Poets of SMITTEN Series: Rachael Ikins

Rachael Ikins is a 2016/18 Pushcart, 2013/18 CNY Book Award, 2018 Independent Book Award winner, prize winning author/artist of nine books. Syracuse University grad, member CNY branch NLAPW, and Associate Editor of Clare Songbirds Publishing House, Auburn, NY. Her new memoir Eating the Sun: a love story narrative punctuated by poetry and garden recipes available 4/2019 at https://www.claresongbirdspub.com/shop/featured-authors/rachael-ikins/

Poetry has been my savior and my way of communicating my feelings to myself and others and how I process the world since forever. It has saved me several times. I have also found I can say things with poetry that I can’t just using regular language.

I remember long ago being intrigued by Marge Piercy’s bi poetry. She is a hero of mine and not, in the end, bi, but I was lucky enough to workshop with her. I really like poet Audra Lourde. The more I look for LGBTQ markets to submit to, there are many. More than used to be.

Woman Motivational Quote Facebook Post(4).pngLove is unique, if it is written well, and for me, erotica is part of what adds to the stereotypes in our community.

I made myself write a graphic lesbian short story (which became a novel in process) that I workshopped in Ireland. I thought writing erotica was so hard and then when I did submit it to a journal, the editor who accepted it said, “This is one of the most beautiful, most tender love stories I have ever read.” Just goes to show.

My publishing company began with two women friends who met when one was the other’s student. With one having graphic design skills and the other being a professor of creative writing, a poet herself with several close brushes with being picked up by a literary agent that fell through both times, they felt they had the foundation to create a publishing company for emerging and under- represented authors as well as established poets.

In my own writing journey, I have had several close brushes myself with being picked up by literary agencies and then, in spite of having won a bunch of prizes and having had, at the time, an open mic I founded and moderated and a book published, bad experiences with 3 male-owned small/midlevel publishing companies. Whether gender had a lot to do with it, I can’t say. My best experiences have been with women owned companies.

So by the time Clare Songbirds Publishing House posted their first call for submissions on FaceBook, I had given up more or less. I know people like my work but succeeding as a poet is so hard I decided to write only for myself. I wasn’t going to pay someone $1800-2000 to publish a book of mine that I knew was of quality to go mainstream publishing. That is ripping off somebody who wants to be a writer.

Enter: a 2017 summer morning, I was on FaceBook and saw the call for submissions. Thankfully I sent them a sloppy manuscript. (Don’t send sloppy manuscripts.) Luckily, it turned out Heidi (editor in chief) and I shared an English teacher with whom we are both still friends, and Heidi had followed my career as it were, for years. Before you know it, “Just Two Girls” my non-binary collection of poetry was accepted and had won an award.

Word spread via social media and life happens and between the two phenomena, Clare Songbirds was soon so busy an associate editor was needed to read manuscripts, write reviews and cover blurbs. They asked me.

Because there is such need, we receive works from around the world. I was chosen this summer to be chief editor of the anthology “The Brave.” A first for me and a joy.

This invited military and families to submit and the proceeds from the book benefit the Semper K9 program that rescues and trains dogs and pairs them with veterans in need. This marries two of my passions, veterans and rescue. Book launch is Veterans Day.

I have always believed that it is important to do good with one’s talent/work. When we published “For Kate” I made sure some proceeds went to several local-to-me animal rescue programs.

As a poet, as a publisher, you have an opportunity to stand up for your beliefs. Since the road to poetry success is so challenging, I also believe when you start “getting there” help newbies coming up when and if the chance arises. Paying it forward.

Working with submissions is really interesting. I have made some wonderful connections. Telling someone you have accepted their work is the best, but so is writing a thoughtful rejection that gets a “thanks for the encouragement” back.

My writing is feminist. I don’t know if it is because I am LGBTQ or not, but I have always been about empowerment,  and the women I work with are as well. I was really excited that Clare Songbirds published our first transgender author  last year whose book is about that transition.

I have grown as a poet because I read so many new poets. Work can be harrying at times, overwhelming, exciting, inspiring, exhausting but as always, at the end of the day there is a huge satisfaction to have 65 new books flying in the literary world in our first 2 years.

We decided to take on children’s books. We are now doing short story and flash. My “Eating the Sun” which Laura (Operations Director) honed into the effective flowing story the book is, is memoir.

I have also written a helpful do’s and don’ts “handbook” that I have given Skype talks with, on how the new author should navigate the relationship with the publisher.

Courtesy matters. Reading the submission guidelines, essential. Reading your contract before you sign it, essential. The process takes time, hence patience and perseverance, requirements.

Publishing is a business run by people who need to buy food and pay for utilities, too.  So the author needs to familiarize themselves with how to market their work. Publishers publish. Only the really big guys market authors. There are many misconceptions in new authors and I hope some of that can be clarified.

This is no “get rich quick” profession. It is a long haul, long hours, break even thing.

I think becoming involved in publishing as a gay woman has made me braver. Launching myself with “Just Two Girls” was a declaration of who I am. Years ago through Foothills Publishing I released a chapbook about my then-wife, “Renovations.” I was interviewed on several blogs and by a CNY LGBTQ magazine, Diversity Rules.

I have become more confident and am picking up more work, submitting more, suffering over rejections less. Part of this is my age, too. Hopefully as we get older we learn more about what matters and we care less about stuff that doesn’t.

SMITTEN is coming out late October, 2019 via all good book stores. Published by Indie Blu(e) www.indieblu.net

Please consider supporting this project of over 120+ talented poets and authors by purchasing a copy of SMITTEN for someone who appreciates beautiful poetry. https://www.facebook.com/SMITTENwomen/

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