Medical journals – submission of a different kind

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May 25, 2011 by Tracey S. Rosenberg

As I’ve been writing a lot of medical-related poetry, it makes sense that I should be trying to publish in medical-related journals. Got two into The Yale Journal for Humanities in Medicine but I was also aiming for the scientific journals, the ones which publish articles with titles like ‘Low-Dose vs Standard-Dose Unfractionated Heparin for Percutaneous Coronary Intervention in Acute Coronary Syndromes Treated With Fondaparinux: The FUTURA/OASIS-8 Randomized Trial.’

Because many of those journals accept poetry as well, you see.

And so, after my poem ‘Gardens’ – a sonnet which is one of the best things I’ve ever written – was rejected from competitions and literary journals alike, I thought, let’s send it to a medical journal. But not just any one. JAMA, arguably the most respected and widely-read medical journal in the country. I’d already had rejections from there, but my general theory is that you start at the top and work your way down, by which point you have written more stuff that is hopefully even better and then you send THOSE to the top of the list….

But in this case, there was no down, because JAMA accepted ‘Gardens’ (which you probably already guessed), and it will be published in their August 24/31 double issue. I’m thrilled.

What I love about submitting to such journals is that it’s a completely different ballgame. I mean, back in the old days when dinosaurs ruled the earth I used my mom’s IBM Selectric and CARBON PAPER, it was all in envelopes with SASEs, and now it’s a combination of snail mail/e-mail with attachments/online submission forms, but it’s still generally cover letter with brief bio and list of previous credits, 3-6 poems, and don’t hold your breath for a quick decision because the editors are all working real jobs to pay the rent and there’s no funding for this journal anyway so you consider yourself very lucky to receive a contributor’s copy. And how about you subscribe to the journal, or at least buy a copy to support it? (I know, I know.)

Well, with medical journals (or at least the ones I’ve submitted to), these are actual research journals, and thus the submission guidelines include topics such as Ethical Approval of Studies and Informed Consent and Gene Names, Symbols, and Accession Numbers. Submission is through an online system, but it’s one wherein I had to verify the final version of my submission in a produced-on-the-spot PDF file that automatically places line numbers down the side of the page.

In order to move from a provisional acceptance to a proper one, I had to sign and fax back a form that required signatures in five different places, to solemnly swear that I have no conflicts of interest (or that I disclosed them in the Acknowledgements), that I ‘participated sufficiently in the work to take public responsibility for it’ and that all funding and material support for this research are identified in the manuscript.

Clinical Trial Registration? For poetry, this is surreal.

But it’s also kind of fun, and given that my title is actually Dr. I don’t feel entirely like a fifth-grader sneaking in to the post-doc lounge.

Moreover, you get to see the stages your manuscript went through, and there’s a copy of the decision letter on the system, and your manuscript has a cool identifying number. And while I don’t know what the averages are for these things, both my rejection and my acceptance were done within a couple of weeks.

So I’m grateful to JAMA, and look forward to seeing the issue, though the similarities to poetry journals remain in that there isn’t any money involved (and I must ask about a contributor’s copy, though at least I can view it online). And I’m thrilled that this poem, which was rapidly becoming my bridesmaid piece, is going to be seen by more people than all of my other poems, combined, ever. (Circulation is around 300,000, so even if only a fraction of the readers head to the Poetry and Medicine column, that’s enough.)


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Photo credit: Rahima Subhan

Tiny bio

I live, work, and write in Edinburgh. I travel to other places as much as I can. To contact me, email writingmostly at gmail dot com.


CURRENTLY READING: The Ginseng Hunter by Jeff Talarigo.

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