Write The Work You Want And Send It To Places You Like

BY SONYA VATOMSKY

 

My name is Sonya Vatomsky and I’m the author of chapbook My Heart in Aspic (Porkbelly Press) and forthcoming full-length collection Salt is for Curing (Sator Press). I’m one of those people who has been writing “their whole life,” whether that’s creatively, or professionally, or creatively for money (so, professionally?), or not very creatively but also not for money (???), or professionally (and somewhat creatively) for money and creatively (mostly for free but sometimes for money), simultaneously.


Basically, every time I found a person on the Internet writing misogynistic poetry, I wrote an essay—something I no longer do because misogyny is some Hydra-level renewable resource shit whereas my energy is very finite and I’m a better literary citizen when I’m able to get out of bed. 


To give a little more background, the thing that people tend to pay me for (and expect me to show up at a desk to do) is marketing and UX writing. My “creative” writing – that is to say, my writing that is not for my job but that still is public-facing – is poetry. When I first started seeking publication I wrote a lot of essays as well, on misogyny and feminism and the literary canon and feminism. Basically, every time I found a person on the Internet writing misogynistic poetry, I wrote an essay—something I no longer do because misogyny is some Hydra-level renewable resource shit whereas my energy is very finite and I’m a better literary citizen when I’m able to get out of bed. I also review chapbook-length and full-length poetry collections for Fruita Pulp, where I’m an assistant editor, aka assistant chooser of poems.

Getting up and going to write for eight hours and then coming home to write more means that I like keeping these two hemispheres of writing as separate as possible. My professional writing – as in, for the money with which I pay my rent – means I write and write and write and iterate and iterate and iterate until I have something usable. Hopefully this usable thing is also good! And I am proud of it! The other writing that I do, the poetry, is the kind of thing where I sit down to write when I feel like writing and I write and I’m done and I don’t do edits or drafts or revisions. I spend a maximum of thirty minutes on an individual poem and then I send it out, usually in a packet with other poems. As poems get accepted, I rotate the selection I’m sending out if I have unpublished work I still like laying around, or I don’t, if I don’t. Poetry is, to me, the crystallization of a fleeting moment, so I’m actively disinterested in workshopping or making a poem “more powerful for an audience” or whatever. I write for an audience, in that I write my poetry intending to have it published and read, but I don’t tailor that writing to anyone because I do that in my other writing hemisphere, the one that gives me the rent money, and that’s quite enough tailoring, thank you.


If a person is getting published, you can bet that they are also getting rejected, a lot.


As a result, I have had people ask me if I plan to do x or y to my poetry to make it more audience-friendly or financially lucrative, and the answer is no. However, I do plan to use what I know of marketing to make sure I’m doing justice to my poetry: to make sure I’m locating the people who would naturally enjoy reading it and making it accessible to them. I will locate the fuck out of those people. (Do you like witchy, feminist poetry? Buy my book.) But I am not trying to actively convert anyone or get sales from those who are not interested in what I’m doing. This is actually a thing I learned from my marketing job: the goal, in getting customers, is to get good customers. I work for an online retailer that offers new products daily and generally does not take returns – this means that the, say, Zappos type of customer, the I-want-to-buy-10-pairs-of-shoes-and-return-9 type of customer, is not a very good customer for us (and we are not a very good retailer for them). The kind of customer that visits every day to see what’s new and has a more discovery-based approach to shopping is our good customer, so that’s who we target with our advertising and hope to please with our product. Not to say that poetry is shoe shopping, but publishing poetry is also not not shoe shopping. Kevin Smith once said a nice thing about me and when Ken (Baumann, of Sator Press) and I were discussing who to ask for blurbs of my full-length, the reason we chose not to ask Kevin Smith is that Kevin Smith may convince his fanbase to buy my book, but then they’ll get it and go “what the fuck?” and that’s not really helpful to anyone.

This is basically my approach to submitting to journals, as well. I think I’ve cultivated a Facebook mystique recently where it appears that I am a poet genius who is drowning in acceptance letters and constant publication. And that’s not entirely false—I’ve had over twenty poems published in 2015, plus the acceptance of two manuscripts. But I also have 42 rejections in Submittable alone. If a person is getting published, you can bet that they are also getting rejected, a lot. The good news is that rejections used to make me cry and now they don’t. A writing community I’m in has a joke where we add an A to the name of the publication BOAAT whenever we get rejections from them; I am up to BOAAAAAT. Or maybe BOAAAAAAT. I also received a rejection from Hermeneutic Chaos Literary Journal last November, sent them a new packet of poems the following month, got an acceptance, and have had one of those poems included in their upcoming Best Of anthology and nominated for Best of the Net 2015. What I’m saying is: write the work you want to write and send it to the places that you like. Get “good customers.” Unless you have different goals with your writing, in which case probably don’t listen to me.

All images courtesy of Sonya Vatomsky.