A belated note of celebration and reflection.
I held a launch for my book, The Northern Line, a few months ago. It was attended by many of my lovely friends and some supportive people who I’d never met before who came along with my lovely friends.
I didn’t ever expect to have a book published. It’s one of those things which sits of many wish lists, but doesn’t always translate into reality.
The publication of The Northern Line was the product of several years of endeavour. First there was the writing, then the tireless editing with my friend and fellow poet Loren Kleinman, and then there was getting it accepted by a publisher.
It sounds simple, and it was surprisingly simple. Hard work in the writing process, dedication to the artistry of what you’re trying to do in the editing (along with a healthy dose of ‘getting over yourself’ to get the best work possibly in conjunction with your editor), and research in finding the right publisher.
Hard work: If you want it, you’ve got to do it. Having a book in your head doesn’t mean anything. Getting something, anything, down is the start. I’ve got my second book coming out in March and I can see how I’ve developed from where I was at the start of the journey, to where I was when the first book came out, to where I am now. That development could only occur because I put something down in the first place.
First drafts are rubbish. Always. No one ever got their first draft put into a book, but everyone who had a book published wrote something in the first place.
Dedication to artistry: Editing is a challenge because when you see the first red pen (track changes) on your manuscript you want to weep. Why are you changing things? You weren’t there, you don’t know what it meant to me!
Both good questions. Answers: 1. Because it makes it a better poem. 2. It doesn’t matter if I wasn’t there. If I don’t connect immediately with the situation then it needs some work.
Research: If you are going to submit a manuscript, then submit it to people who will want to publish it.
I’m not suggesting pander to others, but there are a world of publishers out there who publish some pretty niche work so you will find a potential home if you look.
One of my favourite publishers, Burning Eye Books, exclusively publish work from poetic performers. This is why, for example, it would be pointless me submitting to them. Not because they’d not see value in my work, but because I don’t meet their clearly set criteria.
Give yourself the best opportunity to receive as few rejection letters as possible.
Everyone writes about the writing process, but its different for everyone, so I won’t go much further. I do write every day – I’m lucky that I have a job that involves writing so I’m always writing, and this makes jumping into creative writing much easier. If you’re not working in writing, then I do think that whether it’s a simple word, or a line, a paragraph or a page, you get a little something down every day. I write on my phone, in notebooks, on my hand, and on scraps of paper. There is no ‘way’, there are no rules, just do.
No writer is an island.
I’d like to thank my friend Dan Carpenter for hosting the launch. His support has been overwhelming since the beginning, and continues to be.
Thank you also to Loren Kleinman, an independent editor, and Jessica and the team at Winter Goose Publishing. Without them I’d probably be typing a blog post about something – but it wouldn’t be this.
There are many other people I’d also like to thank, but in that childish way of knowing that if I start I’ll miss someone out, then I’ll seem ungrateful, I won’t list them all. But I am very grateful to everyone so I’m going to bottle it on trying to clean out the cobwebs and remember everyone.
Here is a short video, shot by Dan, of me reading a poem at my launch. Do enjoy.