Posts Tagged ‘submission’

Procrastination Station #141

Friday, March 6th, 2015

Page by Page
(Photo credit)

I question it all. If no one is going to read it, why did I put so much energy into that book? Why did I agonize over the phrasing that takes place on page nine or the metaphor on page ninety-nine? Why did I choose that topic or story and why did I think it would resonate? I even begin to question my passion. What am I doing this for? Why do I spend so much time contributing my thoughts and words for so little monetary return? Am I any good at this?

What Happens When (Virtually) No One Buys Your Book?

Things You’ll Never Hear An English Literature Student Say < — this post contains truth.

Here’s a great poem by Kwame Dawes.

Some of the best science fiction out there has been penned by women.

True fact: here are some examples (though Woman On The Edge Of Time should totes have been on this list).

Scottish Book Trust’s latest Book Talk podcast is a YA special!

A slightly more unusual ‘bookstores you must visit!’ list than the million other usual ones. (I’ve been to two of the eight!)

Parallel Universes run parallel to each other with slight alterations that change fate in time. Whoa. Multiverse is when there are many parallel universes. Usually this has something to do with black holes and time travel. More than likely, Spock is traveling through all of them. When you toss metafiction in here, it’s a little odd to compare it, but kind of important. Metafiction is when a story becomes aware of itself. It’s kind of like parallel universes colliding. Authors often join in on their own stories- literally.

Confused by sci fi? BookRiot can help.

English PEN are recruiting!

Jonathan Franzen continues to be a total prick. In other news, water is wet.

Eric Ries, a lecturer on entrepreneurship and innovation, went on a “pre-book” book tour to drum up interest before his work, “The Lean Startup”, even had a firm name, and started selling it online more than a year in advance of its publication. It worked. The book’s cover is now able to boast “the New York Times bestseller” above the title.

Want to be an author? You also need to be an entrepreneur.

I am currently reading Kathleen JonesThe Whistling Poet, a brilliant biography of Norman Nicholson, who I love. Here’s a great recording of him reading one of his poems, ‘Wall,’ at the Poetry Archive.

How many Edinburgh bookstores have you been to? (I have, of course, visited all of these.)

…and speaking of bookstores, here’s a (hilarious) little insight into the lives of booksellers.

From 2nd to 15th March, the imprint will be open to accept fifty pages, an outline and an author biography from previously unpublished writers of fiction. Short stories will be considered, in addition to novels.

Tinder Press wants your submissions! (Thanks, Heather!)

Here’s a VERY useful and interesting list of open submission calls. You’re welcome.

Also… do you write erasure poems, or want to? Are you not a cishet white dude? This is a submissions call just for you and it looks GREAT.

Have a great weekend!

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Like shiny things? Check out Edinburgh Vintage, a totally unrelated ’sister site’ full of jewels, treasures and trinkets. If you want to get in touch you can follow OneNightStanzas on Twitter, or email claire[at]onenightstanzas.com. I reply as swiftly as I can!

Procrastination Station #140

Friday, February 27th, 2015

makers gonna make, yo
(Photo credit)

A couple of nice things happened to me recently: I found out, quite by accident, that I’d been shortlisted (twice!) for the Charles Causley Poetry Competition… AND I was featured in this exciting little anthology of new Scottish poets!

The spine must not be bent back and broken, the pages must not be marked with dog ears, there must be no underlining, no writing in the margins. Obviously, for those of us brought up on library books and school-owned textbooks (my copy of Browning bore the name of a dozen pupils who had used the text before me), there were simple and sensible reasons supporting this behavior. But the reverence went beyond a proper respect for those who would be reading the pages after you. Even when I bought a book myself, if my parents caught me breaking its spine so that it would lay open on the desk, they were shocked. Writing was sacred. In the beginning was the Word.

As an avid spine-breaker, page-folder, underliner and marginalia-writer, I approve this message.

Five long reads about the lives of great poets.

This is really interesting: an infographic that shows you the number of books written in an author’s lifetime, at what age — and at what age their ‘breakout novel’ happened.

I know I was influenced by my father. He wrote dreadful poetry (The Death of a Crab under a Piece of Damp Seaweed) but he was fantastically good at limericks and chirpy doggerel, and was always making up rhymes about anything and everything. When we put our coats on he would push our arms into the sleeves chanting “Moley moley, down the holey”, and tooth brushing was accompanied by songs. “Yellowy teeth make Grandma frown, so swish your toothbrush up and down.” In a different time my father might have been an actor.

Reading about Vivian French’s dad really reminded me of my dad… which is why I loved this piece about what inspires her!

So hey, you know David Harsent probably won the TS Eliot Prize ’cause his bff was on the judging panel? Turns out his book is also incredibly misogynistic! Yay poetry!

But in much happier news, there is a new anthology coming, which will represent the poetry of visible and invisible disability, and it is going to be absolutely freaking amazing. Submissions are open!

When T.S. Eliot begins “The Wasteland” with a quotation from Petronius in the original Latin and Greek, he is in effect saying, “You must be this educated to read my poem.” Eliot relies on a complex mechanism of traditional imagery and symbolic structures to score his aesthetic points. [...] Collins’ plain-spokenness, on the other hand, welcomes greater numbers as they are, including readers who (by virtue of class, sex, race, or any number of factors) might not have had the opportunity to learn a half-dozen European languages.

Billy Collins: officially awesome.

If you want to feel like the laziest person in the WHOLE WORLD, listen to Kaite Welsh talking about her freelancing career on The Mountain Shores. (No really, it’s very interesting and entertaining!)

UK indie bookstores had a good Christmas! Yay!

Inequality in literary magazines and inequality in pay are both important, and in connected ways. The visibility and status of women’s writing is important precisely because of a web of marginalization across all areas of life. If women’s voices are always peripheral to male voices intoning from the center of culture, then their voices are peripheral on all issues: the pay gap, consent, harassment, rape, domestic violence, reproductive freedom, the glass ceiling, childcare. The obscuring of women’s voices in media platforms, however elite, however niche, is part of the obscuring of their voices in general; and a lack of commitment to, or an inability to hear, their voices in literary culture is related to the same lacks and inabilities in relation to their voices in harassment, in sex, in courtrooms, and in the workplace.

This is a long read, but it should be required reading for basically every literary person. (My opinion? Screw the LRB and the logical fallacy it rode in on.)

Related reading: I am pleased to hear that VIDA has launched a brand new Women of Colour Count.

Fancy a new literary podcast to listen to?

“And, hast thou slain the Jabberwock?
Come to my arms, my beamish boy!
O frabjous day! Callooh! Callay!”
He chortled in his joy,
and then he added,
“it’s actually about ethics in games journalism.”

I know I am too late for Valentine’s Day, but Romantic Poems for Misandrists is basically the best thing on the internet right now.

PETS WHO WANT TO STOP YOU FROM READING IS SUPER SUPER SUPER CUTE

There’s going to be an anthology of post-apocalyptic short stories and it sounds cool and you should totally back it on Kickstarter.

His Muse, if he had one, was a window
Filled with a brick wall, the left hand corner
Of his mind, a hand lined with grease
And sweat: literal things

The great poet Philip Levine died recently: here’s a wonderful poem about him by Dorianne Laux.

The Handmaid’s Tale: best novel ever? Probably.

Christian is not an interesting man. He doesn’t enjoy anything. I have no problem gallivanting about with someone who has issues and demons so long as they have some flavor, but Christian Grey is just bland and damaged. Throughout the movie Christian makes it clear he likes to be in control but he makes this known the same way he might tell you he enjoys pea soup. Ugh.

Here’s the amazing Roxane Gay being right-on (and hilarious) about 50 Shades at The Toast.

If you are an x-Files fan like myself, YOU MUST SEE THIS TUMBLR.

Hello, I would like to live in this house, because OMFG.
(Seriously, someone needs to gif Clementine’s “oh my god, I love this kitchen” moment from Eternal Sunshine, and put it in the comments of this story.)

OMG Joan Didion just got even cooler!

Help save Tchai Ovna — it’s a Glasgow institution!

Edinburgh has been voted the world’s fourth most beautiful city, after the three really obvious ones. Woo!


I love this short film of fat women talking about their everyday lives, and busting some myths. (Featuring the amazing Bethany Rutter! Also, fabulous person with the glasses? I would like to know where you acquired your excellent shirt.)


Need a laugh? This is pretty great…
(even if it is on RHGN, and Russell Howard is a rape-joke-making fool.)


Ten years ago I was obsessed with Red House Painters, and then I kinda forgot they existed. I just rediscovered them and it was a great joy that made me feel 18 again.

Have a great weekend!

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Like shiny things? Check out Edinburgh Vintage, a totally unrelated ’sister site’ full of jewels, treasures and trinkets. If you want to get in touch you can follow OneNightStanzas on Twitter, or email claire[at]onenightstanzas.com. I reply as swiftly as I can!

Procrastination Station #139

Friday, January 16th, 2015

Christmas Eve 2014

I knew when I really got going on the book that there were places in the writing that reflected my potential. That’s as much as you can ask for as a writer, at least initially. It was a long, long journey. But by the time I had completed a draft of the book, I knew I had something. And yet on the day my agent submitted it to editors I had a mild breakdown and thought, What if nobody wants this? And I spent all these years?

If you read nothing else in this post, read How To Write Your First Book. Newsflash: the biggest, best and brightest writers feel or have felt the exact same anxieties you do. It is wonderful.

I just came across this Poet’s Calendar, showing which major journals are open for submissions when. Very handy!

Fancy a fancy writing residency? Here are the big hitters for 2015.

Villains always have the best houses.

^Here’s Lucy Ribchester talking about drinking cocktails with Dracula and writing instead of having sex.

The book market is finally starting to care about female protagonists in novels!

Did you know that Edinburgh City Libraries provide a whole suite of resources to accommodate dyslexic readers?

Life is waiting for you. You might be stuck here for a while, but the world isn’t going anywhere. Hang on in there if you can.

Anyone who has the post-Christmas blues should read (or re-read, or re-re-read) Matt Haig’s Reasons To Stay Alive.

32 books that will actually change your life, and 28 of the best books by women of 2014… aka my 2015 to-read list. Thanks, Buzzfeed!

…oh, and once I am done reading those, I’ll start on The Millions’ massive list of hotly anticipated 2015 fiction!

“If you’re not an author with a slavish fan following, you’re in a lot of trouble.”

In today’s utterly unsurprising news, Amazon continue to be assholes.

OMG SIMONE LIA’S ‘FLUFFY’ GRAPHIC NOVELS ARE COMING BACK!

As far as “cool” book launches go, it’s hard to beat this! (Cool. Geddit? OK.)

“He writes like an in-flight magazine.”

OK, I just discovered The Millions and found Scribbling In The Margins of Dan Brown’s Inferno. Hilarious and true.

Submitting to journals? Use the Jo Bell method. (Trust me, it’s good.)

Tights are the work of the devil (leggings rule OK). However, I am tempted by these poetic ones.

While we’re still fascinated by the young world-changers who can barely grow stubble and the 60-year-olds who realize their ‘true passion’ is to raise alpacas/grow wine/renovate houses in France, the concept of a single dream is beginning to look both difficult and oddly obsolete.

17 genuinely useful pieces of life advice from great people, including Sylvia Plath and Terry Pratchett!

& speaking of life advice: some wise words by Amy Poehler got turned into a really cool webcomic.

Withnail & I is one of my favourite movies ever (partly because Paul McGann is lush). So I was really chuffed when my sister sent me these rare behind the scenes photos from the making of it!

Her hobbies included smoking, wearing trousers, martial arts, motor cars, and swearing. She passed her retirement in Cornwall gambling, drinking, and painting – all the while, of course, giving no fucks.

I’m quite sure you’ve already seen Historical Women Who Gave No Fucks, but just in case you haven’t… click it.

Would you like to see some vintage photos of amazing women with full-body tattoos? Yeah, you would.

A dude on OKCupid (yeah, any sentence that starts with those words spells trouble) attacked a woman for supposedly lying about how fast she could type. So she kicked his ignorant ass.

Losing weight doesn’t make you a more interesting, attractive person. It just makes you thinner. And I don’t buy into thinness as the ultimate goal. Stop indulging weight-loss talk. Assert the fact that you have not bought into the fatphobic and ableist belief that weight loss is the social and ethical holy grail. Tell weight loss to fuck off.

Bethany of Arched Eyebrow being right on as always always.


THIS IS WHERE I WORK, Y’ALL. We do some amazing stuff, if I do say so myself.


This video is absolutely gorgeous, and full of wonderous advice.


The media depiction of women (and men) in 2014 was a bit grim at times. Let’s do better.


& finally, in case you need cheering up after that… just a really pretty song.

Have a great weekend!

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Like shiny things? Check out Edinburgh Vintage, a totally unrelated ’sister site’ full of jewels, treasures and trinkets. If you want to get in touch you can follow OneNightStanzas on Twitter, or email claire[at]onenightstanzas.com. I reply as swiftly as I can!

Procrastination Station #135: Halloween edition

Friday, October 31st, 2014

_MG_2879

What if instead of asking what characters are running toward, we ask what they’re running from? What deep fears motivate our characters? Perhaps this focus on fear and character is even more helpful when looking at the power of the quiet novel, which is more likely to focus on intense, everyday anxieties. A character may not be able to describe what love they wish to move toward, but they are aware of a deep-seeded unease that pushes them away from the status quo.

Go on, inject a little fear into your writing…

I love that this list of ghost stories for babies and toddlers is entitled Hallo-wean. Nice one, Scottish Book Trust.

SBT also have great suggestions for scary books that are safe for 8-11s, and books that are much more frightening than their film counterparts!

I have gone out, a possessed witch,
haunting the black air, braver at night;
dreaming evil, I have done my hitch
over the plain houses, light by light:
lonely thing, twelve-fingered, out of mind.

You basically have to read Anne Sexton on Halloween, those are the rules. & The Poetry Foundation have put together this list of other Halloween poems, too!

Poe’s The Tell-Tale Heartas told via random gifs.

9 DIY feminist Halloween costumes, in case you’re still looking for inspiration! (I love The Notorious RBG!)

They’re easy to please, just feed them some brains,

They’ll sit quietly hour by hour,

Waiting for you to replenish their bowls,

But if you don’t, it’s you they’ll devour.

Bless… Darren Shan wrote a children’s poem! About er… brain-eating zombies.

…and if you want more Halloween-y poems for kids, I recommend tracking down that Josh Seigal fella. He’s got loads, including this one!

These literary jack-o-lanterns are so good, they look Photoshopped. But they aren’t. I know.

There’s more to scary stories than goblins, ghouls, blood and your general horror — here there be monsters of many kinds, existential and literal, extraordinary and everyday. And remember: like beauty, fear is in the bloody eye of the beholder.

Flavorwire have helpfully picked fifty scary short stories that you can read to scare yourself silly this evening.

Quiz: can you judge a scary book by its cover?

What the society’s mission means is that its members are “a community of like-minded people who . . . enjoy the history, culture, & poetry associated with the lives and deaths of poets, their gravesites, and their poetry related to death,” and who are committed to “documenting and resurrecting the dead poets of America” by visiting and archiving as many poets’ graves across the country as they can.

The REAL Dead Poets Society

Not strictly Halloween themed, but here are ten poems about death. Very cheery!

Fancy a Halloween-y desktop wallpaper? You’re welcome.


This is super cute. Thanks to Alice T for sharing!


That’s my [Halloween] jam! Every year.


…well, that and THIS.

Have a great weekend!

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Like shiny things? Check out Edinburgh Vintage, a totally unrelated ’sister site’ full of jewels, treasures and trinkets. If you want to get in touch you can follow OneNightStanzas on Twitter, or email claire[at]onenightstanzas.com. I reply as swiftly as I can!

(Photo credit: Chrisdonia)

Procrastination Station #132

Friday, September 26th, 2014

tea for me

These dismally low numbers provide a reminder that “access” to education is more complicated than simply throwing open the digital doors to whoever wants to sign up. So how can we turn the mere availability of online instruction in STEM into true access for female students?

Are girls under-respresented in STEM classes because they learn differently?

Poetry books to buy in September. (I have poems in both Be The First To Like This and Songs of Other Places, so definitely get those!)

…and Be The First To Like This now has a Twitter!

She will tell you about how, when she was small, she could lose herself in a novel for hours, and now, all she can do is watch the tweets swim by like glittery fish in the river of time-she-will-never-get-back. You will begin to chafe at what sounds like a humblebrag—I was precocious and remain an intellectual at heart or I feel oppressed by my active participation in the cultural conversation—but then you will realize, with an ache of recognition, that you are in the same predicament.

Reading insecurity: it is a thing. (I loved this article!)

Bad Book Cover Redesigns, as skewered by Flavorwire (I’ve always felt a little uncomfortable about those ‘Murakami is Japanese!’ covers).

It’s very interesting to see what a publication like the Metro thinks are ‘ten books you need in your life.’

The more reading moved online, the less students seemed to understand. There were the architects who wrote to her about students who relied so heavily on ready digital information that they were unprepared to address basic problems onsite. There were the neurosurgeons who worried about the “cut-and-paste chart mentality” that their students exhibited, missing crucial details because they failed to delve deeply enough into any one case. And there were, of course, the English teachers who lamented that no one wanted to read Henry James anymore.

Related to reading insecurity: what online reading is doing to us.

Marina Warner (aka The Woman I Would Most Like To Have As An Aunty Except My Actual Aunties Obv) just quit her teaching position at the University of Essex. She pulls no punches in telling us why.

Zadie Smith reckons there are two types of writers.

If the hero is police, then he’ll be the departmental maverick, too honest and decent to engage in office politics yet laser-focused on nailing his perp. Often there’s a murdered relative, almost always female, to juice this crusader’s motivation. His marriage will have fallen apart because he’s too stoic and too devoted to the Job to sustain a real relationship. But he’ll be devoted to his kid and a one-woman romantic at heart, even if hardly anybody ever gets near that heart. He’ll brood a lot and go home alone. He’ll have a temper, but a righteous one. He might drink too much or be too ready with his fists, but that just makes him a bit of antihero…

Rebus, much?! If you’re sick of cookie-cutter crime fiction, the answer is simple: read women.

Indie bookstores are on the rise again… yay!

The 7 stages of falling in love with reading.

Several times a year I am the recipient of emails or phone calls from friends, colleagues, parents, or complete strangers in search of writing guidance. Often the messages begins, “Hello, my name is Barbra. My daughter wants to be a writer. She’s very talented. Jill Matthews said you might be able to . . .” What follows ranges from, “give some advice” to “edit her trilogy.” These types of messages leave me sighing, not because I don’t enjoy cultivating new voices, but because how those people perceive the writing community and the writing vocation is often vastly different from actuality.

Do you get these emails? (I do!) Here’s a toolkit of things to send back in reply.

Press and PR… but for writers.

I LOVED this article about ‘life after the MFA.’ (Applies to other creative writing qualifications, too!) In it, one writer shares her “dream” back-of-the-book biography, then her real one…

One of the biggest mistakes I see in queries is what I call data-dump. This is when a query is too wordy or too long and is trying too hard to describe the world and/or fantasy elements.

Sending out your novel? Writer’s Digest have a great series showing successful query letters from real authors. Here’s one recent example!

This, also from Writer’s Digest, on applying for grants and residencies, is great.

The power of reading someone else’s words… and seeing yourself.

I’ve always been confused by this new found fetishisation of Scotch eggs and pork pies, with so many flash new pubs selling them at the bar.
I mean, I like Scotch eggs as much as the next Englishman, but I can’t help but think this kind of ancient casual bar snack cuisine they’re nodding to never really existed. Pork scratchings, yes, but Scotch eggs? You buy those from Saino’s, not from pubs. To me, pub cuisine will forever be associated with steak flavoured McCoy’s and the occasional reheated beef pie.

I’m not from London and actually don’t know London at all well, but I LOVED The Great London Gentrified Pub Crawl.

Cakes that are books… or books that are cakes? (I want the Hunger Games one!)

Celebrate Banned Books Week: read these books!


I’ve always loved ELO (sorry not sorry) but only discovered this song with the movie and now can’t. stop. listening.


I’ve posted this before but the video is so beautiful and very autumnal.


& I just discovered The Chin Review and haven’t laughed so much in a long time. So silly.

Have a great weekend!

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Like shiny things? Check out Edinburgh Vintage, a totally unrelated ’sister site’ full of jewels, treasures and trinkets. If you want to get in touch you can follow OneNightStanzas on Twitter, or email claire[at]onenightstanzas.com. I reply as swiftly as I can!

(Photo credit)

Seven pieces of writing advice from the speakers of The Business

Monday, May 26th, 2014

The Business writing event at Pleasance Cabaret Bar (1)

Last week, I was extremely flattered to be invited to speak at The Business, an event run by the University of Edinburgh and hosted by their Writer in Residence Jenni Fagan. The event was designed for budding writers who were keen to know more about the ‘business’ side of being a writer. I was asked to speak alongside publishing megastars like Francis Bickmore and Jenny Brown (!!!), and my topic was, essentially “is a Creative Writing PhD right for you?”

I think my talk went OK: the best part about it was definitely making my supervisor, Alan — who was hiding at the back of the room — blush quite a lot as I talked about what a brilliant mentor he’d been. But much better than my barely coherent ramblings were the talks of the other speakers. I hand-picked some useful advice from each of them for your reading pleasure…

The Business writing event at Pleasance Cabaret Bar (4)

1. Jenny Brown of Jenny Brown Associates, literary agent:

“Don’t write to trends.”

I’ve seen Jenny Brown speak on many occasions, and she always manages to make her advice to writers fresh and relevant to what’s going on in the book world at that very moment. However, this piece of advice is always in there and I think it’s something a lot of young novelists (in particular) need to hear. “You can never get on top of a trend,” she says, “because by the time you get your novel out there, you’ll have just missed it.” Instead, she advises, you should concentrate on writing a great novel that you love, and that your agent will love. “I don’t pick books based on genre, or based on whether or not I think they will be commercially successful,” Jenny said. “I mean, those things are factors, but at the end of the day if I love your book, that’s the main thing. All the books I’ve picked to represent, I have loved.”

The Business writing event at Pleasance Cabaret Bar (6)

2. Chris Hamilton-Emery of Salt, publisher:

“We need more narrative non-fiction.”

Did you know that the market for non-fiction is far larger than the market for fiction? “Fiction is declining,” Chris revealed, and he picked up on a point that Jenny had made about her love of nature writing. “Jenny said she was disappointed not to see more nature books. I agree. I wish more young writers would break into non-fiction earlier.” He said that for every fifty novels that landed on his desk, he’d see only one non-fiction work. (He also mentioned poetry’s market share: less than 1% of the entire book market. But then, we knew that, right?)

The Business writing event at Pleasance Cabaret Bar (8)

3. Francis Bickmore of Canongate, publisher:

“The hair shines with brushing.”

Francis gave his own seven rules for writers, all of which were great, but this was by far my favourite. He said it came from a friend of his, another publisher, who’d been listening to one of their writers moaning about how many edits they were needing to do on their novel. “The guy’s response was, ah yes, but the hair shines with brushing. The hair shines with brushing. I think it’s Flaubert or something, and it’s so true.” In other words, edit, edit, polish, edit, polish and then edit some more. Make your writing shine.

The Business writing event at Pleasance Cabaret Bar (9)

4. Stuart Kelly of The Guardian and many other places, critic:

“If you’re not interested in writing a novel that changes what the novel is capable of, get out of the business.”

This was probably my favourite piece of advice from the entire event. It’s something I might nick, except I’d replace the word ‘novel’ with ‘poem.’ What Stuart was saying is that the best novels are the ones that really push the boundaries of the form: one of the audience members gave the example of Jennifer Egan’s Visit from the Goon Squad, which happens to be my favourite novel ever, and really does do what Stuart’s talking about. “It’s not enough to just mention Twitter here and there,” Stuart said. “I’m talking about really experimenting with what this form can do.”

The Business writing event at Pleasance Cabaret Bar (10)

5. Peggy Hughes, of Dundee Book Festival, promoter:

“Perform your work in public.”

Peggy, aka the most-loved person in Scottish arts administration (no joke, she’s awesome) was in attendance to talk about the role of literary festivals in the writing business. She revealed that she routinely attends poetry readings, open mics and other literary events in order to scout for potential talent to book for her festival. “Go and read at these things,” she said. “You never know when someone like me might be sitting in the audience thinking, I should book this person.”

The Business writing event at Pleasance Cabaret Bar (11)

6. Kevin Williamson of Neu! Reekie!, promoter:

“Embrace the improbable.”

Kevin’s talk was mostly about his whirlwind experience at the helm of the Creative Scotland-funded cabaret sensation that is Neu! Reekie! He talked about having his face put on a new whisky brand’s label, meeting Richard Hell and somehow managing to get Primal Scream to play at one of his gigs. But it wasn’t just half an hour of how cool Kevin Williamson’s life is: he also talked about how rewarding community work can be for writers, talking a bit about his experiences teaching the poetry of Robert Burns in Scottish prisons. “All the things that have happened to me have been pretty improbable,” he said. “When Neu! Reekie! started we had no idea where it was going to go. So just embrace it, just go with whatever comes to you.”

The Business writing event at Pleasance Cabaret Bar (12)

7. Jenni Fagan of the University of Edinburgh, writer:

“Pace yourself… and get off Facebook.”

Jenni is in the middle of developing her novel The Panopticon (which is good and you should read it, by the way) into a film script, so she fielded a lot of questions from the audience about that side of things. However, she warned that “98% of all films never get made,” and pushed the importance of focussing on the writing first and foremost. “I got off Facebook because I found that I was looking at things like the best way to peel a banana, and then from that I clicked on to a really cute photo of a koala bear… and then before I knew it I’d spent a whole hour and all I’d done was surf a bunch of crap.” She says writers ought to focus on removing anything from their lives “that takes you away from words,” but she also noted the value of pacing yourself, and knowing that everything does not happen at once. “I have this idea for another novel,” she said, “but I am pretty sure I won’t start writing it for maybe another five or ten years. You just have to let things take their course.”

Incidentally, if you have any questions about Creative Writing PhDs, keep an eye out for a post on the topic in the next little while!

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Like shiny things? Check out Edinburgh Vintage, a totally unrelated ’sister site’ full of jewels, treasures and trinkets. If you want to get in touch you can follow OneNightStanzas on Twitter, or email claire[at]onenightstanzas.com. I reply as swiftly as I can!

Dear poetry newbies: “why is my work always rejected?”

Monday, January 20th, 2014

A version of this post first appeared at One Night Stanzas in November 2008.

1. The standard isn’t high enough.
And by this I just mean that your poems aren’t “fit” for publication yet… but not that they never will be! If you’re sending out first drafts, poems that have only been hastily redrafted or edited, or poems that even you don’t think are all that amazing, then it might well be that you haven’t done quite enough to catch the eye of an editor. It’s easy to write a poem and then be overcome by a fervent desire to get it sent out immediately, but resist! Never send first drafts, and always devote a good chunk of time to redrafting and editing your chosen pieces. If possible, put them away for a while (a week, two weeks…) and then come back to them. And never send anything you’re not sure about. Work on it til you ARE sure about it, or send something else.
(NB: One of the best ways to get your poetry up to publication standard is to read the stuff that poetry magazines actually do publish - and if you can get hold of a copy of the specific magazines you want to submit to, even better!)

2. You’re not following the submission guidelines properly.
Some editors are happy to chuck a submission onto the slush pile for the slightest thing, so it’s always important to read and follow the submission guidelines carefully. Make sure you do everything according to the guidelines wherever you can; it can be a total pain, but it can also make the difference between acceptance and rejection. And don’t assume that one magazine’s guidelines apply to all! Read everyone’s guidelines, and follow them every time!

3. You commit minor - but deadly! - submission crimes.
A lot of poets reckon they can get away with sending the same four poems in the same email round to a whole load of editors at the same time - don’t do it! This suggests to editors that you don’t really care who picks up your poems or whether they’re published simultaneously. You also shouldn’t send “speculative” emails out before sending a submission. It may seem like politeness, but if an editor receives an email saying “check out my website and then maybe I’ll submit later”, they’re going to think a) you’re arrogant and b) you haven’t read their guidelines. Just put your submission together and send it! And don’t send snotty or pushy emails to editors until at least three months (yes, really, I’m afraid!) after the date you sent your submission. If you haven’t had a reply, there’s probably a reason, and going “oi, what are you messing about at?” after only a week or so is not going to make you any friends. Basically, when it comes to submissions, put in the work, follow the rules and be patient - that’s all there is to it!

4. Your cover letter needs a rewrite.
Have a good look at your cover letter (if you have one! If you don’t - write one!) and see if there are any of these common mistakes in it: heaps of biographical information (3 - 4 lines should do it); anything that could be interpreted as dishonest or boastful (”my work has appeared in 300 journals worldwide,” or the like); excessive negativity (”you’ll probably just reject me, but…”) anything that criticises or questions the publication or editor you’re writing to (”I found your website really hard to navigate” — keep it to yourself for now!); and of course, typos, grammatical errors or any unnecessary rambling! Exorcise all these things! It may leave your cover letter very short, but a couple of lines is all you need.

5. You’re submitting to the wrong magazines.
There are a lot of creative writing magazines out there and most of them are open for submissions for at least part of each year… so technically, you can submit to any of them. However, if you’re new to the whole submitting thing (or even if you aren’t!), it can be hard to know which are the best to choose. The sad fact is that a lot of editors are wary of publishing people who have never been published before, but fortunately, there are more and more magazines out there whose mission-statement is to provide as many writers as they can with their first publication opportunity. Many others specify that they welcome “unknown” or “emerging” writers, and you’re probably better off submitting to these if you can. You do get “unknown” writers in, say, Poetry Review, but if you want to give yourself the best chance of being accepted, it’s better to walk before you run, as they say!

6. You’re not ready to publish yet.
Only you can really know whether or not you’re ready to publish, but if you’re trying to get your work out there and the rejections are getting you down in a big way, then maybe you’re not 100% ready for the submission process. This might be hard to accept, but it’s better to wait until you’re better prepared than to make yourself suffer every time one of those pesky rejection letters lands in your mailbox. Give yourself six months, even a year. Spend that time writing - and more importantly, reading! - and then try getting back on the horse. You might find you still feel the same and need more time… if so, no worries. Or you might suddenly find that there’s the odd acceptance letter among those rejections; or that the rejections don’t bother you so much. Either way, the “time off” will have been well spent!

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Like shiny things? Check out Edinburgh Vintage, a totally unrelated ’sister site’ full of jewels, treasures and trinkets. If you want to get in touch you can follow OneNightStanzas on Twitter, or email claire[at]onenightstanzas.com. I reply as swiftly as I can!

(Photo credit)

Dear poetry newbies: writing in the face of adversity.

Monday, September 30th, 2013

Walk away

A previous version of this post first appeared at One Night Stanzas in September 2008.

Here are a few phrases you’ll probably encounter a lot if you decide to tell people that you want to be / are a writer. Perhaps you’ve already heard some of them…

“Don’t be ridiculous. How are you going to support yourself?!”
“I used to say that when I was your age… you’ll see.”
“But writing’s just a hobby, isn’t it? ”
“Great. But what’s your real job?”

Sound familiar? I’ve had responses like these countless times from people who genuinely can’t understand why anyone would want to even try to make their living from writing. I think you can apply them to just about any other creative endeavour, too — try telling people you want to be a painter, fashion designer, musician, sculptor or actor, and you’ll probably hear similar things. This kind of response can be incredibly demoralising, particularly if it comes from a trusted friend, family member or personal hero. Often you’ll hear things like this from people who are older and supposedly wiser than you, which can also leave you questioning yourself. But no matter how often you hear these phrases, please, please don’t allow yourself to be disheartened by them. Many people can’t understand the possibility of an equation like writing + hard work = paying the bills. But that doesn’t make it a scientific impossibility!

Great. But what’s your real job?
OK, so the person who asks this question is probably assuming that your writing doesn’t make you much money, and as a result, you probably have another job which helps keep a roof over your head. This is a reasonable assumption to make - many writers do have a second source of income, either out of financial necessity or because it directly facilitates their writing. This is particularly true of poetry, I’m afraid. Poetry is an integral part of our everyday lives - it’s in the nursery rhymes we sing to our kids, it’s in greetings cards, advertising, and jingles on the radio. But despite this, not many people actually make the conscious effort to read poetry - to buy poetry collections, attend poetry readings or seek out new and exciting poets locally or online. Poetry just doesn’t sell well, which means that it does not generate too much income - and as a result, most poets do “real” jobs throughout their lives. William Carlos Williams worked as a doctor his whole life (he wrote short bursts of poetry in the few spare minutes between appointments), and Philip Larkin kept up his career in librarianship in spite of his rise to poetic fame. Most of the poets I know work in literature-related environments - some are English teachers, some University tutors, some work in bookstores or write copy for medical journals. Lots of poets support themselves by setting up or working for small publishing firms, which not only helps them survive - it helps poetry survive, too. But yes, I’m afraid it’s true - 99% of poets have to work at something other than their writing, which means you will probably have to, too - at least for a while.

Don’t be ridiculous. How are you going to support yourself?!
So you probably are going to have to get a “real” job, and therefore - although this isn’t very nicely worded - it is a fair question. When you’re not frantically scribbling, what are you going to do?
Well, you’re a creative person, and so I’m guessing that the thought of a 9-5 office post or a low-paid table-waiting job probably makes you want to scream. But you can relax, because you do not need to do those jobs! Teaching is a popular one. You don’t necessarily have to do a teaching degree and end up in charge of a class of thirty kids - just think about what you’re good at; what skills do you have that other people might want to learn? You write, so I’m guessing your language skills are pretty good; or perhaps you play flute, or whizz through long division? Pick a skill, work out a step-by-step teaching strategy, and then make bright, bold posters and advertise yourself (“Want to learn French? Get lessons from a native speaker!”). Alternatively, you could look around for private tutoring agencies and firms in your area, and see if they could take you on. That’s how I ended up working as an English tutor and lecturer; that’s how I paid my bills and supported my writing for over five years.
There are other ways, of course, if teaching doesn’t float your boat. Working in a bookstore may just sound like another dull retail job, but give it a try. Chances are, the people who work there are into words in the same way you are - particularly if the store is an independent one. A good poet friend of mine worked for the huge chain bookstore Waterstones, and surprisingly, loved every second. He got to work in the poetry department, and he went through there like a dose of salts, insisting that they order in more books by Charles Bukowski and other hip writers, writing enthusiastic reviews for poetry books to make people buy them, and making suggestions for cool literary events for the store. He also took the time to chat with the customers about the books they were buying, and had a great time meeting loads of like-minded people!
Basically, your “real” job should always be something you don’t totally hate. Creative people can wither in soul-crushing corporate workplaces, so make sure your day-job isn’t affecting your writing in a negative way. If it is: quit. Go work in a cool café, deliver leaflets or posters, become a carer for the elderly (old people are amazing, and good, caring people are always needed), walk your neighbours’ dogs, drive a pizza van. Do something you like, and when you’re not doing it, write. Don’t let anyone else tell you how you should support yourself.

But writing’s just a hobby, isn’t it?
So, you mainly need the “real” job because writing does not tend to generate a regular income - if you go through a bad patch with your writing and have no financial back-up, you could end up with no rent-money at the end of the month. However, writing is not just a hobby - it can make you money, if you know how to work it!
Poetry’s tricky to sell, as we’ve already discovered. However, some magazines do pay for poems. It’s not generally a lot, but it’s something - and the day of your first paid magazine gig is a momentous occasion! You can also get paid for reading your poetry to an audience, so try and get yourself on the bill of a local poetry reading. Many of these events charge a small entry fee, and more often than not, that goes to the poets. If your scruples allow, you can also try touting your poetic wares to greetings card companies or other product manufacturers… obviously you won’t be writing your best or most complex work, but you’ll be writing and making some cash!
Other forms of writing are more lucrative than poetry, thank goodness! You can make cash-per-word writing freelance magazine articles, reviews etc, and there are heaps of websites out there with advice on this kind of thing - just type “freelancing for beginners” into Google (but watch out for scams… don’t part with any cash for online writing courses or the like - you should be able to get all the info you need for free). You can also write for a specific market - as I said earlier, medical writing can generate income, as can travel writing and writing for other specialist areas.
If you’re feeling courageous, you can also send your work off to poetry contests with cash prizes (though with most of these you have to pay an entry fee… make sure it’s worth paying to enter!) or read up on grants and other funding for writers.

I used to say that when I was your age… you’ll see.
Whatever you do, do NOT be discouraged by negative responses from other people! This “you’ll see” response is particularly nasty, because it implies that you’ll fail, or that you’ll regret pursuing your writing at a later stage of your life. Yes, you should be sure that writing is really what you want to do, but chances are if you do decide to follow that path, and if you stay smart and true to yourself, you’ll have no regrets whatsoever. As for the “don’t be ridiculous” comment - writing and creating are not ridiculous exercises. If you ask me, slaving away at a PC or photocopier for eight full hours of your waking day is much more ridiculous than creating something really cool and unique and sending it out into the world for people to enjoy. And if someone asks you what your “real” job is, tell them it’s writing - you just happen to have another job on the side.

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Budding writer? Creative person in need of a fun job? Check out the various resources and services at Bookworm Tutors. Alternatively, check out Edinburgh Vintage, our sister site. If you want to get in touch you can follow OneNightStanzas on Twitter, or email claire[at]onenightstanzas.com. I reply as swiftly as I can!

Call for entries: the One Night Stanzas poetry contest

Monday, July 8th, 2013

Typewriter

Sorry, the poetry contest is now closed! Winners will be notified by 1st December 2013.

DEADLINE FOR ENTRIES: 11.59pm GMT on 1st September 2013

PRIZES
First prize: £100 prize money and a free ten-page poetry critique from Bookworm Tutors (critique optional)
Second prize: £50 prize money and a free ten-page poetry critique from Bookworm Tutors (critique optional)
Two runners up: A contemporary poetry goodie bag, and a free five-page poetry critique from Bookworm Tutors (critique optional)
The two prizewinning poems and the two runner-up poems will also be published at onenightstanzas.com

Promo shot

ABOUT THE JUDGE
Claire Askew is a poet, poetry promoter, editor and creative writing teacher. Her own work has appeared in numerous publications, including Where Rockets Burn Through: Contemporary Science Fiction Poetry from the UK; Fit to Work: Poets Against ATOS; and Lung Jazz: Young British Poets for Oxfam. She has won numerous accolades for her poetry, including the Lewis Edwards Award for Poetry, The Virginia Warbey Poetry Prize, and the International Salt Prize for Poetry. Claire’s debut pamphlet collection, The Mermaid and the Sailors, was published by Red Squirrel Press in 2011 and shortlisted for an Eric Gregory Award. She is also a Literary Death Match Champion.
Claire is the founding editor-in-chief of the now-defunct Edinburgh arts zine, Read This, and has therefore read and selected for publication literally thousands and thousands of great poems. She has also judged many a poetry contest, including the Sentinel Literary Quarterly Poetry Competition (twice!), and the BBC Edinburgh Fringe Festival Poetry Slam. She likes original narratives, striking imagery, verbed nouns, and people who follow the submission guidelines very, very carefully.

ENTRY DETAILS
* Poems will be judged anonymously. Therefore you must send your work as an attachment, not in the email itself.
*Please make sure your name does not appear anywhere in your attached file, as this could lead to your entry being disqualified. (Also make sure there are no other identifying marks on your attached file.)
*Please put all the poems you’re entering into ONE FILE. Do not send multiple attachments as this may cause your email to bounce, or land in a spam folder.
*Please make sure poems are clearly titled, even if their title is “Untitled”!
*If you’re entering multiple poems, please make sure that it is very clear where poems start and end.
*All entries must be made by email, following the instructions above. Entries received by post or other means will not be considered.

ELIGIBILITY
*Each poem must not exceed 40 lines (the title and stanza breaks are not counted as lines. Epigraphs are counted.)
*Entrants must be 16 years of age or over.
*The contest is open to anyone from anywhere in the world. Entries must be in English (this includes dialects of English) or Scots.
*Poems which have been previously published or broadcast (this includes personal blogs) should not be entered.
*Poems which are under consideration for publication or broadcast, or which are currently entered into other contests, should not be entered.
*Poems must be entirely your own work. Sorry, translations will not be considered for this contest.

FEES
*Entry fees: £3 per poem, or £10 for five poems. Each person may enter as many poems as they like, but poems received without entry fees will not be considered.
*Entry fees must be paid via Paypal. Cash, cheques and other forms of payment will not be accepted.

AFTER YOU ENTER
*The deadline for all entries is Sunday 1st September 2013 at 11.59pm GMT. Any entries received after this time will not be considered.
*Poems cannot be edited or changed after entry, so please proofread carefully.
*One Night Stanzas withholds the right to disqualify at any time any entrant who is found to have breached the terms of eligibility given above.
*Winners and runners-up will be notified by email by 1st December 2013.
*Unsuccessful entrants will not be individually notified. If you have not heard from One Night Stanzas by 1st December, you should assume you have been unsuccessful on this occasion.
*The judge’s decision is final, and no correspondence will be entered into.

By entering the contest, the writers of the winning poems grant One Night Stanzas permission to publish them at the onenightstanzas.com website. Full copyright of each poem remains with that poem’s author.

(Photo credit)

Things I Love Thursday #78

Thursday, April 25th, 2013

The other day I had a rant on Twitter, sparked by a couple of poets being kinda big-headed in my @ thread. It was pretty standard poet stuff — look at all the places I’ve been published, etc. No great crime, but I started musing on the political issues underlying the weird-ass publication hierarchy we writerly folks seem to be all too keen to reinforce: a hierarchy that often overlooks — and in some cases, silences — marginalised voices while over-valuing privileged ones.

This rant lost me a handful of followers, gained me a few more, and sparked a bit of discussion. Several folks were interested in seeing an in-depth blogpost here with more of my thoughts about the issue. I headed out to the Forest Cafe with the rant still rattling around in my head, and half a blogpost sketched out in garbled scrawls in my notebook.

I never wrote the blogpost, though. That evening while I was out on my travels, I found out that a person I know well and greatly admire has recently become homeless. Not only did this happen to this person through no fault of their own — they’ve been told they could remain homeless for up to a year while they’re “processed” by the system.

Over the course of the evening, I learned a whole load about the realities of being homeless. I learned a bit about what homeless shelters are really like; a bit about the financial support (or lack, thereof) that’s provided to people who unexpectedly find themselves with nowhere to live. I started thinking about all the things I just do without thinking about it — cooking, laundry, taking a shower whenever I want. By the end of it, a bunch of snotty poets and their pathetic literary pissing-contests seemed pretty irrelevant.

I still think dodgy stuff goes on in the literary world. I still think writers who brag about their publishing credits are… well, kind of missing the point of writing, really. But I’ve realised that me ranting about it here will do very little to stop any of it from happening. So instead, I’m writing a Things I Love Thursday, below, about the simple stuff. ’cause that’s a much better use of my time.

Today I am grateful for all the small things I have.
I am grateful for my home.
I have somewhere I can go and be safe — I don’t have to leave by a certain time or stay out til a certain time, and I don’t have to share it with anyone. I never have to worry that there won’t be space for me some nights, or that I’ll be kicked out. I have a bed that’s mine and I know no one else has slept in it without me knowing. I have all my things around me. I am grateful for that.

Today I am grateful for my friends.
I am grateful for my friends and loved ones.
I have a loving partner who respects me, communicates with me clearly, and takes care of me. I have the best sister and the best parents in the whole world. I have smart, eccentric, caring friends who look out for me, make me cups of tea, recommend books to me, and make me origami animals (thanks, C!). None of the people I love want to hurt or exploit me. I am grateful for that.

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I am grateful for my safety.
I live in a city that is (largely) safe for me to move around in. If something happens to me, I know where I can go to get help, in pretty much any situation. I am free to come and go as I please. I am free to study for a PhD, do a job, volunteer with a women’s organisation, go to poetry readings, meet other people, and spend money I earned myself. I am grateful for that.

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I am grateful for my education.
I can read and write. I am a native English speaker, which means I can communicate my needs successfully pretty much anywhere in the world. I can express myself to my satisfaction. I can write a blog. When I’m annoyed about something, I can rant about it, or make a complaint. I can make my voice heard. I am grateful for that.

Apart from getting your poetry in some big journal (’cause dude, no one’s impressed)… what are you grateful for this week?

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You can also visit Read This Press for more poetry (and typewriter paraphernalia!). Alternatively, check out Edinburgh Vintage, our sister site. If you want to get in touch you can follow OneNightStanzas on Twitter, or email claire[at]onenightstanzas.com. I reply as swiftly as I can!