Posts Tagged ‘publishing’

How Many Wrongs Make A Mr Right? Debut novelist Stella Hervey Birrell on rejection, writing, and men jumping up and down in nightclubs…

Saturday, April 16th, 2016

Hello friends! Remember me? I am indeed still alive, though my blog hardly shows it. Thankfully, I am lucky enough to know the brilliant Stella Hervey Birrell, and even luckier enough to be able to host one of the stops of her blog tour… so I am, rustily, back to blogging! (Thanks, Stella.) Stella’s debut novel is described as “chick lit with grit,” a slogan so great I wish I came up with it — and it’s called How Many Wrong Make A Mr Right? I managed to corner Stella for a small interview… you’re going to enjoy what she has to say, so grab a cuppa and get settled!

1.  I’m always interested to hear about how people started out writing.  I know that you’re also a singer-songwriter, and wonder — did that come first, then story-writing, or the other way around?  Or do you see them as being wholly unconnected?

Not wholly unconnected, no. I had to think really hard about this question: which did come first? It was terribly earnest poetry, really, as a child and then an angsty teenager. Songs have been part of the deal as an adult for a long time, and my husband normally writes the tunes, so it’s something we do together.
But when I gave up work, it wasn’t to write songs, it was so that I could write a commercial, full length novel. Songs are mostly written as gifts, or for my band, The Domestics, which isn’t a full time job.
I’d love to think that writing lyrics informs my prose, but actually I think they’re pretty different. Although it’s probably best that I don’t write in rhyming couplets!

Sam Burns Yard Domestics Pic
‘And now I will read you my full-length novel…’ Stella with her band, The Domestics. Picture by Caroline Pearson.

2.  Kind of related to that first question: what do you think, say, your sixteen-year-old self would make of the fact that you’ve published a novel? 

Oh my goodness she’d be delighted! She was so pretentious though, she’d have been super snooty about the fact that I don’t have a traditional, paper based publishing deal, or an agent.
She’d probably be more surprised that I’m a generally happy, settled person though, neither of us thought that would ever happen…

Correct cover!
Available on UK Amazon, US Amazon, Kobo, Nook and iBooks. (sorry, 16 year old Stella)

3.  What do you see as the major themes of your work?  What questions are you interested in exploring?  Not necessarily just in your novel, but in your writing in general, I mean.  I’m always nosy about the things folk want to drive at with their writing.

At root, I write for women. In my first book, the strongest theme is probably ‘loving yourself first.’
I’m also interested in writing about the female orgasm, in an educational way though – I don’t write erotica.
In other work, women’s empowerment, women’s support networks (good, bad and non-existent), and the whole parenting lark: things I’m experiencing now. For example, my youngest son started school last year, and the piece that came out of the devastation I felt was accepted by the Ropes Journal. Nothing is wasted, as they say.

Strident Feminist cropped
Melissa, How Many Wrongs Make a Mr Right?

4.  I know (*eyebrow-wiggle*) that you’re a member of at least one writer’s group.  Can you talk about the ways in which being part of writing community helps or influences your writing?  

When I started writing ‘seriously,’ my cousin advised me to join a writers group. I’m so glad she did. Being part of Tyne & Esk Writers means I have a place to read works in progress, the impetus to improve as a writer, a community of writers that I now consider friends, access to a ‘proper’ published author and mentoring from her, a beta-reader who surpasses all other beta-readers, the opportunity to read and comment on other people’s work, and somewhere I go every second Wednesday where I know I’ll have a laugh.

5.  If time, money, and lifestyle circumstances were not a factor, what would your writing career look like in 10 years’ time?

In ten years’ time I’d like a readership, not made up of my close family and friends, and a good few novels under my belt. Like about a million other people!

6.  I have to do it: what advice can you give to other writers?  What have you learned that you wished you knew before you started?

Oooh, advice. Er, no idea. Actually, there have been a few things I didn’t do, because I didn’t think to use Google. For example, I didn’t write a one-line pitch for my debut novel, and at first I didn’t write a good cover email either.
Having short works placed in journals really helps, as you have something to write about in said cover letter. All this advice is online, I wish I’d done my research before going out to agents and publishers! Or read ‘On Writing’ by Stephen King. Especially as one agent emailed me the other day saying she doesn’t accept a second pass, once you’ve been rejected, she’s not interested in looking at future works.

Rejection email table
This is part of the deal folks. I love the smell of rejection on a Monday morning…

7.  I guess we should devote at least one question to your novel…!  What’s your favourite moment in the novel?  And was that moment the most fun part to write?

I really like the scene where the ‘gang’ all go dancing. I’m too old for clubbing now, but I used to go out a lot. It was fun, trying to get across the whole club atmosphere: how you lose all your friends but you don’t care, how obvious it is when a guy wants to snog you on the dancefloor, how, when a particular type of song comes on, all the men jump up and down a lot…

8.  Finally… what’s next for your writing?  Do you have a new novel in progress, or is there something else on the cards for you?

I have a work in progress (The Perfects) which is with my aforementioned beta-reader that surpasses all beta-readers. I am really excited about this second novel, and can’t wait to share it with other people. And I’ve got a sketchy plan for a third too (Having it All). My sisters are slightly nervous about it, because my main characters are two sisters. I’m still submitting short works as and when I can, and blogging twice-weekly.
For me, it’s about keeping going. Helen Fielding said ‘there’s always someone trying to tell you you’re not really a writer,’ and for a long time that person was myself. But with the support of my writing community and the validation of a publishing deal, I’m very nearly convinced.

17.11.2015. Stella Hervey Birrell.
Trying to act normal while getting your photograph taken, there’s another lifeskill I could do with learning… (Photo: Gordon Bell)

Stella says: “please come and say ‘hi’ in one or more of these places!
My blog space is
Twitter is @atinylife140
I have a page on Facebook here.
Email me at
I can also be found wandering the streets of various East Lothian villages.”

Thanks, Stella!


I wrote a book of poems! It’s called This changes things, and you can order it here!

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

Procrastination Station #148

Friday, January 22nd, 2016

Four Panels 2
(Photo credit)

It’s been ages since I did one of these!

This was kind of sad for me to see, as a typewriter enthusiast… but it would also make a great short story! Two guys discover a derelict typewriter shop.

It’s kind of hip to hate on Malcolm Gladwell, no? Well, I like this books, and I liked this thoughtful response to the haters.

Lawrence Ferlinghetti talks about ‘minding the shop’ while the Beats all got high. Related: some footage of the Beats hanging out in New York.

You’ve probably already seen Men Explain Lolita To Me, but if not, read it, for it’s great. It will also lead you to 80 Books No Woman Should Read, which may be even better.

Oh my goodness. This deeply sad essay about the death of a whale is one of the most beautiful things I have ever read.

Also beautiful: this long piece about end of life care, by Atul Gawande. I can’t wait to read his book.

Want to know what excellent reviewer Dave Coates reckons were the best poetry books of 2015? ‘course you do.

66 bookstores on route 66? I sense a bookish roadtrip coming on!

This piece, on fairy tales, is absolutely gorgeous.

Speaking of roadtrips, I was really interested to know what stuff you need to walk across America.

I love street photography. I hadn’t heard of this guy, so I was pleased when Medium introduced us.

This essay defining (re-defining?) chivalry is absolutely wonderful, hilarious, and contains a lot of swears.

Sarah Millican: one of my heroes.

Check out 2016’s most anticipated films by and about women also known as my new To-Watch list.

Berlin has a shed hotel, which is… terrible and brilliant all at once.

Did you know there was a 17th century female painter who got even with her rapist by a) painting dudes being murdered and b) getting famous doing it?

I LOVE the Bealtaine Cottage blog, and really enjoyed this interview with its founder, about permaculture and why it matters.

Last year was a Terry Crews Leap Year. Yep!

Do you ever say of an item of clothing, ‘I could never pull that off’? Stop!

…also, eat peanut butter for breakfast.

& finally…

How good is this mash-up of loads of different movie nightclub scenes?!

Say what you like about the royal family, but this TV show looks gripping.

And RIP Natalie Cole. I loved you, and especially this record.



I wrote a book of poems! It’s called This changes things, and you can order it here!

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

A 2016 To Read list

Wednesday, December 30th, 2015

april is national poetry month

OK, so I am really bad for talking about my “To Read list,” without actually having a To Read list. A smart person will recommend a book, and I’ll say, “I’ll add it to the list!” Then I don’t. I forget about it. I wander around with this idea that there are loads of books I’d like to read… but no idea what they are. So this year, I AM ACTUALLY MAKING THE LIST. That way, when I get to my Almost All The Books I Read list, I’ll hopefully be able to cross everything off! I love the crossing-off-of-lists.

Books I’ve already bought that have been on my shelf for ages and I really should read…

Frog - Mo Yan
I bought this for Lovely Boyfriend’s birthday in 2015 and have been waiting for him to read it, as it’s only polite. But if he hasn’t read it by his birthday this year (end of January) I’m ditching the politeness and getting in there.

Yes Please - Amy Poehler
I wanted to watch some Parks & Rec before I read this, and I’ve been working through a bunch of other TV shows first. I’m now into P&R, but also less into Amy Poehler than I was when I bought the book. But I really should read it, I’m sure it’s fun.

Gone Girl - Gillian Flynn
This is one of those that I actually thought I had read because everyone’s talked about it so much and I basically know the whole plot. But then I realised recently that I haven’t, and probably ought to.

We Are Not Ourselves - Matthew Thomas
This was a ‘find a third one to complete the 3-for-2′ job. I wasn’t super enthused, but I was mildly interested. It’s sat on the shelf for months. Time to see if it’s any good!

Being Mortal - Atul Gawande
I was excited to read this… then my grandfather died, and I wasn’t sure if I could handle it. It’s been nearly a year now since that happened, so let’s see.


Books that have been out there for years, and I should have read by now…

The Shipping News - Annie Proulx (BOUGHT IT!)
Embarrassing admittance: I didn’t realise how ace Annie Proulx was until 2015, when I read Close Range. Now I need to get on with it and read through her entire back-catalogue!

The Dark Road - Ma Jian
Lovely Boyfriend has this, has read it, and really rates it. He keeps telling me to read it. I really should.

The Singer’s Gun - Emily St John Mandel
In 2015 I fell in love with ESJM via Station Eleven. Now I need to read more of her, and this one looks most ‘me’.

Miss Wyoming - Douglas Coupland
Again, I discovered DC in 2015 with Hey Nostradamus!, and I want to read more. All his novels sound ace, but this one in particular piqued my interest…


2015 books I didn’t get round to in 2015 because I am bad at being a proper book geek

The First Bad Man - Miranda July
When everyone’s salivating over an author, I find it hard to read them. That’s weird, isn’t it? I mean, this book looks great and everyone loves her. What’s the matter with me?

Almost Famous Women - Megan Mayhew Bergman
I want to read more short fic, and this one came recommended by The Millions.

Watch Me Go - Mark Wisniewski
I cannot remember why, but at the beginning of 2015 I made a note in my diary to seek this book out. It was in a list of a few, the rest of which follow. I must have read a review of it and thought it sounded good. I’ve only just found that note again, and now I’m quite looking forward to discovering why I wrote it down, along with these others…

Find Me - Laura Van Den Berg
I have a vague feeling it’s a post-apocalyptic novel. I love those.

The Dead Lands - Benjamin Percy
Yep, this was noted down in the diary too. Also post-apocalyptic, maybe? I’m guessing, from the title only. No memory of this one either.

Girls Will Be Girls - Emer O’Toole
And another one from the diary. Maybe it’s feminist-y?

The Book of Aron - Jim Shepard
Last mystery book from this little clump of notes.

Hammerhead: The Making of a Carpenter - Nina McLaughlin
This looks so great, and I’m annoyed I didn’t get round to it in 2015!

Undermajordomo Minor - Patrick deWitt
He was in Edinburgh this autumn, presumably promoting this, and I couldn’t go and see him. Sadface! Better read the book, ’cause I love him. (And I’m not one of these Sisters Brothers johnny-come-latelies either… I’ve loved him since I read an advance copy of Ablutions way back when I worked for the James Tait Black Prize. Proper hipster fangirl over here.)

The Well - Catherine Chanter
At the EIBF event I went to with Emily St John Mandel, Catherine Chanter was the other author. I swooned so much over ESJM at the time that I sort of forgot to go buy the other book. I really ought to though, because it sounds very interesting.

Fishnet - Kirsten Innes
Yeah, I know. I ought to read this.

A Brief History of Seven Killings - Marlon James (READ IT!)
I was given this for Christmas! Hooray!

The Heart Goes Last - Margaret Atwood
I wanted to read this in time for her event in Edinburgh this autumn. Not only did I not do that, I didn’t get to the event. It looks great though, and I always appreciate a new fix of Atwood.


Books coming in 2016 that I am super looking forward to…

Gold Fame Citrus - Claire Vaye Watkins
This might already be out in USA? If so, no spoilers please. It’s another post-apocalyptic novel, so just my kind of thing.

The Girls: A Novel - Emma Cline
How great does this look?

Zero K - Don Delillo
OMG HE WROTE A NEW NOVEL!!!!!!!!1!!1!!


Poetry books I would like to read in 2016…

Settle - Theresa Munoz
I don’t know when this is appearing or who’s publishing but I want to be at the front of the queue to buy a copy!

Wild Nights - Kim Addonizio (BOUGHT IT!)

Dog Songs - Mary Oliver
See above.

The Bonniest Companie - Kathleen Jamie (BOUGHT IT!)
As you may have noticed, whatever Dave rates this highly, I want to read.

The Terrible - Daniel Sluman
Did this only just come out, or did I only just hear of it?!

Hannah Lowe - Chan
It’s not out til June! No faaaaair!

Helen Farish - The Dog of Memory
‘What if everyone who ever lived here had left one thing behind?’ is the loose theme of this, apparently. SOUNDS GREAT.

Nine Arches Press’ forthcoming anthology of UK Disability Poetry / Crip Poetics
It’s a groundbreaking concept (though it shouldn’t be) and it’s edited by a trio of absolute superstars. I am really excited about this.


A poetry collection I am sick of looking at but which you might like to read in 2016…

My book!

This changes things - Claire Askew
Yes, it’s me! You can find out all about this particular collection, and order yourself a copy, right here. (Thanks!)


I wrote a book of poems! It’s called This changes things, and you can order it here!

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

Procrastination Station #146

Friday, October 16th, 2015

Kendal sunset

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

Alright, now for the good stuff…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Have a great weekend!


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] I reply as swiftly as I can!

Procrastination Station #144

Friday, May 29th, 2015

New 70D Pan Edinburgh Castle - 01
(Photo credit)

How many stories and ideas aren’t being told - or aren’t being shared with the depth, clarity, or complexity they could be - because their creators don’t have the time or funds to make them? Who gets to have that “room of their own” where they can peace out and write at the end of the day? Who gets to not worry about paying the rent for three or twelve or thirty-six months… or in the most extreme cases, forever?

Who Gets To Be An Artist? is really excellent.

Useful truisms that might help people remember you… and your writing.

Feeling a bit crap? Unable to write? Try asking yourself these few useful questions.

If no one hates you, no one is paying attention. If attention is what you want for vanity, confidence, or, hell — to make a decent living — then know that it’s not instantaneous. Every single person that you’re currently paying attention to, at some point in their lives, was in your exact position. They kept at it and worked enough so that others started listening.
Also know that if no one is watching, you can experience true freedom. Dance in your underwear. Write entirely for yourself.

This is long, but you really should read it.

Advice for creatives from the creator of Mad Men.

Here are some cool poems by Jess Schouela, who edits Hot Tub Astronaut!

The lovely Harry Giles wrote a really interesting post about code-switching in and out of dialect, which you should definitely read

So, London has loads of bars that are in libraries!

I’m black, gay, and 29 years old. I had just published my first book of poetry. In retrospect, standing there with champagne in hand, I wish I’d felt proud rather than grateful — intensely, almost exhaustingly grateful to just be there. It’s the kind of gratitude that, I suspect, is very familiar to those whom our culture has a habit of reminding they should be happy “to just be here.”

This piece by Saeed Jones is totally necessary reading.

ICYMI: Frida Kahlo’s wardrobe was and is stunning.


Want to read a lovely short story? Shirley Muir’s ‘Out of the Blackness,’ submitted to Scottish Book Trust’s Journeys project, is pretty great!

Piracy as subterfuge, as an especially legitimate way to create art for the Caribbean —I could just about stretch my mind to accommodate that, but Mack’s plagiarism is not so thoughtful or intellectualized; it requires no such stretching of the mind. In her own words, it is just ‘carelessness’. Mack uses her poetic skills for euphemism. She apologizes for the work she has ‘unintentionally appropriated’. The whole apology… I’m afraid is worth a hearty guffaw. As one Facebook poster said in a conversation happening amongst West African poets, ‘Isn’t this what we know as mere stealing in Nigeria?’

The best response I have read to the recent Sheree Mack story is this one by the great Kei Miller.

Another ICYMI: Charlize Theron’s stunt double Dayna Grant posted some amazing photos from the filming of Mad Max!

Cakes that are delicious, vegan and works of art? Yes please!

I loved these photos of vintage drag queens!

Here’s a happy customer of Edinburgh Vintage who bought some books from me… and then wrote about it! Thanks, Beth!

Warsan Shire, just… gobsmacking.

Deleted Scenes of Women in Disaster Movies Written by Men. Watch it, it’s horribly true (and funny).

I so want to see this… and plan to have all the feels about it.

Have a great weekend!

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] I reply as swiftly as I can!

Procrastination Station #143

Friday, April 10th, 2015

Most poets don’t write a poem a day. For me it’s a very sporadic activity. Until recently, I thought “occasional poetry” meant that you wrote only occasionally. So there’s a lot of waiting, and there’s a kind of vigilance involved. I think what gets a poem going is an initiating line. Sometimes a first line will occur, and it goes nowhere; but other times—and this, I think, is a sense you develop—I can tell that the line wants to continue. If it does, I can feel a sense of momentum—the poem finds a reason for continuing. The first line is the DNA of the poem; the rest of the poem is constructed out of that first line. A lot of it has to do with tone because tone is the key signature for the poem. The basis of trust for a reader used to be meter and end-rhyme. Now it’s tone that establishes the poet’s authority. The first few lines keep giving birth to more and more lines. Like most poets, I don’t know where I’m going. The pen is an instrument of discovery rather than just a recording implement. If you write a letter of resignation or something with an agenda, you’re simply using a pen to record what you have thought out. In a poem, the pen is more like a flashlight, a Geiger counter, or one of those metal detectors that people walk around beaches with. You’re trying to discover something that you don’t know exists, maybe something of value.

BILLY COLLINS IS MY HERO (thanks Lucy for sending me this)!

Fail Safe: courage and the creative life < - I NEED THIS RIGHT NOW. (Wow. I’m starting out CAPSy this week!)

Give your writer friends gifts that they’ll actually appreciate. They’ll be grateful, trust me!

In 2013 for example The London Review of Books posted reviews for books written by only 72 female authors as opposed to 245 male ones. The New Yorker came in at 253 female to 555 male and the Times Literary Supplement (with far more male reviewers than female) also fared poorly in the equality stakes with male 903 and female 313. This given that over 80% of fiction is bought and read by women.

Get angry about literary gender inequality with the great sense-talker Sara Sheridan.

I’m afraid to say I rather enjoyed Writers You Want To Punch In The Facebook.

Reminder! Scottish Book Trust wants to read YOUR story about an important journey.

Descriptions of my work get more and more diminished until someone at the Library of Congress says that I am “easily understandable.” Actually though, compression is the opposite of what I do: what interests me is so remote and fine that I have to blow it way up cartoonishly just to get it up to visible range. My technique is something like using a hammer to drive a needle through silk.

This interview with Kay Ryan is so good. So, so good. I can’t remember the last time I enjoyed reading something so much.

I love this story of one of the most infamous London book thieves of all time!

There’s a poem by Dan Mussett on the Moth Magazine at the moment. Dan was one of my fav Edinburgh poets… then he went wandering and became one of my fav wandering poets.

I remember I hadn’t read very much, but then the school got a library, and I picked up Joyce’s Dubliners. I remember reading it late into the night. By the time I got to ‘Ivy Day’ and ‘Grace’ I didn’t really know what was going on. It was quite disorientating. But I made it to ‘The Dead’, and something happened. I’d never had an experience like it before. The last pages, as the snow comes in… I know it sounds corny, but it was an epiphany. And I thought: ‘I’m having this’.

Here’s Alan Gillis — great poet, great critic, Edinburgh Review editor and my former PhD supervisor (yay!) — talking about why he writes, what he writes about and lots of other interesting stuff.

…and also from the Edinburgh Review, here’s a wonderful poem from Graham Fulton.

Here are two of my favourite male novelists, Michael Chabon and Neil Gaiman, talking together about another of my favourites, the great Terry Pratchett. As wonderful as it sounds. (Neil Gaiman also wrote a great blog about TP’s passing.)

These kids are super, super inspiring, and made me smile. I want to make a bottle top mosaic for my garden, now!

This is really very silly, but it also made me LOL, so I thought I would share it with you!

Finally, I love the earnestness and honesty of Edith Zimmerman talking about antique jewellery in this video. A lot of what she said really resonated with me — these kinds of ideas inform my running of Edinburgh Vintage, too.

Procrastination Station #140

Friday, February 27th, 2015

makers gonna make, yo
(Photo credit)

A couple of nice things happened to me recently: I found out, quite by accident, that I’d been shortlisted (twice!) for the Charles Causley Poetry Competition… AND I was featured in this exciting little anthology of new Scottish poets!

The spine must not be bent back and broken, the pages must not be marked with dog ears, there must be no underlining, no writing in the margins. Obviously, for those of us brought up on library books and school-owned textbooks (my copy of Browning bore the name of a dozen pupils who had used the text before me), there were simple and sensible reasons supporting this behavior. But the reverence went beyond a proper respect for those who would be reading the pages after you. Even when I bought a book myself, if my parents caught me breaking its spine so that it would lay open on the desk, they were shocked. Writing was sacred. In the beginning was the Word.

As an avid spine-breaker, page-folder, underliner and marginalia-writer, I approve this message.

Five long reads about the lives of great poets.

This is really interesting: an infographic that shows you the number of books written in an author’s lifetime, at what age — and at what age their ‘breakout novel’ happened.

I know I was influenced by my father. He wrote dreadful poetry (The Death of a Crab under a Piece of Damp Seaweed) but he was fantastically good at limericks and chirpy doggerel, and was always making up rhymes about anything and everything. When we put our coats on he would push our arms into the sleeves chanting “Moley moley, down the holey”, and tooth brushing was accompanied by songs. “Yellowy teeth make Grandma frown, so swish your toothbrush up and down.” In a different time my father might have been an actor.

Reading about Vivian French’s dad really reminded me of my dad… which is why I loved this piece about what inspires her!

So hey, you know David Harsent probably won the TS Eliot Prize ’cause his bff was on the judging panel? Turns out his book is also incredibly misogynistic! Yay poetry!

But in much happier news, there is a new anthology coming, which will represent the poetry of visible and invisible disability, and it is going to be absolutely freaking amazing. Submissions are open!

When T.S. Eliot begins “The Wasteland” with a quotation from Petronius in the original Latin and Greek, he is in effect saying, “You must be this educated to read my poem.” Eliot relies on a complex mechanism of traditional imagery and symbolic structures to score his aesthetic points. [...] Collins’ plain-spokenness, on the other hand, welcomes greater numbers as they are, including readers who (by virtue of class, sex, race, or any number of factors) might not have had the opportunity to learn a half-dozen European languages.

Billy Collins: officially awesome.

If you want to feel like the laziest person in the WHOLE WORLD, listen to Kaite Welsh talking about her freelancing career on The Mountain Shores. (No really, it’s very interesting and entertaining!)

UK indie bookstores had a good Christmas! Yay!

Inequality in literary magazines and inequality in pay are both important, and in connected ways. The visibility and status of women’s writing is important precisely because of a web of marginalization across all areas of life. If women’s voices are always peripheral to male voices intoning from the center of culture, then their voices are peripheral on all issues: the pay gap, consent, harassment, rape, domestic violence, reproductive freedom, the glass ceiling, childcare. The obscuring of women’s voices in media platforms, however elite, however niche, is part of the obscuring of their voices in general; and a lack of commitment to, or an inability to hear, their voices in literary culture is related to the same lacks and inabilities in relation to their voices in harassment, in sex, in courtrooms, and in the workplace.

This is a long read, but it should be required reading for basically every literary person. (My opinion? Screw the LRB and the logical fallacy it rode in on.)

Related reading: I am pleased to hear that VIDA has launched a brand new Women of Colour Count.

Fancy a new literary podcast to listen to?

“And, hast thou slain the Jabberwock?
Come to my arms, my beamish boy!
O frabjous day! Callooh! Callay!”
He chortled in his joy,
and then he added,
“it’s actually about ethics in games journalism.”

I know I am too late for Valentine’s Day, but Romantic Poems for Misandrists is basically the best thing on the internet right now.


There’s going to be an anthology of post-apocalyptic short stories and it sounds cool and you should totally back it on Kickstarter.

His Muse, if he had one, was a window
Filled with a brick wall, the left hand corner
Of his mind, a hand lined with grease
And sweat: literal things

The great poet Philip Levine died recently: here’s a wonderful poem about him by Dorianne Laux.

The Handmaid’s Tale: best novel ever? Probably.

Christian is not an interesting man. He doesn’t enjoy anything. I have no problem gallivanting about with someone who has issues and demons so long as they have some flavor, but Christian Grey is just bland and damaged. Throughout the movie Christian makes it clear he likes to be in control but he makes this known the same way he might tell you he enjoys pea soup. Ugh.

Here’s the amazing Roxane Gay being right-on (and hilarious) about 50 Shades at The Toast.

If you are an x-Files fan like myself, YOU MUST SEE THIS TUMBLR.

Hello, I would like to live in this house, because OMFG.
(Seriously, someone needs to gif Clementine’s “oh my god, I love this kitchen” moment from Eternal Sunshine, and put it in the comments of this story.)

OMG Joan Didion just got even cooler!

Help save Tchai Ovna — it’s a Glasgow institution!

Edinburgh has been voted the world’s fourth most beautiful city, after the three really obvious ones. Woo!

I love this short film of fat women talking about their everyday lives, and busting some myths. (Featuring the amazing Bethany Rutter! Also, fabulous person with the glasses? I would like to know where you acquired your excellent shirt.)

Need a laugh? This is pretty great…
(even if it is on RHGN, and Russell Howard is a rape-joke-making fool.)

Ten years ago I was obsessed with Red House Painters, and then I kinda forgot they existed. I just rediscovered them and it was a great joy that made me feel 18 again.

Have a great weekend!


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] I reply as swiftly as I can!

You should read this: The Naming Of Cancer by Tracey S Rosenberg

Monday, January 19th, 2015


The Naming of Cancer by Tracey S Rosenberg
Neon Books, 2014

I’m going to do a Dave Poems style disclaimer here and say that Tracey is someone I know well – she’s a fellow SBT New Writers Awards alumna and a fellow Shore Poet! I have also been following her work for a good few years now, since her novel, The Girl In The Bunker, was published by Cargo in 2011. Since then, she’s also published a debut poetry collection with Stewed Rhubarb, who specialise in giving performance poets a space on the page (that collection was called Lipstick Is Always A Plus – it was published in 2012 and comes highly recommended by me). She and I see each other pretty regularly at poetry events – usually, Tracey is kicking butt onstage and I am in the rapt audience. But I promise I did try to read The Naming Of Cancer (a slim pamphlet published in November last year by Neon) with an open mind and a critical eye.

This is a skinny wee collection weighing in at just fourteen poems, none of which go over a page – but they’re poems that really pack a punch. The book follows the myriad journeys that people go on when their lives are affected by cancer – I say affected, because there are poems in here from the point of view of partners, offspring, friends and doctors as well as poems more directly about the patient herself. This is one of the pamphlet’s great strengths. By looking at this devastating subject from many different angles, it avoids many of the potential pitfalls that come with writing about sickness and human mortality: it avoids melodrama and sentimentality, and steers also steers clear of motivational, life-is-short cliché. It’s a poetry collection that says it like it is.

Take, for example, ‘The Oncologist’s Nightmare,’ a poem that pops up to mess with your expectations just as you’re feeling “settled in.” This poem – in which the oncologist replays all of the frightened and angry questions that have been thrown at them that day – is a stark reminder that doctors’ lives are also affected by exposure to terrible illness, albeit in a slightly different way.

A couple of pages later, ‘Touch’ examines the strange and intimate relationship between doctor and patient. This small poem of only seventeen lines pulls into its clever web the doctor, who must work with extreme care as he invades the patient’s privacy; the patient’s lover, recalling his own worries that “she might find him intrusive” when he touches her; and finally the patient herself, waiting for “the blade: it will remove her.”

Several of these poems deal with the more mundane aspects of living with and alongside cancer: the fearful boredom of waiting around in hospitals is captured beautifully by repeated references to hospital trappings: “a six-bed ward,” vending machines and posters in faceless corridors. This sense of constant and perhaps doomed repetition is also captured in the form of several of the poems: the opening poem is a villanelle in which “needles plunge” in almost every stanza, and elsewhere, echoes and refrains abound.

The book opens with a snippet from TS Eliot’s Four Quartets (“East Coker,” to be precise), and there’s something rather Eliotean about the whole thing – I don’t think it’s a coincidence that “Cancer Vilanelle,” the opening poem, comes hot on the heels of that epigraph with its refrain, “consultants come and go.” Certainly, many of these poems exist in a space of isolation, fear and decay that calls to mind the anguish of Prufrock.

The Naming Of Cancer is not a cheery read, but it is by no means depressing or hopeless. Rather, this is a collection in which hope is faint and distant, but not gone. For example, in the final poem, “Bait,” the scraps of a dead body are used as bait on a fisherman’s hook. It’s a stark and violent image, but there is the promise of goodness in it: the body is not only still useful, not only luring a new, live catch. It is also being “restore[d] to the ravenous sea” – a thought that, after the long, grey corridor of illness, seems truly comforting.

The Naming Of Cancer is available from for the bargainous price of just £4.

(Photo credit)


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] I reply as swiftly as I can!

Procrastination Station #139

Friday, January 16th, 2015

Christmas Eve 2014

I knew when I really got going on the book that there were places in the writing that reflected my potential. That’s as much as you can ask for as a writer, at least initially. It was a long, long journey. But by the time I had completed a draft of the book, I knew I had something. And yet on the day my agent submitted it to editors I had a mild breakdown and thought, What if nobody wants this? And I spent all these years?

If you read nothing else in this post, read How To Write Your First Book. Newsflash: the biggest, best and brightest writers feel or have felt the exact same anxieties you do. It is wonderful.

I just came across this Poet’s Calendar, showing which major journals are open for submissions when. Very handy!

Fancy a fancy writing residency? Here are the big hitters for 2015.

Villains always have the best houses.

^Here’s Lucy Ribchester talking about drinking cocktails with Dracula and writing instead of having sex.

The book market is finally starting to care about female protagonists in novels!

Did you know that Edinburgh City Libraries provide a whole suite of resources to accommodate dyslexic readers?

Life is waiting for you. You might be stuck here for a while, but the world isn’t going anywhere. Hang on in there if you can.

Anyone who has the post-Christmas blues should read (or re-read, or re-re-read) Matt Haig’s Reasons To Stay Alive.

32 books that will actually change your life, and 28 of the best books by women of 2014… aka my 2015 to-read list. Thanks, Buzzfeed!

…oh, and once I am done reading those, I’ll start on The Millions’ massive list of hotly anticipated 2015 fiction!

“If you’re not an author with a slavish fan following, you’re in a lot of trouble.”

In today’s utterly unsurprising news, Amazon continue to be assholes.


As far as “cool” book launches go, it’s hard to beat this! (Cool. Geddit? OK.)

“He writes like an in-flight magazine.”

OK, I just discovered The Millions and found Scribbling In The Margins of Dan Brown’s Inferno. Hilarious and true.

Submitting to journals? Use the Jo Bell method. (Trust me, it’s good.)

Tights are the work of the devil (leggings rule OK). However, I am tempted by these poetic ones.

While we’re still fascinated by the young world-changers who can barely grow stubble and the 60-year-olds who realize their ‘true passion’ is to raise alpacas/grow wine/renovate houses in France, the concept of a single dream is beginning to look both difficult and oddly obsolete.

17 genuinely useful pieces of life advice from great people, including Sylvia Plath and Terry Pratchett!

& speaking of life advice: some wise words by Amy Poehler got turned into a really cool webcomic.

Withnail & I is one of my favourite movies ever (partly because Paul McGann is lush). So I was really chuffed when my sister sent me these rare behind the scenes photos from the making of it!

Her hobbies included smoking, wearing trousers, martial arts, motor cars, and swearing. She passed her retirement in Cornwall gambling, drinking, and painting – all the while, of course, giving no fucks.

I’m quite sure you’ve already seen Historical Women Who Gave No Fucks, but just in case you haven’t… click it.

Would you like to see some vintage photos of amazing women with full-body tattoos? Yeah, you would.

A dude on OKCupid (yeah, any sentence that starts with those words spells trouble) attacked a woman for supposedly lying about how fast she could type. So she kicked his ignorant ass.

Losing weight doesn’t make you a more interesting, attractive person. It just makes you thinner. And I don’t buy into thinness as the ultimate goal. Stop indulging weight-loss talk. Assert the fact that you have not bought into the fatphobic and ableist belief that weight loss is the social and ethical holy grail. Tell weight loss to fuck off.

Bethany of Arched Eyebrow being right on as always always.

THIS IS WHERE I WORK, Y’ALL. We do some amazing stuff, if I do say so myself.

This video is absolutely gorgeous, and full of wonderous advice.

The media depiction of women (and men) in 2014 was a bit grim at times. Let’s do better.

& finally, in case you need cheering up after that… just a really pretty song.

Have a great weekend!


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] I reply as swiftly as I can!

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], or you can follow my antics on Twitter. You can also read my profile on the Live Literature Database itself.

Good luck!


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] I reply as swiftly as I can!