We begin this episode looking through Streetcake's most recent issue and highlighting some standout pieces. We then speak to Second Chance Lit about their mag and how they home rejected pieces. In the second half of the podcast, we speak to Erica, author of The Burning Throne and editor of The Writers Den podcast and press. We speak to Erica about representation and the need for more education around gender identity and sexuality in schools, the environmental impacts of physical books, and top tips to becoming a successfully published writer.
We begin this episode looking through Streetcake's most recent issue and highlighting some standout pieces. We then speak to Second Chance Lit about their mag and how they home rejected pieces. In the second half of the podcast, we speak to Erica, author of The Burning Throne and editor of The Writers Den podcast and press. We speak to Erica about representation and the need for more education around gender identity and sexuality in schools, the environmental impacts of physical books, and top tips to becoming a successfully published writer.
Hello, and welcome back to the Full House podcast. We have some really great guests on for this week's episodes. And we really hope you enjoy. So first up, we're going to be looking at Streetcake Magazine's most recent issue, then we will be chatting to Second Chance Lit. And then we will also be having a chat with someone in the community called Erica, who also runs a podcast and has started a new press and we will be talking about representation around gender and why there needs to be more education around representation in schools. Okay, so first looking off at Streetcake's latest issue. Yeah, it's pretty incredible to honest. So we're looking at issue 71. And it is split into two parts, and Streetcake are literally like one of the most fantastic mags out there. They're all about inclusivity and representation, and they just want you to have fun and be free. They're the people and the organisation that started me on my personal poetry journey. So I have nothing but absolute love and gratitude for them. Streetcake is run by the absolutely lovely Nikki and Trini. And they're the most lovely editors, you can imagine. They're always so kind and accommodating. And generally, you know, if you're a Streetcake writer, they'll support you for life. You know, you're in that community, though Streetcake family. So, I mean, I can't shout them out enough. If there's any submitters out there who want to submit, definitely go for it. And from a reading perspective, as well, what I love is that I know when I read that issues, I'm gonna just be blown away by such a magnitude and such a variety of different forms. And my eyes are just going to be like, all over the page. It's like, when I look at Streetcake's, issues, I feel like I'm doing like a workout for my eyes, like the aerobics that go on. And the mental and visual aerobics are just absolutely fantastic. And you do leave feeling like wow, you know, I've just read something incredible.
So yeah, let's look at some standout pieces. So my first standout piece is from part one, and it's called 'neurodivergent cake dream' by Jane Ayres I'm really sorry if I pronounced that terribly. But no surprise, it's one about foods. So of course, I've picked it up because the food ones definitely draw me in. The first words are just absolutely brilliant. So they begin 'Last night, I ate chocolate without washing my hands.' And I just love that, like, it's such a relatable moment. And you get such a little taste of what this narrator is about just from that little sentence, and I absolutely adore it. And then as we continue, we learn about cakes and chairs outside socially distanced, which of course it is really contemporary right now, there's a line about 'I'm anxious because I usually don't eat food I haven't prepared myself unless it has labels.' There's mentions about nuts. And I think there is a big anxiety about you know, about things that are unfamiliar in this way. And I think when you use food to show that I think that's a really interesting example about, you know, lack of control over things and why there is anxiety and fear over things you haven't you know, as Jane puts it like prepared themselves. So I think this is a really interesting piece. And it's a really small piece like it's not long at all. And it generally is like one big, its not even a closed sentence, it doesn't even have a full stop at the end. It's like an open paragraph that just flows but there's so many little details that you could just go in and pick out. And I think it's a really, really fantastic piece of work. And then the last line of the piece is 'because if you aren't sure, I don't think I'll take the risk.' And I think that's a really powerful line. It's really simple. Like there's not really any fancy language in this piece at all its very simple and stripped back and that's, you know, my favourite type of writing to read. Not that there's anything against flowery language at all. I just there's something that resonates within me with writing like this, and Jane is definitely my cup of tea. Yeah, it's a really bold piece. This is definitely a piece that has been formed really craftily and so definitely one to check out if you are wanting some short but fantastic language.
And then moving on we have a piece called Sentinel by Rachael Charlotte, which is also in the part one of the Streetcake issue. And I just love this piece. When I read it, I just I clicked with it instantly because it's really kind of plays with dark humour. For example, there's a line, 'I checked my email box sporadically for the next two weeks, perhaps he has died. Ah, no, he's still active on Twitter, not dead then.' And I just absolutely love it. And it's followed by 'this is both a relief and a disappointment.' I really like this. And I like the tone and the voice that comes across, I feel like they are like, really, I can almost see them they are very 3d. It's not like a flat type of character or narration here. Um, I like the way the spacing is used on the page as well. Some of the words are spread out. And I think it's really interesting in the way that Rachael has approached this piece, and I think Rachael has done some fantastic work here. So yeah, visually, this is really engaging. And also just content wise, I think it packs a real punch. Again, this is a piece that is fairly simple in terms of on the surface. But the level of craft that's gone into this piece is, is one that I could see myself going back and rereading many times.
And there are countless others fantastic pieces in part one, but I'm going to jump over to part two now. I'm gonna speak about EP Jenkins' 'Jorōgumo', I'm not really sure if I pronounced that correctly. But it's really, really interesting. It's a small sort of quite densely packed, text, piece of text with occasional spaces that really help emphasise certain lines, we have a few repeated words that will reoccur throughout the piece. So we have some spider imagery, we have things like entangled silk spun webs. And there is a real sort of sense of intricacy about this piece. I think that's what I liked most about it. And yeah, so we have these repeated sort of fragments that reoccur across the really short piece, but they do it so well, that each time these fragments are reappeared, they're totally reimagined as well. And it's not just you know, repetitive in that way. It's really cleverly placed and put together. It's got an eco sort of theme to it. It's quite involved in nature. And the way it discusses nature, I think is really interesting. But yeah, the thing I like most about it is the way it uses a really consistent repeated imagery, but in a new way every single time it's mentioned. So I think this is just a fantastic piece, and definitely one to check out.
And then another standout I really love is 'Spring', by Allie Kerper. And this is really cool. So it's like fridge magnets like they're really small like words and they are thin, fridge magnets, if you can imagine what I'm talking about, but if not just check out the issue, you might need to visually see this one. But the language is magical. I mean, fridge magnets, I associate more with you know, like childhood and like a family home a family fridge. But the language here is fantastic. And I know Jack and I speak a lot about oh, you know, these unique phrases. But this is another one of these pieces that does that. So we have language such as 'science & a summer curl', 'imagine a month together', 'skin fiction', 'empty breeze'. The form, of course is fantastic. I adore the form it it makes it incredible. But even without that cool form, this is still just a fantastically written piece. Just the words and the language and the way that phrases have been used together works incredibly well. The form just adds to it and just really brings it together it gives it a really cool quality about it. And yeah, this is what I would stick on my wall I'd see this more as art than you know, poetry. This is definitely something fantastic and that, you know, this is something to frame.
And so then we have a fantastic piece on page 14 by I think it's pronounced Michał Kamil Piotrowski really sorry about the pronunciation there. But oh, this is fantastic. It's like a page of computer coding. And it's got some really interesting phrases inside, like, 'my hobbies include stopping now breathing hard video games'. Again, it's one of these ones that like it's more like art than it is poetry in the way that it's so visually appealing. It experiments around you know, bodies. And there's a line 'incorrect body', which I think is really cool. And it sort of takes the computer coding and merges it with words and something absolutely magical has been produced. So I mean, this is a fantastic piece. And it's the type of thing that I really love. It's not traditional by any means it's something that absolutely entrances me.
And then the final piece that for me is just incredible is Winston Plowes, which starts with the line 'Programme My first kiss was with a computer'. It's, again, it's similar to the piece before in terms of computer coding aspect. And it feels like, you know, when something goes wrong on a computer and you're at that stage where it's like, a reboot kind of looks like a sort of reboot stage. And like, it's got the press any key to continue type thing. And it's got some really unique language, for example, 'injecting false positives into a traffic jam'. That's just a brilliant line I absolutely love. Another one is 'a conversation between a copper coin and an enamel mug'. Again, it's these unique phrases that draw you in. Again, this is another one, I would easily frame and just stick on a wall. In, you know, like an office. It's brilliant. It's just absolutely brilliant. And then the last line is, 'how did that feel press end' and it's just such a clever way of demonstrating a really simple narrative, with some really complex language, and imagery in there. And it's just, it's absolutely fantastic.
And so they were my standout pieces from the recent Streetcake issue. But honestly, all of them are incredible. There's such a good mix between both poetry and prose and visual pieces. And I mean, some of the forms are incredible. We have some shape poems, and the thing I love most about Streetcake is it shows talent across a wide variety, it's for people that are starting out, people that have been writing for, you know, years, it's for everyone, and it just sort of showcases experimental fun. And that's the brilliant thing about it. It's such an open, safe space for playing around, and sort of turning what traditional poetry is on its head. So highly, highly recommend checking out their recent issue. I always love like coming away and feeling just so refreshed looking at their pieces. And they always make me feel so inspired. Because when I see people pushing boundaries like that, you know, that's what I'm all about, so, incredible work there.
And so our next guests are from Second Chance Lit. And we've been following Second Chance for quite a while now, we did speak about them and their issue one on a recent podcast not too long ago. So we are big fans. And we thought let's get them on and have a chat about the work they do. Because they are quite unique. And I think they offer something that's definitely worth checking out. And so hi to David and Katie.
Hi, it's good to be here.
Hi. So do you want to start off by introducing yourselves introducing Second Chance and telling us a bit about what you do?
Sure, absolutely. So I'm David. And I actually published two books of poetry and went through traditional means and was looking for a way to stay involved with writing and found the lit mag community and kind of in backwards order. I think most people kind of start out like this. And then maybe move on to traditional publishing. And I just really fell in love with this community. And the way it's a collaborative environment and how it works.
This is Katie, I am completely new to the community, Dave introduced me. And I am just so impressed with the people and the quality of work. And I do a lot of grant writing in my day job. And so it's really been nice to sort of immerse myself in the creative side of things again.
It is great to talk to you both! And I'd love to know a little bit more about what you know, specifically inspired Second Chance?
Sure, maybe it's a little selfish on our part. But we've got two small children, and I teach elementary school and Katie's working a full time job as well. And so by the end of the day, we were just exhausted, and we never really saw each other anymore. It's just the way it works the way life works. And so this was this was also something an opportunity for us
To share an activity again, that was not kid or work related.
Right. Something other than just making dinner together or taking the kids somewhere. So this this has given us something to look forward to doing together just the two of us. So selfishly, we we started for that reason, but then we also really wanted to make sure that we could read some outstanding work, which we've been able to do and I think after our first issue, it seems like people responded well to it and like the direction that we're taking and our eye that that we have choosing different pieces. So we're we're happy with how it's going.
Wow, that is an incredible story, I think people will be really happy to know that because it means Second Chance Lit not only you know, is a place to give pieces, the second chance at love, but it's also, you know, founded because of love. And I think that's a really beautiful story and origin story you guys have.
Behind the scenes. It's it's us, we talk together about each and every piece. We don't always agree. Sometimes we have to fight it out for pieces one of us likes and the other one a little indifferent about but but we we talk about every single submission we get. So yeah, it's it's definitely a collaborative experience.
Yeah. So you said, you know, share some of the work and that, and does that look like that generally across the board, do you both share everything, or are there some roles that either of you is more suited to than others.
Yeah, I think Dave does a lot of more hands on work, I do some of the behind the scenes setup in terms of managing how we respond to the submissions. And of course, we both read everything. But David, you know, as you may know, the public face, he does all the the Twitter and Social Media side of things, just because that's he's got more presence online anyway, as a writer, which is not my strong suit in the same vein.
But we but we share, we read all the pieces, and then maybe you have a little more input with prose, and I get a little more input with poetry, but we we collaborate pretty well.
Okay, that seems like a really good balance between you. And so you've spoken a little bit about, you know, the community response to your first issue has been really positive. And has that been the general reaction from the community?
I was nervous. Because I thought that I thought maybe people would think we were vultures or like trying to steal submissions out from under others, or we even put, I put a section on our website where it's like, should you submit to another magazine? Yes, absolutely. Like we just we want to be another another place where your work could fit. We're not trying to steal things from others. But nobody really seemed to feel that way. Except for my little voice in my head.
Something like the number of Twitter followers seems so trivial. But I've been shocked by the response just in terms of the number of people who are interested, even if they're not submitting on a regular basis, but just have shown interest in in reading or learning more about the lit mag in, in that way alone. And just from the number of submissions that we've had.
You saying you didn't believe in this at the beginning?
I was sceptical, I was new to this! But even just the number of submissions from issue one, two, we just opened up submissions for issue two at the end of January.
And it quadrupled. Yeah.
Which is wonderful. It's just more to read. So.
Yeah, I mean, I think the work you do is absolutely incredible. You really give people a second chance that hope. And I think it's a really lovely concept. And so I'm just wondering, why did you specifically decide on, you know, the rejected pieces, as opposed to running a mag that is more traditional in the sense that you want new pieces?
Yeah. So I think that we didn't want to look at brand new works, right? I think there's a lot of places where people can can write specifically for an issue or for a theme. I didn't really want to do themed issues, because I see that quite a bit. I like themed I've nothing against it. But I thought it was I thought there was a place needed for works that were just rejected.
Yeah. I mean, I think that if, if it was not a little weird to do so Dave would himself submit to our own magazine.
And so I think that was part of your, you know, even if it wasn't a conscious idea that you know, but you had pieces that you love that you you were wanting to find a home for. And although this is not necessarily the home for it, we could be that place for other people, which was really exciting, because people are so passionate about these pieces, and they're so good, and you're really excited to be able to read them and to, you know, provide a little bit of happiness for those folks
and validation for myself. That piece was really good. Yeah.
Absolutely. And I can imagine, you know, accepting these pieces for us is such a good feeling when you send out those acceptances but what about on the flip side the rejections because obviously, you're a place for rejected pieces. So that must make rejections that you I send a lot harder on you.
Yeah, it's devastating. It's really hard. Any, any rejection that you have to send, I mean, some of these some of these rejections, we send to our ones where we're both like right on the fence with it, or we like something about it, but there's just a little something else that we want. And they're so close. Yeah.
I always have a hard time because we asked folks to send us their bio. And you know, sometimes it's professional bio, sometimes it's just personal information about them, or about the piece about the number of times it's been rejected in the hope that maybe...and like, I'm gonna crush their soul a little bit more.
Yeah, if we get an email that says, so here's this piece, it's been rejected 14 times. And we hope you're the spot and then it can be tough.
But I think we try to be as as as generous as we can, you know, there's, there's always something that we like about a piece, even if it's not, you know, a perfect fit for us at this time, every every single rejection, we send, we try and highlight something about the piece that we found that we liked.
Yeah. And I think what it really does show you the subjectivity there is in writing, because, you know, these pieces have been previously rejected, but then you read them and you love them, and you accept them. And it just really goes to show that you know, the right person, the right piece for the right person I suppose.
You're absolutely right.
And I mean, I was reading through your last issue and I was thinking how the hell were these pieces, you know, even rejected in the first place? They're so fantastic. And you guys must, you know, think that all the time?
Right. I think that's something that we say, yeah, it is that that's something we send in, in our acceptance letters to is we say that people are not going to believe that that this piece was rejected and some people rejected in the double digits, right. It's, it's just like you said, it's all subjective. And the piece just has to find the right editors at the right time. And and that's all it takes in order to get out there sometimes.
For sure. And so now, if you don't mind, let's talk through your first issue, I know Jack and I spoke through some of our favourite pieces, but we'd love to hear from your perspective, what some of your favourite pieces were. And, you know, the decisions behind those really interesting section names.
Yeah, we're gonna steal your idea, actually. And we're gonna, we're gonna pick one piece from from each of the four sections. And we, we wanted to, I think we didn't really set out with a, with a goal number of pieces. And it, it worked out to be around 60, that we had accepted by the end of our submissions. We have a two month submission window. And so we broke it up into sections of 15. And I think that's kind of where we like that number, and somewhere around 60. So we might be more or less than that. But that way we can split into sections. And we, as I said before, don't set out for any themes. But when we looked at all the pieces, we kind of grouped them into loose connective themes.
Yeah, I mean, in the first issue, that the groupings are based on different images or symbols of second chances and of rebirths. But who knows if that's what we're following the second time around, it could be completely different. You know, we read all of the accepted once again, and decided which ones felt similar in tone or topic or style to us to fit into those areas.
Yeah, so our first section was called the Lotus section. And it was kind of a rebirth and having to do with nature and awakenings, I guess. And so one that we wanted to highlight was Meep Matsushima's 'One Hundred Views of Tokyo', which it was one of the first submissions we got and it just blew us away. We're like they're pulling our leg like this. There's no way this was rejected, just like you said, Leia. I guess the One Hundred Views of Tokyo is ruminations about places in and around Tokyo and we're normally kind of turned off by a diary or journal, entry style pieces. But this one was just a such a different field had a surreal quality to it, and really great language. Now, I'll just read a little bit it was like 'there's a fine line between looks like something from a fairy tale and a fairy tale and we tripped over it without even trying, the wind blew sand in our faces, and we were suddenly in an empty city. We didn't eat until we got home.' So it kind of brings you into that world and you want to know what's happening. Meep says 'I tried to fit the entire city in my suitcase. When that didn't work. I cut out my heart and I hid it. I won't tell you where maybe if you listen closely, you can hear it beating in the rumble of the trains underfoot. The Blackbird flew into my mouth while I was singing to the city. It made a nest in the hollow place that keeps me breathing.' So it sounds very, it's all set up almost diary entry style, but it's languages just surpasses that.
Forgot how much I liked that one.
It's great to listen to.
That's a fantastic piece. And so what's next?
So this was our second section, the crescent moon 'The Girl Who Ate the Galaxy'. Stephanie Stephan. And there are two two things that sometimes can draw us to a piece and one is the writing and the other is the premise and something that's unexpected in both of those cases. And for The Girl Who Ate the Galaxy it really drew us in with with both of those. Yeah, which we found really impressive. Premise wise, I'll read a little bit of it here. 'Back home, she locks herself in her room. A tag tied to the stick thanks her for supporting a family owned business and explains the candy making process begins with corn syrup, sugar, natural flavours. Hydrogen Dark Matter cooked in a copper kettle poured into a mould. A galaxy is hand selected from a bat scooped up and pressed into the middle. Machine carefully inserts a stick once it cools, they wrap it for the curious says the wrapper.' Immediately I felt I was like, I don't understand what's going on here entirely. I want to know more.
And then for the second part, the language of it. Of course, you know that first part had the language too, but the story continues. 'She crumples it and tosses it to the floor. With the candy undressed she can see the creamy ellipse encased inside. It glitters when she rolls the stick between her fingers, and she is struck by the thought that these flecks are not edible mica. They are stars. Inside this galaxy there are tiny humans.'
Yeah, so it just draws you in.
Yeah, it's incredible. I love that line. That was in our that was in our second section, the the crescent moon section and so all those pieces were tied together with something to do with the moon or night or, or the clouds. And you know, poet's love the moon so. Oh, and they're gonna be mad at us for this one.
So we know that when you guys did your podcast previously, you highlighted 'The Wanderer' right by Yunya Yang. I, the second, you know, Dave said, hey, the folks from Full House Lit want to talk to us and they want to, you know, can we pick some of our favourite pieces? And I said, oh, let's do The Wanderer. And he said oh, they've already done that one. But this piece, I think it's so interesting how it grabs you and it makes you think one thing and it's so clever. And three paragraphs later, there's a twist and to be able to do that in such a short, short piece. And in such a clever way. It was so impressive to me. You know how it begins with I haven't seen my neighbour for three days in a row. Okay. And you think is this a murder mystery What's going on here? It just plays on your assumptions that you just assume it's a person. And you know, just a couple sentences later, it's 'I perk up and for a brief bewildering moment, I meet her eyes alert savage filled with exhilaration. She blinks once, and then when the swift turn of her lift figure vanishes again. The next day, the human shows me a flyer with her picture titled lost cat. She's not lost, I think with a pang of jealousy. She just lives a truer life now.' And I mean, I think part of it too, is that I'm a cat person. It blew me away with how, how the perspective was so switched in an instant for you as a reader.
It really was just three paragraphs. Yeah, yeah. That was in our feathers section, which was kind of things to do with animals. And then our our last section was the tabula rasa section, which means blank slate. The one that we want to highlight is 'Marginalia' by Paul Rousseau it was the found poem it was our only found poem of the of the issue. And so a found poem for people who don't know is typically taking writing you find and organising snippets of it into a piece so it could be something like refrigerator magnet poetry, or, or it could be like George Harrison and the Beatles flipping through a book and finding the phrase gently weeps and then turning it into a song. So it's pretty broad. The way Paul address it was finding all of his lines handwritten in the margins of books he had had read, which we thought was really interesting and Paul actually had sent this to us with a pretty elaborate explanation and description of his poem and, and thoughts on what it meant. It was really beautiful. But we decided together as editors that we would want the poem to just kind of speak for itself. And Paul was really a team player and agreed. So we kept a short two sentence introduction, and then just presented his poem as is and thought it was a little more powerful that way, that intro is 'I will never know the context of these emotional preservations. And therein lies the allure; a moment in time documented in the margin of a book, the denotation known only to the writer.' So we only left that part and then presented the poem. So he wrote, he wrote things together, like, 'I miss her. Birds fluttered in the milky mist. She was a small breath. Surprise, surprise. I cheated on her.' But they're not linked together unnecessarily. He just ordered them into whatever way he thought was the most poetic. So it can sound poetic put together, but it also it really gives so much depth when you start trying to imagine what these people were doing or thinking when they scribbled these phrases into a book, right? All these are probably in different books at different time periods, different people at different stages of their lives. And it's just we found that this was really layered layer on layer on layer, because you can keep diving into it so.
And then the layer of Paul's thinking too, of how he constructed the narrative and the story that he was thinking about when he ordered them the way that they went the way that he did, you know, there's different two different ways to look at it, I think line by line, and then as a whole, which was really interesting.
Yeah. So I just, I really love this found poem.
Yeah, I mean, the whole issue is fantastic but I do agree with you, those pieces, I definitely had a really special quality about them. And I'm sure everyone that would be excited to know about the future plans for Second Chance Lit, you know, when is your next issue coming out? Like when are subs open again.
So we've got issue two submissions are open right now, through March 22. And we're getting really good stuff again, which is awesome. I guess, people get rejected a lot. So we're working on organising some things from issue to right now where we're thinking of some ideas that we're playing with for for titles, but I think we're gonna have to wait until closer to when submissions are, are closing.
Yeah, I think those kind of things for us really come organically out of the pieces that are accepted. And, you know, with so many yet to be submitted, I think we'll have to wait and see to how they, how they fit together and how they're best organised to tell the story that we want to tell or shoot to.
We do like those Latin phrases for titles have issues, though. So we might continue with that I found one about fire that was good that I think I did as a test run on the website to see if it would look good. But we might not stick to it. We also have something else for our future. It's actually it's happening now. But we want to see more of it going into the future is the Phoenix project part of our site. So there were some people on on Twitter that were lamenting the fact that their published pieces just disappeared from existence because magazines became defunct and took down their site, and there is no way to access their work anymore, which I mean, anybody who's been published that's pretty devastating. So we opened up the Phoenix project to people if your work has disappeared from a defunct magazine, and there's no archive of it, you can send it to us and say which magazine it was in and then we it has to fit our guidelines. But if it fits our guidelines, then we're happy to to house it and in our Phoenix project part of the site to give those pieces another chance to exist.
Wow, that is incredible.
So that's that's we've got I think we have one up right now Pat Foran's and his his his a prince song inspired one which is really cool. And we've got two more in the pipeline. I think one coming pretty soon and then another one after that. So I think I think we're just starting to get out about that and people are are sending us more of their Phoenix project submissions.
Again like with our other rejected pieces, we don't want other magazines to go defunct and for for us to have to be that place, but we're happy to do it is that if that's the case?
Yeah, we don't want to be seen as predatory we want to be seen as a safe landing place.
I think you're such a welcome like, safe space. I know that I'll definitely be looking to you guys, when I inevitably get rejected in the future. I wanted to talk about your website as well, because your website is stunning. Like, it's one that we absolutely look up to you like every time we do redesigns on our website, we're like, we need to try and make it look as good as Second Chance, because it's amazing. How did you guys sort of what was the decision making processes behind your website?
So that's entirely Dave.
That's Squarespace that we use for our website. And I've used that for my own personal author website back when Squarespace kind of got started. So it was very much just like six boxes, and you click on the box, and there's information in there. So, because I was already familiar with Squarespace, I, I did that for this website, too. And now there's so many, there's so many more features that I was excited to play with. And my favourite one has to be the text fading in. Yeah. So when you when you go to one of our poems, or our stories and our issue, and you're up at the title, and then you scroll down, it's like the words just kind of up here, flash in as you're reading, which I think, I don't know, it just gives a little something extra to it.
Well, that was really good for me, as a reader, I have an awful habit of sort of scrolling to the end of a page or a paragraph to see, you know, what am I looking forward to, and this doesn't let me do that which is good.
It's yeah, it's kind of an immersive experience. It's, it's neat. And, and I was able to get a, I think it's just a YouTube video of kind of embers that were shaded purple. And, and put that at the the header and the footer of the page. So if you look at our website, on the phone, it still looks okay. But if you look at it on a computer, that's really the best way to view it. And especially for some of the formatting. We had a couple, a couple poems like cradling a disaster, and I think Trini Rogando's poem where they're very ergodic and flow around. So I think on the computer is the best way to look at it. Yeah, we're, we're very pleased with how it looks well.
And the nice thing about Squarespace too, is that not to downplay Dave's skills, but it doesn't require any HTML or other sort of special coding, it's all sort of, you know, just plug it in certain areas. So he's definitely worked very hard on it. But it's, it's something I think that it's manageable for other folks to take on, if that's, you know, a style that they want to try out for their own.
Yeah, it's fantastic. I mean, my question for you is, you know, between the website, between the work, between the little ones, how on earth do you get this done? Like, if you've got 60 pieces, you accept, I can't even imagine how many submissions you receive and then have to reject. So how on earth do you fit it all in?
Well, that's Katie.When you set up the Trello boards for us, because I didn't know how we were going to manage it.
Yeah, I mean, Trello is just a project management software that you can sign up for a few free, free account with with limited features. And it's how I have sort of figured out how to work from home for the past year. And so we took that and ran with it with Second Chance Lit. So we have all of our submissions feeding into that and we can put comments on it and code them and move them into various categories all within we can put new collaborative space.
We can put due dates on them and and say like, let's respond to this one within a week things like that. So it keeps us on track. And finding the time though is, once the kids go to bed at night.
I'll get text from Dave during the day, please read this piece. I need to respond to them. Please read this one.
I think when when you the wanderer came in, I think I texted you and I was like, stop what you're doing read this one. It's a cat one. So we we find time and like we said earlier, it's it's something that we look forward to doing together.
We find time and we make time.
So it's not it's not it's not a chore though. It's something we like doing.
That's so lovely. I'm so glad it's such like a passion project for you guys. And thank you so much for appearing on the podcast. It's been an absolute delight to chat to you learn a bit more about Second Chance Lit and how it originated and what your future plans are. So thank you so much!
Thank you for having us on. We certainly appreciate it.
It's it's people like you and others in this lit mag community that that really inspired us to, to do this in the first place and we're just really happy to be a part of all of this, so.
Thank you. And so anyone listening, remember, get your subs in Second Chance are still open for submissions. And you know, if you have something that could belong to their archive project do get involved. So now we'll be talking to Erica, our next guest. And they have some really interesting takes on, you know, representation, gender identity, education, publishing, so we're really excited to have them on so welcome, Erica.
Hello, I am Erica, I am very happy to be on this podcast. I'm the author of The Burning Throne available on Amazon at the moment. I am a podcast person. And I'm also head, head editor in chief of The Writers Den magazine, looking for staff and submissions. So if anyone particularly wants to have a look at the website, I'm sure that these lovely people on this podcast might link it for me. So you can go and do that. Otherwise, you can follow me on Twitter.
Fantastic. And so Erica, how did you you know, begin to start off the podcast and press tell us a little bit about how those projects came about.
Essentially, the the podcast came out of how everything comes out, it seems of being bored and thinking, yeah, I'm in lockdown for the foreseeable future. And I've tried multiple times to start multiple podcasts, they've fell through. So I just decided, let's actually do one on writing. And let's do it. So of course I started it, I had an amazing person from York and I've just been running it ever since. In terms of the press, it was it was very much wanting to do a little bit more to try and get people involved. Which is why I've opened staff applications at the moment. I'm currently wanting submissions. So it's just gonna be me for now until other people say, oh, I like this idea and hopefully come along.
Okay, great. And so what are the future plans of the writers den? You know, what are your issues gonna look like? How regular are they gonna be? Tell us a bit about your plans?
Oh, the regularity of the issues is, depending on how many submissions I get, my own personal regular schedule, and how regularly I could put them out.
So are submissions going to be more on like a rolling type basis?
Yeah, exactly. We'll see how it goes. I do. I do genuinely want to do something revolving around whatever is happening. If there were any notable events and things that there is something for Pride Month in the works as well. So that's quite interesting. It's it's February, the moment but hey, oh, it's the LGBT community is quite a giant part of my blood.
Yeah. And I think, you know, setting your values around, you know, the social and cultural values that are important to you, is something that definitely gives the, you know, your press a special sort of connection with you.
I think also building off that, as well. I do talk a lot about the dangers of performative activism. And that that whole whole thing of there's no point saying something unless we're going to do something about it. And I think by creating an issue for well not specifically, LGBTQ people, but definitely geared towards them.
Okay. And so if you had you know, a goal or a vision for your podcast, or podcast, what would it be?
In terms of the vision for the press and a podcast, it's mainly to just connect with people and give people a house for their work? Because it you know, I understand it's one of the main issues is credibility. One of the one of the real real issues with self publishing is the needing to get credibility behind you, especially with no money. I just want to give people a house for their work, while also being able to connect and get into the minds of really, really cool people, because I find anybody who's a writer has, has this sort of aura about them. I've always loved talking to people. So I thought, you know what, let's actually start a podcast about it.
So Erica, you identify as non binary and is, you know, one of your, you know, main goals to be include a wide variety of voices within your press?
Yes, um, in terms of the inclusivity, I put out a tweet of the other day, just saying that, at the end of the day, your sexuality, gender identity, race, ethnicity, etc, etc. shouldn't determine whether you get or don't get into the literary journal and instead it's the quality of your writing. I don't want to reject someone purely based on their skin or gender identity, because one, I will be a complete hypocrite until I hate myself. Which I do think is one of the reasons why I try and be as as inclusive as I can. And I do say, look, if there's anything I can do for the literary magazine or the podcast, to make them more inclusive, tell me, and I'll sort of get on that and see how I can incorporate it, of course. So some things on some things aren't possible. But whatever it is possible, I do add to it.
And I know we spoke with Ollie Charles, who's co founder untitled writing, and our previous podcasts about representation. And from your perspective, Erica, in within, you know, the literary word and community, are we moving in the right direction in terms of representation? Or is there still a lot more that needs to be done?
Within the literary journal community on Twitter, at least from what I've seen, they're incredibly, incredibly inclusive, and incredibly, incredibly amazing. That doesn't mean, however, that the rest of the industry is. And I think especially if you look into academia, the more academic side of writing in English and all the rest of it, you will see a lot of what I call studying dead white men. And I think we really need to break away from this stereotype of old dead white men are the only ones who can write because successful authors aren't just white men anymore, that you've got women writing, you've got black woman writing, if we look at books, for example, the hate you Give by Angie Thomas, that's an amazing book written by a black person, we look at anything by Juno Dawson. She's an amazing author. And she's trans. Proud was released and I really, really liked that because it was a short story anthology of saying, you know, what, you're valid. And I, you know, I thought I was just incredibly validated after reading that. I think in terms of the literary world, in general, we need to focus a lot more on getting mainstream education. Specifically, if you look at any GCSE syllabus, you will generally find dead white men. And I think that really, really, really needs to change. And we really need to get diversity within the hands of a 16 year old 1617 year olds who don't want to go and do a levels because GSCE's are the only mandatory qualification. And if you're if you're saying, oh, well only study dead white men, and maybe one woman, you're kind of saying, oh, well, only dead white men can write in the eyes of the syllabus. And in the eyes of 16 year olds. I think it's getting a lot a lot better now. But there are definitely a long, long, long way to go within education. And within every assets, whilst everything is going incredibly well, you can't sort of sit there and say, oh, it's fine. No, because it's not we've got a long, long way to go. And I think within hopefully my lifetime, it will be so much better than it is at the moment.
Yeah, I think as you say, it's really important to get in there quite early on. Because you know, in school, there's definitely going to be kids going through gender and identity struggles.
And I think building on top of that, we really need to get some more non binary and trans on the syllabus. Most not everybody is trans or non binary, and only one personal just under does makeup trans people, you can you can then within a school of like 1000, how many, how many trans people there are there. And I think if anyone is questioning their gender, or sexuality, etc, etc, we do need representation in there say you just need to get more diversity within that age group. Because it just it would also then help, I mean, hypothetically will help bullying because it's tolerance and acceptance, which I think the studying of literature and what you study within schools and things, does impact your worldview. If you only study dead white men, you're gonna think successful people are dead white man, if you get what I mean. So I think by adding diversity in that, you will see a lot more diversity. But it shouldn't be, oh, you go to higher education, you have the privilege to study gay authors and things, which I think this comes down to a lot of a wider problem of LGBTQ education, but Scotland is doing quite good at actually. And I think putting it in GCSE syllabuses as a mandatory text would definitely help.
And so we've spoken a little bit about representation being quite a big issue at the moment in the community. Is there another issue that's, you know, just as pressing in your opinion, or another issue, that's something that needs to be addressed in the literature community?
Its the diversity and also going from that the stigma about self publishing. Okay, these are, these are two different things, but I'll just, I'll try and tackle them both. Representation I've already spoken at length, but essentially, we need more people. And we also need to as a society have racist stigma that non binary people are weird because they use different pronouns. And there's a stereotype which really, really annoys me of trans women are men who dress up in dresses and I'm like, you see what I mean? It's those sort of stereotypes which are hammered in by the people who for some reason, really hate trans people for no reason. Listen, I mean, you know, trans people just want to live their lives. How is getting surgery, you don't even need to have surgery to be trans, you don't even need to get surgery to be trans, you don't even need to go down the medical route. But for those who do want to go down the medical route, how is either injecting yourself with a hormone or taking some pills, or using a patch damaging anyone's life? We need a lot more safety within the community. And we need a lot more safety within society in general because it's not just literature community here, it's society in general, it's a society. For God's sake, you use they them pronouns every single day without even realising. So I think that's more not necessarily a literature issue. I think that's more of a society issue. And I think hopefully, by the end, hopefully, in my lifetime, I can do a little bit of work in order to sort of fight against this stigma of trans non binary people are different and weird and should be prosecuted for literally just living their lives. In terms of the self publishing stigma, this is a hard one, you get a lot of shit in, in self publishing, and not all of it is shit. And I think it's just sort of the vocal minority doesn't represent the entire picture. Or if you want to go with a more suitable metaphor, an entire one single puzzle piece doesn't represent the rest of the puzzle. If we look at traditional publishing, they've got some shit books, too. You can't criticise self publishing, and then ignore the god knows how much of garbage traditional publishing gets published every year. There are issues with traditional publishing as well. There are issues with self publishing, neither is perfect. Nothing is so you can't just sit here and say, oh, well, one is better than the other no, both have their advantages and disadvantages. You as the author needs to decide, do I want to go traditional? Or do I want to go self publishing? Self publishing allows you a lot more control, but also you need to take a lot more responsibility. Traditional, it takes a lot longer generally. But you have a you have an agent, is having an agent more beneficial to somebody than them doing it themselves? That's that's a question people have to answer.
I guess the issue some people might have with the self publishing route is, is it more expensive in terms of, you know, the funding in terms of you know, the cost of production. So there might be more costs involved that way, maybe for self publishing, what's your sort of take on that?
In my experience, I actually haven't spent any money on the marketing at all, I just want to make sure that I have, I'm getting as much as I can for free, rather than shovelling 100s and 100s of pounds into it, and maybe not getting anything from it. In terms of the funding, you can do a lot of it yourself. Now, in terms of the cover design, you can use things like Canva, for example, to make your covers, if you're under 25, you can go to services, such as the young writers initiative, there are always critique groups you can join, there are always various elements of getting around the issue of money. But you need to create a budget for yourself and funding yourself is integral to success. You also you need to do as much as you can for free before you start dumping 100s and 100s of pounds into it. I publish through KDP. So a lot, a lot of printing costs are taken off what I guess anyway, so I don't see that money. I think I think you need to sell a lot of books, paperback books specifically to be able to fund anything. But with ebooks, you will get a lot more bang for your buck. If you say you sell, you sell an E book for four pounds and you get three pounds back, you'll get three pound of profit back. So and I do I do think that there is going to be eventually I was discussing this one episode to my podcast with the amazing guests I had on there. But essentially, I have this theory that realistically, print books are gonna start going down, not not disappearing completely, but there's gonna be less of them. And e readers are going to sort of go shooting up because of course environmental concerns and all the rest of it.
Yeah, I mean, maybe the you know, literature and publishing world will move more towards what we see in you know, the gaming industry where you can still buy physical copies, but a lot of it is available to buy online, and to download.
A lot of is to downloadable content. Exactly. So you can't you can't sit there and say that print books are, you know, here to stay forever. Yeah, they're so yeah, they're here to stay forever, but you're not going to see publishing houses and all the rest of it pumping up billions and billions and billions a year, which I think I do stand by that. Because, you know, I haven't researched enough into the environmental impact of producing god knows how many books off traditional publishing, which is why I do I do want to try to shift a lot more my focus personally to ebooks, because I would just feel better doing that. And I know that there isn't, you know, cutting down a tree, for example, to fund to fund one of my books. I'm not gonna sort of in terms of environmental impact or the rest of it.
I mean, yeah, there are a lot more environmental impacts think about now for sure. But I mean, paper books are still really popular and a lot of small business, small presses, small booksellers really prefer to have that physical in stores, so what would you say around that?
I would say minimise the amount of books you are physically printing. And also, and also shift a lot more focus onto the online and ebook side. Because one you will you you've got to, you've got to shovel a lot, a lot, a lot into marketing anyway. And if you've got a lot of books printed, and you don't sell them, you know, I do think also for the environmental side, for those small businesses who do want to use prints, be mindful of the amount you're printing, and be mindful of the environmental impacts of what you're doing. Because I think, I mean, granted, it is due to the capitalist society, but it's, you know, profit, profit, profit, profit, profit, and not so much going into the ideas of environmental conservation, which I think a lot a lot of industries are going to have to do. I don't know whether there is a more environmentally friendly way to you to create print books, I think a lot of scientific research and also very, very research on environmental conservation, etc, etc, needs to go into that.
I mean, I definitely think there are some ways that we could look towards moving towards more, you know, environmentally friendly methods of printing and the material like, you know, recycled paper. I just don't know where that would leave, you know, bookstores if we took away all the physical books and everything was online, because only people do get real pleasure of going to you know, especially like small independent bookstores, you know, flicking through the books. And it can be a real like pleasure to hold something in your hands that way.
Oh, yeah. Here's the issue with my argument is that I like bookstores, I like going about what I like going around in London, and looking at all the books and things. But I don't know whether this is something for people at Waterstones and all the book companies and things to work their head around. But I don't know whether there's a, let's say, you know, they have one half of their store, which is physical books for those people who do want to buy physical books, and then they have some sort of, you know, go into the kiosk, you can have a look, you can have a look at the books and you know, see what, see what you like about them, etc, etc. and then do or do almost like an Argos for bookstores. I don't know whether that's something they might end up going with in the future, that would also help with environmental conservation aspect, because it would keep the people like me who really really love going around bookstores and things, but also making the people who are rightfully so environmentally conscious, it will make them happy, as well. And it would also keep businesses alive. So I think it's gonna be really interesting within the next few years to see how bookstores and things to cope with the ever mounting pressure of the climate crisis.
So Erica, you are an aspiring author, and you know, you've published a book. So what tips do you have for other aspiring authors out there? And, you know, in your experience, what are the things that publishers, you know, wouldn't publish, like top tips and things to avoid tips and things to do?
Be warned, you will not probably publish anything you do within the first year of writing. If you do work on it for four and a half years, like I did with The Burning Throne, it might be publishable. But keep on working on that first draft, shelve it away if you have to, you know, look at it at some other point. But be warned, don't think that you will just be able to, you know, write a novel and polish it the next day.
Its not that easy, right?
No, I wish there was. There is a lot of marketing, especially if you're going down the self publishing route, there's a lot of marketing, there's a lot querying. If you're, if you're going on a traditional route, there's a lot of waiting and waiting is something I absolutely hate. Essentially, one of my really, really founding things is carry on writing. And also try to be consistent with it carry on writing as in, you're going to look at your work some days, and you're gonna think, oh, this is garbage. Why am I doing this? I you know, I'm, I'm never going to be successful or not. You're going to think that, every single author does, its the creative mindset, as I call it, or lack of, in this instance. Work on short stories before jumping on to a novel, a novel is a 90,000 beast. A short story is a 7000 word beast. Which one would you rather take on?
Well, I guess it's a little bit like the saying that it's easier to walk before you run. And I suppose if you've had that initial practice of writing shorter stories, then it's easier to maybe push yourself on to the longer stories.
Exactly. Don't run before you walk. So you know, I'm not saying you can't do it. But I'm saying it's going to be a lot harder to jump by into a novel if you haven't wrote short stories. Essentially or what happened for me, at least when, when writing anything, I generally just make sure to not jump in to novel writing. Generally, what I what I really, really like doing is mind mapping, actually. So outline, please, for gods sake outline. Or at least bullet point list, please plan unless you're the next, Derek Landy. But essentially, I think you unless you are some sort of prodigy, you're not, you're not gonna be able to write write a novel without at least doing a bullet point list. Also, please stay organised, please actually make a folder on Google Drive or your laptop or handwrite it if you want, if you feel like if you find that what that works for you. Personally, my handwriting is completely illegible. So I type everything. But I find that if I I do bullet point lists everything I ever write, I do bullet point lists, because then I have at least a direction. But just stay organised. Writing a novel generally takes at least a year.
I think that was really fantastic advice is there any more top tips that you feel like are really essential for writers starting out or wanting to get published?
Don't chase trends, please, whatever you're seeing on the market, when you finish your novel, is probably not going to be popular anymore. And then be very, very, very, very, very good at managing numbers within self publishing. So just I and I understand everybody who writes books probably has a fear of numbers, because it's why it's why most of us study English. But it's one of the you know, one of my really, really, really big pet peeves with any manuscript, one, edit it, two put it through beta readers, please just have somebody else check it before you before you release into the world. Also, do not skip the editing phase, whatever you're doing, do not skip the editing phase. It takes I think it's one second to make an impression of someone, make that impression a good one by spell checking your work, editing it, showing it through beta readers, and alpha readers if you're able to get out of them. And just make sure your novel is the best you can make it.
Yeah, yeah. And how important would you say, you know, engaging with the community and find that sort of social networking process is?
Please network, this industry, from what I've learned is 20%, what you do and 80%, who you know. You need, you need to build a network, you need to build a party of people who will push you and also look out for you, because you are you will have some days where you're thinking, well, why am I bothering you know, I sometimes, you know, sit you sit in my makeshift office and think, why am I bothering writing? You know, and I'm never gonna get this published. I'm never gonna, you know, sell a copy or, you know, I'm never gonna do anything with it. You know, why am I bothering wasting my time. This network will probably become your family, it will become your second family, if you will. Second, third, fourth, fifth, sixth family, maybe I don't know how many families you have. But the point is, build a network of people who will support you and parade you, but also make sure they're not yes people because people who say yes, yes, yes, yes, yes all the time really infuriates me because they're not giving an opinion. They're just saying, yeah, that's good. Really, really, really just make sure that you network, you network well, you just live and also just make friends along the way. Because that's what networking is, is making friends along the way and possibly maybe asking them if you can refer them to somebody who's, who's more knowledgeable and has more contacts. Think of it as a spider web. You know, this person who knows that person who knows that person who knows that person who can then contact you to another person who knows hundreds of more people, and then another person who knows 100 of all people, and so on and so on. You just need to make sure you connect with as many people as possible, even if it's just sending, sending them a DM and saying hi, I love your work that could possibly spring a friendship. Also make sure that you are having fun. There's no point writing a novel. If you're not having fun with it.
I definitely agree with you there about fun is the most important part. And so thank you so much, Erica, for joining us for this podcast. It's been great to have you on and your insights have been so so helpful. Thank you so much. And for any listeners out there, be sure to check The Writers Den because I'm sure Erica has loads of fantastic tips over there too.
And now we're going to look at our tweet of the week. So our tweet of the week comes from Hannah, and the @ is @writesloud. So it goes 'Normalize knowing you are a writer, even if you haven't finished a novel, even if you haven't landed your dream pub, even if you just write secret poems in your bathroom at 2:00 AM on your phone. Even if everyone around you is so good at this, you can still know you're a writer.' And I think this is such an important statement to make. Because you know, yeah, if you write and you love what you do, and you have a passion for it, you are a writer. I mean, I think a lot of the time people think I'm only a writer, you know if I've got a book out, if I'm published in a wide variety of places. Yes, you are an author if you do these things, but you're an author if you don't as well. I remember my very first class university, they were like how many of you, in a creative writing class, they were like, you know, put your hand up if you're a writer, and like nobody put their hand up because their definition of what a writer was for something bigger than what they considered themselves. And I just think that's pretty sad. You know, like, if you're a writer, you are a writer. So if you write poetry prose, even if you just write things that you think are rubbish, you're still a writer, you know, and I think Hannah makes such a good point. And it's so valid, you know, to remind yourself that what you love doing is important. And just because you aren't the same, you know, level of success that others in the field might be, it doesn't mean you're any less of a writer, and you have to begin somewhere, I think the first step is to establish it, you know, I am a writer, it's like, you know, you're never going to be anywhere successful or you're never going to be able to go forward in your passion if you don't accept it first, you know. And why and why not try it even if you think oh, there's no point identifying myself as a writer, I'm never gonna get anywhere. Well, you're definitely not with that attitude, you know? So, if you go into it, saying, yes, I'm a writer. I know I'm not the best writer, but I'm going to improve my writing and I'm going to become a writer I'm really proud of then that is a beautiful and magical thing that I think we should all be aspiring to. So yeah, I can really really relate to this tweet and I'm all about pushing for people to be confident in themselves and embrace what they love doing.
So now we're gonna round out with a quick news blast to round up the episode. Okay, so Isabelle and Nikki Dudley's editing masterclass workshop is still available to get tickets for so it's going to be on April the third at 1:30. And speaking of NiKki Dudley, Nikki's new book, Volta is available for pre orders. That's really exciting. I've actually read an early stage of this book and it is absolutely fantastic. Coven poetry is now open for submissions. Seiren is now open for submissions up to the third of March. The new mumwrite programme begins in April and you definitely don't want to miss out on that. The writers den podcast and press are open for submissions. Journal of erato are also open for submissions. The remnant archive are also open for submissions and yesterday the Babel Tower Notice Board released some really fantastic pieces. And they've also started recent some really cool sound pieces. So I definitely recommend going over there and checking that out. Foglifter are looking for an assistant fiction editor. Neon books are also looking for a freelance editorial assistant. Janel Pineda has launched a debut chapbook. Aaron Kent's debut collection will be released later this year. And finally us at Full house we will be open for submissions from the second of March. So is your notice to get your submissions ready. Okay, so thank you so much for joining us for this week's podcast. And we'll be back in two weeks with some really fantastic guests. And also we'll be talking about the release of our spades issue, so have a lovely day and thank you for joining us.