Today I want to introduce you to Robert Okaji, poet and the writer of the new Finishing Line Press chapbook From Every Moment a Second. Robert’s poems are relatively short and seem simple. I said seem. Each polished gem is the kind of poem you fall into, without worrying if you will “get” it or not, and an array of meanings will wash over you without effort on your part, but the reward is great –an emotional and intellectual payoff.
Robert is published regularly in literary magazines. So I asked him for advice for readers about submitting to magazines. This is what he wrote for us.
Newer poets occasionally ask me for advice on how/where to get published. What follows expands a reply I made to a comment on my blog in August, 2014. I can speak only from my experience, thus any advice I offer should be taken with a huge grain of salt. But here goes:
Determine who you are as a writer, and where your work has a realistic chance of being published. What, you say, how do I do this? Think about your favorite living poets, those poets you’d most like to be associated with, whose work has influenced your writing, and with whom you’d like to “converse” through poetry.
Where does their work appear? Look at their lists of publications, choose the smaller, lesser known literary journals first, and read them cover to cover. When you find in these same journals other writers whose work appeals to you, examine their publication lists. After a while you’ll notice that certain journal titles repeat. Compile a list of these, and consider them your “targets.” Read them. If your sense of aesthetics meshes, send them your best work.
This is not a quick process, but sending your poetry to publications that publish the poets writing the type of poetry you like is much more effective than haphazardly scattering your work across the poetic landscape. In other words, be selective. Think. And always read submission requirements. If a journal says “no rhyming poetry,” don’t send them any. You get the picture. Don’t waste your time. Don’t waste theirs – most lit mags are labors of love. The editors earn no money, often, if not usually, bearing all publication costs. Be kind to them.
Also, look for newer publications calling for submissions. They may be more amenable to your work, and the competition may be a bit lighter. How do you find these? Read Poets & Writers. Check out New Pages‘ calls for submissions. Facebook’s “Calls for Submission” group is worth joining. Follow Trish Hopkinson’s blog. Join various writing communities on social media. Look around!
You might also consider subscribing to Duotrope, if only to determine what certain publications’ acceptance rates are. For example is it worthwhile to submit to a publication that accepts only 1/2 of one percent of submissions? Or would your time be better spent submitting to publications accepting 5% to 20% of what’s sent to them? One can over-think this, of course, but knowing the odds can increase your chances. Of course ego comes into play, and sometimes you just have to send your work to one of the “unattainables.” And hey, nothing ventured, nothing gained. Duotrope‘s “News” tab also provides links to new markets or those that have recently opened or closed to submissions.
When your work is rejected (and it will be – everyone gets rejected), look closely at it. Was it indeed as ready as you originally thought? If so, send it back out. If not, revise it. Keep writing. Keep revising. Keep sending.
I submit my work cautiously, as if editors are looking for excuses to NOT publish me. This means that I take my time and ensure that every piece I send out is flawless in appearance – no typos, no grammatical errors, etc. Unless a publication specifically requests more, my cover letters are brief and say very little but “thanks for the opportunity” and might at most contain a sentence or two regarding biographical details or previous publications. Anything else is superfluous – I don’t want to give them any reason to not accept my work.
Again, this is just my approach to getting published. I’m sure that other, more successful writers have better processes. And of course I ignore my own advice from time to time. Send out those poems. Good luck!
From Every Moment a Second can be found on Amazon.
The son of a career soldier, Robert Okaji moved from place to place throughout his childhood. He holds a BA in history from The University of Texas at Austin, served without distinction in the U.S. Navy, lived the hand-to-mouth existence of a bookstore owner, and worked in a library and as a university administrator. He lives in Texas with his wife, two dogs, some books and a beverage refrigerator stocked with craft beer.
He has never been awarded a literary prize, but at age eight won a goat-catching contest.
Recent publications include the chapbooks From Every Moment a Second (Finishing Line Press), If Your Matter Could Reform (Dink Press), two micro-chapbooks, You Break What Falls and No Eye but the Moon’s: Adaptations from the Chinese (Origami Poems Project), a mini-digital chapbook, Interval’s Night (Platypus Press), and “The Circumference of Other,” a collection appearing in Ides: A Collection of Poetry Chapbooks (Silver Birch Press). His work has appeared in Taos Journal of International Poetry & Art, Boston Review, Hermeneutic Chaos, Glass: A Journal of Poetry, Panoply, Eclectica, Clade Song, Into the Void, High Window, West Texas Literary Review and elsewhere. Visit his blog, O at the Edges, at http://robertokaji.com/.
40 responses to “Submission Advice from Robert Okaji, author of FROM EVERY MOMENT A SECOND”
Good advice, whether submitting poetry of any other kind of writing.
Yes, Robert has great advice, Andrea! He is so well published!
Thank you, Andrea.
Great advice. Thanks for sharing with us, Luanne.
Robert is published everywhere, so I figured he would be the source for submitting!
Reblogged this on O at the Edges and commented:
In this guest appearance on Luanne Castle’s Writer Site, I offer submission advice.
A fellow UT graduate – wonderful article – answers many questions of why my poetry has never been published! 🙂
LOL, what does that mean, Sheila?! Too much work ;)?!
No, as many rejections as I have for my poetry submissions, I now see many of my problems!!
Well, good luck to you now!
Thank you, Sheila. It’s time to send it out again!
Great advice from Robert. Thank you both.
One of these days, I might actually try to submit. 🙂
Yes, I hope so!
Thanks, Merril. Your writing deserves a larger audience. Send it out there!
Aww–thanks, Robert! 🙂
Just telling the truth!
excellent advice and so nice to learn a little more about RO
Yes, it is! Thanks for stopping by!
Generous words from a generous writer.
Well put! Thank you for visiting!
Excellent article. Good advice that can be adapted by writers of any genre.
I agree–it is true for all writing submissions! Thanks for mentioning that!
Thank you, Bridget!
I appreciate the detailed advice! It’s all new to me, writing poetry and thinking about submissions, so this is very helpful. Thank you Luanne and Robert!
He’s the expert! Good luck to you, Bonnie!
You’re very welcome, Bonnie. I hope you find it useful.
Luanne! I love this semi-genealogical method for identifying market “fit.” Kudos to Robert for developing and explaining his approach. I only have a few current/recent publication credits, but it is true that markets are very specialized in what work attracts their interest. I wasn’t quite sure how to research which markets were along the lines of the type of work I write (within my general fiction or speculative fiction area). Great advice! Thank you, Luanne and Robert!
Good luck with it all, Theresa!!! Robert has some great advice here.
I hope this is helpful to you. Thanks for reading!
Anyone who’s won a goat-catching contest has the chops to be a terrific poet! I love Robert’s work!
I like that sentiment! Thanks, Jilanne!
I fear that I haven’t maintained my goat-catching skills, Jilanne. But who knows what the future holds…
Thoughtful and helpful advice! I have not yet read his poetry. I have a long list and I will add him to it!
Definitely do, Carla! And see if you can friend him on Facebook.