Friday, August 9, 2019

Tobi Alfier - Writing with a Goal in Mind

Most of the time I will be the first person to say you should not write for an audience, you should write for yourself. I really believe that. But two things happened this week to remind me that sometimes I don’t do that, and sometimes you won’t want to do that either.

A friend of mine who you have met in a prior blog post, had a poem accepted by The Rye Whiskey Review. This is a woman who now lives in Indiana. She had given up all hope that she would ever be published in North Carolina, and did not know that Rye Whiskey was based there. When I told her, her response was “No. Wait! Are you telling me I've just been published by a North Carolina literary journal????? OMG. Holy cow! Woot! Happy dance all over the place. Accepted for the first time by my home state!!!! OMG.”
Another friend of mine who you have also met in a prior blog post told me yesterday “For some reason, I really want to get published in Vermont” (because she went there one time and really loved it). She went on to say that she’d really like to get published in a state university literary review, and “I think it would be so funny to get in to North Dakota”.
Think of these end results as goals, more than audiences.
I know there are some journals who will never publish me. I don’t write in a way that matches their aesthetics. I try every couple of years, and am pleased to report they remain consistent, and so do I.
While my two friends think about where they’d like to be published, I think about it a different way. I want to be published with Jeff. I love when we are published together. It may sound silly, but it makes me happy to see both our names on a back cover or Table of Contents.
Jeff and I don’t write the same, and we don’t have the same poem triggers, so the first thing I have to do, and the first thing we all should do, is READ THE GUIDELINES!
Let’s talk about Sport Literate. I wrote about them in my post of March 19th but from a different angle. Jeff has been published by them multiple times. I couldn’t write a sports poem if you gave me a thousand dollars! Okay, I could write a gymnastics poem, but I don’t think “beam and bars” is very poetic, nor do I think falling asleep at a World Series game has much to say for it.
Thank goodness I looked at “about us” on the Sport Literate website. It says “Sprung from the 12th floor of Columbia College Chicago in 1995, Sport Literate, is a literary journal focusing on “honest reflections on life’s leisurely diversions.” Praying for a broad definition of “life’s leisurely diversions”, I jumped in.

Katie Caldwell Meets a Plumber at the Muscle Car Dance

Squat-bodied Chevys plant themselves
like a garden of boiling colors –
the red not seen in 50 years
and a green so old it makes nostalgia
feel young.

She follows the hood ornaments to the dance floor,
a blues band tuning up, that particular
beat that says I’ll sing about anything and you’ll
crave it.  All the longing you’ll ever need.

You can awkwardly dance to it,
or look around.  And look around she does.
He’s got 10 years on her if a day,
graceful in that dirty torn t-shirt kind of way
that says he’s a working man,
taking a break from the present to drift back
to his past,

when Saturday nights meant shine her up,
race her reckless, then get the girl.
And she wants to be that girl.  Cherry-red
lips and a yellow dress match anywhere
she ends up.

Life was more unhardened then, the danger
more in their minds, adrenaline
churning and a pack of smokes hiding
in the glove box for later.

She can still do that high-school sidle,
she is by his side in a heartbeat.
The blues makes him talkative; the ex
and his girls live three states away, he’s
been here all his life, has a good business
left from his father, and a dog.

She takes his hand, dances gracefully among
the clowning tourists, visitors to this world
in plaid shorts and wrist bands. And in that dance
she becomes everything to him.  Don’t matter
nothin’ ‘bout tomorrow.  He knows she’ll be there,
sure as the dice hanging from the rear-view.
(previously published in Sport Literate)

Holy cow, it’s not just about baseball! Muscle cars are a leisurely diversion. Would I like to be in Sport Lit again? Heck yes, but I have to write those poems first, and I haven’t.

When you take a look at some of the odd themes out there, I’d be scared if you had poems on theme without tweaking something you already have, or writing something new. Usually that’s called “editing”. In my opinion, poems are fluid until they’re published. If you have to bend something a tiny bit to get that square peg into a round hole while keeping your voice and your heart, and that allows you to be published in your home state, or published with your husband, how cool is that?

BUT… There are some journals I love, that Jeff doesn’t submit to, and vice versa. There are some that accept me and not him, and more that accept him and not me. It doesn’t matter, it’s not a contest.

Continue to write your own beautiful way, and don’t lower your standards for anything.  Read the guidelines. Submit where appropriate for you. And if you have a goal, whatever that may be, don’t be blind to other opportunities, and the very best of luck to you.

And please send a comment below so we can all do the happy dance with you!!!

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Tobi Alfier's most recent collection of poetry is Slices Of Alice. She is also co-editor with Jeff Alfier of the San Pedro River Review. Don't miss Tobi's columns on the craft of poetry: insert your email address in the "Follow By Email" box to the right of this article and you'll be notified every time a new article appears.


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