In February of 1996, I entered a poem into a Modern Poetry Society contest advertised in The Spokesman-Review. The ad said the winners would receive a cash prize and their poems would be published in a volume of poetry. A month later I received notice that my poem “The Argument” had been selected by a panel of judges for publication in “Heirs to America.” I returned an “author’s release” along with a $23.90 check for one copy of the book.
Naturally, I was very excited that as a young aspiring writer, I was going to have one of my poems published. I couldn’t wait to receive my copy. After the date of publication - late spring 1996 - elapsed, I wrote the Modern Poetry Society inquiring why I hadn’t received my copy yet. Last June, I received a form letter which explained the book was delayed because their editor suffered a heart attack which required several months of recuperation.
Well, guess what? I still don’t have my copy of the poetry book, nor any further explanation, and I still remain short of the $23.90 that I invested. I’m beginning to think this company maybe doesn’t really exist. If the company is real, this certainly is a poor way to conduct business.
Young writers need to be encouraged not dispirited. If this is my first attempt at publication, will the others be the same? Should I stop writing or submitting entries? Are there really contest winners or is it some kind of a ploy to get writers such as myself to enter and submit money? Why would the Modern Poetry Society congratulate me on “this accomplishment” when it appears either everyone or no one is judged worthy of publication? I feel like giving up. I’m discouraged, angry and hurt that maybe I’ve been taken advantage of.
Those of you who are young, aspiring poets, I do not want to become a source of discouragement. Yet I do not want my experience repeated by someone else. As writers we must continue to try to improve our talents, share them with others or even just write for ourselves and the pleasure of it.
Yet, there must be a better way to get published than what I’ve experienced. Perhaps poetry book “publishers” could somehow be checked out, or perhaps newspapers and magazines should be more careful to advertise contests that are truly authentic.
MEMO: “Your turn” is a feature of the Wednesday and Saturday Opinion pages. To submit a “Your turn” column for consideration, contact Rebecca Nappi at 459-5496 or Doug Floyd at 459-5466 or write “Your turn,” The Spokesman-Review, P.O. Box 2160, Spokane 99210-1615.