Yet more reasons to Write Like A Grrrl!: January 2016 semester now booking…

December 2nd, 2015

Audre Lorde
(Photo credit)

You all know by now that I teach on the innovative and exciting all-female writing course Write Like A Grrrl!, right? We had such a good year in 2015… up here in Edinburgh I ran four semesters and every single one sold out, and things were much the same in London and Manchester, too. This summer we also cooked up our Next Step course, for women who’ve completed ‘original’ WLAG! and fancy a new challenge. (That has also gone pretty excellently.) A lot of words have been read and written and a lot of barriers-to-writing have been overcome; a lot of tea has been drunk and a lot of cake (I mean a lot) has been eaten. And now I’m ready to start all over again in 2016!

WLAG! Edinburgh begins its new semester on Monday 18th January, and places are already getting booked up. There’s only space for twelve women on each course, so I suggest you get moving! If you click through to the booking site, you’ll see that you have the option to pay a deposit now and the rest later. Or you can also buy a space on WLAG! Edinburgh for a friend for Christmas.

Now convinced yet? Here are some (honest-to-god totally real and undoctored — really!) very nice testimonials from women who completed the most recent WLAG! course in September 2015:

What was most useful? Checking in every week even if [our writing] didn’t go well. That block-by-block approach is really good. And I like that you don’t have to share work yet.

Do it! Amazing value for money, really great to have a space for writing every week in your life, and a brilliant support network. Claire is a great tutor. Plus, I like that it’s variable: it can work for you whether you have small or big goals for [your writing].

I would highly recommend WLAG! It’s a very friendly environment and a great motivation to just start writing. Before, I’d started losing focus with my writing, but now I feel confident to keep going!

It’s amazing being able to talk and share stuff with other women who have a lot of the same experiences, it’s been so productive. Definitely do it! I was totally new to creative writing before, and I had a bit of anxiety about being a bit of a fraud. But I’ve found everything to be so inclusive, totally without judgement, and so as a result I’ve been able to learn and develop — and most importantly, to actually start a writing habit. Also: Claire! Best ever.

It was useful hearing about what everyone is doing and that everyone faces common challenges — [writing] doesn’t come totally naturally to everyone and there is comfort in that. I feel optimistic, energised, and more knowledgeable now.

Join! I think it’s a great course, and unique in its approach to creative writing. There’s loads of practical and very helpful advice to apply to existing work, as well as helping to generate new ideas.

Absolutely do it! Claire is a brilliant, inspiring, encouraging tutor. In only 6 weeks, I feel that my confidence has really increased. The things I’ve learned have made me feel excited about taking on my next project(s)!

What more do you need? Get over there and book already! All women — and I mean all women — are welcome!

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You can now get more content from me — and help me pay the bills! — by supporting my Patreon. Get a monthly writing support pack for just $5 a month! It’s like buying me a pint.
You can also support me by checking out the many sweet and sparkly things at Edinburgh Vintage, my Etsy-based store for jewellery and small antiques.
If you just want to say hi, you can find me on Twitter, or email me via claire[at]onenightstanzas.com. You’ll get a fairly good sense of the kind of person I am by checking out my Tumblr.

Edinburgh Vintage Christmas gift guide.. and Black Friday extended sale!

November 28th, 2015

Hey friends!

If you haven’t noticed by now that I run a small business, then I strongly suspect you’ve been secretly living on the moon. Being a writer is great and all, but I am a firm believer that no self employed girl should be without a healthy side-business. Mine is Edinburgh Vintage, a small-but-perfectly-formed online shop that supplies vintage and antique jewellery and collectables to suit just about every taste.

I hate to tell you this, but it’s nearly December, which means that if you haven’t yet started your Christmas shopping, you should at least be planning it! And it just so happens that I am having an extended BLACK FRIDAY SALE (I know, like everyone in the world) over at Edinburgh Vintage. You get 20% off if you use the code SPARKLYTHINGS at checkout.

Here are just a few of the goodies on offer in the Edinburgh Vintage store:

Christmas gift ideas at Edinburgh Vintage
Everyone likes coffee, right? Writers certainly do. This coffee bean pendant is hallmarked sterling silver and, I reckon, a good unisex gift.

Christmas gift ideas at Edinburgh Vintage
Or, if you’re after something a little more classy, you could go for this art deco style pendant, which is also hallmarked sterling silver, and inlaid with three colours of amber, and a little triangle of Whitby jet.

Christmas gift ideas at Edinburgh Vintage
This wee daisy ring is hallmarked sterling silver too, and inlaid with faceted amethysts.

Christmas gift ideas at Edinburgh Vintage
Everyone needs a sterling silver charm bracelet: it’s a classic jewellery staple. I have a couple in the shop at the moment, but this one’s a particularly nice example.

Christmas gift ideas at Edinburgh Vintage
And of course, once you’ve got the jewellery, you need to keep it tidy! Here’s a kitty

Christmas gift ideas at Edinburgh Vintage
…or you could go for an elegant swan.

Christmas gift ideas at Edinburgh Vintage
Maybe you’re more of an earrings person?

Christmas gift ideas at Edinburgh Vintage
Or a sparkly brooch person? (Who isn’t a sparkly brooch person?)

Christmas gift ideas at Edinburgh Vintage
I’m rather in love with the selection of cross stitch pieces I have in at the moment. They include this black one

Christmas gift ideas at Edinburgh Vintage
…and this little tiny gold one.

Christmas gift ideas at Edinburgh Vintage
Or for something completely different: something to keep your mince pies in?

Christmas gift ideas at Edinburgh Vintage
Another one for the cat fans! (Sterling silver, natch!)

Christmas gift ideas at Edinburgh Vintage
…and again!

Christmas gift ideas at Edinburgh Vintage
…and again! (These are Italian hand-painted terracotta!)

Christmas gift ideas at Edinburgh Vintage
Maybe you like the whole earring thing, but you need clip-ons? I have plenty of those, too!

Christmas gift ideas at Edinburgh Vintage
Also clip ons, but with a bit more Christmas sparkle!

Christmas gift ideas at Edinburgh Vintage
Or a little something nautical? This tiny pin can also be converted into a pendant!

Christmas gift ideas at Edinburgh Vintage
I just really like this little commitment ring.

Christmas gift ideas at Edinburgh Vintage
And everyone needs a good show-stopper of a sparkly brooch at Christmas!

Happy shopping! And remember to use SPARKLYTHINGS at checkout!

In conversation with Sepideh Jodeyri

November 9th, 2015

Sepideh Jodeyri
Photo taken by Mehran Haddadi, used with permission from Sepideh Jodeyri.

A couple of weeks ago, I was very lucky to be invited to meet the Iranian poet Sepideh Jodeyri. You can read more about her remarkable life and work below, but the short version is, she’s an Iranian poet who’s been forced into exile in Europe. In order to keep writing poetry and literary criticism freely, and without censorship, she had to move to Italy, and then to Prague. Scottish PEN were able to invite her to Scotland for a brief visit at the end of October, to talk about her life in writing, and to perform at a few events, including Shore Poets October.

Sepideh Jodeyri at Shore Poets October (9)Sepideh Jodeyri at Shore Poets October (9)
Sepideh at Shore Poets.

As part of her visit, Sepideh kindly agreed to record a podcast with Scottish PEN, in which she talked about the tradition of reading and writing poetry in Iran, about her own experiences as a poet, contest judge and literary critic, and about some of the problems faced by writers living in exile. I feel privileged to have been invited to be part of this podcast, too — I spoke about the ways in which living in Scotland is a privilege for writers; but also about the ways in which we can still extend freedom of expression to include better opportunities for minority writers, especially transgender writers.

You can listen to the podcast, which was ably chaired by the brilliant Sasha de Buyl, here.

In the podcast, Sepideh mentions that very few of her poems are currently published in English. I offered to rectify this by featuring a translation of one of her pieces right here on ONS. Here’s the piece she sent me. At the bottom is a bit of biographical info, to provide just a snapshot of Sepideh’s amazing writing life so far. Enjoy… and if you want to support the work of Scottish PEN, you can start by following their Twitter, or you can become a member at their site.

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Fire, take a step…
A poem by Sepideh Jodeyri
Translated by Sholeh Wolpe

Saturday:
The newspapers will read:
That day

you will put your letters

in front of a gun

and then,

fire; take a step.

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Sunday:
It’s hot,

the sun

shoves us away

and we know by heart

the farthest color in the rainbow.

Fire; then a step. 

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Wednesday:
(The newspapers will read:)
It’s hot, 

and God

shoves us away.

It’s as if your letters 

see double;

as if

fourteen colors?!

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Saturday:
It’s hot, 

the letters 

shove us away.
Fire; then a step
towards the war!

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Sepideh Jodeyri is an Iranian poet, literary critic, translator and journalist. She has published numerous books in Iran, including five poetry collections, a collection of short stories and an anthology of poems. Her articles and interviews have been published in Iranian newspapers and magazines as well as European ones. She has also translated poetry books by Edgar Allan Poe and Jorge Luis Borges as well as the graphic novel, Blue is the warmest color by Julie Maroh into Persian.

In 2008, Sepideh founded the Khorshid Prize, a feminist literary prize for Iranian women writers. The award included prize money equivalent to around 1,050 euros. The Khorshid Prize ran for four years until it was declared banned after Jodeyri left the country in 2011. The chairwoman who took over the prize, and one of their sponsors, were subsequently interrogated by Iran’s intelligence service agents.

In the aftermath of the highly contested 2009 presidential election in Iran, which resulted in the re-election of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad (2009-2013), Sepideh spoke publicly in support of the Iranian pro-democracy movement (known as Iranian Green Movement). Shortly after, her works were banned in Iran, and some of her close friends put in prison, forcing her to leave the country and move to Italy in February 2011. She stayed for two years in Italy as the guest writer of ICORN. Sepideh, her husband and her son currently live in Prague, Czech Republic.

Sepideh Jodeyri at Shore Poets October (9)
Sepideh at Shore Poets.

My involvement in this podcast was made possible by Creative Scotland’s Open Project Fund, who have allocated a small grant to allow me to develop my work during the period January 2015 to February 2016. Thank you, Creative Scotland!

Procrastination Station #147: Halloween edition

October 31st, 2015

Lake District bank holiday '15

Happy Halloween!

To accuse intelligent, independent or pleasure-seeking women of immorality and corruption is as old as Eve herself, of course. To prey on the vulnerable to assert your own authority is just as ancient. To smear your own fears about female sexuality, sin, and insubordination across the women around you is just an extension of this two-pronged attack.

This candid article about our traditional image of the broomstick-riding witch is just brilliant. Thanks to Alice for sharing.

Woman convicted of witchcraft gets a retrial, 300 years after the fact (thanks, Russell!).

These old names for herbs are such good poem-fodder.

Old women villains are especially scary because, historically, the most powerful person in a child’s life was the mother. “Children do have a way of splitting the mother figure into … the evil mother — who’s always making rules and regulations, policing your behavior, getting angry at you — and then the benevolent nurturer — the one who is giving and protects you, makes sure that you survive.”

Why are witches always old?

A few witchy rituals and omens for your Halloween night!

You know that garbage people spout about how humans are superior to animals because only we know about death? That’s cobblers, and crows prove it.

The first Halloween at Dad’s house was the closest I’ve come in my life to having a wish come true. Everything my brother and I talked about was there, made real, in Dad’s yard. The stuff ran up the tree, across the porch, nearly encroaching into his neighbor’s yard. There was Dracula, sitting up in his coffin, his eyes flicking open and shut. Frankenstein froze mid-step on the corner of the porch supported by fishing wire. Bats and cats and pumpkins adorned the mailbox, the flagpole, the base of the tree. My brother and I were blown away.

This touching story about one kid’s relationship with his dad, as told through Halloween decorations, is absolutely lovely.

I would like to go and live at the Bealtaine Cottage, please. Or better, build my own.


Required reading for Halloween: Anne Sexton.


THE ORIGINAL SKELETON ARMY


Just a damn fine Halloween tune.

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You can now get more content from me — and help me pay the bills! — by supporting my Patreon. Get a monthly writing support pack for just $5 a month! It’s like buying me a pint.
You can also support me by checking out the many sweet and sparkly things at Edinburgh Vintage, my Etsy-based store for jewellery and small antiques.
If you just want to say hi, you can find me on Twitter, or email me via claire[at]onenightstanzas.com. You’ll get a fairly good sense of the kind of person I am by checking out my Tumblr.

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

October 30th, 2015

Vegan pumpkin pie!
This post has appeared at One Night Stanzas every Halloween since 2012. It’s now a ONS tradition!. But it’s Halloween, so you need a pumpkin pie recipe… and if it’s vegan, EVEN BETTER.

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

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

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

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

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

Vegan pumpkin pie!

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

Vegan pumpkin pie!

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

Vegan pumpkin pie!

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

Vegan pumpkin pie!

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

Vegan pumpkin pie!

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

Vegan pumpkin pie!

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

Vegan pumpkin pie!

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

Happy Halloween!

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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!

Guest Post by Sally Evans: “Elizabeth Burns, A Friendship.”

October 26th, 2015

Sally Evans and Elizabeth Burns
Eye to eye: Sally Evans and Elizabeth Burns, in Edinburgh in the 1990s.

I’m not sure whether I first met Lizzie Burns in Edinburgh at the First of May, Women Live, or the early School of Poets. Certainly I met her in all those milieus and whatever the circumstances we were soon good friends. It was the early 1980s.

Lizzie saw me as a feminist writer, while I saw her as one. She liked my young children and the way I tried to care for them, in addition to writing, and, I expect, my curiosity about what was going on. I was interested in her Scottish background, her poetry, and her feminist and bookselling friends. She was nearly twenty years younger than me, or I older, but that was never mentioned or indeed noticed. She was quiet and shy, quite the opposite of me, and with her quiet voice wouldn’t read her poems at events. She already had her characteristic grasp of phrase, together with a strong interest in people and their characters. We met in town and visited each other’s homes, and once I visited her parents’ home at Corstorphine. We shared new writing and gossip about our mutual friends, and went to cafes, Women Live events, School of Poets sessions in the Tweeddale Court building of the Poetry Library, etc. We were by no means exclusively friends with each other but we came to know each other very well.

The Poem for Peace was a joint project between us. Peace activists were prominent among the young people in Edinburgh and we capitalised on the number of poets one could then find lurking in Edinburgh places and pubs, by concocting a communal poem to be written by these poets on four rolls of plain wallpaper, which we lugged round from the Sandy Bells to Rose Street, the old Traverse building, and such places until we had 120 poets’ contributions, from the most eminent Edinburgh poets to the most casual, musicians, songwriters and more poets, all in holograph, scrawled on the wallpaper rolls. We laboriously typed out the MSS and submitted it to Canongate Publishers, then run by Stephanie Wolfe Murray, who kept it just long enough to send it up for a possible Arts Council grant, and then returned it, commenting that it was one of the few books of poetry that would actually sell. We considered publishing it ourselves but this was well before the days of diehard – I hadn’t met Ian then nor had Lizzie met Alan, though these events in our lives were to come very soon.

My marriage had been clearly unstable for a long time, although my children were young, and eventually my husband moved out of our house, at first into Lizzie’s old room in her flat in London Street – when she moved to her house in Tollcross.
A visit to the Lancaster area with my kids and Lizzie followed. My father, ill in old age, had vacated his house, at that point temporarily I think. We had a country holiday and Lizzie went off to visit Haworth on her own one day, coming back laden with research on the Brontës.
Changes happen fast in the cities and soon enough Ian and I had joined forces and were setting up Old Grindles Bookshop (which opened in 1987), while Lizzie’s interest the First of May, the left-wing co-operative bookshop, ran itself into the ground after ten successful years.

By 1997, when poems by Lizzie appeared in the first issues of Poetry Scotland, we were both much busier with other things and we saw less of each other, but were still in touch. Soon Lizzie and Alan Rice were calling into Grindles which was by now our Edinburgh daytime home. Lizzie next became a new mother, to her own and everyone’s delight. I went to a happy welcoming event for the baby in a hall near the Pleasance, where Hamish Henderson blessed the baby – no surprise that Alan and Lizzie knew Hamish well.

Next time I saw Lizzie, it was in Lancaster, where they had moved for Alan’s work, and where she now settled to a life of writing and bringing up her two daughters.
In 1999 we published her book The Gift of Light. (The Arts Council wanted us to call it Dragons in the Car Park, but we resisted.) Lizzie didn’t like Ian’s carefully chosen bold cover design, so we substituted a printed marbling design which filled the gap, but didn’t please anyone particularly well. Lizzie was an author who found working with publishers rather difficult. This was another effect of her retiring nature. Pamphlets, such as those she made with Galdragon Press, probably suited her better than working with any of her book publishers, Polygon, diehard, Shoestring and lastly again, Polygon
None the less, The Gift of Light showed Elizabeth’s progress, and the sustaining of her sensitive poetic style, and it undoubtedly filled its function as part of her oevre.

Alan and Elizabeth finally decided to get married and had a typically simple and happy wedding party on the beach at North Berwick, with her children in attendance and a private visit to her parents to follow. Here I met one of her potter friends, who was to play a part in her later poetry.
Because Elizabeth didn’t particularly like the internet – which fitted in with her shyness – our relationship had the old-fashioned characteristic of long intervals without being in touch at all. It was a major difference between us, that she was such a private and I such a public person. Yet determination and grit were not lacking in her make-up, for she always knew what she wanted and strove to achieve it.

We still met up after Ian and I moved on to Callander, when her family sometimes called during their trips to Scotland, and practically every year at StAnza where we both had many other friends, Elizabeth in fact being a St Andrews graduate. The first time they called at Callander, Lizzie’s daughters were joking that she couldn’t be called Elizabeth Burns Rice.

I have my own strong links with Lancaster – my family lived near there from my late teen years, my parents died there, & my brother recently bought back our home in Kirkby Lonsdale. Old memories include writing to enquire about a library job at the newly proposed Lancaster University, when the new Librarian, himself only just appointed, wrote back delighted that someone even knew he existed, though he at that time had no prospect of extra staff.

I was in Lancaster this summer when I had a phone call from my husband. Alan had telephoned to tell us of Lizzie’s death and the funeral. I was very shaken up. I had written to her a couple of months back – May or June – and had a small note in reply, which did not mention her illness. She knew I would now often be in Kirkby Lonsdale and the idea was we would meet up in Lancaster or Kirkby Lonsdale fairly soon. The occasion of my letter was her winning a prize in our Tinker’s Heart haibun competition, in which she wrote of her beloved Solway Firth. I had sent her a small card, hand printed by Gordon Chesterman, of Wordsworth’s Lucy poem. I have another copy of it in my kitchen and it’s a constant reminder of Lizzie.

It hadn’t been an active Edinburgh festival for us – the car was getting old, the traffic conditions less favourable within the city – parking had been suspended in some of my regularly used places, and we couldn’t get back to Callander without the car, particularly late at night. I knew she had an exhibition on but didn’t make it along. I did hear someone mention that Elizabeth was ill, but given my recent letter from her, I heard no alarm bells. Meanwhile her husband, daughters, sisters and mother had been supporting her through months of turmoil while she wrote, wrote and wrote.

I remember when John Cargill Thompson was very ill, I asked him, Can’t you write through it? And he replied, Don’t be silly! It struck me then, that the difference between a poet and other kinds of writers is that poets will write through experience, while other writers will not write while they are below par, though they may use their experience afterwards when they consider themselves in a fit state to write. Elizabeth wrote a whole booklet in her last months – Clay, and copies of it were available after her funeral, an event of light, garden flowers and youth, in the substantial Friends Meeting House in Lancaster.

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Sally Evans is a poet, and publisher, editor and blogger of and about poetry. She has three collections of poetry, including The Bees (diehard, 2008). As a Gaelic learner, she has done translations from the Gaelic; she is the translator of the title poem in Christopher Whyte’s Bho Leabhar-Latha Maria Malibran/From the Diary of Maria Malibran (Acair, 2009). She is the editor of Poetry Scotland broadsheet, and lives in Callander, where she hosts the annual Callander Poetry Weekend.

Having spent much of her life in Scotland, Elizabeth Burns lived in Lancaster where she taught creative writing. She published four books and several pamphlets of poetry. Her publications inlcude Held (Polygon, 2010) and The Shortest Days (Galdragon Press, 2008), which won the inaugural Michael Marks Award for Poetry Pamphlets. Elizabeth passed away on 20th August this year.

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Procrastination Station #146

October 16th, 2015

Kendal sunset

First thing’s first: are you wondering why this PS post is shorter than the usual? The answer is, I have moved some of my blog content over to Patreon, which means it’s now behind a (fairly tiny) paywall. Fear not! I will still be posting free content here, but I also need to pay the bills… and you can help. For just $5 per month (around £3!) you can access my monthly writing support pack, read poems and stories of mine that are FOR YOUR EYES ONLY, and download free assignments and resources to help you to write. Sound good? Sign up here!

Alright, now for the good stuff…

Accept the fact that you must change your program. Accept that you have not done enough to support writers of color. Accept that it will take time to rebrand and rebuild trust. Accept that you may not be ready for us. Accept that the passion, fire, and talent of writers of color might burn your program down. Accept that only we can help you rebuild this broken system.

This by Craig Santos Perez, on the white-and-male-ness of MFAs and how they can be fixed, is bloody great.

Here’s a lovely essay by Marlon James, written pre-Booker-Prize-win (yay!), on how writing factored into his decision to keep on living in spite of everything.

As you may already know, I am not usually a huge McSweeney’s fan. However, their Interactive Guide to Ambiguous Grammar is important and excellent and must be read to the end.

There’s a miniature silver ball, a black button, a blue paper clip, a yellow bead, a faded black piece of foam, a blue Lego piece, and the list goes on. Many of them are scuffed and dirty. It is an odd assortment of objects for a little girl to treasure, but to Gabi these things are more valuable than gold.

The girl who gets gifts from birds is a beautiful true story, and I may have to turn it into a poem.

11 things you probably didn’t know about the Brontes.

Incredible literary jack-o-lanterns. Are these even real?! The Hunger Games one. I just. OK.

The next day, I noticed a scratch. Surely we have the technology to fix this. Maybe some buffing process? 1 week later, it looks like it’s been scraped on the ground. Observing friend’s wedding rings, they don’t look perfect and shiny at all. They look like they’ve been through some small war.
Just for curiosity, I enquired how much one might be able to sell a slightly used, but well loved Platinum wedding ring on the open market. From my limited search, I may be able to recoup as much as 20% of what I paid. If I melt it down, I could sell it for $130.
If the ring isn’t worth much in the first place, why is it important to spend tons of money to some company for a token piece of rareish metal that wraps around a particular finger? It’s stupid.

As the CEO of an (infinitely affordable) online jewellery store, I approve this message.

The brilliant PANK are closing their doors, which is super sad. BUT they are still open for submissions for a short time!

The great Amy Key wrote a response to the BBC’s “Poetry Season” — well, it’s more a list of demands, really. And it’s great.


I love the Tales of Mere Existence, and “Procrastination” just went to the top of my list.


The Dark Horse turned 20 this year! Warning: this video features my stupid face.


I may be just a tad obsessed with this ethereal cover of Fleetwood Mac’s ‘Landslide.’

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!

Opportunities for writers! Come and work with me!

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!

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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!

Making a manuscript: changing the record

August 31st, 2015

This post is the fourth of a series I’m writing about the creation of my second poetry collection (the second post is here and the third is here). I am grateful to Creative Scotland for financial assistance from their Open Project Fund, which is allowing me to create this manuscript.

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So, I mentioned two posts ago that I was, for a while, struggling to write about anything other than my grandfather’s death earlier this year. It wasn’t necessarily a bad thing: clearly the poems I wrote in the spring just needed to be written, and written right then. But after a while, I got the feeling that I was essentially just writing the same poem-story over and over again in different ways. I realised that a lot of what I was doing was poetry-as-therapy… which has its place, but not when you’re facing the challenge of writing a whole poetry collection manuscript in a year.

I realised I needed a change of scene.

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I don’t have loads of cash, but I wanted to find somewhere I could go that would definitely give me plenty of inspiration to write poems, and which might also, just maybe, be sunny and warm.

Cornwall, it turned out, was the place.

There were plenty of inspiring landscapes…

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…but perhaps more importantly, there were lots of weird little quirks and oddments, the kind of things I generally like to insert into poems. I mean, what sorts of stories lurk behind these places and things?

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Perhaps best of all: Cornwall is witch country. I have begun to get very interested in folktales about witches — since my visit to see Long Meg, I think — and even more interested in the real-life (miserably terrible) stories of women who were accused of witchcraft. Boscastle, which is just a few miles away from where we were staying, is home to the UK’s only witchcraft museum… AND it has a bookshop. Needless to say, I was in my element.

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Happily, it seems my change of scene worked. While I was away, I wrote a good few poems, some of which I’m happy with. They’re about things like the surfers I witnessed, joyfully running towards the beach as a storm came in, while everyone else ran for cover; about things like that weird feeling you get when you’re staying in someone else’s house — freedom and isolation and out-of-place-ness all at once. I’m also planning a fair few poems about interesting women who were once accused of being witches. Watch this space.

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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 #145

August 28th, 2015

A trip to Askham

How long has it been since I last did one of these?! I’m sorry, my friends. Feast your eyes on this handful of goodies…

In the US and the UK alike, the dominant culture means middle/upper class white people, like myself, and if I know poetry culture round these parts, very likely yourself too. And it doesn’t take much research [...] to see that poetry in these islands have a serious problem acknowledging and supporting work by black and minority ethnic poets. The message runs: white people have won prizes and are taught on the curriculum, thus are culturally central, thus constitute the category ‘good poetry’, thus white people make the prize lists [ed – the Forward Prize has done sterling work in this regard as of late]. White people are the default and will be met with little/no critical objection; BAME poets are other, their presence requires justification. If they write in a way that does not fit within the existing poetic norm, they are very easily ignored, filed away in pre-made and ill-fitting categories that diminish their intellectual work; note how much easier it is for academic white poets to pick apart these aesthetic prejudices. I truly don’t imagine, however, that these decisions are made deliberately (that would be relatively easy to deal with); they seem to uncritically follow the kind of social imperatives that (at one extreme) make us call human beings seeking refuge from international warfare ‘swarms of immigrants’. It takes a huge and conscious effort to identify and expunge ourselves of the reflex prejudices our culture wants to imprint on us; note, for example, the way the term ‘identity politics’ has been appropriated as a means of dismissing the very discussion of those complex and fraught relations.

If you read nothing else in this post, read Dave Coates’ review of Claudia Rankine’s Citizen.

Then, if you need cheering up, you can read Every Scottish Novel Ever (it’s good).

There’s a new literary journal in town: it’s helmed by women, its first issue is out now, and it’s open for submissions as of October. Introducting Banshee, everyone!

Gretchen Rubin’s tips for actually getting writing done are pretty good. She seems to’ve plagiarised most of them from Write Like A Grrrl! workshops, though!

Having looted and hoarded some food and filled their bathtubs with water, people would hunker down in their houses, creeping out into the backyards if they dared because their toilets would no longer flush. The lights would go out. Communication systems would break down. What next? Open a can of dog food, eat it, then eat the dog, then wait for the authorities to restore order. But the authorities — lacking transport — would be unable to do this.
Other authorities would take over. These would at first be known as thugs and street gangs, then as warlords. They’d attack the barricaded houses, raping, pillaging and murdering. But soon even they would run out of stolen food. It wouldn’t take long — given starvation, festering garbage, multiplying rats, and putrefying corpses — for pandemic disease to break out. It will quickly become apparent that the present world population of six and a half billion people is not only dependent on oil, but was created by it: humanity has expanded to fill the space made possible to it by oil, and without that oil it would shrink with astounding rapidity.

Margaret Atwood’s vision of an oil-less world is bleak, but yaknow, not necessarily fiction. Go read the whole thing, it’s frightening and brilliant.

Stop self-promoting, authors! Because shut up. Also, it doesn’t work.

Here’s a list of poetry contests with deadlines coming up soon. You’re welcome.

Competition for even the most menial jobs is fierce. I’ve applied up and down the coast, Victoria to Nanaimo. Colleges, pharmacies, hardware stores, hospitals, clinics, tourist information centres, campgrounds, airports, BC Ferries, administrative positions, landscaping companies, a paper-shredding business, liquor stores, a bookstore, consignment clothing shops, homestays, magazines, ad agencies, radio stations, newspapers, and technical writing positions are a few that come to mind.
I quality for Welfare Wednesdays at the special store where on the last Wednesday of each month, food’s sold at extra low prices. I qualify for Income Assistance (aka Welfare) but have been too determined to support myself to apply. After all, I do have a career. It just doesn’t pay.

A very eye-opening article on why having a writing ‘career’ doesn’t necessarily mean having any money at all.

Warsan Shire - "For Women Who Are Difficult To Love" from MovingOn on Vimeo.

A beautiful poem by Warsan Shire


Here’s the always-excellent Roxane Gay giving advice for female creatives.


An extract from the aforementioned Citizen, by Claudia Rankine. Amazing.


You’ll probably have heard about Amandla Stenberg being awesome all over the internet, but if you haven’t yet watched her video about hair politics, you really should.


I was lucky enough to work with Maryhill Integration Network and media co-op on the Making It Home project: now they’ve teamed up again to make this great short film with a group of refugee men who’ve settled in Scotland.


Would you like to be frightened out of your wits by the amount of stuff we STILL WASTE even after recycling? Watch The Story Of Stuff. No really. Watch it.


Rethink the way you talk to artists! Like, now!


And finally, Serena Williams’ take on Beyonce’s 7/11 is just. superb.

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!