Read some tips on putting together your entry for the International Book & Pamphlet Competition from smith|doorstop poet Suzannah Evans, who was one of the four winners in the 2011/12 Competition with her collection, Confusion Species.
1. Read aloud
Reading aloud is something I’d advise at every stage of the writing and drafting process, but also at the editing stage. If you’re unsure that one poem belongs with the others, then read them aloud. Read aloud to spot dodgy line breaks and rhythms. Read aloud as you order poems.
2. Get Feedback
If you’ve got a willing friend who might read your manuscript, or even give you their opinion on a couple of poems you’re less sure of, then do lean on them!
3. Get The Poems On The Floor
The first time I ever entered the PB pamphlet competition (which, I must disclose, was some time before I won it) I approached the task of ordering the poems by laying them all out on the living room floor of the shared house I lived in in Leeds, reading the beginnings and ends of them as I went along to see how one poem flowed into the next.
Although it struck me as an odd thing to do (and it certainly didn’t go down too well with my housemates at the time), all the poets I’ve talked to since do the same thing.
4. Less is more
According to our rules, a pamphlet manuscript is 20-24 poems. But don’t feel like you’ve got to cram in everything you’ve got. Your pamphlet is only as strong as its weakest link, so trust your guts and if some poems don’t seem as strong as the rest, leave them out.
5. Be clear
It’s in your interests not to make the judge’s work any harder. Make sure you include a contents and give each of your poems enough space on the page (one poem per page, unless they’re very short, is what I’d recommend). Steer clear of mad fonts and clipart.
6. Think of a hilarious pseudonym.
OK, so this alone won't win you the competition...but you've got to remain anonymous and it'll keep us in the office amused. Go wild. An honourable mention to recent favourites Rat Von Trapp, Hamilton Bravado, Nempnett Thrubwell and The Irish Goat.
7. Last Minute Faffy Checks
Being a slapdash individual at best, I'd do well to read my own advice here. But do have a last check through the rules, ensure your anonymity is preserved and your pages are in order, and that you've included all the necessary information. You can always get in touch with us for any queries too – firstname.lastname@example.org
8. Be brave and let it go!
It is a scary thing sending your work out into the world, and I know most poets will readily spend hours perfecting and fine-tuning before doing so, but I firmly believe that there comes a point when perfectionism is just another word for fear. I often tell myself that if I ever write the perfect poem, I will have mastered writing and will have to find something else to occupy my time. Try that one.
Remember that if your pamphlet is picked as a winner you will be working on it with an experienced editor, whose job it is to tell you (among other things) whether you’re making any fatal mistakes.
We wish you all the very best of luck!
You can find more information about the competition here.