Monday, 28 October 2013

The Poetry Bus

Today I’m thrilled to welcome the extremely talented poet, Peadar O’Donoghue from ‘The Poetry Bus Magazine’ (PB Mag) to Writing Allsorts.   

If you write poetry or very short stories, and would like the opportunity to see your work in print, then carry on reading.  

Alternatively, if you enjoy reading poetry, or you are simply fascinated to learn how a humble blog has transformed into a successful poetry magazine that showcases brilliant poets – then you’ll love Peadar’s inspiring interview!

So, without further ado, hello, Peadar! Welcome to Writing Allsorts, and thanks so much for coming all the way from Ireland for a chat.  J  Let’s kick off with how, when and why did The Poetry Bus Magazine come about?

Hello Amanda, a million thanks for inviting us onto your blog! The Poetry Bus, or PB Mag, started as a weekly prompt on my blog totalfeckineejit. It was to brighten up Monday, the worst day of the week, and to see if there was anything in the Zeitgeist. The prompt might be a song or a photo and a handful of people across the world would sit down at roughly the same time and respond to it with a poem. It felt like we were all going on a little journey each week and we were all types of people, young old, male female, different nationalities, it felt like a bus trip, hence the name! The numbers taking part grew and the quality of the poems was surprisingly good considering we were all pretty much unpublished poets. It was very unifying and uplifting.

We all found that there was a dearth of magazines to send our stuff to and we were mostly rejected.  I realized that some of these poets deserved to be published and so the idea of a new, more open mag was born.

Sounds absolutely brilliant!  I understand The PB Mag is a magazine by the people for the people, to share and expose talent.

That’s it in a nutshell, Mandy, a mag of the people, by the people, for the people. It’s taken from The Gettysberg address by Abraham Lincoln, obviously he said government, not poetry magazine, but it is a wonderful line and is one of the very few things, perhaps the only thing that I connected with at school and remembered. I firmly believe that poetry, the arts, should be for everyone to enjoy and also to participate in, to have a go, if they have talent it will show, and that should be the only criteria for success. You’d think that would be an obvious statement (as Lincoln’s) and welcomed by everybody and ostensibly it probably is, but the reality is far different. Elitism rules, and elitism is the death of creativity. Factions and cliques try (successfully in the main) to keep the arts to themselves, aided and abetted by the narrow distribution of grants and bursaries. There’s a lot of new establishment people in poetry complaining about the dark, who go around switching off the lights. It’s very galling.

Please tell us a bit about The Poetry Bus editors

I, me, Peadar am a poet and photographer. I’m not young and I’m a little bit fat, I drink too much and love my life now, at last. I live and work in a real but imaginary shed in County Wicklow with Collette and a team of goats. I have no Master’s degree in creative writing or Goat herding, in fact I left school early and did a thousand soul destroying jobs and lived a life and this (in my opinion and contrary to perceived wisdom) actually puts me in a very good position to write and run a magazine with a herd of goats. My debut collection ‘Jewel’ is the best-selling title on the Salmon Poetry website.   I say that not to show off but to make a statement, to fight back. They can say a million flies like shite, but I don’t care. It received excellent reviews in Ambit, The North, Revival, CanCan, online at Anna Livia Review.

Collette has a very keen interest in Art, studied it (I forgive her) and has (in my opinion) a very good eye for it. She came aboard recently to help as the mag is too much for one person now and also to add a gender balance. She selects the artwork and helps with selection of the poems. I think the latest issue PB5, has benefitted hugely from her input. And when things go wrong it’s nice to have someone to share the blame with.

Please tell us a bit about some of your more successful poets and contributors.  And, just as a little family plug -  I understand my talented cousin, David Timoney is in PB5 – just thought I’d say – not that I’m bias or anything.

Ha Ha, yes, we are delighted with David’s graphic short story it is beautifully crafted and a new feature of the mag that is getting great feedback. We have had many great poets/writers including Roddy Doyle who will make it someday soon, Ian Duhig, Lemn Sissay and George Szirtes  who has just been shortlisted for the TS Eliot Prize. I like to think we play a part in discovering/promoting new poets like PC Vandall, Sorcha Ní Mhealláin, Séamas Carraher, Korliss Sewer and many more. We always have a high number of first time poets and are particularly pleased with that. Occasionally we will get a poem from someone who hasn’t been published before and may never be published again, being involved in their one brief shining moment is perhaps the most special feeling of all.

What is the submission process?  

I read submissions blind now, which is fairer on everyone, particularly people I may be friendly with. Previously acquaintances would be included despite our ‘friendship’, rather than because of it. There is nothing worse for me than seeing a group of friends of the editor in a magazine, it goes on brazen and blatant as you like. I think it may actually be expected, as I have lost a few friends through rejecting their work. I HATE doing rejections, it is the most awful part of an otherwise totally positive experience in publishing a magazine. I get rejections myself, so I know well how it feels!

We have been taking submissions on a rolling basis, but have decided to introduce deadlines, right here, right now! The next issue is to be called PB$ and will be a money themed special issue. There are no rigid guidelines and riffing on the theme is most welcome. Poems on other topics may also be accepted. The closing date is Dec 31st. All submissions will be acknowledged on receipt and all submissions will get an answer within one week of the deadline.

Details of how to sub can be found on The Poetry Bus Website

What is the next step if our poem is accepted?

If your poem is accepted we will ask for a recording as there is an audio CD with each issue. A final selection of 10 from all the recordings (plus 2 music tracks) make the CD.

So what's a Grimoire

A Grimoire is a fancy title for a chapbook (literally a cheap book) A Grimoire is a book of spells or magic, and nothing is more magical than poetry. We just wanted to produce the best we could for poets. The very first ‘The Geometry of Love between the Elements’ is by Fiona Bolger and has sold 400 copies. We couldn’t be happier. More Grimoires are in the pipeline and will be very different!

How many Poetry Bus Magazines have there been and how can we get our mitts on them?

PB5 has just been launched and can be bought HERE  Please do, it is our finest issue yet! There are a few copies of PB4 left and all other issues have sold out.

How many poets have appeared in the PBMag?

LOADS! At least 300!

I was reading on your old blog, that you have to raise money to be able to publish the magazine.  So I see (as a layman) that the magazine is published to showcase talent, and although there is no payment to the writer, the prestige and exposure is very rewarding.  Does that sound about right?

Well, yes, we hope that people are pleased, and we make every effort for it to be a top class showcase that’s good to be seen in, but we really want to pay the contributors. Until we get proper funding that remains a dream. It’s pretty much the only reason now, that we apply for funding anywhere else but fundit.

Other than poetry, what else appears in The Poetry Bus Magazine?

Full colour illustrations, graphic short stories, articles like ‘My Writing Life’ flash fiction, (very) short stories, reviews and an audio CD of poems and two music tracks. 

Is there anything else that you could tell me about The Poetry Bus?

It’s wonderful!

And finally, would you share with us one of your poems?

OK, Thank you.

Buckfast breakfast By Peadar O’Donoghue

And I or he,
noises outside or inside the walls,
shuffled in shoes or bare feet
sanding the lino.
Litter on the table,
sweep it to the floor.
Freezing footsteps in the snow,
Christmas Eve,
the jewelled prize
a black box.
Your brother shot someone
that slept with his wife.
Money makes the man and the machine, work.
Coins.Trap doors, pulleys, dumb waiters.
This is about poverty,this is about revolution,
this is the inside of your head.
Things roll like stones, crackle on the floor,
Knives, forks, tools.
There’s a queue for hell civilised as you like,
Pause, action, rewind, stop, go
put the chain around your neck,
the instructions make no sense
with, or without glasses.
Clay in their hands,
the thin line walked,
the floor is cold and dirty,
it’s your turn, in you go,
the rats are waiting,
catch their tales,
tie them up in knots
over and again.

Fantastic! Thank you so much, Peadar.  

And finally, I'm dead chuffed that a couple of months back, one of my poems was accepted for a future issue of this great magazine.  I feel honoured and delighted to be part of the The Poetry Bus journey - and wish it every success going forward.

Wednesday, 9 October 2013

From Short Story Writer to Novelist - An Interview with Della Galton

And so I’ve come to the end of my series, ‘From Short Story Writer to Novelist’. I've had a huge amount of fun doing it and, as someone who is constantly hopeful of making that transition, learnt so much.  So thank you again to the lovely writers who have taken part:  Cally Taylor, Patsy Collins, Jill Steeples, Sarah England and Karen Clarke.

And who better to end the series with than prolific short story writer, novelist and author of Moving On –From Short Story to Novel a step by step guide., the extremely talented, Della Galton.

As usual, I won’t twitter on, as I know you’ll want to hear what lovely, Della has to say.  

Welcome, Della, thank you so much for visiting. Please make yourself at home, and begin by telling us a bit about your success as a short story writer.

I’ve sold over a thousand short stories to mags since the year 2000. That’s when I started keeping proper records, but I had my first short story published in 1987 (Gosh, am I really that old!). And I was instantly hooked. I wanted to feel that thrill of being published again. Since then (not a lot of people know this) I have permanently had one or more stories out under consideration to magazines. I currently have about thirty. When there were lots of markets I’d have about sixty :o)

And your journey from short story to novel. If you wish, you could include things like:

I began my writing career with short stories, as many writers do. (I joined an Adult Education evening class called Writing for Pleasure and Profit) I remember being told by my tutor at the time that short stories were a good place to start. I could learn the skills and techniques of creative writing, and, if ever I wanted to write something longer, having a background of short story writing would stand me in good stead.
            I think she was right. It’s as true today as it ever was that whatever writing you do, whether it’s writing letters, non-fiction, a blog, or even writing a personal diary, the act of putting words on paper will help you to hone and develop your skills.
            However, writing a novel was not just about, as I had once thought, producing more words! Although that is, of course, one of the things you have to do. There are several other differences.
Pace was the thing I found hardest to get right when I began to write longer fiction. And development, although I had no idea what that meant (in real terms) when I wrote my first novel.

We all know you don’t need an agent for short stories, but I think it helps for a novel. I met my current agent, Becky Bagnell at a writers’ conference. I spoke to her first and she encouraged me to send her three chapters and a synopsis of my latest novel, which was Ice and a Slice. And she loved it. It was such a joy working on it with Becky. Nothing is better than having an agent who really loves your work.

Please tell us a bit about your novel, Ice and a Slice.

Ice and a Slice is the story of Sarah-Jane, (SJ to her friends) who discovers she can’t stop drinking.  On the surface her life is fine. She is happily married to Tom (well at least she thinks she is –he works away so much she doesn’t often see him).  She’s also fallen out with her sister and they no longer speak. But SJ is determined to sort that out one day.
            At least her best friend, Tania, is on her side, although lately Tania is increasingly preoccupied with her own (secret) problems.  SJ feels very alone sometimes and quite scared, but it’s not as though she’s an alcoholic, is it? She doesn’t keep a bottle of vodka by her bed. She doesn’t even drink every day – well not till the evening anyway.    It isn’t until she seeks the help of Kit, the hunky guy at the addiction centre, that she realises things may have got a little more out of hand than she thinks. 
SJ is by far the most three dimensional character I’ve ever created. I fell in love with her from the very first chapter.  Mostly I think because she is so flawed and so human.  And yes, she is based on someone I’m close to – although I’m not telling you who.  But one of the reasons that I love this novel  so much – and I don’t say that lightly, I’m the biggest self critic around – is because it’s the one in which I think I found my true voice.
Ice and a Slice is available  on Amazon both in paperback, click here, and for kindle (£1.94), click here. Actually if you’re quick you can get the paperback free as Take a Break are doing a reader giveaway in this month’s Fiction Feast. Just write in to them by 14 November for a chance to get a free signed copy.

Have you always wanted to write a novel, or was there a time when you thought you would only write short stories?

I’d only been writing for about a year when I wrote my first novel. I think I may have a paper copy hidden in the attic – which is probably the best place for it.

Do you still write short stories. (This is a bit of silly question!) And how do you juggle stories and novels?

Yes I do. I love them.  And I tend to write my novels around my short stories rather than the other way round. It’s the short stories that are the day job so the novels have to be slotted into my ‘spare’ time.

Have you any advice to a short story writer who may want to move on to writing novels?

Well, I have to say I wished there was a book about this subject when I wrote my first novel. Which is exactly why I later decided to write one. Moving on, Short Story to Novel is published by Accent Press. You can buy it here for kindle (£1.54). It’s also available in paperback.

It just so happens that in the next few days I have a brand new book coming out which is also on the subject of making the transition between short stories and novels. The Novel Writer’s Toolshed (for Short Story Writers) will be available in paperback and for kindle.

What do you feel is the main difference between writing a short story and a novel?

I’ve written two whole books about this (getting in another cheeky plug)  But – if I had to put it in a nutshell, it’s one word – development. Both of my books explain in detail exactly what development means.

Have you ever written a short story that you think would work well as a novel?

Yes. Helter Skelter, my second novel, began as a 1000 word short story. Then it became a 90,000 word novel. I also sold the short story to Take a Break. I called it the Colour of Chiffon. I think they kept the title.

What do you think are the pros and cons of moving from a short story to a novel?

When you write a novel you can get totally involved with the characters – it’s inevitable because you live with them for days. You grow to love them, hate them, whatever, but you really really care about them. I love this part of writing a novel.
One of the cons of writing a novel, of course, though is that you can’t finish it in a day – so completion is a long way off. I love the feeling of completion you get when you finish a short story too.

If you have an agent or publisher, do you think being a successful short story writer helped get you noticed?

Yes, it helped me to get my first novel accepted without a doubt.

Do you think being a published short story gave you the confidence to take the next step?

Absolutely, definitely, yes.

Do you think self-promotion is an important part of being a novelist?  If so, what are your thoughts on self-promotion?

Yes, I think it’s vital, these days, to promote yourself.  But the good news is that it’s easier than it’s ever been, thanks to social media. In a way it levels the playing field (sorry for the cliché) because everyone can do this. It’s a lot easier than travelling around to do book signings too. I remember when I sold my first novel my (Welsh) publisher arranged for me to do five signings at WH Smiths around Wales. There was no sat nav in those days and I got incredibly stressed trying to find all the book stores in different towns. (Good fodder for a short story though!)

Wednesday, 2 October 2013

From Short Story Writer to Novelist – An Interview with Karen Clarke

I’m especially chuffed today to be sharing a wee chinwag with the very lovely and talented, Karen Clarke. 

She’s just taking off her coat – it’s jolly cold, isn’t it?  And I know she must be buzzing with excitement, as she’s just had some VERY exciting news about her novels!  But I’ll let her tell you about that, and a bit about her journey from short story writer to novelist.

So without further waffle: Welcome to Writing Allsorts, Karen, thank you for coming.  Please tell us about your success as a short story writer.

After a few years of dabbling, I started seriously writing short stories about five years ago, after joining an online critique group, which gave me the confidence to submit to women’s magazines – I realised I wasn’t as bad as I’d feared!  Since then I’ve sold around 200 stories in the UK and abroad

And your journey from short story to novel.

I’d always wanted to write a novel, and already had one languishing in a drawer that had been through the New Writer’s Scheme with The Romantic Novelist’s Association, and garnered some positive feedback from agents, that I knew I had to give up on. I decided to start something new – alongside writing short stories - and after a few false starts felt I’d found my niche with a time-travel romantic comedy.

I got lucky and attracted an agent based on the first three chapters, and when I’d finished writing the book it went to auction in Germany, and sold to Random House as part of a two-book deal. Although it came close with a big publisher in the UK, it didn’t happen for various reasons, so my agent took the decision to publish it under her digital imprint, The Paris Press, and it’s had a great reaction so far. 
I’ve since written two more novels - one I like to call ‘romagical’ and another about being possessed (!) – and the great news is I was made a wonderful offer by publishers Constable & Robinson last week, and now have a 3-book deal.  It still hasn’t quite sunk in!

That’s FANTASTIC news, Karen – and so well deserved!  I know your first novel, My Future Husband is available to download on Amazon HERE.  Please tell us a bit about it.

My Future Husband is about Sasha, who’s very methodical and has planned her wedding to Pete to the very last detail. However, a month beforehand a man called Elliot appears in her bedroom claiming to be from the future, and tells her to call of her wedding because she’s supposed to marry him.  Sasha doesn’t want to believe it, but spurred on by her best friend, Rosie, she tracks him down in the present and starts to realise he might have been telling the truth.

Have you always wanted to write a novel, or was there a time when you thought you would only write short stories?

I’ve always wanted to write a novel, but thought it might be easier to start with short stories and ease myself in gently!

Do you still write short stories, and if so how do you juggle both?

I definitely still write short stories, at least one a week, usually on a Monday, and the rest of the week I work hard on my novel.  Oh, who am I kidding?  The reality is, I’ve written three short stories since last week, and have barely glanced at my novel (but don’t tell my agent!)

Which do you prefer to write, novels or short stories?

I’m greedy and love writing novels and short stories, and can’t imagine not doing both.  At the moment, I’m on a short story roll.

Have you any advice to a short story writer who may want to move on to writing novels?

I would say, ‘go for it!’ in a bossy voice.  Writing a novel’s a very different beast and you may find you’re not cut out for it, but you won’t know unless you try.  I don’t think it follows that every short story writer will find it easy to write a novel - or vice-versa.

What do you feel is the main difference between writing a short story and a novel?

I suppose time-scale is the biggest one.  You may be able to bash out a first draft in a month or three, but revising, rewriting, editing, rewriting and, er, rewriting a novel can take about a year, if not longer. 

Which do you find easier to write, a novel or a short story?

I find short stories easier to write in that they can be wrapped up in an hour or two, but when I’m properly into my novel, and the words are flowing, it’s easier in the sense that I have space and time to develop the plot and characters, so it doesn’t have to be quite so tightly-knit.

Have you ever written a short story that you think would work well as a novel?

Occasionally, when a story has started to meander, I’ve wondered if it might be worth developing into a novel, but I’ve never actually gone back and done that… yet!

What do you think are the pros and cons of moving from a short story to a novel?

The pros are having more time to develop your characters and story, which feels luxurious after the discipline of packaging everything into a thousand words or so.  The cons are, without that fairly small frame-work it’s easy to get lost, or run out of steam, or fall into great big plot-holes.  Not that it’s ever happened to me.  Ahem…

If you have an agent or publisher, do you think being a successful short story writer helped get you noticed?

I think it helped show her I have a strong commitment to writing, and she did once say she could tell I was a short-story writer, because my novels are very ‘plotty’.  I THINK it was a compliment.

Do you think being a published short story gave you the confidence to take the next step?

It definitely helped me believe I could write something worth publishing, and that if I could do it with stories maybe I could eventually trick someone into publishing my novels.

Do you think self-promotion is an important part of being a novelist?  If so, what are your thoughts on self-promotion?

Self-promotion plays a huge part these days, especially for new authors, and in e-publishing where it’s harder to be noticed if your books aren’t on a bookshelf for readers to browse.  If you’re JK Rowling then probably, no.  It’s not something I’m massively comfortable with, to be honest, it’s too much like showing off and I’m British - I’m not good at shouting ‘Look at me!’  But I’m guessing I’m going to have to change my ways…