In a word, it’s daunting.
I’ve just read some blurbs by debuting and returning novelists and came away with that tightness in my stomach about getting published again. I have four projects at the gate– two collections of poetry, a memoir and a novel.
And, I never sleep, barely get around in a walker due to the varus/valgus deformity of both legs in the wake of a severe right leg fracture. I spend a few hours a day upright and focused, writing for the love of writing. I know that to have any output at all under these circumstances is semi-heroic. But I also know that these days a writer in any genre has to be four people at least to stay in the race to publish.
I sent one collection of poetry out to one independent press and two publication prizes this year– this after not bringing anything out since 1987– before some of the young hot shots were born. I haven’t heard anything yet, of course. I’ve certainly thought about bringing out my poetry in particular under my own imprimatur– but I’m trying to give myself time to see if I can land some individual publications again.
I have the feeling that if I were to crank out a genre novel of some kind, it would move fairly easily. But it’s all about the sell; I’ve watched acquaintance Meg Waite Clayton pitch The Wednesday Sisters for ten months now– she talks it up constantly and everywhere. She lucked out when it was picked for Target’s club– it went into a second paperback printing. Generating a buzz is imperative– and, concept is the key. If I were cleverly spinning my own sequels to Twilight, I’d be able to buy the ranch north of me that I’ve coveted for years.
Back to poetry. The winds of taste blew Rae Armandtrout into the Pulitzer and the National Book Award last year for Versed, from Wesleyan. Armandtrout is a “Language Poet” and lyric poetry is seemingly out of favor, although if you’re Tess Gallagher, Jorie Graham, Linda Gregg, Natasha Trethaway, with name recognition going for you, you’ll get some ink. I don’t associate any of these worthy poets with the “language” school.
As I said, daunting. Frustrating. Why bother. By the light of how very competitive it has all become, I am truly blessed to have had my chapbooks, In Pursuit of the Family, The Dark Animal of Liberty, and my small press collection Reunion see the light of day. That, for many years, was enough.