Loch Awe in spring - Photo courtesy of Neil Donald Photography






Monday, 4 June 2012

Thousands Pass Here Every Day

There’s great excitement at the moment – mixed with some apprehension – as the publication of my first full poetry collection approaches. Called Thousands Pass Here Every Day it is being published in August by Indigo Dreams, who are also publishing my non-fiction account of the last three years of my time working in Afghanistan.

The non-fiction book will actually be published the month before the poetry collection but – so far – has not caused the same level of anxiety. It was arranging the poems in the order in which they should appear in the collection which threw me into a spin. At first, I found myself subconsciously arranging them in the order in which I write them, regardless of content or theme or links to poems before and after.

I explained my difficulty to editor, Dawn Bauling who was reassuring about it, telling me she once had a poet who arranged the poems in alphabetical order: something the librarian in Dawn cheered but at which the poet in her screamed, ‘No!’ With the dining table awash in poems I tried again, shuffling and rearranging, making lists and shuffling and rearranging until I had my collection organised to my satisfaction. Well, almost. There was one poem which no longer seemed to fit anywhere. I put it at the front and sent them off to Indigo Dreams.

I also sent a set to poet Tom Pow – the person who got me into this poetry writing malarkey in the first place when I took his creative writing course at Glasgow University – who had kindly agreed to provide a testimonial for the back of the book. He emailed to say the poems needed to be rearranged as they “could be more sensitively presented for the reader to show the strengths of their themes” and he didn’t see where the first poem could fit in with any of the others. He suggested a way of arranging the poems in three named divisions.

The editor agreed and I had another go. This time I ended up with three poems which seemed not to fit anywhere. I’ll keep them for another time I think. Finally, I sent them all off to the publisher. The next step will be when she sends me a proof copy of Thousands Pass Here Every Day. The title comes from one of the poems in the collection, written for a project in Glasgow called Hidden City, in which a group of poets were taken to a venue in the centre of Glasgow which people rushed by without noticing.

The anxiety-provoking thing I had to do was have a photo taken for publicity material. I detest having my picture taken. Every muscle in my face goes rigid as soon as a camera appears. I have never, ever been happy with a photograph of me. Fortunately, a writer friend, Sara Bain who is also a photographer, said she’d do it for me. Somehow she made it all quite painless – I suspect because she never once instructed me to smile.

On a different topic, I was out recently with some writer friends to see a play by another friend, Anne Stenhouse, called M’Connachie and J.M.B. It was a fascinating account of Barrie’s alter ego in the form of the imaginary M’Connachie and demonstrated what an incredibly complex character the author of Peter Pan was. I think we will all be looking at Barrie’s writing from a different perspective than before.

Looking at my friends during the interval I suddenly realised the astonishing variety of genres which were represented: three professional journalists; novelists who write YA books; family sagas; novellas; contemporary women’s fiction; two poets, short story writers and a playwright who also writes articles. Sounds like I have dozens of friends – but in fact there were only seven of us.

14 comments:

  1. I can imagine your nervous excitement, Mary! Look forward to reading your collection, and how great to get Tom Pow's layout suggestions. Your photo really is lovely - not surprising when it was taken by the talented Sara.

    Glad you enjoyed the play - I was totally taken with it when it appeared in Glasgow.

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    1. Anne's play was very thought provoking, wasn't it?
      Sara is indeed talented in many ways and available for writers' publicity shots.

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  2. Mary I have lots of poetry books and I shall never take the arrangment of their contents for granted again. There is more to it than I realised. Tom Pow was my elder daughter's English teacher at the Academy. It's a pity he didn't inspire her to become a poet too. You must have something special anyway to fan the flame.
    The non fiction book sounds an interesting topic. Good luck with both books.

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    1. Thanks, Gwen. I hadn't realised how cmplicated it was to arrange poems for a collection. We live and learn!

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  3. Looking forward to the publication,Mary. It's a great achievement to have reached this stage and I'm sure your collection will be very well received.
    And I agree -the photo is exactly right.
    Lots of luck!

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    1. Thanks, Myra. Glad you like the photo. Our Sara is very talented and very generous.
      I will feel a sense of achievement when I finally hold the poetry book in my hands but there were times while doing the arrangements - especially when finding poems which didn't 'fit' - when I wondered why I wanted to have them published. But it is exciting.

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  4. Excellent post.....what an interesting life you lead! Oh, and Mary, the photo is good - love the specs!!

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    1. Linda, thank you. I am never sure about these specs. I remember heavy dark frames from years ago when they weren't fashionable and I still feel a bit like that. I'll be glad when we go back to lighter frames.

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  5. An exciting time for you, Mary. Many congratulations on arriving at this point. I'm looking forward to publication date - such a thrill for you. Best of luck with your poetry collection and your non-fiction book.

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    1. Thanks, Joan. I'll be letting everyone know when the books come out and sending invites to launch/readings. Hoping to do one in Glasgow - will keep you posted.

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  6. Great photo Mary! You're obviously very photogenic and had an excellent photographer.

    I was very interested to read of your difficulties sorting the poems. I'd sort of assumed it would all come naturally. I'm sure all the hard work will be worth it - can't wait to hold the collection in my hands.

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    1. Gill, I'm not at all photogenic and I hate having my picture taken but the session with Sara was very relaxing.
      I think I thought the poems would just sort of arrange themselves! There may still be some tweaking to do but I think I'm almost there.

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  7. And what a magnificent seven we are Mary. Let me know when to pounce on you with my notepad and camera ... again!

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    1. Indeed we are, Sara! I think the breadth of work is amazing. No one seems to do only one thing. I'll let you know when the books are coming out - but you won't need to take another photo as you took lots last time!

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