PUBLISHING THE DEAD

I’m splashing about in Kindle Direct Publishing, making a mess, trying to keep it light and dismissing stress – don’t think I’ve used any real swear words, yet. Doing April-poem-a-day this year sent me down this path; I sat up one sleepless night with the idea of settling the best of my old previously published poems in a book.

These poems are set in their decades, the 60s being full of childish memories and teenage troubles with a hint of the history of the time. The collection is thick with memoir but there are oddities thrown in; it’s a bit like a packed suitcase where other minds might boggle at the mix. In the 70s and 80s innocence meets up with experience and discovery, and the 90s are steeped in those nasty political upheavals. My intention was to paint a picture with old published poems so there has been a lot of dragging in and chucking out. I think these poems should live together, forever, and hope readers will feel the same.

Some of these poems were written almost thirty years ago, when I was an energetic and wild woman – impulsive. I’m a different being now and most of my recent work doesn’t blend into this picture. If I don’t allow them space in the light they might languish in a document deep in a file system forever. There’s just something about swimming in nostalgia; here I am writing thirty years ago about the previous thirty years, loving the images and characters. That carnival is well and truly over and all the songs sung, but selective memory is a fantasy in itself. The dating of these poems (in this setting) relates to the time in the poem not the time of writing, except when it does.

Of course I forgot to include the copyright notice in the first attempt, and made such a mess of the paperback process that I decided to make a few changes. It’s good to have a little space to see how a project works out before seriously advertising the product; I nipped away one and added four re-formatted poems…and changed the cover. I know poetry won’t pay the rent but the poems are better out than in, lying around like old sloths, and, I seem to be in tidying mode which, apparently, has me re-writing, re-formatting/structuring old work…and it is interesting fun. I have achieved something and think that satisfaction will be guaranteed.

…and, here is the link: https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B071NPRZP8

THE WAY WE WERE

Finally selecting a time for a memoir escapade, so this is the first draft of Chapter 1 of what might be titled, THE WAY WE WERE…because there will be music riffling throughout.
* * * *
1975 and the livin’ was easy. We were easy riders of the storm, Cracklin’ Rosie an’ me, doin’ the hustle, the funky moped, foxes on the run, jive-talkin’ girls, on the trail of the lonesome man… ‘cause love was the drug.

We arrived at the hotel, introduced ourselves, were given keys to a room and directions to the staff quarters. The mansion on a hill looked impressive. Further inspection brought our attention to a notice stating that the building was derelict…not fit for habitation – condemned. Our room had two single beds, which we immediately pushed together for space. The walls grabbed our eyes; it had been covered in pictures of food – we were bloody starving and skint…of course there was enough in the purses for a couple of lagers down the local pub. Unpacking only the necessary: record player, the records and the radio, make-up was topped up moolighting with Leo Sayer, then we were out in a tiny coastal town in plenty of time for last orders. Rosie and me, she and I, slightly-practised non-virgins looking for adventure where the North Sea sculpts the east coast of Scotland. North Berwick, previously unmentioned in the Glaswegian vernacular.

Normally, we would have made an entrance in a strange bar, me with my fabulous red hair, Rosie and her raucous laugh, but knackered were the bodies that had hustled themselves out of Glasgow with huge suitcases and every penny we could scrape together from our last jobs. So there was no bending across pool tables or sexing it up dancing a bump in the middle of the lounge, just a languid satisfaction in a successful plan executed. In the morning we would be re-invented as chambermaids in the biggest hotel on the sea-front…and, food should be part of the deal.

Tales from Elsewhere

our book

It’s launch day for the anthology, Tales from Elsewhere, which includes a story written by meeeee. http://www.amazon.co.uk/Tales-Elsewhere-Sarah-Thomas/dp/1522725628/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1452170228&sr=8-1&keywords=tales+from+elsewhere

Once upon an internet writing group, actually there were two, some folk just wouldn’t be parted so we joined Facebook and set up our own group.We like the freedom to post rantings and creakings of our different gates, and have now known each other for about ten years…and some of us have met. There have been a few get-togethers but as we are spread about the UK and some a little further, not all of us can make it.

In September of 2014, thirteen of us landed in a Suffolk country garden for the weekend, and what a time we had, what with the talking and the wine, and the trampoline, and the wine, and the food, the talking, the wine, the weather…everything was completely fab. It wasn’t until much later that we talked (back online again) about a collection of work that might have sprung from notes we’d taken, or inspiration gleaned while immersed in the excitement of meeting each other, and spending time in such a beautiful place.

I was all about the table and chairs set out under the trees; that is country living for a city girl like me…even though I now reside only seven minutes walk away from Loch Lomond. My hermit life-style keeps me close to home but I do wander over to take photos of the water at least once a year. The Maid of the Loch, must be the most photographed vessel in Scotland, mostly because Ben Lomond is directly in the background.

For me, Facebook is a tool that works perfectly; it saves me time keeping up with family and old friends, acquaintances…and, has the wonderful accessory of creating groups. Gone are the days when artists and writers were alone and crazy in their garrets – now we can do crazy and chat, moan or celebrate with others without leaving our chairs/beds. I never thought I would do the meetings thing – my son met his old sweetheart on FB and they got together again, sailed between Glasgow and Newcastle, back n forward, several times before finally settling down in Tyneside and now have a son! But, when the weekend in Suffolk was suggested, I knew that I wanted to meet at least some of the people I’d been talking to, and had supported me through feedback on my writing. So we did it, and felt as if we’d already met. Facebook works for us.

And now, after a year of throwing work up to be read by fresh eyes, it was re-worked, edited…and edited again, until just right, a story good enough for publication, polished.

We have a blog here

52

I used to be on the brink of being totally horizontal, but I think I’ve skated across that plateau now and am being pulled upright – good God, I might be standing already! It wasn’t my fault but I know who to blame – Jo Bell and her Project 52. Write a poem a week she said – little did she know that we’d all be writing a poem a day, sometimes more, and her notifications box has gone mental and there she is just sailing up and down canals in her boat, leaving us completely obsessed with a new prompt every week…and we’ve got to do this for a year. She’s cured my procrastination; halted my lovely horizontal progress and addicted me to a Facebook group that produces hundreds of poems a day…and now, I’m caught up in submitting mania, and regaining that old addiction, blogging. This is the third post in barely an hour.

 

Postcrossing

As is my way, my enthusiasm for new writing projects consumes me. I am eaten up with excitement at the prospect of sending photographic missives all over the world and receiving the same in return – though probably not from poets. The very thought of strange postcrossers choosing a card for me, scribbling a message and mailing it across the world is spectacular.

There are several aspects of this hobby that interests me but the main one is as a writing exercise. Most people find it difficult to write postcards – it’s a bit like visiting sick folk in hospital. What do you talk about? Some writers are afraid of the blank page, and believe in that thing they call writers’ block. I’m never afraid and I don’t believe. If someone tells me to write, I point my pen at the page and see what comes out; it’s a matter for my head not my mind and at the beginning I have no idea what’s going to appear on the paper. I don’t worry about it; I just do it and tell myself I’m not responsible for whatever results.

There are now nine cards on their way to people I don’t know. The really stimulating action of all this is looking at someone’s profile to see what kind of images they love and hate then measuring that with a collection they’ve posted on Piccassa or Flickr before perusing the cards I have in front of me. Research and matching, looking for the perfect pairing, and all the while my head sending out feelers for a theme to link the two. I engaged a pair last night; she said she would be interested in religious images and I had a jukebox on a card with stained glass so I married religion to music – I hope she likes it and isn’t offended!

Tonight I noticed that one person liked black & white and the perfect card was a dancer’s legs against a black & white tiled room; white tights on the legs led down to red ballet shoes. The piece I wrote was about blending and disappearing but also of something stealing limelight.

The writings on these cards are not exactly poems; they are geared towards someone and have only the slightest knowledge of that person’s desires but I try to leap into something in a small way. This is why I include them along with the images of the cards in a new page of the blog here. Maybe one day I’ll work with some of them but at present they are only exercises; I wouldn’t want to be accused of self-publishing. Anything I put on here is either an exercise or not for serious publication.

I love the idea of just letting go but being drawn into a small frame of reference with limitations and the pressure of getting it some kind of right first time; these pieces are written straight onto the card with no room for mistakes or too much thinking – it’s a postcard and I know the readers will forgive me…well I hope they do. Only time will tell. Maybe I’ll be run out on a rail never to darken the world’s doorstep again with my scribblings.

THE CALLANDER POETRY WEEKEND

A mountain of poets in The Trossachs – oh, how dear is that on the ear? Yes, it was worth getting up at 8am on a morning-after-the-alcoholic-night-before… and it was amazing how the 40 minute drive in beautiful Scottish countryside shook us awake. By the time we had to stand up and talk into a microphone we were chilled, cool and reasonably fine – Chris Barnes, Rachel Cunniffe and me…and we brought our own audience of one, Annalisa Allen, to join the rest. Fern, Rachel’s dog, rested in the car and made a few appearances in the garden of the Kirk Hall.

Christopher Barnes

Rachel Cunniffe

– There will be no pictures of me!

We had a wonderful time, and spent the whole of Saturday in the company of poets and their poetry. I was especially impressed with a new writer called Catherine Wiley; her poems just blew me away. I stopped by her later and told her and was so pleased that I had obviously made her day! So I’ll be looking out for her work in future. I also loved a poem about Demeter by Sheila Templeton.

Sally Evans of Poetry Scotland runs this shindig every year; she feeds and curries the poets, who come from miles to join in this celebration. Last year she took 38 poets on a boat round Loch Katrine to read from The Lady of the Lake – which is the name of the boat.

This, my second year, I felt at home with these poetry-driven people, friends already as we wove between rooms, bookshop and garden.

Money just fell out of my hands into those of the booksellers who lined the Kirk Hall. I bought Sagrada Familia by Kevin Cadwallender; Somehow This Earth by Chris Powici; and The Honey Seller by Sally Evans. I already knew Kevin and Sally’s work but it was only after hearing Chris read some new poems, and falling in love with one about bison on the Montrose coast that I decided to buy his pamphlet.

While chatting to Kevin I told him that I used to be Maggie York. He said, ‘I thought I knew your face.’ I was amazed that he remembered a lot about that version of me (I always think that people won’t remember me). He quoted the title of two books I’d produced of local poets when I had The West Press, then said, ‘I always wondered what happened to Maggie York.’

Maggie York is alive and well, living inside her own skin and name these days, trying to pay more attention to her work to get it out into the world.

I subbed five poems to The London Review of Books last night by email – let’s hope the ease of subbing isn’t a lesson in impulsive over-confidence!

LITOPIA

I am preparing myself to set about the first chapter of the WIP, again. It’s all stretch and show; winkle out the details, get the focus right, present the hook, cut the back-story (done that), paint the MC with panache and don’t make her hateful, yet.

There are no real figures for how many times I’ve worked on this or changed it but it wasn’t until I joined the Litopia writing colony that I was able to see what was wrong and how to make it better.

Before you become a full member you spend your time reading and joining in forum threads to get the feel of the colony. There are wild and woolly conversations going on, and all from a writerly point of view. Other writers, published and unpublished, express their opinions and give advice; they confess their horror tales from interaction in the publishing world, and the successes. Questions are asked and answered, from experience and the atmosphere is warm, comfortable and inspiring.

It took me three months to arrive at the stage where I could apply for full membership but I was happily ensconced in the very friendly reception while I waited. There is no critiquing in this area; the second level of membership leads you into an area which includes the ability to see and critique other people’s work and they yours. In order to get to this stage you must submit a piece of work to Litopia so they can gauge your seriousness towards the craft of writing – so you must, obviously, be past the stage of being able to edit your own work and produce a credible and creative piece of writing.

The criteria have changed now and it only takes a month and a certain amount of forum posts to apply for the full membership – which is free. All levels of membership of the colony are FREE. I like that word.

Quite a few writing sites charge a rate of, sometimes, up to £35 a year in order to keep out trolls and flamers. I was a member of WriteWords for three years, who make that £35 charge, and I loved being there; I made a lot of valuable writer-friends who are still in my world, through Facebook and Litopia.

I’ve been a member of several other writing sites over the years but for the value of critiques, Litopia is the best. My work has improved so much in the six months I’ve been there. It’s my home base now.

There is another level but I’m not quite ready for that yet; this is where you can pitch to the Agent, Peter Cox. I don’t plan to pitch to any agent until I finish the book – and then I’ll want to research and discover which agents cover the material I’m writing. Roll on the day I can type THE END on the first novel to get there!