Wednesday, 31 October 2012

'... She feeds the kid goats at the table, out of bottles. Old body parts we no longer need.'

'No one mentions the dead bird hanging in the hall.
Tommy takes a stick to it. Feathers fall across the rug
which our grandpa dragged over from the orchard fields.
Makes it smell of blood apples. Of carol-singing cheeks,
their glow nicked straight out of the freezer...'

It's Hallowe'en, folks! To celebrate, for the next 24 hours, I'm offering signed copies of my poetry collection 'The Hungry Ghost Festival,' postage free, to wherever you happen to be. x

The Hungry Ghost Festival - Jen Campbell
published by The Rialto

Postage Free - £5.50

Friday, 26 October 2012

Come On Everybody - Adrian Mitchell

Dear Sir

I have read your manifesto with great interest but it
says nothing about singing. 

As most of you know, the antiquarian bookshop where I work is owned by Celia Mitchell, who is the wife of Adrian Mitchell. Adrian was a great poet and playwright, who sadly passed away in 2008. On Wednesday, it would have been his 80th birthday and, to celebrate, we launched 'Come on Everybody' a collection of most of Adrian's work, published by Bloodaxe.

Adrian famously said that 'Most people ignore most poetry, because most poetry ignores most people.' He strove to write for those who felt poetry had left them behind. He wrote about peace, and he wrote about love. He was extremely passionate about all his work.

One of my favourite poems from Come on Everybody (though there's so much to choose from!) is:

from Nine Ways of Looking at Ted Hughes

Poet at Work

There he stands
a grizzly bear in a waterfall
catching the leaping salmon
in his scoopy paws.   

Footwear Notes

bloody great clogs
carved out of logs
are the indoor shoes
of Ted Hughes

Out of Focus

When you take a photograph of Ted
it's a job to get him all in -
like taking a snapshot of Mount Everest. 


A large Mayakovsky
Or Ginsberg and tonic before the meal
Dry white Stevie Smith with the mousse of moose
Roast beef and Yorkshire pudding with a deep red Ted
Vintage Keats with the trifle
A glass of Baudelaire goes well with cheese
But afterwards
A bottomless goblet of Shakespeare's port
Or the blazing brandy of Blake. 

That poem makes me feel warm and fuzzy.

Come on Everybody is a generous beast of a book, at 432 pages. If you'd like to buy a copy from us at the bookshop, you can do so by using the Paypal button below (or by emailing us at yarns at ripping yarns dot co dot uk). Price is £15 plus postage.

Please Select Postage Option

Tuesday, 23 October 2012

“Happiness lies in being privileged to work hard for long hours in doing whatever you think is worth doing.”

Bookshop Spotlight #9!

I'm really pleased to bring you all another Bookshop Spotlight - this is where the owner of a bookshop tells us the story of their business :). Today is the turn of Christopher Sheedy, who owns Re: Reading books in Toronto. He stopped by Ripping Yarns the other week, when he was visiting the UK with his wife, and he has some quotes in the North American edition of 'Weird Things Customers Say in Bookstores.' He's a lovely chap.

This post is another heart-warmer. So, pull up a seat!

Over to you, Christopher! x


Re: Reading – A Genesis

As it states on our bookmark – Established in Dreams 1986 , Established in Reality 2009

When I moved to Toronto in 1986, at the age of 20, I was poor. I mean, new-pair-of-socks-was-cause-for-celebration poor. I was also a voracious reader and having to choose between dinner and a new book was tough.

It was here that I discovered the wonderfulness of Used Bookstores. See, I grew up in a small town that did not have a used shop, so this was new to me. Queen St West at that time had several used bookstores, used record shops and a few comic shops as well. This allowed me to feed my habit and I always thought, “I would love to own one of these places and just work there all the time!” I filed the dream away and hoped maybe to do it once I retired.

Flash forward some twenty years and I now had a wife, a house, a cottage and a career. The only problem was, as happy as I was in my life, I was not happy in my job. Working for someone else had always rubbed me the wrong way, and my (then) current boss was a Champion Rub-The-Wrong-Wayer! So, I was determined to find a new job and hopefully a new, better boss.

Then the most amazing thing ever happened. My wife, Joanne, a woman I have known since we were 7 years old, said: “What happens if your next boss is an Olympic Level Moron as well? What if you get the top job but your Board of Directors are a bunch of Award Winning Meddlers?” My response was, “Well, what are my options?”
This next part just goes to prove how well she knows me and exemplifies why I love her. She said:
“What about the bookstore? You were planning on doing it when you retire, why not look into doing it now?”
Me: “.....”
Joanne: “There are 40+ bookstores in Toronto, if they can do it, I know you can too.”
See why I love her?

So, in November of 2008, I set about learning how to open the bookstore and what it would take to make it a success. I had spent a great deal of time in used bookstores as a customer over the years and so I felt I had a pretty good understanding of how they worked. I talked to several owners in town who, once they learned I was not planning on opening near them, were very helpful with the details.

It took me November and December to learn enough that I felt I really had a shot at doing this. So, on January 4th, after spending a snowy, windy day on the Danforth to gauge foot traffic in bad weather months, we finalized our decision. I was opening a bookstore!

So, next step: To resign. This was a wonderful bit of joy. To walk into the Rubber's office and tell him that February 12th 2009 would be my last day was a giggle inducing event. The look on his face was priceless.

Having given my notice, it was time to find an empty store. There were several in the area where we wanted to be but none were absolutely perfect. Still, I had quit my job so I had to pick one and get moving. The least bad one was the right size and location but would need a lot of work on the floor and walls to make it was what I wanted it to be. We had met with the owners and set a price and were only a Saturday and Sunday away from signing up.

This is the first time “Fate” intervened in our little story. My wife is often late. I tell you this because she was late that Sunday-before-the-signing-of-the-lease morning and took a cab to work instead of the subway. Because this was 6:00 am on a Sunday morning, the cabbie took her across Danforth Ave instead of the regular route. Once she got to work she called me and said: “Bunny, (she calls me bunny a lot) why are we not looking at the huge store with the hardwood floors and the great lighting right beside Moss (her favourite Danforth store & a destination shop for Eastenders)?” My reply was, “What are you talking about? That store is a Dress shop!” Well, apparently, I was wrong.

We met that afternoon down on the Danforth and peered into the coolest looking shop we had seen to date. It was huge. It was also in excellent shape. Great floors and walls. Great lighting and a MASSIVE 13 x 12 foot window. On the north side (sunshine) and right beside MOSS & IQ Living, two very high end shops which would be great for business.

There was a phone number in the window so we gave them a call to set an appointment and they said, we can be there in 5 mins. So we took a look and fell in love and braced for the price. Turns out, it was nearly the same as the almost place but with MUCH less work to do to get it ready. We were in!

It turns out that my last day at work was also the day they gave us the keys. I had a bookstore! (Well, actually, I had an empty store with huge florescent pink squares on the wall which we quickly painted Oxblood!) 

Now we needed a name. In all those years that the store only existed in my head, I wanted to call it ReRead, (pronounced ReReed) but my lovely wife said: “But it can also be pronounced ReRed and that is just confusing.” So, to avoid confusion and with a tip of the hat to years reading memos Re: Marketing or Re: How I am about to make your world a total mess or Re:...Well you get the idea. I decided to use Re: Reading (to this day, the only person who does NOT like that name is Joanne). Note to future namers of businesses: If you put a colon in your name or use a not common usage, Google finds you faster! “Christopher's Bookshelf” (my wife's choice) would have been lost in the sea of Christ... stuff on the interwebs)

Now it is Feb 13th and I have set an open date just 6 weeks away. Time to build the store! (Side note, since we figured that I would be working at the store alone for the first 12 months at least with no vacation, we took one of those 6 weeks and went to Cozumel!)

After a few trips to IKEA for ideas, the bookshelves started to arrive and the construction of the store began. I knew I could build it all in 5 weeks because we had started in good shape. The only real construction (or de-construction) we needed to do was change the dressing rooms from the dress shop into usable space. A few family members and a Sawsall later and we were good to go. All we needed were the books. 

This is the second time “Fate” reared its wonderful head! I have an Aunt who is in her late 50s. In Feb 09, she got her first ever computer. Then she signed onto Facebook and started friending all her relatives including me. In the first week of March, I get a message from her saying “Thought you would be interested: 'Used bookstore going out of business, all inventory for sale' which she had found on the Petawawa PennyPinchers website.

I called the number and next thing I know, I am buying 15,621 books. All I need to do is go get them! Can anyone say Road Trip! With a friend's help we went up and grabbed them and brought them back to the store! The really amazing thing is that they were all priced and sorted into boxes by category so all we had to do was unpack them onto our shelves! Instant store!

We hadn’t boarded up the window, so people could see in. Not only were people peering into the store to see what we were up to but I could see who my customers were going to be. Namely, families with strollers and a slew of dog owners out for their walk. This resulted in a sign in the window saying dogs were welcome and my designing my aisles so that even a double-wide stroller could make it to the back of the store. Know your customers!

So needless to say we opened on April 4th, 2009 and to this day it is still our best revenue day (you think six weeks of anticipation while they watched us build the store helped? Me too!)

Things were not perfect in the store that first day but they were pretty good. We had all the shelves filled and while the alphabetization was not perfect, we had the As with the As and the Zs with the Zs. After purchasing a few books a young man said: “You know your Sci-Fi section is a bit of a mess right?” To which I replied: “Yes, we sort of ran out of time last night.” To which he replied: “Do you mind if I fix it up for you?” “Knock yourself out.” I replied and he did. He spent an hour alphabetizing the SF section and also staying out of the way of customers. He came back a few days later and asked if he could volunteer in the store. “Ummm, yes!”

After a few weeks volunteering, we moved to a “I will work for books” model, Two paperbacks per hour. Then John (that was his name) came to me and said: “You have run out of books that I need for my collection.” By this time the store was doing better than I could have ever dreamed and instead of waiting 12 months to add staff to the mix, John started with me at the end of May 2009.

It turns out that he lived in the neighbourhood and when he saw my sign go up in February, he had gone home to his partner and said: “A used bookstore is opening on the Danforth and I am gong to get a job there!” And so he did.

Many things have happened in the 3+ years we have been open, an article in the Toronto Star on the front page of their Business Section, many online reviews and winning Critic's Pick for Best Bookstore in Toronto from NOW Magazine (not best used bookstore, BEST BOOKSTORE).

We have had 6 staff in 3 years and have won two more awards as well as being rewarded with many regular customers. One of the neatest things to happen in recent months was to be included with 3 quotes in the North American version of Weird Things Customers Say in Bookstores. Thanks, Jen.

My favourite author Robert A. Heinlein once wrote: “Happiness lies in being privileged to work hard for long hours in doing whatever you think is worth doing.”

He was right.

Christopher Sheedy
Re: Reading


More bookshop spotlights:

#1 Ripping Yarns
#2 Constellation Books
#3 Storytellers, Inc.
#4 Belgravia Books
#5 Riverbend Books
#6 Blackwells, Oxford
#7 The Book Barge
#8 Book End


[If you're a bookseller and you'd like to do a bookshop spotlight on the blog, drop me an email]

Wednesday, 17 October 2012

Weird Things Customers Say in Bookshops: UPDATE

So, the book's now out in USA and Canada! Many thanks to booksellers who have been emailing me photos of it in their stores. Here it is in LA:

Since it came out a couple of weeks ago, three booksellers with quotes in the North American edition have come to visit me at the bookshop, which has been lovely! Debbie and Sandi from Seattle, and last week Christopher from Re: Reading in Toronto. It was lovely to meet booksellers from across the pond. 

Elsewhere: after a bit of a delay, copies of 'Weird Things...' have landed in Australia and New Zealand (distributed by Murdoch), so you should be able to track copies Down Under now. 

At the moment I'm having fun writing the manuscript for the sequel, More Weird Things Customers Say in Bookshops, which will be published next year. I've got to have the book finished by the beginning of December. Here's a sneak peek:

Customer (to her friend): I only like books that I can really believe happened, you know? Like Twilight.


Girl: Mummy, where do angels come from?
Mother: Erm...
Girl (interrupting): I think they grow inside of clouds.
Mother: Oh, yes? How do you think they get there?
Girl: They come from eggs! That grow in space!
Mother: Interesting...


Customer: I don’t like biographies. The main character nearly always dies at the end. It’s so predictable.


Boy: When I grow up, I'm going to be a book ninja.
Me: Cool! What do book ninjas do?
Boy: I can't tell you. It's top secret.


I want to hire that kid.

Great submissions have been coming in from other bookshops, and from libraries, for the sequel, too. There are still a couple of weeks left to get your quotes in if you want to submit. Details for that are over here. 

Meanwhile, Penny-Slow's been taking a look at 'Weird Things...'. She's a very tough critic indeed. I'll let you know what she thinks. 

Tuesday, 16 October 2012

things what I've read recently and rather liked

I'm going to do a separate one with poetry recommendations, too. For now, here are some novels I have recently fallen in love with.

The Age of Miracles - Karen Thompson Walker

What if our twenty four hour day grew longer? First in minutes, then in hours until you’re awake when it’s dark, and the days stretch out without knowing where they will end? This effects the plants, and the birds, and whales in the sea. Astronauts are stranded in space. The population becomes spilt: those who continue to live on ‘clock time’ to try and keep society regular, and those on ‘real time’ who sleep only when it is dark, and stay awake on the ‘white nights.’ No scientist understands what is happening, or where it will take them. This is a fascinating read.

What's Left of Me - Kat Zhang

This is a world where everyone is born with two souls. Eva and Addie started out the same way as everyone else—two souls woven together in one body, taking turns controlling their movements as they learned how to walk, how to sing, how to dance. But as they grew, so did the worried whispers: Why aren’t they settling? Why isn’t one of them fading? The doctors ran tests, the neighbours shied away, and their parents begged for more time - because hybrids are not allowed, and the government will destroy them. Finally Addie was pronounced healthy and Eva was declared gone. Except, Eva was still there… This is an incredibly gripping story; I was almost (not even almost, I just was) angry when I had to put this book down and go to work. I'm so excited to find this series (it's the first of a trilogy), but oh the agony of waiting until the next one comes out! Kat's going to come by the blog soon to talk about this book, too.

Swimming Home - Deborah Levy

This book is wonderful. It's like Virginia Woolf's 'Between the Acts' and Ali Smith's 'The Accidental' met and had a baby. Set in France, this is the story of a poet, a teenager, a journalist, an old doctor, two shop owners and a girl who can be everything to everyone. Her name is Kitty Finch. She's often naked, chatting up married men, eating sugar mice, collecting stones and driving dangerously. She's written a poem, and she wants Jozef to read it; he's a famous poet and she thinks that he will understand her. Kitty makes people see truth within themselves. She strips everything down. People fall in love with her, or hate her, because her truth is intoxicating. This is a novel about holes, and about dreams. It's about nightmares and vermin, fictional or not, that you can't get rid of, and which only come out at night. What is the summer, as people sit in the sun, watching their skin change colour and trying to forget about their lives at home, and where exactly does it end? I'm routing for this book for the Man Booker.

The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry - Rachel Joyce

This book will make your heart happy; I guarantee it. It's a book that's very, very difficult to put down. Harold Fry is 65, and he and his wife don't get on so well any more. She's waiting for their son to come home (he hasn't visited in twenty years), and Harold feels that his life has slipped by and still continues to do so. One morning he gets a letter from Queenie, who is in a hospice in Berwick Upon Tweed. She used to work with Harold, and once did him a very big favour. The letter tells him that she is dying, and she wanted to write and say goodbye. Harold cannot find the right words to write back to her; he feels that whatever he can say will not be enough. He writes a hurried reply and heads out to the post box. But, when he gets to the post box, he decides that getting there was far too easy; he'll walk to the next one. And then when he gets there he decides to walk the next, and then the next. Eventually, he decides that he's going to walk all the way to Berwick Upon Tweed to go and see Queenie in person. He believes that this walking is a grand enough act to keep her alive; it will be a pilgrimage. He has no walking boots, and no walking socks. He doesn't have a mobile phone. He doesn't even have a change of clothes, but he doesn't care. He's going to do this, and it is going to matter. It's an adorable book. I fell completely in love.

N. P. - Banana Yoshimoto

This is a book about a cursed story, or rather a cursed family that are reminded about their past through a story they can never escape from. Those who have tried to translate it from Japanese have become so engrossed in it that they commit suicide. It draws them in and possesses them; it refuses to allow them to get on with their lives. Kazami is witness to this. She is an observer to a self-destructive family filled with repression. Sui, a long lost daughter and brother, who has slept with both her father and brother, is a destructive person. She's a whirlwind - entering lives fleetingly and powerfully. She takes over Kazami's summer, and Kazami oddly falls under her power; questioning her feelings towards her. This is a dark book, and a story that will also chase you around when you're not reading it. It gets under your skin and won't let go. 

Thursday, 11 October 2012

Author Visit: Sophie Coulombeau

Put the kettle on, folks, and pull up a chair! The excellent Sophie Coulombeau is here to talk about her novel, 'Rites,' which was published this summer. It's pretty damn good, and everyone who replies to this post before midnight Monday 15th October will be entered into a prize draw to win a copy of the book


Hi Sophie! Thanks so much for stopping by to have a chat with us. So. Tell us a little bit about yourself

I’m a 28 year old bibliophile, now living in York after moving around the world restlessly for most of my twenties. I’m studying for a PhD at the moment, researching the relationship between naming and identity in the late eighteenth century. But my literary interests have always been very wide, and I’m also interested in the modern novel and the relationship between creativity and analysis. ‘Rites’ is my own first novel, and it came out in June. Oh, and I love cheese, wine and amateur boxing.

How would you describe ‘Rites’ to someone who hadn’t heard about it?

The jacket blurb does a pretty good job. “Four teenagers make a pact to lose their virginity away from the watchful eyes of parents and priest. Fifteen years later they reflect on past events and try to unravel how it all went so horribly wrong.” However, that’s about the most you can say about ‘Rites’ without being misleading, because the story is narrated by eleven different narrators who all think that something different happened back in the summer of 1997. It’s up to the reader to play detective and try to piece together who – if anyone – is telling the truth. (Jen: I do love an unreliable narrator or, as in this case, several!)

How did you approach writing this novel? Which concepts/characters did you develop first?

I had lots of ideas buzzing around in my head for years, about religion, belief, sexuality, the nature of narrative etc, but I hadn’t found a really good hook for them. Then someone told me a story about somebody who lost their keys and had to face certain consequences as a result. That triggered a very insistent narrative voice – Damien, who opens the novel. I wrote in his voice for a while, then hit a mental roadblock and couldn’t take it any further. One day I was re-reading a Julian Barnes novel, ‘Talking It Over’, which uses multiple perspectives, and it suddenly occurred to me that what I wanted to tell was not just Damien’s story; there were other people who needed to have a say. After that, the voices started crowding in thick and fast.

The novel switches between different characters; did you find it difficult to master each individual voice? How did you go about writing it; did you write long periods of each character and later split those sections up, or did you write it as we read it?

Some voices were trickier than others. Damien, Rachel and Father Creevey came very naturally and I had to be careful that they didn’t drown the others out. I found Lizzie the hardest to write –she nearly drove me mad, because her defining characteristic is her inarticulacy, and how do you write a compelling, engaging character who’s inarticulate? In the first draft, I wrote the chunks of narrative pretty much as you read them now (a few have been moved around). In order to write a second draft, I took the pieces apart and re-streamed the narrative for each character – so I was looking at Nick’s narrative, for example, as a whole, asking myself some brutal questions about how coherent and interesting it was, and re-writing accordingly. Then I chopped the narratives back up and put them together in the way that you can see when you read the book today. 

Do you have a favourite character in the book?
Not really – some are easier to write than others but that doesn’t mean I ‘like’ any of them. I’ve tried to make them like real people, and to give the reader a fast-track acquaintaceship with them that will bore as deep as any close relationship in real life, in a fraction of the time. And I tend to find that once you know someone very very well in real life, you don’t ‘like’ them, because you know too much about them. That doesn’t mean you can’t care about them passionately or feel very attached to them, but they are too rounded, too real, to ‘like’. That’s what I was going for.

What’s this book’s publication story?

I started ‘Rites’ when I was 27 and had just started my PhD in York. I had written about 8000 words of narrative, built around the idea of a lost set of keys and the ensuing consequences. I heard about a competition being run by Route Publishing called the Next Great Novelist award, which aimed to find and publish the most promising author under 30, and I thought I may as well throw my chunk of writing into the ring. Then I promptly turned back to my PhD and forgot about it until a couple of months later, when I got a phone call telling me I was on the shortlist and asking to see the rest of the manuscript... which, of course, wasn't yet written. So I put my life on hold for two weeks, churned out 4000 words a day (luckily I had a reasonably good idea what was going to happen), and submitted the full manuscript a broken woman. A month or two later, I got a phone call telling me I had won... and then the very comprehensive editing process began.

What’s the most exciting part of the process been for you so far?

Having Philip Pullman send me an email to tell me that he thought it was “terrific” and he stayed up late to finish it can’t really be topped. For a few hours I was thinking, “I’ve peaked. Where can I possibly go from here?” (Jen: If that had happened to me, I'm pretty sure I would have accidentally exploded)

Who are your favourite authors?

I admire a vast range of authors. Julian Barnes, Zadie Smith, Angela Carter, Philip Pullman, Frances Burney, Wilkie Collins, Philip Larkin, Lionel Shriver, David Mitchell…. I could go on. All these influences feed in to my writing in different ways.

What are you reading at the moment?

Um… the honest answer is Nathan Bailey’s 1734 ‘Dictionarium Britannicum’, because I’m writing about it in my current thesis chapter…. But I’m not sure if that’s what you mean! I have three books on my desk tempting me with their siren cries, which I’ve promised myself I can read when I’ve finished the chapter – Ian McEwan’s ‘Sweet Tooth’, Hilary Mantel’s ‘Bring Up the Bodies’, and Zadie Smith’s ‘NW’. I’m incredibly excited about all of them.

Do you have a writing routine?

I jot down notes and ideas all the time in a book I carry, but in terms of the manuscript itself I tend to write in concentrated bursts of 10 hours per day for a week or two at a time. I admire people who can sit down and spin out two pages every day and then get on with their regular job, but that’s not me – I need to have my head entirely in the fiction zone. I write in bed, at my desk, or in the pub. Times of day vary. It needs to be reasonably quiet, and I need ready access to strong coffee and cake. (Jen: I maintain that cake is a necessity when writing. Always)

What are you working on at the moment?

I'm working on a second novel. It's set in London on the eve and outbreak of the French Revolution, and is about two warring political/intellectual factions who are thrown together with explosive consequences when a pair of French emigre brothers arrive in London. I'm also writing a play, which explores some of the crucial issues in higher education at the moment and is very - almost problematically - topical. So I've got half of my head in the eighteenth century and half following this morning's headlines at the moment.

What do you hope for, for the future?

I’d love to be able to work in the worlds of both creative writing and criticism – I think the two can be mutually beneficial if you get the balance right. There’s never been a more important or exciting time to be working in higher education, so I hope to get a job teaching and researching in an English department when I’ve finished my PhD. However, I can’t imagine not writing fiction, so hopefully I can find the time to do that as well.

Thanks, Sophie! And good luck x


Sophie's Blog / Sophie on Twitter / Buy Rites


*When replying, make sure you leave a Twitter name, email address or blog link where I can contact you if you win the copy of 'Rites.'

Monday, 8 October 2012

"Madam, my I suggest some Thomas Hardy this evening?"

Good morning, all! I was pointed in the direction of this site by Ian (a bookseller in South Africa), and I thought you would like it. Debbie does, among other things, some fab book-related sketches.

Tuesday, 2 October 2012

"'Then would you like to hear the story about the horse / who stands on top of the highest mountain? / On cold mornings the horse breathes heavily / and out of his nostrils come all the clouds / and fill the sky'" (Christopher Reid - Traditional Stories)

New event! You can find me at the Aldeburgh Poetry Festival on the 4th November. I'll be doing an event run by the fantastic Christopher Reid. All who buy tickets beforehand will be sent poems by me and two other poets (new work that hasn't been published). On the day, we will read out these poems, which will be analysed by Christopher Reid, and then the audience get to ask questions about the poems, too. The poems will be 'unfinished' so it's like we'll be workshopping them collectively. I'm really excited about it! If you'd like to come along, then you can buy tickets over here. 

[If you'd like to take a look at my poetry, then head over to 'The Hungry Ghost Festival.']

Monday, 1 October 2012

Catechism: Poems for Pussy Riot

The other day, I blogged about Poems for Pussy Riot, in support of three members of the Russian punk band - Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, Maria Alyokhina and Yekaterina Samutsevich – who are currently serving a two year prison sentence. Today, protests are taking place all over the world, and so today we release 'Catechism: Poems for Pussy Riot' in which 110 poets shout loudly about feminism, and freedom of speech, and oppression. It includes poems by Sophie Mayer, Ali Smith, Melissa Lee-Houghton, Deborah Levy, Tim Atkins, David Caddy, Jay Griffiths, and many others, including a poem by me.

The book is available for download from the English Pen website as a .pdf or ebook. The book is distributed on the ‘Pay What You Think It’s Worth’ model popularised by Radiohead and others. All revenue will go to the Pussy Riot Legal fund, and the English PEN Writers at Risk Programme. So, please, go forth and have a read, and donate if you can.



Every time you say no
to something that’s wrong
a crack the size of a hair &
a single note of that song
inserts itself in the stone

the meaning of strong

it might take a short time it might take long


listen, millions of us singing along.