Poets & Writers Magazine welcomes feedback from its readers. Please post a comment on select articles at pw.org, e-mail email@example.com, or write to Editor, Poets & Writers Magazine, 90 Broad Street, Suite 2100, New York, NY 10004. Letters accepted for publication may be edited for clarity and length.
Feedback from readers
Gabriella Graceffo’s outstanding article about a toxic workshop (“Pigeons, Pride, and Pedagogy: Surviving a Toxic Workshop,” March/April 2023) should be required reading for all workshop participants. She is spot-on when she writes, “Workshop is designed to show you how others respond to your work and whether the effect you intended is coming across successfully or not.” While others may need to be reminded to be courteous and constructive, writers themselves need to be receptive and good listeners. Successful workshops promote such a balance.
This letter is to second Jane Frame’s point in the January/February 2023 issue (Reactions) when she calls for greater flexibility in the poetry submissions market than is currently provided by the Submittable method. As a ninety-four-year-old who aspiringly entered the poetry market back in the 1960s, I find myself gasping before online submission platforms nowadays. With sympathy for overworked editors and their part-time staffs, I hope some suitable alternative can be found. I, for one, would welcome the “big” or the “little” journal that regularly—be it for only a specifically limited period and of course under clearly specified conditions—gives me the freedom to drop my submission in that good old mailbox down the street and send it on the way.
When I read about Jane Campbell’s journey on the road to publication of Cat Brushing (“5 Over 50,” November/December 2022), the embers inside of me burst into flames without worry. I am an eighty-one-year-old woman who identifies as a 1950s housewife ironing uniforms for my high-maintenance, buff husband who played lead guitar in several bands, and as a former single mother who raised two daughters while writing for a living. Most of my career in banking called for me to research and inspect income/commercial properties before I wrote up loan presentations that were designed to convince senior officers to put their butts on the line with mine and approve the disbursement of millions of dollars to developers. We had every intention of recouping the investment plus interest. I didn’t disclose information like the wart on the prospective borrower’s nose, but I came close. I guess I can also identify as a freelance writer, building on the journalism class I took in high school that earned me publication in the school newspaper in 1960. I recently resigned from writing a monthly column for a community newspaper after seven years while drafts of chapters of my memoir sat stashed in cardboard boxes in the guest room, and I have been published in magazines, local newspapers, and anthologies. I felt like my time clock had buzzed—“At your age it is time to give up on a dream of seeing your memoir in print as you will arrive at the Pearly Gate with a pen in your hand”—until I inhaled Campbell’s words. Part of the burial instructions for my daughters that I wrote in 1972 and tucked away in a pink plastic box reads: “I do not fear dying: I do fear dying with my memoir still in the word processer. I hope that you have my book tucked away in your bookcase long before my death notice is published.” Amen.
Cheryle Hoskins Bigelow
Three of the most popular posts from pw.org
1. “Letting Go: How I Found an Agent After Giving Up” (March/April 2023) by Brenda Ferber
2. “Agents & Editors: Rakia Clark” (March/April 2023) by Vivian Lee
3. “Pushcart Rolls Through Fifty Years” (March/April 2023) by Gila Lyons
Agents & Editors (March/April 2023) by Vivian Lee incorrectly stated that Rakia Clark has worked at Mariner Books for five years, the past three as an executive editor. In fact, she has worked at Mariner for three and a half years, the past one and a half in her current position. Additionally, Clark did not move back to New York to work at Mariner, as previously stated; her work at Beacon Press in Boston was done remotely.