Poetry and NYC Midnight

We’re almost halfway through June. How did that happen?

The month kicked off with a poetry at the Button Warehouse. (Normally hosted by Joy Winkler but covered this month by John Lindley). Angela Topping was guest poet, and gave fantastic readings at the start of each half from her various collections. Then the evening was turned over to the open mic, and I ended up closing the evening out with ‘Legs Eleven’ from my collection ‘It’s All In The Blood’. This was probably my favourite performance of the year so far as the atmosphere was fantastic, I made it through the poem without stumbling, and even sold a copy of my book. 

 The following evening I was one of the featured readers on the Shrewsbury Poetry zoom. Ten whole minutes to read poems and give a bit of detail on what the collection was about, and how it came into being. The chaos of 2020 and 2021 resulted in the book not seeing the light of day as much as I would have liked, so I’ve been trying to make up for lost opportunities.

While not technically a June achievement, as it fell into the last ten minutes of May, I managed to get the reworked version of my short story sent off to the Bridport Prize. What was originally a 1,500 words piece of fiction now closes off at almost 5,000. With ten minutes to go before the deadline struck, I had to sacrifice some of the edits I wanted to make in order to actually have something submitted. As with all the competitions I enter, I’m not holding out much hope of placing, but I feel as if I get a lot out of entering. Who knows, I didn’t think I would do very well in the London Independent Story Prize and my entry was a Selected Finalist. As many of my writing friends like to remind me, there’s a slim chance of winning whatever you enter, but no chance if you don’t send anything off. Write, edit, submit, and eventually something should stick. 

On the poetry submissions front, I’ve finally heard back on the last of my outstanding 2021 submissions. It was another rejection to add to the pile, but on the bright side, I can now mark last year’s spreadsheet as closed. June also appears to be the month of reading windows for poetry journals so I’m busy putting together a set of submissions to go out before the 30th. The biggest of those will be the manuscript for ‘Stone Tongued’ which I’m planning on sending to Fawn Press. Currently I have six poems out for consideration, with two different journals, so I’m in a good position to redraft my rejected pieces and get some new bits sent out. Friday was a relatively productive day when it came to reworking those poems that have bounced back to me time and time again. Eventually they will find homes, but until then I will keep working on them. 

Those poems might have to wait until tomorrow though, as this weekend it is the first challenge, in the first round of the NYC Midnight Flash Fiction Contest! I’ve entered this particular challenge a few times. One year I places quite well in the first challenge, only to flop dramatically in the second. Another year I wrote my story for the first challenge, realised the location was wrong and it would get kicked for not following the prompt, and had to hammer out a second with a few hours to go. The second story got some really mixed feedback from the judges, and the first (which didn’t get sent off due to the location issue) ended up being my entry to the London Independent Story Prize. (So as I mentioned, there is more to entering competitions that just the competitions themselves.) 

This time around I’ve been given the genre, fairy-tale, the location of river rapids, and the item that must be included in the story is a scooter. Those first two I can work with, they even sort of make sense when mushed together in a 1,000 word story, but why? Why, oh why you cruel writing gods? Did you put scooter as the object?

I think I’ve made it work. I think… Either way, I now have a piece of flash fiction that’s just over a 1,000 words and I’ve got the rest of today to edit it into shape. (If you were wondering what task I’m using this blog post as procrastination for, then you’ve finally found it.)

I’m also in need of a title for my story, and I’m probably going to aim for something relatively fairy-tale-esq in case I end up getting the same feedback as I did on the last fairy-tale I tried to write. “Not quite fairy-tale enough”. 

*Grumbles quietly*. 

So before I wile away the remaining hours of my Sunday, moaning about not quite hitting the writing mark, I’m going to hit post on this blog, and go edit my story. Until the next time I want to avoid writing, I wish you all the best with whatever projects you have on this weekend. May the words flow, and someone else put the kettle on for you! Happy writing. 

June Speculative Fiction Prompt – Fairies, Folklore and Flowers

For June I want you guys to think about the folklore in your local area.

Growing up in the north of Shropshire, I heard my fair share of legends about ghosts, fairies, and giants. Madam Pigott who haunted the road past Chetwynd Church, the giants who squabbled over a shovel while building the Wrekin (one of two Wrekin myths involving giants), or the great black dogs that haunted the Shropshire Hills.

Take one or more of these stories, and either write you own version, or come up with a whole new local myth. Find me a ghost no one knows about, or an unusual collection of fairies that like drinking at the local pub. The odder the better in my books.

This month, I’m going to add in an extra option for responses. In the spirit of oral story-telling, and the history of folklore, why not record yourself telling your own version of a fairy-tale (be it in poetry, prose, or dramatization). You can post to whichever platform you see fit, and link back in the comments below.

The guidelines are as follows:

  • Speculative Fiction: a genre of fiction that encompasses works in which the setting is other than the real world, involving supernatural, futuristic, or other imagined elements. [Oxford Dictionary]
  • Use the prompt above to write a story, poem, perhaps even a script. There are no rules about form or style. If you would like to create a piece of art in response that is also welcome. This prompt is about being artistic and creative in whatever way suits you best.
  • Please keep entries PG as this is open to all. (i.e. no erotica)
  • A new prompt will be posted on the first of each month but feel free to go back and use previous months as you see fit.
  • Use pingbacks to link up to the prompt or leave a link in the comments section. Whichever you prefer.
  • Please include a note with your work to say if you are open to constructive feedback on the work.
  • Please try to check out the responses shared in the comments and pingbacks. If you comment, please take note of the writer’s preference regarding feedback. (A good reference guide for feedback is to start with a positive, then mention what you feel could do with work, and finish up on another point that you liked.
  • As always, re-tweets, re-blogs, and shares are all gratefully received. We are always open to new participants.

Static Begins A Storm – #Poem By Carol J Forrester

This trail of fingerprints is simply browsing.
Palm pressed to the hollow of your spine
before you step out of the moment,
leave this touch behind you in that second
where electric ran your length
and cracked between your ribs
as something begins burning. 

I’ve combined by love of sketching and poetry to make some poem postcards for ‘The Muse Spits Blood’. They turned out rather nicely, so I think I might have to make some more postcards for the other quadrilles I have written over the past few years.

Short Story Rejections And Manuscript Plans

Last month’s update was all about the heady, heights of getting a poem accepted by Ink Sweat & Tears. This the rejections have been rolling in, and by rolling in, I mean there were two of them. One poetry rejection, and another polite decline for my short story ‘The House on Lime Street.’ The poetry submission was a simultaneous submission, so the poems are out elsewhere and I’m going to let those run their course before attempting any major edits and resubmitting elsewhere. ‘The House on Lime Street’ is another matter. This is rejection number nine for that particular story and it’s been through a number of edits each time. However, since the last redraft, I had a short story professionally edited by the fantastic Debbi Voisey and she passed on some particular hand tips for strengthening my short fiction. Along with a three am wake up, curtsey of my 9 and 1/2 month-old daughter, I’ve cobbled together what I believe to be a reasonable plan to make this piece into a publishable story. Tuesday is the deadline for the Bridport Prize so I’m hoping to have it ready to go out by then, and if it gets thrown back again, I can celebrate having the tenacity and stubbornness to rack up ten rejections on the same story. 

At the moment I seem to be in the middle of a hectic writing phase. Yesterday I hit 15,000 words of my current novel after not working on it for a couple of weeks post holiday. I wrote 20,000 words in March and April but I found that I’d managed to skip from one major event to the next and missed all the connecting bits, so I’ve returned to the start to fill those in. 

Last weekend was the Stafford Literature Festival where I read as part of their poetry event. There were some fantastic networking opportunities, and I had some time to kill before the readings, as I accidently turned up an hour early. I met the director of Fawn Press and found out that they have June submission window for poetry pamphlets. This is fantastic timing as my pamphlet ‘Stone Tongued’ (previously called Water, Witches and Women) is really close to being finished. I now need to polish up the poems and decide what order they should go in, before sending it off for judgement. If you’re wondering where the inspiration for this collection came from, I stumbled across the story of Kathryn Garner who was tried and found innocent of witchcraft in Shrewsbury, Shropshire. She’s not mentioned in my blogpost about the history of Shropshire witchcraft as I wasn’t able to track down any of the source material for myself, but I did write her into a poem which was published by Riverbed Review. I then started looking for other women in history and myth that had been mistreated in an attempt to give their voices a place to be heard. 

Putting together a manuscript has the added bonus of giving me chance to review all the poems that are going into it. I’ve not sent out any poetry submission this month, (I’ve only sent off one submission full stop), so I will be checking the Robin Houghton spreadsheet of poetry journals to see who I can start throwing poems at. I’ve allocating the first two wees of June as poetry weeks, so I don’t run myself into the ground trying to finish this short-story and get poems sent off to journals. 

With two poetry events to attend next week (The Button Warehouse -Wednesday 01/06/2022, and Shrewsbury Poetry – 02/06/2022) I know I need to pace myself. Wonderfully, I’ve actually got a ten minute set at the Shrewsbury’s Poetry zoom so time needs to be allowed to plan which poems I want to read. 

Ten minutes is quite a long time for a poet… I could read so many different poems!

Keep an eye out for a post in the next couple of days, because I’ve been experimenting with poems and visa-print again. This time I’ve taken my poem ‘When The Muse Spits Blood’ and paired it with one of my sketches to make 50 postcards. This will be a limited run, numbered and signed, to accompany copies of my collection that are purchased directly through myself. I’ve been pointed in the direction of a handy shop feature that I might be able to implement on this site so redirecting people to Amazon isn’t my only choice. Alongside the new postcards, I’ve invested in some lovely tissue paper, and branded stickers to make deliveries a bit prettier which I will showcase for you all as soon as it all turns up. 

Until then, I wish you all productive and enjoyable weekends. Please do stop by in the comments below and let me know of your current writing projects and triumphs. If you’ve had a poem or short story published, feel free to share it. For now, I have a hill to go and climb. 

When The Muse Spits Blood

These gums are splinter strewn with pencil shards
from musing on ideas,
chewing the fat,
picking bones from the meat of a thought
until it sits on the page just right
stripped to sinew,
muscles drawn tight
pure power
in a few dangerous words.

Speak No Evil – A #Poem By Carol J Forrester

Temper your tongue with candyfloss static.

Electric
the bite is enough to ward off words,
stop them before the starting gates
in the narrow space 
between crowded molars. 

Use teeth to smile
around calorie free pleasantries. 

Taste patience becoming poison.
Every syllable sharp.
Bitter.  

I’ve started recoding some of my poems and posting them to Tick-Tock. (@caroljforrester) Short and sweet work best, so I’m looking to a lot of my quadrilles as a starting point, and trying very hard not to self-sabotage with worries over how awful I feel I sound in recordings.