Black Holes & Revelations

It’s been a rocky couple of weeks emotionally. It’s so strange – sometimes I’m boundless, ricocheting from success to flop, flop to success, success to success, flop to flop… Taking it all in my stride. More often than not, my reaction to a rejection is only a resolute stare and the determination to do two more submissions that very same day. I KNOW the chances of publication are exceedingly slim, I KNOW publications turn away good work simply for lack of space, I KNOW publishers often love a piece but have to say no because it doesn’t aesthetically fit with the rest of a portfolio or collection. I know all this. But I think my pitfall is when I become a little too excited at the prospect of something. Let me explain.

galaxy

I submit a lot. I’m emotionless and mechanical about it. You have to be. If I stitched a heart-string to every submission email/letter I’d have no sinews left by now. My heart would be a tattered mess. But saying that – there are some submissions that you hold out a special hope for, and maybe even believe you have a particular edge with it. When these emails come back full of the ‘lovely nos’ that is a bit harder.

Like most writers, I receive a fair few nos. I’d say more than half of these rejections are personalised – which is a double-edged sword. Don’t get me wrong, I’m so grateful for these responses (and if any publishers are reading this then I really really really really do appreciate them really really), but when I’ve had a few of these at once it just makes me feel like I’ve got so close and JUST been pipped at the post. A bit like coming perpetually second in interviews – you have the feeling that you’ve done something right, but when the scenario happens over and over again you can’t help but feel a bit teased, like you’re offered a sniff of the cake but never a slice. Sometimes you’d rather the cake was either shoved in your face or would stay the hell away!

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(Lovely lovely cake)

There’s one particular submission that I’ve got quite far with… Last November I submitted a collection sample to a publisher – a very good one. I tried to be as flippant as ever, and not dwell on it too much, but I seem to have got quite a bit further through the selection process than I’d ever hoped. From around 650 manuscript samples (all of which were commented on as being clever, earnest, and lovely samples), I’m now left in the final group. Some manuscripts have already been selected for publication, and roughly 1 in 6 of what’s left might get an offer for 2018. I’m now hovering between incredible excitement and potential doom. The result is a sort of awkward simmering. I’m tense, yet flaccid. Hopeless, yet keen. If it ends up being  a ‘lovely no’ then I’m definitely going to take from this that the manuscript is most definitely publishable to get this far. It’s a huuuuuuuuge compliment. But if it turns out to be a hot hot hot yes, well. I might just explode into excitement and vociferous self-promotion. I apologise in advance. 😉

On another note – a lovely share of a poem, by moi.

In Between Hangovers have posted up another of my poems from 2016 – Marriage & Black Holes . Thank you guys!

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White Noise & Ouija Boards

An exciting first for me… One that I’m bursting with excitement to reveal! (So much so that I’m not even going to build it up – it’s THAT GOOD).

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This summer, I’m going to be guest editing the latest anthology from Three Drops Press, alongside Managing Editor Kate Garrett-Nield! The anthology is entitled ‘White Noise & Ouija Boards: An Anthology of Ghosts and Hauntings’, and it really couldn’t be more up my street. I’d considered submitting to the anthology, but when Kate suggested it as a possible project I could get involved with I leapt at the chance.

Submissions open at the end of March until May, with an aim to release the anthology in August. I can’t wait to read endless ghosty poems and being spooked until my socks fly off. I’m hoping to try to encourage as many new poetry writers as I can too, and so encourage storytellers who might not otherwise feel brave enough to submit. The first time is always the most nerve-wracking. You can do it!

I’ll send out another blog post when submissions open next month, but in the meantime, enjoy dreaming up those spectral happenings… You can read more on the ‘Upcoming Calls For Submissions’ page on the Three Drops website.

Submitting Vs Writing

I do sometimes find it tricky to strike the balance between writing and the somewhat less artful art of submitting. I can get tied up too much in submitting to journals and anthologies, writing the cover letters, doing the endless copying and pasting of poems into a single word document (for some reason this is the part I hate the most and have proved myself to be spectacularly terrible at), checking Submittable for any movement… If I’ve only got a few submissions floating out there I find it hard to forget about them, and the easiest way for me to try and forget and move on is to submit LOTS of proposals, and therefore confusing myself into a state of ‘doing’, rather than ‘thinking’. I do keep a massive spreadsheet of what I send (thank the gods), otherwise I’d probably give myself a nervous breakdown.

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Still. It’s difficult to forget about proposals that are in the hands of publishers, particularly if they’re rather exciting ones. As well as a few poems on the desks of literary journals here and there, I’m waiting to hear from two publishers about two chapbook proposals. The chances of acceptances in these situations is incredibly slim as it is, and my nervousness increases as I find out I’m so so near to the finish line, and have got so far through the judging process. It’s promising to get so far, and you have to sometimes accept that that is sonetimes the greatest compliment in itself. Often, the longer it takes to hear back from a publisher the better (unless it’s nearer to a year’s wait, in which case what might have happened is a missing submission or they’re just a little discourteous and haven’t told you that they’ve passed you over). I know how many submissions these journals can receive, and it can be so stressful to wade through them with respect. It can be an overwhelming trial – and that’s why submission windows are more often than not replacing open submissions policies. But still – I think everyone deserves closure, particularly if the journal doesn’t accept simultaneous submissions.

Anyhoo – I’m still hopeful about my two pamphlets, but I’m also stoic in the face of defeat, when I have to be. Even if neither are accepted, I know how far they got – and that itself does credit to the work. Perhaps next time I’ll get lucky. Or then again – maybe not! Hopefully I’ll be put out of my misery soon-ish.

A Little Bit of Melancholia

Today, I’ve been writing a poem about my cat.

I don’t usually focus on such things, but she’s a little darling with a dark streak – and so I felt inspired. Juno is the first cat I’ve owned, and it’s quite the experience. She is a bit like an extreme version of a human being – one minute demanding a rub and scratch (but with your eyes!!!), and the next acting aloof and frankly snobbish. I’ve never met such a playful creature – but the act of play with her is dangerous, like playing frisbee with a  samurai sword, or rugby with an overly large hand grenade. She combines such joy with the flailing of sharp claws and ever-sharpening teeth.

In the meantime – I had a few poems accepted for web journal Your One Phone Call, and a request from their sister-zine In Between Hangovers for a few poems for their site too. Being a happy poet, I complied, and they published the first one yesterday. You can read my little melancholic ditty ‘Aparted’ over on their website.

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[Photo credit: Ch. Boirau, The Spleen (Melancholy). Postcard, c. 1915]