Thursday, 11 June 2015

Covering Letters

I just read something about an editor criticising the way poets write covering letters when submitting poems. It was mainly about how email allows for less scrupulous poets to fire off copy and pasted subs with no individual attention paid to the editor to whom they're sending. I remember getting one when I briefly edited, addressed to a completely different magazine. But, like Joni Mitchell, I've been on both sides now. We make mistakes. This got me thinking about the pitfalls of sending in a series of questions...

1. Am I being too familiar?
2. Am I being too distant?
3. Should I be more familiar?
4. Should I be more distant?
5. Does it matter that I have children?
6. Does the year in which I was born matter for a biography?
7. Should I be business-like?
8. Would it be nicer if it were handwritten?
9. My printer is playing up. If I hand-wrote the letter would they think I was deranged? (Especially with my handwriting).
10. If I list off the magazines I've been published in would they think I was going on too much?
11. Would it be radical if I just didn't include a biography?
12. FONT!! What font should I use?
13. Is Times New Roman too dull? I am a Garamond sort of poet? Don't get me started on font size...
14. I read one of the editor's poems and I genuinely liked it but would I sound like a sucker-upper if I mentioned it even though I may never meet this person and they might like to know that their hours spent writing poems met with some approval?
15. They've been nominated for some prize or other so they probably do know?
16. Or they don't?
17. Should I just let the letter and the whole sub 'rest' for a few more days before sending, even though I said that last week?
18. Would one of those 'funny biographies' where the author drinks tea, has a liking for chocolate digestives and 'can be found writing poems in Ashby-de-la-Zouch bus station' stick in their mind?
19. Are chocolate digestives too middle of the road? Should I go for Maple Pecan Danish pastries?
20. Would it drive them up the wall?
21. I don't even know if Ashby de la Zouch has a bus station or not? I'm guessing perhaps-maybe not. Next time I'll look.
22. ...should I just sound more business like?

And finally...

I have posted the bloody thing and having stressed over the above forgot to say 'thank you.' Always say thank you....

Monday, 1 June 2015

Absence Notes, Editing and a Little Dancing...

Commonplace has been washing its hair for the last two months, but here I am again. It's time to catch up. It's easier to make a list on what's been going on and then deal with the finer details:

1. Getting published: I've had poems in Magma, Stand, Ambit, and The Emma Press Anthology of Dance.
2. Editing and Publishing: I've just edited Crystal Voices: Ten Years of Crystal Clear Creators.
3. (Related to no. 1 &2) going to launches. (Poets have got a thing for launches, haven't they?) These were for Ambit, the Dance Anthology, and Crystal Voices).
4. Working, mothering, birthdays. organising parties that included Frozen Karaoke, bugs, viruses, hacking things in gardens, being alive etc.
5. Editing reviews.
6. Reading.
7. Writing poetry, I have the coffee rings and the waste basket to prove this.
8. Spending hours applying for something and then being 'declined.' 'Declined' is more elegant don't you think?
9. Staring.

The publications...

I've not had as much faffing-around-with-computer time, so I've missed a few things and am trying to catch up with other people's blogs as there are so many good ones out there.

It was fun to get to the launches. I don't often have a chance to get down to London, but somehow I managed to make it down twice. The Ambit launch was terrific and I had a little dinner by myself in Soho and read some of the excellent Scarsdale by Dan O'Brien. Among the readers for Ambit was Emily Hasler and it was great to catch up with her. It was in a gorgeous venue and I met some people who ordinarily only exist on my laptop. I was really struck by Briony Bax's incredible dedication to the magazine. My next London trip was for the Emma Press Anthology of Dance - I brought my cousin Joanna along and although she isn't a poetry person she enjoyed the readings so much I gave her my contributor's copy. It was a real treat to meet Catherine Smith, one of my favourite poets. It's also a small world as Leicester local Pam Thompson was also there reading. The event was organised brilliantly by the Emma Press with treats and drinks. It rained a lot the second time I went down, so I hid in Liberty and marvelled at the £375 designer vintage hats which apparently some people can afford. Both events ended in a furious dash back to St. Pancras, but they were worth the physical effort.

One of the reasons for not blogging has been the fact I've been editing like a mad person. I started in January and since then I've been copying and pasting, reading, emailing, tweaking, head scratching and reading drafts on trains, waiting rooms and in bed. AND there is still the odd typo. It's done! The anthology is a real thing and copies are now available. I chose writers who had been actively involved with CCC from the very beginnings to around the Hearing Voices period and when the pamphlets were published. Some of the contributors had worked with us in terms of teaching and behind the scenes work as well. It's not easy deciding on such a list and there were some more people I wanted to ask, but we were already jam-packed. I also wanted a very varied range of different styles and voices. Also, I have to say I preferred editing a book to a magazine. During the Hearing Voices period I wasn't keen on sending 'declined' (that word again) emails and Jonathan did a lot of that instead. For the book I didn't have to 'decline' anyone and it was super to ask people for work. The line-up of writers is superb and the book features:

Alan Baker, Kathleen Bell, Rebecca Bird, Julie Boden, Alison Brackenbury, Will Buckingham, Jane Commane, Caroline Cook, Nichola Deane, Kate Delamere, Mellissa Flowerdew-Clarke, Mark Goodwin, Sarah James, Charles Lauder Jr, Emma Lee, Carol Leeming, Melissa Lee-Houghton, Angela France, Siobhan Logan, John Lucas, David McCormack, Sue Mackrell, Martin Malone, Roy Marshall, Jess Mayhew, Matt Merritt, Andrew ‘Mulletproof’ Graves, Simon Perril, Alexandros Plasatis,  D.A. Prince, Robert Richardson, Victoria Smith, Jayne Stanton, Hannah Stevens, Matthew Stewart, Aly Stoneman, Jonathan Taylor, Pam Thompson, Lydia Towsey, Deborah Tyler-Bennett, Claire Walker, Lindsey Waller-Wilkinson, Rory Waterman.

I am so grateful to all these people for contributing. We had a terrific launch at the Leicester Shindig with Nine Arches Press that also featured fantastic readings from Jo Bell and Jonathan Davidson.

I'd also like to mention (cough) that this book is only £5. That's as cheap as most pamphlets! Purchasing details are here.

Also there were some terrific write-ups of the evening from Roy Marshall and Matt Merritt , and also a lovely post by Matthew Stewart.

Talking of blogs, one of the ones I've been meaning to catch up with is John Foggin's. He writes keenly and with so much detail and passion. He's not been blogging all that long, but he's certainly making up for lost time. I will try and be more prolific myself.