Tracy Mishkin is a Poetry MFA student with a long list list of publications. “My goal when I entered the MFA program was to write more, write better, and send out my work more often with the hope of publishing a book,” Tracy said.
She’s published 39 poems and has 10 more forthcoming. She’s also published a chapbook, I Almost Didn’t Make It to McDonald’s, in 2014 and is currently sending out manuscripts for another. She is an active member of InterUrban, an inclusive writing group of Indianapolis poets, including many Butler MFA students and alumni. Tracy agreed to share her experience with publishing and writing.
With all the acceptances, there must be some rejections? How do you handle them?
I have sent out 417 poems since August 2014. I have also sent out 73 chapbook and full-length manuscripts. It doesn’t bother me to get a rejection, especially now that I get a decent number of acceptances. Once I started getting some rejections that were not form letters and that encouraged me to submit again, I knew I was headed in the right direction.
Do you have a routine or regular habit for publishing? Do you set aside time for submitting like you do for writing?
I am very organized about my submissions. I check my CRWROPPS email folders regularly, and I track my submissions on a spreadsheet. I try to write and submit on weekends and a couple nights a week. I try to balance between writing, revising, and submitting and not get stuck on one of these activities for too long.
How has the Butler MFA been helpful to your writing?
The poetry faculty have supported me in developing a poetics that pushes beyond the surface and faces challenging themes without detouring into comedy or drowning in the literal. Consider the advice I received from Alessandra Lynch in 2013: “Channel your frustration in other directions. . . . Lift off a bit from the literal situation by stepping outside the room, linking this scene with others in your life or the world or nature.”
Something else the Butler MFA has helped me with: being able to articulate my aesthetic. The poetry faculty encourages us to prepare for thesis writing by asking us to write about our work, to be able to see it from the outside and articulate what it does. The first time Chris Forhan asked me to write about what my work does, I felt terrified and overwhelmed, but I am much more comfortable with that process now.
What advice do you have for hopefuls who have not been published?
Use CRWROPPS (or a similar resource) and don’t give up. I avoid sending more than 3 poems to any one journal, and each poem will only be sent to 3 journals at the same time. That helps me cope with rejections, too. A rejection means that now I can send that poem to 3 more places–and hopefully it has been revised in the interim and is stronger.
Want to read some of Tracy’s poems? Here’s a list of her most recent publications and a link to her chapbook.
- “Daddy Daughter Dance” – Hartskill Review
- “Aubade” – A Quiet Courage
- “Arse Poetica” – Gutzine: A Zine about Bodily Function
- “California Dreaming” and “Memoir“- Postcard Poems and Prose
- “In This Economy, You Take What You Can Get” – Rat’s Ass Review
- “End of the World, Part II” – Little Patuxent Review
- “Judgement Call” – Amygdala
- “Self-Portrait with Pit Bull” – Indiana Humanities National Poetry Month feature for 2015
- “Tired of the Beard,” “Love Poem,” “The Water is Wide,” “She-Wolf Song,” “the gazelle is still alive,” and “Revolution, Kansas” – Melted Wing.
- “Relocation” – Monday Coffee and Other Stories
- “Harmonic Convergence of the Prose Poem” and “Berry Fields Forever” – Flying Island
- “A Bird of Prey Always Has the Last Word” – Best of Flying Island 2014.
- “Becoming Light” – Sling Magazine
- “Good Friday at the Abortion Clinic” was awarded Honorable Mention in Making Waves: The Fourth Annual Abortion Rights Poetry Contest.
- “The Gleaners” – Word Soup
- I Almost Didn’t Make it to McDonald’s