What Rubbish!

What rubbish! I can hear them now – the purists and the proponents of free verse commenting negatively on my soon-to-be-published poetry book. While there are two non-rhyming poems, the remaining fifty-seven bounce along in predictable rhythm and rhyme.

The title, Grandma’s Poetry Book, came easily and, once it resonated frequently in my internal chatterbox, it helped me create the essence of what my book would portray. In real life, I am not called Grandma but other titles did not work so well. ‘Nanny’s poetry book’ does not have the same ring somehow. The word Grandma, with its similarity to grandmother, seemed apt.

I began this collection about ten years ago although many poems had already sat idly in my writer’s notebooks for a few years. While browsing these old books full of jottings, ideas, short story drafts, chance remarks and chapter headings, I realised I had enough material to produce a book. These notebooks represent my writing life. It is in these notebooks that I plan future writing and empty my mind of the dialogues and descriptions churning through my thoughts. And so it was with Grandma’s Poetry Book. I was never short of something to write under this heading. Shortly after the birth of my first grandchild I had blurted lines of rhymes on to the pages, albeit they were not completed or polished until weeks, months or even years later.

Most poems are in the voice of the grandmother who is invariably feeling at sea and ill at ease with her new role while simultaneously relishing the delights of a new baby in the family. Other poems are in the voice of the child as she expresses her own view of what the grandmother is witnessing. One poem is as spoken by the baby’s auntie. ‘Sis’ expresses the feelings of the loss of that special sibling relationship as the proud new mother transfers her attention to her new role and talks of little else.

Unless you are Carole Ann Duffy or dead you are unlikely to obtain an agent or even a publisher for your poetry and I am not a veteran performer or Pam Ayres and trying several small presses resulted in being rebuffed because I was not already published with them. ‘We have our own writers’ they said or I was told they were ‘not taking poetry at the moment’. As I am pushing seventy I do not have time left to spend sending out work for several years.

Therefore, I decided to go for what the Writers and Artists call ‘serious self publishing’ with Matador, an imprint of Troubador Publishing. While I know many may wrinkle their nose at the term, the more popular description in 2014 is Indie publishing, short for Independent Publishing. I am not sure I can call myself an Indie author as I have not formatted my own copy, uploaded it to the likes of Create Space or taken it to a local printer and had several hundred copies delivered for storage in the corner of my bedroom. Matador do all this for me. While there are numerous online self publishing companies these are subject to a variety of complaints. So far all is going well and I cannot speak highly enough of the Matador staff. They are fussy about which manuscripts they take on for their self publishing business as they pride themselves on high quality content and keeping their good name. They are the only SP Company recommended by Writers and Artists and I can well understand why. They certainly aim to avoid the ‘what rubbish’ reviews on their books.

Critics of self publishing abound. Only this month in Writing Magazine the letters page contains a vitriolic attack on SP authors which could be re-titled ‘what rubbish’. The writer has clearly not learnt to read reviews prior to purchase. She mentions typographical errors despite the author’s pernickety editing. Indeed, in this regard I find myself in agreement, although her other harsh remarks about self publishers are totally unfounded. But only last year, a self-published friend was horrified to see her own book in print with errors she had missed. For this reason I am pleased I paid Matador for a proofread. This offered far more than picking up incorrect punctuation or minor errors. There were suggestions on re-positioning of some information. Here’s hoping this will result in few cries of ‘what rubbish’.

This leads me to my fear of a bad review. Writers are quick to let their inner critic attack their creative efforts and minimise their better stories and articles or trivialise the plots in carefully crafted novels. We don’t actually need a bad review to tell us our work is not up to standard as we are constantly reminding ourselves of our limitations and weaknesses. We may fear the bad review will stifle sales and lead our books by the hand to the publisher’s pulp shelf but history shows that many best sellers have initially suffered a bad review. Elsewhere in October Writing Magazine we are told that a bad review can actually increase sales especially in these online times when social media can spread the bad as well as the good and bring about ‘chatter’ which brings a title to the fore. Some readers may buy or borrow from a library in order to establish whether the bad review was justified.

So with all this in mind, I hope I shall remain focused and optimistic when I see a review citing my precious collection as ‘what rubbish’.

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