So I found out last week that I was nominated for a Pushcart. When I got the email, I was at home, sort of fumbling around on my way to try and get out the door to try and get some freelance work done at Ye Olde Coffee Shop. (Pay dem bills!)
In came that email, from John C. Mannone, the poetry editor at Abyss & Apex. It’s the kind of email that most of us who write for magazines and small presses are getting a ton of right now. They list their nominees and none of us expect to see our names so we skim and/or delete. For some reason, I actually read this one. Maybe because they’d recently published one of my favorite poems, maybe because a friend of mine had recently garnered a nod, and I thought, hey, I could get lucky, too!
Since I spend a lot of my time at home talking to/swearing at myself, I felt like I should say something. So I said “Wow.” And I sent John thank you note and then proceeded to tell everyone I’ve ever met that I’d been nominated for a Pushcart.
When, over the next day or so, I saw that a few other friends of mine had been nominated, I Googled “Pushcart Nominations” to see if there was some master list. There wasn’t. But I did find this Open Letter to Pushcart Nominated Folks in which writerperson Jon Fox basically tells us all to shut the fuck up about our nominations because putting your nomination in your bio or cover letter makes you sound desperate and kind of dumb and, anyway, it’s not a big deal because HERE’S SOME MATH you silly writers. (He also says that, P.S., yes he’s been nominated, wink wink.)
I got The Rage. For Chrissakes, I had a Pushcart nomination! I was fucking PROUD. And this guy has the fourth Google result for “Pushcart Nominations” and all he has to say, to all of the Pushcart nominees on the planet, is that a Pushcart nod is NBD?
According to the Pushcart Prize site, “The Pushcart Prize was named among the most influential projects in the history of American publishing by Publishers Weekly.” Wow! In my own (however tiny) way, I’m now a part of the project. And, to make it even sweeter, the nominated piece is a poem that I wrote years ago, and which received (probably close to) hundreds of rejections before the team at Abyss & Apex saw it, loved it, printed it, and then took an extra step by saying “this is one of our favorites of the year, let’s see if we can get this author an award.” I can’t be the only nominated writer who can say something like this about her nominated piece. Most of us have piles of rejections and hours of rewriting behind everything that makes it out there.
An editor reads SO MANY poems (stories, essays) every year. Like, jillions. Okay, maybe more like thousands. But, still. It’s overwhelming. To even be published in a magazine is a struggle and a challenge. And, sure, throw some statistics at me, Jon Fox. Tell me that there are XYZ nominees because there are ABC journals. I don’t really care. Because one editor championed my piece and a handful of others from a whole year of submissions, from a whole year of poems that he published. Tell me, how is that not a big deal?
Someone says I’m worthy of a Pushcart. And it’s not my grandmother. (My grandmother probably thinks I’m worthy of a Pulitzer, a National Book Award, and should maybe be Poet Laureate for the next 50 years. That’s her job. She’s my grandmother.) The job of a lit mag editor is not to just hand out Pushcart nominations like Oprah hands out cars. It’s to curate a beautiful magazine. And, at Pushcart time, it’s his or her job to pick his or her favorites, if he or she has favorites, to tell the Pushcart folks about.
There is no way in hell anyone can tell me (or you) that this isn’t a big deal. Maybe, on the master list of nominations, I’m in a pool of thousands of other authors (all of these authors’ nominations are also a big deal!). But, at Abyss & Apex, I’m in a pool of four. Four! And, crap, how rude would it be if I wrote to John and said something like “Thanks, brah, but this doesn’t really mean a whole lot, because, you know, math.”
I don’t know how long I’ll tout “Pushcart-nominated” or “was recently nominated for a Pushcart Prize by Abyss & Apex” in my bio. But, right now, I’m digging it. And I have plenty of accomplishments currently under my belt, and I’m sure there are plenty yet to come. So don’t you dare call me desperate, Jon Fox. Call me proud. Hell, call me arrogant, if you must. I’ve got other stuff to do.
And you! You beautiful, wonderful, Pushcart-nominated writers. You writers with your very first publication, you writers with so many published books that you can’t even remember half of their titles! You, you genius creators, shouting into the void, waiting for someone to say, “Yes, I’m listening, yes, I hear you!” You — when you get that Pushcart nod, brag about it. Put it in your bio, if you want. Put it on your Twitter profile. Put it in your cover letters and your email signatures and your family newsletters. Tattoo it on your boobs. Whatever makes you feel good. It’s a big deal. You earned it. Savor it. And go ahead and shin-kick any naysayers. As the great poet T. Swift said, “Haters gonna hate, hate, hate, hate, hate,” after all.