Posts Tagged ‘literature’

Need a writer? Book a writer! (& pick me!)

Monday, January 5th, 2015

StAnza 2011 Preview
Photo by Chris Scott.

Yep, it’s that time once again… time to get your application in to the Live Literature Fund! What, I hear you cry? Well…

Have you ever fancied:

- organising a poetry reading?
- organising a reading of fiction?
- inviting a writer to come and speak at your community group?
- getting your youth group involved with creative writing?
- organising a talk about writing?
- having an author come and visit your book club?
- finding a really good judge for your slam?
- hiring a professional writer for just about anything at all?

Scottish Book Trust can help!
Right now, SBT is open for applications to its Live Literature Fund. This amazing, one-of-a-kind fund enables individuals and organisations to source a poet, author, storyteller or illustrator to take part in an event or events, and helps to pay them a proper fee. The Live Literature Fund has its own database of vetted writers and artists, each of them bringing a different skillset to the fore.

Applications for the latest round of Live Literature Funding close on 16th February, so if you fancy doing any of the above, get in there quick!

…and, if you’re stuck for a writer to invite, you could always pick me!

To date, I have:

- visited high schools and talked to students about all aspects of poetry, reading and writing
- worked with vulnerable adults (in settings like women’s support groups, homeless and vulnerably housed groups, and groups for intravenous drug-users), using poetry as a way to voice, share or move on from traumatic stories or experiences
- worked extensively with adult literacy groups to engage those who struggle with reading
- worked extensively with ‘reluctant readers,’ especially young men
- worked with refugees, asylum seekers and migrants to help them tell stories of home and homecoming
- judged many a poetry competition, and many a slam
- competed in many a slam, and won a few!
- taken part in panel discussions on all manner of things
- given talks on all sorts of stuff, from my PhD research into contemporary women’s poetry, to the strategies we need to adopt to get vulnerable individuals more involved in Scottish culture and the arts
- given hundreds of poetry readings to audiences ranging from four people in a field to an Edinburgh International Book Festival crowd!

I’m always up for a challenge, too, so if what you fancy doing doesn’t sound like anything you see listed there, that doesn’t mean I won’t be up for trying it. So if you successfully secure LLF funding (or even if you don’t, and find the funds from elsewhere!), feel free to drop me a line via claire [at] onenightstanzas.com, or you can follow my antics on Twitter. You can also read my profile on the Live Literature Database itself.

Good luck!

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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!

Almost all the books I read in 2014 and the things I thought about them.

Tuesday, December 30th, 2014

So, for the first year ever, I actually kept a book journal, and wrote down in it almost every book I read throughout the year. I say almost, because towards the end I got really bogged down in — and vexed by, as you’ll see — DeLillo’s Underworld, and forgot to document some of the poetry books I read. But this is about 98% of what I read this year, along with some often-bitchy miniature reviews. Hooray, books!

#58 of 365
(Photo credit)

JANUARY

Fiction
Patrick deWitt The Sisters Brothers
(Didn’t expect to like this. Loved it. But then, I loved Ablutions, so…)
Terry Pratchett Soul Music
(Re-read for about the one millionth time. This book is like an old friend.)

Poetry
Mary Oliver West Wind: Poems and Prose Poems
Rebecca Elson A Responsibility To Awe

Gossip from The Forest - Sara Maitland
(Photo credit)

FEBRUARY

Poetry
Patricia Pogson The Holding
Patricia Pogson A Crackle From The Larder

Non fiction
Sara Maitland Gossip From The Forest
(I abandoned this halfway through. I feel guilty, but sorry, I found it a bit dull.)

93/365 American Wife
(Photo credit)

MARCH

Fiction
Curtis Sittenfeld American Wife
Christos Tsolkias The Slap
(I abandoned this because it is a book that seems to be entirely about men walking around objectifying women and getting angry erections. Literally the most misogynist book I have ever read… and the few women characters who are allowed to have any kind of meaningful narrative are so badly written it’s painful. I actually dumped this book on a train. I didn’t want the charity shop folks to even know I had read it.)

Poetry
Mary Oliver Thirst
Dorianne Laux Smoke
(Re-reading)
Kathryn Simmons The Visitations
Kerry Hardie Selected Poems
(Re-reading. I am a mega Kerry fangirl.)
Patricia Young More Watery Still
(Re-reading)

wild geese
(Photo credit)

APRIL

Poetry
Michael Conley Aquarium
(I also reviewed it!)
Mary Oliver Wild Geese
Patricia Young Summertime Swamp Love
(OK, I love this woman. I have read everything she’s ever written. I was so excited that she had a new collection out, pre-ordered it, waited impatiently to get it from Canada… and was so utterly disappointed. It’s a book where every poem is about the sex life of a different animal… and you can tell she got really caught up in the gimmicky concept and let the writing slip a bit. Or in places, a lot. Sad times!)
Karen Solie The Living Option
(Thank goodness for Karen Solie! The best poetry book I have read for years. Everyone, go out and get it and read it and marvel. She’s amazing.)

Copies of The Luminaries being prepared.
(Photo credit)

MAY

Fiction
Roxane Gay An Untamed State
(Beautifully spare, very harrowing, utterly amazing. Read it.)
Nina de la Mer Layla
(Most inventive use of second person I have ever seen, but… let’s just say I’m curious to know what real sex workers make of this book.)
Eleanor Catton The Luminaries
(Ugh. She’s so talented it’s obscene.)

#100HappyDays Day 148: Enjoyed hearing Eimear McBride talk, upon winning the Bailey Prize, about how this should be a wake-up call to publishers to take more risks after receiving years of rejections not because they didn't like it but because they didn't
(Photo credit)

JUNE

Fiction
Curtis Sittenfeld Sisterland
(Yeah, I love Curtis.)
Eimear McBride A Girl Is A Half-Formed Thing
(I hated this. I’m afraid I ditched it halfway through. Am I broken?)
Hilary Mantel Beyond Black
(My first foray into the world of Mantel! I liked it! Though it could have been 150 pages shorter.)

Talye Selasi, Author of Ghana Must Go
(Photo credit. Taiye Selasi is stunning.)

JULY

Fiction
Paul Auster Man In The Dark
(Meh. Auster is Austerish.)
Taiye Selasi Ghana Must Go
(I was ready to hate on this with all the hate I could summon… this woman was helped to publication by her personal friends Toni Morrison and Andrew Wylie, but it turns out? Not nepotism. She actually deserved the hype! Mind you, I agree with the reviewers who said it didn’t really hit its stride til Part 2.)

Poetry
Mary Oliver West Wind: Poems and Prose Poems
(Yep, re-read it in the same year.)

& Sons
(Photo credit)

AUGUST

Fiction
Janet Fitch White Oleander
(Re-reading for about the fifth time, because I just love this book.)
David Gilbert & Sons
(I expected this to be really macho… and it is, but in a brilliant, self-aware way. One of my favourite novels of the year.)

Poetry
Jean Sprackland Sleeping Keys
Colin McGuire As I Sit Quietly, I Begin To Smell Burning
(I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: McGuire is Scotland’s most underrated poet. Read it. Read it now.)

Gone Fission
(Photo credit)

SEPTEMBER

Fiction
Jennifer Egan The Keep
(She is the writer I would like to be. That said, this was not quite as sublime as Look at Me or Visit from the Goon Squad.)
Don DeLillo Underworld
(Holy crap this thing is a slog. Notice how I only got round to one other novel all year after this?! And sorry not sorry: it is so not worth it. It’s like Infinite Jest. The length of it is just male posturing (as is the dudebroish waxing lyrical about how this or Infinite Jest is like the totes best evar. So you read a long, smartypants book. Big whoop). Male GANs (Great American Novelists) have an obsession with size which just isn’t healthy. Stop it DeLillo, DFW, Franzen! You’re just showing off, dammit! My advice? Skip this one and read Cosmopolis. It’s the stunning DeLillo prose without the bullshit.)

Poetry
Katherine Larson Radial Symmetry

Reading Blue Horses by Mary Oliver
(Photo credit)

OCTOBER

Poetry
Austin Smith Almanac
(A poetry collection all about farms. Shouldn’t be good. Is amazing.)
Nancy Kuhn The Wife of the Left Hand
(This was less accessible/more abstract than I usually like, but this collection actually made me think differently about poetry. Gobsmacking!)
Mary Oliver Blue Horses
(New collection! And it’s delightfully “IDGAF” in tone. Mary Oliver, be my surrogate auntie?)
Matthew Dickman Mayakovsky’s Revolver
(Hipstery poems about Portland! Read it while drinking artisan espresso and twirling your moustache!)
Dionisio Martinez Bad Alchemy
(This dude has the best name ever.)

Untitled
(Photo credit)

NOVEMBER

Fiction
Michael Chabon Wonder Boys
(If you hate the fact that male novelists dominate the world of SRS LITERATURE and are often pompous windbags, then this book is for you. It’s about one of them getting a series of hilarious come-uppances. I actually LOLed in public at this book.)

Poetry
Thomas Lux Selected Poems
Kerry Hardie The Zebra Stood In The Night
(Another new collection I waited impatiently for… but this one did not disappoint.)
Alan Gillis Scapegoat
(I second what Dave said about this one.)
Leanne O’Sullivan Waiting for my Clothes
(I did Leanne O’Sullivan wrong. I had never heard of her and read The Mining Road, liked it well enough, but didn’t know til last month that in the early 2000s she’d been this 20 year old writing prodigy genius person. Holy wow.)

Marie Howe
(Photo credit. That’s Marie Howe, btw.)

DECEMBER

Poetry
Melissa Lee-Houghton Beautiful Girls
(Once upon a time, I published Melissa in my tiny, Xeroxed poetry zine Read This. I am so chuffed to see how far she’s come since then… she deserves all the praise, her poems are great.)
Marie Howe What The Living Do
Mary Oliver Dream Work
(I am an Oliver addict.)
Tiffany Atkinson So Many Moving Parts
Helen Dunmore Recovering A Body

Non-fiction

Robert Boice How Writers Journey to Comfort and Fluency: A Psychological Adventure
(This is long-winded as hell, out of print and a hard copy will rush you at least £60. But holy wow, it’s very, very, very useful.)

A few final stats:

Total fiction: 17
Total poetry: 32
Total non-fiction: 2

Books by men: 16 (7 fiction, 8 poetry, 1 non fiction)
Books by women: 35 (10 fiction, 24 poetry, 1 non fiction)

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What did YOU read this year?
(Related reading: my top 10 independent bookstores of 2014)

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

My Top 10 Independent Bookstores of 2014: a northward bookish road trip!

Monday, December 22nd, 2014

PhD grad weekend adventures (12)

Withnail Books, Penrith

Range of books? Excellent for such a small place.
Specialism? Lake District related, and all things Withnail & I.
Prices? About right (all the books are second hand).
Easy to find? Not really. A bit off the beaten track and hidden away in an antiques/restoration salvage yard! You’d be better off looking for Booths supermarket… it’s across the road from there!
Accessible? Accessible-ish… it’s ground level but in the middle of a salvage yard so there may be obstacles.
Cafe? No.
Best bit? There’s a vintage clothing store upstairs, and this aforementioned antiques salvage yard right outside which is also brilliant for a poke about in!

Beckside Books, Penrith

Beckside Books, Penrith

Range of books? Again, excellent for such a wee place.
Specialism? Lake District.
Prices? About right (all the books are second hand).
Easy to find? Yes, it’s in the centre of Penrith and well signposted.
Accessible? Partly — it’s on two floors with stairs to the first floor.
Cafe? No.
Best bit? It’s a place to find hidden gems… and it’s a very, very cute building.

Bookcase Books in Carlisle.  Place of dreams.

Bookcase, Carlisle

Range of books? Massive. This place is absolutely huge. You want it? They have it.
Specialism? Being unapologetically huge and maze-like.
Prices? Cheap (all the books are second hand).
Easy to find? Yes, although not signposted it’s two minutes from Carlisle’s market square and any local could direct you there.
Accessible? No.
Cafe? No, but there’s a tea and coffee machine and lots of posters encouraging you to make use of it!
Best bit? I have been four times and still not seen it all. It’s that big.

Word Power Books

Word Power Books, Edinburgh

Range of books? Great. If I can’t find a book anywhere else, I can usually find it here.
Specialism? Politics, and Scottish writers.
Prices? Almost all the books are new, so RRP or above.
Easy to find? Yes.
Accessible? No.
Cafe? No.
Best bit? Marshall, the friendly Rottweiler-cross who follows you around as you browse and appreciates a good scratch behind the ears!

Looking Glass Books, Edinburgh

Looking Glass Books, Edinburgh

Range of books? Modest, but carefully hand-picked. (I do sometimes find them hard to browse, though… there’s a funny categorising/display system going on!)
Specialism? Scottish writers.
Prices? All the books are new, so RRP.
Easy to find? Yes. Well signposted from Middle Meadow Walk!
Accessible? Fully! Go LGB!
Cafe? Yes.
Best bit? Vegan flapjack. Sorry not sorry!

Glasgow Aug 14

Alba Musick, Glasgow

Range of books? Surprisingly wide for a bookshop that calls itself a music shop!
Specialism? Music.
Prices? About right (all the books are second hand).
Easy to find? Nope. It’s in a yard behind some flats. Although if you know where the similarly-weirdly-placed Glasgow legend Tchai Ovna is, start there… it’s one yard over.
Accessible? Yes… although the yard outside is cobbled and sometimes cars park across the doorway.
Cafe? No.
Best bit? Surprisingly excellent poetry section!

Glasgow Aug 14

Voltaire & Rousseau, Glasgow

Range of books? Very wide… but this bookstore is famous for having absolutely no logical cataloguing system whatsoever. If you’re looking for something specific, be prepared to rummage. For a long, long time.
Specialism? Intimidating, haphazard piles of books!
Prices? Cheap (all the books are second hand).
Easy to find? See above. This one’s in the same yard as Tchai Ovna. Get off the Subway at Kelvinbridge and then ask someone!
Accessible? Theoretically, yes. Realistically, no.
Cafe? No, but the aforementioned Tchai Ovna is a couple of doors down.
Best bit? Rummaging.

Inverness 2014 (8)

Leakey’s, Inverness

Range of books? Huge! Although surprisingly little fiction and poetry in comparison to other stuff.
Specialism? Scottish travel/antiquarian.
Prices? A bit on the dear side (all the books are second hand).
Easy to find? Yes.
Accessible? No.
Cafe? Yes.
Best bit? Just hanging out in this place is really cool. It’s a converted church and every surface is covered with books. There’s also a woodburning stove!

Gairloch 2014 (2)

Hillbillies Bookstore and Trading Post, Gairloch

Range of books? Amazingly great, considering this place is down a 60-mile-long, single-track cul-de-sac in the Highlands.
Specialism? Politics / social science, book-related geeky gifts, and really, really good coffee.
Prices? All the books are new, so RRP.
Easy to find? Once you’re in Gairloch, yes. But first you must gird your loins and drive to Gairloch!
Accessible? Yes — although it’s split-level with stairs, both levels are accessible via their own outside doors.
Cafe? Oh hell yes.
Best bit? The place is papered with political slogan posters, and the cafe’s coffee is great. This place is basically like a little piece of North Beach, San Francisco… in Gairloch.

Thurso 2014

Tall Tales, Thurso

Range of books? Modest. It’s a wee place!
Specialism? None… but lots of Scottish titles.
Prices? Super cheap.
Easy to find? Yes, it’s in the middle of Thurso and Thurso is, well, pretty tiny.
Accessible? No.
Cafe? No.
Best bit? Tall Tales is the best thing about Thurso (although Thurso also has a surprisingly cosmopolitan health food store). Hooray!

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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!

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)

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

Friday, November 22nd, 2013

claire at wpm
Photo by Neil Thomas Douglas

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

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

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

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

Tuesday 26th November 2013
Talking Heids for Book Week Scotland

Sofi’s Bar in Leith, 1900, FREE

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

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

The Scottish Poetry Library, 1800-2000, FREE

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

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

Transmission Gallery 2000–2300 (doors 1930), FREE

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

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

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

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

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

Check the ill Q&A behaviour

Wednesday, September 5th, 2012

366 - 350: You can't shut me up

I’ve been to a whole load of readings and other author events this Festival – avoiding as I am every aspect of the white, male, thirty-something, rape-joke-cracking comedy side of things. And although I’ve had a creeping sense of this for a while, this Festival season it has really struck me just how badly people behave in post-reading Q&A sessions.
It’s got to the point where, on the rare occasions that the event’s chair announces that there will not be a Q&A session afterwards, I feel a palpable surge of relief. You’d think that good behaviour – particularly at a set-up as supposedly erudite as the Edinburgh International Book Festival – would be a no-brainer. But apparently not – it’s more likely to be a free-for-all of terribleness. Therefore, let me share with you my no-shit-Sherlock rules for good Q&A behaviour, wherein I will also share some of the horrors I have been [un]fortunate enough to witness.

1. It’s a Q&A… so ask a damn question
The clue to this one’s in the name, folks – question and answer. Seems straightforward, right? And yet, the most commonplace Q&A sin is most definitely Question Fail. The non-question usually comes from someone whose hand shoots up in a Donkey-from-Shrek gesture. And you can tell as soon as they start that there is no question at the end of their faltering verbal rainbow. They start with “I’d just like to say…”, or “Isn’t it interesting how…”, or sometimes “You’ve just got me thinking about…” And after a while it becomes apparent that they don’t actually want to ask anything. The speaker nods politely along, perhaps trying to engineer a possible response in spite of the fact that the non-questioner doesn’t really want one. The non-questioner just wants the microphone. And yaknow, we’ve all paid ten quid for the privilege of hearing from the speaker. Please ask them something so they can say interesting things to us!

2. It’s not all about you.
A greater awareness that there are other people in the audience would serve a lot of questioners well in general. I’m speaking now of those people – some of whom have real questions and some of whom don’t – who see the Q&A session as an opportunity for them to have a private one-to-one conversation with the speaker. They ask a (non-)question, the speaker responds, and then instead of surrendering the slippery, sweaty roving mic to the next eager hand-waver, they respond back – sometimes numerous times and often at length. Admittedly, there are some event chairs who won’t allow this sort of behaviour and who will attempt to head these me-me-me types off at the pass. But this is Blighty after all, and many chairs and speakers will simply nod politely as the precious seconds of the often-too-brief Q&A tick by. Again: dude, I have spent a whole piece of paper money to come to this event. I did not spend that money so I could hear you chat about how much you liked the voice-acting in Brave (this really happened) with a speaker whose topic had absolutely nothing whatsoever to do with Pixar’s totally-not-a-princess-movie. Please be quiet now. (Although yes, Brave is great. Just not now.)

3. ’splaining is never acceptable…
…especially when you are talking to someone who is an expert in their field. Seriously: I can never understand folks who’ll wait until the speaker has finished unpacking years of research on a subject obviously close to their hearts before reaching for the mic and saying “actually, x is totally untrue! I read an article about it in the Telegraph!” Some cases in point: Marina Warner is one of the world’s greatest and most knowledgeable scholars of myth and folklore. She’s been publishing on the subject since the mid seventies. What this woman doesn’t know about folklore doesn’t exist. And yet, at the end of Warner’s brilliant lecture at the Book Festival, a woman raised her hand to say, “I don’t know if you realise this, Marina, but Scotland has a very vibrant culture of folklore and storytelling!” Dude. It’s Marina freaking Warner. I guarantee you she knows.
I witnessed another example of ’splaining at Alice Oswald’s truly incredible Book Festival reading. There was no Q&A session, but punters were encouraged to bring questions to Oswald during the signing. The signing queue was huge, it was 10pm and poor old Alice had just read non-stop from memory for an hour and twenty minutes. Needless to say, she was obviously exhausted. And yet, a bloke in the signing queue in front of me had no qualms about stepping up to the table to tell her all about the good old days of his own Homeric studies as an undergrad at Oxford, and by the way, did she know x and y about Homer? The woman is an expert, man! She knows.
Finally – and I really thought that in terms of ’splaining, by now I’d seen it all – at Andrew Keen’s Book Festival event, a truly ’splain-tastic gentleman spoke up at the back. Keen had just finished discussing the possible dangers of social networking for young people, a subject that his two nonfiction works have examined at length. After slagging both books horribly (and I’ll return to this in a moment), the gentleman pointed out that, “according to studies” (BECAUSE OF REASONS!), young people are highly responsible users of social media and only ever ‘friend’ people they definitely know IRL. He actually said, his white beard shuddering with indignation, “I know how young people behave, and you’ve got them completely wrong.” As a young person myself (who has nearly 2,000 Twitter followers and not a clue who most of them are), and a FE lecturer who teaches over 150 young ’uns a year (all of whom talk about “some random on my Facebook,” etc), I must say to you, sir: you are embarrassing yourself.
Everyone else: please do not be this person.

4. Do not slag the book.
I’ve witnessed this more times than I care to mention, yet I still do not understand the logic. Before the white-bearded ’splainer above began telling everyone in Edinburgh all about How Young People Behave, he first launched a massive tirade against the speaker, his books, and everything he stood for. He began with, and I quote, “I read your first book and frankly I thought it was a shoddy piece of work” (cue a lot of booing and hissing-through-teeth from the audience), before adding, “and I totally disagree with everything you say in this new book!” Happily, Andrew Keen is a long-time Silicone Valley insider, and about as hard-boiled a speaker as you get at the Book Fest, so without batting an eyelid he responded, “so you’ve read the new book, then?” When Beardy McSplain had to admit that he had not, Keen continued, “well, you’re not putting yourself in a desperately credible position, then, are you?”
However, I have seen authors panic in the face of their book being wantonly slagged in the Q&A. In an event at the Book Fest last year, the author – who I won’t name – faced a screeching elderly woman in the front row telling her that In My Day Women Like You Would Have Been Called Lazy Sluts, or words to that effect. The poor woman was just open-mouthed with shock, as were the audience.
The reason I don’t understand people who publicly attack the book (or the author) is not because I think the authors shouldn’t have to deal with it. Personally, I see hecklers as part of the public reading territory and almost relish the challenge they provide (I’ve never been called a lazy slut, though, I suppose). No, the reason I don’t understand it is this: if you hate this person and all that they write about/stand for so much, why the everloving hell have you spent ten whole pounds to come to their event? That’s two and a half pints, or a good novel, or four copies of the Big Issue! Folks – do everyone in the world a favour, stay home and give that money to a deserving charity.

5. Wait to be asked.
Just a piece of common courtesy, this. I was at an International Festival event the other day – a panel discussion featuring three academics and the chair. It became clear towards the end that the chair was trying to wrap things up for questions, but before she had even finished speaking, an extremely rude man in the front row threw out his arms towards the panel and boomed, “SO LET ME ASK YOU THIS, THEN…” Happily, the chair cut in and demanded that a) be quiet until she was done and b) he wait for the roving mic (although he really didn’t need it) – but even so, I was gobsmacked. I mean, I’ve asked questions in Q&As before – I do so quite regularly – but there is no way in hell I would ever take it upon myself to decide that I was sick of listening now and HEY LISTEN TO ME INSTEAD! Ladies and gents – be nice. Wait til you’re asked. This is the literary world, we’re civilised here! Aren’t we…?

Right – now I want to hear your horror stories. I know you’ve got them! Have you come across someone even worse than Beardy McSplain? Tell me in the comments box!

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You can also visit Read This Press for more poetry (and typewriter paraphernalia!). Alternatively, check out Edinburgh Vintage, our sister site. 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!

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Featured poem, “Casebook” by Roddy Shippin

Tuesday, April 24th, 2012

red carpet

Casebook

The last king, by the entrails of the last priest, in the conservatory.

The speaking clock, by the candlestick, in the director’s cut.

The bull, by the horns, in the china shop.

My honey, by the light of the silvery moon, in June.

The mourner, by the waters of Babylon, in high tide.

The hospital, by the Conservative, in the bill.

The author, by the post-structuralist, in the library.

Roddy Shippin is a young (though greying) Edinburgh-based writer/call centre lackey. He’s had poems on the Poetry Scotland Open Mouse and a handful of stones, as well as various incarnations of the St Andrews student writing society (Inklight) journal. He probably spends more time thinking about snooker than is technically necessary.

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Want to see YOUR poem featured on ONS? Read this post first: submission guidelines are at the bottom. Good luck!

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You can also visit Read This Press for more poetry (and typewriter paraphernalia!). Alternatively, check out Edinburgh Vintage, our sister site. 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 poem: ‘My Granddad Buries King at Souter Lighthouse’, by Jake Campbell

Tuesday, April 17th, 2012

Souter Lighthouse

My Granddad Buries King at Souter Lighthouse

I can see him pulling
up at Souter. Beam
of the lighthouse scanning
the bonnet of his Escort Estate
as he opened the boot, lifted out
the rug-rolled corpse, delicate
as a pile of firewood.

Wellying the spade
into the grass, I imagine others
passing along Coast Road
after nightshifts
and engagements in car parks
will have seen him:
mosquito to England’s neckline.

The radio might have been on,
the passenger door ajar as ‘Golden Brown’
sprinkled out of the stereo.
Three feet down, he’ll have wiped
his brow with a shirt sleeve,
dug the spade in like a flag-pole,
lifted the corpse of King
into a pore
of earth.

Refilling the hole would have been
the easy part, the headstone
the problem. Rolling the rock
over the mud blemish, he must have cursed
the stupid mutt for dying

Back in his car, slipping the gearbox
into third as he growled up Lizard Lane,
the sun opening over the North Sea
like a tangerine, he’ll have begun singing:
‘Golden brown, texture like sun,
lays me down with my mind; he runs…’

Jake Campbell was born in South Shields in 1988. His debut pamphlet of poetry, Definitions of Distance, is due from Red Squirrel Press in May. Last year, he won the Andrew Waterhouse Award from New Writing North and graduated from the University of Chester with distinction for his Creative Writing MA. Having thus far avoided the ‘real world’ (whatever or wherever that is), he tries to present the semblance of being a professional writer in order to keep his parents off his back. Follow him trying to do that at: jakecampbell1988.blogspot.co.uk

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Want to see YOUR poem featured on ONS? Read this post first: submission guidelines are at the bottom. Good luck!

Participate!: all-female poetry slam to celebrate International Women’s Day 2012

Monday, March 5th, 2012

No More Nice Girls

International Women’s Day is fast approaching, and I for one didn’t want to be caught unawares this year with nothing to do celebrate (like I was last year — the centenary year! — when all I managed was this post). So, I started thinking: what would I really like to do to celebrate International Women’s Day 2012? I reasoned that I should definitely keep up my tradition of giving as big a chunk of money as I can afford to a women’s charity… and that gave me an idea. Why not do something to encourage other folk to give their money to a women’s charity, too?

And thus, the International Women’s Day 2012 Edinburgh All-Female Slam (catchy, no?) was born.

At first, I wanted to hold a poetry slam simply because I know they never fail to get a good crowd through the door, and that would mean more pennies in the bucket for whatever charity I decided to pick (also, I just love a good slam). But then I realised that a poetry slam might also be a good place to raise awareness about women’s issues within the poetry community.

I’m not for a moment suggesting that female poets have it as bad as, say, the ladies in the photo above. Thanks to the pioneering work of ladies like Sylvia Plath, Anne Sexton, Adrienne Rich, Sharon Olds, Maya Angelou, Margaret Atwood, Carol Ann Duffy, Liz Lochhead and many more, these days being a female poet is considered no weirder, really, than being a male poet. Female writers — although we still have a lot of catching up to do — no longer have to fight tooth and nail to be allowed to write, publish, perform and be reviewed. Most of us, I think, just get on with it.

What’s more, my local literary community plays host to a vibrant performance poetry scene that boasts some of the UK’s finest female performance poets: among them Jenny Lindsay, Sophia, Laura Hainey, and numerous others. We’re in Scotland, of course, so things aren’t as intersectional as they are in, say, Leeds or London… and they’re perhaps not as intersectional as they potentially could be. But there’s still a lot of poetry buzzing around and a lot of ladies getting involved.

However: Scotland’s poetry slam scene does still seem to be dominated by men. Our current Scottish slam champion is Young Dawkins, and when I try to think of the really great performance poets Scotland has to offer, I find myself coming up with far more male names than female ones (to mention but a few, Scotland can boast the vocal stylings of Bram Gieben, Colin McGuire, Kevin Cadwallender, Harlequinade, Robin Cairns, Jim Monaghan, Tickle McNicholl, Tim Turnbull and Harry Giles). Furthermore, slam itself could be described as somewhat chauvinistic: the focus is on competition, on “knocking out” one’s opponents in “head-to-head” finals. What’s more, slam has gained a bit of an unfair rep among non-slammers as being all about shouting the loudest or rapping the fastest.

Understandably, this view of Scottish slam puts a lot of performers — and mostly, it seems, ladies — off. I know many a female poet who just “won’t do slams.” And I think this is extremely sad, given that a) slam is a super cool movement with a huge and growing audience and b) Scottish performance poetry is crying out for a greater variety of voices, and is, in my experience, always friendly and welcoming.

Therefore, this slam is about faciliating the female performance poetry that I know is out there. I’ve seen all the poets on our spectacular bill performing at open mics and at traditional stand-up readings (and sometimes at “quiet” or “friendly” slams), and each time I’ve thought, THE SCOTTISH SLAM SCENE NEEDS YOU, LADY! Contrary to what several poisonous detractors (now blocked, don’t worry) on the event’s Facebook wall have somehow decided, this event IS NOT about bashing men and it IS NOT about favouritism towards women. It is about welcoming twelve exciting performers a little further into the performance poetry scene, and providing them with the encouragement they need to get out there and take the world of slam by storm.

If you like the sound of a FRIENDLY, ALL-INCLUSIVE slam featuring poetry from both male AND female performers; if you like the sound of raising a ton of money for Scottish Women’s Aid while sitting in a pub and listening to some fine verse; if you like the sound of discovering some new poets you never knew existed but whose work is guaranteed to blow your tiny mind… well then, get yourself to:

THE BANSHEE LABYRINTH
on
TUESDAY 6TH MARCH
at
7PM (doors) for 7.30PM (start)
and
BRING YOUR FRIENDS, YOUR APPLAUSE, AND YOUR GENEROUS DONATIONS

Check out our Facebook event for more details.

SEE YOU THERE!

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One Night Stanzas loves mail. Say hello via claire@onenightstanzas.com. NB: I am physically unable to reply to non-urgent stuff unless I have a free afternoon and a cup of tea in my hand. Please be patient!

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Procrastination Station #100: THE ALL-TIME BEST OF

Friday, February 3rd, 2012

100 with peeling paint

So yep — terrifyingly, I have managed to procrastinate my way to 100 whole posts of weird and wonderful blog links, Youtube videos and other internet flotsam over the course of my three-and-a-half years at the helm of One Night Stanzas. In recognition of this epic event, I decided to trawl through all 100 previous procrastination station posts, and bring you my pick of the best lovely links so far. Let the wwilfing commence!

I never did buy the waterproof notebook, but now I’ve remembered about it I sure am coveting it again!

“Few who believe in the potential of the Web deny the value of books. But they argue that it is unrealistic to expect all children to read “To Kill a Mockingbird” or “Pride and Prejudice” for fun. And those who prefer staring at a television or mashing buttons on a game console, they say, can still benefit from reading on the Internet. In fact, some literacy experts say that online reading skills will help children fare better when they begin looking for digital-age jobs.”

What effect does the Internet have on literacy rates? Will the web kill reading?

All-time favourite words from around the world.

Want a web/phone app that FORCES you to write? You got it!

“Although we all have stories to tell very few of us have a book worth writing in us. I am with John Milton when he argues in Areopagitica that “a good book is the precious life-blood of a master-spirit, embalmed and treasured up on purpose to a life beyond life”. Very few of us are great poets.”

The old adage, “everyone has a book in them?” Not true.

A hilarious list of “ways to be cool.”

“Well, I like poetry that is amusing, that maybe makes me chuckle a little. I’d rather read something reassuring and light than something complicated or gloomy. Is that bad? Does that mean I am a jerk?”

Smart answers to some of the common, and really stupid, questions people ask about poetry.

Want to look up that poem you heard in a movie? Here’s your resource.

Not writing-related (except perhaps for the fact that the blogger misspelled “hilarious” in the post title!), but I greatly enjoyed revisiting these funny/creepy US church billboards.

A great series of interviews with poetry editors.

Altered books is a huge and beautiful vispo and book art resource. So is Fuck Yeah Book Arts!

I have a tattoo of one of these babies now, so it was cool to learn a little more about the ampersand.

“The cash registers were idle much of the time, but the [book]store was full, seemingly peopled by freeloaders sitting in chairs with stacks of books piled at their feet. What was appearent was that very few of those books would be purchased and the books in turn would be dog eared, bent , battered and otherwise made less than pristine. The staff, in turn, seemed as though they could give a flat fuck about the state of the store; sections were out of order. Vain as I am, I wanted to yell at someone.”

CHEAPSKATES AND DEADBEATS KILL BOOKSTORES! — & see some of the world’s coolest bookstores, in pictures.

Colour Me Katie has some sweet, simple rules for Living A Creative Lifealso in pictures!

How could I possibly exclude Gala from an epic link-love round up? One of my all-time favourites of hers was Very Definitely Not Dinner and a Movie.

Holy freaky book art, Batman!

“Certainly you may buck the conventions of the query letter if your work is too amazing/revolutionary/brilliant to be summarized. Why don’t you also try applying for jobs without a résumé, using only your psychic powers. Let us know how that works out for you.”

The ultimate, and I mean THE ULTIMATE take on submission guidelines, by the one and only Rejectionist.

I’m really bad for auto-apologising. I clearly need to re-read this article, on stuff you should never apologise for, and why.

I think I’m in love: a Flickr group devoted to the coolest customised Moleskines on the planet. Hipstertalent!

Ever wondered how a publisher goes about choosing the perfect covers for their about-to-be-published books?

DIY Pirateship Armada: PEOPLE ACTUALLY LIVE HERE. (I am jealous of them.)

“Inside my sheltering head: the sound of rustling green. Husband,
you are the riddle beneath which I dream blossoms and birds, but
when I wake, icicles hang from the eaves, the size of a man and twice as lethal.”

Here’s my favourite poet, being awesome.

Want a story on your shirt? A limited edition story, no less? Head to I Love Boxie.

HOT GUYS READING BOOKS. Enough said.

“We’re all practitioners of an art that doesn’t generally interest or impress the vast majority of people, and most of us will struggle to be heard, read, enjoyed and make a living out of our art. It is therefore quite darkly hilarious that many poets do not read other poets work, and nor do many performance poets attend performance poetry events.”

Jenny Lindsay is fabzilliant in this guest post at LumpInTheThroat, about the “divide” between page and stage.

What happens when bad men are also great writers.

Neil Gaiman’s assistant tells you the 10 Things you should never send to your favourite writer (no matter how obsessively you love them).

Think you can’t fight crime? Try making your damn bed!

How to be the most annoying author ever and why dating a writer really isn’t all that cool.

“Someone wants to kiss you, to hold you, to make tea for you. Someone is willing to lend you money, wants to know what your favourite food is, and treat you to a movie. Someone in your orbit has something immensely valuable to give you — for free.”

I’m not normally into all this self-help type stuff, but the Manifesto of Encouragement is pretty darned encouraging!

You’ve got to love Hark! A Vagrant!. It’s like, the law.

“You think I’m stupid. You think I’m immature. You think I’m a malformed, pathetic excuse for a font. Well think again, nerdhole, because I’m Comic Sans, and I’m the best thing to happen to typography since Johannes fucking Gutenberg.”

Comic Sans speaks out at McSweeneys

A really interesting blog about the difficulty of being a self-promoting artist.

Hey, remember Jacqueline Howett and her comment rage?!

Writing a female character? Use this flowchart!

“Some blind date has persuaded you to go to a poetry slam. On the stage you see people shouting horrifying personal and global traumas with lines like “And I wonder / if George Bush was a woman / would he still let his Dick / do most of his thinking?” A valid question, but it is not the type of ambience that leads to a second date.”

Why everyone hates poetry.

My favourite webcomic strip of all time, I think.

Photos of female writers looking awesome in spite of these disturbing publishing trends.

Typewriter p0rn!

“”Oh, yes. That. Well, the sperm comes out of the man’s penis and it goes into the woman’s vagina. This happens when the two do what’s called, ‘have sex’. And that’s where the egg – there’s usually only one in the woman’s pond at a time – gets fertilised.” Only after the fact did I realise that I had said the words penis and vagina and sex in a strained, sotto voce tone. This was also something my own mother would have done.”
When The Birds and The Bees Talk gets out of control…

Photos of great writers at their typewriters!

Who doesn’t want to see great writers go head to head in a war of words?

“A student said to me yesterday, “I didn’t know professors could have long hair.” I said, “They can. If you do something well, people won’t bother you. That’s true in all professions. If you are the one guy who can fix the computers, you can keep a boa constrictor in your office. No one will say a thing.” His eyes flashed. Possibly he “went over to the dark side”… or something. I felt happy for 11 seconds.”
I still think about this article a lot: on teaching creative writing.

So… why do we all want to be ‘well read’ anyway?

Writing an application for an MFA? Some crucial dos and don’ts.

“If a customer tells me she’s looking for a book by a man and there’s a girl in it but she can’t remember the author or the title, I give her Lolita. If she’s looking for “that popular book about the animals”: Animal Farm. “That controversial book my book club is reading”: The Autobiography of Malcolm X. “The book with a red cover and the word ‘the’ in the title”: The Joy of Sex. I’m a bookseller, not a magician. My dark-framed glasses and skinny jeans possess only so much magic.
If you read nothing else from this post, read Bookseller I Would Like To F***.

So funny. So cringe-y. So true. The Ultimate Celebrity Interview.

25 Things Writers Should Stop Doing Right Fucking Now.

I loved this so much at the time and rediscovering it was a joy! Serious patience and craftsmanship right here:

Basically the most bad-ass bloke ever right here:

My favourite Lady Gaga song. For reals.

My little sister is megatalented.

I SO HEART GEORGE WATSKY.

My favourite short film of all time. (+ an amazing soundtrack!)

Wizard Smoke from Salazar on Vimeo.

Watch. Be amused.

Edinburgh’s hippest cyclist.

Sweet song, and the cutest music video ever.

It’s terrible, but you kind of have to love it.

What he said.

“I’m going to write smart things about Death in Literature.”

Shakespeare vs Dr Seuss (OMG Watsky <3)

Phew! Here’s to the next 100. Have a great weekend!

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One Night Stanzas loves mail. Say hello via claire@onenightstanzas.com. NB: I am physically unable to reply to non-urgent stuff unless I have a free afternoon and a cup of tea in my hand. Please be patient!

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