Friday, 3 February 2012


On the back of my nearly success in a poetry competition, I decided to send off the same three poems to a poetry magazine. This is a reasonable thing to do, I thought, how long can it take to print off three poems, add a query letter and sling them in an envelope?

Two hours and forty-three minutes.

First, each of the poems needed tweaking, and if you mess with one word in a poem, you're going to have to move around, assess the impact of and question every other word. I only changed a couple of words but boy! That took up most of the time. I printed them off, only to find one had a huge smudge of ink down it and one had the word 'teazle' with a  capital T. Screw up the wrong ones, print off new pages. Out of paper, filled printer up.
Then I looked at the submissions page of the magazine's website. Every magazine has its own preference: name in header or footer, no name, just title, nothing at all. This one wanted everything - name, address, email etc. in the footer.
Then you find an envelope and address it by hand (easy). Back to the website: they need a stamped addressed envelope. Do I mention the Plough in my query letter? Whoops - back to the letter and print it off. Wrong email address, so print off another one. Sign it. I then debated for some time whether it would all go on a first class stamp? Write out own address on nice light envelope, worrying about weight of stamp.

Fine. That led onto the recommendation on Poems Please website (thank you, Tony) of the RSPB/Rialto competition for a nature poem. Easy. It's only two poems and they don't need tweaking, do they...? Oh, they do. Find the rules on presentation - take off any name or address - fill in form, add entry fee, address envelope, worry about weight, add heavy stamp... Fifty-three minutes. I'm exhausted, and I haven't done any writing today.

I then had a lovely email from a fellow novelist asking about the Good Housekeeping competition and it gave me pause for thought. GH only allows submissions from unagented authors, so I can hold fire on that pesky synopsis/query letter of Borrowed Time for the moment. I can concentrate on the competition submission instead - oh, wait, it's the first chapter of book 2 and the synopsis of the whole book. Crap. 

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