Dear Poet: The 2-Day Poem Contest

The Rejection Project was temporarily back-burnered as three ongoing projects (that I can’t talk about yet) all hit at once. Wish for rain, get a storm. That doesn’t mean I’ve forgotten about this bit of motivation I’ve created for myself.

In fact, I’ve picked the first magazine I’m going to submit to: Contemporary Verse 2. CV2 holds the honour of being both in my classic, mail-in rejection pile and my more recent digital rejection pile—with a 14 year gap between.

I’m also breaking one of my rules right off the bat. (Poets. Not so good at rules.) I had said that I won’t pay to submit, and that’s still mostly true. However, CV2 hosts a yearly poetry contest/fundraiser called the 2-Day Poem Contest. They send you a list of ten words and you’ve got to write a poem using those words in 48 hours. The reason I’ll waive my no-cash rule for this is because…well, it’s fun. I’ve done it before (I’m still frustrated by the word furuncle) and I had a blast. I love an assignment. I enjoy writing to a theme. Give me a starting point and I can grow from there.

This rejection-themed challenge I’ve given myself exists because I know I like a framework. It’s something creators with ADHD often find helpful. It’s a way to push past the freeze. A starter pistol for our creativity. Plus I get a subscription with my entry, so that also helps with the project. I’ll be able to read a few issues. See what the current editors dig.

This likely wont be the first submission in The Rejection Project, because the contest doesn’t happen until April. I know it will happen, though, because I’ve already paid my entry fee. If I don’t pay it now, I’ll forget. Pre-planning is not my strong suit. It’s not even a whole suit. It’s just the cummerbund. A weak cummerbund.

So there you have it! Update #1 in The Rejection Project. Let me know if you dig contests, if you eschew them, if they inspire you, if they frustrate you. How do you find inspiration to write?

See you in the rejection pile!
H. E.

The Parameters of The Rejection Project

A project without a framework is…well, it’s often poetry. But in this case, I think The Rejection Project would benefit from a few rules to keep me moving. They aren’t hard, fast rules because those never work for me. They’re more like guidelines. A series of steps to help me get started when I hit a wall.

Step One
Choose a publication to submit to from my rejection pile. I plan to start with the classic, old-school paper rejections, then move on to the digital ones.

Step Two
Makes sure they still exist. This is publishing and we’re all dust in the winds of change here, so some of these markets may be kaput. RIP old markets. Thank you for sharing words, even if it was only for a while.

Step Three
Read their submission policies. There are some insta-no policies for me when it comes to submitting. I won’t pay to submit. I may opt not to submit to publishers who don’t allow simultaneous submission and have extremely long response times. I play this one by ear. Since I’m making up the rules, I can break them, too. This step is also a great time to take note of upcoming themes, contests, or special issues that could act as inspiration.

Step Four
Read a few current issues, if I can. This step will require some flexibility. As much as I’d like to subscribe to everyone—I just can’t. This will be a mix of perusing online content, flexing my library muscles, and grabbing issues when and where I’m able.

Step Five
Write the damn thing.

Step Six
Submit the damn thing.

That’s it. The whole shebang. I’ll post after (and probably during) each submission. If you’re playing along, let me know how it works out for you. 2021 quieted so many of our voices. I’d love to see 2022 be a year full of all the words that were stuck in our collective throats (or pens)(or keyboards).

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The Rejection Project

Woof howdie, was last year a tough one. We all have different hows and whys, but almost universally, last year pummelled us. We stumbled into the corner of 2021, like the underdog in the third act of a boxing movie, and no one was there to squirt water in our mouths and tell us we had one more round in us. Because maybe we don’t.

That said, I still want to write. I write for the same reason I clean my house (sometimes)—because my life makes more sense when I do.

I was cleaning my house last week when I came across a pile of papers from about 20 years ago. They were rejection slips from magazines and literary journals. I save all the paper. It’s a thing. I don’t question it too much. Most of these rejections fall into what I’ll call Writer 1.0. I was young. I was trying to write and share it with the world. I had some small success, along with lots and lots of rejection. It’s the nature of the thing. 95% of the responses the average writer gets are rejections. At the same time, my disabilities were kicking my ass, especially my cPTSD and my depression. I ended up hospitalized and survival became my main focus. I wrote as I could through all this, but in the end, there was a multi-decade gap where I knew I was a writer, but I couldn’t access publishing.

A few years ago, I hit Writer 2.0. The circumstances, some privilege, my persistence, the opportunities, they all came together. Now when people ask what I do, I say I’m a writer. I have another job I do that I enjoy, but I’m a writer first and foremost.

Still, writing last year was hard. Often impossible. I follow lots of writers and the struggle was ubiquitous. We couldn’t find the time, the motivation, the words. We were stuck.

The Rejection Project is my plan to un-stick. I’m going to create a piece to submit to every single place that has ever rejected me (that still exists). Why? Because it gives me a framework to create. Because even if a piece is rejected, I have something I created to add to my to-be-submitted pile. Because it’s funny. Because I like a goodly hunk of these markets. They do good work and publish the creations of folks I admire.

I also plan to share the journey here because why the heck not? I can think of no better way to approach 2022 than to turn rejection into creation. Join me if you’d like. Let me know how it goes. We can have some fun, pen some prose, and make it through to 2023, one rejection at a time.

Pushcart Prize Nomination

It was a delight yesterday to wake up and find out that one of my creative non-fiction pieces had been nominated for the Pushcart Prize. Titled Death Is a Way to Come Home: Rituals for the Estranged, it appeared earlier this year in the heart-rocking collection All My Relations published by The Talbot-Heindl Experience.

I readily admit that between recovering from Covid and hitting the busy season at work, my writing has taken a back seat (if it was lucky enough to get a seat at all). I never begrudge myself these pauses. I’m learning to trust my muse when it rests. Still, this nomination is a bit of a tonic. It came at the right time. And it’s very, very appreciated.

Writing Recap

It’s nice to be back to sharing my writing again. I was fortunate to have three selections come out recently.

The first seems a bit on the nose, all things considered. It’s a poem that I wrote for an anthology called A Drunken Midsommar, featuring pieces inspired by the film Midsommar. Called How to Deprogram Yourself after Leaving a Cult, it explores what it takes to undo the programming of belief. You can download the eBook here, or buy it as a paperback here.

The second is a series of three minisons (14 letter poems) that were included in The Minison Zine’s fairy tale themed issue. I don’t create visual poetry very often, so this was fun to do.

Finally, my horror flash fiction piece, Where Suctorial Insects Abound, is part of The Periodical, Forlorn: Vampires Rise Again. It’s a short piece, but it has bite. Or maybe sting is more accurate. You can buy the issue here for $2.99.

Enjoy!

A Group of Stories Is Called a Shout

With the Valentine’s rush at work over, I have a minute to share the stories I had published during the great pause of 2020.

My very short story, Waking From the Longest Sleep, was published in the December issue of Dwelling Literary. In it, a depressed Auggie gets a mysterious missive that might save her from a holiday alone on the couch.

Perhaps my most experimental story, Weeding The Experiential Archives lets you take a peek inside the weeding process at an unusual future library. It was shared by Quilliad, a smaller magazine full of big ideas.

I’ve had a few more stories accepted recently, so if you dig my prose garden, there’s more sprouts coming soon! I’ll keep you posted. And you can always read find my short stories gathered here.

CENTRING OUR CREATIVE COMMUNITY

It can be hard to describe a writer’s vibe, especially one as inventive as Jennifer Hudak. The closest I can get is that her work is the spec. fic. equivalent of elevated comfort food. You feel at home as soon as you enter the worlds she builds, but there’s alway an unexpected flavour to surprise the palate. Even her unsettling stories leave you craving another serving. You can find most of her work here, on her website.

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A Group of Poems Is Called a Whisper

Today I’m going to share the poems I had published while I was on pause.

The first, Salt, was published in poetically magazine‘s premiere issue, wonders of winter. It’s perhaps my most intimate poem.

My minison series, The Seven Stages Via Kübler-Ross, appeared in the third issue of The Minison Zine. A minison is a 14 letter sonnet, and is the shortest form I’ve experimented with.

Three of my poems were published in print journal The Avenue‘s sexuality and gender themed issue. They aren’t available online, but the issue can be purchased here.

If you enjoy my poetry, you can always find more of it here.

CENTRING OUR CREATIVE COMMUNITY

Author Dianna Gunn wears so many hats, I’m starting to think she’s a hydra. When she’s not prolifically penning stories, recording podcasts, or helping authors learn how to market their work, she’s busy creating virtual conferences. There’s one coming up on February 20th called Worldbuilding Deep Dive. I’m particularly jazzed for the Accessibility in Worldbuilding: Understanding How Disabled People Move Through Your World panel. All of the panels are free, though spaces are limited. Writers can sign up here.

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