Reasons to Write Like A Grrrl!

March 3rd, 2015

@ the Indiana State Museum // 60s/70s feminist badge
(Photo credit)

Hey, remember that all-female fiction writing course I was banging on about before Christmas? Well, my first bunch of students have just graduated — look out world, thirteen newly-confident ladywriters are COMING FOR YOU!

That means that I am now taking bookings for the second round of Write Like A Grrrl! Edinburgh, which starts on the evening of Thursday 19th March at Sandeman House. In fact, I am almost fully booked already, with only one space remaining!

If you’re a female writer who’s struggling to stay on track with a novel, or if you fancy trying some short stories, or you need to beat writer’s block, or if you just want to get involved with a group of lovely, like-minded women, here are some reasons why you should click over here and book up that final place!

All of these comments are verbatim feedback from graduates from the first ever Write Like A Grrrl! Edinburgh course:

“Great content and brilliant to get the chance to meet other aspiring writers. Claire, the tutor delivering the Edinburgh course is fantastic, very knowledgeable, a great teacher: includes and makes everyone feel involved and valuable.”

“It’s well-structured, practical, the materials are excellent and it’s a supportive environment in which to develop your writing. Well worth the money.”

“Needs to be longer please, 12 weeks would be wonderful!”

“Do it! It helps you to open up and understand that your writing worries are shared by other people.”

“Speaking to everyone on the course, it’s great to be in a group you can talk to about aspects of your writing. I wish the course was longer. I have already recommended it to several friends. The handouts each week are a fantastic reference. The course has a nice pace.”

“It was really the best decision in terms of writing but also meeting people with similar interests. Turned up quiet and unsure about talking about writing, now have like a little circle for advice and encouragement, and look forward to seeing where everyone goes from here!”

“Great - fun, friendly, informative. Whatever issue or goal you have in writing, this will definitely help. Twelve hours of classes has gotten my writing further than years of thinking I was trying.”

That all-important sign-up link again: Write Like A Grrrl! Edinburgh.
Hope to see you there!

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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!

Five lost Edinburgh bookstores that I wish still existed.

March 2nd, 2015

Dangerous Ladders
(Photo credit)

OK, so I was reading this post on Buzzfeed about Edinburgh’s great array of charming bookstores (and newsflash: this aint even all of them!), and although the post is really lovely, it got me thinking wistfully of the Edinburgh bookstores of yesteryear that are no more. I thought that they merited a photoblog of their own and so, here are five. If you have more to add, please do let me know!

the Haynes Nano Stage 01
(Photo credit)

Jim Haynes’ Paperback Bookshop
Did you know that Edinburgh had its own (small) Beat movement? It’s a true fact: and it’s largely down to Jim Haynes and his iconic Paperback Bookshop. The shop was opened in 1959 in Bristo Square, next to the University, and it famously had a rhino head mounted on the wall outside (here’s a gorgeous photo of a wee girl posing next to it!). Haynes claims to this day that his was the UK’s first ever paperback-only bookshop. It was also a mecca for Beat enthusiasts… and trouble. In 1960, a woman famously staged a protest outside the shop by burning one of its copies of Lady Chatterley’s Lover. Sadly, the University decided to redevelop Bristo Square in 1966, and rather shortsightedly kicked the Paperback Bookshop out of its premises. They’ve since realised the error of their ways and created a memorial — which includes the book sculpture pictured above, and a brand new rhino head — to this lost cultural site.

Student reading in the Hub, Main Library.
(Photo credit)

Pickerings Books
Sad fact: I cannot find a single photograph of Pickerings Books online, and yet it was a gorgeous bookstore that sat right on the corner of Buccleuch Place, only yards from where the aforementioned Paperback Bookshop once stood. Were it still in existence, it would have been just about visible behind the totes cool dude in the photo above. Pickerings was a wee place, but it was full of gems. As an English Literature undergraduate/not-yet-fully-formed-human, I used to spend hours in there digging through the badly-organised shelves and random piles of second hand books. One day, I found what I thought was a scruffy old book of Edwin Morgan poems for two quid. It turned out to be a first edition of The Second Life that was signed in the front by Angus Calder. ONLY IN PICKERINGS could such treasure be unearthed.

The new town paperback
(Photo credit)

The New Town Paperback
I’ll admit: this place always seemed a little creepy… but in a good way, if that makes sense? I don’t think I ever met anyone else in it, I was always the lone browser, and I never saw anyone else go in or out. The books in the window display all had really sun-faded covers, like they’d been there decades. And yet, I took huge comfort from seeing this place was still there, in spite of everything, whenever I passed on the bus. It’s now a trendy wine shop, where I will never shop, simply because they covered up that amazingly retro shopfront. Sorry not sorry! (PS: here’s a photo of me, posing horribly, outside the New Town Paperback when it was still a going concern…)

Pulp Fiction
(Photo credit)

Pulp Fiction
Tollcross is my favourite area of Edinburgh, and I loved the couple of years that I spent living in a fifth-floor walk up right on Tollcross Junction (noisy as it was). Pulp Fiction was my local bookstore then, as it was only yards from my front door. It was a sci fi/fantasy specialist store and seemed to have literally every sci fi title in the world, no matter how obscure… plus seriously dedicated and knowledgable staff. It was also a really cool literary events venue. I still have no idea why it closed down and my heart is sad whenever I pass by the shopfront it once occupied. RIP, Pulp Fiction!

Happy Birthday, Allen Ginsberg!
(Photo credit)

Old Hat Books at the Old Forest
I know that the Forest Cafe still lives, and I am super pleased that it moved to its New Forest location in Tollcross (see above). However, I miss EVERYTHING about the Old Forest on Bristo Place. It was just the perfect space for a burgeoning DIY arts co-operative, with little nooks and crannies containing everything from a hairdressers to a darkroom, from the amazing Free Shop to a recording studio. And there was also Old Hat Books! A kind of independent bookstore/library/book club mash-up. Like everything about Forest, there was and is really nothing else like Old Hat Books in Edinburgh, if not the world. Hopefully it will eventually make a comeback at New Forest, and maybe become New Hat Books…?

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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 #140

February 27th, 2015

makers gonna make, yo
(Photo credit)

A couple of nice things happened to me recently: I found out, quite by accident, that I’d been shortlisted (twice!) for the Charles Causley Poetry Competition… AND I was featured in this exciting little anthology of new Scottish poets!

The spine must not be bent back and broken, the pages must not be marked with dog ears, there must be no underlining, no writing in the margins. Obviously, for those of us brought up on library books and school-owned textbooks (my copy of Browning bore the name of a dozen pupils who had used the text before me), there were simple and sensible reasons supporting this behavior. But the reverence went beyond a proper respect for those who would be reading the pages after you. Even when I bought a book myself, if my parents caught me breaking its spine so that it would lay open on the desk, they were shocked. Writing was sacred. In the beginning was the Word.

As an avid spine-breaker, page-folder, underliner and marginalia-writer, I approve this message.

Five long reads about the lives of great poets.

This is really interesting: an infographic that shows you the number of books written in an author’s lifetime, at what age — and at what age their ‘breakout novel’ happened.

I know I was influenced by my father. He wrote dreadful poetry (The Death of a Crab under a Piece of Damp Seaweed) but he was fantastically good at limericks and chirpy doggerel, and was always making up rhymes about anything and everything. When we put our coats on he would push our arms into the sleeves chanting “Moley moley, down the holey”, and tooth brushing was accompanied by songs. “Yellowy teeth make Grandma frown, so swish your toothbrush up and down.” In a different time my father might have been an actor.

Reading about Vivian French’s dad really reminded me of my dad… which is why I loved this piece about what inspires her!

So hey, you know David Harsent probably won the TS Eliot Prize ’cause his bff was on the judging panel? Turns out his book is also incredibly misogynistic! Yay poetry!

But in much happier news, there is a new anthology coming, which will represent the poetry of visible and invisible disability, and it is going to be absolutely freaking amazing. Submissions are open!

When T.S. Eliot begins “The Wasteland” with a quotation from Petronius in the original Latin and Greek, he is in effect saying, “You must be this educated to read my poem.” Eliot relies on a complex mechanism of traditional imagery and symbolic structures to score his aesthetic points. [...] Collins’ plain-spokenness, on the other hand, welcomes greater numbers as they are, including readers who (by virtue of class, sex, race, or any number of factors) might not have had the opportunity to learn a half-dozen European languages.

Billy Collins: officially awesome.

If you want to feel like the laziest person in the WHOLE WORLD, listen to Kaite Welsh talking about her freelancing career on The Mountain Shores. (No really, it’s very interesting and entertaining!)

UK indie bookstores had a good Christmas! Yay!

Inequality in literary magazines and inequality in pay are both important, and in connected ways. The visibility and status of women’s writing is important precisely because of a web of marginalization across all areas of life. If women’s voices are always peripheral to male voices intoning from the center of culture, then their voices are peripheral on all issues: the pay gap, consent, harassment, rape, domestic violence, reproductive freedom, the glass ceiling, childcare. The obscuring of women’s voices in media platforms, however elite, however niche, is part of the obscuring of their voices in general; and a lack of commitment to, or an inability to hear, their voices in literary culture is related to the same lacks and inabilities in relation to their voices in harassment, in sex, in courtrooms, and in the workplace.

This is a long read, but it should be required reading for basically every literary person. (My opinion? Screw the LRB and the logical fallacy it rode in on.)

Related reading: I am pleased to hear that VIDA has launched a brand new Women of Colour Count.

Fancy a new literary podcast to listen to?

“And, hast thou slain the Jabberwock?
Come to my arms, my beamish boy!
O frabjous day! Callooh! Callay!”
He chortled in his joy,
and then he added,
“it’s actually about ethics in games journalism.”

I know I am too late for Valentine’s Day, but Romantic Poems for Misandrists is basically the best thing on the internet right now.

PETS WHO WANT TO STOP YOU FROM READING IS SUPER SUPER SUPER CUTE

There’s going to be an anthology of post-apocalyptic short stories and it sounds cool and you should totally back it on Kickstarter.

His Muse, if he had one, was a window
Filled with a brick wall, the left hand corner
Of his mind, a hand lined with grease
And sweat: literal things

The great poet Philip Levine died recently: here’s a wonderful poem about him by Dorianne Laux.

The Handmaid’s Tale: best novel ever? Probably.

Christian is not an interesting man. He doesn’t enjoy anything. I have no problem gallivanting about with someone who has issues and demons so long as they have some flavor, but Christian Grey is just bland and damaged. Throughout the movie Christian makes it clear he likes to be in control but he makes this known the same way he might tell you he enjoys pea soup. Ugh.

Here’s the amazing Roxane Gay being right-on (and hilarious) about 50 Shades at The Toast.

If you are an x-Files fan like myself, YOU MUST SEE THIS TUMBLR.

Hello, I would like to live in this house, because OMFG.
(Seriously, someone needs to gif Clementine’s “oh my god, I love this kitchen” moment from Eternal Sunshine, and put it in the comments of this story.)

OMG Joan Didion just got even cooler!

Help save Tchai Ovna — it’s a Glasgow institution!

Edinburgh has been voted the world’s fourth most beautiful city, after the three really obvious ones. Woo!


I love this short film of fat women talking about their everyday lives, and busting some myths. (Featuring the amazing Bethany Rutter! Also, fabulous person with the glasses? I would like to know where you acquired your excellent shirt.)


Need a laugh? This is pretty great…
(even if it is on RHGN, and Russell Howard is a rape-joke-making fool.)


Ten years ago I was obsessed with Red House Painters, and then I kinda forgot they existed. I just rediscovered them and it was a great joy that made me feel 18 again.

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!

You should read this: The Naming Of Cancer by Tracey S Rosenberg

January 19th, 2015

Hospital

The Naming of Cancer by Tracey S Rosenberg
Neon Books, 2014

I’m going to do a Dave Poems style disclaimer here and say that Tracey is someone I know well – she’s a fellow SBT New Writers Awards alumna and a fellow Shore Poet! I have also been following her work for a good few years now, since her novel, The Girl In The Bunker, was published by Cargo in 2011. Since then, she’s also published a debut poetry collection with Stewed Rhubarb, who specialise in giving performance poets a space on the page (that collection was called Lipstick Is Always A Plus – it was published in 2012 and comes highly recommended by me). She and I see each other pretty regularly at poetry events – usually, Tracey is kicking butt onstage and I am in the rapt audience. But I promise I did try to read The Naming Of Cancer (a slim pamphlet published in November last year by Neon) with an open mind and a critical eye.

This is a skinny wee collection weighing in at just fourteen poems, none of which go over a page – but they’re poems that really pack a punch. The book follows the myriad journeys that people go on when their lives are affected by cancer – I say affected, because there are poems in here from the point of view of partners, offspring, friends and doctors as well as poems more directly about the patient herself. This is one of the pamphlet’s great strengths. By looking at this devastating subject from many different angles, it avoids many of the potential pitfalls that come with writing about sickness and human mortality: it avoids melodrama and sentimentality, and steers also steers clear of motivational, life-is-short cliché. It’s a poetry collection that says it like it is.

Take, for example, ‘The Oncologist’s Nightmare,’ a poem that pops up to mess with your expectations just as you’re feeling “settled in.” This poem – in which the oncologist replays all of the frightened and angry questions that have been thrown at them that day – is a stark reminder that doctors’ lives are also affected by exposure to terrible illness, albeit in a slightly different way.

A couple of pages later, ‘Touch’ examines the strange and intimate relationship between doctor and patient. This small poem of only seventeen lines pulls into its clever web the doctor, who must work with extreme care as he invades the patient’s privacy; the patient’s lover, recalling his own worries that “she might find him intrusive” when he touches her; and finally the patient herself, waiting for “the blade: it will remove her.”

Several of these poems deal with the more mundane aspects of living with and alongside cancer: the fearful boredom of waiting around in hospitals is captured beautifully by repeated references to hospital trappings: “a six-bed ward,” vending machines and posters in faceless corridors. This sense of constant and perhaps doomed repetition is also captured in the form of several of the poems: the opening poem is a villanelle in which “needles plunge” in almost every stanza, and elsewhere, echoes and refrains abound.

The book opens with a snippet from TS Eliot’s Four Quartets (“East Coker,” to be precise), and there’s something rather Eliotean about the whole thing – I don’t think it’s a coincidence that “Cancer Vilanelle,” the opening poem, comes hot on the heels of that epigraph with its refrain, “consultants come and go.” Certainly, many of these poems exist in a space of isolation, fear and decay that calls to mind the anguish of Prufrock.

The Naming Of Cancer is not a cheery read, but it is by no means depressing or hopeless. Rather, this is a collection in which hope is faint and distant, but not gone. For example, in the final poem, “Bait,” the scraps of a dead body are used as bait on a fisherman’s hook. It’s a stark and violent image, but there is the promise of goodness in it: the body is not only still useful, not only luring a new, live catch. It is also being “restore[d] to the ravenous sea” – a thought that, after the long, grey corridor of illness, seems truly comforting.

The Naming Of Cancer is available from neonbooks.org.uk for the bargainous price of just £4.

(Photo credit)

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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 #139

January 16th, 2015

Christmas Eve 2014

I knew when I really got going on the book that there were places in the writing that reflected my potential. That’s as much as you can ask for as a writer, at least initially. It was a long, long journey. But by the time I had completed a draft of the book, I knew I had something. And yet on the day my agent submitted it to editors I had a mild breakdown and thought, What if nobody wants this? And I spent all these years?

If you read nothing else in this post, read How To Write Your First Book. Newsflash: the biggest, best and brightest writers feel or have felt the exact same anxieties you do. It is wonderful.

I just came across this Poet’s Calendar, showing which major journals are open for submissions when. Very handy!

Fancy a fancy writing residency? Here are the big hitters for 2015.

Villains always have the best houses.

^Here’s Lucy Ribchester talking about drinking cocktails with Dracula and writing instead of having sex.

The book market is finally starting to care about female protagonists in novels!

Did you know that Edinburgh City Libraries provide a whole suite of resources to accommodate dyslexic readers?

Life is waiting for you. You might be stuck here for a while, but the world isn’t going anywhere. Hang on in there if you can.

Anyone who has the post-Christmas blues should read (or re-read, or re-re-read) Matt Haig’s Reasons To Stay Alive.

32 books that will actually change your life, and 28 of the best books by women of 2014… aka my 2015 to-read list. Thanks, Buzzfeed!

…oh, and once I am done reading those, I’ll start on The Millions’ massive list of hotly anticipated 2015 fiction!

“If you’re not an author with a slavish fan following, you’re in a lot of trouble.”

In today’s utterly unsurprising news, Amazon continue to be assholes.

OMG SIMONE LIA’S ‘FLUFFY’ GRAPHIC NOVELS ARE COMING BACK!

As far as “cool” book launches go, it’s hard to beat this! (Cool. Geddit? OK.)

“He writes like an in-flight magazine.”

OK, I just discovered The Millions and found Scribbling In The Margins of Dan Brown’s Inferno. Hilarious and true.

Submitting to journals? Use the Jo Bell method. (Trust me, it’s good.)

Tights are the work of the devil (leggings rule OK). However, I am tempted by these poetic ones.

While we’re still fascinated by the young world-changers who can barely grow stubble and the 60-year-olds who realize their ‘true passion’ is to raise alpacas/grow wine/renovate houses in France, the concept of a single dream is beginning to look both difficult and oddly obsolete.

17 genuinely useful pieces of life advice from great people, including Sylvia Plath and Terry Pratchett!

& speaking of life advice: some wise words by Amy Poehler got turned into a really cool webcomic.

Withnail & I is one of my favourite movies ever (partly because Paul McGann is lush). So I was really chuffed when my sister sent me these rare behind the scenes photos from the making of it!

Her hobbies included smoking, wearing trousers, martial arts, motor cars, and swearing. She passed her retirement in Cornwall gambling, drinking, and painting – all the while, of course, giving no fucks.

I’m quite sure you’ve already seen Historical Women Who Gave No Fucks, but just in case you haven’t… click it.

Would you like to see some vintage photos of amazing women with full-body tattoos? Yeah, you would.

A dude on OKCupid (yeah, any sentence that starts with those words spells trouble) attacked a woman for supposedly lying about how fast she could type. So she kicked his ignorant ass.

Losing weight doesn’t make you a more interesting, attractive person. It just makes you thinner. And I don’t buy into thinness as the ultimate goal. Stop indulging weight-loss talk. Assert the fact that you have not bought into the fatphobic and ableist belief that weight loss is the social and ethical holy grail. Tell weight loss to fuck off.

Bethany of Arched Eyebrow being right on as always always.


THIS IS WHERE I WORK, Y’ALL. We do some amazing stuff, if I do say so myself.


This video is absolutely gorgeous, and full of wonderous advice.


The media depiction of women (and men) in 2014 was a bit grim at times. Let’s do better.


& finally, in case you need cheering up after that… just a really pretty song.

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!

Need a writer? Book a writer! (& pick me!)

January 5th, 2015

StAnza 2011 Preview
Photo by Chris Scott.

Yep, it’s that time once again… time to get your application in to the Live Literature Fund! What, I hear you cry? Well…

Have you ever fancied:

- organising a poetry reading?
- organising a reading of fiction?
- inviting a writer to come and speak at your community group?
- getting your youth group involved with creative writing?
- organising a talk about writing?
- having an author come and visit your book club?
- finding a really good judge for your slam?
- hiring a professional writer for just about anything at all?

Scottish Book Trust can help!
Right now, SBT is open for applications to its Live Literature Fund. This amazing, one-of-a-kind fund enables individuals and organisations to source a poet, author, storyteller or illustrator to take part in an event or events, and helps to pay them a proper fee. The Live Literature Fund has its own database of vetted writers and artists, each of them bringing a different skillset to the fore.

Applications for the latest round of Live Literature Funding close on 16th February, so if you fancy doing any of the above, get in there quick!

…and, if you’re stuck for a writer to invite, you could always pick me!

To date, I have:

- visited high schools and talked to students about all aspects of poetry, reading and writing
- worked with vulnerable adults (in settings like women’s support groups, homeless and vulnerably housed groups, and groups for intravenous drug-users), using poetry as a way to voice, share or move on from traumatic stories or experiences
- worked extensively with adult literacy groups to engage those who struggle with reading
- worked extensively with ‘reluctant readers,’ especially young men
- worked with refugees, asylum seekers and migrants to help them tell stories of home and homecoming
- judged many a poetry competition, and many a slam
- competed in many a slam, and won a few!
- taken part in panel discussions on all manner of things
- given talks on all sorts of stuff, from my PhD research into contemporary women’s poetry, to the strategies we need to adopt to get vulnerable individuals more involved in Scottish culture and the arts
- given hundreds of poetry readings to audiences ranging from four people in a field to an Edinburgh International Book Festival crowd!

I’m always up for a challenge, too, so if what you fancy doing doesn’t sound like anything you see listed there, that doesn’t mean I won’t be up for trying it. So if you successfully secure LLF funding (or even if you don’t, and find the funds from elsewhere!), feel free to drop me a line via claire [at] onenightstanzas.com, or you can follow my antics on Twitter. You can also read my profile on the Live Literature Database itself.

Good luck!

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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!

Almost all the books I read in 2014 and the things I thought about them.

December 30th, 2014

So, for the first year ever, I actually kept a book journal, and wrote down in it almost every book I read throughout the year. I say almost, because towards the end I got really bogged down in — and vexed by, as you’ll see — DeLillo’s Underworld, and forgot to document some of the poetry books I read. But this is about 98% of what I read this year, along with some often-bitchy miniature reviews. Hooray, books!

#58 of 365
(Photo credit)

JANUARY

Fiction
Patrick deWitt The Sisters Brothers
(Didn’t expect to like this. Loved it. But then, I loved Ablutions, so…)
Terry Pratchett Soul Music
(Re-read for about the one millionth time. This book is like an old friend.)

Poetry
Mary Oliver West Wind: Poems and Prose Poems
Helen Mort Division Street
(I’m afraid I didn’t get the hype. It went to the charity shop.)
Rebecca Elson A Responsibility To Awe

Gossip from The Forest - Sara Maitland
(Photo credit)

FEBRUARY

Poetry
Patricia Pogson The Holding
Patricia Pogson A Crackle From The Larder

Non fiction
Sara Maitland Gossip From The Forest
(I abandoned this halfway through. I feel guilty, but sorry, I found it a bit dull.)

93/365 American Wife
(Photo credit)

MARCH

Fiction
Curtis Sittenfeld American Wife
Christos Tsolkias The Slap
(I abandoned this because it is a book that seems to be entirely about men walking around objectifying women and getting angry erections. Literally the most misogynist book I have ever read… and the few women characters who are allowed to have any kind of meaningful narrative are so badly written it’s painful. I actually dumped this book on a train. I didn’t want the charity shop folks to even know I had read it.)

Poetry
Mary Oliver Thirst
Dorianne Laux Smoke
(Re-reading)
Kathryn Simmons The Visitations
Kerry Hardie Selected Poems
(Re-reading. I am a mega Kerry fangirl.)
Patricia Young More Watery Still
(Re-reading)

wild geese
(Photo credit)

APRIL

Poetry
Michael Conley Aquarium
(I also reviewed it!)
Mary Oliver Wild Geese
Patricia Young Summertime Swamp Love
(OK, I love this woman. I have read everything she’s ever written. I was so excited that she had a new collection out, pre-ordered it, waited impatiently to get it from Canada… and was so utterly disappointed. It’s a book where every poem is about the sex life of a different animal… and you can tell she got really caught up in the gimmicky concept and let the writing slip a bit. Or in places, a lot. Sad times!)
Karen Solie The Living Option
(Thank goodness for Karen Solie! The best poetry book I have read for years. Everyone, go out and get it and read it and marvel. She’s amazing.)

Copies of The Luminaries being prepared.
(Photo credit)

MAY

Fiction
Roxane Gay An Untamed State
(Beautifully spare, very harrowing, utterly amazing. Read it.)
Nina de la Mer Layla
(Most inventive use of second person I have ever seen, but… let’s just say I’m curious to know what real sex workers make of this book.)
Eleanor Catton The Luminaries
(Ugh. She’s so talented it’s obscene.)

#100HappyDays Day 148: Enjoyed hearing Eimear McBride talk, upon winning the Bailey Prize, about how this should be a wake-up call to publishers to take more risks after receiving years of rejections not because they didn't like it but because they didn't
(Photo credit)

JUNE

Fiction
Curtis Sittenfeld Sisterland
(Yeah, I love Curtis.)
Eimear McBride A Girl Is A Half-Formed Thing
(I hated this. I’m afraid I ditched it halfway through. Am I broken?)
Hilary Mantel Beyond Black
(My first foray into the world of Mantel! I liked it! Though it could have been 150 pages shorter.)

Talye Selasi, Author of Ghana Must Go
(Photo credit. Taiye Selasi is stunning.)

JULY

Fiction
Paul Auster Man In The Dark
(Meh. Auster is Austerish.)
Taiye Selasi Ghana Must Go
(I was ready to hate on this with all the hate I could summon… this woman was helped to publication by her personal friends Toni Morrison and Andrew Wylie, but it turns out? Not nepotism. She actually deserved the hype! Mind you, I agree with the reviewers who said it didn’t really hit its stride til Part 2.)

Poetry
Mary Oliver West Wind: Poems and Prose Poems
(Yep, re-read it in the same year.)

& Sons
(Photo credit)

AUGUST

Fiction
Janet Fitch White Oleander
(Re-reading for about the fifth time, because I just love this book.)
David Gilbert & Sons
(I expected this to be really macho… and it is, but in a brilliant, self-aware way. One of my favourite novels of the year.)

Poetry
Jean Sprackland Sleeping Keys
Colin McGuire As I Sit Quietly, I Begin To Smell Burning
(I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: McGuire is Scotland’s most underrated poet. Read it. Read it now.)

Gone Fission
(Photo credit)

SEPTEMBER

Fiction
Jennifer Egan The Keep
(She is the writer I would like to be. That said, this was not quite as sublime as Look at Me or Visit from the Goon Squad.)
Don DeLillo Underworld
(Holy crap this thing is a slog. Notice how I only got round to one other novel all year after this?! And sorry not sorry: it is so not worth it. It’s like Infinite Jest. The length of it is just male posturing (as is the dudebroish waxing lyrical about how this or Infinite Jest is like the totes best evar. So you read a long, smartypants book. Big whoop). Male GANs (Great American Novelists) have an obsession with size which just isn’t healthy. Stop it DeLillo, DFW, Franzen! You’re just showing off, dammit! My advice? Skip this one and read Cosmopolis. It’s the stunning DeLillo prose without the bullshit.)

Poetry
Katherine Larson Radial Symmetry

Reading Blue Horses by Mary Oliver
(Photo credit)

OCTOBER

Poetry
Austin Smith Almanac
(A poetry collection all about farms. Shouldn’t be good. Is amazing.)
Nancy Kuhn The Wife of the Left Hand
(This was less accessible/more abstract than I usually like, but this collection actually made me think differently about poetry. Gobsmacking!)
Mary Oliver Blue Horses
(New collection! And it’s delightfully “IDGAF” in tone. Mary Oliver, be my surrogate auntie?)
Matthew Dickman Mayakovsky’s Revolver
(Hipstery poems about Portland! Read it while drinking artisan espresso and twirling your moustache!)
Dionisio Martinez Bad Alchemy
(This dude has the best name ever.)

Untitled
(Photo credit)

NOVEMBER

Fiction
Michael Chabon Wonder Boys
(If you hate the fact that male novelists dominate the world of SRS LITERATURE and are often pompous windbags, then this book is for you. It’s about one of them getting a series of hilarious come-uppances. I actually LOLed in public at this book.)

Poetry
Thomas Lux Selected Poems
Kerry Hardie The Zebra Stood In The Night
(Another new collection I waited impatiently for… but this one did not disappoint.)
Alan Gillis Scapegoat
(I second what Dave said about this one.)
Leanne O’Sullivan Waiting for my Clothes
(I did Leanne O’Sullivan wrong. I had never heard of her and read The Mining Road, liked it well enough, but didn’t know til last month that in the early 2000s she’d been this 20 year old writing prodigy genius person. Holy wow.)

Marie Howe
(Photo credit. That’s Marie Howe, btw.)

DECEMBER

Poetry
Melissa Lee-Houghton Beautiful Girls
(Once upon a time, I published Melissa in my tiny, Xeroxed poetry zine Read This. I am so chuffed to see how far she’s come since then… she deserves all the praise, her poems are great.)
Marie Howe What The Living Do
Mary Oliver Dream Work
(I am an Oliver addict.)
Tiffany Atkinson So Many Moving Parts
Helen Dunmore Recovering A Body

Non-fiction

Robert Boice How Writers Journey to Comfort and Fluency: A Psychological Adventure
(This is long-winded as hell, out of print and a hard copy will rush you at least £60. But holy wow, it’s very, very, very useful.)

A few final stats:

Total fiction: 17
Total poetry: 32
Total non-fiction: 2

Books by men: 16 (7 fiction, 8 poetry, 1 non fiction)
Books by women: 35 (10 fiction, 24 poetry, 1 non fiction)

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What did YOU read this year?
(Related reading: my top 10 independent bookstores of 2014)

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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!

In 2014, I…

December 29th, 2014

Happy New Year!
(Photo credit)

I feel like 2014 has been my year. Things have been really amazing this year — other people have even said to me “you’re having a great year, aren’t you?” I’m super, super grateful for all the amazing opportunities that have come my way, and for all the support from lovely people like YOU!

Here’s what I’ve been up to! In 2014, I…

* Saw in the new year with my dear family in Wetheral, one of the most chocolate-box-y English villages you can imagine. This was after spending my first ever Christmas in the house that Lovely Boyfriend and I bought together last year! It was a wonderful festive time.

* Signed myself up to read/speak in a bunch of places in the springtime. I particularly enjoyed giving a talk on intersectionality in the Scottish arts at New Scotland: New Culture?

* Learned to knit (well, re-learned — my gran taught me, years ago, but I forgot). This is something I have wanted to do for years and I’m now thoroughly addicted.

* Did my first ever official school author visit — to chat to some second years and then some Advanced Higher English students — at Hillhead High School in Glasgow. I was terrified beforehand, I’ll admit — but it was great! I loved every minute and have been invited to do others since! (You too can book me to speak to your class of students, community group, book group, writing workshop, or whatever you fancy… just click here!)

* Had an amazing Valentine’s Day dinner cooked for me by my personal chef Lovely Boyfriend: Thai beetroot and coconut soup, Jerusalem artichoke risotto, and then peanut butter cheesecake with a chocolate brownie base. All vegan!

* Entered my 28th year and celebrated by eating a chocolate breakfast at The Chocolate Tree, drinking tasty cocktails at the Dome, and finding out that New Writing Scotland wanted to publish one of my poems. A good day!

* Started a 30 before 30 to do list… and started to cross things off it immediately!

* Put the finishing touches to my first full-length poetry collection — about eight years in the making — and started sending it out to publishers! Oo-er.

* Took AGES to complete the very few corrections that needed to be done on my PhD… but submitted it, eventually!

* Finished up the year of creative mentoring that came alongside my 2011/12 New Writers Award — and wrote about how great it was here.

* Helped deliver the graphic novel John Muir: Earth-Planet, Universe into the world, as part of my role as Young Adult Project Co-Ordinator at Scottish Book Trust. The graphic novel is designed for 13 to 15 year olds, and is designed to teach young ‘uns about the importance of environmental responsibility while also telling the story of legendary Scot John Muir. Although this book wasn’t my main focus at work this year, I was proud to be part of the team that delivered it… it really is wonderful!

* Helped my dad to build a book nook in my bedroom! This was mega — I had wanted a book nook ever since I saw this one on Tumblr, and then when we realised that the main bedroom in our new house had a fairly useless cupboard in the corner, it was just FATE. Shockingly, I have yet to take a really decent photo of the finished nook, but that can be one of my ‘to do’ points for 2015. Watch this space…

* Was booked to speak at the University of Edinburgh’s conference style event The Business, alongside amazing writerly folks like Francis Bickmore and Jenny Brown!

* Was booked to deliver the first of what turned into a series of author events/workshops with the Edinburgh branch of Bethany Christian Trust, which works to support people who are homeless or vulnerably housed. I wrote a bit about that first author event here!

* Geeked out with my mum — who is as mad on antiques and collectables as I am — at the Antiques Roadshow when it came to Lowther Castle! (I know you’re rolling your eyes right now but it’s a great day out for those of us with a Delboy streak!)

* Was invited to become a Creative Facilitator on the Inside/Out project, run by Waverley Care. Over the course of the last few months, I have been meeting with Waverley Care service users who are affected by HIV and/or Hep C, to help them write about the ways in which living with a blood-borne virus affects them. It’s been inspiring, and very humbling.

* GRADUATED FROM MY PHD!!!! After nearly four years of working full time + studying full time + being entirely un/self-funded, I DID IT!

* Heard back from Bloodaxe, the first and only publisher I sent my first collection MS to, that they loved the collection and wanted to publish it! HIGHLIGHT OF MY YEAR RIGHT HERE! The collection is titled This changes things and will land in bookstores in February 2016.

* Was shortlisted for the inaugural Edwin Morgan Poetry Award, alongside my lovely pal Harry Giles and a bunch of other fine folks! This meant I got to read at the Edinburgh International Book Festival once again (always awesome) — which included access to the Author’s Yurt! On the night, I came runner-up to Niall Campbell, who I’d predicted would win as soon as I saw the shortlist (why did I not put a bet on?!). I was gobsmacked by the amazing comments from the judges and by the warm and lovely response from everyone I know! Thanks, you guys!

* Went on a massive Scotland-wide road-trip with the amazing Lovely Boyfriend at the wheel. I’ve lived in Scotland for 20 years this year, and until the summertime had never been to about 80% of it. We drove all the way up the east coast to the very northern tip of Caithness, then all along the northern coast, then down the west coast, even visiting Gairloch! It. was. amazing.

* Then jetted off to stunning Barcelona for some autumnal sun with Lovely Boyfriend and my BFF Martyna. A truly amazing time was had by all — and we were staying in hands-down the best airbnb ever!

* Had my feet tattooed with the words “What’s Next?” — both a positive, forward-thinking mantra of mine and the immortal words of President Jed Bartlet, protagonist of the TV show I love madly!

* Was booked to read/speak at a bunch of lovely events in the autumn.

* Began to make a name for myself as a handy freelance writer-for-hire and/or adult literacy worker-for-hire — throughout the year I’ve been booked to bring my writerly expertise to various community groups, book groups and education settings across Scotland. And I’ve loved it! Bring on 2015!

* Spent a spooky Halloween visiting various esoteric sites to look for ghosts and witches… then attending not one but two Halloween parties! For the first one, I dressed as the classic Halloween witch — for the second, which was book themed, I donned some fangs and went as Lucy Westenra.

* Celebrated my fourth year as the other half of Lovely Boyfriend (his real name is Steve, by the way) — personal chef, champion cuddler and all-round cute Scottish bloke. We spent a romantic weekend in York, reading books, writing poems and eating all the delicious vegan food we could find, before heading down to London to hole up in Foyles and then see my fangirl fave Richard Schiff in the London Playhouse’s infamous Speed-The-Plow.

* Pitched myself to the brilliant For Books’ Sake as a possible Scottish tutor for their great new all-female writing course Write Like A Grrrl… and was accepted! My Edinburgh class starts on 24th January and you can sign up right here!

* Continued to build my wee vintage jewellery business, Edinburgh Vintage, with — and I am telling you this because I am super proud of myself — revenue nearly quadrupling in the last twelve months! EV is basically my second job now, and I love it. I have exciting new places to take it in 2015, too!

* Delivered my first full project since joining Scottish Book Trust in October last year. Walk The Walk is a graphic novel designed specifically for adults who struggle with literacy, and is developed using an innovative participatory methodology. I’ve spent the year travelling all over Scotland to meet young people and adults who attend literacy support groups, to chat to them about their experiences and to get their input at every stage of the book’s development. I’ve also got to see the process that goes into producing a specialist book, from the very first kernel of an idea, to the final product being sent out to literacy groups nationwide. I am really, really proud of this thing and want to give a massive, grateful shoutout to the powerhouse all-female creative team I got to work with on it all year: my boss, Koren (aka the best boss ever), genius writer Gowan Calder, and utterly magical artist Jill Calder. Thank you ladies!

* Kept in touch with another powerhouse all-female creative team… the one behind 2012’s Making It Home Project, on which I worked as a Creative Facilitator. We’ve spent the year plotting various ways to take what we learned with MiH and take it forward into a brand new project. I’m hoping that in the new year, we’ll be able to announce what we’ve settled on. Spoiler: it’s going to be really, really exciting. Oh, and this time I’ll be Project Co-Manager! Be afraid!

* Visited a bunch of really great bookstores and vegan restaurants… click on the links for my Top 10 of each!

* Had poems published in loads of places — thank you, kind editors! You can see a full list, and read some of the poems, here.

The year in pictures:

Spring '14
^ Corrections done! Final draft submitted! Beast slayed!

The Bugle
^ Working on The Bugle with service users at Bethany Christian Trust.

A Trip to Wetheral (13)
^ Springtime!

The Business writing event at Pleasance Cabaret Bar (1)
^ Speaking at The Business with Jenni Fagan, Francis Bickmore, Jenny Brown and other clever folk!

Edventures2 (1)
^ Oh, Edinburgh.

Tackling Sectarianism (2)
^ Travelling around Scotland to consult with literacy learners for Walk The Walk. This is the Redburn Youth Centre in Irvine, North Ayrshire.

My PhD Graduation! (3)
^ Graduation! You may now call me Dr Askew!

Sinclair Girnigoe 2014 (15)
^ Road-tripping literally the length and breadth of Scotland with my wonderful bloke. Best summer ever!

Edwin Morgan Poetry Award
^ Reading at the Edinburgh International Book Festival — and then winning a prize! — at the Edwin Morgan Poetry Award 2014…

OMG!
^ …then getting permission to go public with this even better news!

Secret Herb Garden, Edinburgh
^ My bff Martyna moved back to Edinburgh after five years away!

Autumn in Edinburgh (11)
^ I made my feet more awesome.

Barcelona Autumn 2014 (27)
^ Yet more adventures… this time in gorgeous Barcelona.

Edinburgh, end of autumn
^ Loving my wee house. Spot the Kringle Candles dotted around everywhere… this year, I became a Kringle addict.

York Nov 14 (18)
^ Aaand more adventures: first in stunning York…

London weekend, Nov 14
^ …then London!

Waverley Care Walking Group's Inside/Out Project
^ A Christmas outing with some of the lovely service users at Waverley Care: making concrete poems from natural materials as part of the Inside/Out project.

Christmas Eve 2014
^ And a cozy family Christmas to finish :)

I hope that 2015 brings you everything you could possibly wish for, and that all your resolutions are easy to keep! I say: 2015? Bring it on!

If you want to see what I got up to in 2008, 2009, 2010 2011, 2012, or 2013, just click on each year!

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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!

(Slightly early) Things I Love Thursday #101: Christmas edition!

December 24th, 2014

Christmas 2014 begins...

Christmas 2014 begins...

Christmas 2014 begins...

Christmas Eve 2014

Christmas Eve 2014

Christmas 2014 begins...

Christmas 2014 begins...

Christmas 2014 begins...

Christmas 2014 begins...

Christmas 2014 begins...

Christmas 2014 begins...

A sprinkling...

My Christmas tree 2014!

Christmas gift ideas...

Christmas gift ideas...

Christmas Eve 2014

Christmas Eve 2014

Christmas Eve 2014

Christmas Eve 2014

Christmas Eve 2014

Hand-painted Christmas baubles made by my talented wee sister at RockPaperLizard.
Dancing ladies Christmas card made by Laura Mossop (of ONS banner fame!)

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Have a great Christmas!

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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!

My Top 10 Vegan Restaurants of 2014: a road trip in meals!

December 23rd, 2014

BREAKFAST

Vegan rissole breakfast at Goji, York

Goji, Goodramgate, York

Fully vegan? Nope, this is a veggie place with vegan options. But you can tell that they really care about veganism and vegans aren’t just an afterthought.
Specialism? They don’t have one — literally everything is brilliant. However, I’m going to go ahead and give them extra extra brownie points for having creative vegan breakfasts. A vegan breakfast (let alone a good vegan breakfast) is a rare thing.
Prices? Very reasonable.
Do I need to book? If you’re in York for only a short time and want to make sure you get to eat here, then yes. I have never booked but it’s always been super busy when I’ve been, and I’ve always been very lucky to arrive just as a table has come free.
Easy to find? Yes, it’s near the back of the Minster.
Accessible? Not really. The ground floor is up a step and then inside, the first floor dining area and loos are only accessed via a tiny, winding staircase. That’s York and it’s tall, narrow, listed buildings for you.
Best bit? It’s all great: lovely friendly staff (of course, it’s Yorkshire!), great meals at any time of day, great cake, nice space… it’s a magical place.
They could improve: this is a note for management. Hire more staff. Your waitstaff are all lovely but they always seem super frazzled! One more body could make all the difference!

LUNCH

glasgowaug (10) Special burger mushroom and tarragon The 78

The 78, Kelvinhaugh Street, Glasgow

Fully vegan? Yep!
Specialism? Burgers. This is very much a burger place. But they’re good burgers, and the specials change daily. That beast up there ^ is a mushroom and tarragon burger and OMG it was good.
Prices? Reasonable.
Do I need to book? I doubt it — they have loads of seats. Maybe on a weekend night for dinner as I can imagine it would get busy then.
Easy to find? Honestly? No. Lovely Boyfriend and I wandered around a bit in the rain before eventually getting there… and it’s a fairly long way from either a station or a Subway. There are buses along Argyll Street, though.
Accessible? Fully! Hooray!
Best bit? It’s a cool space: light and bright with lots of windows, but also somehow cozy. Great Glaswegian hospitality… oh, and they have vegan desserts, too, like chocolate brownie and sticky toffee pudding!
They could improve: nowt! Well done, The 78!

glasgowaug (3) Stereo flatbread Stereo

Stereo, Renfield Lane, Glasgow

Fully vegan? Yep!
Specialism? Piles and piles and piles of food. Also their chips are just a little big magical.
Prices? Reasonable.
Do I need to book? Possibly. I tend to go early evening and usually manage to get a seat, but it starts filling up rapidly after 6pm.
Easy to find? Ish. It’s right in the middle of Glasgow, literally a two-minute walk from Central Station. However, it’s also in an alleyway, and if you approach from a certain angle it looks perpetually closed. Give the doors a shove, though… they’re open!
Accessible? Nope, the alleyway is kinda dark and cobbled and narrow, and the restaurant itself is up a ton of steps. They do have unisex bathrooms though, which I appreciate!
Best bit? Eating in this place makes you feel super cool and with it, as you can throw a stone in any direction in this place and hit an art student, poet, or beardy hipster man in a lumberjack shirt. Personally, I like this. It’s good people watching. Plus, Stereo also has a venue downstairs which hosts painfully hip nights — the last thing I went to there was a circus-themed cabaret with loads of nudity (for some reason, they booked me to read poems there. I’ll admit, I was scared).
They could improve: the menu, maybe… it’s a tad limited. I go only occasionally. I’d appreciate some new options!

SUNDAY LUNCH

Vegan Sunday roast at Norman's Coach & Horses, Soho, London

Vegan tofush & chips at Norman's Coach & Horses, Soho, London

Norman’s Coach & Horses, off Greek Street, Soho, London

Fully vegan? Nope, this place is veggie and vegan. But like Goji above, veganism is very much part of the ethos and there are loads of vegan options.
Specialism? Their “tofush” and chips (pictured in the second photo above). It’s a tofu fish supper, and really very good.
Prices? Bordering on cheap, for London!
Do I need to book? We went on a Sunday at 1pm (classic Sunday lunch time), and there were free tables, so probably not.
Easy to find? Yep, it’s in the middle of Soho and near to various tube stations. We walked there from the South Bank and found it fine.
Accessible? Yes, although the bathrooms are not.
Best bit? I had the vegan Sunday roast, which is what that stuffed aubergine thing is.
They could improve: the staff. Sorry! I hate slagging people who work difficult jobs. But… smile and be nice, please! I know it’s London, but come on. You can do it.

Vegan Sunday roast at Goji, York

Goji (again), see above.

I already praised these guys to the sky at breakfast, I know… but I just had to show you their vegan lentil loaf Sunday roast. It was perfect, folks. Get thee to York, already!

TAPAS & SHARING

Barcelona Autumn 2014 (91)

Veggie Garden, Carrer des Angels, Barcelona

Fully vegan? Yes!
Specialism? Juices. They have literally hundreds of amazing juice, smoothie and shake options on the menu. Worth going there for this alone.
Prices? Cheap.
Do I need to book? Maybe. It does get busy around typical lunch/local dinner hours. I’ve now been three times — booked the first time and then chanced it the last two. If you’re eating at UK dinner time (e.g. before 8pm) though, you’re likely to be OK.
Easy to find? Yes. It’s near Liceu Metro, too, which is one of the major stations.
Accessible? Not really. Most of the seats are upstairs, but in good weather you can eat on the terrace outside. The bathrooms are very cramped.
Best bit? It’s one of those places where you can order anything and know that it’s going to be amazing. Even the guacamole is a cut above the usual. The staff are lovely, too, and are happy to put up with terrible Spanglish from the likes of me. Oh, and the walls are covered in amazing, brightly coloured murals!
They could improve: the loos are a bit grim. Nothing utterly gross, but you know, loo roll on the floor, no hand towels, stuff like that. Sorry, Veggie Garden!

El Piano, York

Vegan sharing platter at El Piano, York

El Piano, Grape Lane, York

Fully vegan? Yes, AND gluten free, too!
Specialism? Being FOOD SAINTS. Not only is everything vegan, cruelty free and gluten free, they also really value keeping their meals locally-sourced. Every dish has a circle next to it with a number inside, telling you what percentage of that meal was sourced within ten miles of the restaurant. Most of the dishes are 70% local or more.
Prices? Cheap. The portions are huge. You get so much bang for your buck here.
Do I need to book? YES. A thousand times yes. York folks are not stupid: they know this is the best place to eat in the entire county! It’s always been packed whenever I’ve been and I have always needed to book.
Easy to find? Yep, it’s a stone’s throw from the Minster.
Accessible? The ground floor is, yes. The loos, maybe not.
Best bit? Definitely the two sharing platters (one is pictured above). Their mains are also great… but the sharing platters give you chance to taste the whole range of amazing food they make.
They could improve: the desserts. I was legit shocked that a place that does such utterly amazing savoury food could turn out such average desserts! Perhaps my expectations were too high. But they do get brownie points for having desserts at all.

DINNER

Edventures (2)

Bonsai, Broughton St & Richmond St, Edinburgh

Fully vegan? Nope. This is actually your regular restaurant with plenty of meat and fish on the menu… they just have a lot of veggie things that also, happily, happen to be vegan!
Specialism? Sushi.
Prices? Reasonable.
Do I need to book? Only if you’re dining with a party of more than four, I’d say.
Easy to find? Yep.
Accessible? The Broughton Street one probably is, yes. I’ll hold up my hands and say I have never been to the Richmond Street one!
Best bit? The food is really lovely… it’s just the right amount of experimental, with cool specials like butternut squash maki, or oyster mushroom tempura. The service is also very fast and efficient, and the waitstaff are all lovely.
They could improve: more vegan specials on the specials board, more often! Most times I go all the specials are fish-adjacent.

Part of the Tempura Course at Itadaki Zen vegan Japanese restaurant, King's Cross, London

Part of the Itadaki Course at Itadaki Zen vegan Japanese restaurant, King's Cross, London

Itadaki Zen, King’s Cross Road, London
(fun fact: they also have a seasonal outpost in, of all places, Oban!)

Fully vegan? Yes. In fact, this is the first all-vegan Japanese restaurant in the whole of Europe!
Specialism? Flavour-balancing. Seriously, the chefs here are magicians. Everything you eat tastes clean, crisp, never too salty or spicy or plain. The menu goes into detail about how they try to waste nothing and ask that diners do the same — they discourage the addition of soy sauce or wasabi to their sushi, because it doesn’t need it. And it really doesn’t! Every mouthful is perfect.
Prices? Very reasonable, especially for London, especially for food so good.
Do I need to book? Yes, always. The place is always full to the top, sometimes with a queue out the door.
Easy to find? Yes. Just remember it’s on King’s Cross Road, not Gray’s Inn Road. The two roads look very alike, as Lovely Boyfriend and I discover every time we go here!
Accessible? No, and it’s very small, too! Prepare to get a bit cozy with your fellow diners!
Best bit? The four-course set meals (we tried the Itadaki course and the Tempura course). You get an amazing starter, then sushi, then a bento box-ed main, then dessert, all for a very reasonable price, and it’s literally the perfect size for a meal. You leave feeling the most pleasant kind of full!
They could improve: the loos. Nothing terrible, but a bit scruffy.

COFFEE & CAKE

Once again, The Chocolate Tree wins.  #whatveganseat

The Chocolate Tree, Bruntsfield Place, Edinburgh

Fully vegan? No, but lots and lots of tasty vegan options. They value their vegan customers and some of the staff are vegan!
Specialism? They’re probably the only legitimate chocolatier (a company that makes their 100% of their chocolate themselves, from the bean) in the UK. Most companies who call themselves ‘chocolatiers’ are actually ‘confiseurs.’ In other words: these guys are serious chocolate specialists.
Prices? Very reasonable.
Do I need to book? Yes. The cafe recently cleared out some tables to make space for merch instead, so there are only about ten seats in the whole place. Booking is basically essential. However, if you can’t get a table you can always take your chocolate goodies to a bench on the nearby Bruntsfield Links — a favourite pasttime of mine!
Easy to find? Yes. It’s on tons of bus routes or you can take a nice stroll through the Meadows and then the Links to get there.
Accessible? Yes.
Best bit? Their hot chocolate drinks. That chocolate cake above is definitely lush, but it’s also impossible to finish a whole piece in one sitting and then walk away! The hot chocolates, however, come in lots of different flavours and levels of intensity and all of them can be made with soy milk. Yay! Oh, also, on a hot day not much beats their sorbet counter! Vegan chocolate sorbet, be mine.
They could improve: I’ll admit, I liked it better when there were more tables. Sigh.

RAW at La Suite West, Kensington, London

Vegan afternoon tea at La Suite West, Kensington, London

Vegan afternoon tea at La Suite West, Kensington, London

RAW at La Suite West, Inverness Terrace, Kensington, London

Fully vegan? No, veggie — but with a big emphasis on vegan, dairy free and raw.
Specialism? Their all-vegan-all-the-time afternoon tea. I never dared to dream of such a thing existing!
Prices? OK, you knew this one was going to be pricey, right? Afternoon tea for two will set you back almost £50. But actually, as afternoon teas go, that isn’t bad — it compares favourably to the famous Balmoral one. And afternoon tea is a big meal… we left barely able to walk and we didn’t even finish everything!
Do I need to book? Nope. We did, but then the place was pretty quiet.
Easy to find? Yes — it’s a stone’s throw from Kensington Gardens and literally thirty seconds’ walk from the Bayswater tube.
Accessible? Fully!
Best bit? The coconut cream that came with the scones. I know that’s mega-specific, but it was that good.
They could improve: by turning the lights up a little! The mood lighting — not only in the restaurant, but also in the corridors when you’re trying to find the loo — is er, a little too moody! I like to be able to see the cake I am eating!

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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!