Internet, I need your help: plan my holiday for me!

July 21st, 2014

Isle of Lewis

Hello everyone! Exciting news: I am headed to the Isle of Lewis next week!

Lovely Boyfriend are going to go and stay in a wooden hut next to the sea, with no internet connection or phone signal — and we’re hoping this will translate into writing, writing and more writing!

We’ll be very close to the Callanish standing stones (That’s them up there, in a stunning photo by the lovely and excellent Ms Julie Howden), on the other side of the island to Stornoway.

Just needs a roof! Northen Lights, Aurora Borealis, Great Bernera, Isle of Lewis, Scotland
(Photo credit)

Basically, I would like to know from you: what should I do with my holiday?

We’ll be spending two or three days driving from Edinburgh up to the crossing to Lewis, so first of all — what should we stop and see on the way? Is there anywhere amazing we can stay over to break our journey? We’ll have a car and all our camping gear, but we’d also be open to hotels, B&Bs, hostels, tree houses, hobbit holes — whatever!

Isle of Lewis
(Photo credit)

Secondly — what should we do while we’re on Lewis? What should we see? What time of day should we see it?

And thirdly — with Lewis as our basecamp, where else can we go? Which islands should we explore? Where can we see seabirds and ocean-dwelling critters?

Importantly: what can we do when it’s raining? What should we do if, by some miracle, it is fine? What will we need our wee car for, and what can we go and do on foot?

Stornoway Harbour at Dusk
(Photo credit)

Please do share your thoughts, ideas, recommendations, fangirlings, warnings and personal stories here in the comments box (NB: there is a mod queue), on Twitter, or by emailing claire[at]onenightstanzas.com

Thank you a million!

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Like shiny things? Check out Edinburgh Vintage, a totally unrelated ’sister site’ full of jewels, treasures and trinkets. If you want to get in touch you can follow OneNightStanzas on Twitter, or email claire[at]onenightstanzas.com. I reply as swiftly as I can!

Things I Love Thursday #95

July 17th, 2014

Edventures (4)
LOOK WHERE I LIVE.

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LOOK AT IT!

Here are some things I’ve seen around lately…

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This skeleton, totally flirting with Lovely Boyfriend.

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Forest Cafe’s new summer look.

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Faces in things.

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Amusing pop culture references.

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This smiling bagel.

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A kitty!

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Stickers galore.

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This Canonmills hotrod.

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Daisies.

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Furry flowers for bees to snuggle.

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A van full of wine.

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A skateboard bench!

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This city centre idyll.

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Tasty sorbet.

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This chilled out dog.

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Reassuring graffiti.

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…and LIES.

What are YOU loving this week?

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Like shiny things? Check out Edinburgh Vintage, a totally unrelated ’sister site’ full of jewels, treasures and trinkets. If you want to get in touch you can follow OneNightStanzas on Twitter, or email claire[at]onenightstanzas.com. I reply as swiftly as I can!

Procrastination Station #129

July 11th, 2014

Something changed inside me,  you were fading away.

You write because you have an idea in your mind that feels so genuine, so important, so true. And yet, by the time this idea passes through the different filters of your mind, and into your hand, and onto the page or computer screen—it becomes distorted, and it’s been diminished. The writing you end up with is an approximation, if you’re lucky, of whatever it was you really wanted to say.
When this happens, it’s quite a sobering reminder of your limitations as a writer. It can be extremely frustrating. When I’m writing, a thought will occasionally pass unblemished, unperturbed, through my head onto the screen—clearly, like through a glass. It’s an intoxicating, euphoric sensation to feel that I’ve communicated something so real, and so true. But this doesn’t happen often. (I can only think that there are some writers who write that way all the time. I think that’s the difference between greatness and just being good.)
Even my finished books are approximations of what I intended to do. I try to narrow the gap, as much as I possibly can, between what I wanted to say and what’s actually on the page. But there’s still a gap, there always is. It’s very, very difficult. And it’s humbling.

Just one of the brilliant, comforting and very true thoughts from How To Write: A Year In Advice. Read it! Even Jonathan Franzen has something sensible to say!

Scottish poetry books to buy in July — thanks, SPL! (I already have Dat Trickster Sun and it’s great!)

This is a great article by Scottish Book Trust’s Chris, on why Michael Gove’s new “ideas” for the classroom are more harmful than people think.

I don’t even know what to say about this: “I don’t mean that Twitter is stupid but rather that it rewards careful phrasing, careful impersonating, brisk readings of cultural attitudes — in short, rhetoric.” Go ahead and replace “Twitter” with “poetry” in that last sentence and tell me if the meaning changes any for you.

How Not To Review Women’s Writing is just completely sublime.

I just discovered Kim Addonizio’s twitter feed, and it’s full of small poems she’s written specially for Twitter! Brighten up your lunch break!

Reading can ruin your life. Trufax.

Not many writers manage to get sober and those who do often suffer a decline in output: testament not so much to the power of alcohol as a creative stimulant as to its role in destroying brain function, obliterating memory and playing havoc with the ability to formulate and express thought in former alcoholics. But Duras wrote one of her best and certainly most famous novels two years after she stopped drinking. The Lover tells the story of a 15-year-old French girl in Indochina who has an erotic relationship with – yes – a much older Chinese man. Much of the book was drawn from the violence and degradation from which Duras had emerged.

This article about women writers who drank was so good that I went straight out and bought the author’s book.

Where to submit your writing this summer. You’re welcome.

Here is a list of all of the books referenced on Orange Is The New Black in case you wanted to know.

Would it have made Sexton happy to know she won the award by default? She thought she’d won based on the merit of her work. Everyone else (except perhaps those in the know, the literary elite) thought so, too. That’s how awards look—on the outside. In the end, none of the jurors got what they wanted. And the Pulitzer Prize made Anne Sexton a star. She was primed for it: beautiful, sexy, chain-smoking, death-obsessed—“the living Sylvia Plath,” as she came to call herself. The first two books she wrote after winning the Pulitzer, Love Poems and Transformations, were bestsellers. They’re Sexton at her apex. The prize gave her confidence; it loosened her up. In Transformations she even let herself have some good, mordant fun.

How Anne Sexton won the Pulitzer Prize.

I guess I have to stop making snarky comments about James Patterson now.

This is a super positive way to look at rejection!

So what happens to nerdy guys who keep finding out that the princess they were promised is always in another castle? When they “do everything right,” they get good grades, they get a decent job, and that wife they were promised in the package deal doesn’t arrive? When the persistent passive-aggressive Nice Guy act fails, do they step it up to elaborate Steve-Urkel-esque stalking and stunts? Do they try elaborate Revenge of the Nerds-style ruses? Do they tap into their inner John Galt and try blatant, violent rape?
Do they buy into the “pickup artist” snake oil—started by nerdy guys, for nerdy guys—filled with techniques to manipulate, pressure and in some cases outright assault women to get what they want? Or when that doesn’t work, and they spend hours a day on sites bitching about how it doesn’t work, like Elliot Rodger’s hangout “PUAHate.com,” sometimes, do they buy some handguns, leave a manifesto on the Internet and then drive off to a sorority house to murder as many women as they can?

Your Princess Is In Another Castle is one of the best things I’ve seen written about Elliot Rodger and the tragic Isla Vista shootings…

…and another is this poem by Freesia McKee.

I really want to see this movie (named after my favourite song).

Instead of your real phone number, give a guy who’s bothering you the number of the bell hooks hotline! (WE NEED THIS IN THE UK.)

Tattoos on old people.

I like this picture of my cellulite is rather heart-warming. (And possibly, ought to be a body acceptance hashtag.)

OK, everyone go home. This eleven year old wins at everything.

DOG GIFS ALL DAY LONG BECAUSE FRIDAY.


Who needs Westeros?


THANK YOU SO MUCH SARAH for sending this woman into my life. (Don’t ask questions. Just watch this.)


& finally… here is a cat beating a human at Jenga.

Have a great weekend!

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Like shiny things? Check out Edinburgh Vintage, a totally unrelated ’sister site’ full of jewels, treasures and trinkets. If you want to get in touch you can follow OneNightStanzas on Twitter, or email claire[at]onenightstanzas.com. I reply as swiftly as I can!

(Photo credit)

Things I Love Thursday #94: PhD graduation edition!

July 10th, 2014

My PhD Graduation! (3)

My PhD Graduation! (4)

Obligatory proud parents shot. Also obligatory silly-face-without-them-knowing!

My PhD Graduation! (7)

A quick wide shot so you can check out my rather stunning dress.

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Three of my favourite people.

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Totes NBD.

PhD grad weekend adventures (1)

I was given these stunners by Dad-of-Lovely-Boyfriend and his lovely partner Mary-Helen. Thank you, you guys!

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The colour-coding is just perfect!

What are YOU loving this week?

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Like shiny things? Check out Edinburgh Vintage, a totally unrelated ’sister site’ full of jewels, treasures and trinkets. If you want to get in touch you can follow OneNightStanzas on Twitter, or email claire[at]onenightstanzas.com. I reply as swiftly as I can!

10 writerly items from Edinburgh Vintage (plus, SALE!)

July 7th, 2014

There’s a great big sale on at Edinburgh Vintage! Over a third of the entire store is reduced in that sale, with more items being added all the time. Here are ten cool items that might be particularly tempting to all you writerly types…

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1. First edition Maya Angelou poetry collection
The literary world lost A GIANT in Maya Angelou. This collection of poems — one of her best — proves it.

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2. An antique leaded crystal and solid silver inkwell, dated 1906
OK, you may not actually use a quill pen… but all writers have pretentions, right?

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3. A fancy vintage bookmark.
You can never have too many of these things. And this one is in the $10 clearance section!

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4. A really, really swish cup of tea.
Or coffee. Or whatever hot tasty beverage keeps you going through a marathon writing session. Have it in this very pretty cup!

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5. A rather suave pocket watch.
All writers need a timepiece, to keep an eye on how much they’re procrastinating! Might as well be a super cool Soviet era pocketwatch

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6. A wise old owl
…to store some pennies in. Sorry, it’s true: most writers are poor. You need this.

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7. A retro pocketbook.
When did they stop making these? They’re wallets, but with a space for a little notebook! This one even has a Latin inscription.

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8. A literary souvenir
(From Paris, obv, one of the great literary cities of the world.)

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9. …or two.
(Or from London, which is another one!)

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10. Some kitsch classic literature
…complete with cute illustrations.

Over 600 items in the shop — EV also has a Facebook page and a Twitter — and I’d appreciate you forever if you’d go and send me some love!

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If you want to get in touch you can follow OneNightStanzas on Twitter, or email claire[at]onenightstanzas.com. I reply as swiftly as I can!

Procrastination Station #128

July 4th, 2014

Shine On

OK, before we get started…

EDINBURGH VINTAGE IS HAVING A HUGE SALE! This is for July only, so get in there and rummage! New items are being added all the time, too!

When you announce that you’re a ghost-writer, people look at you askance. Some say, “You’re writing about ghosts?” Others, with some condescension, ask you when you’re going to write your own book, the inference being that ghost-writing is for those who can’t make it up. And whilst there is a grain of truth in that, to my mind, ghost-writing is a skill and an art of its own.

I was fascinated by these confessions of a ghost writer, Sue Leonard, who does it for a living.

If you click nothing else in this post, click this fabby series of portraits: booksellers in their natural habitats. (As my collague Danny wrote when he emailed me about it “it’s a lovely series and it’s lovely.”)

This guy plants his self-published book in bookstores… and people buy it.

My loyalty to Levin in Anna Karenina is of an entirely different nature to my loyalty to, say, Paul Newman’s caesar salad dressing, which I like very much: it is not a preference but an affinity, an encounter so genuinely self-revealing that the relationship required me first to work and then to alter. My relationship with Levin cannot be improved upon or reproduced.

So I just finished reading Eleanor Catton’s “The Luminaries” [SPOILER: it is amazing, read it], and I am just as enchanted by this excellent essay she wrote about literature and capitalism. (Side note: I cannot believe this woman is only one year older than me. She is a total genius and makes me feel like a failure at life.)

As someone who works a lot with literacy learners, I loved this video of just a few learners describing their literacy journeys.

19 Dilemmas Every Book Lover Has Faced At Least Once

Not buying from Amazon is less a tactic of starving Amazon of a sale, they’re hardly going to miss it. Not buying from Amazon is taking those missed sales to other venues; Waterstones and independents. I’ve had people say to me off-handedly that they don’t expect Waterstones to be around in 5 years. That thought upsets me. So I’ll happily impulsively buy a nice hardback, a slightly overpriced cup of tea and cake as an investment. Please don’t squander my investment, Waterstones.

One woman’s vow to boycott Amazon: her end of year review!

And speaking of which… got a problem with Amazon? No matter what it is, here’s the cure.

Have you checked out Scottish Book Trust’s Opportunities for Writers page lately? Loads of good stuff there at the moment!

I drew plans of my protagonist’s house, her daughter’s house, her brother in law’s, and her friend’s houses. I also printed out, cut up and glued together images from Google maps to create my own picture of her local area.

Also at Scottish Book Trust this week: Novelist Emma Healy lists five practical ways to get to grips with writing your novel.

I can’t wait to read this.

Are you writing a book — fiction or non fiction — that’s somehow about medicine or health? The Wellcome Prize is now accepting entries!

I realise now that I am neither normal nor ordinary, and I become less and less ordinary as time passes. I don’t want to be told that I’m not allowed to react negatively to Paxman’s demand that I speak to everyone except people like me; people who have been historically excluded from poetry events by definition, by default; and who, when they raise that issue, get lumped in with a “pellety nest” by those who refuse to see their privilege

That’s the excellent Mark Burnhope, responding excellently to recently-retired, flailing-against-his-own-irrelevance Jeremy Paxman. (Buy Mark’s new book!)

Have you been to Looking Glass Books? You should go!

Poetry prize culture rewards “competent but unambitious verse lauded as the best our art-form has to offer”? Interesting reading in Poetry Review (via).

And speaking of poetry prize culture… the always-brilliant Dave Coates reviews John Burnside and Hugo Williams and, refreshingly, finds them wanting.

Going through some old bookmarks I found this great poem.

And this one.

There is an oversupply of PhDs. Although a doctorate is designed as training for a job in academia, the number of PhD positions is unrelated to the number of job openings. Meanwhile, business leaders complain about shortages of high-level skills, suggesting PhDs are not teaching the right things. The fiercest critics compare research doctorates to Ponzi or pyramid schemes.

I first read this just as I was starting out on my PhD. Yesterday I graduated. Turns out, the Economist was kinda right.

Have you, like me, ever wanted to escape the tyranny that is hair care? Check this out!

Aaaand while trawling old bookmarks I also discovered this My Mad Fat Diary gif, which may be the best gif ever. (SHARON I LOVE YOU.)

HIPPOS ARE BETTER THAN HUMANS. The end.


…and people say animals have no feelings. (Look how when she falls, he’s like, ADULTS, ARE YOU DOING SOMETHING ABOUT THIS?!)

All by myself from Richard Dunn on Vimeo.

You guys saw this, right? A dude got stuck overnight in an airport in Vegas… so he single handedly shot an epic music video on his phone.


Finally, I kinda want to be friends with these weird guys. (Apparently, so do all the MRAs in the world, because they’re hanging out in the video’s comments. Weeeird!)

Have a great weekend!

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Like shiny things? Check out Edinburgh Vintage, a totally unrelated ’sister site’ full of jewels, treasures and trinkets. If you want to get in touch you can follow OneNightStanzas on Twitter, or email claire[at]onenightstanzas.com. I reply as swiftly as I can!

(Photo credit)

Things I Love Thursday #93

May 29th, 2014

I’ve been pretty sick the past couple of weeks, with an absolute beast of a chest infection. However, some good stuff has been happening of late which has made me feel a little better. Check it out…

#whatveganseat

Vegan blueberry pancakes!

Vegan eats.
Lovely Boyfriend, aka my personal chef, really pulled out the stops while I was ill. Although I have no photo of it, the main thing I ate while I was at my most hoarse and stuffed up was an amazing vegan chilli full of delicious veggies and with tofu, beans and rice. LB made a massive pan of it so he could go to work and leave me with plenty of good healthy eats. It was totally wholesome and totally what I needed to feel better. As I started to feel more alive again, he celebrated the fact by making me the delicious stir fry in the top photo, with udon noodles (my favourite) and tofu and shiitake mushroom pot-sticker dumplings. AS AMAZING AS THEY LOOK. Then last weekend, my dear friend Lucy Florence — who’s been living in California these past few years — swung by for a whirlwind stop-over visit. That also needed celebrating, so LB cooked up some super tasty wholemeal and blueberry vegan pancakes for breakfast. He literally is the greatest.

Wildflowers in my window

Laburnum

Summertime.
Although the weather hasn’t been so stunning, I’ve been trying to keep in mind that it’s summer, hooray! The Warriston Path is absolutely brimming with gorgeous wildflowers at the moment: an absolute sea of cow parsley, plus plenty of buttercups, forget-me-nots and Jack-by-the-Hedge… which is what’s in my little bouquet above. There’s also ragged robin and even the odd cowslip, but obviously I only picked the most ubiquitous things, and did so carefully. And although there’s been a lot of rain, I am trying to think positively, and look up at the trees. They’re all so luminously green and lush, which means they’re enjoying the current weather. Given that trees are way more important than humans, I am trying to think of rain as “good” weather, instead of moaning about it. I mean… look at that laburnum, which I passed on a visit to Greyfriars Kirkyard. It’s clearly loving what the weather’s doing!

Presenting Scottish Book Trust's "john Muir: Earth-Planet, Universe" at the 2014 International John Muir Conference!

Presenting Scottish Book Trust's "john Muir: Earth-Planet, Universe" at the 2014 International John Muir Conference!

John Muir!  A lovely present for our team from the John Muir Trust :)

John Muir.
Look, it’s the Scottish Book Trust’s John Muir graphic novel, in the flesh!!! Although I only did a very little work on this project, I am still incredibly proud of it. It’s a graphic novel for 13-15 year olds that tells the story of John Muir’s (amazing) life, and promotes environmental responsibility and conservation. The top two photos are from the 2014 John Muir Conference, which I attended with my boss, Koren. We ran a stand, chatted to delegates, handed out copies of the book for free, and got to hear all the talks, which were incredible (keynote speaker George Monbiot, OMG!!!). You can find out more about what went down at the conference by checking out the Twitter hashtag #JM100Perth. And although all the physical books are spoken for (a class set has been sent, for free, to every secondary school in Scotland), you can read the entire thing in PDF format at our website… and if you’re a teacher or youth worker, you can also access our support materials!
The third photo is of a lovely gift given to Scottish Book Trust by our friends and colleagues at the John Muir Trust, who worked closely with us on the book. It now hangs in our office, right next to my desk. If ever I am feeling starved of inspiration, I look over at it and think of John Muir. He was a truly amazing man who produced so many inspirational writings and teachings, but my favourite quote of his (everyone who knows about him has one!) is:

The world is big, and I want to get a good look at it before it gets dark.

Given the oncoming “darkness” and uncertainty of climate change, I find this one spookily foreboding as well as encouraging. We’d all do well to live by this mantra, I think.

Word Power Books

JK Rowling never wrote here

Edinburgh.
Every so often, I get itchy feet. I like to think about what it might be like to live in one of my “dream locations”: in the UK, these are places like Whitby and Robin Hood’s Bay or Ambleside; further afield, they’re places like Victoria (Canada), the San Juan Islands or Portland (Oregon). However, I think one of the reasons I’ve never quite made it to the suitcase-packing stage is… Edinburgh always calls me back. However chilly the winds, however lousy the trams, however ignored I feel when I talk about my political beliefs (I have notes, Mr Salmond), I can’t help but fall in love with this amazing city again and again and again. I mean, look at the poster I found in Word Power Books — Edinburgh’s bookshops are like places of worship, and most folk here absolutely know it. And look at that sign, currently sitting outside the Artisan Roast pop-up on Victoria Street (they also did a great Nigel Farage one)! Edinvarians know what side our bread’s buttered, but we’re also not afraid to poke fun at the tourists. Never change, Auld Reekie.

What are YOU loving this week?

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Like shiny things? Check out Edinburgh Vintage, a totally unrelated ’sister site’ full of jewels, treasures and trinkets. If you want to get in touch you can follow OneNightStanzas on Twitter, or email claire[at]onenightstanzas.com. I reply as swiftly as I can!

Making Scotland Home: submit your story to Scotland’s Stories of Home!

May 27th, 2014

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Making It Home brought together many nationalities and cultures: the women hailed from places like Algeria, Kosovo, Zimbabwe, Pakistan, Iraq and Ghana, as well as Scotland, England and Ireland. What could all these very different women possibly have in common? The answer soon became clear: they all wanted to tell their stories of home.

Last week I wrote a blogpost for my lovely employers, Scottish Book Trust, about the Making It Home project. Why? Well partly because — as you probably know if you read this blog — I think MiH is an incredibly exciting project and everyone ought to know about it. But also because MiH was all about telling stories about home, and specifically, what it means to call Scotland home. And that’s exactly what SBT’s public participation campaign for 2014 is all about.

It’s called Scotland’s Stories of Home, and we want to hear the story of YOUR home in Scotland, whether you’re originally from here or you just moved here recently. You can write about anything, from the four walls you live in to the food smells that automatically make you think “Scotland”; from a distant childhood memory to a funny story you just heard last week. If it means “home” to you, we want to hear it. You don’t have to be a professional writer — the complete opposite, in fact! You just have to have a cool tale to tell. If you think this sounds like you, submit your story of home here, and you could be featured in the newspaper, on our website, or even in our Stories of Home book!

The deadline for SSoH submissions is 30th June. But wait… before you run off and submit, go and read the rest of my blogpost!

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Seven pieces of writing advice from the speakers of The Business

May 26th, 2014

The Business writing event at Pleasance Cabaret Bar (1)

Last week, I was extremely flattered to be invited to speak at The Business, an event run by the University of Edinburgh and hosted by their Writer in Residence Jenni Fagan. The event was designed for budding writers who were keen to know more about the ‘business’ side of being a writer. I was asked to speak alongside publishing megastars like Francis Bickmore and Jenny Brown (!!!), and my topic was, essentially “is a Creative Writing PhD right for you?”

I think my talk went OK: the best part about it was definitely making my supervisor, Alan — who was hiding at the back of the room — blush quite a lot as I talked about what a brilliant mentor he’d been. But much better than my barely coherent ramblings were the talks of the other speakers. I hand-picked some useful advice from each of them for your reading pleasure…

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1. Jenny Brown of Jenny Brown Associates, literary agent:

“Don’t write to trends.”

I’ve seen Jenny Brown speak on many occasions, and she always manages to make her advice to writers fresh and relevant to what’s going on in the book world at that very moment. However, this piece of advice is always in there and I think it’s something a lot of young novelists (in particular) need to hear. “You can never get on top of a trend,” she says, “because by the time you get your novel out there, you’ll have just missed it.” Instead, she advises, you should concentrate on writing a great novel that you love, and that your agent will love. “I don’t pick books based on genre, or based on whether or not I think they will be commercially successful,” Jenny said. “I mean, those things are factors, but at the end of the day if I love your book, that’s the main thing. All the books I’ve picked to represent, I have loved.”

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2. Chris Hamilton-Emery of Salt, publisher:

“We need more narrative non-fiction.”

Did you know that the market for non-fiction is far larger than the market for fiction? “Fiction is declining,” Chris revealed, and he picked up on a point that Jenny had made about her love of nature writing. “Jenny said she was disappointed not to see more nature books. I agree. I wish more young writers would break into non-fiction earlier.” He said that for every fifty novels that landed on his desk, he’d see only one non-fiction work. (He also mentioned poetry’s market share: less than 1% of the entire book market. But then, we knew that, right?)

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3. Francis Bickmore of Canongate, publisher:

“The hair shines with brushing.”

Francis gave his own seven rules for writers, all of which were great, but this was by far my favourite. He said it came from a friend of his, another publisher, who’d been listening to one of their writers moaning about how many edits they were needing to do on their novel. “The guy’s response was, ah yes, but the hair shines with brushing. The hair shines with brushing. I think it’s Flaubert or something, and it’s so true.” In other words, edit, edit, polish, edit, polish and then edit some more. Make your writing shine.

The Business writing event at Pleasance Cabaret Bar (9)

4. Stuart Kelly of The Guardian and many other places, critic:

“If you’re not interested in writing a novel that changes what the novel is capable of, get out of the business.”

This was probably my favourite piece of advice from the entire event. It’s something I might nick, except I’d replace the word ‘novel’ with ‘poem.’ What Stuart was saying is that the best novels are the ones that really push the boundaries of the form: one of the audience members gave the example of Jennifer Egan’s Visit from the Goon Squad, which happens to be my favourite novel ever, and really does do what Stuart’s talking about. “It’s not enough to just mention Twitter here and there,” Stuart said. “I’m talking about really experimenting with what this form can do.”

The Business writing event at Pleasance Cabaret Bar (10)

5. Peggy Hughes, of Dundee Book Festival, promoter:

“Perform your work in public.”

Peggy, aka the most-loved person in Scottish arts administration (no joke, she’s awesome) was in attendance to talk about the role of literary festivals in the writing business. She revealed that she routinely attends poetry readings, open mics and other literary events in order to scout for potential talent to book for her festival. “Go and read at these things,” she said. “You never know when someone like me might be sitting in the audience thinking, I should book this person.”

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6. Kevin Williamson of Neu! Reekie!, promoter:

“Embrace the improbable.”

Kevin’s talk was mostly about his whirlwind experience at the helm of the Creative Scotland-funded cabaret sensation that is Neu! Reekie! He talked about having his face put on a new whisky brand’s label, meeting Richard Hell and somehow managing to get Primal Scream to play at one of his gigs. But it wasn’t just half an hour of how cool Kevin Williamson’s life is: he also talked about how rewarding community work can be for writers, talking a bit about his experiences teaching the poetry of Robert Burns in Scottish prisons. “All the things that have happened to me have been pretty improbable,” he said. “When Neu! Reekie! started we had no idea where it was going to go. So just embrace it, just go with whatever comes to you.”

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7. Jenni Fagan of the University of Edinburgh, writer:

“Pace yourself… and get off Facebook.”

Jenni is in the middle of developing her novel The Panopticon (which is good and you should read it, by the way) into a film script, so she fielded a lot of questions from the audience about that side of things. However, she warned that “98% of all films never get made,” and pushed the importance of focussing on the writing first and foremost. “I got off Facebook because I found that I was looking at things like the best way to peel a banana, and then from that I clicked on to a really cute photo of a koala bear… and then before I knew it I’d spent a whole hour and all I’d done was surf a bunch of crap.” She says writers ought to focus on removing anything from their lives “that takes you away from words,” but she also noted the value of pacing yourself, and knowing that everything does not happen at once. “I have this idea for another novel,” she said, “but I am pretty sure I won’t start writing it for maybe another five or ten years. You just have to let things take their course.”

Incidentally, if you have any questions about Creative Writing PhDs, keep an eye out for a post on the topic in the next little while!

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Like shiny things? Check out Edinburgh Vintage, a totally unrelated ’sister site’ full of jewels, treasures and trinkets. If you want to get in touch you can follow OneNightStanzas on Twitter, or email claire[at]onenightstanzas.com. I reply as swiftly as I can!

Procrastination Station #127

May 23rd, 2014

take it easy

Average earnings in the UK were around £26,500 in 2012. To make this amount on a book contract for a paperback edition selling at £7.99 that pays 10% a writer would need to sell 33,166 copies a year. And that’s if the book isn’t discounted as part of a 3 for 2 promotion, for example. That is a lot of books! To put it in perspective to get to number one in the UK paperback chart last month you’d have needed to sell almost 20,000 copies a week. This means that going to number 1 doesn’t even earn you the national average wage (and that book may have taken the writer months or even years to produce). The odds of making a mint are very long - writing is a risky profession. And like most jobs in the UK there is a glass ceiling. Female writers on average earn only 77.5% as much as their male counterparts. Their books are also less likely to get reviewed in the traditional press or for that matter win awards.

Can’t believe I forgot to link this in my last PS. If you read nothing else from this post, read this: Sara Sheridan being real about what writers earn.

Nic Cage wants you to READ, and other hilarious and shocking moments in literary history.

OMG Julianne Moore has been cast as President Coin in the Mockingjay movies and look, she’s perfect.

[Paterson] is counselling against navel-gazing, against writing for the precious few, but his notion of the poor, undoted-upon general reader is a vision of himself in the throne room of every individual’s brain.

Jon Stone of Sidekick Books called out Don Paterson on what can only be described as some major bullshit. And it’s amazing.

The habits of highly sensitive people. aka, writers.

Muriel Rukeyser had some extremely smart things to say about poetry.

I’m only a year or so into an MFA. I stop by the office of a friend, an older white poet in my department. Publication to me feels impossible then, and the friend means to be encouraging when he says, “With a name like Jaswinder Bolina, you could publish plenty of poems right now if you wrote about the first-generation, minority stuff. What I admire is that you don’t write that kind of poetry.” He’s right. I don’t write “that kind” of poetry. To him, this is upstanding, correct, what a poet ought to do. It’s indicative of a vigor exceeding that of other minority poets come calling. It turns out I’m a hard worker too. I should be offended—if not for myself, then on behalf of writers who do take on the difficult subject of minority experience in their poetry—but I understand that my friend means no ill by it. To his mind, embracing my difference would open editorial inboxes, but knowing that I tend to eschew/exclude/deny “that kind” of subject in my poetry, he adds, “This’ll make it harder for you.”

Freesia sends me all the best links. This essay is called Writing Like A White Guy, and it is brilliant.

Here’s a big list of feminist literary resources. You’re welcome.

And here’s a nice poem I liked.

THAT THIS IS WHAT BEING A TEENAGE GIRL IS MEANT TO FEEL LIKE. I wanted to make them write out those words a hundred times each day. Embroider them on cushions. Have them printed on a t-shirt. Instead I started writing YA novels.

YA author Sarra Manning, defending “difficult” teenage girls in fiction.

Ever been ’splained at? 10 simple words all girls (& if you ask me, women) should learn.

Terrible real estate photos: one of the most fun parts of house hunting, I thought.

Aaron wrote me a very lovely email saying that Toby is one of his favorite characters he’s ever written, and he talked about our relationship building that character. He said, “I’ve heard what’s happening to your character [Toby was fired and faced years in prison during season seven but ultimately was pardoned] and I’m so sorry.” And that’s how I felt: very sorry that they had chose to do what they did. They didn’t tell me in advance like Aaron and Tommy would have. Clearly they didn’t want to tell me because they were scared of my reaction to it. I would have talked them out of it because it was not in line with the six years of work that I built with that character. I was very, very hurt by it.

^ That’s Richard Schiff talking about his role as Toby in The West Wing (my all-time fav TV show). It comes from this amazing TWW retrospective which only makes me love the show (& oddly, hate Aaron Sorkin) all the more.

The 100 Most Important Dog Pictures of All Time is a Friday must-see.

So is the brilliant Saving Room For Cats.

Calling Beyoncé a terrorist in a moment when 300 Black girls from Nigeria are being raped and otherwise terrorized daily and can’t nobody seem to come up with a strategy to get them back is not only intellectually and politically irresponsible – it’s ill. bell hooks knows Beyoncé isn’t a terrorist.

bell hooks is a heroine of mine, so I was pretty disappointed by her recent comments on Beyoncé. Thankfully, Dr Brittney Cooper created this brilliant response.

Here are some photos taken by daredevil Russian dudes who climb skyscrapers for fun. Beautiful and terrifying.

Last week I went to visit the lovely Jill Calder at her studio, and she made me these. AS AMAZING AS THEY SOUND, folks.

I find women fascinating. I adore men, however, I really sometimes try to observe particularly how, when women talk to me about something, we both begin to hear the whole story. There are layers and levels operating in any conversation: protection mechanisms, what she does say, what she doesn’t say, to a lover, friend or boss. All these things become part of the story. How she responds and doesn’t respond. How she tells me. She might have started talking about one song, but now she’s part of an emotional relay, a baton-passing. It’s a circular giving. There’s the woman in a song, which tells a story, which touches someone, which becomes another song. It’s so powerful—a woman finding the strength to confront her situation because of another woman’s story.

Tori Amos? Total badass.

& finally, here are three amazing animations of Charles Bukowski poems:

Have a great weekend!

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Like shiny things? Check out Edinburgh Vintage, a totally unrelated ’sister site’ full of jewels, treasures and trinkets. If you want to get in touch you can follow OneNightStanzas on Twitter, or email claire[at]onenightstanzas.com. I reply as swiftly as I can!

(Photo credit)