Friday Finds: My three favorite novellas

‘One morning, as Gregor Samsa was waking up from anxious dreams, he discovered that in bed he had been changed into a monstrous verminous bug.’

– The Metamorphosis, Franz Kafka

I wrote a ‘Writing Reflections’ post recently about why my recently-published book, All the Orphans in the Galaxy, was a novella and not a novel. There’s a lot more in that post about what exactly a novella is (essentially, longer than a short story, shorter than a novel!) and why I think it’s such a good form for experimentation. You don’t have to ‘commit’ to one thing for too long and you can really focus and zoom in on just a couple of characters (or a really unique premise!).

In that post, I also mentioned that lots of my favorite books are actually novellas. I thought I’d recommend a few of them here!

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Writing Reflections: Why I wrote a novella, not a novel

‘So what exactly is a novella?’

This is the most common question I got when I told friends and family I had a novella coming out. And, honestly, it’s not a question I probably could have answered myself until relatively recently. However there’s a fairly short answer.

Put simply: a novella is longer than a short story and shorter than a novel.

So what does that mean in practice?

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Introducing my debut sci-fi novella: ‘All the Orphans in the Galaxy’!

Over the 2020 lockdown, a lot of people learned how to bake sourdough bread. Some took up knitting. Others got very into gardening, or puzzles, or reorganizing their closets. I, on the other hand, got very into 1990s’ sci-fi TV and, specifically, Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. These far off worlds were my escape. My world had become so small. I really wanted to go BIG in my imagination. Space operas felt perfect.

I had started watching Star Trek during my PhD, a few years back, and it had become a comforting escape for me during stressful periods. But Deep Space Nine hit differently somehow. I’ve heard people say that it’s the ‘grittiest’ Star Trek series and, from what I’ve seen, that’s definitely true. During the lockdown, it particularly resonated with me because of its themes of grief, loss and people trying to pick up the pieces after dark and difficult things.

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Madeira Mondays: A Visit to the Hill House (Helensburgh, Scotland)

Keeping historic houses in good condition isn’t always an easy job. And the folks at The Hill House in Helensburgh have had a particularly challenging time. This quirky and unique house – designed by the wildly creative Charles Rennie Mackintosh in 1900 – has been threatened recently by water damage. You’ll know if you’ve been to Scotland, but it can get pretty wet here!! Water got into the walls of this beautiful house and was threatening its existence. So that led them to a drastic and very inventive solution to save the house.

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I have a newsletter!

Hello dear readers! This is just a short post with some exciting news: I’m starting a newsletter!

How is this newsletter different from my blog, you might wonder? Well, it’s quite simple! 

This blog will continue as it is now: in-depth reviews of great books and films, as well as posts about history and travel. Basically, the blog is not really about me and my books (most of the time) but rather about all sorts of stuff I’m interested in. I will continue to publish these fun, in-depth blog posts a few times per month. The newsletter, by contrast, will be news about my writing career: new books, upcoming poetry performances, etc. It will be sent out quarterly (aka 4 times per year).

So if you’re someone who enjoys this blog and just wants to keep reading posts about books, history, travel, etc. then great! Thanks and keep on reading! But if you’re wanting to keep up to date with my writing – new books, upcoming poetry performances, touring dates, all that jazz – then I’d recommend signing up for the newsletter as well.

You can sign up here. 

Thanks as always for reading this blog, and I hope you have a great weekend.

Madeira Mondays: The Dangerous Women Project

A few years ago, the University of Edinburgh ran a project online called The Dangerous Women Project, which posed the question: ‘what does it mean to be a dangerous woman’?

The project asked artists, writers, photographers, academics and more to explore what being ‘dangerous’ as a woman means (both historically and now). They ended up publishing over 365 responses between International Women’s Day 2016 and 2017. These responses were so vast and varied – with some artists reflecting on their own work, some original poems and tons of stories about fascinating women living at various points of history who, for one reason or another, were deemed ‘dangerous’. Maybe they were dangerous because they lived outside of gender norms, or they pursued ‘masculine’ professional careers, or because they fought for women’s rights, or simply refused to live by whatever the standard of feminine behavior was at the time.

When I first heard of this theme, I knew I had to write something for the project and one person immediately came to mind. A 19th century sculptor who (sadly!) isn’t very well known today. Her name was Elisabet Ney. Not Elizabeth, Elisabet (sans ‘h’)! And like her name, she was really quite unique.

She became known in her own time for sculpting statues of famous men in Europe and, later, Texas. These included the famous philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer, Italian revolutionary Giuseppe Garibaldi, Otto Von Bismark (the prime minister of Prussia), and (my Texas readers will know these last two!) Sam Houston and Stephen F. Austin.

Elisabet Ney, portrait from 1860 by Friedrich Kaulbach, accessed via Wikimedia Commons

In addition to being a gifted sculptor, she was a really unconventional individual: she never took her husband’s last name (as an early feminist, she insisted on keeping her own name), wore trousers, and generally had very forward-thinking attitudes about gender.

I came to know about her because her former home in Austin is now The Elisabet Ney Museum and I was taken there on school field trips growing up. I don’t know how to say this without sounding hokey – and I don’t fully understand it myself – but even from a very young age I have felt, shall we say, connected to Elisabet Ney. She’s always really intrigued me as a person. I always thought she was world famous but when I moved away from Texas I learned that, like many female artists, even relatively successful ones, her work is largely unknown by the general public.

The Elisabet Ney Museum is also a calm, beautiful space – lovely stone walls and full of her statues, which were all enormous and snow-white. A really tranquil place. I should definitely do a blog post on it the next time I’m in Austin!

So I wrote a short story about her for the Dangerous Women Project and specifically about the last sculpture she made, which some believe to be somewhat autobiographical: a sculpture of Lady Macbeth. This story is absolutely historical fiction. I took a few of the details I knew about her life and character to inspire it, but much of it is invented or imagined too.

You can read my original story here on the DWP website.

I was also delighted when, a few years later, the Dangerous Women Project asked if they could include my story in a book which would feature articles, art and stories about female creativity and danger. I said absolutely yes! The book came out this spring (2021) and it’s truly an impressive volume which I’ve loved reading through. It’s called The Art of Being Dangerous: Exploring Women and Danger Through Creative Expression, published by Leuven University Press.

I’m glad that my story about Elisabet has found a place to sit alongside so many accounts (personal, historical, fictional, non-fictional etc.) about ‘dangerous’ female artists. I imagine she’d be happy to be amongst that company.

I’d absolutely love to work on a longer piece about Ney at some point because she really did live such an unusual life and rubbed elbows with so many influential figures in her day. Truly a fascinating character.

Let me know if you’d like to learn more about Elisabet Ney. And, if you read the story, let me know what you think!

Are there any historical artists, or historical figures generally, you wish were more widely known today? Anyone from your local area perhaps?

Recommended Further Reading:

‘Madeira Mondays’ is a series of blog posts exploring 18th century history and historical fiction. Follow the blog for a new post every other Monday and thanks for reading!

PS Today’s featured image is Ney at her home in Texas in 1900, surrounded by her work, accessed via Wikimedia Commons

2018: My Year in Review

Why hello there! It’s been a while!

2018 has been a busy year for me and in particular the last few months of it, when I was finishing up and handing in my PhD. Blogging, sadly, had to take a backseat during this incredibly jam-packed (somewhat frantic, let’s be honest) time. BUT, I wanted to start off this blog post, and the year itself, with a bit of exciting news: I did indeed submit my PhD and I passed my viva with minor corrections. AKA I’m NOW A DOCTOR.

It feels almost surreal to write these words. DOCTOR Carly Brown (Or perhaps Doc Brown? Like in Back to the Future?). After three years of working on the same project, for it to have finally come to a close feels strange but also fantastic. This was my major achievement in 2018 and I am really looking forward to the next form that I have to fill in when I get to put that I am not ‘Miss’ ‘Ms’ or ‘Mrs’ but rather ‘Dr.’

So what exactly was this PhD? For those who may not have read this blog before (hello!), my project was a Doctorate of Fine Arts in Creative Writing at the University of Glasgow.  It is titled, ‘A Matter of Loyalty: Engaging with America’s Revolutionary Past as a Creative Writer.’ Like many creative writing PhDs, there was a critical and a creative component. The creative component was a full-length historical fiction novel about three women in South Carolina during America’s Revolutionary War. Based on various journals and letters from the period, it aims to illuminate perspectives of the Revolution not often explored in historical fiction (in particular, the precarious lives of Loyalist wives and widows). I’ve been describing it to people as: ‘Hamilton from the Schuyler Sisters point of view’.

The critical element was a collection of personal essays exploring different ways that creative writers seek to access the 18th century past. Some of you may remember when I tried on the 18th century corset during a residential fellowship at Monticello? Well I wrote about that in one of the essays!

In addition to completing the PhD (which, let’s be honest, was the highlight of 2018 for me!), my year was also full of travels, conferences, performances, and publications, both in the UK and elsewhere. Here is a brief digest of the year that was and what is to come in 2019…


Snow was blanketing the ground in Edinburgh and I was editing the novel (the second draft). I was also invited to perform as the featured poet at the God Damn Debut Slam at the Scottish Poetry Library and it was great fun to break out of my editing cocoon and see some invigorating spoken word poetry.


In March I was delighted to be asked again to be In-House Blogger for StAnza Poetry Festival, a role I shared with the fabulous poet and author Katie Hale. I was also asked to judge the StAnza Poetry Slam! This meant a return to St Andrews, where I did my undergraduate degree, and I had the opportunity stop into the lovely bookshops, like Toppings and Co., while I was there to sign copies of my bestselling children’s picture book – I Love St Andrews.

I have no words for how happy I am that I Love St Andrews has resonated with so many people. We’ve sold thousands of copies at this point and I love knowing that people who – like me – don’t live in St Andrews anymore can still have a piece of it with them, through this book.

In March, I also found out that my poem ‘Nothing of Floods’ was commended in the British Army’s Poetry competition, Writing Armistice, and would be published in a pamphlet with the other winning entries.

My cousin, a medieval historian, also came to visit me and it was nice to play tourist a bit and explore some of my favorite Edinburgh sites like Calton Hill.


More good poetry needs came in April, when I found out that I was shortlisted for the Jane Martin Poetry Prize!

April was also a month of travel, when I went to colorful, cobblestoned, gorgeous Lisbon, Portugal for a close friend’s wedding. I ate plenty of fish, drank wine and enjoyed a much needed break from working on my PhD essays at the National Library.


May was full of performances and more travel. I was invited to perform at the St Andrews Alumni Ball down in London, which was held at a swanky hotel in Mayfair. It was a great opportunity not only to connect with other grads from various generations but also to catch up with uni friends based in London who I dearly miss.

I also performed at the Glasgow University Zine Fair, where I sold copies of my debut pamphlet, Grown Up Poetry Needs to Leave Me Alone.


June was a big month for me. I travelled back to the USA to see my family in Austin, Texas and for a conference in Williamsburg, Virginia. I was on a panel about Creative Writing and Early American History at the annual Omohundro Institute’s conference, where I got to join such literary and historical titans as John Demos (Yale University) and New York Times bestseller Deborah Harkness. My friend, the poet Chet’la Sebree (who held a fellowship at the International Centre for Jefferson Studies at the same time as me) was also on the panel. It was chaired by Jane Kamensky and we had a lively discussion (in front of around 200 people, mostly historians) about the intersections between creative writing and traditional academic history. I was so honored to be on a panel with such esteemed company and to have the chance to discuss two of my favorite topics: creative writing and early America!


June was also when I heard back the best news of my year (besides passing the PhD!). I learned that I had been awarded a special visa to live in the UK for the next five years, as an author and spoken word poet. Applying for this visa involved literally months of bureaucracy and it had been a long, stressful road, as any who have applied for visas will know. I will always be grateful to my partner, and my mom, who helped me through all of it. Receiving this visa, which means that I can continue living in the UK, was a huge, huge achievement.


You may recall that this is when I effectively dropped off the edge of the earth virtually (there were no more blog posts for the rest of the year!), but in my personal life too, I rarely went out and spent most of July and August in Edinburgh, finishing the thesis and trying to say cool in the heat wave. But I did find some joy in the peaceful moments when I was housesitting for a friend and tending to her garden, naming all of the plants, fending away bugs and making delicious summer salads with snap peas and sweet, crunchy lettuce.

In July, I also marched in protest against President Trump. My grandparents were huge advocates of social justice and both marched for Civil Rights in the 1960’s. Whenever I take part in things like this (which has been more frequent, of late), I think of them.


In September, I finally handed in the whole thesis, which was kind of surreal. It would be another few months before my defense, but I dove headfirst into teaching in the meantime. I was teaching once again at the University of Strathclyde on their undergraduate Creative Writing and Journalism program. I had two groups of bright and thoughtful students, who I already miss now that the course is over. I was also asked to teach a little on the University of Glasgow’s MLitt in Creative Writing program, when one of their staff fell ill. It was great to work with masters students and to discuss their work in depth, on the very program I graduated from a few years ago!

I was also invited to read at a symposium at the University of Glasgow, The Occult Turn, about magic and occult practice. I presented an original short story about 19th century spiritual mediums in the USA and discussed the research behind it.

To celebrate my 27th birthday, my partner and I also went to York, England – where we have been several times before. We love to visit all the old bookshops, coffeeshops and the fantastic museums. In particular, the National Railway Museum is a favorite of ours, as well as the Castle Museum, a social history museum with a recreated Victorian street!


These months both involved more teaching and more travel. In November, I hopped on a train to visit my cousin’s wife, who is doing a post-doc at Cambridge University, and spent a sunny weekend strolling around the campus and visiting with family. Then, it was straight back up to Scotland when I had my viva (or ‘defense’ for those in the US) in early December which thankfully went great. Both of my examiners, Dr. Carolyn Jess-Cooke and Dr. Allyson Stack, were so generous and helpful with their feedback and I passed with minor corrections (only typos!). So I’ll hand in the final version in late January and will be graduating in the spring. Yay!

In November, I was also invited to perform at the Radical Book Fair in Edinburgh. I read as the opening act before a fascinating discussion from two sex workers about their new (and gloriously titled) book exploring sex worker rights: Revolting Prostitutes. In December, I was also commissioned by the Scottish Poetry Library to write a poem in response to part of the classic holiday film: It’s a Wonderful Life. Myself and four other poets then all performed our poems together and it was a great evening of mince pies, mulled wine and hugely entertaining and varied poetry.

My partner and I then took a long awaited trip to Stockholm, Sweden (only about 2 hours by plane from Edinburgh!) to visit his brother who works there. It was an amazing week (even if I did have to grade papers while I was there) filled with gingerbread, Christmas markets, saffron buns, and seeing reindeer and moose for the first time (I grew up in Texas, remember, so these animals are like mythical creatures for me).

In particular, we enjoyed The Vasa Museum, where you can see an entire excavated 17th century ship (see picture below). For history nerds like me, this is a must. And we were also lucky enough to be in Stockholm for St. Lucia Day and we got to see a choir and procession.


So what is next? Well…somehow in the midst of all that I was doing towards the end of 2018, I managed (perhaps as a PhD avoidance strategy!) to write an entire draft of a DIFFERENT historical novel, also set during the American Revolution. Even though I vowed that the next thing I wrote would NOT be a novel and would CERTAINLY not be historical. I just find this period endlessly interesting and simply couldn’t help myself.

So I’ll be starting off this year researching and editing that manuscript, while sending the PhD novel and essays off to agents, contests and magazines. The manuscript has been requested by a few agents already, so please wish me luck while I embark on the exciting (yet somewhat daunting!) process of finally sending it off into the world. I’ll also be teaching, performing and working on a variety of other projects as well.

I’m wishing you a very happy start to the year. And, if you’re in the middle of a PhD (or any long project, for that matter), let me remind you that you CAN do this, even when it feels impossible. I am rooting for you! Happy 2019.

x Carly


(Really Good) News: June 2018

Here are the things I miss most about Austin, Texas (besides my family and friends, of course): margaritas and avocados. Maybe it sounds silly, but I feel the most homesick back in Scotland when I am hankering for an ice cold frozen margarita (with salt) from Gueros, or a breakfast taco with tons of guacamole and sautéed Portobello mushrooms from Taco Deli. Which is why I was so delighted, on my first night back in Austin, when I was invited to a friend’s retirement party, and upon arriving, found there were jalapeño margaritas to drink and an entire avocado bar, where you could pile a ripe avocado high with cilantro, red onions, salsas, tomatoes. Anything your heart desired. Sheer bliss for this ex-pat!


(Left to Right) My mom, me, my friend Marjorie and her mom Laurie on my first evening back in Texas

I’ve been back in Austin for about three weeks now and while the sky high temperatures (100 F = 37 C!!) have been unpleasant, I’ve had a nice time seeing family and friends and also meeting my parent’s new dog: Ruth Bader Ginsburg (Ruthie). Isn’t she adorable?


Ruth (‘Ruthie’) Bader Ginsburg

However, I didn’t exactly come here for vacation. I came back to Texas for a number of reasons. One of those reasons being – and I can finally talk about this now – I’ve been given a special UK visa which means that I can continue living in Scotland for another five years as an author and poet. I’ve been working on the application for many months and part of the process required me to come back to America for a few weeks. I am thrilled beyond words (and I do words for a living!) to have finally gotten it. I’m so excited that I can continue living and working in the country that I love so very much.

And I have also learned a valuable lesson (which I keep learning again and again): if you want something, apply for it. Do not ‘self reject’. Do not shy away, just because you think you are not good enough. Especially women. As my friends and I often say: ‘Have the confidence of a mediocre white man.’ Put yourself out there and ask for what you want. All the best things in my life have happened when I did this, so ASK. APPLY. SUBMIT. TRY! You never know what might happen. (Okay, min-pep talk done).

In other news, there are some other things I’ve gotten up to while in the USA.


I went to Williamsburg, Virginia for annual Omohundro Institute’s conference on Early American History. I was on a panel about Creative Writing and Early American History, where I got to join such literary and historical titans as John Demos (Yale University) and New York Times bestseller and all-around lovely human Deborah Harkness. My friend Chet’la Sebree (who held a fellowship at the International Centre for Jefferson Studies at the same time as me. Check us out trying on 18th century corsets!) and has a poetry collection coming out next year, was also on the panel.

It was chaired by Jane Kamensky and we had a lively discussion (in front of around 200 people!) about the intersections between creative writing and traditional academic history, and how novels and fiction can explore truths about the past that perhaps non-fiction cannot. I read aloud a very brief extract from my novel and talked a bit about my PhD too. It was fascinating and I was so thrilled to be part of it.


Me and Chet’la after our panel at the Omohundro Institute conference: ‘Creative Writing and Early America’

On our final night of the conference, we were bused out to Jamestown Island (site of the first permanent English settlement in the Americas, where John Smith met Pocahontas etc.). There was an insanely beautiful purple sunset over the river that night and historical interpreters bringing to life the 17th century.

While back in Austin, I’ve been hitting up some of my favorite haunts, including South Congress and the ever delicious South Congress Café (South Congress is a great area to stroll around if you’re visiting Austin).



My Doctorate of Fine Arts is due by the end of September and I’m currently editing the third draft of the novel, which will be finished soon. But July and August will be nose-to-the-grindstone time, putting finishing touches on the novel and the essays. Wish me luck!


I will leave you with a photo of Ruth Bader Ginsburg (the beagle), because she’s so darn cute. I have learned that it’s a good thing I don’t have a dog of my own because like 80% of the pictures I’ve taken on this trip have just been of Ruthie. If I had a dog, I wouldn’t photograph anything else!


Happy start to the summer. Let me know what you’ve been up to!

X Carly

News: May 2018

Grab your sunglasses and pour a fruity drink because spring has definitely arrived here in Edinburgh. As I write this, there is a clear blue sky outside my window. I’m still a bit shocked by all this sunshine! I can’t believe it’s been sunny for days (DAYS). But while it’s making me a little confused (we are still in Scotland right?), I know better than to question it.

And the sunlight has made my month of intense novel editing a lot more fun. I’ve even spent a glorious afternoon or two editing in the Meadows, sprawled out on the grass, typing away as the scent of BBQ wafts by. I had a particularly stressful day yesterday and a walk through the sunshine while sipping a lemonade was a game changer for shifting my perspective and putting me in a much better frame of mind. So thank you, sun!


Speaking of thank yous, I got an amazing piece of news this month. Glorious news that I’ve been waiting to hear about for months, relating to what I’m going to be doing after my PhD. I don’t want to share it until everything has been 100% finalized, but for now I will say that I’ve been filled with gratitude all month for all the people who helped make this great thing happen.


Here’s what else I got up to in the month of May…


I passed my Annual Progress Review (!), so I’m heading onwards towards my final submission in the autumn. There’s still some editing work to be done this summer, but I’m so pleased to have a full draft of the entire submission now – novel and essays. And for the novel itself, which is the bulk of my final submission, I’m on my third draft. Wish me luck editing, my friends!


I did two poetry performance this month. The first took me down to London where I was invited to perform at the University of St Andrews Alumni Ball! As a proud St Andrews alumna, who has literally written a book about loving the town, how could I say no? 🙂 It was held in a swanky hotel in Mayfair and I loved read St Andrews themed poems for the crowd of alumni, which spanned many generations. Plus it was a great time reuniting with uni friends and catching up with where our lives have taken us since graduating.


Partying with university pals Beth (right) and Rob (left) at the St Andrews Alumni Ball, London

I also performed at the University of Glasgow Zine Fair. This was a fair for magazines, zines, and books from Glasgow Uni Creative Writing students and professors, so it was really fun to see what my current and former classmates have been up to. Mairi Murphy was there with the poetry collection that I helped to edit, Glasgow Women Poets, and with her debut collection, Observance, which is full of wit and heart, just like her! I also sold some copies of my chapbook and did a short performance of a poem about Santa Claus.


My debut poetry pamphlet, Grown Up Poetry Needs to Leave Me Alone (Knockingdoor Press, 2014)

I’m traveling to the USA soon to visit family and for a conference in Virginia, but until then I’m going to continue soaking up the lovely weather here in Edinburgh. I hope you’ve enjoying spring too, wherever you are. Until next time! x





News: April 2018

There’s nothing quite like getting together with old friends. That easy intimacy of chatting with someone who you know so well – whose quirks, idiosyncrasies and history you memorized long ago – coupled with the joy of discovering how they’ve changed and evolved over time. It can be comforting – revisiting old memories, retelling the same stories for the hundredth time – yet it can also be disorienting, as you see how your lives have diverged. You learn they now have many stories to tell which you are not a part of. Yet, as someone who has been lucky enough to have two incredible groups of female friends (one from childhood and one from university), growing up alongside these women and now seeing them beginning careers and families has been one of the great joys of my life so far.

Long-term friendships are on my mind because I just spent four beautiful days in Lisbon, Portugal, alongside some of my closest university friends, celebrating the wedding of our dear friend – Mrija – to a Scottish gent – Hamish – who she met in St Andrews. The wedding and surrounding celebrations was definitely the highlight of my month and you’ll get lots of pictures of that below! But first, here are a few other updates about where my life and writing is at this month.


In fantastic news, I was shortlisted for the Jane Martin Poetry Prize. This is a poetry prize from Girton College at University of Cambridge, for poets under 30, and I was absolutely delighted to be shortlisted for it this year. Some of my favorite writers, like Jen Cambell, and my friend Katie Hale, have won the prize in past years, so it was extremely special to be shortlisted. I’d also recommend reading the winning entries here (especially Nina Powles’ poem ‘Mid-Autumn Moon Festival, 2016’).

Alongside this exciting news, I also received approximately a bazillion rejections this month (just kidding, it was probably more like ten). I know for some that might not be much, but I’ve been stepping up my game and submitting to more journals this year and so I’ve been getting more rejections than normal. There was one day this month where I received like three. IN ONE DAY. I might do a blog post about things that have helped me ‘overcome’ or get used to rejections (which will always be part of writing), so let me know if you’d like to see that!

As the PhD deadline in September looms, I have been working on finishing up the critical essays, which will be part of my final submission (alongside my historical novel). These are personal essays about how creative writers try to access the 18th century past. I’ve got one about using primary sources, one about reenactments (if you missed the blog post where I try on a corset, check it out here) and one about three fictional iterations of one 18th century historical figure. I’ve finished two of the three essays and am about to send them out for publication (fingers crossed), so I don’t want to say too much, but I’ll of course post here if they get picked up anywhere!


In addition to my trip to Lisbon, it was also my partner’s birthday this month, so we celebrated with a ‘Birthday Weekend’ including a day of strolls in Edinburgh – grabbing juices and burgers at a local outdoor market – and in Glasgow, where we met up with some friends at Platform.

And then, of course, there was Lisbon. Colorful, delicious, hilly, cobblestoned Lisbon.


Full of beautiful tiled buildings and fresh fish (which I ate plenty of). I spent the last few days of April there and I’m eager to return! During my trip, I snacked on Pastéis de Belém, custard-filled pastries with cinnamon on top, and explored a modern art gallery, The Berardo Collection Museum, before hopping on a yacht (!) with the rest of the gals for the hen party festivities.

The wedding itself was at a vineyard outside of the city and the venue was actually paradise.


The sun shone as the bride and groom exchanged vows in one of my favorite wedding ceremonies I’ve ever seen. Both the assembled crowd and the ceremony itself was a vibrant, international mix. There was poetry read in Scots, Vietnamese, Arabic, as well as touching advice from families of the bride and groom.


Then we enjoyed canapés while looking out at the verdant hills. Later, colorful lanterns swung from strings as we dined in a courtyard of the 17th century home, sipping the house wine.



Then, there was Celidh music and Bollywood tunes as we danced into the wee hours. All the while, my friend looked absolutely radiant. I was so happy to be there to celebrate with her and her family, as well as to reunite with old friends like my former flatmate Steph (pictured below in the beautiful gold sari).

It was a fantastic evening – joyful, personal and in a beautiful setting. Definitely a highlight of not just my month, but my year so far.


Upcoming Events:

Finally, for upcoming events, I’ve been invited to perform some poetry at The St Andrews Alumni Ball in London on May 19. I’ll be sharing a special poem I’ve written about St Andrews, as well as some other poems.

I’ll also be selling copies of my poetry pamphlet and performing at the University of Glasgow Creative Writing Fair on May 23. This is an exhibition, fair and performance evening to celebrate the publications of MLitt, MFA, DFA, undergrads and recent grads of the university’s Creative Writing Programme. If you’re in Glasgow, come along and check that out. We do some pretty cool work at Glasgow Uni. It’s at 3 pm at the Queen Margaret Union.

Then, of course, there’s the Omohundro Conference in June in Williamsburg, Virginia, where I’ll be joining bestselling novelist Deborah Harkness, poet Chet’la Sebree, and Yale professor John Demos in a panel chaired by Jane Kamensky on creative writing and early American history.

I’ll actually be in the USA for most of June, in Austin seeing friends and family, as well as in Virginia for a few days for the conference. So this month, before I leave, I’ll be doing a lot of work on my novel (I’m on the third draft now!), getting it ready for the PhD submission.


In last month’s post, I said that I wanted to have a better work-life balance. This month, I think I achieved that. There was a lot of essay work, but there was also a lot of quality friend time, good food and travel. For now, back to the books!

Happy spring xx

PS If you’re enjoying these monthly posts, feel free to follow this blog (link on the right!) so you’ll see when new ones come out! Enjoy! 🙂