Posts Tagged ‘submitting’

Procrastination Station #133

Friday, October 10th, 2014

Subtle graffiti

For the average book, you figure $7 will go to overhead, and that leaves the last $1.50 as profit. For the average book, the expected contribution to overhead could be $50,000 to $150,000. That’s why most editors have a minimum number of copies they have to aim for with any book. (At some imprints, that’s 10,000 copies. At others, it’s 25,000 or even 50,000.) Random House can’t sign up a thousand $3,500-advance novels because each of those books has to carry the weight of all that overhead.

An excellent answer to the question, “why did Random House pay $3.5m for Lena Dunham’s stupid memoir instead of paying 1,000 novelists £3,500 each?”

Cool signs outside independent bookstores.

Struggling to find time to read? Read this.

Chris Abani once said in a workshop that readers will always wonder if your characters are you–even if your main character is a Chihuahua. There’s not much to do about this wondering except write the characters you want to write with complexity and empathy.

Your characters are all you. Here’s how to make it less obvious.

Reading makes you happier: fact.

What’s the difference between riches, wealth and success? Might be interesting to penniless writers!

Part of the reason it took Fitzgerald so long to finish Tender is the Night was Zelda’s worsening condition. But you’d think that his haphazard, alcohol-fueled creative process wasn’t doing him any favors, either.
Yet recent research has shown that messy, dark, noisy, booze-filled environments like the one Fitzgerald cultivated at La Paix can, in fact, help stimulate creativity.

Good news, writers! Writing in the pub is a good idea!

I really like Kanye West (or aspects of him… please read this before coming to kill me), so I really liked this.

I’m a sucker for literary tattoos.

You should probably spend a lot of your twenties doing art from the time you wake up to the time you go to sleep, and turning down a lot of unnecessary commitments in service of that. First, because that’s what you need to do to be good enough so that when you have inspiration, your inspiration will lead to something; and second, because it’s almost fucking impossible to make a living drawing pictures, writing words, or playing music. Just the fact that we think we can do these things for a living is an intense act of hope and arrogance. If you want to be able to do that, if you decide to stake your claim on that path, then oh, my God you have to do such hard work! If you’re the sort of person who fucking whines about being motivated, like some of the art students I lecture, then just fucking stop. I’m not interested in speaking to anyone who wonders how to motivate themselves. If you need to talk about how to get motivated, then go get a normal job in the normal scheme of the world and just do art as a hobby so you still love it. Stop clogging up the field for the people who need this like a drug.

Molly Crabapple is great.

Here are 16 photos of Margaret Atwood looking like a badass and saying super smart things. You’re welcome.

My reading speed is 236 words per minute! Find out yours.

I don’t think writing the truth makes you strong by default. I think it makes you vulnerable, which in turn can make you strong. It’s a naked feeling, both writing about yourself and writing about those you once loved, still love, and some you never loved at all. And though we may highly value the opinions of our loved ones, that doesn’t always mean we must ask their permission to write our stories in full.

If, like me, you steal details from real people’s lives for your writing, you should read this.

Hey, authors? Don’t be this desperate.

I genuinely enjoyed this: 50 Facts about Sex and the City you probably didn’t know.

Today, in politically correct 21st-century Britain, you might think things would have changed but somehow the Great White Male has thrived and continues to colonise the high-status, high-earning, high-power roles (93 per cent of executive directors in the UK are white men; 77 per cent of parliament is male). The Great White Male’s combination of good education, manners, charm, confidence and sexual attractiveness (or “money”, as I like to call it) means he has a strong grip on the keys to power.

Grayson Perry is a bloody legend.


Why we need poetry. (More literary TED talks here!)


HOLY SHIT Danny MacAskill!!!

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)

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)

Procrastination Station #131

Friday, September 12th, 2014

Untitled

The not-for-profit Little Free Library Project (LFLP) is installing small, house-shaped wooden boxes outside the homes or businesses of volunteers who stock them with books. Local people can then help themselves to the titles, or donate their own volumes.

I have a front garden, LFLP! Pick me!

Haruki Murakami. Cool dude.

You know when writers say, “after a while I stop seeing typos”? Well, here’s the science behind it.

When I read fashion magazines, I pretend I am an alien trying to understand this planet. It’s delightful.

Roxane Gay live-tweets a fashion magazine. Every bit as great as it sounds.

What did Jane Austen use to edit her manuscripts? Dress pins. For real.

I was ready to hate the guy who wrote Stop Using Poet Voice, but the examples he cites? They really do need to stop.

ICYMI: Neil Gaiman on live storytelling.

This onslaught buries mainstream titles as well, which is something that should give the big five publishers pause. With so much choice, why would we pay $14.99 for a mainstream Kindle edition when we can experiment with a few 99 cent (or free) books.

A new title goes live on Amazon every. five. minutes. Terrifying stuff.

Do people automatically hear “woman writer” and think “emotional”?

Tips on submitting to journals, from Ploughshares. (I agree. I so wish I’d kept rejection letters over the years.)

YA literature — especially YA literature — should be the opposite of superficial, because that’s what young people need, and many times what they look for in books. It’s why they don’t spend that time watching reality television instead. And hey, I’d love to see a teenager with a poster of a writer on their wall. But it’d be wonderful if that writer were Edith Wharton.

I’m not sure how I feel about this Flavorwire piece, not least because it carries on La Franzen’s gross sexism towards Edith Wharton for lulz. I think I prefer the Bookriot piece that inspired it. (“I dunno what the hell the book was about BUT DAT ASS THO.”)

airBNB allows you to sleep in the homes of literary legends.

Why storytelling is a useful skill in every aspect of life.

Ripperologists, and the media attention they attract, reinforce the crude taxonomy of “good” and “bad” women that runs like a thread through the murders themselves and their contemporary press reception.

Blah blah blah Jack the Ripper. What about the women he killed?

John Waters’ idea of richness is basically the same as my own.

Do you know what your Actual Priority is? (I totally approve this message. I feel like in the last year I have both found and embraced my Actual Priority and it really has made everything better.)

They taste like misery and waste. I hate them until, a month or so into the diet, I suddenly love them. I need to eat them all the time. I’m supposed to be allowed one a day, but I burn through two boxes in a week. I hate myself and yet I can’t stop; I am barely eating anything else, thinking, in my perverted mind, that this would make it okay.

Lesley Kinzel is always great and Diet Foods I Have Known was particularly great.

Bad Poets of Pop Culture: yep. (Thanks to Kayleigh Anne!)


This is a short but stunning animated video about how languages evolve. I loved it, and learned lots!


Fascinating. At the risk of sounding like Upworthy — watch to the end!


I want to see this movie.


Here is a baby seal surfing. You’re welcome.

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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.”

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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: quit procrastinating!

Monday, January 14th, 2013

An earlier version of this post appeared at One Night Stanzas in September 2008.

Procrastination. You know, that thing where re-cataloguing your record collection or washing all the skirting-boards in your house suddenly seems really important? Here’s how to beat it.

1: Start.
When you have a task or tasks that you’re avoiding, for whatever reason, it’s often just the thought of getting started that’s daunting. It may be hard to do, but just sit down, shove everything else out of your mind, and start. Even if you can only write a title, or the first sentence, it’s something… you’ve given yourself something to work from. Get something done; knowing you’ve started can make all the difference, because that task is no longer “to do”, it’s “in progress” instead.

2: Make a timetable.
When I had my PhD thesis to write, I found I couldn’t empty my head of all the other stuff that I “should” be doing — laundry that I’d previously been happy to leave spilling over the top of the washing-basket, sorting out my bank-statements, writing to people I hadn’t been in touch with for years, etc. Of course, none of these things were essential, but my brain wouldn’t let me focus on my essay-writing until I’d removed these distractions. In the end, I made myself a timetable. I wrote up a mental list of all the “other stuff” I needed to do, and then spent a full morning completing these tasks. At 1pm sharp, forced myself to start writing. And eventually, I’d get into it… or maybe I just ran out of “other stuff.”

3: Unplug the internet.
Just about anyone you ask will tell you that the internet is one of the worst distractions there is. It doesn’t just eat into your writing time… all too often it disguises itself as a writing “aid”, so you feel justified in surfing when you should be working. If you’re reading writing blogs or other people’s poems, then surely that’s just research, right? That’s just helping? But you know, deep down, that it’s just not true.
Stop it! Pull the plug! Disconnect your internet… or move to another room, the garden, or anywhere out of range! If you don’t need the internet to do what you’re doing (and chances are, you really don’t), then there’s no reason for it to be accessible. For some people this feels like severing an arm, but try it, and see what a difference it can make!

4: Bitesize it.
As a tutor, I constantly get pupils complaining that they can’t concentrate for long enough to get their revision done properly, and I always send them in the direction of Bitesize. You can browse it by a subject - say, English Lit - and it will break your subject down into its modules: in this case, Reading, Close Reading, Speaking, Writing etc. The students find that it makes their essay-writing and revision sessions so much easier, because they are given managable amounts of work to do at once.
When you find yourself procrastinating, you have to do the same thing. Think about your task. Do you need to write an essay, put together a poem, do some editing? Think about how you could split the task into several smaller tasks. Could you edit a stanza at a time? Write your essay paragraph by paragraph? Doing something slowly is better than doing nothing at all.

5: Don’t go it alone.
You might think that having other people around would be even more distracting, but in fact, working in someone else’s presence can really focus you. Get together, have a cup of tea, talk things over, and then get to work. If someone else is keeping an eye on you, you’re less likely to leap up and say “I think I might just wash the car / clean out the kitchen cupboards / bake a cake” or whatever… and if the other person is working away diligently, you’ll feel the need to keep up. If you can’t concentrate with someone else sitting next to you, or if you can’t find anyone who’s willing to come and work too, just get your partner to look in on you every so often to see if you’re still working, or get a friend to text you for a word-count at the top of each hour. It might feel a bit like being in detention, but it’ll keep you going!

6: Take breaks.
I nag and nag and nag my students constantly about this. Your brain only works at its best for 45 minutes at a time… after that, your concentration starts to flag and the task you’re working on gets less and less of your attention. For that reason, you should only ever work for one full hour maximum before you take a break… and your break should be a proper break, where you set aside at least ten minutes to do something other than the task at hand. Not taking breaks can encourage procrastination, because if you work and work until you’re sick and tired of working, eventually you’re going to get to a point where you walk away from your task and don’t go back to it.

7: Go against your habits.
You may not like working in the evening (or in the morning, afternoon, whenever), but that’s tough luck if your deadline is looming. Your favourite library or internet cafe may be closed, your favourite writing pen might have run out. Deal with it! Don’t let these things become excuses not to complete your task! Procrastination is pressure enough without you placing further limitations on yourself. Even if you do have to work in the evening / in your living room / with a different pen, you’ll be glad you soldiered through once the task is finished!

8: Give yourself an incentive.
For some people, just the idea of getting a project finished is incentive enough. However, telling yourself that “eventually I will have a finished poem” or “some day I will get paid for this commission” or “perhaps this poem will get into a magazine once I edit it” might not be enough to get you worked up to the task. If so, you need some incentive, so think of a way to reward yourself once you’re done. Resolve to treat yourself to a takeaway, a long soak in the bath, a new book or whatever you think will make it all feel a bit more worthwhile. Sit down to work with your reward in mind, and you may well find that you suddenly feel more like putting your nose to the grindstone. No cheating though - don’t let yourself dial for a pizza or step into a bookshop before you’re done. Get the task finished… and then you can mix the relief of finishing with the sweet taste of a celebratory tub of Ben and Jerry’s!

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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!

(Photo credit)

Featured Poem, ‘Reducio Ab Absurdum,’ by Colin McGuire

Tuesday, January 8th, 2013

Poetry @ The Rag Factory 14/12/12

Reducio Ab Absurdum

Shakespeare’s more a performance poet
a throat poet, a fire and tongue type.
A poet of larynx, a diaphragmatic breathing poet
Not a serious poet in a gentleman’s jacket.

I’m a page poet; a take the time and consider
the exact length and breadth of the line poet.
I am an architect with form but never formulaic.
I am a master of design but not mastered by design.

Heaney’s more a performance poet;
a wave-your-arms-and-gesticulate-wildly-and-know-it.
A show it all and throoooooow it at you poet.
Not a serious poet who reads the classics and shows it.

I’m page poet, a literary allusions and allegorical conclusions poet.
A lay subtle structure which unravels a slow-burning conundrum poet.
I take the time to make something so delicate even a breath could break it
yet it withstands that breath, and you cannot fake it.

Sexton is more a performance poet; a shout at the top of your soul poet.
A rant in the mirror solipsistic I-alone-exist-and-will-prove-it-poet.
A should have been an actor instead but never knew it poet.
I wrote this on the loo and you can whiff it poet.

I’m a page poet with stable demeanour and quiet composure.
I build poem liners out of the thin matchsticks of words
and they set sail quietly on calm waters across oceans of eyes.

Rimbaud is more a performance poet.
A of the internet-attention-deficit-quickly-type-it-with-no-edit-poet.
A scribbler of slapdashery, a knee jerk reactionary bound to be burned
as waste under the well read eye of reality.

I’m a page poet. An on the crusade poet. Here to explode
the false dichotomy of page and perform it, show and tell it poet.
Let the words carry the weight we carry. Let tastes divide.
Quality lingers upon the shelf life longer than the debate will have it.

(In the jungle the soul’s wild eyes glare white in the shadow.
The cauldron of the heart sounds like a warm drum.
We continually reach out to that which is comprehensible.)

McGuire: A thin 30 year old Glaswegian man, touch giddy in the head, sometimes poet of mangled form and dirty prose, sporadic drummer, drunk grammarian, waffler, painter using crayons, lover, hater, learner, teacher, pedestrian, provocateur, wanderer, confronter of shadows, irritating whine. He mines the darker regions of Scottish Culture and Psychology. McGuire has produced a collection of poetry and short stories, printed by ClydeSide Press called - Riddle With Errors - and is currently working on a pamphlet due for release in 2013 with Red Squirrel Press. He reads regularly in Scotland and England. Find out more at: http://a-glaswegian.blogspot.co.uk/

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Want to see YOUR poem featured on ONS? Read this post first: submission guidelines are at the bottom. Good luck!

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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!

(Photo credit)

Guest post: why I don’t give in to submission by Mark Antony Owen

Tuesday, December 18th, 2012

pile of magazines

The other day on Twitter I was chatting with Mark about a poem he’s written recently, and he happened to mention that it’s his policy never to send his poems out for publication in magazines. As this is a bit of a break from the usual poetrythink, I was intrigued to find out why… and thought you might be, too. So I invited Mark to write a guest post! Enjoy…

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The thinking goes like this: if you write, you write to be read. And as a poet, I certainly want to be read. So why don’t I submit my work to respected journals and sites? Or rather, having had five poems accepted for publication and only one rejection, why did I stop submitting? My thinking goes like this …

Poetry journals, in print or online, can be a great way for readers to discover new writing, new poets. At their best, they’re a platform for excellence – a filtration system that keeps the ‘bad’ writing from the ‘good’.

But journals can also skew one’s view of a poet or their work – as I discovered by accident.

Having read some print and online journals, I found several poets whose work I admired and whose collections I went on to buy. What was shown of their work was, I found, representative of their style and subject matter. Bottom line? One happy reader/customer. But there were also poets whose output I initially rejected as a result of seeing their work, in isolation, in journals. Poets whose collections I later dipped into in bookshops, only to find I actually quite liked other of their poems.

Frankly, I felt a little bit misled.

Now of course, it would be terribly unfair to journal editors to castigate them for having their own literary preferences and choosing to publish only those works which they deem to have merit. And anyone who reads a particular journal for long enough will surely get to know an editor’s tastes and can then decide whether or not these match their own. But the fact remains that journals can only showcase a poet’s work as a ‘slice’ – at first, anyway. And that slice may not cut it for everyone.

So we come to my reason for not submitting. Is it fear of rejection? Is it fear of the agonising wait for a response that might be a rejection? Is it artistic arrogance? It’s none of these. It’s simply that I don’t believe my own poems stand up well individually. By which, I don’t mean each poem isn’t readable or even rewarding in its own way. I mean that I conceive my poems as details in a larger canvas. Yes, you can appreciate them close up. But I prefer them to be seen within the context of a collection. I just think they work better that way; and it’s completely unreasonable of me to expect them to be seen this way if they’re being published in ones and twos across various journals.

Let me be clear – I’m not knocking (or rejecting) journals. I’m simply saying they’re not for me or my work. At least, not now I’ve found my style and have a broad creative vision for my writing. You might think: ‘If you don’t submit, how will you be read?’ Good question – and one to which I don’t have a good answer. All I know is that I’m not about to give in.

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Mark Antony Owen is a poet who writes exclusively in syllabic metre. His poetry draws on that world where the English countryside bleeds into ordinary suburban living – a world he refers to as ‘subrural’.

Mark builds around details of subrural life to create economical poems; each obeying one of nine self-developed forms or variations on these – his subjects often painted a little darker than they really are.

From autumn 2013, Mark will self-publish ‘Subruria’: a multi-volume collection he describes as part sketchbook, part journal, part memoir.

You can find out more at Mark’s website or follow him on Twitter.

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Want to write a guest post for One Night Stanzas? Email me a short, informal pitch to claire [at] onenightstanzas.com and we’ll talk!
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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!

(Photo credit)

Dear Poetry Newbies: 10 Commandments! What to AVOID when sending your poetry to magazines.

Monday, December 10th, 2012

Rules

An earlier version of this post appeared at One Night Stanzas in September 2008.

1: Thou shalt not lie.
I know I keep banging on about “being yourself,” but it’s important! So when it comes to sending off your work, not lying means not pretending that you haven’t sent your work elsewhere if you have, not making up imaginary writing credits or other frillies to spice up your bio, and not using other people’s material without crediting them or asking their permission. OK?

2: Thou shalt not be rude.
Do you want these people to publish you or not?! Always be polite and respect magazine staff and eds.

3: Thou shalt not be lazy about your cover letter..
Any kind of correspondence that informs your editor that you “hav sum poems 4u guys 2 read” (or the like) is going to seriously damage your chances! And no cover letter is basically just rude.

4: Thou shalt not be negative.
Assuming that your poems will be rejected is not the way to go, and saying as much in your cover-letter (e.g. “I’m guessing you guys will just reject these”) is even worse! Don’t put the R-word in the editor’s mind… and better still, keep it out of yours, too.

5: Thou shalt not be boastful.
Whether it’s in your cover-letter, your bio or your writers’ group meeting… it doesn’t matter how many publications you have to your name. Nobody likes a show-off!

6: Thou shalt not enter into any nasty or aggressively competitive stuff with other poets.
Sadly, the poetry world contains a fair few people who like to see others fail. Please, please don’t be one of them.

7: Thou shalt not question the editor.
Unless they’re unnecessarily rude to you (unlikely, I hope) or you need clarification about something, do not try and question the editor’s decision. Pleading, arguing and mud-slinging are unlikely to change their mind… trust me, I’ve tried!

8: Thou shalt not listen to bad advice.
e.g. “you’re too young to be published” or “I never read the submission guidelines” or “why are you bothering with this? You’ll never get accepted!” People who say such things are best ignored!

9: Thou shalt not ignore feedback from magazine editors.
It’s a rare commodity - use it wisely!

10: Thou shalt not give up.
Don’t let rejection / submission fatigue / writer’s block / negative criticism get you down. Keep writing, editing, improving, submitting. You can do it!

Disagree? Think I’ve missed a commandment? Got your own ideas? Let me know!

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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!

(Photo credit)

Dear Poetry Newbies: Rejection Therapy

Monday, May 28th, 2012


Photo by Didrooglie.

An earlier version of this post appeared at One Night Stanzas in September 2008.

What are the eight words no writer ever wants to hear? “We are not using your work this time” of course! Most of us see that sentence and silently translate it to “you’ve been rejected, therefore you suck,” and for some people, that’s enough to throw their writing off track for days, weeks, months or even years.
However, if you want to be a writer, you need to accept that rejection is as much a part of the writing game as inky fingers and writer’s cramp (or, these days, repetitive strain injury). But if you’re still finding the rejection pill hard to swallow, then read on…

Everyone gets rejected.
The first thing you need to realise is that you are absolutely NOT alone in your rejection misery. I don’t think there’s a single writer alive who hasn’t felt the sting of rejection in one form or another - even the most famous, successful and established writer will be able to tell you the tale of their worst rejection experience (or experiences)! Basically, rejection comes with the poetic territory… so don’t allow that nasty, negative voice in your head to do the whole “what’s wrong with you? Everyone else gets accepted” routine. Don’t believe me? Join a writing group, workshop or forum and just mention the R-word… I guarantee that everyone will have a story to tell.

It’s not personal… or it shouldn’t be.
Why is it that your confidence takes a massive nosedive when you hear your work has been rejected? Probably because you make it personal - and don’t get me wrong, that’s not unusual, but it’s also not a good way of dealing with it. It’s important that you realise it isn’t personal - chances are, the rejection has nothing to do with who you are as an individual. The editor hasn’t turned you down because they have a personal vendetta against you, or because they hate young / old / gay / straight / male / female writers like you, or because they could tell from reading your stuff that you sometimes surreptitiously listen to Cliff Richard. And if they DID turn you down for personal reasons, then they’re just a bad editor - no two ways about it - and you’re better off not being associated with their publication. So there!!

It does NOT mean your writing sucks.
There are heaps of factors that can influence an editor’s decision. First and foremost, they have to find pieces that will physically fit into their publication - it might be that your poem exceeded their maximum length, or the formatting was just too tricky for them to work with. And your work also has to “fit” in a more abstract sense… so just because one magazine perhaps doesn’t think your work belongs on their particular pages, that doesn’t mean every zine in the world will turn you down. Reading submission guidelines is really important, because knowing what kind of place you’re submitting to and making sure you follow their rules to the letter can eliminate these possible-rejection factors. You also need to bear in mind that any successful magazine has a rigorous selection process, because only a small percentage of submissions can be accepted. Sometimes, editors are even forced to reject work that they actually really love.

All editors are different…
…and this is important for two reasons. One: there are some editors out there who will reject you for something as minor as a typo, or an uncredited reference to another writer. Others are more forgiving when it comes to the little details, but draw the line at things like an absent cover-letter when they specifically requested one. And there are some editors who’ll forgive you just about anything as long as your poems are good enough - problem is, you just don’t know what kind of editor is on the other end of your submission!
And two: at the end of the day, the editor you’re sending your work to is just another reader - and you can’t expect every single reader to love you, can you? Admittedly, a bigger, more democratic editorial team makes for a better magazine, and so most publications have a kind of “panel” system by which they decide who to accept. Lone editors often have to base their choices on personal taste, which seems unfair, but it’s the way the cookie crumbles. And just because one person - or even a four-person team - didn’t love your work, that doesn’t mean there won’t he heaps of people out there who do!

Rejection is no fun for anyone.
Believe it or not, most editors hate the whole rejection thing as much as you do. Sure, you meet the odd sadistic weirdo who loves to put eager young poets down (I’ve met with one of these so far), but generally - unless someone’s been really annoying, ie, ignored submission guidelines or been rude - sending the rejection letters is considered one of the least fun parts of the job. I used to HATE sending out the Read This rejections, because I know all too well that awful sinking feeling you get when your personal turn-down reaches your mailbox. So take comfort in the fact that, somewhere, there may well be a magazine editor squirming with guilt as they imagine you reading your rejection letter!

Or… you could just do this*:

*Don’t do this.

Your worst rejection? Care to share?

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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!