Friday, 15 January 2021

USA magazines

Which US magazines are worth sending to? Clifford Garstang's ranked lists are a good source of information -

Note that -

  • a few of the magazines still prefer paper submissions
  • many are University-based, with submission windows aligned to university terms.
  • many make you pay to submit (often $3)

“One Story” doesn’t charge, and it’s one of the best. Consequently they get about 100 submissions a week (the shortest being 3,000 words, the limit 8,000). So they have to read maybe 30 million words a year. Don’t expect a quick reply.

Thursday, 31 December 2020

A UK poetry submission schedule for Jan-Jun 2021

There's more uncertainty than usual about poetry magazines and pamphlet competitions. "Envoi" has gone and some other magazines are taking a breather. I'll update this list as I find out more.

Monday, 28 December 2020

A UK/Eire prose submission schedule for Jan-Jun 2021

As more magazines introduce submission windows, and competitions increase their significance, it's worth planning ahead. Details are more hazy this year - I'm unsure whether those below are correct - I'll update when I can. Some magazines are taking a break. Anyway, I shall try to submit to these (mostly UK) competitions and submission windows -

Friday, 18 December 2020

Poetry in 2020

  • More of the magazines that I've subscribed to have disappeared, and I've not renewed subscriptions to some others (e.g Rialto, Stand) because I understand far too few of their poems - I think they've changed more than I have.
  • My successes have been limited in number though I'm glad I got in The High Window and Fenland Journal
  • I've written 6 poems this year. I wish their scarcity meant they were good.
  • I didn't enter any poetry competitions except for the Magma pamphlet competition.
  • I've given up thinking I can ever get in Poetry Review, PN Review, Poetry London, etc.
  • I've read quite a few poetry books. As usual I didn't choose just the books I thought I'd like. I understood very little of "Wade in the water" (Tracey K Smith) and "The Prince of Wails" (Stephen Knight). I thought "Fleche" (Mary Jean Chan) was far longer than it needed to be - it would have been better as a single-topic pamphlet. I liked Happenstance pamphlets by Edwards and Buckley.
  • From my (very limited) viewpoint, I feel that the poetry community is expanding in terms of styles and ethnic origins, even if the statistics don't yet show it. There's more fusion and vitality.
  • I didn't replace my attempts at physical networking by virtual networking. I miss the small-press book fairs.

Sunday, 13 December 2020

Prose in 2020

  • This was the year of my blitz on story competitions. A complete failure. Few successes in magazines either.
  • I've written more prose than usual. Nothing show-stopping. I like a 3000 word piece and a 250 word piece that I've written. Neither have been accepted yet.
  • Because of covid I've been listening to audio books for the first time - a life-style change. I was unsure whether I could maintain attention intensely enough. I can handle "The Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle" (Stuart Turton) without having to make too many notes, so I reckon I'm going to be ok. I listened to several Booker long-listed novels that I wouldn't normally have read, and liked them more than I expected.
  • I attended the Zoom launch of Postbox, issue 4 - the only virtual launch I've attended.
  • I worked my way through my reading list of books old and new - "Asymmetry", "Regeneration", "The Prime of Miss Brodie" etc. My favourite books were the Bath Short Story Award anthologies.
  • I noticed that the Edge Hill University Short Story Prize (worth £10,000 - the only UK based award to recognise excellence in a single authored short story collection) had a longlist of 12 authors, all female. I conclude that I must try harder.
  • I ended the year by reading Zadie Smith's "Grand Union", a story collection which should give hope to budding short story writers. She famously got her first book contract while a Cambridge student, and still is a highly regarded writer. The pieces are in several styles (SF, essay, etc), some rather derivative - Cusk, Le Guin, etc. I guess it's good that she's experimenting. 5 were in New Yorker, 2 in Paris Review and 1 from Granta. The rest are unpublished. To me, Parents' Morning Epiphany is a dud - not even good of its type. Some of the others look dodgy too. Reviewers, even her fans, have doubts -
    • "At least eight of the 19 stories in Grand Union aren’t very good."
    • "an uneven grab bag of picked-up pieces and experiments — some of which, from an unknown or less-celebrated writer, might have stayed in a drawer"
    • "you’d think that this collection would be a banger of a book, but for me, unfortunately, it felt more like a wet squib – and needless to say I was hugely disappointed."

Saturday, 28 November 2020

Postbox (issue 4)

My "Matters of Life and Death" story recently appeared in Postbox (issue 4). Unusually for a story of mine, it hops back and forth in time. It begins with the narrator recalling holidays visiting his aunt with his parents, and how he met an artist. "Foreigners/strangers" and "death" are introduced as themes.

It was part of my routine to be down by the shore when the fishing boats returned. When I saw a fish flapping on the deck I was transfixed by the thought of seeing something die. Years later I used the image to describe a foreign couple in the throes of sex.

After a boom-and-bust career and mental health issues he turned to writing and art. Art and Life became correlates, an art book's title corresponding to the story's.

I don't think art's an escape from life, however abstract or shocking it might be. In the art book I'm reading at the moment, "Masters of Line and Depth", Cezanne says that "a picture should give us ... an abyss in which the eye is lost". His perspective wasn't a simple pyramid of pencil lines leading to a vanishing point. We are seduced by his paint, not his lumpy women. But I also believe that art, however primitive, can enrich life. Even if we are so overwhelmed by sensations that our sense of self is diminished, paintings fail unless we return enriched to the real world. Cezanne says that we should "rise again from them with colours, be steeped in the light of them". I try, though some days are harder than others.

Much later he and his foreign wife return for his aunt's funeral. After years of trying, his wife's pregnant. In the final paragraph his attitude to time remains unresolved -

I believe that life can rise from death given time. I believe that art can preserve what genes forget. When the past's a mirror, the future repeats its patterns, though I needed a son before realising this. My wife says that I think too much, that I should lose myself in the here and now. When our son's old enough we'll return, making sandcastles together.

It's a tidy story, the Art=Life theme ornamented by details. It's not the only anecdotal, family piece in the issue. Quite a few fathers die. "The Theatre of the Psychotic" is very different though. I like "The Museum of John and Mary Masters" most.

Friday, 6 November 2020

Story competitions - an experiment

This January I won £100 for a story. Rather than become a tax exile I thought I'd re-invest the windfall by entering more story competitions.

In the past I've won a few hundred pounds, but I don't enter many nowadays because my chances of winning are too small. However I've noticed that on acknowledgement pages, authors mention short-listings, so I decided to treat being short-listed as a worthwhile outcome. Some competitions print short-listed stories in an anthology, which is better still. Having read a Bristol anthology, I knew that the best stories were excellent, but I felt I had a chance to creep in among the lesser works. I hoped to be in at least one short-list.

I only entered competitions that I felt were worth winning (perennial competitions that other writers have heard of). I know that some competitions raise money for worthy causes but I didn't enter a competition where the 1st prize was less than 100 times the entry fee - I wasn't going to pay £5 for the chance of winning £100. I was also hesitant about entering the "V.S. Pritchett Short Story Prize" - £1000 first prize for a £7.50 fee, but no other prizes, and 3 judges get paid.

I had several stories ready to send off. I tweaked them especially for competition purposes, and tried to choose pieces appropriate to the particular competition/judge. I think that I improved some of the stories significantly under competitive pressure. I sent the best pieces to the biggest competitions, and the worst to the smallest (though maybe I should have sent the best to the smallest, to give me a better chance of at least winning something).

Here's a list of the competitions I paid to enter, and how I fared -

  • Exeter £8 - Long and Short lists published. No success.
  • Bath £8 - Long and Short lists published. 1000+ entries, 20 in the anthology. No success.
  • Bristol £9 - 2,705 entries. Long-list of 40. No success.
  • Bridport story £12 - No success
  • Bridport Flash £9 - No success
  • Brick Lane Bookshop £10 - Long long-list of 50. No success.
  • Yeovil £7 - No success.
  • Wells £6 - 376 entries. Shortlist of 25. No success.

I'm disappointed to get no mentions. Two of the pieces have already been accepted elsewhere so the polishing hasn't been in vain. All the same, I don't think I'll be repeating the experiment next year.