Tag Archives: editors

Day 173

What to write about. The early hours of the morning have arrived, I have parked the post I wrote, on the grounds it wasn’t working, and started to look for another 250 words.

This is post 2,701 by the way. I know this because the number 2,700 caught my eye when I was preparing to write. For some reason 2,700 seems like a significant number, where 2,701 doesn’t. Numbers are strange that way. Write 2,700 and it looks worthy of note, but 2,699 and 2,701 aren’t. They are too messy.

At the moment I am in the middle of a long dry spell, in a writing sense. I did submit a piece this morning but my haibun haven’t been doing well recently so I’m not holding out much hope. It’s also going to a magazine that has started demanding contributors write to a theme each issue and I’m not keen on that. It is another level of difficulty to worry about in writing the poem and it involves fine judgement. In Japanese forms of poetry they want more subtlety in handling  a theme than they do in English verse, and it’s easy to miss the mark. It’s like the poem I had rejected a while ago for obscurity. If you add a footnote you are being pretentious, if you don’t you are being obscure.

If it’s accepted it will be subtle. If it isn’t, it will miss the brief. Simple.

It’s like white space. The editor for today’s submission likes white space because it is a sign of things left unsaid (Japanese poetry is very big on things left unsaid) but other editors have criticised me for having too much white space – it detracts from the impact of the haiku according to one of them. The others just seem to like a single paragraph of prose with no gaps.

Eventually I will get going again. In the meantime, a rambling diarylike entry of 300 words will do to fill todays post. Sorry it wasn’t more insightful, but sometimes all I have to offer is a view of the inside of my head.

Meanwhile, there has been an earthquake in Afghanistan and people on the news are discussing how we deliver aid to a country where we don’t like the Government. The answer is, of course, that if you live in a country with any sort of moral values you send aid first and worry about politics second. I imagine it’s hard enough living there at the best of times but much, much worse if your house just fell on your head as you slept.

My worries aren’t really worth discussing compared to this, but they manged to sneak in as the first thing I spoke about. Strange how self-centred we can be.

Day 59

Early hours of Day 59. I had an email from an editor last, which made me irritable, to say the least. It featured block capitals and exclamation marks and various instructions. As block capitals and exclamation marks always make me feel like I’m being shouted at, and as I’d followed all the instructions, I began to think critical thoughts.

This is the second journal to start carrying on like a tin-pot dictator in the last few weeks and as I write for relaxation I can do without it. Americans, though supposedly laid back, decentralised and in favour of freedom, do seem to like issuing instructions, just like any other nationality.

I didn’t reply. There is no point.

Then I got the second email. It seems he was declining my submissions as they were two days late. They weren’t. They were two days before the deadline. It’s not a problem, as they are only words, but it’s annoying to be called unprofessional, which is basically what is happening here. So I have dropped him a  polite line telling him that I fear something has gone awry with the system. It may well be Russians messing with communications, but it isn’t me. It does, however, explain the previous email with the block capitals etc.

I am going to have to get a move on and get my submissions in earlier.

The question is, how do I count this for submission purposes? I’m inclined to count it as a submission, because I did the work. I’m not so sure about counting it as a rejection, because it wasn’t really rejected. It was hung up in the system and I’ve been asked to resubmit next month.

This is the third time I’ve had a submission disappear into a black hole that was not of my making. I’ve also had one disappear as a result of my email ineptitude when I blocked gmail (which could have been worse). The editor who got shirty with me with that one was English (I add that for the sake of balance – the Irish, Canadian and Indian editors all took it in their stride).

I like email. I tend to avoid ordinary mail now if I can. But sometimes it is a pain.

My Orange Parker Pen

Day 30

In terms of creativity and industry things haven’t worked out that well. In other ways it has been  a pleasant and relaxing day. This qualifies it as a tick in the “good day” column of the celestial ledger, and I am now bringing it to a close with a smile on my face.

Normally I like to approach a deadline with plenty of material already written and refined. My deadline is 31st January which is tomorrow (for the next 22 minutes, when it will become “today”.

Fortunately, last time I had a rejection all the ten haiku had been written a few days before submission so I was able to look at them again and make improvements (I know I ought to give time for them to mature, but it always seems like I don’t have enough). I’m hoping that one will be acceptable this time round.

Submitting to editors is an art and not a science. What works with one editor doesn’t necessarily work with another and many of my poems have been accepted after two or three rejections. The best example I have is my haibun about Philip Larkin. I’ll add it at the bottom of post if I can find it. That haibun went out four times and came back four times. I tinkered a little each time to tighten it up, but didn’t change it too much. The fourth time it came back I sent it out again the next day and had it accepted in two days. Which goes to show that you can never tell what is around the corner. I have seen interviews where established writers have sent out poems a lot more than that. I don’t have that sort of confidence. After three or four failures I usually retire them.

However, I’ve been trawling through them today, looking for pieces that are good enough to send out. I’ve found three, polished them, and sent them out and am now looking for three more. After that I just need to write ten tanka in the next 23 hours and I’m laughing.

There are several more deadlines that I decided to ignore. One journal has been rejecting me constantly since a change of editor, for instance, and another is fond of heavy-handed editing. I’m going to give them a miss this month and catch them next time they come round.

In fact, I’d better get back to work – ten tanka won’t write themselves.

Later, far too much later on a work night, I have all three of the next batch of haibun assembled, and I realised I forgot the Larkin piece. I will search it out tomorrow.

 

Slowing Down, Taking Stock

Things are stuttering along. It is, as before, a zig-zag course towards improvement and today, after submitting my first piece for some time, I am once again wondering why I bother writing.

I’m clear on magazine articles. I don’t do many of them, but I do it for the money.

Poetry is different. I’ve been sent one or two free copies of magazines and have had two certificates, but the rewards of writing poetry are mainly spiritual.

At the moment, I’m thinking of stopping submitting so much. I can dress this up as spiritual renewal or an issue of quality over quantity, but in truth, I’m just getting a bit fed up with some of the editors I have to deal with.

Most of them are brilliant (though even the brilliant ones often turn me down – nobody is perfect) with a positive attitude, open minds and helpful comments.

Others are a bit on the academic side and a touch prescriptive. I won’t get too specific, as they all work hard to produce the magazines we rely on, and I don’t want to criticise anyone personally. However, one or two seem to get their preferences mixed up with the “rules” of writing Japanese poetry forms. Even the various societies, with their panels of experts, don’t produce rules, just guides. These also often edit what I consider to be my voice. I write as I speak, and if I want to use an expression from the midlands of the UK, I don’t see why it needs to be ironed out by an American with an academic background in English.

Meanwhile, there is the group of editors who want to be excited by my submissions. I write about my life. It’s not exciting. I’m unlikely to display the qualities required by these editors.

I have limited time at the moment, and have decided to use it more wisely. One submission has gone. The other, with its manufactured false excitement and linguistic fireworks, will stay in the draft section. Eventually, as it matures, it will be used, or dismantled for use in other work.

But it won’t be sent out this week to curry favour with an editor who wants me to be something I’m not.

My Orange Parker Pen

 

 

Etiquette and Editors and Lifestyle Changes

I’m never quite sure about how to treat editors. I treat them politely, but it’s difficult knowing exactly how to do that. I was brought up not to use first names until I knew someone, but the simple use of Mr or Mrs or Miss or any other simple title is now a politically charged minefield with the capacity for causing great offence, so I try to avoid it.

Talking of that, did you know that the Post office had a set of stamps in 2002 that included a rabbit and the words “a new baby”. I have nightmares about using them on a parcel that goes to someone who, for one reason or another, finds it upsetting. It’s a great stamp for someone who just had a healthy baby but there are are a number of circumstances where it could cause offence.

Anyway, back to editors. Apart from the problem of how to address them, there is the problem of how to reply after they have either accepted or rejected something. I’ve seen mixed advice on this, including several opinions that editors have enough to do without extra emails.

I took that advice to start with, as I don’t want to cause extra work, but after a while it began to seem rude.

Several editors, including one who turned me down this week, go out of their way to tell you that they can’t, or won’t, offer help or advice on your work. Others do offer some comment, which is always a happy extra. I’m happy that they don’t comment (as it isn’t their purpose). I’m not so happy with the ones who make a big thing out of not commenting, as it seems slightly aggressive and negative. Which leaves us with the ones that do comment – it seems rude not to thank them. so I now do that. In general, the most helpful comments seem to come from people who are turning my work down.

That just leaves the question of whether writing anything but a submission looks like an attempt to suck up to an editor. I don’t have a clue about that one, and would be interested to hear from any editors or ex-editors out there who have a view.

I’ll stop there as I am planning a drive North and a pub lunch. They were things that I used to do without thinking eighteen months ago. Now, I’ve had to book, which means I need plans and timings, and I have had to read the website. We can now have a party of any size we like, don’t need to wear masks and don’t need to use track and trace. I have looked at the menu on line and see that they do vegan Fishless Fish and Chips with Crispy Quorn fish style fillets.

Why oh why oh why, as I so often find myself asking, do the producers of vegan food have to align it with meat? Why not just advertise battered slabs of tasteless crap served with chips and peas. Vegans are hardy souls, I’m sure they could take it on the chin with a description of what they are about to be given. Mentioning fish three times in a vegan menu description doesn’t make the Quorn sound better, it just makes me think of succulent flakes of fresh fish in crisp golden batter.

Stone on the Floor

 

 

Thoughts on Rejection

I’ve had five rejections in the last month and have had several different reactions.

A feeling of being rejected was, strangely, not one of the reactions. A rejection, in this sense, is only the expression of one editor’s view on that particular day.

One of them was quite interesting, as it involved haiku. I don’t usually write them, despite them being an essential part of a haibun, and it’s something I should do more often. I’m resigned to them being rejected but every so often I submit some anyway to see what people think.

My most recent attempts bounced back with the news that only a third of submissions had any success, and telling me which two had been considered the strongest candidates. I don’t feel too bad about rejection when I know two out of three are rejected.

Two submissions bounced back within days, which I always take as a sign they weren’t even close. There’s not much you can say about that. I probably should learn to be more analytical and to send things that match the content of the magazine. I can do that in one case.

The other case was a guest editor, and it’s slightly more difficult to guess what they want, particularly when they don’t give you a clue. It can, of course, be tricky working out what they want when they do give you a clue. They told me they weren’t a good fit for that issue. I am as wise after reading that comment a dozen times as I was before I read it the first time.

I suppose it’s difficult finding ways to reject people without insulting them or giving them something to argue about.

One of the other submissions was returned with no further information. That was fair, as the submissions weren’t particularly good. It was another guest editor job and I’d sent two pieces which weren’t really finished because I thought they matched the style of the guest editor, an error I won’t make again. I hate being made to look unprofessional, even if I do it to myself.

The final one was returned with the observation that the haiku didn’t add depth to the prose as they were too similar. That’s a comment I’ve had before.

The other comment I have had before is that the haiku don’t harmonise with the prose and therefore fail to add depth.

It’s very difficult knowing what to do. Are your haiku too similar or too dissimilar? And will they be the same tomorrow? Maybe I just suffer from shallow haiku. It just occurred to me that my fascination for improper acronyms could have a field day with Shallow Haiku. As they generally come at the end, I could say that the trouble with my haibun is that they are Shallow Haiku in Termination.

Some Haibun News

I’m using the header picture of the stones to warn you I’m going to be talking poetry, so continue with care if you are not the poetic type.

I submitted a couple of haibun to a magazine in the early hours of this morning, and just nine hours later I had the rejection. It was hardly a surprise. When I saw the answer was back so soon I realised it wasn’t going to be good news. Editors don’t generally rush to acceptance, they like to take their time. A case in point is a piece I currently have out – it took eight weeks to get a reply, which asked me to make alterations. I made the alterations and I’ve now been waiting nearly a month for a decision. Sometimes it’s hard not to be cynical.

Would I rather have an acceptance taking 12 weeks or a rejection taking just nine hours? It’s a tricky question. I don’t really like waiting 12 weeks, but I’m not keen on being rejected either. (I have to add that I’ve waited a lot longer than 12 weeks in the past, so it’s not a terrible length of time. However, haibun magazines in the 21st century seem to be able to get answers out a lot quicker these days).

I’m working on the netbook at the moment whilst watching Judge Dredd (the Stallone version, which I always enjoy) so I can’t access my list of submissions – I’ll report on the numbers later, but I’m in a bit of a slump at the moment.

It is therefore pleasant to tell you that The Haibun Journal is out. It’s a print publication from Ireland and much more relaxing to read than a web page. Of course, with postage costing a small fortune from the Republic of Ireland, it’s a lot more expensive than a web page, but you can’t have everything. I’m on page 59. Unfortunately I can’t provide a link, and it’s not really etiquette to reproduce haibun so soon after publication, so you’ll have to wait a bit.

I am in the magazine with three people who, in their editorial capacities, have recently rejected work from me. I can’t help feeling that there’s an element of irony in this.

And with that thought, I’m off. I clearly have to do more reading in my quest for the perfect haibun.

Update: This currently leaves me with 4 acceptances, six rejections and two still waiting – not as good as it was, but it could be a lot worse. Last year was five from eight and the year before that was about four from eight, but I didn’t keep a proper record. 

Talent, Resilence & Patience

There are three things you need for success in life, whether you are talking about writing (as I do) or anything else.

(By the way, I’m about to invent a new form of poem, so stay alert till the end.)

Despite the title, talent isn’t one of them. Research has shown that if you divide a group of children into two lots and praise one for their talent and the other for their hard work the results of one group will gradually decline and the other will increase.

The problem with praising someone for their talent is that they begin to believe that their talent will run out, where the other group starts to believe that the harder they work, the better they will become. This seems to be borne out by the actual results.

It is all laid out in a book called Bounce by Matthew Syed. Reading the review, as I did whilst looking for a link, it looks like there’s a lot more in there too – I really should read it again.

Talent can, to be honest, be replaced by practice and work rate. As long as you have a basic grasp of what makes a good bit of work in your field, you can work on improving the quality of your work. If you write a lot and submit enough pieces of work, success will follow. Once you have some success, more will follow. It’s like Roger Bannister and the four minute mile – once he broke the four minute barrier others followed. Barriers are mainly psychological, and once broken can be broken again and again.

Resilience, I have covered several times. Rejection is merely  the opinion of an editor at a certain point in time, and does not constitute a damning judgement on you or your work. If several editors share the same view it still isn’t that bad, just take it as a hint that you need to alter a few things.

As an aside – write haibun. I have always felt fortunate that a number of editors have taken the time to give me pointers about my haibun, which isn’t something that happens in a lot of fields. It seems to be a field where we are blessed with a group of fine editors. When I was a more traditional poet I rarely met with helpful comments – it was a case of yes or no, mostly no, and no clue as to what needed altering.

Stone on the Floor

I thought I’d put the poetic rocks half way down as it isn’t really a poetry post.

Finally, patience. No editor of a small poetry publication is in it hoping for fame and fortune. They are often overworked, under appreciated and blamed for the varied failings of authors. Some people even write sarcastic haibun about them. These people should be ashamed of themselves.

If you are a guest editor, as many are, the under-appreciation must be even greater.

However, it doesn’t stop me getting twitchy when they take a long time over their answer. I’m waiting for an answer from a magazine that says it may take 6-8 weeks to answer during busy periods. IT’s had the submission for 54 days now, which is just two days short of eight weeks, and I’m becoming twitchy. Another, with a target of two weeks, has had my submission for sixteen days. Two weeks is an excellent response time, so I’m not complaining, but I’d love an answer.

You just have to sit back and wait. It’s difficult not to be impatient, but just think, if it was you, would you appreciate impatience. I think not.I keep telling myself we are lucky to have people to do these jobs for us. If you left me in charge of a magazine it would soon degenerate into confusion and Limericks.

There was an old poet called Quercus,
whose efforts, often, would irk us.
He loved to declaim,
and would often exclaim
that he’d much rather work in a circus.

And that is my new form of poetry. You have prose and haiku, which are haibun, and prose and tanka, which are called tanka prose. Well this – prose followed by a Limerick, is a Limmerbun.  I add the double m to make sure it is pronounced correctly. Unlike the other two, a Limmerbun can be utter nonsense.

My Orange Parker Pen

I’m still hoping for some freebies from Parker. They are obviously not reading this blog.

Edited next day to tidy up a typo, remove a repetition and tinker with the Limerick.

Rejection!

The title isn’t quite accurate, but headlines often aren’t. However, there is an element of truth in it, as you will see if you persist.

Despite me rushing to finish last night’s post by midnight, my days don’t really run from midnight to midnight and I often work an hour or so into the night while it is quiet. This is particularly the case at weekends when I can get up later to compensate.

As an example, I did some decluttering this morning then set my alarm to give myself just over an hour at the computer before warming up the soup for lunch. Julia decided this would be a good time to start work on reorganising the kitchen so my writing efforts are now accompanied by the clatter of various kitchen implements (mainly noisy ones) as she composes a symphony for baking trays and raised voices.

I did think of inserting a witty quote on marriage here, but couldn’t find one. I suspect all the wittiest quotes are written by people who aren’t married. The ones who are married just nod and keep their heads down, which is why they are still married.

I’m playing WP Roulette here – if she reads this I’m in trouble. If not I will live to moan another day.

That’s why I work into the early hours.

And that was why, about half an hour after posting I decided to look at one of the magazines that had some submissions from me five weeks ago. I was surprised, and a little put out, to find that they had published the next issue. I don’t mind rejection too much, because it’s part of writing, but I don’t really like being ignored.

Anyway, it is what it is. I read a few of the haibun and decided to see when the next submission window opened. While I did that I noticed a note saying that if you don’t get an acknowledgement within in two days you should get in touch. It was a lot longer than two days, but I double checked, found I definitely hadn’t had one and decided to take action.

Two Cyclists

As recommended in many articles on writing I dropped the the editor a short polite note to check if they had received anything from me and checking the best way to submit next time round.

The marvels of email and the time difference between the UK and USA meant I had a reply within half an hour. It seems the automated submission form is suspected of discarding a number of submissions and is now out of favour.

Ah well!

When it comes down to it I checked the two pieces I’d submitted and decided they weren’t all that good anyway. Internet oblivion is probably the best place for them. Anyway, even if they had been brilliant you can’t turn back time, despite Cher’s singing and the services of a good plastic surgeon.

As time goes on I’m finding that I have more and more sympathy for editors. It can’t be easy at the best of times, particularly when you see the number of submissions some of them get, and when the technology turns against you it must be hellish.

It’s a big day tomorrow – three submission windows open and I have submissions prepared for each one.

The game’s afoot, as Holmes said, though when I check the quote I find that Henry V said it first. Tricky things, quotes.

 

 

A Post I didn’t mean to write

The day dawned fair, and far too early. I wanted to turn over and have a lie in as it’s my day off and we weren’t going out but Julia had exacted  a promise from me the night before and so I had to get up and take her to breakfast before dropping her off for her first day of jury service.

I am a man of my word.

That meant I was able to get to the jewellers in time for a good two hours of moaning about the state of business before returning home to spend a couple of hours moaning about politics and sport with Number One Son. During this time he heated up last night’s beef rendang for lunch. I am eating well at the moment.

I also had an email to deal with this afternoon. My luck is really out as far as poetry editors is concerned as I just had another rejection. I thought the 3 haibun were all reasonable and had a good chance of success, but it appears I was wrong.

The rejection was accompanied by some notes, which was handy as it’s always nice (though rare) to get feedback. Sometimes it’s probably better to get feedback than it is to get accepted.

I don’t know if any of you have ever noticed this, but I often feel that once you have either posted your work, or hit the send button, it starts to deteriorate.

Even if it is accepted, the polished gem you sent never looks as good when it is printed. And when it is returned it looks even worse. I looked at what was sent back today and looked at the notes and wondered why I’d sent it. The first sentence of the first submission was just so glaringly wrong, yet two weeks ago it had seemed brilliant.

So, apart from writing better, I also have to start looking at everything with a much more critical eye.

Anyway, I had the afternoon off, so I set to work with the suggested improvements and have resubmitted them. Fingers crossed.

This wasn’t the post I meant to write, but it was what emerged on the paper as I started writing. I am not always master of my own keyboard. That, of course, means I have no suitable picture so I’m reusing the Dylan Thomas £5 coin photo. It’s a tenuous poetry connection, but it’s the best I can do. As I read the post where it originally appeared I see this is the second time I’ve used it as a random space filler.

Here’s more information about the coin if you want it -it is quite interesting.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Dylan Thomas Alderney £5 coin