Tag Archives: lessons

Endings and Beginnings and Keeping Going

Two days ago I published a  link to my latest published haibun. That night I had an email to discuss some changes to a submission I’d made just before Christmas. I’ve made them so I’m hoping for an acceptance there. Then last night I had a n acceptance for four poems. They are senryu rather than haiku (based on human nature rather than nature) but the line is blurred in English language Japanese-style poetry. It was a bit unexpected as I’ve never been much good with the short poems and, to be honest, never expect much. To have four accepted at one time is close to being unbelievable, and puts my total of short poems published (well, theoretically published – they won’t actually be published until next month) up from two to six, which is a big jump.

It’s quite a good way to end the year – all I need to do now is find a good way to start the New Year.

It goes to show what happens when you set your mind to something. I had a rest at the beginning of the year. I had had a series of rejections, one of my favourite magazines closed and there was a change of editor at another one – a man who has never accepted anything from me, and continues to accept nothing from me. I admit I did give up for a time, but you can’t keep a good man down and at the end of  July, after a lapse of nearly a year, I started submitting again.

Twenty submissions. Nine acceptances. This includes an acceptance from a magazine that turned me down three times previously.

The moral of the story is never give up. And if you do give up, remember that you can always start again. It’s not meant to be easy.

This is a lesson that can be applied to many things, and one which I really ought to remember, because I’m very bad at letting things lapse.

Latest News – just had confirmation the changes are acceptable and I therefore have another acceptance. This is a good end to the year.



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.

The Presentation

After seven and a half months of saying “I really must do something” I finally started in earnest a couple of weeks ago, as you may have noticed in previous posts.

The result was a presentation that fell far short of my original plans. Fortunately, nobody apart from me knew this and I just tried to look confident and smile. It would probably be better if I was an habitual smiler. It doesn’t come naturally and it does tend to make me look like I’m auditioning for the part in the Ladykillers. Think 1955 Alec Guinness, not the new one.

The Ladykillers - look at that smile

The Ladykillers – look at that smile

The main thing is to remember that it’s rare that you have anyone in the audience that knows as much as you do. so yuo don’t need to be perfect.

There were a couple of complaints from the usual suspects about not being able to hear. They didn’t bother to tell me to speak up at the time and, as usual, they sat at the back, which isn’t the best place if you can’t hear.

Julia sat behind them. She could hear. In fact she said the only time she had trouble hearing was when the old gits were chuntering about not being able to hear.

Next time I will ask if everyone can hear me. Better still, I will prepare a slide saying – “Can you hear me at the back?”. After all, if they are that deaf they may not be able to hear me ask.

I will also set off earlier. I thought I set off in plenty of time, but the traffic congestion from the bridge works is clogging things up. I was stuck for 30 minutes at one point just to travel 100 yards and get round a roundabout.I had to text to say I was stuck, and then I had to get set up without practice.

When I pressed the button for the first slide it was the first time I’d ever used PowerPoint. Fortunately it’s (mainly) idiot proof and I only pressed the wrong button three times. That means I pressed the right button 21 times. Three sounds a small number but in percentage terms it’s not impressive.

At least with PowerPoint you don’t have to take loads of slides, you can’t load it wrong way round and it doesn’t jam, overheat or blow the bulbs. I’m sure I can work on this area and break PowerPoint, I just haven’t found out how to do it yet.

One thing I did do was get the notes disastrously wrong. Having taken advice from Julia I wrote notes in PowerPoint, assuming it would be easy to access them on the night. This, I felt, was far better than a pile of cards, reading glasses and poor light. We switched the machine on, I pressed the button, and I stared in panic…


I looked at the screen, I looked at the computer, I looked at Julia. Nothing. It turns out that there is slightly more to the notes feature than I thought.

You’re all thinking one of two things aren’t you? Some of you are thinking “I bet he has a back-up plan with a selection of colour-coded note cards linked to each slide”.

And some of you are thinking “I bet he has a back-up plan with a selection of colour-coded note cards linked to each slide, and I bet he left them next to his computer as he left the house.”

You are both right. I did have a back-up, and I did leave it at home.

So – a sea of faces, darkness, no notes on PowerPoint, a distance of five miles between me and my back-up cards. I have had better moments.

I thought of sneaking out before the lights came back on.

I’m not built for sneaking, so there was nothing more to be done. Sometimes you just have to take a deep breath and start…

Wath Main Colliery Tribute Medal

Wath Main Colliery Tribute Medal

The photos are a medallion given to the staff of the Wath Main Colliery Company. This one is to Harry Winder, who enlisted in 1915. He was a coal hewer and lived in a cottage with his parents and ten siblings. I suspect he was one of those people who found the army to be easier than living at home. In the army they often got better food and lighter work.

Wath Main Colliery Tribute MedalPicture3

Wath Main Colliery Tribute Medal

He did not, as far as I can see, serve overseas, as he was not A1 physically, due to a hernia sustained whilst mining, and he served with an Anti-Aircraft Battery for three years.

The German bombing campaign in the Great War consisted of 51 airship raids and 27 aircraft raids. They killed 1,392 people and injured 3,330. They lost 30 airships and 62 aircraft, so Harry Winder was doing an important job. Compared to the 43,000 killed in 1939-41, this is not a big number, but it is surprisingly large when you consider the technology in use.

I can only find one other definite trace of Harry Winder in the records as there was another man of the same name in the area and this confuses matters. The following newspaper report from 1923 is definitely “our” Harry Winder though.






Another Lesson

It’s just taken me five hours to start the computer after many false starts and a variety of labyrinthine attempts.

At times like this it is, according to Julia, useless to threaten the machine or use language “like that”.

The lesson I learnt was simple. If you learn a lesson once, profit from it.

Do not, as I did, put it off until tomorrow.

I’m off to cook now.

While I am cooking I will reflect on my capacity for stupidity.

And my declining appetite for turkey sandwiches.

Tomorrow we will be having turkey and ham pie. The picture is of a previous attempt.