Paying to be published: a personal view

Over the years I have been promoting poetry competitions and advertising literary magazines from external websites that are free for writers to submit their work to. If you have been following my blog posts on these topics, you will know that I disagree with any literary platform that charges authors upfront payments to publish their work, whether that be in the form of ‘submission fees’, ‘reading fees’ or any  other contribution towards production costs.


If a publisher charges fees to an author to submit their work, I would be inclined to call this business a vanity press, not a publisher. If they are charging the writer, say, a £20 submission fee to even have their work considered for publication, I’d bet my boots they have an almost 100% acceptance rate of submissions. The publisher may state on their website that there is no guarantee of publication, but if they are making money from the author, not book sales, then why would they worry about the quality of the writing? Publishing a new or little-known author is a risky business: sales may or may not do well. But if a ‘publisher’ eliminates the risk of losses by charging an author upfront fees, then why worry about sales? If an author will pay £20 upfront, then they will surely pay more once they have signed a contract. Why not charge them to buy 50 copies of their book, as a contractual condition? Why not make them commit a couple of hundred, or even several thousand pounds towards production costs, so that they can “have control over design of the finished product”?


Yes, publishers need money to survive and make more books. They may need start-up funds to get their business going in the first place. Nevertheless, a reputable publisher should make money from sales, or subscriptions, not authors. I have absolutely no problem with a publisher asking a would-be author to buy a book from their bookstore to support the publisher and to see if their writing fits with the catalogue. But asking a writer to fork out a tonne of money as a condition of being published in the first place is wrong. With all this in mind, let’s end with my checklist of publishing red-flags:


Continue reading


Rejection letters: the road to novel publication

Since my last post, I’ve been adrift on the endless sea that is the submissions process. While it may be a calm sea so far, I can’t yet see land in sight. One or two patches on the horizon that I thought might have been islands have turned out to be mirages.

But, enough of the poetic melancholy; let’s get to the point. The ultimate goal of any serious writer is to get that much anticipated acceptance, negotiate a good contract and take their work forward from manuscript to published book, preferably reaching readership through shops and libraries. Isn’t that the dream?

Of course, there are always obstacles along the way. Mine of late have been in the form of rejection letters. Being optimistic, it is good to acknowledge that every rejection is a step closer to acceptance. It’s important, however, to honestly assess just how close those steps are. With that in mind, let’s take a look at some recent responses to my fantasy novel, which has been on the publication rounds since November. The first is rather short: Continue reading

Novel submissions and tackling the slushpile

It has been a while since my last post, mainly because my maternity leave ended in April; my writing took a temporary back seat while I got into the groove of returning to my full time day job. This month has been easier as I am back into the swing of both work and writing. However, I have found that getting my novel out to publishers is not as straightforward as it seems. Having to change formatting from one publisher to the next is to be expected: Times New Roman for one, whereas Book Antiqua for another, page numbers in the footer versus the header, etc. Occasionally though, a publisher wants the synopsis to be one paragraph instead of a page, and in one instance, I had to expand my synopsis to six detailed pages. After spending many edits whittling it down to fit it onto a page, it was a good challenge to have to expand it, while still keeping the details relevant to the plot.

Standing out from the rest

The real challenge for a writer though, is getting their work noticed on the slushpile. How does one go about making their work stand out from the rest? Continue reading

Latest short story, House of Cards, published in Entropy Magazine

My latest fiction appears in Entropy Magazine this month. House of Cards is a spiritual story about battling depression. This one is published at a good time for me personally as a pick-me-up: having only recently returned to work after maternity leave, I find myself convalescing at home in recovery from an accident while commuting. Luckily this has involved a swollen sprained ankle and two black and blue legs, rather than a broken bone or head injury. Always one to be thankful for the good things in life, I’m happy to know that when tossed over handlebars my body knows how to roll and, unlike the protagonist in my story, I have stayed generally upbeat, if a little sorry for myself, despite being in pain. Take the good with the bad; that’s life I guess. Anyway, hope you find it a good read!

Joseph Robert’s fiction in The Crazy Oik

Isn’t it lovely to check the morning mail and see a contributor copy in the post among the letters? This time it was one for my husband, Joseph Robert, but as a proud one-half-of-a-literary-couple wife, I was just as excited to read his story in it.

‘Buried Treasure’ appears on page 36 in Issue 37 of The Crazy Oik. This one can be read in a couple of ways: as a straight literary story about a boy being being made to work on his uncle’s farm as punishment over an injustice, or as an allegorical piece on the fate of the working class. Alongside Joseph Robert’s story, the Spring 2018 issue of The Crazy Oik contains mostly fiction, some poems and reviews.

Maternity leave and writing goals

Can you believe it’s April already? The days are flying by so quickly. With a new baby along for the adventure, I have been cherishing every moment; savouring my maternity leave has been important for literary reasons too.

What is a writer to do when a baby is part of the equation? Luckily, writing is one of those jobs that can be pretty much accomplished anywhere: it’s a case of making the time, not finding the time for it. In the past I have found inspiration while bedridden with flu, namely from the accompanying fever dreams. This time around, while on maternity leave, I haven’t so much been bedridden as sofa-bound. So what can a writer do while feeding baby, bum-on-couch? For me, my literary goals didn’t stop once baby arrived. In fact, baby helped me to keep to a loose writing schedule, in quiet moments while nursing or sleeping on my chest.


Of course, balancing a laptop on a tray with a baby on your lap is pretty much a no-no. If anyone has managed this, I would love to hear about it! Nor was writing in a notebook: if it didn’t continually get kicked to the floor by chunky legs, the pages got crumpled by chubby fists and the corners got gnawed for teething! Finding a balance was key.

Fortunately, I had many almost-finished projects that could be tinkered with on my smartphone. These were realistic goals that I had set out to achieve when first beginning my maternity leave (see my post from 30 June 2017, Writing goals and wrapping up the day job for more on this).

So, in no particular order, here is what I have accomplished over the past 9 months:

1. Finishing a 102,000 word novel.

The timing was admittedly good on this one: Continue reading

Flash fiction in Amethyst Review – The Existence of Things Inside Wall Spaces

My flash fiction piece, ‘The Existence of Things Inside Wall Spaces’ is published in Amethyst Review this month. Amethyst Review is a new magazine out this year publishing original poetry and fiction, so for any writers following my blog, you can check out their submission guidelines to submit.

The Existence of Things Inside Wall Spaces is a strange piece, one straight out of a dreamscape. At 483 words, it’s a quick read that you could manage over your coffee. Feel free to have a quick peruse – and of course, any comments are welcome.

Happy Saturday!


International Women’s Day Poetry event

Yesterday, to celebrate International Women’s Day, I read a few poems from my collections, A Model Archaeologist, Chemotherapy for the Soul, Toebirds & Woodlice and Metamorphosis of Woman/Realms of Man at the International Women’s Day Poetry event in Belfast. The event saw 12 poets (myself included) reading work at the Intercontinental pub.

This was my first reading in almost 2 years, since life events came in between: relocating from London to Belfast, a broken foot, pregnancy and new parenthood. I must admit, it felt good to shake off the open mic cobwebs and get back into Spoken Word events after so long.

There was a good mix of poetry on the night: poems in English and Spanish, thought-provoking poems about sexism, stereotypes and equality, and heavier topics such as surviving rape and coping after stillbirth. It was good to see an equal turnout of male, female and non-binary poets, as had been advertised, not to mention diversity in verse: French and Spanish speaking poets as well as local.

As for me, I chose to read a selection of serious and zany poems from my work, keeping the focus on the topic of women, to mark the occasion. It’s always hard to know exactly what an audience want, but I was happy to hear laughs at the right moments, which is a good enough gauge of reception for me.

The event was organised by The Thing With Feathers in case any other local poets want to see other future events.

World Book Day 2018

To celebrate World Book Day today (on a cold, snowy March day here in Belfast…brr!) I’m happy to share with you some books from Joseph Robert and I that have been published over the years. They’re available from our online bookstore and Amazon.

From left to right:

1. Zombie Reflux (Meandi Books, 2014) is a satirical novella.

Eric was an ordinary man. He wanted to have an ordinary life. But extraordinary events transformed his quiet life…into an afterlife!

Available from Kindle (UK)/ Kindle (USA), Amazon (UK)/ Amazon (USA), Lulu, as a PDF ebook or a FREE Google Ebook

You can also watch my sample video reading of chapter 1.


2. Toebirds & Woodlice (2013) is a poetry chapbook.

An eclectic mix of 39 poems by Leilanie Stewart for those of you who spend at least 60% of the day in your heads.

Available from Big Cartel

Read the review at Sabotage

Read a sample


3. A Model Archaeologist (Eyewear Publishing, 2015) is a poetry chapbook.

Leilanie Stewart’s debut poetry pamphlet from London based Eyewear Publishing is a collection of poetry explores the juxtaposition of working two opposite jobs: by day, a professional Field Archaeologist and by night a photographic and promotions model. The poems explore the associated stereotypes of both professions.

ISBN: 9781908998682

Available from Eyewear Publishing’s Bookstore or online store, Meandi Books


4. Realms of Man / Metamorphosis of Woman (2013) is a reversible poetry collection.

A collaboration of 33 poems by poet couple Joseph Robert and Leilanie Stewart from the deepest recesses of the imagination.

Available from Big Cartel

Read the review at Sabotage

Read a sample


5. Chemotherapy for the Soul (Fowlpox Press, 2017) is a poetry chapbook.

Leilanie Stewart’s second collection from Canadian publisher, Fowlpox Press, shines the spotlight on mental health and depression with a focus on family dysfunction and relationship breakdown.

ISBN: 9781927593547

Available as a paperback or hardback
or as a PDF flipbook

Happy Valentine’s Day 2018

If ever there was an excuse to pamper oneself and pig out on chocolate, guilt free, Valentine’s Day is it. Maybe that’s why it’s one of my favourite special days of the year.

Here are a few poems from Joseph Robert and I that are either romantic, or sentimental, or both. Hope you can enjoy them whether you’re looking for love, loved up, or simply loving being single.


Happy Valentine’s Day to all!


1. A poem for those looking for love:



By Leilanie Stewart

First published in Jellyfish Whispers (2013).


There is a lone                                 stack

standing out at sea,                         a sad

promontory that’s                             jutting

beyond the riptides.                         I often

watch it and wonder                         why

there’s only one,                              because,

surely if it was formed                     by erosion

there’d be more along                     the coast

This is a desolate beach                 to walk along

and when I go there by                   myself, I try to

imagine that under the       surface of the water

the cliff and the stack are touching, holding

onto one another through the swells, and

though the peaks and troughs will do their

damage, what is under the surface will

never be erased, and never be separated.


2. A poem for those who are loved up:



By Joseph Robert

First published in Black Mirror Magazine (2014)


Playmate, soul mate, helpmate, workmate, housemate,

Fuck mate, and fellow coconspirator,

You’ve checkmated my heart,

Each morning and night, year upon year,

That’s it,

We’ve both won,

And have our season tickets for front row seats,

To the all-nighter matinee,

That is the raucous comedy of life,

Snuggle up close,

For I’ve never heard anything half as wondrous,

As your knowing laugh,

Let’s celebrate, together, again and to the end,

Let’s enjoy the show!


3. A sentimental poem for all:


This is the soppiest I can get

By Leilanie Stewart

First published in Nostrovia Magazine (2013).


The world was full

Of upside down teardrops

You turned them around

And made them into hearts

You stuck them on

A sheet of cloth

I wore them proudly

It’s the toughest fabric I know

Because you wove

A part of yourself into it

Just for me.