Sunday, 25 August 2013

SUNDAY NIGHT NEWS - Accepting rejection, and a chat with Neil Gaiman!

So, this week started with a rejection letter.

Bad times.

It's always hard to get a rejection, especially when you've worked so hard on a poem. (Or in this case, a whole portfolio of poems.) But I guess it's important to be philosophical about these things. Judging by the quality of the poetry that won, I don't think my own stuff was the right genre, the right style or the right tone for this particular competition.

You can't please 'em all.

Having said that, it is never a good idea to get complacent. As a writer, you should never dismiss rejection quite so readily. "They didn't like it because they didn't get it. They're the ones at fault" is as stupid as it is self-indulgent. There's always room to improve, so it's really important to learn from rejection. Whether that means experimenting with a different style, writing about new and challenging subjects, or choosing the competitions you enter in a more considered and intelligent way, it's vital to reflect on knock-backs, in order to become a better writer.

Speaking of better writers...

On Tuesday we went along to watch Neil Gaiman reading from his new book in Ely Cathedral in Cambridgeshire. We weren't the only ones! There were over a thousand people at the show, and Neil signed books for everyone.

That's dedication!

In case you're not familiar with Neil Gaiman's work, he's a well-respected and prolific fantasy writer, who has penned numerous novels and short stories, including American Gods, Anansi Boys, and my personal favourite, Neverwhere. His stories have been turned into films including Stardust and Coraline, and he's also written episodes of Doctor Who and Babylon Five. He writes children's books, and fans of graphic novels will know him as the author of the innovative and incredible Sandman series.

He's also a big Twitter user. In fact, Neil and I spoke over Twitter once, back in 2010.

You see, I sent a poem called Shaving Grace to Neil's wife, the musician and artist Amanda Palmer. The poem was partly inspired by one of Amanda’s songs, and I really wanted her to read it (because I am a massive narcissist). Not only did she read it AND retweet it to all her followers, she also read it to Neil. He then sent me a message to say that he liked it.

So, of course, when I got to the front of the queue on Tuesday night, I had to ask him if he remembered my poem. Amazingly, he did and he shook my hand and chatted to me with genuine warmth and interest. I told him about the Fenland Poet Laureateship, and he told me that he'd met the Portsmouth poet laureate a week before. Then he told me to keep writing wonderful poems!

And that was worth a thousand rejection letters!

Me chatting with Neil Gaiman (complete with flailing hand gestures from me)

Then, on Saturday evening, I performed on the Get on the Soapbox stage at the Folk East Festival at Glemham Hall in Suffolk.

As it was Bank Holiday Weekend, the weather did the decent thing and rained consistently for the entire afternoon. However, the festival-goers were unfazed by the deluge, and we got a good crowd of thirty to forty people in the tent to watch us perform.

Check out my Artist's Pass!
It was wonderful to share the stage with Tim Clare, Rowan James, and Justine De Mierre, and I thought our contrasting styles worked really well together. I really love hearing Rowan's poetry, and Justine's storytelling is always so much fun! Tim Clare was fantastic too, as always, and I particularly enjoyed his 'found poem', constructed entirely from lines written by High School kids.

I love listening to poets and storytellers at gigs like this, because watching talented performers always makes me want to improve my own act. It's also really nice to perform for an interested and attentive audience, and thanks must go to Amy Wragg, who runs Get on the Soapbox, for making the whole thing possible.

Good sized crowd!
Next week is a bit of a rest week for me. No gigs, no shows, no festivals. Hopefully, that means I might be able to write some new poems. Don't hold your breath though!


  1. Um I am just squeeing for you a bit, because Neil Gaiman.

    1. Oh my goodness, I know! If you ever get a chance to meet him, Beth, you definitely should. He's such a nice man! Thanks for your comment :)