Thursday, October 4, 2018

The Practicing Poet Now Published



https://amzn.to/2QtwYHx
Click Cover for Amazon
My new craft book, The Practicing Poet: Writing Beyond the Basics, has just entered the world. Here’s what awaits you inside the book:

Table of Contents

I. Discovering New Material
II. Finding the Best Words
III. Making Music
IV. Working with Sentences and Line Breaks
V. Crafting Surprise
VI. Achieving Tone
VII. Dealing with Feelings
VIII. Transforming Your Poems
IX. Rethinking and Revising
X. Publishing Your Book

Each of those sections includes 3 craft tips from such poets as Nicole Cooley, Patrick Donnelly, Barbara Hamby, Molly Peacock, Diane Seuss, Maggie Smith, and Lawrence Raab. I’m particularly excited about section X which assumes that most poets aspire to publish a first or a next book. April Ossmann contributed a terrific piece on manuscript organization. Next comes a piece by me on how to promote your book once you have it. The final craft tip in this section is from Adele Kenny on how to give an effective public reading, a topic she knows a lot about as she is the founding director of a popular and long-running series in New Jersey.

Each section also includes 3 Model Poems contributed by such poets as Thomas Lux, Joseph Bathanti, Camille Dungy, James Galvin, and Vievee Francis. Each of the 30 model poems is followed by an analysis of its poetic techniques. Then comes a prompt based on the poem. This prompt asks the reader to write a new poem employing the model poem’s techniques.

Each of the 30 prompts is followed by 2 Sample Poems from such poets as Patricia Fargnoli, Ann Fisher-Wirth, Libby Bernardin, Karen Paul Holmes, Tina Kelley, and Scott Wiggerman. These 60 sample poems suggest the possibilities in the prompts and should provoke thought and discussion.

Each of the 10 sections includes a Bonus Prompt to keep you writing and writing. These bonus prompts are short and perfect for days when you think you have nothing to write about. They have the benefit of being recyclable.

Each of the 10 sections concludes with a Top Tips list. I invited 10 wonderful poets to each compile a list of their best poetry wisdom. They came up with amazing lists. These poets include Patricia Smith, Lee Upton, George Bilgere, David Kirby, Robert Wrigley, Dorianne Laux, Jan Beatty, Ellen Bass, Alberto Rios, and Oliver de la Paz. You’ll love the variety in these lists and will, I’m sure, revisit them repeatedly.

I have been compiling the material in this book for more than 3 years. It would make me very happy to know that it had found its way into your hands, taught you a thing or two or three, and compelled you to pick up your pen and write new poems.


Monday, September 10, 2018

The Practicing Poet Update


My new craft book, The Practicing Poet: Writing Beyond the Basics, is just about to enter the world. I can’t wait to share it with you!

Organized into ten sections with each devoted to a poetic concept, The Practicing Poet begins with “Discovering New Material,” “Finding the Best Words,” “Making Music,” “Working with Sentences and Line Breaks,” and  “Crafting Surprise.” The concepts become progressively more sophisticated, moving on to “Achieving Tone,” “Dealing with Feelings,” “Transforming Your Poems,” and “Rethinking and Revising.” The final section, “Publishing Your Book,” covers manuscript organization, book promotion, and presentation of a good public reading.

The book includes thirty brief craft essays, each followed by a model poem and analysis of the poem’s craft, then a prompt based on the poem. Ten recyclable bonus prompts are also included. Ten Top Tips lists are each loaded with poetry wisdom from an accomplished poet.

The Practicing Poet pushes poets beyond the basics and encourages the continued reading, learning, and writing of poetry. It is suitable as a textbook in the classroom, a guidebook in a workshop, or an at-home tutorial for the practicing poet working independently.

The craft essays, poems, and top tips lists include the work of 113 contemporary poets.  Here’s a LIST of all the contributors.

The Craft Tips were contributed by 30 accomplished poets, the model poems by another 30 fabulous poets. I’m especially excited about section X, “Publishing Your Book,” which assumes that most poets aspire to have a first or a next book published. April Ossmann and Alberto Rios both contributed outstanding and useful pieces on manuscript organization.

I’m also excited for readers to get their first view of the ten Top Tips lists, one per section. I invited ten amazing poets to each contribute a list of their best pieces of poetry wisdom. You will love these!

Also included are 60 sample poems written to the prompts. You will fall in love with many of these poems, all contributed by subscribers to my monthly Poetry Newsletter. They suggest the directions and possibilities of the prompts.

People keep saying that I’ve gotten this book put together quickly. But really, I’ve been working on it for more than three years. Now I’m just about ready to launch this new baby. Stay tuned.

Friday, August 3, 2018

Terrapin Books Now Open for Submissions


I am happy to announce that my poetry press, Terrapin Books, is open for submissions of full-length poetry manuscripts. Our current submission period is August 1 - August 31, 2018.

Be sure to read our Guidelines before submitting. Please note that we request both a bio and a brief descriptive statement with your submission. Be sure to include both.

Most questions are answered in our FAQs, so be sure to read that page also.

Our Guidelines ask for a manuscript of approximately 40-55 poems for a book of approximately 90-110 pages. Page count includes poems, front and back matter, and section pages; it also includes all blank pages. Please note that your book will be longer than your manuscript. Manuscript length and book length are not the same thing. If you have 40-55 poems, go ahead and submit. Let us worry about book length.

Here's some general information about the press:

We publish only poetry books, primarily single-author collections but also an occasional craft book or anthology.

Terrapin Books is committed to publishing outstanding books of poetry by outstanding poets. We intend to fully support our poets. We will edit your manuscript and work with you on revisions. In order to give the kind of individual attention we want to give each author and book, we accept a limited number of manuscripts during each reading period.

We respond to submissions within one month of the close of the submission period. We are also committed to publishing accepted titles within six months of acceptance. We do not maintain a long list of books-in-waiting.

We promote our poets' books. We also expect our poets to actively engage in promoting their books. We require our poets to maintain a dedicated website and to be a member of Facebook.

Our books are 6 x 9, paperback, perfect bound, color cover, with printed spine (poet's name, title, press).

We offer a standard contract, a generous number of author copies, a substantial discount on additional copies purchased by the author, and an annual royalty payment.

We are the proud publisher of collections by Neil Carpathios, Lynne Knight, Christine Stewart-Nunez, Jessica de Koninck, Carolyn Miller, Patricia Clark, Susanna Lang, Hayden Saunier, Michelle Menting, Karen Paul Holmes, Geraldine Connolly, Michael T. Young, Lisa Bellamy, and Paige Riehl.

We welcome submissions from poets at any stage in their career. Some of our poets have a long publication history with multiple books. A few of our poets have two books out. And we are very proud to be the publisher of several debut collections.

We look forward to reading your work.

Sunday, June 17, 2018

Summer Journals 2018

Get your mailbox ready to receive good news.



It's that time of year again. During the summer many of us have more time to write and submit, but quite a few journals close their doors to submissions for the summer months. Do not despair. There are still many journals that do read during the summer and some that read only during the summer. This is a list of those journals, all print. Journals come and go and guidelines and reading periods change, so be sure to check websites.

I've added links for your convenience. I've also indicated the number of issues per year, the submission period dates, which journals accept simultaneous submissions, and which ones accept online submissions.

If you find an error, please let me know.


**Indicates that simultaneous submission is ok.
Unless otherwise indicated, the journal accepts online submissions.
If no dates are given, the journal reads all year.


**American Poetry Review—6x-tabloid

**Asheville Poetry Review—3x—Jan. 15-July 15
snail mail

**Atlanta Review—2x—deadlines June 1 & Dec 1
reads all year, but slower in summer
snail mail

**Bat City Review—1x—June 1-Nov 1

**Beloit Poetry Journal—3x—June 1-Aug 31

**Black Warrior Review—2x—June 1-Sept 1

**Briar Cliff Review—1x—deadline Nov 1

email sub ok
$3 reading fee /pays $50



**Columbia Poetry Review—1x—July 1-Nov 1

**Conduit—2x
snail mail

**Cream City Review—2x—Aug 1-Nov 1

Cutthroat—1x—opens July 30


**The Florida Review—2x—Aug 1-May 31 (subscribers all year)

**The Fourth River—1x—opens July 1

**Gigantic Sequins—2x—opens July 1

**Grist—1x—June 15-Sept 15

snail mail

**Hayden’s Ferry—2x—opens for submissions August 1

snail mail

Hudson Review—4x—April 1-June 30 (all year if a subscriber)
snail mail

**Lake Effect—1x


**Lumina—1x—check in July

**MacGuffin—3x
via email attachment

(prefers no sim but will take)

Measure—2x
metrical only



**Minnesota Review—2x—August 1–November 1


**The Mom Egg—1x—June 1-Sept 1

**Naugatuck River Review—2x—July 1-Sept 1
for the winter issue

**Nimrod—2x—Jan 1-Nov 30

Pinyon—2x
via email

**Pleiades—2x—Aug 15-May 15

**Ploughshares—3x—June 3 to January 15

**Poet Lore—2x
snail mail

**Poetry—11x

**Quiddity—2x

**The Raleigh Review—2x—opens July 1

**Rattle—4x

Raven Chronicles—2x—April 1-July 1
snail mail

**Redactions—2x—by email–opens July 1

**Redivider—2x

**Rhino—1x—April 1-Oct 31

**River Styx—3x—May 1 thru Nov 30

**Rosebud—3x
via email


**Salt Hill—2x
August 1-April 1

month of July
via email

**Saw Palm—1x—July 1-Oct. 1
must have a Florida connection

via email



**Southern Humanities Review—4x—Aug 1-Dec 1

snail mail or via their website

**Sugar House Review—2x—Jan 31-July 31

**Tahoma Literary Review—3x—now thru August

**32 Poems—2x

Threepenny Review—4x—reads thru June

**Turnrow—2x
snail mail


US 1 Worksheets—1x—April 15- June 30
snail mail

**Washington Square Review—2x—Aug 1-Oct 15

**West Wind Review—1x—July 1-Sept 1
must have an LA affiliation

**Yemassee—2x


Friday, June 1, 2018

Goodreads Turns Bad, Part 3: Facebook

In my last post, I told you about my experience with an Amazon Giveaway. I have now completed my experimental Facebook Giveaway. Here are the details.

I posted my Giveaway on Facebook on Friday morning, May 25. It ran until 7:00 PM EST on Wednesday, May 30. I posted it around 11:00 AM on my Timeline, the Terrapin page, and my author’s page. I also posted it in four groups I belong to. In addition, there were several Shares from most of these spaces. The ability to post in multiple areas on the site is a definite advantage to a Giveaway at Facebook. At Goodreads you can post only on your own page, and Amazon posts it wherever they post Giveaways. I never even saw it on Amazon.

I asked people to enter the Giveaway by putting in a comment below the announcement. Most just entered their name or a note like “I’m in!” but quite a few posted lovely compliments! Unexpected bonus compliments!

Here are some of the compliments:
     I have the first book and love it.
     Diane, your book sounds amazing!!
     Love & use volume 1 all the time with my classes!
     These guides are sensible, informed, clearly written, and stimulating. What more could a poet want?!
     This looks fantastic.
     I always recommend The Crafty Poet. It's a great resource. Can't wait to read Part II!
     Your workshop books are a must for any practicing poet or teacher of poetry!

These testimonials do not happen with Goodreads or Amazon. I felt real people out there wanting to win, not a sea of faceless strangers. This kind of response really put a smile on my face (see above image).

Here are the statistics:
Total number of entrants: 77 with the bulk of them appearing on my Timeline, but also some in all the groups where I posted. I was happy with this number and suspect that it would have been higher if I hadn't posted on a holiday weekend.
One winner: notified next day, book now in the mail
Total Cost: cost of one book which I had at home, one envelope, $3.19 postage

The Facebook Giveaway is the least expensive. Much less expensive than Goodreads at $119.00 and less than half the Amazon one.

Big boost in sales? No, but that is common to all three Giveaways (and I can hope that some Facebook entrants will later hop on over to Amazon and hit the Buy button--in fact, I did have a few sales shortly after I announced the winner!).

Unexpected perks: 1) One person who saw my post on Facebook asked for a review copy so she could write a review for the paper she works for, 2) Another person asked if she could post my two earlier blog posts on her writing blog = more exposure!

My conclusion is that given the choice between a paid Giveaway at Goodreads, a low-cost one at Amazon, or a free one at Facebook the best option is Facebook—by far. Goodreads leads to more people entering, but at Facebook you have the ability to reach additional people if you have a substantial list of friends. You can extend your reach by sharing to groups and pages on Facebook. You can also set your own time frame—I recommend just a few days as information goes through the feed so fast. Most of my responses came on the first two days. And the cost is less than at Goodreads (by a lot) or at Amazon (by about $10). And you might get a few compliments!


Thursday, May 24, 2018

Goodreads Turns Bad, Part 2: Amazon

In my last post, I complained about the recent elimination of the free Giveaway at Goodreads, now replaced with a costly Giveaway. The fee imposed makes the service prohibitive for poets and small press publishers. I decided that the time was right to try an Amazon Giveaway for my craft book, The Crafty Poet II: A Portable Workshop. That experiment is now over. Here are the results.

It was easy to set up the Amazon Giveaway and it went into effect immediately as Goodreads now does also (used to be a 7-day wait period). While a Goodreads Giveaway allows the user to select the length of time the Giveaway will run, there is a 7-day time limit on the length of the Amazon Giveaway, but that time will be cut off once a winner has been selected.

There are several options for how a winner is selected. My Giveaway was over within hours of its start time. I selected that there would be one book given and that each entrant had a 1 in 100 chance of winning. I would increase the 100 if I were to do another Amazon Giveaway as that would extend the time.

Amazon provided me with a Giveaway page code, but I never used it as the time was up so fast. They quickly sent me statistics. I had 424 Hits (people who looked at the Giveway), 175 Entrants (people who entered the Giveway), 14 Page Visits (people who went from the Giveway page to the book page).

So the exposure for my book with an Amazon Giveaway was far less than with past giveaways I ran at Goodreads, but I could increase the exposure if I changed the odds. 

I was given the name of the winner as I was with Goodreads, but with Goodreads I had to mail out the book while with Amazon they mailed out the book. Before Goodreads turned bad, the only cost I incurred was the cost of one book, envelope, and postage. Amazon charged me a "setup cost" of $27.09 and later refunded $.06. The price for my book at Amazon is now $18.64 discounted from $21.99. So I was charged $8.39 for postage and handling. It would cost me less if I mailed a copy from my own stash and paid the postage.

Conclusion: I doubt I'll do another Amazon Giveway as I don't see any particular benefit to it. It's far less costly than a Goodreads Giveaway, but had no apparent effect on sales.

But just to continue this experiment one step further, I'm going to try a Giveaway at Facebook.

Friday, May 18, 2018

Goodreads Turns Bad



Back in January Goodreads changed their Giveaway program. Prior to that time, authors could post a Giveaway for a book. No Fee! Members of the site could sign up to win a free copy. After the conclusion of the Giveaway, a winner would be picked, the author would be notified with a name and address, and a free book would go out in the mail. An author could offer multiple free copies and also run subsequent Giveaways.

I liked the program a lot. When I did a Giveaway for any of my poetry books, I’d get around 300 signups. When I did a Giveaway for one of my craft books, I’d get as many as 600 signups. These people who signed up would often indicate "I Want to Read" for the title. My book got in front of a lot of eyes and I felt kind of popular.

I liked the program so much that when I started Terrapin Books one of the promotion suggestions I routinely made to my authors was that they run a Giveaway at Goodreads. I can no longer make that suggestion, nor will I again run a Giveaway for one of my own titles. That’s because since January 8, 2018, authors and publishers are required to pay a fee for the formerly free service. That may be how the business world operates, but poets and poetry publishers simply cannot afford to pay the fees. 

Goodreads now offers two fee options:

1) the Standard package for $119 for up to 100 copies (either Kindle ebook or print book). 

2) the Premium package for $599 is available for either print books or Kindle ebooks. 

Full details can be seen at the Goodreads site. 

I’m not at all convinced that either of these options will generate sales for authors, certainly not for poets and publishers of poetry books. And there is no way that I will pay for the service, nor can I ask my authors to do so.

For one thing, while I liked the program in the past and enjoyed having my book page fill up with Want to Reads, I never saw any spike in sales following a Giveaway. Maybe I’d get one new review. I wondered if other authors shared my feelings and experience. So I put the question out to a Facebook group that I belong to. I asked if authors had found that a Giveaway generated any sales.

Not one person said Yes. Not one. Not one person said she’d pay for the service. These people, by the way, included prose writers as well as poets. One author described her experience as “I did it but I don't think it's made any difference. I will not do i t again.” 

Another said, “I did it and zero effect!” 

Another said, “I did get reviews on Goodreads from my Giveaway but no sales that I could see.” 

A publisher said, “it did not increase the sales at all.“ 

One author who paid for the new service said, “I did it right when they opened it up to ebooks and it was half off! I didn't pay for the 'featured' status or whatever but I ended up there anyway because it was brand new and there weren't many other ebooks. I'm glad I did it then because honestly it was worthless. Will not do it again.

Not too encouraging, is it? I rarely go to the Goodreads website since the change. I wonder if I’m alone in that. 

I also wonder if it would be worth trying out an Amazon Giveaway. So I’m trying it out. I just created an Amazon Giveaway for The Crafty Poet II: A Portable Workshop. There’s a form that had to be filled out. Within an hour I received a confirmation of the Giveaway request. That was very similar to a confirmation of a purchase. Then this morning I received notification that my Giveway had gone live. The notification included a link that I can share so that people will sign up, but Amazon also somehow advertises the Giveaway. I just offered one copy. There is a cost for the person running the Giveaway—the price of one book and postage. I expect that the postage fee of $8 will not actually be that high. Amazon, unlike Goodreads, ships out the book. Not free, but more affordable than $119.

I’ll let you know how this goes. In the meantime, feel free to sign up to win at this LINK.


Monday, April 30, 2018

Tribute to Charlotte Mandel

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Years ago I attended a reading for the poet Charlotte Mandel. That was the first time I'd met her or heard her read. I was at the beginning of my own writing of poetry. Charlotte was in the midst of her long career as poet and publisher. After that first meeting, we met over the years at other poetry events as we're both NJ poets and lived close to each other. Since then, she has moved to the same town I live in and we often attend events together. It is my great pleasure to now call her my friend.

Yesterday I attended a book party for Charlotte's latest book, To Be the Daylight, her tenth collection, a book I was happy to blurb. The reading was held at our local library and was well attended by relatives, people who live in Charlotte's residential complex, students from the local university, and old friends. We all enjoyed a wonderful reading as Charlotte read both form poems and free verse ones—she is equally adept at both.

Here's one of the poems she read, a favorite of mine from her book and which I was proud to first publish in my craft book, The Crafty Poet II: A Portable Workshop. The form is called Rimas Dissolutas. See if you can figure out its rules.



Of Clocks and Love

The radio reports conceptions of time—
that two clocks traveling at different speeds
can vary by seconds, minutes and hours.
Physicists surf waves on cosmic oceans.

A poet poor in math, I feel stymied
when scientists operate by creeds
near to religion, aiming telescopic power
to digitize mysteries of creation—

as the universe expands, space/time
swirls in a blender, milky ways bleed
ancient fires, one black hole devours
another.  What simple harmonic motion

set off this wild yo-yo we call sublime?
4.3 babies are born every minute. I meet
with joy a great-grandson—and with fears
of drought-shriveled fruits, earthquake implosion.

Still, I cross off calendar days, set a time
the radio sings me awake.  Little one, reach
out your arms to those who will adore
the beauty of your body/soul's creation.


I took some pictures and hope they will give you a sense of the reading.

After the reading, Charlotte was presented with two bouquets, 
one from her family, one from the library

Charlotte selling and signing books

 After the event, Charlotte graciously met with a group of students 
from Caldwell University and was interviewed by them.


This was a lovely day and a wonderful reading. It was a privilege and a pleasure to be in the audience.

Thursday, April 19, 2018

The Crafty Poet Goes Audible


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Several years ago eBookit.com made an ebook version of my first print craft book, The Crafty Poet: A Portable Workshop. I was very pleased with their work and would happily recommend them to anyone in need of the services they provide. They are efficient, communicate well with their clients, and provide great work. I was, in fact, so pleased that I also used eBookit for the ebook version of The Crafty Poet II.

Recently, eBookit branched out into offering conversion of print books into audiobooks. It never occurred to me that I might want that, but one day they contacted me and said that because my ebook had been a consistent bestseller with them, they would like to do a complimentary audiobook of The Crafty Poet.  Of course, I said, Sure!

A month or so later the audiobook was finished. The recording was done by Lily Ricciardi, one of eBookit's professional readers. She has a beautiful voice and did a great job. The book is reproduced in its entirety except, of course, for the Table of Contents, the bio notes, and the Index.

I wondered initially how someone might use an audiobook of this sort, as opposed to, say, a novel. But it seems that people are enjoying it as they go walking and as they pound away on the treadmill. Some listen and learn in bed. Someone told me she begins her morning writing session by listening for 10 minutes; what she hears then inspires her writing that day. Excellent! Others listen while traveling in the car or plane. Obviously, I had a lot to learn about audiobooks.

This audiobook of The Crafty Poet is available at Amazon. It's free along with an additional free audiobook if you sign up for a free trial of Audible. If you just want to buy it outright, it's priced at $17.46. Odd price, but that's it.  Of course, the print book is still available if you don't yet have that. Either way, print, ebook, or audiobook, you get lots of craft tips by some of our finest contemporary poets, model poems and prompts, bonus prompts, and Q&As about individual poems with the poets who wrote the poems.

Visit any of The Crafty Poet pages to hear a sample of the audiobook.

Tuesday, April 3, 2018

Some Revision Ideas for Poetry Month

I'm posting here the Craft Tip I contributed to my craft book, The Crafty Poet II: A Portable Workshop. You might find it helpful as you work on new poems this month. You might also find it useful for working on poems you wrote months, or even years, ago. Enjoy! And prosper!

Click Cover for Amazon
Click Cover for Amazon
Craft Tip #29: Making More of Revision

During revision discussions, we poets hear a lot about compression, reducing clutter, and cutting out the non-essential. Who hasn’t sat in a poetry class or workshop and been told that less is more? So when someone tells us to add more, to expand, to keep going, we might be hesitant to pay attention.

But we should pay attention. The less-is-more principle is often good advice, but it’s not always good advice. As I once heard Mark Doty say, Sometimes more is more.

Too often we start revising and hacking away at the poem before it’s even fully written. We quit before we’ve given the poem life, before we’ve discovered its full potential, before we’ve found its real material.

Stephen Dunn addresses the topic of revision in a 2007 interview in The Pedestal Magazine:

          A fairly new experience that I’ve been having is revision as expansion. Most
          of us know about revision as an act of paring down. Several years ago, in
          looking at my work, I saw that I was kind of a page or page and a half kind of
          poet, which meant that I was thinking of closure around the same time in every
          poem. I started to confound that habit. By mid-poem, I might add a detail that the   
          poem couldn’t yet accommodate. That’s especially proven to be an interesting
          and useful way of revising poems that seem too slight or thin; to add something,
          put an obstacle in. The artificial as another way to arrive at the genuine—an old
          story, really.

Before you begin to strip down your poem or abandon it as no good or decide it’s good enough as it is, first consider how you might expand your poem. The following expansion strategies just might help you to discover your poem’s true potential and arrive at the genuine.

1. Choose a single poem by someone else, one that has strong diction. Take ten words from that poem and, in no particular order, plug them into your own draft. Make them make sense within the context of your poem, adjusting your context as needed. Or let the words introduce an element of the strange, a touch of the surreal.

2. Find the lifeless part of your poem. This is often the part where your mind begins to wander when you read the poem aloud. Open up space there and keep on writing in that space. Repeat elsewhere if needed. Remember that freewriting can occur not only while drafting but also while revising.

3. Find three places in the poem where you could insert a negative statement. Then go into the right margin of your draft and write those statements. Add them to the poem. By being contrary, you might add depth and richness to the poem.

4. Go into the right margin and write some kind of response to each line, perhaps its opposite, perhaps a question. The material that you add to the right margin just might be your best material, the real material. Bring what works into the poem. Make friends with the right margin; good things happen out there.

5. Put something into your poem that seemingly doesn’t belong, perhaps some kind of food, a tree, a piece of furniture, a policeman, or a dog. Elaborate.

6. Add a color and exploit it throughout the poem. This is often a surprisingly effective enlivening strategy, one that can alter the tone of the poem.

7. Go metaphor crazy. Add ten metaphors or similes to the poem. Keep the keepers.

8. Look up the vocabulary of an esoteric subject that has nothing to do with your poem. The subject might be mushroom foraging, astronomy, cryogenics, perfume-making, bee keeping, the Argentinian tango, or zombies. Make a list of at least ten words. Include a variety of parts of speech. Import the words into your poem. Develop as needed.

9. Pick any one concrete object in your poem and personify it throughout the poem. For example, if there’s a rock, give it feelings, let it observe and think, give it a voice. As the object comes alive, so may the poem.

10. Midway or two-thirds into your poem, insert a story, perhaps something from the newspaper, a book you’ve read, a fable, or a fairy tale. Don’t use the entire story, just enough of it to add some texture and weight to your poem. Your challenge is to find the connection between this new material and what was already in the poem.

Now go into your folder of old, abandoned poems, the ones you gave up on when you decided they just weren’t going anywhere. Then get out some of your recent poems that feel merely good enough, the ones that never gave you that jolt of excitement we get when a poem is percolating. Finally, return to some of the poems that you’ve submitted and submitted with no success, those poor rejects.

Mark all of these poems as once again in progress. Now apply some of the expansion strategies and see if you can breathe new life into the poems. Remember that this kind of revision is not a matter of merely making the poem longer; it’s a matter of making the poem better.

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

From Manuscript to Book: Editing and Revising


All manuscripts accepted for publication by Terrapin Books are carefully edited. Several months before I plan to publish the book, I send instructions to the poet on how to prepare the manuscript for editing. I then go through the manuscript and mark it up with red comments. I send it back to the poet who then makes the fixes and returns the manuscript to me.

Typically, we go back and forth a few times, negotiating, discussing, agreeing, disagreeing, and eventually arriving at the final version of the manuscript. (Well, not quite final as there are invariably some additional errors that reveal themselves once the book is formatted and returned to the poet for proofreading.)

Following is a Q&A I conducted with Michael T. Young about the editing and revising process we engaged in with his forthcoming book, The Infinite Doctrine of Water. It should give you a good behind-the-scenes peek at what goes into book production at Terrapin Books.


Diane:  I recall that when I accepted your manuscript I right away suggested a structural change, that is, I suggested that your three sections become five. Do you recall why I made that suggestion? How did you implement it and to what effect? How difficult was it to make that change?

Michael:  Yes, I recall you felt the poems were dense and thought-provoking and, consequently, that some extra space could help them. This change made sense to me since I intend my poems to be thought-provoking. Grouping them into shorter sections would provide greater thematic focus and, at the same time, more intervals in which the reader could digest all they elicit.

I tackled the restructuring by rereading the whole collection and looking for additional thematic arcs within each section. Given that the original first two sections were rather long and the final section rather short, I focused on those first two sections. It was somewhat easy to break these into four sections with coherent thematic arcs. The first section was the easiest, requiring no shuffling of the poems. The other three new sections required a little tinkering with the order of poems both within and across sections to give them coherence. This was also influenced by the need to reorder poems from the final section which had an abundance of poems with water imagery. Moving those poems across the other three prior sections helped create connections across sections and filled in gaps within sections that were wanting. The process was somewhat slow since every reshuffling required I reread entire sections and try to hear both the individual pieces and how the whole related.



Diane:  Early on I was also concerned about your overuse of light images and the repetition of the word light. Were you aware of the excess when you assembled the collection? How did you go about fixing this? How did those edits change the manuscript?

Michael:  I’ve always had a penchant for light and related images. Even my previous two collections have an abundance of such images. When one is publishing individual poems in journals this is, of course, not an issue. It’s only an issue when assembling a collection.

I employed a number of approaches to handle the abundance of light references and light images in The Infinite Doctrine of Water. In some instances, I moved a poem to a different location to soften its resonance with other poems that had similar imagery. In some instances, I changed a word or simply deleted it. In still other instances I changed the word light or an image of light to darkness or some related image that was opposite. These changes resulted in a more dynamic relationship among all the poems in the book, even those that use light images. As Donald Justice wrote, “To shine is to be surrounded by the dark.”


Diane:  Point of view was another issue. I noticed an excessive reliance on first person I. Tell us how you addressed this point of view issue. How did the changes you made affect the collection?

Michael:  This abundance wasn’t as difficult to correct as the use of light. A few of the poems were in first person in only a minor way. That is, a few of them had a first person pronoun in only one sentence but the rest of the poem made no direct reference to the speaker. Removing the single first person pronoun from these poems was rather easy. This, combined with reshuffling some of the other second and third person poems from the final section throughout the rest of the collection, provided for a balance the collection didn’t have in its original form. I was very grateful to rework this aspect of the book through the editing process.


Diane:  I also made editorial suggestions for a number of individual poems. What kinds of changes did I suggest? Were you always agreeable? Give us a few examples of poems that were revised during this process of preparing your manuscript for book form.

Michael:  Suggested changes ranged from comma insertions and stanza breaks to changes of diction and a few line deletions. I wasn’t always amenable to changes. For instance, with the poem “Sage.” This poem contained the word light and you suggested it be removed and another word used. But I felt any alternatives I came up with didn’t say exactly what needed to be said or failed rhythmically to keep with the tone of the poem. It was one of the few that I didn’t change.

But there were a number of good changes made. For instance, in “Close Reading,” we changed the word skirred to skirted. Although skirred was the more precise word, it is unfamiliar and likely to have been read as a typo by readers. This was something you pointed out and I thought it was a reasonable assumption. So the change seemed a good one.

A few concluding lines were removed altogether, as in the poems “Setting Fires” and “Paperclip.” Both these poems were afflicted by my old habit of providing the reader with a kind of summation which dampened what was otherwise a strong poem. Removing such summations allowed the poems to resolve in a strong image.


Diane:  Your original title was Turpentine. I recall saying that while I very much liked the poem from which that title was taken, I didn’t think it fit or did enough work for the collection. I suggested several other possibilities. What made you choose The Infinite Doctrine of Water?

Michael:  The Infinite Doctrine of Water was another title I had been considering. In fact, when I prepare manuscripts for submission, I often prepare both a full-length collection and a chapbook to send to publishers. In preparing the chapbook which corresponded to this full-length collection, I was using the title The Infinite Doctrine of Water for that chapbook.

Like light, water also is a very important image to me and moves throughout all my poetry. So the change was really an easy one. In fact, as soon as we changed it and were, at the same time, in the midst of revising and reordering, it became immediately obvious that “The Voice of Water” was the ideal final poem for the collection, when originally it was earlier in the final section. Additionally, would it be too much to say that as soon as we changed the title, ideas for the book cover flooded my mind? For all these reasons, the title change seemed immediately right.



Michael T. Young is the author of two previous poetry collections, The Beautiful Moment of Being Lost (Poets Wear Prada, 2014) and Transcriptions of Daylight (Rattapallax Press, 2000). He is also the author of the chapbooks, Living in the Counterpoint (Finishing Line Press, 2013), winner of the Jean Pedrick Chapbook Award, and Because the Wind Has Questions (Somers Rocks Press, 1997). His work has been published in such journals as Cimarron Review, The Cortland Review, Little Patuxent Review, Potomac Review, and Valparaiso Poetry Review. He is a past recipient of a poetry fellowship from the New Jersey State Council on the Arts and has been featured on Verse Daily.


Michael’s book, The Infinite Doctrine of Water, will be released on April 1. It is now available for
Pre-orders.


Monday, February 26, 2018

Terrapin Books at AWP


I look forward to meeting some of you in person at AWP. Please stop by the Terrapin Books' table #536 and say hello. I'll be at the table Thursday, Friday, and Saturday. Here's what else I'll be doing:

Thursday morning, 9:00 AM - 10:15 AM
. Panel.Topic: "Beyond Queues and Fees: Poetry Books Outside the Contest Model." Rachel Mennies is the moderator, panelists are Dan Brady, Katie Hoerth, Diane Lockward, and Marcos Marti­nez. Location: Marriott Waterside, Grand Salon B, Second Floor, Room 109

Thursday evening, 7 PM - 9 PM
. Hosting a Terrapin reading on at The Tampa Club, 101 East Kennedy Blvd, in the Rotunda Room. Snacks and a cash bar. Four poets with new books from my press will each read briefly from their books:

Karen Paul Holmes, from No Such Thing as Distance
Susanna Lang, from Travel Notes from the River Styx
Hayden Saunier, from How to Wear This Body
Geraldine Connolly, from Aileron

Then nine poets from The Book of Donuts will read:

Lynn Domina
Emily Rose Cole
Patricia Clark
Anne Harding Woodworth
Cal Freeman
Elizabeth O'Brien
Tina Kelley
Mira Rosenthal
Faisal Mohuyuddin
 
Friday. Book Signings
: Five of my poets will be signing books. Schedule is as follows:

       Table 536

       Karen Paul Holmes: 10:30 - 11:00
       Hayden Saunier      11:30 - 12:00
       Susanna Lang        1:00 - 1:30
       Geraldine Connolly    2:00 - 2:30
       Patricia Clark       3:00 - 3:30

Monday, February 12, 2018

The Story Behind the Cover

As the publisher of Terrapin Books, I like to ask each of my poets what they have in mind for a cover. Although I reserve the right to turn down suggested artwork, so far that hasn’t happened and each Terrapin poet has had input on their cover art. For example, Neil Carpathios’ cover for Confessions of a Captured Angel was done by his wife, a graphic designer. Christine Stewart-Nunez’s cover for Bluewords Greening was designed by her former student. Patricia Clark’s cover art for The Canopy was contributed by her husband, a painter. Hayden Saunier festooned her own black coat with greens from her yard and a set of antlers, then hung the coat on a wall and took a photo of it. I extracted the background and replaced it with a solid blue background. The result is a cover much like a piece of surrealistic art.

When I asked Geraldine Connolly what she envisioned for the cover of her forthcoming book, Aileron, she suggested a farmhouse. I began to hunt for one, but didn’t find anything special enough. Then one day while wasting my time on Facebook, I saw some unusual pieces of art coming down the feed—“feather art” by feather artist, Lewis Mark Grimes. I sent several images to Gerry and asked what she thought of them. Following is a discussion of what transpired from that point on in our search for the perfect cover.


Diane: Tell us what the word “aileron” means and why your first thought for your cover art was a farmhouse?

Gerry: An aileron is a small hinged surface—a flap—on an airplane wing, used to control balance.

 It was difficult for me to think of a way to incorporate that technical concept into a concrete image for the book cover. Airy images are hard to translate into solid pictures.

A photo of an airplane wing didn’t seem quite right because the reader might see only the wing and not see or understand where the small flap was and what it meant to the flight of the plane.

The main theme of Aileron is the loss of a cherished family farm to a large company and how to deal with that emotional loss, to rise above it. So that’s why I thought a photo of a farmhouse might work. I spent a couple of days looking through stock photos of farmhouses, but something was always wrong, the setting, the color of the barn, the crops in the field were not quite right. And I couldn’t find a photo of our particular farm, so I felt a little frustrated.

After weeks of obsessing over commas, capitals, misspellings, spacing issues, the acknowledgments page, the title page, the author’s page, all of a sudden when you asked what I had in mind for a book cover, I was kind of panicked. Vague thoughts of airplane wings and photos of farmhouses were floating in my mind, but I was actually floored. I knew that I really liked the Terrapin covers I’d seen, so I hoped you might be helpful there, and thankfully you were!



Diane: When I sent you the pieces of feather art, you wrote back that you’d stick with the farmhouse or a barn. Why?

Gerry: When you first sent ideas for cover art, I think there were seven images, five pieces with feathers plus one barn and one abstract painting. Seeing all seven together confused me a little because they were so different, so I clung to the idea of something that was an exact representation of a farm, which was a farmhouse or a barn. And the barn had happy associations for me, of safety and security. When I looked out the windows of our farmhouse, that’s what I often looked at, the big white barn and the silo next to it, the fields beyond. As a child, I loved the soft hay, the smell of the bales and oilcans and the animals, the texture of the old beams and the wood floor, the patterns of light and shadow. So yes, I clung to the idea of the farmhouse or barn. But I’m glad we found something more upbeat and visually exciting.


 
Diane: A few days later you emailed and said that one of the pieces was “haunting” you. What was responsible for that haunting?

Gerry: When I again looked over the seven art pieces that you’d sent in one file, I could see that the barn was, in fact, boring. You sent a print of one single feather, a couple of images of dream catchers (those nets with trailing feathers) and at the very bottom, two pieces of artwork done with molted feathers by Lewis Mark Grimes. I liked those two pieces best because they seemed unique, but I still had the barn idea fixed firmly in my head. I spent another day looking at stock photos of barns and feeling less and less satisfied with that idea. I looked at all of the images again that evening and decided, as they say, “to sleep on it.”

I woke up the next morning with the image in my mind of the white feathers exploding from a sea of blue dots. If it was strong enough to wake me, I thought, that’s a good sign. All day the image stayed with me. It “haunted” me in a very good way, so I decided to seriously consider it. The covers of my three previous books were lovely, but very conservative and representational. I thought a departure to something more abstract and mysterious might be refreshing. I showed the image to my husband and he loved it too. “Feathers,” he said, “which remind me of flight, of wings, of airplane wings, that’s perfect.” And when I looked at it metaphorically, I saw in that explosion of wings, a suggestion of Hiroshima, a tragedy, which suited the theme of losing the farm to a mining company.




Diane: I was similarly haunted, so I tracked down the artist to find out if we could get permission to use the piece. He said yes! While Lewis and I then worked out the licensing agreement, I did a sample front cover layout, that white feather image shaped like a fan against a black background. What was your first response to the initial design? Did we make any changes to it?

Gerry: The background was black and I’ve always liked black covers with a brighter color for the images and typeface. When you isolated that image and did a sample first cover, I was convinced that the image was perfect. Not representational, and so radiant and striking. Everyone I showed it to had strong positive reactions. Comments about the cover included words like “mysterious,” “vivid,” “engaging,” “spectacular.” I felt more and more sure that it was the right decision, and I was very happy that the artist gave us permission to use the piece.


The only change I suggested was making the print of the title a little larger. There was no doubt in my mind that this was exactly the right mood and message that I wanted to convey about my book. The design was so compelling and so suitable that very little change was necessary.



Diane: The cover we ended up with isn’t even remotely similar to the initial idea of a farmhouse, yet it strikes me as metaphorically perfect for your book. How do you see this cover as fitting your book?

Gerry: Sometimes your first ideas are your best ideas. Sometimes, they’re your worst. I trusted myself on an intuitive level with the decision to use the feather art and, after my initial reluctance, it turned out extremely well.

The elements of air rule this collection: birds, wings, trees. The central metaphor of the aileron on an airplane wing, which controls balance, suggests the importance of not surrendering to sadness but finding new direction, staying aloft above the blue dots which suggest sadness so that the white feathers lifting upward as in a fan connect with the theme beautifully. A lot of the book is about staying in balance even amidst trouble and an immense sense of loss. It was important to me that the final poem lift upward. When we discussed the ordering of the poems, there was thought given to ending the book with a poem that contains the image of a horse pulling freight into midnight’s darkness, but that seemed entirely wrong. The decision to end on a pleasing memory of a swing from my childhood that elevates the mood up and out into the world seemed fitting.

The collection is firmly rooted in the natural world, the landscapes of a Pennsylvania childhood, of Montana summers and a move to the Sonoran Desert which offers a strange but healing landscape, a mixture of oddness and wonder that, in fact, Lewis Mark Grimes’ work of art also conveys. It was a beautiful synchronicity and I couldn’t be happier with the cover. So much time is put into crafting the poems, revising them, arranging them in the best way for an effective narrative, but so little thought is given until the very last moment about the cover which is, of course, the reader’s first impression of the book. I like the idea of the reader being introduced to my book with this beautiful and original design. Thank you, Diane, for helping me find the way to it.


Geraldine Connolly is a native of western Pennsylvania and the author of three previous poetry collections: Food for the Winter (Purdue University Press), Province of Fire (Iris Press), and Hand of the Wind (Iris Press) as well as a chapbook, The Red Room (Heatherstone Press). She is the recipient of two NEA creative writing fellowships in poetry, a Maryland Arts Council fellowship, and the W.B. Yeats Society of New York Poetry Prize. She was the Margaret Bridgman Fellow at the Bread Loaf Writers' Conference and has had residencies at Yaddo, Virginia Center for the Creative Arts, and Chautauqua Institute. Her work has appeared in Poetry, The Georgia Review, and Shenandoah. Her work has also been featured on The Writer’s Almanac and anthologized in Poetry 180: A Turning Back to Poetry, Sweeping Beauty: Poems About Housework, and The Sonoran Desert: A Literary Field Guide. She lives in Tucson, Arizona.


Gerry’s book, Aileron, will be released on March 1. It is now available for Pre-orders.

Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Terrapin Books Is Open for Submissions


I am happy to announce that my poetry press, Terrapin Books, is currently open for submissions of full-length poetry manuscripts. Please note that our submission period closes on February 28, 2018.

Be sure to read our Guidelines before submitting. Please note that we request both a bio and a descriptive statement with your submission. Be sure to include both. Most questions are answered in our FAQs, so be sure to read that page also.

Our Guidelines ask for a manuscript of approximately 40-55 poems for a book of approximately 90-110 pages (count includes poems, front and back matter, and section pages). Please note that your book will be longer than your manuscript. If you have 40-55 poems, go ahead and submit. Let us worry about book length.

Here's some general information about the press:

We publish only poetry books, primarily single-author collections but also an occasional craft book or anthology.

Terrapin Books is committed to publishing outstanding books of poetry by outstanding poets. We intend to fully support our poets. We will edit your manuscript and work with you on revisions. We expect our poets to actively engage in promoting their books. We require our poets to maintain a dedicated website and to be a member of Facebook.

Our books are 6 x 9, paperback, perfect bound, color cover, with printed spine (poet's name, title, press).

We are committed to publishing accepted titles within six months of acceptance. We do not maintain a long list of books-in-waiting.

We offer a standard contract, a generous number of author copies, a substantial discount on additional copies purchased by the author, and an annual royalty payment.

We are the proud publisher of collections by Neil Carpathios, Lynne Knight, Christine Stewart-Nunez, Jessica de Koninck, Carolyn Miller, Patricia Clark, Susanna Lang, Hayden Saunier, Michelle Menting, and Karen Paul Holmes. We look forward to books by Geraldine Connolly (March) and Michael T. Young (April).

We welcome submissions from poets at any stage in their career. Some of our poets have a long publication history with multiple books. A few of our poets have two books out. And we are very proud to be the publisher of two debut collections.

We look forward to reading your work.


Tuesday, January 9, 2018

To Resubmit or Not to Resubmit: That Is the Question


As the publisher of Terrapin Books, I am frequently asked this question or some variation of it: If my manuscript was submitted to your press and rejected, should I resubmit it? Does it make sense to do so?

It occurred to me that it might be useful to have a discussion about this subject, so I invited Karen Paul Holmes, who once asked me this question, to participate in a Q&A. Karen’s new poetry book, No Such Thing as Distance, will be published by Terrapin Books with a release date of February 1, 2018.


Diane:   You submitted a manuscript to Terrapin Books during the first open reading period in January 2016. When it was rejected, were you given any actionable feedback? If so, what was it?

Karen:   Yes, and I really appreciated it. You suggested that the manuscript should not be frontloaded with my childhood and parent poems, but rather, those themes should be braided throughout. Other suggestions were to enhance the music/dancing motif and to include more poems that weren’t in first person.


Diane:  Did you follow those suggestion at the time? Why or why not?


Karen:  I revised and re-ordered the manuscript many many times, and yes, I took the advice before submitting to other presses.



Diane:  You did not resubmit to Terrapin for the following two open reading periods. During that year, were you submitting your manuscript elsewhere? If so, what was the outcome of those submissions? 


Karen:  I submitted to a few more contests and open reading periods. I had no feedback with the rejections except from one editor, who also said that re-ordering the poems was needed. (He had seen an earlier version similar to the one I sent Terrapin the first time). 


Diane:  What made you eventually decide to resubmit to Terrapin?

Karen:  I had seen what a good job Terrapin had done to publicize its books. I admired your own poetry and The Crafty Poet books you edited. I also respected your dedication to publishing good poetry and looking after your poets. I knew you read the submissions yourself, and that was important to me, as well as the fact that you’d actually edit the book rather than just accepting what I submitted.


Diane:  How did you revise the manuscript? Were poems added or removed? Were structural changes made? How satisfied were you with those changes?

Karen:  I added and removed poems many times so that I probably ended up with about 15 versions of the manuscript. It continued to evolve as I wrote new poems and tried different approaches to the whole.

I totally re-thought the structure from many angles. I even tried to make it a chapbook at some point, but just couldn’t pare it down that far. I made a spreadsheet listing each poem’s voice, theme and subtheme, narrative chronology, and form (prose vs couplets vs no stanzas, etc), so that I could consider how the poems related to each other in different ways. I wanted a somewhat logical narrative flow without it being too predictable nor having jarring jumps between poems. I was using recipes as section dividers, so the order within the sections needed to make sense.


Diane:  When you then resubmitted to Terrapin, what happened?

Karen:  It got accepted very quickly!


Diane:  Following acceptance, what process did your manuscript go through?

Karen:  As you will remember, you and I went back and forth on some line edits and other specific changes. I can’t say this wasn’t somewhat stressful for me, because, you know, those lines were sometimes my darlings! But I wanted an editor like you and appreciated your dedication to making it as good a book as possible.

You deleted nine poems that you felt weren’t as strong as the rest, and I was okay with that. You also asked me to add a couple of my poems that you’d read in journals. The order didn’t change much, but you wanted the recipes to be in the back of the book, and I liked that idea. You also gave me written instructions on how to list and format the acknowledgments for poems that had been published elsewhere. While revisions were being made, I asked for blurbs, and three poets were willing to provide them rather quickly.

Once the edits were complete, it was time for the interior layout of the book. You were very quick, and I found very few errors when proofreading the formatted manuscript. I loved the font and style you chose. I also had a trusted friend proof it for me. You and I discussed cover art, and when I suggested a painting by my sister, you enthusiastically agreed. Then we went back and forth on the cover design until a final design was chosen.

As we were wrapping up final details, my beloved dog died. Then, even worse, 10 days later, my life partner had a fatal heart attack. Needless to say, I couldn’t carry on very well. You were kind and moved the publication date to almost two months later, so that I could have a chance to get my bearings. Needless to say, the launch of my book is bittersweet. My beloved was a huge believer in my work, and he was as excited as I was for my second collection. I will be buoyed up by his faith in me as I do readings and other promotional activities.  


Diane:  Given your own experience, what advice would you give to someone considering resubmitting to a press that previously rejected the manuscript?

Karen: I asked you whether Terrapin would be interested in seeing my revised manuscript, and you said yes. So asking the publisher is my advice to anyone who has been given feedback on a previous submission. And, of course, let the publisher know that the suggestions were incorporated into the revised manuscript.

If no feedback was given, I’d urge the poet to be sure to put strong and unusual poems in the front, but also to make sure there are strong poems throughout. Since poets often have a hard time determining which poems are strongest, getting feedback from others helps.

It’s also wise to have someone else read the manuscript, paying attention to whether the order works. The weaving of like-themes throughout the book is very important, because it adds interest and pulls the reader through. I think we poets tend to want to lump like poems together, and that was my first impulse, but I became convinced otherwise.

I have heard that poets should re-submit to presses that have different readers during the next open reading period or contest, because the manuscript might appeal to these new readers. Whether or not there are different readers, the competition will be different each time—a poet’s manuscript might stand out from the pack when it didn’t before, especially if it’s been revised with care. One hears stories over and over of writers who sent their books out for years before being published—perseverance definitely pays.


Karen Paul Holmes is also the author of Untying the Knot (Aldrich Press 2014). She is a past recipient of an Elizabeth George Foundation writing grant and was named a “Best Emerging Poet” by Stay Thirsty Media in 2016. Her work has appeared in such journals as Prairie Schooner, Crab Orchard Review, and Poet Lore. She is the founder and host of the Side Door Poets in Atlanta and the Writers’ Night Out in the Blue Ridge Mountains. Following a corporate career in marketing communications, she now works as a freelance writer. She lives in Georgia.



Karen's book, No Such Thing as Distance, is now available for Ordering


Terrapin Books will be open for submissions of full-length poetry manuscripts on January 22 and will remain open thru February 28. Please read our Guidelines and our FAQs.


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