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In the dark with Gavin Turner

Hi All,

Welcome to the second of my newsletters about the stuff I’m writing and reading at the moment. I will be trying to get these out on a fairly regular basis, but only when I have something to share with you all. As you know the fickle nature of the publishing industry means that, like everyone else, the publication offers might not come, I could be strangled by writers block, who knows? I’m feeling really positive about 2023 though and lots of potentially exciting projects to come this year. Last year was great for me, plenty of publication acceptances and more importantly met some really cool people. The highlight has to be the publication of my first chapbook The Round Journey, which was released with Alien Buddha press in May 2022.

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Round-Journey-Gavin-Turner/dp/B09YQK3F4F/ref=sr_1_1?crid=2UEYUG4RCUQSX&keywords=gavin+turner&qid=1651846657&sprefix=gavin+turner%2Caps%2C82&sr=8-1

A little piece of twine

I created my first twine story late last year. If you aren’t familiar with the twine concept it is a basic computer program that enables a kind of ‘choose your own adventure’ approach to the narrative. This piece is called ‘Patio Friends’ and was really fun to write. I was so pleased to see this published with the rather excellent Voidspace zine alongside some other really interesting pieces. Why not have an explore?

https://voidspacezine.com/patio-friends/

The Agenda – short story – published with JAKE

This short story was published towards the end of last year but I failed to mention this on my last newsletter. If you enjoy a little meta fiction then this may well be up your street. Terrance arrives late for a team meeting, things take a really strange turn after that. Many thanks to JAKE for publishing this short piece

https://jakethemag.com/the-agenda/

Future publications

Poetry

I have a new poem out with Boats against the current towards the end of February – would love to hear your feedback on this piece!

Fiction

As mentioned in my last newsletter I also have a short collaborative piece I created alongside Kellie Scott-Reed, part of the editing team at Roi Faineant press. It’s a really fun piece and I’m really looking forward to the reaction to this – no more details for now, I’ve said enough!

Plans for 2023

I always have a lot of projects going on at any given time. The main focus for me this year is to release a new book of poetry. The main difference this time is that I am planning on publishing this myself. I understand that a lot of people have mixed views about publishing their own work. I held those views too up until recently. The traditional publishing route does hold a certain kudos amongst many writers and I totally get it. I think the distinction for me at this point is that I am not in a position where I am doing this because it is not possible for me to get this published elsewhere eventually. I believe that I would. Amongst the rejections I received last year there were a number of successes too. If you think about it, most of the time when you say I have written a book, and you can buy it either in a shop or through Amazon, the typical questions are along the lines of asking what it is about (I know that’s often a tough one), what inspired you to write it etc. I don’t think anyone outside the industry ever said ‘OK, and who is your publisher/ agent? It just isn’t important to them. I think the important thing is about your own belief in what you produce.

For me, as someone who is always interested in developing new skills and learning from my experiences, I see this as an opportunity to improve my skills as a writer, creator, marketer, you name it. There is so much work that goes into creating a new book and whilst I hate the cliched phrase, the release of a new book is a journey (I’m cringing at the phrase as well don’t worry) and it is the steps along the way that I am excited about. Much more to follow on this as I take this book to press. I can say that this will have more content, some of which has been published before but a great deal of new poetry not seen before. I will share some posts over the coming months on my experience of each element, including choosing content, where to publish, marketing, book covers etc.

Reading material

Like a lot of writers there is really only one thing that I want for Christmas – more books. I was able to get my hands on some classics this year. A Confederacy of Dunces, Hitchhikers guide to the Galaxy and also the Wasp Factory by Iain Banks which is a fascinating read.

On the socials

Twitter

Most people who use Twitter recently will have seen some changes to the way it operates. I have noticed that some of the people I interacted with the most seem to have disappeared so I have to go into their account directly to see what they have been up to. It is annoying but to reassure this is still the best way to get in touch with me. If you are on there why not follow or send me a message @gtpoems

Facebook

I have a specific page on Facebook if that’s where you hang out. You can find me at Gavin Turner Author if you fancy giving me a follow!

So definitely more news to follow. I am really excited to see what this year brings and it would be great to hear what you are up to as well. Send me a message and share your plans – who knows where we could be this time next year – probably in the dark somewhere!

about, news, newsletter, people, poems, poetry, writing

A year in reflection

As we approach the end of 2022 there is an opportunity to reflect on the last year in terms of writing progress. I didn’t set out to be the next Stephen King or JK Rowling. My aims have been much more modest than that. But I also did not impose any limitations on how I would approach getting my work out there in gradual steps. For many writers I think the biggest hurdle is themselves. I have found a couple of mantras have really helped me to focus on what I wanted to achieve and maintain resilience in the face of any perceived setbacks or failures. Everyone has them. When you actually think about what you are doing when you send out your work to a press or a magazine it is simply this:

Here is my work, do you like it enough to put it in your magazine?

You are not asking the entire population of the world, some 7.5 billion people currently whether they like your work or not, just one or maybe two people. So what happens if they don’t like it? Well that’s just two people out of the above number who it didn’t appeal to. This is not a reflection on the quality of the writing, more often it is about a good fit. Editors have limited space in the magazines and sometimes have tough choices to make. Perhaps look on it a bit like you are sending your poem or story on a date. When it comes home despondent, you could ask – how did it go? Likely your story would reply, Oh you know, really nice person, but, just not for me. And so you your story moves onto the next date. No loss, and maybe you have found a friend.

There are two key pieces of advice or guidance that I have stuck with and will continue to apply in response to the inevitable rejections I will receive over the next few years. The first is this:

I will not be deterred by rejection. It does not in any way define my writing

This is really about resilience. Many writers will give up at the first hurdle, taking the rejection itself as a personal slight. of course, it hurts when you have put your heart and soul into something and it gets returned with a hard pass. Much the same way you would feel if someone walked up to you in the street and said they didn’t think much of your children. Getting a piece ‘returned’ to you in my view is more about an opportunity for someone else to see it’s value. Of course it is also an opportunity for you to review that piece you wrote 6 months ago and wonder if it really does hit the mark or not. This ties in nicely with the second piece of advice:

I don’t hold anyone else’s opinion higher than my own

You may think there is an air of conceit about this, but nothing could be further from the truth. What I mean by this phrase is that I don’t hold the view of others any higher or lower than my own. Very often we think of an editor as the one holding the power in the relationship. They do over the content of their own magazine, but not over the entire literary world. Many editors will rightly disagree about what they feel constitutes a great piece of work, that is what makes their publications unique from each other. If you want to take this thought a little further, it might actually be a good thing if someone hates what you do. At least you will know that your work is not so middle of the road that whoever it was was indifferent about it. I would rather someone love it or hate it than comment ‘well, yes. that was okay I guess’.

As an example, I have three poems out this week with Roi Faineant press. All of these have been rejected before, and that’s fine, it wasn’t for those guys, it doesn’t meant that someone else won’t put it out there. You can read all of these pieces here and draw your own view

https://www.roifaineantpress.com/post/being-a-better-kind-of-ghost-the-promise-of-rain-opening-night-by-gavin-turner

I hope this advice helps anyone considering sending their work out, face it, you literally have nothing to lose.

dark humour, diary, featured, fiction, funny, Hell, people, short story, writing

Interviews with the dead

I awoke early this morning knowing I had to interview some people today for the new post. I don’t think any of them had actually realised they were dead yet.  It is notoriously tricky coming to terms with being a living, breathing entity. I don’t have to tell you all that, after all you are doing it right now. All those stages of physical and mental progression and regression, doubts, successes, tackling love. Then, all of a sudden you find it’s over, done. Not surprisingly it can take many years to resolve the issue in your head that deadness (yes that is what we call it) does not have the immediacy to it that one would automatically presume. Awareness of being awake and alive does not come to us instantly, death is much the same. I spend much of my time trying to get people to wake up to the facts.

So back to the interviews. The first candidate had lovely shoes but had an annoying habit of sniffing after he finished a sentence. When he made a point that he was particularly proud of he licked his lips as if savouring the words falling from his gob. Forgive me if I appear hypercritical or unforgiving but I have being doing this work for a long time, perhaps too long. Making decisions about employment round here is a skilled job. If you are aware that you will have to have to put up with these little foibles for eternity you best be the most patient person in the dead world or just avoid employing people at all.  They aren’t the worst of it though. At least they are trying to do something valuable with their time.  Those who aren’t seeking employment generally spend their time drifting around looking for family members for reasons I have yet to fathom. They only visited twice a year when alive (birthday and Christmas – I know, the irony) so why this becomes so important once dead is a mystery to me. Seems to be a misaligned superficial sense of belonging. I was explaining about the first candidate, ultimately he lacked the experience of his predecessor. You must allow me these digressions, after all, we do have till, well, forever.

My name is Phelan Tweed, talent management specialist in the dead world. You may know this as heaven or hell if you are one of those ‘believing in stuff’ types. Quick fact check for those not yet in the know, everyone already existed in heaven and hell simultaneously. It’s called earth. It is surprising that most of us didn’t work this out when it was relevant and yet we spend most of our time in constant astonishment and horror at the wonderful and most terrible things that happen there. The thing is, in the dead world it’s just like earth but more monotonous, because its forever, so you can take your time to achieve things. It’s not quite as hilly which is good because we have a lot of pensioners here. Ironically people are less risk averse, once they work out that the worst thing that can happen already has. It is not uncommon to find fragile gentleman white water rafting on a weekend.  You can’t exactly end up more dead, can you?

The role we are aiming to fill here is security. It’ a pretty easy role. Stand at the gates, let people in, check they are properly dead (usually they are, but sometimes you get those special cases and they get turned right back round). You get a nice office and sometimes Janice brings biscuits in. We can usually tell who to refuse entry to as every couple of minutes their whole body jumps 2 feet as if they have been electrocuted. It’s very disconcerting having a conversation with someone in that position. Sometimes they turn up with the paddles still attached. Big giveaway.

It was a shame to see Pete retire. He had been at the gates for a lot of years. He had some kind of mid life crisis I guess and started attending poetry slams in the hippy quarter. Think he found his calling, I mean, he already had the beard.

So we were still after a replacement. I had a whole list of people to see but each of them was an extra level of foible that I could hardly deal with. The next lady ended her sentence with both a raised inflection and a barely but definitely audible ‘mm hm’ as if to emphasise her point. Crossed off the list. The next chap was a decapitation. I don’t wish to appear prejudicial but it simply wasn’t going to work.

Most people don’t realise that you get here how you left there, injured, old, missing body parts. There are no body refresh options. Although there is a black market in spare limbs if you are into that sort of thing. Hence the reason you may see an elderly gentleman, ambling round with a beautifully manicured hand, or a child with a fully grown male leg attached. They look like children, but they just inhabit that form. Some of them are older than me and the language that comes out of them is shocking I have to say.

Even as a talent management expert, dead land is a hard sell for employment, there is no salary or pension. You take the job till you feel like doing something else, and on it goes indefinitely. There are very few perks, apart from a vague sense of superiority over the Neanderthals and the beaker people. Of course they are here too, moping around in the kind of primitive way you would expect. Sometimes I feel a pang of jealousy towards them. They don’t know they are primitive, they can’t know they are dead. They just are. How I wish I could just be. In fact the very thought left me in a dark mood that even Janice’s biscuits couldn’t lift.

I must admit I dismissed the remaining candidates today. It is no great inconvenience to them or to me. There will always be another day, another role to fulfil. Perhaps one day you will join us If you can get past security, maybe mention my name. I am always looking for new talent.

This section was first published in Voidspace zine as a flash fiction piece entitled Frimmelstein’s diary and is the inspiration for Hell is other people. Acknowledgments to Katy Naylor and Voidspace for the initial prompt.

dark humour, fiction, Hell, human resources, people, writing

Better the devil you know

The diary of Phelan Tweed, HR Manager in Hell

Mr B can be a hard taskmaster. Today he advised me that last night two of the horsemen of the apocalypse had lost their steeds on a drunken work night out in Blackpool, Hell on earth you might say. He was in a right mood. You should have heard the language, obviously it’s not for inclusion here but let’s just say it was like an industrial revolution. As you may already be aware, because it was ‘work related’ it’s hard for us to argue ‘what happens in Blackpool, stays in Blackpool’ however much we would wish for it. He does seem pretty angry most of the time these days, I mean, more than usual.

He was really ranting on. ‘We can’t call it the four horsemen department if two of them haven’t got horses, and you know what Famine’s like, with his two hour lunch breaks, he probably ate it’ I tried to calm him down a bit but it wasn’t working. ‘Do you want me to carry out an investigation’ I asked. It is preferable to me if we at least try and follow the procedure in these cases but I was unsure of the grounds for disciplinary. Was it a breach of the alcohol policy or misuse of office equipment? It was a quandary. ‘No he sighed, just try and locate the horrible beasts and if you can’t, just order a new one with the transport team. But you can tell them from me they can’t claim any expenses this month and neither can the rest of them’. Well, I thought, that’s going to go down like a lead balloon later, if one thing was certain on the expenses list each month, it was Death and taxis.

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Hell is other people – a substack blog

One of my projects away from GT Poems is a new Substack blog I have created. ‘Hell is other people’ is the regular news letter/ diary of Phelan Tweed, Manager for People and Persecutions in Hell. Running a successful HR department can be difficult at the best of times, but HR in Hell is a whole different ball game. Why not head over and check it out.! Maybe I’ll see you in Hell.

https://gavint.substack.com