AROHO asked past To the Lighthouse Winners Julie Marie Wade, Leia Penina Wilson, and Carolyn Guinzio, and Clarissa Dalloway winner Anna Maria Hong, about what winning the TTL and CD Book Prizes has meant to their lives and careers, and about what it took to get there.
And now we’re asking you…
Have you stopped too soon?
JMW: I submitted SIX well over a hundred times to various poetry book contests, and in its eight years of circulation, the book was a finalist 36 times. … You must be relentless. You must not be dissuaded or discouraged. When you have written and revised each piece of work or compilation to its fullest potential, it’s time to send it out into the world and keep sending it out into the world for as long as it takes. This can be years. Don’t give up. If you give up and take yourself out of the game all together, you’ll never have a chance to win. And sometimes, as was my experience with AROHO, you get close, but you don’t hit the bull’s eye right away. All the more reason to submit again and again. Pay attention to those loving rejections, those almost-not-quites, and use them as a guide. Consider everything a possibility, but watch for the clues that suggest what might be especially probable. A past commendation or invitation to submit again should never be overlooked. (Julie Marie Wade’s Full Interview)
Do you believe in the “thingness” of your work?
LPW: There’s something real and true about holding something. I saw a jackrabbit for the first time last fall and I went towards it to hold because it was the strangest creature and I wanted to affirm its adorable reality—that’s what holding the book was like. The book was a little ephemeral before that for me—having it in my hands for the first time made it more than an idea. To hold my book as an artifact of everybody’s effort and support (AROHO, Red Hen, my friends who put up with reading those poems in or listening at readings or sitting around drinking and playing games, Professors that were generous enough to set me back on course when I needed that poetic compass, my family for their support when I told them I was going to school for words, to maybe be that thing called author (such an imaginary bird!)) was a moment I will not soon forget. (Leia Penina Wilson’s Full Interview)
Are you smart about submitting? (Brave…but smart?)
CG: Submit your work, women writers! To the Orlando Prize, to the To The Lighthouse Prize— to everything for which it is appropriate. That is a caveat, especially since contest fees add up quickly. Know the work of the judge, and make some calculated choices based on aesthetics. … Through winning the prize, I’ve connected with so many writers. Further, it gave me the confidence to go in a different direction with my next project. My fourth book, Spine, will be out in Fall, 2015, and because of my positive experience with AROHO, I felt braver in taking risks with my work. (Carolyn Guinzio’s Full Interview)
AMH: Send widely but selectively, if that makes sense. Read the venues other authors to see if your work is a good fit, then send your work to the places you like best….Winning the Clarissa Dalloway Book Prize has been a tremendous boost personally and professionally. It’s amazing to receive this recognition for H&G, which is probably my strangest, rawest writing to date. (Anna Maria Hong’s Full Interview)
Don’t stop too soon. Don’t see rejection as the end. Envision the thing. Submit smart. Submit relentlessly.