Thursday, 10 February 2011

The dirty business of publishing (and a new daily small stone group)

When I was on a poetry course once, our tutor talked to us one evening about, as he put it, 'the dirty business of publishing'. This seemed like a perfectly apt description to me. 

It's all very well having pure intentions about connecting with the world. 

What happens when we ask you for your submissions for the river of stones book?

If you're used to submitting your work, you might be like me - sending your writing off with only a faint mix of hope, fear and weariness.

If you've never sent any of your writing to be looked at with critical eyes, you might be quaking underneath the sofa. 

Those used to submitting will know this process well. Our egos really come to attention when we think we're going to be judged (which we are). Some people will struggle with a too-large ego (how DARE they not like my writing? Are they stupid or just mad?) and others with a terrible sense of unworthiness (what makes me think I have any right to ask anyone to read my work?).

If we want to get published in traditional places, then that's just the beginning of the dirty business of publishing. Next there are the rejections (there will be many if we want to be published), and how we recover from them. There is the problem of being accepted, which might lead to a sugar-rush of pride which leads us wanting more (more more more). There's the fear of what people will think of our words when they're out in the world (will they think it's any good? Will they understand us?). There's the disappointment of low sales, or the book not looking like we hoped it would look. Etc. Etc. Etc.

It would feel easier sometimes to keep all my writing in a beautiful notebook under my pillow. Writing only for ourselves is a very good thing - it changes us, and when we change we will have different interactions with the world.

What we're doing with the river of stones book is a much softer version of the usual business of publishing. We are making judgements - whether we like this small stone better, or this one. We can't avoid that. But we'd love to include small stones from as many people as we possibly can - whether you're a beginner or an old hand. We've already taken a lovely small stone from over 95% of current submissions, even though you haven't heard from us yet.

And we are very glad that 160 of you have sent us your small stone submissions. Regardless of how they're written (which varies depending on how much writing (and reading) you've done previously, how carefully things are observed, your use of language, and a good hefty dose of Kaspa & I's idiosyncratic personal opinion) I've such enjoyed knowing that you have been writing in January, and sharing in your worlds.

Sharing what we've written can be very rewarding. There's NOTHING like knowing that you've made someone else smile, or nod in recognition, or say 'mmm' at an exquisite description. You've given me & Kaspa that gift. Thank you. Keep sending those submissions in.

In other exciting news, Margo has started a group on our new community forum called 'Daily Gathering', for anyone who is interested in continuing the daily small stone challenge (or less frequently). There's space to post your daily small stones, and also the possibility to discuss form, technique etc. Most of all you'll have the opportunity to encourage and be encouraged by other writers in the same position as you. To sign up for the forum you need to answer a few questions (e.g. what are your favourite authors) and then I'll 'approve' you (this is just to stop spammers joining the forum). Then find the groups on the left hand side. We look forward to seeing you there.


  1. Hi Fiona, I haven't submitted anything for your book. Reading this post,( your tweet brought me back over here,) I wonder why I didn't, and I'm not quite sure but I guess it's because I didn't join the river with that in mind. I probably missed the part where you said that was your intention. My butterfly mind... I hope it goes well though! love Joanna

  2. Thanks, Joanna. It wasn't our intention when we started the river - the idea of producing a book as a way of recording our first monthly challenge came later - but we'd really like to include as many of our original writers as we can. There is of course no obligation to submit - but we want to be as encouraging as we can! I hope that makes sense.

  3. Still deliberately on which on mine you may like.
    I will be in touch.

  4. Glad to hear it Viv. I think one of the best ways of deciding is to send the ones YOU like. Look forward to reading them.

  5. Hey Fiona, In this left side profile of yours, may I ask, does the other side (right side) look just as attractive, let alone, does it look the same? (kidding)

    I Love what your doing. Wish you luck with the publisher.

    Although distance has the advantage
    we still float in the same air
    still reside in the same spirit.

  6. I enjoyed this post. When I sent off my 10 stones before reading Kaspa's post on criteria, ironically, I think I selected a couple of stones (over others) that had more ego in them. The process of publishing tweaks ego, doesn't it? I had to laugh that two that I was torn about that didn't have much writer in them were left behind in favor of two that did. It was one of those "Aha" moments :-)

  7. As a never before published, never written much person, you've described me perfectly in the quaking underneath the sofa type. I've really appreciated your and Kaspa's gentle encouragement to contribute. I doubt I would have otherwise. Thankyou for the handholding.

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  9. I am like Nan. I now think I have sent in all the wrong ones! I want to rip them off you and say, 'No no, take these others instead.' But I won't — because, even if you would agree, as soon as it was done and irrevocable I would immediately feel that the first lot were the right ones after all and the second lot a big mistake! :(

  10. Nan, Rosemary, don't worry, we loved your stones : ) It can be such a difficult business, can't it?!
    Sue - SO pleased. Our work here is done ;) (we'll carry on doing it though)

  11. Now that I am back from my trip I can finally send my selection tomorrow. I should be quaking under the sofa- but as luck would have it I am having a new sofa delivered sometime tomorrow and will be "sofa-less" until mid afternoon- really! Have a great week and thanks for all you have been doing. teri

    PS -Happy Valentines Day

  12. You can come out from behind the absent-sofa, Teri - I've seen your submission :) Thank you - Happy Valentine's to you too!