Posts Tagged ‘yay’

In 2014, I…

Monday, December 29th, 2014

Happy New Year!
(Photo credit)

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:

Spring '14
^ Corrections done! Final draft submitted! Beast slayed!

The Bugle
^ Working on The Bugle with service users at Bethany Christian Trust.

A Trip to Wetheral (13)
^ Springtime!

The Business writing event at Pleasance Cabaret Bar (1)
^ Speaking at The Business with Jenni Fagan, Francis Bickmore, Jenny Brown and other clever folk!

Edventures2 (1)
^ Oh, Edinburgh.

Tackling Sectarianism (2)
^ Travelling around Scotland to consult with literacy learners for Walk The Walk. This is the Redburn Youth Centre in Irvine, North Ayrshire.

My PhD Graduation! (3)
^ Graduation! You may now call me Dr Askew!

Sinclair Girnigoe 2014 (15)
^ Road-tripping literally the length and breadth of Scotland with my wonderful bloke. Best summer ever!

Edwin Morgan Poetry Award
^ Reading at the Edinburgh International Book Festival — and then winning a prize! — at the Edwin Morgan Poetry Award 2014…

OMG!
^ …then getting permission to go public with this even better news!

Secret Herb Garden, Edinburgh
^ My bff Martyna moved back to Edinburgh after five years away!

Autumn in Edinburgh (11)
^ I made my feet more awesome.

Barcelona Autumn 2014 (27)
^ Yet more adventures… this time in gorgeous Barcelona.

Edinburgh, end of autumn
^ Loving my wee house. Spot the Kringle Candles dotted around everywhere… this year, I became a Kringle addict.

York Nov 14 (18)
^ Aaand more adventures: first in stunning York…

London weekend, Nov 14
^ …then London!

Waverley Care Walking Group's Inside/Out Project
^ 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.

Christmas Eve 2014
^ 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!

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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!

Things I Love Thursday #99: getting out more!

Thursday, November 20th, 2014

Remember my 30 before 30 promise? #6? Get out more. I already started out pretty well… and I am keeping it up! I’m just home from two back-to-back autumnal jollies:

First, to York!

York Nov 14 (1)

York Nov 14 (2)

York Nov 14 (17)

York Nov 14 (18)

York Nov 14 (33)

York Nov 14 (36)

York Nov 14 (38)

York Nov 14 (42)

York Nov 14 (45)

I’ve written about the magic of York — and my favourite places there — before. Unsurprisingly, I returned to all those places on this trip, too! I also scoffed my own weight in amazing vegan food, trawled the thrift shops (of course), and perused many a bookshop. Basically my typical weekend.

…then London!

I didn’t take many photos in London, and I’m kinda kicking myself. I wish I had photographed the super-cute sleeping pod-room we stayed in at Z Victoria, for example, or some of the millions of cute dogs we saw all over the place! Still, here’s a tiny taster of what I got up to…

London weekend, Nov 14

This was the main reason we headed south in the first place: to see Speed-The-Plow. Yes, that is Lindsay Lohan’s face (and yes, I look like a madwoman). It’s her West End (in fact, her stage) debut. However, she is in no way the reason we went. The reason is her co-star, the amazing Richard Schiff, aka Toby Ziegler, my favourite character from my favourite show ever, The West Wing. Here’s my favourite nine seconds of Toby, to give you a flavour of his character:

Needless to say, he was bloody excellent in this role. I may be biased, but even in spite of my bias, he was excellent. I believe that critics have been needlessly snotty about the play — and especially backhandedly unpleasant about Lohan. (If your whole review boils down to “it wasn’t as good as when Kevin Spacey did it,” then you’re a shite critic — especially if only sentences beforehand you’ve been rude about the casting of movie stars as a ploy to get butts on seats.) Personally, I absolutely loved it. But then (perhaps surprisingly, for those of you who know me) I love Mamet. Not everyone does.

London weekend, Nov 14

London weekend, Nov 14

Many of the cute dogs we saw were in Kensington Gardens. I had never been to Kensington before but holy wow, it is swanky. Everyone there has really good shoes.
(I went there to have afternoon tea in a pOAsh hotel, wearing my moth-holed skirt and a charity shop t-shirt that I’d sawed the hem off. Fortunately, they seemed to take pity on me and did not throw me out.)

London weekend, Nov 14

Finally, here is a photo of me with a plushie Moomin I found in Foyles on the South Bank. I really wanted him, but I’d already bought a megaton of poetry books and there was just no space in my hand-luggage. I will just have to stare sadly at this photograph instead.

What are YOU loving this week?

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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!

Things I Love Thursday #92: a guide to North Cumbria & Eden. & a kitty.

Thursday, May 22nd, 2014

So, I’ve actually been really sick this week (sadface), so I have little other than snotty tissues and sad violins to share with you from the past seven days. However, a couple of weeks ago I did take a trip to lovely Wetheral… here’s some stuff I loved from then!

A Trip to Wetheral (1)

A Trip to Wetheral (29)

A Trip to Wetheral (45)

A Trip to Wetheral (44)

This is Benny, also known as Bennyboy and Benningtons and Bennington Ponsonby-Smythe and BennyandtheJets and lots of other utterly silly names. He is my parents’ cat — they adopted him just before Christmas and now he basically owns the place, and they are his awestuck humanslaves. Benny likes eating treats from your hand, coming in through his catflap and YELLING so you know he is back, and cuddles. Lots and lots of cuddles. He and my sister are totes BFFs.

A Trip to Wetheral (7)

A Trip to Wetheral (9)

A Trip to Wetheral (16)

Remember the friendly pig I mentioned in my last TiLT? Well, she had piglets… they just wouldn’t allow me to photograph them the first time. We went back to see how they’re getting on, and they were much keener to stay still this time! These cuties live at Askham Hall, which is a cool place to go and visit if you like mooching around posh gardens. They also have a cafe that is totally amaze. Look at what they cook their pizzas and bread in!:

A Trip to Wetheral (18)

Why yes, that is a hand-built walk-in log-fired outdoor oven. May I have one for my garden, please?

A Trip to Wetheral (10)

A Trip to Wetheral (12)

A Trip to Wetheral (4)

A Trip to Wetheral (15)

A Trip to Wetheral (17)

A Trip to Wetheral (32)

A Trip to Wetheral (34)

OK, let me explain. Every year, Wetheral and the surrounding villages hold a scarecrow contest. This year the theme was “celebrities” — and I think I recognise all of these, except the dodgy looking lady in the red fishnets, who was by far the creepiest offering. Although I completely loved Boris Johnson on his zipwire — and Captain Hook and his croc — the prize must surely have gone to the Star Wars mad household, no? It actually was May 4th, too!

A Trip to Wetheral (5)

A Trip to Wetheral (6)

A Trip to Wetheral (8)

A Trip to Wetheral (23)

A Trip to Wetheral (35)

A Trip to Wetheral (25)

A Trip to Wetheral (13)

May is one of my favourite months of the year. It’s what Mary Oliver calls “the quick wrist of early summer,” when every single plant seems just desperate to grow, and grow huge! Cumbria is one of the wettest places in the UK… but that means it’s also one of the lushest and greenest. Everything just seems to be a little more zingy and brightly coloured in the Eden Valley.

A Trip to Wetheral (20)

A Trip to Wetheral (22)

A Trip to Wetheral (24)

A Trip to Wetheral (26)

A Trip to Wetheral (28)

A Trip to Wetheral (33)

When I’m in the area, I love visiting Lowther. The “model village,” or estate village, is incredibly beautiful, as is the churchyard, where I took these photos. Lots of my relatives were in service at Lowther Castle or on the Lowther Estate — I’ve written about the castle and its gardens a little bit here. I’m a big fan of these little tucked-away Cumbrian towns… as much as I love the Lake District and especially South Lakes, I’m also really happy that I know about these little places further north where the tourists rarely venture!

A Trip to Wetheral (36)

A Trip to Wetheral (37)

A Trip to Wetheral (39)

A Trip to Wetheral (40)

A Trip to Wetheral (43)

Larch Cottage at Melkinthorpe is another place I have written about here before… but whenever I go, I can’t help but take photos of how totally cool it is! This time, my sister and I made friends with a majestic cast-iron stag, made faces at some terrible artwork in their art gallery (sorry folks), I wanted to steal those forlorn greyhounds, and I brought home a sorrel plant (named Cyril the Sorrel, natch) for my garden.

A Trip to Wetheral (19)

…apparently there’s not all that much to do in Wetheral.

What are YOU loving this week?

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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!

Things I Love Thursday #91

Thursday, April 24th, 2014

In the past week or so, I…

Adventures in Wordsworth Country, Apr 14
…met a friendly pig!

Spring '14
…spied on a kitty surveying his lands!

Spring '14
…appreciated public transport!

Spring '14
…welcomed spring to my street!

Spring '14
…appreciated smartassery!

Spring '14
…breakfasted like a queen!

Spring '14
…had my first cook-out of 2014!

& perhaps most importantly, this happened:

Spring '14

What are YOU loving this week?

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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!

30 before 30 / Things I Love Thursday #90: adventures in Wordsworth Country

Thursday, April 17th, 2014

Point 6 in my 30 by 30 post was “get out more,” and I thought I’d start right away. So I went on a writing holiday, to the countryside that’s inspired some of the real greats. Here’s some stuff I got inspired by:

Adventures in Wordsworth Country, Apr 14

Adventures in Wordsworth Country, Apr 14

Adventures in Wordsworth Country, Apr 14

Adventures in Wordsworth Country, Apr 14

Adventures in Wordsworth Country, Apr 14

Adventures in Wordsworth Country, Apr 14

Adventures in Wordsworth Country, Apr 14

Adventures in Wordsworth Country, Apr 14

Adventures in Wordsworth Country, Apr 14

Adventures in Wordsworth Country, Apr 14

Adventures in Wordsworth Country, Apr 14

Adventures in Wordsworth Country, Apr 14

Adventures in Wordsworth Country, Apr 14

Adventures in Wordsworth Country, Apr 14

Adventures in Wordsworth Country, Apr 14

Adventures in Wordsworth Country, Apr 14

Adventures in Wordsworth Country, Apr 14

Adventures in Wordsworth Country, Apr 14

Adventures in Wordsworth Country, Apr 14

Adventures in Wordsworth Country, Apr 14

Adventures in Wordsworth Country, Apr 14

Adventures in Wordsworth Country, Apr 14

What are YOU loving this week?

*

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!

Things I Love Thursday #88: Edinburgh details

Thursday, January 16th, 2014

2014 will be my tenth year in Edinburgh. It’s not a big city — you can walk around most of it in a day. So every so often I convince myself that I know it inside out now, that I’ve seen everything. Not so! There are always little details to spot, which is one of the things I love about it.

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<3 Edinburgh

<3 Edinburgh

<3 Edinburgh

<3 Edinburgh

If destroyed, true.  If not destroyed, still true.

<3 Edinburgh

Help ma boab!  (Edinburgh)

Bunny, Edinburgh

Pasty ghost, Edinburgh

What are YOU loving this week?

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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!

Things I Love Thursday #87: what I did on my holidays.

Thursday, January 9th, 2014

Cake dome + triple chocolate ganache truffle cupcakes (#whatveganseat)

1. Baked some tasty vegan treats.
The above cupcakes are triple chocolate ganache truffle cupcakes and yep, they’re totally vegan. Dark chocolate sponge with chocolate ganache in the middle, chocolate not-butter-not-cream frosting, and a Moo Free truffle added to the top for good measure! The rather beautiful cake dome was a Christmas present from the loveliest Lovely Boyfriend. Though it looks like a vintage one, it’s new, but it is made out of 100% recycled materials! Amazing gifting, methinks.

The aforementioned LB requested “a gigantic mince pie” for Christmas dinner dessert, so I duly made a full-size 9-inch diameter mince pie with rather delicious boozy mincemeat. I had some scrappy little bits of rolled shortcrust pastry left over, so I used them to make these: the world’s ugliest mince pies. They obviously still tasted great, though!

Ugly mince-pies I made from scraps of leftover pie crust.

2. Had some even tastier vegan treats made for me.

I think I may have already mentioned here that Lovely Boyfriend is the best vegan cook since Isa Chandra Moskowitz, yes? Well, over our winter holiday he’s had even more time than usual to cook up a storm, so my belly has been extremely happy. Lots of people have been curious about how the heck you even do Christmas as a vegan — the answer is, the same as everyone else. You eat lots and lots of extremely tasty stuff! This was our Christmas morning breakfast:

Christmas morning breakfast: scrambled mushroom tofu on a sesame bagel, and champagne :)

That’s Isa’s own tofu scramble with a Lovely Boyfriend twist: a Christmassy spice mix featuring lots of rosemary, and extra mushrooms. All on a sesame bagel and served with champagne, because Christmas.

I didn’t get a pic of our Christmas dinner because it seemed rude to be a food-snapping hipster blogger in front of our guests (also I was too keen to just SCOFF IT), but again we are indebted to The Great Isa. We had a version of this stuffed seitan roast, with a more traditional sage-and-onion type stuffing to make it more Christmassy. Plus all the usual roast potatoes and veg type stuff, and then my uber-mince-pie with vegan ice cream and these to finish. Delish!

3. Received many amazing gifts.

I couldn’t really do a gratitude post at this time of year without thanking everyone who bought me gifts over the festive period. Thank you, amazing people of my acquaintance, for giving me so many thoughtful, useful and beautiful things. I especially want to thank the folk (a lot of you this year!) who shopped local, supported small businesses like mine, bought secondhand, and/or made charitable donations in lieu of presents. You rock.

Everyone thought this would be a good gift for me!

I also love that so many people got me gifts that are so ‘me’. (This seems to happen a lot, so I hope that means I’m easy to buy for. Or perhaps I am just easily pleased!) This vintage typewriter calendar was clearly an obvious choice… and now I have one for home and one for work! Perfect!

4. Met the newest member of the family.

My parents have always been cat people. Seriously: their house is full of cat-related stuff. Cat mugs, cat ornaments, cat coasters, cat Christmas tree decorations… they really like cats. So they were devastated when their faithful furry friend Beatrice went to the great cattery in the sky back in 2012.

BENNEH.

After a period of mourning for “Little Bertie,” as she was affectionately known, I was extremely excited to hear that they’d decided to rescue a new fur-baby. World, meet Benny! He’s been part of the family for nearly three weeks now, and he’s a super cute, slightly eccentric TOTAL BABE. As you can see, he knows exactly how beautiful he is and loves having his photo taken.

My parents' new kitty, Benny!

Like me, he’s also a stove-worshipper. Smart kitty.

5. Bought a lot of books.

I know, I know, so what’s new? In short, I made the mistake of going to Bookcase Books in Carlisle while on my New Year travels.

Bookcase Books in Carlisle.  Place of dreams.

I’ve blogged about this place before. The bookshop occupies two big townhouses that have been knocked together, and there are books in every room, including the two basements and the huge attic. You can also buy the artwork, paintings and oddities (I found an antique book-press I so wanted) which are displayed in the various corridors and staircases. There are over thirty rooms full of books here. It’s AMAZING.

Bookcase Books in Carlisle.  Place of dreams.

Hours of book-browsing fun, and only an hour on the train from Edinburgh. Just sayin’!

6. Did a lot of plotting.

I love New Year, perhaps even more than I love Christmas (and I really love Christmas). I’m very good at saying “yes” to things and ending up super busy all the time, and very bad at pausing to take stock. So during that between-Christmas-and-going-back-to-work lull, I try to do as much mental stock-taking as I can.

Happy 2014!

There’s always a lot of journalling. This year, I’ve been reading posts like this and thinking about ways to make new year’s goals and resolutions (which I always make, regardless of how uncool everyone says it is) that are meaningful and will last. I prefer to set new year goals — a list of things to achieve — rather than make resolutions, because goal-setting feels way more positive than ’stop doing this thing you do because you like it,’ and ‘do more of this thing you don’t do because you hate it,’ etc. (For example, this year I’ve got ‘find a yoga class I like,’ rather than ‘do more yoga.’) But I have also committed to a couple of “higher resolutions” (the big stuff), which I hope to work on all year.

[One of them is: get better at being sociable. I am generally bad at making new friends, especially with women (this article, the part about rejection, rang so true with me). I have this assumption that most of the people who hang out with me only do it out of some masochistic form of politeness. I'm sure you'll all agree that that mindset is pretty toxic and needs to go. It's been with me a long time, but this is the year I intend to at least begin to cut that shit out. And the other big resolution is a secret for now, because I don't want to jinx it. If I manage to keep it, then all should be revealed in due course.]

Finally, I also use New Year as a time to think about the past year, and what I achieved. Every life coach/internet guru/mindfulness blogger and their dog is keen to point out that saying thank you for the good stuff in your life makes more good stuff happen. So that’s why I write Things I Love Thursday posts (still), and it’s also why every year I write a ‘in [year], I…’ post. Usually I have to go through my old diaries, Facebook updates, and blogposts to recall what I did. So much good stuff gets instantly forgotten and I’m always gobsmacked to revisit it… which is another reason why this process is useful.

If you haven’t done any 2014 plotting or 2013 revisiting yet, try it! The year is young! I highly recommend it.

What are YOU loving this week?

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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!

In 2013, I…

Monday, December 30th, 2013

Happy 2013

At the end of 2012, I wrote, “it’s been a great year. I feel I am a million miles away from the place I was in this time last year — phew! I am also extremely excited about 2013 and all that it holds for me. I plan to finish my PhD, put together my first full-length poetry collection (at last!), get more tattoos (yeah!), and start work on a ton of exciting new projects. Wish me luck!” Did I manage all those things? I freaking well did! Check it out!

In 2013, I…

* saw in the New Year with loads of lovely friends around me, shimmying on down at the Summerhall New Year bash. Amazing night! (If you can go to this year’s one, I highly recommend it!)

* re-joined the Making It Home Project for our ambitious film-making phase, thanks to funding from the wondrous Creative Scotland! Keep reading to find out how it went…

* began a year of mentoring sessions with Sarah Ream, poetry ed at Polygon and total and utter superhero, funded by the Scottish Book Trust. With help from Sarah, I began taking nervous little baby steps towards creating a first collection MS.

* spent a very cold few days in and around gorgeous Oslo in the new year: negotiating several feet of snow, discovering the incredible TV show Borgen (and becoming totally hooked!), and writing plenty of poems.

* baked a lot of stuff.

* celebrated my 27th birthday: there was snow! In March!

* celebrated my first veganniversary by pledging to continue to eat as much delicious cruelty-free dessert as I can find. Win!

* repeatedly apologised to everyone for not doing more poetry gigs… when actually, when I look back, I did quite a lot.

* spent Easter in beautiful, deliciously warm Barcelona: revisiting all my favourite vegan restaurants, sunbathing in parks and on rooftops, and again, writing lots of poems. Hooray!

* became suddenly able to afford to buy a house with Lovely Boyfriend. Began immediately and excitedly house-hunting!

* successfully co-edited (alongside the gorgeous Jane McKie) the Making It Home Book, with thanks to all of YOU for your generous crowdfunding!

* spent over nine hours under the needle to have my Oliver No. 9 typewriter half-sleeve tattooed. It is so lush! (Scroll down!)

* escaped one heck of an evil manager, and immediately boosted my self-esteem, by negotiating a transfer to teach at a different campus. (He’s since been demoted and is no longer anyone’s manager. Thanks, karma!)

* went out filming with the brilliant media co-op and our gorgeous groups of Making It Home women. I learned all about how hard film-making is (needless to say, the women were all flippin’ geniuses at it), held lots of things, and ran around with coats keeping our actresses warm!

* I went to lovely London for a few days and discovered Foyles. HOW HAD I NEVER BEEN TO THIS MAGICAL PLACE BEFORE?! (I bought so many books. So many.)

* successfully negotiated the purchase of our new house, a sweet two-bed semi off Inverleith Row (no less)…

* …and immediately began the process of completely re-vamping this never-modernised house. The phrase “no idea what we were getting into” doesn’t even start to cover it!

* learned how to work a belt-sander, learned how to plaster, and wielded a sledgehammer (oh hell yeah!) for the first time ever, thanks to the above!

* went on tour around Edinburgh and Glasgow, showcasing Making It Home. Thank you so much to the many magical people who supported us on our whistle-stop tour!

* finally drew a line under three-and-a-half years of study, and submitted my PhD.

* started the serious work of putting together my manuscript.

* was selected for the Contemporary Women’s Writing Skills Development programme, and attended the amazing first session at the University of Southampton.

* re-launched Edinburgh Vintage as a jewellery store and saw a fourfold increase in sales!

* successfully interviewed for, and accepted, a brilliant amazing fantastic wonderful new job (basically, my dream job, I’m serious) at Scottish Book Trust. I am now their Young Adult Project Co-Ordinator!

* spent four great days in beautiful Munich: eating vegan food, petting lots of kitties, and being constantly surrounded by pretty autumnal foliage. (We also visited the memorial camp at Dachau, which was exhausting, but I now believe that visiting a concentration camp is something every privileged human ought to do at some point.)

* completed a first draft of my first collection manuscript, and began test-driving poems from it at various events… including at Book Week Scotland!

* organised and judged the inaugural One Night Stanzas Poetry Contest! Have you read the winning poems yet?

* had a wood-burning stove put in as part of our new house renovations. Imagine how good that might be, then double it.

* successfully defended my PhD thesis to examiners Miriam Gamble and Dr Leontia Flynn at my viva. I passed! You may now call me Dr Askew!

* finished building and renovation work on our living room only just in time for Christmas, and spent my first Christmas morning with Lovely Boyfriend — after four years of being together! Blissful.

The year in photos…

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Chilling in Oslo…

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…but warming up again in Barcelona!

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27th birthday cupcakes!

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A storyboard from one of the amazing Making It Home films.

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The half-sleeve! Six months on and I still swoon when I look at it.

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Out filming with the gorgeous Sheena, Elaine and Stacey of Making It Home. Such pros.

Ahlam, Augusta, Lucinda and the MIH posse, Making it Home Farewell Party at NEA
Celebrating a successful Making It Home tour, with a triumphant boogie at North Edinburgh Arts!

Floor sanding
House flippin’! Sanding, sanding, so much sanding…

In the English Garden, Munich, 16/10/13
Hanging out in autumnal Munich.

Goldenacre Path.  My new neighbourhood!
My new neighbourhood!

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Sparkly stuff goes live at Edinburgh Vintage!

Making it Home meets Book Week Scotland at Glasgow Women's Library!
Book Week Scotland 2013!

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The thesis-beast: SLAYED!

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FINISHED IN TIME FOR CHRISTMAS!!! …just.

Wishes for 2014?
You know what? I am so freaking happy right now. In the past year, so many amazing things have happened — passing my PhD, buying my first house with my gorgeous man, landing my dream job. I feel greedy wishing for anything else, really. However, I do like to have goals, so here are one or two hopes for the year ahead…

*Shop my poetry MS around some cool publishers, and hopefully place it somewhere fantastic (I know, I know. Poetry is dismal right now, especially for first collections. But we can but try).
* Gather my strength to continue the great renovation and finish off the kitchen, tackle the bathroom and create a veggie garden!
* Adopt a dog… or two! Probably greyhounds!
That’s basically it. Oh, and write some good poems. That’d be nice, too.

If you want to see what I got up to in 2008, 2009, 2010 2011, or 2012, just click on each year!

I hope 2014 brings you everything you could possibly wish for, and more besides. Happy New Year!

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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!

Things I Love Thursday #86: Christmas in Edinburgh

Thursday, December 26th, 2013

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Happy holidays, all!

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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!

Things I Love Thursday #85: Book Week Scotland

Thursday, December 19th, 2013

Dear everyone, but especially those of you I promised a BWS 2013 blogpost to,

I am sorry this post comes nearly a full month after Book Week Scotland actually happened. The fact I did not blog about it immediately after has nothing to do with the quality of BWS 2013 (it was utterly awesome, in fact). It does, however, have a great deal to do with the fact that my PhD viva (yep) came very swiftly after BWS 2013, and went from “that thing I am working hard at not thinking about” to “that thing that is consuming my whole life right now.” Terribly sorry about that. Hopefully, late is better than never. Here’s how I spent my Book Week Scotland 2013. How about you?

xo, Claire

Sunday night: Shore Poets November
OK, so at this point BWS 2013 was still about four hours away from its official kick-off, and I should probably note that SP November wasn’t an official Book Week Scotland event. It did make a nice literary appetiser for the delicious wordy smorgasbord that was about to follow, however.

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The event featured the ever-witty Tracey S Rosenberg in the New Poet slot — among other cool stuff that happened during her set, she wore a great skirt with kitties on it, and read a really excellent poem about and dedicated to the infamous Shore Poets lemon cake. Nice work.

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Christine de Luca was the Shore Poet, and her reading was incredible as ever. She mostly read poems in Shetland dialect, which was a delight to hear. My favourite was her poem about the Canadian First Nations woman who made a purse out of swan’s feet. And me a vegan!

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The headline poet was Gerrie Fellows, who I’ll admit, I’ve never seen read before — nor have I read any of her work in print. But she was on fine form and read on a variety of subjects. Her poem about coming across the ruins of a crashed aircraft was especially great, as was her sound poem about pointing out deer to a small child.

I should perhaps mention that I once again reprised my role as Scotland’s most awkward literary MC at this particular event!

Monday: Making It Home for Book Week Scotland, “Words Against Violence.”
Book Week Scotland officially began on 25th November 2013! And I was READY FOR IT.

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If you’ve even glanced in passing at this blog in the past year, you’ll know all about the Making It Home Project, aka Possibly The Best Thing I Have Ever Been A Part Of In My Life Ever. Well, because the Book Week Scotland team are excellent, they decided Making It Home needed its own space at BWS 2013, so we teamed up with Glasgow Women’s Library to create the “Words Against Violence” event. I read the project poems — including some of the poems written by our gorgeous participants — and we watched the project films, then had a brilliant, thought provoking discussion that was supposed to be panel-format, but ended up just being everyone sitting in a circle with a cuppa and having a really, really good chat. So my kind of event! Here are some pics:

Glasgow Women's Library: the volunteer tree!
This is the GWL volunteer tree. I utterly love the concept, and the execution! So lovely.

Glasgow Women's Library: the volunteer tree!
It’s a great way to mark the vital contribution of each volunteer.

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GWL’s Gabrielle kicking off the event. (Thank you so much Gabrielle, for your warm welcome and all your capable assistance!)

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Making It Home’s project manager Esa, aka Wonderwoman.

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Thoughtful faces as the films play…

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Oh, Glasgow. Never change.

Tuesday night: Talking Heids (for Book Week Scotland)
Talking Heids is Edinburgh’s magical new(ish) spoken word night on the block, hosted by one of my all-time favs Colin McGuire (pictured here):

Colin McGuire, the magical MC of Talking Heids

It happens on the third Tuesday of every month (I think? It’s once a month and it’s on a Tuesday night, anyway) at Sofi’s in Leith, and each month two poets are featured. For the BWS event, the two poets were Rob A Mackenzie and Rachel Amey. Rob took us on a brilliant chronological tour through his works, starting with the first poem he ever had published, and ending with brand spanking new hot-off-the-printer work. Rachel, meanwhile, read 100% from memory as always, and as always, blew my mind. Her NHS poem never stops giving me chills.

The lovely audience at Talking Heids November

There is also an open mic at the end, and among the acts at the BWS one were yours truly, and the really great Mr Roddy Shippin, lurking rather suspiciously by the door in the photo above. Also up at the mic was the barman, who read a Philip Larkin poem rather excellently, and then, emboldened, took out one of his own poems and read his work in public for the first time ever. The poem (he insisted it was not a poem, “just some lines I wrote on a train,” but if that’s not a poem then my whole writing career has been a huge lie) was great, and I always love it when such things happen. Things like that happening are why tiny open mics in pubs are awesome, and why people who pay to listen to poetry are awesome, and why Book Week Scotland is awesome. Yay!

Wednesday night: The 2013 Margaret Harris lecture.
OK, this was not a Book Week Scotland event. In fact, I had to not go to a Book Week Scotland event in order to go to this! But it was for work, and it was fascinating, although I disagreed with a whole lot of it and found the speaker, Tom Devine, somewhat maddening. Fun fact: ten minutes into the lecture (at a kind of pivotal moment, too) we were all evacuated and lots of firemen called because some mime artists set off a smoke machine in the next room. Dramz! Also, my first ever trip to Dundee!

Thursday night: night off.
(I needed to regroup. Also I’d temporarily run out of BWS pin badges to give out.)

Friday night: Communal Dolphin Snouting
Probably the less said about the title of this event, the better (there were lots of squeaky inflatable dolphin-shaped fairground hammer things hanging from the ceiling when I arrived, and as one of the performers I felt somewhat nervous. Fortunately, said dolphin-hammers were not used to attack me, so I must have done OK). Mainly because it means I can say more about PhiFA — full name, the Berlin Philosophical Football Association.

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(Photo credit Andrew McCue)

Wait, what? I hear you cry… yep, philosophical football. It’s basically a live philosophical debate, wherein pro philosophers team up with citizen thought-mongers picked from the crowd, and are timed, refereed and commentated upon as in football. A Muse provides topics to be debated, and ninety minutes of debate follows. Free kicks can be given for cliches and sentimentality, while yellow and red cards can be handed out for things like cheesiness or plagiarism. All the while, a match photographer rapidly makes colourful drawings of the participants, or renders their ideas and arguments into visual form. And scribbling away simultaneously is the match poet… on this occasion, you guessed it, me.

The match poet writes up the match report in the form of a poem — in real time, as the debate is going on. The poem must be finished by the final whistle, and performed live in front of the spectators. As you can imagine, the pressure was pretty intense… but actually, the lovely philosophers provided me with plenty of material, and I managed to come up with a two-part poem (for a two-part match, natch) that I was actually pretty pleased with. The audience seemed to like it, too! So thanks, Book Week Scotland, for putting me way out of my comfort zone, but in what proved to be a good way!

Saturday night: The Inky Fingers / Book Week Scotland Dead Poet Slam
One night.
A dozen dead poets.
A time machine.
A stage.
An audience.
One amazing gig…

(In all seriousness: this great event, fronted by the aforementioned and excellent Tracey S Rosenberg, was a slam with a difference. Each competitor had to perform not their own work, but the work of their favourite dead poet, preferably in costume and ideally with props and a funny voice, where applicable. I was one of the judges — dressed as Dame Edith Sitwell in the spirit, if you’ll pardon the pun, of the evening — and let me tell you, this was a TOUGH contest. Finally won by the utterly brilliant Anne Connolly, who, as my fabulous fellow judge Alice Tarbuck pointed out, could become a professional WB Yeats impersonator.)

Here are some pics:

The Book Week Scotland/Inky Fingers Dead Poet Slam: Aphra Behn and Edith Sitwell
Alice Tarbuck and I as Aphra Behn and Edith Sitwell respectively, sitting at the judging table of doom.

The Book Week Scotland/Inky Fingers Dead Poet Slam: Kurt Schwitters!
MC Kurt Schwitters, aka Ali Maloney, aka Harlequinade.

The Book Week Scotland/Inky Fingers Dead Poet Slam: defending champion Charles Bukowski!
Defending champ Charles Bukowski, aka Colin McGuire.

The Book Week Scotland/Inky Fingers Dead Poet Slam: host with the most, Dorothy Parker!
Hostess with the mostess Dorothy Parker, aka Tracey S Rosenberg.

The Book Week Scotland/Inky Fingers Dead Poet Slam: a triumphant WB Yeats!
The new champ WB Yeats, aka Anne Connolly!

The Book Week Scotland/Inky Fingers Dead Poet Slam: performers!
Top secret judging paperwork.

The Book Week Scotland/Inky Fingers Dead Poet Slam: the scary judges, Edith Sitwell, Aphra Behn and Vita Sackville-West
Scary judges Edith Sitwell (aka me), Aphra Behn (aka Alice Tarbuck) and Vita Sackville-West (aka Jane McKie).

Thanks Book Week Scotland, for the words, the books, the banter, and OVER 600 EVENTS SCOTLAND-WIDE! Already looking forward to 2014!

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