Tag Archives: poems

Shitty Poetry Month

poetry, poems, shitty poems, CZP, Chizine Publications, contests

In a send-up of the WWW belt and poetry month, you can vote for the worst poet.

In a send-up of all those poetry months, (and of course you know April is National Poetry Month) the folks at Chizine Publications decided to honor “Shitty Poetry Month.” There are many abysmal poems that fill the ether and the void and in fact, probably a lot of them should be voiced instead of being put into books and sent around the world. The vanity presses are famous for taking every piece of drek to mar a monitor and putting them into a lovely hardcover book, that they then charge you, the writer of terrible poems, to buy and give to all your friends so you can say, “Look! I is a writer.”

Yes, it’s that terrible and terribly fun. With tongue firmly in cheek, we were all asked to write terrible poems. It’s the last week of the contest, where each week you could vote for the worst poem. The four finalists will be pitted against each other, where you, brave reader, can vote for the worst poem of the year. I’m afraid to say my poem was not terrible enough. (What a relief!)

You can also read just how awful we can be when we just spew out whatever comes into our minds. Yes, poetry actually takes work. I’ve been working on some poems for year and years, to get them just right. Which reminds me, I have sold poems to On Spec and Burning Maiden. It will take a while for them to come out, which I will of course announce here.

In the meantime, entertain yourself with some shitty poems. And if you’re not familiar with CZP, they put out very good books in the dark fiction world. They also won a British Fantasy Award last year. http://www.chizine.com

Advertisements

1 Comment

Filed under Culture, entertainment, poetry, Writing

Tesseracts 17 Interview: J.J. Steinfeld

poetry, satire, horror, dread, fantasy, Canadian writers

J.J. Steinfeld harkens from PEI, where he chases his muse. Photo by Brenda Whiteway

Happy New Year’s, everyone. The year, as is every day, full of promise and possibility. I fell behind in finishing all the Tesseracts 17 interviews before the old year ended. But the good thing about books and stories is that they don’t go bad. Without further ado, I bring you J.J. Steinfeld.

CA: “Unwilling to Turn Around” speaks to that dread that horror movies build on. It’s a very human feeling. Why do you think it is we sometimes don’t want to see what’s following us?

Whether it is in the dark of night or in the darkness of an wavering mind, when we are going through unfamiliar or unchartered terrain, physical or psychological, vulnerability of one’s body and senses became amplified, more apparent,  and perhaps we are frightened to confront something following us that might  be strange and out-of-place, and potentially dangerous. In a frightened state, seeing something we may not be able to thwart or cope with, makes confronting our fears all the more potent.

CA: Your piece speaks to a very human part of us, yet is also as a sly, light note, make it more satirical than horrific. Why did you choose this angle?

There is a fascinating world just outside our everyday reality and comprehensible definitions, and that world is often mired in the absurd and the incomprehensible. Attempting to confront or chart that absurd reality pulls me strongly to the satirical as to the horrific.  In the attempt to either deal with or break free from the absurd and the incomprehensible, the satirical somehow becomes a little more muscular than the horrific.

CA: Would you rather know what lies ahead, no matter how wonderful or terrible, or you would prefer the surprise, no matter the outcome?

I would prefer to be wandering in the cinematic land of surprise and infinite possibilities,

anthology, speculative fiction, SF, fantasy, Canadian authors

Tesseracts 17 is now out with tales from Canadian writers that span all times and places.

rather than see the film’s ending beforehand, especially if the special effects tamper with my sense of the absurd and wonder and baffling existence.

CA: What do you think is your most effective tool, or technique, when it comes to writing poetry?

 I don’t know if I have any effective tools or techniques for writing poetry, unless you want to count lively synapses and a curious psyche as creative tools.  Actually, it’s more a strategy of speed, that is, going outside and walking quickly after my sometimes elusive and too often mischievous and cantankerous Muse. The attempt to grab hold of that fleeing Muse, whether the attempt is successful or not, often leads to new ideas and the start of a poem, which will be developed and written when I get back to my hidden-away writing room.

CA: What other projects do you have in the works?

I’m always working on something creative, whether it’s poetry or fiction or plays… My imagination tends to bounce from one creative “project” to another and after a period of time, I start to gather together creative pieces that adhere to my synapses and psyche and put them together into a collection or then attempt to find someone who might want to put on one of my plays. Currently I have two short story collections and a poetry collection, products of my bouncing imagination, that are looking for publishers, and several scripts in search of a theatrical home. As I wait to hear from publishers or theater companies, I polish up and tinker with the contents of these hoping-to-see-the light-of-literary-day manuscripts and stage plays.

 Fiction writer, poet, and playwright J. J. Steinfeld lives on Prince Edward Island, where he is patiently waiting for Godot’s arrival and a phone call from Kafka. While waiting, he has published fourteen books, along with five chapbooks, including Forms of Captivity and Escape (Stories, Thistledown Press), Disturbing Identities (Stories, Ekstasis Editions), Anton Chekhov Was Never in Charlottetown (Stories, Gaspereau Press), Should the Word Hell Be Capitalized? (Stories, Gaspereau Press), Curiosity to Satisfy and Fear to Placate (Short-Fiction Chapbook, Mercutio Press),  Would You Hide Me? (Stories, Gaspereau Press), An Affection for Precipices (Poetry, Serengeti Press), Where War Finds You (Poetry Chapbook, HMS Press), Misshapenness (Poetry, Ekstasis Editions), A Fanciful Geography (Poetry Chapbook, erbacce-press), and A Glass Shard and Memory (Stories, Recliner Books). His short stories and poems have appeared in numerous periodicals and anthologies, in every Canadian province and internationally in fifteen countries, including in Tesseracts Fifteen, Sixteen, and Seventeen, and over forty of his one-act plays and a handful of full-length plays have been performed in Canada and the United States.

 

Leave a comment

Filed under Culture, entertainment, fantasy, horror, people, poetry, Publishing, Writing

Writing: Unfathomable Poetry

There are many styles of poetry, or maybe I should say bad poetry. Crossing my desk as an assistant reader at Chizine, I see a range of good, bad and confusing. http://www.chizine.com/ There are the rhyming poems. The cultural convention of today has fallen away from rhyming poetry, partly because most people don’t have the depth of education on forms to write it well and the result is bad rhymes. Joyce Kilmer’s poem is touted as one of the worst poems of all time, at least for its time, but not just for the rhyme but also the gooeyness. Still, Trees was an immensely well-known poem and sat on the wall in my childhood home for years. It was easy to memorize such lines as “I think that I shall never see/a poem as lovely as a tree/a tree whose hungry mouth is prest/against the earth’s sweet flowing breast…”

The rhyme was pretty simple and that style has turned off most editors from even considering rhyming poems today. Chizine doesn’t even accept formal verse “of any kind” yet we do get a few rhyming poems. Formal verse is poetry that uses the effects of rhyme, meter or form, especially in fixed styles like sonnets or Glossa. Without the full literary educations that most people once had anyone with a pen or a computer pops down a few lines and thinks they should rhyme. “I saw a cat/it had a rat” is simple beyond belief. Rhythm and meter are difficult aspects to master. I’ve only got the hang of it sometime so I tend not to do many poems with meter. Free verse that lacks rhyme, meter, form, etc. may still end up with its own form or internal rhythm. It’s part of how our brains and our language work.

Besides forms of poetry, the other deciding factor in most rejections or acceptances is the content and how well it is written. Sandra Kasturi, the poetry editor for Chizine, has written pretty entertaining guidelines, but she’s serious about them. The goth poetry generator is listed http://www.deadlounge.com/poetry/poems.html because there are many bad poems, especially if they deal with fantasy, horror or dark fiction. Here’s my gothomatic poem:

Around, all around, the mourners gather.
My dread grows as doom’s scythe falls against my eyes.
It mutilates me, and darkly my
essence drips
to the barren land.
In numbness I fall limply
while oblivion takes my hand.
Now alone, my supplication falls upon blind eyes.

This is my salvation

Ook. Words like dread, death, blood, lifeblood, life, eternity, etc. are overkill and overdone. There are far too many poems like this already and yeah I’ve written some in the past too. But at least this poem progresses forward.

Some writers feel that every noun needs an adjective and you end up with an ungainly, shambling monster, reaching, ever reaching with bloodstained hands for the swollen brains of crying editors. And worse. Some poems constantly tell you how the narrator feels with such lines like, “I feel tired and fading. I feel the crypt ooze around me. A creepy feeling comes over me. I felt life leaving.” And sometimes it’s that often in a poem.

Then there are the unfathomable poems. I call some of these the descent into madness poems. There are authors who will string together very diverse thoughts or images. Sometimes they go together or you can glean a story from the sequence. Sometimes the poem goes on with no rhyme or reason. One poem might be intriguing but more than one has me going, well I can do this too but it won’t sell my poem. Here’s an example, made up on the spot, of an unfathomable poem, though indeed you might find a tale in it, if you look hard enough:

At midnight the rabbits died
I was once a ballerina falling
there is no reason to a songbird’s warbling
green fungus adorns my windowsill
cry, little monster, he yelled as he shot
god’s green earth likes to fester
cerulean are the bluebells of my memory
I could not get the toaster working
warthogs gore to maim
I will leave after the eyes rot.

Tada! A poem of madness. Yes, I get poems like this. I try to look for the story and there should be something the poem is saying besides random stringing of lines, though there have been poetry schools that go for sound more than content. But I’m not a big fan of those unless they go under the realm of sound and music. But what could I glean from this poem? Well, there is a majority of dark imagery, death and violence. Rabbits die, ballerinas fall, fungus is a form of rot sometimes, earth festers, someone shoots monsters, warthogs gore and eyes rot. A toaster not working might also denote chaos or things breaking down. God is mentioned but is it significant and the only positive line has to do about memory. Songbirds warbling could be positive but there is the negative spin of no reason for it. Granted I wrote this without thinking; still, this is the process I would go through in looking at someone’s mad poem. I would conclude some dystopian or descent to madness or unmaking. But I’m not sure I’d buy it, trying to correlate some of those images.

Even a madness poem should tell a tale, one way or another. There are of course, many other types or themes of poems but I have just received several unfathomable poems that I’m still trying to fathom in case I’m just not bright enough. The bottom line is that I look at whether the average reader will be bright enough to “get it” and since I’m at least average I’ll conclude from there.

2 Comments

Filed under art, Culture, entertainment, fantasy, horror, people, poetry, Writing

Vampires in the New Year

Well, I hope you didn’t expect some retrospective of last year or the hopes and fears for this year. Predictions about and it would be easiest to say some politician will be accused of a scandal, another politician will again say we need so investigation into gas prices and nothing will be done, Vancouver will bubble with the hype of the Olympics and its citizens’ taxes will/have already gone up to cover the deficits that they said wouldn’t happen, Harper and Campbell will ignore all protests and implement the HST, charging us more for what we should not have to pay for, a rock/movie star will suffer from drug overdose, more record-breaking climactic disasters will happen with a small camp of naysayers telling us that climate change isn’t happening, corporations will continue to use bailout money to give themselves exorbitant salaries while they lay off workers, a movie/sports star will leave/love/cheat on each other, etc. It might all sound like fiction but it’s so much of the same that happens every year that it’s not really worth speculating about.

However, in the world of possibilities, there is the genre of speculative fiction. Speculative fiction includes horror, fantasy, science fiction; basically anything that you might speculate about, which then means almost any fiction. Confusing? Yes, just another way that people try to parcel stories into little packages.

But in that vein is the anthology coming out through Edge Press. Edited by Nancy Kilpatrick Evolve contains 23 stories and one poem. This is dark fiction, stories about vampires but ones that have evolved. How each author handles that theme will be different but there are no vampires of the past, only a present or a future. For my own story, I dealt with an alternate history where vampires are the dominant mammal (homo vampirii) and homo sapiens is something…less.

Nancy Kilpatrick is a veteran author and editor. She delivers good dark fiction. The collection is of authors from across Canada with a presumably regional balance. There are four authors from BC, Rhea Rose, Mary Choo, Sandra Wickham (new author) and me. Every province is represented and it will be interesting to see if there is any regional flavor in the stories. Sometimes there is a “Canadian” flavor,whether in movies or stories. These influences often involves the environment/climate in some ways. Of course, once you have a vampire you will most certainly have some battle/avoidance of the environment in the way of sun, but it depends if all the stories involve vampires sensitive to sunlight.

There will probably be not sparkling vampires, or angels masquerading as vampires. They’ll probably all be a bit darker than this. The books are being released at the end of this month, with collector editions and signed trade paperback editions.  For a list of authors, their bios and more information, you can go to www.vampires-evolve.com/ to find something to sink your teeth into. I’m quite curious so see how other authors handled this theme.

3 Comments

Filed under art, Culture, entertainment, fantasy, horror, myth, people, poetry, Publishing, science fiction, Writing

Canadian SF Giant Dies

Phyllis Gotlieb left the mortal coil on July 14. She is probably not a name known to many in the world of speculative reading yet she was known by many writers. She was a steady writer; though not as prolific like Rob Sawyer or Charles de Lint, she was in her own way a pioneer in the field.

Judith Merril was known as the grandam of science fiction and Phyllis as the mother of Canadian SF. She began writing and publishing when there were fewer writers in the field altogether and very few women. Canada was a pipsqueak next to the US, yet Phyllis was making her mark. She was a founding member of SFWA, and the only Canadian at its time of inception in 1965.

Phyllis began writing when science fiction wasn’t as popular as it is now, but was a fan of the early pulps. She was known for her poetry and during a writing block in the 1950s her husband suggested she write science fiction. She sold her first novel Sunburst in 1964 and the Sunburst award is named after Phyllis’s book.

Phyllis was known for her no-nonsense, wry wit and intelligence. She was an active member of SF Canada and has been quoted as being instrumental in encouraging such young writers in their careers as Robert Sawyer, Cory Doctorow and Sandra Kasturi.

It’s no easy thing to be a writer in a country with a small population, be a woman, and be writing in a field that wasn’t very popular, yet Phyllis was pretty much the first Canadian speculative writer published and continued unabated, publishing her last novel in 2009. Her matter of fact Valentine’s poems to her husband Kelly were often amusing and hilarious. She gave insights that made one think deeper and longer about topics and sometimes cut straight to the chase without the sugary coating.

SF Canada will miss Phyllis greatly, and I’m glad that we had a chance last year to award her with a Lifetime Achievement Award. Her contribution to SF and Canadian writers will be felt for a very long time.

Condolences and memorial messages can be added here: http://www.benjaminsparkmemorialchapel.ca/MemorialBook.aspx?snum=125855&sid=134769

An Interview with Phyllis from Challenging Destiny: http://www.challengingdestiny.com/interviews/gotlieb.htm

CBC’: http://www.cbc.ca/canada/toronto/story/2009/07/15/phyllis-gotlieb.html

The Sunburst Award: http://www.sunburstaward.org/

Leave a comment

Filed under Culture, entertainment, history, life, news, people, poetry, Publishing, science fiction, Writing

Writing: Reviewing Reviews

Because I write mostly short stories and poems, reviews are few and far between. A magazine is less likely to be reviewed than an anthology and an individual story even less likely. I’ve never seen a review of any of my poems and I suspect the only way one would get a review is if it was a collection of poetry in a book or chapbook format.

Reviews can be a curse in their own right, with more negative than supportive comments, and it’s a chance any artist takes when putting work into the public forum. Still, I would rather have a review than not. A review can stir up discussion or controversy and some people will decide to form their own opinions (as I often do with movies) than take a reviewer’s. The reviewer is a buffer: I know reviewer A never likes xyz, but I do so if they hate it, I will most surely like it.  A review can be used to weed out what you’re going to read or buy. And reviews do give publicity of a sort, whether negative or positive.

Under the review umbrella are a host of chameleons: those written pieces that actually don’t review a piece so much as recap it. I have read reviews that give no indication of whether a story is good or bad, written well or not. All the reviewer does is reveal some of the plot line or all of it. These are not reviews. A review should have an opinion on the storyline and writing. There are the damning with faint praise reviews: this is not very deep, a piece of fluff but was enjoyable nonetheless.

Some reviews take into account that it may be the writer’s first major work. Some discuss the style of writing but don’t go as much into plot, while others will look at the depth and intricacies of plot, the sophistication of writing style and the expertise of the writer’s knowledge in the area in which they are writing.

I know of a few writers who do not read their reviews, afraid that the comments, possibly scathing, will puncture their egos like a helium balloon. I’m happy–well, maybe not happy–to read any review. Perhaps I will learn something about my writing and what I need to fix or change the next time around. Perhaps the reviewer will like it and I’ll feel encouraged. So far, there have been very few reviews of my work, the most probably being “The Fathomless World” in Cone Zero, and those again fell into mostly recapping the stories.

It’s important to note though, that many reviewers are just like you and me. It’s their opinion. Some reviews need to be taken with a grain of salt. I always figured I could be a good art critic because I can look at/read something and personally dislike it but examine the technique and skilled unbiasedly and see if the artist knows their stuff. Still, I would get down to what I don’t or do like about a piece as part of the review.

Some people love steampunk. Some hate elf and unicorn stories. Some hate free form verse or poems about flowers. Others dislike first person stories, or plots involving government overthrows and secret spies. These likes and dislikes will always flavor a review, but the good reviewer will be able to examine the writing as a whole. Aspects that reviewers might touch on are: depth and variety of characterization, plot flow, conflict and resolution, plausibility and depth of storyline, atmosphere, description, language, voice (authorial as opposed to characters), overall readibility and whether the author’s voice insinuates itself, etc.

So, in the spirit of reviewing, if someone would like to review something I’ve already written, please let me know and I’ll send it to you. This is a limited time offer (in case there are millions out there.) I will also post the review, whether favorable or not and then probably crawl away into my hole and rethink my view that I’d rather have a review than no review at all.

Leave a comment

Filed under art, Culture, entertainment, erotica, fantasy, horror, movies, people, poetry, Publishing, science fiction, Writing

More on the Google Book Settlement

The Google Book Settlement is causing more indigestion in the bellies of writers, libraries and publishers. Although the deadline for opting out was on May 5th, a court has granted a four-month extension to all writers. My unease at what looked like a monopoly is being echoed elsewhere. It’s not that this will be bad in the short run but in the long run, who knows? And I still find it disturbing that it’s a rock and a hard place decision.

Either you opt out completely so that you and a few others can try to sue Google, but in the meantime they might still take your already scanned book and use it. Or you opt in, becoming part of a system you don’t like, so that you can then get the money (even if only a pittance) for your scanned book, while hoping to say no to other scannings if you have new works coming out and you worry about the copyright.

It still gives Google all the control in either situation and your work, which you own, even if your book is technically out of print is available. This does mean that for authors who books/stories might never be reprinted that they have a chance at extended revenue. However, for those who might want to sell reprint rights or sell to a foreign market (even in the same language) will now have a problem because the book will already be available. There won’t be any big launch or release date and there won’t be any articles done to highlight the author’s career.

They (Google) can say this won’t happen but people have said all sorts of things and as the proverb goes: promises were made to be broken. It makes me very uneasy, yet I didn’t opt out because I would have had less of a voice. At this point in my career I only have short stories, articles and poems out in magazines and anthologies. There is no book of mine (except a chapbook) but still, one must always ask: what if? What it all boils down to is too much control by one entity, which is not even a person. The individual writers and publishers seem to lose some rights unless they stay eternally vigilant. No napping or you’ll wake up to find Google has scanned your book because they think it’s not “commercially available” by their terms.

I’ll be watching this as it unfolds and will try not to nap.

CNET News provides more info: http://news.cnet.com/8301-1023_3-10229372-93.html?tag=nl.e703

You can also read about “Justice Dept. Opens Antitrust Inquiry Into Google Books Deal”: http://www.nytimes.com/2009/04/29/technology/internet/29google.html?_r=2&emc=tnt&tntemail1=y

NY Times article: http://www.nytimes.com/2009/04/29/technology/internet/29google.html?_r=2&emc=tnt&tntemail1=y

Thursday, May 07 http://januarymagazine.com/ 
 

 

Leave a comment

Filed under art, Culture, entertainment, internet, news, Publishing, Writing

Writing: Rannu Fund Fiction & Poetry Winners

donjuan-cover-72

To the right is the cover of Don Juan & Men, which is due out in June with my story, “The Boy Who Bled Rubies.” It is obviously a book with tales about the homo-erotic natures of men. I believe all the stories have a fantasy aspect, and mind definitely does.

As well, another story that also revolves around some taboo sex, “An Ember Amongst the Fallen” has been accepted by Nancy Kilpatrick for Evolve, a vampire anthology (of modern vampires, hence the title) due to debut in Brighton, England next year at the World Horror Convention.

And then, I entered the Rannu fund for poetry and fiction. I did not win, alas, nor get an honorable mention but received a note, I suppose. Here are the results of the winners, post by Sandra Kasturi, one of the patrons of the fund. Now I just need to sell my story, “Shoes.”

**Please note that all judging was done blind; names, bios, e-mails, etc. were all stripped from the entries.**

Fiction Winners (tie):
“Hell Friend” by Gemma Files
“As Promised” by Nick Stokes

Fiction Honourable Mentions:
“God’s Gift to the Natives: Flight” by Sandra Jackson-Opoku
“Crossroads and Gateways” by Helen Marshall

Fiction Judges: Robert Boyczuk, Candas Jane Dorsey, Sandra Kasturi

Poetry Winner:
“Visitation” by Kim Goldberg

Poetry Honourable Mentions:
“Book of Sloth” by Jacques Benoit
“The Gypsy” by Helen Marshall

Poetry Judges: David Livingstone Clink, Mildred Tremblay, Sandra Kasturi

We would also like to note the entries that made it onto one or more judges’ shortlists:

Fiction:
“Shoes” by Colleen Anderson
“Pearls Before Swine” by Don Bassingthwaite
“No Cages” by Kevin Nunn
“Natalie Touches Upon the World” by Ivan Faute

Poetry:
Jacques Benoit’s “Slow Day in Tabloidland”
Robert Borski’s “Neosaur,” “Frog Prince,” and “All the Clocks of Hell”
Gemma Files’ “Tantalus, Reaching Upwards” and “Jar of Salts”
Kim Goldberg’s “Inner Sanctum” and “Green Thumb”
Sidharth Gopinath’s “Watcher”
Riina Kindlam’s “Vulnerable, with a Pinch of Salt”
Helen Marshall’s “Howling,” “The Oak Girl,” “The Queen of the Cats,” and “Pan”

Thank you all for participating in this competition, and I hope you will all enter again next year–check the website for details in the fall. And thank you again for your patience as the judges got through the entries. (And thanks again to the judges!!)

Leave a comment

Filed under Culture, entertainment, erotica, fairy tales, fantasy, horror, people, poetry, Publishing, science fiction, sex, Writing

Writing Update March

I’m way behind this year on submissions. Normally I do a blitz in January. But this year I was working on a large editing project for a client. I just seemed to busy to hunker down. Right now I’m trying to get a story rewritten for one anthology and write a new story for another anthology, as well as work on my novel. And I’ve been trying to get my taxes done. So I don’t think I’ve submitted anything new yet this year.

I’ve received some rejections for stories sent out from last fall, but yesterday saw some reward. I arrived home to find a letter from Barton College saying my poem “Finding Dionysus” was awarded second prize and will be published in Crucible. As well, there was an email from Shroud magazine saying they had accepted my story “A Kind Hand” for publication in issue #6.

Yesterday I said that perseverance is a large part of writing and becoming published. I’ve also talked about revisionist poems. Although “Finding Dionysus” is from Persephone’s point of view it’s not as revisionist as some of my others but is part of a series I’ve done on Greek gods. The poem was written about six years ago but as is often the case with submissions, an editor’s preference can be for a particular type or style of writing. As well, magazines may have themes or just published a piece with a similar theme. I was once told by one magazine that they had just published a torso story and they couldn’t take another or they would be seen as a fetish magazine.

“A Kind Hand” is a tale of perseverance in the writing. I started the story probably ten years ago, wrote a bit and let it sit. I liked the idea but for a while wasn’t sure where to go with it. I was basing it off of a Germanic folktale about Berchta (a hearth goddess) so I had the plot but I wanted to give it a more human aspect. Some stories flow out easily and all at once. Others come out in fits and spurts and seem to be a jumble. “A Kind Hand” was somewhere in between and when I wrote on it, it came out fairly smoothly. However, taking so many years to write the story meant that I had to keep rereading it to figure out where I was going. Also, one’s style can change from story to story and year to year. I had to try and continue in the style in which I had started, which I really liked.

Once it was done I sent it out but also sent it to a friend to read. He made some good comments so I brought out the threat aspect a bit more and once it was rejected, sent the story out again. I think I had only submitted this one a few times before Shroud.

Looking at start to finish on the poem was probably seven years. The story was ten or more years in the process. I have ideas like this, that I start because I had an image in my mind, but perhaps no plot, or no ending. They sit and sometimes I do finish them. There are those stories that I complete but am not satisfied with so I maybe send them out once and then they wait for a rewrite so that I can figure out how to make them better. Rarely does a story or poem flow out quickly, all in one piece, with minimal rewriting. And rarely does it go from creation to publication quickly. My quickest was probably “The Fishwife,” which flowed out in no more than three days, needed a minimal rewrite and sold to the first or second place I sent it. Still, with the time taken for submitting and the selection process of the magazine, it was about a year.

This doesn’t even include the time from acceptance to publication. The tardiest rejection I ever received was seven years. Some pieces that have been accepted may be  a year (or more) from acceptance to actually being published.

And last, as fantasy editor of Aberrant Dreams, I have released all stories but one back to the authors. The magazine is going through some structural changes and it was becoming far too long in holding stories. I hate giving up good stories but it wasn’t fair to hang on indefinitely. I have two letters to send out, releasing one more and letting one author choose if he wants his accepted story to sit in the to be published pile or if he’d like to withdraw it. Then we wait for the restructure.

Time is not linear in the world of writing and submitting, nor on the publishing end of a magazine. Patience and perseverance really help.

Leave a comment

Filed under art, entertainment, fairy tales, fantasy, horror, myth, people, poetry, Publishing, science fiction, Writing

Writing: The Life of a Writer

I try once a week to take my laptop and go off to a local cafe/restaurant, have a couple of drinks and work on a novel. If I don’t do this, I tend to get distracted with many other writing projects.

I’m not writing any poetry at the moment but rewriting a bit, trying to redo a story for one anthology, finish a new story for another, and work on my novel. Sometimes ideas flow and sometimes it’s stop and start, the idea complex, the world taking some thinking. How much to put in of the world without veering too far from the story becomes a balancing act. It’s almost time to go through my bookmarked literary and speculative markets again, tossing the broken links and moving the ones that take online subs into a separate folder. I’m behind on submitting because of some freelance work and the writing.

An example of a submission night: I sit down at 8:00 pm and start going through the markets, continuing from where I left off the last night. By 11:30 I’ve weeded through the markets and sent out poems to about four magazines. That’s about four poems per magazine and they’re already written. I also submit two stories to two other magazines. But just doing that, searching through, finding the right poems, reading through them, making a few changes, reading other guidelines took three and a half hours.

When I submit stories/poetry in paper format it takes even longer because I must take the template letter, fill in the titles on each one, print the poems and letters off, match them up, fill out envelopes, make up SASEs, put stamps on, put the material inside, seal them up and take them to the post office. Usually I’ll do a batch of about ten magazines at once and it will take me three solid nights to get everything sorted.

Although I could keep track of where my stories and poems go on an Excel spreadsheet I find that I need a tactile, visual aid. I still use index cards. For the markets I have a 5X7  index card and I write the editor, magazine name, address, pay and type of writing that they accept at the top. Then I write the title of the pieces I’m sending and the date I sent them, usually just the month and year: 03/09. When the story/poem comes back I write the return date. If they’ve accepted a piece I put a circled P beside the piece and the date.

I have a separate 3X5 card for every poem and story. I have categorized these cards by color: pink for erotica and mainstream, green for fantasy, yellow for SF, blue for dark fantasy. That’s for stories. For poems I have them on white cards or green for the speculative poems. I put the title and the length at the top of the card and then list the market and date sent on each one as I send them out. When I have sent to the market, I put the market card at the back of my large index box. When I have submitted a story/poem I put that card to the back of the story/poem box behind a paper-clipped card. I have one box for poems (I have that many) and one for fiction. One larger box holds the markets. If a story/poem has been out too long I will send a query and I mark that with a Q and the date. If I hear nothing after a couple of months, I put the card back into the submission flow again.

I confess to not having a card for every market. If they’re fairly new or a one-of anthology, I sometimes don’t make a card. I’ll wait to see if they continue and if I submit more than once. But I do have one for every piece I’ve written. It lets me see how often I’ve sent a piece out, where I’ve sent it and which ones are becoming trunk stories; the ones that keep going out again and again and again.

I tried computerized index systems before but I found that if I wanted to find a poem about deadly flowers for market X that was doing a theme issue, and SF stories dealing with a dark future for market Y, that it was easier to sort the cards back and forth and match them up to the best market. Say that I have one futuristic SF story and there are three markets. I look at the story, make sure I haven’t sent it to the markets and then will try to match it to the highest paying one first. But if I have a secondary story, SF but Utopian and only one magazine likes that type then I may switch them about. To me, this is far easier with the cards than by clicking through various screens.

Writing is about 40% creation (breaking that down to 15% writing and 25% rewriting) and 60% perseverance. It’s true that if you persevere long enough, you will get items published. Some stories have sat for years and then ended up at the right market at the right time. But it also means you must be willing to rewrite and drop your favored line or character. Some editors will give a short statement of what worked or didn’t. You can get contradictory statements so take them with a grain of salt, but if you’re saying the editor was out to lunch for every rejection, then you’ll probably continue to get a lot of rejections.

The advent of computers meant suddenly that everyone could write. But not everyone can write well. It takes practice, and magazines are inundated with good works as well as bad. The more polished a piece, the better the chance of acceptance. Continuing to submit and not give up is half the battle.

1 Comment

Filed under art, Culture, entertainment, erotica, fantasy, horror, people, poetry, Publishing, science fiction, Writing