Tuesday, 29 October 2013

These are a few of our favourite things

by Carlotta Eden - Editor

Editors are mothers. They cradle words in their ink-stained hands and rock them gently until they hiccup and burp and sleep without fidgeting. Sometimes they have to be strict, and tell words that they can’t play with that other word because that other word isn’t good for them. Sometimes they have to say no because that’s how stories get better. But mostly they love words and just want to see them grow into great, great stories that others point at and go, heck, I wish I’d written that.

So we’ve decided to write about what we like and what we don’t like in our submissions. And if you don’t like what we do like, then that’s fine. Maybe it’s just not meant to be. It’s important to remember that your submission absolutely doesn’t have to be perfect. We’re not expecting Shakespeare. If you bring us something that makes us coo we’ll tell you it makes us coo, and we’ll work with you to turn that extra o into an r so it makes us go corr.

We like poetry that howls from the rooftops. We don’t like poetry that shouts into a microphone. One commands, the other imposes rudely. We like modest poetry, poetry that tells us, actually, it’s pretty terrifying being human but y’know what? Here’s a puddle. Look at its rainbow.

We’re not particularly drawn to poetry that laments, or mourns, or talks about how much it misses its boyfriend. We don’t like poetry that feels sorry for itself.

We like poetry that talks to us like we’re humans, sometimes even friends, and poetry that goes bungee jumping and, if it’s not feeling up to it, puts its feet up and flicks through crappy TV channels. Not because it can’t be bothered, but because it’s honest. It doesn’t try hard. 

We like short stories that come to bed with you and kiss you somewhere you didn’t know you liked. We don’t like short stories that preach, or teach us a lesson, or politicise or talk about David Cameron, unless it’s about someone who performs plastic surgery on himself to make him look like David Cameron because, wow, what? We like short stories that make us go wow, what?

We like short stories that tease and don’t necessarily give us what we want. If there’s a word in your story that you have to think twice about, get rid of it. Get in and get out. We don’t like stodgy prose or long-winded narratives. We can tell if you’ve tried to be Mary Shelley. We really, really can.

We like short stories that say hey, babe, take a walk on the wide side. We like stories that take us on a Greyhound bus to Baton Rouge. We like stories that have been gunned down to the ground and come back fighting. We like short stories that question the minority that are questioning the majority without asking a direct question. We like short stories that are the beginnings of a knock knock joke but not the end. We don’t like sob stories, but we do like stories that whisper, I had to write this.

And if you still want to know what we like, we like Ian McEwan, Miranda Kerr, Adam Marek, Alice Munro, Kurt Vonnegut, Denis Johnson, Ben Brooks, Tobias Wolff and James Frey.

We like it even more when you read our submission guidelines. Please stick to our theme; we simply cannot accept your submission otherwise, no matter how wonderful. We only have a limited amount of space to design in the magazine, so submissions must stick to word limits. We just want to make your page look magnificent.

Monday, 28 October 2013

Editor's Endeavour: Lazy-itis

Our editor, Annabelle Carvell, has embarked on a new journey in her own writing. Be part of this journey with her, and follow her updates on the Synaesthesia Blog! @AnnabelleCsyn

#3 Lazy-itis

So. Well done you, Annabelle.

You've got yourself your arc. You've preached about where to start and what to do every day and what do you do? Not follow your own advice in the slightest.

Lazy-itis is a serious illness. It creeps up on you unawares and seeps into your pores. It's what keeps you sat on the couch watching Emmerdale, or glued to Facebook hoping for that little red '1' to pop up after you've updated a mindless status. It's fast (which is pretty ironic given its symptoms), and it'll catch any writer in its sticky claws.

How do we overcome it? 

Motivation. For everything we do in life we need motivation. And for motivation, we often need to set ourselves goals, because goals = growth. Whether this is for bigger life goals such as getting a new job, buying a house, saving for a new car, or our smaller personal goals such as sending a story into online literary magazines or competitions, or trying to eat more healthily, goals allow us to grow in some way or another.

I think what I need to get over this lazy-itis is a date. This doesn't work for everyone though, I understand that. I know some people feel put off by the pressure of having to have something done by a certain date, but for me, that's what keeps me focused. A date means a goal, and a goal means novella growth - how could this go wrong?

What we need to be careful of is the easy possibility of guilt tripping yourself - it's very easy to feel guilt ridden after you have missed a personal deadline. Here, I'd suggest a little trick - give yourself small deadlines, multiple deadlines, preliminary deadlines and final deadlines.


This is my new timeline which takes me up to my goal for next year. It means that if I miss my first deadline, it's not the end of the world; if I miss my preliminary deadline, it's not great but I can still get a big bulk done; and my final deadline, if I don't hit that then I will probably wish I'd have stuck to my deadlines in the first place.

It's giving yourself a couple of chances before you're sent to the headteacher's office. But it's important to have goals in writing, else we have no growth. There comes a time for everyone I think where lazy-itis really can get the better of you, and it's so easy to suddenly not have written in months. But with the help of deadline dates, and motivation, we can beat this epidemic! 

Monday, 21 October 2013

Editor's Endeavour: The early stages

Our editor, Annabelle Carvell has embarked on a new journey in her own writing. Be part of this journey with her, and follow her updates on the Synaesthesia Blog! @AnnabelleCsyn

#2 The early stages

Discipline has not been my forte when it comes to writing. As I have mentioned previously, I have a very rigid writing style, and normally, if the time isn't right then it's not time to write.

Writing the novella has been a little different though. I've discovered that if I don't keep up my momentum, I could easily start to lose the direction of my story. 

I've found that recently to be honest - up until starting these blog posts, in fact. I had a good, strong stint of writing frequently, where I was making time to write, and was committed to my story. But, as we all know too well, life can get in the way - or so we tell ourselves... Often, I find that that is just my own excuse for being scared to be committed to my story. Before I knew it, my novella hadn't been updated in over a month. 

Writing the novella has been very different from writing a short story for me. With the short story, I have the whole nutshell encapsulated in my mind before I even have chance to blink, so when it comes to writing it, I can keep momentum. 

The novella is different. It isn't over in the space of a blink of an eye. It's drawn out. It teases memories out of the air as slowly as threading a needle. It takes time, and patience.

What helps is to exercise your mind weekly if you can - not necessarily on your novella itself - but by writing something every week, you'll find you'll stimulate your story and leave work desperate for the commute to hurry and pass so that you can get back at your keyboard.

Take a look at this nifty little inspirational diagram below:

There are some really important points to take on board here - these are what I am now trying to do daily:

  • Write on your commute to work. Describe the people you see; the morning you've had; the breakfast you ate; the dream that woke you up; the mistake you made at work yesterday
  • Record your memories. Write down your childhood memories. Memories are a goldmine. Writing what you know really does make your story more authentic. 
  • Learn about something new. Wallpaper making; Aristotle; the history of the tudors. Learning not only stimulates your mind, but also really helps to add depth to your characters' interests, to places - little details that make your story so much more convincing. 
The main tip I'd stress is to write every week. It doesn't need to be everyday - sometimes life really does get in the way (I swear!) but keep your momentum. 

It'll help you in the early stages. It'll help you to maintain faith in your story. 

Monday, 14 October 2013

Editor's Endeavour: Where do you even start?

Our editor, Annabelle Carvell has embarked on a new journey in her own writing. Be part of this journey with her, and follow her updates on the Synaesthesia Blog! @AnnabelleCsyn

#1 Where do you even start?
I was lucky that I had an idea for a story before I had the idea of writing it as a novella. My advice for where to start is this; find your idea (it needn't be a fully fledged idea) and then work out the arc of your story.

Right now, my novella has a shape. I know the beginning. I know the middle. I know the end.

I was sitting in a cafe in my home town with a friend from work fairly recently (she’s also a writer) for the first writing workshop I had done on my own writing in a very long time. I had sent her roughly three scenes of my story – these were the beginning, the middle, and a hint at the end... although, at this point, I didn’t know that this was the case.

We talked for hours (quite literally) about what I had written so far, and it was only through conversation with another writer that it clicked that I had the arc of my story right in front of me. It seems primitive, I know, to follow primary school teachings of how to write fiction, but really, finding your beginning, middle and end is what makes the process so much easier (at least it seems to be working for me so far).

I don’t want to get technical on you, but this diagram is literally how I envisaged my story once my friend and I had this revelation:

As soon as I realised I had a beginning, middle and end, my arc appeared instantly in my mind. Your arc will possibly look different from mine. Let me stress that this ‘middle’ is not the same as the climax for my arc. What is most interesting about this structure is that the ‘middle’ section instantly signified change. The rising action in my arc leads to the ‘middle’ where we reach the turning point, but not the climax. A diagram for climax in my tale would look much different, and probably not the smooth curve that you can see.
This arc shows me the pivotal moment where something changes in the tale to determine the direction of the rest of the story. For me, this is usually where the characters make a decision, or don’t make a decision – something that creates tension, that lets the reader know that something is going to happen, and has them tempted to flick through the pages to discover what that might be. My advice here would be to personalise the shape of your arc – it might be skewed to one side – but whatever it is, it has to make sense to you.

Most importantly, this arc signifies movement. That I have a story waiting to expand and develop. 

Monday, 7 October 2013

Editor's Endeavour: Writing the novella

Our editor, Annabelle Carvell has embarked on a new journey in her own writing. Be part of this journey with her, and follow her updates on the Synaesthesia Blog! @AnnabelleCsyn

I have taken on a new challenge: the novella. I'm not entirely sure whether or not it is one that I will conquer and complete, but for now I'm happy to see where it leads me.

The journey and evolving of my writing has been strange – I began as being more compelled to write poetry. In all honesty, I think it was partly through laziness and fear of writing anything longer than ten lines. I enjoyed the short space I was allowed on the page, and the crisp abstract images woven with hints of something bigger.

Throughout my degree, this slowly shifted – eventually I was ‘sold’ by the short story and how a world could be captivated in such a small space, with such little (but strikingly poignant) change. Whilst I was unemployed, all I could write (and wanted to write) were short stories – the odd poem popped up here and there, but my energy was fully thrust into a short story collection.

To explain a little about my rigid writing style, I very rarely write something that starts off as a poem or a short story, and then moulds itself into something different. Usually, if I set out to write a poem, it stays a poem. My focus doesn’t shift; my writer’s mind is fixated on that form and never wavers.

A while ago, I had begun to write another short story. A short story that burned with fiery marigolds and salty kisses. I had the whole story saved on my mind’s hard drive, but the space was the equivalent to the core of an apple. Its flesh was only just enough to encase the seeds, yet carried weighty backstory – exactly how I liked my short stories, scratching the surface just enough to reveal worlds beneath. 

However, something stalled me writing this particular short story. Generally, whenever I write in the short story form it flows freely; I tend to write short stories in either one go during the course of an intensive writing day, or in two or three chunks. Yet this particular story would not budge.

I don't know why, but it clicked that this tale needed more – the flesh around the seeds needed to grow into a full, ripe apple. So now, I have dedicated my time and efforts into something new, something daunting but incredibly exciting.

These blog posts, I hope, will help me to maintain my momentum, and shall follow my endeavours to write in an alien form; the novella.

Wednesday, 2 October 2013


Deadline: 9 NOVEMBER 2013

We know, we know, you’re ‘not a numbers person’. That’s totally fine. Neither are we. We failed Maths (three times), so we really get it. But numbers don’t have to be scary. If you’re a poet or a songwriter or a lyricist or something equally wonderful, you’re thinking in numbers without even realising it. You’re working with beats – 1, 2, 3, 4.

We’ve put science and numbers together because we think it’s going to be beautiful and frightening and it’s going to send us stark raving mad. We’re going to use that other side of the brain that really, really scares us. It’s going to be a challenge, because most writers aren’t scientists or mathematicians. But we’re curious. We’re curious about how the world works, all its chemicals and colours and the way a person’s skin sometimes goes bumpy when you touch them. In fact, we’re science’s perfect outlet.

Note: You don't have to intertwine both science and numbers - either/or will do.


Thinking in numbers also lends itself beautifully to art and photography. There are all sorts of tricks and mechanisms in a camera that are alien to most but to photographers, it’s as natural as, well… 1, 2, 3. It brings in a whole other element to the theme – technology. That’s a huge word, but as writers and artists, we’re obsessed. What’ll the world look like in 70 years? What is this thing that we're writing on with fast fingers that can show a million people all across the world our thoughts in less than a second? We've become so used to fast technology we don't stop to think about how quickly we can have almost anything we want at the touch of a fingertip. Technology is magic. Technology is a monster.

Synaesthesia and science

And then there’s synaesthesia. The neurological condition that involuntarily compels a person to muddle their senses has barely been touched upon by scientists. We can only go so far deep into the mind before coming out onto a misty road and not having a clue where to go next. Do as synaesthetes do: observe. Have a read of our interview with synaesthete and writer Rachael Spellman in our CITIES issue on pages 18-19 to understand the way colours and sounds can influence the way she writes, and turn your own senses on their head. Colours are science. Science in colours.


Numbers have structure. Poetry has structure. Stories are bound by beginnings, middles and ends. We’re not going to separate words and numbers anymore. We’re going to let them exist side by side so they can fight it out and hug for a bit and just be friends. 9’ll hug its cousin nine and metaphors will lie across atoms and molecules and they’ll talk about what colour they see the world in.

And if your maths brain needs a little goading, have a read of David Tammet’s Thinking in Numbers. We’ll leave this passage here, just to get you started:

“Like colors, the commonest numbers give character, form, and dimension to our world. Of the most frequent — zero and one — we might say that they are like black and white, with the other primary colors — red, blue, and yellow — akin to two, three, and four. Nine, then, might be a sort of cobalt or indigo: in a painting it would contribute shading, rather than shape. We expect to come across samples of nine as we might samples of a color like indigo—only occasionally, and in small and subtle ways. Thus a family of nine children surprises as much as a man or woman with cobalt-colored hair.”

Atoms of inspiration

  • Riddles. Lewis Carroll was a genius when it came to writing riddles and poetry with a beat, with a sway. Think mathematical sums, think x = y. Hey, look! Now we've got letters. We're good with letters.
  • Breaking Bad may be over, but, cor, didn't it give us some beautiful words? Magnesium. Methamphetamine. Endling: a word used for the last living representative of a species. Ununoctium. Ununoctium has the highest atomic number, so it's very unstable. Imagine Unu as a high-flying CEO with quiveringly poor social skills. Uh oh, he's fallen for Magnesium (Maggie) - popular, slightly materialistic, sour Magnesium.
  • There's poetry in the periodic table, you know. You just have to look for it.
  •  Space. Space is huge. Space is terrifying. No-one in their right mind would fly out to space but people do and it's mad. Why do people do it? What if something sent you on the brink of insanity and you just wanted a holiday somewhere that wasn't on this earth? What if.
  • It's really very hard to rhyme/The right sorta beat should do it/It's like/Da-dum da-dum da-dum da-dum/Like one and two and three and four/What if, you say, you mess it up?/Yeah, er, then you've really screwed it.
  • Artists: think skeletons. Think the skeleton of a phone, or a radio. Think sound waves. Step inside a television. 
  • Photographers: think in colours. Think in graphs. Think about the mathematical structure of a building.
  • Time travel – go full science fiction if you like, or take a step back and look at it quietly. What makes us want to travel through time?
  • Give numbers personalities.
  • Give colours sound. Mute the world; what if sound didn't exist?
  • Play with the months of the year, the days of the week or the numbers on the clock.

Most importantly, don't forget the deadline: 9 NOVEMBER

Have a read of our NEW submission guidelines, and email all submissions to synaesthesiamagazine@gmail.com

Tuesday, 1 October 2013

Editors' Note - CITIES

Ah, cities: home to beach fronts and boardwalks, multi-storey car parks and huge, huge green parks. There’s something about cities that we like... no, we need, to write about. There’s something about being able to turn onto a street corner and flit between art galleries and bookshops and cinemas and banks. There’s something about lairy pubs and the people that go into them, and there’s something about walking onto a train platform and meeting a loved one in between crowds of others that is so very, very powerful.

Some of the stories in this issue have cracks in the pavement, others are noisy and bustley and a few are like quiet, abandoned streets that just need another soul to love them. Our Venetian short story, ‘Volare’ by Amanda Oosthuizen, on page 93, is a trickling, smokey canal, with cats sidling along the walls and water slapping against stone: “And then, blood orange accordion music bounces between the buildings...” that's sure to sail you along with it.

Some of our poems are sky-high complexes that try not to look down, and some are busy jazz cafes that clap and sing. Robert Klein Engler leaves trails of broken city scenes throughout the magazine, each one reaching the edge of the universe and turning left back down Anonymous Avenue and taking another look around. Julie Kim Shavin’s poems dance between urban worlds and Jo Davey’s ‘Atlas’ flashes blue, blue, blue.

But we don’t ever just hand you words, and then leave. This issue is one big neon sign, demanding your attention with mind-blowing photography from an abandoned island in the Nagasaki Prefecture to sepia-toned markets in Vietnam. 

And for the first time ever, we’re introducing music. Whenever you see a ‘play’ button, hit it. The page will come alive with glittering piano notes or ghostly voices  - and if you’ve had enough, just press ‘stop’. But we’re pretty sure you’ll want to hear it out.

It’s our biggest issue yet, and we’re so excited to present you treats for the eyes and the ears. We wouldn’t exist without our contributors though, so we’re dedicating this issue to each and every one of our writers and artists who were willing to share their creativity with us. And, of course, to our readers. You’re all the best.

Annabelle and Carlotta