Sam van Zweden



the big issue

Post Box Perks and Presents…

I’ve recently acquired a post-office box. It’s a bit of a loser box, it’s little and down the bottom and around the corner from the main row of post boxes. But it’s a PO Box! I think there’s something professional about being able to provide people with a PO Box address, and I like the forced exercise that comes from having to walk a bit to check the mail. I live above/behind a shop, and have no mail box here, so our mail always arrives late or not at all. The post box has been great for receiving things promptly and actually!

Having a bit of a shitty day yesterday, I walked up to the post office and found all sorts of presents waiting for me. There was a copy of Voiceworks (who have utterly outdone themselves – frosted dust-jacket, people!) and a review book from The Big Issue. That perked my day up considerably.

Apart from these wonderful presents, I’ve recently invested in a present for myself that I’m particularly excited about. It’s this beautiful giant:

Co-worker flicked through it and gave me a distaste-face, before asking, “How does it work?”

Oh, my friend! It works every way. The most obvious use of it is to look up phrases and fables, and be provided with the history and meaning behind said phrases and fables. However, it’s much much more than that, too. It contains famous people, pretty much every influential text you could ever think of. Under “First” there’s an entry about first lines, containing the first lines of a heap of classics and well-loved texts. Under “Last” there’s a listing of famous last words. This is an intertextual wet dream. Remember wading through The Wasteland and getting… oh, about 1% of it? Should’ve had a Brewer’s. A probable ditto for Ulysses, though I’ve never dipped into it myself.  At the risk of Super-Nerddom, I’d say this is a reference book that it’s possible to read. As Philip Pullman says in this foreword, you can easily spend hours just browsing in Brewer’s.

With my brand new Brewer’s close at hand, no reference will ever pass me by again. Ever. I will be a close-reading queen. Just so ya’ll know.

Oh, and a heads-up for anyone interested in one: the price has just recently dropped. I went to a nearby independent book-store, and found they charged $55 for it. Ordering it through work, I found the price has dropped to $39.99. A considerable difference (even more considerable with a staff discount on top). A lot of publishers seem to be panicking about the shift to online sales, and are dropping prices on some books. Brewer’s is the lucky recipient of one of these price drops, so if you want one, now’s the time!

The Waiting Game

I get jumpy after I’ve submitted things. Between the hours of 9am and 5pm, I check my email at least every half hour, just to make sure an editor hasn’t replied to my submission. I’m not waiting for an acceptance letter – I mean, it’d be nice. But I’m just waiting for contact, of any sort. Rejection? That’s okay. At least I can push forward after a rejection.

Weekends are the worst. I was silly enough to submit a piece I had particularly high hopes for the weekend of Queen’s Birthday… So I submitted on the Friday and subjected myself to waiting through Saturday and Sunday, and Monday too. The worst bit? Somehow, the writer’s brain convinces them that editors might take time out from sunning themselves in the park or playing soccer with their kids, in order to work. So weekends become frought too – I fight against the reasonable part of myself and check my email much too often anyway.

This morning I received some contact from the Australian Poetry Journal, where I’d submitted two poems for consideration… My heart jumped, I clicked on the email and discovered it was a notice to let me know they’d received my submission. The sad thing is that this happens so seldom (most of my submissions are met with the internet equivalent of a blank stare) that I was actually a little disappointed.

All of this, however, I can deal with. It’s a necessary part of the process – and it’s all made worthwhile by those rare acceptance letters, those moments when your heart leaps out of your chest because you’ve managed to make a dream come true…

My dream? Getting published in The Big Issue. Coming true? Most certainly. On the 19th of July, the new edition of The Big Issue is being released with my story, “My Brother the Chef” in it. I had to wait for that letter for a few weeks, including that torturous long weekend. I checked my email compulsively. But eventually it happened, and that made all the waiting worth it.

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