by poet, Daljit Nagra
1. When trying to publish individual poems, send 4 – 6 poems with a SAE to a journal. Mention something about your background if it seems relevant; avoid explaining the poems as this may seem patronising.
b) Expect to be rejected. Be very pleased if a poem is accepted.
c) Expect to wait several months for a reply. If an editor writes a comment or makes any personal form of communication with you then it might be worth considering the rejection as an invitation to send more poems.
2. The more esteemed journals include: LRB, TLS, Poetry Review, Poetry London, The North, The Rialto, Stand, Poetry Wales. Other good journals include: Magma, Smiths Knoll, Wasafiri, Soundings.
3. Read the poetry magazines for several reasons, but also to determine which magazines might be sympathetic to your work.
4. Enter poetry competitions. These are a bit of a lottery so be persistent. Look at some competition winners and see if there is any pattern about the sort of poem that wins competitions. Competitions where the first prize is £1000 or more are more likely to have a good reputation. Join the Poetry Library (South Bank, London) mailing list; they will email you a monthly update of the latest competitions and other invaluable poetry news.
5. With regards to book publication, send either a sample of work (10 -15 poems) or a complete manuscript. Send a SAE and a covering letter with your achievements in poetry, your background etc. Or whatever you regard as relevant. You could write to the publisher first to see if they are taking new manuscripts so you do not end up wasting your time.
6. The ‘big’ publishers are interested in publishing poetry which is about non-white-English society. There is no harm in trying Faber and Faber, Jonathan Cape, Bloodaxe, Carcanet etc.
a. As far as I’m aware Picador do not take unsolicited manuscripts but their editor relies on word of mouth and personal judgment based on what is good poetry that has been published in magazines and pamphlets.
b. Faber tend to do a first print run of 2000 or more, Jonathan Cape tend to do 1000 (as Robin Robertson stated in Poetry Society’s Newsletter last year). Most publishers will do a much smaller print run. This should give you an idea of how much exposure a collection might get, so be patient, bide your time and hold out for a bigger publisher.
c. I had to wait about a year before Faber and Faber initially rejected my manuscript. When I re-sent an improved manuscript, I had to wait at least another half year.
7. Try publishing a poetry pamphlet prior to publishing a full collection. The exposure can help you for when it comes to a full collection. Try the Smith/Doorstop Pamphlet competition, and there are many other excellent pamphlet publishers such as Templar, Tall Lighthouse etc.
Writing from the Periphery
My journey and reflections on Black and Minority Ethnic writers and the mainstream
by Usha Kishore: Exiled Writers Ink poetry competition winner and published poet.
by Mslexia magazine
To help you craft a winning story, here’s some guidance from previous judges
1. Choose intriguing subject matter
One of the easiest way to make your story unique is to set it somewhere exotic, or write about a topic (ornithology, millinery, billiards) that has its own wonderful language.
‘I longed to read about something extraordinary’ Tracy Chevalier
‘Consider writing about science, history, philosophy, politics, travel… Subject matter that will set your story apart’ Sara Maitland
2. Make something happen
A short story should chronicle a transformation or change; so steer clear of static scenarios and internal monologues. And make the change concrete if possible.
‘I like a story with movement rather than a snapshot in time’ Val McDermid
‘I prefer a tale driven by events, by conflict between characters’ Kate Mosse
3. Don’t use an extract from your novel
Novel extracts make unsatisfying short stories. The pace of a novel is different, because the characters are on a longer journey. The novel walks, where the story needs to run.
‘A short story must go somewhere, and actually arrive in the span of its short life’
‘Some stories ruled themselves out by dint of their sheer formlessless’ Helen Simpson
4. Purge those clichés
Raise your description to another level by spending some quality time with every adjective and adverb. Could you find better ones? Could you leave any out? Could you replace that simile with a metaphor?
‘I think metaphor is far stronger than simile’ Stella Duffy
‘I prefer writing that is brilliant but flawed to something less ambitious that’s almost perfect’ Patience Agbabi
5. Focus on an unusual character
If you decide to write about something you have experienced, try transposing it into the life of someone wilder, uglier, madder, badder than you are – and see what happens.
‘You don’t need to have great thoughts, just great characters’ Deborah Moggach
‘Step away from yourself and look out into the world. You’re not as interesting as you think!’ Tracy Chevalier
6. Write in first person
A surefire way to hook a reader and get them involved is to slip inside your main character’s skin and look at the world through their eyes.
‘It’s no coincidence that the top prizewinning stories were all written in the first person’
‘Try rewriting your story in first person; it will come alive’ Deborah Moggach