I dream about getting published. Recently, my internship handed me the opportunity to step out of my dream and think about the reality of becoming a published author. Now I ask, “Would it be possible for me to get published?”
The answer to this question has become clearer and my optimism has skyrocketed after I was assigned to interview, Casey Thayer for my Creatives Internship. Thayer is the author of: Self-Portrait with Spurs and Sulfur and Love for the Gun. He enlightened me; he reminded me that there are many paths to publishing. Below, Thayer describes his journey of becoming a published poet.
What is your educational background?
I graduated from UWGB in ’06 with a B.A. in English: Creative Writing. That was before UWGB developed the B.F.A. program in Writing and Applied Arts, a program that sounds exciting. I was on the team that helped to resurrect the Sheepshead Review, and through that class, gained a lot of practical experience.
After graduating with an MFA from Northern Michigan University, I went on to teach English at UW-Rock County and the City Colleges of Chicago. I was lucky enough to be chosen for a Wallace Stegner Fellowship at Stanford University. That fellowship was a wonderful experience that gave me the time to just write.
When you started submitting your poetry to be published, what was your biggest challenge?
The biggest danger for me, and maybe for all beginning writers, is that I put too much weight on rejections. We might be convinced to believe rejections define the quality of our work. The truth is that your piece being rejected or accepted mostly involves just plain luck.
For example, were you lucky enough that your piece was read at nine a.m. or after three p.m., maybe after that reader felt fatigued, after they had waded through mounds of other pieces? Did you get a reader familiar with your genre? Did you get a reader that had a good night’s sleep or one that staggered into the office that morning with a hangover?
It’s so important that, when writers receive rejections, we push aside the self-doubt that can stalk us.
How did you deal with rejections?
I embraced an outside measure, which included other writers, to help me judge the quality of my work. I didn’t just rely on acceptances or rejections. This might be important, especially, for poets because they don’t often—in my experience—receive editorial feedback on submissions like fiction writers might.
What is your advice for poets submitting their work for the first time?
First off, have the courage to send out your work. It’s nerve-wracking to share work, especially when you know it might be rejected. But you can’t win if you don’t play. And know that rejection is simply part of the process. It’s rare that I receive acceptances in the first place and rarer still that out of a manuscript of 4-5 poems, I have more than one poem taken by a journal. But acceptances will come if you stick with it, and when they do, the joy of that moment can take a lot of the sting out of rejection.
What motivates you to keep writing?
Getting published drives me forward for a bit, but the joy of seeing my name in print burns away pretty quickly. Publishing can’t be your only motivation. I would argue that it’s more important to find joy in the writing process, in being a part of the world of writing, and in connecting with other writers. It is important to find joy in just creating, in staring at that pure white, blank sheet of paper, in understanding that it does not cost you anything but your time to capture your ideas, your moments, your life.