My system for keeping tracks of poetry submissions is a spreadsheet-free zone. It involves paper, pen and coloured pencils. It isn’t for everyone but it works for me and I thought I’d share it with you.
First, I keep track of all of my submissions in a little book. It was a freebie from a Poetry School stand at Aldeburgh Festival in 2015. Inside the book, for each submission, I write the date, the name of each poem I’m including, the name of the magazine/anthology/publisher/competition I’m submitting to, and the approximate date I should hear back (most places give an estimate of how long this will take). Once I’ve heard back, I colour the poems either green (if accepted) or red (if declined). In this way, all of my poems, and their outcomes, are collected together in one paper document.
Because I’m working towards a collection of poems, that is, I hope in time to publish many of my current poems together in a book or pamphlet, I’ve recently added another feature to my submissions system – a single sheet of paper divided into boxes. In each box I write the name of poem I’m working on, even if it’s not quite finished. Poem titles might not be finished, either, and are certainly not yet set in stone. Once the poems are more or less finished, I shade the box blue. If I receive an acceptance, I shade the box green. In this way, I can see on one page all of my current poems and how they might sit together as a collection. I keep this sheet of paper on the wall behind my desk.
There are some poems in my little book, even ones written several years ago now, that have not seen the light of day in any magazine or book or competition. Perhaps they never will. But, of course, they are still available to me for general plundering – a line or two, or a title – you never know when a poem will complete itself.
Now that I’ve shared my system, I realise how messy it looks. I can’t apologise, it’s a system that works for me. How about you? Are you a spreadsheet person or do you, like me, prefer pen, paper and shading in colours? Or perhaps you have an even messier or even more organised system. Do spill the beans – but be careful not to spill any over your poems.