Monday, June 14, 2021

MY (SMALL PRESS) WRITING DAY – Thomas McColl

 

I wouldn’t say I have a set writing area as such, and never really have done: I’ve always been someone who’s had to ‘hot-desk’ through the day, with the ‘desk’, at times, being nothing more than my lap on a crowded train (and, it has to be said, it’s amazing what you can get done on a 30-minute journey into work, for it’s often just enough time to solve, for instance, some knotty problem in a troublesome verse or paragraph that, once sorted, enables me to move forward with the rest of the poem or piece of prose I’m writing – so I’ll always write, or try to write, no matter how short the time is or uncomfortable my surroundings are).

Having said all that, if I manage to get up early enough – say, by 7am (and assuming I’ve had at least 7 hours sleep, for I struggle to operate on anything less) – then, because I often don’t start work (as in, my actual job, as a Procedural Publisher in the House of Commons) till the afternoon (on account of me working shifts), I’ll write at the kitchen table, making the most of the morning hours I have alone. I have a partner, who I’m a carer for, and she’ll usually remain in bed till around about noon, on account of her needing a lot of sleep (as a result of the long-term effects of brain injury following a stroke), but once she’s up, we’ll have breakfast together and the rest of the day will begin in earnest, and so it’s nice if, before then, I’ve been able to get some writing done (and therefore get my daily fix at the outset, so as not to have my addiction gnawing at me quite so much while occupied with doing other things).

In any event, the kitchen table has, over the years, become my favourite place to write (and even though there’s now, since the start of last year, a desk in the bedroom which I use in the day, especially when working from home, it remains the case that, given the choice, I prefer to sit at the kitchen table, as I always seem to be most productive there). It’s very convenient, of course, that, in the kitchen, the kettle’s nearby and so is the fridge, making it very easy for me to refuel in the midst of writing, and while there’s no doubt that constantly grazing on food, along with drinking endless cups of tea, coffee and orange juice, is bad for my waistline (with the calorie count always rising much faster than the word count), so long as some kind of writing gets done, that’s all that really matters: everything else can go to pot.

Anyway, all of the above is why the photo I’ve supplied is of my kitchen table, and the photo comes complete with our pet cat, asleep, and my current book, Grenade Genie, which, granted, is strategically placed and a cheeky bit of product placement, but the fact remains that the book is often there beside my laptop as I regularly have to refer to its contents while doing any writing admin in support of it (as in, writing emails, social media posts and articles which, on any given day, will always come before writing new material, for any opportunity regarding publicity and promotion really does have to be seized before it disappears).

In fact, it’s rare that I’m actually able to get new writing done (and when I say new writing, I mean completely new material): in the main, it tends to be lots of editing, over and over again, of existing material, as well as the aforementioned writing admin in support of published work (plus, on top of that, I’m regularly engaged in sending out, as email submissions, existing work that I always hope, from all the editing I’ve done, is polished enough at last to get published). At any rate, today, I’ve been finishing writing and editing this essay, and the fact that you’re reading this must mean that today is a long way gone and this piece has now been published. So, that’s where I’ll end (I hope you’ve found it useful), and now to get on to hopefully, at long last, sorting out that troublesome synopsis to that equally troublesome novel that keeps on getting the better of me.

 

 

 

 

Thomas McColl lives in London and his poems and short stories have been published in magazines such as Envoi, Iota, Atrium, Prole, London Grip and Ink, Sweat and Tears, and in anthologies by Hearing Eye, Shoestring Press and Smoke: A London Peculiar. He’s had two collections of poems published – Being With Me Will Help You Learn (Listen Softly London Press, 2016) and Grenade Genie (Fly on the Wall Press, 2020) – and works as a Procedural Publisher at the House of Commons, having previously worked in bookselling.

Monday, April 19, 2021

Al Kratz : my (small press) writing day

 

I do most of my active writing here at this desk in my “office” where I also am working the day job in this pandemic remote lifestyle. My routine really depends on what kind of work I have in progress. If I’m generating new material a lot of that happens either in the spiral notebook or the Notes app on the phone. I love it when I’m working on a new story and ideas come fast throughout the day. I always have a Sharpie S-Gel in my pocket and some type of notepad close by. A lot of that generative period happens before and after sleep so a much of that gets done in the Notes app. My weekday writing is usually in the first hour or two after work, so early evening before dinner. My weekend writing is usually in the mornings.

That stack of note cards next to my laptop is one of my prized possessions. Those are gathered quotes from craft books and sometimes pull quotes from fiction that I want to save. They help me remember that learning is gradual and ongoing, and they help me get unstuck occasionally. I can randomly pick out a card and find some type of motivation again.

An ideal session for me would be to have some music going and I’ll start with reading for a half hour or so. I love reading while I’m in the middle of writing. I love listening to music both when reading and writing. I’ll listen to various Pandora stations mostly a mixture of classic rock, 90’s alternative rock, and some harder rock mixed in there. After reading, I might spend an hour working on the laptop. It’s crazy how fast time can go by even with editing and revising. I love being able to open up the windows. We’ve got a ton of birds and squirrels around the house. Late Spring and early Summer is perfect for also taking a book and a notepad outside.

I do a lot of procrastinating. I love having no deadlines, nobody really to answer for these things other than myself. When I’m really in the zone it reminds me of that idle time in the dorms back in college when all of life was in front of us, but there wasn’t really a hurry. That time could be divided up reading a Rolling Stone article, reading a class text, or just sketching something out with pastels for the hell of it. I like what that idle moment is like on the brain. It seems close to meditation, maybe?  Still I love getting a lot of work done too. But the only way to do that really is word by word, sentence by sentence, worrying about the total later, and eventually looking back and being proud of the work done. I feel super lucky to have the space and time to do this and I’m going to try to enjoy that time before it’s gone.

 

 

Al Kratz lives in Indianola, Iowa with his wife Kristy and their cat Tom Petty. He is the Managing Editor for New Flash Fiction Review. He’s the author of Off the Resting Sea from above/ground press 2021, and The Tony Bone Stories which was runner up in the 2021 Bath Novella-in-Flash Award and will be published later this year by Ad Hoc Fiction. 

Thursday, April 15, 2021

Laura Stamps : And So It Goes (My Writing Day)

 

My writing day begins every morning at breakfast.  I have a hectic fulltime job, so the only time I can work on poems is while I’m eating breakfast, lunch, and a snack before bedtime.  Yes, multitasking is my friend!

All first drafts of my poems are written by hand in little 3 x 5 spiral-bound memo pads I buy at the grocery store.  And I keep everything I’m working on in my poetry notebook.  It’s a zippered, 5.5 x 8.5, Rite in Rain Weatherproof Cordura Fabric Notebook Cover I bought years ago on Amazon for around $26.00. 

It’s perfect for my writing needs.  When you unzip it, there are two big side pockets on each side, as well as slots for 4 pens on the left side, and a smaller pocket for a 3 x 5 memo pad on the right side.  In one of the big side pockets I keep the poem I’m currently working on.  The other big side pocket contains scraps of paper with notes for new poems and poems that need to be revised.

I write the first draft of a poem by hand while I eat.  Later, in my office, I type it up on computer, print it out, and put it back in my poetry notebook to be edited by hand at the next meal.  Then I spend a few days editing by hand at meals and typing up the edits in my office.  As soon as one poem is finished, I begin work on the next poem in my notebook. 

And so it goes…

It’s amazing how much you can accomplish in three 20-minute writing sessions every day.  I’ve published over 60 books and chapbooks with various publishers in the last 33 years using this process.  And after decades of writing so many books and chapbooks, my brain is automatically programmed to think “book.”  Every poem I write is written according to the theme of the book manuscript I’m currently working on.

Once the theme for a new book is established, I think about all the topics I want to discuss in the book and write one or two poems on each topic.  Sometimes the entire first draft of a poem pours out all at once.  That’s definitely a blessing!  But it’s the exception.  Usually, I tuck a topic away in my head and let it simmer for a day or two, while I finish the final edits on the poem I’m currently working on. 

After a day or two in my mind, bits and pieces of the new poem are ready to be birthed and begin to pop out.  This can happen anywhere: the post office, the shower, the car, at the sink while washing dishes, you name it.  That’s why there are scraps of paper in my poetry notebook.  When a poem decides to be birthed, I grab whatever is handy to jot down all of these bits and pieces before they vanish.  As soon as I have enough material to create an outline for the new poem (beginning line, middle, and end line), I arrange these scraps of paper around my plate at my next meal and compose the first draft in a memo pad to be typed up afterwards.

When I’ve covered every topic in a new book and feel I have all the poems I need for that particular book or chapbook, I edit the manuscript a few more times before submitting it to book publishers.  Or I enter it in a contest. 

I rarely take a break after I finish a book.  I just begin working on a new book at my next meal.  By then I’ve already decided on the theme for the book and topics for the poems.  Plus, I have all the notes I need to write the first draft of the first poem. 

And so it goes…

This is my typical writing day and writing process.  Strange as it may seem, it has worked well for me for decades, and it still does. 

No matter how busy your life might be, you probably have time to work on your poetry every day if you’re willing to multitask.  Just find one of your daily activities that will allow you to do that.  If it seems impossible, consider this.  You still have to eat, right?  Just work on your poetry during a meal, maybe on your lunch hour every day. 

You’ll be amazed how much you can accomplish! 

 

 

Laura Stamps is a poet and the author of over 60 poetry books, chapbooks, and novels in verse. Her poetry book THE YEAR OF THE CAT was nominated for the Pulitzer Prize in 2005.   She is also the recipient of 7 Pushcart Prize nominations.  Her poetry has appeared in over 1000 literary journals and magazines worldwide.  Currently, Laura is working on a new poetry chapbook about PTSD, depression, anxiety, and chronic trauma. You'll find her every day on Twitter at @LauraStamps16.  Blog: www.laurastampspoetry.blogspot.com