Sunday, March 28, 2010

Sunday Thoughts & Secret Subjects

First steps--

Last night the first proof of my manuscript was sent to me from the publisher. This is the first step in making the book real seven months from now. I felt a little nervous, excited, and overwhelmed.

When I opened the PDF file, I was so impressed and happy with the layout and the font they choose. It's perfect.

Now let the proofing begin...


Strangest Rejection Ever

Yesterday I received a rejection from BOA for my manuscript (now known as Letters from the Emily Dickinson Room). What's odd is that it's been so long since I submitted this manuscript I hadn't realized it was still out anywhere. I submitted to BOA back in 2008; it even had a different title.

So I was first surprised to receive the rejection (especially since my book is being published), but I was even more surprised at the language of the rejection slip.

In the second paragraph the rejection says, "We enjoyed a number of the poems in this manuscript. However, a fair chunk of the poems here we felt didn't reach their secret subjects." Huh? Their secret subjects?

This made me stop for a moment and ask myself, "Are my poems that hard to understand?" It's amazing how a rejection letter can make one doubt herself.

I'm a pretty accessible poet, so then I thought, "Maybe this was rejection was meant for someone else."

Then I thought, "Ah, right. Form letter."

I called up my friend, Jeannine, who I remembered had also submitted to this press in 2008. She read me her rejection form, "...the poems here we felt didn't reach their secret subjects." Yep.

She said she thought about that that line as well.

I definitely want to work this into a poem. So let's see, there's Rest Assured Toilet Covers & secret subject. This will be one fantastic poem.

Anyway, it was a good reminder for me that:

1) You can't always trust rejection letters to be a true criticism of your work.
2) What you ponder for over hours, was just some weird wording that EVERYONE got as well
3) What is not publishable to one press is a prize winner to another.
4) Sometimes it just might be better for a press to say, "Sorry, we can't publish your manuscript" or "We have to pass on your manuscript" than to have some odd wording about "secret subjects" or other vague specificity to make the author feel as if you are addressing them individually.

(And do you just love that oxymoron "vague specificity"? I do.)


Bueller? Bueller?

Please let me know if you're participating in the NaPoMo Giveaway of free poetry books.

I just updated the links and want to make sure I haven't missed anyone, so if you're participating and I don't have you, please drop me an email at kelli (a) with the link to your blog so I can get your name up.


  1. i posted a rejection slip i received for a group of poems on Facebook and many felt that it was "ink" email but then another person posted they had received the same one. *sigh*

    i really wish the rejections would just say hey sorry this is a form letter and if it isn't say hey we are sending you a personal note?

  2. How very very odd. I'm SO glad you shared this! Anything to help with that inevitable punch-in-the-gut feeling I just know is coming as I start putting things "out there" is quite valuable!

    (By the way, I LOVED the poetry-starter suggestion ideas! I've left them up on the laptop and am meaning to print them. THANK YOU!)

  3. Yes, I'm so glad you shared your confusion with the note - it made me feel less crazy over how I wasn't quite reaching my secret subjects :)


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