Posts Tagged ‘submitting’

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 #141

Friday, March 6th, 2015

Page by Page
(Photo credit)

I question it all. If no one is going to read it, why did I put so much energy into that book? Why did I agonize over the phrasing that takes place on page nine or the metaphor on page ninety-nine? Why did I choose that topic or story and why did I think it would resonate? I even begin to question my passion. What am I doing this for? Why do I spend so much time contributing my thoughts and words for so little monetary return? Am I any good at this?

What Happens When (Virtually) No One Buys Your Book?

Things You’ll Never Hear An English Literature Student Say < — this post contains truth.

Here’s a great poem by Kwame Dawes.

Some of the best science fiction out there has been penned by women.

True fact: here are some examples (though Woman On The Edge Of Time should totes have been on this list).

Scottish Book Trust’s latest Book Talk podcast is a YA special!

A slightly more unusual ‘bookstores you must visit!’ list than the million other usual ones. (I’ve been to two of the eight!)

Parallel Universes run parallel to each other with slight alterations that change fate in time. Whoa. Multiverse is when there are many parallel universes. Usually this has something to do with black holes and time travel. More than likely, Spock is traveling through all of them. When you toss metafiction in here, it’s a little odd to compare it, but kind of important. Metafiction is when a story becomes aware of itself. It’s kind of like parallel universes colliding. Authors often join in on their own stories- literally.

Confused by sci fi? BookRiot can help.

English PEN are recruiting!

Jonathan Franzen continues to be a total prick. In other news, water is wet.

Eric Ries, a lecturer on entrepreneurship and innovation, went on a “pre-book” book tour to drum up interest before his work, “The Lean Startup”, even had a firm name, and started selling it online more than a year in advance of its publication. It worked. The book’s cover is now able to boast “the New York Times bestseller” above the title.

Want to be an author? You also need to be an entrepreneur.

I am currently reading Kathleen JonesThe Whistling Poet, a brilliant biography of Norman Nicholson, who I love. Here’s a great recording of him reading one of his poems, ‘Wall,’ at the Poetry Archive.

How many Edinburgh bookstores have you been to? (I have, of course, visited all of these.)

…and speaking of bookstores, here’s a (hilarious) little insight into the lives of booksellers.

From 2nd to 15th March, the imprint will be open to accept fifty pages, an outline and an author biography from previously unpublished writers of fiction. Short stories will be considered, in addition to novels.

Tinder Press wants your submissions! (Thanks, Heather!)

Here’s a VERY useful and interesting list of open submission calls. You’re welcome.

Also… do you write erasure poems, or want to? Are you not a cishet white dude? This is a submissions call just for you and it looks GREAT.

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 #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!

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!

Procrastination Station #136

Friday, November 7th, 2014

(Photo by chrisdonia)

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

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

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

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

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

Why oh why are we so obsessed with Austen?

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

Fancy making your own bookends? Of course you do.

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

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

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

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

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

The secret emotional lives of punctuation marks.

Cats make the best librarians. Here is proof!

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

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

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

I loved these weird and wonderful converted buildings.

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

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

Frank! I admire his “IDGAF” reading style.

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

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


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 #135: Halloween edition

Friday, October 31st, 2014


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

Go on, inject a little fear into your writing…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

They’ll sit quietly hour by hour,

Waiting for you to replenish their bowls,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The REAL Dead Poets Society

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

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

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

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

…well, that and THIS.

Have a great weekend!


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!

(Photo credit: Chrisdonia)

Procrastination Station #133

Friday, October 10th, 2014

Subtle graffiti

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

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

Cool signs outside independent bookstores.

Struggling to find time to read? Read this.

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

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

Reading makes you happier: fact.

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

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

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

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

I’m a sucker for literary tattoos.

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

Molly Crabapple is great.

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

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

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

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

Hey, authors? Don’t be this desperate.

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

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

Grayson Perry is a bloody legend.

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

HOLY SHIT Danny MacAskill!!!

Have a great weekend!


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!

(Photo credit)

Procrastination Station #132

Friday, September 26th, 2014

tea for me

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Zadie Smith reckons there are two types of writers.

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

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

Indie bookstores are on the rise again… yay!

The 7 stages of falling in love with reading.

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

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

Press and PR… but for writers.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Celebrate Banned Books Week: read these books!

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

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

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

Have a great weekend!


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!

(Photo credit)

Procrastination Station #131

Friday, September 12th, 2014


The not-for-profit Little Free Library Project (LFLP) is installing small, house-shaped wooden boxes outside the homes or businesses of volunteers who stock them with books. Local people can then help themselves to the titles, or donate their own volumes.

I have a front garden, LFLP! Pick me!

Haruki Murakami. Cool dude.

You know when writers say, “after a while I stop seeing typos”? Well, here’s the science behind it.

When I read fashion magazines, I pretend I am an alien trying to understand this planet. It’s delightful.

Roxane Gay live-tweets a fashion magazine. Every bit as great as it sounds.

What did Jane Austen use to edit her manuscripts? Dress pins. For real.

I was ready to hate the guy who wrote Stop Using Poet Voice, but the examples he cites? They really do need to stop.

ICYMI: Neil Gaiman on live storytelling.

This onslaught buries mainstream titles as well, which is something that should give the big five publishers pause. With so much choice, why would we pay $14.99 for a mainstream Kindle edition when we can experiment with a few 99 cent (or free) books.

A new title goes live on Amazon every. five. minutes. Terrifying stuff.

Do people automatically hear “woman writer” and think “emotional”?

Tips on submitting to journals, from Ploughshares. (I agree. I so wish I’d kept rejection letters over the years.)

YA literature — especially YA literature — should be the opposite of superficial, because that’s what young people need, and many times what they look for in books. It’s why they don’t spend that time watching reality television instead. And hey, I’d love to see a teenager with a poster of a writer on their wall. But it’d be wonderful if that writer were Edith Wharton.

I’m not sure how I feel about this Flavorwire piece, not least because it carries on La Franzen’s gross sexism towards Edith Wharton for lulz. I think I prefer the Bookriot piece that inspired it. (“I dunno what the hell the book was about BUT DAT ASS THO.”)

airBNB allows you to sleep in the homes of literary legends.

Why storytelling is a useful skill in every aspect of life.

Ripperologists, and the media attention they attract, reinforce the crude taxonomy of “good” and “bad” women that runs like a thread through the murders themselves and their contemporary press reception.

Blah blah blah Jack the Ripper. What about the women he killed?

John Waters’ idea of richness is basically the same as my own.

Do you know what your Actual Priority is? (I totally approve this message. I feel like in the last year I have both found and embraced my Actual Priority and it really has made everything better.)

They taste like misery and waste. I hate them until, a month or so into the diet, I suddenly love them. I need to eat them all the time. I’m supposed to be allowed one a day, but I burn through two boxes in a week. I hate myself and yet I can’t stop; I am barely eating anything else, thinking, in my perverted mind, that this would make it okay.

Lesley Kinzel is always great and Diet Foods I Have Known was particularly great.

Bad Poets of Pop Culture: yep. (Thanks to Kayleigh Anne!)

This is a short but stunning animated video about how languages evolve. I loved it, and learned lots!

Fascinating. At the risk of sounding like Upworthy — watch to the end!

I want to see this movie.

Here is a baby seal surfing. You’re welcome.


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!

(Photo credit)

Seven pieces of writing advice from the speakers of The Business

Monday, May 26th, 2014

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Last week, I was extremely flattered to be invited to speak at The Business, an event run by the University of Edinburgh and hosted by their Writer in Residence Jenni Fagan. The event was designed for budding writers who were keen to know more about the ‘business’ side of being a writer. I was asked to speak alongside publishing megastars like Francis Bickmore and Jenny Brown (!!!), and my topic was, essentially “is a Creative Writing PhD right for you?”

I think my talk went OK: the best part about it was definitely making my supervisor, Alan — who was hiding at the back of the room — blush quite a lot as I talked about what a brilliant mentor he’d been. But much better than my barely coherent ramblings were the talks of the other speakers. I hand-picked some useful advice from each of them for your reading pleasure…

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1. Jenny Brown of Jenny Brown Associates, literary agent:

“Don’t write to trends.”

I’ve seen Jenny Brown speak on many occasions, and she always manages to make her advice to writers fresh and relevant to what’s going on in the book world at that very moment. However, this piece of advice is always in there and I think it’s something a lot of young novelists (in particular) need to hear. “You can never get on top of a trend,” she says, “because by the time you get your novel out there, you’ll have just missed it.” Instead, she advises, you should concentrate on writing a great novel that you love, and that your agent will love. “I don’t pick books based on genre, or based on whether or not I think they will be commercially successful,” Jenny said. “I mean, those things are factors, but at the end of the day if I love your book, that’s the main thing. All the books I’ve picked to represent, I have loved.”

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2. Chris Hamilton-Emery of Salt, publisher:

“We need more narrative non-fiction.”

Did you know that the market for non-fiction is far larger than the market for fiction? “Fiction is declining,” Chris revealed, and he picked up on a point that Jenny had made about her love of nature writing. “Jenny said she was disappointed not to see more nature books. I agree. I wish more young writers would break into non-fiction earlier.” He said that for every fifty novels that landed on his desk, he’d see only one non-fiction work. (He also mentioned poetry’s market share: less than 1% of the entire book market. But then, we knew that, right?)

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3. Francis Bickmore of Canongate, publisher:

“The hair shines with brushing.”

Francis gave his own seven rules for writers, all of which were great, but this was by far my favourite. He said it came from a friend of his, another publisher, who’d been listening to one of their writers moaning about how many edits they were needing to do on their novel. “The guy’s response was, ah yes, but the hair shines with brushing. The hair shines with brushing. I think it’s Flaubert or something, and it’s so true.” In other words, edit, edit, polish, edit, polish and then edit some more. Make your writing shine.

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4. Stuart Kelly of The Guardian and many other places, critic:

“If you’re not interested in writing a novel that changes what the novel is capable of, get out of the business.”

This was probably my favourite piece of advice from the entire event. It’s something I might nick, except I’d replace the word ‘novel’ with ‘poem.’ What Stuart was saying is that the best novels are the ones that really push the boundaries of the form: one of the audience members gave the example of Jennifer Egan’s Visit from the Goon Squad, which happens to be my favourite novel ever, and really does do what Stuart’s talking about. “It’s not enough to just mention Twitter here and there,” Stuart said. “I’m talking about really experimenting with what this form can do.”

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5. Peggy Hughes, of Dundee Book Festival, promoter:

“Perform your work in public.”

Peggy, aka the most-loved person in Scottish arts administration (no joke, she’s awesome) was in attendance to talk about the role of literary festivals in the writing business. She revealed that she routinely attends poetry readings, open mics and other literary events in order to scout for potential talent to book for her festival. “Go and read at these things,” she said. “You never know when someone like me might be sitting in the audience thinking, I should book this person.”

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6. Kevin Williamson of Neu! Reekie!, promoter:

“Embrace the improbable.”

Kevin’s talk was mostly about his whirlwind experience at the helm of the Creative Scotland-funded cabaret sensation that is Neu! Reekie! He talked about having his face put on a new whisky brand’s label, meeting Richard Hell and somehow managing to get Primal Scream to play at one of his gigs. But it wasn’t just half an hour of how cool Kevin Williamson’s life is: he also talked about how rewarding community work can be for writers, talking a bit about his experiences teaching the poetry of Robert Burns in Scottish prisons. “All the things that have happened to me have been pretty improbable,” he said. “When Neu! Reekie! started we had no idea where it was going to go. So just embrace it, just go with whatever comes to you.”

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7. Jenni Fagan of the University of Edinburgh, writer:

“Pace yourself… and get off Facebook.”

Jenni is in the middle of developing her novel The Panopticon (which is good and you should read it, by the way) into a film script, so she fielded a lot of questions from the audience about that side of things. However, she warned that “98% of all films never get made,” and pushed the importance of focussing on the writing first and foremost. “I got off Facebook because I found that I was looking at things like the best way to peel a banana, and then from that I clicked on to a really cute photo of a koala bear… and then before I knew it I’d spent a whole hour and all I’d done was surf a bunch of crap.” She says writers ought to focus on removing anything from their lives “that takes you away from words,” but she also noted the value of pacing yourself, and knowing that everything does not happen at once. “I have this idea for another novel,” she said, “but I am pretty sure I won’t start writing it for maybe another five or ten years. You just have to let things take their course.”

Incidentally, if you have any questions about Creative Writing PhDs, keep an eye out for a post on the topic in the next little while!


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!