Guest Blog Posts

5 tips for beginning poets–guest blog post by Rachel VanCuren

I'm a beginner at many things.

For instance, I'm a beginner at traveling and cooking and although I've been trying to learn Spanish for over three years now, it seems like I'm a beginner at that, too. I'm also a beginner at writing poetry. I started writing poetry when I was in a class at my university. I was reading Sylvia Plath and Robert Frost when I found words of my own.

Since, poetry has been a sacred part of my life. I would write poems in classes, hoping my teachers wouldn't notice. Class notebooks began to fill with poems and dreams of a writing life. Soon I began to submit my poems to different contests and journals. Rarely did I hear anything back, but there was a thrill in submitting my work.

Over time, I started learning many tips and tricks when submitting poetry. Here are my top five tips from what I've learned:

1. Submitting work doesn't have to be stressful!

I always wondered how I could be published if I were a beginner. I didn't know many writers either, so it was difficult to figure out what to do. I soon became friends with writers who told me their stories (of anxiety free submissions). I also found twitter accounts (like Trish's!) that helped me not to feel stressed or alone. My fear started to turn into freedom! I began to have fun with the submission process.

2. Keep track of your submissions!

It's important to remember where and when you submit your work. It took me months to realize this simple tip. Now I track everything from what poems I submit to where I submit them. This is very helpful when you get an answer from a journal, because sometimes you have to contact other journals. Instead of rummaging through emails and trying to find out where you submitted work the past six months, it's much easier having a spreadsheet set up with all of submission information on one page.

3. Submitting work can be cheap!

As a writer, I don't have that much money anyway, so it's important to save money when I submit. So far, I've never spent money on a submission (except for that one time I needed a 12¢ envelope). Spending money on submissions is optional, so for someone who is new at the whole submitting thing, it's nice to submit to journals for free. As I gain more experience with writing and submitting, I may change gears and submit to more widely read journals that might make me pay. (But for right now I'm happy with free submissions!)

4. You will be rejected.

I doubt any of the famous writers didn't have stacks and stacks of rejected poems or scripts before their time came for publication. But it still hurts when rejections come. However, rejections can help a writer. I've heard of people taping their rejections up in their office or stacking them all in a corner, visible to all who enter the room. The reason for this, I imagine, is that they know rejections have a place where they belong, but they serve a purpose, too. Rejections are a good thing, because they keep us humble and they keep us going. For every submission, you gain a reader and experience at putting work into the world. Sometimes you will get a positive rejection, which is pretty exciting! Even if you get a rejection back from a journal, it's important that you tried. If you never put yourself out there, you'll never be published.

5. Don't forget your love for writing.

It's critical to distinguish the art of writing from the submission process. If you start to lose your passion for writing, then it's time to let go of submitting your work. It's not important to be published. It's important to love the work, because that's the point of countless hours writing characters and lines. Writing is how we live, isn't it? If you take passion away from a writer, then they are just a person with a pen.

I'm still a beginner, but I'm trying to understand my way around submitting. I've learned a lot, but these five tips have truly helped me overcome any fear I've ever had about the subject. It has also been encouraging to realize that submitting work is not the end goal: the writing is the end goal. Once I've understood the purpose of submitting, the work regains its importance.

Do you have something say about poetry? An essay on being a poet, tips for poets, or poetry you love? is now accepting pitches for guest blog posts. 

Contact me here if you are interested! 

Rachel loves photography and reading early American Literature. She is soon traveling to Chile and Peru, where she plans to expand her language skills and her poetry collection. Rachel's work has won her placement in the 2016 Jo Cleveland Contest and on Modern Poets Magazine's website. You can find more of Rachel's writing on her blog, Gently Whole.

7 replies »

  1. Great article! I’ve recently hit a low point in the submitting game where it seems like rejection after rejection is just flowing in and I feel a bit beat up by it. What I have to remember though is how much I love WRITING and that creating the work in the first place is the real reason I do this. Hopefully publications come later. Wishing you the best!

  2. I do started writing when I was in 10th grade, and gradually shifted from prose to poetry. I am total agreement to the stated points. 🥇

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