Well, I wasn't a finalist for the Slapering Hol annual chapbook competition. Good experience - both in the paring down of the book to its shortest incarnation yet, and in working with an accomodating contest staff. This is rejection #5 in a little over 2 years, but the guidance I received from Teresa Leo a few weeks ago at the annual Celebration of NJ Journals was not to worry until year 8 - it took her 10 to get The Halo Rule accepted.
Lately I've been wondering if the manuscript I'm shopping around isn't better suited to be a second book. It's not that I'm losing confidence in the poems (though the last couple have contest preps have helped me be a little more brutal about what's "good enough"), but that it's not an unconventional enough theme to be memorable in the harsh and immediate process of a contest screen. My new project is more "quirky", more attention-grabbing in that it's a different kind of presentation on a historical subject many people recognize but few actually understand, and it seems to me therefore more likely to survive the first cut - the one that ends on the first page.
Do first books tend to be more unusual than next books? And what, then, is the point of second book contests? A couple more things to mull while reworking for the September deadlines.
PS: Diane Lockward recently made a series of postings listing journals that read over the summer, for those of you not taking a vacation from the grind.