A polymath rambling about virtually anything

Archive for October, 2011

Sobering Times

Posted by Scott Holstad on October 16, 2011

These are sobering times for my loved ones and me these days. Tomorrow I leave Chattanooga to go to Knoxville. Early Tuesday morning, my father is undergoing a frightening and terrible surgery at UT Hospital there. I moved to Tennessee from a nice little island I was living on several years ago, primarily to be here as a support for my father, who’d come down with cancer. He had to have three operations, the last one of which was open heart surgery, but he recovered and survived and aside from side effects from the radiation, etc., he’s been doing pretty well — until recently. About six weeks ago, a regular checkup showed that cancer has returned to him. This time it’s esophageal cancer, a nasty little one that can wreak havoc. Tuesday he’s having surgery to remove a couple of nodules from his neck. That might not sound so bad, but the cancer is right at his car-toroid artery, necessitating multiple surgeons — three — and a good chance he could lose his voice box in this surgery. Indeed, we’re hoping he’ll actually live through this. It’s that brutal. My elderly parents seem to be holding up as well as people can under these circumstances, but it’s truly rough. I was on an operating room table less than two weeks ago, and I know how rough it is to lie there — even with family and friends there to support you — and feel so completely and totally alone in the universe before they put you out, and it’s a horrible and terrifying feeling. Hell, I hate the damn lengthy stays in the hospital alone! I was hospitalized in May for five days, and I felt so lonely and so alone and there’s not a damn thing you can do about it. I know he’ll be afraid, no matter what, when he’s about to face the knife and I want to do something more than just sit there waiting for him. I know this sounds pretty lame, perhaps, but I’d exchange places with him in a heartbeat. He doesn’t deserve to have to go through this crap again. I want to hear his voice in my ear until the day one of us dies. I’d gladly be willing to risk it if I could. But I can’t. I can’t do a damn thing except be there for him, offer him any and all support I can, do anything possible to ease his pain and discomfort after the surgery. I guess I can also pray, which I’ll probably be doing a lot of Tuesday morning.

Two additional people I feel for are my elderly mother who has to endure this bravely, and my girlfriend, who just moved here not too long ago and doesn’t know many people and will be lonely this week without me here. She’ll have our two cats, but that’s little comfort, I know, and dammit, I’ll miss her too. Very much. Call me co-dependent, but I’ll be lonely, myself.  I hate this, I hate this week, I hate all of it.

I’m hoping to return to Chattanooga on Thursday. I don’t know how long Dad will need to remain in Knoxville recovering. Next week — next Tuesday — I have a consultation with a new surgeon of my own. Yep, I’m facing the probability of a very nasty surgery of my own, which will go undefined for the present. I want to talk about how much I don’t want to go through with this, but I don’t want to talk about what it is. Under a best case scenario, we’re talking about at least four days in the hospital for me, probably longer. Under the knife. Nice. Normally, I’m not one for denial because I think that’s weak shit for people who can’t — or won’t — deal. In this case, I’m tempted to embrace denial because I just don’t want to think about the details about what Dad will be facing Tuesday and what I’ll likely be facing shortly after. I don’t want this shit to happen. Not much choice though. And there it is — no point in denial because you just have to face up to it, like it or not. I know when it’s my turn, even with a wonderful, loving girlfriend and two wonderful, supportive parents, I will feel so completely helpless and alone before they put me out that it’ll be a damned nightmare, not counting what they’ll even be doing to me or what could happen as a result. Holy crap, I hate this!

I guess there’s more I could write about. I could comment on how my UT Vols lost their game with LSU yesterday, or how my Steelers squeaked by Jacksonville a couple of hours ago. I could talk about the new Bukowski I’m reading or the book by Kevin Mitnick that I just finished. I could tell you I’m listening to The Cars as I type this. But really, all of these things are truly unimportant in the scheme of things, and so these are indeed sobering times for me and my loved ones. Pity. May God help us all….

Posted in Health | Tagged: , , , , | 4 Comments »

New Poetry at Ray’s Road Review!

Posted by Scott Holstad on October 5, 2011

Hey! Check out some great new poems by Tom Sheehan, Gale Acuff & S. Arthur Murray at Ray’s Road Review: http://raysroadreview.com/. The Fall 2011 issue up and running. Please read and submit!

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Basic Tips on Magazine Submissions

Posted by Scott Holstad on October 2, 2011

Before I begin my rant, let me say that much of what is here can apply to book publisher submissions as well. Now, the first tip I want to give should be so obvious, it’s not funny, but it’s astonishingly ignored by many submitting work to magazines: read the damn submission guidelines. They’re there for a reason; it’s not accidental.  As someone who’s been in the writing and editing business for over two decades and as the current poetry editor for Ray’s Road Review, I’ve compiled a list of what I think are fairly generous (by many traditional standards) submission guidelines poets should follow when submitting work to RRR. For instance, while I won’t consider simultaneous submissions like many magazines and for many reasons, I will consider previously published material with credits, unlike many magazines. That seems fair to me. You would be astonished at how many submissions I get which do not follow the guidelines. It’s a very large percentage. Some of these follow some of the guidelines, while some don’t at all. I usually trash these, as most editors would. If you don’t respect your craft and if you don’t respect the business (for that’s what it is) of publication and if you don’t respect the publisher enough to follow basic guidelines, you won’t earn a dime of respect in return — and why should you! Show yourself and the editors some respect, and do it the right way.

The next points I want to make will actually probably mirror the current RRR guidelines, but they’re so basic, I want to just throw them out there.

Don’t submit work and request critical feedback in response. You’re attempting to pass yourself off as a professional writer trying to get work published for the world to see. You’re doing a job. If you want critiques, go to an MFA program somewhere and get them there. I’m not a damn MFA program and I’m not going to waste hours of valuable time critiquing people’s work for them, and certainly not for free! I didn’t work to get three degrees so I could just give away my knowledge and experience. I’ve taught seminars and workshops, classes too. If this is what you want, go in that direction. If you’re submitting work to a magazine, you’re telling the editors you’re a professional (or at least an aspiring professional) writer with work to review seriously. Got it?

Getting published is a job. Just like when you’re trying to get a paying job, proof the heck out of your cover letter/email AND your poems/work. This is your one chance to make a first impression, so why do you want to come off as an illiterate dumbass??? I can’t tell you how many submissions I get that are chock full of misspelled words (clearly unintentional), missing commas, periods, hyphens, apostrophes, etc., etc. It’s mind boggling. I don’t necessarily knock these ones out of contention, but it makes me wonder how serious the writer is about our magazine and about the craft of writing and business of publication. My guess is, if you’re sloppy trying to get published, generally you won’t, just as your sloppy resume or cover letter will typically kill your job chances.

Another tip: editors usually remember assholes and idiots. And some of them blacklist these people. If a magazine doesn’t accept simultaneous submissions and you send the same work to multiple magazines, and if this work gets accepted by more than one publication, what are you going to do? Let two magazines print the same poems? Get ready for being blacklisted all over the place if that is found out. I learned this lesson the hard way many years ago, early in my writing career, when I submitted the same poems to two very fine university literary reviews, only to have both accept my poems. Imagine my embarrassment when I wrote the second one that contacted me accepting my work to tell them another magazine got it first. Needless to say, I haven’t appeared in either magazine since. Editors remember. Don’t lie, don’t misrepresent, don’t make stuff up. If you’re not heavily published or don’t have certain credits, be open about it. I’ll take work from total beginners, if the quality of work merits it. And those writers with astonishingly great credits don’t merit exceptional consideration either. Everyone’s on a level playing field with me. Let your work do your talking for you. Be honest.

Here’s another tip: most publications appreciate “serious” bios, as opposed to someone bragging about their life philosophies or how much pot they smoke. Send a bio that represents you, but in a professional way — don’t look like a total idiot.

A final tip. Make sure you send current contact info, and make sure to check your mail/email regularly. I’m frustrated right now because I want to publish two poems by a poet who won’t respond to repeated emails requesting a bio — any bio — and a couple of minor grammatical corrections. You can’t imagine how maddening it is to have your issue held up for publication by an asshole writer who won’t respond to editors!

I could go on, but I’ve got other things to get to, so I’ll close by reminding readers of this blog that competition is fierce out there. Everyone thinks they’re a poet/writer these days. Even though there are many magazines publishing literary work, it still behooves you to enhance your chances of acceptance by adhering to submission guidelines, following basic common sense and rules of submitting. At RRR, our acceptance percentage is 8.8%, which might sound low, but it’s actually a bit higher than your standard university-based literary review. Still, with us, then, that means that fewer than one in 10 submissions is accepted. You’re going head to head with other writers and you’ve got to impress editors, so don’t be an idiot and do your best and in doing so, best of luck to you.

Posted in Publishing | Tagged: , , , , | Leave a Comment »

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