Posts Tagged ‘books’

Attention women writers! Brand new writing opportunity in Edinburgh!

Tuesday, December 2nd, 2014

Writing ♥
(Photo credit)

Hello, friends!

I am very excited to announce that from January 2015, I will be delivering the innovative all-female fiction writing class Write Like A Grrrl.

Write Like A Grrrl is already established in London, and a Manchester class is starting up shortly. But I thought it would be very sad if all the brilliant female writers north of the border were unable to take part, so I pitched myself to the lovely people at For Books’ Sake as a potential Scotland-based tutor. After some very excitable chats — and some training in the ins and outs of the course, natch — they signed me up! Now all I need is for YOU to come and join me!

Write Like A Grrrl is open to any self-identifying woman who writes fiction, or would like to write fiction. As well as helping you make your writing as brilliant as it can be — focussing on the essential stuff like characterisation and dialogue — the course also empowers women writers to beat procrastination and create that precious thing, productive writing time!

The Edinburgh course begins on 24th January and runs for six weeks — so if you’re planning to make “do more writing” one of your New Year’s Resolutions for 2015, then Write Like A Grrrl might just be perfect for you!

The venue is the cozy back room at Boda, which — for those of you have never been there before — is full of comfy couches, and a perfect space for chatting about writing and sharing ideas. The course is six weeks long and runs for six consecutive Saturdays, from 24th January 2015, between 12.30pm and 2.30pm.

The Write Like A Grrrl: Edinburgh website has all the info you need, and you can book your place using the drop-down menu, too!

Please do join me! I’d love to see you there!

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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 #99: getting out more!

Thursday, November 20th, 2014

Remember my 30 before 30 promise? #6? Get out more. I already started out pretty well… and I am keeping it up! I’m just home from two back-to-back autumnal jollies:

First, to York!

York Nov 14 (1)

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I’ve written about the magic of York — and my favourite places there — before. Unsurprisingly, I returned to all those places on this trip, too! I also scoffed my own weight in amazing vegan food, trawled the thrift shops (of course), and perused many a bookshop. Basically my typical weekend.

…then London!

I didn’t take many photos in London, and I’m kinda kicking myself. I wish I had photographed the super-cute sleeping pod-room we stayed in at Z Victoria, for example, or some of the millions of cute dogs we saw all over the place! Still, here’s a tiny taster of what I got up to…

London weekend, Nov 14

This was the main reason we headed south in the first place: to see Speed-The-Plow. Yes, that is Lindsay Lohan’s face (and yes, I look like a madwoman). It’s her West End (in fact, her stage) debut. However, she is in no way the reason we went. The reason is her co-star, the amazing Richard Schiff, aka Toby Ziegler, my favourite character from my favourite show ever, The West Wing. Here’s my favourite nine seconds of Toby, to give you a flavour of his character:

Needless to say, he was bloody excellent in this role. I may be biased, but even in spite of my bias, he was excellent. I believe that critics have been needlessly snotty about the play — and especially backhandedly unpleasant about Lohan. (If your whole review boils down to “it wasn’t as good as when Kevin Spacey did it,” then you’re a shite critic — especially if only sentences beforehand you’ve been rude about the casting of movie stars as a ploy to get butts on seats.) Personally, I absolutely loved it. But then (perhaps surprisingly, for those of you who know me) I love Mamet. Not everyone does.

London weekend, Nov 14

London weekend, Nov 14

Many of the cute dogs we saw were in Kensington Gardens. I had never been to Kensington before but holy wow, it is swanky. Everyone there has really good shoes.
(I went there to have afternoon tea in a pOAsh hotel, wearing my moth-holed skirt and a charity shop t-shirt that I’d sawed the hem off. Fortunately, they seemed to take pity on me and did not throw me out.)

London weekend, Nov 14

Finally, here is a photo of me with a plushie Moomin I found in Foyles on the South Bank. I really wanted him, but I’d already bought a megaton of poetry books and there was just no space in my hand-luggage. I will just have to stare sadly at this photograph instead.

What are YOU loving this week?

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

My top 5 recommended Book Week Scotland events!

Wednesday, November 19th, 2014

FREE TO USE - BOOK WEEK SCOTLAND 2014 LAUNCH
(Photo by Ann Giles)

Book Week Scotland is only DAYS AWAY, you guys! It starts on Monday 24th November and has the power to fill your whole week with exciting reading-related fun and games! Does this sound like something you want to get involved in? Why, of course it does! But in case you feel overwhelmed, here’s a handy guide to my top 5 Book Week Scotland events of 2014:

1. Waverley Care’s Inside/Out exhibition at the Traverse Theatre Bar, Edinburgh, free to access from 25th November

In a nutshell, it’s: an open exhibition of art and writing by people affected by HIV and/or Hep C. For several months, Waverley Care has been engaging its service users with photography and creative writing, and the participants have been using these to respond to the question, “what is it like to live with a blood-borne virus?” This amazingly rich, eye-opening exhibition of photographs, poems, stories and journal entries is the result!

2. Creative Skills Exchange at Scottish Refugee Council, Glasgow, 10am on 26th November, free

In a nutshell, it’s: an opportunity for people with a background in the creative industries who would like to share their skills with others. Says SRC, “whatever your specialism, we would love to welcome you to our community.” For one half of this particular session, myself and some colleagues from Scottish Book Trust will be coming in to talk about creative map-making, so if that sounds like your cup of tea, please do come and join us!

3. Christine de Luca at Taigh Chearsabhagh, North Uist, 7.30pm on 27th November, free

In a nutshell, it’s: a poet you should absolutely go and see if you possibly can. I am a huge fan of Christine’s and always love to hear her perform her own work. Don’t be put off by the fact that this reading is “in the Shetland dialect,” which, says the event listing, “is a blend of Old Scots with much Norse influence.” Christine imbues her performances with such power and emotion that you understand perfectly even if you’ve never heard a word of Shetlandic in your life!

4. Scottish PEN Banned Books Club: Edwin Morgan’s ‘Stobhill’ poems, Project Cafe, Glasgow, 5.15pm on 28th November, free but ticketed

In a nutshell, it’s: me, leading a book-club-style discussion about this famous poem sequence. The poems tell the story of a young woman who is raped, and then has a late-term abortion. In the 1990s, a group of campaigners tried to have the poems banned from schools, calling them “pornographic.” We’ll be chatting about the poems themselves (it just so happens that I read them in school in the 1990s myself), as well as about the banning of literature and censorship in general. Places are limited, so sign up quick!

5. The Shore Poets vs Be The First To Like This Quiet Slam!, at Henderson’s at St John’s, 7.15pm on 30th November, £5/£3

In a nutshell, it’s: a smackdown between a few poets who were featured in recent anthology Be The First To Like This, and a few poets from elsewhere; an epic competition for fame, glory, and book tokens! OK, not really — it’s going to be a fun, silly, slam-style event where shyness, reading off paper, speaking quietly and making mistakes are encouraged, and slam virgins are warmly welcomed. There’ll be a merch table groaning with exciting books and Book Week Scotland freebies, a raffle in which you could win books, CDs, or our infamous lemon cake, and of course our usual warm Henderson’s welcome. I’ll be resuming my erstwhile role as Scotland’s Most Socially Awkward Literary MC, and hope to see you there!

You can easily search through all the events across Book Week Scotland by clicking right here! If you can’t attend any events but fancy getting involved in some online activities, you can do thinks like make a reading pledge, write a love letter to a library, or vote for your favourite Scottish literary character! Have a great week, and be sure to share what you’re up to by using the hashtag #BookWeekScot!

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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 #137

Friday, November 14th, 2014

87/365: The Hippest
(Photo credit)

If you click nothing else in this post, click this: as you already know, the legendary Amelia’s Magazine is trying to get back into print for their 10th anniversary. Please please please please please help by backing the Kickstarter!

“You can only do so much in a short-form poetry review, and it’s hard enough to identify a book’s aesthetic ambitions at all, let alone in 400 words. I don’t think it’s unreasonable to suggest this might create a feedback loop in which more experienced poets learn exactly what kind of poetry wins prizes, swooning Guardian reviews and another book deal. Slam poetry in North America has such rigid means of understanding creative success it actively stifles work that doesn’t fit the template, and mainstream UK poetry seems to be doing likewise.”

My ol’ mate Dave Coates was interviewed by Sabotage and talked SO MUCH SENSE.

…and if you liked that, you’ll like this:

Despite the handful of decent collections nominated for the TS Eliot prize this year, it is a deeply conservative shortlist, and Connolly is right to point out the ludicrous situation in which John Burnside can step out as a PBS selector long enough to be selected then step right back in. It would be laughable if it wasn’t a ticket to a 1 in 10 chance at twenty grand in a notoriously unlucrative genre.

Dave again, this time at his own blog, reflecting on his reviewing work so far.

“A (now former) friend of mine who was a bookie and rather the drinker was convinced I’d based the main character in a short story of mine (‘Pocket’) on him—to the point that we got into a bit of a drunken shouting match, most of it him repeatedly demanding that I give him (in cash, right then) at least half of my ’royalties.’ To which I replied, ‘Fine, bro. They gave me two contributor copies—take one of them off that shelf’.”

I loved this: You’re So Vain, You Probably Think This [Work of Fiction] Is About You.

Want to see inside the world’s smallest at-home library? Of course you do.

Barack Obama’s second inaugural poet, Richard Blanco, is basically the coolest guy ever.

Whether or not you are conscious of it, you are always looking for an excuse to stop reading a poem and move on to another poem or to do something else entirely. Resist this urge as much as possible. Think of it as a Buddhist regards a pesky mosquito. The mosquito, like the poem, may be irritating, but it’s not going to kill you to brave it for a little while longer.

Twenty strategies for reading poems.

What’s your favourite movie? There’s a book for that.

I also like to finish a book once I’ve started but hey, no need to be a dick about it.

It’s hard to talk in a clear-headed way about genre. Almost everyone can agree that, over the past few years, the rise of the young-adult genre has highlighted a big change in book culture. For reasons that aren’t fully explicable (Netflix? Tumblr? Kindles? Postmodernism?), it’s no longer taken for granted that important novels must be, in some sense, above, beyond, or “meta” about their genre. A process of genrefication is occurring.

This in-depth article on ‘genre’ vs ‘literary’ is really worth reading.

Meanwhile, this guy is a fluff-piece-writing jerk who wants to tell you where you can and cannot read books. Go and pour your pint over him in the comments.

Fancy-ass book editors being forced to give up their corner offices? It’s a hard life, eh?

I know, you’re sick of celebrity memoirs, you’re sick of female celebrities talking about feminism, blah blah blah. Well, that’s just fine because Poehler’s book is so much more than that. Poehler is the only person in the world other than Nora Ephron who can be funny about divorce (and she is so funny about divorce), and she is definitely the only person in the world from whom I will accept sex tips (and her sex tips are great). But most of all, she’s super smart about what she calls “women-on-women violence” (when women are mean to one another), which is always an expression of female self-loathing. Poehler knows that she’s good at what she does, but she’s also an insecure human being, and what she does in this book is show how to balance those insecurities with self-respect. When Poehler self-deprecates, she doesn’t do it in a charming, cutesy-wootsy way, but rather an honest way, and then counters it with some self-pride and self-awareness.

Just your regular reminder: Amy Poehler is a total badass.

Who out there thinks that NaNoWriMo never results in any good writing? Well, here are a bunch of NaNoWriMo novels that got published!

Some of these tips on entering writing contests surprised me — have a look!

Joyce and Woolf were writers who transformed the quicksilver of consciousness into paper and ink. To accomplish this, they sent characters on walks about town. As Mrs. Dalloway walks, she does not merely perceive the city around her. Rather, she dips in and out of her past, remolding London into a highly textured mental landscape, “making it up, building it round one, tumbling it, creating it every moment afresh.”

Walking & writing, writing & walking.

Looking through old bookmarks I found this cool book-like dress!

Is Mary Oliver not perfect? Mary Oliver is perfect.

Or consider the way that Kelman uses the word “but”: “One thing I’m finding but it makes it a wee bit easier getting a turn.” The man is saying that, although he dislikes having a dog tag along with him, he has found that it helps to bring in money. So the sentence, written out formally, would be something like: “One thing I’m finding is that it makes it a little easier to get a turn.” In the formal version, though, the musical pitching of “but” and “bit” disappears, as does the sentence’s weird, hopping rhythm, where the unexpected incursion of “but” forces a caesura.

This man a) has clearly never heard anyone speaking Scots b) does not know what the heck he’s on about and c) is a member of the very literary elite Kelman rails against. All very entertaining!

Authors who got their first big break after age 50. So don’t panic!

Typewriters and their humans. Thank you to the zillion people who brought this to my attention!

The cornerstone of my comedy is to make people laugh and examine social issues with the goal of improvement. Change doesn’t happen overnight. We all know this. There is a dialogue that needs to continue amongst both men and women on how to improve how we interact with each other in this day and age. What this video going viral did is it opened up that conversation to the heart of the issue, “Why do men still feel that women are to be the proud receptors of their advances/greetings/compliments at all times?”

Amanda Seales: my new hero.


Here’s Twinkle Baroo the greyhound enjoying the first frost of the year. You’re welcome!


Haha, Lovely Boyfriend thought this was real! (Worth watching the Making Of, btw.)


What it’s like to work with cats. (Related: proof that cats are master thieves.)

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!

Procrastination Station #134

Friday, October 24th, 2014

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I know all of that like the back of my hand. But that doesn’t mean I’m stiff about rules. I do love to start a sentence with a conjunction,that’s for sure. And I’m awfully fond of the emdash — a little too fond, maybe! But (and there I go again!) those are all purposeful decisions. Here’s what I know now: once you’ve learned the rules, it’s quite fun to break them.

Writing rules: and how women writers break them all!

Do you have an “interesting, engaging and challenging” playscript that you’d like to have rehearsed by real actors? The Trav’s Words Words Words programme is currently open for submissions!

Booktrust (England) is looking to recruit a bunch of bookish people — are you one of them?

I start at the first sentence of a novel and I finish at the last. It would never occur to me to choose among three different endings because I haven’t the slightest idea of the ending until I get to it. [...] Micro Managers build a house floor by floor, discretely and in its entirety. Each floor needs to be sturdy and fully decorated with all the furniture in place before the next is built on top of it. There’s wallpaper in the hall even if the stairs lead nowhere at all.

Have I posted this before? I don’t remember. Anyway, I love it because I love Zadie Smith and because I am also a Micro Manager.

Wondering what you’ll be reading in the next few weeks? Don’t worry — Oprah can tell you.

When the Nobel Prize for Literature was announced recently, everyone on my Twitter — including me — responded with, “who?” Here’s the reason you’ve never heard of Patrick Modiano.

Some of the strongest poems here are those which take a more conventional poetic subject and do something fresh: Claire Askew’s Bad Moon, Russell Jones’ poem about not seeing the stars, Marion McCready in whose poem daffodils “spread like cancer”, Charlotte Runcie’s Pope, Telescope, a complex, controlled approach to a big, timeless theme.

Lookie! I get a nice mention in this review of Be The First To Like This! (Have you got your copy yet? It is STUNNING I tell you!)

Two of my favourite ever libraries are recruiting right now! Do you fancy being Glasgow Women’s Library’s new Museum Curator

…or the Scottish Poetry Library’s new Senior Library Assistant? (I am not even vaguely qualified for either and I am gutted about it!)

“I was just absolutely obsessed with this stuff I was writing, and showing people there was more going on inside me than they would have imagined,” says Tempest. “People have underestimated me all my life. They still do, because I’m unassuming, because I’m a girl, so I had this desperate urgency. I’d go to a gig and instead of watching the person on stage all I wanted to do was get the microphone off them. That feeling lasted for years. It was just blind desperation.”

KATE TEMPEST!

Do you have a finished — but unpublished — debut novel? Enter it into the Caledonia Novel Award and maybe win £1000!

These images and stories from New York’s ‘endangered bookstores’ are really stunning.

What Amazon possesses is the power to kill the buzz. It’s definitely possible, with some extra effort, to buy a book you’ve heard about even if Amazon doesn’t carry it — but if Amazon doesn’t carry that book, you’re much less likely to hear about it in the first place.

Amazon doesn’t have a monopoly: it’s much more sinister than that.

This one goes out to all my librarians!

Hey, writers? Quit buying things and go on holiday… it’s good for your brain!

“If Beast were a chap, he would be a part-time rugby player smelling of Ralgex who’s trying to tell you he’s deep and thoughtful, even though he’ll later be implicated in an incident involving a traffic cone and a pint glass of his own urine.”

I don’t normally read restaurant reviews, but I utterly loved this one.


“People that have difficulty reading are often capable of thinking in ways that others aren’t.” So, this guy is utterly brilliant.


Come on Scotland. Let’s have our wolves back!


And it’s nearly Halloween, so you OBVIOUSLY need this.

Have a great weekend!

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

(Photo credit)

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

Tuesday, October 21st, 2014

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

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^ Look! Robert Crawford has heard of me!

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

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^ Look mum, I’m famous!

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

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

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

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

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

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

Procrastination Station #133

Friday, October 10th, 2014

Subtle graffiti

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

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

Cool signs outside independent bookstores.

Struggling to find time to read? Read this.

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

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

Reading makes you happier: fact.

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

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

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

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

I’m a sucker for literary tattoos.

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

Molly Crabapple is great.

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

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

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

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

Hey, authors? Don’t be this desperate.

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

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

Grayson Perry is a bloody legend.


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


HOLY SHIT Danny MacAskill!!!

Have a great weekend!

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

(Photo credit)

Procrastination Station #132

Friday, September 26th, 2014

tea for me

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Zadie Smith reckons there are two types of writers.

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

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

Indie bookstores are on the rise again… yay!

The 7 stages of falling in love with reading.

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

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

Press and PR… but for writers.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Celebrate Banned Books Week: read these books!


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


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


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

Have a great weekend!

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

(Photo credit)

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

Monday, September 1st, 2014

Ginsberg & typewriters

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Procrastination Station #128

Friday, July 4th, 2014

Shine On

OK, before we get started…

EDINBURGH VINTAGE IS HAVING A HUGE SALE! This is for July only, so get in there and rummage! New items are being added all the time, too!

When you announce that you’re a ghost-writer, people look at you askance. Some say, “You’re writing about ghosts?” Others, with some condescension, ask you when you’re going to write your own book, the inference being that ghost-writing is for those who can’t make it up. And whilst there is a grain of truth in that, to my mind, ghost-writing is a skill and an art of its own.

I was fascinated by these confessions of a ghost writer, Sue Leonard, who does it for a living.

If you click nothing else in this post, click this fabby series of portraits: booksellers in their natural habitats. (As my collague Danny wrote when he emailed me about it “it’s a lovely series and it’s lovely.”)

This guy plants his self-published book in bookstores… and people buy it.

My loyalty to Levin in Anna Karenina is of an entirely different nature to my loyalty to, say, Paul Newman’s caesar salad dressing, which I like very much: it is not a preference but an affinity, an encounter so genuinely self-revealing that the relationship required me first to work and then to alter. My relationship with Levin cannot be improved upon or reproduced.

So I just finished reading Eleanor Catton’s “The Luminaries” [SPOILER: it is amazing, read it], and I am just as enchanted by this excellent essay she wrote about literature and capitalism. (Side note: I cannot believe this woman is only one year older than me. She is a total genius and makes me feel like a failure at life.)

As someone who works a lot with literacy learners, I loved this video of just a few learners describing their literacy journeys.

19 Dilemmas Every Book Lover Has Faced At Least Once

Not buying from Amazon is less a tactic of starving Amazon of a sale, they’re hardly going to miss it. Not buying from Amazon is taking those missed sales to other venues; Waterstones and independents. I’ve had people say to me off-handedly that they don’t expect Waterstones to be around in 5 years. That thought upsets me. So I’ll happily impulsively buy a nice hardback, a slightly overpriced cup of tea and cake as an investment. Please don’t squander my investment, Waterstones.

One woman’s vow to boycott Amazon: her end of year review!

And speaking of which… got a problem with Amazon? No matter what it is, here’s the cure.

Have you checked out Scottish Book Trust’s Opportunities for Writers page lately? Loads of good stuff there at the moment!

I drew plans of my protagonist’s house, her daughter’s house, her brother in law’s, and her friend’s houses. I also printed out, cut up and glued together images from Google maps to create my own picture of her local area.

Also at Scottish Book Trust this week: Novelist Emma Healy lists five practical ways to get to grips with writing your novel.

I can’t wait to read this.

Are you writing a book — fiction or non fiction — that’s somehow about medicine or health? The Wellcome Prize is now accepting entries!

I realise now that I am neither normal nor ordinary, and I become less and less ordinary as time passes. I don’t want to be told that I’m not allowed to react negatively to Paxman’s demand that I speak to everyone except people like me; people who have been historically excluded from poetry events by definition, by default; and who, when they raise that issue, get lumped in with a “pellety nest” by those who refuse to see their privilege

That’s the excellent Mark Burnhope, responding excellently to recently-retired, flailing-against-his-own-irrelevance Jeremy Paxman. (Buy Mark’s new book!)

Have you been to Looking Glass Books? You should go!

Poetry prize culture rewards “competent but unambitious verse lauded as the best our art-form has to offer”? Interesting reading in Poetry Review (via).

And speaking of poetry prize culture… the always-brilliant Dave Coates reviews John Burnside and Hugo Williams and, refreshingly, finds them wanting.

Going through some old bookmarks I found this great poem.

And this one.

There is an oversupply of PhDs. Although a doctorate is designed as training for a job in academia, the number of PhD positions is unrelated to the number of job openings. Meanwhile, business leaders complain about shortages of high-level skills, suggesting PhDs are not teaching the right things. The fiercest critics compare research doctorates to Ponzi or pyramid schemes.

I first read this just as I was starting out on my PhD. Yesterday I graduated. Turns out, the Economist was kinda right.

Have you, like me, ever wanted to escape the tyranny that is hair care? Check this out!

Aaaand while trawling old bookmarks I also discovered this My Mad Fat Diary gif, which may be the best gif ever. (SHARON I LOVE YOU.)

HIPPOS ARE BETTER THAN HUMANS. The end.


…and people say animals have no feelings. (Look how when she falls, he’s like, ADULTS, ARE YOU DOING SOMETHING ABOUT THIS?!)

All by myself from Richard Dunn on Vimeo.

You guys saw this, right? A dude got stuck overnight in an airport in Vegas… so he single handedly shot an epic music video on his phone.


Finally, I kinda want to be friends with these weird guys. (Apparently, so do all the MRAs in the world, because they’re hanging out in the video’s comments. Weeeird!)

Have a great weekend!

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

(Photo credit)