Monday, March 16, 2015

Tackling Po-Biz One Day at a Time

by Kim Roberts

Like most writers, I am plagued by a constant, nagging sense that I should be doing more of the administrative tasks needed to advance my career.

Recently, I was having coffee with Leslie and said something to her about the problem of  “doing Po-Biz.” I asked her, “You fiction writers don’t call it that—what do you call it?”

She looked up brightly and answered, “Crap.”

Which sums up how most of us feel, I’d guess—we know we need to do it, but it’s a chore. What do I mean by Po-Biz? It’s the part that feels most like work: applying for grants, fellowships, awards; sending out finished poems to journals, anthologies, competitions, presses; setting up readings; finding reviewers for our books.  It’s a big black hole: you can never do enough.

In the past, I’ve handled Po-Biz randomly, working up a head of steam and then sending out queries or applications in spurts—with long fallow periods between times when I tried to build up the energy to focus on administrative matters once again. This past January, I made a resolution to try a new tactic.

For the entire month, I did one piece of Po-Biz per day. I never did more than one thing, so it was never overly burdensome, and even small things counted. So one day I might merely send an email to a person who organizes a reading series, and the next day I might take on the larger task of sending a new book manuscript to a competition or applying for a residency at an artists’ colony. By the end of the month, I’d done an extraordinary 31 things.

Will this tactic bring me more professional opportunities? Hard to say. I may just get more rejections than usual. But I believe in putting my work out into the world. I can’t get opportunities if I don’t apply for them—and the more things I apply for, the more (statistically) for which I will be in the running.

And I found, surprisingly, that it was not too difficult to devote a month to the discipline of “doing Po-Biz.” I certainly felt virtuous every day. I’m thinking of picking another month and doing it again.


Kim Roberts’s fourth book of poems will be released by Poetry Mutual this April. Fortune’s Favor: Scott in the Antarctic is a connected series of blank verse sonnets based on explorer Robert Falcon Scott’s journal about his race to the South Pole in 1911 – 1912. More information about the book, including a short video, can be found on her website:


DC-area author Leslie Pietrzyk explores the creative process and all things literary.