Tuesday, 24 April 2018

Flash Resources

Tuesday, 10 April 2018

Some Offers

Friday, 6 April 2018

Magma 70 'Europe' Launch

If the time they spent on my contribution is anything to go by, the editors (Paul Stephenson and Susannah Hart) have had a very busy few months. The event was in Europe House with well over 100 attendees on Apr 6th. I managed to squeeze in at the back, briefly meeting Fiona Moore, DA Prince, Eleanor Livingstone, etc.

Sunday, 25 March 2018

Where can UK people send literary stories?

In 2017, almost 50% more short story collections were sold than in 2016. But collections by Tom Hanks and Jojo Moyes accounted for nearly a quarter of sales, so things haven't changed much. Before you try to get a book published you need to publish some stories elsewhere. But where? If you live in the UK it's worth trying to break into the local markets first - more chances for networking and readings.

It's not trivial choosing where to send stories. Magazines have preferences regarding genres and length. Some have submission windows. Some (e.g. Granta) require payment. Some don't accept electronic submissions or simultaneous submissions. This post is more to do with deciding which places are worth sending to - you don't want to end up regretting where your story ends up.

Read the acknowledgements in books

When you read a recently-published book, especially by one of your peers or an author whose work you like, read the acknowledgements. Here are some examples -

  • "You're Not Supposed to Cry" by Gary Duncan (Vagabond Voices, 2017) - "Flash" (Chester), "The Pygmy Giant", "Spelk", etc.
  • "Three moments of an explosion" by China Mieville (Picador, 2015) - "Granta", "Conjunctions", "The White Review", etc.
  • "Best British Short Stories 2017" by Nicholas Royle (ed) (Salt, 2017) - "Bare Fiction Magazine", "Structo", "Prole", BBC Radio 4
  • "Some of us glow more than others" by Tania Hershman (Unthank books, 2017) - "Ambit", "Bare Fiction", "Nature", "New Scientist", "Stinging Fly", BBC Radio 3, etc.

Read magazines

There are many magazines. If you like one, send them a story. The online ones can be of high quality even if they don't have the longevity of, say, London Magazine, which dates back to 1732. One place to compare magazines is The review review site.

Read the bios in magazines to see what kind of people the magazine publishes. Are any names familiar? Have they published books and won prizes? What other magazines have they appeared in? Have they had Pushcart nominations (for the US anthology)?

Eire, the USA, Canada, etc have many good magazines. And there are outposts like the Barcelona Review.

Read lists of recommendations

There are several lists that attempt to be exhaustive - e.g.

What you really need is something more selective. E.g.

Shortstops offers information and updates in various forms - Twitter, by mail, etc.

Competitions

At least with competitions you'll know when your story can be sent elsewhere: magazines can hold onto your work for a year or so. Many competitions exist. Some don't have sufficient reputation to be worth winning (though they might be worthy in other ways, raising money for charity). I wouldn't enter any competition where the first prize is less than 100 times the entry fee, or there's only one prize, or it's a one-off. I prefer competitions where the short-listed stories appear in an anthology. See

Sunday, 18 March 2018

Some poetry aphorisms

  • Poetry tries to restore the damage done to thoughts by putting them into words. Failing that, it exposes the wounds.
  • Artifice deforms language, but language has memory - you can feel it wanting to spring back.
  • Poetry is what falls through the sieve. Sometimes it's what you want to throw away.
  • If writers are the fish who can see the water, those who drown are the poets.
  • Writing a poem's like opening curtains; first you see more but, as night falls, others can see you. By then it's too late.
  • What gravity does for sculpture, sound does for poetry.

Tuesday, 6 March 2018

Cambridge Writers

Cambridge Writers has been going for a long time. I expected it to fizzle out with the growth of the Web, but it has almost a record number of members - over 80 - with subgroups for travel writing, novels, etc. I attend the poetry and short prose meetings. Members of the poetry group have pieces in current/forthcoming issues of Stand, The Dark Horse, High Window, The Compass, and Magma, so our workshop evenings might be quite daunting for newbies, though we try to be welcoming, giving away spare magazines at the start of evenings. Members have had pamphlets published by HappenStance and MsLexia. I suspect more book/pamphlet success is in the offing.

The prose evenings are probably less scary - after all, everybody's got a few interesting tales to tell. There's more Flash than there used to be and consequently the number of acceptances has risen.

Friday, 16 February 2018

Quality versus Quantity

Some poets don't produce much. In 1988 Faber published Ian Hamilton's "Fifty Poems". This included just about all he'd previously had published, and six new poems. In the preface he wrote: "Fifty poems in twenty-five years: not much to show for half a lifetime, you might think". Amongst novelists, Harper Lee produced little.

In the "Bridport Prize anthology 2017" one poet's bio mentions a single success - being commended in the Ware poetry competition. For the author of the Flash winner the anthology appearance was their first published work. However brilliant their Bridport pieces, these writers aren't going to break through unless they have worthwhile portfolios. For small-press writers I think quantity matters - it helps keep your name in circulation. The difference between a relatively well-known writer and an unknown one is not necessarily in the quality of their best pieces of work (an unknown's best piece may be superb) but in the quantity of good work produced.

Producing more will mean that your worst pieces will be worse than before, but can trying to write more lead to your best pieces suffering too? Perhaps. The easiest way to increase output is by lowering standards, by being less self-critical. If this policy is adopted uniformly, a writer's best work will suffer.

But there are grounds for believing that a writer's best work will be improved. In "Art & Fear", authors David Bales and Ted Orland describe a ceramics class in which half of the students were given an A for producing fifty pounds of pots, whereas the others were judged on quality, needing to turn in one—albeit perfect—piece. The best works came from the group being graded on quantity - "It seems that while the “quantity” group was busily churning out piles of work - and learning from their mistakes — the “quality” group had sat theorizing about perfection, and in the end had little more to show for their efforts than grandiose theories and a pile of dead clay."

I've often seen this experiment quoted. I'm unsure how generally true it is. Pots can't be re-edited - poems can. Photographers used to be encouraged to take many snaps, but now re-touching solves many problems. That said, just as you need the photos before you can use Photoshop, so you need first drafts before you can re-write, as Robert Lee Brewer points out. It's easier to improve a piece than start one from scratch.

So perhaps having more raw material helps. How can one write more? NaPoWriMo (National Poetry Writing Month) and NaNo (National Novel Writing Month) are initiatives to help improve the amount produced by writers. Books like "52: Write a Poem a Week. Start Now. Keep Going" by Jo Bell can help too.