Catch up (or at least hello)

I’ve not had much to say lately. It’s school summer holidays so my days are busy with the boys. I’m still ill with my pyoderma gangrenosum, and a chest and ear infection which has lasted 5 weeks so far. (I’m waiting for yet more blood test results/autoimmune profile etc.) I’ve been taking large amounts of steroids and antibiotics, I think they rather drag one down. Off everything for the moment, except some steroid cream, and I’m hoping to shake the infection, start eating more healthily, take vits, maybe slowly exercise again. Gotta keep moving forwards.

I haven’t been writing.

What I have been doing is reading. Yay for words!

I’m now a reader for PANK, which you may recall is one of my favourite magazines. I’ve been finding it utterly fascinating being on the other side of submissions and noticing some of the recurrent themes and images. It’s so cool when you read a story or poem that dazzles. And it makes me feel that in some teeny (very teeny) way I’m putting a little (very little) back into the lit community.

I returned to work yesterday after 4 weeks absence. I was feeling rather shaky but ooh, it was lovely to be back. And there were some delicious books waiting for me. Yippee! Thank you to Joe for my copy of the very enticing Bristol Short Story prize Anthology (Volume 3). We haven’t yet got copies in store but they are on order. Plus I have a couple of proofs of books that I really want to read. Result.

Speaking of new publications, edition 1 of Fractured West is now available and looks super scrummy.


Being rejected is part of the writing life. Yeah, yeah, we know that. But it can sometimes really drag me down and I have been known to indulge in a big ol’ sulk. Other times I have a nano sulk and let the rejection bounce right off. Acceptances are joy – they validate and elate. Whoo hoo for acceptances. However nobody, no matter how shit hot a writer, is going to be accepted every single time. Not unless they are a “name” – one of those elite who carry so much weight with their history that whatever they write, no matter how shonky, is published. (And the reader who questions the merit may feel that it is their own lack that stops them comprehending the genius.)

When I am rejected I often hate the rejected story. I re-read and what once seemed good, solid prose can appear tatty, flimsy, pedestrian, unbaked. (I have a couple of stories this is not true of. I remain deluded convinced that they will be huge successes one day.) I may ignore the rejected words for a while, or edit, or fling ’em straight back out hoping they will find a loving home. There’s no strict routine, it depends on how my mood is.

Roxane Gay wrote a post about rejection etiquette on the PANK blog the other day.  I always find Roxane’s posts there, and on her personal blog, fascinating. In this particular blog post I was struck by the comfort to be found here:
“If you are only looking for a “Yes,” you’re perhaps not cut out for the publishing game. More often than not, the answer is going to be no because any magazine can only publish so many writers. We’re basically full through October online and about 90% full for our next print issue. The majority of the writing we receive is great but we, like most magazines, are in a position where we can only publish the writing that really grabs us, that really makes us fall in love, that really moves us.”

This post was written on 31st May and already PANK are full for the next five months. I know this is the way things are with them as I had an acceptance from them a couple of months back that won’t go live until July. They receive untold amounts of submissions, they are chock full, when they say no, it’s not always going to be that the words sucked arse or that you’re not good enough. And it’s not just PANK is it? It’s all of the quality magazines and journals. This makes me feel so much better. I know how many talented writers are out *there* in internetworldwidewebland. I want my stories to shine and stand out, and sometimes they do. That’s bloody brilliant.

Tired, bitchy, drunk…race, women, writers…

I haven’t written here for a while, 2 and a half weeks ish – it’s hard to find time lately and it seems that when I do write I always seem to be tired, bitchy, or drunk (or as of right now, all three.) Oh, whatever, it’s not an exam, it’s just my blog. On with the blethering!

I am loving PANK right now. Love Roxane Gay, love some of the work she’s choosing, love her blog. She recently began a debate on “Awkward Stuff, Race, Women, Writers, Editors”
which was fascinating. I rather wanted to join in but was ensconced in an Oxford hotel that deemed blogs, facebook and twitter as unacceptable!

I have been to a few literary events and found them to be uncomfortably chock full of white, middle class British people and then realised that actually I easily pass as just that. I can fit in there. I won a short story competition whose prize was complimentary tickets to a very expensive event held in grandiose halls and surrounded by lush countryside. There was only one black woman there; she came from my area (East London) and we struck up conversation. One very tweedy woman asked her where she came from, and when she replied “Leytonstone” the woman said “No, originally.” The response “Erm, West London” had me spluttering with mirth, embarrassment, anger, incredulity.

Not sure what this tells you.

I think writing should be about anyone, anywhere, communicating with words. And an editor can’t see if you are young, pretty, black, gay, dyspraxic, whatever – so if the words are what count then why aren’t there a more diverse group of people being published. Is it down to economics? Education? Expectations?

I helped out at my twins school for a while, trying to teach/encourage reading. I think reading is the foundation of everything else and yet many of the kids I sat with came from backgrounds where books weren’t part of day to day life. Seeing little children learn to sound out words and garner meaning from the bizarre mish mash of shapes on a page is a triumph. But it’s with practice that confidence comes.

Personally I get pissed at the whole cool boys club I see sometimes. I deliberately seek out fabulous women writers that I can aspire to, but also I just soak up good words which is how I am able to admire the work of some men who are sometimes utter twunts. I’m not sure if I am going to manage to make a point here (the whole bottle of wine thing) but I shall try. I like words, all words. I will use the word “cunt” as I enjoy its power to shock. It’s just a word, and I subscribe to the Germaine Greer idea that it is kinda quaint that one of the few remaining words with the power to shock is actually merely a vulgar word for a vagina. Who has the power now boys? Dick/cock etc just doesn’t pack the same punch! What I hate though is the mysoginistic “I’d like to stick a carrot in your vag” attempt at edgy literature that I have been seeing rather too frequently. Not edgy, clever, subversive at all guys, rather it’s tiresome, insulting, juvenile and lazy.

So, erm, the point I was making is…sigh, not sure, gonna go and sleep this off…

; )

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