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SIX OF THE BEST HiSTORICAL FICTION‘Historical fiction is flourishing as never before’ says the Historical Writers’ Association – and it should know, as the HWA faced the difficult task of picking the shortlist for the 2016 Goldsboro Début Crown award. Launched in 2012, the Crown is awarded annuallyto the best début historical fiction in the UK. The shortlist below includes captivating tales based anywhere and anytime from 18th Century Lapland to 1960s Fife. The winner won’t be announced until October’s Harrogate Festival, giving you ample time to read the whole list and start a sweepstake on the outcome.SHORTLIST► Death and Mr Pickwick by Stephen Jarvis (Jonathan Cape) ► Eden Gardens by Louise Brown (Headline)► The Hoarse Oaths of Fife by Chris Moore (Uniform Press)► Mrs Engels by Gavin McCrea (Scribe)► Summertime by Vanessa Lafaye (Orion)► Wolf Winter by Cecilia Ekbäck (Hodder)TRY THIS► Investigate your localarea (use the internet if you can't get out) to discovera historical landmark you haven't noticed before – a former workhouse, rope- maker, farrier? Old photos in the Local History section of the nearest city library are a good place to start.► Decide on a particular era (1920s, 1890s, 1960s?) and research who might have lived and/or worked at your chosen location at that time. ► Delve into the microfiches of the local newspaper for that period and find a story that might have affected those people at that time► Voila! A novel in a nutshell.The Crafty Poet: A Portable Workshop by Diane Lockward (Wind Publications)overflowing with lovingly crafted poems and it's time to get them published, Helena Nelson’s How (Not) to Get Your Poetry Published offers realistic and practical advice in a comprehensive, well- written and witty manner. ‘This book deals with strategy,’ Nelson writes. ‘You may not think poetry and strategic planning have much in common, but why do you think some poets are successful in their publishing deals while others... are not?’Each chapter focuses on the steps poets seeking publication face: ‘Which publisher, andare you ready?’; ‘Can you bea published poet and not do readings?’ The chapters examine what works and what doesn’t, with case studies to show how important research, presentation and preparation are.Cunning in its advice – crafty, even – following Nelson's advice can’t guarantee scribbled notebooks will become glossy collections, but after reading it you’ll be armed with everything needed to give your dream of publication a fighting chance. ❐ KAY HADDEN‘people said that they found it too working-class. They also thought it was too angry and too political’DANUTA KEAN is a journalist, editor and media analyst. Last year she produced Writing the Future, a report into diversity in publishing and among novelists.She is currently researching diversity in theatre for the AndrewLloyd WebberFoundation.She is @Danoosha on Twitter.BOOKS ABOUT WRITINGPOETRY‘How to write poetry’ is a daunting sentence. Forin reverse order. This helps me hear how the poem is working as a unit.’Each ‘Craft Tip’ is followedby a prompt. ‘Some of thesewill result in poems that are keepers,’ Lockward writes, ‘while others not’. Knowing this gave me – a novice writer – realistic expectations. I knew some (alot) of my poems wouldn’t work, but The Crafty Poet provided an opportunity to try-and-test forms I wouldn’t normally have attempted, while offering the chance to develop skills and discover what works best.Once your notebook isThe submission process was the most brutal part of the experience, with several near misses from large publishers. In the end Nadia Kingsley of Fair Acre Press jumped on the book with an enthusiasm that was hard to resist.Blower also warns that you need a thick skin to deal with copy editors. ‘They are not reading for pleasure, but to find flaws,’ she explains. ‘My copy editor would say things like “How is he standing now, when you just said that he was on his knees?”’ But she is sanguine about the process. ‘You do have to be objective and think this is all for the good of the story.’Besides, her rejections for being too working-class ornot working-class enough had already inured her to that kind of criticism. How does she feel about rejection now? She laughs. ‘Alan Sillitoe had the same said of him,’ she says. ‘So I’m in good company.’ ❐those who have never put pen to paper, there’s a lot to contend with. Which poetic verse touse? Which poetic structure?The Crafty Poet: A Portable Workshop by Diane Lockward provides a comprehensive guide on finding the kind of poem that suits you.Organised by poetic concepts, each chapter begins with a ‘Craft Tip solicited from an established poet’ to give inspiration and key advice. For example, poet Cecilia Woloch writes, ‘I read the lines.... Début Interview continuedyou must know when to end the joke is invaluable. ‘There must be a punch line or it turns into slapstick.’In a perfect example ofwhy entering short story competitions is worthwhile, Blower wrote Sitting Ducks whilst already signed to an agent – but three more chased her aftershe won the 2009 GuardianShort Story Prize. From that experience she learned not to take the first offer on the table. ‘They have to want to work with you as much as you want to work with them.’ In the end she chose Philippa Brewster of Georgina Capel Associates. Brewster’s style is ‘like a PhD supervisor’, she says. ‘It suits me perfectly.’Her second lesson was ‘if you are going to enter competitions, be prepared to win’. All three agents wanted to see other work, and Blower did not have any ready to show them. ‘I misseda lot of opportunities because I didn’t have a portfolio.’How (Not) to Get Your Poetry Published by Helena Nelson (Happenstance Press)66 Sep/Oct/Nov 2016 mslexia

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