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.