Sunday, 28 June 2009

a change

I spent yesterday at a stitching day organised by a local quilting shop. It was great. I started (another) new project. I had a lovely catch up with a friend, as well as meeting many others, got a copy of this fabulous book (and now have to decide what to make first), and took my mind completely away from writing and page seventeen. I had planned to read some stories from the competition in the evening, but I was too tired, so sat in front of the box instead.

I did manage to read a fair handful of stories today. From the 26th to the 40th. Last year, and the year before, the judge read every story and made her own longlist and shortlist before choosing the winning pieces. This year though, I am providing the story judge, Zenda Vecchio, with a longlist. It would have been nice to get through all of what I have received so far, before the onslaught that I expect over the next couple of days. But it didn't happen.

Now to decide whether to read a couple more, or to pick up the new project I started yesterday...

Thursday, 25 June 2009

new voice

One day last week I had an excellent idea for a new poem, but it was weird the way it came to me. I am used to new ideas coming in sentences, usually the beginning of a piece, although this is perhaps more true for short fiction than anything else. I still think I'm new enough to writing poetry that I don't necessarily know my poetry-writing habits. Yet.

This idea came as a sort of image and feel of what the poem should be, and while there were perhaps a few words, I could only really make notes. This was a bit of a bummer because I actually had enough time that day to start (and maybe finish) it, but no matter how hard I tried, there were no words that day, other than the single ones appropriate for my journal. I hope the images come back as sharply when I do find time to write it.

This has only happened to me once before, as far as I can recall. I wonder if it might be a new way of working, or perhaps the beginnings of me finding a different voice for some of my work?

On poetry, I just came across Blemish Books, who are looking for poets and poetry. I believe they may have received funding to help put together their first title, so send them something, quick.

Sunday, 21 June 2009

time off

It's that time of year when I all but put my own writing aside to dedicate my time to the magazine. For about the next three months, I will be dealing with the admin of running a magazine, reading submissions and entries, organising the editorial committee, getting entries to judges, then notifying and liaising with contributors and doing the layout. Not to mention organising a launch.

I'm actually a little sad about one aspect of the launch this year. The cafe where we've had every launch thus far has changed hands and it just doesn't seem to be the same anymore. So, I might have it somewhere else, although probably still in Belgrave.

As far as my own writing, I don't schedule any time at all in to write, so pretty much only write during this time if and when inspiration strikes. Given I do a lot of my writing when inspired anyway, this probably isn't a huge deal. Although it does mean I probably only write first drafts. Or notes. At the EWF I spoke about writing when inspired and I might post a little about that sometime. This afternoon I am off to a poetry reading in Ferntree Gully, so maybe I will experience my first bout of writing during my non-writing period really soon.

Although before I quit writing for a while, I'd better spend some time sending out a few things. If you're looking for somewhere to send something too, page seventeen, GDS and four4 submissions close on June 30.

Wednesday, 17 June 2009

have your say, influence the editor

In response to the responses of the submission guidelines post last week, I wanted to ask you some questions. Feel free to answer in the comments below or by emailing me at one of the email addresses here, or any other email address you might have fo me. Your responses will help me make decisions.

I want to know what you think is fair.

Should I totally ignore submissions/entries that don't follow the guidelines/conditions? Should I be strict on some rules/guidelines and not on others? And if so, where do I draw the line?

These are some of the competition guidelines/conditions of entry:
- Entries must be printed on A4 paper, 1.5 spaced, in a serif font, 12pt.
- Author's name and/or contact details must not appear on the manuscript.
- Entries must be the writer's original, unpublished work and not have won a prize in any other competition.
- Entries that do not conform to these guidelines may be disqualified from the competition and considered as general submissions...

I am sure everyone agrees that a named manuscript should result in automatic disqualification, and I assure you, I have always done that and, when it has happened (because it always does...I might even post stats for some of these things later), I have allowed that piece to be considered as a general submission, because we have never read those 'blind'.

I have never frowned on double spacing, and perhaps I should change this guideline to an option of 1.5 or double.

Once, when we received a story that had been published elsewhere (before our competition even opened), we disqualified the entire entry (three stories), advised the author, who we believed made a genuine error, and published one of the other stories that we really liked (and which may have otherwise won a prize).

But I guess the real contentious issue is the font. Almost all entries come in the right size (we did once receive a story in size 16 font), so no real problem there. I used to ask for Times New Roman and changed it this year to a 'serif font', trying to be more lenient. But a quick glance through the entries I've so far received suggests that not everyone is paying attention, and the stats would horrify some of you, I'm sure. Do people not know what a serif font is? Should I have offered Times New Roman as an example? Did they come in the right font when I was specific? ( Does it matter for stories but not for poetry?

Should they be disqualified? Should they be considered in the general submission, where, I point out, I ask specifically for Times New Roman, or not at all?

Is it as important to be strict about guildeines for general submissions as it is for the competition? With those pesky poets who send ten or so poems, do I read three or ignore the whole lot? If I read three, how do I choose which to read? And what about submissions that arrive before we even 'open' submissions? What about word or line lengths? Does it matter if they're over?

I increased the word and line limits for the general submissions this year, after consideration of feedback. But already, people are pushing the boundaries of the new limits. Thankfully, most of you who send in longer work asked first. For each of the five people that have asked this year, I have said 'yes, send in one longer piece' (but not three).

In addition to answers to any of the questions above, I'm also interested to know what other editors and/or administrators/judges of competitions do, or to hear from writers who know they submitted to a publication or entered a competition and realised later (or knowingly at the time) they did not follow the guidelines (particularly re font), yet were published or won a prize anyway. But please don't name the publication/competition.

Sunday, 14 June 2009


I've had a pretty slow weekend, which has been nice. In fact, aside from taking my son to basketball yesterday morning, I don't think I even left the house.

That doesn't mean I did much writing though, or anything else. Other than spending time in the kitchen. We've been renovating the kitchen and it is almost complete, with mainly just the walls left to worry about (and one more tall cupboard that we won't get just yet). This afternoon I spent a while taking all my cookbooks back after we carried the buffet and shelves back in (the new floor only went down during the week).

I always find it difficult to decide how to organise cookbooks. Whether to group in terms of the type/style of cooking, ie. vegetarian, seafood, cakes, etc, or whether to put books of a series together, or whether to make it all up as I go. In the end I think I mainly made it up as I went, making sure my faves are close together. I also kept out some (about a dozen or more, I think) I haven't used for years to give to our local CFA who are collecting cookbooks for those who lost their houses in the Black Saturday fires.

And because I've never done it before (and because it may never look so neat again), I'm going to share a picture.

The other difficult thing about cookbooks is choosing what to make. Although it is true it didn't seem difficult this weekend as I felt like making something quick and easy and went straight to the caramel mud muffin recipe, knowing I always have all the ingredients. And there are even two left...although not for long.

Friday, 12 June 2009

submission guidelines

You’ve heard it a million times. You know it all. You can’t believe editors and publishers go on about it so much. Don’t they have anything better to do than tell you to read, and follow, their guidelines?

Do you think that if one publication asks for Arial font that it’s okay to use Arial for someone who asks for Times New Roman? To use size 11 with someone asking for 12? To use another publication’s guidelines entirely for any old mag?

It’s true, some people do follow the guidelines, probably even most of you. But there are still a large number of people who think they are above the rules. Enough to make editors go on about it again and again. Those who think it’s okay to send ten poems when the limit is three. Those who use Arial, and other (especially sans serif) fonts when they should use Times New Roman. Those who think the editor won’t mind if they send a story with a few extra words, say 20% more than the limit, because their story is so good that no-one will mind – in fact, the editor will probably be so glad they received it because they couldn’t possibly go without including it in their next issue. Those who feel their piece will look so pretty if they print it on pink paper. You get the idea.

You’ve heard editors say it’s about convention, respect, being professional, etc. You’ve heard about readability, know that Times New Roman is easiest to read. Maybe you think it’s crap, because it doesn’t make a difference to you. You can read Arial just fine.

What if you were sending your work to an editor with a -11.00 prescription in their glasses/contact lenses? One with glaucoma? One needing cataract surgery? Would you think to hell with the rules then? Would you understand that maybe the editor asks for work a certain way because it means they can actually read it?

Because when you send your work to page seventeen, the editor has all of the above eyesight issues. All this at the tender age of thirty-seven – imagine what guidelines she might come up with when she’s fifty. She also has a good memory for the names of people who piss her off by doing their own thing.

Maybe next time you’re preparing a submission, you might think of this. After all, do you know the editor at all, let alone well enough to know there’s no damn good reason s/he might ask you to prepare your work in a specific way? Is it your call anyway? Aren’t you trying to be part of their world by sending them your stuff?

Remember too, editors are likely to notice even the smallest breach. After all, that’s what an editor does. It’s an editor’s job to do things like: notice that a word is spelled one way on page twelve and a different way on page seventy-four; notice tiny things like there being two spaces between words instead of one; actually care about convention. So, all those other reasons are good too.

As for the poets who send ten pieces, well, they’re just plain rude.

Monday, 8 June 2009


Made it to the Word Tree in Upwey on Saturday afternoon and was pleased to learn upon arriving that there were two features for the day: Grant Caldwell and Jennifer Compton. It was lovely to hear Jennifer again and a treat to hear Grant for the first time. It was actually the first time for quite a few of us, so I didn't feel too bad. I bought a copy of 'Dreaming of Robert de Niro', so I might treat myself with a cuppa and the book after I get all my work done.

If you're keen to head out to the hills for an afternoon of poetry, next month's feature is Kristen Henry. That'll be on Saturday 4th July, from 3pm at Burrinja cafe.

On Wednesday though, I'm planning to head down the hill and all the way to Northcote for the launch of the latest issue of GDS. Might see you there.

Meanwhile, I have a few hours to myself today. I have a list. I have made a start. I even think I'm ready to get stuck into the task most tempting to put off.

Friday, 5 June 2009

freak out

I think this is a first for me, posting twice in one day. All within an hour too. I'm sure it isn't something you'll need to get used to.

Kathryn Duncan of Celapene Press just let me know about this review of the latest issue of Short and Twisted, because my poem Planned? is mentioned. Woot again. Seems to be a day for it.

Just in case I don't get another chance: Woot!


Hey, it seems the young folk at the Emerging Writers Festival influenced me in more ways than just at the bar. Yes, I'm on twitter. Woot. I think. Come find me there.

In other news, I made a start on the admin for the page seventeen Short Story and Poetry Competition and I'm pleased with the numbers, knowing there are still several weeks to get entries in. We accept them until June 30. The judges this year are: Zenda Vecchio for the story section, and Nathan Curnow for poetry. Last year, we published 10 shortlisted stories and 16 shortlisted poems, so get cracking with that pen/keyboard.

I have also been busy with a few other things that will be new to Issue 7. Things that I hope will generate some excitement, although I'm afraid I'm not going to tell you just yet what they may be. And, if all goes well, it is something I will do more of for Issue 8. Just thinking about issue 8 seems weird, quite frankly. Who would have thought, 5 years ago, we 'd be where we are now, all without funding? Yay for page seventeen.

Monday, 1 June 2009

influences and all that

Been scouting the sites this morning and see many have already posted wrap-ups of various EWF events. My truth includes just one downer, which didn't really have anything to do with the festival, but my trip home on Thursday. Won't go into it, but for a while it inspired a piece titled 'Dear Connex', but I don't think that's going to happen. Would rather think about the fun things.

I enjoyed so many aspects of the festival, it's kind of hard to narrow it down to just a few, but I'm willing to give it a try. At risk of it sounding oh so wrong, one of the things I most liked was the opportunity to wean my (8 month old) baby by not leaving my boobs at home. I also enjoyed that the panel I spoke on 'Just Write Dammit!' was the first of the weekend, as I was then able to relax (and see others stressing prior to their own). PD Martin introduced us to the concept of a 10K Day, which I hope to try one day.

I got to meet and speak to many, many people, including some I now call friends. It is true that I love a good chat (though it seemed not everyone already knew this). I enjoyed listening to words of advice (and entertainment) from panellists I'd never heard before, and some I had, as well as soaking up the excitement of fellow attendees. All of the festival staff were friendly, helpful and approachable, and I particularly liked the way they engaged with festval goers and in being part of the audience themselves. I took courage from at least one panellist who is brave enough to go places where most of us aren't and appreciated the reminders from many others who brought wise words out from the dark corners to the forefront of my mind.

Oh, and I challenged writers to check out a stranger next time they were on the train/in a cafe/wherever and to think about the stranger as a character. To make some notes not only about their general appearance but to imagine things about them that might spark a story/poem/whatever they write: where are they going? what are they hiding? what is their biggest secret? what is in their bag? etc. Feel free to let me know how you go if you decide to try this.

I even managed to be seduced by the younguns (well, maybe only one) into staying out drinking later and larger quantities than I intended. While I avoided the drunken temptation to dance to Michael Jackson's Thriller with youngun, I am not so sure I got through Sunday without appearing to be one. I dragged myself to the 10am session where we all dreamed of being signed by a publisher into a guaranteed bestseller market (for several books). And later, to find out what a mentorship has to offer, by Stu Hatton.

As if all that wasn't enough, I somehow competed in another slam in the evening, and while I didn't win a prize (Santo Cazzati took home the magpies footy!), I perfomed well enough to earn a spot in the next one, which I think is a kind of preliminary final before the big one. So pencil in August 4th.

Meanwhile, I'm off for another coffee.