A few weeks ago I made an announcement on social media that, in order to make the most quality time for other creative writing projects, I am reducing the posts on this blog to the first and last Friday each month. While on a normal basis this would not include publication alerts (which would be more frequent, I hope), forgive me if this week I forgo one of my normal rants and keep it strictly business . . .
Right Hand Pointing published their 88th issue, with my poem "Waking Moment" appearing on the first page of contributed works. For those unfamiliar with Right Hand Pointing, it is an eleven-year-old, monthly online magazine featuring very short works of poetry (sixteen lines or less) and fiction (500 words or less). In addition to publishing a nice array of emerging writers, its focus on flash and short-short genres makes it a solid read for lessons in momentism (my own word, and by golly I'm going to get it into a glossary of literary terms someday). Well worth a read.
You can read my poem here.
About the work: This has always been a favorite little poem of mine, something short and sweet to convey how hopelessly beautiful a tiny moment can be. Language, science, analysis -- even though they make up the world around us, they are often useless in showing how or why a brief, insignificant movement in the everyday can have an almost magical and spiritual effect on us. I hope and pray that my writing will always contain a tone of being in love with moments.
The poem you see printed at RHP is not, however, the original version I created for my Writing Poetry class last year. It's actually (gasp!) a revision. Shocking, I know, given my notorious dislike of the revision process and preference for one-and-done perfectionism. When I submitted "Waking Moment" to RHP, I received a response from the editors expressing an interest in it, but asking if I'd be willing to revise the final stanza for something stronger. As a new and naive writer, receiving a request like that can evoke a mix of emotions. It's easy to have a gut reaction of feeling insulted or misunderstood, and to brush the response off as an example of someone who just doesn't "get" you. But I learned quickly (with help from more experienced writer friends) that a "rejection" of this kind is extremely good. It means the editor cares enough about your work to communicate with you about its existing issues -- issues that editors from other magazines probably noticed but only responded to with a flat-out, no-second-chance rejection. It saves you the time of submitting to countless other venues and getting only silent rejections because the editors were all seeing the same flaws that you had missed, and not bothering to tell you about them. Rather than saying, "We don't like your work, you need to change it for us," a request for revision or additional work says, "We love your work so much that we're taking the time to tell you how to get it published here." (There's a good article floating around the internet called "Submit Like A Man." Read it, love it, and for Lord's sake, follow its advice.)
I hemmed and hawed a bit, got feedback from a few writer friends, and finally decided to give the revision a go -- which proved rather challenging. Granted, the revision being asked of me was minor, but it was difficult too, considering that the last stanza is the entire crux of the poem. I was afraid I'd have to butcher my poor little poem, sacrificing its original intent for something else; but I was fortunate enough that, one morning, something finally came to me ("in a flash," as Marcel Dupré would say). The revision meant keeping the original goal intact, but changing the mechanics of its delivery: I had to reflect on what the editors might have seen wrong with my poem and why; then, instead of altering the message, I had to ask myself how to reword it in a way they could grasp.
Lessons learned from the experience: 1) Don't be afraid of being asked to revise -- it's not an insult, it's a huge compliment and a door to get in; 2) Don't let a revision mean an overhaul of your work (unless it's necessary) for someone else, but make it an opportunity to help readers recognize and love your intentions better.
Hope you are all enjoying the summer. Grace and peace to you.