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Many many thanks to everyone who replied with preferences of time and place after problems arose with our slot at the Doric. You can’t please all the people all the time, but the following will, I hope and as I think J Arthur Rank used to say, please most of the people most of the time.
Same Day, New Time
We’ll continue to meet on the Thursday before the Edinburgh Literary Salon every month, in other words the Thursday before the last Tuesday of the month. So no change there. But I’ve taken the liberty of moving our start to 7.30pm, which will give more of us a chance to grab a bite before the meeting, without pushing things too late at the other end of the evening.
New Venue
From now on for the foreseeable future, our new home will be upstairs at the Wash Bar on the Mound. The Wash will be familiar to regulars at the Salon. As things stand they won’t open the upstairs BAR for us – we’ll have to carry our drinks up from the main bar. But we will have the upstairs AREA to ourselves, except that the pub’s toilets are there! It’s a good, large, comfortable, quiet area, which I think will suit our discussions well. And the Wash Bar is well placed for bus and train, and even tram, as well.
Next Meeting
So the upshot of all that is that Stranger Than Fiction‘s October meeting is now at 7.30pm on Thursday 23rd October 2014 in the Wash Bar on the Mound. It would be lovely to see you there to launch our new residency with some lively conversation. We have no submissions this month. Instead, I thought it would be an oportunity to catch up with what everyone is working on. If you’ve had something published recently, bring it along and share the trials and tribulations of getting it there. If you are writing, how’s it going? Where do you do your best work? Home office? Library? Park bench? Camper van? If you aren’t writing come along anyway – maybe something you see or hear, or someone you talk to, will kickstart you!
Hope to see you at the Wash next week. I read this anonymous quotation the other week, which sums up how things are going for me at the moment: “Writing a book is like washing an elephant: no good place to begin or end, and it’s hard to keep track of what you’ve already covered.” How’s your elephant?
Best wishes,
Colin

Phew, thank goodness autumn is here and we can start meeting for the love of non-fiction again! Last night was a great first session of the season: a good turn-out and long lively discussion about both the pieces being submitted. From Francesca and me, thanks to all who came and made such thoughtful comments about our work. Our new regular meeting place, the Doric Tavern, is so much more amenable to good conversation and the exchange of ideas, and there’s plenty of room for more if you still haven’t come along to a meeting there.
STF October 2014
Our next meeting is in the Doric at 7pm on Thursday 23rd October 2014. Nobody has offered anything for discussion yet, so now’s your chance! If you are working on a piece of non-fiction that you’d like some feedback on, and if you’ve already come along to an STF session and seen how it works, then get in touch. If October is too soon, our November meeting is on Thursday 20th November.
Other events
September’s Edinburgh Literary Salon is next week, from 6 to 11pm on Tuesday 30th September 2014, in the Wash Bar. If you haven’t been before, it’s a drop-in networking evening for those with a serious interest in the published word: a chance to meet publishers, novelists, poets, illustrators, script writers, book sellers and even other non-fiction writers. I generally get there about 7 and stay too long, flying the flag for non-fiction and hoping to meet the publisher of my dreams.
The Glasgow equivalent, Weegie Wednesday, is on the third Wednesday of the month – the next one is from 7.30pm on Wednesday 15th October 2014, in the upstairs bar at the CCA on Sauchiehall Street. It’s always worth going if you make the effort, and sometimes I do. If anyone fancies an STF group outing to it in October, let me know.
STF at EISF
We ran out of time last night to discuss our contribution to next year’s Edinburgh International Science Festival. A small group of interested STFers has had a couple of meetings about it and is homing in on a discussion about the merits of science biography. We’ve registered our interest with EISF and now need to flesh out our proposal. If you’d like to be included in the separate mailings about this project, tell me and I’ll add your name to them. You don’t need to be a science writer!
That’s all for now. Do let me know if you’d like to put some work up for discussion in October, November or even the New Year. Hope to see you at the Salon, or Weegies, or at Stranger Than Fiction in October.
As ever, best wishes for all your non-fiction writing.
Colin

Right, enough of the very loud fireworky summerness – it’s time for the days to shorten and the nights to be filled with stimulating non-fictional conversation. I hope everyone’s had the desired summer break, whether it was literary, book-free, productive or completely restful. It was good to get together with other STFers at the Bookshop Band’s appearance in the Book Festival; and I’m looking forward to seeing everyone again at Stranger Than Fiction’s autumn meetings.

STF September 2014
Our next meeting is in the Doric Bar on Market Street, at 7pm on Thursday 25th September 2014 – just a week after, y’know, Thursday 18th September. We will be discussing the short piece on gardens by Francesca, postponed from July. There will be time to consider a second submission too; so if anyone has something they’ve been working on over the summer on which they’d like the constructive views of their fellow non-fiction writers, do get in touch. The deadline for circulation before the meeting is Friday 19th September, and I’ll be sending Francesca’s piece out again along with any other submissions around then.

STF at EISF 2015
We’ve had a preliminary get-together and much email conversation about our contribution to the Edinburgh International Science Festival, ahead of today’s dealine for a draft proposal. We are building on last year’s theme of general science writing by taking scientific biography as a starting point for a conversation with the audience about the need (or not) to know more about scientists than their scientific achievements. If you are not on STF’s science group emailing list yet but would like to be, let me know and I will include you. The more of us who are involved, the better the event will be.

Other literary gatherings
As you know, the Edinburgh Literary Salon is always the Tuesday after STF meetings – this month that’s Tuesday 30th September 2014, in the Wash Bar between 6pm and closing time.
Earlier in the month, Weegie Wednesday is on Wednesday 17th September 2014, in the CCA on Sauchiehall Street, Glasgow (10 minutes from Queen St station) at 7.30pm.
I’m hoping to be at both of these, but probably won’t make it to the Highland Literary Salon, which this month is on Tuesday 9th September 2014, in the Glen Mhor Hotel, Inverness, at 7.30pm. The Highland event is now in its second year and developing a distinctive character of its own which includes workshop events as well as guest speakers. Perhaps we should have a highland STF outing one of these months.

Future STF meetings
Our remaining get-togethers in 2014 are Thursday 23rd October and Thursday 20th November. Submissions are welcome for feedback at either of them – get in touch with me for more details. We don’t have a formal meeting in December, but usually manage a Christmas gathering in someone’s home.

Best wishes, and as ever good luck with all your non-ficiton writing.

A quick end-of-the-month round up of non-fiction comings and goings.

Stranger Than Fiction May 2014
At our May session yesterday we discussed extracts from James McCarthy’s military memoir, rich story-telling about a forgotten African campaign of the fading British Empire. It prompted discussion about the need (or not) for context, both for non-fiction writing in general and for STF submissions. It can be hard to judge an extract without it; and the issue of how to cover background information without interrupting the narrative is a perennial topic at STF. As readers of extracts we sometimes need to be reassured that the author intends to answer our questions elsewhere in his or her book.

Last night we celebrated our 4th anniversary. Stranger Than Fiction was launched on 19th May 2010 when Gillian Jack, Sharon Whyte, Helen Caldwell and Richard Beatty met in the Meadow Bar on Buccleugh Street. Since then we’ve had 40 meetings, and discussed 30 pieces of non-fiction work in progress from 20 authors, many of them still regulars with the group. Last night we raised a glass to Stranger Than Fiction in our 4th home, the Doric Bar on Market Street. Thanks to everyone who has submitted their work to feedback from their peers over the years, and to everyone who has supported them with positive constructive criticism and analysis. We are all here for each other.

Stranger Than Fiction June and July 2014
We go into our fifth year in great form, with an expanding and articulate membership! The universal view last night was that the Doric Bar will suit our purposes very well, so for the foreseeable future we will carry on meeting there. Our next meeting, upstairs in its wine bar, is on Thursday 19th June 2014; and then again on Thursday 24th July 2014. If you would like some feedback on your current non-fiction project, there is still room in both sessions, so get in touch and book a slot.

Edinburgh Literary Salon
If Stranger Than Fiction isn’t enough to satisfy your gregarious literary self, there’s always the Edinbrugh Literary Salon, a larger gathering from all walks of literary life – illustrators, poets, publishers, novelists, literary consultants, booksellers and even non-fiction authors. The next Salon is next Tuesday 27th May 2014. “Salon” makes it sound very grand, but it isn’t – it’s just a networking evening in a pub, 6-11pm in the Wash Bar on the Mound. I’ll be there from around 7pm, and hope to run into some fellow STFers. There are similar monthly events in Glasgow (Weegie Wednesday) and Inverness (the Highland Literary Salon). The Edinburgh Salon starts with short keynote speeches at around 6.30pm, and there is vague talk of a non-fiction themed evening in the future. If anyone has any suggestions of what form that might take, get in touch.

See you next week or next month; and as ever, good luck with all your non-fiction writing.

Best wishes,
Colin

The sun is shining and Stranger Than Fiction has a new home! It’s become clear over the last few months that we’ve outgrown our corner of the Jolly Judge. A few noble souls sacrificed an evening a couple of weeks ago to undertake extensive research. Strangely enough we decided that the pub we ended up in last thing at night was the most wonderful place in the whole damn world (hic) and everyone in it our best friends ever (“Ah luv ye, man, ah rilly mean it”).

Stranger Than Fiction May 2014
Our monthly meeting is next week, at 7pm on Thursday 22nd May 2014 (don’t forget to vote!), in … The Doric Bar. If you’ve never been, the Doric is on Market Street, the road which runs alongside Waverley Station. Here’s a Google Maps link. It serves food, has a good range of beers and other stuff, and is open late; and we’ve reserved a private area upstairs to the left of the bistro. Do please come along this month and let me know if it’s fit for purpose.

We have a submission from James McCarthy this month. He writes that he offers up “a couple of chapters of a military memoir (‘A Short Call to Arms’) which has been gathering dust, for criticism. I will not be in the least offended if this rather simple writing – as appropriate to its subject – is not considered suitable for a literary group – but let me know.” The chapters have been circulated to everyone on our mailing list. I hope you have time to read them over the next eight days and can come to the Doric to give James the feedback he is looking for.

Stranger Than Fiction June and July 2014
Planning ahead, our meetings for the rest of the summer are Thursday 19th June 2014 and Thursday 24th July 2014, probably at the Doric (assuming it passes muster next week). If anyone would like feedback on a current non-fiction project, there is room at both the June and the July sessions. Why not pick one and go for it?!

We don’t have a formal meeting in August because there’s too much going on elsewhere to distract us. But we usually manage a social evening on or near Thursday 21st August 2014, often connected to an event at the Edinburgh International Book Festival. Normal service resumes in September. I can’t believe I’m thinking about September already.

I hope you can make it to the Doric next week. It’s an exciting time for Stranger Than Fiction, expanding in numbers and making our first public appearance earlier this year at the Edinburgh International Science Festival. Be part of it!

As ever, good luck with all your non-fiction writing. Best wishes,
Colin

Fresh from our triumph at the Edinburgh International Science Festival, here’s news of Stranger Than Fiction‘s forthcoming plans. I heard someone complaining the other day about British people using the phrase “do the math”. It struck me that “feel the love” falls into the same category. Nevertheless …

Feelin’ the love
Last night’s meeting was a look back at many of the pieces we’ve discussed over the past three and a half years at Stranger Than Fiction. We had reports from members who submitted as far back as 2010, and as recently as last month. It was great to get a sense of the life of the projects, beyond the simple snapshot that we had of them first time around. Many are now in print; most are still very much alive and kicking. Some have undergone significant changes, one even turning from NON-fiction to, well, y’know, that other stuff. But all seem to have benefited from the feedback from fellow non-fiction writers at Stranger Than Fiction, so on everyone’s behalf, thank-you. It doesn’t do to look back all the time, even if your non-fiction is historical; but last night there seemed to me to be a bit of a warm glow about revisiting so many submissions. Look what we did! We’ve covered a lot of ground, read a lot of topics, helped each other a lot. Feel the love.

Doin’ the math
Our first meeting was in May 2010, in the Meadow Bar. Last night is the third time in recent months that there were really too many STFers to squeeze into that end of the Jolly Judge. I think it may be time to accept that we are all grown up and need to find a new larger home. With that in mind, I propose a working party, to convene in the near future for a fact-finding research-driven field-trip of possible locations. You may call this a pub-crawl: I couldn’t possibly comment. I propose that interested members meet at 8pm next Thursday 1st May 2014 in the Ensign Ewart pub (just up the Royal Mile from the Jolly Judge), which was suggested last night as a likely venue. PLease let me know if you would like to join this working party!

Other suggestions for pubs are very welcome. The Wash Bar on the Mound has been mentioned, and Thompsons on Morrison Street, both of which already have literary leanings. The Links Hotel in Bruntsfield is a bit of a sports bar but does actually have a quiet library-themed area! Would people prefer a separate function room, or just a bar with a more accommodating corner? Let me know what you think – it would be good if the working party could conclude its findings in time for the next STF meeting …

Stranger Than Fiction May 2014
Working parties aside, our next regular meeting will be on Thursday 22nd May 2014 (same day as the European elections). Venue, of course, tbc! As things stand, we will have submissions from two members, both writing memoirs but in two very different fields. I’ll get those circulated on or before Friday 16th May so we all have time to consider them before the meeting. I hope you can come along and give them both the benefit of your wisdom and support.

Stranger Than Fiction June & July 2014
If you’d like to submit an extract from your current project for feedback from your fellow non-fiction writers, why not put something up for our June or July meetings? Their dates are Thursday 19th June 2014 and Thursday 24th July 2014. Get in touch if you’d like to know more about the process. Normally it’s a good idea to have come along to someone else’s feedback session first, so you know what to expect.

Stranger Than Fiction at the Edinburgh International Science Festival
Thanks to those who took part in or came along to our Science Festival event, “Who Should Write About Science?” It was a lively 90-minute conversation about the demands on non-fiction writers of science who are catering for a general readership. There were challenging contributions from the floor at Q&A, and a surprisingly loud round of applause at the end. Discussions are already underway about next year’s festival; and it seems to me that the format would work well for other subject areas and other festivals, not just science. History is an obvious example.

That’s all for now! I hope to see you on the working party next Thursday, and at our May meeting. I’ll also be at the Edinburgh Literary Salon next Tuesday 27th April 2014 (from 6pm in the Wash Bar), and at Weegie Wednesday in the CCA, Sauchiehall Street, Glasgow (date tbc, probably Wednesday 21st May 2014). If you’re not familiar with those events, they are informal networking evenings for anyone involved in publishing, from writers to agents to illustrators to booksellers. You may call this an evening in a pub with colleagues: I couldn’t possibly comment.

As ever, best of luck with all your non-fiction writing.
regards,
Colin

News of last week’s meeting, next month’s rather different one, and the Science Festival in between.

Stranger Than Fiction March 2014
Very much by accident rather than design we had a really interesting double bill last week, two strong pieces illustrating the power of words to heal and to tell truths, in poetry and in therapy. Thanks to Sarah and to Simon for showing us their work, and to everyone who managed to get along to give them constructive feedback. Thanks to Vin for stepping up to chair proceedings when I knew I was going to be arriving late from a book launch.

Stranger Than Fiction April 2014
We meet next on Thursday 24th April 2014, at the usual time in the usual venue – 7pm, the Jolly Judge Bar. At Vin’s suggestion, and following the successful open discussion about science writing which we had in January, we’re going to take another break from feeding back on members’ work. Instead we’d like to hear from anyone who has had feedback at STF in the past. Where is your project now? In print? In a box in the attic? In the bin? Our supportive comments are always appreciated at the time, and the pieces we discuss invariably interesting – it would be nice to know what happens to them afterwards. (I’m not thinking of a great long report on everything, just a quick update on progress, changes in the light of useful STF feedback, new problems thrown up, old problems solved.)

… and beyond …
We have already been offered some pieces for comment at the May meeting (Thursday 22nd May 2014) – again an accidental double bill, memoirs of two very different lives. It’s surprising really that we haven’t had more memoir to consider over the years – but we haven’t, so this should be an interesting chance to discuss approaches to the genre. Planning ahead, and in case you want to get some constructive and supportive comment on your own work, we are also meeting on Thursday 19th June 2014 and Thursday 24th July 2014. We take a break in August, although we usually meet socially one evening during the Book Festival.

STF at the Edinburgh International Science Festival
Stranger Than Fiction‘s public debut is only three weeks away now. As already announced, we are hosting a discussion about science writing at the EISF this year, appropriately in the Summerhall Anatomy Lecture Theatre. The event, “Who Should Write about Science?”, is at 5.30pm on Tuesday 15th April 2014. The panel consists of:

  • Sean Martin, whose proposal for his current project A History of Disease we discussed at STF a few months ago
  • James McCarthy, whose piece on botanical fieldwork you may remember from STF in January
  • Barbara Melville, writer in residence at the MRC Centre for Regenerative Medicine
  • Mhairi Stewart, a molecular parasitologist and expert in public engagement with science.

For my sins I’ll be in the chair trying to keep track of the conversation. I hope you can come along, enjoy the debate and join in the Q&A session at the end.

Other literary gatherings
The monthly Edinburgh Literary Salon is on Tuesday 25th March 2014, from 6pm onwards in the Wash Bar on the Mound. I’ll be there all evening from 7pm and hope to see other STFers in the course of the night.
The next Weegie Wednesday is on Wednesday 23rd April 2014 (the day before the next STF) at 7.30pm in the CCA on Sauchiehall Street. Having spent months encouraging STFers to go, I missed last month’s when Vin at last made the trek westwards. I hear it was good!
If you find yourself in the north tomorrow and unable to go to the Edinburgh Salon, you could always catch the Highland Literary Salon instead – now entering its second year. It meets at the Glen Mhor Hotel, Inverness at 7.30pm usually on the third Tuesday of the month. April’s is on Tuesday 15th April 2014. But of course you’ll be in Edinburgh at the the STF SciFest event that day …

Hope to see you at one or other of these events As ever, good luck with all your non-fiction writing.
Colin

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