Monday, 12 January 2015

Submitting to UK prose anthologies

The Bath Short Story Award, the Bristol Short Story competition, the Bridport Prize, and the BBC National Short Story Award all have associated anthologies containing their short-listed stories. Below are some non-competition prose anthologies that you might aim for -

Magazines like the monthly Writing Magazine have calls for submissions to less regular anthologies - usually themed. Vanessa Gebbie pointed out that there's an open call for story submissions for an anthology to be published next Autumn by Freight books, on the hundredth anniversary of Einstein publishing his Theory of General Relativity - see the Call for entries (closing date 28 Feb, 2015)

A word of warning - in the poetry world people sometimes invite submissions for an anthology, printing most of what they receive and expecting contributors to buy a copy. Prose is far less prone to these money-making schemes, but it's worth sticking to the established publishers if possible. And of course it's a good idea to buy their books.

Tuesday, 6 January 2015

A busy 2014 for Commane, Marshall, Nelson, and Gebbie

Some people were so busy during 2014 (and deservedly so) that even reading about their exploits tires me.

  • Nine Arches Press: Review of 2014 - Jane Commane lists the happenings of a very busy year. And it doesn't end there - yesterday, Daniel Sluman was listed as one of Huffington Post's 5 British Poets to Watch in 2015 (chosen by Robert Peake)
  • Becoming a poet - Roy Marshall writes a tongue-in-cheek (maybe completely true) account of what becoming a poet is really like (he should know - he's in many of the magazines I read)
  • Shutting Up - Helena Nelson reports on reading the latest batch of HappenStance submissions ("162 poets sent in work. ... 107 were female and 55 were male ... About 1600 poems ... I made hardly any offers. I agreed to do two debut pamphlets in Spring 2016 (2015 was already ‘full’) but both authors already knew an offer was coming ... I took 47 pages of (secret) notes")
  • 2014 round up, with special mentions - Vanessa Gebbie recounts her year.

Saturday, 3 January 2015

Call my bluff

My Litrefs Articles site is looked at over 100 times a day, but some of the articles are rarely read. It's just dawned on me that most of the unpopular pieces try to expose the tricks of the trade. At how many poetry workshops are poets told to muddy the water by throwing in some obscurity if a poem doesn't sound deep enough, or add loads of white space if a poem's too short or simple? If the poets decide not to use these devices, at least they'll be more able to identify their use when reading poems, so I think the articles are useful.

The situation where these devices are more likely to succeed is when there's no penalty for over-use. Unless more critics are prepared to say that they don't understand something, or that 8 words scattered across a page are unlikely to work, then these devices will continue to be popular.

Saturday, 13 December 2014

A submission schedule for early 2015

I shall try to submit to most of these (a mix of prose and poetry)

Sunday, 7 December 2014

Nine Arches Press Poetry at Five Leaves Bookshop

I spent a formative year or so in Nottingham long ago. It was there that I once wondered whether I might become a part-time writer. I was on the tipping point, nearly on the slide. Instead I went off and did an M.Sc in something else. Nottingham seems to have a thriving arts scene, helped no doubt by the c.30k students in the city.

On 7th December I went to a Nine Arches Press Poetry reading at the impressive Five Leaves Bookshop. It's down an alley in the heart of town and has shelves of poetry books that are rarely seen in bookshops. It has some poetry magazines too, as well as the usual range of books that one might hope for in an "alternative" bookshop. If you're in Nottingham, go and buy something there. I bought myself some early Xmas presents. I've talked to Matt Merritt before; we often attend the same Midlands or London bookfairs and have 2 publishers in common. I've read his books and those of Tony Williams, who I met for the first time on the night. Those 2 readers were joined by Bobby Parker and Dorothy Lehane, who were new to me. I need to see Dorothy Lehane's work on the page. With Bobby Parker it was the other way round - until I heard Heroin Lullaby spoken I didn't realise how much I liked it.

I met Maria Taylor too (we read each other's blogs), and I think I recognised Andrew Duncan in the audience.

Sunday, 30 November 2014

Local Poets

The local "Cambridge News" has recently published 2 features -

  • In late summer I went to a poetry workshop in Cambridge. Just 7 of us and 2 tutors. One of the tutors (Emily Berry) was later announced as a Next Generation Poet, and one of the "pupils", Natalya Anderson, later won the Bridport out of the blue (though she's just completed an MA in creative writing). Clear Recent History is the article about her that appeared in the paper. See the bio and judge's report at the Bridport site.
  • I've known Diana Brodie for years. The 29th Nov edition of the newspaper has nearly a page about her. The headline is - "I write about people who lose their way". My interview with her is Diana Brodie: an interview. She's also been interviewed by Cambridge 105's booknight - listen to the podcast

On 25th Nov I went to a "Cambridge Poets" poetry event at Corpus Christi attended by at least 50 people and introduced by Richard Berengarten (formerly Richard Burns, though I only realised that today!). He pointed out that Cambridge poetry is internationalist and varied. 10 poets read - 1 lecturer, 6 pgrads (2 doing Beckett, 1 doing Olson, 1 doing architecture, 1 doing education, and another doing Assyrian/Neo-Aramaic). There were 2 performers (a winner of SLAMbassadors UK, and a slam champion of Macedonia + neighbouring countries). Another's doing a Writing MA at Royal Holloway. Several had been published, but the only publishers' names I recognised were "Knives, Forks and spoons", "Emma Press", "Magma", "Rialto" and "Poetry Wales".

Yes, there was variety. There were poems about nothing much, and a poem about a college porter who'd died. One poem was for 2 simultaneous voices. Another was some Google suggestions for search target completions. There was also some Oulipo (which I think is more suited to page than stage).

Friday, 7 November 2014

I'm not giving up the day job yet

In 2010 my pamphlet appeared. In 2012 my book appeared. 2014 is coming to a close with no new book in sight. After a productive September, I've had a barren October. Our courgettes were flowering on Guy Fawkes day, but I've written next to nothing for weeks, and have had no acceptances. On Making a living from writing books: what works, what doesn't Emma Darwin points out how difficult it is to make money from literary writing. If you don't write the right stuff you won't sell. There's money for writers within education, but that involves compromises too. In "A Poet's Work" Sam Hamill writes that "A typical poet in North America finds it necessary to relocate every year for the first few years after college, and every several years for a couple of decades after that. The poet becomes disconnected, never developing a true sense of place or of community outside the community of the printed page. The typical poet teaches". The UK is getting like that too, with budding writers chasing residencies and short-term contracts from place to place.

Having a real job doesn't interfere with my writing. If anything it helps. Maybe it's as well that all's quiet on the literary front because at this time of the year I'm busy at work. The invitation, a reward for 25 years of non-relocating, came as a surprise - is it really that long? The Web was barely around when I started.

I've been to more poetry events this year than usual (most recently readings by Allison McVety and Ben Wilkinson) but generally I don't frequent the literary circuit. Again, I don't think this harms my writing, though it may damage my chances of publication. There's a world outside literature. This year, because of family events, I've been to places I wouldn't otherwise have visited - Newcastle, Sunderland and Durham, but also the "Up the Creek" comedy club in Greenwich, to see a son performing. He says he doesn't intend to do stand-up as his day job.

If work and family aren't distraction enough from writing then I always have the Italian connection. I've recently rediscovered my wedding certificate. I was married in Italy, so we don't know why it's partly in French. My 2015 resolution will be to read a book a month in Italian. I'm not going to set myself any writing resolutions, I promise.