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! 🙂

News: February/March 2018

I’m not going to lie: February is usually one of my least favorite months of the year. By the time February rolls around, I’m sick of cold and darkness, aching for sunlight and spring. I love snuggling up indoors in the winter – don’t get me wrong – but even a cold-weather girl like me needs sunlight every now and then. This year, with all of this surprising snow here in Edinburgh, it has felt like a very long winter indeed and I was so ready for March and the beginning of spring, which it seems, has finally arrived!

I was in such a bad mood by the end of this February, having barely left my desk for the entire month – editing my novel, editing another project, applying for things. It was productive, but it was also a little glum. I bit off way more than I could chew in February and didn’t make enough time for seeing friends. I often worked straight through the cold and dreary weekends, without taking a day off. My anxiety started getting really bad towards the end of the month as I grew more and more exhausted from all the work. It wasn’t sustainable and I had to make a change. So, I sat down with myself and made a list of things that I could do to improve my general well-being, mental health and happiness, so I don’t fall easily into that rut again. These ‘happy things’ included having stricter ‘work time’ and ‘off time’ and also making more time to go to the gym, which really helps me to relax.

I think that meditation, which I do almost every day, has been really helpful for me in getting through this stressful period, as I near the end of my PhD. I use an app called Headspace and also there’s The Honest Guys YouTube channel if I want more guided meditations. Taking myself to the cinema has also been a nice way to detach from work, as well as meeting up with friends and getting out of my head a bit.

Perhaps because of these positive changes, but also because of the change in weather, March definitely proved a lot more fun than February and also I’m excited about some things that are coming up. But let’s first look back at what I got up to in these last few months.

PhD/Writing projects:

It’s a bit tricky to talk about my work at the moment because I don’t want to talk too much about things until they are done, but I can tell you that I’ve finished editing the second draft of my novel manuscript, which I’m calling (working title!): Between the Devil and the Deep Sea. I’m about to start work on the third draft. I’m also working on some essays about writing historical fiction and how I did research for this novel. These essays will form part (about 20,000 words) of my final PhD submission.

I also finished a final draft of another full-length book and sent it to a contest. I can’t say yet what that project is, but hopefully I’ll be able to tell you more about it in the upcoming months/year.

But enough of the mystery and intrigue! Here’s what I CAN tell you more about.

StAnza Poetry Festival

I was delighted to be asked to be In-house Blogger once again for StAnza (alongside poet Katie Hale). StAnza is an annual international poetry festival held in St Andrews, Scotland, where I did my undergraduate degree.


The Byre Theatre, St Andrews, March 2018

I wrote two blogs during my time there: one reflecting on ‘The Self’ in poetry (which was one of the themes of the festival) and the other about my experience judging the StAnza Poetry Slam.

In addition to blogging and slam judging, I also helped out with participants at the festival and introduced some events. This was my seventh year at StAnza (I started as a volunteer festival photographer and have gone on to volunteer in almost every capacity possible with this festival!). For me, is a great time to catch up with old friends, who I rarely get to see in addition to listening to some wonderful poetry .

And also I love wandering around St Andrews, which, as you know, I’ve got a lot of affection for. I wrote a whole picture book called I Love St Andrews, so…I kind of like the place a little.


Excitingly, in March I was also commended in a poetry prize run by the British Army: Writing Armistice. The contest was inspired by the centenary of the armistice ending WWI and they asked for entries responding to the theme of ‘armistice’ in any way. My poem which was commended, ‘Nothing of Floods’, is very personal and looks at the idea of armistice as it concerns arguments with family members.

The poem will be published in a pamphlet with the other winning entries and I was invited to read it at the National Army Museum in London, but unfortunately I’ll be away that weekend at a close friend’s wedding in Portugal. I’m sad to miss what I’m sure will be an amazing reading event (but I’m also looking forward to celebrating with my friend, in a vineyard outside of Lisbon, no less!).


As I mentioned, I went to the lovely St Andrews for StAnza and while I was busy most of the time with the festival, I had the opportunity to go for my favorite walk, along The Scores, by the castle ruins.


The Castle, St Andrews, 2018

While in St Andrews, I also got to sign some (well, lots!) of copies of I Love St Andrews at the beautiful Toppings and Co. bookstore. The staff there are so nice and they made me a cup of tea while I made my way through these piles! I’m so happy that so many people are enjoying the book.

I Love St A

I Love St Andrews in Toppings and Co., St Andrews, March 2018

My cousin also visited me in mid-March. She’s a medieval historian and is doing some research in Belgium, so she was able to pop up to Scotland for a quick weekend trip. We ended up going to St Andrews for a day as well (it seems I can’t get enough of the place this spring!). We walked on the beach, through the rambling historic graveyard and of course paid a visit to Jannetta’s for some ice cream.


Me (left) and my cousin (right) enjoying ice-cream at Jannetta’s in St Andrews

We also did some sightseeing here in Edinburgh too, including a walk up Calton Hill. I’ve never been before and was so impressed with the views out across the city on that bright, sunny day.


View from Calton Hill, Edinburgh, March 2018

Upcoming Events

I’m also excited to announce that I’ve been accepted to be a panelist at a roundtable event at the annual Omohundro Institute of Early American History and Culture conference at the College of William and Mary in Virginia! The conference is in June and the panel discussion is called: ‘Creatively Writing about Early America and the Atlantic World: A roundtable on Fiction, Poetry and History’.

I’ll be joined on the panel by Deborah Harkness (University of Southern California), author of A Discovery of Witches, John Demos (Yale University), and my friend Chet’la Sebree. Chet’la is an incredible poet and we met when we were both fellows at the Robert H Smith International Centre for Jefferson Studies two years ago. It will be moderated by Jane Kamensky (Harvard University) and I’m incredibly thrilled to be taking part in what is sure to be a fascinating discussion about creative writing and American history.


What did you get up to in February and March? What are you reading and watching? Any upcoming trips planned for this spring?

Here’s to finding a better ‘work/life’ balance, as they say, in the upcoming months and to more afternoons spent eating ice cream and walking in the sunshine.

 x Carly


Flowers blooming in The Meadows, Edinburgh, March 2018

News: January 2018

On a winter’s Sunday I go

To clear away the snow

And green the ground below.


April all an ocean away

Is this a better way to spend the day?

Keeping the winter at bay.


– from The Decemberists’ ‘January Hymn’

January is named after Janus, the Roman god with two heads facing in opposite directions. He looks towards the past, but also towards the future. He’s the god of doors, bridges, gates – those liminal spaces and funny, in-between places where we’re transitioning between one place, thing, activity, and into the next. Like many people, I usually spend January looking back, but also planning, gathering and gearing up for what’s to come. Looking ahead also helps combat those January Blues that I always feel after returning from my holidays in sunny Austin Texas, to the quiet, cold, gray-blue Scottish winter.

And there is a lot coming up this year…


The Meadows, Edinburgh

Travel plans

2018 will be, for me, a year of travel, and of endings/new beginnings. Socially, I’ve got two weddings of two very close friends to attend this year – one in the spring in Portugal and one in the autumn in Texas. I was delighted to be asked to be the Maid of Honor for the latter and I’m really looking forward to both. These weddings are amazing opportunities to reunite with friends and family in beautiful places (with plenty of cake and wine!) and to celebrate the next chapter in my friends’ lives.

Other trips I’ve got planned include a visit to Colonial Williamsburg and the College of William and Mary in Virginia USA in June for a very exciting conference I’ll be taking part in (I’ll tell you more about that soon!). On top of that, I’m planning a Scandinavian trip for a couple of days to see another close friend in the Spring. So there are lots of journeys coming up!


Academically, this is the year that I will be submitting my Doctorate of Fine Arts (in the autumn) and hopefully sending my finished novel manuscript off to agents before that (in the spring/summer). At the moment, I’m in the middle of revising my historical novel, using the comments that my supervisor (an Early American historian) gave me about the first draft. I must say that while revision poses its own challenges, it’s nice to be working with a full manuscript and to see the structure of the story more clearly in my head. In building terms: I have the house already and now I’m just adding on to the kitchen, changing out carpet for hardwood floors, redecorating the living room, etc.


My novel manuscript, Draft 1


I did one performance this month at the wonderful Scottish Poetry Library (where I am also an Ambassador – follow us on Twitter!) at the God Damn Debut Slam. This is a unique slam where you have to perform something brand new! I was a featured poet and I went on after the slam itself, but I really loved seeing the competition and all of the poets performing their new material aloud – which takes a lot of courage! I’d highly recommend attending if you get the opportunity. It’s an excellent night.

Speaking of slams, the Scottish National Slam Championships 2018 happened this month in Glasgow at the Tron Theatre. This slam – which I won back in 2013 – invites any poets who have won slams throughout Scotland that year to compete and the winner gets to represent Scotland at the World Series of Slam Poetry in Paris. This competition was my entry into spoken word in Scotland and, until I won it, I had no idea about the whole Paris thing! Needless to say, it’s a life-changing opportunity for whoever wins and, as always, the competition was fierce. Everyone shone and the final round – featuring Kevin McLean, Sarah Grant, Leyla Josephine and Sam Small – was one of the strongest I’ve ever seen. At any slam. Ever. Sam Small emerged as the winner and I’ve loved his work for years. At times surreal, visceral, biting and hopeful. He’ll do us proud in Paris. Good luck, Sam!


I’m going to start ending these monthly posts with a few recommendations of stuff I enjoyed that month. This month, I’d like to recommend Matilda (the 90’s kids film) which I saw at the Edinburgh Filmhouse as part of their Growing Pains series. I had not seen it since I was a kid and it’s worth a rewatch. Zany and dark but still full of joy. It was an important movie for me (and I imagine many 90’s kids) that showed us a strong, brainy, independent female heroine and taught us that reading is magic.


That’s all for now, folks. I’ll leave you with that Decemberists song I quoted in the beginning, if you’d like to have a listen. Until next time!

Xx Carly

2017: Favorite Books, Films and Podcasts

Between working on my PhD, writing, grading, performing, traveling, I haven’t read or seen as much as I would have liked this past year. Nevertheless, I managed to read around 30 books and catch around 60 or so films in 2017. These were my favorites and the ones that really stuck with me from this year. I also tried to pick a mixture of bigger and smaller titles, larger and more indie film, to get a good range. I’ve also included a few recommendations for great podcasts too. Enjoy!


I read lots of different genres but, this year, I mainly read short stories (especially those with hints of magic and strangeness), YA (especially contemporary), and historical fiction. I also tend to pick up novels with young women as the protagonists, which I think all of my recommendations, except His Bloody Project, fit into, as well.

Anna and the French Kiss (YA novel) – delightful and reminded me of my first experiences studying abroad in high school (sadly minus the dreamy French boy!). Perfect breezy read.
Drinking Coffee Elsewhere (short stories) – beautifully constructed short stories with mostly first-person narrators, often young African American women, my personal favorite being Brownies, but I also liked the title story Drinking Coffee Elsewhere, which you can read here in The New Yorker. For short stories, you just can’t get better than Z.Z. Packer.
The Lesser Bohemians (literary novel) – I vow to read everything Eimear McBride writes. In this, a young actress falls for an older guy while at drama school. Girl is a Half-Formed Thing, her debut, still haunts me and I love the way we’re completely emersed in the main character’s thoughts and the way she writes about sex and relationships is astounding. As an actor, I love reading books about theatre and there aren’t enough of them! If you like modernist writers like Joyce or Woolf, you might like this!
His Bloody Project (historical fiction novel) – I’ll call this a ‘post-modern murder mystery’, not exactly a WHO done it but a WHY done it. Set in the Scottish Highlands, it’s full of conflicting narratives and layers of text. I had the pleasure of interviewing Graeme about this book too.

the lesser bohemians


I’ve always been a big movie watcher and I love an evening at the cinema. My partner is a film critic and I went with him to SXSW in my hometown of Austin, Texas, where I got to see lots of great stuff. My favorite places to catch films in Glasgow and Edinburgh are The Glasgow Film Theatre, The Filmhouse and The Cameo. Intelligent comedies are a personal favorite to watch.

Toni Eardmann – touching but restrained comedy of a father who impersonates a business man in an attempt to connect with his distant, work-focused daughter. The film is in German and set in Romania, but hilarious and often heartbreaking family dynamics are super universal.
War Games – 80’s kids adventure film about a kid who accidentally almost starts a nuclear war. Hugely suspenseful and fun, but also an important message.
Silvio – Saw this at SXSW and it’s hard to explain but it follows a gentle gorilla/human in pink sunglasses (watch the trailer!) called Silvio who has a show on daytime TV. It’s surprisingly poignant and looks at the compromises we make to achieve recognition and fame.
The Big Sick – Also caught this one at SXSW and I haven’t heard an audience laugh so hard in forever! They were laughing so hard I couldn’t hear some of the jokes. Follows the romance of a young Pakistani-American stand-up comic with a white girl called Emily (with a similar feeling to something like My Big Fat Greek Wedding, where his traditional family doesn’t want him dating outside his culture etc.). Sweet and hilarious.
Lunadigas – Italian documentary about women who don’t want to have children. I’d love to see something like this made in the US or the UK too, because it’s an important subject.


Also shout out to Netflix’s The Good Place which was my favorite TV show of 2017. A whimsical and unpredictable show about the afterlife.


My Dad Wrote a Porno (obviously! so hilarious!) – for when you want to laugh

The Flop House – for when you want to laugh some more

Houston We Have a Podcast – for when you want to learn about space/all the cool stuff NASA is doing

Lore – for when you want to learn about dark historical stories and folklore

Anna Faris is Unqualified – for when you want to be delighted and entertained by relationship advice from celebrities



Have you seen or read any of these things? What were your favorite books, TV, films and podcasts you read, watched or saw in 2017? I’m always open for recommendations!

2017: My Year in Review

Coming home to visit family in Austin, Texas every Christmas is like hitting the reset button. I catch up with childhood friends, eat lots of breakfast tacos, watch films at Alamo Drafthouse and take this time away from my writing, teaching, performing in Scotland to really reconnect and reflect on what happened last year. And what I want to happen in the next.

This year has, like most, been a mixed bag. Some great things have happened. I’ve had the opportunity to perform at some amazing events, to travel and to have my work published. Yet I’ve also struggled on and off with mental health issues and this autumn my anxiety was very high, which made work challenging. I wanted to mention this because it can be so hard looking at the lives of others, the curated successes they chose to share on the internet, and think that their lives are amazing, PERFECT even, and that your own life pales in comparison. I’ve definitely felt like that in the past. And while perhaps their lives ARE amazing, it’s also important to remember that we’re all struggling with certain things, we’re all figuring stuff out. I loved this recent blog post from 404 INK in which they spoke candidly about the behind the scenes realities of this very successful press.

So let’s celebrate the good, but not sweep the bad under the rug. It’s been a hard year for many. Over the holidays, I’ve tried to celebrate and congratulate myself for what I’ve achieved this year, no matter how small, and also to focus on sleep, relaxation and self-care, so I can ring in 2018 with renewed energy and excitement.


While I’ve been stepping back a little from performing poetry, in order to focus on completing my novel and PhD, I’ve still had the opportunity to perform at some great events. In February, I performed at the Loud Poets Birthday Shows in Glasgow AND Edinburgh (That was really special considering that I performed at their very first event, way back in 2014). I was also invited to read at the Translantic Literary Women Creative Writing showcase, where I read an essay about my experience of homesickness on both sides of the Atlantic and my time as a research fellow at the International Center for Jefferson Studies at Monticello.

Then summer was full of performances! In May, I read another non-fiction essay, How to Be Cold, at the 10th Anniversary of From Glasgow to Saturn magazine and some poetry at the fabulous Glasgow Women’s Library‘s Program Launch. In June, I once again joined The Transatlantic Literary Women series to give a spoken word performance at their symposium (you can listen to the whole of my performance here on their podcast). In June, I read some historical fiction at the West End Festival (the piece has subsequently been published on The Copperfield Review) and, for the second time, performed poetry at the launch of Quotidian Literary Magazine in Glasgow.

Quotidian pic

At Quotidian Issue 3 Launch – Photo Credit Quotidian Magazine

When August rolled around, I joined Loud Poets for the third time at their annual Fringe Show at the Scottish Storytelling Center, as well as at their Appetite for Destruction show in September. In September I was also delighted to join fellow poets and Glasgow Uni Creative Writing graduates, Mairi Murphy and Cameo Marlatt, at Glasgow Women’s Library’s Story Cafe when we spoke about the poetry collection we created and edited, showcasing women’s voices in Glasgow – Glasgow Women Poets: An Anthology.

Glasgow Women's Library

My final performance of the year was at the Write to Be Counted launch in Cumbria. Write to be Counted is an anthology in support of human rights and available now if you’d like to order one. All profits go to Pen International. I was thrilled to be part of this amazing project and to read my poem, Texas, I Can’t Bring You to Parties Anymore, at the launch.


In addition to working on my historical novel, I’ve been working on short fiction and poetry this year. For poetry: An extract from ‘Texas, I Can’t Bring You to Parties Anymore’ was published in Write to be Counted anthology, my poem ‘Running into your ex by the Cereal Aisle in Tesco’ (based on a true story) was published in Glasgow-based magazine Gilded Dirt Zine Issue 2: Supermarket Verse and my election-response poem ‘This Morning (November 9, 2016)’ was published in The Stoneslide Corrective’s issue No. 5: Aftermath.

For short fiction: My flash fiction piece ‘Homestead’ was published in Glasgow University Magazine’s print edition, my short story ‘The Silverware Club’ was published in Jersey Devil Press, my historical short story ‘Climbing Boys’ (about Victorian chimney sweeps) was published in historical fiction journal The Copperfield Review and my story, ‘Our Father is a Fisherman’, a flash fiction inspired by the painting A Dutch River Scene by Edmund Thornton Crawford RSA, was published in Seen/Unseen, a collection of responses to Edinburgh City Art Center’s Hidden Gems exhibition.

For awards, my poem ‘Fisherman Knit’ was Commended in the Alastair Buchan Poetry Prize and my flash fiction piece ‘The Stag’ was awarded Honorable Mention in the University of Aberdeen’s Flash Fiction Contest. (You can read the entire story here).

I also joined the Broadway Baby team once more as a Features writer during the Edinburgh Fringe and the Edinburgh International Book Festival. I interviewed some amazing poets and authors like Geek Girl author Holly Smale and Booker Prize shortlisted Graeme Macrae Burnet, author of His Bloody Project.

media pass

Media Pass for the 2017 Edinburgh Fringe. I’m rocking that pale, slightly startled look.


In addition to teaching Creative Writing to undergraduates at the University of Strathclyde in the Spring and Autumn terms, I also led a few workshops in the wider community. In April, I visited the lovely students at Kilgraston School to lead writing workshops with them and to read aloud from my children’s picture book: I Love St Andrews.

I Love st andrews

In March, myself and poet Daisy LaFarge co-led a poetry walk through the Glasgow Botanical Gardens with migrants, refugees and asylum seekers as part of Spaces of Belonging. I also led two performance poetry writing workshops for women at Glasgow Women’s Library and Edinburgh Central Library, and then hosted GWL’s All-Women Poetry Slam.


Me and Jo Gilbert, winner of the 2017 All Women Poetry Slam

I was also excited to join the The Young Walter Scott Prize team once more, co-leading a historical fiction writing workshop for teenagers at the gorgeous location of Bowhill House in the Scottish Borders.


Bowhill House, site of the Young Walter Scott Prize Historical Fiction Writing Workshops


Speaking of historical fiction, this was the year that I completed (more or less) a draft of my historical fiction novel manuscript! This will be the bulk of my final submission for my Doctorate of Fine Arts (my submission date is autumn 2018) and I’m excited to be editing, redrafting and perfecting the novel to send out to agents by next summer. Completing this manuscript has been a long process and by far the most challenging creative project I’ve ever undertaken. I’ve held a research fellowship at Monticello, travelled to Charleston South Carolina and spent countless hours reading about food, clothes, transportation in Colonial America to make this period come to life in the book. I don’t like talking too much about it until it’s done, but the book is about an English woman during America’s Revolutionary War. I’m so proud of the work I’ve done thus far and excited to hopefully share it soon.

In addition to The Novel, I’ve also been working on a new collection of poems and my first short story collection. Slowly but surely! Stay tuned…


In addition to traveling around the U.K to some of my favorite places like York and new places for me like Cumbria, I also had the opportunity to go to Greece, for my cousins’ wedding, and to Transylvania in Romania (yes, insert vampire joke here) to visit one of my partner’s best friends.

We also made our way to South by Southwest Festival in my hometown of Austin Texas in the Spring. My partner was covering the film festival and I got to relax, watch a ton of movies and see my family. Edinburgh and Glasgow also offer up tons of festivals all year round and in addition to the Edinburgh Fringe, International Festival and Book Festival, I also made it to the Glasgow Coffee Festival and the Borders Book Festival (among others).


Wishing everyone a Happy New Year and a creative, healthy and peaceful start to 2018!

Writing Reflections: How to Stay Motivated

I’m at the point in a writing project, as I mentioned in an earlier blog post, where I’m sick of it, questioning the inspiration, etc. And while some days the words flow and I’m excited about what I’m doing, some days making myself sit at the desk and edit is like pulling teeth. I remember hearing Rachel Bloom (writer and creator of the hilarious and smart show Crazy Ex-Girlfriend) say in an interview that the hardest part of writing is writing. Simple but true.

The fun part is coming up with ideas, listening to inspirational music, sharpening pencils, making the Pinterest boards etc. The hard part is sitting down and planting your butt in the chair and editing that scene another time. It’s especially tricky for me when I know that the holidays are right around the corner and what I REALLY want to be doing is: a) be drinking mulled wine b) watching a Christmas film in bed c) be drinking mulled wine while watching a Christmas film in bed.

So here are some tips and ways that I’ve used in the past month to actually get myself to write, even when I don’t initially want to. Because if you want writing to be your job, or part of your job, you have to treat it like a job and show up and do it even when it’s not super duper fun. This is something I’ve always known, but it’s also easier said than done.

Much like how I don’t usually feel like going to the gym, but I always feel better after I do, I always feel better once I’ve done a bit of writing or editing that day. I think these tips will be helpful for others who are doing longer creative writing projects, or longer projects of any kind, like PhDs. I was speaking to a friend in the States recently who is doing a PhD in neuropsychology and she uses a lot of similar tricks so I know they are applicable across the board, not just for poets and fiction writers.


My desk (on a good day)

1- Break it up into smaller chunks

This could be word counts or time limits, depending on where you are in the project. In my case, I’ve been editing a couple of scenes per day for my novel draft. I also try to work for about an hour and then take a break and make a tea etc. However, when I was trying to just get the rough draft out there, I had a word count that I tried to meet each day. So it depends on where you are in the project, but breaking up the larger whole into bite sized chunks (whatever that entails for you) is classic advice, but it has helped me keep my anxiety at bay and combatted feelings of overwhelm. When a project seems too massive, I don’t want to do it at all.

2- Set the scene

I try to make my environment as cozy and nice as possible by lighting candles and making myself a cup of decaf coffee and maybe putting on some light instrumental music (my favorite YouTube channel for this is OCB Relax Music) and a blanket over my lap. I’m trying to tell my brain: See, this is fun right? We’re having fun!!

Sometimes, I also take myself to a coffee shop and grab a coffee…and maybe a scone. Once again, I’m trying to tell myself: Look how much fun we’re having? There’s a hot coffee and a scone. You love scones. Scones are delicious. Isn’t this great?

But it really does help if my environment is clean and relaxed and cozy. Again, this is very common advice but it makes a big difference.

2016-07-14 17.54.44

A beautiful cafe in Milan, sadly not where I can work everyday

3- Have designated ‘writing time’ and off time

If I set myself a clear time of the day when I always (or typically) write. I personally keep a roughly 9:30/10 AM -5/6 PM workday, if possible, and try to get the writing done in the mornings and do other things like class prep, or research, or reading, in the afternoons. However, I almost never work in the evenings. In the evenings, I like to cook or see friends or go to the gym, which I do after my work day.

I can’t write all the time and I actually don’t even like writing every single day, so by giving myself time slots for writing helps. I get through the writing by saying: This evening, you can take a break and watch A Christmas Prince or some other ridiculous thing on Netflix. Just a few more hours…

4 – Get inspired

Get psyched about the project you’re working on once again. This might mean making a Pinterest board to give you new inspiration for the scene you’re working on. Or reading a book about a related topic. Or working on a scene that you particularly like, instead of one that is giving you problems. Or whatever it takes to try and reconnect with that spark that made you want to begin this in the first place. Or something that might help you look at the writing in a new, fresh way.

5- Take a freaking break

There are some days when I don’t feel like writing, but I make myself anyway. Then, there are some days when I’m so tired or I have too many other things going on and, on those days, I take a break and do other stuff. If I want a proper break, I go for a walk or go to a film (I love taking myself to the cinema alone these days) or get a coffee with a friend or anything to take your mind off it. You will come back with fresher eyes than when you forced yourself to slog through when you were completely drained.

I am not a robot. You are not a robot (as far as I know…). Some days I have bad mental health days, or mental health weeks, and I take a freaking break. I’m not a machine that can crank out scene after scene, day after day. I am so envious of writers who write every single day, without fail. But I can’t. Or, at least, I cannot at this point in my life. It’s not good for me and That. Is. Okay.


An afternoon stroll outside in Oxford

6- Think about how great it will feel to be done

I think about the joy that I will feel once this manuscript is finished and I have written a full length novel, whole and complete. Edited and redrafted. I was so proud of myself when I finished the rough draft last summer and I know I’ll be so thrilled when it’s finally done. Or, at least, done enough.

7 – ‘The journey is its own reward’

On the podcast Big Magic, the comedian and author Michael Ian Black talked about how, looking back on his career, that: ‘the journey really is its own reward.’ The sentiment really resonated with me because, as cheesy as it sounds, we will spend SO MUCH more of our times actually writing, in our rooms or attics, or local coffee shops or deserted islands, than we will ever spend accepting awards or signing a bazillion copies or having any of the glamor that might (or might not) come after the work is done. Of course it would be brilliant if this novel or the next one I write, or the next one, won all the things, but that is not something I have control over.

What I do have control over is showing up and appreciating that I have the ability to express myself, that I live in a country where this is permitted, that institutions like universities and foundations have given me both monetary and pedagogical support, at various points in my career, to help me do this. What I do have control over is how I feel about it and being grateful that this is something I am able to do. That, even on the boring days, or the frustrating days, or the days when nothing seems to be cooperating and I want to bang my head agains the desk repeatedly, that I absolutely love writing.

Writing is the only thing in my life that I can do for literally hours and feel like no time has passed. Even on the challenging days. I still love it. And I hope you do too.

How do you motivate yourself to keep going? Let me know what works for you?

Happy writing!

x Carly