I try to submit a few poems each weekend. Most are simultaneous submissions. To keep this process organized—the submissions, the rejections, the occasional acceptance—I’ve come to rely on Duotrope. “Duotrope is a subscription-based service for writers that offers an extensive, searchable database of current fiction, poetry, and non-fiction markets, a calendar of upcoming deadlines, submissions trackers, and useful statistics…”
In particular, I’ve found it easy to keep meticulous records by using their submission tracker. It is my belief that the efficiency of this system has improved my acceptance rate dramatically. Over time, I’ve developed a list of favorite journals. All I have to do is click on a journal title within Duotrope to see if it is currently open for submissions. I can also retrieve a list of poems I’ve already submitted to that journal, along with a status note for each piece. Alternatively, I can click on one of my poems and pull up the list of journals it has visited.
Last Sunday I was lounging in Starbucks, looking over my submissions to Colorado Review. I noticed I’d accidentally sent them two different drafts of the same poem—both of which were rejected. One, entitled “Blackout,” describes an event that occurred on September 8, 2011. Since dubbed the 2011 Southwest Blackout, it left nearly 6 million people in Southern California, Arizona, and Baja without power. I never placed “Blackout,” but I later drafted a second poem that ultimately became a mash-up, one that included this poem as well as another I never published, “Trona Pinnacles.” I named the new poem, “Scene Change,” and eventually found a home for it, Catamaran Literary Reader.
I continued sitting there, sipping my coffee and idly reflecting on the path “Scene Change” had taken, when the power went out. It’s funny how you don’t notice how loud Starbucks actually is until there is no music, no air conditioning, no beeping, no humming of any sort whatsoever. For a moment the establishment was almost completely still. Then the nattering began. “Does anyone know how long the power will be out?” It was unseasonably hot that day, and customers were quick to speculate: Too many people running their air conditioners!
Of course the Wi-Fi was also out. I wondered if Verizon had been hit, too, because I could not bring up a thing on my phone. From where I was sitting, there was no way of telling just how bad this blackout was.
My drive home from work during the 2011 power outage proved to be a bit wild. Not one traffic light was on—a veritable roadway free for all was in play, though “parking lots” were quickly developing along major freeways. I breathed a sigh of relief when I made it home.
These memories continued to surface as I tried to decide if I should get out of my chair and rush ahead of all the people who weren’t remembering the Great Blackout of 2011. But I had a ticket to “A Walk in the Woods.” I wasn’t ready to surrender it just yet.
Maybe the power will come right back on.
It didn’t. Starbucks lost no time closing up shop. I rushed over to the theater, thinking perhaps it had escaped the darkness, only to hear the same old line from an exiting theatergoer, “The power is out!”
By then, I’d lost my edge. Though my next move was to rush to my car, I ended up staring into the rearview mirror for at least 15 minutes, waiting for a safe moment to back out of my parking space as the entire lot slowly filed out.
Finally, I made my way into the funnel. Once I was released from the parking lot, I managed to drive through the power outage within a matter of blocks. The operating traffic lights in unafflicted areas immediately brought back a sense of order. And my next stop – the supermarket – was blissfully cool. I later learned this particular power outage could hardly be called the Great Blackout of 2015, though 115,000 people did go without electricity for a spell. I’ll never forget, though, the flickering candles people were forced to use back in 2011. I’ll never forget the strange sense of happiness in my neighborhood—how eerie it was, how dark and celebratory.