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Featured Client: Gwendolyn Jensen | Writer’s Relief

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Click on the video above to hear about Gwendolyn’s experience with Writer’s Relief!

Say hello to our latest featured client, Gwendolyn Jensen! When Gwendolyn retired from the presidency of Wilson College in Chambersburg, Pennsylvania, she turned her attention to writing poetry. By taking workshops and reading lots of other poets, she improved her writing technique and poems. And by teaming up with Writer’s Relief, she improved her acceptance rate! Gwendolyn’s poems and translations have appeared in literary journals that include the Beloit Poetry Journal, The Denver Quarterly, Harvard Review, and Salamander.

Read on and watch the video to hear how Writer’s Relief has helped Gwendolyn publish over eighty poems—which led to three published poetry collections!

In Gwendolyn’s Own Words

I knew enough about myself to know that when I retired I would have to have some sort of purpose, and that given my experience, writing might work.

So I asked myself what form of writing I admired the most, and there was just one answer: poetry. But I told myself that was impossible—poetry is very hard, and you can’t just become a poet, particularly not in retirement. But then I asked myself, “Why not?” It is not as if I have to prove anything. I’ve had a career, I have retirement income, so what does it matter if I am no good at this? It is still worth doing.

A poet friend suggested I go to a poetry workshop, so I did. I learned a great deal about writing from the workshop. I also learned that people writing poems are expected to publish them in literary journals, read them at poetry readings, and sooner or later publish poetry books!

I learned that I needed to read the work of other poets—some from this generation, some from my generation, and many from generations long past—and I found I learned a lot from all of them. Reading poems and increasing my knowledge about poetry and poets became a central part of my education as a poet. I came to worry less and less about what others thought I should write and how I should write it and gave myself a free hand. It was wonderful!

An important part of this journey was sending out my work to literary journals, which at first was painful and a lot of trouble. I only knew about a few journals, my poems were mainly rejected, and I assumed that the poems weren’t very good.

So I wrote, and I wrote, and I wrote, and another friend told me how Writer’s Relief was a service that helped poets find journal homes for their work. She told me there were many journals to send to, and that some of them might like what I was doing.

I date the beginning of my writing life from the day I began working with Writer’s Relief. I simply turned over that part of the problem to them. At first I signed up for A La Carte service. Writer’s Relief also helped me with my cover letters. But I still had a lot of grunt work to do, so I moved up to the Full Service level. Of course it cost more, but it was worth it. No more grunt work, except on those happy occasions when a poem was accepted!

I’ve had nearly eighty poems accepted since I began, and almost all of them through Writer’s Relief. These published poems became starting points for my first three books: Birthright, As if toward Beauty, and my most recent, Graceful Ghost. They are all letterpress and all published by Birch Brook Press. I am now working on a fourth book too.

The investment I made and continue to make in myself through Writer’s Relief is very important in my work. I owe Writer’s Relief a great deal.

More About Gwendolyn

Gwendolyn Jensen’s work has also appeared in Sanskrit, Whistling Shade, and Measure. Her first book, Birthright (Birch Brook Press, 2011), is a letterpress edition now in its second printing. Her second book was As if toward Beauty (Birch Brook Press, 2015), and her third book, Graceful Ghost (Birch Brook Press, 2018), was also a letterpress edition. Gwendolyn lives in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

Learn more about Gwendolyn Jensen by visiting her author website.

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