The Curation of Words
The Scottish Writers’ Centre Chapbooks series is marching on, City, Town & Village.
There’s an ebb and flow to putting together any anthology or writing competition. Putting out the initial announcement. Reminding any potential subbers about the deadline. And you wait. Things ebb a little after the first burst of excitement and you wonder what you’ll receive. You get a few submissions after each reminder. I checked them over and since most of the initial subs were at the top end of our word limit, I requested shorter pieces in particular. Balance is important when collating an anthology. And brevity, especially so when putting together a tiny chapbook.
Then there’s a steady trickle in the final week. Then the heady rush of the last day, the last few minutes.
In preparation for the rapidly moving flow of events after the deadline, I cleared as much off my other to-do lists as I could so I could dedicate any spare time to my SWC duties. Admin first. Send out read-receipts. Put the entries into a word document, remove names, add numbers. Withdraw any that are too long. The vast majority of writers had read the submission guidelines carefully, so thank you for your care and attention! I re-checked emails for submission updates – changing titles and correcting any errors that people may have spotted only after pressing SEND. We’ve all been there.
Then comes the part I was looking forward to.
It’s been such a pleasure to read writing from friends across Scotland. It has truly surprised me just how much power words have to provide human contact – so incredibly important given how isolated we all feel at the moment. A writer’s words are an insight into their soul, and so that connection to others has felt incredibly welcome.
As I read, I’m sympathetic to how vulnerable each writer may feel in sending their work to the Scottish Writers’ Centre. These are peoples’ inner lives. There’s an intimacy to choosing pieces for an anthology and I find myself falling a little in love with each poem and story.
I reach for the music I listened to when I studied. Radiohead as a teenager, then classical in my thirties when I completed my M.Ed and M.Litt. Choosing for an anthology is like listening to music – some pieces strike you immediately with their beauty, then fall away. Some you need to reread, re-listen to. These grow on you. Subtle at first, but give more of themselves with each reading. I mark them as maybes, and come back to them again and again.
But judging is also completely subjective, which is why I have two other experienced judges helping me, with different tastes. Sheila Wakefield and Derek Parkes, fellow directors of the SWC, volunteering their time and expertise as I do. We received nearly a hundred and fifty submissions. Over twenty thousand words that each of us have read three times at least already. We each chose our initial favourites, and during a Zoom meeting, we narrowed them down from these fifty or so to our shortlist of twenty.
The next stage: typesetting a rough first draft to see how I might work the space. To see how many I can comfortably fit in. Then we’ll have a final read-through with potential suggestions for edits before contacting our shortlisted writers to let them know if they’ve made it to the final cut. Bear with us. Behind the scenes of any writing competition there are people with lives and other responsibilities. Writers sometimes forget this we send things off to magazines and competitions.
I’ll begin sending e-mails soon to let you all know how you’ve done.
Thank you for sending us your writing. I’m humbled by how many of you have entrusted us with your words and we’ll try to do you all proud.
In the meantime, if you want to have your own copy of the first in the SWC Chapbook, you can get it in our on-line shop, here.
Take care everyone!