Saturday, June 7, 2014

Submission Tips for Summer by Guest Blogger Donna Baier Stein

With summer quickly approaching and, hopefully, some leisure time for all of us, this seems a good week to think about submitting poems to journals. I’m delighted to present our guest blogger this week, the publisher of TIFERET Journal, Donna Baier Stein, whose long career in writing, editing and publishing provides the background for some practical and invaluable journal submission tips.

I’ve been fortunate enough to work with Donna at Tiferet since 2006, and here’s a bit about her by way of introduction: Donna Baier Stein's poetry and prose have appeared in Poet Lore, Beloit Poetry Journal, New York Quarterly, Virginia Quarterly Review, Prairie Schooner, Phoebe, Confrontation, and many other journals and anthologies. Her story collection Sympathetic People, a finalist in an earlier Iowa Fiction Awards contest, was published last year by Serving House Books. Awards include a fellowship from Johns Hopkins University Writing Seminars, a scholarship from Bread Loaf Writers Conference, the PEN/New England Discovery Award, honorable mention in the Allen Ginsberg Poetry Awards, four Pushcart nominations, and more. Donna was a founding editor of Bellevue Literary Review and is founder and publisher of TIFERET Journal. You can visit Donna online at

From Donna Baier Stein

As writers, we want to pass muster first with our own internal editor. Then, when the work feels ready for a wider audience, we push our word babies out into the world, hoping to catch the eye, heart, and approval of a publication editor. 

This process doesn’t have to be as daunting as it sometimes feels.

After viewing thousands of manuscripts submitted to Tiferet Journal and Bellevue Literary Review, I can tell you how off-putting sloppy formatting, spelling errors, and slow beginnings are to an editor you want to impress. There are always other manuscripts waiting to be read.

So here are 5 tips to increase your chance of success with an editor:

1. Start strong. As my Missouri aunt used to say, “Don’t hide your light under a bushel.” The longer it takes your writing to hook the editor’s attention, the less likely a positive response.

2. Fine-tune mercilessly. Remove every unnecessary word. Read your poem aloud to hear its internal music. Language is your medium; use it expertly.

3. Spell check. Use standard formatting and type fonts. Fair or not, handwritten submissions begin with one strike against them.

4. Include a short, professional cover note.  List prior publications if you have them but don’t worry if you don’t. The work is judged on its own merit. What is not necessary, and somewhat detrimental, is to write a long treatise about why you have just started writing.

5. Be patient. Editors really are inundated with manuscripts. At Tiferet and most journals, review is a multi-step process, with different levels of readers.

Here at Tiferet, we look for writing that is so truthful it may elicit goose bumps. Writing that resonates emotionally. And specific to our publication, writing that offers a glimpse of the invisible world, that reminds us of all that is sacred in our lives.

Many thanks, Donna!

To order Donna's books via, click here.


For lists of journals that accept submissions during the summer, please be sure to visit Diane Lockward’s excellent blog (Blogalicious):

Summer Journals Q-Z

Prompt Ideas for This Week

(Nope! I didn’t forget …)


1. Write a poem about the end of spring, the beginning of summer, or summertime,

2. Write a poem in which you highlight the tastes (or remembered childhood tastes) of summer (lemonade, Kool Aid, marshmallows, watermelon, BBQ, etc.). You may want to use a sense other than, or along with, taste for this.

3. An alternative prompt is to read Donna’s poem "The Yellow Brick Road" and let it inspire you to write something about an imaginary place or thing and its relative or metaphorical meaning to you.


1. Focus this week on sensory perceptions (sight, sound, touch, taste, smell).

2. Remember that imagery is used to suggest all the objects and qualities of sense perception in a poem—such images may use literal descriptions, allusions, or figures of speech such as similes or metaphors.

3. Keep in mind that the best poems typically contain some element of mystery or understatement. 

Good luck with your submissions!


  1. Wonderful insights -- very helpful! Thank you Donna and Adele.

  2. Thanks Donna and Adele. Very helpful!

  3. ding ding ding ice cream
    heat waves engulfed the sidewalk
    even trees panted

    1. Remember the Good Humor man? Your poem makes me think of those days. Thanks for sharing.

  4. Thanks Donna and Adele. I just read a tempting preview of your new collection. "Their lips tasted like moonbeams" did I quote that right? Wow. What an image. I can't wait for the book!

    1. Thanks, Risa!

      "Their lips taste like moonlight." Yes, from the poem "Once Upon A ..."

      So glad you enjoyed the preview!

  5. To-the-point, practical, and helpful hints for submitting poems to journals. Thank you, Donna.

    Blog readers, Donna's new collection of short stories is really a great read. I also recommend her poetry chapbook.

    1. Thanks, Bob! I'll share your comment with Donna and, yes, you're absolutely right, her books are wonderful!

    2. Ah, Bob, that is so nice of you to mention the chapbook and story collection. Thank you so much!

  6. I've gotten a little behind in my blog watching (end of the school year chores). Just caught up and really enjoyed this. Thanks, Donna Baier Stein.

  7. You are very welcome, Rich. Thank you for posting your comment...