Saturday, 23 November 2019

Targets and Black Holes


I've been teaching almost every day this week, adding a new school to my list, so that has been keeping me busy. My bank account says, 'long may that continue', but my writing mind wishes for more slow days.

I've managed a few poems written in staff rooms and had a few acceptances as well as a few rejections, some of which have come a few days after submission which feels a bit weird. It's a relief not to have to wait almost a year like some magazines. 

I've hit my 100 rejection target and I can see the positive results in the numbers. I've submitted about twice as many so far this year and have had about a 12% acceptance rate which of course I'm very happy with. The daily writing I've done most of the year has helped as I have a good amount of poems to submit, but it has been hard work. 

I no longer edit a poem every time I submit it, though I do proof it for errors. I maybe cast a more serious eye of them every few submissions, longer if they've had a quick turnaround. I still research the magazines as much as I can, via guidelines, masthead blurbs and looking at old issues if I can, but I am more open to online magazines. I currently have a big backlog of unsubmitted poems, just because I don't have the time or energy to do tons of submissions. 

I'm putting a tender in for a big editing job which I'm looking forward to. It's copyediting, bringing the text up to the publishers standards of formatting and layout, so requires more repetition (looking at how references are noted, standardising to British English) and less tidying up the language. 

I'm trying to get myself ready for the end of year madness, but really just want to skip to spring. I hate going to work and coming home in darkness, the struggle to get outside when its dreich, the stress of getting the kids to accept they need proper outdoor clothing. 

The writing course I'm on has been a nice distraction, it's focus is works found in several museums, art and artefacts. So I've been losing myself in research black holes about photograms, gum diggers, curiosity cabinents and other unexpected subjects. I try not to spend too much time researching, but sometimes jumping from one subject to another is how I find the sweet spot from which a poem can spring. 


Sunday, 17 November 2019

The Ups and Downs of Writing Life

I'm feeling grateful this week. It's welcome when a few positives start to balance the difficulties. October is usually my month, but by the end of it was getting decidedly hard to face yet more problems and rejections. 

My very new poem 'A Bird You Must Not Miss' has been published https://www.abridged.one/abridged-0-58-kassandra/ The whole issue looks amazing. The image by Meryl McMaster paired with my poem is just so spot on. Thanks so much, Abridged. 

I've also had a guest blog spot on The Wild Word, https://thewildword.com/guest-column-gerry-stewart/ My post looks at the struggle to balance parenthood with raising children, the sacrifices and the unexpected benefits. The Wild Word has other blog's, but also poetry, flash fiction and other creative writing from around the world. It's a fascinating place to explore, thanks to Kusi and the rest of the staff for this opportunity.

I've had a pamphlet and my Finnish collection both rejected this weekend. It's frustrating because I've just missed a deadline to submit to another publisher. I'm never sure what to do about simultaneous submissions when publishers hold on to collections for consideration sometimes up to a year. Missed opportunities, delays.


The rejections keep coming, difficulties pop up when you're least expecting them, but I'm trying to keep focused on the occasional acceptance or bit of good news. I wait for the days when the rain stops, so I can rake the carpet of leaves that still covers the lawn. I remind myself that I have a pamphlet coming out next year. I'm getting more teaching jobs, adding a new school this week. I try to make things to look forward to, I'm planning a short holiday with some friends. I keep on writing poems whenever I can. Forward momentum. 


And on the pamphlet, I've been looking at artwork for my cover. I have no firm ideas, I have feelings and themes, but staring at Pixabay isn't getting me anywhere. I've also contacted a photographer about getting my author photo done. Ahh, too real. 

Sunday, 10 November 2019

An Adventure Begins

I got my wish, even in the midst of a bumpy week with accident, injury, horrible language tests and difficult classes I've managed to get back into the swing of writing, by sticking to a rough routine. Not daily, but when I sit down something comes out. I'm not keeping up with my course's daily prompts, but I have managed most of them. 

We've turned our Halloween pumpkin into a bird feeder and the kids, cats and I are loving it. We've even had a woodpecker come to visit among the normal songbirds. It was cold and snowy for the first part of the week, just a dusting, too much for my liking. Now it's rainy, silver drops hanging off the rowan berries. More my idea of autumn. I'm glad to have a few mornings to scribble at my kitchen table and watch the birds with the cat trying to sleep on my computer. 

My publisher (how great is it to say that!!) Hedgehog Poetry Press sent out my Author's Pack this week to prepare for the publication of my chapbook. So now I'm equal measures terrified and excited to begin work. So much to do, finalising the collection, writing my blurbs and biography, even finding a photographer to take an author photo. We're looking at a summer publication date and I hope to get to the UK to do some readings, so that all needs to be sorted as well. I'm not even sure where to start, but will start whittling down the jobs one by one. 

And we're off.

Sunday, 3 November 2019

Creeping into Winter

I have to admit that without the structure of a daily prompt I'm struggling to keep up any momentum with my writing. Even on days I have no outside work, I can't focus. I've been sending out submissions, but new poems haven't been happening and I've barely looked at the ones that need finalising.

I've started a new online daily prompt course this month, but so far the prompts haven't been able to kick me from this doldrum. I'm taking notes and trying to form ideas, but they just don't have any momentum or inspiration behind them. 

It doesn't help that the weather has turned here. The beautiful colours of autumn have been replaced by wet, brown mud and dark skies. We had a couple days of bright frost, but that just reminds me of what is coming. After ten years I still dread the coming cold darkness. It makes everything difficult. I'm at that stage of just wanting to wrap up in wool and hibernate for the next 4 months. So that's what I'm doing tonight, sketching notes on the couch with my cats and a blanket, chocolate and red wine, the rain blashing against the windows. 

I do believe that writing a poem draft a day is an exercise that you have to keep up or it does become a struggle to get back into the rhythm. I sit down currently and my writing feels stiff and lethargic, but I'm continuing to push myself, writing in small silences like this. Hopefully it will loosen up soon.