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A very interesting little press with a big outlook…

The Poetry Shed

Emma-Press-logo-text-largeWhen was the Emma Press set up? Can you tell me a bit about its beginnings?

I set up the Emma Press in 2012, a few months after quitting my job at Orion Publishing Group. I had quite a specialised role in Orion, managing the production of ebooks, but I became increasingly interested in how the other departments and the publishing industry as a whole worked.

When I resigned, out of frustration with the limitations of my role, I had a vague idea about using my new ebook production and book design skills, but I wasn’t planning to set up a publishing house. I thought I’d just create one book, a collaboration with my old schoolfriend Rachel Piercey to show off her poems and my illustrations. This was The Flower and the Plough, the first Emma Press book, and I enjoyed the process of putting it together so much that…

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A very timely post, and some really good advice.

The Bell Jar: Jo Bell's blog


I’ve spent some time lately with poetry journal editors – and also with the poor poetic beggars who, like me, send off work to them. It’s struck me anew that many people, especially those at the beginning of their poetry career, don’t have much idea of how submission works and what time span is realistic for an editor to consider a poem. Also, they’re wondering how to keep tabs on the seventeen different poems that they’ve sent out, in order to avoid the no-no of simultaneous submission.

What follows is the Jo Bell Method; the method of an immensely, award-winningly disorganised poet who nonetheless has managed to win awards. My vast and lofty experience teaches me that the key part of winning any prize or getting into a journal is this:


This is the only area of my life where such a streamlined system exists, but…

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We all write differently, not just in what we do but how we do it.  And I’m always really interested to hear how other people write – what tools they use, do they have a favourite place or dedicated space, what conditions they favour, etc.  I’m actually part of an online group in the London Poetry School called A Room of One’s Own, which is all about this very topic, and where we can post pics of our places.  This is mine…




Living down under I basically follow the sun, which starts in the front room of our house and then gradually moves round to the back.  So first thing in the morning, this is just perfect.  I tend to draft my poems initially in pencil in one of  many patterned notebooks, sometimes leaving it for a while, could be hours, days, weeks depending on how it ‘feels’ before typing it up on my laptop.  I always carry a smaller notebook (the above are A5 size) and pen wherever I go in case inspiration hits me, or I hear, see, smell something that evokes a feeling or memory.

Over the new year, I also took the time to organise my filing system so now have different coloured folders for my published work and correspondence, pending submissions, both to do and hear back from, and the draft of my first collection I’m working on (this was the perfect excuse to wander around many a stationery store, something I love to do, leaving the husband at home of course!)  I used to be religious in recording my submissions, i.e. what has been sent to whom and when, etc., but then got lazy, which often happens with me I’m afraid.  Now with my new Mslexia Writer’s Diary there is no excuse as it contains space for such records, and I’ve even got into the habit of noting what I need to do every Friday, my dedicated writing day and one of the reasons I went part time at work.

So there you have it.  My ideal place to write would be in a small but bright room filled with all things poetry and an interesting view, be it ocean, countryside or mountains (mine is currently our driveway).  Working on this too!

With the beginning of a new year, I thought it would be a good time to review 2014 and take a look at some of the things I have achieved with my writing.


Producing a short film for my poem

Being one of the winners of mindshare’s When words come to life poetry competition and given the opportunity to create a short video clip to accompany my piece was a most interesting experience. I learnt a great deal about storyboarding poems using impact, music, breath and movement, as well as finding that place you have to get to when reading aloud. And I made some good friends along the way, all of whom have either been impacted by or are involved in mental health.


Breaking into the US market

Having been published in the UK, Australia and Canada, it was wonderful to be accepted into a journal published out of Maine in the US to add to the compliment of continents. The Aurorean was a journal I’d had my eye for a while due to the quality of work it publishes and the awards it has won. I can now be defined as an international poet – long may it continue!

Submitting a draft of my first collection

Having some time off work recently gave me the opportunity to finally develop a first draft of my first collection. Not as easy as you originally think and very all-consuming, but with the help of a course I took with Pascale Petit at the Poetry School and some words of wisdom from Kim Moore on how she did it, I managed to create a fairly cohesive submission that has been sent off to a publisher in London. Let’s see what happens!

What to focus on in 2015

I will continue to submit to magazines and journals but perhaps be more selective, and take a step back from the competitions. I must make more of an effort to attend literary events and readings to network, and keep up with what’s happening on the local poetry scene. And in an attempt to be more organised, I’ve treated myself to the Mslexia 2015 Writer’s Diary, an invaluable resource that I’m wondering how I did without really. If anything comes from my first collection submission then that will take up a large chunk of my time to develop further and fine-tune. I also received news just before Christmas that some of my work has been accepted by a very reputable webzine in the UK run by one of my favourite poets, but more about that shortly.

So here’s to another 12 months of poetry success. A happy new year to you all, keep writing  🙂


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