I feel like 2014 has been my year. Things have been really amazing this year — other people have even said to me “you’re having a great year, aren’t you?” I’m super, super grateful for all the amazing opportunities that have come my way, and for all the support from lovely people like YOU!
Here’s what I’ve been up to! In 2014, I…
* Saw in the new year with my dear family in Wetheral, one of the most chocolate-box-y English villages you can imagine. This was after spending my first ever Christmas in the house that Lovely Boyfriend and I bought together last year! It was a wonderful festive time.
* Signed myself up to read/speak in a bunch of places in the springtime. I particularly enjoyed giving a talk on intersectionality in the Scottish arts at New Scotland: New Culture?
* Learned to knit (well, re-learned — my gran taught me, years ago, but I forgot). This is something I have wanted to do for years and I’m now thoroughly addicted.
* Did my first ever official school author visit — to chat to some second years and then some Advanced Higher English students — at Hillhead High School in Glasgow. I was terrified beforehand, I’ll admit — but it was great! I loved every minute and have been invited to do others since! (You too can book me to speak to your class of students, community group, book group, writing workshop, or whatever you fancy… just click here!)
* Had an amazing Valentine’s Day dinner cooked for me by
my personal chef Lovely Boyfriend: Thai beetroot and coconut soup, Jerusalem artichoke risotto, and then peanut butter cheesecake with a chocolate brownie base. All vegan!
* Entered my 28th year and celebrated by eating a chocolate breakfast at The Chocolate Tree, drinking tasty cocktails at the Dome, and finding out that New Writing Scotland wanted to publish one of my poems. A good day!
* Started a 30 before 30 to do list… and started to cross things off it immediately!
* Put the finishing touches to my first full-length poetry collection — about eight years in the making — and started sending it out to publishers! Oo-er.
* Took AGES to complete the very few corrections that needed to be done on my PhD… but submitted it, eventually!
* Finished up the year of creative mentoring that came alongside my 2011/12 New Writers Award — and wrote about how great it was here.
* Helped deliver the graphic novel John Muir: Earth-Planet, Universe into the world, as part of my role as Young Adult Project Co-Ordinator at Scottish Book Trust. The graphic novel is designed for 13 to 15 year olds, and is designed to teach young ‘uns about the importance of environmental responsibility while also telling the story of legendary Scot John Muir. Although this book wasn’t my main focus at work this year, I was proud to be part of the team that delivered it… it really is wonderful!
* Helped my dad to build a book nook in my bedroom! This was mega — I had wanted a book nook ever since I saw this one on Tumblr, and then when we realised that the main bedroom in our new house had a fairly useless cupboard in the corner, it was just FATE. Shockingly, I have yet to take a really decent photo of the finished nook, but that can be one of my ‘to do’ points for 2015. Watch this space…
* Was booked to speak at the University of Edinburgh’s conference style event The Business, alongside amazing writerly folks like Francis Bickmore and Jenny Brown!
* Was booked to deliver the first of what turned into a series of author events/workshops with the Edinburgh branch of Bethany Christian Trust, which works to support people who are homeless or vulnerably housed. I wrote a bit about that first author event here!
* Geeked out with my mum — who is as mad on antiques and collectables as I am — at the Antiques Roadshow when it came to Lowther Castle! (I know you’re rolling your eyes right now but it’s a great day out for those of us with a Delboy streak!)
* Was invited to become a Creative Facilitator on the Inside/Out project, run by Waverley Care. Over the course of the last few months, I have been meeting with Waverley Care service users who are affected by HIV and/or Hep C, to help them write about the ways in which living with a blood-borne virus affects them. It’s been inspiring, and very humbling.
* GRADUATED FROM MY PHD!!!! After nearly four years of working full time + studying full time + being entirely un/self-funded, I DID IT!
* Heard back from Bloodaxe, the first and only publisher I sent my first collection MS to, that they loved the collection and wanted to publish it! HIGHLIGHT OF MY YEAR RIGHT HERE! The collection is titled This changes things and will land in bookstores in February 2016.
* Was shortlisted for the inaugural Edwin Morgan Poetry Award, alongside my lovely pal Harry Giles and a bunch of other fine folks! This meant I got to read at the Edinburgh International Book Festival once again (always awesome) — which included access to the Author’s Yurt! On the night, I came runner-up to Niall Campbell, who I’d predicted would win as soon as I saw the shortlist (why did I not put a bet on?!). I was gobsmacked by the amazing comments from the judges and by the warm and lovely response from everyone I know! Thanks, you guys!
* Went on a massive Scotland-wide road-trip with the amazing Lovely Boyfriend at the wheel. I’ve lived in Scotland for 20 years this year, and until the summertime had never been to about 80% of it. We drove all the way up the east coast to the very northern tip of Caithness, then all along the northern coast, then down the west coast, even visiting Gairloch! It. was. amazing.
* Then jetted off to stunning Barcelona for some autumnal sun with Lovely Boyfriend and my BFF Martyna. A truly amazing time was had by all — and we were staying in hands-down the best airbnb ever!
* Had my feet tattooed with the words “What’s Next?” — both a positive, forward-thinking mantra of mine and the immortal words of President Jed Bartlet, protagonist of the TV show I love madly!
* Was booked to read/speak at a bunch of lovely events in the autumn.
* Began to make a name for myself as a handy freelance writer-for-hire and/or adult literacy worker-for-hire — throughout the year I’ve been booked to bring my writerly expertise to various community groups, book groups and education settings across Scotland. And I’ve loved it! Bring on 2015!
* Spent a spooky Halloween visiting various esoteric sites to look for ghosts and witches… then attending not one but two Halloween parties! For the first one, I dressed as the classic Halloween witch — for the second, which was book themed, I donned some fangs and went as Lucy Westenra.
* Celebrated my fourth year as the other half of Lovely Boyfriend (his real name is Steve, by the way) — personal chef, champion cuddler and all-round cute Scottish bloke. We spent a romantic weekend in York, reading books, writing poems and eating all the delicious vegan food we could find, before heading down to London to hole up in Foyles and then see my fangirl fave Richard Schiff in the London Playhouse’s infamous Speed-The-Plow.
* Pitched myself to the brilliant For Books’ Sake as a possible Scottish tutor for their great new all-female writing course Write Like A Grrrl… and was accepted! My Edinburgh class starts on 24th January and you can sign up right here!
* Continued to build my wee vintage jewellery business, Edinburgh Vintage, with — and I am telling you this because I am super proud of myself — revenue nearly quadrupling in the last twelve months! EV is basically my second job now, and I love it. I have exciting new places to take it in 2015, too!
* Delivered my first full project since joining Scottish Book Trust in October last year. Walk The Walk is a graphic novel designed specifically for adults who struggle with literacy, and is developed using an innovative participatory methodology. I’ve spent the year travelling all over Scotland to meet young people and adults who attend literacy support groups, to chat to them about their experiences and to get their input at every stage of the book’s development. I’ve also got to see the process that goes into producing a specialist book, from the very first kernel of an idea, to the final product being sent out to literacy groups nationwide. I am really, really proud of this thing and want to give a massive, grateful shoutout to the powerhouse all-female creative team I got to work with on it all year: my boss, Koren (aka the best boss ever), genius writer Gowan Calder, and utterly magical artist Jill Calder. Thank you ladies!
* Kept in touch with another powerhouse all-female creative team… the one behind 2012’s Making It Home Project, on which I worked as a Creative Facilitator. We’ve spent the year plotting various ways to take what we learned with MiH and take it forward into a brand new project. I’m hoping that in the new year, we’ll be able to announce what we’ve settled on. Spoiler: it’s going to be really, really exciting. Oh, and this time I’ll be Project Co-Manager! Be afraid!
* Visited a bunch of really great bookstores and vegan restaurants… click on the links for my Top 10 of each!
* Had poems published in loads of places — thank you, kind editors! You can see a full list, and read some of the poems, here.
The year in pictures:
^ Corrections done! Final draft submitted! Beast slayed!
^ Working on The Bugle with service users at Bethany Christian Trust.
^ Speaking at The Business with Jenni Fagan, Francis Bickmore, Jenny Brown and other clever folk!
^ Oh, Edinburgh.
^ Travelling around Scotland to consult with literacy learners for Walk The Walk. This is the Redburn Youth Centre in Irvine, North Ayrshire.
^ Graduation! You may now call me Dr Askew!
^ Road-tripping literally the length and breadth of Scotland with my wonderful bloke. Best summer ever!
^ Reading at the Edinburgh International Book Festival — and then winning a prize! — at the Edwin Morgan Poetry Award 2014…
^ …then getting permission to go public with this even better news!
^ My bff Martyna moved back to Edinburgh after five years away!
^ I made my feet more awesome.
^ Yet more adventures… this time in gorgeous Barcelona.
^ Loving my wee house. Spot the Kringle Candles dotted around everywhere… this year, I became a Kringle addict.
^ Aaand more adventures: first in stunning York…
^ …then London!
^ A Christmas outing with some of the lovely service users at Waverley Care: making concrete poems from natural materials as part of the Inside/Out project.
^ And a cozy family Christmas to finish :)
I hope that 2015 brings you everything you could possibly wish for, and that all your resolutions are easy to keep! I say: 2015? Bring it on!
If you want to see what I got up to in 2008, 2009, 2010 2011, 2012, or 2013, just click on each year!
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!