Monday, 19 March 2018

Submitting a Poetry Manuscript

This follows on to my previous post on Bringing Together a Poetry Collection.

It's been 10 years since my first collection was published and my mind is a bit rusty about how it all happened. I don't remember how long it took or how many publishers I submitted to. I have notes of submitting chapbooks and samples for what is now my Scottish book in 2003, but I don't have any reference of submitting my first collection until 2005. I do remember I ended up having two publishers interested. One finally admitted he couldn't commit to it and gave it up while the other eventually published it in 2008.

Now that I'm prepping a new collection to submit, I thought it would be a good time to go over some suggestions for submitting a larger work to publishers. This is for poetry, the rules and guidelines for novels are very different in some ways. And I am aware that things might have changed in publishing in the last 10 years, so always check the publishers' guidelines and follow them closely. 

First of all, have some sort of publication record. As I've mentioned before poetry publishers want to see that these poems have appeared in magazines and journals, that other editors have liked them, that you are a writer of some merit. I've had poems from my collection published in 24 different venues. Hopefully that's a good indication of my publishablity. 

Make sure you have a completed collection. See my previous post for hints about how to do this.  Written, edited, formated, proof-read, the whole shebang. I've been waiting months to finish a final poem for my collection. As much as I'd like to start submitting my book, I know that it's bad form to send an unfinished collection to editors and then try and shoe-horn the last poem in or make large changes to it after they've accepted or even worse, while they're considering it. 

When I worked in publishing you'd be amazed at the amount of times poets would end a reworked collection in for us to replace the one we were currently considering. I know the waiting times can be long and it's tempting to look over the collection again, but it will really annoy an editor if you try and make changes while they are still reading your work. 

Make sure it's a good as possible before you even consider sending it to a publisher. If you can get a trusted writer or editor to proof-read before submitting, even better. You want it as ready as possible, no typos. Some editors like to edit the collection themselves, but others won't do more than proof-read, so make sure it's exactly how you want it. No one will appreciate delays while you change the order, add new poems or do major editing. Set up a table of contents. Make sure the poems are nicely set out, one per page in a good-sized, readable font. Usually single-spaced, 12pt in Arial or Times New Roman.

Do your research. Check out the publishers' websites, buy or borrow copies of the books they've published. Do they publish full collections or just chapbooks? Do they accept unsoliticted material? Do they publish your genre? Do you like the poets they publish and the look of their books? How much help will you get with marketing and sales? And in my case, do they publish work from non-resident writers? The more time you spend weeding out publishers you don't match with, the better chance you have of finding the ones you do. It will save you unnecessary rejections and possibly money in the future.  

Write out a synopsis and/or an artist statement to give the editor an idea of what your collection is about and your own writing history. What makes your collection special and saleable? Specify any themes or over-arching imagry you want them to be aware of. Sell yourself and your writing. Mention any publications, awards, mentoring or training you've had. Treat this as a professional job application. For a poetry collection I would keep it brief. With novel synopses you need to explain the plot, but with poetry collection you should be able to sum up the theme of the collection in a paragraph. Your biographical note or artist statement should be about the same length. Think about the blurbs on the back of books, you want to grab the reader with the first line and get them intruiged enough to want to open the book. A synopsis should do the same thing.

I would include these in your query letter for poetry collections. Keep it to one page to introduce your book and yourself. 

Pick out a selection of sample poems from the collection. A lot of publishers just want a query letter with 6-12 poems to give them a taste of what the collection is about without having to wade through 60+ poems. Sometimes all you have is a cover letter and 6 poems to convince an editor your collection is worth getting a serious look. So pick your best and most representative poems. If there are themes or series within your collection that are important, make sure they are represented if possible. Each publisher has their own requirements for how many poems and what they want synopsis-wise. Follow the guidelines. Address the editor specifically.

Check and see if they want hard copies or will take email queries. Check if they'll accept simultaneous submissions. Most poetry publishers will as they know their reading times can be long and the chance of acceptance low, so are happy if you want to sent to multiple publishers. Inform them immediately if you're work is accepted elsewhere.

Double check and proof-read everything. Make sure you have copies of everything before you submit. If you're posting snail mail, make up a SAE (self-addressed, stamped envelope) so they can post you a response or specify if you want to hear back via email and they can recycle your copies. Keep track of where you sent things and when. 

Don't be in a rush. I sent my submission to my eventual publisher in 2005 and it was over a year before they accepted and then another two before we were ready to publish. Keep writing in the meantime. Keep submitting the poems to magazines.

Don't get frustrated. It was a slow process to write the collection, to edit it and prepare it, it will probably be a slow process to find a publisher. Take any feedback you receive with good grace and consider it well. Rejection doesn't mean the collection is bad, it just wasn't right for that publisher. Have a strop, a cry, a drink - whatever you need and move on to the next opportunity.

Good luck if you've gotten this far in your poetry career. I will try to keep the blog updated of any news I have on my own collection. 

Tuesday, 13 March 2018

Hard Graft

The past few weeks I've had blog posts lined up for Monday morning, but the past two weeks have taken their toll with illness for the kids and myself, so this week I've had to start from scratch.  

I'm still feeling drained, but I'm still pushing through with the work: writing, editing and submitting. That last poem for my Scottish collection is still lingering, though I'm just doing small edits. Once I have a week of looking at it every day and making no changes I'll consider it done. 

I'm steadily rewriting my second novel. I submit about 1500 words a week to my writing group and then rewrite it according to their feedback. It's a slow process, but because of the haphazard way I wrote the first draft it's the best way. I'm having to stitch the various threads of the story together, expand a lot and figure out the motivation for some of the characters. It's coming together slowly. 

I've submitted my first novel to two competitions, a publisher and an agency so far this year. It's my goal to get it published in 2018. I'm getting a bit frustrated at the amount of entry fees I've paid for this novel over the past years so am trying to find publishers with calls for submissions or competitions with no entry fees. When you're not currently earning much it seems a waste to keep paying £15-£25 an entry. I've also been submitting a chapbook of poems from my Finnish collection to free competitions and calls. 

I fall between many categories in competitions. I'm a woman, but am not in any other minority grouping, I'm not even considered an immigrant by most standards. I'm over 45 so often am excluded from a lot of competitions aimed at younger writers. I am not resident of an English-speaking country so that often goes against me as well. Finding a free competition for a novel or poetry collection/chapbook that is open for non-residents, over 40s and not a member of any minority bar women is really difficult. Especially if I add the wish of being published in the UK rather than the US. I just feel my writing is a better fit for the UK and I have more of an audience there, though I have tried a few poetry chapbook competitions in the US recently. So my choices are limited which is why I still pay for the occasional competition. 

Trying to get published is an uphill battle, hours spent writing, rewriting, editing and submitting, but as it's only part of the goal of writing it's worth all the hard work. My ultimate goal is to write something I'm proud of, that I want to share with others and that they will hopefully enjoy. Fingers crossed this will happen soon. 

Monday, 5 March 2018

My Work Featured in Online Magazines

As I've mentioned before I've only in the past few years really began submitting work regularly to online magazines. It still feels slightly odd to me. 

There are many benefits for the publishers to create virtual magazines rather than print and, of course, the biggest issue is money. Finding the income to pay for printing hundreds of copies on top any costs for posting, stationary, computer equipment, staff or premises costs is a constant battle. My editor worked herself to the bone trying to secure funding from arts organisations, advertisers, subscribers on top of editing, producing and promoting the magazine. Print on demand or online only magazines mean less initial outlay and no more large postage costs

Less time spent chasing funding means there's more time to create and edit the magazine. That includes playing with format. With printing costs what they are, you have to cut back in lots of different ways with real paper magazines. Size and number of pages, numbers of illustrations, using colour inside or on the cover. Online you can go wild with colours, illustrations, hyper-text. Your imagination is, or more truthfully, your computer skills are your limit. Some online blog zines also can even add new pieces everyday, so they have a need for a larger amount of submissions which can be good for the writer.  

You can reach a much wider audience. No more lugging boxes of magazines to bookstores to try and get them to take up copies. Or picking up the unsold ones. Someone with decent internet connection and a PayPal account in Outer Mongolia can download your magazine with a click.

I've recently had some poems published in some online magazines, so I thought I'd share links so you can check out my work, the magazines themselves and also consider sending your own work. Four very different magazines from Canada, Croatia, Ireland and the US.

I enjoyed working with The Light Ekphrastic because I had a chance to work with a visual artist and respond to her work and see her response to mine. See my post about working with other artists.

A New Ulster has a more traditional style but online. Hard copies can be ordered as print on demand.

Canada Quarterly is a new magazine, but is working up to an exciting find. They are currently just posting the work they accepted but will eventually bring it together as an anthology/ magazine issue.

Zvonainari is a multi-lingual magazine based in Croatia. They publish poetry, fiction and essays daily in a host of different languages and have a local outreach programme that includes a library, residencies and events.

Thanks to all the magazines, editors and hard working staff for accepting my work and publishing exciting work from other poets and artist as well. Best of luck to your future endeavours.

Get out there and explore the world of online literary magazines. 

Monday, 26 February 2018

Making Writing Fit into Your Life

Last week was our half-term spring holiday and all the kids were home for most of the week. Luckily I had my blog post written because I know that even if they give me a bit of peace I don't write well with others in the house. 

My kids are not quiet by a long shot and even if they're playing nicely they are shouting, singing, stomping. They demand a million cups of milk (just one child), need someone to break up disputes, to help them fix or find toys, to put on plasters and remind them to eat or clean up one mess before starting on the next. They need regular exercise and getting out of the house. Damn, they need a lot of supervision.  

I love my kids and the chaos in some ways, but I like to write in silence. I was berated recently in an online group because I said I didn't listen to music when I wrote. Really, do people need such strong opinions on everything? I don't listen to much music in general besides in the car, but even background music distracts me too much to focus on my writing, especially poetry.

Over years of writing I have developed various routines that have changed with my circumstances. I used to write on trains and buses when I was commuting a great distance for work. When I lived in Greece I woke up early and sat at the window looking out over the sea before going to teach all afternoon and some evenings. I love to write in cafes and museums when I'm at home and when I'm travelling.

I've always written in notebooks and for the last 20 years or so with the same type of pen, but have recently widened this to include a laptop for fiction. Transferring pages and pages of scribbles can be quite time-consuming and that has become the biggest problem of my life since having kids: finding time for my writing. 

I was once many moons ago granted a bursary to finish my first novel. So for a short period, I became a full-time writer, or my version of it. I went to my allotment first thing after I woke (not early though, let's be realistic) and after working there for a bit I wrote in the greenhouse or if the weather was nice in the fresh air. Then I would go home, have lunch, write some more and then type out all my pages. I would also edit earlier chapters. Then it was time to be a grown-up and sort dinner, etc. I loved it, the rhythms of my days, the amount of work I could churn out, the sense of purpose. 

Now, I average about 3 hours a day if I'm lucky and that time has to include things like cleaning the house and prepping food for meals. I write my blog, write and edit poetry, my poetry collection and novel. I also submit work to magazines. I don't have time to linger among the brassicas before writing a chapter and then spend 2 hours typing it out again when I return home. I write poems between making soup and doing laundry. I submit poetry before I pick up my son for physio. I write in the physio's waiting room. I have a regular half hour of writing practice in a gluten-free bakery's cafe while waiting for my kids to finish their music lessons. I've written a lot of rough drafts in that cafe in the 4 years my son has been learning the guitar. 

It's not my ideal, but I have to make it work. I will never get back to those heady days of being a full-time writer. I'm lucky I don't have a full-time job on top of the kids at the moment, so I can carve out those three hours here and there. 

I carry my notebook with me everywhere and sometimes even write notes on my phone. I try to be strict about my writing time, don't browse on my phone until I've done the specified time. I keep a pen and paper next to my bed as I sometimes get ideas for lines or structure while I'm drifting off.

I know what works for me. I write at the kitchen table because I'm usually having to jump up to sort something on the stove. I also like the light in that room. I write first drafts of poems in my notebook over and over again until I have a strong basic structure. Then I type it up on the computer. I don't listen to music unless I need to get the feeling or the lines of a particular song for my novel. Then I listen once before heading back to silence. I work in spurts, taking short breaks to do something else, usually cleaning or maybe check FB for five minutes. I switch a lot between what I'm working on, so can do poetry, fiction and submissions all in the same morning.

It's taken me a long time to work out my writing habits and I've had to adapt and start over several times. You have to find what works for you. Try different locations, even around your own house. You don't need a desk, but sometimes it works best. 

Try different mediums, paper, laptop, large whiteboard for plotting. Try silence, with music or telly on in the background. Try long and short blocks of time. Write while communting or in places you wouldn't think of like waiting rooms, in soft play or in bed. 

Try different times of day. You might think you are a night owl, but by the time it rolls around you are too mentally exhausted to write anything of quality. So try early-ish in the morning, before your family awakes, before work. Or try after dinner when everyone's occupied by their own things. 

Make time for it and be flexible.

Monday, 19 February 2018

Creative Writing Degrees - Are They Worth It?

When I was a lass in the United States, looking for a University to call my own, there was no such things as creative writing degrees or MFAs and such. 

Well, there were, but I didn't know about them, didn't know I would be interested in that sort of thing in the future. They were definitely there: the University of Iowa's Writers' Workshop has been around since 1936 and it's just down the road from where I grew up and the University of Montana near where I went to University is even older. I had never heard of them or any creative writing degrees.

I wanted to be a writer, but had been thinking along more practical lines. I signed up to a Wildlife Biology major with an English minor. I wanted to write for National Geographic, be the next Farley Mowat. OK maybe not exactly practical. After a year and a half of this I realised for various reasons that Wildlife Biology was not the field for me and switched to an English major. The University I attended didn't have a creative writing degree programme, but you could focus your degree electives on creative writing (or pre-law or education). So I doubled my focus on literature and creative writing. I attended every workshop and lecture I could fit in, every reading held in the town. I joined a writing group through the University. I loved it, but by the time I heard about creative writing degrees I was looking more to leaving the country rather than continuing my education. I signed up to a literature M.Phil in Scotland and the rest is history.

To be honest, looking back on my writing then I think I would have struggled to get a place on a MFA. My writing wasn't really that good and the programmes available out there were few and elite. Or so they seemed. 

So I slogged away on my own, writing away every free moment I had. I had no real goal in mind, I just needed to write. I craved it, used it to remember and celebrate the good times as well as sift through difficult situations. 

I was lucky enough to work in publishing early on where I got a first-hand look at rejection and publication from the other side. This gave me the confidence to start trying to get my poems published.

Around the late 90s, I realised how popular creative writing courses were and how they could benefit writers. I couldn't really afford a course, I needed to work, editing, waitressing, freelancing with teaching and other things. I didn't have a lot of free time. I slowly started getting my work published, took the occasional evening course, joined lots of writers' groups and workshops over the years and eventually began to teach them. 

All the time, I was glancing at the creative writing degrees popping up in Scotland, first St Andrews, I think, and then Glasgow and Edinburgh. I saw the success of writers connected with these programmes and wondered if it would be worth my while to join one. 

Doing a creative writing degree, at any level including PhD, has its major benefits. First of all, you suddenly have a tribe. No more the lonely writer in the garret. Well, yes, writing is still a solitary activity, but you have workshops to share your work, events to attend, like-minded people to talk to and most importantly teachers and mentors to guide your writing. You can get a bit of this from writers' groups and working hard to be in the literary scene, but walking into an already established programme saves a lot of hard work. 

The tribe follows you once you've completed the course. There are literary magazines that focus on publishing students and alumni of certain writing programmes and 'who you know' is as important in the publishing world as it is in any other field. Friends and colleagues promote and recommend each other, of course they do. 

You also get time to focus on your writing, to really break it down to learn the underpinnings of poetry and fiction and to discover and develop your own themes and interests. You write analytical essays on your own work as well as literary examinations of other writers. This time and focus can be so beneficial to improvement, but I'm sure it can also lead to burn-out. I know after spending 3 years dissecting writers I loved to learn their techniques in my literature degrees, I sometimes grew out of love with them. It must be more difficult if it's yourself and your own work. 

In a degree course, you get used to criticism and rejection as well. Not every piece will be perfect and you'll learn to recognise this and hopefully how to avoid or repair the problems probably faster than a self-taught writer. Good teachers will give a balance of support, encouragement and criticism. 

There are negatives, of course. Degrees can be expensive and in no way guarantee success. It's not just writing your own poems or stories, you have to read tons of other people's work, do proper essays and thesis just like regular university degrees. That's one thing that's put me off. I don't want to go back to university after having done two degrees already. I want to focus just on my own writing. And just because you walk away with a MFA or whatever in creative writing it doesn't mean your writing is good or sellable. 

And just because the tutors and lecturers and visiting writers are hopefully established and experienced it doesn't mean they will give you the best feedback for your writing. They are human and have their own interests and styles which may not mesh well with yours or with teaching in general. I've attended workshops from 'names' that were a waste of time because the visiting writer was drunk or had something else going on which were not helpful to giving feedback to novice writers. I've been shouted at, had poems torn apart in public with no consideration for my inexperience. I've also had poems praised to a false level which also didn't help me in the future as I thought I was good when I really needed more critical guidance. 

The explosion of creative writing degrees over the past 30 years also means your tribe becomes your competition. Universities continually churn out new 'writers', but publishing houses are publishing less, rarely taking on new names. With the internet, e-books and on-demand publishing anyone can publish their own books, so chances are you will be lost in the crowd if you self-promote. Jobs for writers like writer-in-residence or creative writing teaching posts are rare and highly competitive and with the economic down-turn community groups and arts funding agencies are cutting back on supporting them. 

I know a few writers who have done very well after finishing writing degrees, but I also know that they were good before they started the course. I'm sure the course improved their skills and saleability, but was it necessary to help them along. I'm also sure that lots of graduates from these degrees drop off the map. You'll find examples on both sides of the aisle, those who have succeeded after creative writing degrees, those who have done so off their own backs and those who have failed whatever their background. Would I be doing better in my own career if I attended a creative writing programme? No one can really say. 

It really is a personal choice. Creative writing degrees can translate into other careers, the skills of improving your writing, being able to read, analyse, comprehend and critique written text are essential in many careers. So it's not necessarily a waste to attend one, but it's also not always the most beneficial move. It might be the boost your writing needs, but they are a huge commitment and not for the faint-hearted. 

I'd love to hear from those who have a creative writing degree. Did it help or hinder you? Would you recommend it?

Monday, 12 February 2018

Submission Carpet Bombing

I recently read an article about the advice a writer would give to herself after she finished her MFA in writing. It was pretty unconnected to my own circumstances because I have never done a creative writing degree. I did some creative writing courses in college as electives for my English BA. I've considered going back and getting a PhD or Master's in creative writing, but that's for another post. Mainly I've been self-taught and motivated.

Back to the article the phrase that caught me was 'carpet bomb lit mags for years'. The article's author was saying it wasn't a good idea - though I'm not sure if she considered it a bad idea overall or just right after you've graduated with your MFA. Her alternative suggestion was take your time, do lots of writing lots of research to find what magazines you love and then submit to them, rather than just sending your work to anybody and everybody in the hope that you'll get published more often.

It made me re-examine my 100 rejections experiment I've been trying over the past year. The idea of 100 rejections is to submit to as many magazines as possible in order to get as many publications as possible. It is essentially carpet bombing the literary scene with your submissions.

I agree with the author to a point. There is a time to start submitting your work and the early days is not it. Build up a stable of well-written, well-worked, ready to be published poems, essays, stories or at least one totally finished and edited novel. Put in the time learning the techniques, hone your writing and then be brave and face the slush pile of literary magazines, the harsh gaze of the readers and editors.

Am I devaluing my work by sending it to as many journals as I can? As much as I would love to spend time reading tons of the best literary magazines, picking my favourites and then submitting only to them, it would achieve limited results and have a lot of problems en route.

First of all, I live in Finland, I can't pop down to the local bookstore or library and spend time researching literary magazines, there just aren't many available here. I can't show up at lots of English language literary events and get known that way, at least not outside Finland which is where I have to focus my visibility because of my lack of Finnish. I also can't afford to subscribe or even buy sample copies of every magazine I'm interested in or even a select few.

Instead, I do as much online research as I can about the magazine. Sometimes they have a sample from a recent issues, online magazines usually have everything archived, but often print magazines don't offer any suggestions of what they publish besides a few contributors' names. Do check those out though, are there names you recognise and like, aspire to write like? Often I'm left reading the information the editors put on the submission guidelines, the About page, the Masthead, etc for an inkling of what they like. I also go from suggestions from other writers I like and know, where have they been published, what magazines would they recommend.

I have a lot of poems I'd like to see published and most magazines only accept between 1-5 poems from each contributor. When the magazines I'm most interested in reject me, which they most likely will as the demand of prospective writers is always larger than the space they have in the magazine, what am I to do then, sit on my poems? Submission windows can be short and often only once a year and many magazines have rules about how often writers can submit. I remember writers who used to pester the magazine I worked at with constant submissions, not great technique to win over an editor, so best avoided.

I think it's most beneficial to cover a wide range of magazines, from online to print, from the more middle of the road to the prestige. Aim high but be realistic. I could submit to Granta until I'm blue in the face, but chances are I'm never going to get published there, so why shouldn't I try magazines that aren't my favourites or the best, but are good magazines in their own right?

And while it is important to put the majority of your focus into the writing and building up your talent there, you do need to get your name out into the public eye, especially in poetry, in order to get a book or collection published. Novelists can come out of the shadows with their first novel and make a big name for themselves, but this is almost impossible for a poet. Before an editor would really consider a first collection, they want to see some sort of publication record for these poems. Poetry is such a big risk, low gain occupation that publishers want to see that other editors have seen the talent in this author before taking a chance on their work.

I don't write to please a particular magazine or editor. I write what I want to write, how I want to write it and hope that I find a magazine that likes my style and subject. It's hard, I've been sending my poems about being an immigrant to magazines that have calls for such and I'm not being accepted, most likely because I am not the kind of immigrant that is in the news just now, that needs increased awareness. I realise this and accept it, but I'm not going to change what I'm writing about, I'll just continue to look for different venues for my work. Write for yourself, but don't give up with the first rejections. Re-examine the piece and move on. 

I took such a long time out away from trying to get published while I was still writing poems that I ended up with a backlog of unpublished work. Even with the flurry of the past year or two (30 poems published), I still have over 80 unpublished poems. I'm not expecting that they'll all find a magazine to call their first home, but the more I get my poetry out there, the better chance I have of finding a publisher for my collection.

So I'm going to keep carpet bombing magazines with my poems with no guilt. I still put as much time and effort into writing my poems than I did before starting my 100 rejections project, if not more. It has helped motivate me to write more and to strive harder to bring my poems up to 'publication ready' status.

Find what works for you in terms of motivation, time, effort and readiness. Don't spend more time researching and submitting to magazines that you do writing. Don't send out articles or stories that are not ready. If you find you're taking rejection too hard, take a step back and focus on improving your work rather than publication. Writing a piece you can be proud of is always the first goal.

Good luck.

Monday, 5 February 2018

Bringing Together a Poetry Collection

I am one poem away from finishing my Scottish poetry collection. So close, but that last poem is resisting being completed. While I ponder how to bring this final poem to culmination, I've started looking at my collection as a whole in preparation to sending it to a publisher. 

This collection has gone through a myriad of transformations. It's currently titled Version 3, but it has changed form many times. I've recently amended the title but I've also changed its focus over the past years. The earliest back-up I've found from 2005 only bears a slight resemblence to its current version. 

It's always been centered around my Scottish poems, but originally there was also a side theme of looking at art. I have a large amount of poems that connect to an artwork, either my reaction to it or an imagining from it. Most of the art was found in Scottish museums or were by Scottish artists, so I felt there was a connection, but I eventually decided it was too tenuous. 

Then as I had more and more Finnish poems to work with the collection became half-Scotland and then the transition to Finland and a longing for Scotland. The Finnish poems began to take on a life of their own, so now the collection is just about Scotland. I finished a longer series - well, almost, that one stubborn poem is from this series, so had enough for a full collection. It feels more complete to me now, no side themes or splitting of the focus. 

When you finally have enough poems for a collection (and that point is purely up to you) there's the question of how to order it. My mentor from last year suggested looking at breaking the poems into themed groups and using quotes, section titles or something similar to bring them together. I did play with the idea for a while. There are obvious groupings within the collection, but I didn't like the idea of putting them together in chunks or following a pattern in the placement. I also considered adding the poems chronologically as the collection covers my 17 years of living in Scotland from a single student to a mother of 2. This felt a bit better, but the flow wasn't obvious to someone outside my head. 

I decided to meld the two ideas together. The poems flow semi-chronologically but have a thematic sense throughout; a few city poems, followed by nature poems together, then a relationship poem or 2. There are no sections, I want a natural movement from one poem to the next, some image, subject matter or linguistic thread carrying them along. 

I figure all this out by printing the whole thing out and laying them on my living room rug, all 70 plus pages. The kids find it hilarious when I do this and yes, I have done it more than once. There's something about crouching down, walking among the poems that helps me see how they work together. I don't get that same feeling on a computer screen. It has an organic feel like walking through a garden I have spent years cultivating. It's also easier to physically move poems about until I get the right feel, rather than cutting and pasting and risking losing a stanza or a footnote or a whole poem. I'll probably do this one more time once I have the complete set. 

There's still the fine editing to do. As I've said previously I reexamine and edit every poem as I send it out for submissions, but once they are published I don't look at them again until I reach this stage. Many of the poems were published years ago and I'll want to tidy them up, but I also like to edit the collection as a whole. Sometimes I become fixated on a certain word or image, but decide it might be better to find a few replacements or conversely play up the word even more through poem placement. Sometimes my preferences and writing style have changed or I want to bring them closer together for more cohesion. I have looked back on my first collection and realise I would do a lot of things differently now though it felt right 10 years ago. I'll also look at basic things like grammar, layout, fact checking, etc. 

I'm also in the process of writing a synopsis for the collection. With novels, potential agents and publishers usually require a synopsis to sell the book to them. It can be anywhere between 200 words and 2 pages. I've also had a publisher request a chapter by chapter summary - that was hell to write. I also like to have a short synopsis of my poetry collection to bring the different themes into focus quickly for the publisher. It's basically a sales technique, but it's worth having a good one to sell your collection. Most publishers ask for just a few sample poems before requesting the whole collection, so this is my chance to make sure my message gets across.  

Most of the above I can do while this final straggler is simmering in the background. I'm hoping to get this project ready to serve up in the next few months. I'm still writing poems for the Finnish collection so I have a nice balance of work to do between them and the novel. To be honest, I need more hours in the day.