What do you look for in a group of poems you upvote for publication?
I am looking for a well-crafted and felt message. I tend to favor the lyrical and some musicality (sound echoes), but they are not necessary. Sometimes the voice of the poem is strong enough, or the images fresh enough, that a strictly coherent or straightforward “message/narrative” isn’t necessary either. Still, there have probably been exceptions to this, poems that I still want us to publish because they surprised me in a positive way. It’s difficult to be more specific.
What would you like to see more of in the submissions to Inlandia, and what would you like to see less?
I would like to see three to five poems by anyone submitting. When I see only one poem, it suggests that the writer is not writing regularly, or does not have that many poems that are finished. I would also like to see more thoughtful poems on broader subjects, fewer that are about breakups, unrequited love, love lost, or loneliness. Many of us have had those experiences, and some talented poets have a poem or two on one of these subject, but they are not easy to make fresh and interesting to a reader.
What tips would you give unpublished writers who are trying to get their first story or group of poems published in a literary journal?
If possible, seek out someone you feel is a good writer to read your work and give
advice to help you make the poems as tight and complete as possible. Join a workshop if you can. I am in one. Others give you a fresh perspective. Don’t show your work to non-writers, or friends and family with no or little writing experience in your genre, people who are likely to praise your efforts highly because they like you. In other words, look only to those with the criteria to judge. Even then, you may need to look around a
while to find a reader who understands your individual approach. If you are confident in
your work and have gotten encouragement from others you trust, then proofread
carefully, make sure you follow the guidelines of each publication to which you send, and be patient. Don’t expect your work to be accepted right away, or often. If it is, wonderful, but that isn’t the experience of most writers, even those who are tremendously talented (and maybe, famous, down the line). Also, read contemporary work in your genre, and carefully study the work that you most enjoy.
What writing projects are you working on now?
I am working on individual poems. I have a chapbook in process, and my first poetry
manuscript is out to a couple of publishers.
What else do you do that brings you joy?
I enjoy teaching art, I take online classes in art, and do life drawing with other artists
in Riverside. At times, drawing, painting and mixed media pull at me stronger than
words. It’s not an easy balance for me, but I trust that the two art forms nourish one another. I also walk almost every day, preferably in a park. And I am planning a native
California garden for a small space behind our house—one that I hope will nurture bees,
birds, and butterflies.
What book(s) have you read recently that you think would be helpful to emergent writers?
I have read a lot of instructional books about writing over the years, but none recently. I read two very different books of poetry recently that gave me brain spikes. One was Bright Stain by Francesca Bell; the other was Parable of Hide and Seek by Chad Sweeney.