One of the last things I did, before leaving for the conference, was bring in the mail. The top envelope in the box was one of my submission SASEs, which could only be a rejection. Since better than seventy percent of my submissions result in rejection, it was a safe assumption. The envelope contained my very first photography rejection.
As I drove to the conference, I mulled my usual regrets. Did I miss something in the submission guidelines? Did I choose wrong, as I selected what to send? (The photos in this post are some of the ones I considered, but decided against.) And, the biggest question of all, what was I thinking? Why did I ever imagine that my work was good enough for publication?
I’ve been submitting poetry since 2003. Nine years in, I’ve accumulated a drawer full of rejections and a folder’s worth of acceptances. My rejection-regret processing time is down to a little over an hour, so I reached the “it’s okay and I’ll try again” stage before check-in time at the conference. Even so, it wasn’t the best way to start my weekend.
The first night offered a choice between three sessions. I opted for “Mastering the ten-minute agent pitch” by Molly Jaffa of Folio Literary Management. Anyone who has ever considered submitting their work to an agent should hear this talk. Before, I had vague ideas of how I wanted to present my book. After, I had a firm outline and growing confidence that I was on the right track.
Friday and Saturday’s schedules included talks about poetry, fiction, and non-fiction. My favorite sessions focused on marketing and editing:
- “A Day in the Life of a Literary Agent” by Molly Jaffa
- “Getting Published … and Maybe Even Paid (for your poetry)” by editor and publisher Annmarie Lockhart
- “Buffing and Polishing” by author John DeDakis
I learned from every speaker, but the daily first-ten-lines critique sessions were the most interesting part of the conference. The critique panel consisted of agents Molly Jaffa, Rachael Dugas, and Brooks Sherman, along with authors Rick Mofina and Patricia Hermes. Earlier in the summer, conference registrants had been invited to submit the first ten lines of their works-in-progress. These submissions were projected in the auditorium (with the authors’ information removed), read aloud, and discussed by the panel. Points of interest included formatting, character development, point of view, word choice, and placing your work within the proper genre. In each submission I recognized problems from my own work, and I left each session with new ideas about how to strengthen my writing.
By Saturday evening, my mind was full to overflowing. I was happy to come home and eager to start applying all that I had learned. Which brings me back to “what was I thinking?” I was thinking this: I prefer a drawer full of rejections to a computer hard drive packed with poems and stories and photos that I never bothered to edit and submit.
Now, it’s time to get back to work.