Mr Sheen

I was thrilled when Brittle Star accepted my short story Mr Sheen, and even more thrilled when my complimentary copy arrived this week. I’ve only browsed through it so far, but there’s some fantastic writing (poetry, short fiction and essays).
In her introduction, one of the editors, Jacqueline Gabbitas, makes an interesting point about skilled work and low pay (copied below).DSCN2774

I had a run of luck with poetry competitions a few years back. I thought, for a while, it might be possible to give up the day job and make a living out of writing. However, I started to notice that the quality of my work was suffering. Subliminally, I think I was trying to write the ‘prizewinning poem’ (whatever that is), rather than being true to myself and my work. After that, I spent a lot of time experimenting, producing work that only appealed to the very fringes of the poetry scene, the avant-garde if you like. I had work taken by the likes of Streetcake and 3 am magazine, online journals that take risks, that are constantly seeking to challenge our notions of what poetry is and what it can do or be.  Since then, I’ve never thought about payment. I write to satisfy my creative impulse,  and to somehow translate my experience of the world into art. Payment is wonderful when it happens, but I never expect it. Writing for money doesn’t motivate me, because writing gives a sort of value to my time that can’t be quantified in monetary terms. I gain a great deal of satisfaction from that – in the areas I’m working in, writing can’t be ‘bought’.
I am influenced. I create. I edit. I send work out (in every sense I submit). For me, the process has its own rewards. I hope at least some of you feel the same.



8 thoughts on “Mr Sheen

  1. Well done on your short story, Julie. I can’t read it very well (using old glasses until I manage an optician’s appointment) but the opening lines are fantastic and extremely intriguing. Yes, I’ve found that thinking about money, or trying to write to any kind of order, is the kiss of death for my work. Producing more writing and increasing my output is more important to me than earning money from writing. It’s what I strive to do each day, rather than thinking about money. I need money, of course, but look for other ways of acquiring it, through jobs that aren’t writing-related. Having said that, I don’t give my writing away lightly. I’m not interested in submitting my work to be published without payment unless I’m convinced the publication is really worthwhile. I’d rather publish it on my own blog, to be honest. I’m not talking about a print magazine like Brittle Star which has a good reputation and readership and looks beautifully-produced – this is payment of a kind and adds to your profile, etc. This is a reward, as you say.


    • Hi Josephine,
      I know what you mean. You want magazines to represent your work well so it’s important to submit to the ones you like. Having said this, if no one submitted there’d be no magazine! I think editors have an incredibly hard job. Hats off to them.
      Julie X
      PS I only featured a short section of the story in the photograph as the magazine has only just come out. I’ll publish it in full on the blog once a few months have passed, out of respect for the magazine and all the hard work they put in to keep the scene alive and current.

      Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks Ama. Your poem is terrific. I love your use of repetition, and that metaphor – ‘the black stone of my story’ is really hard-hitting. We’re off camping next weekend, and I’ll be taking Brittle Star with me to read in the fields above Hebden Bridge (keep your fingers crossed for good weather).
      Julie X

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Well put, Julie – and congratulations on the Brittle Star story. Hope you have been okay during lockdown and able to write ‘for you’ during that time. Carolyn x

    Carolyn Waudby Journalist, Poet, Lecturer E: T: @c_waudby

    W: Apus – 20 poems inspired by the life of Frida Kahlo.  Published by The Red Ceilings Press



    • Thanks Carolyn. During lockdown, I edited the novel I’m working on, and became addicted to haiku! School breaks up on Friday, and although I’m only a Teaching Assistant, I’m certainly ready for a rest.
      I hope you’re keeping well and managing to stay safe. What are you working on at the moment? I’m assuming you’ve been working from home – does that encroach on your own writing?
      Hopefully we can catch up at a poetry event at some point – hard to say when that will be though.
      Julie X


      • Hi Julie – just found your message – good to hear from you and glad you and you writing are going okay. It’s been a long haul with lockdown and set to continue. For university staff there has been no let up. We’re all home working and the ante has been upped well and truly! I haven’t attended any poetry writing events for many months, but try to continue with my writing group once a fortnight. Jim Caruth and Alan Payne are both in it and keep us on our toes. We’ve started setting writing prompts for the sessions which is proving very rewarding. Are the Penistone Writers meeting in person or online? Our sessions are now via Zoom. As for new projects, I have some ideas but need to think through how to execute them. I want to write a full collection on the Elements, but may want to include the writing in a broader, environment linked project. Other similar ideas in the pipeline, possible collaborations. We are having work done on our house, which is an old one and needed a lot of tlc when we moved in a couple of years ago, and also looking after my extended family. I’m looking forward to attending live events again. xxx


      • Hi Carolyn,
        Sounds like you’re busy! Penistone Poets haven’t been meeting so much recently, although a few of us got together in the garden the other week. The ones who probably write the most have done lots of Poetry Business online workshops instead, which are excellent. As I’ve been writing more haiku, I’ve actually found I’ve done less workshops – it’s a different process, at least for me.
        Take care and say hello to Alan and Jim – that’s what I’m really missing from poetry workshops, the chat during coffee breaks!


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