Things I Love Thursday #98: Halloween Special

October 30th, 2014

I did a particularly spooky tour of Cumbria, in honour of Halloween…

Autumn in Cumbria (3)

Autumn in Cumbria (13)

You remember I told you that Martyna is especially skilled at finding cool adventures for us to go on? Well, here’s another: we went to see Long Meg & Her Sisters, a Druidic stone circle in North Cumbria. It’s the third largest circle in the UK after Stonehenge and the Ring of Brodgar and has over fifty stones. It is also totally deserted — for some reason, barely anyone knows about it.

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Long Meg (she’s the taller stone that’s sort of the shape of a pointer on a sundial — or a witch’s hat — in the pic above and in the first one in this post) was supposedly the mother to over fifty daughters, all witches. One night they were out doing their witchy thing, dancing in the moonlight and casting spells, when Michael Scot, famous Scottish “wizard,” happened upon their gathering. Scot supposedly turned them all to stone for their evil deeds… which frankly I think was a major overreaction to a bit of midnight dancing.

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Legend now has it that the stones cannot be counted — that if you try to count them once, but then try again, you will get a different number each time. Another local story says that you should attempt to count the stones, then walk over to Meg and press your ear to her stone. She’ll tell you a secret — or possibly, if you’re really un/lucky, you’ll break the spell and the witches will all wake up.

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An even more spooky and mysterious circle is Mayburgh Henge, not too far from Long Meg, at Eamont Bridge. Mayburgh is unlike other circles: rather than being made of large stones, its outer ring is made from piles and piles and piles of smaller ones, which have largely now been grown over by grass. The big stones were originally dragged to the middle of the circle and erected next to one another… except sometime between the Druids building the Henge and now, all but one of them have been stolen. We’re talking massive stones here. Why they were taken, and by whom — or what — is a local mystery to this day.

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But for me the best thing about Mayburgh Henge is the trees: around the piled-up stone outer ring, ancient oaks and ashes are planted. In formation: oak, ash, oak, ash. Both trees have huge mythical significance and are considered very sacred by many. Check out the roots on this hundreds-of-years-old ash I perched on!

(Fun fact: Mayburgh is in spitting distance of the supposed site of King Arthur’s Round Table, also at Eamont Bridge.)

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It’s been one of the hottest and driest autumns on record, and you might have seen in the news that the weather has uncovered some spooky stuff. I’m talking specifically about Mardale, the famous “drowned village,” which recently re-appeared out of what is now Haweswater. In 1934, Mardale village was bought by the water board and evacuated, then “drowned” to create a massive reservoir. Although everyone was safely relocated, there’s still something a little creepy about the fact that every so often, the lakewater recedes enough that you can see the ghosts of the village’s former buildings.

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^ This sign, by the far end of Haweswater, just adds to the spook factor.

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Lastly, we visited the Lowther Castle Park chapel and graveyard, where a good few of my relatives — who were in service to the Lowthers — are buried. The Lonsdale Family mausoleum is a creepy gothic palace, complete with gargoyles and scary, staring faces. Sitting high up on a man-made defensive escarpment, we found that the cemetery is also a pretty cool place to watch an autumn sunset…

Have a deliciously spooky Halloween, whatever you get up to!

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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!

Zombie (vegan) pumpkin pie: the same recipe as last year, resurrected!

October 28th, 2014

Vegan pumpkin pie!
This post already appeared at One Night Stanzas in October 2012 and 2013. But it’s Halloween, so you need a pumpkin pie recipe… and if it’s vegan, EVEN BETTER.

Folks, Halloween is ON FRIDAY, and if you haven’t yet made yourself a pumpkin pie then U R DOIN IT WRONG. Happily, I am here to help you. I stitched together this recipe from bits and pieces of several other recipes I found online but didn’t like 100%. It results in a truly finger-lickin’ pie, even if I do say so myself.

Fiendish all-vegan pumpkin pie
(Serves 8-10.)

Pie crust base:
125g (half a pack) Lotus caramelised biscuits
A quarter of a cup of rapeseed or groundnut oil
A splash of sweetened soy milk

Pumpkin filling:
Half a cup of dark brown sugar
One third of a cup of icing (confectioner’s) sugar
Ground cinnamon
Ground nutmeg
Ground ginger
The zest of one lemon
1 tsp salt
1 tsp baking powder
Half a cup of sweetened soy milk
1 tsp cornflour
1 tbsp rapeseed or groundnut oil
250ml soya cream
1 tin of pumpkin puree
Half a tsp vanilla extract

Pre-heat your oven to 220°C, 425°F, or gas mark 8.

Vegan pumpkin pie!

OK, first — the base! Lotus caramelised biscuits are fantastic, because they’re totally vegan and extra super tasty. To make the base, the first thing you need to do is whizz up roughly 125 grams of these biscuits — or roughly half a pack — until they’re broken down into a fine, sandy powder.

Vegan pumpkin pie!

Tip the biscuit crumbs into a large bowl and stir in the rapeseed or groundnut oil (personally I prefer groundnut, but if you’re potentially feeding a person with a nut allergy as I often do, it’s good to have an alternative). Add your splash of soy milk and you should end up with a shiny, sticky, but not-too-wet paste. Press this into the bottom of your pie dish to form your crust base, and stick it in the fridge while you create the filling!

Vegan pumpkin pie!

In a large, clean mixing bowl, sieve and mix the brown sugar and icing sugar together, then add ground spices to taste. If you’re unsure, I’d say one teaspoon of cinnamon and one of ginger, and maybe half a teaspoon of nutmeg. But personally I like my pie spicy, so I’d up the cinnamon and nutmeg, personally! Once you’ve sorted your spices, grate in the lemon zest, and add the salt and baking powder. Mix everything thoroughly!

Vegan pumpkin pie!

OK, slightly tricky bit now: this pie is vegan, so no eggs allowed. But you can mimic the consistency of eggs! Grab your sweetened soy milk, stick it in a pan and put over a low heat. As the soy milk begins to warm, add to it the teaspoon of cornflour and continue to heat, stirring constantly. As the milk heats, it should thicken up. When it gets to roughly the consistency of beaten egg, remove from heat and pour into the dry mix. Add the tablespoon of oil and mix thoroughly. Once mixed, pour and mix in the soy cream, too.

Vegan pumpkin pie!

It’s finally time for the essential ingredient — pumpkin! Some recipes insist that you use actual hollowed-out pumpkin, and yes, if you’re hollowing a pumpkin anyway, it’s smart to make use of the flesh for this. But if, like me, you have three hours before your Halloween party starts and you need to get a move on, then reach for the canned stuff! I use Libby’s myself as it’s relatively easy to get hold of. Pour the can of pumpkin into the mix and add the dash of vanilla. Mix, mix, mix — once you have a thick, gloopy batter, your filling is done!

Vegan pumpkin pie!

To bake, pour the pumpkin batter over your refrigerated base and place in the top half of the oven at 220°C for fifteen minutes. Once that time has passed, and without opening the oven (however tempting!), turn the temperature down to 180°C and bake for another 50-60 minutes.

Vegan pumpkin pie!

Your pie should come out looking only ever-so-slightly wibbly, and golden brown right across the top. It should be allowed to refrigerate for several hours — ideally overnight — to firm up. Then you can carve up and dig in!

Happy Halloween!

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Budding writer? Creative person in need of a fun job? Check out the various resources and services at Bookworm Tutors. Alternatively, 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!

Where is Claire? Events, readings, happenings for Autumn 2014

October 27th, 2014

Literary Death Match
^ That’s me with Gavin Inglis, about to win Literary Death Match in 2012! (Pic by Chris Scott)

Talking Heids: Sam Small & Claire Askew
Wednesday 29th October, Sofi’s Bar, Edinburgh, 2000-2200
Free entry

Talking Heids is one of my favourite monthly poetry nights in the whole of Edinburgh, partly because it’s run by my old favourite Captain McGuire. Also, it happens in the cozy confines of Sofi’s Bar, a tiny Leith local bedecked with fairy lights and welcoming to cute dogs!
This month, I am stepping in at short notice after the real star act, the lovely Alice Tarbuck, had to drop out due to scheduling clashes. I will try my best to be even half as awesome as she is. I’m appearing alongside Sam Small, who I was lucky enough to see in action at the BBC Slam during this year’s Fringe. If you like your poems earnestly political, come along. Sam and I definitely have that covered!
(There’s also an open mic, which you sign up for on the night by nudging the aforementioned Mr McGuire. You should sign up for it.)

Writers at the Pleasance
Thursday 30th October, Pleasance Cabaret Bar, 1900
Free entry

Hosted by The Edinburgh University LitSoc, with appearances from UoE Writer in Residence Jenni Fagan, and Lecturer in Creative Writing (+ excellent TS Eliot Prize shortlisted poet) Dr Alan Gillis. This is mostly going to be a night of readings by exciting new up-and-coming poets, including some who are travelling from south of the border to mingle with us wild northerners. I’ve been invited to provide some advice and guidance to these dewy-eyed young’uns, and maybe read some of my work into the bargain. The Pleasance Cabaret Bar is a great venue, and LitSoc always manage to pack it to the rafters. It’s going to be a great night, I know already! Hope to see you there!

Guest editing “We The Humanities
Week beginning 17th November 2014

I’ll be honest, I have no idea why I was approached for this. I feel totally unqualified to talk to THE WHOLE OF TWITTER about important issues in The Humanities today, and yet that is exactly what I am going to have to do! Things I am mulling over for possible inclusion: diversity and intersectionality in the Humanities, all things poetry-related, and maybe some specific thoughts and questions about the value of postgrad creative writing qualifications. Think that sounds good? Join the conversation at WeTheHumanities, starting Monday 17th November. Think that sounds rubbish? Get in touch on my personal Twitter and tell me what you’d LIKE to hear about!

Scottish PEN Banned Books Club for Book Week Scotland: Edwin Morgan’s Stobhill poems
Friday 28th November, Project Cafe, Glasgow, 1715 - 1830
Free but ticketed

A few months ago the lovely people at Scottish PEN contacted me and said, “we want to run two events around banned books, each with a different author. Cory Doctorow is doing the Edinburgh one. We’d like you to do the Glasgow one.” Cue me nearly dying of shock — Cory Doctorow and… little old me?!
Even better: the discussion I am facilitating is about Edwin Morgan’s “Stobhill” poems — a sequence of poems that many people wanted to have banned in the 1990s. Why? Because they explored the topics of rape and abortion against the backdrop of working class Glasgow.
I read these poems in English class back in the 1990s, and not only was I in no way corrupted by their supposedly “pornographic and licentious” nature, but they helped to make me the passionate intersectional feminist I am today. They were my first introduction to the topic of abortion, and I found Morgan’s handling of the subject fascinating, honest and beautiful.
So come and join me! We’ll be chatting in a cosy, intimate venue and I want to hear YOUR ideas about these important poems — and about what it means to ban books or to call for them to be banned. Come and tell me what you think.

The Shore PoetsBe The First To Like This‘ friendly Book Week Scotland slam!
Sunday 30th November, Henderson’s at St John’s, Edinburgh, 1915 - 2200
£5 / £3 concessions

For our FIRST EVER poetry slam, Shore Poets are teaming up with two powerhouses of Scottish Literature: the all-new shiny anthology Be The First To Like This, and the legendary uber-festival of reading that is Book Week Scotland. We’ve decided to make this a quiet slam, so we warmly welcome self-identified ‘page’ poets, slam virgins and poets who’ve always fancied slamming but think it just looks a bit too scary. Six of our slammers will be BTFTLT poets, and four will be brave citizen authors, picked at random from our open submissions call hat! Prizes will include: oodles of book tokens, free books, free poetry CDs and of course, to the winner of the raffle, our famous-for-a-reason lemon cake. Plus! The overall slam winner will go through to the Scottish Slam Championships! Oo-er.
I’ll be your excitable, probably forgetful, ultimately highly awkward host for this event. Everyone who attends will get Book Week Scotland freebies, so it’s worth every penny and more!

10Red DECEMBER
Wednesday 3rd December, Persevere Function Rooms, Leith, 2000 - late!
£3 entry, includes a free raffle ticket

10Red is one of Edinburgh’s most reliably excellent poetry nights. It is also super laid back and friendly — I’ve read there at least twice before and am chuffed to be going back. Come along and hear from ten very different poets in the comfortable setting of the Persevere Function Rooms. Bring a friend, grab a pint… oh, and prepare to leave with an armful of books! The raffle prizes are all bookish things and there tend to be lots up for grabs!
I am not sure yet who else is reading besides me, but you can keep an eye out on the Facebook page.

Want to book me for YOUR event? Email claire{at}onenightstanzas.com!

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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 by Chris Scott)

Procrastination Station #134

October 24th, 2014

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I know all of that like the back of my hand. But that doesn’t mean I’m stiff about rules. I do love to start a sentence with a conjunction,that’s for sure. And I’m awfully fond of the emdash — a little too fond, maybe! But (and there I go again!) those are all purposeful decisions. Here’s what I know now: once you’ve learned the rules, it’s quite fun to break them.

Writing rules: and how women writers break them all!

Do you have an “interesting, engaging and challenging” playscript that you’d like to have rehearsed by real actors? The Trav’s Words Words Words programme is currently open for submissions!

Booktrust (England) is looking to recruit a bunch of bookish people — are you one of them?

I start at the first sentence of a novel and I finish at the last. It would never occur to me to choose among three different endings because I haven’t the slightest idea of the ending until I get to it. [...] Micro Managers build a house floor by floor, discretely and in its entirety. Each floor needs to be sturdy and fully decorated with all the furniture in place before the next is built on top of it. There’s wallpaper in the hall even if the stairs lead nowhere at all.

Have I posted this before? I don’t remember. Anyway, I love it because I love Zadie Smith and because I am also a Micro Manager.

Wondering what you’ll be reading in the next few weeks? Don’t worry — Oprah can tell you.

When the Nobel Prize for Literature was announced recently, everyone on my Twitter — including me — responded with, “who?” Here’s the reason you’ve never heard of Patrick Modiano.

Some of the strongest poems here are those which take a more conventional poetic subject and do something fresh: Claire Askew’s Bad Moon, Russell Jones’ poem about not seeing the stars, Marion McCready in whose poem daffodils “spread like cancer”, Charlotte Runcie’s Pope, Telescope, a complex, controlled approach to a big, timeless theme.

Lookie! I get a nice mention in this review of Be The First To Like This! (Have you got your copy yet? It is STUNNING I tell you!)

Two of my favourite ever libraries are recruiting right now! Do you fancy being Glasgow Women’s Library’s new Museum Curator

…or the Scottish Poetry Library’s new Senior Library Assistant? (I am not even vaguely qualified for either and I am gutted about it!)

“I was just absolutely obsessed with this stuff I was writing, and showing people there was more going on inside me than they would have imagined,” says Tempest. “People have underestimated me all my life. They still do, because I’m unassuming, because I’m a girl, so I had this desperate urgency. I’d go to a gig and instead of watching the person on stage all I wanted to do was get the microphone off them. That feeling lasted for years. It was just blind desperation.”

KATE TEMPEST!

Do you have a finished — but unpublished — debut novel? Enter it into the Caledonia Novel Award and maybe win £1000!

These images and stories from New York’s ‘endangered bookstores’ are really stunning.

What Amazon possesses is the power to kill the buzz. It’s definitely possible, with some extra effort, to buy a book you’ve heard about even if Amazon doesn’t carry it — but if Amazon doesn’t carry that book, you’re much less likely to hear about it in the first place.

Amazon doesn’t have a monopoly: it’s much more sinister than that.

This one goes out to all my librarians!

Hey, writers? Quit buying things and go on holiday… it’s good for your brain!

“If Beast were a chap, he would be a part-time rugby player smelling of Ralgex who’s trying to tell you he’s deep and thoughtful, even though he’ll later be implicated in an incident involving a traffic cone and a pint glass of his own urine.”

I don’t normally read restaurant reviews, but I utterly loved this one.


“People that have difficulty reading are often capable of thinking in ways that others aren’t.” So, this guy is utterly brilliant.


Come on Scotland. Let’s have our wolves back!


And it’s nearly Halloween, so you OBVIOUSLY need this.

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 #97: Barcelona edition

October 23rd, 2014

I went to Barcelona. I found plenty of things to love there.

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Barcelona Autumn 2014 (95)

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!

You should read this: “Be The First To Like This: New Scottish Poetry”

October 21st, 2014

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Forgive the dullness of my photographs, everyone. I am having a totally jam-packed week — working six and a half days — so the only time I could find to take pictures of this rather excellent book was about 7.45am. The sun was only just starting to come up so the light was crap, but I’d just got back from a wee holiday and was so excited to find this book waiting for me, I just had to share it asap!

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^ Look! Robert Crawford has heard of me!

I was present at the StAnza Poetry Breakfast in 2009, when Stuart Kelly announced that the reason Scottish poets weren’t winning Eric Gregory Awards anymore was because Scotland didn’t have any poets under thirty who were talented enough. I was 23 at the time and halfway through my MSc in Creative Writing (Poetry) at the University of Edinburgh. I was also utterly baffled by his statement. At the time, I was surrounded by talented Scottish poets under thirty — and I was aware that my knowledge of the Scottish poetry scene wasn’t even that in-depth. Back then, I’d never heard of the Eric Gregory Award, but I got the gist that it was apparently the only yardstick worth using to measure a young poet’s potential. (A yardstick invented by the literary establishment south of the border, natch… though of course I drank the Kool-Aid anyway and subsequently entered it.)

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^ Look mum, I’m famous!

Since then, Niall Campbell has of course broken the no-Scottish-poets-winning-the-Gregory streak, bagging one in 2011. (That guy sure does know how to write a ‘yardstick approved’ poem — in their Edwin Morgan Award judges’ report, Jen Hadfield and Stewart Conn called him “a safe pair of hands.” Thank goodness one of us Scots knows how to do this stuff!) But I still contend that Stuart Kelly was wrong in 2009. He mistook “young Scottish poets aren’t being noticed by the London-based literary establishment” for “young Scottish poets aren’t that good.” If only that were the reason, Stuart — if only.

In fact, young Scottish poets are great — and there are loads of us. We may not be doing the sort of work that wins Coveted Prizes from Established Institutions, but if anything, that makes us all the more exciting. Be The First To Like This, edited by Colin Waters and published by Vagabond Voices, is a hugely varied, deliciously riotous gathering-together of Scotland’s fearsome gaggle of new and upcoming voices. I’m utterly delighted and genuinely humbled to be part of this colourful crowd — and guess what? All the poets I’m joined by in this volume are SUPER FUCKING TALENTED.
(Pardon the swearing. It had to be done.)

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^ Thanks to my talented baby sister for taking my classy author photo!

Some of my all-time faves are here. People whose writing careers I’ve been keeping an eye on for years, watching their stars slowly rise: Colin McGuire, Ryan Van Winkle, Marion McCready, Theresa Munoz. Some of the people here are not only talented poets but also, like me, gobby fighters for the rights of minority poets: I’ll admit, I’m thinking especially of the excellent Jenny Lindsay. Some folk I only discovered more recently, but I’m loving the fact that BTFTLT gives me chance to see more of their work: Nuala Watt, Sam Tongue, Billy Letford. And there are also names here that I didn’t know at all — I’m excited to make brand new discoveries!

Be The First To Like This proves for me, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that Scotland is in fact a land rich in talented young poets. As the product description itself says, throw a stone in Edinburgh or Glasgow and you will hit one. Believe me? Buy the book. Don’t believe me? Still buy the book: you clearly need to be educated.

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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 #133

October 10th, 2014

Subtle graffiti

For the average book, you figure $7 will go to overhead, and that leaves the last $1.50 as profit. For the average book, the expected contribution to overhead could be $50,000 to $150,000. That’s why most editors have a minimum number of copies they have to aim for with any book. (At some imprints, that’s 10,000 copies. At others, it’s 25,000 or even 50,000.) Random House can’t sign up a thousand $3,500-advance novels because each of those books has to carry the weight of all that overhead.

An excellent answer to the question, “why did Random House pay $3.5m for Lena Dunham’s stupid memoir instead of paying 1,000 novelists £3,500 each?”

Cool signs outside independent bookstores.

Struggling to find time to read? Read this.

Chris Abani once said in a workshop that readers will always wonder if your characters are you–even if your main character is a Chihuahua. There’s not much to do about this wondering except write the characters you want to write with complexity and empathy.

Your characters are all you. Here’s how to make it less obvious.

Reading makes you happier: fact.

What’s the difference between riches, wealth and success? Might be interesting to penniless writers!

Part of the reason it took Fitzgerald so long to finish Tender is the Night was Zelda’s worsening condition. But you’d think that his haphazard, alcohol-fueled creative process wasn’t doing him any favors, either.
Yet recent research has shown that messy, dark, noisy, booze-filled environments like the one Fitzgerald cultivated at La Paix can, in fact, help stimulate creativity.

Good news, writers! Writing in the pub is a good idea!

I really like Kanye West (or aspects of him… please read this before coming to kill me), so I really liked this.

I’m a sucker for literary tattoos.

You should probably spend a lot of your twenties doing art from the time you wake up to the time you go to sleep, and turning down a lot of unnecessary commitments in service of that. First, because that’s what you need to do to be good enough so that when you have inspiration, your inspiration will lead to something; and second, because it’s almost fucking impossible to make a living drawing pictures, writing words, or playing music. Just the fact that we think we can do these things for a living is an intense act of hope and arrogance. If you want to be able to do that, if you decide to stake your claim on that path, then oh, my God you have to do such hard work! If you’re the sort of person who fucking whines about being motivated, like some of the art students I lecture, then just fucking stop. I’m not interested in speaking to anyone who wonders how to motivate themselves. If you need to talk about how to get motivated, then go get a normal job in the normal scheme of the world and just do art as a hobby so you still love it. Stop clogging up the field for the people who need this like a drug.

Molly Crabapple is great.

Here are 16 photos of Margaret Atwood looking like a badass and saying super smart things. You’re welcome.

My reading speed is 236 words per minute! Find out yours.

I don’t think writing the truth makes you strong by default. I think it makes you vulnerable, which in turn can make you strong. It’s a naked feeling, both writing about yourself and writing about those you once loved, still love, and some you never loved at all. And though we may highly value the opinions of our loved ones, that doesn’t always mean we must ask their permission to write our stories in full.

If, like me, you steal details from real people’s lives for your writing, you should read this.

Hey, authors? Don’t be this desperate.

I genuinely enjoyed this: 50 Facts about Sex and the City you probably didn’t know.

Today, in politically correct 21st-century Britain, you might think things would have changed but somehow the Great White Male has thrived and continues to colonise the high-status, high-earning, high-power roles (93 per cent of executive directors in the UK are white men; 77 per cent of parliament is male). The Great White Male’s combination of good education, manners, charm, confidence and sexual attractiveness (or “money”, as I like to call it) means he has a strong grip on the keys to power.

Grayson Perry is a bloody legend.


Why we need poetry. (More literary TED talks here!)


HOLY SHIT Danny MacAskill!!!

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 #96: The Secret Herb Garden

October 2nd, 2014

My dear friend Martyna just moved back to Edinburgh, and it seems she has an uncanny ability to make me feel like the 18 year old undergrad I was when the two of us first met and started having adventures! Martyna has a great ability for sniffing out cool new places to discover, even in good old Edinburgh, where I was convinced I knew about all the cool stuff! Turns out, I’m wrong — I had no idea about The Secret Herb Garden, which is only short bus ride out of the city and a really, really great place to visit!

They have:

Secret Herb Garden, Edinburgh

Secret Herb Garden, Edinburgh

Secret Herb Garden, Edinburgh

Secret Herb Garden, Edinburgh

A huge, tangled, fragrant greenhouse where you’re free to wander, smell flowers, follow twisty paths and discover hidden clearings.

Secret Herb Garden, Edinburgh

Secret Herb Garden, Edinburgh

Secret Herb Garden, Edinburgh

A coffee shop full of tasty treats (including all-gluten-free cakes and dairy free options… and we’re told vegan options are coming soon!), where you’re encouraged to take your drinks and snacks and wander off to find a pleasant place to sit!

Secret Herb Garden, Edinburgh

Secret Herb Garden, Edinburgh

Secret Herb Garden, Edinburgh

A lovely shop where you can buy restored vintage furniture; ethical soaps, candles and smellies; useful gardening paraphernalia; pottery and glassware, and some clothing and homeware. All lovely unique and largely local stuff!

Secret Herb Garden, Edinburgh

Secret Herb Garden, Edinburgh

Secret Herb Garden, Edinburgh

Bees! Inside the stripy bee observatory, you can get a close up look at the transparent bee-hive and see the bees going about their business. Very cool.

Secret Herb Garden, Edinburgh

Secret Herb Garden, Edinburgh

Chickens! Who very much like having their photo taken…

Secret Herb Garden, Edinburgh

Secret Herb Garden, Edinburgh

Pigs! Who like a friendly chat… although they may only have chatted with us because we expressly told them we were vegan.

Secret Herb Garden, Edinburgh

All in all, a really rather excellent day out… and all for the cost of a bus ticket! We got to the herb garden by hopping on a number 15 bus at Tollcross. The 15 stops at Old Pentland Road, and you need to walk about ten minutes up that road to get there. The walk is fairly easy, with pavement (albeit narrow) all the way, and Martyna and I were able to stop and pick brambles and elderberries on the way!

Highly, highly, highly recommended!

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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!

You should read this: “Furies, A Poetry Anthology of Women Warriors”

September 29th, 2014

Furies Poetry Anthology #FBSFuries

2014 is the year of the #ReadWomen2014 campaign. It’s sad that such a campaign exists in the twenty-first century, to be honest… how the heck can it be that we still live in a world where men who write are “writers,” but women who write are “female writers”? Just the other day, a friend of mine asked their Facebook friends for recommendations of poetry to read… and the first fifteen or so recommendations were all for male poets. When I queried this, one of the commenters responded, “well, [person who requested poetry] has just been through a binge of reading women, so I didn’t recommend any!” It’s a weird attitude, but it’s alarmingly common: most of the time you read, and then sometimes you read women.

It’s because of these bizarrely 1950s-style attitudes (and this is all before you get to the really depressing stuff, like the VIDA count or this, by the way) that I am always keen to get involved in projects that promote and encourage the work of women writers. Furies, the first ever poetry book from the brilliant all-female book-geek’s dream that is For Books’ Sake, is very much one such project.

This is the poetry of wronged and revolutionary women, the new verse that emerges when poets take a sinner and spin her anew. Here, Furies arise from history and myth to set the story straight once and for all. For many, the Lazarus trick spans only the space of a verse in which they tell their tale. The rest of the resurrection, the living on beyond the page, relies on the reader to keep telling and retelling, and then telling once more. Traditionally, ghosts haunt because they still have something left to say. This is their stage.

FURIES is the first poetry collection from For Books’ Sake, compiled following an open call for submissions that attracted over 700 entries from across the globe… all profits from the collection (a minimum of £5 per copy) will be donated to Rape Crisis England & Wales.

Furies Poetry Anthology #FBSFuries

Furies Poetry Anthology #FBSFuries

Furies features my poem Poltergeistrix, which you can also hear a recording of right here — and I get a rather lovely mention in the introduction. Always a little anthology bonus! If you want to read the whole poem — and of course, the many other fine poems by other women warriors! — you can order your copy of the anthology here.

Furies Poetry Anthology #FBSFuries

This is what a woman warrior looks like.
Apparently.

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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 #132

September 26th, 2014

tea for me

These dismally low numbers provide a reminder that “access” to education is more complicated than simply throwing open the digital doors to whoever wants to sign up. So how can we turn the mere availability of online instruction in STEM into true access for female students?

Are girls under-respresented in STEM classes because they learn differently?

Poetry books to buy in September. (I have poems in both Be The First To Like This and Songs of Other Places, so definitely get those!)

…and Be The First To Like This now has a Twitter!

She will tell you about how, when she was small, she could lose herself in a novel for hours, and now, all she can do is watch the tweets swim by like glittery fish in the river of time-she-will-never-get-back. You will begin to chafe at what sounds like a humblebrag—I was precocious and remain an intellectual at heart or I feel oppressed by my active participation in the cultural conversation—but then you will realize, with an ache of recognition, that you are in the same predicament.

Reading insecurity: it is a thing. (I loved this article!)

Bad Book Cover Redesigns, as skewered by Flavorwire (I’ve always felt a little uncomfortable about those ‘Murakami is Japanese!’ covers).

It’s very interesting to see what a publication like the Metro thinks are ‘ten books you need in your life.’

The more reading moved online, the less students seemed to understand. There were the architects who wrote to her about students who relied so heavily on ready digital information that they were unprepared to address basic problems onsite. There were the neurosurgeons who worried about the “cut-and-paste chart mentality” that their students exhibited, missing crucial details because they failed to delve deeply enough into any one case. And there were, of course, the English teachers who lamented that no one wanted to read Henry James anymore.

Related to reading insecurity: what online reading is doing to us.

Marina Warner (aka The Woman I Would Most Like To Have As An Aunty Except My Actual Aunties Obv) just quit her teaching position at the University of Essex. She pulls no punches in telling us why.

Zadie Smith reckons there are two types of writers.

If the hero is police, then he’ll be the departmental maverick, too honest and decent to engage in office politics yet laser-focused on nailing his perp. Often there’s a murdered relative, almost always female, to juice this crusader’s motivation. His marriage will have fallen apart because he’s too stoic and too devoted to the Job to sustain a real relationship. But he’ll be devoted to his kid and a one-woman romantic at heart, even if hardly anybody ever gets near that heart. He’ll brood a lot and go home alone. He’ll have a temper, but a righteous one. He might drink too much or be too ready with his fists, but that just makes him a bit of antihero…

Rebus, much?! If you’re sick of cookie-cutter crime fiction, the answer is simple: read women.

Indie bookstores are on the rise again… yay!

The 7 stages of falling in love with reading.

Several times a year I am the recipient of emails or phone calls from friends, colleagues, parents, or complete strangers in search of writing guidance. Often the messages begins, “Hello, my name is Barbra. My daughter wants to be a writer. She’s very talented. Jill Matthews said you might be able to . . .” What follows ranges from, “give some advice” to “edit her trilogy.” These types of messages leave me sighing, not because I don’t enjoy cultivating new voices, but because how those people perceive the writing community and the writing vocation is often vastly different from actuality.

Do you get these emails? (I do!) Here’s a toolkit of things to send back in reply.

Press and PR… but for writers.

I LOVED this article about ‘life after the MFA.’ (Applies to other creative writing qualifications, too!) In it, one writer shares her “dream” back-of-the-book biography, then her real one…

One of the biggest mistakes I see in queries is what I call data-dump. This is when a query is too wordy or too long and is trying too hard to describe the world and/or fantasy elements.

Sending out your novel? Writer’s Digest have a great series showing successful query letters from real authors. Here’s one recent example!

This, also from Writer’s Digest, on applying for grants and residencies, is great.

The power of reading someone else’s words… and seeing yourself.

I’ve always been confused by this new found fetishisation of Scotch eggs and pork pies, with so many flash new pubs selling them at the bar.
I mean, I like Scotch eggs as much as the next Englishman, but I can’t help but think this kind of ancient casual bar snack cuisine they’re nodding to never really existed. Pork scratchings, yes, but Scotch eggs? You buy those from Saino’s, not from pubs. To me, pub cuisine will forever be associated with steak flavoured McCoy’s and the occasional reheated beef pie.

I’m not from London and actually don’t know London at all well, but I LOVED The Great London Gentrified Pub Crawl.

Cakes that are books… or books that are cakes? (I want the Hunger Games one!)

Celebrate Banned Books Week: read these books!


I’ve always loved ELO (sorry not sorry) but only discovered this song with the movie and now can’t. stop. listening.


I’ve posted this before but the video is so beautiful and very autumnal.


& I just discovered The Chin Review and haven’t laughed so much in a long time. So silly.

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)