Friday, February 22, 2013

Six Questions for Nancy Scott, Managing Editor, U.S. 1 Worksheets

In 1973, a small group of poets got together in the Princeton, NJ area to share their poetry. From this nucleus of poetry lovers came the long-standing U.S.1 Poets’ Cooperative, publisher of the U.S. 1 Worksheets. Submit up to five poems, single-spaced, but no more than seven pages in total. "We do not regularly publish prose, but will consider short work, not to exceed 1000 words (double-spaced)." Manuscripts are accepted from April 15th through June 30th. Read the complete guidelines here.

SQF: What are the top three things you look for in a submission and why?

NS: We are primarily a poetry journal and we look for focus, developed imagery, and control of craft because we feel these are the components that are most likely to be lacking in poems we receive. 

SQF: What common mistakes do you encounter that turn you off to a submission?

NS: There is no distinctive voice, lots of abstractions, lackluster craft with regard to line breaks and use of metaphor, too many adjectives, spelling errors. We are inclined to automatically reject a poem that does not arrive in professional form, i.e. it is typed on both sides of the page, uses weird font, is sent on colored paper doused in perfume, includes a photo of the family pet.

SQF: Do you provide comments when you reject a submission? 

NS: We do not provide comments; we are all volunteers and this goes beyond the scope of the time and energy we can commit to the journal. Many of us, however, do freelance editing, so if someone wants to pay for our expertise, we encourage them to ask.

SQF: Will you publish a submission an author posted on a personal blog? 

NS: For us, anything that has been published in any medium, even a church newsletter, is considered previously published.

SQF: What do you want authors to know about the submissions you reject and how authors should respond? Along this same idea, do you mind if authors reply with polite questions about the comments they receive? 

NS: We receive over 1200 poems for our annual issue. Since we are a cooperative, we have an obligations to our members; however, about 2/3 of the 125+ poems we publish are from outside the cooperative. So a lot of poems are going to get rejected because they are badly written, because we try not to publish a spate of poems about cancer, or snakes, or springtime, or we know the poet’s work and he/she did not submit their best poems. We have found over the years that we tend to publish work by many of the same poets, in and out of the cooperative, because these poets have figured out what we are looking for—well-written, accessible poems (we love eclectic variations) with developed imagery and focus. What would be most useful to authors whose work has been rejected is to purchase the current or back issue of the journal and analyze it, because we have not changed what we are looking for in a poem. This is how we would reply to a request, we do not personalize responses.

SQF: What one question on this topic do you wish I'd asked that I didn't? And how would you answer it?

NS: What do you expect from authors whose work you accept? 

We expect to get prompt and courteous replies if we need additional information or there is something in the poem which needs to be corrected or clarified, i.e. we do not make corrections, except for simple punctuation, without contacting the poet. We are not asking for clarification in order to rewrite the poem, just that we’d like to publish the poem, but a line or a word doesn’t seem right. When we ask for an email copy of the poem after we’ve accepted it, we would appreciate the same version as the original; if we get a revision, we’d appreciate it if the poet would not argue with us if we prefer the original or not keep insisting on yet another revision after we’ve already compiled the manuscript. We do contact every poet directly in order to avoid these kinds of problems, but they still happen. We would also appreciate, but don’t require, that a poet think about buying an extra copy, in addition to the free contributor’s copy, because we cannot turn straw into gold and we need to pay bills. We really appreciate it when poets take the time to thank us for accepting their poems and let us know how much they enjoyed the issue. We strive to create a community of poets, not just publish a journal of poems.

Thank you, Nancy. We all appreciate you taking time from your busy schedule to participate in this project.

NEXT POST: 2/26-Six Questions for Kimberly Longhofer, Manager, and John Haworth, Owner, at Brainfood Bookstore

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