News, Thoughts, Writing

I Submit


I know and I understand that to be a published writer I need to do two things – I need to write and I need to send work to publishers. I’ve not been great at the former, but I’ve always been terrible at the latter.

Despite this I still spend a lot of time feeling hard done by, that what little I do submit, rarely gets selected. Which is stupid. I know it’s stupid, but I can’t help it. The feeling of injustice when I see a competition winner announced or a magazine published without seeing a congratulations email appear in my inbox is large.

This isn’t because I think I deserve to win competitions, or that my work is so good it just has to be included in the must have literary journals, it’s just that from the moment I send the submission I start to hope; and as we all know it’s the hope that kills you.

All that negativity adds up and the result is I feel pretty down about the submission process and I submit less. Which, when I was starting from a pretty low submission rate, means I basically stopped submitting work altogether. Whoops.

Two things happened recently to change my attitude. First, I had some success (hooray!). A poem I submitted at the start of the summer, to a new local magazine by a spoken word collective, got accepted for publication (due out in November). For the second time in a row it was one I felt was the weakest in the submission package, but I’m not complaining! It just shows that you can never know what will click with someone.

The second thing was seeing this tweet about Sylvia Plath. That’s nine months of submissions.  Just seeing how hard she was working to get work published, even after her first collection had been released, made me realise that it doesn’t really matter who you are or how good the work is. The sheer volume of submissions editors get means that most people, even Sylvia Plath, will end up with more rejections than submissions. So to get work accepted I have to make the odds work more in my favour and that means I have to submit more and worry about rejection less.

This week I submitted work to three magazines and revamped my submissions spreadsheet to better track what I’ve submitted, to where, and if it was successful. With that and a more positive, but realistic, attitude to the process hopefully I can get some more success with my work. Or is it just more dreadful hope?

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Writing

NaNoWriMo Go!


Image courtesy of National Novel Writing Month.

As with most stupid ideas, this one seemed like a good idea at the time. From tomorrow, November 1st, I’ll be taking part in my first NaNoWriMo event. What started as an American event is now a worldwide community of writers who get together and try to blitz 50,000 words in the month of November – National Novel Writing Month or NaNoWriMo for short.

I feel like I have a solid idea for a story and I can usually write pretty fast once I sit down and get typing. Theoretically, I reckon I can bash out the required 1667 words per day in half an hour to an hour per day. Which isn’t a huge time commitment and doesn’t need to be tackled in a single sitting.  Theoretically.

My biggest issue with any of my hobbies, but especially writing, is that I get very, very easily distracted. Even now, while doing some last minute prep by going over some outline plans, I’ve spent more time looking up specifications and parts for a Raspberry Pi project than I have tweaking characters and story setting.

So while I’m looking forward to the challenge and really looking forward to seeing the story in my head take shape on my laptop screen, there’s a little voice which is telling me I’ve failed before I’ve even started. There’s no commitment other than saying “I’m doing this” so failure doesn’t mean anything except I’ve not hit my word count.  Fingers crossed I can keep that little voice subdued enough to get some momentum started tomorrow to get me rolling into the first week of the challenge and beyond.

Anyone else taking part this year? Add me as a buddy at https://nanowrimo.org/participants/chrisoff/ and let me know how you get on.

Video, Writing

A Sense Of Place


The National Gallery of Modern Art in Edinburgh are holding an exhibition at the moment called A Sense Of Place. It focuses on Joan Eardley’s work from two particular locations – Glasgow and the village of Catterline.

It’s an astounding exhibition, featuring items loaned from public and private collections far and wide. The Glasgow pieces, possibly her most famous work, are amazing. Capturing the children of the tenements and the world they inhabit. But it’s the Catterline rooms which stopped me in my tracks.

I lived in Catterline from the age of 8 until I was 18. Those are some important years I spent there. Our house was built in a new street behind the path on the cliffs to the old coastguard watchhouse which used to act as Eardley’s studio (one of three houses in the village she used). I am very, very familiar with the locations, subjects, and weather which Joan painted and the places she captured them from.

To see images of the pier which we used to jump off, the sea stack we used to climb and the cliffs we spent years roaming on large scale canvas taking up entire rooms of the National Gallery is breathtaking. It provoked a lot of powerful emotion and memories for me.

When I got home I tried to parse some of those thoughts and emotions into a poem called – A Sense Of Place, which you can hear in the reading below.

The tagline on the National Galleries website is “Art that inspires”. In this exhibition they certainly achieved that.

Video, Writing

Burkini Bodies


The terror attack in Nice last year was devastating and horrifying. I love France and have nothing but fond memories of the Promenade des Anglais and the week we spent in Nice a few years ago.  Watching the aftermath on TV I was distraught at the fear which would now be endemic in such a beautiful and welcoming area. An area which over the centuries has seen migration (and occasional occupation) from across the Mediterranean resulting in an exciting diverse culture which takes bits of French, Italian, African, British, Spanish and many others.

Then in the weeks and months after another disaster unfolded, this time the victims weren’t strewn across a famous boulevard but instead, they were on a beach, beside their children, with police surrounding them. Women, doing nothing more than enjoying a day with their family, were harassed, insulted and demeaned into removing the clothing they were comfortable in wearing because people were scared that they looked different. Scared that they looked Muslim.

In my fury at the knee-jerk reaction of the French politicians and security forces, as well as the empathy I felt for the women affected – who are as much victims of Islamic terrorism as the western, Christian people targetted that night in Nice, I wrote the poem below, Burkini Bodies.

Music, News, Video, Writing

This week I have mostly been…


I’ve thrown myself down a few creative holes recently and had quite a busy week for putting work online in some form or another.

I recently began publishing articles on Medium to try out that platform and give myself another outlet for some writing which I think would be unsuitable to host here. I think I would like this site to become very informal and just be personal reflections rather than anything too serious or professional.

At the end of last week I posted an article there about how I try and maintain self-belief in the face of anxiety, depression and the mental issues which these conditions inflict on me

Then at the weekend I presented my parents with the gift I’d made for them to congratulate them on their ruby wedding anniversary. It’s a drawing of the family tree which they planted the seeds for forty years ago, along with a short poem I wrote for them
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I’m pretty proud of it as someone who is really, really bad at drawing!

After that it was back to music and a project I’m working on throughout 2017 – recording 50 tunes throughout the year in a mix of video and sound recordings. This is an effort to get me learning and writing new music as well as building confidence in myself as a musician again. On Tuesday I posted a video of two tunes played on mandolin – Road to Banff and The Spey In Spate.

Once I’d recorded the mandolin set I left the camera set up and decided to do an impromptu poetry reading. I entered some poems into a major competition towards the end of last year and received confirmation that they’d not made the shortlist this week. Which, while disappointing, does mean they are now free to be entered elsewhere and shared with the world again. One of those poems is Leaving The Woods, which I wrote around the idea of leaving your childhood behind and based on some memories I had of the woods we played in as children.

I also published it via Medium with a bit of background on the poem itself and the stories told within it

Writing

Twitter Poems


Over the last couple of weeks I’ve been using twitter as a platform for producing some very short pieces of quickly written poetry. Usually inspired by current events, or whatever is distracting me at my desk at that particular moment in time. The quality is patchy but there are a couple that I’m very happy with.

I’ve included a few that I like the most here. Follow me on twitter if you’re interested in seeing more or if you want to share your own short poems.

Writing

Winter Comes Down


Winter comes down

The calendar says December,
There’s frost on the car
The days are much shorter,
Summer sun seems so far.

Winter colds are approaching,
Sniffles and coughs everywhere,
The shops are all hoaching,
Fairytale of New York fills the air.

Get the tree from the attic,
My wife asks of me,
And we’ll put it up quick,
Before the baby can see.

Well it comes down in it’s box,
And is laid in the room,
Where it sits by the clock,
Ignored in the gloom.

I can’t be bothered I say,
To decorate the tree,
We can do it the next day,
For now leave me be.

I’ve had enough of false cheer,
The noise and the fuss,
Just give me a cold beer,
I don’t get all the rush.

Now Christmas morning has come,
And Santa has been,
Let’s pretend to have fun,
Rushing down to the scene.

Trying to hide it as I open the door,
The smile lights my face,
And I know it’s not Christmas nor
Fun that I fail to embrace.

We gather around in the warmth of our home,
Swapping presents, get hugs and eat ‘till we groan,
It’s the time as a family I love and cherish the most,
As winter comes down and we share Christmas roast.