Editors seem to be busy at the moment. I have now had replies to all four of my January submissions. One, as you know, resulted in an acceptance, and one in a rejection with helpful editorial comments. The third is in limbo until the end of january, when the submission period ends, and the fourth has just come back with “helpful editorial comments”. I’ve put that in quotes as I am thinking of adopting it as an alternative to saying I’ve had a rejection.
I may, in future grade levels of response as “rejection”, “helpful editorial comment” and “acceptance”. This means that instead of being split equally between positive and negative results I can now claim that 66.6% of the results are positive, so call me an optimist and change my name to Pollyanna.
For any superstitious numerologists who may be reading, I admit that 66.6 might not be a good number to use. However, 66.6 isn’t actually the Number of the Beast, but 10% of it. Bearing in mind my retail background I can’t help thinking of it as the Discount of the Beast.
(Yes, before somebody corrects me, I do realise that other commentators believe the number is actually 616, but I’m traditional in matters of theology and superstition.)
In line with my new positive outlook I won’t even tell you what the situation is with the car. Let’s just say it’s hard to find anything upbeat or cheerful to say.
Some good news is that Julia has been given a projected vaccination date – early February. By March she should be reasonably well protected against COVID. This will be good. Meanwhile, I will stay at home, unvaccinated, and enjoy my holiday, which is also good.
It was all going too well. I made lunch (which included Ryvita crispbreads instead of ordinary bread), I washed up and I cooked the evening mal ready for when Julia returns. It’s panhaggerty, though I’m not going to melt the cheese on top – too much fat, too many calories….
This proved to be the high point of the day.
First, as I opened the fridge door a pyrex plate slid out and smashed on the floor. There were two cold sausages on it, so I invoked the ten second rule and threw them into a pan of hot fat to kill any bacteria from the floor. That meant I had to have a sausage sandwich. So, smashed plate, glass all over the place and my diet gone for a Burton.
As I made the sausage sandwich I looked down on the work surface and realised that I’d left the second layer of bacon out of the panhaggerty. I had to prod it down without disturbing the layers too much. Then, forgetting that I was only wearing socks, I walked across the badly swept area where the plate had smashed. Fortunately the bits I found were only small and they didn’t do any damage, just gave me a bit of a surprise.
Next, it was over to check emails as I ate the sandwich. Part of the sausage fell out o0nto the carpet. I really have been pushing the ten second rule to its limit.
I had two replies from editors. I always think that a quick reply indicates a rejection so I ate the sandwich first. No point in spoiling a good sandwich. The first on was an acceptance, though I sent off ten haiku and three haibun and only had one haiku accepted. It’s not great, but as I spent two years trying to get into the magazine, I’m happy to have had anything accepted at all.
The second one was from my nemesis, the editor who has never accepted anything I’ve ever sent him at either of the magazines he’s been editing when I’ve tried. In a way it’s a comfort to know that in a n ever changing Covid epidemic he still won’t accept any of my work. He did send a few pointers, which is always useful, and always a good sign when an editor takes the time to do it.
The only problem is that I left room for the reader to interpret, as we are advised to do, and he seems to have interpreted it in a way that I didn’t intend. Not quite sure what this means, but I’m left with the impression that my lack of clarity means I’m an even worse writer than mere rejection suggests. I spent several downcast minutes wondering whether to laugh or cry. Then I started laughing and made a cup of tea.
Saturday 2nd January has proved to be a quiet day. After writing my first post of the day I edited some of my notebooks, browsed some on-line shops and washed up. I moved on to editing my notebooks – typing out three haibun and twelve haiku. They started off as seven haibun and twenty two haiku but some of them were rubbish. I think I must have written one of the haibun while I was asleep as it made no sense at all, and one of the others was so tedious it was probably the one that had sent me to sleep. Several of the haiku were just alternative versions, so one of them had to go.
And, I confess, two of the haiku were unreadable. I think I’ve covered this before. My writing is so bad I( cannot always read it shortly after I write it. Some of these were weeks old and I didn’t have a clue what they had originally been about. I came close to abandoning a haibun too, but there were enough legible/guessable words for me to reconstitute that one.
My Orange Parker Pen
That was all the useful work I did. I made lunch after that, using a pack of four small avocadoes. One, which I had tested, was ripe. The other four turned out to be a bit less than ripe, so needed dicing more than mashing. Julia wanted hers with a poached egg so I boiled the water, swirled it round and gently tipped an egg into it. I think the egg may have been a bit old, and the water may have been swirling a bit too fast as the whole thing seemed to explode in the minute I was away from the pan. I just had a pan of highly dilute scrambled egg. The second, was better, but I cooked it in the bowl of a metal ladle just to be on the safe side.
Fried eggs would have been better but a poached egg seems de rigueur in smashed avo circles so who am I to disagree. I had prawns in mine with a dressing made from ketchup, mayonnaise, lemon juice and black pepper, because I am firmly rooted in the 1970s.
Back to the writing for a moment – for the benefit of new readers, I write using a fountain pen whenever I can, because the words flow better. Even a cheap biro is better than typing. I can rarely type haibun and haiku when I am composing. Magazine articles and essays are fine, but poetry seems to demand a proper writing implement. That’s why I have to accept losing a percentage to illegibility. Better to lose a few that way than to sit staring at a computer screen writing nothing, or writing things which I then edit into nothingness. It may seem inefficient at first, and I have tried to streamline the process, but it just doesn’t work any other way.
For the rest of the day I watched TV, chatted to Julia and dreamed of pizza. Then I woke up, cooked tea (we had steak as a New Year treat) and started writing this.
Failed Haiku Number 61 is out. Mine are about 40% of the way down under “Simon Wilson”. I’ve got so used to my accidental penname on WP that I feel very dull having an ordinary name. I could make it easy for you by just printing them here, but that doesn’t seem fair to the editor and the other writers. Scroll down until, you see the red feather – I’m a few pages under that. Or you can wait for a month and remind me – I will copy them and paste them in the blog once the new issue is out.
I’m now in what I find to be the toughest bit of the process. Writing is simple. Editing it into something readable isn’t too bad as long as you remember not everything is useful and allow yourself to throw stuff away. Editing for submission – the honing and perfecting, is a bit tricky, as I’m not a great judge of quality. Editing after submitting is quite easy – the editor suggests things and I do them. It’s about publication. I will agonise about my artistic integrity later – there are plenty of words and nothing to prevent me writing another version of the poem I want to write. This one is an example – it’s half the poem I originally submitted and misses out what I thought was an important point. However, it is also good like this and the cut down version is more elegant, so I’m happy to make the cuts.I have, however, rewritten another version of the longer poem, which will be submitted to a magazine this month. Even coping with rejection isn’t the worst bit. It’s an inevitable part of writing for publication, so there’s no point taking it personally.
A Tranquil Pond I once wrote about.
No, the most difficult bit for me is submission. I was sure I’d written about this in the last few days but I can’t find it so I may merely have thought about it, or I may have edited it. Sorry if I’m repeating myself.
Once I have things written and (in theory) edited to near perfection, I have to send them out. There are nearly always more places to send poems than I have poems to send. I have seven places for submissions in january. This means I need 16 haibun and twenty haiku.
In theory I have around 40 haibun ready to go, but in reality some of them aren’t good enough to go. A few of them have been returned by one or more editors, so it’s not just me who thinks that. I have, sensibly, about twenty, but then I have to decide which one suits which magazine. The best ones could go almost anywhere, the les good ones need to be placed where they will be most appreciated. At that point I start to ask myself if I should send anything apart from the very best. It’s like a massive circle. Eventually it all sorts itself out (a looming deadline tends to help concentration) and I start on the next lot.
I’ve now one over a thousand words, which I always think is too many, so I will leave it there.
It snowed today. First it was slow, soft flakes, then ice clicking on the windows and, after the wind fell, icy particles falling quickly. I’ve never really looked at snow so closely before. Perhaps it’s true that you watch nature more closely when you write haiku. Or maybe, in the absence of Murder She Wrote, merely means I have time to stare out of the window. It’s a rare day when Jessica Fletcher is absent from our screens, but today seems to be such a day. I had to watch Father Dowling instead.
I use snow in the English sense. It fell a couple of hours ago, gave us a light dusting and has now almost gone. This is, to be fair, early for English snow as it often doesn’t appear until January or February, and some years we have none at all. It may be thicker on the uplands and in Scotland, but compared to many places we don’t really have snow in the UK. We do have disruption caused by snow, but that’s because most of us have no equipment to cope with it.
Big news of the day is that Issue Six of Drifting Sands Haibun is now out and thy have shown exquisite taste in selecting one of mine. I could link directly to mine but will, instead, be more modest and just link to the magazine. Scroll down to Wilson for mine, but read some of the others on the way. From the ones I’ve read so far, I have to say that this is one of my favourite issues.
It’s now time to have lunch and complete the online grocery order. Whatever I die from, I doubt that it’s going to be stress. I’m feeling quite serene at the moment, in the absence of work, modern life and the need to wear shoes. There’s something very relaxing about life in slipper socks.
I’m currently working on a post about the RNLI, but, as usual, gathering the information takes me longer than writing a quick note on daily life, which is why slipper socks and snow rose to the top of the pile.
Does the title give it away? I’ve been having to think about titles recently as part of my general “upping the game” policy for haibun. With WP you can just throw a few words in the title box and you are done. If I can add some alliteration I consider it a good day and if I can work a pun into it I turn mental cartwheels. But with haibun they expect much more.
A haibun title should draw the reader in and enthuse them to read on, It should link to the prose and haiku, without giving it away, and it should, after the reader has finished, add a further dimension or other meaning.
That’s slightly different to the way I generally view a title, which is a way to identify the work when I want to find it again. I can see a major reassessment is needed.
I’ve actually looked at the titles of a few haibun by people who have criticised my titles. Guess what? I just read half a dozen haibun. One title drew me in. Several were dull. One linked to the haiku but neither the title nor the haiku linked to the prose. A couple seemed to have nothing to do with anything that followed. None of them changed meaning after I finished reading the haibun, though several puzzled me by, as mentioned above, seeming to have nothing to do with the haibun. I could go on.
My point? Some of these simple things are harder than they look and even the great and the good struggle to get it right.
It might be that they are getting it right and I am just too plodding to recognise the fact.
So – three things to learn from today.
One – work harder on titles, using these guidelines.
Two – develop critical reading skills.
Three – editors don’t always follow their own advice.
That, I think, is enough for now. I’m now going to apply these lessons to my latest haibuns “Crap haibun I threw together between games of Freecell” and “Number 82”. It’s likely that they can both be improved.
Whilst chatting to Tootlepedal last night in the comments section, I was able to formulate an acronym for Boris. He asked me if I could make it into a haiku, but I admit I am unequal to the challenge. It runs to twenty syllables and even the old-fashioned 5-7-5 Haiku only run to seventeen. I have managed to work it into a haibun.
Warning – contains an acronym of dubious taste.
After admiring the acronym POTUS for some time, I have decided that our Prime Minister needs an acronym. I’m still working on one as a general acronym for our leader, but have managed to develop one specific to Boris. Few, I imagine, would dispute that he is a Famously Unprincipled Conservative Kingpin Without Intelligent Thought.
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.
Well, the general feeling seems to be that most people write because they enjoy it or they love words (or probably both). Tootlepedal writes to remind himself he’s still alive and write because I’m addicted to it. I also enjoy it, love words and, deep down, believe that someone is going to recognise my talent and give me money.
To be honest, it is looking like the only way i”m likely to make money from writing is by diversifying into kidnapping people and writing ransom notes. I could try kidnapping Boris and threaten to release him unless people send me money. However, I’d better be careful. If someone actually tries it I could find that my blog becomes a matter for discussion in court and what started as “humour” is probably going to be seen in a different light when it is labelled “evidence”. It will also involve buying a suit and tie, which is an expense I can do without.
I dropped Julia off at work this morning and drove back to join the main road via a side-street. That gave me an idea for a haibun and I had two more shortly after. I can’t use the voice recorder I bought recently because it is too small for my big, stiff fingers. I should have spent more money and bought one I could actually use. That is false economy of the first order. That meant I had to keep repeating the ideas to myself as I drove along. If I allow myself to relax I tend to forget. And if I forget I convince myself I have just forgotten my best ever poem. This is unlikely to be true, but it’s annoying to forget anything, even the bad ones.
At work I purloined (which sounds better than “stole”) some office stationery and wrote the rough outlines of the three haibun before making some notes which might turn into something. But they might not/ If I don’t tell you, nobody can ask how the new project is going. Or even if there is a new project…
Tonight we had corned beef hash for tea. It featured the remains of yesterdays vegetable stew, a tin of corned beef, onions, leeks and a pack of ready chopped vegetables. I will have it for lunch tomorrow too, as I made far too much. Fortunately I like corned beef hash. I would probably enjoy it nearly as much without the corned beef, which is something I will have to think about as we eat more veg and less meat.
I write because I’m addicted. Deep down, I just can’t stop. In my teens I wanted to write as a career, to earn money and to attend literary lunches. I’m still not clear what a literary lunch is, but I knew that writers went to them.
That was as far as I got this morning, before being diverted from my course with some thoughts on junior match reports.
After trying novels I moved on to poetry, then back to novels. I did think about an autobiography but I didn’t really have enough material at the age of seventeen. After that I carried on writing endless first pages and throwing them away whilst reading books on how to write best sellers. Occasionally I had a go at magazine articles, and had a few accepted. I did wonder if I could become a freelance writer, but lack of a decent work ethic suggested it would be a disaster.
Eventually I had a proper go and tried for more fame and fortune with a detective novel. I say novel, what I really mean is “load of words”. It went to about 120,000 words but lacked a couple of things, including a decent plot, an ending and a lot of editing. So I tried again. Another 80,000 words, but still a lack of plot, ending and editing. At least I’d learned to keep the word count down.
After that I moved on to poetry for light relief. My father-in-law had started writing poetry in retirement and had several pieces published. He also performed some of his poems on stage, which is something I will never be brave enough to do. I decided to follow his example and had about fifteen published, was Highly Commended in a national competition, and even managed to get one poem in a decent quality magazine.
At that point I ended up in hospital a couple of times and, when I emerged, started writing match reports (as previously mentioned) and programme notes. This was not the time in hospital I blogged about a few years ago, but the forerunner. It did, however, involve much the same procedure – spinal anaesthetic, small orifice, large camera and much whining. It also included two biopsies. The dissolving stitches on one of them dissolved far too soon and it took two hours to stop the bleeding. Ah, good times…
There were a couple of years where I did nothing, then I started the blog, went into hospital again and decided to have a crack at haibun. So far it seems to have worked out.
It’s not much for fifty years in writing. A handful of poems of various types published, a dozen magazine articles and a blog. I’m clearly not in it for the money, or even for the fame. To be honest, when the rejections start piling up I don’t even do it because I enjoy it.
One day I may write enough to think about a slim volume of poetry but I’m not, when I think about it, too worried. Once they are published I’m not too concerned. I like the idea of testing myself against the standards of editors, and showing off by blogging about it, but I’m not sure if a few poems justify cutting down acres of trees.
No, as I mentioned in the opening paragraph, I do it because I’m addicted. Or, if that isn’t possible, I am at least in the grip of a very strong habit.