Part of being a modern poet; is social media but as I said in my last blog, I’m crap at blogging on a regular schedule. This failing extends to my social media accounts (TikTok, Instagram, Twitter). Over the past year, I’ve slowly got my head around what I’m supposed to do with Instagram. I’ve even gotten past the initial terror of filming myself for TikTok. While my focus has shifted to those platforms, I’ve wondered what to do with this site. Part of me is keen on the whole, hit delete and start again– except that would be twelve years of work down the drain and not particularly fair on the followers who keep coming back each time my lazy arse remembers to put together something to post.
I’m terrible at blogging. Really, really terrible.
This morning when I checked the date on my last proper ‘blog”, (we exclude poems for the sake of clarity), I realised two months had somehow flown past me. We’re now creeping into Autumn, the heatwaves are showing signs of dissipating, and the dryer is in use because business as usual has resumed regarding English weather and rain.
The results for the first round of the NYC Midnight Flash Fiction Challenge arrived and ‘Once Upon A Time There Was A Quest’ ranked 13th in its group. The groups normally have around 35 individuals in them, and 13th place earns two points towards moving forward into the second round. For the second round of challenge one (I hope you’re keeping up with this) I was tasked with writing a romantic comedy, set on a hot air balloon, including an alarm clock. Attempting to follow the feedback from the judges on my first story, I tried to keep my flash to just two characters, and minimal scene breaks. I say minimal, there are still two scene changes but not quite as dramatic as the ones in ‘Once Upon A Time There Was A Quest’.
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.
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
in a few dangerous words.
In all honesty, I’ve written very little in the past week. I spent it in the Lake District with friends, so writing was replaced with hiking. On Wednesday we climbed the Pikes, and reached the top of Harrison Stickle; an achievement my knees are still complaining about. When we weren’t somewhere on the side of a hill, I was nose deep in a book, specifically ‘A History of the Universe in 21 Stars (and 3 Imposters)’ by Giles Sparrow. If you have any interest in stars, or the universe, then may I recommend picking up a copy. There are parts that sail right over my head, but it is a very entertaining read all the same.
So, if I haven’t been writing this week, why have I decided to jump on WordPress and write a #CoffeeShareWeekend post?
Simple. Procrastination. The deadline for the Bristol Short Story Prize is approaching (04/05/2022) and I have managed the great sum total of one sentence. I like that sentence quite a lot, but a short story it does not make. So, instead of adding a second, or perhaps even a third sentence to make some headway with the problem, I decided to do something else.
Plus, I’ve also been procrastinating when it comes to writing a blog post. So, let me offer you a coffee, a seat in this imaginary receiving room furnished with regency style furniture, and I will tell you what has happened so far this year.
First up, (though not really), is a poetry acceptance from Ink Sweat & Tears. On May 13th, they will be publishing one of my poems on their site, and I’m fizzing with joy. 2022 had started to look like the year of rejections, with the red ink of my poetry submissions spreadsheet steadily spreading down the page. Getting a poem picked up was a much needed break from the monotony of ‘not this time, thank yous’ that I seemed to be slogging my way through. I now feel a little less delusional when it comes to redrafting and sending out the rest of my unpublished poems. Ink Sweat & Tears also published my poem ‘Newborn’ in 2019, so the acceptance feels like even more of a reaffirmation.
In poetry performance news, there has been a significant up-tick in the number of in-person events that I’ve been able to get to. In March I read at Coppenhall Open Mic (Crewe) and The Button Warehouse (Macclesfield). This month I’ve returned to the Coppenhall Open Mic and attended a poetry evening at Queens Park (Crewe again). On Thursday I’m going along to Treacle Coffee Shop poetry night (Newcastle-under-Lyme) featuring Nick Deg to hopefully join the open mic section, then on Saturday I’ll be competing in the Hereford Poetry Slam. There is a smattering of things for May, June time as well.
With the acceptance of one poem by Ink Sweat & Tears, and a slew of rejections, I’ve got plenty of poems to redraft. The work of the next few weeks will be to try and get these sent out again.
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