Limbo

Many years back–let’s say decades–my friend David Dunn and I briefly became small press chapbook publishers. It was not an easy task at the time, and expensive; but I worked at a type shop and could get the type set for free and a discount on the printing. We dubbed our concern LiMbo bar&grill Books. It was decidedly a labor of love, but we published four chapbooks and two broadsides before packing it in. The name emerged from David’s postcards and letters to me, in which he’d sometimes begin “Greetings from the Limbo Bar & Grill.” We were poets in our early 20s, underemployed during a recession, without any network to universities or well-connected writers. It felt like limbo.

Forty years later, dear David is dead; I have had modest success as a published poet since then–not enough to move me past avocation status–and the entire globe spins in limbo as pandemic, climate crisis, war, and oligarchies combine to keep things as interesting and unsteady as ever they were. It feels like limbo.

Feels like limbo on the publication side, too. Because my poetry collection that was supposed to be in print by 2020 seems to be indefinitely on hold. Covid interfered, the contract never arrived, and I’m beginning to wonder whether my emails are ending up in the publisher’s SPAM filter. It’s not surprising that a small independent press–in most cases underfunded and understaffed–might lose track of, say, a manuscript or two during the hassles of the pandemic protocols and all that has wrought.

Or perhaps the press has decided not to publish my book after all. The oft-rejected writer who lives inside my head supposes that could be the case and mourns, assuming the worst.

Now, I’m in a quandary. I wonder whether to resubmit the manuscript elsewhere. Is that okay to do, since there hasn’t been a written contract? Clearly the book is publishable, since it was accepted in the first place. I have a much newer manuscript I’ve been re-compiling and re-ordering (and revising). Do I focus on that, instead? I don’t quite know how to proceed. Yep: limbo all over again.

~

[LiMbo’s first chapbook, ca 1982; Fra Angelico’s “Christ in Limbo,” ca 1441] https://www.wikiart.org/en/fra-angelico/christ-in-limbo-1442

5 comments on “Limbo

  1. Why not both? Just take one thing at a time, and I feel like both options you’ve listed are not exclusive to each other. Whichever you choose, it’s better than not doing anything at all.

    Sorry to hear about David, but your experience of printing chapbooks, especially during a time when the process wasn’t as friendly as today’s, does sound romantic.

    As a writer who’s in between jobs at the moment, I totally relate on how this limbo feels. And I feel like the only way out is to take action. Any action. Only by taking a few steps are we able to see if we’re headed in the right direction.

    Wishing you all the best, Ann!

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  2. Lou Faber says:

    A writers Bardo is no place to be.

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    • Lou Faber says:

      So consider the “law” of karma. If you intend an action that has no negative consequences (the publisher who seems to have lost interest in or ability to publish you) and great positive consequence ( we get to read your work) no negative karma is created. Then there is that hidden Buddhist principle – no contract means freedom to look elsewhere. The Pali translates to something like “you snooze, you lose.”

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  3. Sorry about the ms. I know it’s been a rough few years for everyone, but it’s terrible not to respond to messages from an author you’ve pledged to publish. Can you get in touch with the press some other way, or mark an email “urgent,” saying you will need to submit the ms elsewhere if they don’t respond to you? If they don’t, I would go ahead and do it, because that press would be frustrating to work with through the publication process, too.

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