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

October 21st, 2014

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

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^ Look! Robert Crawford has heard of me!

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

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^ Look mum, I’m famous!

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

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

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

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

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

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

Procrastination Station #133

October 10th, 2014

Subtle graffiti

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

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

Cool signs outside independent bookstores.

Struggling to find time to read? Read this.

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

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

Reading makes you happier: fact.

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

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

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

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

I’m a sucker for literary tattoos.

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

Molly Crabapple is great.

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

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

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

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

Hey, authors? Don’t be this desperate.

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

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

Grayson Perry is a bloody legend.


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


HOLY SHIT Danny MacAskill!!!

Have a great weekend!

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

(Photo credit)

Things I Love Thursday #96: The Secret Herb Garden

October 2nd, 2014

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

They have:

Secret Herb Garden, Edinburgh

Secret Herb Garden, Edinburgh

Secret Herb Garden, Edinburgh

Secret Herb Garden, Edinburgh

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

Secret Herb Garden, Edinburgh

Secret Herb Garden, Edinburgh

Secret Herb Garden, Edinburgh

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

Secret Herb Garden, Edinburgh

Secret Herb Garden, Edinburgh

Secret Herb Garden, Edinburgh

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

Secret Herb Garden, Edinburgh

Secret Herb Garden, Edinburgh

Secret Herb Garden, Edinburgh

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

Secret Herb Garden, Edinburgh

Secret Herb Garden, Edinburgh

Chickens! Who very much like having their photo taken…

Secret Herb Garden, Edinburgh

Secret Herb Garden, Edinburgh

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

Secret Herb Garden, Edinburgh

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

Highly, highly, highly recommended!

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

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

September 29th, 2014

Furies Poetry Anthology #FBSFuries

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

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

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

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

Furies Poetry Anthology #FBSFuries

Furies Poetry Anthology #FBSFuries

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

Furies Poetry Anthology #FBSFuries

This is what a woman warrior looks like.
Apparently.

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

Procrastination Station #132

September 26th, 2014

tea for me

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Zadie Smith reckons there are two types of writers.

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

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

Indie bookstores are on the rise again… yay!

The 7 stages of falling in love with reading.

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

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

Press and PR… but for writers.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Celebrate Banned Books Week: read these books!


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


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


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

Have a great weekend!

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

(Photo credit)

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

September 23rd, 2014

StAnza 2011 Preview
Photo by Chris Scott.

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 30th September, 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!

30 before 30: the first six months! 6. Get out more

September 22nd, 2014

You may remember that #6 on my 30-before-30 epic ‘to do’ list was Get Out More. I said: “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…”

Well, this one is by no means “done,” as I hope to have lots more adventures before 10th March 2016, but in order to get this goal properly kick-started, Lovely Boyfriend and I decided to do a truly epic tour of Scotland. Here’s where we “got out” to!

Faskally Tay Forest 2014 (3)

Faskally Tay Forest 2014 (5)

Faskally Tay Forest 2014 (6)

Faskally Tay Forest 2014 (7)

We started ^ here, at the Tay Forest Park, which is quite huge, and amazing. This part of it is at Faskally, and has lots of sedate walks or demanding hikes, depending on what you fancy. LB and did a bit of both… including some straying from the path and ending up crashing through trees, which was quite fun. We also met ducklings!

Highland Wildlife Park 2014 (2)

Highland Wildlife Park 2014 (21)

Highland Wildlife Park 2014 (8)

Highland Wildlife Park 2014 (12)

Highland Wildlife Park 2014 (11)

Highland Wildlife Park 2014 (16)

Highland Wildlife Park 2014 (17)

On the way from Faskally to Inverness, our next stop, we took a break at the Highland Wildlife Park. I’ll be honest, I was not looking forward to this place — I hate zoos and find them really, really depressing. But LB convinced me that this was different. I started out hating it, but after a while I realised that the vast majority of the critters actually had a pretty charmed life… even the polar bears, who I didn’t photograph but who we saw playing and play-fighting and eating tons of steak, which I am guessing they wouldn’t do if they hated living there. The worst thing about it was the terrible array of human behaviour we saw. That sign? Totally ignored by most. LB had to drag me away from the wolves as I was about to throw someone’s child to them!

Inverness 2014 (3)

Inverness 2014 (1)

Inverness 2014 (6)

I didn’t take many photos of Inverness, but I really liked it. I spent rather a lot of time in the many excellent charity shops there! It’s a weird place — they have poems in their pavements and tractors in their carparks, and it’s a funny mix of cosmopolitan (loads of tourists) and parochial. Inverness also has a massive second hand bookstore inside a converted church, but that was so good that it’s getting its own post… watch this space!

Caithness 2014 (8)

Caithness 2014 (4)

Caithness 2014 (1)

Caithness 2014 (12)

From Inverness, we drove for what seemed like ages to get to our little cabin in Caithness — seemingly in the middle of nowhere, but between Wick and Castletown if you want some idea. I loved Caithness very much — amazing bleak landscapes, huge skies and barely any tourists at all. Our little cabin was basic but cozy and had everything… including a little secluded ‘garden’ at the back where I got my first taste for outdoor yoga. The third photo there is the view from the cabin, and we saw three amazing sunsets while we were there… which LB greatly enjoyed, as you can see!

Duncansby 2014 (3)

Duncansby 2014 (4)

Duncansby 2014 (5)

Duncansby 2014 (7)

Duncansby 2014 (10)

Duncansby 2014 (9)

Caithness is all about the cool geological stuff. This is Duncansby, which is a famous site for nesting birds. Although you can’t see in the photos, that scar is an inlet that was packed with terns, shags, puffins and several types of gull, all feeding their chicks and making a truly amazing noise! The pointy witch-hat-like things are the Stacks of Duncansby, which are apparently super famous, and very spectacular IRL.

Dunnet Beach 2014 (3)

Dunnet Beach 2014 (2)

Dunnet Beach 2014 (4)

Caithness is also all about amazingly clean sandy beaches — and this one, which runs between Castletown and Dunnet, was really near to our cabin. We had it pretty much to ourselves and I got some very successful beach-combing done, finding huge shells, a whole sea urchin shell, and an amazingly delicate gull’s skull… morbid but cool!

Dunnet Head 2014 (3)

Dunnet Head 2014 (4)

Dunnet Head 2014 (5)

Dunnet Head 2014 (11)

Dunnet Head 2014 (13)

Dunnet Head 2014 (15)

On one of our Caithness days, we hiked along and around Dunnet Head, which is the northernmost point on the UK mainland. It was bleak, but incredible — as well as cool views there are also lots of creepy ruins there, and a Stevenson lighthouse (I met a few of the Stevenson lighthouses on this trip… and photographed not a one. Oops).

Sinclair Girnigoe 2014 (2)

Sinclair Girnigoe 2014 (15)

Sinclair Girnigoe 2014 (6)

Sinclair Girnigoe 2014 (13)

Sinclair Girnigoe

Just outside Wick is Castle Sinclair Girnigoe, this cool ruin that’s basically sticking out into the sea. Although (as you can see) it was a stunning day, there was no one else there with us so we were able to stomp around pretending to be seeing off the Vikings to our heart’s content. This was something I loved about Caithness: all the ‘tourist attractions’ were unmanned and free to enter, most of them down random dirt tracks with no visitor centre, no real car park to speak of… very cool.

Orkney 2014 (2)

Orkney 2014 (3)

Orkney 2014 (4)

Orkney 2014 (5)

Next stop, Orkney! The first Scottish island I have ever been to, though I have lived in Scotland 20 years next year. This is a weird selection of photos, but I was very, very preoccupied by Kirkwall’s incredible thrift shops. What can I say? I love a bargain more than just about anything else, and you’d be hard pressed to find anything in any of the charity shops of Kirkwall that’s more than a pound. Not kidding: I bought a ton of jewellery because everything was 20p! But I did have to stop and photograph that labrador. I got to scratch his ears, too!

Smoo Cave 2014 (13)

Smoo Cave 2014 (3)

Smoo Cave 2014 (5)

Smoo Cave 2014 (6)

Smoo Cave 2014 (9)

Smoo Cave 2014 (11)

Smoo Cave 2014 (12)

Back to the mainland, and next stop Smoo! (Real actual name.) The Smoo Cave is a cave the Vikings discovered, and it’s so big that they were able to hide, store and repair their longships inside. It was pretty incredible, and like the Caithness tourist attractions, surprisingly un-busy!

Tongue 2014 (2)

Tongue 2014 (1)

Gairloch 2014 (1)

Gairloch 2014 (3)

Gairloch 2014 (4)

After hours and hours of driving on tiny single-track, passing-place roads (and lots of playing dodge-the-outsize-camper-van!), we arrived in the West, at Tongue and then Gairloch. That third photo was the real-life, honest-to-god view from our Gairloch hostel window. This felt like proper shortbread-tin Scotland… and it had the tourists to match. Very quaint and cool, but personally, I preferred Caithness!

North Berwick 2014 (1)

North Berwick 2014 (2)

North Berwick 2014 (5)

North Berwick 2014 (6)

North Berwick 2014 (9)

…and last but not least, a very local East Lothian spot. We got a scorching sunny day at one end of our trip so we decided to get on the train and go to North Berwick for paddling, yet more thrift stores (not Kirkwall standard, but still pretty good!) and the compulsory seaside poke-y-chips. Thanks, Summer 2014! You were awesome.

Where should I go next…?

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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 #131

September 12th, 2014

Untitled

The not-for-profit Little Free Library Project (LFLP) is installing small, house-shaped wooden boxes outside the homes or businesses of volunteers who stock them with books. Local people can then help themselves to the titles, or donate their own volumes.

I have a front garden, LFLP! Pick me!

Haruki Murakami. Cool dude.

You know when writers say, “after a while I stop seeing typos”? Well, here’s the science behind it.

When I read fashion magazines, I pretend I am an alien trying to understand this planet. It’s delightful.

Roxane Gay live-tweets a fashion magazine. Every bit as great as it sounds.

What did Jane Austen use to edit her manuscripts? Dress pins. For real.

I was ready to hate the guy who wrote Stop Using Poet Voice, but the examples he cites? They really do need to stop.

ICYMI: Neil Gaiman on live storytelling.

This onslaught buries mainstream titles as well, which is something that should give the big five publishers pause. With so much choice, why would we pay $14.99 for a mainstream Kindle edition when we can experiment with a few 99 cent (or free) books.

A new title goes live on Amazon every. five. minutes. Terrifying stuff.

Do people automatically hear “woman writer” and think “emotional”?

Tips on submitting to journals, from Ploughshares. (I agree. I so wish I’d kept rejection letters over the years.)

YA literature — especially YA literature — should be the opposite of superficial, because that’s what young people need, and many times what they look for in books. It’s why they don’t spend that time watching reality television instead. And hey, I’d love to see a teenager with a poster of a writer on their wall. But it’d be wonderful if that writer were Edith Wharton.

I’m not sure how I feel about this Flavorwire piece, not least because it carries on La Franzen’s gross sexism towards Edith Wharton for lulz. I think I prefer the Bookriot piece that inspired it. (“I dunno what the hell the book was about BUT DAT ASS THO.”)

airBNB allows you to sleep in the homes of literary legends.

Why storytelling is a useful skill in every aspect of life.

Ripperologists, and the media attention they attract, reinforce the crude taxonomy of “good” and “bad” women that runs like a thread through the murders themselves and their contemporary press reception.

Blah blah blah Jack the Ripper. What about the women he killed?

John Waters’ idea of richness is basically the same as my own.

Do you know what your Actual Priority is? (I totally approve this message. I feel like in the last year I have both found and embraced my Actual Priority and it really has made everything better.)

They taste like misery and waste. I hate them until, a month or so into the diet, I suddenly love them. I need to eat them all the time. I’m supposed to be allowed one a day, but I burn through two boxes in a week. I hate myself and yet I can’t stop; I am barely eating anything else, thinking, in my perverted mind, that this would make it okay.

Lesley Kinzel is always great and Diet Foods I Have Known was particularly great.

Bad Poets of Pop Culture: yep. (Thanks to Kayleigh Anne!)


This is a short but stunning animated video about how languages evolve. I loved it, and learned lots!


Fascinating. At the risk of sounding like Upworthy — watch to the end!


I want to see this movie.


Here is a baby seal surfing. You’re welcome.

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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)

30 before 30: the first six months! 2. Find a publisher for my poetry manuscript

September 2nd, 2014

Edwin Morgan Poetry Award
^ That would be me, reading at the Edinburgh International Book Festival! (Blurrily.)

I’m only a quarter of the way into my 30 before 30 “to-do list,” and it’s been a BIG six months for poetry happenings!

First off, there was this:

OMG!

…and this would be me reading Fire Comes, complete with strange CLAW HAND and terrible slouch (#6ftwomanproblems) at the award ceremony.

Edwin Morgan Poetry Award

In the judges’ report, Stewart Conn said:

Claire Askew’s voice is arrestingly and distinctively her own, imbued with a sense of caring and inducing, in her more intimate moments, a scarcely bearable poignancy. These poems are flexibly yet firmly structured, their rhythms unforced, words and imagery constantly seeming fresh-minted. And throughout, her work is invitingly accessible.

And Jen Hadfield said:

Askew’s is a humane consciousness, with a genius for communicating how people tick. There’s never any doubt with Askew about why her poems exist: they exist because they insist upon it. She writes with an agenda compellingly, harnessing flashes of imagist brilliance.

But all of ^ that stuff was basically eclipsed by THIS news…!

OMG!

I sent my manuscript out shortly after my birthday in March, and Bloodaxe was the first place I sent it. Bloodaxe has always been the publisher I wanted for my MS — in a wildest dreams sort of way — ever since I started to dare believe that my poetry might be good enough to one day be a book. Although of course I read poets from all manner of presses and publishers worldwide, a large majority of my all-time favourites — and of those whose work has influenced my own — are published by Bloodaxe. Their list is by far the most diverse of the UK’s larger presses, and I feel that Bloodaxe take risks and always strive for quality when it comes to the poets they choose to work with and the books they produce. It’s totally amazing to think that, in early 2016 when This changes things comes out, I will be part of a stable of artists that includes Mary Oliver, Jane Kenyon, Kerry Hardie, Karen Solie and dozens of other poets I have looked up to for years, if not decades. This news has literally made my year!

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Other amazing writing-related news since March…

One poem featured in New Writing Scotland 32: Songs of Other Places. I was also invited to read at the launch at Blackwells bookshop in August.

I submitted my poem ‘Hometown’ to Scottish Book Trust’s “Scotland’s Stories of Home” public participation campaign, and it was chosen to be featured in the Sunday Mail (without my prior knowledge, I should add)!

My poem ‘Poltergeistrix’ was selected to appear in the all-female anthology Furies, coming soon from For Books’ Sake.

Poems of mine were selected to appear in the anthology Be The First To Like This: New Scottish Poetry, coming later this month from Vagabond Voices.

Poems of mine were selected to appear in the all-female anthology Raving Beauties, coming soon from Bloodaxe.

My poem ‘Jack’ was runner-up in the Mslexia Women’s Poetry Competition, and will be published in the next issue of Mslexia… issue 63! You can order it here.

My poem ‘Dukkha’ was shortlisted for the Dermot Healy Poetry Prize.

Not to be sniffed at! But, as my 30 before 30 challenge goes on, I am increasingly adopting the mantra of President Josiah Bartlet…

MY NEW MANTRA!

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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!

What I’m Doing Now. (In case you’re interested!)

September 1st, 2014

Ginsberg & typewriters

I’m not blogging all that much lately and this is a good excuse. I nicked it from Dorkymum, whose blog is excellent.

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Currently I am: sniffling. I’ve been off work sick twice in the past ten days, which is most embarrassing — firstly with what I thought was a migraine. Turned out it was sinus pain, and now I have full-blown snotball face into the bargain. I’m wrapped up in a cardi drinking tea and avoiding doing anything too taxing.

Reading: I just re-read White Oleander in a single Sunday. I think it was my fifth time reading it. I have never met another book so compelling, even when every word is familiar! Before that I read Ghana Must Go by Taiye Selasi… a novel that got a lot of hype and lists Andrew Wylie and Toni Morrison in the acknowledgements. I started it with a cynical eyebrow raised, I can tell you, but it really is very good. Takes a while to warm up, but you should read it.
(Of course, I always have some poetry on the go, too. Right now it’s Radial Symmetry by Katherine Larson — which is kinda bland, but with a few sparkly lines here and there.)

Listening to: Magpies. My street seems to be full of them at the moment, their monkey-like rattling. Supposedly if a magpie sings outside your window it means death.

Laughing at: Black Books. My bff Martyna — who was my undergrad housemate a shocking ten whole years ago — has just moved back to the UK from Poland and is crashing with us til she finds a flat. I have been introducing her to all my favourite TV shows (she loved House of Cards but shockingly does not share my undying love of The West Wing) and Black Books is her favourite so far. So funny, even if you’ve seen every episode a million times.

Swooning over: this flat, which Martyna, Lovely Boyfriend and I will be staying in when we head to Barcelona in six weeks’ time! I am very, very excited.

Planning: how I am going to use my extremely generous prize money from the Edwin Morgan Award. Right now I work three jobs — if you count Edinburgh Vintage, which I do — and I’m trying to think of a way I can give one of them up in order to use my time to write more. Not a bad dilemma to have, really!

Eating lots of: takeaway. Having Martyna around is making me feel 19 again, which is a good thing in all ways except I seem to have reverted to my undergrad diet of pasta, or takeaway if I can’t be bothered. Which may explain why I’ve recently got sick. Dear self, please return to adulthood now!

Feeling: conflicted, my usual autumn feeling. Autumn is my favourite season, I absolutely love it — but it is also a time that I use to steel myself for the long Scottish winter, which more often than not depresses the hell out of me.

Discovering: new places in my writing. I’m working on this brand new writing project that I have told only five people about (my parents, my sister, Lovely Boyfriend and Martyna), and I just can’t quite allow myself to tell anyone else what it is just yet. But it is proving to be hard and surprising and very fun. Watch this space.

Looking at: the trees. One of the things that really makes me depressed about winter is how bald the trees are, and for how long. They seem to be in full leaf for such a short period of time! So I am trying to look up as much as I can right now, and enjoy the last of the foliage.

Wearing: a cardigan I knitted myself! My first attempt! I made it way too big, because I didn’t follow a pattern (I’ve inherited my gran’s contrary knitter gene) and apparently I genuinely don’t know what size I am (I always just assume: huge). But it’s very cosy, actually quite neat and a great colour (this is the wool, in Blueberry). Mainly though, I am just proud I managed to make something that isn’t a hoop scarf for once!

Cooking: very little — see my “takeaway” answer earlier!

Wondering: how my garden will look next Spring. I am already excited to see things start growing again, as the growing season seems to be winding down. Eventually I want my front garden (an all-edible herb garden, except for two clematis which I’m training over my ugly porch and my uglier fence) to be really wild and fragrant and tasty.

Trying out: procrastination. This sounds ridiculous, but I am always doing something productive, even if it isn’t the thing I’m supposed to be doing. I procrastinate from writing by cleaning my house or listing new items on Edinburgh Vintage, or I procrastinate from preparing writing sessions for the Inside/Out Project by scribbling poems. Right now I am trying out real, not-getting-anything-done procrastination… drinking tea without my computer next to me, reading a book I’ve read a million times before, even (whisper it) watching TV. It’s actually rather good.

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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!