Forward prize nominations

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We are very happy to announce our nominations for this year’s Forward Prize for Best Single Poem. They are:

‘Postcards from the Northwest’ – Caitlin MacKenzie (issue 10, read here)
‘Our Return to Sierra Vista’ – Jeffrey C. Alfier (issue 11, buy here)
‘Lunch in Ars en Ré’ – Lucy Furlong (issue 10, read here)
‘Birdsong in the May-wood’ – Tim Keane (issue 10, read here)

Best of luck to all the nominees! We think they’ll hold their own.

Previous Forward Prize winners include Thom Gunn, Seamus Heaney, Alice Oswald, Ted Hughes, Carol Ann Duffy and Kathleen Jamie. The Best Single Poem prize is open to poems published in the last 12 months in a British or Irish print publication.

Lenten Psalm contest

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Contest logo by Sarah Mushong

For the last couple of years, Structo’s poetry editor Matthew Landrum has run a Lenten Psalm contest over on his blog. This year we’re running it together, and in addition to Matthew’s excellent US$200 first prize, we will be publishing the chosen poem in Structo issue 12 and giving the winning poet a two-year subscription to the magazine.

The idea is that you pick any biblical Psalm and create your own version in English. There’s no wrong way to go about approaching a Psalm, but the end result should be a poem that combines the soul of the original with your own personality as well as poetic and personal vision. Feel free to mangle, tangle, make strange, reverse and experiment. The goal is to make strong poetry, whatever form that takes.

You don’t need to have any knowledge of Hebrew, and no religious affiliation is necessary. This is a chance to engage and wrestle with ancient, beautiful, complex poetry. The 150 poems which make up the Psalms contain some beautiful language and imagery—there’s a reason they’re quoted so much in literature—and this is your chance to make that language your own.

Entries will be judged by panel on originality, musicality, accuracy (to the psalm’s spirit) and aesthetic. Submissions are open from Ash Wednesday to midnight GMT on Easter Sunday, which this year is on April 20th.

Send us your poems using using this link. There is no entry fee.

To give you an idea of the breadth of poetry that’s possible, head below the fold to read last year’s winner, To the Pilot Bridegroom, by Jen Hinst-White. Continue reading

Issue 12 submissions now open

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Photo (CC BY): Magdalena Roeseler

We are now accepting submissions of short stories and poetry for Structo issue 12. It doesn’t seem five minutes since the last one, but we seem to be a bit more organised this time around, as we have already conducted the interview for this new issue – with the novelist and poet Margaret Atwood.

The deadline is midnight GMT in the evening of Monday April 7th. For more information and for our submission guidelines, head over to our website, where you can also find the link to send in your work. Can’t wait to see what comes in this time around.

— Euan

Once upon a time: Alexander Francois

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Photo © Alexander Francois

Every now and again we interview an erstwhile Structo author for the blog. This time it’s the turn of author Alexander Francois, whose story ‘Barcode’ was featured in issue seven, the final edition of Structo to be printed on tabloid newspaper. ‘Barcode’ can be read, in full, over here.

We recently found out that Alex is also a game designer, and recently ran a successful Kickstarter campaign to fund his studio’s first game: The Slaughter.

How did you come across Structo? Why did you choose to send ‘Barcode’ here?

A friend of mine, the ‘zine artist Jimi Gherkin, directed me towards Structo when I expressed interest in contributing to a magazine. ‘Barcode’ was a very experimental piece of writing for me, and I was unsure how it would fit into a genre-focussed publication before finding Structo. Structo‘s characterisation as a magazine which ‘tends towards the slipstream end of things’ sounded like a perfect home for ‘Barcode’, and a publication I’d be proud to contribute to.

Can you tell us a little about Brainchild Studios?

Brainchild is a design studio which acts almost as a pseudonym for my name. I wasn’t quite ready to divorce myself from all of the norms of the gaming industry and create a game purely under Alexander Francois as a literary author would, so Brainchild was born from a desire to have an intriguing name which doesn’t necessarily scream game design. This means the studio, and its creative output is never bound by the typical expectations of the gaming medium. Brainchild’s first project The Slaughter was successfully funded through Kickstarter in December, and I’ve been hard at work creating all aspects of the game since then, from writing to animation.

Are you doing any other writing at the moment, or is The Slaughter taking up all your time?

I’d love to say I’ve been writing on the side, but The Slaughter requires a huge amount of work. I write each scene much in the format of a play, but with the addition of multiple choice dialogue options, and the resulting dialogue trees. On top of this, I have to write several meaningful responses to interactions with almost every object or piece of scenery in the game. The game’s plot allows me a lot of creative freedom as it incorporates everything from nursery rhymes and poetry, to songs, dialogue and inner monologues. It’s almost like writing a play, album and poetry anthology at the same time – something which is often as intense as it sounds!

Which other games do you rate for their writing?

There are countless games I adore for their plot, but when it comes to the quality of spoken and written dialogue, it becomes trickier to decide. A few that spring to mind are Psychonauts, Portal, Tactics Ogre, and Broken Sword. Despite its often convoluted plot, I love the Metal Gear series for its playfulness and realism, with dialogue often following obscure tangents such as discussions about the original Godzilla movies. I also love the writing in Dark Souls for its minimalist quality; you are forced to gather some semblance of a plot through sparse encounters with other characters in a world where even item descriptions are intriguing and help to build the lore. I feel this is where games set themselves apart from movies; creation of a formidable and personal atmosphere in which the audience is deeply invested.

Issue 11

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After a fun launch party in Oxford, Structo issue 11 is now available to order! It will be available from our stockists on the weekend of February 1st.

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Issue 11 is our largest ever, and features 11 short stories, 12 (or 16, depending on how you count) poems, two essay features, and an interview with First Story‘s co-founder Katie Waldegrave.

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Several of the poems are in translation, from the Gaelic, Irish, Classical Chinese and Jèrriais.

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One of the essays is our regular Incidental column, and the other is a profile of the Surrealist painter and author Leonora Carrington. She had an interesting life.

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We’re very proud of this issue. I hope you like it as much as we do.

— Euan

Issue 11 launch

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Tomorrow night from 6pm we will be celebrating the publication of Structo issue 11 at one of our very favourite bookshops: The Albion Beatnik in Oxford.

If you’ve followed our exploits for a while, you might remember we had our issue nine party there, and you will already know why we’re going back.

Expect a pile of magazines, some short readings by some ace writers, wine and/or tea, and cake. Confirmed readings by issue 11 short story writers Melanie Whipman and Tara Isabella Burton, and by the Oxford poets Nikul Patel, April Pierce and Leo Mercer.

It’s going to be fun. Hope you can join us! Facebook event page here.

Update: Sadly Tara can’t make tonight, due to being on the wrong side of the Atlantic, but we have some exciting Oxford poets making up the ranks!

Illustrator interview: Jade They

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London-based illustrator and printmaker Jade They provided the powerful illustration for the issue 10 Incidental column ‘Loft of Hidden Dreams’. We spoke to Jade about her art background and her method for approaching commissions. More of her illustrations follow below the fold.

Can you say a little about your art background?
I studied at the University of Westminster and graduated with a first in Illustration and Visual Communication in 2012. My work has appeared a number of publications, with recent features in Boneshaker, Lost in London, Strike! and Delayed Gratification magazine, amongst others. I have taken part in a number of shows and exhibitions including  2013 Design Junction, 2013 Members Summer Show at London Print Studio and 2012 New Blood D&AD.

How do you approach illustrating a piece of writing generally?
Generally when illustrating a piece of writing I need to make an analysis of the imagery described in the text as well as subjects and atmosphere. I then develop an idea based on those three things. Then I make a working rough using hand-drawn elements, which gets refined along the way. I cut the final from lino and print it. Sometimes the image will then go through minor changes in Photoshop, but I try to keep to the original print as much as possible. Continue reading