Much to celebrate and inform this month – Edinburgh Literary Salon, Weegie Wedneday, our own next meeting, and news of helpful articles coming soon to our website.

Edinburgh Literary Salon February 2015
It was lovely to see so many non-fiction writers old and new at the Edinburgh Literary Salon last night. My apologies for not getting around to chatting with everyone. Non-fiction writers are now being routinely directed to Stranger Than Fiction, a measure of the useful role we have established in Edinburgh literary society since our formation in May 2000.

Weegie Wednesday Invitation
It’s really nice to see non-fiction being acknowledged as a significant sphere of writing; it’s not all poetry and Young Adult! I’ve even been invited to address Weegie Wednesday, Glasgow’s answer to the Salon, on the subject of Stranger Than Fiction. It will be a pleasure and an honour to promote not only non-fiction in general but the role of Stranger Than Fiction in making it an almost respectable avenue for a writer! The talk is going to be in the autumn, and it would be good to see some friendly STF faces there. If you haven’t been to Weegies yet, it’s well worth the train fare. The next one is Wednesday 18th March, 7.30pm in the CCA Terrace Bar off Sauchiehall Street.

Stranger Than Fiction March 2015
The next Stranger Than Fiction meeting is at 7.30pm on Thursday 26th March, in our new regular home upstairs at the Wash Bar on the Mound. One or two STFers have expressed an interest in submitting some work for feedback this month. I hope to circulate these a week earlier, around Friday 20th March, to give us all a chance to read and consider them ahead of discussing them at the meeting. If you want to put something up for discussion, either this month or at a future meeting, get in touch for details of when and how much and how it all works – we generally encourage writers to attend a feedback session for someone else’s work before submitting their own for constructive comment.

Keeping your work safe
STFer Keith Houston has generously written a series of articles about keeping your work safe with reference to storage, security and so on, prompted by my two disastrous laptop crashes in recent months! I will be posting these online over the next few weeks here on the Stranger Than Fiction website. Essential reading for us all. Thanks, Keith.

Future dates
If you would like to submit a piece of your current project for feedback, but feel this month is a deadline too soon, our meetings for the rest of Spring 2015 are as follow: Thursday 23rd April, Thursday 21st May, and Thursday 25th June (technically Summer, I think!). All at 7.30pm in the Wash, with circulation deadline for submissions a week earlier in each case. As a rough guide, a submission might consist of one or two reasonably well drafted chapters depending on word count, or a fully prepared proposal. It is probably work in progress for which you want the views of fellow non-fiction authors: not finished work, but work well underway rather than very early jottings. I always say this but it’s true – everyone who has ever submitted a piece for feedback from Stranger Than Fiction has found the process entirely constructive and helpful.

Hope to see you in March. As always, best wishes with all your non-fiction writing.

January 2015 meeting
What a great start to the year! Stranger Than Fiction’s January meeting was a four-table job, with a large turn-out of regulars, rarely-seens and new faces. We kicked off with a round-up of current projects and aspirations. A recurring theme was the problem of finding time for writing when daily routine or unexpected crises squeeze writing out. It was comforting to know I’m not the only one for whom Life gets in the way. Whether it’s computer failure or the school run, it can be hard to make time for non-fic; and maybe that’s something we could compare solutions to at a future meeting.
Jim gave us a timely warning of the potentially expensive risks of giving your work to rogue vanity publishers. He directed us to Writer Beware, a website naming and shaming the worst offenders. It covers both British rogues and American ones (who often pass themselves off as British). This morning Guthrie has followed up on Jim’s advice:”The other place I would suggest is the forum, Absolute Write: Absolute Write Water Cooler – Powered by vBulletin, especially this part of it: Bewares, Recommendations & Background Check – Absolute Write Water Cooler. It has,” he adds, “a long history and works well enough that the dodgy pay-us-to-publish-your-work folk keep campaigning against it. You don’t even need to post or anything, just browse it for names, ideas, etc.”
The formal part of the evening concluded with a thought-provoking discussion led by Vin about the value of speaking engagements in boosting sales of your book, and generally promoting your non-fiction ideas. As a former TV producer, Vin always brings useful alternative ideas – books are not the only means of communication open to non-fiction writers.
Thanks to everyone who came and joined in the conversation.
February 2015 meeting
Our next meeting is at 7.30pm on Thursday 19th February. We had a restless year last year, meeting in three different venues; but the consensus is that our current home, upstairs at the Wash Bar on the Mound, is working very well in enabling conversation in a relaxed environment. In other words, we can see and hear each other speak without competing with piped music. I hope you can come along. After last month’s meeting, it feels as if Stranger Than Fiction is in robust good health, with bright discussion and a growing membership which continues to include non-fiction authors at every stage of a writing career.
If you are working on something at the moment on which you would like some constructive feedback from your fellow non-fiction writers, get in touch. Distribution deadline for this meeting, to give everyone time to read submissions ahead of the session, is Friday 13th February. (Lucky for some!)
Other literary gatherings
If you can’t wait for the next STF session, the monthly Edinburgh Literary Salon is on the last Tuesday of the month, from 6pm to late in the Wash Bar. The next Weegie Wednesday (the Glasgow equivalent) is on Wednesday 18th February from 7.30pm in the CCA on Sauchiehall Street. Both are useful literary drop-in networking evenings, with keynote speeches early in proceedings. Both are well worth going to: you never know who you’ll meet who might be useful to your non-fiction writing. There are usually some fellow STFers at the Edinburgh event, and often one or two who stray over to Glasgow too.

STF success
It’s worth noting that STF authors are riding high at the moment, with three Edinburgh book launches in the past couple of weeks: James McCarthy’s The Diplomat of Kashgar; Sue Lieberman’s After Genocide: How Ordinary Jews Face the Holocaust; and Susan Tomes’ Sleeping In Temples. Furthermore Keith Houston’s latest, The Book, is on its way to the presses and his last, Shady Characters, is now out in paperback. My own most recent book Science Is Beautiful, is just out in its US edition. I think we should be very proud of the work we’re doing as a group.
I hope you can join us somewhere in the next month, particularly at Stranger Than Fiction‘s February meeting. Very best wishes for all your non-fiction writing.
Convenor, Stranger Than Fiction

Happy New Year!
May you stick to all your resolutions, especially if they involve writing. I’ve been transcribing a 30-year correspondence over Christmas, and besides thinking there’s a novel in the story behind the letters it makes me want to write better letters myself – these are so beautifully written, 1957-1989, they are inspiring. (I start every year wanting to write more letters, and usually fizzle out around the middle of January!).

STF January 2015
Anyway, I digress – the first Stranger Than Fiction meeting of 2015 will be on Thursday 22nd January, at 7.30pm upstairs in the Wash Bar on the Mound. One or two people have suggested they might have something of their current project to put up for discussion – please get in touch again if you are more certain that you will! I’ll aim to get any submissions circulated on or before the 16th January, to give us all time to read them before we meet.

Links of Interest
I’ve had my attention drawn to a few articles about writing which might be of particular interest to non-fiction writers:

Science Festival
If you’d like to be involved in any way in planning or delivering our contribution to the Edinburgh International Science Festival in April this year, let me know and I’ll pass you on to Dr Mhairi Stewart who is coordinating it all. Our theme this year is scientific biography – does the life story of a scientist matter or is it just their science that counts? You don’t have to be a science writer or a scientist to make a useful contribution to this event, as I hope I proved last year!

Taking care of your work
After my near-disastrous laptop crash last month, which cost me a lot of money to repair and a lot of time in lost momentum for my current project, and which nearly lost me ALL my recent copy, help is at hand! STFer Keith Houston is very kindly drawing up a series of articles and tips on how to keep your work safe, which we’ll be putting up in a series of posts on the STF website, www.edinburghnonfic.wordpress.com. If you don’t already subscribe to the website it will be worth doing so just to get notice of these articles as they appear. (But you don’t need to be a subscriber to see the website.)

If you haven’t been along to a Stranger Than Fiction session before, why not make that one of your resolutions? It’s friendly and informal, helpful and supportive. Hope to see you later this month, first timer or old timer. And as always, good luck with all your non-fiction writing.

Best wishes for 2015,
Colin Salter

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,

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.
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.

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,


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 314 other followers