Monday, August 18, 2014

Goddess Wears Cowboy Boots

So...

Here's my official announcement, dear readers!

Lamar University Press will be publishing my next poetry collection, Goddess Wears Cowboy Boots. I am over-the-moon excited for this. Its tentative release date is September 1st, which is incredibly soon. To launch the book, I will be presenting at the Langdon Poetry Weekend in Granbury, Texas.

The book will be available through Amazon and Barnes and Noble, and I will likely have an armful of books wherever I go :-)

So how did this come to be? Well, let's take a journey down memory lane, shall we?

It was late 2011. I was feeling this mixture of elation and depression about the acceptance of The Garden Uprooted. It's a little tough to explain, but my first book was something I had cherished and worked on for years, all my years in grad school and beyond. It was my identity as a poet. And it was out of my hands, gone.

I needed something new to obsess over, something new to strive for, so I began writing. I remember I was going for a walk at the university to clear my mind, and I had an idea to begin writing poems about goddesses, revisionist poems. The Garden Uprooted dealt with re-visioning fairy tales (among other things), so it really didn't feel like something entirely new. I wanted to re-imagine goddesses doing everyday things, bringing the holy and mighty down to earth in a feminist kind of way.

So I wrote. And I wrote some more, all through 2012, I didn't dream of pulling any of it together just yet. Anyway, I was so focused on marketing and selling TGU that the thought of another full book made me, well, cringe a little! So I just wrote a mess of poems about my theme, and ultimately, tried to have fun with it.

When 2013 rolled around, I felt like I was ready to start assembling the pieces together. I spent that summer putting together a chapbook that I sent off to a handful of small presses. I got some very kind rejection letters, made finalist in a contest, but had no solid leads. No worries, I thought to myself, I'll just keep writing.

Then, earlier this year, I was researching different presses to contact for my book review column, and I came across this one, Lamar University Press. I had actually read a handful of titles from them before, and I really liked the kind of works they were championing over the past year or so, particularly the work of Jan Seale and David Bowles -- two fellow South Texas poets. I noticed that they took unsolicited queries in June. It was February, so I penciled them down for a submission around that time, thinking, sure, I could have a polished and completed manuscript ready by then. 

I contact the editor for some review copies, and within an hour, I get a response. I have to read the email like 50 times to believe what I see -- that he's a fan of my work (reviews, blog, and poetry!) and that he would like to see a manuscript! And that, of course, he would be happy to send me review copies of anything I wanted.

Let the dancing commence! Who could pass up an opportunity like this? An invitation to submit? To a university press? I spend the rest of that weekend putting it together my submission, and then send it off. I try try try not to think about it, obsess over it, but I'd be lying if I said I wasn't. In fact, I couldn't think about much of anything else.

Months go by, and nothing. Hmmmmmm, I think to myself, looks like he didn't like the book after all. Which, to be honest, didn't surprise me. Goddess Wears Cowboy Boots is a pretty feminist text, and, well, it's probably not every press's cup of tea, and the editor I was in correspondence with, Jerry Craven, is, well, a dude... so...

In May, I hear back. It's a rejection letter, but a nice one. The book was just too short for their tastes. Fatten it up, he said, and resubmit.

So that's what I did this summer. I spent the majority of May and June totally immersed in creating. The timing was pretty much perfect because I wasn't working, and I had way too much time on my hands anyway. I write on similar subjects, about the four goddess "tropes" that comprised four sections. By the time I go back to work in July, I resubmit.

Only to have the same response a month later -_-; Fatten it up, and resubmit again. Luckily, though, in that month, I had been a busy bee writing, starting on my next, new manuscript, so I was able to add on without much trouble. And off it goes again!

And finally, a yes. Phew! I got the news about two weeks ago today.

It's been an interesting journey from conception to publication for this nifty little book. Since February, when the manuscript was first solicited, I've been DYING to shout this news from the rooftops! Every time someone asked me, "SO... Whatcha workin' on?" I'd have to bite bite bite my tongue, because nothing was official, of course. I'd only told a handful of colleagues about my adventures with LUP, and with everyone else, I felt like I was keeping a dirty wonderful little secret :)

Today, I approved the final proof, and it goes to the printer tomorrow. I am beyond excited about this book and I am really proud of what me and Publisher created. Now, I just await holding the book in my hands. And of course, the cycle will begin again, and I'm already scratching my head for a new idea for a book, but for now, I think I'll just revel in the wonderfulness.

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Katie as Editor

So this poet is pretty proud today, well, yesterday, but I just got around to writing this today because... well, reasons.

Anyway, the first issue of Amarillo Bay with me as poetry editor was published. You can check it out here.

So what does the editorial process of a literary journal look like? Well, now that I'm so experienced (hehehehe) let me shed a little bit of light on the process.

The whole thing began oh, about three months ago in May. I got the "job" and my first task was, of course, slush sifting, which means, of course, going through a bunch of unsolicited submissions in search of gems. I started receiving said submissions right away, and each time my inbox was full, I have to admit, I felt a little excited and honored. Poets from all over the world (and I can say that because some dude sent me a batch from Brazil!) were sending ME their poems to read.

My process for slush-sifting looks like this: I read the batch of poems. The ones I knew weren't a good fit for the journal's vision got a rejection letter after my initial read through.

For the batches that showed a little promise, clipped my favorite poems with their author's emails and pasted them in a word document. I called this my "maybe" pile.

This went on for about two months. I'd receive, oh, a handful of batches everyday, and I'd clean out my inbox about once or twice a week. So it really wasn't all that time consuming, to be honest.  Maybe an hour and a half a week.

After the two months of sifting were up, I decided it was time to make my selections. So, I returned to my word document of "maybes" which totaled about 30 poems to winnow it down to my final seven, which I would accept for publication.

I read through my little gems again, rating them on a scale from 1 to 10. Since I was reading the poems with fresh eyes, it was actually pretty fun. I'd forgotten what most of the poems were like, and it was surprising to look through what had initially spoken to me, and it was pretty easy to pick my favorites at this point, to be honest.

Then came the fun part. I sent out acceptance letters! And then the less fun part -- the rejection letters. But all of the poems that made it past my initial sift got a nice, personal rejection inviting them to resubmit. So, maybe it was a little fun after all. One of the poems I wanted to accept had already been published elsewhere, so that was a bit of a bummer. But not to worry, I just picked another poem from the same poet that I liked almost as much, and all was well.

Once I'd heard back from everyone, I forwarded my selections to the publisher. He loved them, but we went back and forth with edits, which was tedious but important.

And then, well, the issue was published!

Want a confession? My favorite poem of this batch was "Boris the Ninety-Pound House Cat." At first, the poem didn't grab me, but now I just can't get that zinger-of-a-first-line out of my head. Of course, I can totally relate to that poem, being a serious cat lover myself (note to readers, submit cat poems. I have a soft spot!).

And that's pretty much it. I've already begun reading for our December issue. If you have a poem laying around and want me to take a look, do toss a submission my way. I respond to everything, and almost always leave some sort of personal feedback.

So that's how I do things. I wonder how other poetry editors handle submissions and slush-sifting? I'd love to hear your thoughts, always always always.