business of poetry

Mark Thalman on The Business and Art of Writing Poetry

Mark Thalman, poet and teacher and author of Catching the Limit, a collection of poetry focused on outdoors, nature, and the Pacific Northwest, spoke to Writers in the Grove this morning about the art of writing and publishing poetry. These are notes from the workshop.

Mark Thalman poet speaks to Writers in the Grove group on June 22 2015 - Photography by Lorelle VanFossen - Forest Grove Senior and Community Center.

Organization for Writers

An essential part of the job of a professional writer and poet is to stay organized. To Mark Thalman, this means organized in your work habits as well as paperwork.

He shared with us details on how he tracks his writing on the computer in digital files, backed up to flash drives and other computers, and saved off-site as well. He recommends naming the files with dates to track revisions and versions. Most operating systems now embrace long file names, and he recommends you be as specific as possible to help you locate the file later.

He saves files to his document folder for his writing but doesn’t create a folder for them until there are three or four files, typically versions of the poem. Then he puts them in a folder with the title of the poem, or words describing the poem until he has a title set. All versions are kept in that folder, dated by their version date. This gives him the opportunity to revisit any of his older versions as he develops the final piece.

While he tends to keep all of his written work in digital form but also goes old school and prints out final published pieces, which he stores in a notebook. The notebook tracks the record of his poetry, each one numbered.

He sends out his work regularly to publishers, generally magazines, anthologies, prize, and contests. He tracks them in a printed chart. The chart lists the poem number, tracked back to the binder with the printed copy, the title or working title, and across the top, the publications to which he submits. Each time he sends a piece out, he writes down the date. When he gets a response, he notes it in the form. He said that he typically has 15 pieces out to editors at any one time.

When working on a book, he prints out copies of the poems and starts to organize them in another binder, considering placement, flow, and categorization, grouping similar pieces together. Thalman explained that this helps him put his work in book form as soon as possible, looking for gaps, and connecting the pieces together by theme. (more…)