Why are so many authors self-publishing? 

Getting a Publisher for a Poetry Book is Tough

Publishers of poetry books reportedly make very little money, unless the author is an established author or celebrity. Before you submit to them, most publishing companies want at least 30% of the poems in your book to have been individually published, thus establishing your readership and authenticity as a poet worthy of being read. Because it is so hard to get a book of poetry published, unless you are a known poet or a famous personality, many poets are turning to self publishing. In Self-Publishers Flourish as Writers Pay the Tab by Motoko Rich (New York Times, Jan. 27, 2009), while less people are reading books, more people are publishing them via self-publishing. 

Contests are Expensive and Time-consuming

There are chapbook and first book contests that award publication, free copies and/or prize money to winners, but with hundreds of submissions, your chances of winning are slim. Also, there is usually a $15 and up reading fee, and if you enter very many contests the costs will add up to a hefty sum quickly. Maybe this money would be better spent on self-publishing them yourself! Add to this the fact that you often have to wait months to find out if you have won. If the publishing company doesn’t take simultaneous submissions, you have an even smaller chance of getting published plus a longer wait to resubmit.

The Controversy

In  When Anyone Can Be a Published Author  by Laura Miller, senior writer at and contributor to New York Times Book Review, Miller claims there are “crowds lining up to dance on the grave of traditional book publishing.”The response to this article can be found in the Self-Publishing Review opinion piece by Eric Hammel, Why So Much Hostility Toward the Mainstream? and in the comments that follow. Henry Baum asks, “The weird thing is not the hate self-publishers have for the mainstream, but the hate the mainstream has for self-publishers. If they’re already successful, why do they care?” In reply Hammel answers, “Every penny they don’t make from our labor is a penny they can’t use to prop up a rotting structure.” Wanda Shapiro comments, “We don’t all hate the mainstream and we’re not all sitting on a pile of rejection letters. I’m an indie author who is self-published by choice because I’m an intelligent entrepreneur who saw an opportunity in front of me.”

I agree with Ms. Shapiro. No one should be hating anyone, it’s  a matter of choice, or lack of…

Self-Publishing Help 

According to Writers Digest, this is the best article they’ve seen on self-publishing: Self-publishing a Book: 25 Things You Need to Know by David Carnoy. Carnoy uses a combination of BookSurge, a print-on-demand (POD) outfit that Amazon owns and CreateSpace, which is a POD subsidy press or author-services company. For detailed, do-it-yourself instructions, he suggests going to Lulu who is very popular because they don’t require any upfront fees. Carnoy actually used Lulu’s how-to content to format his book for BookSurge. Most self-published books will only sell 100-150 copies and they probably, depending on the cover, won’t look as professional as “real” published books. Another choice is to buy your own ISBN and create your own publishing company. You can still buy your own ISBN and be your own publisher even if you use the subsidy companies like Lulu, BookSurge, CreateSpace, iUniverse, Xlibris, Author House, Outskirts, or whomever listed as your publisher. a single ISBN cost $99 at RJ Communications (at the time he wrote this article). You can also buy them in sets of ten. Self-Publishing: Tips, Tricks & Techniques by James A. Cox, editor of Midwest Book Review, Cox states that “A self-publisher is all of the following: writer, editor, designer/artist, typesetter/compositor, printer, financier/accountant, marketer, shipper/warehouser, legal adviser, financial underwriter, and business manager. “Format lists the parts of the chapbook, such as the table of contents, graphics, bio, etc… Chapter 21 tells How to Make a Chapbook in detail. They recommend Arial 10 pt., but I personally prefer the easier to read 12 pt. Times New Roman font. I’m thinking about making my own chapbook of my family poems, just for my family. I’m also thinking about doing a chapbook of religious/political poems that would have a targeted audience. I read some of these poems at a couple of places and had a great response from the local audience. Self-Publishing Your Poetry Book or Broadside explains the different types of books (chapbooks to broadsides), design software, recommended quantity, types of publishers/printers, and lists self-publishing websites and print on demand companies. Still confused about what a broadside is? Read about it at Pudding House (on the left side menu click on Broadsides: How-to & Why. There is a link on that page to examples that look like pretty poster poems. Wow, I’d like to make some of these!

According to Empty Mirror Books and numerous other places I have read on the internet, you do not need to buy a copyright for your poems before you publish them. I have been told by poetry editors that it is unnecessary, and they will think you are an amateur if you post a copyright notice on individual poems in a submission to them. Your work is protected by U.S. law the moment you write it. Plagiarism is rare. Let’s face it, poems are not worth much in terms of money. It is, however, correct to state on your poetry book, “Copyright 2010 by Your Name.” If you feel like you just have to copyright your poems put them all in one document and title it something like ” [your name’s] Poems Part I.” That way you only pay the $45 once instead of for each poem.


Chris Ethridge Tribute

Chris Ethridge Tribute
photo by Wynne Huddleston

Jacky Jack White hosted a tribute to local legend *Chris Ethridge at the Sucarnochee Review on July 2, 2010 in the historic Temple Theatre, Meridian, MS. Chris’ mother attended and Chris’ brothers, Tommy and Joey, also musicians, performed with their groups. I am so glad that this was done. We didn’t know he would soon be leaving us (for more info, see bottom of this post).

Spooner Oldham, my friend Linda Way, Chris Ethridge

Chris Ethridge (1947- 2012) native of Meridian, Mississippi, is an American country rock bass guitarist. He was a member of the International Submarine Band (ISB) and The Flying Burrito Brothers, and co-wrote several songs with Gram Parsons. Ethridge began playing in local bands in the South before moving to California at the age of 17, having been spotted in Biloxi. He played with Joel Scott Hill before joining Gram Parsons in ISB. He played with Parsons after the end of ISB, and again after Parsons left The Byrds, before cofounding the Burrito Brothers with him. He played bass and piano on The Gilded Palace of Sin, but left before Burrito Deluxe. When Parsons left the Burritos, Ethridge played with him again, touring with Byron Berline, Emmylou Harris, Clarence White, Gene Parsons, Sneaky Pete Kleinow, and Roland White. After Parsons’ death, Ethridge played in 1974 with the Docker Hill Boys, an informal group which included Gene Parsons and Joel Scott Hill. These three refounded the Burritos in 1975 with Sneaky Pete and Gib Guilbeau, recording Flying Again. Ethridge left the Burritos again in February 1976, returning to session work. He has been a session musician throughout his career, recording with many leading country-tinged acts, including Judy Collins, Johnny Winter, Ry Cooder, Leon Russell, Randy Newman, Linda Ronstadt, The Byrds and Jackson Browne. He also toured with Willie Nelson’s band for almost eight years, and later played with the Kudzu Kings. Chris also played the character of ‘Easter” in the 1980 movie “Honeysuckle Rose” starring Willie Nelson, Dyan Cannon, Amy Irving and Slim Pickens. [this info from Jim Myrick of WMOX radio station]

The songs performed at the tribute were those recorded by artists with whom Chris had played/recorded, and some were songs that he had written or co-written–songs like “Good time Charlie’s Got the Blues” and “On the Road Again” (Willie Nelson) which Chris played with Willie live at the Grammys, “Break my mind” (Flying Burrita Brothers) and “In My Hour of Darkness” (Gram Parson).

Spooner Oldamthe surprise guest, a Muscle Shoals musician, played along on keyboard most of the night. He played with Wilson Pickett on ‘Mustang Sally’ and on Percy Sledge’s ‘When a Man Loves a Woman.’  An accomplished organist, he toured with Bob Dylan, Neil Young, and more. He is also a great songwriter with hits like ‘Cry Like a Baby’ by The Box Tops and ‘I’m Your Puppet’ by James and Bobby Purify, and credits for ‘Dark End of the Street,’ originally recorded by James Carr. Inducted into the Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Fame last year, Spooner Oldham sang a song he wrote with just Chris E accmp. on bass along with his keyboard.

Spooner Oldham and me!

Additional Songs which Chris Recorded with Others.

“Christine’s Tune” (AKA “Devil in Disguise”) – Flying Burrito Brothers.
“Faithless Love” – (Linda Ronstadt) Both of these  tunes were performed on the show by Mississippi Chris Sharp and the Jang-A-Lang String Band. Piper Lauderdale sang the lead vocals on “Faithless love” in a beautiful duet with her father, Mississippi Chris.

“Desperado”  – was sung by Al Harris with Spooner Oldham on piano. (Desperado is originally an EAGLES tune, but Linda Ronstadt had a hit on it, with Ethridge on bass on her recording.)   “Angel Flying too Close to the Ground” – Willie Nelson, performed by Al Harris.

“Hot Burrito #1”- Written by Gram Parsons and Chris Ethridge, was performed by Kenny Suire.

The official Show Lineup: 

1.   Jacky Jack White  -Still a Rebel” cowritten by Jacky Jack, Chris Ethridge, and Adam Box. From AL, Jacky Jack has co-written a song, “Another Wave Rollin’ In,” with Perry Sanders, Jr. that will be featured in a movie produced by Earth, Wind, and Fire’s singer/guitarist Sheldon Reynolds slated for a Fall release.)

2.   Sucarnochee Stage Hands–Justin McCoy and Ivory Robinson–performed “Baby I Need Your Lovin'” (Johnny Rivers) with Jacky Jack White

3.   Bo Denton performed “Secret Agent Man” (Johnny Rivers)

4.   Mississippi Chris Sharp and the Jang-A-Lang String Band.

5.   Track 45, 3 young siblings on strings who sang and played 2 patriotic songs, one with an a capella intro and also performed an original song

6.   Scott McQuaig with  Britt Gully and the Water Mocassins (pic in link, Chris’ brother is 2nd from right).

7.   Jody Tartt White, Jacky Jack’s talented wife sang “She” (co-written by Chris E and Gram Parson), recorded by Nora Jones.

8.   Spooner Oldham

9.   Bo Denton (another great local talent, singer, keyboardist & guitarist)

Bo Denton at the Echo

10. J. Burton Fuller

11. Kenny Suire (In addition to “Hot Burrito #1” Kenny also sang “Magnolia” by JJ Cale. Chris Ethridge played with JJ Cale)

12. Sucarnochee Stage Hands

13. Al Harris

14. Spooner Oldham

15. Chris Ethridge, Al Harris, Bo Denton, David Zetler, Jacky Jack and John Elmore joined together to play a round of Willie Nelson Tunes.

Chris playing at the Echo

16. Finale – “Uncloudy Day” was sung by all and led by J. Burton Fuller. Chris was a member of Willie Nelson’s band when Nelson’s cover of this song hit the billboard top ten chart in 1976.

Before the show began, Chris Ethridge was presented with a Peavey 5 string custom bass guitar which had been signed by Hartley Peavey (Meridian native) of Peavey Electronics, along with a brief note of Hartley Peavey’s recognition of Ethridge’s important contributions to American Music. A near-record crowd was in attendance. Many fans of Chris Ethridge and the Flying Burrito Brothers attended the show that had never been to the show before. A couple of the attendees from out of town brought Flying Burrito Brothers vinyl records for Ethridge to autograph. Flying Burrito Brothers formed with former members of the band the Byrds, along with Ethridge and Gram Parsons, and were very infuential and ahead of their time. Their work is still influencing new generations of musicians and performers. (info from Mississippi Chris Sharp)

*I regret to say that Chris Ethridge, a music legend, has passed away. I can’t believe he’s gone, although I only knew him a short time. He was a very talented songwriter and musician, yet he was a quiet, humble man. Prayers to his brothers and sweet mother. He will be missed. Here is his obituary and funeral arrangements.

Flying Burrito Brothers-

The Arts for Preschoolers

In France, 3 year olds attend school all day and take naps in dorm beds. They learn to recite poems, perform songs in concerts, and attend art museums. The focus is not on reading and writing, but in learning who they are and how to get along with each other. Because of the fact that both parents usually work and need child care for long hours, President Obama wants the US to provide free preschool for our preschoolers, also. Currently Headstart provides for low income families. (Source, NPR news).

Having a 3 yr old grandson in daycare, I think this is a great idea, however, I do hope it does not become mandatory! This is wonderful in some respects; I like the emphasis on the arts. Here is a paper that I wrote in graduate school,  “Music and Intelligence in the Early Years.”

Happy Fourth of July! Party in the Yard.

The Fourth of July brings to mind pool parties and cookouts with hotdogs and hamburgers, potato chips, icy cold watermelons, homemade ice cream churned by hand, red checkered tablecloths on picnic tables, and children and dogs running around upsetting the cokes in plastic cups. Our families and friends gather around: pesty flies, croaking frogs, fluttering butterflies, and sweet flowers alike  buzz the latest gossip, monopolize the conversation, argue over politics, or break out in spurts of laughter. Some people drink. Maybe a little beer or wine to break the ice and relax. But some people don’t know when they’ve had enough. If you do drink, please be sure you don’t drive. I say this, not to preach or put a damper on your life, but in the hopes that you will continue to have a life. After a few drinks you may think you are in control, but you aren’t. Make sure the fireworks you see are the beautiful ones bursting into the air to celebrate our country’s birth of freedom, and not the squealing siren of a fire truck or an ambulance rushing  to rescue you or someone else from a wreck you caused, followed by a police/sheriff car putting you in jail. Your freedom would be gone, along with your peace of mind. PLEASE think–don’t drive and drink.

Here is a poem I wrote, Different Roads, that was published in the July 2010 issue of The Shine Journal.  I dedicated it to my beautiful, talented friend Marcia that I met in college. We had so much in common–her hair and skin coloring was close to mine, she was majoring in piano and voice like me, and she had a steady boyfriend.  After we graduated we  stayed in touch by writing letters, (before email, yes) and she visited me a few times. She was the maid of honor at my wedding and sang a song that I wrote for my wedding. Marcia had only been married for one year when her life was taken. She and her husband Ronnie were on their way to church that Saturday to practice a song they were going to sing the next day in church. A drunk driver ran a stop sign, and Marcia was killed instantly.

I also dedicated this poem to two little cousins, a brother and sister in grade school, just beginning their lives.  They were with their parents that fated Sunday, also on their way to church, only a few miles from home.  A young boy had been fishing and drinking and ran into them, instantly killing the children. So many lives are destroyed in instances such as these. The drunk driver goes to prison, if he lives, the families and communities are devastated, and the victims are robbed of their very lives. PLEASE don’t drink and drive. Enjoy the barbeques and pool parties and fireworks!

Stay safe and Be safe! Party hearty, but get a designated driver, keep the party in the yard, or stay where you are.

Read about a story  in the Examiner about a 26 yr. old woman who drove while intoxicated.

Today’s Poetry: Revolution at Hand or More of the Same?

What does the future hold for poetry? Here are some articles bearing concerns about today’s trends and concerns for where poetry is heading.

In his article, Creating a Soulful, Inspirational Poetry for the Future , (Osprey Journal) Don Coorough states that “Poetry has arrived at an historic crossroads.”  With events such as 9-11, the war on terrorists, climate change, the abundance of internet and print journals, along with contemporary poetry’s “commercial irrelevance,” he feels that we are “ripe for a revolution.”

According to MODERNIST POETRY AND THE CONTEMPORARY SCENE, Modernism is where we are now.  Experimentation, individualism, anti-realism and intellectualism are characteristics of Modernism. The themes are a rejection of religion, history and social institutions. lists and describes many Poetic Schools & Movements of this period.

Trends of contemporary poetry were discussed recently at the University of Texas by a panel composed of  Harvey Lee Hix, Brigit Pegeen Kelly and Dean Young  and moderated by Rob Casper, director of the Poetry Society of America. Casper,  a UT professor of writing and poetry and a Pulitzer Prize finalist.  The audience questioned the panel about “the role of poetry in a postmodern society  and the legitimacy of truth claimed in poetry in relation to other types of writing.” Casper believes poets are neglecting the conventions of rhyme and form, and are naive about poetry of the past. While the poet distrusts words, they are all the poet has to use in order to convey beauty and truth in the world. Casper claims that the eternal and metaphysical are uncomfortable elements for the postmodernists. Kelly admitted that she had written poems that she did not believe were true, even though she was trying to write the truth. The biggest part of the panel discussion focused on the question of the point of today’s poetry. Hix, a professor at the University of Wyoming, said that MFA programs are valuable, but may not be helping writers get published. Kelly added that she doubts the vast amount of poetry activity in the world today is found in American MFA programs.

In his book Modern Poetry after Modernism, Longenbach claims that it is wrong to say Post-Modern poetry could not break through with politics, history, or the individual, because these things were already found in Modernism of the first half of the century, but the critics only saw a narrow view of that era. Logenbach proposes a truce to end the battles between formalist  and free-verse poets.

There is an interesting discussion on the Bloomsbury Review, albeit from 2004: What recent trends in American poetry do you find troubling or worrisome? By Ray González . This article posts concerns about the division of formalist and experimental poetry, shallow word play, the shunning of confessional poetry, the poet seen as celebrity, slam as performance, and the troubling phrase “return to verse.”

Please feel free to add articles on the subject and/or to comment on your opinion of the future of poetry.