In Track a Book, we follow one manuscript’s journey from creation to publication. This monthly series will look at Brent Newsom’s upcoming CavanKerry release Love’s Labors, which is scheduled for release in April 2015.
Sorry, We’re Closed:
On Submitting Love’s Labors to CKP
by Brent Newsom
Know your deadline, and don’t miss it. This is a cardinal rule for taxpayers filing their Form 1040, for patients enrolling in health insurance plans, and for writers sending off their manuscripts.
I knew the CavanKerry Press submission deadline in spring 2013. I’d written it on a Post-It note that stayed stuck to my desk for months: March 31. I’d decided to focus my publishing efforts on presses with an open reading period and a clear editorial vision I could connect with. CavanKerry was at the top of that list. They had published books by poets I deeply admire, like Laurie Lamon, Ross Gay, Nin Andrews, and Robert Cording. Their books are beautifully designed, pleasing to the touch and to the eye. And their slogan, “Lives Brought to Life,” gave me a hunch my work might fit CKP’s aesthetic.
So, March 31 was marked on my calendar well in advance. I even knew that March 31 was a Sunday, so I’d actually have to mail my manuscript by March 30. I had the manuscript, titled Love’s Labors, ready in plenty of time. I’d sent earlier versions to first-book contests, and most of the poems I’d worked and reworked for several years. I set about working and reworking my cover letter in similar fashion: it had to summarize the book’s themes and describe my aesthetic approach and show my familiarity with the press and prove I was ready for the “first book” stage of a writing career, without sounding too desperate or pandering or self-important or aloof or showy or . . . Writing a good cover letter, I determined, is at least as hard as writing a good poem. Finally, it was done. I would print the manuscript, go through it one last time on Friday afternoon, and mail that sucker off first thing Saturday morning, postmarked March 30.
Only, when I got to my local post office Saturday morning—and there’s only one in Shawnee, Oklahoma, population 30,000—it was closed. In fact, it’s closed every Saturday. (I’d lived in Shawnee less than a year. I was still learning.) That’s how I wound up racing down Highway 177 with a big yellow envelope on the passenger seat of my car, my heart pounding, and praying that USPS.com was correct when it said that the P.O. in Tecumseh—population 6,500—was open for two precious, merciful hours on Saturday mornings. The whole drive down, though, I pictured the sign in the post office window, with the same message CavanKerry would give if the envelope wasn’t mailed today: “Sorry, We’re Closed.”
But they weren’t. I made it in time. The envelope was weighed and the postage paid. And then I drove home, at a decidedly unhurried pace, and began to wait.