Dear STFers,

It’s high summer, as you can tell from the drizzle. I’m off to see an open air Shakespeare tonight, picnic in hand, so of course it will rain.

STF August 2016 social outing

There’s no formal meeting of Stranger Than Fiction in August. But if you’re missing your non-fic fix, and you’re on our mailing list, you’ll laready have had notice of our get-together next Thursday 25th August 2016, for a drink and a catch-up. Hope you can make it.

STF September 2016

We get back into our normal routine on Thursday 22nd September 2016, with a regular meeting at 7.30pm upstairs at the Wash Bar on the Mound. We’ll be discussing a sample chapter from one of our number, and we’ll also be entertained by an extract from our sell-out performance back in April at the Edinburgh International Science Festival 2016 – of which more nearer the time. I will be in the chair for September, before handing over to STF co-founder Gillian Jack for the next three months.

Contributing (not financially!) to STF

Stranger Than Fiction exists for non-fiction authors to get peer feedback on their current projects. If you would like peer feedback on yours, the next two opportunities are at our meetings on Thursday 20th October 2016 and Thursday 24th November 2016. Get in touch via edinburghnonfic@gmail.com for more information, and the chair will guide you through the process. Why not commit yourself to a date and get writing? (December is another social month, so the next opportunities after those will be in 2017.)

As you may know, we’ve been working with a rotating chair, occupied by a different STFer every month. It has been argued that this creates problems of longterm continuity and overview, so we are experimenting wth a three-monthly tour of duty for each chairperson. I’ve in the hotseat July-September, and Gillian October-December. STF THEREFORE NEEDS someone to step up and take the January-March and April-June slots. It’s not an onerous job, and there is technical support for the sending of email newsletters like this one. Please consider having a go!

That’s all

Do think about submitting an extract for discussion this autumn; and about having a go at occupying the chair at meetings next year. But above all, I hope to see you next week at our social, and next month in the Wash Bar. And, as always, good luck with all your non-fiction writing.

Best wishes,


Hello all you STFers,

Reminding everyone that we will be meeting at The Wash Bar, The Mound, Edinburgh, from 7.30 on Thursday 26 May.

As usual, we are inviting you to submit something that you are working on for friendly comment. There aren’t any rules about what to submit, except that shorter rather than longer usually works best, and it could be an early draft or a pretty advanced one. We all learn from the discussions. If you haven’t submitted before, why not give it a go? Go on, why not? Gwaun, gwaun.

If you’re on our mailing list, get in touch about submitting. I’ll send any submissions round a week or so before we meet. If you want to discuss suitability, I’m game for it, and you can supply your own wee intro.

Jim McCarthy has said he will read a piece of his (he doesn’t want to submit it) by way of light entertainment, only if the conversation is flagging. Apparently it’s an account of a juvenile adventure of his, so it isn’t fiction, oh no.

It’s me sending this because we operate a rotating chair (that’s ambiguous,isn’t it?). So, obvs, we’re looking for someone to chair the June meeting. Thanks to Alex’s brilliant online tutorial, using mailchimp is dead easy. We’ll take offers now or at the meeting.

And finally – I wish I could upload a photo (how do you do that, Alex?) of an ad for a writing school that I snapped last week in Berlin The core message is in three words: Shreib! Dein! Buch! It seemed so easy, in Berlin!

Best wishes

Tim Bell

Hi Everyone,

It’s STF time again and a reminder that the next meeting is Thursday 21st of April at the usual time and place 7:30pm at the Wash Bar on The Mound. 

Cover Design Talk

We’ve got a treat coming up in this month, and a break from the norm, as designer and illustrator Mark Mechan has agreed to come and talk to us about his design process for book covers. You can find his website, with some of the images he’ll be taling about, here: http://redaxedesign.jimdo.com/books/

Any other (short) submissions?

Mark has said his talk will cover about half an hour, which I’m sure we will lengthen with copious questions and discussion.

However, this may leave a bit more time so if anyone has a short submission which they’d like discussed, please send it to me asap and I’ll distribute it to the group. I’m aware I’ve left it a bit late for such an announcement, and it’s not the end of the world if we don’t have another item, but if you’ve been sitting on a piece which you’d previously thought was too short for a regular submission – now’s your chance! 

Other Agenda Items

Stranger Than Fiction: The Panel Game

Well, the big agenda item this month was our sell-out show at the Edinburgh International Science Festival, “Stranger Than Fiction: The Panel Game”. That’s right, it sold out! The show went very well and we had some great interaction with the audience. There’s even been talk that we might want to re-spin the format for other festivals, now that we know that the format works. In case you’re wondering, the whole thing with STV didn’t happen in the end, but on reflection we all agreed that this was probably a good thing.

Mailchimp Emails and Submission Security

If you’re on the mailing list you may have noticed that the format of our email newsletters seem a little different from usual. This is because I’ve written it using Mailchimp. Following our discussions about security of submissions at last month’s meeting, we have decided to give this a try and see if it works for us.

With Mailchimp, the rotating chair will receive the login details for the Mailchimp account and a link to an unlisted YouTube video where I explain how to send the emails and submissions (it’s really easy to use but I know it can be helpful to have a brief, visual explanation of how to use new software). From a “submission security” perspective, this will help us in three ways. Firstly, the submissions will be downloadable through a link and the files themselves will be deleted by the rotating chair when they send out the meeting minutes. This means that nobody on the list will retain a copy indefinitely without having downloaded the file, which was raised as a general concern during the last meeting. Secondly, it will give us a better idea of how many people are actually downloading the files. Finally, using Mailchimp will hopefully reduce the potential for spam sent to mailing list members.

Right, that’s more than enough waffle from me.

See you next week, and please let me know if you have a suitably short submission so I can send it out asap.

Alex Owen-Hill (April 2016 chair)

Herewith a report on last Thursday’s meeting in the Wash Bar.

I was the one-off convener for February in the new rotation system. Thirteen STF-ers were present, including two new members, Lesley and Chris. There were four apologies. Two included comments on the piece that had been submitted, for which Simon and I are grateful.

The piece was the introduction to Simon’s book on “strong language”, which prompted some lively discussion, on matters as varied as the potential market for the book, its interesting cross-disciplinary nature, the book’s structure, and (an old favourite !) footnoting. Hopefully it all provided Simon with some useful pointers as he develops his work further. For anyone who feels nervous about submitting, the balance between encouragement and critique was, as ever, well judged.

We also had some helpful feedback from Vin on a recent Society of Authors meeting, at which Creative Scotland had made a presentation (the slides from this even are attached). Vin noted the speaker, Aly Barr, did not say much about non-fiction, and was somewhat dismissive of the genre in Q&A. There followed a lively debate amongst the STF-ers present on the meaning of “creative”, and whether the way it is used by the likes of Creative Scotland can be applied to non-fiction writing – I think it is fair to say the jury remained out on that one ! More seriously, Vin pointed us at the Creative Scotland funding programmes, notably ‘Open Project Funding’, which might be an avenue STF could explore at some later date, as part of a wider consideration of our future development.

Colin also updated us on the plans for the STF panel game at EISF on 2 April, which are proceeding apace. The final rehearsal will be at Colin’s flat on 17 March, at 7.30pm, as he explained, “to run through most or all of the show to check for bugs – small audience required, so please bring a partner or friend !” If you’d like to attend, let Colin know directly. And of course, if you want to come on the big night, book now with EISF .

Finally the next STF meeting will be on Thursday March 24 at the usual place and time – 7.30pm upstairs in the Wash Bar on The Mound. Anne will be convening, and she’ll be in touch in due course with more details of the evening. We also have Alex in place as a convenor for April, so thanks to both for stepping up to the mark !

Best wishes


Hi everyone – I am now picking up from Simon as our second “rotating convenor”. Many thanks to him for an excellent meeting last month !

Our next STF gathering is on Thursday 18 February, at the usual time and place – 7.30 pm in the Wash Bar on The Mound. Give it a try if you haven’t been for a while, we’re a very friendly and welcoming group.

If you have a piece of writing on which you would like some group feedback, please send it to me, ideally by 11 February (sorry, it’s all a bit early this month !), and I will pass it round. Guidelines, on length at least, seem to have loosened a little over the past year – a notional upper limit might be 10,000 words, one chapter or two short ones ; no lower limit, though less than a page might not give enough to talk about. Submissions should be something you’ve worked on – not first jottings – but not a fully polished final draft. If you’re new, do come to an event to see how the feedback sessions work before submitting.

Alternatively, if anyone has any current writing “issues” they’d like to raise with the group, or ideas for group activities, do let me know and I can add it to the agenda. I know Vin has a topic he’d like to raise, following a recent Society of Authors event.

In other booky news, Tim Bell, a long-standing STF member who presented drafts from his new book on Trainspotting last November, is giving a talk on the same topic at Edinburgh Central Library on 17 February – see here for more info and booking.

Meanwhile, east of Harthill, Glasgow’s book festival AyeWrite is looming, 10-20 March. Tickets are now on sale – for full details, see their website. There is quite a variety of topics being discussed, and I notice Sue Reid-Sexton, a good friend of STF and a leading light in ‘Weegie Wednesday’, has an event on 15 March. I can also think of someone who might be interested in an event on 13 March entitled ‘Ronnie – a dog owner’s guide to fulfillment’ !?!

Having done a very rough and unscientific analysis of all the AyeWrite events, around 58% appear to be non-fiction, in its widest sense, 87 out of 154 events – perhaps an encouraging sign ! However, almost all of the workshop-type events for writers are clearly aimed at fictionalists.

Staying in the West, the next ‘Weegie Wednesday’ gathering is 10 February – see their website for more background.

More longer-term dates for your diary – the Edinburgh Book Festival will run 13-29 August. The programme will be launch on 9 June, and tickets will go on sale on 21 June.

Looking forward to more productive STF-ing…

Best wishes

Graham Thompson

A report on last night’s meeting; news of not one but two chances to meet other STFers socially; and changes in how we organise our sessions in 2016 (it’s all good).

Stranger Than Fiction November 2015
We finished the season with a lively meeting last night, thanks to Tim’s character summaries, an extract from his guide to Irvine Welsh’s Trainspotting. For new members and old in attendance, and for all of us whether or not we had seen or read Trainspotting, it prompted lots of questions about the book/film and about Tim’s analysis of them. This is what we live for at Stranger Than Fiction!

STFer at Waterstones
To coincide with the release of Stephen Spielberg’s new film, our very own Vin Arthey is launching the new edition of his book The Kremlin’s Geordie Spy at Waterstones George Street at 6.30pm on Monday 30th November. Vin’s book covers the same story and much much more, and predates Spielberg’s lightweight effort by a decade. Do please, if you can, come along and support a fellow STFer. Let Vin know you’re coming via vartheyATgmail.com. There will be wine, readings and an interview with Vin from me! The event will be over by 8pm, leaving those of us who wish time to dash to the Jolly Judge for their excellent Monday evening quiz … (Vin, Richard and I are regulars!)

Christmas party
No meeting in December, but all is not lost. If you’re on our mailing list you have received an invitation to our Christmas get-together on Thursday 17th Dcember 2015. There’s been a call for charades (don’t ALL do Trainspotting) and whether there’s a call for it or not we will be trying out a couple of rounds from our forthcoming event at Edinburgh International Science Festival, Stranger Than Fiction The Panel Game. You’d be mad to miss it, but please let me know if you’re coming to the party, via colin.salterATblueyonder.co.uk.

New year, new conveners
At last night’s meeting I said that after three and a half years at the helm I wanted to play a less active role in running Stranger Than Fiction. I’m delighted to say that Simon has offered to organise January’s meeting, and Graham to take on the task for February. Thanks to both of them, for requiring only moderate arm-twisting to do so. I will be lending backroom support until it becomes perfectly clear that I am redundant. I think the idea of a rotating convenership is a healthy one, bringing different minds to bear on how STF is run and what happens at each meeting. I hope that many STFers will, with the support of each other, want to take a turn at organising one of our meetings over the coming months. Who’s up for March 2016?

Stranger Than Fiction January 2016
You’ll be hearing from Simon in due course about our next regular meeting, which is on Thursday 21st January 2016, as usual at 7.30pm upstairs in the Wash Bar. If you’d like to start the New Year with some constructive feedback on your current project, perhaps as a way of giving it a boost after the doldrums of the festive season, get in touch with either Simon or me for details of how and when. Chapters of between 5000 and 10000 words are welcome, but as we’ve seen from the last couple of meetings, shorter pieces can trigger just as much lively debate. (If January is too soon, the following meeting is on Thursday 18th February 2016 under Graham’s stewardship.)

Thanks to everyone who has attended a Stranger Than Fiction meeting in 2015, and especially to everyone who has submitted a piece of work for discussion: David, Reta, Simon, Fiona, Jonathan, Camilla and Tim (and nearly Alison!). It’s been a good year. Whether or not you’ve been at a meeting, I hope you’ll come and help us round it off at the party in December (RSVP), and that we’ll see you soon in 2016. As always, best wishes for all your non-fiction writing.

PS Don’t forget the Edinburgh Literary Salon on Tuesday 24th November, the last salon of the year. No Santa, but among the speakers is someone from the Society of Authors (of which I spoke last night).

PPS Remember Vin’s book launch on 30th November!

Halloween is upon us, and then the unstoppable descent into tinseltime. News now of November’s Stranger Than Fiction meeting, our involvement in the Edinburgh International Science Festival, and Ch*****as.
STF October 2015
We had a large turn-out for last week’s meeting, and one of the most thoughtful discussions I can remember, triggered by Camilla’s use of interview transcriptions to describe the death of her subject. Thank you, Camilla and all who contributed. Also there was cake, and thank you Camilla again. (If you weren’t there: moist chocolate sponge and lashings of icing. Bet you wish you’d come along now.)
STF November 2015
We next meet on Thursday 19th November 2015, upstairs in the Wash Bar on the Mound at 7.30pm. If you haven’t been to a Stranger Than Fiction meeting yet, this is your last chance in 2015! We already have one submission for feedback, which I’ll circulate a week ahead of the session. But there is, I think, room for one more if you have something that you’d like some constructive criticism about, or that raises interesting questions about writing technique.
STF December 2015
November will be our last formal meeting of the year, but we will be meeting socially in December, as separately announced. Too soon to think about it, I know. Details to follow, but for those who have been invited, let me know if you’re coming so I can start to count the vol-au-vents.

STF at EISF 2016
Our proposal for a panel game based on telling scientific truth from fiction has been accepted by the Edinburgh International Science Festival.
This, next April, will be our third appearance at the festival and departs from our usual low-maintenance format of panel discussion; we will need light, possibly comic material to fit the formats of the game (loosely based on several well-known deception-style panel games). Please help! We also need lively witty panellists. Again, please help!
If you would like to be involved either as panellist or as writer or simply at the planning stage, let me know and I will include you in the separate emails I’ve been sending round about the details of the event.

Other events
The Edinburgh Literary Salon is tomorrow evening, Tuesday 27th October 2015, from 6pm downstairs in the Wash Bar. Highly recommended chance to hobnob/network with fellow writers and other workers in the publishing industry. Free wine and sandwiches if you get there early enough, as I intend to! Hope to see you there.
Weegie Wednesday, at which I spoke about STF and non-fiction earlier this month, next convenes on Wednesday 18th November 2015 at 7.30pm in the CCA bar on Sauchiehall Street in Glasgow. My talk drew several Glasgow nonfic authors out of the woodwork, who may join us on occasion at STF. But Weegies it is a useful networking event and worth making the arduous journey westwards for.
That’s all for now. But do think about getting involved with our Science Festival event, and about coming along to STF in November or at Ch*****as. See you then or tomorrow! And as always, best wishes for all your non-fiction writing.