How to Get Your Poetry Published, the Traditional Way

When I had been writing poetry for a few years, had a decent sized bank of poems built up and felt ready to share it with the world, I turned to the internet to find out how one went about being published.

Google was not kind to me.

What my limited research told me was that my dream of being a published poet was just that – a dream. That there was very little point in trying, as only people who were already famous stood a chance of getting published. And even then, it was a small chance. “No one reads poetry,” said one reply.

Well, that was that then. Or so I thought. I accepted my findings and, although I kept writing poems, I gave up on the hope of seeing them in print.

It didn’t occur to me that the research might be wrong. That I, in myself, was proof that it was. I mean, I must have known that at least people read poetry, because I was one of them.

But the people of the internet seemed convincing and I took them to be experts. Before I joined Women Aloud NI, I didn’t know any other writers. I didn’t have their experience to compare with what I’d been (wrongly) told.

You might ask why I was misled in such a way, and I think there are a few reasons for that. Partly, it was because what I was told wasn’t entirely wrong. Like any good lie, there was an element of truth to it. Matched with other’s anecdotal evidence and my own insecurities, it seemed like a closed case.

So, what’s the truth? You can get published – it is possible – but it’s also difficult.

To make it just a little easier, I’m going to outline how it’s (usually) done. Continue reading

Writer Confessions

I never read much as a child. In fact, as a very young kid, I remember having problems physically reading out loud – trying it would make my breathing go all weird. Maybe it was an anxiety thing, similar to a stammer, I don’t know, but I’d have to stop after each word – each and every single word – and gulp down a breath before I could try the next. That was when I was first learning to read and, as you can probably guess, wasn’t a positive experience.

Around that time, I remember being at a meeting between my teacher and my mother. They were discussing problems I was having with learning to write – my handwriting being unreadable, spelling being way off, and a bunch of my letters muddled, backwards, or in the wrong order.

As an adult looking back at that memory, I shake my head and wonder how on earth it didn’t ring alarm bells signalling something was wrong. But, well, either the alarms didn’t go off or no one was listening.

I was almost twenty when I was diagnosed with dyslexia. Huzzah! Suddenly, everything made sense, even if it was a bit late to save my university career.

In the intervening years between my early school experiences and my later ones, I fell in love with books. Or, at least, the idea of books.

I had started collecting books that seemed really interesting and made a list of books I wanted to write but, while I was writing a little (mostly emo poetry and short stuff that should never and will never see the light of day), I was intimidated by anything over three pages and didn’t actually try and read any of the books I acquired.

Actually, I was so clueless about which books were age appropriate and what might suit me that the ones I did have – picked out of a box at a jumble sale based completely on the covers and how cheap they were – really only worked as pretty things to look at and collect. I’d bought huge, dense tomes that most adults would struggle with and had no idea what genres I liked or even what a genre really was.

It’s not the beginning you would expect from someone who now writes professionally and reads roughly fifty books a year, right?

Life has a weird way of sorting things out.

So, I got there. Eventually. I obviously learned to read and developed writing skills and ways to work around my dyslexia. I fell in love with books properly, finally figuring out what I liked and what I didn’t and why.

But, here’s the thing – my big secret: I still get intimidated by books, sometimes. Mostly novels.

Hand me a big, chunky book – even one by an author I know or based on a premise I’m interested in – and I’ll hesitate.

Some of the books I consume are on audio. Some are children’s books, or YA – which, by the way, there is zero shame in. I read them for the ideas and the way they’re expressed, not because there’s anything dumb about reading things pitched at way below your age group. A good book is a good book. Period.

But anyway, I read short books of all sorts and a lot of fanfiction. That’s my comfort zone.

Yes, I read novels too. Of course I do. I write novels, for goodness sake.

That doesn’t change the fact that the hesitation exists as I prepare to take a step outside my comfort zone. I tell myself it’s silly and think back to all the novels I’ve physically read so far, but a small, childish part of myself asks if I still remember how or if I’ll struggle with the words.

Why am I admitting to all this? I guess maybe to get it off my chest, but also to try and open a discussion. We shouldn’t be afraid of admitting to our pasts or current weaknesses.

Also, I really, really want to emphasize one point to parents, teachers, and caregivers of children everywhere: encourage your kids to love books. Their lives will be better for it and they’ll thank you in the long run. Don’t give up on them if they have problems. Please, dear god, do not assume they’re dumb and it’s beyond them.

Anyone else reading this who wants to write but feels like they’re not educated enough or don’t have the skills: take heart, there’s still time. Skills can be learnt at any age.

I offer my experience as proof.

Eras and Spoons: A Life Update

As the saying goes, you only have so many hours in the day; and for each of those hours, each of us only has so much energy. There’s a wonderful metaphor used by people with chronic illnesses that equates the limited energy they have in the day to a lack of spoons. It sounds a bit wacky at first, but it makes a lot of sense when you get into it and really resonates with people for a reason. (Read the full explanation here.)

It’s easier to think of things like energy in terms of something physical you can see and count and comprehend. The article linked above theorizes that healthy people don’t have to think about their spoons or try and conserve them because they have an infinite amount. I’m not so sure on that count, but the rest certainly stands true in my experience.

I imagine a regular person (that is, someone without a chronic condition) to have one-hundred spoons per day – one-hundred being a round number for simplicity. It’s more spoons than most days require, with some left over at the end to waste on frivolity or throw away without needing to worry about them.

Relating this to my personal life: my husband – who I care for and who has a few chronic conditions that prevent him from working – has fifteen spoons on an average day; twenty on rare, extremely good day; ten on a bad day, and five on his very worst days. On the five-spoon days, all he can do is sleep, just about managing to eat the food I put in front of him at periodic intervals.

My own chronic condition is less severe and I usually end up with about forty to fifty spoons – much less than your average guy on the street but considerably more than my husband.

Bearing all that in mind, sometimes I wonder if I’m crazy for wanting a child. I’ve sat worrying, some nights, that people who know of our situation will judge us as being reckless or whatever to try for a family when we both have poor health. Sometimes I feel the need to justify our decision, but I won’t.

I am considering my spoons as I plan for the future, though.

All being well, I’ll (with a little help) get pregnant next year. If that works out, we’ll need to move house to somewhere with an extra bedroom and a hallway in which to park a buggy.

Before that, I’d really like to learn how to drive as I think it would make our lives easier. In the super longterm, I want to finally get my degree so, before all of the other stuff I’ve just listed, I’m planning to go back to college and get another A.level in preparation. That’ll take a year, starting in September.

Considering I’m turning thirty in spring 2019, I have a lot on my plate.

How am I managing my spoons in order to clear that plate? Well, I’ve had to let some things go to make room. (Have I killed this metaphor to death yet?)

After a year in the role, I am no longer Project Support Officer for Women Aloud NI. I’ve also decided to stop teaching social media skills on a freelance basis.

I’d already cut back on client work and stopped operating under a separate business name, bringing everything back under the umbrella of ‘Ellie Rose McKee: Freelance Writer’, but I really feel it’s time now to stop it entirely. It never really worked out the way I wanted and mostly ended up costing me a lot of spoons without earning me very much money.

So it’s the end of a few eras. I’m gonna do the student thing, and hopefully the momma thing. And, in the meantime, I’m gonna continue to care for my husband and write me some more books.

Honestly? It’s all I’ve ever wanted.

As always, this blog will continue to document the highs and lows of how the reality will (or won’t) match up with the dream. Keep ya posted!