Posts Tagged ‘publishing’

Dear poetry newbies: “why is my work always rejected?”

Monday, January 20th, 2014

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

1. The standard isn’t high enough.
And by this I just mean that your poems aren’t “fit” for publication yet… but not that they never will be! If you’re sending out first drafts, poems that have only been hastily redrafted or edited, or poems that even you don’t think are all that amazing, then it might well be that you haven’t done quite enough to catch the eye of an editor. It’s easy to write a poem and then be overcome by a fervent desire to get it sent out immediately, but resist! Never send first drafts, and always devote a good chunk of time to redrafting and editing your chosen pieces. If possible, put them away for a while (a week, two weeks…) and then come back to them. And never send anything you’re not sure about. Work on it til you ARE sure about it, or send something else.
(NB: One of the best ways to get your poetry up to publication standard is to read the stuff that poetry magazines actually do publish - and if you can get hold of a copy of the specific magazines you want to submit to, even better!)

2. You’re not following the submission guidelines properly.
Some editors are happy to chuck a submission onto the slush pile for the slightest thing, so it’s always important to read and follow the submission guidelines carefully. Make sure you do everything according to the guidelines wherever you can; it can be a total pain, but it can also make the difference between acceptance and rejection. And don’t assume that one magazine’s guidelines apply to all! Read everyone’s guidelines, and follow them every time!

3. You commit minor - but deadly! - submission crimes.
A lot of poets reckon they can get away with sending the same four poems in the same email round to a whole load of editors at the same time - don’t do it! This suggests to editors that you don’t really care who picks up your poems or whether they’re published simultaneously. You also shouldn’t send “speculative” emails out before sending a submission. It may seem like politeness, but if an editor receives an email saying “check out my website and then maybe I’ll submit later”, they’re going to think a) you’re arrogant and b) you haven’t read their guidelines. Just put your submission together and send it! And don’t send snotty or pushy emails to editors until at least three months (yes, really, I’m afraid!) after the date you sent your submission. If you haven’t had a reply, there’s probably a reason, and going “oi, what are you messing about at?” after only a week or so is not going to make you any friends. Basically, when it comes to submissions, put in the work, follow the rules and be patient - that’s all there is to it!

4. Your cover letter needs a rewrite.
Have a good look at your cover letter (if you have one! If you don’t - write one!) and see if there are any of these common mistakes in it: heaps of biographical information (3 - 4 lines should do it); anything that could be interpreted as dishonest or boastful (”my work has appeared in 300 journals worldwide,” or the like); excessive negativity (”you’ll probably just reject me, but…”) anything that criticises or questions the publication or editor you’re writing to (”I found your website really hard to navigate” — keep it to yourself for now!); and of course, typos, grammatical errors or any unnecessary rambling! Exorcise all these things! It may leave your cover letter very short, but a couple of lines is all you need.

5. You’re submitting to the wrong magazines.
There are a lot of creative writing magazines out there and most of them are open for submissions for at least part of each year… so technically, you can submit to any of them. However, if you’re new to the whole submitting thing (or even if you aren’t!), it can be hard to know which are the best to choose. The sad fact is that a lot of editors are wary of publishing people who have never been published before, but fortunately, there are more and more magazines out there whose mission-statement is to provide as many writers as they can with their first publication opportunity. Many others specify that they welcome “unknown” or “emerging” writers, and you’re probably better off submitting to these if you can. You do get “unknown” writers in, say, Poetry Review, but if you want to give yourself the best chance of being accepted, it’s better to walk before you run, as they say!

6. You’re not ready to publish yet.
Only you can really know whether or not you’re ready to publish, but if you’re trying to get your work out there and the rejections are getting you down in a big way, then maybe you’re not 100% ready for the submission process. This might be hard to accept, but it’s better to wait until you’re better prepared than to make yourself suffer every time one of those pesky rejection letters lands in your mailbox. Give yourself six months, even a year. Spend that time writing - and more importantly, reading! - and then try getting back on the horse. You might find you still feel the same and need more time… if so, no worries. Or you might suddenly find that there’s the odd acceptance letter among those rejections; or that the rejections don’t bother you so much. Either way, the “time off” will have been well spent!

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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!

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You don’t choose your literary heroes: they choose you.

Monday, January 13th, 2014

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

I’ve just revisited this article on the Guardian Books Blog, in which Stuart Evers talks about his seemingly rather misguided admiration for the protagonist of George Orwell’s Keep The Aspidistra Flying, Gordon Comstock. He notes that Comstock is really not a nice guy… and the fact that he truly admired this man when he first read the novel makes him feel rather uneasy. Evers admits that upon finishing the novel for the first time, he actually started to emulate Comstock - he started smoking the same cigarettes, spending his money on the same things, and getting interested in the same politics. He ends bitterly, sending out a “thank you so bloody much” to Orwell and Comstock, as though realising with hindsight that, by getting so “involved” with this not-actually-real person, he has somehow done something wrong.

Has he done something wrong? Are we only supposed to like, admire and emulate the “good guys” in literature? Sure, there are a lot of admirable goodies out there - I’d be the first to stand up and say that I truly love and admire Atticus Finch, for example. But surely, as normal human beings, it’s OK for us to be drawn to the “bad guys” - the flawed characters, the dishonest characters, the downright nasty characters… right? Hamlet, for example - arrogant, selfish, murderous and slightly insane, and yet he’s a big favourite. I personally rather like Milton’s Satan, and perhaps even worse, Alex DeLarge. I know for a fact that the normally sugary-sweet Gala Darling has a dark side - she’s forever in love with Patrick Bateman. It’s not necessarily logical - you don’t choose your literary heroes: they choose you. They reach out to something within your personal being and speak to you. Just because they happen to be a “baddie,” that doesn’t necessarily make you one too!

At the end of Evers’ article, I felt like standing up and cheering, because the other day I experienced exactly the same discomfort that Evers feels, talking with some friends about Beat-Generation-era literature.
As many of you will know, I am a huge Allen Ginsberg fan. I first encountered Ginsberg about halfway through my four-year Masters degree, when I had to read “Howl” for class. My first reaction was “what is this absolute rubbish?”, and when I read some background information about Ginsberg, I was even less impressed. Loud, arrogant, misogynistic… he did not seem like a nice guy at all. Who does he think he is, I thought, this man who wrote this epic, spiralling, meaningless poem that everyone seems to love? It’s garbage!
But then I had an epiphany - I heard a recording of dear old Allen reading “America.” I loved the poem, and his reading - with all its humour and seriousness and liveliness and weariness all at once - and decided to give him another chance. I read about Ginsberg’s life, I read his annotations on “Howl” and discovered what every cryptic line really meant (and every line really does have some correlation to his life, things he experienced, or things that were going on at the time), and probably most importantly, I read “Kaddish.” I bought an album of readings which included all these poems, and more, and listened to it from beginning to end, which exhausted but thrilled me. By now, the poems had turned on me, and they’d convinced me that this man - who I’ll freely admit was still loud, arrogant and misogynistic - was one of the greatest American writers of all time. He was not always nice, he was not always fair, and he wasn’t even always all that good. But he was brilliant, and in spite of myself, I will love him forever and ever.

So imagine my horror when, at a party a few years ago, a friend of mine came out with this:
“I don’t get it with Ginsberg. I’ve read ‘Howl,’ which was… ridiculous, and then everything else just looks like a poor imitation of ‘Howl.’”
I won’t lie to you - I felt like I’d been slapped. I couldn’t believe the enormous feeling that welled up in me. This was my friend, and I found myself wanting to grab him and shake him and scream, “why don’t you read ‘Howl’ properly and then you’ll see it’s not ridiculous, like I did?! How can you say everything else is a poor imitation of ‘Howl’?! Have you even read anything else?! Have you read ‘Kaddish’?! And how can you say that anyway?! The man wrote for 50+ years in a million different style on a million different subjects! Saying you don’t like Ginsberg because of ‘Howl’ is like saying you don’t like the Beatles because of ‘Hey Jude.’ Aaaargh!”
Obviously, I did not do this. I tried to express myself in a quieter way, and just said that actually, Ginsberg was my all-time favourite writer and I loved him very much. All I got was (quote), “well, good for you,” which didn’t make me feel much better.

My desire to shake my friend and scream in his face rather troubled me. After all, I knew all this stuff, and I’d thought it and said it myself once upon a time. But it also brought home to me the fact that you really can’t choose your idols - and when they choose you, they can really cling on, dig in. I’m sure the friend in question has literary heroes he’d gladly defend by shaking and screaming at me, if I were to criticise them. I know one guy who deeply loves Iago, and gets the same strange rage when people try to tell him “but Iago’s a really bad guy.” I know someone else who is a big fan of William Carlos Williams, and nearly had to walk out of a seminar recently when one woman in the group said “but it’s all just rubbish really, isn’t it? The Red Wheelbarrow - my children could write poetry like that!”
The fact is, Stuart Evers seems to be worried about admiring Gordon Comstock. Why? Because he’s worried that he’s going to be judged, probably. But I’d be interested to know what his reaction would be if anyone were to actually turn around and say “Comstock’s the worst character I ever came across,” or “that book’s crap, Orwell couldn’t write to save his life”. Personally, I am not worried about admiring Ginsberg for fear of judgement. It’s the defensive rage that’s the truly worrying thing…

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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!

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Procrastination Station #122: Christmas edition!

Tuesday, December 24th, 2013

1384578

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

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

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

Buildings inspired by books.

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

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

An old train transformed into a bookshop. Yep.

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

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

Why we abandon books.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Merry Christmas everybody!!!

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

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

Tuesday, December 3rd, 2013

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

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

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

Chaffinch

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

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

(Photo credit)

Dear poetry newbies: writing in the face of adversity.

Monday, September 30th, 2013

Walk away

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

Here are a few phrases you’ll probably encounter a lot if you decide to tell people that you want to be / are a writer. Perhaps you’ve already heard some of them…

“Don’t be ridiculous. How are you going to support yourself?!”
“I used to say that when I was your age… you’ll see.”
“But writing’s just a hobby, isn’t it? ”
“Great. But what’s your real job?”

Sound familiar? I’ve had responses like these countless times from people who genuinely can’t understand why anyone would want to even try to make their living from writing. I think you can apply them to just about any other creative endeavour, too — try telling people you want to be a painter, fashion designer, musician, sculptor or actor, and you’ll probably hear similar things. This kind of response can be incredibly demoralising, particularly if it comes from a trusted friend, family member or personal hero. Often you’ll hear things like this from people who are older and supposedly wiser than you, which can also leave you questioning yourself. But no matter how often you hear these phrases, please, please don’t allow yourself to be disheartened by them. Many people can’t understand the possibility of an equation like writing + hard work = paying the bills. But that doesn’t make it a scientific impossibility!

Great. But what’s your real job?
OK, so the person who asks this question is probably assuming that your writing doesn’t make you much money, and as a result, you probably have another job which helps keep a roof over your head. This is a reasonable assumption to make - many writers do have a second source of income, either out of financial necessity or because it directly facilitates their writing. This is particularly true of poetry, I’m afraid. Poetry is an integral part of our everyday lives - it’s in the nursery rhymes we sing to our kids, it’s in greetings cards, advertising, and jingles on the radio. But despite this, not many people actually make the conscious effort to read poetry - to buy poetry collections, attend poetry readings or seek out new and exciting poets locally or online. Poetry just doesn’t sell well, which means that it does not generate too much income - and as a result, most poets do “real” jobs throughout their lives. William Carlos Williams worked as a doctor his whole life (he wrote short bursts of poetry in the few spare minutes between appointments), and Philip Larkin kept up his career in librarianship in spite of his rise to poetic fame. Most of the poets I know work in literature-related environments - some are English teachers, some University tutors, some work in bookstores or write copy for medical journals. Lots of poets support themselves by setting up or working for small publishing firms, which not only helps them survive - it helps poetry survive, too. But yes, I’m afraid it’s true - 99% of poets have to work at something other than their writing, which means you will probably have to, too - at least for a while.

Don’t be ridiculous. How are you going to support yourself?!
So you probably are going to have to get a “real” job, and therefore - although this isn’t very nicely worded - it is a fair question. When you’re not frantically scribbling, what are you going to do?
Well, you’re a creative person, and so I’m guessing that the thought of a 9-5 office post or a low-paid table-waiting job probably makes you want to scream. But you can relax, because you do not need to do those jobs! Teaching is a popular one. You don’t necessarily have to do a teaching degree and end up in charge of a class of thirty kids - just think about what you’re good at; what skills do you have that other people might want to learn? You write, so I’m guessing your language skills are pretty good; or perhaps you play flute, or whizz through long division? Pick a skill, work out a step-by-step teaching strategy, and then make bright, bold posters and advertise yourself (“Want to learn French? Get lessons from a native speaker!”). Alternatively, you could look around for private tutoring agencies and firms in your area, and see if they could take you on. That’s how I ended up working as an English tutor and lecturer; that’s how I paid my bills and supported my writing for over five years.
There are other ways, of course, if teaching doesn’t float your boat. Working in a bookstore may just sound like another dull retail job, but give it a try. Chances are, the people who work there are into words in the same way you are - particularly if the store is an independent one. A good poet friend of mine worked for the huge chain bookstore Waterstones, and surprisingly, loved every second. He got to work in the poetry department, and he went through there like a dose of salts, insisting that they order in more books by Charles Bukowski and other hip writers, writing enthusiastic reviews for poetry books to make people buy them, and making suggestions for cool literary events for the store. He also took the time to chat with the customers about the books they were buying, and had a great time meeting loads of like-minded people!
Basically, your “real” job should always be something you don’t totally hate. Creative people can wither in soul-crushing corporate workplaces, so make sure your day-job isn’t affecting your writing in a negative way. If it is: quit. Go work in a cool café, deliver leaflets or posters, become a carer for the elderly (old people are amazing, and good, caring people are always needed), walk your neighbours’ dogs, drive a pizza van. Do something you like, and when you’re not doing it, write. Don’t let anyone else tell you how you should support yourself.

But writing’s just a hobby, isn’t it?
So, you mainly need the “real” job because writing does not tend to generate a regular income - if you go through a bad patch with your writing and have no financial back-up, you could end up with no rent-money at the end of the month. However, writing is not just a hobby - it can make you money, if you know how to work it!
Poetry’s tricky to sell, as we’ve already discovered. However, some magazines do pay for poems. It’s not generally a lot, but it’s something - and the day of your first paid magazine gig is a momentous occasion! You can also get paid for reading your poetry to an audience, so try and get yourself on the bill of a local poetry reading. Many of these events charge a small entry fee, and more often than not, that goes to the poets. If your scruples allow, you can also try touting your poetic wares to greetings card companies or other product manufacturers… obviously you won’t be writing your best or most complex work, but you’ll be writing and making some cash!
Other forms of writing are more lucrative than poetry, thank goodness! You can make cash-per-word writing freelance magazine articles, reviews etc, and there are heaps of websites out there with advice on this kind of thing - just type “freelancing for beginners” into Google (but watch out for scams… don’t part with any cash for online writing courses or the like - you should be able to get all the info you need for free). You can also write for a specific market - as I said earlier, medical writing can generate income, as can travel writing and writing for other specialist areas.
If you’re feeling courageous, you can also send your work off to poetry contests with cash prizes (though with most of these you have to pay an entry fee… make sure it’s worth paying to enter!) or read up on grants and other funding for writers.

I used to say that when I was your age… you’ll see.
Whatever you do, do NOT be discouraged by negative responses from other people! This “you’ll see” response is particularly nasty, because it implies that you’ll fail, or that you’ll regret pursuing your writing at a later stage of your life. Yes, you should be sure that writing is really what you want to do, but chances are if you do decide to follow that path, and if you stay smart and true to yourself, you’ll have no regrets whatsoever. As for the “don’t be ridiculous” comment - writing and creating are not ridiculous exercises. If you ask me, slaving away at a PC or photocopier for eight full hours of your waking day is much more ridiculous than creating something really cool and unique and sending it out into the world for people to enjoy. And if someone asks you what your “real” job is, tell them it’s writing - you just happen to have another job on the side.

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

Things I Love Thursday #82

Thursday, July 11th, 2013

Getting ideas for my new garden...

What are these?  They're about the size of my head.  I would like some.

Peonies!

Peonies!
Dreaming my new garden
So, along with our new, slowly-emerging-from-a-wreck house, Lovely Boyfriend and I have also obtained two small patches of garden. Right now, they’re basically scruffy little lawns with some weedy borders around them. But I plan to turn these two little spaces into a garden of edible delights (plus a few pretty flowers here and there). I’ve never understood why anyone would have a lawn when they could have a veggie patch. Anyway, I’m pawing through books and beginning to learn a bit about plants… and in the process, I’ve suddenly become excited about garden centres.

Grumpy gargoyle

Slightly scared-looking lion,

The Toucans & Maccaws Fountain at Larch Cottage, Melkinthorpe
…but not all garden centres are the same.
Larch Cottage, at Melkinthorpe (WHAT A NAME) in Cumbria, is no ordinary garden centre. It’s basically like a magical secret garden inhabited by thousands of weird and wonderful statues, all of which come to life at night and grow huge and amazing plants. If that sounds a tad creepy then yeah, I guess it’s a tad creepy. But it’s also amazing. I mean… grumpy gargoyles everywhere, a life-size bronze lion, and a fountain covered in cheeky toucans? If ever you’re in Cumbria, seek it out (it’s hidden down a series of narrow, high-hedged roads) and see what I mean. (There’s also a cool restaurant, an art gallery and a shop full of jewellery, furniture and strange nick-nacks. Woo!)

DREAM CAR RIGHT THERE.

Pretty.
Spotting my dream car(s) EVERYWHERE
I’ve had this silly daydream for years: one day I will own a vintage Land Rover Defender. It’ll have a crappy tape-deck and bench seats in the back and rattle like a bean can. On the other hand, I also dream (well, who doesn’t?) of cruising around in a beautiful vintage Ford Mustang, preferably wearing a very, very long scarf that billows in the wind…
(But until I win the lottery, and/or get a massive concussion that causes me to forget how much I care about carbon footprints, I guess I’ll stick with the bus!)

Moomins!

The Uselessness of Everything

Pretty pretty poetry book, up soon at Edinburgh Vintage!
Cute books
I’ve been lucky enough to become the proud owner of a series of late 1960s and early 1970s Penguin paperback editions of the Moomin books. I loved the Moomins as a child and have had so many flashbacks, flicking through these super cute books and being jolted about 15 years back in time by so many of the illustrations! As I’m moving house, I’ll be parting with the series (with a tiny tear in my eye) over at Edinburgh Vintage very soon.
Meanwhile, already for sale at EV is the beautiful, minature, leather-bound collection of Burns’ Songs pictured above. My favourite part about it is the gorgeous cover with its tooled image of Calton Hill. Amazing!

The Vogrie Park Greyhound Meet!
The Vogrie Park Greyhound Meet!
Basically about 50 greyhounds all together in one place being SUPER CUTE. Lovely Boyfriend and I each got to befriend and walk one of them — his was Sam, mine was Neville. (Neville’s at the front left of the pic, wearing a blue cape!)

Found poetry on the streets of Edinburgh

At the Canny Mans

Brush your teeth, say no to drugs, say yes to marker pen graffiti

Super cool old door, Newington

I love long Edinburgh evenings
Edinburgh…
Edinburgh on a warm sunny day is basically THE BEST PLACE IN THE WORLD BAR NONE. This past week I have seen so many of its millions of moods, as evidenced by the photos above! Found poetry, flickering neon, juvenile graffiti (but with a social conscience!), crumbling elegance, amazing long evenings full of swifts. THANK YOU, MAGIC CITY.

I want this dog.

Snooty tall giraffe made the small fat giraffe sad.
…and Edinburgh window displays. Giving me ALL THE FEELS.
I love the grumpy, sassy-looking dogs at Pink on Castle Street. I really, really want one. Just, yaknow, to sit in my living room. They make me super happy whenever I walk by.
But oh… then there’s this INCREDIBLY SAD window display in a Morningside toy shop. The tall snooty giraffe being sniffy about his friend! And the small, fat giraffe looking so ashamed of himself! Call me infantile if you like, guys, but it’s enough to make me want to run in there, buy both of them, take them home with me and talk them into being friends again.

What are YOU loving this week?

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

Can YOU give a typewriter a good home?

Thursday, July 4th, 2013

I am a typewriter. Please be my friend?

Hello. I am a Remington Standard 12 manual typewriter, and I am looking for a new home.

So guys, Lovely Boyfriend and I bought a house (…I KNOW). And although there is probably technically just about space in it for my collection of over 30 manual typewriters (yes, really), I decided that now might be a quite a good time to have a bit of a clear out. And as a result, the Remington Standard 12 here is in need of a new home (I have two of these guys. One really ought to be enough, right?).

I am a typewriter. Please be my friend?

As you can see, he’s a lovely big old desktop machine with classic handsome looks. You’ll also be able to see that for his age, Remington’s condition is pretty decent. A few knocks and scrapes, but nothing serious. (I got this typewriter about a year ago and have been meaning to give it a darned good clean, after which it’d look a whole lot better, but I didn’t get round to it. A bit of brasso and some warm soapy water and it’ll look fab.) The main thing is: this machine still types! It doesn’t currently have a ribbon fitted, but the carriage moves freely and all the keys work. The shift lock sticks a little, but a bit of WD40′d soon sort that.

I am a typewriter. Please be my friend?

Remington here has been a display piece, rather than a working typewriter, since he came to me. I think he looks rather fab just chillin’ out on a bookshelf, coffee table, or somewhere else where he can be (and is, trust me) adored by members of the public (or at least, the ones I invite over for coffee). However, there’s no reason why he can’t be turned into a working word processor.

I am a typewriter. Please be my friend?

Remington would like a new home. He would NOT like to be broken down and turned into tacky typewriter jewellery (the kind I used to make way back in 2008, before it became tacky, obv). If you’re a writer or enthusiastic about writing machines or you just want a really freakin’ cool doorstop, please get in touch. Offer to cross my palm with silver (just a wee bit will do), and if I reckon you’ll be a responsible typewriter owner, then he’s yours!

I am a typewriter. Please be my friend?

If you’re interested in adopting Remington, please email me via claire[at]onenightstanzas.com, or you can catch me on Twitter. You can leave a comment here if you prefer, but it sometimes takes me a while to wade through the moderation queue!

Tick tick ding!

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

Procrastination Station #121

Friday, May 10th, 2013

Happy Lazy Sunday!

IMPORTANT ANNOUNCEMENT: I might be buying a house (I KNOW). One that will need heckof renovating. So I need you guys to send me amazing DIY/home decor p0rn like this and this to inspire me. Check out what I’ve gathered so far!

“We recognize that, in our world, a woman on the road is marked. She has been cut from the social fabric, excised at such an elemental level that when she steps onto the road, she steps into an abyss. And whatever leads up to that choice inspires in us a primal fear. A man on the road is solitary. A woman on the road is alone. This is not cute wordplay, but a radically different social experience.”

If you click on nothing else in this post, click on this article, on why there aren’t more female road narratives. Disturbing, fascinating, beautifully written.

These are super fabby book covers!

Have you guys seen Least Helpful? Really rubbish — and totally hilarious — reviews.

Totally NSFW (not really) hardcore bookshelf p0rn. (And, related: notebook geek p0rn!)

I loved Watsky’s touching post on playing the Fillmore, ambition and keeping on going (NB: links to Facebook).

I know, writers have been complaining for eons about the weight of their burden, and it’s not attractive. But I’ve been around it long enough to know that writing anything good that’s longer than a paragraph isn’t easy for anybody, except for maybe J. J. Abrams. You can’t explain how people do it. Some of the most successful screenwriters, novelists, television producers and rock-opera librettists I know are about a hundred times lazier than I am. They take long afternoon naps, play lots of pickup basketball and appear to accomplish little or nothing for months at a time. And let me tell you, their ideas do not all crackle with scintillating originality.

This is wonderful, and such sensible advice. Now I just need to listen!

The Literary Cat: a Tumblr devoted to cats posing with books. Yep.

Have you seen these wonderful self-portraits of famous authors?

Paper & Salt is super cool: they re-create meals described in great literature!

More stupid things graphic design clients say!

There’s some amazing stuff at the Bitch blog at the moment! I loved reading Five Black Female Musicians You Should Love (I’d only heard of Skin), I Want To Like Hit-Girl, But…, Patriarchy & Game of Thrones (spoilers! But the comments on this one’re interesting, too), and a really interesting take on the new Dove campaign (the video’s at the bottom of this very post! Also read the comments on this one).

Why tea is so magical.

This body language guide from Gala is really rather interesting!

And via Gala, I really liked 22 things happy people do differently and Girl Code Rules. POSITIVITY.

Seeing these portraits of adult entertainment stars with and without makeup was really interesting for me. Totally SFW!

Parents texting. SO FUNNY.

Game of Thrones fan? You must watch these! (Also, Gwendoline Christie ROCKS!)

Glowsticks + waterfalls = beautiful.
A small snippet of Neil Gaiman being fabulous.
Sue Austin is totally inspiring.
That Pulitzer? SO DESERVED.

Have a great weekend!

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

Things I Love Thursday #78

Thursday, April 25th, 2013

The other day I had a rant on Twitter, sparked by a couple of poets being kinda big-headed in my @ thread. It was pretty standard poet stuff — look at all the places I’ve been published, etc. No great crime, but I started musing on the political issues underlying the weird-ass publication hierarchy we writerly folks seem to be all too keen to reinforce: a hierarchy that often overlooks — and in some cases, silences — marginalised voices while over-valuing privileged ones.

This rant lost me a handful of followers, gained me a few more, and sparked a bit of discussion. Several folks were interested in seeing an in-depth blogpost here with more of my thoughts about the issue. I headed out to the Forest Cafe with the rant still rattling around in my head, and half a blogpost sketched out in garbled scrawls in my notebook.

I never wrote the blogpost, though. That evening while I was out on my travels, I found out that a person I know well and greatly admire has recently become homeless. Not only did this happen to this person through no fault of their own — they’ve been told they could remain homeless for up to a year while they’re “processed” by the system.

Over the course of the evening, I learned a whole load about the realities of being homeless. I learned a bit about what homeless shelters are really like; a bit about the financial support (or lack, thereof) that’s provided to people who unexpectedly find themselves with nowhere to live. I started thinking about all the things I just do without thinking about it — cooking, laundry, taking a shower whenever I want. By the end of it, a bunch of snotty poets and their pathetic literary pissing-contests seemed pretty irrelevant.

I still think dodgy stuff goes on in the literary world. I still think writers who brag about their publishing credits are… well, kind of missing the point of writing, really. But I’ve realised that me ranting about it here will do very little to stop any of it from happening. So instead, I’m writing a Things I Love Thursday, below, about the simple stuff. ’cause that’s a much better use of my time.

Today I am grateful for all the small things I have.
I am grateful for my home.
I have somewhere I can go and be safe — I don’t have to leave by a certain time or stay out til a certain time, and I don’t have to share it with anyone. I never have to worry that there won’t be space for me some nights, or that I’ll be kicked out. I have a bed that’s mine and I know no one else has slept in it without me knowing. I have all my things around me. I am grateful for that.

Today I am grateful for my friends.
I am grateful for my friends and loved ones.
I have a loving partner who respects me, communicates with me clearly, and takes care of me. I have the best sister and the best parents in the whole world. I have smart, eccentric, caring friends who look out for me, make me cups of tea, recommend books to me, and make me origami animals (thanks, C!). None of the people I love want to hurt or exploit me. I am grateful for that.

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I am grateful for my safety.
I live in a city that is (largely) safe for me to move around in. If something happens to me, I know where I can go to get help, in pretty much any situation. I am free to come and go as I please. I am free to study for a PhD, do a job, volunteer with a women’s organisation, go to poetry readings, meet other people, and spend money I earned myself. I am grateful for that.

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I am grateful for my education.
I can read and write. I am a native English speaker, which means I can communicate my needs successfully pretty much anywhere in the world. I can express myself to my satisfaction. I can write a blog. When I’m annoyed about something, I can rant about it, or make a complaint. I can make my voice heard. I am grateful for that.

Apart from getting your poetry in some big journal (’cause dude, no one’s impressed)… what are you grateful for this week?

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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!

Got five minutes? Help me create a magic book! (Please.)

Monday, April 22nd, 2013

wswmih

Hey ONS-ers. I have a big, big favour to ask.

I don’t often ask you guys for stuff. I’ve never run ads here, and I even took down my tip-jar ’cause I felt bad about it. But now I’m asking for your help, because I know you’re all super-cool individuals who know a damn good cause when you see one.

I’ve spoken a bit before, here (scroll past the inevitable cake pictures!) about the totally life-changing (really!) work I’ve been doing over the past year with a thing called The Making It Home Project. I won’t say too much about it here, because I want you to go and read all the details at this link instead, but I will say: this is the sort of creative work that I deeply, passionately believe in. Forget fancy book launches, forget big anthologies, forget even the humble poetry slam. This is what poetry ought to be doing with itself: opening up amazing new creative possibilities to people who might otherwise never have read a poem in their lives.

I’m being mysterious, so go see what I’m talking about! But first, listen to the following, heartfelt plea…

You guys all know the power of books — you wouldn’t read this bookgeek blog otherwise. You know there’s something about a book: they’ve got a special sort of magic that no other object has. And a lot of you know how much more magical a book becomes if it contains something that you yourself wrote… right? Well, we want to make a really, really magical book. It’ll be a book we can give to the incredible women we’ve been working with, so they can also experience how awesome (literally) it feels to hold and read and share a book that has your words in it. It’ll also be a book we can give to all of you — for free! — to show you the amazing work these groups of women have been doing.

I’d like to ask you to do three small things.

One: watch our video.

RST Poetry Film taster from media co-op on Vimeo.

Two: click on the link in the image below, go and read more about what we’re doing, and how we plan to make our book.

Three: if you can (and only if you can), donate a pound or two to our cause. Any donation over £5 gets a reward… the more you give, the bigger and cooler your reward will be. If you can’t afford to donate, that is totally OK. But I’d be super grateful if you could spread the word around to anyone you think can help us.

These three things will take you what? Five minutes? If that. But your five minutes will make a massive difference and I promise, I will be very, very grateful to you!

Thanks guys. You rock.

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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!