October 1998 Café Society's Poetry News Update
Do you have any poetry news? Do you have any strong views about poetry or publishing that you would like to share here? If so, mail me on the email link at the bottom of this page. This is a non-commercial site - competitions and calls for submissions can be announced here free, because I believe they are of benefit to poets. If you have an announcement, click the email link at the bottom of the page and let me know...

Diana Diaz with her son Josh
This issue features an interview with Diana Diaz , founder of the Aylad* writer's newsgroup and Editor of the Aylad website. Diana recently went to a writers' conference, where she met some influential people, including the former congresswoman, Pat Schroeder, who is doing many wonderful things for writers these days, changing the law to protect copyright, especially on the Internet. I asked Diana about this and about her recent success with Harper Collins.

*The Aylad newsgroup works through email. Anyone interested in joining this friendly, expanding group, can contact Diana at this email address: [email protected]

Poetry L & T:First of all, Diana, could you tell me a little of your background? What made you begin to write? Are you influenced by your upbringing and where you lived as a child?
Diana Diaz:Even when I was very young, I was writing crazy little stories and poems. I always had an overactive imagination, or so my mother insists. I was born in Germany and learned my English in England. I have travelled all over the world and feel my experiences have been a great asset to my writing. I began to write seriously about two years ago, writing for a paycheck as well as pleasure. I believe perseverance will get you a lot further in this business. I mean business because it is, if you want to succeed as a professional writer.
Poetry L & T:Are you influenced by any famous poets? If so, which ones? Also, who, if anyone, has influenced your fiction writing?
Diana Diaz:I am bad when it comes to famous people and see everyone as an equal. I think highly of them for achieving something in their lives but believe anyone can do it. I loved Jack London as a child and think Jean Auel is an exceptional and inspirational writer. I guess you could say that they have been influences in my fiction writing.
Poetry L & T:I understand you have had recent success with Harper Collins and three literary agents. How did these big breaks come about?
Diana Diaz:I went to the SSW writer's Conference in Albuquerque, NM, one of the larger multi-genre conferences. I went there with a winning attitude and presented myself as a professional and an achiever. I was told, and I quote by producer, David Baird, "A positive attitude, belief in yourself and sheer perseverance will get you a lot further in this business than talent alone." I have to agree with that statement and live by it. If you meet with an agent or publisher with an entrepreneurship type of attitude, you will snag their interest because they can see making money with you and that is what they are all about, be it good or bad.
Poetry L & T:You said to the Aylad group that it was Paul McCarthy of Harper Collins who is interested in your book about your husband Mike's experiences in the EMS in the ghettos of New York. Because you mentioned it to him at dinner? Tell me a little more about that conversation.
Diana Diaz:Actually, I had an interview with him to get some advice on how to write the proposal for that book titled 'Through the Eyes of an EMT'. After explaining the book and getting his advice on how to focus it, etc., he took out his business card and stated that he wanted me to send him the proposal and first three chapters as soon as I had them ready. He said the book sounded wonderful and that he had published one last year about a detective in New Orleans, stating it sold well. I sat with him at dinner that night along with others but knew it would have been unprofessional and tactless to mention the book again. I don't want to appear desperate or kiss up as I saw so many doing that weekend. Believe you're a winner and act it. Those are the ones who end up standing out in the long run.
Poetry L & T:You also met former congresswomen, Pat Schroeder. Did she tell you much about her new WYPO law, to protect the copyright of writers, e.g. how long it will be until this new law is fully implemented?
Diana Diaz:It has passed through the congress and senate and only needs to be signed. If it is not signed by the time the senate finishes its meeting, it will be a long time before it takes affect. Her plea was that everyone call their senators and tell them to sign off the WYPO bill. I will be asking her questions and posting her comments on Aylad's writer's group by next month.
Poetry L & T:The new law should benefit all who have work on your Aylad site, Diana, many of whom have their own websites. Can you tell me a little more about Aylad, by the way? What made you start it all up?
Diana Diaz:When I first began to research agents and the field of publishing, I was daunted by the wealth of info in front of me. It took me a long time to make sense of it all and to get past the rubbish and straight to the good stuff. I started Aylad's to help other writers get a head start by having that information available for them in one place. I also saw that so many writers have no belief in their talents and many who were scorned by rude, idiots who put them down for the sheer joy of it, stifling their desire to move forward. I wanted an atmosphere where writers could get together and help one another in a friendly and encouraging atmosphere. I want writers to know that they can achieve their dreams and that other writers do care.
Poetry L & T:Do you think that poets and fiction/non-fiction writers are born that way or influenced to write by life events?
Diana Diaz:I do believe some people were born with talent but anyone can become a great writer as long as they have the desire for it and the smarts to learn the right way of doing things. Don’t see your failures as something bad but as a learning experience. Yes, I do believe that writers are influenced by their life experience. That's what makes everyone's work so different and unique. Every book, be it fiction or non-fiction is really only one persons viewpoint on a particular subject. Get ten people to write what they feel about the same subject and you'll get ten totally different views. It's wonderful!
Poetry L & T:If you were a publisher, what type of poet or writer would you be looking for? What constitutes talent, in your view?
Diana Diaz:I eventually want to become an agent once I have published extensively and would focus on new talent. With fiction, I would look at the way the characters are brought to life or how a particular subject is brought out. The story flow and realism would play a big part. Even if it is science-fiction or fantasy, it still needs to appear real and possible. If not, you have to convince me in your writing that it is possible. I would also look to see how dedicated they are to improve themselves and how willing they are to learn. I want a person who believes in their work even if no one else does.
Poetry L & T:Finally, Diana, what advice would you give to aspiring young poets and writers today, about improving their work and approaching publishers?
Diana Diaz:My advice first and foremost is to believe in yourself and your work. Then sit back, take any criticism with heart and be willing to learn from those who have gone through it. Also, don't approach an agent or publisher until your book has been edited, edited, edited and then edited some more. With the thousands of manuscripts that are out there today, the competition is steep. Make sure you present yourself as a professional, that includes your writing.
Editor's note:I thought this was an excellent comment with which to conclude the interview, especially as I have met several poets, in particular, whose work is very powerful, but they have a strangely low confidence in their work. I hope that aspiring poets and writers everywhere will take note of Diana's positive advice.

Find Aylad here:


I am very pleased to announce that Michael Stephens, editor of the online poetry magazine Avalon has awarded this website the Avalon Award for Poetry. This was a really nice surprise, as I had previously put a shortcut to his Avalon Award page on my desktop, ready to find out how I could apply. He had already visited this site and emailed to let me know he wanted to give the award.

A big Thank You to Michael!


Theme: An original poem/short story. No restriction to style, content or length.
Closing date: 31 October 1998

IST PRIZE: £100 and publication in an anthology
2nd AND 3rd PRIZES: publication in an anthology
Plus three additional runner up prizes of publication in an anthology in the poetry category. All winners will have their work published in an anthology and receive a complimentary copy.

ENTRY FEE: £3 per poem or story. 4th poem or story and beyond: £1. No limit to the number of entries but each one must be accompanied by the correct entry fee.

Poems and/or short stories must be titled but not bear the author's name. Send your name and address with a list of entry titles with your entries on a separate piece of paper. Entries do not have to be typed but should be legible.

Capricorn International Poetry/Short Story Competition 1998,
17 West Lea Road,
Bath BA1 3RL

Theme: An original love poem. No restriction to style, content or length.
Closing date: 20 December 1998

IST PRIZE: £100 and publication in an anthology
2nd AND 3rd PRIZES: publication in an anthology
All winners will receive a complimentary copy of the anthology.

The same entry fee applies as for the poetry/short story competition, also the same submission guidelines apply - titles and details on a separate piece of paper and enclose correct entry fee for no. of poems.

Capricorn International Love Poetry Competition 1998,
17 West Lea Road,
Bath BA1 3RL

Editor's note: I think that typed entries make a better impression. Actually, I have entered this competition myself several times and found it very helpful that, even if you don't win, the organisers usually send you a note if you were short-listed, to say why you did well and what they like about your work.

Several poet friends have mentioned to me that there has been a bizarre but friendly invasion of the poetry newsgroups by a poet calling him/herself THE POTATO OF TERROR.

Further investigation on my part has revealed a spate of poems by this person, especially on the newsgroup alt.arts.poetry.comments, which range from mildly silly to outrageously eccentric and surreal. If anyone is able to reveal the identity of this potato poet, please contact me as soon as possible.

Meanwhile, here is an example of the Potato of Terror's more recent works, used by permission, though no further comment was given:

Do you know this potato?
© The Potato of Terror 6/9/98.

I'm a funkadelic relic
from another space and time,
a little psychedelic,
I am no bitter lime!
I'm a tuber and a mover
moving on grooving feet,
Like the Groover From Vancouver.
I am round and bittersweet.

Do not scorn my being spheroid
in an oblate kind of shape,
I don't pump iron or pop steroid
or stand with my mouth agape,
but I stand firm on my standing
as a légume libertine,
and I crave your understanding,
for that which is seldom seen.

Ergo, Terror's potato
is often underground
and dreams of Proust and Plato
and all things wise and round,
reclusive and elusive,
only comes out at night,
for interviews exclusive,
only when the time is right.

Back Issues of POETRY LIFE & TIMES: September

Mail me on: [email protected]

Click here to return to main index