It’s lunchtime on a Wednesday, and as I write this I’m sat in the tiny bit of shade at the edge of the gloriously sunny courtyard of Somerset House. The fountains are splashing away and drowning out any conversations I might have been distracted by. It’s lovely. It feels like being on holiday.*
*When I post this, I will actually be doing it from home, mind. After work.
It looks as though blogging might, for the foreseeable, just be on any random night of the week, though I’ll try to keep it weekly for my few regulars. Monday night is tending towards the busy at the moment, between pub quizzes and freelance work. The weekends run away from me because there’s stuff to do, even if that stuff is basically sitting around. Last week I sort of blasted through what had been going on. I’m not planning to write the whole entry over lunch, so I’ll be a bit more leisurely about this one.
Working in Central London has tremendous bonuses. Yesterday lunchtime I spent an hour roaming around the Museum of Water in the depths of Somerset House, under the fountains.
Artist Amy Sharrocks started asking people if they were to save one drop of water in the world, what would it be? The answers are revealing, and people donate containers filled with their water of choice, if they can, and are interviewed about their choice and why they chose that water. The entire collection is under one roof for a limited amount of time at Somerset House, on shelves down the length of the room. The water chosen ranges from 119,000 year old arctic ice, to a man who collected his children’s spit, to Holy Water from Lourdes to, inevitably, pee.
You can write what water you would have brought and why, sift through and read reams of other people’s answers. The alcoves hide umbrellas, displays of bottle, basins that, when you pour water into them, activate a recording of the interviews done with the people who donate.
It is oddly captivating, and all set under the fountains of the courtyard, with melodic dripping and appropriate leaks, in the amazingly church-like atmosphere of the Dead Rooms.
There’s an activity day in the Museum on Saturday, and if I don’t go back then, I will be returning to look again, before it leaves the House on the 29th, and returns to its usual small, selective, nomadic state. An hour just isn’t long enough.
In the evening, I finally went to check out the Saison Poetry Library at the Royal Festival Hall. Can’t believe I’d never been there before! I whiled away a happy hour reading poetry mags that I’ve been wanting to read and submit to but haven’t had the money to buy yet. Technically I was doing research, but actually I just got sucked into reading. It was a very helpful and illuminating though, and I did take notes, and I did realise that I have absolutely targeted the wrong magazine with one submission, but hey ho. Live and learn – I’ll just sit back and wait for the rejection letter! And I got to nose around the stacks. I loved that. It made me feel like a student again. Worth going to if you’re a poetry-loving type who’s in the area, it’s quiet and chilled and welcoming. Or, if you can’t make it in person, their website is a great resource.
I flung in at the end of the last entry that I had my first story acceptance. The magazine willing to print my story is Bare Fiction which is double-y thrilling because they are a newish, but already well-regarded and award-nominated, mag that I’ve been reading since their launch and really love. And, no, I didn’t put any of that in my cover letter.
Anyway, I told all my nearest and dearest and a fair few beyond that, and then a couple of days later received the proofs of my pages to check over. Brilliant! Except not brilliant because seeing words I’d strung together on a page that isn’t my plain word doc, but has headers and page numbers and decoration… well, suddenly it hit home that people who didn’t know and love me would be reading this. People beyond the closed and safe circle of working magazine readers and editors. That’s never happened before. I had to quite seriously fight the urge to rewrite the entire damn thing. Despite knowing that the folks at Bare Fiction print good stories that I love to read, I actually started doubting their judgment on this one!
I’m over that now. The proofs are back in and now I’m waiting, quite excitedly, for Issue 3 to land. And when it does I will be taking myself over to Foyle’s in Charing Cross to buy a copy, because I’m not missing out on the experience of buying something in a bookshop that has something I wrote in it. I may even take myself for a little celebratory drink afterwards.
I think a lot of my insecurity comes from the fact that being accepted happened for a story happened sooner than I thought it would. For a start, I think I’m a stronger poet than I am fiction writer, and either way all the blogs and tips and literature I read about submitting has some variation along the lines of ‘expect to be rejected 100 times before you publish anything’, and that was the expectation I went in with.
As it is, my short story rejections haven’t broken the 10s yet. It’s a heady thing, but I know I’ve been extremely lucky and have a lot of work to do to be consistently good at short stories. So now I’m adjusting my expectations to ‘it might be 100 more rejections before I ever get accepted again’ – in line with David Almond’s experience that his first short story was snapped up, but it took ages to get another one published. That and reminding myself that I’d be doing the writing anyway, regardless of publication, as I have done for years before I started seriously submitting.