Gillian Devereux is a poet. That, as a fact, is not the main reason for asking her about poetry and publishing. After receiving her MFA in Poetry from Old Dominion University, she went on to publish two chapbooks and has had her poems printed in many journals. She believes in using today’s technology to share her poems and interests and runs a blog to do these things. She is an active writer, constantly working towards sharing her best work with the world. Beginning her career at the age of four when she wrote her first story about koalas, Gillian’s love for furry animals has endured, as well as her love for writing. If there is someone to ask about poetry and publishing, you can’t go wrong with Gillian.
Gillian has been reading and writing since she was a child. She believes her interest in poetry began with her father reading her famous poets such as Robert Frost, Robert Burns, and e.e. cummings, to name a few. Yet, it was during her junior year as an undergraduate when she finally decided to seriously pursue writing poetry.
Both of Gillian’s parents studied English and were completely against her doing the same. So, she majored in business. Then, she changed her major to early childhood education. Then, she changed it again to nursing. She always knew she wanted to do something that would impact the world, but it wasn’t until she began taking film studies and creative writing courses that she found the perfect way for her to do that. By the time she applied for graduate school, she was set on getting an MFA in Poetry.
As a child, she was published in Ranger Rick Magazine, a children’s magazine run by the National Wildfire Federation. In her second year of graduate school, she was again published in a local literary magazine. But not until 2010 did she begin to actively seek publication.
In 2010, she met a publisher who asked her why she didn’t already have books published. She, of course, pondered this question and decided to send some of her finished poems to journals or publishers. That summer, the two manuscripts she had sent out were accepted. She has since had over forty poems published.
But how to choose what gets sent out?
Gillian explains that the most important step she takes to getting published is sending out her poems. Every six weeks she sends out submissions to journals or publishers. To help her decide which ones to choose, she separates her poems into two categories: finished poems that she may change in the future, and finished poems that are final and will not be changed. If the poems are accepted, she sends out a new batch of poems, and if the poems are rejected, she sends them out again. For her, having a critical eye or feedback on the poems before sending them out makes her feel certain that the poems are worthy of being published. But rejection still happens.
Rejection is always hard. But Gillian has found ways to make it somewhat better. Her suggestion, which is something she applies to her own writing, is to separate the feelings from the work. She explains that people looking at the poems may have different reasons for why they rejected the piece. It can sometimes have nothing to do with the poem; for example, the journal could have already decided on a direction and the poem simply doesn’t fit with their concept. For her, knowing how publication works has helped understand not only why a poem may have been rejected, but also how to choose where to send her work.
How to get published!
Gillian has many ways that help her decide to where she should send her poems. Reading and becoming familiar with many journals is something she does to see the kinds of work they publish and if it is similar to her poetry. She can easily do this because a good amount of journals are online and chapbooks of contemporary writers do not cost a lot of money.
On top of reading a variety of journals and chapbooks, she also looks at who published her favorite contemporary poets or poets who write similarly to her style. Knowing this, she can send poems to publishers who are more likely to accept her poems because they have published similar writing. Gillian treats writing and getting published like a job, making sure she is constantly promoting her poems and staying active in the writing community. But getting published is not only about sending poems to publishers and being an active writer. Gillian has noticed that having an online presence, such as a blog, helps her get published because she already has an audience who reads her work.
Gillian’s blogging allows her to remain an active member in the writing community. She began one of her blogs to share her experience after winning a residency in Vermont. This was a new experience for her, and she wanted to share it with others. But now that it is over, she wants to focus on shifting the blog towards literary citizenship.
Literary citizenship is the idea that writers, readers, or everyday people who appreciate the arts engage with the literary world and share their appreciation with others. There are many ways in which people can participate in literary citizenship. People can read different works; write their own creative pieces; review works they have read; and reach out to others who have inspired, empowered, helped, or simply given them a good read. For Gillian, blogging about poetry and writing would be her way of sharing and supporting the poetry community.
However, she doesn’t want to just write for poets, but for others who may find her posts interesting. While her posts will be focused on poetry or literature, by moving away from just blogging about poetry or her poems, she can broaden her audience and maybe introduce people to poetry from a new perspective.
After having been through the process of getting published and writing poetry, Gillian has a few tips to give to other writers hoping to get their poetry published. She believes that the steps she has taken to become and maintain and active writer in the community is something that others should do for themselves. In addition to what she has already shared, she also suggest the following:
- Read contemporary poetry to see what is out there. It will help you know what kind of writing is being produced. It will also help you find publishers.
- For poetry, change your process and writing style. Challenge or break your habits to get out of your comfort zone. It will help your improve your poems.
Although Gillian is a poet, her suggestions are about getting poetry published can potentially work for other types of writing. As a writer, taking writing seriously and working hard towards goals is important to establish oneself in the community. However, what must be kept in mind is the idea of being an active member in the writing community. This stems back to the idea of being a literary citizen, where it is not only about who you are as a writer, but appreciating and sharing your support for others as well. Writing can seem like an independent field, but staying connected to other writers and readers will help everyone, including you.