A judge's viewpoint

Discussion of any bush poetry topic.
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Stephen Whiteside
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Re: A judge's viewpoint

Post by Stephen Whiteside » Fri Dec 10, 2010 6:25 pm

Thanks, Neville.

I would also encourage bush poets to join other writers' organisations. I am sure many do, but I suspect many don't, too. It's a big world out there. We have a lot to take to the rest of the world, but the rest of the world has a lot to bring to us, too. I worry sometimes that the bush poets are too insular.

It puzzles me a bit that bush poets tend to rely so much on self-publishing. It is true that it is difficult to interest commercial publishers in bush poetry, but it's not impossible. Increasingly, children's picture book texts are being written in rhyme, but it's not the bush poets that are doing it, it's the children's writers. There is a great discipline required to submit manuscripts to commercial publishers that you can obviously completely bypass if you simply self-publish. While submitting work to publishers is time consuming and frustrating, it can also be very rewarding. Of course it does mean you have to face the inevitable rejections, but these are just character building!

Having said all of that, it frustrates me to see so many professional writers who know so little about performance, and obviously never attend folk/country music festivals. It's like there are all these city-based writers who submit beautiful work to publishers, but have no idea about performance, and then there are all these regional writers who are expert performers, but know little about presenting work to publishers. It's a funny old world, I tell you!
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Zondrae
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Re: A judge's viewpoint

Post by Zondrae » Fri Dec 10, 2010 7:47 pm

So, Stephen,

when are you setting up this agency? There is obviously an opening there to act as a go-between, an agent, if you will (at let us say 2.5%) connecting regional writer to a publisher. Or in the other circumstance, a city writer to a festival.

I tried to hook up with an illustrator with a view of a kids book from a poem of mine 'Mr Organic'. He is an established author and has many books both on his own and in collaboration with a words person. He didn't even look at the poem but went into a well rehearsed speel about how it is impossible to break in to have a book published. Then he explained that there is no money in it anyway. One day, when I have a spare 5 minutes I may try to illustrate it myself. I would only need to do the first three or four pages to submit it. It's time again! My old foe.
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Re: A judge's viewpoint

Post by Stephen Whiteside » Fri Dec 10, 2010 8:39 pm

You see, Zondrae? You're illustrating my point beautifully. If you were plugged into a group of professional children's writers, you would know that the very first thing you DON'T do is look for your own illustrator.

Publishers like to commission their own illustrators. They like to maintain control of the process, and this is one way for them to do that. After all, they are putting up all the money, and employing all the expert people that are going to turn your bare manuscript into a beautiful book, so why argue with them? A professional publisher can produce a book that looks far better than anything you (or, more to the point, I!) will ever be able to, and they will probably also be able to sell it in much larger numbers, so it makes sense to step back, surrender some control, and see yourself as just a small (but nevertheless important) part of a very big team.

I'm not so sure about your friend. Is he really all that knowledgeable? Most of the published writers I know are very supportive and positive. Sure, it's tough and competitive, but you'll never succeed by giving up. Besides, even if you don't succeed at first, you are still likely to learn from the exercise. I've been plugging away for about twenty years now, with not much to show for it, really. Why don't I give up? Because I enjoy the process, and there's nothing I'd rather be doing. As time goes by, I find myself surrounded by more and more people, all of whom are more and more encouraging. People respect persistence, and I do feel I am getting closer to achieving some of my goals.
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Re: A judge's viewpoint

Post by Terry » Fri Dec 10, 2010 11:06 pm

G/day David,
I'm a bit late replying to this, but like the others I would like to thank you for taking the time to spell out a few pertinent points on writing Bush Poetry for competitions.
I'm still fairly new to the competition scene but must say I really enjoy it. Having started writing fairly late in life, my one hope was to learn to write as well as possible, as quickly as possible and there is no doubt that entering competitions is a great way of learning if you wish to improve.
I Agree with you entirely about the need for strict rules, even though I still struggle with punctuation.

I just find it a very enjoyable Hobby.

Regards Terry

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Re: A judge's viewpoint

Post by Zondrae » Sat Dec 11, 2010 7:03 am

Way to go Terry,

I have noticed that there are a fair few of we active members who had busy lives and have only made 'our time' to write later in life. I think this a good thing. We have much less to cringe about than if we had started in the mad flush of youth. Once I had retired from the work force I, I should say we, found time to pursue our hearts desire. I have always wanted to write but would not take the time from my duties of either work (paid employment) or home (unpaid work). Now I can say, I'm busy writing and I don't feel quite as guilty that I should be doing other things.
Like you, I have little idea in the correct use of the : or ; in proper English and the rules of the , have changed from when I went to school. So I do my best, and hope I don't make too many errors.
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David Campbell
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Re: A judge's viewpoint

Post by David Campbell » Sat Dec 11, 2010 9:38 am

Stephen has certainly set the cat among the pigeons with his comments and suggestions, so here (to mix metaphors and singe some fur and feathers) are a few more thoughts to add fuel to the fire.

With regard to the boredom factor, I definitely sympathise. It’s impossible (for me, anyway) to read right through all of the many entries in a bush poetry competition in one go. Concentration flags, so they need to be tackled in batches. And, with some long poems, it does take an effort to plough through to the end. But exactly the same thing applies to free verse. Any poetry on the page can be a real chore after a while because, to do it justice, it requires concentration on every line. That’s not generally true of novels, and a lot of skim-reading occurs. A verse novel is an intriguing idea, but the length could be a problem.

C. J. Dennis sold 66,000 copies of 'The Songs of the Sentimental Bloke' in 18 months, and this happened at a time when a much smaller proportion of the population could read. A great many people undoubtedly discovered the adventures of The Bloke, Doreen and Ginger Mick by hearing about them. The work of Dennis, Lawson and Paterson may well have provided entertainment of an evening much the same as TV does now.

That’s why performance poetry is so important. A good performer can hold a large audience spellbound, or in stitches, for long periods. (Stephen referred me to an English poet named Les Barker as an example…it’s worth checking him out on the internet.) Maybe a verse novel would work better as a performance piece?

For those interested, there are a number of poetry competitions around with a line-limit of 40 or less. Here are some, with the purely traditional verse ones highlighted:

Boyup Brook; Lovers of Good Writing; Henry Kendall; U3A Sunshine Coast; Nimbin: All Poetry; King Island; Reason-Brisbane; Bundaberg Arts Festival; Bridge Foundation; Coal Creek; Cervantes; Martha Richardson; Joseph Furphy; Mornington Peninsula. The non-highlighted competitions will accept any form of poetry but, as I said in the original post, free verse seems more likely to win. Perhaps that's because very few bush poems are submitted. Two other bush verse competitions… the Grenfell Henry Lawson and the Banjo Paterson Writing Awards…have line limits of 48 and 50 respectively.

Stephen is right about getting poetry published…it’s hard yakka, but can pay off. Although publishers generally have their own in-house illustrators, my wife and I and an artist friend were successful in presenting a book of children’s poetry, including illustrations, to a publisher. The publisher did a brilliant job and the book is now on its second print run.

And, as the first entry in Stephen’s competition, here’s a little poem that ticks all the boxes. It’s written for children, is less than 40 lines, every line is not the same length, and there are no AABB or ABAB rhymes. Plus, it’s written as a tribute to Theodor Geisel, better known as Dr Seuss. It’s also very silly (Kym, please note!)…although it’s not about streaking.

Cats in Hats

Cats
and rats
in witches’ hats
are building lots of dim, dark flats
for homeless bats.

While dogs
and frogs
in wooden clogs
are sploshing round in muddy bogs
with dancing hogs.

As goats
and stoats
in woollen coats
are sinking anything that floats
in sailing boats.

Thank you to everyone who has taken the time to contribute to this post. It’s great to know that my comments on judging have been helpful.

Cheers
David
Last edited by David Campbell on Sat Dec 11, 2010 10:01 am, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: A judge's viewpoint

Post by Neville Briggs » Sat Dec 11, 2010 9:44 am

There's a little Australian book out, inexpensive.. $20, and very clear and informative about how to publish in Australia. It includes self-publishing and avenues for publishing through the publishing businesses.
If anyone wants to know, send me a p/m I'll give you the details.

(Publishing remains a pipe dream for me I'm afraid, my stuff is not up to scratch, maybe one day )



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Stephen Whiteside
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Re: A judge's viewpoint

Post by Stephen Whiteside » Sat Dec 11, 2010 12:38 pm

Nice poem, David. Great to see 'stoats' get a mention. I hadn't thought about them in years. In fact, I've forgotten exactly what they are. I'm going to look them up right now!
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Re: A judge's viewpoint

Post by Stephen Whiteside » Sat Dec 11, 2010 12:52 pm

So, tell me if I've got this right.
It's 'ermine' if its fur is white -
To camouflage, I guess, against the snow;
But if it's brown, it is a stoat,
And now, I think, it's time to gloat,
'Cause that is really all you need to know!
Stephen Whiteside, Australian Poet and Writer
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Heather

Re: A judge's viewpoint

Post by Heather » Sat Dec 11, 2010 8:15 pm

David I'd like to add my thanks for your helpful comments. I'm also new to writing bush poetry. Knowing the "rules" has helped me improve my writing.

I guess it boils down to there is a time and place for everything. If you don't like the rules then you don't enter the competitions or you enter the appropriate competitions - if competitons are the way you wish to go.

With to the reference to the preamble. The poem in question that I had written was dedicated to someone and I wondered if I could write that. In the end I found I was able to convey that in the poem and I am very happy with the result.

I hope to attend more festivals in the future with the aim of listening, enjoying and learning.

Heather :)
Last edited by Heather on Sun Dec 12, 2010 10:35 am, edited 1 time in total.

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