Sunday, 26 March 2017

Three Poetry Book Reviews

Although I haven't written much poetry lately I have been reading it, little my little. I have a stack of poetry books I am working through and try to keep one by my bed and resist the urge to take the latest novel up to bed so I can read poetry. This approach works sometimes!

The three books I am reviewing here all came from The Poetry Book Fair last September. The first two I bought after hearing the poets read. Their words spoke to me either emotionally, because of content or humour, or all three. I made a note of who they were and went out and bought their books. I haven't been disappointed.

The first of these is The Shadow Shop by Janet Loverseed (Overstep Books). Janet writes about life, about being a grandparent, fatherhood, image, relationships, children, bereavement and more. I loved The Man In The Middle, when I passenger on an underground train tells a woman that the man sitting between them is dead and advises her to get off at the next stop. Was it a joke? Would someone do that? Three Go Babysitting is a take on the three Kings visiting baby Jesus who in this poem bring him premium bonds, joss sticks and a room freshener, lamenting that Joe should have done computing like them rather than woodwork. I love it! In a short poem entitled Brother and Sister the sister attends the brother's funeral and looks back on their childhood game of Cowboys and Indians and how he bribed her to play, but once told her he was happy until she was born. She queries whether she is happy now he's dead.

This is a lovely crop of poems, ones you can associate with, that ring true and the touches of humour are right up my street.

Inti was the name the Incas gave to the sun, which scientists have now given to a particle of dust collected by the Stardust probe from the Wild 2 (VILT-two) comet. So goes the explanation Simon Williams gives to the title poem of this little book (also from Overstep). This collection features space, weaving, locomotives, Galileo and Kate Bush. A good dose of humour runs through many of these poems, such as Making Fun which follows backwards the story of Irish jokes, who and where they came from. Then there's the erotic The Best Time of the Night - great use of words! Margin Notes supposedly from great poets after false starts with their poems (I wandered lonely as a sheep/Needs something more fluffy, more solitary than sheep, I think). In Star Fish the lady looking after the Koi carp etc., points out to them the constellations and they try to fathom Pisces! Simon Williams poetry often has a last line that you don't expect, that makes you laugh. The poem leads you one way and then boom there's the twist. Delightful stuff.

The last book I'm reviewing today is a freebie given in the welcome bag on arrival at the Poetry Book Fair. It's from Valley Press called VP 50 and is a collection of 50 poems to celebrate the 50 books they have published and includes one poem from each.

This anthology has nicely linked poems and covers everything from child bullying to comparing ones life with that of a dog. There are also quite a few poems about poets and words. An anthology like this is a great opportunity to find new poets (at least to me) and marvel at their dexterity in writing. I enjoyed so many of these including the very first in the collection by James Nash entitled Sonnet I where he lists what his lover can and can't take should she leave him. It's very poignant. Then there's The Bricklayers Lament by Miles Salter and Life Expectation by Norah Hanson and the nostalgic Sandra is a Child of Peace and Love by Helen Burke.

Voyeurs by David Agnew tickled me with two seagulls getting an eyeful through the bathroom window. And Bath Poem by Rowena Knight and Billy Bragg's Beard by Kate Fox are favourites. There's a lesson on love in Forget What You've Been Told by Jo Brandon and Gooseberry, once more by James Nash, has a quirky take on what you might think of doing in a cinema while the couple you are with are smooching. The Light of You, a second poem by Norah Hanson looks at role reversal in parent and child in this heartbreaking poem. Finally The Minutes, another by Miles Salter, is a reminder of how we wake with all the minutes waiting/Hundreds crowed your bed, litter the floor. And so soon they go.

There are poets here whose full books could temp me, and I guess that's the thing about anthologies, you get a taster and sometimes a taste isn't quite enough.

Friday, 24 March 2017

NaPoWriMo are you taking part?

April is NaPoWriMo and I've just signed up through The Poetry School. Having not really written any poetry for a while now I thought this might help. I always enjoy the challenge and end up with poems I wouldn't write otherwise. If you feel the urge to take part you can sign up too through their Campus. Or you could join in other ways. There will be lost of prompts out there through the official site. You can share them through their sites and/or on your own blog or Facebook.

Although I'm likely to be without internet for the first few days I guess I can catch up later. Maybe see you around one of the sites, here or on your blog. Let me know if you are taking part. Leave a link to your poems.

Monday, 20 March 2017

March - submissions and edits

This month I've been concentrating on editing and submissions as well as honing an agent pitch. The latter has caused me sleepless nights as time runs down and I think 'What am I doing?' and I feel my novel is not worthy.

I met up with the ladies from book club last week and they were so supportive. One lady even gave me some strategies and good advice on changing my negative thoughts. All she is right and sometimes I even manage it. I know when I speak about my writing I light up because people have told me that. If only I can do it when pitching. Maybe I should take the book group with me!

I've agonised over the pitch (I'm meeting two agents in two week time). I sent it to a friend and she came back with an important point. I needed to hook the agent in the first line and mine was a bit....stereotypical. I did some more researching and re-wrote it and sent it to her again stating a couple of books mine were similar to. Between us we decided I needed that in. Otherwise she thought it was good. Well, I think it's the best it can be. At least I finally understood what the story was actually about.

This month I've also been published twice online - Visual Verse and Paragraph Planet and I'm still considering a couple more submissions for this month.

I've been doing some writing exercises using Bridget Whelan's book Back to Creative Writing School. I've managed to get two short stories out of it so far. I'm enjoying the prompts. I also asked my Facebook friends for some ideas, like give me a name and setting etc. Two people responded and I ended up with two stories which I shared - I like to give back! One is set in Italy (the friend lives there) and I did a little research using maps of the city she mentioned. I wanted to have some sort of authenticity to it, though I've never been there. It was fun to do.

I've been making notes for a potential new novel but I'm not in the right place to write it yet. I have too many other things that need wrapping up and dealing with. Still, you can never have too many ideas in the pipeline.

Well, that's me for now.

Thursday, 9 March 2017

Where has my enthusiasm gone?

I managed one scene while away. Tapping on my mini
keyboard and tablet
This happens. I've just returned from holiday and when I'm away I pack in the visits and walk my legs off. I come home exhausted. All I want to do is sleep and read. Right now I haven't a single urge to write, though I suppose writing this IS writing, but you know what I mean.

Maybe it's because I am not currently writing a novel and most of my work is out there. During February I submitted twelve pieces. I don't think I can do that again!

Before I left home I was working on a piece for this months Visual Verse picture challenge. The new picture came in late so I was still at it at 11 o'clock at night. In the morning I was editing and re-editing and fired it off before we left for Liverpool. While I was away I had an email via Twitter to say my piece was up! So on page 26 is my poem entitled Imprint - if you want to dive over there for a read.

Today I had this niggling thought - what if I don't want to write again. I'm nothing if I'm not dwelling on something. How silly of me. I've been here before and the need to write will come again. Trying to force it won't help, so instead I shall take time to smell the flowers! Somewhere along the line a thought will enter my head and I'll be tap, tapping away.

I do have a plan for this year - a sort of three step plan. The only thing I need to do right now is work on my pitch for the Write by the Beach event at the beginning of April. The novel competition I entered in January didn't get me a deal. Just for a moment when I saw the email and read the first line my heart skipped (even though I couldn't remember what I'd sent them!) and then the downfall. I knew it was an outside chance but it still hurt.

Some of you might remember Ashington which I started to put onto a Word Press site and then when I lost my dashboard and couldn't work out what to do I pulled Ashington off and tried Watt Pad and pulled it off there too. I haven't decided what to do with it yet but I have been writing some new scenes for a sequel. I'm looking for one main plot to run through the whole thing again whilst bringing new stories to the residents of the village. I might bring into focus some villagers I only touched on before. I am bringing a new family in, so I have ideas.

I'd also like to write another crime novel but my first has so much work that needs doing. Even so I've made a start on the next. I think of this as dabbling when I have nothing else in the pipeline. I'm a bit going round in circles at present. Perhaps taking this time out will be good for me and I'll come back in a splurge. I've found that before. So here I am waiting for the muse!

Wednesday, 1 March 2017

Experimental writing

At writing group yesterday one of the ladies is taking a creative writing course. It might actually be a Masters, I can't remember but it's at a local university. Anyway, what she said really made us laugh. She has been studying experimental writing. She hates it. It's not her but her tutor is full of enthusiasm for it. She had to write a story with these elements. She was stuck and asked someone for advice. Just write anything, whatever comes into your head and makes you laugh she was told. So she did. She explained how she stuck some words in bold and left them in strange arrangements on the page any old way - no thought - and wrote random lines as they came to her. The whole story made us laugh it was so crazy. My final question as I pulled myself together was 'What about editing?' Her look prompted a 'Did you edit?' She said no. She sent it in as it was. Her tutor raved about it and gave her a good mark!

We thought about how long we spent editing our stories and poetry, taking out a word, putting it back, rearranging a sentence and changing punctuation. What we really need to do is write in the experimental way and give editing the heave-ho. Sorted!

None of us at the writing group can understand experimental writing. It's a bit like the pile of bricks, the unmade bed and various art pieces I look at and think a child did it.  Like my friend I could not write in this way except for a laugh, to (excuse my language) take the piss. While our group had the biggest laugh ever, this lady's tutor was taking it all very seriously.Takes all sorts, I guess. Anyone have thoughts or comments on experimental writing? Someone convince me it means something!

Thursday, 23 February 2017

The scary idea of pitching and a shortlisted story

It's taken me a couple of months but I decided to order a print copy of Gold Dust magazine in which a story of mine was published in December. I wanted time to read the rest of the magazine, and though it is freely available to read online I was struggling with the small print despite zooming in. Yesterday my copy arrived. I'm glad I spent money to get hold of it. It is concrete proof I was published there! I was that excited opening it.

I can also tell you that I was shortlisted for the Retreat West Prize (short story). I heard a while ago that I was longlisted and thought that would be the end of it. I was thrilled even so. I then got through to the next level - shortlisted. Unfortunately I heard the other day that I didn't get into the top three. I am disappointed but then again I got further than I ever thought possible and it has given me encouragement. My story will be published in the anthology due out in the summer and I believe there is a cash prize and an invite to the launch. So, when I have recovered from the disappointment I will see what a great run I've had with this story. I am proud of this achievement.

February has been a busy month for me. I've been going crazy with submissions - competitions and a few magazines. I seem to have reached a stop now. Maybe I'm out of steam. In April I am attending Write By the Beach run by The Beach House Academy. I went along last year for their first writers' conference on a Saturday (held in Brighton). This year is over a weekend and every delegate gets the chance to pitch to an agent/publisher (two if you are there for the weekend). So, I've been tearing my hair out over a sixty word document for a novel to pitch. It was hard to condense an 84,000 word novel down to 60 words and hope it sounds irresistible. I know pitching is a great opportunity and everyone suffers with nerves but I felt ill just preparing this. Sometimes I think I should opt out and just enjoy the weekend because I know I'll worry the whole time. But then again that would be stupid. It's at these moments I think my writing is rubbish and no will be interested, yet I've had great feedback from ladies from my book group on stories I've shared with them  - they are so supportive - my first fans! God bless them!

Tuesday, 7 February 2017

Three successes and a wallchart

Just to say that the prize draw book (Mslexia Indie Presses Guide)  went to fellow blogger Sue Flint. Do pop over there for a read. of her blog. Congratulations, Sue! It's on it's way.

I've been plugging away at submissions and on Sunday I was published by Paragraph Planet, a short 75 word piece, and today I have another flash story on Visual Verse. I love their picture prompts. They offer great challenges. This month's one certainly was! I head over there at the beginning of each month to see what they've come up with and try to submit every time. I find this great practice and all the prompts I've responded to have brought very different pieces, things I might not normally write. Why not head over there and see if for yourself what they are doing.

Finally after those frantic last submissions of December to the Kingston Library Poetry Competition I heard that I had won second prize. My poem is due to be uploaded on their website this week (hopefully) and I have a £20 book token coming. Unfortunately there is no prize giving night but they've just splashed out on a total re-fit of the library (due to open later this month) and probably can't afford the refreshments!

With Writing magazine came a great Writing Year Planner. I have no space of my own in which to write so hubby suggested I stick it on the lounge door. So that's where it is. I've written in my successes this year so far (pink highlighter) and how many submissions I make a month (6 in January) and all the good stuff like the Brighton Write By the Sea Conference I'm attending in April and my walking holiday. No failures are allowed on this chart. This is purely for encouragement and everything good.