In My Big Little Break, we ask authors to talk about the first piece they ever had published, how it felt to finally break through, and what they’ve learned since then. This week, writer Gina Myers, author of the chapbook Philadelphia, shares her answers.
What was the title and genre of your first-ever published piece?
I published a selection, maybe five pieces, from a series of prose poems called “The Lot.”
Who published it? Are they still around?
Can We Have Our Ball Back? published it but they are no longer around.
Give us some context: how old were you? How long had you been writing and submitting? How many times had the piece been rejected? Anything else we're missing.
I was 21 or 22, still an undergraduate in college. I had been writing since high school, and other than magazines at my community college and my university, I had just started submitting work the year before. My poetry professor Joseph Lease was extremely supportive and turned me onto a lot of cool magazines of the day, including CWHOBB, Shampoo, Pom2, Fence, and jubilat, among others. I was lucky in that CWHOBB accepted my selection from “The Lot” on my first time sending the work out.
Did getting that acceptance feel as triumphant as you'd always hoped? Walk us through the moment when you found out.
It was definitely cool. I don’t actually remember much about when I actually heard.
Are you still proud of that piece? Have you re-read it recently?
I never did anything with the manuscript The Lot, but I still own a printed out copy of it. Occasionally I consider revising it into a new chapbook manuscript, but I haven’t yet and don’t know if I ever will.
Now that you've been doing this for a while, collecting plenty of rejections and acceptances along the way, what advice do you wish you could give your younger self?
Honestly, I was pretty chill about the whole process back then. If anything, I wish my younger self could give my current self advice. Perhaps the most valuable experience I have had in the intervening years has been working as an editor for various publications. It really lifts the curtain on what happens behind the scenes at literary magazines, and you learn that you can never take rejections personally. A lot of fantastic work doesn’t make it through to publication for a variety of reasons, frequently concerning nothing to do with the piece itself.
Gina Myers is the author of the chapbook Philadelphia from Barrelhouse Books. She is also the author of A Model Year (2009) and Hold It Down (2013). Her essays and reviews have appeared in Fanzine, Frontier Psychiatrist, Coldfront Magazine, Philadelphia Review of Books, and other places. Originally from Saginaw, Michigan, Myers lives in Philadelphia. Selections from the poem “Philadelphia” appeared in The Brooklyn Rail and Bedfellows.