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From poem to publication:
Four simple steps

“If there is a deadline, meet it. If the guidelines indicate they only accept work from previously published poets, believe them. If you don’t follow the rules, you are wasting your time and your stamps.”

— Paula Sanders McCarron

By Paula Sanders McCarron
You’ve filled several notebooks with your poems and even dared to show a few to friends. Now you’re hoping to see your work in a literary journal, magazine or book.

But where to begin?

1. Read your work aloud. Gather a few friends to listen as you read eight or so poems aloud. Better yet, participate in an open mic event. You’ll gain a good sense of which poems resound with your listeners and which ones land with a thud. Their reactions can
be a helpful guide in choosing which poems to submit for publication.

2 Follow the rules. No matter how wonderful your sonnet is, it won’t be published in a journal that publishes nothing but haiku. If there is a deadline, meet it. If the guidelines indicate they only accept work from previously published poets, believe them.   If you don’t follow the rules, you are wasting your time and your stamps.

3. Research. Browse Poet’s Market or look online for submission guidelines. Pick up a copy of Writer’s Digest or Poets & Writers at the library or bookstore. Scan the weekly Creative Opportunities listing in the Anchorage Daily News (Fridays). Ask people to let you know if they come across magazines or journals that publish poetry.

4. Beat the rejection blues. A writing friend once told me she discovered not only a great way to beat the rejection blues but also a great way to get published. Here’s how it works. Submit a batch of poems to one market, and within a month or so, submit another batch to a different market. Two to three months later, send out a third batch to yet another market.

Now if the first batch returns with a rejection letter, you’ll likely feel a pang of disappointment, but you will also have a bit of hope, because you know you already have two other chances for publication in the mail. Now, within another couple of weeks, take the rejected poems from the first mailing and submit them
to another publication.

Keep writing, keep the submissions flowing and soon enough, you’ll meet your publication goals.

About the Author
Paula Sanders McCarron, a hospice worker by trade, grew up in Massachusetts and moved to Anchorage in the 1980s. In addition to helping adults who are living with illness, disability and the effects of aging, she now writes and publishes poetry, with help and guidance from mentors she has met locally and online. For more on Paula, visit her site, [no longer active], which includes a page of Alaska-related literary links as well as links to some of her recently published works.

UPDATE 12/8/05- Regrettably, Paula's site appears to be no longer active, and the domain has been purchased by squatters who are using it to make money on click-through ads. To prevent them from capitalizing on links to her site, I have removed the name entirely. If you happen to know a current Web address for Paula, please e-mail me at

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>> Linda Herr - The Mess Arrester-SM
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>> Elise Sereni Patkotak - Precious Cargo Ltd.
>> Rupert Pratt
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>> Andromeda Romano-Lax
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>> Bill Sherwonit
>> Sandi Sumner
>> Lesley Thomas
>> Sherry Tomlinson

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Photos of Sonya Senkowsky © 2004 David Jensen / David Jensen Photography.

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