Posts Tagged ‘literature’

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!

ONS Featured Magazines: Amelia’s Magazine

Wednesday, November 12th, 2014

amelia's magazine
(Photo credit)

What is it?

Amelia’s Magazine was printed biannually for 5 years from 2004-2009 across 10 issues, but it is now an online publication described as “the place to come for exclusive articles on the best underground creative projects in the worlds of art, fashion, music, illustration, photography, craft and design.” Amelia is a passionate promoter of all things creative and has been working for ten years to bring brilliant, original content to both print media and the interwebs.

Why feature it?

We’re rapidly approaching the 10-year anniversary of the creation of Amelia’s Magazine. And to mark this auspicious occasion, founder Amelia Gregory wants to do something super special. Enter the Amelia’s Magazine Kickstarter: an exciting campaign to produce a truly beautiful, ambitious and one of a kind print book featuring artworks, writing and, well… magic. Here’s the campaign video to give you a taste:

Why should I back this?

OK, for one, it’s going to be an amazingly beautiful book and I know that I, for one, want to have one of these babies on my bookshelf. Two, for your money you get to help create a publication that will promote the work of artists and writers at every stage of their careers — and a linked three, you’ll get to discover many brand new exciting names you might not otherwise have come across. Four, Christmas is a-comin’ and if you’re anything like me you know about a million people who’d just love to have something like this to unwrap when Santa visits them. And a not-unimportant five, if this book comes into being, it will contain at least one of my poems! Is that in itself not reason enough? *pauses to buff nails*

What should I pledge?

I am a great believer that no individual should ever feel pressured into giving up their money, so you should give whatever you can afford to give. It might be that that is not money: if you’re trying to choose between backing this Kickstarter and making sure you pay rent this month, then stop trying! However, if you can’t afford to give you can still support Amelia and her amazing book by sharing the campaign on Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr or any of your other networks.
If you can afford to give, then hooray! You should definitely check out the rewards Amelia is offering for the various pledge options. I was blown away by how generous they are — your average Kickstarter-er is far too keen to offer only symbolic rewards, in my humble opinion! Amelia’s are far from that: for a mere £20, for example, you get a free copy of the book delivered to your door before Christmas!

How can I find out more?

First and foremost, watch the video and read the information on the Kickstarter page. But also, make sure you check out the project’s hashtag, #TWWDNU (that which we do not understand, the theme of the book). On that hashtag you can get a sneak peek at some of the amazing work being produced by visual artists to help make this publication extra-specially-gorgeous. You can also use the hashtag to spread the word about why people should pledge to back this great project.

So what are you waiting for! Go give!

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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 #136

Friday, November 7th, 2014

Mmmisty
(Photo by chrisdonia)

Oddly, in British culture, some people DO actually believe that words are more important and more worthy than pictures. They believe a ‘proper book’ is one that lets them create all the images in their head, with no picture crutches. They might assume pictures are for children, a means of luring them into the REAL business of reading words.

Illustrator Sarah McIntyre explains why she hates the word ‘author.’

The idea of a post full of dating tips from Mr Darcy is a good one, but WTF BUZZFEED the Keira Knightley P&P is a pile of crap. This should have been entirely BBC version! Harrumph.

Ever wondered which words were used most in your favourite piece of classic literature? There’s an infographic for that.

I did a cursory search of Jane Austen sequels to see how many had been penned. One website counted over 70 sequels, while another went up to 180. If you add in out-of-print titles and fan-fiction written online, the number explodes. Titles include Mrs. Darcy’s Dilemma, A Wife for Mr. Darcy (not to be confused with Mr. Darcy Takes a Wife, Pemberley, the Fitzwilliam Darcy: Gentleman series, and sequels to all five other Austen novels, as well as many mash-ups, pastiches, and re-imaginings with or without zombies and vampires). There are several authors who have made their entire careers just writing sequels for one Austen novel after another.

Why oh why are we so obsessed with Austen?

Another day, another list of bookstores you’ll want to visit. (This one is really good, though!)

Fancy making your own bookends? Of course you do.

The best stories don’t hit a single note; they chime resonant chords. Don’t settle for a narrative that illustrates violence. Revisit it until that violence is laced with regret, love, or fear. Work until your capacity for complexity surprises you.

Fancy some writing advice you won’t have heard before? I loved this article from Amy Jo Burns.

Fancy reading a poem in response to #Ferguson by June Jordan? Yeah, you do.

The great Harry Giles made A Wishlist for Scottish Spoken Word, which I wholeheartedly endorse. Especially Point 3.

“Pizza…” Is that an invitation? An opinion? It sits there waiting for a response. This brings awkwardness into the equation, and the ellipsis (or even the written words “dot dot dot”) is another way to say “well this is awkward.” The conversation is not over, but someone has to make a move.

The secret emotional lives of punctuation marks.

Cats make the best librarians. Here is proof!

These mobile libraries are freakin’ amazing! There’s even a DONKEY LIBRARY!

Don’t listen to all those authors who say ‘I meditate, then write for eight hours a day at my immaculate desk, and then go for a jog’. Listening to them made me feel like I was doing it wrong because I spend 80% of the time having nervous breakdowns, 15% eating crisps, and about 5% writing, often in bed. I’ve come to believe that most other writers actually have a similar routine.

I really, really, really liked Amy Mason’s author confessions.

I loved these weird and wonderful converted buildings.

ONS fave dorkymum is involved in a whimsical new blog project, Folklings. It’s lovely!

& Glasgow Women’s Library are organising a massive march of women, and they need your help!


Frank! I admire his “IDGAF” reading style.


My sister showed me this epic dancing video and now I utterly love the totally uninhibited dude in it.


& finally, I am basically obsessed with this song at the moment.

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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 #135: Halloween edition

Friday, October 31st, 2014

_MG_2879

What if instead of asking what characters are running toward, we ask what they’re running from? What deep fears motivate our characters? Perhaps this focus on fear and character is even more helpful when looking at the power of the quiet novel, which is more likely to focus on intense, everyday anxieties. A character may not be able to describe what love they wish to move toward, but they are aware of a deep-seeded unease that pushes them away from the status quo.

Go on, inject a little fear into your writing…

I love that this list of ghost stories for babies and toddlers is entitled Hallo-wean. Nice one, Scottish Book Trust.

SBT also have great suggestions for scary books that are safe for 8-11s, and books that are much more frightening than their film counterparts!

I have gone out, a possessed witch,
haunting the black air, braver at night;
dreaming evil, I have done my hitch
over the plain houses, light by light:
lonely thing, twelve-fingered, out of mind.

You basically have to read Anne Sexton on Halloween, those are the rules. & The Poetry Foundation have put together this list of other Halloween poems, too!

Poe’s The Tell-Tale Heartas told via random gifs.

9 DIY feminist Halloween costumes, in case you’re still looking for inspiration! (I love The Notorious RBG!)

They’re easy to please, just feed them some brains,

They’ll sit quietly hour by hour,

Waiting for you to replenish their bowls,

But if you don’t, it’s you they’ll devour.

Bless… Darren Shan wrote a children’s poem! About er… brain-eating zombies.

…and if you want more Halloween-y poems for kids, I recommend tracking down that Josh Seigal fella. He’s got loads, including this one!

These literary jack-o-lanterns are so good, they look Photoshopped. But they aren’t. I know.

There’s more to scary stories than goblins, ghouls, blood and your general horror — here there be monsters of many kinds, existential and literal, extraordinary and everyday. And remember: like beauty, fear is in the bloody eye of the beholder.

Flavorwire have helpfully picked fifty scary short stories that you can read to scare yourself silly this evening.

Quiz: can you judge a scary book by its cover?

What the society’s mission means is that its members are “a community of like-minded people who . . . enjoy the history, culture, & poetry associated with the lives and deaths of poets, their gravesites, and their poetry related to death,” and who are committed to “documenting and resurrecting the dead poets of America” by visiting and archiving as many poets’ graves across the country as they can.

The REAL Dead Poets Society

Not strictly Halloween themed, but here are ten poems about death. Very cheery!

Fancy a Halloween-y desktop wallpaper? You’re welcome.


This is super cute. Thanks to Alice T for sharing!


That’s my [Halloween] jam! Every year.


…well, that and 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: Chrisdonia)

Where is Claire? Events, readings, happenings for Autumn 2014

Monday, October 27th, 2014

Literary Death Match
^ That’s me with Gavin Inglis, about to win Literary Death Match in 2012! (Pic by Chris Scott)

Talking Heids: Sam Small & Claire Askew
Wednesday 29th October, Sofi’s Bar, Edinburgh, 2000-2200
Free entry

Talking Heids is one of my favourite monthly poetry nights in the whole of Edinburgh, partly because it’s run by my old favourite Captain McGuire. Also, it happens in the cozy confines of Sofi’s Bar, a tiny Leith local bedecked with fairy lights and welcoming to cute dogs!
This month, I am stepping in at short notice after the real star act, the lovely Alice Tarbuck, had to drop out due to scheduling clashes. I will try my best to be even half as awesome as she is. I’m appearing alongside Sam Small, who I was lucky enough to see in action at the BBC Slam during this year’s Fringe. If you like your poems earnestly political, come along. Sam and I definitely have that covered!
(There’s also an open mic, which you sign up for on the night by nudging the aforementioned Mr McGuire. You should sign up for it.)

Writers at the Pleasance
Thursday 30th October, Pleasance Cabaret Bar, 1900
Free entry

Hosted by The Edinburgh University LitSoc, with appearances from UoE Writer in Residence Jenni Fagan, and Lecturer in Creative Writing (+ excellent TS Eliot Prize shortlisted poet) Dr Alan Gillis. This is mostly going to be a night of readings by exciting new up-and-coming poets, including some who are travelling from south of the border to mingle with us wild northerners. I’ve been invited to provide some advice and guidance to these dewy-eyed young’uns, and maybe read some of my work into the bargain. The Pleasance Cabaret Bar is a great venue, and LitSoc always manage to pack it to the rafters. It’s going to be a great night, I know already! Hope to see you there!

Guest editing “We The Humanities
Week beginning 17th November 2014

I’ll be honest, I have no idea why I was approached for this. I feel totally unqualified to talk to THE WHOLE OF TWITTER about important issues in The Humanities today, and yet that is exactly what I am going to have to do! Things I am mulling over for possible inclusion: diversity and intersectionality in the Humanities, all things poetry-related, and maybe some specific thoughts and questions about the value of postgrad creative writing qualifications. Think that sounds good? Join the conversation at WeTheHumanities, starting Monday 17th November. Think that sounds rubbish? Get in touch on my personal Twitter and tell me what you’d LIKE to hear about!

Scottish PEN Banned Books Club for Book Week Scotland: Edwin Morgan’s Stobhill poems
Friday 28th November, Project Cafe, Glasgow, 1715 - 1830
Free but ticketed

A few months ago the lovely people at Scottish PEN contacted me and said, “we want to run two events around banned books, each with a different author. Cory Doctorow is doing the Edinburgh one. We’d like you to do the Glasgow one.” Cue me nearly dying of shock — Cory Doctorow and… little old me?!
Even better: the discussion I am facilitating is about Edwin Morgan’s “Stobhill” poems — a sequence of poems that many people wanted to have banned in the 1990s. Why? Because they explored the topics of rape and abortion against the backdrop of working class Glasgow.
I read these poems in English class back in the 1990s, and not only was I in no way corrupted by their supposedly “pornographic and licentious” nature, but they helped to make me the passionate intersectional feminist I am today. They were my first introduction to the topic of abortion, and I found Morgan’s handling of the subject fascinating, honest and beautiful.
So come and join me! We’ll be chatting in a cosy, intimate venue and I want to hear YOUR ideas about these important poems — and about what it means to ban books or to call for them to be banned. Come and tell me what you think.

The Shore PoetsBe The First To Like This‘ friendly Book Week Scotland slam!
Sunday 30th November, Henderson’s at St John’s, Edinburgh, 1915 - 2200
£5 / £3 concessions

For our FIRST EVER poetry slam, Shore Poets are teaming up with two powerhouses of Scottish Literature: the all-new shiny anthology Be The First To Like This, and the legendary uber-festival of reading that is Book Week Scotland. We’ve decided to make this a quiet slam, so we warmly welcome self-identified ‘page’ poets, slam virgins and poets who’ve always fancied slamming but think it just looks a bit too scary. Six of our slammers will be BTFTLT poets, and four will be brave citizen authors, picked at random from our open submissions call hat! Prizes will include: oodles of book tokens, free books, free poetry CDs and of course, to the winner of the raffle, our famous-for-a-reason lemon cake. Plus! The overall slam winner will go through to the Scottish Slam Championships! Oo-er.
I’ll be your excitable, probably forgetful, ultimately highly awkward host for this event. Everyone who attends will get Book Week Scotland freebies, so it’s worth every penny and more!

10Red DECEMBER
Wednesday 3rd December, Persevere Function Rooms, Leith, 2000 - late!
£3 entry, includes a free raffle ticket

10Red is one of Edinburgh’s most reliably excellent poetry nights. It is also super laid back and friendly — I’ve read there at least twice before and am chuffed to be going back. Come along and hear from ten very different poets in the comfortable setting of the Persevere Function Rooms. Bring a friend, grab a pint… oh, and prepare to leave with an armful of books! The raffle prizes are all bookish things and there tend to be lots up for grabs!
I am not sure yet who else is reading besides me, but you can keep an eye out on the Facebook page.

Want to book me for YOUR event? Email claire{at}onenightstanzas.com!

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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 by Chris Scott)

Procrastination Station #134

Friday, October 24th, 2014

Untitled

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)

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)

Featured Magazines #17: The Bugle

Monday, May 5th, 2014

The Bugle

Most of the work I do is with “reluctant readers,” and I am used to having to warm up my audience, convincing them that poetry is not a scary thing and actually, anyone can write it. However, the Bugle team were way ahead of me – several of them regularly write poems for inclusion in the magazine, and reading the creative writing pieces intended for the Bugle’s pages is an important part of the editorial process. In a world where arts columnists are mourning poetry as a supposedly “dead” artform – while poets themselves bemoan the lack of dedicated readers – The Bugle is wonderful. Its editorial team are not only reading and writing poems – they’re also helping to keep this supposedly-dying breed of writing alive, by putting it into their publication and sending that publication out into the world for free.

I wrote a blogpost for the great social action blog Common Good Edinburgh last week, all about the amazing work being done by the team of The Bugle, Bethany Christian Trust’s Edinburgh-based zine-style magazine. It’s made entirely by homeless and vulnerably houses BCT service users and it’s brilliant. Click here to find out more!

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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!

Dear poetry newbies: you need a mentor!

Monday, April 28th, 2014

from "Asphodel" by WIlliam Carlos WIlliams

My advice to new and aspiring writers has always been: read, read, and then read some more. Wanting to be a writer without first being a reader is like wanting to be a Formula 1 driver without ever having sat in a car. And yet, time and time again I’ve heard new writers – my students; the people who used to submit to Read This, the magazine I edited – say that they don’t read because they don’t want to be too heavily influenced. They don’t want to feel like they’re “copying.”

This is garbage, of course – you sit down and try to write like Allen Ginsberg, or Emily Dickinson, or Sapphire, or any other writer with a distinctive style that might creep into your writing. You’ll always end up with a pale facsimile. Whatever you write will always contain more of you and your voice (however much that voice still needs to develop) than anyone else’s. And believe me, it’s much better if your voice sounds authoritative and well-read than if it sounds green and uncertain – which it will, if you don’t study other people’s good writing.

However, I do know what it’s like to feel afraid of “being influenced.” Almost exactly two years ago, I was lucky enough to win a 2012 Scottish Book Trust New Writers Award – a prize that offers a full year of creative mentoring along with its nice wedge of cash. Obviously, I was hugely grateful that my work had been selected, and very glad of the money, which I used to fund a brilliant writing retreat on the island of Hydra, Greece (to this day, I have never been so productive). However, I’ll admit: I was uncertain about the mentoring. Having had creative writing tutors in the past whose style of critique I totally disagreed with (no one learns anything from soul-destroyingly negative notes), I was worried I might not get on with whoever was picked to mentor me. And just like those new writers whose refusal to read had exasperated me in the past, I started to realise I was also worried about influence. What if this mentor was also a poet? What if they had their own ideas about what poetry ought to be like? What if they were an amazing writer, and I found myself changing my own writing in order to impress them? Reader, I was worried.

However, that was nuts. It turns out? Creative mentoring is utterly amazing, and everyone – I mean literally every creative person – should do it, if they get the chance. I mean sure, you have to find a mentor you can get along with as a person, but I’d like to believe that most people who are willing to take on the role of mentor are probably pretty nice. (There are roughly a dozen SBT New Writers Awardees every year – I have now met many of them, and so far none of the various alumni have had a bad word to say about their mentor.) Otherwise, all you need to do is find someone who’s an expert in your field, and who – of course –wants to take on the job.

I hadn’t actually thought about it this way, but I’ve had a writing mentor of sorts for the past eight years. In 2006, I hit the third year of my degree in English Literature, and one of the Honours courses on offer was Creative Writing (Poetry), taught by Alan, contemporary poetry specialist, writer-editor of huge academic tomes, and established poet. Turns out my first Creative Writing seminar was the first class Alan taught in his new post at the University of Edinburgh, and from that class until I finished my PhD a few months ago, I was the one pesky student who just refused to go away. When I finished my MA (Hons) and went straight on to the Masters in Creative Writing (Poetry), Alan was my course tutor. When I leapt straight from the Masters into my PhD, he was my first and most obvious choice for a supervisor. Alan has seen more of my creative work than anyone else (more even than Lovely Boyfriend, who’s only been around a measly four years; more than my parents, who only see the poems that don’t have swears in them). If Alan isn’t a creative mentor, I don’t know who is – he has shaped the way I write more than any writer I’ve read or workshop I’ve attended. And I mean that in a really good way.

(NB: Do I write like him? Absolutely not. I mean obviously, he’s a billion times better than me – and in both form and content we’re kinda like chalk and cheese. Again, I tell you, folks: the whole “fear of influence” thing is total garbage.)

Then last year, I was assigned my SBT Award mentor. Although it’s taken me until now to realise that I already had one in the form of Alan, I was a bit worried that the two might contradict one another. I was still under Alan’s supervision for the PhD, after all. However, I needn’t have worried. Apparently, the only thing better than one creative mentor is two creative mentors.

I was assigned to a lovely freelance editor named Sarah – a poetry specialist who’d mentored many a new poet before I came along. It became apparent pretty quickly that Sarah wasn’t interested in doing the same job as Alan was doing. I’d spent the last three years writing poems and having Alan help me to make them better. Sarah’s job was to take the huge pile of largely-finished material I had lying around as a result, and turn it from a random stack into that truly mystical and terrifying beast: a manuscript.

The best thing about working with Sarah? She totally got what I was trying to do. In fact, she “got it” far better than I did. She told me that in order to tie my manuscript together, I needed to think about the major themes that ran through my poems. I panicked, telling her I hadn’t really written the poems with any larger themes in mind – I just wrote what wanted to be written. “Oh, there are themes in there,” she assured me. “Print out all your poems, spread them on the floor, and start putting them into piles – put the ones that speak to each other together.”
Sarah said she’d do the same thing, and then we’d compare results. I found the exercise hard-going. I had a lot of poems about women and written in women’s voices (my PhD thesis is about contemporary female poets using the confessional mode, so this was a no-brainer), but it turns out, that’s not a theme. Seeing the poems Sarah had put into piles, however, was genuinely eye-opening. “Your main theme is place and space,” she told me, as my jaw hit the floor. “Look how many of your poems take place in domestic spaces. Look how many of them are liminal, travelling poems. This is a collection about trying to find your place in the world.”

It is. Loads of my poems are about ghosts – about the hours and days immediately after death, as they try to find out where they belong now. Loads of my poems are about travel, but never fun travel – they’re about being lost or getting robbed or generally being a clueless white middle-class person who doesn’t really know where they are. And so many of my poems are about women in houses – but scary houses, houses that are “wrong,” in some way. All my poems are about trying to find a place or space to belong, and I had never even noticed that. That’s the epic power of the mentor: when they’re really good, like Sarah is, they can make you see your own work objectively – a thing I always thought was impossible.

Other great things about working with Sarah? I wanted to make a book, I didn’t know how to do that, and she taught me. She taught me how to put my poems into an order that both showcased each one nicely on its own, but also created an arc across the manuscript for the reader to follow. Like Alan before her, she pulled no punches when it came to making me edit – she explained clearly why I needed to lose that line, switch those stanzas around, come up with a better title or even ditch that poem from the manuscript entirely. Perhaps most importantly, she made me write. She recognised early on that I’d come to the end of the creative section of my PhD, that I was focussing on slogging through the last part of a thesis I’d long since grown weary of, and that I was using this as an excuse (a good one, I’d thought!) not to write new poems. She set me a deadline, created a public Google Doc and then made me post in it every day to show her what I’d written. It turns out, she didn’t check it every day – but I didn’t know that. It sounds cruel, but it was so utterly what I needed. Like I say, she just really “got” my writing.

What I have to show for all this mentoring is a manuscript that I am happy to send out to publishers. It’s out there somewhere, right now – hopefully not in a bin or on a slush pile, but I really have no way of knowing. It may well be that it gets nowhere, that no one else thinks it’s all that good. But that doesn’t really matter. When the lovely folks at Scottish Book Trust (now my colleagues!) asked me what I’d like to have achieved at the end of my mentoring year, I said, “a manuscript that I feel proud of.” Thanks to Sarah – and to Alan – that’s exactly what I’ve got.

My first full length poetry collection manuscript is entitled “This changes things,” and is currently out on submission. If you would like to find out more about it, you can email me via claire [at] onenightstanzas.com

(Image credit)

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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!