Archive for the ‘Getting Started’ Category

Opportunities for writers! Come and work with me!

Friday, September 4th, 2015

Hey! Are you a writer, or would you like to be one? Are you looking for any of the following: guidance, community, self-confidence, advice, resources, mentoring, fun? This post is for you. I’m doing lots of exciting stuff at the moment and I would love for YOU to be part of it. Come along…?

Alison Gibson reading at Storyshop

Write Like A Grrrl!: the new semester
6-week all-female fiction writing course — starts 21st September

See that gorgeous woman in that photo? That’s Alison Gibson, an alumna of Write Like A Grrrl! March. Way back in March, I nagged a somewhat-uncertain Alison into submitting one of her short stories to Edinburgh International Book Festival’s prestigious StoryShop programme. Six months later, I sat among a gaggle of Write Like A Grrrl! alumni watching Alison read that story to a rapt crowd in the EIBF’s Spiegeltent theatre. I don’t mean to take all the credit, obviously. But I’m pretty sure that my nagging — and the support she received from the rest of the WLAG! group — was a big factor in Alison getting onto that stage!

Seriously, Write Like A Grrrl! is magical — I’m biased, yes, but I’m also pretty sure that I aint wrong about this! The course is open to women writers of all stripes, no matter where they are in their writing journey. Some folk start WLAG! with half a novel under their belt… they just need to get it finished. Some folk start having done absolutely no writing, ever… they just want to check it out. And many of the women I meet on WLAG! have had their confidence knocked in one way or another — they want to write but they just can’t find the strength.

Write Like A Grrrl! lunch outing
^ A meeting of just some of the WLAG! alumni — from January, March and May — last month.

WLAG! is all about strength. It’s strength in numbers — you’ll meet eleven other like-minded women writers and trust me, you’ll soon end up down the pub together, geeking out about writing! It’s also about strengthening your routine — making writing a natural part of your life and never a chore — and strengthening the words themselves, making them really sing. To date, women who’ve completed Write Like A Grrrl! Edinburgh have gone on to do things like writing for the Huffington Post, writing for the F Word, winning a major new short story writing prize, and hooking up with a top agent!

You can read some testimonals from the January group (aka ‘the Edinburgh guinea pigs’ — first ever course!) by clicking here. You can read some from the March group by clicking here. And there are some from the May group on this page here.

If all of this sounds good, and you want to find out more, head over to the Write Like A Grrrl! Edinburgh page. The course runs over six consecutive Monday evenings, and costs £72 in total… what’s that? The price of a pair of party shoes? Put on your scruffy old ones and come do some writing instead!

Edinburgh Aug 14

Creatrix Women’s Poetries for the 21st Century: an online Poetry School course
10-week online poetry writing course, open to everyone — goes live 16th September

Just as there are many ways to be a woman, so are there many ways women have written about the female experience. On this course, you’ll look at the ways in which writing by women and about their lives has been traditionally categorised, and find ways to explore and subvert those categorisations in your own writing, exploring within and beyond the dominant narratives and common grounds. You’ll look at feminism, poems that might be called confessional, domesticity, poems about the physical body, the natural world, family, love and relationships. The course will also have an intersectional bent, examining women’s experiences which deal with race, class, sexuality, disability and masculinity. Oh, it’s also taught by me!

‘So, is this women only too?’, you’re thinking? It is not! The course is, in fact, open to all women, all men, and all non-binary people. I’d really like to get a diverse bunch of students onto this course, in fact… men ought to read women, too, after all!

The Book Week Scotland/Inky Fingers Dead Poet Slam: the scary judges, Edith Sitwell, Aphra Behn and Vita Sackville-West
^ Me, Alice Tarbuck and Jane McKie, dressed as great female poets of the past (can you guess which ones?) for the Inky Fingers Dead Poets Slam in 2013

You can read more about the course by clicking through to this interview I did with the Poetry School blog… also contains witches and oversharing about my second collection!

Come along, be inspired by amazing contemporary women poets, find new favourite female writers, meet fellow poets online, and produce new writing of your own that — I hope — moves you out of your comfort zone. The course costs are detailed on the right hand side of this page and the whole thing runs for ten weeks.

Morden Tower
^ Me with one of my own mentors, Kevin Cadwallender, at Morden Tower in 2010

Get mentored by me no matter where you live!: my very own Patreon
Ongoing!

OK… with much trepidation, I finally joined the Patreon crowd. However, I’m not asking you to fund me to write poems. Instead, I thought I could use Patreon to extend my ability to teach and mentor new and stuck creative writers. How?, I hear you cry…

Well, I was thinking: if folk are pledging to pay me a little something every month, then why can’t they be buying some of my teaching time with that money? I have a fair few writers from Edinburgh and the surrounding area who I help with line-by-line edits and feedback on their written work. I then meet them for a coffee, or we have a Skype chat, about how they’re doing. This is work I really, really like and the writers seem to get a lot from it. So, I thought, why not extend that to THE WHOLE WORLD? Patreon has helped me do that!

It works like this: you pledge a little bit each month ($5, or the price of a coffee), and I come to your inbox once per month and give you a swift kick up the butt, writing-wise. You’ll receive a pack of electronic goodies from me that will include writing prompts, exercises, useful articles, pointers and words of wisdom, submission calls, job opportunities, commissions… anything I think might help your writing get started, get good, get published. Pledge a bit more, and each month I’ll give you line-by-line edits on one of the pieces you’re working on… top up your pledge and I’ll look at two or three pieces per month. Pledge a little more, and we can have regular Skype chats to see how you’re doing and discuss how you can grow and improve. And so on. It’s a pay-what-you-can mentoring scheme, basically!

I only just set it up, and I haven’t entirely got the hang of it yet, and because I’m British it’s all a bit too much like marching up to people and asking them for money for my liking. So even if you’re not interested in pledging right now, I’d super appreciate it if you’d help me promote it by sharing my Patreon link on Twitter, Facebook, your blog… wherever, really! Thank you!

I hope some of you will join me on these adventures! As always, if you have any questions just drop me a line to claire@onenightstanzas.com or head over to @onenightstanzas on Twitter!

*

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!

Some writing advice… from my gran.

Wednesday, April 28th, 2010

My late maternal grandmother was one of those seriously formidable northern women who smoked like a chimney, swore like a stevedore and always called a spade a spade. She also loved to dole out sayings, proverbs and advice like doses of medicine, as so many grandmothers do. I was recently writing a poem about her, and about her propensity for advice-giving, and realised that a lot of her ‘life advice’ also makes pretty good writing advice. See what you think.

Don’t put all your eggs in one basket.
This is a saying all grans use, I think — and plenty of other people besides. But it was the saying that got me thinking about writing this post. Ever since I started taking control of my own future and deciding what to do with my life, this saying has been floating around in the back of my mind, and it’s something all poets need to consider. Basically, don’t think you can rely on poetry to pay your bills — you can’t put all your eggs into poetry’s basket because it just doesn’t have the space! If you’re serious about writing poetry and sticking at it, you need to realise that some of your eggs need to go elsewhere — you’ll probably need to spend some of your time doing something other than writing in order to keep a roof over your head. Sad but true. (More on this here, by the way.)

Fine words will butter no parsnips.
This was a saying my gran was fond of, and one I always found rather weird and confusing as a child! Now I understand how adamant my grandmother was about honesty, plain speaking, and not ‘putting on airs’ — a good attitude to have towards your writing. The voice you use should be your own… all too often I see young poets attempting to emulate their literary heroes and use voices that clearly don’t really belong to them. Don’t use fine words if they’re not yours. Speaking as someone else will do your work no favours.

Rome wasn’t built in a day.
Another popular saying and an obvious one for young writers. The need to progress, get better, get published and get on with it is really strong in less experienced writers — getting a book out into the world as soon as you can seems utterly imperative (I know, I’ve been there myself). But it’s better to take your time and make sure your work is as good as it can be before you start pushing onwards to the next stage. Don’t feel rushed into submitting to magazines if you’ve only written one or two poems you’re properly pleased with; don’t scrape a pamphlet together without making sure you’re totally cool with a) what’s going into it and b) the fact that heaps of people are going to see it. Don’t try and build your poetic Rome in a day. Take it easy.

You’ve been brought up in the bottle and seen nothing but the cork.
My grandmother — like most of the women in my family — was a determined and ambitious woman who didn’t believe in waiting in for opportunity to walk up to the front door and knock. To her, waiting for life to happen to you was not an option. She was all about getting out there into the world and attacking it head-on! For me, this saying suggests that you need to get off your butt and go have some life experiences, particularly if you want to be a half-decent writer. After all, how can you write about life, the universe and everything if you haven’t seen any of it? For me, this also applies to books. If you’ve only ever read one poet’s work or one type of novel, you’ve been brought up in a literary bottle. Get out of there! Get thee to a library!

One man’s rubbish is another man’s treasure.
In other words, not everyone is going to like your poetry. There will always be someone who comes along and tries to pick holes in your stuff. Don’t take it personally — take it professionally. Appreciate and accept the criticism. For every reader who comes along and thinks your stuff is rubbish, I guarantee there’ll be another one out there somewhere willing to argue that it’s treasure. If you never stop reading, writing and working to improve your stuff, rubbish ratio should dwindle and shrink in time.

The devil makes work for idle hands.
My gran was always doing something with her hands — a trait I in particular have inherited from her. She was an expert seamstress and made everything from full three-piece suits to wedding dresses; and when she wasn’t rattling up garments on the sewing machine she was knitting, doing embroidery, cooking, assaulting a crossword puzzle, etc. Procrastination just didn’t figure in her universe and I think if you’d explained the concept to her, she’d have given you a lecture on how it was some new-fangled invention that should be done away with. She’s right of course — we’ve all built, bought and acquired so many procrastination devices for ourselves that it’s a wonder we ever get anything done. So next time you’re playing computer games or vegging in front of the TV, think — idle hands. Pick up a pen and paper. Write instead.

I’d be interested to hear your handy sayings and proverbs, particularly if you relate them to writing… but I’d also be interested in hearing about your grandmothers! I think grandmothers are the coolest — they should run the world!

(Photo from captainslack)

Don’t forget to visit The Read This Store, and its sister store, Edinburgh Vintage!

Subscribe to ONS! Add to Technorati Favorites

Useful advice from writers and editors.

Saturday, September 27th, 2008

For those of you who have just arrived, this is an advice blog. I use it to help young and confused writers with everything from writing a cover letter and submitting to magazines to protecting their work from copyright theft and dealing with rejection. However, I’m not the only one out there who wants to help you guys with your writing, reading and publishing… so I’ve been scouring books, magazines, blogs and sites to find the best advice from poets, writers and industry insiders. Check it out!

On writing and publishing:

“More often than not in poetry I find difficulty to be gratuitous and show-offy and camouflaging, experimental to a kind of insane degree—a difficulty which really ignores the possibility of having a sensible reader.” - Billy Collins

“The impulse to write has to do with making something, with capturing, recording, preserving, honouring, saving…” - Sharon Olds

“I wish I was better at ignoring praise and criticism in equal measure. I’d be a better poet.” - Anonymous, from Magma magazine.

“The first draft of anything is shit” - Ernest Hemingway.

“Follow the submission guidelines. To the letter.” - from Happenstance Press‘ “Dos and Don’ts”.

“Keep resending! I had one poem accepted on the 15th attempt.” - Tim Love

“Today there are thousands of poetry blogs – ranging from the completely serious to the completely not. It provides for a more effective & diverse way for poets to discuss matters of direct interest to one another without going through the funneling influence of an academic review process… This is really an absolute necessity.” - Ron Silliman

“Sooner or later, if you don’t give up and you have some measurable amount of ability or talent or luck, you get published.” - Neil Gaiman

“Be ambitious for your poems. Aim to make them better and better and better. As good as you can get them in a lifetime.” - from Happenstance Press‘ “Dos and Don’ts”.

“Poems are not easy to start, and they’re not easy to finish… But I’d say the hardest part is not writing.” - Billy Collins

“f I had to give young writers advice, I would say don’t listen to writers talking about writing or themselves.” - Lillian Hellman

“There’s little point sending to [major book publishers] unless you have won some major competitions and/or have appeared in some major magazines. Even then, it may well be better to try a smaller publisher first.” - Tim Love

“Don’t give up hope. If you believe in your writing, keep on reading and developing your skills. Keep on building your profile. Spread your enthusiasm.” - Chris Hamilton-Emery of Salt Publishing.

“Once it’s done, to put it away until you can read it with new eyes… When you’re ready, pick it up and read it, as if you’ve never read it before. If there are things you aren’t satisfied with as a reader, go in and fix them as a writer: that’s revision.” - Neil Gaiman

On poetry readings:

“Turn up at writers events. Be seen. There are quite a few free or reasonable events. Be seen buying books!” - Sally Evans of Poetry Scotland.

“[Poetry readings provide] companionship. And pleasure: musical pleasure, in hearing it… And recognition: ‘Someone else has felt what I’ve felt.’ And surprise: ‘I never thought of that.’” - Sharon Olds

“At a poetry reading you get one shot at it and it’s never enough.” - Jim Murdoch

“I hate when poets over-read [at poetry readings]. Anyone can time themselves reading (including intros and asides). It does them no good as the audience become first bored then annoyed. Better to leave them wanting a little more.” - Anonymous, from Magma magazine.

“It’s an unnatural act, getting up in front of a crowd of people. It’s what a lot of nightmares are made of, whether your pants have fallen down or not.” - Billy Collins

“In the States they have a term, Poetry Sluts. These are people who leave after they’ve read their own poems and aren’t polite enough to stay for the others [at the reading].” - Anonymous, from Magma magazine.

On dealing with your fellow poets:

“It’s hard to give out negative comments…without generating a lot of ad hominen tsouris [without sounding prejudicial and causing upset] in return. There are so many good books of poetry, that I see very little need…to focus on the negative.” - Ron Silliman

“Don’t give loudly critical opinions of other poets. It’s not possible to be objective, as we’re all competitors in some respect. And it sets you up for a helping of the same.” - Anonymous, from Magma magazine.

“The world of poetry can be a bear pit, and like any industry it is competitive and has moments of confrontation and even dirty tricks. Be prepared to take some knocks along the way.” - Chris Hamilton-Emery of Salt Publishing

“Never write ill of anyone. It will come home to roost.” - Sally Evans of Poetry Scotland

“The writer’s job is not to judge, but to seek to understand.” - Ernest Hemingway

“Courtesy gets your name remembered. You want your name to be remembered. You want to be a person, not just print on a page.” - from Happenstance Press‘ “Dos and Don’ts”.

“It’s so easy to sneer, so easy… [but] much better to just get on and DO something, WRITE something.” - Rachel Fox

Other stuff to read:
Find more advice from Ernest Hemingway at The Positivity Blog.
There are more words of wisdom from Ron Silliman here, and on his brilliant blog.
Billy Collins offers up more poetry know-how here and here.

 Subscribe to ONS! Add to Technorati Favorites