instead of five, and the journal liking the sixth so much to take it. I'm sure that happens.
But are these manuscript contests and presses more rigorous? Can anyone speak about their experience with this as a screener or editor or publisher? I'm all about following the rules, but you wonder how many people have shorter or longer manuscripts that "required," and who does it accidentally, who does it hoping their breaking of the rules might not be noticed, etc. The season is upon us, so I suppose if I'm not over thinking this or being overly concerned, then it is something valid to think about and question.