This week was my Ledbury Poetry Festival extended launch of The Magnetic Diaries and a preview reading from plenty-fish, hopefully due from the printers next week.

I was reading alongside poet friends Lesley Ingram launching Scumbled (Cinnamon Press) and Ruth Stacey launching Queen, Jewel, Mistress (Eyewear), plus cider for the audience, so I knew it would be a fantastic night!

The thing about Ledbury Poetry Festival is that is such a wonderful and unique experience, as audience member and as reader. The whole town throbs with the festival, poetry found just about everywhere.

When I read at Ledbury for the first time two years ago, it was a dream come true. To return and read again was amazing.

I’m often quite self-conscious and critical of my own readings, partly because being in the limelight doesn’t sit naturally with me, that place belongs to the words. But Ledbury brings out the absolute best in me.

This year, I was also delighted to take part in the festival’s ‘Poetry as Protest’ campaign with English PEN to highlight the cases and writings of some of the many poets who are currently at risk around the world. I started my reading by sharing a poem by Liu Xia, who is currently under house arrest in China. Her poem ‘One Bird After Another’ was greeted by such a round of applause that I felt I needed to leave a space of significant silence before continuing with my own set. It was a very moving moment in a very moving evening.

Just as reading at Ledbury is a dream come true, so too is the publication of plenty-fish by Nine Arches Press.

I suspect I may go against the grain in never having first submitted to Faber, Picador, Bloodaxe… my book publications have never come about in such a big press, career-planned kind of way. (To me, poetry is a pleasure, the writing a mixture of pleasure, pain and sweat in the crafting; an art form that might lead to work in tutoring, performing, editing, yes, but a career itself, no.)

Instead, they have all followed a much more natural and unforced kind of process. I’d done well in some competitions, impressed my first publisher Kay Green at Circaidy Gregory Press and when she suggested I send Into the Yell to her, I was delighted. Not only at the editing, publication and support, but at the huge amount I learned about small press publishing along the way.

Likewise, with my Knives, Forks and Spoons collections Be[yond] and The Magnetic Diaries.

I’d never submitted from cold with such importance (in my head) attached to a submission until I submitted plenty-fish to Nine Arches Press. I’d admired their books for years, had poems accepted for their magazine under the radar and met editor Jane Commane in passing at regional poetry events. I knew that’s where I wanted the collection resulting from my masters portfolio to be published. But it was only the second time that I’d ever made a ‘formal’ collection submission.

I’m not sure if it’s because the number of poems involved but submitting a whole collection somehow seems to make so much more courage than individual poem submissions or anonymous competition entries. (My one previous ‘cold-call’ collection submission was a sample from a different manuscript to a different press and that rejection was hard, but, luckily, somewhat mitigated by other successes which meant it didn’t carry as much weight for me as it would otherwise have done. In contrast, I had no safety net in waiting for plenty-fish.)

When I made it from the sample submission phase for plenty-fish to the whole manuscript phase then to finally the collection being accepted, I was more delighted than I could put into words. Along the way though, the closer one gets, the more agonising the wait, because the possibility of its publication starts to feel more tangible, one dares to start hoping but knows nothing is yet guaranteed…until that final yes!!!

So, why am I sharing this? I guess, in part at least, it’s because of my own self-doubt, because it would have been so easy to allow fear of rejection to stop me submitting, because I think sometimes female writers (and yes, maybe male ones too) don’t think big enough. It’s also to say that there is life after rejection, and not to give up hope.

And, if this does ring a bell for you, then I’d really recommend the following post about what being a ‘success’ (in all the fickleness/variable definitions that this term brings) as a writer really means. (The theme for my September launch of plenty-fish is endurance!!!)

Meanwhile, more on my next blogpost, hopefully, about the agony of asking for endorsements, and why the opinion of the poets on the cover of plenty-fish matter so much to me. And maybe even a microreview or two too…