Sunday, December 8, 2019

Tobi Alfier - Statistics and Superstitions

As you may know, I did a stint in gymnastics when I was in Junior High and High School. Mostly so I wouldn’t have to wear the horrible gym clothes. Gymnastics and modern dance sounded MUCH better than “corrective PE”, and both were better, and better than the green shorts and a white short-sleeved blouse of our regular PE clothes. Consequently, I can tell you that Cathy Rigby was 5’2” and so was I, but I don’t know much about regular sports.

It does seem that baseball has the most statistics of any sport ever. And baseball players seem to have a superstition for almost every statistic. If you know more than this, or if you’ve written any sports poems, submit them to Sport Lit — we’ve talked about them before. 

But there are some statistics I do keep track of, and thanks to a friend of mine, Pamelyn Casto, we encouraged the participants on the LinkedIn group I moderate to do the same. Pamelyn has published many articles and essays on flash fiction, myth, critical insights, and more, in Writer’s Digest, The Greenwood Encyclopedia of New American Reading, The Field Guide to Writing Flash Fiction: Tips from Editors, Teachers, and Writers in the Field, and so on. She is also Associate Editor at OPEN: Journal of Arts & Letters. This is a lovely online journal you might want to explore and submit to. They published me; they might publish you too.

Pamelyn is always juggling twelve plates and loves to research whatever interests her, but bless her heart, she is a wonderful, generous, accessible person who always has room for one more thing.

She just posted (on the LinkedIn Group):

“Post Your Writing Accomplishments for 2019 It's that time of year again-- a time to look back at the previous year and a time to look forward to what the future might bring. Please do post your writing accomplishments for 2019 (and that might urge you to either get more work out before year's end or get more work out there for 2020). It's always fun and informative to see some of the writing accomplishments of our writer colleagues. I look forward to reading all about it.”

This year people seem to be posting about individual collections they published. I look at something completely different. I count:

  1. The number of poems written;

  1. Number of submissions done (not the number of poems submitted, the number of journals to which I submitted);

  1. Number of acceptances received, and of course—

  1. Number of rejections

I do not count the poems written or submitted in 2018 that were accepted in 2019. I have the means to do it, and it would certainly take into account those journals with long turnaround times, but for me, it’s not that important.

Things I wish I HAD kept track of:

  1. The number of short fiction pieces written. I save everything under my “poetry file”; sometimes I remember, sometimes I don’t;

  1. The number of short fiction pieces submitted. At the risk of jinxing everything, I rarely, rarely write short fiction. I have always submitted it, and it has always been accepted, for which I am completely amazed and very thankful. But so far I have been, and always will be, 98% a poet. The other 2% is a mix between this blog post, moderating the LinkedIn site, the occasional jacket blurb, and short fiction. I am grateful to be developing all these skills but I am a poet.


IF you even care about this, I would encourage you to measure your work in some way. Just for yourself. I know a lot of novelists who measure how many words they’ve written each day; that is an important statistic to them. I measure how many words my blog posts are—no more than 1,000 words or someone will stab themselves, I mean, stop reading.

If you write, whether or not you choose to submit, you are a writer. If you are not currently measuring your progress in some way, think about it. You don’t have to tell anyone, post it anywhere, brag about anything or be sad about anything. It’s just that if you don’t know, you don’t know.

In the words of the amazing and brilliant Steve Almond:  

You don’t always know whether you’re writing well or badly, even in the middle of your career. Sometimes you write out of desperation. ”—On why we write

Stay warm, be safe, write well (sorry, Steve), don’t walk under any ladders, and measure if you want xo

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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.


  1. I love the Steve Almond quote. Write more short fiction! Write everything, including your insightful, informative, creative and sometimes hilarious Blog!

    1. Oh my lord, you are so kind!!!! I love short fiction but I love poetry too, and I don't always have (fiction) stories to tell. But yes, I do want to try and write more short fiction. And I want to learn how to put more dialog in them. You do some writing too, Missy!!!! xoxoxoxo (and, I am NOT funny) :-)

  2. What sweet compliments, Tobi. I'm honored to get to help in whatever small way I can. I like the group you've created and hope it continues on for years. Thanks for mentioning me. (Btw, I love the picture too.)

    1. Pamelyn, it has been so hard to have discussions on LinkedIn. I so appreciate your positive manner, your kindness toward everyone, and all your help. I do truly, truly know you are juggling a bazillion things. Thank you so much for having time to help on LinkedIn (Poetry Editors and Poets). Bless you.

  3. Well, you don't really have any certain rhyming pattern going, so I wouldn't know how to make it rhyme. In my opinion, only the poet can make the edits, because they have a vision and know the significance of every line they write and they know what makes sense in their poem. It's really hard to maintain your vision when you have other people editing it for you. This applies only to poetry, of course. But, I don't know. I wish I could help you edit it more, but the truth is I think you are a really good writer and I love your poem just the way it is.

    1. Dear Marie, I'm not sure what poem you're referring to since there's not a poem in this particular blog post, but thank you! Regarding editing though, there's a lot you can do without changing a poet's vision. For example, I just read a poem that had the words "over stayed" in it. I think it is either hyphenated, or one word (I haven't checked yet). Fixing that will not change the poet's vision at all. Suggesting punctuation changes, but leaving it up to the poet to decide, doesn't change their vision either. I personally rarely rhyme. Anyway, if you're referring to a poem of mine, thank you for your comments. If someone elses? I know they are glad you think they are a good writer. So thank you for your comments, and thank you for reading the blog.


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