Continuing to Develop as a Writer [and guest blogging about it]

I noticed that Creative Scotland had a blog, and asked if I could write a post, and they said yes, and I took a long time to write a relatively short amount of material, but eventually I did. Now it’s up! (With the ubiquitous Chris Scott photograph.)

http://www.creativescotland.com/explore/read/stories/connecting/2014/tracey-s-rosenberg-on-continuing-to-develop-as-a-writer

I talk about what I write, how I write, and the Banff Centre Spoken Word Workshop I attended earlier this year (partly with the help of Creative Scotland, which is what prompted me to ask whether I could contribute to the blog). They also link to my video of my in-the-spare-room performance of “Little Tiger”, which was shortlisted for the StAnza Digital Slam.

Creative Scotland are rejigging the funding streams this year, so some things are still in flux – the Professional Development Grants aren’t even available anymore, at least not under that name – but if you’re an artist in Scotland interested in applying for support, do have a look at what they offer and keep an eye out for future developments. Applying for grants is never a fun experience, but receiving funding is a major boost, personally and professionally. And it gives you something to write a guest blog post about, which you can then write a blog post about on your own blog. Blog. Anyway, hope you enjoy it.

Published in: on August 19, 2014 at 1:47 pm  Leave a Comment  

The festivals are here!

And if you want to see me perform, here’s where to do that.

Saturday 16 August, 250pm, Banshee Labyrinth (Venue 156)
Other Voice Spoken Word Cabaret. Open-hearted open mic featuring sets from spoken word stars and special guests daily with a sumptuous cabaret vibe. Free and unticketed.

Sunday 17 August, 630pm, Scottish Parliament Café/Bar
The Festival of Politics. A Rally and Broad event

Wednesday 20 August, 12:20pm, Stand in the Square, St Andrew’s Square
All Back to Bowie’s
An #indyref mix of politics, poetry, polemic and pop.
Today’s theme: Suffragette City: Women, Power and The Independence Referendum

Where I performed

Monday 4 August, All Back to Bowie’s
Poem: How the Wars of Scottish Independence Led to a Better Scotland
Also appearing: David Greig, Nicola Sturgeon

Tuesday 5 August, JibbaJabba
Poems: Little Tiger, Actors at the Fringe
Also appearing: Jenni Pascoe, Sophia Walker

Sunday 10 August, Loud Poets
Poems: Actors at the Fringe, Little Tiger
Also appearing: Richard Tyrone Jones, Miko Berry & the Loud Poets

Wednesday 13 August, BBC Poetry Slam 2014 – heat 3
Poems: Little Tiger, You’re Not
Also appearing: Agnes Torok, Sophia Walker

Friday 15 August, Dactyl 2 launch
Poems: Coils, The Time Lord’s Job Advertisement [slightly mangled...], Actors at the Fringe
Also appearing: Richie McCaffery, Lucy Ribchester

Friday 15 August, Loud Poets at the just Festival.
Poem: Actors at the Fringe
Also appearing: Max Scratchmann, Kevin McLean

Published in: on August 4, 2014 at 8:54 am  Leave a Comment  

It’s the Festivals again! (soon)

Last year, an award-winning spoken word performer asked me why I didn’t get my own show on the Fringe. My response, after feeling flattered that she’d even ask, was: “Don’t wanna.” It’s a lot of work and I don’t have enough to say to fill 50 minutes; also, standing on the Royal Mile and thrusting flyers in people’s faces is soul-destroying as well as being hard on your feet, not to mention the part where the only two people who turn up are 1) your partner and 2) some guy who wandered in thinking it was sketch comedy with free beer.

However, as usual, I’ll be performing in a variety of shows in August, which is always a thrill. Mainly because I can just turn up and say stuff, and not have to deal with the logistics.

[all info moved to a new entry!]

Published in: on June 30, 2014 at 8:07 am  Leave a Comment  

The poet as zombie; or, Should this be my new author photo?

Since I’m a huge proponent of “doing interesting things because it’s fun”, I volunteered for the zombie game 2.8 Hours Later. I had to go to Zombie School and learn how to shuffle and groan convincingly, and then I was a zombie for one of the four nights they were in Edinburgh. My groaning made me sound like “zombie with bronchitis” so I switched to weird high-pitched intakes of breath, which were fun and didn’t strain my voice. And I shuffled, oh did I shuffle. Here’s what I originally looked like:

IMAG0778

Then I swapped the army fatigues with another player for technical reasons and looked more normal, for versions of “normal” which involve fake blood spattered over my face.

I love immersive experiences, although I doubt I’ll be writing any “I am a zombie” poems any time soon (though you never know). To be honest, I am not a huge fan of the genre. But I did like dressing up and shuffling after people who, though they knew perfectly well I was NOT a zombie, were involved enough in the game to be scared when I appeared out of nowhere behind them, groaning.

And yes, I did go home on the bus looking like that, though somehow managed not to freak any mundanes in the process, or perhaps they were just used to that sort of thing on a bank holiday weekend.

Published in: on May 26, 2014 at 6:30 pm  Comments (1)  

Blog chain: The Writing Process

I was tagged by Sara Sheridan to continue this blog chain. (Thanks, Sara!)

1) What am I working on?

At the moment, two main projects – a poetry collection titled Blood Libel, and a novel. I suppose it’s technically two novels but I haven’t decided which one I want to focus on yet, so I’ll just leave it vague for now.

Blood Libel is also somewhat vague, but it’s about Jewish women. Modern, Biblical, historical; monologues, commentaries, prayers; mothers, immigrants, Holocaust victims; heroic, quizzical, annoying. And then some. I’m basically writing many poems and seeing what happens. So far I have enough for a pamphlet, but the goal is a full-length collection.

2) How does my work differ from others of its genre?

One of the aspects I’m exploring is genetic history – there are many diseases that are far more prevalent in the Ashkenazi Jewish community than in the general population, which obviously have devastating effects. (On the other hand, modern genetic testing means that people intending to have children can check whether they and their potential partners are both carriers; see Dor Yeshorim, for instance.) I haven’t found any poetry collections – or, indeed, many prose works – that address these issues within the context of Jewish culture.

3) Why do I write what I do?

I write whatever interests me, is the short answer. My only published novel to date is a historical novel about the daughter of a high-ranking Nazi; the novel making the rounds is about an American graduate student at Oxford, and the one I’ve put in the drawer is about a girl who discovers a lost festival in Edinburgh. My first (unpublished) full-length poetry collection is about cancer, but not entirely. Certain themes keep emerging, of course, but it would probably take someone with more objectivity to discover them.

4) How does my writing process work?

More sporadically than I’d like. Poems tend to be drafted either by hand or on the computer, and then edited around 4-6 times before I get to the point where I really know what they’re about; I then tweak individual words or line breaks, and then it’s done. (Occasionally, I never get to the tweaking part and they go into the ‘deferred’ folder.) Short stories work the same way, come to think of it. Novels are a lot more complex, of course!

I tried to find someone to carry on the chain. Unfortunately, thanks to a combination of unwellness (thankfully the norovirus only lasted about twelve hours, but it wasn’t pleasant!) and computer woes (kernel panics! – kind of like norovirus for computers, because it dumps core all over the screen), I haven’t been able to locate anyone. But! – if you want to answer the questions, post them on your blog or whatever, and then post the link in the comments, you can carry on the chain yourself. And I’ll try to put those links in this entry as well.

How I ended up in the trailer of a Scottish Independence film

I live in Scotland, and I’ll be voting in the referendum, but I haven’t been terribly outgoing about my opinions, apart from having a YES badge on one of my jackets (which I haven’t worn for weeks). I’m therefore somewhat bemused by finding myself in trailer #1 for Scotland Yet.

It all started when Kirsty Logan, in her capacity as Books Editor of The List, put out a call for flash fiction pieces about an independent Scotland. I took up the challenge and wrote “Essay Topic: How the Wars of Scottish Independence led to a Better Scotland” – it was something of a parody of how some history essays are basically The Bits Everyone Knows, with a few trivial and even apocryphal details. (Does anyone who isn’t a medieval historian know anything about Alfred the Great apart from maybe he burned the cakes? That sort of thing.)

Kirsty didn’t take the piece. Sob! But as she published a poem of mine in the same issue, I rapidly dried my tears and looked around to see what else I could do with the story. (Also, you can read the excellent pieces she did select.)

I ended up adapting it as a performance piece: “How the Wars of Scottish Independence led to a Better Scotland, by Fiona, Age 10″. I debuted it at the National Library of Scotland’s Burns Night Slam, and it was something of a tribute to my improvement as a performance poet that I made it to the final round, placing third, whereas the previous year I’d been knocked out in the first. A fellow competitor, upon tendering his congratulations, suggested that I might have won if I’d performed the Independence piece last, as it got such a good reaction from the audience, but unfortunately you never know with such things, and anyway I’m not sure I had another piece strong enough to launch me into the final. However, I was quite pleased with myself, and later spent my prize of a £10 Blackwell’s gift voucher on my current Moleskine notebook.

Jenny Lindsay, who is one of the grandes dames of the Edinburgh spoken word scene [in the sense of experience and prominence rather than age, I hastily add], enjoyed the piece so much that she invited me to perform it at a National Collective event in February. National Collective is a group of artists and creative who are pro-independence. This particular event had poems and memoirs and I think there was a short film, or possibly some slides? Anyway, I did my piece and I think it went well.

Two nights later, when the cabaret Jenny organises with Rachel McCrum (Rally and Broad) needed a last-minute performer due to illness, they contacted me and I went on that night, and did the independence piece as part of my set. I vaguely remember being told that someone was filming, but I didn’t really think about it.

…until a friend tagged me in a Facebook comment last week, and today I finally went to look at what she was referring to.

(Rally and Broad starts at 2:03 and I’m on for a whole nine seconds not much later than that.) I should probably open my eyes wider when I perform. Or memorise my pieces so I’m not looking down at the paper so much. On the other hand, I’m glad I wore lipstick!

(Because lipstick is always a plus.)

Anyway, I wasn’t expecting to see myself wedged in between snippets of intelligent creative people saying interesting things (Jenny is there, as is Alan Bissett, and many other people). And some chickens. Not sure how the chickens would vote, to be honest. But I’m happy that my performance was interesting enough to be spliced into the trailer, and I look forward to seeing the full-length version.

And to the referendum.

Roundup of what I’ve been up to

Yeah, I guess that ‘post more’ resolution didn’t come to much. So here’s a quick roundup of the past few months:

My poem “Compline”, one of my favourites, was in Gutter issue 10.

“Shabbat in the Rockies” which (as previously mentioned) won first place in the Mountaineering Council of Scotland poetry competition, was published in their journal. Thankfully, it was on the website before that and I realised that the final line had been omitted, in time to have it corrected for the print version. (The stanza breaks aren’t there either, in case you’re wondering why I wrote such a long poem without any!)

I won’t try to repeat my victory, because I’m a judge this year. If you’re a writer based in the UK, please do enter. The deadline is 31 August.

I had three poems published in Neon Magazine, which leads me to my big news:

My second poetry chapbook, Cancer Villanelle is in press!

Krishan Coupland, editor extraordinaire of Neon, decided to start publishing pamphlets and chapbooks. (He defines the former as containing just a few poems, or one piece of prose; the latter are are up to forty pages.) I went through the usual submission process, and came out a winner. We’re currently in the “firming up the contract” phase and once that’s done we can move on to the editorial stuff. I’m hoping there won’t be much to do on that front, since all but one the poems have been published, but of course there might be tweaks. I tend to feel that poems should be published in a book in the same form they were first let loose on the world, but I’m willing to be advised otherwise; I guess it’s partly that I always find things to change, and if I don’t draw a line under it somewhere, I will possibly never stop.

Recently, I spent two weeks at the Banff Centre on their Spoken Word programme. I’m deeply grateful to the Banff Centre’s generous financial aid programme (and to my sponsor – hope you liked the pie chart!) and to Creative Scotland for their financial assistance. I think that needs to be a separate blog entry, but if you’re a spoken word artist, or trying to be one, you should apply if at all possible. I’m still not sure I’m a spoken word artist, though enough of my fellow course members said “really?” that I should probably stop thinking that.

I’ll definitely have a new entry up on May 12, as I’ve been tagged in a bloggy chain letter about the writing process. I’ll be following in the footsteps of Sara Sheridan, author of the Mirabelle Bevan mysteries (among other great books). Now I need to tag a writer to follow me!

And to end this entry on a funny note: last week, just before the bank holiday weekend, I received an unexpected package. (Turned out to be a gift from my boss: this hamper, including the cookbook. I heart my boss!) My appreciation of the Fedex person, who left it rather than making me have to schedule a redelivery, was augmented by my amusement at the way they hid it under the doormat.

box under mat

Try to spot the box under the mat! Don’t worry if you can’t find it! It’s very well-hidden!

New year, new stuff

Happy new year to all. One of the things I sort of like about the UK is that businesses (not shops and restaurants, of course) close down over Christmas and New Year, which can be relaxing, but on the other hand if you are waiting for money or need to get something done, you can basically kiss an entire fortnight goodbye.

However, I accomplished many things over the holiday period – not as much as I would have liked, but that’s probably standard.

I read ten books, two of them from the Poetry Books Society which I love to bits because I get 20 books of poetry a year for £160 (which is about the price I’d pay for them anyway, but it’s far more convenient to have them arrive in the post) and they are all the new stuff so I’m not perpetually years behind. More like months behind, really.

I wrote the first of 52 poems prompted by Jo Bell’s Fifty-Two project (the other 51 are to follow on a quasi-weekly basis).

I wrote a grant application, and put a new chapbook manuscript together specifically for a competition (which worked much better than I thought it would), and edited a poem that wasn’t working as a poem into something else it works much better as. I sent out at least 25 submissions. I, er, ate more M&S All Butter Viennese Biscuits than one person really has the right to eat.

And I made soup and lasagne and risotto (not in the same pan), and did multiple loads of laundry, and caught up on the Doctor Who specials, and backed up my hard drive. So there’s some virtue in there along with the butter cookies.

Also, I’ve been off Facebook for two months. I was getting annoyed with how much time it was sucking out of my life, and haven’t found a reason to go back yet, though I probably will if only to adjust all the notification settings. I have, of course, found a new time-wasting site, that being Twitter, but at least there I see many poetry contest notifications and alerts about lost teddy bears. If you’re over there (and even if you’re not), I’m @tsrosenberg

Hopefully I will blog a bit more this year.

Published in: on January 6, 2014 at 3:52 pm  Leave a Comment  

Mountaineering Council of Scotland 2013 Poetry Prize

My week of many events was fantastic – people actually came to the events, which always surprises me even though it really shouldn’t. I had eight at my Leith Library reading, and the Dead Poets Slam drew about sixty people, based on a rough estimate and some frantic head-counting. The winner was W.B. Yeats, followed by Siegfried Sassoon and Norman MacCaig, which is partly why I love Dead Poet Slams because where else are you going to find a line-up like that? Many thanks to Shore Poets, the Scottish Book Trust and Book Week Scotland, and Blind Poetics.

And things have continued to be great. I knew about this a couple of weeks ago, but it’s now officially announced that I won the Mountaineering Council of Scotland 2013 Poetry Prize with a poem titled “Shabbat in the Rockies”. I wasn’t even sure it would work for the competition, since most of the previous winners are about mountain climbing, whereas this is about a Jewish family fleeing persecution in the Carpathians – which probably explains the comment that it was “an unusual but definite winner”. Hey, I’ve been unusual all my life; why stop now?

It’s particularly amusing because, being from the American middle west, I’m not used to mountains. When I’m on a plane to the states, I know I’m home when I see the water towers. But then again, the images that crop up in my poems are overtly different from what I assume about myself – I’m a cat person, but I only ever write poems about dogs; I am not particularly fond of gardens, but they cropped up constantly
The poem isn’t currently available online, though I think it will be at some point. I’ll link to it then.

Published in: on December 3, 2013 at 3:49 pm  Leave a Comment  

Book Week Scotland and me!

Book Week Scotland is nearly here, and I am involved in many events (both BWS and not), so here’s a round-up of events you might want to go to if you’re in Edinburgh. If you’re not interested in these, there are zillions of others, so hopefully you can find something you like!

Sunday 24 November, Shore Poets (Henderson’s @ St. John’s), 745pm (bar from 715pm), £5/£3: Shore Poets November: Gerrie Fellowes, Christine de Luca, Tracey S. Rosenberg. Also, you can put your name in the hat for one of two open mic spots! And you could win the lemon cake in the raffle. (I am also writing a poem about the lemon cake which I will read for the first time ever during my set.) All in all it is a pretty cool event.

Monday 25 November, Edinburgh Reads, Leith Library, 645pm, free: I’m appearing at a Book Week Scotland event at Leith Library, discussing my novel, poetry, and anything else the audience wants to hear about. According to the blurb in the Edinburgh Reads brochure, I am “a much-loved contributor to the Edinburgh spoken word scene”, which may be one of the nicest things anyone’s ever said about me. Copies of The Girl in the Bunker and Lipstick is Always a Plus will be available at a discount!

Monday 25 November, Doctor Who Open Mic Night, Blind Poetics, 730pm, free: A charity fundraiser for the Lullaby Trust. I’ll be headlining (after I rush up from Leith) alongside Dalek-master Kevin Cadwallender and sf poet extraordinaire Russell Jones, and there will be plenty of open mic entertainment.

Saturday 30 November, Dead Poets Slam, The Bongo Club, 7pm, free: rounding off Book Week Scotland, it’s a Dead Poets Slam I am organising in conjunction with Inky Fingers. It’s a poetry slam with a difference! Every slammer performs the work of a dead poet. Props, costumes, and over-the-top theatrics are encouraged, and prizes will be awarded to the top performers. Will Sylvia Plath go head-to-head with Emily Dickinson? Could William McGonagall trounce William Wordsworth in a nail-biting final round? Come enjoy three rounds of classic poetry brought to life!

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