The Thing About Endings…

It’s been a helluvafewweeks. All go, and no stop. Writing, writing at the day job, attending the Northern Poetry Symposium, editing an anthology, blogging… All at the same time as managing the rest of life and bit of a sick cat.

This task mash-up normally results in my not being able to really concentrate on anything, and the sensation of my heart flit-flit-flitting in my head, rather than my chest. Does anyone else feel this way? From the outside it sounds like panic, but I don’t know if it’s actually just adrenaline. It means I’m alive – though sometimes I do wonder if feeling so alive on a long-term basis might actually do me some damage.

Brain

I’ve been keeping going with my novel plan – 1000 words a day. Sometimes I’ve done a little more, sometimes a little less, but it’s worked out pretty much there. I’m on the cusp of 36,000 words now, and since I’ve planned it as quite a shorty this means I’m in the final leg.

Endings are hard. I love writing beginnings, I love the beginnings of films, of plays. I love learning about a world and seeing the people in it for the first time. I love the mystery, the wonder. I love first impressions. But endings… Those are far more difficult. When I was younger and I used to write little stories here and there I most often used to kill the main character, as it seemed the only thing to do. So many dead protagonists… Died for nothing.

The truth is, I find it hard to imagine anything being ties up in life, so how can I emulate that in a novel? Every action we take starts a string of consequence, and sometimes they can come back to meet us again later. We go through awful things and great things, and both stick with us, so how can anything truly be resolved? This might reflect my own inability to leave things behind than anything else! And I know you don’t need everything to end at the end of a novel, but you do have to learn something that’ll change the way you live afterwards. I’ve tried to remember my favourite endings to novels and they tend to be novels that close quietly, with a thought, rather than an explosion or definite END. I don’t have such a problem ending poems, but I think this is because I see those as a snapshot. Even the poems with a  narrative tend to end on an important feature, rather than massive change. Maybe there’s something to learn from that?

Anyway, all going well, I should finish the first draft by the end of May. I’ll print it and rest the whole thing in a super-secret-cupboard during June, and then resurrect it in July, and start the long and (at the moment obscure) editing process. I imagine the editing process is going to take a LOT longer than the drafting processing. I’m not giving myself a tight deadline for this – and I’m just aiming to have it completed by the end of the year. This will mean I can work on all the other projects zipping about above my head – the full poetry collection, the book of short stories, the graphic novel, the children’s book… Not to mention the requests I’ve had for extra poems and bits and bobs for journals, and the Ghost Anthology I’m guest editing for Three Drops Press. Eeek. I’m sort of forgot about all that.

Oh well. Wish me luck!

Advertisements

MudFest!

It’s MudFest this week, people! MUDFEST!

MUD

If you haven’t heard about this yet, it’s a splendiferous showcase of live art, performance poetry, eclectic live music, an indie marketplace, a poetry kissing booth… And it’s the launch of the new WOMAN Anthology from Mud Press. The event is being directed by Founding Editor Georgina Wilding as part of the Nottingham Poetry Festival, and (in my humble opinion) this looks to be the highlight. George has been promoting the festival all over the place, and even popped up on BBC East Midlands prime-time news to perform and bit of spoken word poetry and advocate poetry to a ‘not-so-sure’ audience. As you do.

I’m incredibly proud to be a part of Mud Press, in that I became their In-House Blogger some time ago. But even if I wasn’t part of the team, I’d still think this event kicked ass.

You can read my blog detailing the ‘10 Reasons MudFest is IT’ over at the Mud Hub.

The Where: THiNK Creative Space, Cobden Chambers, Pelham Street, Notts, NG1 2ED

The When: Friday 28th April, 5.00pm – 8.00pm

Enjoy!

NaPoWriMo

What is this weird string of code, you may ask?

Those who are familiar with the term will recognise it as the abbreviated term for National Poetry Writing Month – which is April. I think the equivalent novel writing month (NaNoWriMo – November) has received far more popularity, but Poetry month is definitely on the rise. You can visit the website here.

napofeature1

Like many other poets I connect with online, I’ve been participating in the Month by writing one poem a day. That’s the general rule! It doesn’t have to be a complete poem, even a draft (which has been mostly the case), but a few other projects have sprung from this activity too.

I participated in the Month last year too, and I felt like that time I came out with a plethora of poems which seemed to fit quite coherently into a body of work that could be published together if I wanted to. At the time I had quite a singular focus, and I think that really showed in what I ended up with. Quite a few of those poems have since been included in anthologies. This year’s output has been far more eclectic… And dare I say it – more exciting!

It’s a habit of mine to work on quite a few different literary projects at once. I can’t help it. Typing and DOING can never keep up with the stream of ideas, and this can be really quite frustrating. I record every concept but sometimes returning to an idea doesn’t fill you with the same spark you had when you thought of it. So much of it I shelve for a future time when I might not have so many ideas.

Anyway, I’ve been forcing myself to be easy-going (quite the oxymoron) when it came to NaPoWriMo. The point was to develop a good flow of writing, so that I would be comfortable sitting down and just making a lot of it up, rather than feel the pressure to make something that’s perfect every time. Because who does that, really? It’s enough to put you off even trying. I honestly think this is why so many potential storytellers don’t even try. It’s the anticipation of failure.

So I’ve been writing all sorts of things, predominantly poems and short stories for two potential projects later in the year. I’ve also been doing a bit of brainstorming for an inclusion in a science fiction anthology later in the year which requires up to ten poems from each author. The publisher already has 7 from me, and they’re keen to receive more.

2015.04-interesting-hero-slider

Working on these has actually prompted another unexpected project… But one that feels, well, RIGHT. In the past six months or so I’ve been really keen to write a novel or novella, but none of the ideas I came up with felt like the write one, so they ended up as short stories or poems. But this one seems to have enough in it to make it to a full and rounded length, as well as being character lead, whilst still discussing certain philosophical issues. It sprung from a poem I wrote, and within half an hour I had a rough one page plan of plot, and narrative. So I’m going for it! And furthermore, I’m setting myself a target. I’m to write 1,000 words a day in order to have a first draft within a couple of months. Whether this story is any good is one thing, but I think it’s time I forced myself to see something at this length through despite the doubts, despite pulling my own hair out, despite the days when I can hardly string two words together. I can do this.

So wish me luck, and maybe you’ll be hearing more about this project soon…

Submissions Open for White Noise and Ouija Boards!

I can hereby announce that submissions are open for the latest anthology from Three Drops Press – White Noise and Ouija Boards! This is the first anthology I’ve been a Guest Editor for, and I’m incredibly excited to see what’s in store.

Many many moons ago, I had my very first poem published in a Three Drops Press Anthology, and so this feels quite serendipitous. I’ve grown so much since then, and now I’m switching sides to help choose and order the poetry and flash fiction. Managing Editor Kate Garrett will keep me right, but I’m a born (and trained!) curator. I never shy away from an opportunity to collect things. 😉

Haunting

The Three Drops Press submissions page describes the anthology as:

‘It took some time, but the time has come: we’re putting together an anthology of poetry and flash fiction about spirits, ghosts, seances, Ouija boards, famous hauntings, not-so-famous hauntings, possessions, and anything else relating to supernatural bumps in the night (or day, we aren’t fussy). Submissions are open from 31st March 2017 until 26th May 2017, and the book will be published in late summer (August). This anthology will be edited by Kate Garrett and Caroline Hardaker.

As this is a centuries old vein of storytelling, originality is important – whether it’s a new angle on the themes, a very obscure bit of lore, ghosts in mythology, a different view of famous literary ghosts (e.g. Hamlet’s father, the spirits in A Christmas Carol, you get the idea), or a very specific ghost story (by ‘story’ of course we mean folklore: a haunted library or pub in your town, something along those lines, not a Susan Hill book…) not many know about, to name a few examples. It isn’t as hard as it sounds – it’s just what we don’t want is the plot of every ghostly horror film over and over again.

So all of that being said: just send us your best work!’

You can read the submissions guidelines on the official submissions page. Happy submitting everyone!

Bone Ovation

Here it is… The big news. The showstopper. The little thing I teased a few weeks ago when I talked about shoving large amounts of cake in my face (it was my birthday too around that time – hence the over-interest in cake!) The big kahuna.

My poetry collection ‘Bone Ovation’ is going to be published! By the undisputed fabulousness that is Valley Press!

Bones

I still can’t quite believe it. They had at least 650 professional quality manuscripts to consider and out of the few they’ve chosen – I’m one. I had hoped so much that this would come together but everyday had half expected the ‘lovely no’ email. The further on down the path I got I feared it all the more. But there it is – it’s going to be published. It’s real! I met with Jamie McGarry to discuss the chapbook a couple of weeks ago in York and enjoyed a literary lunch surrounded by my pages of poetry and my enthusiasm – made tangible. What a feeling. We discussed release dates, covers, the length, and also comments from his reader group which I lapped up like honey. I’ve never before heard feedback that wasn’t meant for my ears and it felt wonderful, genuine, true.

I’ve spent the last couple of weeks doing a few edits here and there, researching cover ideas, and filling in lots of official looking information for VP. Last Thursday I even went and had some professional photographs taken of me – thank goodness my friend is a photographer, as that made the whole thing a lot less cringe-y. Big thanks to Sean Elliott Photography though! It was about time I had some nice pictures – I’ve been fobbing everyone off with Facebook photos thus far. I’m definitely going to make these last as long as possible – unless I suddenly become thin and glamorous, whereby I will ask Sean if he’ll snap pictures of my mush yet again.

ANYWAY – I couldn’t be more pleased! VP was the first publisher I sent ‘Bone Ovation’ to, and I’d thought at the time the least likely publisher to accept it. Their current author list is intimidating enough as it is when you list their accolades, awards, and previous publications. It must be a good fit for us both, though somehow I feel like I’m the one better off. 🙂 The little collection is currently set to be released on October 5th 2017, so I’ll keep you all up to date with how everything is progressing and a few sneak peeks here and there.

But for now, I’m going to keep glowing, any enjoy this moment! I’m going to work so hard to make this the first of many. Yes. Yes I am!

White

Having a final poem launched by In Between Hangovers on the topic of aging has reminded me (cruelly) that like everyone, I’m getting older.

$_32

It was my 31st birthday on Sunday – and rather than dancing ‘til my knees fall off I spent it by the seaside, at heritage sights, and then at a delightful seafood restaurant – The Potted Lobster. These things filled me with joy and freedom, in the way that ‘throwing my arms in the air like I just don’t care’ used to do. Don’t get me wrong, I know I’m still young really in terms of a working life, but being well and truly on your way through your thirties does make you think quite seriously about what you’re doing, who you are, and where you want to be. I’m usually quite calm about it, taking stock, and seeing bright things that I can plan in my future. Well – until I become suddenly aware of my own sense of mortality and I clutch at my chest – hearing my heartbeat and becoming too TOO aware of the gaps between each thump. Even now I’ve become a bit too mindful of my pulse.

Even when I was young I used to imagine leaving a legacy. It never occurred to me that I’d leave the world exactly as I found it. In truth, few of us will do that, even if it’s just because of the lives we’ve changed through relationships, having children, or even just inspiring one person to do something important. Legacies are left in so many ways. But I always wanted to leave something tangible behind, and as the years have gone by that tangible thing has started to take shape, and looks more and more papery and leather-backed. Perhaps I will leave words behind. Perhaps I’ll leave ideas.

I’m pretty near the start of this journey, I know. But I recently had some extremely good news that I’ll share in my next blog post. The anticipation is building…

For now, here’s a little poem I wrote (called ‘White’) shared on In Between Hangovers a few days ago. Please note – that I don’t actually have a rogue white hair sticking out of my forehead. Or do I…?

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!

lovely-cake

(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!