Tag Archives: Christmas

The Unsung Letter No. 47

This week, Jonatha Kottler asks a very interesting question:

So, when I was given the opportunity to write for this project, I decided to ask myself the question, “If I could go back in time and give my younger self one book, what would it be?” It was a brain puzzle that gave me a few flashes into my past – would fourteen-year-old me have benefitted from reading The Yellow Wallpaper or would it have been too far over my head? Would The Handmaid’s Tale have had any more impact on me if I had read it earlier?

Read more here.

Sign up for The Unsung Letter here (why haven’t you already? Book essays weekly, charm and discovery – take a risk, you can easily unsubscribe if you change your mind)

Earlier in the week The Unsung Letter’s Christmas Showcase went out. It may have been too overstuffed, as Tinyletter seems to have struggled with this one. However! You can read it all here.




Another reminder if you are looking for some kind of stocking stuffer, The Goldblum Variation is available for £5 here. It’s also on Goodreads, so you can check out readers reviews here.

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The Unsung Christmas Showcase

Just in time to help with any festive gift-giving, here’s a bumper Unsung Letter, highlighting the contributors of this year, and letting you know what they’ve been up to since their letters were published. The spirit of the letter itself is to highlight living writers with books you can read, so in the showcase you’ll find handy links to works and stories, along with plenty of seasonal gifs to make you feel cosy (even if outside it’s dismal. Or sunny)


Read the whole thing here (bring a warm beverage, it’s a long one)

Or sign up here for The Unsung Letter, a weekly missive on an underpraised book by a living author, written by a writer/book lover each time.

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Overwinternight on Barrelhouse

I wrote a story to a prompt for Barrelhouse’s special Christmas edition, for once not a grim or macabre telling of any sort:


 Christmas Eve finds you sitting alone in an emergency bothy on the side of the mountain in the Scottish Highlands, soaked to your underwear, poking at damp logs and trying to get a fire to catch. It’s taken you all day to get here, though it was not at first a strenuous journey. This is a families-and-their-dogs type of summit, busy most holidays and weekends in good weather. The hut is only provided on the off-chance of bad weather and foolishness, which there are plenty of in this instance.

Read more…


Also, over on Necessary Fiction, I and many others talked about favourite books of the year. Need some reading ideas? Have a look!

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Update – Where to get On the Edges of Vision

Queen’s Ferry Press, who published On the Edges of Vision, are refitting their website, so if you’d like a copy of the book (perhaps a good Christmas gift for the short fiction and macabre loving person in your life), and you’re inclined to support non-Amazon places, you can buy it from some booksellers who were kind enough to host me!

In the US, try:

Avid Books


WORD books



(all places I read on my book tour!)


OR if in the UK try:



Golden Hare Books (an Edinburgh favourite)


Know of any booksellers outside of the US and UK selling On the Edges of Vision? Let me know and I’ll put links in here.

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Christmas 2014

as close as we get to snow


To those who celebrate – Merry Christmas for tomorrow. Here’s hoping it’s a peaceful one, an easeful one, peeking at the edges with tinsel and maybe, if you are one of the lucky ones, a sweep of thick snow. I’ll leave you with this poem I found that I think fits the harshness of the year in its gentle hands:


Christmas Night

Let midnight gather up the wind
and the cry of tires on bitter snow.
Let midnight call the cold dogs home,
sleet in their fur—last one can blow


the streetlights out. If children sleep
after the day’s unfoldings, the wheel
of gifts and griefs, may their breathing
ease the strange hollowness we feel.


Let midnight draw whoever’s left
to the grate where a burnt-out log unrolls
low mutterings of smoke until
a small fire wakes in its crib of coals.


– Conrad Hilberry

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Pale sky, Christmas Eve

It is, outside, finally light. Little tufty clouds speed by in the high winds. The sky is a pale blue like the sky over a spring north sea – though that of course is a few miles away, in the opposite direction from that which my window is facing.

So now it’s a better time to post than yesterday. Almost as if I can feel the hemisphere turning towards the sun, the days lengthening, though how could I feel a day or two’s difference? Still, it seems to me like I can. My fingers respond more smoothly. Words like faint clouds, banding, breaking, but flowing fast.

In the darkness of yesterday, I still managed to begin the rewrite of the beginning of the new novel project. And I think it’s important to see when we have achieved something right down at the bottom of a pit made of days – tapping out 600 words or so is a feat, I’m telling myself, when I could barely manage to stay awake the whole day. That’s how we stay writers, when we write through the hard days. It doesn’t mean that we always must succeed in writing something brilliant, affecting, clever, devastating. Just to seed a few words when it hurts even to face the idea. Just to grasp the faith that we have it in us to try. One way how to be human is to make art when everything – including us – is against us.

Now it’s Christmas Eve and bright. And I will get to writing in a little bit, hopefully driven. Tomorrow will come in gold and green and red and singing. I hope for those of you who celebrate it. I hope for those of you who don’t, it will be a good writing day, good reading day. Good for baking, woodwork, threading beads – whatever art you make. And if it’s not a good day, let it be a day of your endurance. With mulled wine at the end of it, if that is what you’d like.


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Dark comes down


I’ve been back now a while from the shimmering cold of the Rockies. And now, here, we are stepping gingerly towards Christmas. But the chance of a snowy feast day seems slender. Outside right now the bare rowan and beech trees in the communal back green are a sharp crossing place of brown and black branch, with no snow, no dusting or freezing, sealing in or making more beautiful. There is no mysteriousness. Only the wind and the rain subsiding a little after days of howling and lashing. Only the wet slates and the tenements tholing the thinness of the day.

I went searching for a wintry poem, but all of them seemed built for a winter with snow. With something calming and sweet in the goosedown of white. So, instead, I found this slightly solemn verse:

I find one stark scene
cut by evening cries, by warring air.
The muffled hiss of blades escapes into breath,
hangs with it a moment, fades off.
Fades off, goes, the scene, the voices fade,
the line of trees, the woods that fall, decay
and break, the dark comes down, the shouts
run off into it and disappear.
At last the lamps go too, when fog
drives monstrous down the dual carriageway
out to the west, and even in my room
and on this paper I do not know
about that grey dead pane
of ice that sees nothing and that nothing sees.

– from ‘Winter’ by Edwin Morgan

A Scottish poet finds what it is about Scottish winters in the south of the country at least that makes them their own particularity. Fog, cold, rawness, a sense of light leaking away, of voices muffled by damp and the dark, oh the dark, the spirit of the winter. Not the brilliance of Rocky mountain snow, for all its harshness, bringing something consoling with it. None of that.

That’s not to be gloomy. It’s just that here, it’s hard to fling yourself out of doors. Even when there is snow, it’s usually here only briefly. A wonder of small wet petals as it falls. So we take our smaller spaces, and we lean into the wind and rain, holding out coats tight. Inside we look out on nothing comforting, and must find cheer in a little clementine, held up against the grey. In a warm drink and familiar songs on the speakers.

Last night I stayed up writing poems about fortune for my first long collection. All my poems are winter-dark poems, small, foggy, raw. Some lines I dreamed of falling asleep, and they’ve gone too like breath after speaking, white then nothing at all. Today I’ll work on The Library of Endings, starting it over from scratch. It too is a winter book, slipped into a place where summer is a squib and hail common in June (it hailed here too in May, so it’s not that fantastical).

I’ll write of a consoling, snowy winter and harsh narrow lives within it, I’ll live the real Scottish winter, going out into the rain.

Christmas doesn’t always look like the Christmas cards. but even so, we’ll have its warmth. And maybe a robin outside, flitting back in the labyrinth of twigs, a tiny smudge, that size of luminescence like a throbbing heart.

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