Friday, 22 February 2019

Second again

Before I retired from the rat-race I was first in the West Sussex poetry competition (1992), first in the "short Fiction" (Univ of Plymouth) competition (2006), and placed in competitions run by "Varsity", "Cambridge Writers", "Kent and Sussex Poetry Society", and "Staple". I've more or less given up entering competitions nowadays - my poetry's more suited to magazines, and my better stories are too literary, I suspect.

I make exceptions for some competitions that are free to enter, have book-publication as the prize, have a theme that I've already written a piece for, or publish an anthology.

I belong to a writers group (Cambridge Writers) that offers free entry to their competitions for members. I don't think I've ever won their story competition. Often I don't even get commended. This time I managed second again - worth £70. I think I'll try harder next year.

Wednesday, 13 February 2019

Sunday, 27 January 2019

Short story books I've recently read

Over Xmas I caught up with some books that have been on my reading list for a while -

  • "An Account of the Decline of the Great Auk, According to One Who Saw It" by Jessie Greengrass (JM Originals, 2015) - Plenty of the narrators share a suave, sub-claused style - e.g.
    Nor did the severity of the winters deter me. They would be hard, I knew; not casually hard, as the tedium of January in southern England is hard, with its mud and drizzle and skies like sodden newsprint, but a force in opposition, a way of being rather than a backdrop; and consequently their survival would confer the certainty of great courage, persistence and inner strength (p.37)
    Several are loners escaping from grief or bereavement by fantasising or staying in remote places, though we're told that
    While all of these putative new lives involved escape, to claim this as their function is a reduction of their appeal to the obvious and trite. They represented I think not so much a running away as a sloughing off (p.41)
    At the end they can't always re-enter the world they retreated from. "Dolphin" is my favourite piece.
  • "Attrib. and other stories" by Eley Williams (Influx Press, 2017) - Lots of wordplay and synaesthesia, break-ups (of which there are several) triggering a dash into etymology/typography -
    An exclamation mark is a full-stop with a cockatoo's crest. Full stops, three full-stops. Had you been waiting for me to finish your sentence and to join the dots? Lichtenstein or Seurat (p.72)
    I'm impressed by "And back again", perhaps my favourite story in all these books.
  • "Vertigo" by Joanna Walsh (, 2015) - The most self-consciously literary of these books perhaps. Almost an episodic novel, each story potentially having the same narrator with the same preoccupations. Other women are there to be compared with. Men are unreliable husbands, ex-husbands or potential bedmates. She's navigating through roles, loss of confidence leading to loss of cohesion - mind splits from body, language splits from mind. The narrator's state of mind is sometimes represented by language ploys - repetition, disruption, point-of-view changes, etc -
    I am too old to look good in a bikini and I have not, across the years, paid enough attention to looking good in a bikini for me to look good in a bikini. But, even when young, I never paid enough attention to looking good in a bikini (p.105)
    "The children's ward" is perhaps my favourite piece.
  • "A book of blues" by Courttia Newland (Flambard Press, 2011) - The most conventional of these books, and the one that most dealt with social issues. The longest too, twice as long as some of the others, and with the most variety. He uses several viewpoints - first person female, first person male, various third person varieties - and various voices. "Beach Boy" was my favourite piece.

Wednesday, 16 January 2019

Recent publications

I'm behind on publication announcements. Here are the most recent ones -

Friday, 4 January 2019

Offensive poetry

I've updated this and moved it - see Offensive poetry.

Monday, 31 December 2018

My literary 2018

At the start of 2017 I decided that I'd try to increase quantity of output (easy to do, since I write a poem a month if that, and few stories), being less precious about quality, and I decided to send more things off, not ignoring themed issues and calls for submissions. The year was fairly successful - about 20 acceptances, and more pieces written than usual. People say that the wider the base of the pyramid, the higher the pyramid, and that's what I found. I got into some places I'd not been in before, and wrote several pieces that I was pleased with.

In 2018 I intended to build on this. In addition I decided to start afresh, going to workshops on how to write, how to get published, etc. I also walked around with a notepad. However, it's been one of my worst years for acceptances. Why?

  • Several publications stipulate that people shouldn't submit for a year after being published, so there were places I couldn't send to in 2018.
  • In 2017 I had a backlog of unpublished material. Many of the acceptances were of old work that I'd made more marketable.
  • Though I think I'm writing better, I suspect that actually I'm becoming more niche, less fashionable. An elegant prose style maybe, but few characters to empathise with. Interesting poetry, but disruptive style-switching.
  • I've had several near-acceptances (short-listed, etc) that in other years might have been acceptances.
  • If I'm trying to improve quality by widening the base, I need to widen the base a lot to improve quality a little. I know of people who've widened their base by an order of magnitude. My increase was nothing like that.

What's perhaps most disappointing is that I've a handful of c.2000-word short stories written in the last 5 years whose publication I thought would be just a matter of time. Silly me. So next year -

  • I'll pay for submitting - several magazines (e.g. Ambit) now charge for submissions. I don't mind this - after all, they need to cover submittable costs, and in the olden days submissions weren't free anyway, requiring 2 stamps and 2 envelopes. I've avoided such publications up to now.
  • I'll more brutally cannibalize old stuff
  • I'll try more US paper magazines
  • In the bio that I send mags I'll not say when my books/booklets were published (too long ago).

On the plus side I'm getting more pleasure from others' successes - fellow members of writers groups I go to are appearing in several magazines.

Sunday, 23 December 2018

A UK poetry submission schedule for early 2019

I shall try to submit to several of these (mostly UK) competitions and submission windows -