The recent changes regarding bodily rights and abortion within certain states in America have caused outrage and turmoil to unfold across the world, especially on social media. Women have been congregating in solidarity to support women’s rights to bodily autonomy. I think the element of the individual and personhood has been completely overlooked when these laws have been passed and should be reconsidered with the long term effects of each woman as an individual, regardless of her circumstance at that time. I hope you enjoy this poem and share the message that this is not OK. Thank you.
A short while ago I was selected by my university to attend an event in Nottingham with Penguin Random House. This was the annual Write Now event, in which a number of prosperous writers, illustrators and all sorts were invited to attend workshops and sit in discussions with published authors, established illustrators, literary agents, editors… the list goes on. Everyone was extremely welcoming and seemed excited. Some anxious, but nevertheless excited. The event began with a relaxing session filled with tea and coffee in which many of the visitors mingled, shared writing and illustration ideas, aspirations, and expectations of the day. As one of the Penguin Team members for the day, I was able to have a cuppa and chat (not to mention a free lunch) with several talented writers, so with this in mind, I’m going to give you several tips I received and hopefully they’ll be of use to you reading this! (HELLO).
We began the questions with published author Rowan Coleman.
How Did You Get Published?
Rowan confirmed that despite the competition and unavoidable rejection IT IS POSSIBLE! She mentioned that she entered various local short story competitions and enrolled in a creative writing MA. All this slowly adds to your credibility and authority as a talented author and will hopefully encourage your publisher you have in mind to essentially take you and your work seriously. Rowan also stressed that the importance is in the story itself, not the technical abilities, i.e. spelling or punctuation as such- help can be provided. Should you be successful, all that will be checked and sorted for you. There’s no need to worry- just let your creative juices flow!
Next, picture book author Abie Longstaff was questioned:
How did you get started and what inspired your work?
At first she recalled how she loved being read to as a child and how envisioning her younger self reading her own books aided her writing. Like Rowan, she entered competitions locally and slowly built a platform for herself. Abie also suggested you mention attending any relevant workshops or creative talks such as this #writenow scheme to publishers and editors within your cover letters, as this also adds a certain flare to your first (online) impression. Her most stressed tip was:
‘NO WORK IS WASTED.’
Keep everything. In doing this, you’ll be able to re-use work you’d scrapped and create a whole new idea, or even take snippets of discarded work and re-vamp them to add to your current project.
Third up was agent, Nichola Chang.
What do agents actually do?
(For this I’ll answer in bullet points, as there are multiple factors, all of which are important and not as well known).
– Takes book to publishers and gets a deal for you.
– Most publishers need an agent with the book.
– Agents act as your early editors and early readers, but you DO NOT pay an agent to READ your book.
– They check with editors what’s on their wish list (in terms of genre and market placement).
– ‘Create a buzz’ around your book.
– They are your representative.
– Fiction novels generally have their full manuscript ready/ sends in first 3 chapters.
– Non-fiction are generally sold on proposal and need a document stating why it should be published and what exactly it is.
HOW TO FIND LITERARY AGENTS – Flick back to acknowledgments in books you feel are similar to your own creation, go to junior agents (can be found online through social media) or Google (junior agents are generally less client-packed and ‘hungrier’ for new ideas).
Next we met an editor who works with Penguin, Molly Crawford.
What is your impact on the book ideas you receive?
The editor works with design teams after getting the jist of the story in order to make the story a product as well as a creative piece. An editor needs a fabulous pitch from your agent, to ensure it fits on the current market really easily, but with an extra something original. They will then share the new project with an editorial team when they’re particularly excited about a book.
Now, the designer, Anna Billson.
What do you do?
Anna informed everyone that she makes sure your book looks amazing and ensures the book cover fits with your target audience. This is a huge part of selling, a massive amount of people buy a book simply for the cover… So much for ‘don’t judge a book’.
She also finds illustrators (illustrators don’t need an agent necessarily) that she feels would best suit the story and the target audience. She also mentioned it’s however useful for the illustrator to have an agent. She can find illustrators to match the author’s style or authors to match the illustrator’s style- whichever creates a strong picture in her mind. Sometimes you just get the vibes, it seems.
Heading swiftly back to Rowan Coleman, one of the published authors at the event.
On financial and longevity advice:
People might say it’s ‘good exposure’ but do try to get paid if you can. She also added to DIVERSIFY – write different types of novels, perhaps different genres under ghost/pen names. This will maintain a healthy bank balance and hopefully keep you somewhat sane in the process. Who knows, you might need a break from writing about serial killers. Who would have thought?
We returned to picture book author, Abie Longstaff:
Abie made it clear that it’s good to have an online presence but also try to not get sucked in too much to the chaos that is social media.
Is it better to write picture books that rhyme or not?
A: Sometimes translating into other languages is made harder but if you love that style, write in that style. Simple as.
An audience member also added that from her experience as a nurse, children have loved the melodic energy of rhyming books.
What should you do when looking for an agent when you’re working on multiple projects across multiple genres?
A: Choose an agent that can represent your strongest project that you’re most passionate about.
Do you prefer an illustrator to have their own style or be able to branch out?
A: They want you to showcase consistent styles but be able to show different variations too.
How do I find a junior agent?
A: Do your research and network well. Completely trust your agent, it’s both a personal and professional relationship. Twitter is good for sourcing agents; follow all the agents you can and track their current work.
How much should we pay attention to market trends?
A: Don’t ever write a novel for a market trend- by the time it’s ready for the shelves the trend will have died. Only write a book because you love it. Should always be able to give 3 authors that have inspired your work and how they are similar with yours. Stay authentic and write for the reader you want to enjoy your work.
Are there any day jobs that compliment writing a book?
A: Freelance work comes with the same uncertainty; journalism; ring-fence writing time and set aside time from your day to write and be creative.
– You don’t want anyone nice to read your work, a stranger will give you truly honest feedback. I myself have found this to be true. In order to progress with your work you want completely savage, completely honest feedback. Tell me it’s awful. Scribble all over my work… thank you!
– It’s okay to disagree with your editor, editing is a conversation- not a speech.
– At the end of the day, the author is always right- it’s their book.
– Remember your editor also wants your book to be the best it can be- don’t be disheartened if they want to cut a chunk out.
After the event ended, I decided to ask a couple of people who attended three questions to get an idea of how the event went in their eyes.
Was this event useful for you?
A: Yes, I got all the information and more I was hoping for!
Did you enjoy meeting other writers and illustrators?
A: Yes! I was super happy it was so diverse too- I’ve met people today I don’t think I’d have had the opportunity to meet otherwise.
Do you feel more confident to continue with your passion?
A: Confidence has been and still is an issue, but I 100% feel more prepared for what’s to come.
Overall, the day was filled with positivity, prosperity, and encouragement from people who had been in ‘our boat’- their ambitions and talents now being realised. I feel as though encouraging aspiring writers and illustrators to interact and network is the key to finding your feet in the publishing industry. We’re constantly told how difficult it is to delve into, which I am mostly still in agreement with, however I now feel better equipped to take on my writing mission. I hope you feel slightly more at ease reading this if you needed a direction of some sort to head in.
WRITE FOR YOUR LIFE!
I’d like to say a massive thank you to Penguin Random House for allowing me to be a part of this event- I’ve learnt a lot from every person there.
Around two months ago I was a part of a launch event in which I volunteered to read out some poetry I had written in relation to our event and what our magazine represented: giving a voice to the voiceless. Whilst I write a lot on my own, I have grown too comfortable wrapped in the blanket of never having to share my work, yet alone reading it aloud. My poetry is generally about my feelings and other people’s feelings (from what they’ve told me), whereas my novel and short story writing is based more on the gothic and horror. I love how I can articulate my feelings on a sheet of paper; ironically documenting it for no one to see- ever. Not only is it therapeutic, but it also gives me good practice for my degree’s creative elements. If you are struggling with bottling up feelings, whatever they may be, I highly recommend writing them down, even if it’s on a napkin. This way they’re out in the open and you’ve released some potentially toxic material- a bit like a much-needed poo.
Back to public speaking. I really feel as though this is up there with my biggest fears and something I knew I needed to tackle at some point, because when you think about it, it’s only speaking to your mate… only a few more people are listening. I have developed a nervous stutter (it doesn’t exactly classify as a stutter as such, I just stumble on my words a lot) when talking to new people, or even close friends, about something I have created or something I’m anxious about. With this in mind, I knew speaking in front of a large group would be a challenge, but my love for poetry and literature requires this challenge to be done- done until it’s finally done well. I’m aware of the new outlet of Instagram poetry (short snippets of usually no more than five lines of poetry) which theoretically would be so much easier for me to delve into. I feel I must be the first to admit… I hate it. My sincerest apologies to the Rupi Kaur fanatics, it’s just not for me. I hate how short and ‘easy’ they seem, whilst I can appreciate the emotion behind some of them, I find it difficult to fall in love with their form’s simplicity when my idea of the perfect poem is long and extravagant and an experiment with words. My somewhat controversial dislike of this new era of poetry leaves me, therefore, with a greater need to overcome my fear of public speaking. This mode of poetry (spoken word) is, for me, the most powerful.
At this launch event for our student magazine we had created, I had decided this was the perfect opportunity for me to try out my spoken word poetry, performing to friends as well as other university students, lecturers, and academics that might appreciate how difficult it might be for students to do this for the first time. I had read my poetry out to my class beforehand, which had been nerve-wracking (I could feel my hand shaking as I held my book), but I was glad I had a test-run before the real thing. What was my fear for? I felt myself tremble slightly but realistically no one seems to care too much if you mess up. I managed the whole thing without any of the tragic happenings I had pictured: no coughing fits; no real stutter; no nervous farts; no heckling. All is well.
Over the past few weeks I have been writing new content and I feel slightly more confident now to share it. Whilst reminiscing, I decided to ask a few people I know how reading aloud, performing, or doing anything in front of an audience for the first time went, and how (as well as if) it changed them.
I met my friend Alice through joining my university’s burlesque troupe. We practice, perform, and support each other, encourage each other to bask in our confidence and fabulousness. This year she had performed her first solo dance, choreographed completely by herself. When I’d asked Alice how performing on stage changed her or affected her in anyway, she replied with this:
Another of my close friends, Kiran, also joined our burlesque troupe at the same time as me. Whenever either of us felt nervous in the build up to the first show, or during practices when a move wasn’t perfected enough for our liking, we’d stress together, laugh together, and generally support each other. I asked Kiran the same question: when you performed in front of an audience, did it go how you expected it to and did the experience change you in any way? Here’s Kiran’s response:
A personal tutor of mine, Dr Rory Waterman, a published poet and Senior lecturer in English and Creative Writing at Nottingham Trent University, featured in one of the first poetry readings I attended. After going to this nearby poetry reading night, I was exposed to a range of different poetry styles: some highly abstract, some delving deep into personal issues and haunting experiences. This night only heightened my rekindled love for poetry. I decided to ask Rory about his first poetry reading and how reading in front of people may have affected him. To this he replied:
I remember being so aware of my shaking hands and that feeling in your throat where you want to gag but must hold it back. Yet when asking my peers if it was obvious, they said they thought I was comfortable. Whilst I hate the nerves and anxiety that come with venturing outside your comfort zone, it also reminds you that you feel these nerves because this, to you, is important. I had to do it for me. Whilst it wasn’t a major event for most people, to me it was a valid stepping-stone and I honestly can’t wait to test myself more as my love of writing progresses. Top tip: a nervous wee is a must.
Laura Clancy Reading is Laura Clancy’s own.
Poetry is Laura Clancy’s own.
Alice Baines dancing is by Sam Strutt Photography.
Is it better to actively set time aside for ‘self-care’ or should it be a part of your daily lifestyle? What is ‘self-care’? Is it the same for everyone? Recently, rather than addressing my issues, be it exam stress or general shittiness, I’ve found that I’ve often replaced a productive solution with ‘self-care’ which for me is food and baths. This is not ideal when an hour’s soak and a packet of biscuits in you’re left looking like a bloated, soggy raisin. I can acknowledge that when studying it’s causing me stress and gradually derailing my mood, but I’ve somehow psychologically programmed myself to now think ‘that’s okay I’ll treat myself later’. After constant exposure to ‘love yourself’ and ‘treat yo’self’ on social media I’m left with two completely opposing attitudes to life. Work hard and do well (even if it causes a premature mental breakdown) or ‘fuck it all- do you boo’. It saddens me to admit that my radiant ‘treat yo’self’ smiling face has been shadowed by the exam stress and guilt of procrastination, leaving me with a Gollum-esque reflection in my mirror. I need to get back to my Sméagol state. The old me, the Sméagol past of my Gollum mind.
So, to slowly remove yourself from this unfortunate state of exam (and life) panic, I’ve come up with four simple steps to reviving the Sméagol in you (you’re most welcome).
1) Don’t panic about the Ring (exams, life, money, mates). It’s really all fine. Yes, you want to do well. Yes, your peers might seem so much more put together than you. Realistically, you just need balance. The Ring (whatever your personal ‘ring’ might be) is constantly on your mind, eating away at that last ounce of sanity you thought you might probably maybe have left. Find out what calms you and practice that on a regular basis. This does not mean ‘treat yo’self’, let’s clarify that. This means maybe go for a long walk, drink a shit tonne more water than you do now because the alcohol in your system just doesn’t count (sorry). Meditate, exercise with friends, moisturize. Sooth and calm your body: this soothes and calms your mind.
2) Find a passion or hobby that isn’t remotely related to The Ring. Find something that can free all your thinking time for about an hour a day. Something you really love, and feel ‘yeah I’m loving life’ (even if it’s for a little while)- it still counts. For me, burlesque with my university society has really been a fabulous escape from the torment of exams and my messy life. For that hour in class you’re surrounded by other gorgeous people who all gather to practice what they love and have a good giggle doing it. I’ve recently revived my love of poetry too, so I keep a separate notebook just for that. Entirely for me. It’s in my bedside drawer with the rest of my ‘me’ things: moisturisers, face masks, bubble wrap…
3) Surround yourself with people who aren’t going to sabotage your journey with The Ring. Glorious, funny, outgoing people who have a lot to say about positivity. A consistent environment of happiness and content people are only going to do good for you. Always keep in mind that, actually, life isn’t out to get you and neither are your mates. So go and chill out in the kitchen with them for a while. A short break from revision or work isn’t going to hurt anyone. Constant exposure to a stressful stigma is only going to show in your work. Remove yourself from The Ring’s grasp, with all your strength, and don’t punish yourself for your temporary freedom.
4) Eat your veggies. You might argue this isn’t in-keeping with the Sméagol resurrection but a whole lot of vitamin c can only improve your precious Gollum ass skin.
Saturday 17th February 2018. Valentine’s week-end. Is there honestly a better time to watch NTU Tigerlilies Burlesque Troupe perform, along with BCU Burlesque, Burlesque Society UEA, and Lady Burlesque of Nottingham? The correct answer, ladies and gentlemen, is… no. The glamour and sophistication oozed out of the angels on stage leaving the crowd wild with awe. Boasting both solo and group performances at Pryzm Nightclub Nottingham, every performer offered a sensual show of what burlesque is all about. After practicing and performing with the Trent girls I can safely say a lot of time and effort goes into these shows as well as a mind boggling array of emotions: excitement, nerves, self-doubt, self-love, pride, and finally, relief.
It is obvious to me after having performed once that in order to allow yourself to be completely vulnerable on stage, literally stripped of any protection or shield, you must first reach your ‘fuck it’ moment. The stage in your life where you embrace the fear and instead feel complete ease, because you’ve acknowledged that actually, yes, I could look like a complete tit, but I’m OK with that. I remember the realisation as it hit me, and the frustration after it was over. What do I do now?
Burlesque has influenced my emotions in such a dramatic way. The mirror is no longer an enemy, but a friend an acquaintance. Your fellow performers, despite the screaming crowd, are your biggest fans. And such a thought really does put your mind at ease. The usual tricks like imagining the audience in their underpants doesn’t have the same effect, because then we’d all be in underpants, and what would be the point in our show?
Although Burlesque is a very niche hobby and career, it is certainly one worth considering if you are thinking about joining a society at university or maybe just fancy a new hobby that involves being sexy. It is a gateway to embracing others’ ‘fuck it’ moments as well as realising your own worth. Whilst burlesque beams the height of glamour, it also helps mould you as a person through accepting both your shape and your sensuality.
We are lucky enough as a society to be able to support amazing charities whilst doing what we love. Our fabulous Valentease Show supported The Broxtowe Women’s Project Ltd. and we are immensely proud of the money and awareness we have provided for this brilliant charity that supports women suffering from domestic abuse.
This show embraces each person for the sensual being they are and attempts to encourage everybody involved, whether that be on-stage or in the audience to do the same. Thank you to all those who came to support the performers in Pryzm Nightclub Nottingham and I hope you enjoyed the show as much as I did. Keep your eyes peeled for another show soon, and I sincerely hope you, you reading this, reaches one of many ‘fuck it’ points in your life. Life is just a giggle- bite your bullet.