New for August: Online Writing Retreats, Book Now!

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I’m changing it up a little in August and instead of running a month long online prompt-a-day course, I am going to be running two all day, online writing ‘retreats’.

What do you mean, ‘retreat?’

This is a chance for you to put yourself, and your writing, first. It’s a day in which all that is expected of you is to write and enjoy the company of others, and myself, in an online setting. It would be wonderful to meet up in the real world, share a coffee and a slice of cake, chat about poetry and the way it works, write and explore our own versions of the world through poetry, but we all know that that isn’t possible right now. But then, perhaps being on retreat is a state of mind, perhaps what we need is not distance from our own lives, but permission to put ourselves first above job, kids, partners, responsibilities, just for one day.

How Will It Work?

These are fully planned and scheduled retreat days which involve a combination of zoom chats, online interaction within a closed facebook group, notes and prompts sent directly to your email address, feedback from the group and from myself and the chance to read your work within the group zoom meetings. If zoom isn’t your thing, you can easily bypass the zoom chats and stick to the interaction within the facebook group/s. If Facebook isn’t your thing, you are welcome to engage only through the zoom chats. If neither is your thing, then these might not be the event for you! (scroll down for an alternative!) You do not have to join in any of the parts you don’t want to, but it’s going to be a lot of fun in a safe, welcoming environment. If you’d like to know what the schedule is, before booking your place, drop me a line at wendyprattfreelancewriter@gmail.com .

Online Writing Retreat One

Walking With the Wolf:

Poetry from Nature’s Perspective

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Date: Saturday 8th August 2020

9.00 am to 5.00pm

Price: £15

In this day long retreat we’ll be exploring nature writing, placing ourselves fully within nature and walking side by side with the wildlife of planet earth. Suitable for all levels of poet from beginners to the more advanced, this all day retreat runs from 9am to 5pm and includes lots of interaction as well as time to write. To book a place, simply pop over to the shop: Shop Link

Don’t forget, you can sponsor a place on this retreat for a writer who doesn’t have the means to pay for one! Pop into the shop to sponsor a place: Shop Link

Due to the nature of the event, places are limited so please don’t leave it late to book.

Online Writing Retreat Two

Song of the Selkie:

Poetry of Physical Transformation

 

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Date: Saturday 22nd August 2020

9.00 am to 5.00pm

Price: £15

In this day long retreat we’ll be exploring poems of transformation, with a focus on the mythical selkie and witch-hare folk stories. Suitable for all levels of poet from beginners to the more advanced, this all day retreat runs from 9am to 5pm and includes lots of interaction as well as time to write. To book a place, simply pop over to the shop: Shop Link

Don’t forget, you can sponsor a place on this retreat for a writer who doesn’t have the means to pay for one! Pop into the shop to sponsor a place: Shop Link

Due to the nature of the event, places are limited so please don’t leave it late to book.

The Alternative

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If you like the structure of a month long course and aren’t into day long events, or even if you are into day long events and you want a course that will compliment the above retreat days, I have an online course available on my new teaching platform. You can book a place by following this link:

Getting Started: How to Write a Poem

This course does not have a designated start date, but it does have a closed facebook group, the link to which I will email to you, once you have enrolled.

 

 

Taking the Next Step

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Last week I finished a decent draft of the first chapter of a creative non fiction book I’m writing. It was an intense experience, partly because of the content, partly because I’m slightly out of my comfort zone with prose, but I know I need to push through that to reach the place that I want to be. I had been shortlisted for the Alpine Fellowship Writing Award which was a huge deal, it’s very prestigious and the prize money would have meant having the time to write, without distraction. I can’t really emphasise how important that is for a writer. Anyhoo, I did not make it past the shortlist and though I was obviously disappointed, I had a lot to be happy about. There were 2000 entries and I made it to the last thirty, with an essay which I’m hoping will form a chapter of the book later down the line. It gave me a massive confidence boost with the prose work, right when I needed it. I feel like a tw*t feeling disappointed about a writing prize anyway, when people are dying.

After I finish each chapter of the book, which is taking about eight weeks, I am finding I need a break from thinking about it and challenging myself and putting myself out there with agents and publishers – the stressful treadmill that getting a project off the ground entails – and this week I have been working instead on changing the online courses to streamline them for a better experience for the course attendee. One of the things I have found with running the prompt a day courses is that there is a real sense of community and support within the groups and it is a brilliant experience to connect like that. I don’t want to lose that, but it’s time now to upgrade and look at a more professional way of running them. Moving forward I intend on inviting (and paying!) trusted writer friends to run courses of their own, under the umbrella of what I think of as my ‘brand’ but what is really just me wanting to run courses in a particular way. I work with a lot of underrepresented groups, and groups who struggle with having the confidence to write and I fall into that category too, so it’s good to open doors for people and give them a hand up and it’s good to be in a position (fingers crossed) to be able to pay course facilitators to help too, because I am confident in the value and the workmanship of the courses I run.

Blah blah blah me me me

Anyway….

TA DAH!

Follow this link to my new online course landing page, where you will find the first of my online courses:

Wendy Pratt Online Writing Courses

I’m currently using the free version of the platform, which is great but doesn’t allow me to have start dates for courses, which is no good for the prompt-a-day courses. So for now the courses on there (and I shall be adding two more soon) will be enrol at any point courses. I’m hoping to have a closed facebook group alongside, but the course is very much a work at your own pace without pressure situation. This is a version of a course I have run previously, but stripped back in terms of interaction and with a few more bits and pieces of course structure.  The next stage of the plan is to upgrade as soon as I can to the paid version of the platform, which is where I need your help.  I am using the course/s currently on the site to fund the upgrade so that I can once again offer a tiered pricing system (I can’t do that with the free version), and  prompt-a-day courses with more feedback and interaction, alongside some higher level ‘masterclass’ and ‘getting started’ type courses. So if you know anyone who you think might enjoy this course, please share and tag them. It’s a great course for beginners to intermediate writers who want to find a way in to working in free verse, structured forms and some tips on editing and getting published. I’ve reduced the price of it, initially, by half, so it is a bargain and has proved a very popular course in the past.

Getting Started: How to Write a Poem

Thanks so much!

x

 

 

 

How To: Successfully Launch Your Poetry Collection

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I was hoping to do a You Tube video of this How To, but alas, time is a commodity I just don’t have at the minute, perhaps I’ll do one at a later date. In the mean time I thought it would be nice to do a How To blog post and I think this particular subject is one of those that’s a bit ‘smoke and mirrors’ in the poetry world, and that can be a bit intimidating, especially if you you are launching your first collection.

So, you managed to get your poems published in magazines and journals, you felt ready to put a collection together, you approached several publishers and to your absolute joy, a publisher has taken your manuscript and it will soon be a real life book with your name on it. Congratulations!

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You’ve made it, you’re a published poet. You can just sit back and let the reviews, prize wins and invitations to read roll in, right? Wrong.

The Writer/Publisher Relationship

When you enter into a contract with a publisher you are entering into a symbiotic relationship, where each party has a role to play. The role of the publisher is to put the time and effort, and the finances, into your book, creating something that people can physically pick up and buy. They will likely (but not always) do a certain amount of publicity for you and likely (but not always) enter your book into competitions. Your role is, obviously, to supply the goods in the form of beautifully crafted poems. But you also need to respect the fact that a publisher is trusting the book to sell. They are putting their limited financial resources, their skill and their time into your book, and I think it’s good manners to at least match that investment by promoting your book and doing your best to make sure, in a market that is saturated with poetry books, that your book is the one that is noticed. Books don’t sell on their own. Especially not poetry books. Therefore you need to be able to get behind your book and help to sell it. And this means promoting it. There are lots of ways in which this happens, but for the purposes of this blog, let’s look at what I think are the four main avenues to getting your book noticed:

  • The Official Book Launch
  • Reviews
  • Readings
  • Social Media

The Book Launch

When I launched my first pamphlet, many moons ago in 2011. I did not have a clue. I imagined that book launches were like the ones you see in films with flutes of champaign, a huge stack of books on a table and a queue of folk waiting to pick up a signed copy. I thought they were sophisticated affairs that the publisher put together for you. I had high expectations and high hopes and didn’t listen to people who knew more about it than I did. I fell flat on my face. Nobody came! I mean, literally nobody came. What were the mistakes I made? I expected people off the street would be as excited about a book launch as I was to be launching my book and that they would see that this brilliant event was going on and come pouring in to buy the books. I held it as an event on its own, expecting the poetry community to travel hundreds of miles just to see me, someone no one had really even heard of. I expected a crowd and I was a bit crushed when that didn’t happen. at the event that night were my two publishers at the time, my two guest readers and myself. the audience consisted of two ladies who had thought they were coming to see an entirely different event. It was what we call an ‘intimate event’. I can laugh now, when I look back at it. And actually, it turned out to be a lovely warm evening. but I learned some hard and fast lessons there, about how much work I was going to need to get the book to sell. Here are a few tips for organising a launch:

  1. Work with your publisher. It is likely that your publisher will want to have some input. It varies from publisher to publisher, so don’t be afraid to ask if they have plans or a budget. My new book will have a launch by the publisher, but I’ll also be having a home launch too. Often organising the launch and paying for the launch will be entirely up to you as there just isn’t money in the budget for publishers to host parties. But even if they aren’t hosting a launch for you, they will have advice about the readers of their books and they will have experience of book launches, use that experience, ask advice, ask if there’s any sort of budget, or if they know of free rooms to use, that sort of thing.
  2. Manage your expectations. Sometimes events are well attended, sometimes they’re not. This has nothing to do with popularity, or the validity of your work and more to do with how far people have got to travel, whether they have the budget to attend events and whether your event clashes with anything else. Go into it with an idea of what you want to get out of it, book sales are brilliant, but if you go into it just wanting to celebrate the launch of your book and to read some poems and enjoy the moment, you will not be disappointed and everything else will be like a bonus.
  3. Launch at a regular event. Some people (me included) like to do a launch ‘tour’ of regular poetry events as well as, or instead of a traditional launch event. This means you are guaranteed and audience. Research your local poetry events and contact them to see if they would be interested in having a guest reader, tell them you are launching your book. This goes for festivals too. Don’t wait to be invited. You’ll be waiting a good long time if you do.
  4. If you decide to go for an official launch.. think about transport links. I am always reluctant to launch my books in my home town, simply because it’s out of the way and people have to take a series of trains to get here. Also think about refreshments. You are likely to sell more books if there’s a bar. Just saying. Think about the size of the venue: it should be big enough to have seating for guests, but not too big that even a crowd looks lost in there. Think about the time of day you host your event, and the day you host your event.  Who is your target audience? Retirees will make daytime events more easily, but at the weekend people may have already got plans. Also bear in mind the time of year, lots of people don’t like travelling in the dark of winter afternoons.
  5. Create a social media events page. These are easy to create, and free (you can pay to boost them) and get the word about easily. If you invite people via the events page you’ll get a good idea of who might be coming too.
  6. Make sure you tell people. Put your event in the local paper, put it on poetry news pages, put it on social media, make a poster and put it around the town, make sure your publisher has details, make sure the event is visible on your timeline.
  7. Refreshments. People like cake. And wine.

Reviews

It’s likely your publisher will send your book out for reviews, but if you know people or magazines that review, ask them if they want to review your book. There is no shame in asking. Put a shout out on social media. Don’t be disappointed by a slow response, reviews take time and magazines are generally bogged down with back logs.

Readings

As I said before, doing a launch tour is a good idea. When you launch your book there will be an initial buzz with lots of people wanting to know more. This dies off after about three months and that’s when you have to put the work in, get yourself some guest speaker reading spots. Draw up a list and create a decent generic query which you can adjust per event and set yourself a target – one reading a month is what I usually go for, for a few months. Your book won’t stay in the public eye forever, but you can really give it a good kick off with a bit of metaphorical elbow grease.

Social Media

Use social media for the tool that it is. It feels icky to promote oneself, but as a writer you are your own product. What is the point in all those hours spent toiling on your work, the years spent developing your craft if you are going to never mention it. Tell people about it, pin it to you time line, don’t apologise for promoting your book. But also, never ever ever friend someone who has good contacts and immediately message them to promote your book. That is bad manners and will do the opposite of what you want it to do.

 

The Most Important Thing to Remember

Is less about success and failure and more about remembering that you worked hard for this, so make sure you enjoy the feeling of having made it to being a published poet. Good luck!

 

Until next time

x

 

 

New Course Klaxon! The Sea, The Sea starting 1st July 2020

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Photo by Sebastian Voortman on Pexels.com

 

The Sea, The Sea

This is a brand new four week online workshop/course open to all levels rom absolute beginners to more experienced writers. Although we’ll mainly be working on poetry, the course is open to fiction writers and creative non fiction writers, there will even be the chance to try a little sort writing.

The course begins on 1st July 2020 and ends on 31st July 2020.

The last online course sold out in two days, so please please don’t leave it to the last minute, I may not be able to squeeze you in! x

What the Course Covers

Over the four weeks of the course we’ll be looking at your own personal relationship with the sea, your memories, your experiences, we’ll be looking at the wildlife and nature of the sea, we’ll be exploring the myths and folklore surrounding the sea and we’ll be writing about the industrial sea: the fisher folk and cargo ships, the clippers and the coal ships. I’m excited to share with you the coast line that I live by; the glorious Yorkshire coast, but we’ll also be travelling the world to see the sea in different cultures and landscapes. I hope you’ll join me for a paddle!

How the Course Works

The course will last the full month of July, with a daily prompt, weekly notes and poems, videos, links and other relevant material included as examples of the themes we’ll be covering, all of which is delivered directly to your email inbox. There’s also a closed facebook page where course attendees can share their work. The whole thing is moderated by myself and I interact with the group on a daily basis. I’m hoping to bring in a ‘live’ element to this course too, with a weekly get together.

Who the Course is Aimed at

The course is aimed at beginners through to established writers, there’s something for everyone. We’ll be working mainly in poetry, but there will be the opportunity to try your hand at fiction, creative non fiction and even some script writing. Whilst you are encouraged to push out of your comfort zone, you don’t have to write in both forms if you don’t want to.

The No Pressure Style

This is a no pressure course in which you do not have to produce anything, nor do you have to comment or even join the FB page. It is much more important to me that you relax and enjoy the course, enjoy the prompts and enjoy engaging with the course materials.

Sounds good doesn’t it! I’m really looking forward to having you on board

How to Sign Up

I now have a simple payment method in my shop where you can make a payment to sign up. If the email address you want your course materials, and your website invite, sent to is different to your PayPal address, let me know by emailing me at wendyprattfreelancewriter@gmail.com.

To make things fair, and to make sure that my courses are available to those on lower incomes, I have a tiered pricing system. Details below. And don’t forget, you can sponsor a place for a writer who doesn’t have the money to sign up. What a great  gift that would be!

Payment Tiers

For this course, and all future courses, I am bringing in a method of tiered payment, a ‘pay what you can’  method which relies on the honesty of course attendees. There are three payment levels: £20, £40 and £60. There is also the option to sponsor another place at the price level of your choice so that I can support disadvantaged writers.

Why I have given the option to pay more

Lots of previous attendees have told me, during feedback sessions, that they would have paid much more for one of these courses, comparing it to other courses available to them. But at the same time, lots of people have told me they were grateful for the lower cost as it meant they could afford to develop their writing within their own means. I am from a working class background and still live in a working class town. There’s a grey area when it comes to WC folk, and it’s the place where almost everyone I know lives – the place where you are certainly not living in poverty, but you can’t justify retreats, courses or workshops because there is always something else (Christmas, birthdays etc).
It’s my opinion that everyone should have access to exploring their world through the arts, creative writing is my niche and in a world in which the arts are being slowly eroded, where funding is reduced and reduced, I feel I need to do something practical to help people like me, from my background. At the same time, as a working class writer and workshop facilitator, I need to be able to pay my bills and continue doing the things that I have trained for. Hence the option to pay more if you feel you can.
I know from experience how difficult it is to work out which level is right for you, so I have put some guidance together, below. I’ve based my reasoning mainly on the value of £20 in relation to  food and alcohol for some reason. This is just a rough guide designed to help you think about your own expendable income.

£20 

If £20 is what you might spend on a takeaway and a bottle of wine, this is probably the tier for you.

£40

If £20 is what you spend on a bottle of wine and a nice bar of chocolate, the forty pound tier sounds about right for you.

£60

If twenty pounds is the amount that you might put into a charity box, or a church collection, then this is probably the tier for you.

YOU CAN SPONSOR A PLACE

Even if you aren’t interested in doing the course, you can still sponsor a place and give a leg up to a writer who has hit hard times and can’t justify the disposable income for a creative writing course. If you ARE doing the course, you can also sponsor an extra place. You might choose to pay £40 for yourself and sponsor a £20 place, you might be an absolute angel and pay £60 and still sponsor a £20 place, you might be a virtual saint and sponsor two £60 places. It’s up to you. Mix and match.

 

What Happens Next

Once you have paid by PayPal (please drop me a line if you have paid in another way, I may miss your payment otherwise) I will use the email provided to invite you to the Facebook page. I will also use this email address to send a welcome letter to confirm that this email is working.

Places are limited, so please book ASAP to avoid disappointment!

Thanks for being a part of this adventure!

Wendy

 

x

 

Writing the Rural: John Clare, Summer Moods

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Summer is here, and with it an explosion of green. My garden is even more out of control than usual. I tell myself I’m busy, which I am of course. My brand new strimmer remains in its box, unused. Partly this is because I hate chopping nature back. I am the world’s worst gardener because I feel sorry to kill back plants that are thriving, after all, what right have I to take their life because of the aesthetics of the garden? However, the garden is becoming more jungle that garden now, so something will have to be done soon.

I’ve just come back from a walk with the dog. Our first proper walk for a few days on account of the constant drizzly rain and dark, dreary skies. I used to be a professional dog walker. When I walked dogs for a living I would have been out in all weathers, and I still like a bit of proper weather while walking, it reminds me that I am alive, but I couldn’t bring myself to go too far the last couple of days. I think the weather coupled with the way the world is constantly in despair is enough to tip one into melancholy. But I have had some interest in a new book I’m writing, and that’s given me the kick up the bum I need to really get my teeth into what is turning out to be a fascinating research project, and a kick to get on, get out, get to enjoying the world and what it has to offer, because of, rather than despite of the world’s pain. I am very much enjoying the challenge of working on a large research project. I hope I’m doing the subject matter justice.  Today started out mizzling and grey then brightened, and brightened and brightened until it is now red hot sun and I’m back in my shorts and sunglasses. Welcome to the English summer: winter in the morning, summer in the afternoon. As soon as I saw that it was brightening up I grabbed my new walking boots and flung my hoody on, leashed the old-man-dog and off we went. Not a long walk, our usual three mile circuit, but it felt good to get out into the air. It is glorious out there, especially after the rain when everything smells so good. The rain brings an intensity to the colours, the greens are so much more green the flowers almost ultra-violet in their vividness. A walk out among the contours of the landscape, the hills and fields and new and old is soothing and exciting at the same time. I saw no one while I was out, there was just me and the boy climbing up the steep slopes of the farm tracks, tramping through mud and grass and the chalky paths. The whole landscape was singing alive. It brought to mind this poem by John Clare. John Clare (1793-1864) was a farm labourer who wrote poems. He never quite felt he fit in with the farming community because of his poetry writing, but also felt he didn’t quite fit into the poetry and literary world because of his farming background. And thus it was ever so, I can very much relate to this, being rural working class. Anyhoo, here’s the poem:

 

SUMMER MOODS

I love at eventide to walk alone
Down narrow lanes o’erhung with dewy thorn
Where from the long grass underneath, the snail,
Jet black, creeps out and sprouts his timid horn.
I love to muse o’er meadows newly mown
Where withering grass perfumes the sultry air;
Where bees search round, with sad and weary drone
In vain for flowers that bloomed but newly there;
While in the juicy corn the hidden quail
Cries “wet my foot!” and hid as thoughts unborn;
The fairy-like and seldom-seen landrail
Utters “craik, craik” like voices underground,
Right glad to meet the evening’s dewy veil
And see the light fade into gloom around.

what do I like about it? I love that first line, the way it works like a door, opening into a scene of joy in the natural world. The rhymes are gentle, the imagery is direct, with just a hint of something more – the Craik utters a sound like ‘voice underground’ isn’t that just wonderful? And I like the naming of the specific animals, the knowledge of the sounds they make, how this feels entirely normal to the narrator. The reader feels as if they walk alongside someone who knows what they are talking about, who knows the place they live and isn’t trying to be clever, just observant. Lovely writing.

I’m launching the July online course tomorrow, so keep an eye open, it’s going to be a good one!

 

x

Shame and Celebration in the Year of the Pandemic

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Apologies, this is a bit of a long winded something-or-other about making the choice to work during the pandemic. Very self indulgent. This is a strange year. When the pandemic hit and everything went into lockdown I realised I had to make this awful choice between being selfish and being altruistic and doing my bit. My default position is always to try and help. I think with most people it is, but I am ex NHS, a qualified microbiologist, so I imagine there would have been a role for me somewhere, and I could have made a small difference somewhere. I didn’t. I chose to continue working and spending the time I had free on my writing. I’m self employed, and my ‘business’ is myself. I’m a writer, yes, but I make my living from running workshops, editing for publishers and private clients and mentoring. I’d like that to be the other way around at some point, and I do feel like I am heading towards that point, but it’s been a long gruelling road to get there. No one can see into the future, and I was aware that there would be economic fallout from this virus, as well as huge loss of life. There will be jobs lost at some point, my husband may be one of those who lose his job so I felt it was very important that I worked as much as I could to fill the gaps while the company he works for is closed and so that we could shore up some savings to see us through. I doubled up on my paid work, and haven’t had a day off since lockdown began (tiny violins begin to play) though I have had an afternoon here and there and have made sure to take three hours off on a Sunday, usually. My alarm goes off at five, I’m at my desk at six am, I generally leave my desk at six pm. I try and fit in a dog walk and a workout for sanity. I’m feeling the constant work a bit a the minute, if I’m honest, but I love my work so I am immensely lucky. I did have spare hours here and there, hours when I wasn’t reading and responding to course attendee poems, or editing or organising one-to-ones with mentees and in those spaces I worked, initially, on the novel (this was supposed to be the year of the novel!) and then because I couldn’t get anywhere to research for the novel, I put the novel to one side and I picked up a non fiction project, a project which I had previously written a chapter for, and which is now my main project. I could have donated those hours, and I didn’t and I feel a real sense of shame and guilt about that. There weren’t many free hours, to be honest, and my work is unpredictable, so I’m not sure how it would have worked, but I’m sure I could have done more somehow. Instead I did my mum’s shopping sometimes (She’s shielded)  and offered to do the shopping for vulnerable people in the village, to pick up prescriptions and such like, but there are a lot of retired people helping out in various forms so I haven’t really been needed. I’ve reduced prices on my courses as I know people don’t have money, organised courses which have been centred around wellbeing and sharing experience, building communities and avoiding loneliness, I’ve  encouraged people to find ways of expressing their frustrations and fears through creative writing, but really that’s just hippy dippy bollocks compered to really helping people.

Anyway, that was what I chose to do. I chose to be a writer, and, amazingly, the last couple of months have seen my biggest breakthroughs. First being one of the winners in the Poetry Business International Book and Pamphlet Competition and then being long listed, then short listed for the Alpine Fellowship Writing Prize. Both of these are massive things, partly because they are achievements to strive for, prestigious and career enhancing, but more so because of the work that actually won. You might remember me talking about my next collection When I Think of My Body as a Horse which was due to be published by my previous publisher Valley Press. Unfortunately VP hit a real rough patch and lost out on a grant, which meant the book was delayed and after having worked on it for seven years at that point, I had a chat with my publisher and with his absolute support, we decided, over a couple of pints, that I would submit it elsewhere and see if it placed and then bring it back if it didn’t. He even helped me compile a list of publishers because he is a genuinely nice guy and I I hope to work with him again. I spent about eight months sending it out, getting it shortlisted with publishers but never quite making it through, and then I entered the PB competition and it won. I cried down the phone when they told me. Though I don’t know if it will be a pamphlet or a full collection yet, I’m happy either way, to be honest. All I know is that this is the collection in which my grief broke like a fever and I wanted it to be published. In his judge’s report Ian McMillan said the poems were about recovery, and I had never thought about them like that, but that’s exactly what they are, they are about recovering from an absolute shit show of a time that ground on for thirteen years while we constantly had to learn to live with a new grief: infertility, death of our daughter, clinical negligence and knowing we’d lost her unnecessarily, miscarriage and eventually childlessness. That book has my heart in it, and I am so glad it found a home.

The Alpine Fellowship was a complete surprise. The theme for this year, Forgiveness and Retribution, fitted in with the theme for the book that I wanted to write so I decided to write a scaled down chapter for the book and enter it as a creative non fiction essay. I was gobsmacked when it was long listed and nearly fainted when it was short listed. I dare not think too hard on it, because it’s too painful to hope. It’s a big cash prize that would give me the six months to a year that I need to write the book. But if nothing else it has given me the boost in confidence I needed to send a proposal out to some agents.

But here’s the thing, while I am super happy, just super happy and excited by these two cracking things, forty thousand people have died. In America black folk are fighting for recognition, the situation is beginning to look like a civil war, in the middle of a pandemic. People are losing their jobs, people are not able to see their loved ones while they are dying, the world is on fire, and I am winning these things that mean such a lot to me but mean nothing to anyone else. There’s no answer to this. I think a lot of people are feeling like this and added to that the frustrations and the fear of infection, of losing people to the infection, fear for loved ones. If you’re someone who lives with anxiety and depression, it’s going to really effect that, I know it is with me. I feel sunk by it all and not sure how I should feel about the good stuff, or if I even should be happy about the good stuff. But I am happy about it. But I also feel selfish and guilty and a bit ashamed about being happy about it. It’s made me quite needy, reaching out clumsily to people who are already under pressure, with stuff that I should just get on with. It’s also made me wonder if this is how people felt, announcing their pregnancies to me after Matilda died. That must have been tough for them. Every experience is a lesson, isn’t it, though I’m not sure what this lesson is, perhaps that I should stop whining, embrace the happiness that these two big steps have given me, and get back to work.

 

Anyway, until next time, stay safe.

 

x

 

Writing the Rural: Sarah Westcott ‘Messenger’

 

blue and black bird on top of metal frame
Photo by Philip Ackermann on Pexels.com

 

The swallows have been back a while; swooping over the lane, picking insects from the air above the village stream. They are quick: a beat of wings and acrobatics, the flash of white and orange. The house martins too are back; building their spit and mud nests under the eaves of the boarded up pub. They’ve been back and forth outside my office window, deciding if they are going to build there. A thin line of brown mud has appeared. They chatter incessantly, argue between themselves about who knows what. And now they have gone again, presumably they have found a better place to nest, one where there isn’t a woman constantly leaving out of the window to look at them.

But it’s the swifts I’ve been missing. I am lucky in that my twitter time line is full of other nature enthusiasts, and I have watched the arrival of the swifts in exclamations: the swifts are back! I’ve watched the way the sightings came slowly up the country until they were here in Yorkshire. Someone, I forget who, even posted a video of herself which she’d accidentally recorded, of herself seeing the first swift of the year, the sudden joy of it. The arrival of the swifts is one of those natural events that brings real joy.

Last week I thought I’d begun to hear the scream of swifts in the village, and yet every time I ran to my window or walked out into the garden, they were nowhere to be seen. And then, just last week, there they were. Three to start with, their silhouettes unmistakable against the blue, blue sky of early summer. I felt a mix of joy and a strange relief; as if they were symbolic of hope, and that hope had not abandoned us, after all.

Yesterday I lay on my sun lounger in the garden reading Matt Merritt’s A Sky Full of Birds and watching the swifts. The book is excellent, incidentally, a truly beautiful read. Later I walked the dog around the lanes of the village. Everywhere is lush-green, the air heavy with scent. We walked up to the wheat field, the wheat moving like water, and there they were agin, more though, maybe six, seven, all swooping and diving and skimming the wheat. I felt myself quite present in the moment, as if a picture was being painted: a landscape done in all blues and greens, with the dog and I in the corner, the wheat rolling away to the horizon, the swifts punctuating the sky.

 

Today’s poem is by Sarah Westcott and is from her phenomenal collection with Liverpool University Press. Ive just finished reading Slant Light and would recommend it. It’s one of those collections that sings.

Messenger

We found her in the shadow
of the gas drum;
a pleat of otherness
pinched from her dominion.

Maw like a whale,
head slit to gill air,
a dark scythe
at our feet.

We willed her wings to open
her form take shape,
conflate to airy spaces.
A new crescent moon.

We picked the whole contraption up,
brindled, tawny, creamy throat;
she spilled over our hands
into awe.

Her claws were shriven,
her eyes the eyes of something fallen,
the weight unbearable

so we sent her onwards,
to beat at the heels
of a young god’s sandals,
set her away, windward.

 

What do I like about the poem? Well, firstly I like that in this poem the swift is earth bound. It’s so easy to think of the beauty of the air borne swift, but thesis a different angle, an interesting look at the bird. We see that a bird that is so perfectly adapted for the air, so magically invested with flight, is broken when in our world. The god/mortal theme runs on through this poem to the glorious last lines. I like that the poem is unafraid of using imagery. It’s a rich soup of images, and they are all strong, arresting. A particular favourite is ‘a pleat of otherness’ which is so perfect for this bird that we so rarely see up close, unless something is wrong.

Later, the bird is a contraption which puts me in mind of a Theo Janson Strandbeest. It’s like we can’t imagine flight outside of human terms. And there is a moment in which the narrator is able to be the saviour, there is an almost biblical raising up of the fallen angel-like creature and the recognisable transcendental experience of saving another person, or animals’ life.

It’s a superb, tightly woven poem, which is so well observed I can see the scene incredibly clearly. Wonderful.

Until next time, take care

x

Writing the Rural: Maggie Harris’ ‘Cwmpengraig, Place of Stones’

landscape photography of brown and green mountains
Photo by Adrian Dorobantu on Pexels.com

 

As I get older, and with no children to root me and turn me to the future, I look for who I am in the places that I inhabit. I have lived here in north Yorkshire all my life. I have never moved more than twenty miles from the place where I was born. I live in a valley carved by glaciers. I am ringed by the north sea, The Wolds, The North York Moors and endless farmland reaching inland. I read a lot about ritual within landscape while I was researching for the PhD (which is on hold and I have no idea what will happen with scholarship applications next year) and how we interact with the landscape we live in, how it informs our sense of self. When I write for Yorkshire Life magazine I am writing about the sea, and facing that wide expanse of blue that means you have reached the edge and can go no further. But mostly, in my own work, I am looking inwards to the valley and the moors and Wolds, feeling for my ancestors in the earth there. My people have been farmers around Thirsk for a long time, hundreds of years, though my mum’s side, we think, were cattle drovers from the north. We have ancestors in some of the small Wolds villages, names in the cemeteries that bear us like branding. But never far away: all within this area, all fairly near the valley that I now live in. I’m tempted to take a DNA test and see what comes up in my genes. My dad says my aunty did one and it basically just said Yorkshire through and through so perhaps a waste of time. Still, there is always an itch to find roots, to know myself somehow, or rather to imagine myself as the thing I want to be. I would hope for Viking, something even more northern perhaps, but realistically I suspect I am Yorkshire, Yorkshire, Yorkshire. I recently did some research on the anglo Saxon cemetery at Heslerton, in which, from the records, there seemed to be a difference between what might be assumed ‘the locals’ and the incoming Saxons: The germanic Saxons being tall and long boned, the locals being shorter, wider. I look at my family and think, yes, we are all five foot not very much and yes, wide, tough, could probably drive an auroch and a plough quite successfully. What has any of this got to do with my choice of poem today? I can’t imagine travelling and taking root somewhere else. But realistically, non of us know where we have travelled from, where our ancestors seeded themselves and look root. I find my guest poet’s story fascinating because she knows where she has come from and she knows where she is. What I mean by that is that her writing explores the landscape as a place to be in and be a part of, but a place that doesn’t define, rather it is to be absorbed. She seems to say that landscape can change around you, and you have to let it enter your personality. Her poems seem to say that you can be from more than one place at the same time. I love it when my eyes are opened by poetry and poetry, being a language of image and emotion is like opening a window directly into someone else’s experience. Maggie Harris is a Guyanese born writer who moved to Kent in the seventies, then to West Wales in 2007 for ten years, before returning to Broadstairs in Kent in 2017. I bought her collection, After a Visit to the Botanical Garden published by   Cane Arrow Press after I’d put a call out of social media asking for recommendations of women writers writing about the landscape and the impact of it. Maggie kindly directed me to the poem you’ll find below. The collection, incidentally, is extraordinarily good. It is transportive, often witty, often moving and just sumptuously written, beautifully crafted poems and a really safe pair of hands. Once I get through my current reading pile I will be going back to Maggie’s work, and there is plenty to choose from. Without further ado, here’s the poem:

Cwmpengraig, place of stones

Where yuh navel string bury is not necessarily home
Dis gurl gon walk my grandmother say
And walk I walk from Guyana to West Wales
And leave I leave that place of oceans and slave bones
For bruk down cottages and hills where people still pray

And come I come with my forked tongue split syntax
Of Hinglish and street Creole to wander lanes
With no names and no map where even
Sat-nav wuk hard to find being alimbo
Beyond satellite beyond stars

And stars and dreams of stars and songs
Called these Welsh from home
To cross oceans to a continent
Of the imagination

And is peel dis country peel like onion
Garden cups my cottage in its fists of seasons
Caring nothing for my ignorance
Of names, pronunciation, language
And History running in the stream right there
Beneath the stone: mill-worker foot-bottom still indent
Ghost voice talking story wild a catchafire
How he catching boat with intention get the hell outa dis place

It nat fuh him to know some gurl would bring his story
Right back here and tell him tales of sugarcane
And captains tracing latitude and longitude
With quadrant, quill and octopus ink

Is laugh he would laugh, true true
Whilst that stream keep gurgling,
Stones keep tumbling,
Underscore the footfall of my feet.

 


Cwmpengraig

Nage lle mae’ch llinyn bogail wedi ei gladdu
Yw’ch cartre—mae’r groten ma’n mynd i fynd yn bell
A mynd yn bell wnes i o Guyana i Orllewin Cymru,
Gadel, gadel y lle oedd yn llawn esgyrn caethweision
A moroedd. A chael yn ei le, adfeilion o fythynnod a bryniau
lle mae rhai yn dal i weddïo.

A dod gyda ‘ nhafod, dwy fforch iddi, ffordd o siarad hollt
Rhyw lediaith o Saesneg a Chreoleg y strydoedd, i grwydro
Lonydd heb enwau na map a lle mae hyd yn oed Sat-Nav
Yn gwegian ar goll, mewn gwagle
Heibio i’r lloeren , heibio i’r sêr.

A sêr a breuddwydion am sêr ac alawon
Wedi ei henwi’n yr heniaith, oddi cartre
I groesi o gefnfor i gyfandir
Y dychymyg.

Ac yn pilo’r wlad, ei bilo fel winwns
Llond dysgl o ardd yn ei ddyrnau o dymhorau,
Gan boeni’r iot am fy anwybodaeth
Am enwau, ynganu, iaith na hanes
Sy’n llifo o’r nant honco monco
Ger y garreg; ôl troed a gwadn gweithiwr
O’r felin yno o hyd, a llais ysbryd yn gof
Y cyfarwydd am y goelcerth
Fel y daliodd gwch gyda’r bwriad o sgathru
A baglu hi o’r lle. A phwy feddylie y bydde rhyw ferch
Yn dod â’r stori nol yn ei chôl gan sôn am blanhigion siwgr
A chapteniaid fyddai’n olrhain lledred a hydred
Cwadrant y lle, gyda chwilsyn ac inc otopws.

Am chwerthin – fydde’n marw o chwerthin,
Ar fy myw tra bydd yr nant yn barbalu
A cherrrig yn dymchwel,
Dan fy nhraed, dan droedle fy nhraed.

 

Translation by Menna Elfyn

What do I like about it? I like that Guyana is so present in the poem: in the language, in the view point. There are so many roots here, so many strings reaching backwards and forwards to place, to identity, to family, to nature. That first line, wow. You can’t read it without it being a strong voice in your head. It’s possessive, it possesses the reader and opens the poem up –  the narrator is going to tell you a story, and it’s going to be about travel and about belonging and though non of it is overtly spelled out, it is all there. There’s a vulnerability to it, and a defiance. I like the careful choices around punctuation and white space and what that does for the poem, opening it up, breaking rules as if the rules are not known. I like the repetitions, those little nails holding the poem together and guiding it. It is fluid, it moves; this is a poem that is almost alive in the way it searches memory out, like a fox or a dog. And then there’s that rhythm driving everything forward like walking, like travelling.

And is peel dis country peel like onion
Garden cups my cottage in its fists of seasons
Caring nothing for my ignorance
Of names, pronunciation, language
And History running in the stream right there
These lines in particular strike at something inside me. ‘caring nothing for my ignorance.’ The landscape, nature, it doesn’t care if you belong or not, you are incidental, and there is a peace in that sort of anonymity, isn’t there. And I like the connection to the mill workers, a nod to the heritage of the land being taken up by the narrator, a recognition of the stories embedded in every place, no matter where you go.

 

The other thing i love is that it comes with a Welsh translation, on Maggie’s website, it comes acknowledging the presence of another land and another tongue, and that’s how it should be.

Don’t forget that you can sign up to the next course now, which starts on the 1st June, details: Telling Your Story

 

Until next time, take care.

 

x

New Course Now Open for Bookings: Telling Your Story 2020, All new prompts. Starting 1st June 2020

 

black and red typewriter
Photo by Suzy Hazelwood on Pexels.com

 

It’s that time of the month again! This month I am re-running my very popular course ‘Telling Your Story’ with thirty brand new prompts. I am bringing back the tiered payment system out of necessity, but do remember that the tiered system is there for a reason and, especially under the current pressures, everyone’s financial situation varies. Scroll down to see how the system works.

The new course will start  June 1st. It’s called Telling Your Story.

What the Course Covers

The course is designed to encourage you to tell your own story, to look at your life as a journey and use creativity to record the things that are important to you. The course is designed to be a safe space in which you can gently explore your own self and sense of self in a supportive and encouraging environment, using creativity to create a frame work on which you can describe your journey.

How the Course Works

The course will last the full month of June, with a daily prompt, weekly notes and poems, videos, links and other relevant material included as examples of the themes we’ll be covering, all of which is delivered directly to your email inbox. There’s also a closed facebook page where course attendees can share their work. The whole thing is moderated by myself and I interact with the group on a daily basis.

Who the Course is Aimed at

The course is aimed at beginners through to established writers, there’s something for everyone. We’ll be working in poetry and creative non fiction (memoir style writing)  and whilst you are encouraged to push out of your comfort zone, you don’t have to write in both forms if you don’t want to.

The No Pressure Style

This is a no pressure course in which you do not have to produce anything, nor do you have to comment or even join the FB page. It is much more important to me that you relax and enjoy the course, enjoy the prompts and enjoy engaging with your own story.

Sounds good doesn’t it! I’m really looking forward to having you on board

How to Sign Up

I now have a simple payment method in my shop where you can make a payment to sign up. If the email address you want your course materials, and your website invite, sent to is different to your PayPal address, let me know by emailing me at wendyprattfreelancewriter@gmail.com.

To make things fair, and to make sure that my courses are available to those on lower incomes, I have a tiered pricing system. Details below. And don’t forget, you can sponsor a place for a writer who doesn’t have the money to sign up. What a great  gift that would be!

Payment Tiers

For this course, and all future courses, I am bringing in a method of tiered payment, a ‘pay what you can’  method which relies on the honesty of course attendees. There are three payment levels: £20, £40 and £60. There is also the option to sponsor another place at the price level of your choice so that I can support disadvantaged writers.

Why I have given the option to pay more

Lots of previous attendees have told me, during feedback sessions, that they would have paid much more for one of these courses, comparing it to other courses available to them. But at the same time, lots of people have told me they were grateful for the lower cost as it meant they could afford to develop their writing within their own means. I am from a working class background and still live in a working class town. There’s a grey area when it comes to WC folk, and it’s the place where almost everyone I know lives – the place where you are certainly not living in poverty, but you can’t justify retreats, courses or workshops because there is always something else (Christmas, birthdays etc).
It’s my opinion that everyone should have access to exploring their world through the arts, creative writing is my niche and in a world in which the arts are being slowly eroded, where funding is reduced and reduced, I feel I need to do something practical to help people like me, from my background. At the same time, as a working class writer and workshop facilitator, I need to be able to pay my bills and continue doing the things that I have trained for. Hence the option to pay more if you feel you can.
I know from experience how difficult it is to work out which level is right for you, so I have put some guidance together, below. I’ve based my reasoning mainly on the value of £20 in relation to  food and alcohol for some reason:

Sponsored Place – 

If you would need to make a choice between the course and essentials like food and electricity, then you are most likely entitled to a sponsored place.  Get in touch at wendyprattfreelancewriter@gmail.com for a chat. I don’t interrogate, this is an honesty system and giving writers a leg up is important.

£20 

If £20 is what you might spend on a takeaway and a bottle of wine, this is probably the tier for you.

£40

If £20 is what you spend on a bottle of wine and a nice bar of chocolate, the forty pound tier sounds about right for you.

£60

If twenty pounds is the amount that you might put into a charity box, or a church collection, then this is probably the tier for you.

YOU CAN SPONSOR A PLACE

Even if you aren’t interested in doing the course, you can still sponsor a place and give a leg up to a writer who has hit hard times and can’t justify the disposable income for a creative writing course. If you ARE doing the course, you can also sponsor an extra place. You might choose to pay £40 for yourself and sponsor a £20 place, you might be an absolute angel and pay £60 and still sponsor a £20 place, you might be a virtual saint and sponsor two £60 places. It’s up to you. Mix and match.

 

What Happens Next

Once you have paid by PayPal (please drop me a line if you have paid in another way, I may miss your payment otherwise) I will use the email provided to invite you to the Facebook page. I will also use this email address to send a welcome letter to confirm that this email is working.

Places are limited, so please book ASAP to avoid disappointment!

Thanks for being a part of this adventure!

Wendy

 

x

 

The Writer Life: How To Set Up a Submissions Routine

green typewriter on brown wooden table
Photo by Markus Winkler on Pexels.com

 

This post was originally going to be a YouTube video, on my new channel, which you can find by following this link: The Writer Life , but we are still in lockdown for the COVID-19 pandemic, and my neighbours on both sides are using the time to do some serious DIY making it impossible to film, and since I have yet to line up this week’s Writing the Rural segment, I thought I’d do a little How To segment on setting up a submissions routine.

My biggest piece of advice, coming from someone who has been doing this quite some time and has made, I imagine, ALL the mistakes, is to set up your routine, and everything you will need for it, first. This will save time and avoid frustrations later on. The below is a very basic method of organising your submission routine. My other big piece of advice is to find your own way. Find the method that suits you best. But that’s really easy to say, but if you’ve never submitted anything before, you need somewhere to jump off from, a scaffold to build your own routine on. Hopefully this will help.

Tools

Keep it simple. It does not need to be complicated. There are really only five things you need.

  1. Writers’ and Artists Yearbook
  2. Access to the Internet
  3. Planner
  4. A recording system
  5. Cover Letter Template
  6. The F*ck It Bucket

Let me elaborate:

The Writers’ and Artists’ Yearbook

 

IMG_6874

You don’t strictly need one of these, there is so much information on the internet to choose from, and it is an expensive book, but for me, this is like a bible. It has a tonne of useful information written by industry and art experts and it has thoroughly vetted listings. It’s done the gathering work for you. However, it retails at £25 and I know for certain that most writers at the beginning of their career, or just beginning to build their career, will struggle to afford that. I see it as a genuine investment, and that price usually pays for itself through paid opportunities and placing in competitions over the year. But, again, £25 is a lot of money. Some top tips:

  1. Get your W&A from the library. Most libraries will have a copy and if not, you can ask them to get one in for you, it’s free to borrow, though won’t always be available to lend.
  2. Buy it second hand. You can make good savings doing this. You can usually find them on the big site that doesn’t pay its taxes *cough* Amazon *cough* which has been a bit of a lifeline for me as a fairly isolated rural writer. You can usually get them for much less than retail price.
  3. Buy last years. I used to just buy the previous years copy or even the year before that. Be warned though, the further back you go, the less relevant the information.

 

Access to the Internet

You could just use the W&A yearbook (see above) or you could just use the internet. But if you have both, my advice is use both. You can back up information and you will find things on the internet that aren’t in the W&A and vice versa. Cover all your bases.

A Planner

I am a Passion Planner fan, as you will see if you follow me on social media.

IMG_6876

 

The Passion Planner is expensive. You might not need something as complicated and thorough as this planner. Make it simple, work to your own needs, you basically need something with a monthly record. Passion Planner is designed for productivity and for me, as a full time freelancer, it has been a game changer. I don’t work for PP by the way,  I just absolutely love them. This is the sort of planner you can use to increase your productivity and meet your goals, and I am very goal orientated. As I have lots of different revenue and arts streams at the same time, it really helps me to find my maximum productivity and find a way to work within that, but that’s for another video/blog. For now, you literally need just something that will give you space to record things over the month, and a place to remind yourself on the day.

IMG_6877

IMG_6878

A Recording System

I use a spreadsheet, but you don’t have to. You can use a piece of paper, you can create a word document. I’ll show you how I create my spreadsheet further down, but remember, you need to find your own way. there’s no right or wrong in this, it’s just about finding ways that work for you as a writer.

Screenshot 2020-05-02 at 12.05.20

A Cover Letter Template

This is a sort of generic cover letter that you can adapt to each individual submission.

Screenshot 2020-05-02 at 13.12.06

The F*ck It Bucket

An essential piece of metaphorical kit, this is where you put your rejections, your frustrations and your failures. Grieve briefly, then put them in this bucket.

IMG_6875

First Things First

Sit down, look, realistically at your ‘free’ time. Find at least a day, but more likely two, in which you can give yourself over to setting up a system. How often you update your system is up to you. I do my ‘big plan’ in the week between Christmas and New year and it’s for the whole year. It’s part of my annual goal setting. Did I mention that I am very goal orientated? And I like lists. I LOVE lists. List lovers unite! You should have a goal in mind. Keep it simple. It might be ‘I want to submit to one competition and one magazine a month’ which is admirable, but I find that it’s better to choose where you want to submit by how much you want to win/be published in a magazine or competition, rather than trying to meet a set of numbers. There are really two types of submission goal – 1. to get yourself seen in as many places as possible to raise your profile and 2. to get seen in the competitions and magazines you most admire, to raise your profile. One is easier to accomplish than the other, but you have to choose which one is right for you and your career. I think I probably started out aiming for no. 1 and gradually moved over to no. 2.

Go through your W&A with post it notes, or a highlighter (this is probably frowned upon with a library copy, so don’t do that) or a notepad and pen, and highlight all the comps and magazines that interest you. My approach is to first go through them highlighting as many as I like, then go through them again, teasing out the ones that aren’t right for me. Once you’ve found the ones you think you will definitely apply for, put them in the planner. These are the things you need to make a record of:

  • Competition/ magazine title. Don’t just put: Nature Comp. You will not remember what that is. Put Rialto Poetry and Nature Comp, for example.
  • Deadline. This is the closing date. Lots of magazines have reading windows and competitions always have a deadline.
  • Deadline TIME: This one has caught me out so many times. Don’t assume the deadline is midnight, sometimes it’s midday, sometimes it’s 5pm. Make a note of it. You shouldn’t leave it to the last minute anyway, but I can’t really say anything about that as I am a last minute girl.
  • Theme. Some issue/competitions have themes, some don’t. It is quite soul destroying to prepare a piece only to notice at the last minute it’s a theme that doesn’t fit the piece.
  • Method of Submission: Some places only accept paper subs, some places accept email. Obviously you’ll want to send a paper sub long before the deadline.
  • Other. Is it a sonnet competition, is it a rhymed poetry comp…this sort of thing needs recording

I then have a couple of places online that I like to check, one is The Poetry Kit which is lovely and friendly and always has loads of good competitions on, the other is The National Poetry Library which has a comprehensive list of magazines and competitions. These are obviously poetry resources, I’ll update if I come across theatre and fiction lists, if you know of any comprehensive resources, let me know. Duotrope is a good one, but I don’t use it so much anymore, not for any specific reason, I just fell out of love with it, I think. Oh, and Cathy’s Comps and Calls which has loads of free to enter stuff on it.

Right. So now you’re ready to actually submit.

Submitting Your Work

I tend to set aside a specific day of the week (Monday, in case you’re interested) when I put my weekly planner in place. When doing that I see what deadlines are coming up. I then look and see when I have time to have a look over the work I have ready to go out and to make sure I have time to edit before sending it. Next you’ll want to look up the details of the place you’re submitting to online, to make sure nothing has changed, to check word count, line count, submission guidelines and to prepare your file. Some places like each piece of work on an individual document, some like it all in one document. These are things you want to check. if you’re submitting to a magazine, or a publisher with a manuscript, you’ll need a cover letter. If you submit through submittable, you usually need a cover letter too. Here’s the template I used to use with mentees. This one is for a pamphlet/collection.

Dear [ Try and find the name of the specific person you are emailing, if not able to find the information, ‘editors’ or Sir/madam]

 

Please find enclosed a copy of my pamphlet, [name of pamphlet in italics] to be considered for publication with [name of publisher in italics]

 

My name is…. And …here’s where add a short paragraph about where you live, your own personal history and where you are in your career. If you feel you haven’t got anything to pad this out CV wise, it’s worth just talking about why you write and what you love about poetry, where you’d like to be etc.

 

e.g. My name is Wendy Pratt, I am a full time poet and freelance writer living on the east coast in North Yorkshire. The enclosed pamphlet is my fifth, my last four have previously been published with…blah blah blah boast boast…

 

This pamphlet is…. this is where you add a paragraph telling them the influences that have caused you to create this pamphlet – where did it come from, what life experiences is it reflecting, how long has it taken to write – and possibly where you see it fitting into the wider scale of publishing (egg the rise in poems about motherhood, is your pamphlet unique (spoiler alert – yes it is)

 

I have always liked…this is a couple of lines which say what you like about the publisher and why you are submitting – generally something like “I have always admired …publisher’s commitment to new and diverse writers…

 

Thank you for taking the time to read my submission, I look forward to your response

 

Yours sincerely

 

 

Contact details:

Name

Telephone

Email

Any social media tags

Some top tips when submitting to magazines:

  1. Include a cover letter. I was Dream Catcher magazine editor for a short time, and it really annoyed me when people just sent an attachment. Without introducing themselves.
  2. Do not assume the editor is a man. I cannot stress this enough. It is another thing that annoyed me.
  3. Try and find out the name of the editor and use it. It proves you’ve done a little research.
  4. Include a short biographical note. editors do not use this to judge your worth as a writer, they simply use it to know a bit more about you, and sometimes, if you are published by that magazine, it ends up in the back page of the magazine, so that people who like your work can look out for more of your work.
  5. There are more tips in this other blog post I wrote: How Not To Write a Cover Letter To a Literary Magazine

Then you press send, or you kiss it, put it in the post box (including a stamped, self addressed envelope) and sit back and wait. But before you do, you’ll need to record it on your Recording system.

The Recording System

Like I say, you don’t have to have anything fancy, but I think a spreadsheet is best because you can cut and paste so easily. However, a pen and a piece of paper work well too!

Think about your needs. What will you be sending out/ poems, fiction, other stuff – proposals, pitches? And what information do you need to know? My columns are as follows:

  • Submission Type. Competitions/magazines/proposal. Poetry/prose.
  • Title of piece
  • Submitted to. 
  • Date submitted
  • Date available again. The submission guidelines usually give some sort of indication, but if they don’t, the general rule is to leave it up to twelve weeks before chasing up.
  • Chased up? This is a handy column. You can record their response here too. This column works well for manuscript submissions when you might chase a couple of times. (editors are very very busy)
  • Result. I tend to mark with A for accepted or D for declined. Declined is a gentler way of saying ‘rejected’. If I win or place in a competition, I put that in too.

Underneath the columns I keep a list of work that I have ‘available’ that is, unpublished and not submitted anywhere. This is so that I don’t accidentally submit the same thing to the same place twice or submit a piece to two different places at the same time.

This is how I fill in the spreadsheet. I cut the title of the piece from the ‘available’ list and place it in the ‘Title’ column. Then fill in all the bits around it. Once it is available again, I copy it and paste it in the ‘Available’ list. I don’t cut it, because I need the record of where it has been sent previously.

Screenshot 2020-05-02 at 12.05.20

  1. the empty chart

Screenshot 2020-05-02 at 12.08.12

2. with the available work listed

Screenshot 2020-05-02 at 12.09.47

3. with a competition entry filled in. Note that the title is removed from the available list, to avoid mistakes.

Screenshot 2020-05-02 at 12.10.21

4. The result is added. Congratulations, 1st place!

Screenshot 2020-05-02 at 12.12.37

5. You have had a piece declined, you keep the details on the sheet and copy and paste the title back into your ‘available’ list.

 

The F*ck It Bucket

You will be rejected, a lot. You will find that magazines sometimes lose your work. If you see a lot of success, you might find that other writers get a bit sour grapes over it. Allow yourself a short time to get annoyed, angry, sad, then put it in the F*ck It Bucket, and move on. If you dwell too long on the things that don’t go right, you will end up only seeing those things. The best way of dealing with them is to keep walking, keep submitting, keep reaching for your goals.

I’m sure you will all have your own systems and this is really just a bit of a beginners guide, but I equally hope some of you will find some use in it.

Don’t forget to subscribe to my YouTube channel and sign up for the newsletter! I will be back with another ‘Writing the Rural’ segment next week.

 

Take care, stay safe

 

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