In 2013, I…

December 30th, 2013

Happy 2013

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

In 2013, I…

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

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

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

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

* baked a lot of stuff.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

* started the serious work of putting together my manuscript.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The year in photos…

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Chilling in Oslo…

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…but warming up again in Barcelona!

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27th birthday cupcakes!

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

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

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

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

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

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

Goldenacre Path.  My new neighbourhood!
My new neighbourhood!

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Sparkly stuff goes live at Edinburgh Vintage!

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

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The thesis-beast: SLAYED!

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FINISHED IN TIME FOR CHRISTMAS!!! …just.

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

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

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

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

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

Things I Love Thursday #86: Christmas in Edinburgh

December 26th, 2013

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Happy holidays, all!

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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 #122: Christmas edition!

December 24th, 2013

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I haven’t done a PS post in ages, but I have still been saving up cool and interesting links to share with all of you. So this one goes out to all the folks who’re stuck in work on Christmas Eve. Have a cheeky gander at this stuff and the time will fly by! Merry Christmas!

The conversation about money (or privilege) is the one we never have. Why? I think it’s the Marie Antoinette syndrome: those with privilege and luck don’t want the riffraff knowing the details. After all, if ‘those people” understood the differences in our lives, they might revolt. Or, God forbid, not see us as somehow more special, talented and/or deserving than them.

If you read nothing else in this post, read this: on writers, money and lies.

Buildings inspired by books.

You pick one store. Make it an indie. Maybe the one closest to your house. Make sure they have a website. Make sure your book is available on their website. Make sure the store is willing to ship books to customers. Link to your book through the store’s page. Tell the store you are doing this. If you have a big enough following and sales result, they will surely notice in a hurry anyhow. Even if not a single customer finds them through you, they will be happy. They will be happy with you.

from There Are Exactly Zero Defensible Reasons For Authors To Link To Amazon. Teaching you how — and why, though you probably already know — your should team up with indies and save bookselling!

An old train transformed into a bookshop. Yep.

Intellectual Lisa, with her penchant for museums and libraries, is an outlier in her family, in her whole town. But her basic brain power could easily have come from Marge. Although, unlike her mother, Lisa would never put her dreams aside. (Oh, Marge, your life of quite desperation depresses me so. How could you throw so much away, no matter how hot that Mr Plow jacket is?) How did Lisa manage to escape the domestic trap that ensnared her bright, brittle mother?

I am Lisa Simpson. You are Lisa Simpson. We are all Lisa Simpson.

Why we abandon books.

As a child, the island seemed so vast and full of wondrous possibility. Today, it’s just another beautiful, yet remote location. I know there are no mythical beasts tromping through its forests. The people living across the bay on Sandy Hook Drive are just normal folk with lives that are probably as mundane as mine. There is no more mystery, and very few days dedicated to discovery.

On wonder and creativity: There’s Bigfoot in Them Woods

This gorgeous e-book is beautifully illustrated with portraits of, and full of facts about, amazing women who’ve changed how we look at the world.

The images on this page would be unsatisfying to most horror fans, as the hallmark of modern zombie films is now life-like, over-the-top gore. It will serve us better, though, to first explore the origins of this time-honored creature that began as an obscure Haitian folk myth but is now one of our most revisited horror archetypes. It may first seem that history has little connection to our fictional flesh-eating friends, but they have complex origins, too little discussed and too often ignored by historians and horror fans alike: here we hope to provide the first step in the exploration of the phenomenon.

Find out where the shuffling, blood-spattered Walking Dead zombie really came from in Haiti & the Truth about Zombies.

The twenty most spell-binding university libraries in the world.

I find it interesting that the two male heroes of The Hunger Games are so different from one another, and that they embody such different ways of being men. While Gale is the character we might typically think of in a story like this one—a story with plenty of violence, high stakes, and sacrifice—Peeta is not.

This article has uber-spoilers, so if you haven’t yet finished reading The Hunger Games trilogy, steer away. But if you have, read this piece, for it is amazing: Gale, Peeta and Masculinity in The Hunger Games.

Courageous people expose their insecurities for the camera: the What I Be Project is some amazing photographic storytelling.

Atwood is a polymath. She has ideas about how to fix almost everything and takes pride in her rugged resourcefulness – unlike so many namby-pamby authors who wouldn’t have a clue what to do if the lights went out. When she walks down a street, for example, she likes to point out to whomever she’s with what, in the natural world, they could eat, should the need arise. “I just want them to be prepared.”

If you still haven’t read the Maddaddam trilogy, you need to do so right now. (If you have no plans to read it, we can never be friends.) Check out this interview with the sublime Margaret Atwood, and see if you’re not convinced.

You want to read this new poem by Freesia McKee. Trust me.

“My investigation file expanded from one inch to four inches and then to eight inches. The contents included personal data about Moore and his associates, printouts from his website, copies of relevant articles and reams of information on other involuntary porn stars who were featured on his site. I’d found others, and I knew it would be difficult for law enforcement to ignore folks from all over the country.”
Charlotte Laws took on the infamous internet predator Hunter Moore, and, well… she’s a total badass.

Here’s a map of London’s independent bookstores. You’re welcome.

I suspect the vehement dislike of tattoos is really a fear of women’s skin. When a woman makes her own mark on it, she isn’t quite as available to receive whatever fantasies you might want to project on to her. If skin is a screen, and a woman writes on it, she is telling the world (or even just herself) that her own standards of attractiveness are more important to her than the standards of anyone else.

I am violently in love with this Guardian article on women and tattoos. I mean really.

You’ve seen these amazing mother-daughter artistic collaborations, right?

[Beyonce] a work in progress, as are we all. In 2010, she gave an interview saying she was a “feminist in a way,” because she valued her female friendships deeply. Earlier this year, she claimed she was a “modern-day feminist.” Now she is straight up embracing the term in her music and claiming her right to tell women to both bowdown and encouraging them to be self-confident from the moment they step out of bed… in the same damn song! I rock with that because her feminism is complicated, and ours is too. Tell the truth.

I’ve loved reading the various voices rising above the wall of stupid that went up in response to Beyonce’s new record. This might be my favourite.

Life advice from Amy Poehler. Worth passing on!
Speaking of Beyonce: I FREAKING LOVE THIS RECORD SO MUCH.
OMG Watsky. You may have jumped off a lighting rig at a gig like an IDIOT, but I can’t help but still love you.
Cool.

Merry Christmas everybody!!!

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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!

One Night Stanzas Poetry Contest: the winners!

December 19th, 2013

I’m very proud to announce the winners and runners-up in the 2013 One Night Stanzas poetry contest!
Grab a cup of tea, get comfy and have a read…

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RUNNER UP:
Branson’s Brother
by Joshua Seigal

Have you heard of Branson’s Brother?
He lives on an estate in Southgate, London,
owns no car nor hint of a career,
and scratches a living from a part-time job
in the grounds of a local school.
Branson’s Brother doesn’t have a wife
and, whilst not quite a virgin, enjoys
no intimacy with any other living soul.
He lingers awhile reading books at night,
quoting Kafka to the kids
in the playground the next day,
and stops to tie his brown suede shoes
on the steps of the local kebab shop.
From the window opposite his bed he sees
pigeons in the morning trees.
Branson’s Brother considers these:
flight means nothing and everything to him.

Aileen: Deep Blue

RUNNER UP:
Village of the Mermaids
by Penny Shutt

They come in droves, flopping
out of fearful waters;
smooth bellies against the shore
of the village.

In lustrous gowns, their salty tresses
combed out, they wait
for sailors,

their boats guided inland
by the eternal flames of the chimaera
ablaze against the darkening mountainside.

They sit, uniformly lining
The village’s only street,
hands primly folded
on gowns that hide the glint of scales.

Enfolding their fish-flesh
as they stare ahead,
hoping to be chosen
by sailors made uneasy

by the scaly replications
of their lustre.
Not knowing which mermaid to take
to the room behind, to be lain

like a pike on a slab;
globular eyes pointed at blank ceilings.
Except they will not flounder or thrash,
or bare jagged teeth.

But will lie disquietingly still
in silent pursuit of a soul,
to later return to the glistening waves,

as silvery water rises to immerse
opalescent eyes
whilst unreturned souls
burn bright on the hillside.

Shimano

HIGHLY COMMENDED:
My Bike Squeaks Like an Old Bridge
by Dan Dowe

My bike squeaks like an old bridge,
some wooden planked arch,
that drivers must pray while driving over.
And the clack when I shift gears,
just like the old typewriters when the keys,
tired from years of striking,
would bind up together in a metallic jam.
But it’s red and shiny, a Schwinn,
like the one my brother ditched in the cellar,
only this one is new, from L.L. Bean.

I have difficulty riding it slowly.
My legs always want to pump faster.
I want wind and yards passing by,
like I’m always late for supper,
and I’m still blocks from my mother’s voice.
My hands leave the steady handlebars,
With a teenage casualness or summer confidence.
With arms like a crucifix, I’m balanced,
a graceful cowboy or skier,
Leaping off a jump into blazing whiteness.

Rabbit Run

SECOND PRIZE:
Running
by Tracey S Rosenberg

When the dog ran past
we were in my front yard –
Jimmy, Lizbeth-Ann, Ketchum and me.

Jimmy was standing on his head, forcing
the world upside-down with ground for a sky.
Lizbeth-Ann’s skirt hiked up as she bent over
to plant blades of grass in a dirt garden.
I kicked and kicked the porch steps
wondering if you could make a road stretch forever
by making your feet never stop.

The dog loped by, tongue flapping,
a stinky happy goldeny kind of dog.
It never looked at us, just swung its matted tail
like it was running to be someone’s dog
and if it was one minute late they’d know it was a deep down bad dog
and beat it with a wooden spoon
so hard they’d splinter
the spoon across its back.

Ketchum started to cry.

Jimmy flipped himself up, grabbed his hunting knife.
Was that Old Man Graham’s dog?

Naw, I lied. Old Man Graham’s got a mean old dog with three teeth.
Two more teeth than Old Man Graham’s got.
I never saw that dog before.

Lizbeth-Ann stumbled out to the road – a little slow, like her mother.
She stared like she stares when she thinks
maybe her daddy’s coming home.
Someone make that dog get back here right now.

Jimmy pointed his knife.
It’s my dog.
I’ll kill anyone who hurts it.

We all squinted till the shadows down the road
stopped looking like a dog.

Lizbeth-Ann decorated her garden with stones.
Jimmy stabbed his knife into the dirt.
Ketchum dropped down on all fours and howled.

I watched the road,
praying that dog would never turn around,
wondering how it ever got away from Old Man Graham
and when it would ever stop running.

260 creepy woods

FIRST PRIZE:
We Find A Severed Thumb In The Woods
by Michael Conley

The thumb nestles
in a pile of wet leaves,
real as a joke thumb.

Lying either side of it,
we play
who dares get their tongue closest.

Interesting, this cleanly carved flesh,
this pea sized dot
of crosssectioned bone.

It mightn’t be a thumb after all;
could be a stubby finger.
It’s hard to tell

without the context of a hand.
You are winning; your tongue
is practically touching it. Why

do we always end up
competing like this?
We are grown men.

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(Photo credits: one, two, three, four, five)

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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!

Things I Love Thursday #85: Book Week Scotland

December 19th, 2013

Dear everyone, but especially those of you I promised a BWS 2013 blogpost to,

I am sorry this post comes nearly a full month after Book Week Scotland actually happened. The fact I did not blog about it immediately after has nothing to do with the quality of BWS 2013 (it was utterly awesome, in fact). It does, however, have a great deal to do with the fact that my PhD viva (yep) came very swiftly after BWS 2013, and went from “that thing I am working hard at not thinking about” to “that thing that is consuming my whole life right now.” Terribly sorry about that. Hopefully, late is better than never. Here’s how I spent my Book Week Scotland 2013. How about you?

xo, Claire

Sunday night: Shore Poets November
OK, so at this point BWS 2013 was still about four hours away from its official kick-off, and I should probably note that SP November wasn’t an official Book Week Scotland event. It did make a nice literary appetiser for the delicious wordy smorgasbord that was about to follow, however.

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The event featured the ever-witty Tracey S Rosenberg in the New Poet slot — among other cool stuff that happened during her set, she wore a great skirt with kitties on it, and read a really excellent poem about and dedicated to the infamous Shore Poets lemon cake. Nice work.

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Christine de Luca was the Shore Poet, and her reading was incredible as ever. She mostly read poems in Shetland dialect, which was a delight to hear. My favourite was her poem about the Canadian First Nations woman who made a purse out of swan’s feet. And me a vegan!

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The headline poet was Gerrie Fellows, who I’ll admit, I’ve never seen read before — nor have I read any of her work in print. But she was on fine form and read on a variety of subjects. Her poem about coming across the ruins of a crashed aircraft was especially great, as was her sound poem about pointing out deer to a small child.

I should perhaps mention that I once again reprised my role as Scotland’s most awkward literary MC at this particular event!

Monday: Making It Home for Book Week Scotland, “Words Against Violence.”
Book Week Scotland officially began on 25th November 2013! And I was READY FOR IT.

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If you’ve even glanced in passing at this blog in the past year, you’ll know all about the Making It Home Project, aka Possibly The Best Thing I Have Ever Been A Part Of In My Life Ever. Well, because the Book Week Scotland team are excellent, they decided Making It Home needed its own space at BWS 2013, so we teamed up with Glasgow Women’s Library to create the “Words Against Violence” event. I read the project poems — including some of the poems written by our gorgeous participants — and we watched the project films, then had a brilliant, thought provoking discussion that was supposed to be panel-format, but ended up just being everyone sitting in a circle with a cuppa and having a really, really good chat. So my kind of event! Here are some pics:

Glasgow Women's Library: the volunteer tree!
This is the GWL volunteer tree. I utterly love the concept, and the execution! So lovely.

Glasgow Women's Library: the volunteer tree!
It’s a great way to mark the vital contribution of each volunteer.

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GWL’s Gabrielle kicking off the event. (Thank you so much Gabrielle, for your warm welcome and all your capable assistance!)

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Making It Home’s project manager Esa, aka Wonderwoman.

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Thoughtful faces as the films play…

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Oh, Glasgow. Never change.

Tuesday night: Talking Heids (for Book Week Scotland)
Talking Heids is Edinburgh’s magical new(ish) spoken word night on the block, hosted by one of my all-time favs Colin McGuire (pictured here):

Colin McGuire, the magical MC of Talking Heids

It happens on the third Tuesday of every month (I think? It’s once a month and it’s on a Tuesday night, anyway) at Sofi’s in Leith, and each month two poets are featured. For the BWS event, the two poets were Rob A Mackenzie and Rachel Amey. Rob took us on a brilliant chronological tour through his works, starting with the first poem he ever had published, and ending with brand spanking new hot-off-the-printer work. Rachel, meanwhile, read 100% from memory as always, and as always, blew my mind. Her NHS poem never stops giving me chills.

The lovely audience at Talking Heids November

There is also an open mic at the end, and among the acts at the BWS one were yours truly, and the really great Mr Roddy Shippin, lurking rather suspiciously by the door in the photo above. Also up at the mic was the barman, who read a Philip Larkin poem rather excellently, and then, emboldened, took out one of his own poems and read his work in public for the first time ever. The poem (he insisted it was not a poem, “just some lines I wrote on a train,” but if that’s not a poem then my whole writing career has been a huge lie) was great, and I always love it when such things happen. Things like that happening are why tiny open mics in pubs are awesome, and why people who pay to listen to poetry are awesome, and why Book Week Scotland is awesome. Yay!

Wednesday night: The 2013 Margaret Harris lecture.
OK, this was not a Book Week Scotland event. In fact, I had to not go to a Book Week Scotland event in order to go to this! But it was for work, and it was fascinating, although I disagreed with a whole lot of it and found the speaker, Tom Devine, somewhat maddening. Fun fact: ten minutes into the lecture (at a kind of pivotal moment, too) we were all evacuated and lots of firemen called because some mime artists set off a smoke machine in the next room. Dramz! Also, my first ever trip to Dundee!

Thursday night: night off.
(I needed to regroup. Also I’d temporarily run out of BWS pin badges to give out.)

Friday night: Communal Dolphin Snouting
Probably the less said about the title of this event, the better (there were lots of squeaky inflatable dolphin-shaped fairground hammer things hanging from the ceiling when I arrived, and as one of the performers I felt somewhat nervous. Fortunately, said dolphin-hammers were not used to attack me, so I must have done OK). Mainly because it means I can say more about PhiFA — full name, the Berlin Philosophical Football Association.

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(Photo credit Andrew McCue)

Wait, what? I hear you cry… yep, philosophical football. It’s basically a live philosophical debate, wherein pro philosophers team up with citizen thought-mongers picked from the crowd, and are timed, refereed and commentated upon as in football. A Muse provides topics to be debated, and ninety minutes of debate follows. Free kicks can be given for cliches and sentimentality, while yellow and red cards can be handed out for things like cheesiness or plagiarism. All the while, a match photographer rapidly makes colourful drawings of the participants, or renders their ideas and arguments into visual form. And scribbling away simultaneously is the match poet… on this occasion, you guessed it, me.

The match poet writes up the match report in the form of a poem — in real time, as the debate is going on. The poem must be finished by the final whistle, and performed live in front of the spectators. As you can imagine, the pressure was pretty intense… but actually, the lovely philosophers provided me with plenty of material, and I managed to come up with a two-part poem (for a two-part match, natch) that I was actually pretty pleased with. The audience seemed to like it, too! So thanks, Book Week Scotland, for putting me way out of my comfort zone, but in what proved to be a good way!

Saturday night: The Inky Fingers / Book Week Scotland Dead Poet Slam
One night.
A dozen dead poets.
A time machine.
A stage.
An audience.
One amazing gig…

(In all seriousness: this great event, fronted by the aforementioned and excellent Tracey S Rosenberg, was a slam with a difference. Each competitor had to perform not their own work, but the work of their favourite dead poet, preferably in costume and ideally with props and a funny voice, where applicable. I was one of the judges — dressed as Dame Edith Sitwell in the spirit, if you’ll pardon the pun, of the evening — and let me tell you, this was a TOUGH contest. Finally won by the utterly brilliant Anne Connolly, who, as my fabulous fellow judge Alice Tarbuck pointed out, could become a professional WB Yeats impersonator.)

Here are some pics:

The Book Week Scotland/Inky Fingers Dead Poet Slam: Aphra Behn and Edith Sitwell
Alice Tarbuck and I as Aphra Behn and Edith Sitwell respectively, sitting at the judging table of doom.

The Book Week Scotland/Inky Fingers Dead Poet Slam: Kurt Schwitters!
MC Kurt Schwitters, aka Ali Maloney, aka Harlequinade.

The Book Week Scotland/Inky Fingers Dead Poet Slam: defending champion Charles Bukowski!
Defending champ Charles Bukowski, aka Colin McGuire.

The Book Week Scotland/Inky Fingers Dead Poet Slam: host with the most, Dorothy Parker!
Hostess with the mostess Dorothy Parker, aka Tracey S Rosenberg.

The Book Week Scotland/Inky Fingers Dead Poet Slam: a triumphant WB Yeats!
The new champ WB Yeats, aka Anne Connolly!

The Book Week Scotland/Inky Fingers Dead Poet Slam: performers!
Top secret judging paperwork.

The Book Week Scotland/Inky Fingers Dead Poet Slam: the scary judges, Edith Sitwell, Aphra Behn and Vita Sackville-West
Scary judges Edith Sitwell (aka me), Aphra Behn (aka Alice Tarbuck) and Vita Sackville-West (aka Jane McKie).

Thanks Book Week Scotland, for the words, the books, the banter, and OVER 600 EVENTS SCOTLAND-WIDE! Already looking forward to 2014!

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

Colin McGuire’s new book is the most exciting thing to happen to Scottish poetry since Colin McGuire’s last book

December 3rd, 2013

OK, I don’t actually know that, because I haven’t read it yet. BUT Everybody Lie Down And No One Gets Hurt, published by my own lovely pamphlet publishers Red Squirrel Press, is being launched tonight at Sofi’s Bar in Leith, from 7pm. You should come along, because Colin is excellent, and he will be reading some of his excellent work in excellent fashion.

To celebrate the event, I decided to re-post this small poem of McGuire’s which first appeared at ONS in 2008. Enjoy!

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McGuire: “A thin Glaswegian man, touch giddy in the head, sometimes poet of mangled form and dirty prose, sporadic drummer, drunken grammarian, waffler, painter using crayons, lover, hater, learner, teacher, pedestrian, provocateur, wanderer, confronter of shadows, irritating whine. Studied global politics at Caledonian University, has worked a colourful mish mash of menial jobs (postman/salmon farmer), has been writing poetry for best part of twenty years. He has previously produced a book of poetry and short stories called ‘Important Nonsense: scraps from a Glaswegian immaturity’ [also known as 'Riddled with Errors.'] He intends to start reading when he gets over his fear.”
McGuire blogs at Notes from a Glaswegian Immaturity.

Chaffinch

Little bird
upon the branch
singing;
you have no
National Insurance
number and that
is beautiful.
You fly, live die
and cannot be arrested.

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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)

UPDATED! Where is Claire? Some Book Week Scotland events you should come to!

November 22nd, 2013

claire at wpm
Photo by Neil Thomas Douglas

Well folks, the PhD is submitted. It’s in, gone, there’s no longer anything I can do with, at, to, or about it. Which means I have to start doing poetry events again, because I no longer have an excuse not to. Here are a few you should come along to. Not (only) because of me, but because Book Week Scotland, Making It Home and Inky Fingers are all super fabulous, and need your support!

Monday 25th November 2013
Making it Home for Book Week Scotland: words against violence

The Glasgow Women’s Library, 1200–1400, FREE

Book Week Scotland is a totally amazing initiative — and I’m not just saying that because I’m paid to. I’m so happy that BWS have recognised the amazingness of the women of Making It Home, and teamed up with us in order to showcase the work we’ve been doing. At this event, I’ll be facilitating a showing of the Making It Home project films, and reading the poems that inspired those films. There’ll also be a discussion around the power of poetry and writing to conquer violence (especially violence against women). Very excited about this one.

Tuesday 26th November 2013
Talking Heids for Book Week Scotland

Sofi’s Bar in Leith, 1900, FREE

Talking Heids is a brand spanking new monthly poetry night invented and hosted by the magical Mr Colin McGuire, who as you probably know by now is my #1 favourite Scottish performance poet. This month he’s joined forced with Book Week Scotland to bring you feature slots from Rachel Amey and Rob A Mackenzie. There’s also an open mic, at which yours truly will be reading, and which you can sign up for at the Facebook event.

Wednesday 27th November 2013
Making it Home for Book Week Scotland: “Writing Home” creative writing workshop

The Scottish Poetry Library, 1800-2000, FREE

Come along and see the Making It Home project films, then write your own poem inspired by one or all of them. The lovely and talented Jane McKie will be on hand to encourage discussion and thought on the topics of home, belonging, identity, nationhood, sanctuary and displacement. Come along with a pen, leave with a poem.

Friday 29th November 2013
A Philosophical Football Match for Book Week Scotland

Transmission Gallery 2000–2300 (doors 1930), FREE

What is a philosophical football match, I hear you cry? Well, you get some philosophers, they sit around a table, and a Muse drops in and gives them a topic to debate over. Whoever comes up with the best argument scores a goal, and the philosophers move onto the next topic, until time runs out or the Muse gets tired or the philosophers run out of arguments or… something. And a trusty poet is on hand to record all of it, and create a great work of literature at the end. Sound intriguing? Well, it’s happening on Friday night in Glasgow, and guess who the aforementioned trusty poet is? Please come along and cheer on your favourite philosopher!

Saturday 30th November 2013
Inky Fingers & Book Week Scotland Revenge of the Dead Poets Slam

The New Bongo Club at 66 Cowgate, 1900–2200, FREE

OK, so many things about this event are exciting. One: all the performers are reading poems by dead poets. Two: all the performers will be dressed as dead poets. Three: I get to dress as a dead poet BUT NOT PERFORM! Four: the dead poet I will be dressed as will be DAME EDITH SITWELL (Oh. hell. yes.) Five: I’m one of the judges, along with Alice Tarbuck and, er, Jane McKie (we are each others’ friendly poet-y stalkers), so I have ALL THE POWER MUAHAHA. OK, just kidding. I am a nice judge. Anyway, it’s going to be totally fabulous, and you should really come along, and you should really dress up. Really.

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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!

Typewriters: they’re awesome and you should get one.

November 11th, 2013

A version of this post first appeared at One Night Stanzas in December 2008. (Back then the first line said “at this moment I have five manual typewriters.” Erm…)

Guilty secret: I am obsessed with typewriters. At this moment I have thirty-one manual typewriters, including my latest acquisition, a freakin’ gorgeous Olivetti Valentine. Why am I so obsessed with typewriters? Well, they’re noisy, heavy, impractical and difficult to use, but they’re also the ultimate poet’s accessory. Allen Ginsberg hauled a massive Underwood 5 around with him; William Burroughs typed on his own namesake, and was The Good Doctor ever without his trusty IBM SElectric…?

Why should I get a typewriter?
Well, I’ll be honest with you… if you think you’re going to be sitting down to write a 600 page novel on your manual typewriter, you might want to think again. It doesn’t matter what you do (Margaret Atwood apparently used to sit her typewriter on top of a wad of newspapers), it’s going to be noisy. It’s also going to be a pain in the butt to type on, particularly if you’re used to the feather-light keys of a laptop! Around about 1950, typewriter manufacturers started to advertise “noiseless” and “light touch” typewriter models, but even these are pretty cumbersome. You also have the typo issue - there’s no room for error with a manual typewriter, unless you’re cool with crossings-out and tippex! So if you’re planning on doing any serious writing, you might want to consider an electric… quieter, zippier and generally easier to work with.
However, electric typewriters are nowhere near as cool, and in a world where everyone has some kind of word-processor, a typewriter’s main appeal is its cool factor! Personally, I think manual typewriters are incredibly beautiful — I have mine sitting around my house making the place look pretty. They’re also a serious feat of engineering… try opening one up some time and inspecting all the weights and springs. A manual typewriter makes a laptop look boring.

How can I get hold of one?
Manual typewriters are ten-a-penny if you’re not fussy about make and model, so you don’t need to look to far to find one. Try checking out thrift stores or flea markets and see what you can find, or click around on eBay. There’s a whole load of choice out there so have a look around and find a typewriter you love — if you’re into the older, clunkier ones, eBay might be the place. But post-1960 typewriters turn up regularly in charity shops and at jumble sales and the like. I inherited my Smith Corona from my Dad, but all my other typewriters have come from junk shops and thrift stores.

What should I be looking for?
Well, when I buy a typewriter I’m usually after something that looks nice, and if it’s in its proper case and works that’s an added bonus. But you might want to check that all the parts are there — sometimes typewriters can be missing covers, bases, feet, or bits and pieces from the outer bodywork. It’s not necessarily a tragedy if these things aren’t there but you can sometimes haggle the price down a bit. If you want the typewriter in full working order, you need to check a few things:

- The space bar. On manual typewriters, the space bar is often operated by a weight system which pulls the cartridge along on a string. If you press the space bar and the cartridge doesn’t move along, it might be that the string has snapped. This is tricky to fix yourself (trust me, I’ve tried) and you might have to get an expert to take a look. So bear in mind that this could cost money!

- The ribbon feeder. Second hand typewriters have often been sitting unused for years, so more often than not their ribbons dry out. However, even if the ribbon has no ink in it, you should try typing a few words and pay attention to the ribbon movement. Does it move along through the spools? If it sticks or clogs, you can usually fix it yourself, but it’s worth checking. If your chosen typewriter has no ribbon fitted, you’ll need to find out what ribbon it takes, either by asking the seller or by doing some online research. It’s hard to find a replacement ribbon if you don’t know the right type.

- All the keys. One of the most common faults on old manual typewriters is the ‘capslock’ key, which is usually just connects to a little hook in the mechanism that locks the shift key down. This hook can wear out and stop sticking on. Other keys to check are the lesser-used ones - the numbers and symbols, but also the tab key, which should shuttle the cartridge along. But the best thing to do is just to try them all!

- The cartridge itself. Just check that it does move back and forth and doesn’t stick anywhere. Again, the movement of the cartridge is directly connected to the string-and-weight system, so if it doesn’t work it might cost you £££ to fix.

- Other things you might want to do: pick the typewriter up (sometimes the bottom will drop off or parts will drop out!), feed a piece of paper through (the rollers can be very dirty or can stick), test the carrying case (the last thing you want is the case breaking open and the typewriter smashing on the way home!) and look into the mechanism (sure, you might not know what you’re looking at, but if there are springs, strings or shards of metal sticking out, you might need to worry).

Obviously if you’re buying from eBay, you can’t do this stuff yourself. Don’t be afraid to ask your seller for all this information, and if you’re even slightly worried about the condition, look elsewhere! (I’ve found that eBay sellers tend to be sincere and honest and quite willing to deal with queries like this, so don’t worry too much about asking.)

Ginsberg & typewriters
Some of my babies.

What should I be paying for a typewriter?
Prices vary massively with manual typewriters, but if the typewriter you’re looking at is post-1960, chances are it is not rare or expensive. You have to remember that typewriters were the laptops of the 50s, 60s and 70s — everyone had one, so if anyone tries to tell you that they’re “rare,” you might want to be suspicious. Wartime and pre-war typewriters are less common and perhaps more valuable, but again, you shouldn’t really be paying too much unless your typewriter is something really special. Things you might need to pay more for include:

- Wooden casings. Typewriters with wooden bodies are quite unusual - metal, bakelite or plastic is much more common so a wooden typewriter is a rare typewriter.

- Unusual colours. Some typewriter manufacturers brought out special editions in weird and wonderful colours. In pre-1960 typewriters, colour might be an expense factor (but post-1960 it was pretty common for typewriters to be colourful, particularly if they were plastic) — look out for dark green or dark red casings.

- Leather embellishments. Another feature of special edition typewriters.

- Iconic typewriters. The Underwood 5 is reasonably common but it’s also iconic. People will part with quite a lot of cash for a nice one. Similarly the aforementioned Valentine, which is a coveted design icon… though I got mine for fifty quid in a charity shop!

- A foreign language. If you come across a typewriter whose keys are cyrillic or in another language, it might be worth a bit more.

Just be careful - don’t be ripped off. For just about any post-1960 typewriter, you shouldn’t be paying more than £30. I’d even say that in 99% of cases, you probably shouldn’t be paying more than £20. The most I’ve ever paid, apart from my Valentine, was £15 for my blue bakelite Imperial, and I think I might even have been ripped off a bit there! For a pre-1960 typewriter, keep a limit of £30-£50 or so, unless your typewriter is something special.
If you think you might need to spend money on renovating or cleaning your typewriter, try and haggle the price down! I once found a wartime metal typewriter in a charity store which had a £50 price tag on it, but which had been sitting in a chicken shed for decades… and it was full of feathers and chicken poo! I told the store that I’d need to spend money on cleaning it and I’d give them £35, but they wouldn’t haggle. It certainly wasn’t worth £50, so I left it… don’t be conned!

What if I’m buying on eBay?
eBay sellers can be a bit cheeky with their prices, and on eBay you can’t haggle. Just don’t get carried away in a bidding war — you really don’t need to pay over the odds. Bear in mind also that you’ll have to pay to have the typewriter delivered, and this can cost a huge amount, as typewriters are heavy things! They’re also fragile things, so if you want yours in proper working order, you might want to think twice about having it flown across the world… particularly if it doesn’t come with its own carrying case. Many people will opt for surface shipping rather than airmail with an item like a typewriter, too - it’s cheaper and gentler, but it does take a lot, lot longer… we’re talking months! And there can be problems when it comes to getting typewriters across borders — many older typewriters have keys made of or containing ivory, and if you try to ship ivory into the USA for example, it can end up just being destroyed by customs officials. So online shopping is a bit of a minefield… don’t be afraid to do some research and ask your seller questions about these issues!

What can I do with my typewriter once I’ve got it?
Well, despite the fact that they’re noisy and heavy, they can still make pretty sweet writing machines. If you just want to write letters, or the odd short, sweet poem, they’re perfect. They also make awesome ornaments and I often use mine to stick photos or paperwork in. I have a friend who used to use a heavy old typewriter (don’t worry, it was in a fairly serious state of disrepair when she got it!) as a doorstop. If you want, you can dismantle your typewriter (just make sure it’s not worth major £££ first!!) and turn it into all sorts of stuff… look around on Etsy and you’ll find jewellery, mobiles, paperweights, bookmarks, sculptures and artwork, all made out of typewriter parts! Typewriters are also useful things to have around if you’re into Steampunk.

Something I always like to do when I buy a new typewriter is get on the internet and do some research. It’s great to find out when your typewriter was made and what it might have been used for… maybe a famous writer used the same kind of typewriter as you, or perhaps it was popular among chic 50s office workers. I’m always fascinated by this stuff and there are heaps of typewriter-related sites to help you find out all about your typewriter!

What kind of typewriter(s) do you have? How much did you spend, and where did it come from? Anyone have a cool typewriter tale to tell? I want to hear it!

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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)

Dear poetry newbies: dealing with negative criticism

November 4th, 2013

You suck

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

How do I tell the constructive from the negative?
This is tricky - particularly if you’re new to receiving criticism or if you feel particularly proud of the piece of writing being criticised. If either of these things apply, then you’re very likely to see any criticism as an attack. And don’t get me wrong: even constructive criticism can feel that way sometimes, but look out for the positives. There’s a definite difference between “cut out stanza four, it’s no good at all” and “if you cut stanza four, the poem would be better”. The suggestion is the same, but the delivery is crucial. The first statement is concentrating on what’s wrong with your poem, while the second is a suggestion for making it better.

Another way to work out whether something is constructive or negative is to look at how universal the critical statement sounds. Offering a personal opinion is usually fine; making sweeping generalisations isn’t. For example, if someone says “this doesn’t really read like poetry to me”, they’re just offering their opinion. If they say “what you write isn’t poetry”, they’re assuming that all your readers will agree. There’s a big difference between “this isn’t to my taste” and “no one will like this.”

Some negative criticism can be deliberately well-hidden, too. Statements like “I’m sure there’s a good poem in there somewhere” or “I think I understand” are very ambiguous. If it’s ambiguous, it’s not really helpful either way, so give your critic the benefit of the doubt and ask them to be more specific. You should soon be able to tell whether or not this is criticism you should be taking on board.

Someone just made a really mean remark to my face. What should I do?
First of all, step back and try to be as objective as possible. Don’t just tell them to get lost, and don’t allow yourself to say the first thing that comes into your head - you’ll doubtless regret it later. Instead, think quickly but carefully about how you want to react. If the criticism needs an immediate response, buy yourself time by saying “I’m not sure what you mean,” “can you elaborate?”, or even “sorry, I didn’t quite catch that.” (This can be a good tactic, because while it’s easy to say something hurtful once, having to say it again can make people think.) As your critic rephrases their remark, you may come to realise that they didn’t intend to be hurtful in the first place, and you could well be glad that you didn’t just snark them off! However, if you’re still hurt by their comments, come back with a neutral response like, “that’s an interesting angle on it, I’ll think about that”, or “well, I appreciate any feedback.” That way, you can bring the issue to a close and escape from the conversation… or at least change the subject!

Someone’s left a negative comment on a forum/my blog/a poem I posted online. What do I do?
If someone else has written ill of you, that doesn’t mean you should do the same - so don’t take to a blog or forum-post and vent spleen yourself. Instead, try to get the comments in question removed. If this means communicating with the original poster, don’t get personal - just make the request as reasonably as you can. If it means speaking with someone higher up the foodchain, don’t be too long-winded or dramatic… just point them in the direction of the trouble, and explain briefly why you think they need to intervene.

If the negative comments are on a smaller scale - say, if a mean commenter has wandered into your deviantART gallery and decided to leave a few choice words - the best thing you can possibly do is just ignore it. This can be really hard, but an angry response of any kind means that your negative commenter has won. If you’re itching to write something scathing back, snap your laptop shut or turn off your monitor and remove yourself from the situation. Go away and do have a cup of tea, or have a rant about it to someone. Don’t go back to your computer until you’re cool, calm and collected; until you know that you won’t even be tempted to dignify your attackers with an answer. (NB: this is hard. I have not always succeeded in staying nice. However, I’ve always regretted it when I’ve given in to snark!)

My work got a really negative review, and heaps of people have read it. What do I do?
This can feel like a huge deal at the time, but it really isn’t. If you’re a writer, bad reviews are part of the job-description, and trust me, they really don’t hurt your career as much as people might like you to think. Any review is just the opinion of one person, and them saying “this person’s writing sucks, nobody should read it,” is kind of like saying “rum-raisin ice cream sucks, nobody should eat it.” Sure, rum-raisin ice cream might be an acquired taste, but are people really going to stop eating it because one guy told them to? Nope. Are people really going to totally boycott your site, book or pamphlet just because one guy told them to? Nope. People have brains in their heads, and they want to make up their own minds, so the best thing to do about a bad review is ignore it and move on, ASAP. Think about it this way: this person who hates your writing has just told a whole load of other people that you exist. They might not have known that before. Your reviewer (if they’re even half-decent at their job) may also have sparked the curiosity of a few people. Chances are, even a bad review will get you more readers than no review at all. It really is true what they say: all publicity is good publicity, so really, you should be raising a glass in honour of your evil reviewer!

Argh! I snapped back at someone because they were negative about me, and how it’s got out of hand!
OK, so someone was mean about you so you were mean back, and then all their friends started being mean about you too, and they’ve all written heaps of bad stuff about you and you’re totally out of your depth. Or maybe you responded angrily to a negative commenter and now they’re really upset and threatening to get back at you somehow, and you’re worried about what they’ll say/do. Or maybe you’ve said something you now regret to someone important, and you’re terrified about the consequences it could have. I understand - never fear, it happens all the time, and these things are usually pretty easily solved.

Situation 1: they were mean, then you were mean back, now everyone’s being mean. No one’s in the clear here, but someone needs to take responsibility, and that someone might as well be you. Get in touch with the original negative commenter, and apologise (sincerely - no double-edged comments). Say you’re sorry, you didn’t mean for things to get out of hand, and you want to move on. If they’re even a half-decent person, they’ll accept your apology, and hopefully get rid of any nasty stuff they’ve written about you. If they don’t accept your apology, I’m afraid you’re just going to have to walk away, and console yourself with the fact that you were able to behave like an adult in the end. It may be worrying to think that there is snark about you all over the internet, but trust me, as long as you haven’t done anything actually criminal, it’ll probably never make a difference to your future.

Situation 2: you were mean, and now they’re threatening vengance. OK, realistically, what is this person going to do? Even if they’re threatening to harm your career prospects as a writer, those threats are probably pretty empty (I once had a reasonably well-known poet insinuate that no editor would ever acknowledge me if she had anything to do with it. So far, no evidence of this…), because trying to wreck other people’s chances doesn’t do your own chances any good at all. The best thing to do in this situation is to take back what you said, however hard that may be for you. Remove the comment you made, and apologise. If that doesn’t work, you’ll just have to take your chances. Again, I reckon I can guarantee that nothing drastic will come of it.

Situation 3: you said something you now regret to the wrong person. Easy: get in touch with them, apologise, and explain. If you don’t have a way of contacting them, find out. And if you can’t find out, move on. Yes, unfortunately people do have long memories, but sometimes you just have to chalk these things up to experience. The only thing you can really do is hope that your two paths cross again in the future, and you can make a better impression second time around.

Some stuff to remember:
- Not everything that sounds negative is negative. Read or listen carefully before you respond. Bear in mind that the internet comes without body-language, which makes up about 90% of all communication. Comments that sound rude could just be sarcastic or tongue-in-cheek. If you’re not sure, ask the commenter to elaborate.

- People are entitled to hold an opinion about your work, and they are allowed to say what they think. If you have a problem with this, then maybe you’re not ready to put your work out there to be read. Think carefully about whether or not you want other people to criticise your work - if you’re not confident, don’t feel rushed into submitting to magazines or posting your work online.

- If you think you’re constantly getting negative feedback, then maybe you need to adjust your negativity radar. It may well be that you’re not great at taking criticism, and so everything feels like a personal attack. If this is the case, you have to force yourself to be more positive. 90% of feedback is useful, so try and see the usefulness wherever you can. See all reviews of your work as publicity, and bear in mind that for every person who doesn’t really dig your work, there’s bound to be another person out there who’d like it.

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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 #84: Autumnal adventures

October 31st, 2013

Goldenacre Path.  My new neighbourhood!

Pinterest-y photo of my sister on the Goldenacre Path

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This isn’t the first time that “autumn” has appeared on my Things I Love list… and I doubt it will be the last. It is my favouritest season for many, many reasons, and even more so now that I’ve moved house. I now live really close to the beautiful Goldenacre Path, and only a stone’s throw from Stockbridge. Both providing some beautiful autumnal foliage and last-ditch Scottish sunshine right about now!

Foraging! Brambles & elderberries

Autumn veggie stew, made by Lovely Boyfriend.

The best thing about living on Edinburgh’s “path network”? The foraging opportunities! So far, I’ve scored elderberries, raspberries and tubs and tubs of brambles, which has made for some pretty delicious pies and scones, I can tell you. I’m hoping to learn more about wild greens next, so that in the spring I can get out there and gather myself a salad, too!
(Not foraged, but also delicious, is all the autumnal food Lovely Boyfriend — aka Lovely Personal Chef! — is cooking up now that it’s getting colder. His veggie stews are to die for.)

My sister, usually known as Mole, left, & me.

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One of my autumn rituals is hanging out with my sister for Halloween. We always get together to talk costumes, watch Hocus Pocus and carve pumpkins (here are last year’s rather paltry efforts!). This year, we also found a massive spoon in a thrift store, and decided we needed it (for cauldron stirring, yeah?), and played a very scary game of Fiasco: the Halloween special!

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Lovely Boyfriend cauldron-stirring...

This year, we really upped our pumpkin game. My delightful new workplace is running a pumpkin carving contest, no less, so I needed to really bring it. Like the owl? One of the fiddliest things I’ve ever done! I don’t know how these mad geniuses do it.
(And when I spotted Lovely Boyfriend stirring a big pot of soup with our pumpkin creations sitting right next to him, I couldn’t resist running to get my witch hat and taking a photo. Cruel, I know, but you’d have done the same, right?)

What have YOU been loving this week?

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Budding writer? Creative person in need of a fun job? Check out the various resources and services at Bookworm Tutors. Alternatively, 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!