Saturday, 31 December 2011

Happy New Year!

I hope you all had a good Christmas!

My short-short story 'Catwoman' placed in the 2011 Binnacle Ultra Short Competition. My contributor copy arrived in the post yesterday, and it's a beautiful little thing. The magazine is in a box:

And that box is filled with cards. Each card has a short biography of the writer on one side, and their story/poem on the back.

S'cute, no?

Today I'm writing, and making up short term and long term to-do lists. Crikey. I aim to enter the new year in the way I mean to go on - organised and finishing things. Yes.

Here's to a happy and healthy 2012 for all of us! I've pinched this from Neil's blog:


Thursday, 22 December 2011

poetry filming: Sonia Hensler & merry christmas

Smile for London are announcing the artists who are pairing up with poets to create poetry films for the London Underground in January. Sonia Hensler will be animating my poem about Oxford Circus. Sonia produces really cool collage-type-drawings, like the one shown over on the right. I'm really excited to see what she comes up with. You can read an interview with her over here.

You can read more about the videos and the collaborations on the Smile for London blog. [Please do excuse the video they found of me; it's from a while ago and I appear to be racing to the end of the poem I'm reading.]

I'm finishing bookselling-type-work early this year and, after closing up the bookshop tonight, I'm getting on a train up north, to Newcastle, for Christmas. So, festive tidings to you all! I hope that you all have a wonderful Christmas. Here's a baby polar bear. xxxx

Saturday, 17 December 2011

last call for Christmas

UK folks: s'the last chance [by Tuesday 20th] to order a copy of the 100 Poem collection to arrive in time for Christmas, as  present to yourself or someone else. *puts on Christmas hat*

The pamphlet, containing 100 poems, is a limited print run of 200, with a cover designed by Greg McLeod [also illustrating Weird Things Customers Say in Bookshops]. They are numbered, and signed. £10, plus postage.

All proceeds [that's £8.60 from each sale, plus any money left over after postage costs] go to EEC International, funding research centres using stem cell research and gene therapy to find a cure for degenerative eye sight problems. 

Select Shipping Location


[If you'd like to order more than one copy, or you don't have a paypal account/paypal isn't working, then drop me an email]

Merry Christmas, folks. x

Sample poem:



There is field, and we are in it.
This is it, you say
crouching low over your shoes.

We prepared to leave as
milk bottles came
chose instead the ones
the tide brings - green

buckets on ropes
     hanging low
from our shoulders. We
find the cows out
in the field. A drunken farmer
too busy making
snow angels. We milk instead

then walk the twelve
     miles to the beach
avoiding slot machines
until our beds are checked.

On the edge of the pier
     we can begin again
to see ourselves. We dip
chipped mugs deep in buckets
     for our bones.

Friday, 16 December 2011

snow and poetry [but not so much snow]

I had some very nice news in my inbox this morning, saying I've won third prize in the Sentinel Annual Poetry Competition. Hurray! My poem 'the chicken, the egg and my sister' will be published in an anthology with the other winning poems early next year. For obvious reasons I can't show you the poem, but I can post some of the judge's report which describes the poem. Then you can have fun reconstructing the poem in your head, as you think it might be...

This is a surreal poem, powerful in its intensity, and disturbing in the vision it portrays. The writing unnerves via its rather matter-of-factual frankness; its exact depictions of individual acts of mutilation; and its exploration of illogical rationality. Each word is employed efficiently and effectively to convey the horror. Even though very few adjectives are used, the writing is visual; the tone almost coldly non-judgemental. The poem manages to contain the horror, the mental torture via a calculated use of technique.

I'm a little worried as to what poem you've all got in your head, now.

You can see a list of the winners and read the whole judge's report over here.

The other day I posted about Words in Motion, poetry going on the tube for two weeks in January, for which a poem of mine has been chosen. Words in Motion have been releasing the names of some of the other poets involved, and there are some pretty cool names in there. Jarvis Cocker, Salena Godden, Ross Sutherland to name a few. Emily Berry also had a poem picked; I love her collection Stingray Fevers. I'm really looking forward to seeing this project come together. 

Happy weekend! x

Thursday, 15 December 2011

a whole load of blog posts about bookshops

I love bookshops.

Well, I would, since I work in one.

I'm guessing, if you're reading this, that you love bookshops too.

In the New Year I want to do a series of blog post 'spotlights' about individual bookshops. Bookshops are important, and this article earlier in the week made me sad, and angry.

As my lovely agent said on Twitter: Amazon don't acknowledge how they benefit from existence of bookshops. If there are none, they will suffer. But we will suffer most.

Very true.

HOWEVER, these bookshop blog posts I'm going to do aren't about Amazon. They are about spreading the joy of physical bookshops - showing photos, talking about the books booksellers in particular love to sell. They are about talking about local communities, favourite customers, events and author signings. They are going to be about showcasing the wonderfulness of booksellers and bookshops worldwide.

So, if you're a bookseller [anywhere in the world], and you're reading this, and you'd like me to write a blog post about your bookshop then please email me. You'll need to answer some questions and send over some photographs later on, but for the moment a simple 'ME PLEASE' will do, and I'll whack you on a list.

Lots of love. x

ETA: Bookshop spotlight No. 1 - Ripping Yarns bookshop

#2 Constellation Books
#3 Storytellers, Inc.
#4 Belgravia Books

Sunday, 11 December 2011

poetry on the underground

I've always been a fan of Poems on the Underground, a project set up in 1986, displaying poems in over 3000 advertising spaces on London tubes. It makes me smile when I see one of these whilst commuting [oh, the dreaded rush hour!].

There's a new project that's happening early next year in the same vein. It's called Words in Motion, and moving advertising screens on London's underground will be taken over by poetry. The project called for submissions of poetry of forty words or less, along with audio files of the poems at 20 seconds or less - poetry that would help cheer up commuters during one of the coldest months of the year.  The poems chosen by the judging panel are being animated into 20 second typographic films by leading motion artists. Those films will then be played on screens on the London underground from the 16th of January for two weeks. One of my poems has been picked, and is currently being animated. I'm really looking forward to seeing the finished films of all of the poems. Hurray for poetry on the tube! I'm not sure which stations/lines they'll be showing but, when I know, I'll let you know.

100 Poem Challenge update: A big thank you to all who have bought a copy of the poetry collection so far. I've got the pamphlets from the printers, and they are now being posted as and when orders come in. Things with EEC International are really moving forward, and all money raised for medical research is very much needed. Next year the organisation is also going to work on creating an international database for all those with EEC, helping to further research. Following the 100 Poem Challenge, I heard from Cristina, who runs EEC International [based in Italy], and I have been appointed the Manager of EEC International for the UK, to help co-ordinate the register, help people with EEC Syndrome find the right doctors, help people connect with each other and give parents who have given birth to children with EEC information about the condition. This will be something I'll be doing in my spare time, and I'm very excited about getting involved and furthering the work of EEC Syndrome Awareness.

In other, completely different, news, our bookshop is looking all Christmassy. If you're looking for a pretty book for a Christmas gift then do stop by. If you're further afield but are hunting for a particular edition of an old book then drop us an email and we'll have a hunt for you. I wish we had this Christmas tree, sent to me by @ on Twitter. Best tree ever, no? x 

Wednesday, 7 December 2011

Weird Things Customers Say in Bookshops - at Christmas

Well, it is nearly Christmas....

Customer: I'd like a book for a friend, about saving the world from alien invasion. I'd like the main character to be a little like Freddie Mercury and a little like Arnold Schwarzenegger.


Customer: Do you still have that thing that was in your window? It was pink and fluffy.
Me: A book?  
Customer: No, it was a dog toy, I think - with a lead.
Me: Yeah, I think that was probably in the vet and pet store's window, two doors down. 


Customer: Do you have 'Windows 7 for Dummies'?
Me: Sorry, we're an antiquarian bookshop; nearly everything in here pre-dates computers.
Customer: Oh. Do you have user guide for antiquarian computers? You know from, like, the olden days, when they had swords and stuff?  
Me: ...?


Customer: Excuse me. Do you sell snow?
Me *thinking I've misheard*: Sorry. Snow?
Customer: Yes. SNOW.
Me: .... no. No we don't.


Customer: Do you have, like, a Christmas book about that, like, really famous baby?


a customer reading a book about the nativity.
Customer *to her friend*: Don't you ever get the feeling that Baby Jesus is somehow related to Herod? I always think that he's going to go: 'JESUS. I AM YOUR FATHER.'


Customer: Do you have a vending machine in here?


Customer: Do you think you could post this book to America for me, in time for Christmas?
Me: Yes. I'm sure we could. I'll just get the scales and I can work out postage costs for you.
Customer: You expect me to pay for the postage as well? I'm already paying for the book!
Me: ...


the real Mr Scrooge...
Customer: I'd like a Christmas book, about Christmas, that doesn't have anything to do with snow, or robins, or snowmen, or Jesus, or holly.
Me: ... right.
Customer: And no bloody carols, either!


Customer: Do you have any cards?
Me: We have some old postcards in a box by the door. Some of them have already been written on, though.
Customer: Oh, do you have one that says 'To Juliette, with love from Christine'? It would save me writing it out again, you see.


Child *to me*: Does Santa come to your bookshop to get gifts for kids?
Me *nodding wisely*: Yes. Yes. He absolutely does.
Child: That's awesome!
Me: Yes, it is.
Child: But...
Me: But what?
Child: But... Santa's really fat. I don't think he could squeeze through the gaps in the bookshelves.
Me: It's ok. He sends us a list before hand, and we leave the books by the door.
Child: That makes you Santa's elf!
Me: Yes... yes, I suppose it does.

Merry Christmas, folks. x

Weird Things Customers Say in Bookshops [UK] / Weird Things Customers Say in Bookstores [US/Canada]

Monday, 5 December 2011

poems on postcards all over the world [and how poetry's working hard to stop houses burning down!]

The initial part of the 100 Poem Challenge had people donating with the option to have one of the 100 poems written on a postcard and posted to out to them [wherever they happened to be!]. So I spent a lot of time after 5th and 6th November carefully writing poems out by hand, and then sending them out here, there and everywhere. I'm really thrilled with how everyone's interacted with this project, and it's lovely to see the poems on postcards in their new homes across the world:

in Sweden [with a lot of Terry Pratchett books]


Western Australia [tucked inside an advent calendar]

with postcards also posted out to New Zealand, Canada, Japan, Germany, Netherlands, and the UK.

displayed on windows, on pinboards and bookshelves


& I have to mention one poem on a postcard in particular. Chris [@book_recycling] said that he'd like me to write a poem about 'fire and rescue' - because he works as a volunteer firefighter. So, on the weekend of 100 poem writing, that became poem #84:



I am called
to stop you becoming
the icarus girl.

Ladders guessing
just how tall you are.

Hair down like Rapunzel.


I then hand wrote that poem on a postcard, and sent it to Chris. That postcard now resides in their fire engine. Check it out!

Amazing. Chris informs me that this poem-on-a-postcard-in-a-fire-engine has so far been to two house fires, one road traffic accident and two automatic fire alarms. Emergency poetry! Fabulous. Thanks Chris!


If you'd like to buy the poetry collection of all 100 poems, please head over here

[Thank you to everyone who sent me a photo of the postcard in their home [sorry if yours isn't included above; there were so many!]]

Friday, 2 December 2011

100 Poem Challenge poetry collection - for sale!

*100 Poem Challenge poetry collection is now sold out. Many thanks to those who bought a copy or who donated to the cause. A total of £4250 [that's 5000euros/$6800] was raised for EEC International. 

Details of the challenge itself can be found below, and also at


We spent biology lessons in summer months
exploring rock pools. Prefect ties to hold
our hair up. Fishing for pound coins
as though they're wishing wells. Instead
claimed witch hair, wet ankle socks.
Salt living under finger nails.

On the 5th and 6th November 2011, I wrote 100 poems in 48 hours to raise money for EEC International, a charity who fund research into EEC Syndrome [a condition I have], especially eye sight problems to do with gene p63. It is likely that people who have EEC Syndrome will lose their sight. If a cure could be found for this then it would benefit thousands of people [not just those with EEC] worldwide.

All proceeds from the sale of these poetry collections will go to EEC International [that's £8.60 per sale after printing costs].

This is a limited print run of 200, with a cover designed by Greg McLeod [also illustrating Weird Things Customers Say in Bookshops]. They are numbered, and signed. £10, plus postage.

It's printed high quality, 52 pages, and contains all of the poems from the challenge. If you liked the poems and you'd like a physical copy of all of them, then this is for you.


[If you'd like to order more than one copy, or you don't have a paypal account/paypal isn't working, then drop me an email]

[Bear in mind, if you're buying for Christmas presents, that these are being posted from the UK. I will have the pamphlets by mid-week, and will be posting them out to you straight away.] 


Sample Poem:


In those days we'd sleepwalk.
It was easier for us to see the city that way.
The daytime gave us kitchen steam,
flour tilting like November snow. At night
we'd trudge through gardens
that our house had never seen.
We would run and cup non-existent light.

Mostly, we dressed up as birds. Mary's favourites
were the leather swans. Black feathers in her bedsheets
and a zip up to her neck. We'd walk
together and in lines -
our wings hooping every lamppost.
In the mornings we'd bathe our swollen feet. Inch
our claws along the frozen tiles -
make-believe that we could fly again.

[tag word: SNOW]


Happy Friday!

Any questions, please feel free to email me.

Thursday, 1 December 2011

more paper sculptures

I am buzzing away, a very busy bee. Working on several projects at once and making my mind boggle. At the moment [as in right now, well not right now, because right now I'm writing this] I'm finishing off a radio play that's been on my to-do list for some time. I wrote a play earlier in the year, and the BBC said 'we like this very much, but it is not long enough - write more!' So, dutifully, I am writing more. We will see if it goes anywhere. At any rate, I'm having fun writing it.

A couple of people who bought poems on postcards [you lovely people] expressed concern about how much the postcards and postage costs must have taken from the donation. Fret not, my friends! I paid for all the postage,  postcards etc myself. I did not take any money from the donation box. That was a little expensive, but think of it as my own money-esque contribution [considering this charity pretty much benefits me personally in the medical field].

The 100 poem poetry pamphlet will go on sale in the next couple of days. I should receive a proof from the printers tomorrow. So, more on details of how to buy one very soon.

Now. You may remember my blog post a few weeks ago about the anonymous paper sculptures that had been donated to literary places around Edinburgh. Like this beautiful thing:

If not, you can read it here. They are very beautiful, and now the whole set [all ten] has been discovered. One of them was even left at my old bookshop for Ian Rankin. Here he is with it.

And two others: a book left at the National History Museum

with a dinosaur tucked inside, and many tiny men with guns surrounding it.

And this wonderful book sculpture left at the Writers' Museum:


as well as a cap and pair of gloves made out of paper left at The Scottish Poetry Library, along with this letter from the artist, who still wishes to remain anonymous:

It's been a wonderful project to follow. You can read more about it, and see all of Chris's photos [some of which shown above] over here.

This story has made my heart happy. x