Promise Me The Journey Back – Debut Poetry Collection

Available on Amazon

Promise Me The Journey Back is the debut full-length collection of Whisky & Beards Publishing’s editor Connor Sansby.

Travel the way back to normal, as Connor explores the fictional final night of a break-up and all the drink, sex with strangers and heartache that entails. Blending sparse and delicate verbiage with blunt edges and a viscerality, Promise Me The Journey Back is a voyage on public transport to unravel the concepts of masculinity, vulnerability and love, while trying to uncover the person the author used to be, and have been all along.

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HIM.HER.US.I – A digital chapbook of InstaPoetry

Download here for free

HimHerUsIHIM.HER.US.I is a digital chapbook by Connor Sansby, reflecting on a hostile relationship, the break-up and the ensuing confusion. It is a personal work approached in a sarcastic manner, or maybe it’s a sarcastic work approached in a personal manner.

Released April 2018, it was read over 300 times in its first month. Originally intended as a companion piece/promotional release for Connor’s debut full-length collection “Promise Me The Journey Back“, it has since been performed in its entirety as a 20 minute set.

How to Kill Your Darlings and Get Away With It

“Kill Your Darlings” is one of the most common pieces of writing advice given. It refers to trimming out elements of your writing that do not benefit the reader’s understanding of the world, plot or characters.

Many novice writers, upon hearing the phrase, often misattribute the advice to killing off characters. Sure, killing off a character you love writing can generate emotional weight, but it can be pointless. There’s plenty of reasons to kill characters; “just because” isn’t one of them. The unwarranted murder of a character the audience has grown attached to is an unnecessarily manipulative tactic and reveals weakness in your writing.

Darlings refer to the aspects of your writing that you may be proud of but ultimately do not serve the piece. Having a darling in the first place isn’t a flaw. Sometimes it can be one chapter that has become tonally inconsistent with the rest of the work. It’s okay to enjoy that piece but you have to be strong and slice it out from the rest of the work, to ensure the rest survives. It’s worth remembering we don’t write for the writer, we write for the reader. Everything we lay out is meant to be for them. Just because you enjoy something, it doesn’t mean it has to be there.

Some writers will labour over removing paragraphs and chapters because they put a lot of work into them. This isn’t a good enough reason to leave it in. Writing can be an easy task, but no one finds editing a breeze. This is why we make new drafts and why books evolve over time.

So how do you find darlings? There are a few different ways to pick them out. The easiest option is to give your work to a writing group or selection of beta-readers that you know will give you honest feedback. Just because you’re proud of something, doesn’t mean other people have to like it. The advice given is offered because they want your book to shine, not because they want to pick apart your work. A good thing to consider is if your reaction to receiving criticism is to leap to its defence; maybe you’ve found a darling that needs putting to rest.

Deleting them can be hard, though. I believe in saving everything. I reread that junk-yard periodically and dig through to find salvageable material. Often new stories rise from the ashes of old ones or the chapter that didn’t fit in a previous story is perfect for another.

Once you’ve stashed your darling away, give your manuscript another look. Find what needs patching now and get to work on that second draft. Be honest, reread the sections you took a scalpel to and when you can see why you trimmed the fat; write a new version. Don’t be stubborn and rewrite the original, take the advice you’ve been given onboard and try to empathise.

Having darlings doesn’t make you a bad writer – we all have them – but being able to spot them and react will make you all the stronger as a writer down the line.

In Writing, it’s Okay to Rob the Dead

There is no such thing as a perfect first draft. I have some scraps of a story I wrote when I was in college. I thought it was brilliant. I honed the mythology, I wrote up character bios for future stories I hadn’t pieced together yet, I started turning it into a comic script, sent it off to artists, and then I lost my passion for it. Now that I look back as a more experienced writer I can see a million problems with it. Influences that were too obvious, narrative issues, clichés I hadn’t realised were so apparent.

If you consider successful writers and their books, what you remember are the finished products. Along the way, they will have put together dozens of drafts, spent days grinding away at their desk trying to resolve everything and they will have abandoned a hundred stories that we’ll never hear about.

Whilst some call this the 10,000 hours of practice it takes to become an expert at something, I like to say you’ll have to write a thousand lines before you reach your first perfect line. What matters is this: whatever your first idea for a story, novel, play, script or poem, it’s probably not great. You may be wholly in love with it – and that’s fine – but to grow, you’ll have to learn to shed it, to kill your darling.

Alternatively, it might be an outstanding idea but you, as a writer, might be lacking. I know writers that announce a new project every month. I’m just as bad, I have a new project every few weeks but while I may have the writing tools, there are artistic tools I need to bring them to life that I haven’t begun to develop yet.

Some people never move past that first idea. Some like the idea of being a writer more than they actually love writing because when you finally get everything out and you find yourself looking at your finished draft, it’s not always the story you thought you had. You almost certainly will find characters and plots you hate in your novel, or you will find images and themes liberally stolen from other writers staring back at you, or worst of all, when you finally see it written in front of you, it might just be bad.

This is the point where most people give up. To write is easy, we’re taught to do that as children. What’s hard, infuriatingly so, is to be good. You find yourself reading your writing and thinking, Why isn’t this the piece I wanted? Why isn’t this as good as the people I’ve read? Why isn’t this like the things I love?

Creativity is a muscle; it needs developing. There are no literary prodigies. No one picks up a pen for the first time and finds themselves writing a bestseller. It doesn’t happen, no matter how much we want that romantic notion. We have to prepare ourselves to do the heavy lifting or else we will be crushed under the weight of our own ambition.

This is the point where someone will cite their favourite writer who magically produced the greatest piece of writing ever written in the span of a week, and they’d never written before, and they had to take care of their dying mother while they did it. This is the mythos of a writer. Despite what you’re told, Hemingway spent hours a day at his desk, so did Bukowski. Oscar Wilde wrote “I spent all morning putting in a comma and all afternoon taking it out” because that’s the truth of writing. JK Rowling may have hit it big on the first book she released but she spent six years writing it.

A success may be a failure who didn’t know when to quit, but if you don’t risk that failure you won’t produce anything. You have to be prepared to sacrifice your stories on some high altar, bury them in a quiet corner of a literary graveyard and let them rot. Leave them. Those stories will not rise from the dead as zombies and give chase, they will just sit there being dead, and you will be the serial killer that put them there. Until, one day, you will run out of ideas and you will be faced with the impossibility of continuing.

This day might not happen until you’ve put out a dozen novels or you’re the most widely published poet of all time, but eventually you will find yourself walking through that graveyard. You will find yourself walking and you will remember the watch you buried in the pocket of a short story, that one shining moment in something you thought dead.

You can dig it up!

You can pick the pocket of any corpse you’ve buried anytime. You can let other people walk through your graveyard and let them do the same, and you can do the same with theirs. Everything you read, every piece of advice, even this article, is a burial in your graveyard. In writing, it is okay to rob the dead.

The Six Kinds of Poet

A poet is a writer, but to say that a poet only writes is a misunderstanding of what a professional poet can be. Poets write, perform, teach and do a dozen other things.

Most professional poets could be placed into a category, or possibly straddle two as their primary focuses, but they will often take projects outside their category. A poet who performs may also teach workshops, a poet who writes for publication may also lead a community engagement project. In fact, most professional poets are a combination of everything.

1. Page Poet

The page poet is a writer. They are concerned with the art of writing poetry and publishing. These poets craft their poems primarily for the page; for magazine or book publications.

The page poet may take part in readings but they tend to be exclusive affairs with them as a billed talent, often as a method of raising their profile and selling their work.

A page poet might enter writing contests and compete for prize money.

2. Performance Poet

Performance poets write for the stage. They are dynamic performers who use sound as their canvas, focusing on flow and rhythm to draw audiences in. They may get paid for feature or headline sets, as part of a larger event, or they may take part in slams and compete with other performers for prize money. Some develop their own shows which they tour, just like a theatre company.

Some performance poets record themselves, often becoming rappers. Sometimes their musical career takes on its own life and they find themselves working almost exclusively as a musician.

3. Producer Poet

A Producer poet puts together events and gets paid for it. They use connections and their knowledge of trends to put on the best shows.

Their shows could be as simple as a poetry reading or slam or they could be complex events taking course over several days, pushing the form and expectations of the audience to deliver excitement.

4. Educator Poet

The educator poet uses poetry as a canvas to teach. They can teach poets how to write poetry or they could use the medium of poetry to create fun content on any subject.

Many educator poets use poetry to develop literacy skills, but their work can also cover socio-political issues, like those referenced in the more political, contemporary poet’s work.

5. Outreach Poet

An outreach poet looks for ways to engage with people. They use poetry as a medium to take part in social reform, whether by helping people express themselves through writing or by providing the opportunity to perform as a way to keep at-risk kids from getting into trouble.

The outreach poet is a lot like the Educator poet but less academically focused. Outreach poets aim to bring poetry to new audiences, often through new platforms and technologies. Some are focused on building communities or developing new poets through workshops.

6. Marketing Poet

A marketing poet uses poetry as a way of pushing brands or agendas. They may receive commissions from political groups or social organisations to commemorate events such as building openings or important historical dates. They may be involved in political campaigns or they may write and perform content to make you want to buy a product.

 

So, which kind of poet do you want to be?

Selecting a Good Performance Set

For the performance poet, nothing is more rewarding than pulling off a great set, when everything seems to flow right, everyone picks up the vibes at the right moments and, if you’re lucky, you hear a few clicks at some of your snappier lines.

But what are the components that make a good set? How can you refine these elements to produce a great set? Can anyone produce a great set?

I am a firm believer that the ultimate power of poetry lies in performance. The difference between good poetry and a good poetry performance is astronomical. Poor performance is the killer of even the best poetry.

Right up front, a poet should have a clear, well-rehearsed intro that sets the tone for the performance. This first impression can be a plug for all the cool stuff you do, it could be how long you’ve been a poet, why you write or just a greeting to the audience. Whatever you say, the way you say it and what you do while saying it are critical factors is informing the relationship you and your audience will share.

Movement is an often-underutilised tool of poets. Mostly we are static performers, occupying one spot on the stage. Some people overperform, transitioning to full-blown acting, which robs the nuance of a poetry performance. Good movement is built around a good stance, not too far away from the microphone but with ample room to move one’s hands (a study on TED talks found that viral speakers used about twice as many hand motions as the least popular).

A good performer knows how to use eye contact. Avoiding meeting people’s eyes can give you a sense of vulnerability and make people ill at ease, perfect for pieces on mental health and sensitive subjects, while a confident poem, maybe one that relies on humour, will need direct eye contact. Human beings can accurately read emotion from just the positioning of one’s eyelids, everything else is an extra tool we use but eye contact is our most basic method of communication. People who seek eye contact while speaking are regarded not only as exceptionally well-disposed by their targets, but also as more believable and earnest.

The poems you select should form a coherent emotional narrative. It’s no use pulling out random poems with no connection if you want to deliver the most impact. For a ten-minute set, I like to use three poems to tell a small story, with a beginning, middle and end. This can be falling in love, being in love, and then falling out of love; birth, life, and death; or anything you can imagine. Some poems will take the place of two of those steps but as long as the narrative is there, your audience will find the connections. I usually like to add one, off-topic, funny poem, just to leave the audience in a good place.

Between each poem, you have your links. While some people like to fill this with improvised banter, this is a risky endeavour and probably more for the experienced performers. Most of us should rely on pre-rehearsed links. If you are a lighter poet, having a few stand-alone jokes is a great crowd pleaser, or if you deal with a heavier subject-matter, your stories should be concise but set the stage for your poem. Remember, your poetry should be doing the heavy lifting.

Finally, if you’re looking to tour it’s wise to have a go-to set. Your regular, home nights can be used for your new, experimental material, but if you’re aiming to visit other events then having a set you can rely on to bring the house down is essential. I have poems I’m reasonably certain I can recite while asleep, heavily drunk or nervous as hell. I have poems I recite while doing the dishes. Everything is rehearsal time, so when I go out in front of a new audience, I have an absolute command of my set. This enables me to change what I’m doing based on the will of the audience. The ability to be receptive to what the audience likes is a key skill that every poet should learn but this comes from experience and rehearsal.

Four Occultists You Should Follow on Facebook

1. Arch-traitor Bluefluke 

The first steps into the occult can be an overwhelming experience. Innumerable texts offering deep analysis and referring even more material than it’s possible to digest. This is where Blueflake comes in.

Bluefluke has managed to condense many of the basic techniques an occultist should be familiar with into an elegant, simple to digest comic book. The Psychonaut’s Handbook is densely packed with a great many exercises that every occultist should make a point of working with, from meditation to programming servitors. Bluefluke also eschews heavy terminology and presents everything in the kind of language most gamers will be familiar with, keeping this work light, practical and humourous.

2. Billy Brujo

Billy is a living cartoon, a sardonic manifestation of everything we perceive an occultist to be but to write him off as a joker would be to miss the point of his work. By taking on the role of Billy Brujo (and the rest of the characters in his YouTube series), Billy Brujo has broken down many of the barriers to the esoteric.

Each week our host picks a different project, from sigils to candle magic and even the complex world of tarot, and breaks them down for the audience. He’s an amiable creature, drawing on the world of Sentai (the wider genre of the Power Rangers) and internet culture, with an “anything goes” approach to the craft of magick.

While his humour and approach may put off many occultists who think the occult should be deadly serious, Billy hasn’t created a world for them. Billy’s world is for the amateur looking to start, he even half-jokes about his own cult/magickal order the Black Order Of Brujo, or BOOB for short. In fact, his weaving of references and culture is a testament to his talent, able to appear chaotic on the surface while still managing to surpass most of the occult craft content out there.

Billy can be found around the web, Facebook and Reddit in particular spreading occult cheer and knowledge like the best unholy Santa covered in corpse paint, the only way we’d have him.

3. Dr Bones

Dr Bones doesn’t always fit the mould of an occultist, I could make the argument he’s much more a political theorist, widely versed in the world of anarchy, but this is exactly why I enjoy his work. The occultist should always be more than just a magickian in my eyes, they should be a thinker and a doer. The good Dr is both these things.

Coming from somewhere in Florida, Dr Bones is a gonzo-journalist very much in the vein of Hunter S. Thompson and no less chaotic. It can be hard to learn from him. Though much of his work can be found as an essayist, it is as a storyteller than he becomes more accessible. Dr Bones will effortlessly switch from deep paranoia-driven anti-capitalist tirades to tales of hunting bigfoot, meeting the devil and adventures in the graveyards and swamps of Florida.

Like Billy, Dr Bones is a cartoon character, a living embodiment of the theories he holds and a grand example to learn from, though there is a darkness lying alluringly under the surface of the Dr, much like the occult itself.

For me, Bonesy is not necessarily a teacher but an icon of what a magickian should be, a one man army hellbent on changing the world to his whim.

4. Sarah Wreck & Shitty Occult Comics

I first found Sarah a guest on Billy’s show, a gifted seer and energy worker who attracts others in need of paranormal help. A kind of agony aunt for the occult, Sarah possess a sarcastic wit that belies a caring nature, evident throughout her regularly released comic series and her open door for occult queries.

Her comics deal with the daily grind of being a vocal occultist, how the “normal” world acts upon their initial exposures to magick and the sometimes ridiculous nature of the occult community at large.

While in contemporary occultism, the dark arts are the trendy ones, Sarah offers no pretension. She is what she is and she is unabashed in that, ready to poke fun at the edgy and incompetent elements in the occult. While other occult figure may teach you what to do with the occult, Sarah will teach you how you should be as an occultist.