Saturday, 7 December 2013

'Up here, we're fierce friends with the sea. / If it calls our name / we let it hollow us out.'

My poetry pamplet, 'The Hungry Ghost Festival' has been reviewed in the latest issue of The North.

Alison Prince links my collection with Chrissy Williams (a poet I really enjoy reading). She says:

'they are out-and-out modernists, and they both occupy alarmingly open territory.... Though very different poets, both of these young women write strong stuff.... Jen Campbell's prose poem ‘Like A Fish Out’ should be compulsory reading for anyone in contact with the young... [Its] cocky, desperately sad refusal to be arty or sentimental says more than tomes of sociology could... 
Jen Campbell is a tough read but a deeply necessary one.'

Poetry reviews don't happen very often, so I was really thrilled to see this. 

The Hungry Ghost Festival is available from The Rialto, or from me
You can read about the collection here

I hope you're all having a lovely weekend! x

Tuesday, 3 December 2013

Christmas Gift Guide

I've had a lot of messages asking if I could do a Christmas Book Gift guide this year, so here we are! Below are the covers, with links to further details of the books, so you can go have a look and see if it's the kind of thing you'd like to purchase. You can take this list to a bookshop to have a look at the books in person, and don't forget your local bookseller will be able to give you recommendations, too :)

If you'd like me to help recommend books for a specific person in your life, you can drop me an email.

Picturebooks & Children's Books

 The Bear - Raymond Briggs. I couldn't resist getting this book for my nephew last month. It's about as big as he is.

Anything by Catherine Rayner. For lovers of animals, her illustrations are wonderful.

The Snow Leopard - Jackie Morris. Just beautiful.

Green Smoke- Rosemary Manning. I first read this when I was seven. It's about a girl called Susan who discovers a dragon in a cave in Cornwall. S'lovely. It was reprinted by Jane Nissen Books a few years ago.

The Fairytale Princess - Su Blackwell. Stunning photographs of intricate paper cut outs, illustrating well-known fairy tales.

The Fir Tree - Hans Christian Andersen illustrated by Sanna Annukka

Antigone - Ali Smith. I adore Ali Smith's novels for grown ups; this illustrated tale is just as fab.

Alice in Wonderland & Through the Looking Glass - Lewis Carroll, illustrated by Helen Oxenbury. I adore the John Tenniel illustrations, but Helen's drawings are magical, too.

Anything by Robert Sabuda Amazing pop-up books. A little fragile, so not for very small children; they need to be handled with care.

'Girls, Goddesses and Giants: Tales of Heroines from Around The World' by Lari don
A selection of brilliant folk tales about heroines from all around the world. In these stories it's the girls who save the day through their courage, cunning or kindness - whether they are facing up to wolves, demons, dragons, enemy tribes, or the sun itself! Handsome princes need not apply - these girls are doing it for themselves.


Young Adult

The Book of Lost Things - John Connelly A very twisted fairy tale.

The Age of Miracles - Karen Thompson Walker. Dystopian, coming-of-age story. Recommended for adults, too.

Eleanor and Park - Rainbow Rowell. It broke my heart a little bit.

His Dark Materials - Philip Pullman. I will recommend this series for the rest of time.

What's Left of Me - Kat Zhang (the sequel 'Once We Were' is out now in the States, and will be released in the UK next summer). Recommended for fans of The Hunger Games, Never Let Me Go, Allegiant etc.

Books for Grown-Ups

Sweet Home by Carys Bray. A wonderful collection of short stories. Carys's debut novel 'A Song For Issy Bradley' will be published next summer.

Where'd You Go, Bernadette? by Maria Semple. Hilarious.


St. Lucy's Home for Girls Raised by Wolves - Karen Russell. Just read it.

Hyperbole and a Half - Allie Brosh. If you don't know of the blog, then you need to acquaint yourself.

Awake in the Dreamworld: The Art of Audrey Niffenegger. Such a beautiful book, showing the artwork of the writer who brought you The Time Traveller's Wife.

The Tiny Wife - Andrew Kaufman

When All Our Days Are Numbered Marching Bands Will Fill the Streets & We Will Not Hear Them Because We Will be Upstairs in the Clouds - Sasha Fletcher. For those who like experimental fiction, and poetry.


Fair Copy - Rebecca Hazelton  This book is just beautiful. It made me want to read it inside a cave, or under the sea; it has such magical qualities

Beautiful Girls - Melissa-Lee Houghton A wonderful new collection by her. I loved her last one, too.

The Horse Has Six Legs - ed. Charles Simic

& a few more here.

If you'd like to gift signed copies of 'Weird Things Customers Say in Bookshops,' 'More Weird Things Customers Say in Bookshops' for Christmas then head over here (last posting date to Asia/NZ/Aus is 4th December, and last posting date to the USA is the 10th, Eastern Europe the 9th, Western Europe the 13th, and UK 20th.).

Signed copies of 'The Hungry Ghost Festival' are available over here, too.

Merry Christmas! x

Monday, 2 December 2013

“Stupid feathery little git!” Ron hissed, hurrying up the stairs and snatching up Pigwidgeon. “You bring letters to the addressee! You don’t hang around showing off!”

So, Amazon announced today that they plan to use drones in five years to deliver parcels within thirty minutes of you placing your order, in the air, to your door.

This lead to the picture below by QuantumPirate on Twitter:

Now I'm rather amused. S'cuse me while I go build a bookshop in the sky. BRB.


Thursday, 28 November 2013

Brittle Star

My poem 'yellow bird' is published in the new issue of Brittle Star [issue 33].

If you'd like to find out more about my poetry, and read some poems - head over to the poetry page, on my main website.


Tuesday, 26 November 2013

The Giving Tree

I've blogged about the Blackwell's Giving Tree for the past two years, and had to blog about it again this year, as it's so lovely. Edinburgh and Oxford branches of Blackwell's (and possibly others, too!), team up with local children's charities to give disadvantaged children books for Christmas. You can find their Christmas tree in-store, with tags hanging on with with notes such as 'A five year old girl would like a book about princesses,' or 'A thirteen year old girl who cares for her mother would like a book that's easy to read.'

You pick a book suitable for one of these tags (if you're stuck, the staff will be happy to help); then pay for it. Blackwell's wrap it all up, and make sure it reaches the child in time for Christmas.

I spent the afternoon at Blackwell's in Oxford yesterday, researching for The Bookshop Book, and Becky (the manager) and I agreed that not only is it a wonderful project, but it's a way for all of us to be booksellers, and pass on the books that we love. I picked 'The Ice Bear' by Jackie Morris, and will ring up the Edinburgh branch later to buy one there, too.

If you'd like to contribute, you don't have to go into the store, you can call the Oxford branch 01865 792 792: or the Edinburgh branch 0131 622 8222: and pick a book, and pay for it over the phone.

Side Note: I've had a lot of requests to do a Christmas gift guide for books on the blog, with recommendations for different ages. So, I'm working on that, and it'll be going up this week. 

As for The Bookshop Book - I'm starting to reach out to bookshops all over the world, to chat with them. I'll be doing that over the next few months. If you're a bookseller and would like to get in touch with me about your bookshop, then please drop me an email. :) x

Tuesday, 19 November 2013

Mark Forsyth - Book Giveaway

I had the pleasure of meeting the excellent Mark Forsyth last summer, when we did an event together at the Highgate and Hampstead Literary Festival. We were giving advice on how to turn blogs into books. I'm not quite sure how good our advice was, as my book happened entirely by accident, and Mark claims he got very drunk at a book launch and threatened a publisher into publishing him. *cough* Anyway.

Mark's first book, The Etymologicon, was a #1 Sunday Times bestseller, and the Horologicon had equal success. They're both fantastic books on the origin of words, and words that have slipped out of usage. For instance, bibliopolistically means 'in a manner befitting a bookseller”. I plan to use it in everyday conversation. You can read more in my interview with Mark over here.

Mark's new book came out the other week, The Elements of Eloquence: How To Turn the Perfect English Phrase, and I have a copy to give away, here, on the blog. The giveaway is open worldwide, and closes at midnight Saturday 30th November. To enter, please just leave a comment on this blog post, and a winner will be picked at random. :)


In an age unhealthily obsessed with substance, this is a book on the importance of pure style, from the bestselling author of The Etymologicon and The Horologicon. From classic poetry to pop lyrics and from the King James Bible to advertising slogans, Mark Forsyth explains the secrets that make a phrase - such as 'Tiger, Tiger, burning bright', or 'To be or not to be' - memorable. In his inimitably entertaining and witty style he takes apart famous lines and shows how you too can write like Shakespeare or Oscar Wilde. Whether you're aiming for literary immortality or just an unforgettable one-liner, The Elements of Eloquence proves that you don't need to have anything to say - you simply need to say it well.

Monday, 18 November 2013

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

Happy Monday, folks! Please keep your stories coming in for The Bookshop Book.

A heads up - for those who want signed copies of 'Weird Things...' and/or 'More Weird Things...' to give as Christmas presents, last postage dates for reaching US/Canada, Australia etc is the beginning of December. So, if you'd like some, see below. :)


all purchases now come with a new handwritten 'weird thing...' quote on a postcard, too!

Copies of 'Weird Things...' and 'More Weird Things...' are £8.99 plus postage. If you're outside the UK, click the drop down menu to select another postage option - I can post to anywhere in the world.

If you'd like the book dedicated to someone, please let me know in the 'instructions to buyer' box. :)

1 x Weird Things Customers Say in Bookshops [UK edition]

Choose Postage Option

1 x More Weird Things Customers Say in Bookshops (UK edition)
Select Postage Option

1 x Weird Things Customers Say in Bookshops [UK edition] & 1 x More Weird Things Customers Say in Bookshops [UK edition]

Choose Postage Option

Monday, 11 November 2013

The Bookshop Book - Your Stories

Writing 'Weird Things Customers Say in Bookshops' has been a lot of fun; an affectionate look at the more bizarre side of bookselling. Now, I'm writing a new non-fiction title: The Bookshop Book, which will be published by Constable & Robinson this time next year. It's going to be a history of books and bookselling, a look at interesting bookshops of the world, and interviews with authors, booksellers and customers about what bookshops mean to them. There's so much research to do, and I'm rather enjoying myself.

NOW- we've all got stories to tell, and that's where I would love to hear from you guys. I want to know why you love bookshops; which bookshops you'd like to sing the praises of; if you've got a memory you want to share, whether it be happy, sad or amusing. You could even tell me about your ideal bookshop; if you could open one, where would it be? What would you stock? Anything you like! If you'd like to get in touch with me, you can drop me an email at I'd love to chat to as many people as possible, from across the globe, and include some of your stories in the book itself - with your permission, of course. So, if you'd like to drop me a message, that would be wonderful.

In the same vein: I'm currently researching and getting in touch with bookshops - if you're a bookseller and you'd like to get in touch to tell me a story, then please get in touch with me, too!


Saturday, 9 November 2013

tongues and grooves poetry competition

Really thrilled to have placed second in this year's Tongues and Grooves Poetry Competition, for my poem 'in fields she wasn't scarin crows.' 

Here's an audio of me reading it:
If you're reading this in an embedded email, click here to listen. 

Hope you're all having a lovely weekend!


Friday, 8 November 2013

in which I panic because I want to read ALL THE THINGS

My life is very book-centric: I sell books; I write books; I read books; I write blog posts about reading books. Euan at Blackwell's in Oxford said when he walks through his bookshop, it's like the books have souls and they keep on nudging him, saying 'Why haven't you read me yet?' I feel that, I really do. Who else suffers from book guilt?

I recently rearranged the books in my house (some of them are still at my mum's house, so not all are here), and I got in a panic thinking 'how am I ever going to read all the books I want to, before I die?' Very morbid of me, I know. But, you know, seriously.

Autumn/winter makes me want to reread a few favourites (Through the Looking Glass, His Dark Materials, Jane Eyre) but then I feel guilty because a reread is a lost opportunity to read something new. I read quite a lot - about 150 books a year, squeezed in between work at the shop, and writing work, and life but I still don't have time to read ALL THE THINGS. I tend to have three or four books on the go at once (a novel, poetry, short stories, non-fiction). I used to always finish a book, even if I didn't like it, because I felt I should (er, go figure), but now - nope. If a book doesn't grab me within the first three or four chapters then... goodbye.

It doesn't help that because of my EEC I may very well lose my sight in the not-so-far-off-future and that limits certain reading time even more (oh, cripes). So, how do you choose which books to read when you don't know how much time you have left to read? HOW? (Can you sense my panic yet? ;) )

Who was it who said that when we buy books we naively think we're buying the time to read them? Whoever it was is damn right.

How about you guys? How do you choose what to read next? How many books do you have on the go at one time? Do you allow yourself rereads? Do you have ridiculous biblio-panics like me?

Oh dear.

I'm going to go make myself a cup of tea, sit down, and read a book.


Wednesday, 30 October 2013

Weird Things... for Christmas

Good afternoon! Hope you're all having a lovely week. :)

Just a quick post to say that if any of you would like to give 'Weird Things Customers Say in Bookshops,' or 'More Weird Things....' as Christmas gifts this year, I'm shipping signed copies worldwide. They can be dedicated, too. Head over here if you're interested, or drop me an email.

At the bookshop we have pumpkins in the window, and a load of old horror books. Halloween is my second favourite window display to make, after Christmas. I particularly love this book of Poe, illustrated by Rackham. Amazing.

Stand by for more posts about The Bookshop Book, coming up very shortly!


PS. And in other news, I've set up a lifestyle type blog over here,, if any of you are interested in that sort of thing and would like to follow it. It'll obviously be entirely separate to this one, but I just thought I'd mention it. :)

Friday, 25 October 2013


Announcement time!

 I'm very excited to be able to tell you that my new non-fiction book, 'THE BOOKSHOP BOOK,' will be published by Constable & Robinson next Christmas. It'll be a history of books and bookselling, a look at interesting bookshops of the world, and interviews with authors, customers and booksellers from everywhere about what bookshops mean to them. Basically, it's gonna be a bookshop LOVEFEST, and I can't wait for you all to read it. Hurray!

If you've got interesting bookshop stories, I want to hear from you - but more on that soon For now, let's just do a little dance - in a bookshop, if possible. And thank you for all your support. :) x

Tuesday, 22 October 2013

'If we were whales then this would be ok...'

I'm very pleased to have three new poems ('#3', 'lantern head' and 'the sin harvest') in the latest issue of Poetry Salzburg Review. You can find out more about that over here.

Thursday, 17 October 2013

two new poems, and a hint of news

Exciting book-shaped news will be posted in the next couple of days. Keep your eyes peeled! (Sorry to be a tease ;) ).

In the mean time, here are two new poems from me. 'What The Bearded Lady Told Me', which placed second in the Wigtown Poetry Competition 2013, and 'on crucifixion', which was commended in Battered Moons Poetry Competition 2013.

If you're reading this in an embedded email, click here. 

If you're reading this in an embedded email, click here

You can find out more about my poetry over here.

I hope you're all having a lovely autumn. I'll be back with book news very soon! xx

Thursday, 3 October 2013

Hungry Ghost Festival - Free Worldwide Shipping!

It's National Poetry Day! To celebrate, for the next 24 hours, signed copies of my poetry collection 'The Hungry Ghost Festival' are available below, with free worldwide shipping.

To listen to a sample poem, click here.

 £5.50 - free worldwide shipping

04/10/13: This offer has expired. If you'd like to purchase a copy of the collection, you can do so over here:

"Jen Campbell's The Hungry Ghost Festival is a magical debut. Her charged poems of a northern childhood... are fresh and compelling - told with a canny eye for detail and a gorgeous turn of phrase. This is an arresting collection from a writer fully in command of an unusual and significant voice." - Anna Woodford [author of Birdhouse, winner of The Crawshaw Prize]

The Hungry Ghost Festival is published by The Rialto. Cover illustration is by Laura Barnard.

Wednesday, 11 September 2013

"Our woollen scarves touch our noses - catch our breath like cloth balloons."

Good afternoon, lovely folk.
I thought I'd upload an audio of me reading my poem 'Angel Metal.' When I did the 'poem on a postcard' giveaway last year, extracts from this poem appeared on quite a few of them, so I thought you might like to listen to the whole thing.

(if embedded video doesn't load, click here to view)

'Angel Metal' is from my poetry collection The Hungry Ghost Festival.
If you'd like to purchase a copy, it's available from the publisher, or direct from me.


Wednesday, 4 September 2013

"If you put your head under water then everything stops existing. Words are no longer words, but drawn out sounds in plastic bags. It makes your eyes bulge and your chest hurt. It is wonderful and intoxicating and pulls your hair in all directions." (Pebbles)

It's the beginning of September, which means I'm excited about autumn. Woolly jumpers, ankle boots, forest walks and spiced cider candles (and, er, spiced cider itself, obviously). Sadly the weather isn't working with me; it's still twenty six degrees outside. So, I'll have to be patient.

In writing news: Two new pieces of mine have been published this week:

My poem 'on crucifixion', which was commended in the Battered Moon Competitions 2013.

And my short story 'Pebbles,' which is published in the new issue of New Welsh Review.

Also, I had a very important book-shaped meeting on Monday*.
(*I met my agent's new puppy. How cute is she?

For more photos, and also book-related things, see Charlie's Twitter).

So, yes, all is good at the moment. Book-things are brewing in the background. I'll tell you more when I can :) xx

Friday, 23 August 2013

This week I am far away from bookshop customers

In the Lake District, on holiday for a week.
Back to ALL THE WORK in a couple of days.
In the next couple of months, my writing will be in Brittle Star, New Welsh Review and Poetry Salzburg Review. I'll post links when they're available.
I'm working hard on two books, and I had some lovely poetry competition news this week, which I'll be able to share soon.
Blog post on recommended reads will be up in the next week or so :)
Hope you're all well! x

Monday, 5 August 2013

writing my novel in a cottage by the sea

Good evening, lovely folk! I am back from a week of writing in Cornwall. I spent it completely on my own, in a cottage next to the sea, and worked hard on my novel. It was great to leave bookshop-work behind and be able to focus completely on my writing. I left with plenty of words and many more ideas, and it was a rather successful week. I have to say, I miss the view from my desk.

(For those interested, I stayed at Brisons Veor, just out of St. Just. If you're an artist/writer and you'd like to apply for a residency, their website is over here.)

So, yes, that was fantastic. Then I arrived home last night to copies of the Dutch edition of 'Weird Things Customers Say in Bookshops', which came out last week! If you're in The Netherlands, go hunt it down in a bookshop:  'Gekke dingen die klanten in boekhandels zeggen' is published by Bbnc Uitgevers and retails at €9.95. :)

Hope you're all well! x