Dear Sherry: It’s Embarrassing

Dear Sherry,

I wanted to ask your advice. I submitted a short story and poem to a contest, and they want to publish both! What troubles me is the poem. I wrote it many years ago, as it’s very “emo” as was described to me by a friend. I’m wondering if publishing this old fossil poem of depression is going to hurt my efforts for publishing in the future. I submitted it because I thought, based on the works this company publishes, it would have the best shot out of my collection, but now I’m unsure if I want to go through with it, or if this will be an embarrassment for me in the long run. As someone with a lot of experience regarding writing, I wanted to ask your opinion on this.

Emo No More

Photo Credit: FamilienbidungWedel


Dear Emo No More,

Congratulations on submitting and selling both your poem and short story! In any situation, that is something to be celebrated!

Whether you decide to pull your poem or not, it is completely your choice. Here are some things to consider as you make your decision.

Chances are, any future editor or agent you submit to, will not read the poem. They are only interested in the work you are placing before them in that specific submission. In your query letter, you may want to this contest as one of your publication credits. It is the publication credits which they will analyze. Do they know the editor who published that story? Do they know what kind of taste in fiction that editor has? Is that publication well-known or have a good reputation for quality work?

If the contest leans toward publishing all emo stories and poetry, and you now write stories with sparkles and rainbow unicorns, you can always put in your query letter that that poem was experimental or that you have since diversified your portfolio.

What really matters is how you feel. Keep in mind that pretty much every writer is embarrassed by what we wrote early on, or even last year. The publication of this poem may end up being one of those things that becomes so obscure, your legions of fans might never see it if you don’t want them to. Or at every convention you go to, there will be one fan with a copy of it for you to sign, and you’ll have a good laugh over it.

It could also go the other way and this poem is what makes you famous. Would you be willing to write more like it if the demand is there?

If you’re not planning on being a poet, and you might die of humiliation if the poem gets out, then pull it.  Though I will remind you, you did believe in it enough to want to find a home for it.

If it comes down to money and they are paying you for both the story and the poem, you may want to leave it in the contest. If it is a reputable contest, and you want to publish more poetry, take the money and the publication credit.

Whatever you choose, remember that they are publishing your story, so you’re already going to have that publication credit, which is fantastic.

Creatively yours, Sherry

Sherry Peters“Dear Sherry” is an opportunity to ask for advice on writer’s/creativity block, time management, the process of writing, and more. Sherry Peters is a Certified Life Coach who works with writers at all stages of their writing career looking to increase their productivity through pushing past the self-doubt holding them back. Her fiction has won the Writer’s Digest Self-Published e-book award, and been nominated for the Aurora Award, Canada’s top prize for Speculative fiction.

If you could ask a writing coach anything, here is your chance! Send her an e-mail at





  • Ron Edison October 6, 2017 at 1:59 pm

    EMO or not, you can never know how your words will impact a given reader, what phase they may be going through and how relevant it may be. Be happy the publisher feels your poem is worthwhile. I heard an old Neil Young song on the radio the other day, one I know he’d written very early in his career with the Buffalo Springfield. It was full of forced rhymes and rather lame lyrics and I wondered if the present Neil Young was still proud of it. Regardless, it still meant a lot to me, in terms of nostalgia and as a reminder of who I was and where I was in the times I first heard it. So you never know.

  • Lane Robins October 6, 2017 at 6:36 pm

    Also, remember that you might see it as Emo and embarrassing, but the editor saw something in it worth paying for! You might just be hooking in to all the old memories of the time you wrote it in. The editor doesn’t want to publish embarrassing work, so….

    And as Sherry said, if you really think you’ll cringe every time it comes to light, then you can choose to pull it.


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