Tuesday, 29 January 2019

Writing Obsessions

What are your writing obsessions, topics, places, people you keep returning to? Do you relive the same moment over and over through your writing, do you revisit the same characters in different guises?

It's not unusual to use the same inspiration over and over in writing. Some fiction writers set their stories in the same area, the same universe if it's science fiction. Iain Banks has his Culture, Stephen King his Maine. It's comfortable, they know the confines and the environment, it sets a familiar tone for their writing. It can allow them to cross-over stories or characters, to build on what the reader already knows. 

Poets do the same thing, writing about a difficult situation from different angles, revisiting a place over and over, in different seasons, in different moods. Sometimes once is not enough to capture all the nuances of what we experienced. 

I spent a lot of time writing poems about Greece after I lived there for a year. This was years after I left, when I felt I had composted the experience enough to begin to really explore it. 

Working on these prompt-a day poems, I'm finding I'm returning to Scotland more and more, also my childhood in the Midwest and my year in Norway. Drifting back through faded moments, trying to piece them together again, to find what made them sparkle at the time or in hindsight. A few memories I had forgotten have popped back into my mind which have surprised me.

Usually I would say indulge your Muse and write what seems to be naturally coming out, but sometimes it might feel that your flogging a dead topic, rehashing things over and over until you can't see them clearly anymore. Then is a good time to force yourself to explore new subjects. Pick prompts that can't be twisted towards your subject, at least at the beginning. Work from pictures of something totally different.

You might find it still swerves towards that thing you are avoiding. Maybe you just haven't found the right way to approach it. After churning out dozens of poems on Greece over a couple of years, I haven't written another in a decade or two. I guess I said what I had to say on that subject and I seem to have run out of steam on this subject. Enjoy your obsessions, whatever they may be.

I hope your writing is going well. 

Tuesday, 22 January 2019

Slow January

It's cold. Bitter blue skies, Finnish cold. I hate it, but it's a good excuse to sit under blankets with tea and write poetry. About hating the cold.

Not much else going on this week beyond the usual attempt at a poem a day and submissions. I've written around 12 poems out of the 21 prompts for Angela Carr's course so far. I've missed a few days due to lack of inspiration or lack of time, but I'm happy with my efforts. I've also signed up for Wendy Pratt's next online course which is called Poems to Save the World. It will have a more social-minded theme than I'm used to, but it could be a good challenge for me as I don't usually write that kind of poetry. 

I made it to my writing group on Friday after a few weeks away, it was full up with some new faces as well which is nice to see. Probably full of new year's resolutions to get back into writing. I hope they stick around. I got some good feedback on my poems. 

I've also sent some poems to Helena Nelson of HappenStance  Press as part of her reading window for subscribers where she will give feed back on 6 poems (3 if you're abroad). Her comments are always very helpful and insightful. The window is open twice a year and it's worth the small subscriber fee. Subscribers also get a discount on purchases from the press

took advantage of my subscriber discount to buy Gerry Cambridge's The Dark Horse - The Making of a Little Magazine, about his work editing the Scottish/American literary magazine which has been around for almost 30 years. 

I worked briefly with Gerry when I was in Scottish publishing and it was lovely to read his memories of some of the writers I also had contact with during my time, Philip Hobsbaum, Edwin Morgan, Angus Calder. It was like being back. He also has great insight on the processes of running a magazine, right down to his thoughts behind his type-setting choices. It kind of made me miss the work, but I think it's probably rose-tinted on my part. Publishing not an easy job in any sense.

Hope you're warmer than I am.

Wednesday, 16 January 2019

An Impossible Task

The middle of January and it's been all go, submitting, writing, being accepted, being rejected, being published. I hope this continues to bode well for the rest of the year. Angela Carr's online course has pushed me on to eight new poems. I haven't been able to commit as much time to the Facebook posts as I'd like, but there's a good buzz there among the participants and I'm enjoying the prompts. 

I've had two poems from my previous online writing courses published in The Selkie's anthology. Based in Edinburgh, The Selkie is an online magazine mostly run by women which is refreshing. They also have a mentoring project New Voices which is worth looking into if you're a beginning writer. I've found working with a mentor very helpful and encouraging. 

I've submitted to 5 magazines and a have a list building up for more to go out, partially from Angela Carr's list of places to submit. I've already had one quick acceptance which helps with the new year, new start feeling. 

I haven't really come up with any resolutions, but to keep the momentum I've got going with writing and submitting. I'd like to get back to my fiction as well, but right now it doesn't feel like a good fit for my focus. Writing a poem a day makes it difficult to switch between fiction and poetry. 

Maybe that's a good focus for my theme for my writing prompt today 'an impossible task'. Can I be all things as a writer, a poet, a novelist, submitting tons of work and writing a poem a day, rewriting two novels? And lets not forget a mother, a partner, a social secretary and a chauffeur. There's also the thought that I should go back to work. I've been taking care of the kids for a long time now, but to be honest I like my life as it is right now and I'm scared to try and venture out into the working world again. 

On the writing side, it feels important to focus on the poetry, getting my collections finished and published, keep up my magazines submissions. On the personal side, I don't know what I'm doing with my life. Hopefully that will become clear later this year.

Wednesday, 9 January 2019

Not in the Mood for Resolutions

I believe my in-laws have thrown out almost all the copies of my poetry book, link on the side. We had taken them down from our loft in Scotland and packed them up in boxes, but there was a delay in getting someone to bring them to Finland, so my other half's siblings helped seal up the boxes properly for collection. I guess the boxes were too heavy as when they arrived here, the books had been taken out. I assumed they would be stashed for us to sort later. 

My other half just returned from a trip to Scotland where he could find less than ten copies of my collection and none of another book that had some of my work that I had produced myself through my old publishing company. My sister-in-law said they had cleared out a lot at my father-in-law's house where the boxes had been stored, so I guess they decided to recycle them.

I'm gutted. Why would you do that? Throw out copies of someone's work. I understand the boxes were heavy and they wanted to clear my father-in-law's house out while he was in hospital. I had suggested they might want to take a few extra boxes to spread things out as we had packed them, but hadn't tried to move them afterwards. But just to decide that my books weren't worth saving is offensive. I don't even know how to bring it up with them. The distance makes it difficult but also the fact that they don't appreciate books of any sort really and don't understand the work, time and money that went into those books. 

So I have less than a dozen copies of my book. I had hoped to have a cheap sale of the books once they arrived, so spread them around before the hopeful publication of my next book. But they're pulp.

I was going to think about resolutions for the new year in this post, but I have lost any impetus for that now.

I'm still moving along with Angela Carr's January Write Off. You can still join in, but clicking on the link where she has posted her list of prompts and I think she's still accepting people on the Facebook page, you just jump in on whatever day it is. 

I've sent out my first submission and also received my first rejection from another magazine. 2019 is rolling apace, I guess.

Tuesday, 1 January 2019

Writing Stats for 2018

Just as the new year gets started, here are my writing, submissions and publication stats for 2018 and for 2017 to compare. 


68 new poems

finished 5 previously started poems
94 submissions to magazines, 8 to book publishers
65 magazine rejections, 9 book rejections
10 acceptances
15 poems appeared in 7 publications, 5 online
6 acceptances awaiting publication
48 blog posts


19 new poems

finished 9 poems
65 magazines submissions, 12 to book publishers
45 magazine rejections, 10 book rejections
7 acceptances
1 book competition long-list
17 poems appeared in 8 publications, 4 online
21 blog posts

It's the first number I'm proudest of, 68 new poems written this year, most in the last quarter of the year due to Wendy Pratt's online writing course. I've done my best to continue without the course and I'm happy with how well I've been able to keep up, I've written 13 poems since the course finished. 

Having so many new poems to send out for consideration has helped up my submission numbers. I'm still only getting around a 10% acceptance rate, but more submissions equals more acceptances, even if only at one out of ten gets accepted. Considering I have 43 submissions awaiting adjudication I'm hoping that my acceptance numbers will be up next year as well. 

The publication numbers are never reflective of the current year because many print publications accept work but then take months or even up to a year to publish. Online magazines are often quicker, though I have a few from earlier in 2018 still waiting to appear. The six acceptances awaiting publication already show next year's numbers will be better. 

The Poetry Bloggers Revival Tour challenge has helped me increase my blog writing. I'd like to keep that up in the new year, so I have joined the Poetry Blogging Network for 2019 which is a follow-on of the PBRT. I've had a lot more views on my blog as well, down to joining the challenge, but without adding up monthly totals which are difficult to figure out, I can't say for certain what the numbers are. 

I've also finished one poetry collection and am almost done with the second. I am writing so many new poems that I keep wanting to shoehorn them in, so need to have a serious read-through in the next few months and finish it off. I've also done a lot of work on my novels, including rewriting the beginning of my old novel. I have this idea to sort out some issues in the new one I need to work on, so I hope to get back to that in the new year. I'll come back to my resolutions for 2019 later.

It's funny how much I enjoy seeing the numbers add up even though I'm not very mathematically minded. It reminds me how much effort I'm putting in and that there are some rewards to that effort.

For anyone looking for a prompt based poetry challenge Angela Carr has started one for January, link here.  It's free and there's a Facebook group to post your work if you wish. I'm going to give it a go.  

So welcome to 2019. I hope it has a lot of good things in store for all of us.