What’s good about 2021?

It’s hard to know how to pitch these posts at the moment. There is so much that is grim, and so many people dealing with truly awful things that my tiny life, in a tiny corner of Coalbrookdale hardly seems relevant. It’s not – but then of course it is. These tiny things are what keep me going, and what give me hope. As you read, know I’m not ignorant of the wider issues, I’m just guessing if you wanted to read about them you’d go to an expert. There is enough talk and bluster scattered across social media without my adding to it.

Early morning in Coalbrookdale

Caveat laid, I’m going to confess that my year has started well. I have lots of copywriting work, a calm Christmas means January is free from its usual stuttered start, and despite everything I feel ok. Sometimes even happy. Part of this is the years of training in loving the small things – seeing thrushes and finches from my window, squealing with delight at a swoop of long-tailed tits or relishing friends’ wonderful photos of frosty mornings are enough to brighten a moment and a day. I’m writing again, after a small hiatus driven by the shock and upset of the potential build opposite, and as you may have seen on my social media pages, I’ve had some great news about a submission.

Winter light at Wenlock Edge

What’s the news?

At the end of last summer a small publishing house put out a call for pamphlet submissions, with a special call for newer writers – ones with a smattering of publication but not much more. Whilst Yes to Tigers was an interesting project, and I learnt a lot, it didn’t quite feel like my work. This opportunity presents something different – a chance for publication by an actual poetry press. I’m on the longlist, which means there is a way to go before I know if my work will be published, but getting this far is a great feeling, especially with a set of poems that means so much to me.

Why is having a poetry pamphlet published such a big deal?

Essentially it’s the next step – it means I have a collection of work that I feel confident enough to send to a publisher, who will decide if they think enough people will buy it to make it worth printing, marketing and all the other elements that go towards making poetry publication. It means I understand how to put together a set of poems that link and flow, and that I can see how the order might be, and understand a reader’s point of view. I may not get any further than being longlisted (which will make me sad, of course) but that just means I have a bit more to learn. If I compare with how I felt about my writing this time last year, this is a great place to be.

What am I working on at the moment?

This time of year is a good study time for me – no gardening means more time and energy. As well as various courses, including one on women writers, which I’m ridiculously excited about, I’m delving into How to Grow Your Own Poem by Kate Clanchy – it’s a collection of exercises, poems and prompts and is just what I need to coax my poets brain out of December. In terms of submissions and the like I’m holding back a little – my poetry brain needs a bit of time to just enjoy writing, although I’m hoping to reopen my for comissions at the end of the month.

Right now though, it’s time to just enjoy writing.

Thanks for reading, and I hope bright things happen for your day, however tiny.

Kathryn xx

I have a big stack of envelopes

…and I’m daftly excited. Why? because it means publication day is getting closer! My zine is at the printers and soon there will be copies winging there way to crowdfunders, waiting in our wonderful local bookshop and generally making this all feel rather real. There were time when I never thought this project would bear fruit, for a variety of confidence based reasons. Having other people get behind me and give me a gentle shove has made all the difference, and the sheer joy of having support from so many people via my crowdfunder is a massive boost. As soon as the copies I’ll take a million pictures of them and let you know how you can buy one.

This confidence has helped me cast a critical eye over my other work too, and I’ve spent this month putting together my first pamphlet submission. For anyone who doesn’t know, a pamphlet is a short collection of poems, usually around 15 or so, that centres around a particular theme. For me, identifying this theme has been a case of going through my work and seeing what threads and thoughts run through my work and putting together what amounts to a kind of story. There may well be a “proper” way to do this (this is another time when I kind of wish I’d had the wherewithal to complete my creative writing degree), but going by the pamphlets that I’ve read, this seems to be how they work.  I’ve worked through things like the order, as well as refining and redrafting each poem, before summoning the gumption to press send and submit to . My little pamphlet is winging its way to Nine Pens as we speak. This is a new press that seems very friendly and open to work from new poets. They’ve already had over thirty pamphlet submissions, out of which nine will be chosen for publication. My chances of being chosen are small, but I’m getting used to taking these gambles, and the very act of putting together another group of poems that if feel are worth sharing is a positive and pleasing act.

I’ve submitted to fewer journals this year, and avoided most competitions – partly because of cash (competitions and some journals charge for submission) and also because I’m starting to see my work as a whole entity. The dopamine hit of winning a competition or getting a magazine publication has become a little less important. That doesn’t mean it’s not a massive thrill, I’ve still got my copy of Popshot casually placed on my living room table, but something has shifted in terms of validation and my ability to assess my own writing. I throw out a lot more than I keep in, but my critical eye is less hostile.

Taken in the Brecons – when we could still travel…

So a lot is happening this autumn, paid work is thin on the ground which is tricky, but hopefully something will turn up soon. I’m getting a few more views on my website which is something at least. Over the next week or so I’ll be setting up my Etsy shop, where you can by the zine, plus I will be offering bespoke poems for sale, just in time for Christmas!

Please like and share this blog, especially if you’re reading on one of the social media platforms – it’s one of the most useful ways to help me grow my audience.

Thanks as ever for your support – next post will be the title and cover reveal of the zine – how ace is that?

Stay safe, wear a mask, wash your hands

Kathryn xx

Do you remember…

a post I wrote last year, talking about the restrictions I experience as a result of M.E.? Well I’m cured! Ha. Not really, it’s all still the same, tricky getting about, needing two, three times as long to do simple stuff like prepare a meal. All here, doing it’s stuff.

Despite this, I have some news that baffles and delights me. I’m publishing a collection of poetry. It’s based on my time as poet in residence for Secret Severn and is an achievement in many ways. Not only have I got twelve poems that I think people will enjoy, I’ve put aside my disappointment at having my funding withdrawn and pushed ahead.

Why keep going?

I believe in this project. The overriding feeling is joy and respect, a desire to celebrate the relationship between art and words. I gain so much sense of place from enjoying the work created by these talented artists and makers, it didn’t seem right to waste the time and effort we spent putting in the groundwork with visits and follow-ups.

Why crowdfund?

The usual path of approaching indie presses didn’t seem right for this project. Firstly, it’s a fairly local scene and subject – that doesn’t mean it’s all just poems about the iron bridge* but it does mean it’s something that may not have the mass appeal the average indie press needs to guarantee sales. Secondly comes the issue of time – it’s been a year since my first visits and meetings – this feels like the right time to publish.

Crowdfunding is nerve wracking. The whole thing of asking for money feels weird, and a bit rude. This is why I created a reward system – essentially people are buying a copy of the poetry zine. I’ve put together some reward bundles too, so it doesn’t feel quite so much like asking for handouts. It’s worth exploring why this whole thing feels so awkward though – perhaps a subject for another post.

How’s it going?

Really well. I’ve been amazed by the level of goodwill and positivity from people – it’s good to know there’s an interest and that there is a market for when I come to sell. It’ll be in Ironbridge Bookshop, and I’m hoping to place it in local cafes, bookshops further afield as well as selling direct. It’s more than the funding – it’s about having people believe in what I’m doing.

When will it be published?

Assuming I meet our funding target, it should be published in October – just in time for Christmas!

*there are no poems about the iron bridge – sorry bridge fans xx

You can buy a copy of Yes to Tigers by emailing kathrynannawrites@gmail.com and popping in to Ironbridge Bookshop just as soon as pandemic restrictions have waned.

Thanks as ever for reading, and for your ongoing support

Kathryn

xx

A few English haiku about faking bravery on the back of a vespa in Saigon

Exactly what the title says. Hope you enjoy them. If you get to the end there’s a short poem about a journey on an ox cart too.

Haiku after faking bravery on the back of a Vespa in Saigon

My helmet alerts
I am tourist, in letters
and mew fear of death.

A thousand thousand
drawn to this neon white noise
cloud promise of life.

I almost hear air.
Knuckles tighten, grip safety bar
metal slick with fear.

Street lights beckon you
hey, why not cross? Scooter horn
says hi. Heels are silent.

From an ox-cart in Cambodia

Wood on wood on earth
rings bells of then.
Hear “hello”
we forget
to respond
in Khmer.

Dedication

I hated Record Breakers. It was incredibly dull (except for the domino challenges), and all that wholesome patience grated on me. It still does, even more so now I know it’s true.

Getting work published takes a long time. The first step is research. Which journal is most likely to like my work? Where’s open for submissions? Who’s judging competition x and have I read enough of their work to know their style and interests? Next, you submit. Follow the guidelines about word count, number of lines, preferred font. Write a good cover letter (not too long, but enough to show you’ve read the journal). Then you wait. And wait. And wait a bit more. I’ve had responses in a week. I’ve waited over six months. Some places accept simultaneous submissions, many don’t – so my work sits and waits too. It’s a frustrating process, but since many indy presses are run by tiny teams or volunteers, it’s understandable. The thrill of having something accepted is wonderful. Even a kind rejection (where they ask to see more work soon) is ok. The waiting is tough, but the best way to get round that is to throw myself into something new.

Cat is waiting to hear about his poem “Why do the mice all run away?”
Attingham park looking moody

I’m looking forward to Autumn now – although I miss the light terribly- it’s a time for squirrelling myself away and writing. Obviously Secret Severn work takes priority, and my goal is to get drafts done by Christmas. I’ll put them away for a while, then revisit and revise in the spring. I’ve got an urge to write stories again too, so I’m hoping to spend time with writing prompts and get some of these floating ideas down on paper. It’s a time of watching the garden fade and prepare itself for next year, reading all the things I’ve not got round to reading, and maybe watching a bit of Record Breakers*.

Thanks for doing such a great job last week, after my slightly awkward plea for interaction with my social media pages. If you’ve chance to do the same again that’s ace – plus I really love talking to you !

Click to read my published poetry or published flash fiction. You can read old drafts and work in progress by following the links on the menu.

*I’m probably not going to watch Record Breakers.

Feeling like a tortoise

As well as my Secret Severn research, I’ve been polishing my competition submissions. I’ve had to pare back my entries this year, partly because of cost, and partly because I’ve tried to adopt a more intelligent approach.

When I first started entering and submitting, I was so nervous I just pinged poems to every publication that came up. I had some success, but this year I’ve tried a more measured approach. I suppose I’m seeking quality over quantity. I’ve also got over that first rush of excitement about having work published, and moved back to being focused on creating work that I feel proud of, and that I need to write.

I’ve been struggling to write anything new, partly because I’ve been busy, and partly because my brain is having one of its tired phases. I recognise the signs now and know that it’s just the M.E. rather than anything else. Now I’ve got my submissions off, I’m taking a week or so away from it all, before refocusing on Secret Severn for the rest of September and into October. It’s time to read my favourite chilled out writers, maybe dip in and out of some new poetry I’ve got on my bedside table, and spend a bit of time in fields listening to new music.

As ever, getting people to engage with what I write means a lot – if you’ve read this far thank you!

I’d love it if you’d like the post on my Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/KathrynAnnaWrites/
and if you’ve a moment to comment on any of my social media posts, it increases visibility.

Thank you!

On committees and editors

I’ve had my first meeting in my role as Poet in Residence for the Secret Severn Art Trail. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t nervous – those who’ve worked with me will remember my absolute hatred of meetings, and my tendency to turn into a disruptive child when forced to take part.

It turns out I feel quite different when I’m talking about writing. It’s not confidence as such, I still feel flits of nerves and waves of impostor syndrome. What it is an absolute love of what I’m doing. I know how much language, song lyrics and poetry mean to me, and I know how much it can move people. If anything I write moves anyone even the smallest amount, I am delighted. To be able to combine this with visual art, and to have the chance to explore the impact on visitors to the trail excites me. And I think it’s that that excitement means I don’t hate meetings. I’ve sent my first set of emails to artists to see who wants to be involved, and I’ve had a lovely response. Many people are almost as enthusiastic about it as me (if a little baffled), and even the ones who can’t get involved for one reason or another are interested and supportive.

The other part of my writing week has been less cheerful. I’ve had to make the difficult decision to withdraw my work from a publication. It was a difficult decision for many reasons. This particular poem is one that means a lot to me and the project it was going to be part of has great personal significance. As a writer, I was going to be published alongside people I greatly respect, plus this and was the first the first time I’d been invited to read at an anthology launch. Sound good? I was over the moon.

Since my work was accepted in December, there’s been various confusion about whens and wheres, and slightly odd communication. I finally I reached a point where I felt my work deserved more care than was being given to it. I believe I’ve made the right choice, although a tiny part of me is worried I’ll end up on some kind of editor’s blacklist, and another part of me that simply wants to see my work published. This is the first time I’ve encountered anything but kindness from an editor-usually even having work rejected is done with utmost care. It’s been a valuable lesson.

Cheese pac-man. Just to make you read the next paragraph.

Finally, a word about liking and sharing. I did an experiment last week, and messaged people, asking them to react/comment on my post. It made a huge difference to how many people saw it overall. If you can, could you comment on this and share on Facebook, retweet on twitter and like/comment/do a little dance on anything else you see. I hate social media, but it appears to be essential. Thank you, folks.