Sunday, 29 March 2020

Corona Virus Week Two - Facing Isolation

As so many of us are stuck at home in these crazy times, I've become part of The Stay-at-Home Online Literary Festival. It runs from 27 March to 11 April and will have readings, book launches, discussions, all those things we're missing with social distancing in the literary world. Some of the writers included are Maggie O'Farrell, Louise Welch, the writers of Butcher's Dog, Molly Brown and Tania Hershman.

I'm offering two poets a chance to receive feedback on up to ten poems or to discuss their next moves. If you're interested feel free to contact me via my website www.grimalkinpress.co.uk or via my Twitter handle @grimalkingerry. 

On a personal writing side, E. Christine Murray has included 5 of my poems on Poethead her collection of women poets from Ireland and abroad and there is a link to this blog in her Index of Women Poets. I've mentioned Poethead on here before, I catch up with it regularly to get a taste of what's going on in women's poetry. It's a heady mix of linguistic acrobatics and seamstresses of imagery and styles, every click something new and undiscovered. I usually end up in a rabbit hole of following links to other blogs or publishers sites or looking for more of the writers' work if I find one that really hits home. It's really worth spending some time wandering through.

On a smaller personal scale, everything that's going right now on seems so momentous, but I haven't been able to write about it. I edit unfinished poems, but I can't write more than a few notes about the self-isolation. I have one poem I started just as this began to take hold where the virus is beginning to work its way into. It was supposed to be just about the drama of beginnings and endings at a hospital, but I can't help to see the impact of the virus in the stanza. In everything, I read, watch, think about the virus seems to overwrite itself. 

I started scribbling the previous paragraph last night, far too deep into the wee hours and followed up by rewriting another half-finished poem so that it looked at home isolation. So I guess it will find a way to write itself. I can't approach it head on. I'm uncertain of where to start, worrying whether my view is worth speaking. I feel so insignificant, locked away, protected by the privilege of being able to wash my hands, stay off work, protect my family. Our lives feel on the verge of a huge change and I'm just holding my breath, waiting to see what will happen, how we will be affected, what will remain.

We are all uncertain and waiting. Be safe.

Sunday, 22 March 2020

Corona Virus Isolation - Week One


On the poetry front, I've written a few rough drafts, edited a lot, submitted to a few journals and received a lot of rejections. Nothing new really. For not working, I haven't had a lot of time which I'll explain below. 

On a positive note, I've recently had a poem appear in the latest issue of Poetry Birmingham Literary Journal. I can't wait to get my copy, the cover is amazing. They've been great to work with. Their previous rejections have always had a personal touch, but this acceptance has been lovely. They edited my poem which I always love, to get an outside view of my work, but they suggested changes without making me feel I'd done something badly. It felt like they really cared about how the magazine and my poem worked together.

I wish more magazine editors believed, "Line-editing, specifically, deserves recognition as the essential part of the editor-poet relationship, and therefore must be preserved practice in the publication cycle of literary periodicals," as editor Suna Afshan of PBLJ does. She made my little poem seem important.

I have always dreamed of that sort of relationship with my eventual editor. That was what I was trained in when I started working with Joy Hendry at Chapman in Edinburgh. She spent time with each issue of the magazine, line editing, talking to the writers about her suggestions. Even more so with the poetry collections we published.

Another magazine Porridge has recently published my poe'Yötön Yö' on their website with a lovely image. Midsummer seems a long way off now, but it's important to remember that time keeps moving on, summer will be here soon enough. I've enjoyed following the links at the bottom to other poems, discovering random gems with that method.  

But back to the Corona Virus outbreak: we've been social distancing for the week, me and my 4 kids stuck together, home schooling. It's been pretty tough. I keep seeing memes and advice from people telling me I should teach them to sew buttons or make homemade playdough or don't bother with home schooling, to let kids be kids. Finland doesn't work that way. They expect kids to long online in various methods for certain classes, to do specific work everyday. They all assign work for their classes. Every teacher is using different apps for notifications and collecting work, I'm exhausted from juggling it all. 

My son with special needs seems to have the most work, but this may be just because it takes him so much longer to do the work. He's been very good about it, but the stress of being out of school's comforting routine, fighting with the unfamiliar software and my new teaching methods and poor grip of Finnish is showing. I've already said to the two middle kids' English teacher that her homework is not a priority as their English skills will not be the ones that slip during a month of isolation, it will be the Finnish language. We're still reading in both languages and will maybe start a Virus Diary, pictures and wee notes about their lives at the moment, but I'm not going to worry too much.  

Overall, if we have time I'm giving them a chance to do what they want. I make sure we go out in the fresh air every day and have put up the trampoline to give them an outlet for their endless energy. They help with chores and making dinner, but I'm not trying to fill the day with educational or fun activities. We all need time to unwind. Hopefully, this upcoming week will be easier because we now have the schedule and a vague routine. 

I'm struggling to keep up on with my own course work. I'm a week behind in the work and  have very little time to do things for myself during the day. I spent all day yesterday, watching presentations and reading articles. I don't want to do anything today, but I have a 35-page mental health article I need to browse.

So my hopes of writing a King Lear-type masterpiece as the memes are suggestion is not happening. But I know all this adventure, stress and upheaval will collect in me, compost into some beautiful poems at a later date. I'm keeping my own journal and making notes. Something good will be created from all this. I'm trying not to stress, worry or pressure myself or the kids. We'll get through this. 



Sunday, 15 March 2020

Interesting Times

'May you live in interesting times.' I wrote this quote in a notebook once, not knowing where it came from and what that would mean in the long run. It's possibly a curse and sometimes it feels just that.

I finally started my course, got some days back in work and then the Corona virus hit Finland properly. My sons have heavy head colds, so we're having to self-isolate for a week. I'm not worried, but it does make you think how our lives can change so quick. A year ago everything in my life was different. I'm happy to have moved forward and will continue to do just that, in my writing, in my career, with my kids, but sometimes it just feels overwhelming and inexplicable.

We'll spend the week doing homework together, going outside to enjoy the changing spring weather, keeping busy and getting through all this strangeness. Hopefully, without killing each other. 

The Corona Virus is going to require a lot of change, compromise, innovative thinking. A lot of writers will be losing out on work and money because events like readings, workshops and book launches will be cancelled. The writing community on Twitter is trying to support each other, offering to post information on each other's books and other threads to build camaraderie. Poetry Ireland is posting daily prompts, yeah! Bookshops are offering online sales, the Toledo Poetry Museum is doing an online open mic and I've even heard the suggestion of an online festival. Hopefully, by being isolated we can develop more connections.

This week, our writing group has moved online to avoid gathering in a very public venue. It was a fun change, but we all missed being together. I hope this is a short change and that those who are in self-isolation can find ways to get through. We're in this together. 

Sunday, 8 March 2020

Wandering the Words

It's been a strange week. I still can't get on my course that started last week due to technical issues. My whole application has been wiped from the system. I have no clue what's going on. I haven't had any teaching work this week, so I feel like I'm on hold. I had hoped to do some writing, but I only managed to work on finishing poems, nothing new.

I did get to visit a lot of people I haven't seen in months because of work which was lovely, but I just felt restless. I'm hoping this week will be better. I need to move with some purpose.

There's an American poet in my writing group, the first poet we've had besides myself in a while. Last week she read a poem and it was so American. I can't explain why, the strong rhythm, the long line breaks, the subject, I don't know.  I clumsily tried to explain to her after her reading that it was like being back in my creative writing classes in Idaho or out in nature there with my fellow Forestry students.

It's odd, I liked the reading style, but again I didn't. Like most of America, it doesn't fit me anymore, but it's familiar and slightly comforting. Maybe too much so, I knew that poem, that voice as soon as she started, it took me somewhere I'd been. It made me understand why I struggle to get accepted by American magazines, my poems don't sound like that, don't have that feeling anymore. I want to explore more, I don't want to go back on that mountain path I'd walked before.

I also listened to some poems by Angela Carr on her website. She has a little Sound Cloud box at the bottom on the right hand side. Her style of reading also felt familiar, but more what I heard in university in Scotland where I really got into writing. Treading familiar boards of long halls rather than walking in the woods. 

It was lovely to experience both again, I don't listen to enough poetry. I've visited the Poetry Foundation website several times and they often have audio of their poems, many times read by the poet. You can hear their way they read it, where they place the emphasis, hear their way of walking through their words. I need to wander back. 

Sunday, 1 March 2020

Dipping Back into Poetry

Some weeks, I feel myself moving further and further away from poetry, in order to earn money and care for my family. This isn't a lament. I've been very lucky to be able to take time off to raise my young kids when they needed me, to have a partner who supported me and to be able to use that time to write and build up a publishing record.

But occasionally I do see a ship I'd like to be on sailing away in the distance, a writing course I'd like to attend, an opportunity I cannot even consider. I wave to those lucky enough to take part and I turn back to my substitute teaching, my editing jobs, my attempts to re-train so I can improve my chances of finding work. There's a shadow of regret, but I have always liked a goal, moving towards a purpose, so I hope to make the most of this change of direction. And hard work, I relish a challenge, physical or mental, especially one with people on the sidelines saying I'm crazy for considering it.

I've been accepted into my SEN course, but I can't enroll properly because of someone technical glitch. It doesn't bode well for taking an online course. I'm still waiting to hear about my other course. I also need to figure out if I can teach, study and keep up with the kids. 

But I'm still keeping my toes in the poetry waters, writing occasionally, submitting, attending my poetry group. I've had a group of poems accepted by The Blue Nib this week, so I have that to look forward to. I could never give up writing completely. It always finds a way into my life. 

I've written the starts of two new poems this week. I feel like I'm writing in slow motion. I haven't finished any poems I've started this year and only finished 10 from last year. After writing everyday for so much of last year and writing so many poems, it's harder to get back into the flow. Once I actually clear my desk of work and admin, it's difficult to turn my head towards writing. The less attention I give it, the more I have to work at making time for it, to remember to take out my notebook rather than my phone, to not give into the tiredness on Friday night after work and go to my writing group where I usually have a bit of time beforehand to write. 

I'm back to where I was a year and a half ago when writing was work. Not that I didn't enjoy it, but it didn't come naturally, each line had to be pulled from me and shaped, rather than just me falling into a rhythm of writing as soon as I sat down.

Difference is, I know what is possible now. I couldn't believe then that I could write a draft of a poem daily, that it could be easy. Now, I know I need to make the effort to slot it in on days when I'm not teaching. I should also try to adapt to writing in the evening when the kids are in bed, but it's never been a natural time for me to work. But I've proven that this old horse can learn new tricks, so it won't hurt to try. 

I need to take advantage of the kids being out for another hour or so and do some proper writing. Enjoy the beginnings of spring. 

Saturday, 22 February 2020

Teaching Kids and Creative Writing

My poems 'Hare Moon' and 'The Postscript' have been published in issue 89 of Obsessed with Pipework. Thanks so much to the Charles and Katerina for making such a lovely issue and for taking the time to ship it to my far corner of Europe. My kids were excited to see my name in the issue and hear me read one of the poems out, they don't usually get to see my writing. Though my son said it didn't rhyme, so I'll need to spend some time working on his poetry knowledge.

I've had a couple of chances to teach creative writing to kids here in Finland as part of my substituting. I recently had to whip up a quick lesson when a teacher accidentally made a mistake in her lesson plans and asked me to teach the same lesson I had taught her class the week before. I gave them three vague prompts about aliens, sports, holidays and asked them to focus on 'to be verbs' which our lesson was covering. Some students wrote their one page dutifully, but showed very little excitement because it was just another assignment, but the wee group of boys who had been keeping me on my toes all week took a while getting into it. I forgot how much I enjoy watching kids enjoy writing.

I could see it, the fire behind their eyes as ideas began to grow, as words filled page after page. They didn't want to go out to break, they wanted to continue writing after they finished their required work in the next lesson. One asked if I could publish their work. If only. That's why I used to teach creative writing, to see that excitement. Even my teaching assistant was surprised that these particular kids, who struggled with school, who didn't read according to her, were able to find the imagination to come up with stories that they wanted to write and share. It can be a challenge to find a way to kick start their interest, but there's usually a way if you can take the time to work with them. I hope it get to use my skills more during the rest of this year. 

I found out I can't do the course that would allow me to get a teaching certificate here. I don't have enough credits in Linguistics. So that has whittled my course choices down to the SEN course and the Vocational Teachers certificate which is only good for high school and above. I've applied for both, though the SEN course is being held up as we wait for an approval letter from my main school. I don't know if I can do both time-wise and continue subbing, but I can try. I'll look into a linguistic course too, maybe.

This sort of teaching wasn't my goal years ago, I loved being a Creative Writing teacher and editor, but that's just not possible here. I'm having to adapt to the country and language I live in and to my current abilities and training. Maybe if I can get this Vocational Teacher degree, I can teach some adult classes in Creative Writing. But in the end, with four kids and the need to get myself independent, I need to look at more stable careers. With more and more graduates in Creative Writing, getting permanent teaching positions without a degree in Creative Writing is becoming harder and harder. (Something to consider if you're looking at taking a course.) So becoming a primary school teacher or something similar has to be seriously considered. 

I'm sitting here on another wild, rainy weekend, contemplating what to do next. I've been editing all week, first for paid work and also my own poems. I'm waiting on decisions on the two courses I've applied to and booking classes as a sub. I'm looking at jobs here in Finland and in the UK, though recent immigration laws will make it pretty impossible for me to move back there. I want to write new poems, but my brain has seized up. I'm trying not to worry about the uncertainty of my life because next week will be all new. I want to embrace that potential. 

Sunday, 16 February 2020

Stepping Up

I've said several times on these pages that I needed to be brave and do more poetry readings here in Finland. I've also mentioned the yearly poetry event here in Helsinki, Runokuu, Poetry Moon. I've been unable to motivate myself to actually take any steps forward to organise a reading for myself, so Runokuu has been nice enough to make an online application form for this year's event. 

I'm still trying to convince some of the poets and spoken word writers in my writing group to do a larger event with me, but I've applied individually to promote my chapbook which will hopefully be published this summer. It's not a guaranteed event, but I'm happy that Runokuu has opened this process to make it easier to apply. The form is in English and Finnish which is a relief as I think the one year I managed to write an email in English to the organisation, offering my help in whatever way they saw fit, I never received a response, possibly because of the language. 

Besides my group this week, sketching out the beginning of a poem in one of my breaks and submitting to one journal, I haven't managed much poetry-related. Besides Twitter. I have filled my Twitter feed with a mix of magazines, established and emergent writers. Some just comment on the world, many promote their books and readings, some post snippets of their writing, some post poems written by others that they love. I enjoy the latter most. I don't buy as many poetry collections as I should and getting them in the local libraries here is almost impossible if they were written after Shakespeare. So reading online journals and poems selected by other writers is my way of keeping in touch with the poetry world and the writers I enjoy. I can fit it into small pockets of time or scroll by if I don't want to head down a specific rabbit hole. 

It's the skiing holiday break here in Finland. There's been no real snow in Southern Finland this year and we're getting pummeled by the tail end of Storm Dennis, so it's still a very wet, black winter/ spring here. 

But I'm relieved to not be teaching for a spell. I have two editing jobs to finish this week which is exciting and exhausting. I've spent this weekend reading a virology doctoral thesis out loud to make sure I understand as much as I can and don't miss any grammar issues because I don't understand what is being explained. I'm learning a lot, but my eyes, throat and brain are tired. I've broken the back of both projects, so hopefully I'll be able to turn to poetry a little more as the week goes on. 

Sunday, 9 February 2020

Slow Unwinding in February

It's been a slow writing week. No writing group due to childcare issues, no publications. One very positive acceptance and a handful of submissions I managed to get out. I managed to find a pocket or two of time to work on some unfinished poems. 

I've also bit the bullet and sent an application to do a reading into a local poetry event. I've tried to convince some of the other poets from my group to do a larger reading, but there have been no takers so far so I put in an individual application. I think we'll have a better chance to pull more of a crowd and get accepted if we could do a longer set with more people, but I'm happy to be added to another programme or do a short one on my own. Well, maybe not happy, scared silly is more apt, but I'll give it a go, if I get a chance.

I took a bit of time to read another Hedgehog Poetry publication The Legend of the Kettle Daughter by Amy Alexander. Accompanied by the author's artwork, the poems tell the story of the Kettle Daughter, Alexander's mother, through the imagery of Utah, moving between a cabin in the mountains to Salt Lake City and back again. 

The Kettle Daughter's daughter tries to unravel the mythology and family stories to understand what haunts her mother and in turn herself. 

'I existed, an audience
as she spoke everything
into myth,'


I was intrigued by these poems' slow opening, like moving hesitantly through a dim lit room. They pulled me to follow the threads they lay through the rooms with words and images to better understand the stories. The fine webs between them caught me, but lead me on carefully from one poem to the next. This is a collection I will have to reread several times to feel I've really followed everything, one that builds up in my mind as I traverse it again and again, but it's definitely worth the time.

The various Hedgehog collections I've managed to read, and I have a good pile left from the two Cult deliveries I've received, have each been their own creature. I couldn't put my finger on what kind of poem and poet Hedgehog prefers, no house style. Each book has their own appeal and strengths. I've found treasures in each pamphlet. As a future Hedgehog writer this is reassuring. Hopefully, I will fit because I have my own voice and my stories are strong enough to stand on their own.

Saturday, 1 February 2020

A Bright Light on a Dark Brexit Day

I haven't had any time to commit to writing this week. I've been subbing full time, trying to sort applications for courses and I've been chasing a new editing client and continuing a project with a previous client. 

But Friday evening, Brexit Day, I managed to stay awake past dinner and go to my writing group for the first time in three weeks. It was great to see the regulars, catch up with a returnee I haven't seen in a year or so and meet the newbie. I shared a couple of poems I liked, but knew weren't quite working and got helpful feedback, so hopefully I'll find some time this weekend to tweak them. 

I forget how much I enjoy the camaraderie of other writers, especially foreign writers here in Finland. We're a good mix of nations, last night there were British, American, Hungarian, Romanian and Jamaican writers attending. We usually have a Finn or two as well. We went out for a drink afterwards, to talk shop, politics and just generally blether. We may not agree on everything politically and I was grateful the conversation did not turn to Brexit, but I feel we can actually debate and break open subjects that touch on writing, teaching, literature and being immigrants.

Though the other writers and I are on different paths in our writing careers, there are few poets in the group, it's nice to have a small community to share worries, successes and struggles. If someone asks, how do you decide when a piece is finished, there are lots of different points of view and stories shared, poems that get rehashed to death, stories that never get finished. They understand. I'm so glad I've managed to find this in a place where I can't properly engage with the local literature because my language skills just aren't up to it. Even if I can't make it every week, I know it's there when I have time. 

I'm not sure how Brexit will change things in the UK, in Scotland specifically and here in Finland. There's this sense of dread over the social media posts from my Scottish friends back home, from the British immigrants I know here. The closed minds that have initiated Brexit are having their moment, but I hope that some sort of balance will quickly be established.  I hope Scotland gets independence. I hope the hate that started all this doesn't continue to gain momentum in the UK and in Europe.

I'm not British, not European, but my children are. They don't understand Brexit and what is being taken away from them, but I do. They don't see borders, nationalities, they don't worry about immigration regulations, residence permits. Finland, Europe is their home. They have Finnish friends and friends from all around the world and they don't separate them except by which language they speak. If asked, they don't know if they're British or Finnish or where their friends' families are originally from and don't see why it would be a concern. I want to keep that acceptance. I want them to find a place, a group of people where it doesn't matter where they're from, but they can share a common passion in their interests. 

Only time will tell.

Sunday, 26 January 2020

Burns' Night 2020

I'm recovering from a Burns' Night blast, so this will be short, but sweet. 

Bindweed has published two of my poems in their 10th online issue. Lovely issue, check it out. 

Burns' Night was so much fun. For those of you who don't know, it celebrates the poetry and life of Robert Burns, Scotland's bard. The Finnish Scottish Society here in Finland have an annual event, this year held on Suomenlinna, Finland's fortress island just off Helsinki. I was involved with the creating and cooking of the haggis from scratch and the kitchen is such a good place to be.

We had the traditional 'Address to the Haggis', bagpipers, a musician singing Burns' songs, a game where guests are invited to read selected lines of the poems, either those a bit racy, with a touch of Scottish humour or those a that might be difficult for the non-Scots speaking. It's was a great laugh and there might have been a bit of drinking. No whisky for me though. 

Sunset on Suomenlinna.


I'll leave you with a Burns song I particularly like. Here's a link to a version that explains some of the Scots words. 


A Man's A Man For A' That

Is there for honest Poverty
   That hings his head, an' a' that;
The coward slave—we pass him by,
   We dare be poor for a' that!
For a' that, an' a' that.
   Our toils obscure an' a' that,
The rank is but the guinea's stamp,
   The Man's the gowd for a' that.

What though on hamely fare we dine,
   Wear hoddin grey, an' a that;
Gie fools their silks, and knaves their wine;
   A Man's a Man for a' that:
For a' that, and a' that,
   Their tinsel show, an' a' that;
The honest man, tho' e'er sae poor,
   Is king o' men for a' that.

Ye see yon birkie, ca'd a lord,
   Wha struts, an' stares, an' a' that;
Tho' hundreds worship at his word,
   He's but a coof for a' that:
For a' that, an' a' that,
   His ribband, star, an' a' that;
The man o' independent mind
   He looks an' laughs at a' that.

A prince can mak a belted knight,
   A marquis, duke, an' a' that;
But an honest man's abon his might,
   Gude faith, he maunna fa' that!
For a' that, an' a' that,
   Their dignities an' a' that;
The pith o' sense, an' pride o' worth,
   Are higher rank than a' that.

Then let us pray that come it may,
   (As come it will for a' that,)
That Sense and Worth, o'er a' the earth,
   Shall bear the gree, an' a' that.
For a' that, an' a' that,
   It's coming yet for a' that,
That Man to Man, the world o'er,
   Shall brothers be for a' that.


Saturday, 18 January 2020

Too Tired to Think of a Title

This week consisted of subbing four full days, the fifth day I had a meeting at my son's school because he's been struggling since we moved him to mainstream and chasing up information and applying for a course or two or three. I managed to get one application in and I think I've decided against one of the courses. It's full time, my son's needs and appointments are obviously going to increase, so I won't be able to commit to going into Uni every day. The new plan is to apply to the other two and see what happens and continue to work as a substitute.

I graduated with my second degree in 1996. I've done a few language and creative writing courses since, but I haven't written an essay or done academic research for over 20 years. I've edited essays for other people, double-checked their bibliographies and facts, but I've not been a proper student. And now I've decided to apply to two one-year courses while working part-time. I'm not sure I'll get into either of them, but I'm getting a bit worried that I'll be able to handle even one of them.

I swore I didn't want to go back to studying. I'm 50 this year and I wanted that part of my life to be done. But needs must. I will get paid more, have more opportunities if I do some training. I don't think I'm ready to be a full-time student again though.

I'm already feeling my age and out-of-placeness, struggling with the online application system, but, honestly, who thought that it would be a good idea to not allow people to go back and double-check, proof-read their details and that if you tried, you'd crash your application. I've discovered even some of the students I've worked with submit essays written on phones without doing more than a spell check. Crazy. Yes, I've complained to the University, being a mature student-hopeful means I won't be willing to sit back and just accept things.

My writing has gotten very little attention until this weekend, but I've found a bit of time to do some writing and editing.

I've also had four poems published in the morphrog 20 issue this week, the online version of The Frogmore Papers. It's nice to have a few poems in one place, to read the other writers and also for myself.

I've also received the new Hedgehog Poetry Press Cult bundle, a big pile of pamphlets that come with my subscription. I was especially looking forward to Raine Geoghegan's new collection they lit fires: lenti hatch o yog, monologues, songs and haibun about her family's Romany life. I had read her previous collection Apple Water: Povel Panni and was really taken by the mixture of poetry, culture and language woven into her writingIt was actually some of Raine's poems on Chris Murray's Poethead website that led me to Hedgehog. I was so taken by her writing and thought the house that published her would be worth looking into and it definitely was.

The new collection doesn't disappoint. I love the colours, the sound of the Romany words her writing evokes. Each piece makes me feel as if I was by those fires listening to those stories, travelling down the roads with a warm, tight-knit family. Raine Geoghegan's writing offers a different and welcome insight to the Romany culture than most popular media offers these days. 

It's sad seeing my writing taking a backseat to so much, but I'm trying to keep myself connected with poetry however I can.

Sunday, 12 January 2020

A New Direction for 2020

It's been a bumpy return to the real world this week. Struggles getting everyone back into routine, but luckily there was no work for me until Friday. It meant I could pop into my women's group on Thursday and catch-up. I haven't been able to attend for months because of the randomness of my job, so it was nice to have a bit of me time.  

My results arrived for my language test. I passed two of the four sections, I needed three. I was gutted that I didn't pass the writing section which seemed to be my strongest skill on the day. I felt crap for a bit and then added the next sign-up date into my calendar. We'll see how I feel in a month. Then I tried to watch a Finnish language programme. I have to push on.

I'm now looking at updating my skills by taking courses. I don't think I'm going to be able to make a go as an editor here, there are too many people competing for the same kind of client, so I've decided to focus more on my teaching. It's not my dream job, but at this point in my life I have to do what's the most practical and immediate though I will try and make the most of what I need to do. 

I've found an online Special Educational Needs course that I'll probably apply for. Helping my son with his needs and subbing at schools where there are so many SEN kids and not enough teachers with the training or experience to help them has really heightened my interest in this area. 

I've already been trying to sort my application for a Vocational Teacher's Training course which I could use to get jobs at high school level and above, but then I talked to a friend about a course that would allow me to teach primary school to high school level at English schools which is what I'm doing as a sub, so I'm now thinking that might be better. Both of these are local, part-time and free, but highly contested so I'm going to apply for both and see what happens. I'm up to my eyeballs in applications and contacting the various universities in my life to prove I worked or studied there, writing personal statements and chasing up former supervisors for references. 

I've always needed some sense of direction for my life and I think last year was mostly about me getting my feet under me so I could make that decision. So now that I have decided I feel stronger and I can take a bad blow like my test results without totally giving in. One step back isn't the end. 

I haven't had much time for writing, but I've started a couple of poems that I want to work on. One is about wild skating, skating on lakes that are just frozen, from a video I saw. Yesterday I had a chance to visit such a lake, so I want to adapt the notes I've made to that experience. I wasn't skating, but the sounds the ice made are amazing, so I want to try and capture that. I'm scribbling here and there still. 

I'm glad I had such a productive and positive year in 2019. 2020 is going in a different direction and while I'd still like to work on the poetry, I hopefully won't feel as bad if I can't write every day because I have a lot of poems to work on from last year and my pamphlet coming out. I just want to keep producing when I can and make the most of what work I have already done. 

The Green Light Journal has published my poem 'When I Saw Her Standing There' in its latest issue, so good news keeps trickling in from my submissions. Onward.

Sunday, 5 January 2020

Writing Stats for 2019

I'm always amazed how busy poetry editors are in the break between Christmas and going back to work in the new year. I've had yet another rejction from Granta which came as no surprise, but I've had three acceptances and two publications in the first four days of 2020.

My poem 'Saltshine' has been published in Barren Magazine's Issue 12 and my poem about early photographer Sarah Anne Bright 'The Quillan Leaf' in Lucy Writers' Funky Women Issue. Can't wait to have a bit of time to browse through both issues.

I've finally sorted through all my own submission records for 2019.

2019
155 new poems
221 submissions to magazines, 7 to book publishers
170 magazine rejections, 6 book rejections
27 acceptances, 1 win pamphlet competition
41 poems were published in 25 magazines or other venues, 21 online
45 blog posts, 1 guest blog post

Compared to last year:

2018
73 new poems
94 submissions to magazines, 8 to book publishers
65 magazines rejections, 9 book rejections
10 acceptances
15 poems were published in 7 magazines or other venues, 5 online
48 blog posts

I've upped my acceptance rate from 10 to 12% and had a pamphlet accepted for publication. In order to do that I've had to more than double my submission rate which in truth was easy as I had so many more poems to work with. With going back to work I probably won't be able to keep up those numbers, but I know what's possible and I hope to be able to build on these contacts once my pamphlet comes out.

I have a lot of poems I need to finish for 2020 and Angela Carr has published her prompts for her newest course (without all the cool poems and more details she includes if you take her course) so I'm going to also try and write a few new ones as well. I've decided against taking a course this month because I want to focus on getting more work and catching up on things like the final edits of my pamphlet. I've been going over it this week, fine tooth comb kind of thing. I love it, but I need to draw a line in the next day or so and send it off. I could over-edit if I'm not careful. 

So January 2020 is off and running. We'll see what my momentum is like once the kids are back at school and I'm available for work.