Thursday, May 16, 2019

Advice for Ordering a Poetry Manuscript

Ordering poems in a collection can be a fun, sometimes maddening, and ultimately satisfying stage of the literary process. Here are my suggestions for the journey:

Tack poems up on the wall like a detective from the 1950's. See what unfolds and where connections are made.

Lay poems out on the living room floor, rearranging according to where different poems gravitate.

Write titles of poems on index cards and mindfully arrange them in order.

Be brutal in your consideration of which poems to include, but don't throw the baby out with the bathwater.

Consider the emotional layering of your order. An expert example of emotional pacing is Jack Gilbert's poetry collection The Great Fires.

If you believe a certain creative approach is appropriate then work to understand why it will elevate your poems collectively and be able to articulate your reasoning.

Sketch out a visual map of the poems. Use colors to distinguish between tones, subject matter, or other differentiating aspects. Somber poems, for example, could be written in aquamarine; while lustful poems could be penned in scarlet.  

If you feel like you're drowning in the efforts to order your poems, set them aside and return after time has revised your perspective.

Tuesday, November 13, 2018

AI Poetry

This snow-edged morning I rolled up the lacy flared sleeves of my 70's-inspired crimson dress and read poems written by AI bots, curled up by a faux electric fireplace. I felt as though parts of me belonged to the past, present, and future all at once.

I cupped a porcelain mug of sencha green tea infused with Italian orange in one hand as my index finger hovered over the "bot" or "human" button options on Bot or Not presents you with poems and you, all-seeing, all-loving judge, must guess whether the poem was written by an AI or human poet (it's a Turing test for poetry). I found it an entertaining way to intake morning poetry and correctly guessed 7 of 10.

Warmth emanated from the electric heater at my feet which mimicked the movement of real flames. It almost felt real, and warmed me either way.

The process made me ponder what the seedling of a poem is, what makes it sprout, take root in our souls? What makes it more than just a clever collection of phrasings and innovating imagery? What lovingly nudges it up to the pedestal of a poem, something we can instinctually recognize in our guts and simultaneously worship?

I wondered too whether or not the human experience was a necessary aspect of composing a poem, deciding that simple sentience seemed sufficient. There have been auspicious and vast improvements in the arena of artificial intelligence but I'm most curious as to what they may one day feel

I've yet to discover an AI poem that makes my heart swoon, but will continue to hunt/be patient for that. I even submitted some of my poems for consideration on Bot or Not, so who knows, you may be seeing my words besides those penned by a robot one day.

Secretly I hope you know it's me.

Tuesday, October 9, 2018

Short Story Publication!

I had a rough, panicky morning a few weeks ago, when I woke up anxious that I would never be a very good writer, and that I might be wasting my life. This is unusual for me. My resolve to be a writer is unwaveringly optimistic and not even something I see as an option. It has been the consistent obsession of my life. So I asked the universe for a sign, a publication in particular, to show me it's worth sticking with. I got so frustrated with the universe when weeks went by and only rejections poured in.

Then I randomly went into my spam folder and saw an acceptance letter for my first short story to be published by the Avalon Literary Review.

I'd asked the universe for a sign and it had been given to me, yet the way my inbox was organized kept me from seeing it.

The short story is called "The Jump" and will be in their Winter 2019 print issue. I was so happy I cried, and it was as though a great weight had been lifted off my shoulders, one which I hadn't even realized I'd been carrying.

Afterwards I posted about it, thanking my college fiction professor, and she sent me a private message that was so generous and encouraging I nearly started to cry again! I get three complimentary copies of the issue––one shall go in my permanent collection of all my printed publications (a humble shelf on my bookcase), one I'll keep on hand to bring to events and share with friends, and the third shall be snail mailed to her.

Tuesday, September 11, 2018

Announcing the 2018 November Prose Writing Month

This year I'll be hosting an online writing challenge for prose writing (for our purposes this means essay, flash fiction, short stories and novel) during the month of November.

Deadline to Apply: October 1st 2018

Writers set their own daily word goals (250-500 words a day are common). I've organized this writing challenge in the past and it's a lot of fun––intense, cathartic, and hugely inspirational.

You'll be posting an excerpt from your daily writing on the blog (A Novel November) each day for 30 days starting at 9 AM PT on November 1st and going until midnight PT on November 30th. You'll be expected to read and comment on the work of others and can likewise expect feedback and encouragement on your own work. See here for the full guidelines.

Space is very limited to maintain a close-knit atmosphere for the writing challenge.

Tuesday, September 4, 2018

September Publishing Goals

Just before I left for my Labor Day camping trip I received a rejection slip from The Paris Review.

I get excited, even about a rejection, because I feel the wheels of the poetry world turning as the process of submitting/hearing back is completed. It was also the first place I submitted to this summer (it's been FAR too long since my voice echoed in the published realm!). So far I've submitted to 11 places this summer (9 poetry submissions, 1 screenwriting grant and 1 short story submission).

When I first started submitting poems for publication it was all done by postal mail, and still to this day if I have the option to submit in this manner I will do so. I know it's not the most environmentally friendly thing in the world, but I adore real mail and still even write letters by hand.

There is a great list of places to submit to over Autumn at

Also, remember that getting your writing rejected for publication is not getting a "no" it's a "not yet." Every time you get a rejection back take the time to revisit the poems/stories and attempt a revision. Staying with this habit will ensure you are continually pushing your writing to really get that "lightning" onto the page and eventually you will get published.

So I will be revising my rejected poems and will continue to send them off again. I got these nifty Autumn stamps to keep me fueled on postage until wintertime:


Thursday, August 23, 2018

Summer & Poetry Marathoning

With a start I realized it was near the end of summer, and feared I'd missed this year's Poetry Marathon. For those unfamiliar with the poetry marathon, it's an intense writing challenge that takes place in the summer, where you write a poem an HOUR for 12 or 24 hours straight alongside poets from all over the globe. It is the phenomenal creation of one of my favorite poet couples ever––Caitlin Thomson and Jacob Jans.

When I rushed to the Poetry Marathon's website ( I learned the marathon would not be taking place this year, but it will be in 2019, and they will be publishing another awesome anthology if there's the support to make it happen. I'm already excited about that.

Also! I had the pleasure of reading at the Poetry Marathon's reading last year so I got to meet a lot of the other marathoners in person. We had cocktails and talked politics afterwards.

Here are a couple (revised) snippets from my poems in marathons past:

" we hide out in moldy basements
and spend unlit days in loneliness,
with not even our own damn shadows
to keep us company."

"I wait for a miracle
to come rolling down a hill
which I am too exhausted to climb up."

The rest of my poems from years past can be found on the Poetry Marathon's website under the author name: jennifervera

Hope everyone is wrapping up a great summer. Here's my summer bucket list:

I will post an updated crossed-off version at the end of summer.


Friday, August 17, 2018

How I Revise a Poem

I unearth a poem from the stack of drafts and look at it, the veil of time allowing a shift in perspective. Then I ask myself these questions:

1. Does the title add dimension to the poem? This lecture by poet Matthea Harvey is richly educational on the subject of titles.
2. Where can I cut the fat?
3. Which details must be fleshed out? If there is a "tree" in my poem, what kind of tree? An aging spotted oak or a frostbitten cherry blossom (or maybe it really is just a "tree")?
4. How can I enhance the music of the poem?
5. Can I reconsider any line breaks? Retyping the poem can lend valuable insight. I play around with where I break my lines to see if anything interesting happens.
6. Is every single word needed? Can a more precise word replace a handful of imprecise words? I always keep in mind the economy of words in poetry.
7. Are my literary choices aligned with my poem's theme/message?
8. Is the form appropriate to showcase this particular poem?
9. Can I dig any deeper?
10. Have I done sufficient external research? If I mention a scientific phenomenon or reference an event in history I'll of course do research for that, but I also use research as a tool to enhance imagery and details in general throughout a poem.

Also check out "The Warmth of the Messy Page" by Rachel Richardson who writes in charming candor about revision, and "15 Poets on Revision" for a compilation of quotes by well known poets on the subject.