30 before 30 / Things I Love Thursday #90: adventures in Wordsworth Country

April 17th, 2014

Point 6 in my 30 by 30 post was “get out more,” and I thought I’d start right away. So I went on a writing holiday, to the countryside that’s inspired some of the real greats. Here’s some stuff I got inspired by:

Adventures in Wordsworth Country, Apr 14

Adventures in Wordsworth Country, Apr 14

Adventures in Wordsworth Country, Apr 14

Adventures in Wordsworth Country, Apr 14

Adventures in Wordsworth Country, Apr 14

Adventures in Wordsworth Country, Apr 14

Adventures in Wordsworth Country, Apr 14

Adventures in Wordsworth Country, Apr 14

Adventures in Wordsworth Country, Apr 14

Adventures in Wordsworth Country, Apr 14

Adventures in Wordsworth Country, Apr 14

Adventures in Wordsworth Country, Apr 14

Adventures in Wordsworth Country, Apr 14

Adventures in Wordsworth Country, Apr 14

Adventures in Wordsworth Country, Apr 14

Adventures in Wordsworth Country, Apr 14

Adventures in Wordsworth Country, Apr 14

Adventures in Wordsworth Country, Apr 14

Adventures in Wordsworth Country, Apr 14

Adventures in Wordsworth Country, Apr 14

Adventures in Wordsworth Country, Apr 14

Adventures in Wordsworth Country, Apr 14

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!

30 before 30.

April 15th, 2014

30

Hello everyone. Sorry for the post drought lately. I’ve been busy doing a lot of exciting things… including turning 28!

Yes, that means I have been privileged to live on this planet for 28 full years… but it also means that in two years I’ll be 30. This isn’t a bad thing… in fact, if you ask me, it’s a handy deadline. I love a good to-do list, and frankly, 30 is a nice milestone to Achive Some Stuff by. Therefore, I am taking inspiration from a variety of bloggers, including Yes & Yes and Lion & Sloth, and creating a 30 before 30 list. 30 things I want to achieve in the next two years. And…go!

1. Graduate from my PhD.
OK, full disclosure: I am starting with the ones that are most likely to happen, and — hopefully I’m not jinxing anything by saying this — this one’s pretty much in the bag. I’ve passed the viva, I’ve submitted the corrections within my alloted three months, now all I need to do is print the fancy hardback version and order my graduation gown. Nevertheless, this has to go on the list, given that, you know, it’s probably going to be one of the bigger milestones in my life!


^ Getting my MSc in November 2009. More of this, please.

2. Find a publisher for my poetry manuscript.
Thanks to the aforementioned PhD, I now have a huge stack of finished, polished poems. You’ll remember that in early 2013 I was starting to turn that huge stack into something that looked more like a manuscript? Well, it took longer than I expected, but 14 months and two brilliant mentors later, said manuscript is now sitting somewhere in the office of the first publisher on my wish list. (I say “somewhere” — I’m really hoping it’s on someone’s desk, not, you know, in a bin.) I’m happy to acknowledge that the person who eventually publishes this manuscript might well be me, or it might be someone else. I want to find that out in the next two years.

3. Knit a cardigan.
I started working at Scottish Book Trust in October last year, and quickly realised that I was surrounded not only by fellow book geeks and delicious cake, but by a rather impressive bunch of knitters! After I made wistful noises about how I’d always wanted to be a knitter, Lovely Boyfriend took the initiative and bought be a starter kit of yarn and needles for Christmas. Since then, I have become well and truly addicted, and have exhausted all my easy-peasy square (blanket), rectangular (hoop scarf) and triangular (cosy shawl) options. It’s time for a proper project, and since “I could knit my own cardigans!” was one of my main reasons for starting to knit, I need to put my money where my mouth is.

4. Do more community work.
Making it Home, which I’ve written loads about here already, was my first proper introduction to community work — that is, putting my writing and teaching skills to good use as part of a community outreach arts project. Getting involved in MiH was one of the best things I have ever, ever done — and since then, I’ve dipped my toe into a few other, smaller community arts projects and become properly addicted to this kind of work. In the next two years, I hope to find other cool grassroots and outreach activities to get involved in. Gone are my days of sitting hunched over my laptop in my flat! I want my writing to be part of something bigger.


^ Some of the wonderful women of Making it Home, at our brilliant farewell party. More of this, too.

5. Finish doing up my house.
Remember this? Well, early ten months on, our little house is looking really quite different. We have: removed every single scrap of flecked wallpaper from every single room and re-decorated most; re-wired everything; sanded nearly every floor using a terrifying belt-sander; had a brand new kitchen fitted; tiled that brand new kitchen; had a wood-burning stove fitted and used it all winter (OMG) and collected enough furniture from Freecycle and friends to furnish the entire house for free (all except our dining table, which is IKEA’s finest. But still!). However, we still need to: tile the kitchen floor; get new front and back doors fitted (gah, draughts!); carpet the staircase; sort out some plumbing in the loft; re-do the ancient and rather grim bathroom, and most importantly, find somewhere for all our books to live! Ten months since we moved in and there are still boxes of them in the bottom of the wardrobe. This must be fixed!

6. Get out more…
I don’t have a car, and some months I also don’t have much cash. These things — added to my general prediliction for being as warm as possible and as close to tea-making facilities as possible at all times where possible — often result in me scuffing around all the same old places I always go. Problem is, I know full well that when I get out more, I write more, and I write better and more interesting stuff. Therefore, it’s time for me to stop saying “I need to come to Glasgow more, it’s only an hour away!” and actually do it. I need to start actually going to all the cool places in the UK that I love — or am curious about — instead of just daydreaming about going [back] to them “some day.” Over the next couple of years, I want to get better at snapping up Advance train tickets and going places.

7. …and travel more.
For me, visiting places in the UK isn’t really “travelling.” I’ve been to a lot of England, Wales and Scotland before, so I know what to expect. Most people speak the same language as me. I can get everywhere within a day.
“Travelling” means outside the UK… and I want to do more of that, too. My last trip abroad was Munich last October, and I also did Barcelona and Oslo in 2013. I’ll happily go back to any of those places, but I’d also happily explore pastures new, too. At present I have no firm plans, but I look forward to seeing where I end up over the next two years!


^ Paddling in the Pacific off Vancouver Island in 2007. And yes, more of this.

8. Hit 1,000 sales on Edinburgh Vintage.
Since last September, when I turned Edinburgh Vintage into a jewellery shop and moved away from the clothing, my sales have sky-rocketed (my orders went from 4 in September 2013 to 36 in November 2013!). EV is now a nice little pocket-money-earner and I really love hunting for new trinkets to list. Over the past six months or so I have developed a brilliant relationship with an amazing supplier, S, who helps me source cool stuff from all over the UK. I recently broke 500 sales, so 1,000 is the next obvious milestone — wish me luck!

9. Enter more poetry contests and Submit More Poems To Things Generally.
I am so bad at this. Last year, I let every single deadline whiz past me — the Eric Gregory, the Mslexia, loads and loads of smaller ones — all except the Bridport Prize, which is rather random. I am rather better at submitting to magazines and journals, but I could still try harder! Over the next two years, I need to pull my socks up and pay attention to deadlines. I may not get anywhere, but at least I will have tried!

10. Eat something I grew myself.
See No. 5 up there? All that house stuff? That’s before you even get to the garden, which currently consists of two scrubby bits of grass on either side of the house, and some paving slabs. By the time my 30th birthday rolls around, I want to have turned these scrappy patches into [the start of] an edible garden, and I want to have eaten at least one thing that’s grown there. It might be a sprinkling of thyme to put on my takeaway pizza, or it might be a whole salad. Anything, as long as it’s tasty!

11. Learn more about, and do more, foraging.
Last autumn I took advantage of a) moving to suburbia and b) acquiring this book, and grabbed myself a pretty impressive haul of autumn berries — including wild raspberries, elderberries and of course, brambles. But berries are easy to spot, easy to harvest, and easy to cook with. I want more of a challenge! I’d like to find out more about edible wild plants, find some, and eat them!


^ Tasty.

12. Adopt a dog.
Once that house stuff is done, Lovely Boyfriend and I are going to adopt a pup. I’m already so excited about this that I can barely contain myself! Look out for lots of excited posts and tweets about visiting cute staffies, greyhounds and Border terriers (my top three!) at rescue centres!

13 Build a book nook.
This should maybe come under the general banner of finishing my house-flip, except my desire for a book nook is something that way pre-dates any notion of owning my own house. There are loads of amazing book nook ideas out there, but this is the one that really got me thinking about the totally pointless cupboard that my house just happens to have… watch this space!

14. Commit to the next Next Big Thing, writing-wise.
OK, so the PhD’s in the bag (terrible unexpected things permitting), and the poetry MS is off visiting publishers. I have no massive project to work on WHAT IS MY LIFE?! Seriously, you’re looking at the girl who did her MA, MSc and PhD back-to-back while working full time and writing as much as spare time (ha!) allowed. Being busy is how I roll, and I especially like having something big and scary to chip away at. I don’t know yet what that will be. It might be a second poetry collection, or I’m even — whisper it — having ideas about a novel. Whatever emerges, I want to put the next two years towards making a good start.

15. Create a space I love writing in.
At my last rented flat before the house-flip began, I had a spare room that I sort of turned into a writing room. I was shocked to find that creating this space for writing was really effective in changing my thinking about writing. At this new house, the spare room is currently a storage facility for all the things we can’t yet unpack because we still need to do building work and DIY. However, I have my eye on it as a potential zen-like space for writing. It’ll be a communal space — Lovely Boyfriend is halfway through a novel, you guys (!!) — but I’m keen to also make it light and bright and productive and full of exciting books. Yipee!

16. Develop a proper regular writing routine…
…a thing I am putting off because I don’t have No. 15 yet (which, I know, is basically BS). I just finished a life-changing (not hyperbole) year of mentoring with the brilliant Sarah Ream, and one of the things she forced me to do was write regularly, to deadlines, and send her what I’d done. She says this is something I must keep up… especially now I’ve also finished my PhD and have total free reign and no deadlines at all (OMG first time in nine years!). So by the time I hit the big 3-0, I want to have sorted out Writing Time from Work Time and Housework Time and Dicking Around On The Internet Time. Eek.

17. Go on holiday with my sister.
My sister Helen (more commonly known as “Mole”) and I used to go off on adventures all the time when we were teenagers. Then we both went off to Uni and ended up living in different cities, and although we still see each other a lot and get on famously, our Megabus-ing, Youth Hostel-ing, campfire-building, countryside-stomping opportunities have diminished somewhat. However! I am determined to do something about this! We’re in the process of plotting a mega-exciting trip even as I type, so… hooray!


^ This was taken on Granton beach. Clearly we need to have better adventures.

18. Read for fun!
When I started my PhD, everyone was like, “OMG, you’ll have so much time to read books! You’ll be living in the library! I am so jealous!” However, the reality of writing a thesis — even a thesis on a subject you really like — is that quite quickly, reading becomes work. I mean, I absolutely love this textbook and it was my bible throughout the process, but re-reading the same essay for the sixth time trying to find that perfect quote that you keep forgetting to highlight is not exactly “reading for fun.” Over the next two years, I want to do as much fun reading as I can… and report back. Recommendations of great fiction, non-fiction and (of course) poetry are welcome!

19. Build a blog for Edinburgh Vintage
Ugh, OK. This one seems like a huge chore, but I have decided to put it on this list in order to make myself do it. I mean, the business is ticking along quite nicely, and I have both a Twitter and a Facebook page for EV, but I know from observing other vintage traders who sell almost solely online that having a blog makes a big difference. I know I’d enjoy it once I got it up and running… I’m just very busy, and it always drops to the bottom of the to-do pile. Time to get it done!

20. …and get better at doing my books.
This is another one I’m putting here to make myself do it. I’m terrible for selling an item, and then going to pack it up for dispatch and having no idea where it is. I’m also terrible for not filling in my tax return until two days before the deadline, and having to do all my year’s books in one sitting. These things are not fun, why do I do them?! It’s not exactly a sexy, exciting goal… but it’s a good one, and I am pretty sure my business will benefit!


^ I sell shiny things.

21. Discover new vegan eats.
As you can see, going to vegan restaurants and raving about the amazing food is one of my hobbies. And as you can see, I’ve been to a fair few cities in order to do so. I guess this item shouldn’t really be on my “goals” list, as it’s something I am sure to continue to do, likely forever. But let’s see how many exciting new eateries I can discover in the next two years!

22. Throw a kick-ass housewarming party.
I know. We’ve been in our “new” house for ten months. However, it’s been a building site for most of that time, and also… our next door neighbours are a lovely sweet old couple who totally wouldn’t want to put up with my friends and I quaffing wine and playing records into the wee hours. Therefore, the housewarming, when it comes, is going to have to be strategically planned (my sweet neighbours go on a big overseas holiday once a year). And if our partying opportunities are few and far between, we’d better make it a really, really good one… right?

23. Celebrate big time when Lovely Boyfriend finishes his novel.
OK, this is totally not my goal to be getting. But it matters to me so much that LB, currently 40,000 words in, finishes his novel… not least because I desperately want to know what happens! I don’t mean to suggest that I’m going to bully him into it, or anything. But something I’ve learned from watching him write what he’s written so far is: it’s hard. It’s really hard. Lots of times you don’t want to go near it, and then other times you’re really anxious to start but you get to the keyboard and there’s just nothing there. Being the partner of another writer means respecting their process, but it does also mean cajoling (/nagging), praising (/offering crit) and generally providing whatever support they need to get the words out of their brain and onto the page/screen/whatever. It also means holding a freaking parade for them when they’re done. I can’t wait for that bit!

24. Get tattooed.
This is pretty much always at the top of my mental to-do list. I now have seven tattoos and about five million potential designs worked out “to maybe get next.” I wanted to put “get tattooed into double figures” — i.e. be the proud wearer of at least ten bits of ink by the time I turn 30. But that’s too dependent on factors I can’t always control (like, you know, having cash handy), so I’ll keep it modest. Oh! I’m also interested to hear about cool new tattooists. My current favourite, Gentleman Jim, has moved to Sheffield, so… who’s brilliant and in Edinburgh/Glasgow? Tell me, tell me!


^ This was my last tattoo and it was OVER A YEAR AGO. That’s way, way too long.

25. Bring home my first big project at work.
I’m currently taking the lead on a very exciting, very complex project at work — and I am amazingly grateful to my utterly wonderful boss, Koren, for trusting me with it (also helping me with it when I need help!). It’s all still a work in progress and I’m still not sure what the end product will look like, but I know I have a brilliant creative team gathered round me, and I am super excited to see what we can cook up together. I wish I could say more right now, but you’ll have to read on for the next few months to see if I can pull it off! Watch this space!

26. Get into lotus.
OK… I am still a baby yogi (in fact, calling myself a ‘yogi’ at all seems completely ridiculous… but so do all the alternatives. A baby yoga-er?!). I’m still trying to work out which poses/routines set off a problem with my neck that only doing yoga taught me that I have. Heck, I’m still trying to make myself do yoga regularly instead of being lazy. However, even at my beginner level, I’m frustrated that I can’t get into lotus. I know this is vanity and vanity is kind of the opposite of yoga, but it’d feel like a real mark of yogaish achievement if I could get flexible enough to do it! I can get into half lotus, so I feel like it’s do-able.

27. Learn to cook more things.
I’m sure you’ve all noticed that I like to bake. However, since I moved in with Lovely Boyfriend three years ago, I’ve got really lazy about cooking… because he’s basically my personal chef. However, that means that whenever he’s not around, I end up eating boring pasta. It also means that I’m totally intimidated when it comes to LB’s birthday, or our anniversary, and I feel like I ought to cook him something. I just can’t keep up with his mad skillz! So in the next couple of years, I’d like to learn how to cook a few easy but reasonably impressive dishes that I’d feel OK to feed to other people!

28. Have an amazing 89th birthday!
My birthday is the day before my dad’s, and most years we have some kind of joint celebration. Next year is his big 6-0, so I’ll need to plan something extra, extra special. Obviously I can’t mention much here, but let’s just say… plans are in the works!

29. Set up a pension.
OK, boring life admin this may be, but it’s pretty important. I can’t really claim to be a proper adult if I turn 30 and still don’t have a pension, if you ask me. The whole idea is Greek to me at the moment, but I’ve given myself two years to translate it all and get it done. Again… advice would be appreciated!

30. Have a great two years.
Look out for my “in 2016, I…” annual year-end round up. I hope it’s going to be major.

Things I Love Thursday #89: it’s the small things

February 6th, 2014

A few little things that brightened up my January:

Good cake shared with good friends.

Once again, The Chocolate Tree wins.  #whatveganseat

Good cake shared with a good friend :)

This dragon.

Chocolate dragon!

This sign. And hazelnut spread on toast.

This sign is excellent.  As is the nomlicious spread.

Cutting through the Edinburgh Botanic Gardens as a shortcut when it’s raining.

Botanic Gardens, Edinburgh, January.

Botanic Gardens, Edinburgh, January.

My sister’s brilliant taste in jumpers.

Mole's jumper is better than your jumper.

My sister’s wry facial expressions. (Also, the fact that her hair looks great here.)

I don't know what this means, but Mole's hair looks great.

Fleeting graffiti.

Free your mind

Friends who come to visit, and bring you a little bit of spring!

A little bit of Spring in January!

& finally, knitting! (I just started learning, and I am already addicted.)

Newsflash: I am learning to knit!

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!

Where is Claire?: talks, readings, happenings for Spring 2014

February 1st, 2014

Happy Birthday, Allen Ginsberg!

OK, it’s not quite Spring yet, but I am trying to be optimistic.
I’m doing some events, and I would like you to come to them, because it seems no matter how many readings etc I undertake, I still get deathly afraid at every single one. So please come to some of these Things and make me feel better.

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Greenlight presents New Scotland: New Culture?
Friday 7th February at Summerhall, 7pm. £5 and ticketed

“What is the role of culture in Scotland, now and in the future?
What can politicians and the state do to support culture and the arts while guaranteeing creative freedom?
As Scotland’s democracy evolves, should we seek to redefine what culture means in a national and international context?”
So, those are some big and scary questions, and I have been given a 15 minute TED-talk-style slot in which to try and answer them. Except erm, instead I am going to go slightly off-piste and talk about my personal favourite cultural issue: diversity and inclusion. I might also read a poem or two.
There will also be a bunch of other excellent speakers, who I imagine will stick to the brief a little better than me (sorry, everyone). There’ll also be music. And there’ll be Summerhall, which is always good. Please come along to this one, folks — my terror levels are significantly more elevated than usual for this event!

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Rally & Broad: And The Beat Goes On
Friday 21st February at The Counting House, 7.30pm. £5.

I’m pretty sure you already all know what the literary juggernaut that is Rally and Broad is all about. If you don’t, I’d like to know exactly where you’ve been hiding. Basically, it’s a massive monthly night of literary and musical delights; a cabaret-style set up showcasing some of the best creative talent from across Scotland and beyond. And if you only know one thing about it, you’ll know it’s hosted by Jenny Linsday and Rachel McCrum. From what I’ve seen on Flickr, they each wear a different fabulous frock every month and always look rather nifty.

I’m chuffed to have been asked to read at the February R&B, and I am already eyeing my wardrobe nervously, because what shall I wear?! More importantly, what shall I read, in order that I am not eclipsed by the very impressive humans appearing above me in the line-up?! Seriously, look at this — and then tell me you don’t want to be there. I’m pretty sure that’s the most EXCITING STUFF you can get for a fiver anywhere.

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Shore Poets: February
Sunday 23rd February at Henderson’s at St John’s, 7.15pm doors. £5 / £3 concessions.

OK, I am not performing at this one, but I will be floating around behind the scenes, supposedly helping out, but probably just being awkward and starstruck around the brilliant performers. This month, Shore Poets brings you the one-and-only William Letford, of whose work I am a major, major fangirl. Look him up on Youtube and see what I mean! And Mr Letford is only the start of it… we have not one but two headline poets this month, honorary Shore Poet Diana Hendry, and honorary Shore Poets president Stewart Conn. Both have brand spanking new books either just out, or coming very soon, so come along to hear (I assume) some exciting new work! On top of all this, we’ll be presenting the annual Mark Ogle Memorial Award, which this year went to the excellent Meg Bateman. AND there’ll be live music from The Whole Shebang, as well as our infamous lemon cake raffle. YOU can also read at this event, by bringing a poem, putting your name in the hat at the door, and then, if your lucky, getting picked for one of our two wildcard slots. Yep, you. Come along already!

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TenRed: April
Wednesday 2nd April at The Persevere Bar & Function Room, Leith, 7.30pm. £3.

Alright, I know this is still a little way away, but I am so excited that TenRed is back among us, and I’ve been asked to perform at it for the third time! April has a great line-up, which excitingly, includes Lovely Boyfriend (billed here as Stephen Welsh)! Never mind me, come and hear him. He barely ever performs anywhere, so take the opportunity to get a rare sighting! Look, there’s even a trailer:

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Photo by Chris Scott.

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!

Dear poetry newbies: “why is my work always rejected?”

January 20th, 2014

A version of this post first appeared at One Night Stanzas in November 2008.

1. The standard isn’t high enough.
And by this I just mean that your poems aren’t “fit” for publication yet… but not that they never will be! If you’re sending out first drafts, poems that have only been hastily redrafted or edited, or poems that even you don’t think are all that amazing, then it might well be that you haven’t done quite enough to catch the eye of an editor. It’s easy to write a poem and then be overcome by a fervent desire to get it sent out immediately, but resist! Never send first drafts, and always devote a good chunk of time to redrafting and editing your chosen pieces. If possible, put them away for a while (a week, two weeks…) and then come back to them. And never send anything you’re not sure about. Work on it til you ARE sure about it, or send something else.
(NB: One of the best ways to get your poetry up to publication standard is to read the stuff that poetry magazines actually do publish - and if you can get hold of a copy of the specific magazines you want to submit to, even better!)

2. You’re not following the submission guidelines properly.
Some editors are happy to chuck a submission onto the slush pile for the slightest thing, so it’s always important to read and follow the submission guidelines carefully. Make sure you do everything according to the guidelines wherever you can; it can be a total pain, but it can also make the difference between acceptance and rejection. And don’t assume that one magazine’s guidelines apply to all! Read everyone’s guidelines, and follow them every time!

3. You commit minor - but deadly! - submission crimes.
A lot of poets reckon they can get away with sending the same four poems in the same email round to a whole load of editors at the same time - don’t do it! This suggests to editors that you don’t really care who picks up your poems or whether they’re published simultaneously. You also shouldn’t send “speculative” emails out before sending a submission. It may seem like politeness, but if an editor receives an email saying “check out my website and then maybe I’ll submit later”, they’re going to think a) you’re arrogant and b) you haven’t read their guidelines. Just put your submission together and send it! And don’t send snotty or pushy emails to editors until at least three months (yes, really, I’m afraid!) after the date you sent your submission. If you haven’t had a reply, there’s probably a reason, and going “oi, what are you messing about at?” after only a week or so is not going to make you any friends. Basically, when it comes to submissions, put in the work, follow the rules and be patient - that’s all there is to it!

4. Your cover letter needs a rewrite.
Have a good look at your cover letter (if you have one! If you don’t - write one!) and see if there are any of these common mistakes in it: heaps of biographical information (3 - 4 lines should do it); anything that could be interpreted as dishonest or boastful (”my work has appeared in 300 journals worldwide,” or the like); excessive negativity (”you’ll probably just reject me, but…”) anything that criticises or questions the publication or editor you’re writing to (”I found your website really hard to navigate” — keep it to yourself for now!); and of course, typos, grammatical errors or any unnecessary rambling! Exorcise all these things! It may leave your cover letter very short, but a couple of lines is all you need.

5. You’re submitting to the wrong magazines.
There are a lot of creative writing magazines out there and most of them are open for submissions for at least part of each year… so technically, you can submit to any of them. However, if you’re new to the whole submitting thing (or even if you aren’t!), it can be hard to know which are the best to choose. The sad fact is that a lot of editors are wary of publishing people who have never been published before, but fortunately, there are more and more magazines out there whose mission-statement is to provide as many writers as they can with their first publication opportunity. Many others specify that they welcome “unknown” or “emerging” writers, and you’re probably better off submitting to these if you can. You do get “unknown” writers in, say, Poetry Review, but if you want to give yourself the best chance of being accepted, it’s better to walk before you run, as they say!

6. You’re not ready to publish yet.
Only you can really know whether or not you’re ready to publish, but if you’re trying to get your work out there and the rejections are getting you down in a big way, then maybe you’re not 100% ready for the submission process. This might be hard to accept, but it’s better to wait until you’re better prepared than to make yourself suffer every time one of those pesky rejection letters lands in your mailbox. Give yourself six months, even a year. Spend that time writing - and more importantly, reading! - and then try getting back on the horse. You might find you still feel the same and need more time… if so, no worries. Or you might suddenly find that there’s the odd acceptance letter among those rejections; or that the rejections don’t bother you so much. Either way, the “time off” will have been well spent!

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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 #88: Edinburgh details

January 16th, 2014

2014 will be my tenth year in Edinburgh. It’s not a big city — you can walk around most of it in a day. So every so often I convince myself that I know it inside out now, that I’ve seen everything. Not so! There are always little details to spot, which is one of the things I love about it.

1384564

1384563

1384559

1384557

1384556

1384554

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<3 Edinburgh

<3 Edinburgh

<3 Edinburgh

<3 Edinburgh

If destroyed, true.  If not destroyed, still true.

<3 Edinburgh

Help ma boab!  (Edinburgh)

Bunny, Edinburgh

Pasty ghost, Edinburgh

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 don’t choose your literary heroes: they choose you.

January 13th, 2014

A version of this post first appeared at One Night Stanzas in November 2008.

I’ve just revisited this article on the Guardian Books Blog, in which Stuart Evers talks about his seemingly rather misguided admiration for the protagonist of George Orwell’s Keep The Aspidistra Flying, Gordon Comstock. He notes that Comstock is really not a nice guy… and the fact that he truly admired this man when he first read the novel makes him feel rather uneasy. Evers admits that upon finishing the novel for the first time, he actually started to emulate Comstock - he started smoking the same cigarettes, spending his money on the same things, and getting interested in the same politics. He ends bitterly, sending out a “thank you so bloody much” to Orwell and Comstock, as though realising with hindsight that, by getting so “involved” with this not-actually-real person, he has somehow done something wrong.

Has he done something wrong? Are we only supposed to like, admire and emulate the “good guys” in literature? Sure, there are a lot of admirable goodies out there - I’d be the first to stand up and say that I truly love and admire Atticus Finch, for example. But surely, as normal human beings, it’s OK for us to be drawn to the “bad guys” - the flawed characters, the dishonest characters, the downright nasty characters… right? Hamlet, for example - arrogant, selfish, murderous and slightly insane, and yet he’s a big favourite. I personally rather like Milton’s Satan, and perhaps even worse, Alex DeLarge. I know for a fact that the normally sugary-sweet Gala Darling has a dark side - she’s forever in love with Patrick Bateman. It’s not necessarily logical - you don’t choose your literary heroes: they choose you. They reach out to something within your personal being and speak to you. Just because they happen to be a “baddie,” that doesn’t necessarily make you one too!

At the end of Evers’ article, I felt like standing up and cheering, because the other day I experienced exactly the same discomfort that Evers feels, talking with some friends about Beat-Generation-era literature.
As many of you will know, I am a huge Allen Ginsberg fan. I first encountered Ginsberg about halfway through my four-year Masters degree, when I had to read “Howl” for class. My first reaction was “what is this absolute rubbish?”, and when I read some background information about Ginsberg, I was even less impressed. Loud, arrogant, misogynistic… he did not seem like a nice guy at all. Who does he think he is, I thought, this man who wrote this epic, spiralling, meaningless poem that everyone seems to love? It’s garbage!
But then I had an epiphany - I heard a recording of dear old Allen reading “America.” I loved the poem, and his reading - with all its humour and seriousness and liveliness and weariness all at once - and decided to give him another chance. I read about Ginsberg’s life, I read his annotations on “Howl” and discovered what every cryptic line really meant (and every line really does have some correlation to his life, things he experienced, or things that were going on at the time), and probably most importantly, I read “Kaddish.” I bought an album of readings which included all these poems, and more, and listened to it from beginning to end, which exhausted but thrilled me. By now, the poems had turned on me, and they’d convinced me that this man - who I’ll freely admit was still loud, arrogant and misogynistic - was one of the greatest American writers of all time. He was not always nice, he was not always fair, and he wasn’t even always all that good. But he was brilliant, and in spite of myself, I will love him forever and ever.

So imagine my horror when, at a party a few years ago, a friend of mine came out with this:
“I don’t get it with Ginsberg. I’ve read ‘Howl,’ which was… ridiculous, and then everything else just looks like a poor imitation of ‘Howl.’”
I won’t lie to you - I felt like I’d been slapped. I couldn’t believe the enormous feeling that welled up in me. This was my friend, and I found myself wanting to grab him and shake him and scream, “why don’t you read ‘Howl’ properly and then you’ll see it’s not ridiculous, like I did?! How can you say everything else is a poor imitation of ‘Howl’?! Have you even read anything else?! Have you read ‘Kaddish’?! And how can you say that anyway?! The man wrote for 50+ years in a million different style on a million different subjects! Saying you don’t like Ginsberg because of ‘Howl’ is like saying you don’t like the Beatles because of ‘Hey Jude.’ Aaaargh!”
Obviously, I did not do this. I tried to express myself in a quieter way, and just said that actually, Ginsberg was my all-time favourite writer and I loved him very much. All I got was (quote), “well, good for you,” which didn’t make me feel much better.

My desire to shake my friend and scream in his face rather troubled me. After all, I knew all this stuff, and I’d thought it and said it myself once upon a time. But it also brought home to me the fact that you really can’t choose your idols - and when they choose you, they can really cling on, dig in. I’m sure the friend in question has literary heroes he’d gladly defend by shaking and screaming at me, if I were to criticise them. I know one guy who deeply loves Iago, and gets the same strange rage when people try to tell him “but Iago’s a really bad guy.” I know someone else who is a big fan of William Carlos Williams, and nearly had to walk out of a seminar recently when one woman in the group said “but it’s all just rubbish really, isn’t it? The Red Wheelbarrow - my children could write poetry like that!”
The fact is, Stuart Evers seems to be worried about admiring Gordon Comstock. Why? Because he’s worried that he’s going to be judged, probably. But I’d be interested to know what his reaction would be if anyone were to actually turn around and say “Comstock’s the worst character I ever came across,” or “that book’s crap, Orwell couldn’t write to save his life”. Personally, I am not worried about admiring Ginsberg for fear of judgement. It’s the defensive rage that’s the truly worrying thing…

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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 #87: what I did on my holidays.

January 9th, 2014

Cake dome + triple chocolate ganache truffle cupcakes (#whatveganseat)

1. Baked some tasty vegan treats.
The above cupcakes are triple chocolate ganache truffle cupcakes and yep, they’re totally vegan. Dark chocolate sponge with chocolate ganache in the middle, chocolate not-butter-not-cream frosting, and a Moo Free truffle added to the top for good measure! The rather beautiful cake dome was a Christmas present from the loveliest Lovely Boyfriend. Though it looks like a vintage one, it’s new, but it is made out of 100% recycled materials! Amazing gifting, methinks.

The aforementioned LB requested “a gigantic mince pie” for Christmas dinner dessert, so I duly made a full-size 9-inch diameter mince pie with rather delicious boozy mincemeat. I had some scrappy little bits of rolled shortcrust pastry left over, so I used them to make these: the world’s ugliest mince pies. They obviously still tasted great, though!

Ugly mince-pies I made from scraps of leftover pie crust.

2. Had some even tastier vegan treats made for me.

I think I may have already mentioned here that Lovely Boyfriend is the best vegan cook since Isa Chandra Moskowitz, yes? Well, over our winter holiday he’s had even more time than usual to cook up a storm, so my belly has been extremely happy. Lots of people have been curious about how the heck you even do Christmas as a vegan — the answer is, the same as everyone else. You eat lots and lots of extremely tasty stuff! This was our Christmas morning breakfast:

Christmas morning breakfast: scrambled mushroom tofu on a sesame bagel, and champagne :)

That’s Isa’s own tofu scramble with a Lovely Boyfriend twist: a Christmassy spice mix featuring lots of rosemary, and extra mushrooms. All on a sesame bagel and served with champagne, because Christmas.

I didn’t get a pic of our Christmas dinner because it seemed rude to be a food-snapping hipster blogger in front of our guests (also I was too keen to just SCOFF IT), but again we are indebted to The Great Isa. We had a version of this stuffed seitan roast, with a more traditional sage-and-onion type stuffing to make it more Christmassy. Plus all the usual roast potatoes and veg type stuff, and then my uber-mince-pie with vegan ice cream and these to finish. Delish!

3. Received many amazing gifts.

I couldn’t really do a gratitude post at this time of year without thanking everyone who bought me gifts over the festive period. Thank you, amazing people of my acquaintance, for giving me so many thoughtful, useful and beautiful things. I especially want to thank the folk (a lot of you this year!) who shopped local, supported small businesses like mine, bought secondhand, and/or made charitable donations in lieu of presents. You rock.

Everyone thought this would be a good gift for me!

I also love that so many people got me gifts that are so ‘me’. (This seems to happen a lot, so I hope that means I’m easy to buy for. Or perhaps I am just easily pleased!) This vintage typewriter calendar was clearly an obvious choice… and now I have one for home and one for work! Perfect!

4. Met the newest member of the family.

My parents have always been cat people. Seriously: their house is full of cat-related stuff. Cat mugs, cat ornaments, cat coasters, cat Christmas tree decorations… they really like cats. So they were devastated when their faithful furry friend Beatrice went to the great cattery in the sky back in 2012.

BENNEH.

After a period of mourning for “Little Bertie,” as she was affectionately known, I was extremely excited to hear that they’d decided to rescue a new fur-baby. World, meet Benny! He’s been part of the family for nearly three weeks now, and he’s a super cute, slightly eccentric TOTAL BABE. As you can see, he knows exactly how beautiful he is and loves having his photo taken.

My parents' new kitty, Benny!

Like me, he’s also a stove-worshipper. Smart kitty.

5. Bought a lot of books.

I know, I know, so what’s new? In short, I made the mistake of going to Bookcase Books in Carlisle while on my New Year travels.

Bookcase Books in Carlisle.  Place of dreams.

I’ve blogged about this place before. The bookshop occupies two big townhouses that have been knocked together, and there are books in every room, including the two basements and the huge attic. You can also buy the artwork, paintings and oddities (I found an antique book-press I so wanted) which are displayed in the various corridors and staircases. There are over thirty rooms full of books here. It’s AMAZING.

Bookcase Books in Carlisle.  Place of dreams.

Hours of book-browsing fun, and only an hour on the train from Edinburgh. Just sayin’!

6. Did a lot of plotting.

I love New Year, perhaps even more than I love Christmas (and I really love Christmas). I’m very good at saying “yes” to things and ending up super busy all the time, and very bad at pausing to take stock. So during that between-Christmas-and-going-back-to-work lull, I try to do as much mental stock-taking as I can.

Happy 2014!

There’s always a lot of journalling. This year, I’ve been reading posts like this and thinking about ways to make new year’s goals and resolutions (which I always make, regardless of how uncool everyone says it is) that are meaningful and will last. I prefer to set new year goals — a list of things to achieve — rather than make resolutions, because goal-setting feels way more positive than ’stop doing this thing you do because you like it,’ and ‘do more of this thing you don’t do because you hate it,’ etc. (For example, this year I’ve got ‘find a yoga class I like,’ rather than ‘do more yoga.’) But I have also committed to a couple of “higher resolutions” (the big stuff), which I hope to work on all year.

[One of them is: get better at being sociable. I am generally bad at making new friends, especially with women (this article, the part about rejection, rang so true with me). I have this assumption that most of the people who hang out with me only do it out of some masochistic form of politeness. I'm sure you'll all agree that that mindset is pretty toxic and needs to go. It's been with me a long time, but this is the year I intend to at least begin to cut that shit out. And the other big resolution is a secret for now, because I don't want to jinx it. If I manage to keep it, then all should be revealed in due course.]

Finally, I also use New Year as a time to think about the past year, and what I achieved. Every life coach/internet guru/mindfulness blogger and their dog is keen to point out that saying thank you for the good stuff in your life makes more good stuff happen. So that’s why I write Things I Love Thursday posts (still), and it’s also why every year I write a ‘in [year], I…’ post. Usually I have to go through my old diaries, Facebook updates, and blogposts to recall what I did. So much good stuff gets instantly forgotten and I’m always gobsmacked to revisit it… which is another reason why this process is useful.

If you haven’t done any 2014 plotting or 2013 revisiting yet, try it! The year is young! I highly recommend it.

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!

Dear poetry newbies: are you ready to workshop?

January 6th, 2014

A version of this post first appeared at One Night Stanzas in October 2008.

What does workshopping involve?
Basically, workshopping is about testing your work out on other writers to see how successful it is, and getting an idea of how your audience will approach it. It’s a tool used by writers of all kinds - from people who pen corporate business documents to playwrights and even musicians. Usually, you get together with a bunch of other poets, and you each read a sample of your work to each other (often, the rest of the group will already have read and thought about your chosen pieces - most workshops I’ve been in have circulated a ‘reading list’ by email a few days before the workshop itself). Each member of the group then offers feedback and constructive criticism on your work, and in turn, you give your thoughts on their work. It may sound a bit scary, but workshops are generally small, relaxed groups were just about anything goes, and they create a safe environment where you can test out poems you’re not too sure about before you unleash them onto the general public!

How does workshopping benefit my poetry?
Sometimes it’s hard to know what to do about your poems once you’ve finished them. Editing is a tricky business - the more you look at a poem, the less you can see how to change it (you know how you never notice your own typos? It’s a bit like that). You become so familiar with your work that the only thing you can really do is squirrel it away for a couple of months in an attempt to then come back to it with fresh eyes, but this is tricky and takes a long time. The other people in your workshop can provide those fresh eyes for you.
Your workshop group can tell you exactly what about your poem “needs work” when you can’t see it yourself. It might be your handling of punctuation, a dodgy rhyme scheme… whatever. Your group can offer in-depth criticism, right down to the smallest comma. Workshop groups are also useful when it comes to keeping your poems clear. It’s easy to get caught up in your own head, where every image in every poem makes perfect sense to you. However, workshopping provides a handy reality check - your group may well turn around and say “I didn’t understand what was going on in this poem.” That may sound like a harsh comment, but it’s important that your readers feel able to get involved with and relate to your poems. Your workshopping group is your barometer when it comes to things like this - they’re like a small panel of poetry readers, only better. They write too, they suffer from typos and mess-ups and rejections too, and they want to help you… for free!

How do I know if I’m ready to workshop?
This is a tricky one. If you’ve never workshopped before, your first time can be rather weird, intimidating and even a bit disheartening. You have to bear in mind that you’re putting your work into the hands of other people and essentially saying, “here’s my poem - do your worst.” You’re laying yourself open to criticism, and whilst it should all be constructive, when several different voices are all pointing out issues in your work, you can end up feeling a bit like you’re under attack.
Many young, inexperienced poets are very bad at taking criticism, simply because they don’t get very much of it and when they do, it comes as a bit of shock. I used to be dreadful - hearing someone criticise my poem, I’d just think “what do you know? I like it how it is so get lost!”, regardless of how constructive or useful the criticism was. If you have a similar attitude, you need to work through it. Constructive feedback is your friend, and workshopping will never be helpful to you until you learn to take it on board.
The best thing to do is just get in there and try it. Try to join a relatively new group if you can, or wait until they re-group after a break, say after the Christmas holidays, for example. Joining a really established group who are already very used to each other’s styles and voices can leave you feeling a bit left out. If you can’t avoid joining an established group, at least try not to be the only newb. Take along a friend or two so you’re not the only one who feels out of the loop!
Just go along for one workshop and see how it goes, see how you feel about the treatment your poems get. Bear in mind that each of your fellow workshoppers is just a reader like any other, regardless of age or experience - they’re just like you, and the points they make will often be based on nothing other than personal opinion. Some people will like your work and others won’t, and all the advice you get is just that - advice. You can take it or leave it… just make sure you give all of it fair consideration!
If, at the end of your session you think you’ve picked up some useful tips, you’re ready to get stuck into workshopping - so sign up! If you come out feeling angry, upset or disheartened, however, you may need to a) try a different workshop (some take a lighter approach than others) or b) wait a while before you commit to workshopping. Try getting one-to-one feedback from friends or family first, as practice. Think carefully about how you react to criticism, and try to move away from the fact that your poems are your babies and you need to protect them, and more towards the idea that your poems are babies that need to be nurtured - and sometimes disciplined! - in order to grow. Once you’re able to see criticism as a positive thing, then you’re ready to workshop.

How do I start workshopping?
Finding a workshop can be tricky, and will depend on where you live, who you know and how literary your local community is! However, you’d be surprised - even in the most unlikely places, workshops exist. Do some research online, or ask local literary organisations or establishments if they know of the existence of a creative writing workshop in your area. The local library, bookstores, the University or college closest to you - these are all good places to go to ask for information. If all else fails, get yourself over to Gumtree or Craigslist and place an ad. Be sure to check out the existing ads too - someone else might be doing the very same thing!
Once you’ve found a workshop, make contact - don’t just turn up at a meeting. Find out who runs the show and drop them a line; let them know a little bit about yourself and get as much info as you can about the workshop. Make sure they’re cool with poets, they’re OK to take on beginners and you don’t have to pay too much (workshops sometimes as for a small weekly/monthly fee for buying tea/coffee, renting the room they use or whatever. If for any reason the fee seems unreasonable, look elsewhere.). Ask them what you’d be required to do, and if you’re feeling super-nervous, ask if you could come to your first workshop without contributing - just to sit in and see what it’s like. Most groups should be cool with this… and as I say, if you’re the only newb or you just need some moral support, ask if you can take a friend!

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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 NuageDeNuit)

In 2013, I…

December 30th, 2013

Happy 2013

At the end of 2012, I wrote, “it’s been a great year. I feel I am a million miles away from the place I was in this time last year — phew! I am also extremely excited about 2013 and all that it holds for me. I plan to finish my PhD, put together my first full-length poetry collection (at last!), get more tattoos (yeah!), and start work on a ton of exciting new projects. Wish me luck!” Did I manage all those things? I freaking well did! Check it out!

In 2013, I…

* saw in the New Year with loads of lovely friends around me, shimmying on down at the Summerhall New Year bash. Amazing night! (If you can go to this year’s one, I highly recommend it!)

* re-joined the Making It Home Project for our ambitious film-making phase, thanks to funding from the wondrous Creative Scotland! Keep reading to find out how it went…

* began a year of mentoring sessions with Sarah Ream, poetry ed at Polygon and total and utter superhero, funded by the Scottish Book Trust. With help from Sarah, I began taking nervous little baby steps towards creating a first collection MS.

* spent a very cold few days in and around gorgeous Oslo in the new year: negotiating several feet of snow, discovering the incredible TV show Borgen (and becoming totally hooked!), and writing plenty of poems.

* baked a lot of stuff.

* celebrated my 27th birthday: there was snow! In March!

* celebrated my first veganniversary by pledging to continue to eat as much delicious cruelty-free dessert as I can find. Win!

* repeatedly apologised to everyone for not doing more poetry gigs… when actually, when I look back, I did quite a lot.

* spent Easter in beautiful, deliciously warm Barcelona: revisiting all my favourite vegan restaurants, sunbathing in parks and on rooftops, and again, writing lots of poems. Hooray!

* became suddenly able to afford to buy a house with Lovely Boyfriend. Began immediately and excitedly house-hunting!

* successfully co-edited (alongside the gorgeous Jane McKie) the Making It Home Book, with thanks to all of YOU for your generous crowdfunding!

* spent over nine hours under the needle to have my Oliver No. 9 typewriter half-sleeve tattooed. It is so lush! (Scroll down!)

* escaped one heck of an evil manager, and immediately boosted my self-esteem, by negotiating a transfer to teach at a different campus. (He’s since been demoted and is no longer anyone’s manager. Thanks, karma!)

* went out filming with the brilliant media co-op and our gorgeous groups of Making It Home women. I learned all about how hard film-making is (needless to say, the women were all flippin’ geniuses at it), held lots of things, and ran around with coats keeping our actresses warm!

* I went to lovely London for a few days and discovered Foyles. HOW HAD I NEVER BEEN TO THIS MAGICAL PLACE BEFORE?! (I bought so many books. So many.)

* successfully negotiated the purchase of our new house, a sweet two-bed semi off Inverleith Row (no less)…

* …and immediately began the process of completely re-vamping this never-modernised house. The phrase “no idea what we were getting into” doesn’t even start to cover it!

* learned how to work a belt-sander, learned how to plaster, and wielded a sledgehammer (oh hell yeah!) for the first time ever, thanks to the above!

* went on tour around Edinburgh and Glasgow, showcasing Making It Home. Thank you so much to the many magical people who supported us on our whistle-stop tour!

* finally drew a line under three-and-a-half years of study, and submitted my PhD.

* started the serious work of putting together my manuscript.

* was selected for the Contemporary Women’s Writing Skills Development programme, and attended the amazing first session at the University of Southampton.

* re-launched Edinburgh Vintage as a jewellery store and saw a fourfold increase in sales!

* successfully interviewed for, and accepted, a brilliant amazing fantastic wonderful new job (basically, my dream job, I’m serious) at Scottish Book Trust. I am now their Young Adult Project Co-Ordinator!

* spent four great days in beautiful Munich: eating vegan food, petting lots of kitties, and being constantly surrounded by pretty autumnal foliage. (We also visited the memorial camp at Dachau, which was exhausting, but I now believe that visiting a concentration camp is something every privileged human ought to do at some point.)

* completed a first draft of my first collection manuscript, and began test-driving poems from it at various events… including at Book Week Scotland!

* organised and judged the inaugural One Night Stanzas Poetry Contest! Have you read the winning poems yet?

* had a wood-burning stove put in as part of our new house renovations. Imagine how good that might be, then double it.

* successfully defended my PhD thesis to examiners Miriam Gamble and Dr Leontia Flynn at my viva. I passed! You may now call me Dr Askew!

* finished building and renovation work on our living room only just in time for Christmas, and spent my first Christmas morning with Lovely Boyfriend — after four years of being together! Blissful.

The year in photos…

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Chilling in Oslo…

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…but warming up again in Barcelona!

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27th birthday cupcakes!

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A storyboard from one of the amazing Making It Home films.

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The half-sleeve! Six months on and I still swoon when I look at it.

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Out filming with the gorgeous Sheena, Elaine and Stacey of Making It Home. Such pros.

Ahlam, Augusta, Lucinda and the MIH posse, Making it Home Farewell Party at NEA
Celebrating a successful Making It Home tour, with a triumphant boogie at North Edinburgh Arts!

Floor sanding
House flippin’! Sanding, sanding, so much sanding…

In the English Garden, Munich, 16/10/13
Hanging out in autumnal Munich.

Goldenacre Path.  My new neighbourhood!
My new neighbourhood!

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Sparkly stuff goes live at Edinburgh Vintage!

Making it Home meets Book Week Scotland at Glasgow Women's Library!
Book Week Scotland 2013!

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The thesis-beast: SLAYED!

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FINISHED IN TIME FOR CHRISTMAS!!! …just.

Wishes for 2014?
You know what? I am so freaking happy right now. In the past year, so many amazing things have happened — passing my PhD, buying my first house with my gorgeous man, landing my dream job. I feel greedy wishing for anything else, really. However, I do like to have goals, so here are one or two hopes for the year ahead…

*Shop my poetry MS around some cool publishers, and hopefully place it somewhere fantastic (I know, I know. Poetry is dismal right now, especially for first collections. But we can but try).
* Gather my strength to continue the great renovation and finish off the kitchen, tackle the bathroom and create a veggie garden!
* Adopt a dog… or two! Probably greyhounds!
That’s basically it. Oh, and write some good poems. That’d be nice, too.

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

I hope 2014 brings you everything you could possibly wish for, and more besides. Happy New 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!