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Poems that Grow into Trees

Poems That Grow into Trees

First of all, a happy New Year to everybody reading this post, especially if you're reading it on 1 January 2017. I am nursing a cold, heavily medicated with Max Strength Lemsip, but I'm optimistic the year can only get better ;)

No, this is not a post chock-full of metaphors about poems touching the sky, or blooming into flowers, it absolutely is about poems that turn into trees; it's also about competitions. It feels somewhat appropriate to start the year with a post about competitions, since my last-but-one post of 2016 was a roundup of the year's submissions. I'm also able to throw in some blindness information that ended the year with an unexpectedly fuzzy feeling.

At about midday I noticed a tweet from the lovely people at Live Canon, which said "a tree is planted for every entry I couldn't resist finding out what this was all about, so I immediately popped over to the Magic Oxygen website to read about their poetry and short story competition. For every poem submitted they plant a tree in the Kenyan community of Bore, where the competition, over the previous two years, has funded a new classroom, which they are hoping to add a second classroom to with this year's competition. The Word Forest currently covers an area more than 11 Wembley stadiums in size!

Depending on how hungover you are after New Year's Eve you may have time to enter yourself if you fancy kicking off 2017 with a poetry or short story submission. The deadline was midnight on 31st December 2016, but it has been extended until midday 1 January 2017 because a few overseas people had a technical problem with the submission system. You can view the rules on the website link above, but in brief poems can be up to 50 lines (not including title or blank lines between stanzas) and short stories up to 4,000 words. It costs £5 per entry, but don't forget, you are planting a tree and helping to build another classroom with that, as well as funding the £1,000 first prize, £300 second prize, £100 third prize and 2 commended awards of £50, giving a total prize pot of £3,000 for poetry and short story categories. Entries need to be anonymous so don't have your name in the header or file name of your Word doc (mistakes I've made in my time!)

Now, onto blindness matters — this too involves Magic Oxygen. I obviously didn't have time to buy and read the competition anthologies before I needed to send in my entry, but I did want to buy the 2015 and 2016 eBooks, not least because you can buy the eBook bundle for the bargain price of £5, which also results in 2 more trees being planted! How amazing is that?! Here is the page where you can order your copies. Now as a blind person I do not find all eBook formats are entirely accessible. I wanted to ask the question of whether the eBook formats include PDF or Word, which my screen reading software can read for me (sadly the formats don't include those) or if they are the more-usual Kindle and iPad formats (they are). I popped over to their contact page and entered my question, and then discovered I needed to prove I was a human; you know, those CAPTCHA challenges of random letters shown in distorted letters so that automated spam software cannot, in theory, figure them out. Sometimes you will see a CAPTCHA that has an audio version for blind or visually impaired users who can't see the CAPTCHA, or for sighted people whose eyes are not sufficiently screwy to figure out which letters and numbers are in the visual image. Sadly there was no audio CAPTCHA option on the Magic Oxygen contact page.

I shrugged and decided that, for £5, I'd take the chance that PDF might be an option, so I went ahead and paid for the anthology bundle at the same time as paying for my two poem submission. Confirmation emails of my payment and my competition entry promptly arrived, as did the download links for the eBook formats which, as I've already said, did not have PDF or Word as one of the options. What I did get however was an actual email address, which was not evident on the website itself. So I typed up a quick email, asking if I might be able to get a PDF version and suggesting that Magic Oxygen might want to think about changing their CAPTCHA mechanism to one with an audio version. Obviously it's New Year's Eve so I'm not expecting a reply until a couple of weeks into January, when hangovers have subsided and all the competition entries have been assembled for judging. How long do you think it took them to respond? Three and a half hours — I've had slower automatic responses than that! Not only was it a reply saying they were sorry for the inaccessibility of the contact form, but they had, in those 3 hours, switched the CAPTCHA so now it is not a visually scrambled word but it's just a checkbox that certifies that you are human. They asked if I minded giving it a whirl so I tried it out and it worked a treat. The icing on the cake is that they will also try to sort out a PDF version of the anthologies for me; how awesome is that?! (Is this a sign that 2017 is set to be the year of the interrobang?).

So thanks for your continued support reading my weekly website posts as we begin another 365 days on Planet Earth. Fingers crossed that all your submissions are successful, and, if you're harbouring a new year cold, keep taking the Lemsips and I hope we shake them off soon :)

#MagicOxygen #Kenya #Trees #Poetry #ShortStories #Competitions #NewYear

Published inblindnesscompetitions and submissionsPoetry


  1. Dear Giles,
    Thank you for this lovely article and your kind words about us. We always try our best and if it doesn’t measure up (as in the non-accessible captcha) we try very hard to fix things. Being a tiny company we don’t have the resources big publishers have, so we feel that we have to go that extra mile to stand out.
    As for Kundeni Primary School, you may be pleased to hear that, thanks to some generous donations, we have this week completed the second classroom, ready for the stuudents to come back to in the new term. Our work will continue in Bore, Kenya with the next school… and with a completely new initiative which we will email all our many supporters about in the coming week.
    I wish you the very best of luck with your entry and will have the PDF versions of our anthologies over to you in the next couple of days.
    Finally… Happy New Year!

    Simon West
    Magic Oxygen Publishing

  2. Lovely entry — and Magic Oxygen sound wonderful.
    Added to my list, Nell

  3. Giles Giles

    *smile* that’s fantastic news, Simon, about the second classroom in Bore. It’s hard to imagine how a simple room can make so much potential difference to a child’s life and prospects. It’s a totally different scenario, but I love the film Beyond the Blackboard ( where a young American teacher struggles to set up and equip a classroom for homeless children.

    I often find small independent presses are more willing to make changes to improve accessibility than the larger outfits are, but it’s always heartwarming to have a productive dialogue about things, and to find that on New Year’s Eve of all days just blew my mind!

    Thanks for popping over and reading my post 🙂 PS sorry for calling you Steve the first time I wrote this reply … I can’t even use being hungover as an excuse!

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