Thursday, May 27, 2010

Small Publishers and the Prize Machinery

Elizabeth Baines, fellow Salt writer and blogger, discusses the latest problem to face the world of small publishing.

This discussion all came about after some Facebook posts by various people in publishing - including my own Salteeny Jen Hamilton-Emery, and Neil Astley, editor of Bloodaxe Books, who published my debut poetry collection - criticised the introduction of fees for publishers to enter publications for the Guardian First Book awards.

Prizes and Book Club recommendations: are these more of a curse than a benefit, at least for the publishers, who end up spending huge sums on providing the books involved and accepting vast discounts on sales at the same time?

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Horizon Review issue 4

For those who haven't noticed yet, the fourth and most splendid issue of Horizon Review is now live on the Salt Publishing website.

As a tempter, here are the opening paras of my Editorial:

Are British poetry institutions failing poetry?
That is the controversial accusation levelled at the poetry establishment by long-time poet, editor and literary commentator, William Oxley, in this latest issue of Horizon Review. Authoritative bodies such as the Arts Council, Poetry Society, Arvon Foundation and Poetry Book Society are examined for their roles in this ‘establishment-centred’ problem as Oxley suggests that the teaching of creative writing now dominates the poetry world, with few outside poetry actually buying and reading the finished product.
In addition, we present the usual array of in-depth essays on art and literature: Colin Fisher discusses the publication of the first English translation of Kafka’s 'The Trial' in June 1937; poets Craig Raine and Jean Earle are brought under examination; an interesting theory of Beckett’s affinities with Buddhism is put forward by John L. Murphy, while Jon Stone expertly introduces us to the global lit-art phenomenon that is Manga.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Holland's Miscellany

A brand-new site, taking my name in vain, has sprung up overnight at

It will feature posts on politics, sci-fi, humanism, secularism, and 'whatever else crops up'. Unlikely to be much there about poetry or writing, though you never know.

I'd be really pleased and grateful if anyone interested in any of the above topics would support Holland's Miscellany by telling other people about it - maybe by linking to it on your own blogs, or on Facebook or Twitter, just to give it some momentum in these early weeks as it emerges into the blogosphere.

First few posts so far discuss the new Doctor Who, the paralysing effects of depression, and the ramifications of a hung parliament:

'This is how the LibDems die, not with a bang but a lapdance.'

Hope you will find time to support this new blog, and perhaps leave some comments?

Saturday, May 08, 2010

Hard Times

Very disappointed and worried today that Labour failed to get a majority. We stayed up nearly all night to watch the results coming in, and it's hard to describe the despair that comes over me when I consider what may lie ahead for us with the Tories potentially back in power.

This isn't a political blog, so I won't go on about my reaction here. But I was writing something tonight on the Poets on fire forum in defence of Labour and the many good things they have done for our country - as well as their appalling mistakes like the war in Iraq - and I found myself recounting an anecdote about my life in the 'blocked' gap between my first novel and poetry collection and the day I started writing again, some five years later.

It was a time in my life I had almost forgotten about, my quality of life having improved so much since those dreadful days, back in the early years of the noughties. But that experience came back to me forcibly as I wrote about it, so I'm going to share it here as well:

In 2002-03, we were living in a tiny two bedroom rented house in North Cornwall, with a living room barely larger than a bathroom. We shared that space with four children (including baby twins) and had another child on the way, while my partner worked from 6am till late at night in a truly grim job and was too exhausted at the end of each day to do much more than sleep, just so we could afford to keep that roof over our heads.
I had no one to help me out, no relatives in England, and when I went to try and get a night shift in a meat-packing factory - one of the few night jobs available - so I could help with the breadwinning side of things, I was turned away because I was 'over-qualified'. All I had was three A levels, and I was over-qualified for the kinds of jobs you can do at night in a rural community.
Around that time, I got really sick with flu. I remember one day feeling too sick and delirious to look after the twins, but knew I had to, since there was no one else to do it. My other kids were at school, my partner was at work, and the babies were crying. I lay down on the floor next to their bouncers and started to feed them - I was pregnant again at the time; a difficult pregnancy, for we had been warned the child could be Downs - and actually passed out. When I came round, I felt completely alone and in despair, not knowing how we were going to survive.

I'm not wringing my hands over that awful time. We climbed out of it. But guess how? Child and working tax credits were introduced that year, and they made the most incredible difference to our lives.
Thanks to tax credits, we were finally able to afford to move away from that rural area in search of better work for my partner. We got a bigger place, I had my last baby, who was not a Downs Syndrome child but perfectly healthy - thank goodness I never agreed to the abortion I was automatically offered after the test results! - and I started to earn money from writing again.
I cried the day we got our first tax credits payment. That was how bad it had been for us, and how relieved I was to have money in the bank again, to be able to breathe. And I shall never forget that a Labour government did that for us.

Thursday, May 06, 2010

New Poem at Stride Magazine

I have a new poem up at Stride online magazine, entitled 'Adventure Sky!'

Those of a delicate or very conservative disposition should sit down before reading it.

The long-awaited fourth issue of Horizon Review is due out very, very soon. Or so I am assured by Chris and his team at Salt.

I also feel it may be time for a facelift at Raw Light. Trumpet chorus. This writing blog has been going since early 2005, and has only had two changes of decor since then. I'm not thinking of anything radical at this stage. Just some light colour and sidebar design changes, perhaps. I shall see what's readily available on Blogger and do some tinkering.

Anything to avoid writing my novel!

And now, here's a very short YouTube film of my youngest daughter, whom I sent out last summer with a camera and instructions to do some filming at Richborough in Kent, one of the earliest Roman ports. Here, she demonstrates a cheerful, journalistic disregard for historical accuracy ...

At the time, she was five years old.