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Interesting Poetry

Interesting Poetry

‘has been interested in creative writing since middle school.’

Phrases like this get used all over the shop, from résumés and curricula vitae to cover letters and 100-word brief bios, frequently augmented by the adjective keen. Does that really say anything of interest? You'd hope a writer would have an interest in writing, wouldn't you really!

I've just seen the phrase used in the brief bio accompanying a short story in an email newsletter. My feeling is that, as is advised in every single writing group I've attended, show, don't tell. readers should be able to figure out for themselves that the writer is interested in writing, either by the list of published works or the writing groups they participate in, online or off, or the writing events and festivals they support.

Bios Great and Small — Brief

I've needed to produce a brief bio pretty much every time I've submitted a poem or article anywhere. The hardest to write are the shortest ones. A 40 word bio doesn't give much space to say more than that ‘Giles L. Turnbull is a blind poet from south Wales’. That gobbles up 25% of a 40 word limit and, technically speaking it's incorrect, because I'm originally from North Yorkshire, it's just that now I live in south Wales, but ‘living in south Wales’ requires an extra one of those precious words compared to ‘from south Wales’.

Fifty word bios give a little more breathing space, though you still need to be on top of your precis game to shoehorn more than two magazine credits into it. Hundred word bios are rare exceptions, and if no guiding limit is suggested by a magazine then it makes sense to aim to clock in somewhere around the 60-80 word mark.

Bios Great and Small — Bloated

There are times when you need to prepare a proper writer's curriculum vitae / résumé. I need to prepare one PDQ for a bursary application which has a mid-August deadline.
PDQ, acronym for pretty damn quick. Not to be confused with P. D. Q. Bach.

P. D. Q. Bach is a fictitious composer invented by musical satirist "Professor" Peter Schickele. Schickele developed a five-decade-long career, performing the "discovered" works of the "only forgotten son" of the Bach family. Schickele's music combines parodies of musicological scholarship, the conventions of Baroque and classical music, and slapstick. The name "P. D. Q." is a parody of the three-part names given to some members of the Bach family that are commonly reduced to initials, such as C. P. E., for Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach. PDQ is an initialism for "pretty damned quick".


Bang2Write has some good guidance on preparing a writer's CV, which I will use in preparing my bursary application. I have the basic structure already assembled, from when I submitted an application to the Jerwood Mentoring program for recent Arvon course attendees, and again for the Jerwood Fellowship (neither of which were successful), but I don't think the CV is to blame for that.

The art lies in giving careful consideration to the things you decide to highlight.

Naturally the higher profile publications want to be given prominence, but it makes sense to balance the range of examples, mixing poetry and articles, as well as the groups you regularly participate in, in person and online.

Probably my most useful piece of advice is simply not to overload your resume to the detriment of presentation. Don't play around with fancy fonts and colours. As they say, KSS, Keep it Simple Stupid, and there's every chance the person you want reading it will spend more time paying attention to what you've written than if you'd included every bit of information you possibly could, including the facsimile of your family tree showing you are descended from Shakespeare.

They Think It's All Over ...

... and it is now! This blog post is a couple of hours later than normal because the 24 hour poetry marathon I completed ended at 2pm BST. Twenty four poems in twenty four hours. I admit, I'm ready for a nap! I'm not the fastest writer in the world, so getting something on paper resembling a poem in an hour was a real challenge. Some of my responses to the prompts weren't up to much, but some of them turned out quite promising and, with some post-marathon tweaking, may turn into decent poems :)


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