Far does the time go?

Far does the time go?  Behind us, or in front – depending on fit wye yer lookin. Ah’m nae aywis sure that time is a linear thing. Blink an ye’ll miss nearly five months o yer life.  That’s jist fit happened ti me jist noo. I’m on ma events page updatin it an looked at ma last blog. May.

May 2018 but still awa back yonder. Time is fleein by ma. I’ll come oot the Doric noo, cos spellcheck disna like it….

time fleein

It got me thinking and feeling quite reflective.  There was me banging on about not getting published and now I have a short story published in Northwords Now and a short story and two poems coming out in the FWS New Voices Anthology.

I was awarded Creative Funding to host poetry workshops and a Doric Poetry Slam.  I’ve been commissioned to write spoken word for two short films.  I got a small part in a short film. People keep asking me to do things and long may it continue.  So much has happened in the past few months, I’m living in a creative maelstrom.  It feels fantastic.

I went to Moniack Mhor on a tutored poetry retreat with Jen Hadfield and Billy Letford with the intention of writing some new poems to put towards a first collection.  What a valuable investment that was. I’d forgotten how much I need feedback and in depth discussion of my work. I’ve really missed that since uni. It makes me want to start up a writing collective (SPEAK TO ME if you are interested).

If you ever get the chance, GO. It was an amazing experience.

I came away from that week with some lovely new friends, six new poems and an idea for my second collection.


Yes I know, I’ve not finished the first one yet.  There are drafts of a few more for the second collection already and lots of titles.  I’ve no control over what comes out of my head, it demands to be unleashed whenever it feels like it.

Part of my creative funding is for a retreat to finish a manuscript to send off to publishers.  I’ll be up to my eyes in stacks of paper at a secret location in early November, deciding what goes where or if it makes the cut. I’ll also be asking for advice, so poetry people beware! I’m hoping I’ll have it more or less ready to go out in January.

Exciting times!



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Being a writer is nine tenths rejection…

I need to remember this golden nugget of advice I received from my dissertation tutor. I’ve been drowning under a raft of submission rejections the past few months and that elusive validation of seeing my work in print seems further away than ever.

I ignored all the success I’ve had so far and homed in on the one thing that I’ve not achieved yet and used it as a measuring stick to beat myself with. Then the comparisons to others surface and I am sucked into a spiral of despair where every word I have ever written is rubbish and what I am I doing all this for anyway?


The answer to that question is I am doing this because I LOVE it. My head demands it. Words have poured out of me for as long as I can remember. Some of those words are rubbish, but getting rid of the crap makes room for fresh ideas and new words. I recognised the spiral before it pulled me under, and submitted to another two publications and began working on another two. Pick yourself up and carry on. Stay out of the vortex of self loathing.

I’ve recorded audio to send off as a submission and am beginning to type up my scribbles from NaPoWriMo. It is the first year I have done it. I started off so well, then life happened. I lost a dear, long term friend and I’ve been wandering around feeling heavy-hearted for weeks. I have rough gems that I can polish up and that’s what counts. I’m gently reminded by loved ones that I don’t have to do everything in one day.

I am also chuffed as fuck to announce that I am headlining Speakin Weird on Wednesday 11th July. People of the North East – please come, so that it won’t just be me and a couple of randoms. I know it is the summer (well as close as we get to it) but I’d be affa pleased to see more than three folk there. There will be swearing. Dinna say I didna warn ye.

Before that, I’m doing a wee set at the second Women’s Open Mic at The Cult of Coffee On Monday 14th May. The last one was fabulous and the headliner for this one is the grand master of Speakin Weird – Sparklechops. You don’t want to be missing this one.

In addition to this awesomeness, I’ve been asked to do a couple of sets at the Fringe, on Thursday 9th August, I shall be appearing at Ray Fordyce and Other Spiffing Personages and later on at Max Scratchmann’s Poetry Bordello. Click on the linky treats to take you to the deets.

As I’m typing this, I see how warped my perspective is at times – right now I’m thinking fuckin hell, I’ve got all this amazing stuff coming up. I am doing just fine.


I still want my writing in print.

Peace out people. Love n bosies goin out to y’all fae the jojo corner…

purple heart

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StAnza Slam!

The past couple of weeks have been a whirlwind of performing, writing and listening to amazing poetry. My feet haven’t had a second to touch the ground. I’ve met so many enthusiastic, interesting people and witnessed stellar performances of music, poetry and comedy. In short, I am having a fucking ball.

Propelled by the excitement of performing at an all women’s comedy night, reading at two Granite Noir events and participating in the Loud Poet’s slam final, I charged into March like a woman possessed, foaming at the mooth to do more.

A wee set at another all-female performance event sated my need – and what a night that was! We, of Aberdeen really do have a wealth of hidden talent here and platforms to showcase that are popping up all over the city. How refreshing to be frustrated that I can’t go to everything because there is so much happening. Kudos to the organisers and lang may it ging on!

By the time it came to leave for StAnza Poetry Festival, I was in dire need of an easy day and a chill out. My best pal was coming on Saturday and we’d booked a few things for then, so I had a ‘do as I please’ day.

StAnza pic byre theatre

I’d been threatening to come to StAnza for about three years. My bestie and I would slaver over the programme each year, but work and other commitments barred our way. This year, since I am actually now a poet, there was no way I was missing out. I was not disappointed. My summary tweet of day one says it all. StAnza Twitter post day 1

After having one of the best breakfasts of my life at the St Andrews Waffle Company, I met my friend at the station and we headed to see the wonderful Sara Hirsch followed by an afternoon snooze. William Letford and Liz Lochhead‘s headline sets at The Byre were something else and both poets had the entire place mesmerized for two hours.

waffle breaky

Now for the stomach churning, sweat inducing Stanza Slam! Why did I sign up for this? Why are you doing this to yourself? They’re all going to hate you! My mind whirred around as I tried to sip rather than gulp water – I have made this mistake before – DO NOT drink gallons of water before going on stage.

Once I knew who the other performers were, I was even less sure of why I was there and had branded myself the million-to-one-teuchter-outsider before I’d even spoken a word.

What I love about the poetry community is that most of the people are lovely. We encourage and support one another, going out of our way to tell others when we appreciate their work. I had the multi-talented Max Scratchmann beside me, whose ode to The Broons had me in stitches. I met fellow finalist Gavin Cameron who I had seen perform at Dundee Literary Festival – he was in the same MLitt course a year ahead of me and runs Hotchpotch, a non-judgemental sharing night in Dundee.

All the performers were outstanding. I didn’t think I had a hope in hades of winning. Afterwards, I was convinced I’d wake up in the morning and find out it was all a dream. I really won it.

What an experience.

Here’s my final round performance of ‘My afternoon slumps at work are haunted by an evil spectre’

StAnza participant Geart Tigchelaar kindly filmed this and shared with me on Twitter.

I really need to stop listening to the biscuits….


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February is the busiest month

Cheerio January, you miserable f**kheid.

Living for payday, perpetual darkness and grey gloom. That sums up the first month of the year. Thank the sweet lord we are a good skelp into February and have been gifted a few brighter days. The only good thing about shite weather and being skint is having plenty of time to write. I’ve got a bundle of new poems that I’ve been tentatively rolling out across open mic nights here and there.

Starting a new job has kept me busy and out of trouble. I missed a few submission deadlines that I set last year, but made the one I really want to get published in, so I’m not giving myself a hard time.

For once, I’m taking advice from a friend, who rolled her eyes when I divulged all my plans for writery world dominion. She simply said “Why not just enjoy it for a while?” to which I replied “Eh???” like it was the most bizarre suggestion I’d ever heard. It made me really annoyed at first, because I was in full-on nextnextnext mode and seriously thinking about applying to do a PhD.

However, with hindsight, I see that she may have a point. I’m not running straight on to the next thing. Yes, I now have a third job (I don’t include writing as a job…yet), but it means that I can pare back on the late shifts and it will grant me the financial freedom to go to Poetry festivals and workshops and writing retreats. I need to stop comparing myself to others and focus on my own shit. When I’m able to do that, I can see how far I’ve come in just over a year. I can also let go of not being published in print and stop using others as a measuring stick where I always come off worst.

I am writing. Perhaps not as much as I’d like to be, but I am writing new stuff. I am writing  something most days, or editing. People are asking me to come and do things. I get the odd paid gig here and there. Surely that’s good enough? It is most days, when I let go and allow it to be. I’m slowly accepting that I can’t write everything and do everything all in the same minute.

That is exactly it. Enjoy the journey. Sometimes, I get little signposts from the universe. I’d read new work at an open mic night in January. It was not my usual fare, I’m okay with reading out the funny or angry stuff. Serious subject matter or anything new that makes me feel vulnerable, I struggle. The day afterwards, I got this message from someone who was at the open mic:

Hiya! I saw you at the performance night last night and I just wanted to send you a wee message to say how amazing I think you are. Me and my pal were dying laughing at your poem about cleaning and we haven’t stopped saying hashtag fuck the hoosework to each other since then. You’re a star and even though you were only on the stage for a few minutes your kindness and beauty really shone through. Keep doing what you’re doing because the world is a much better place with people like you in it x

Yes, it made me greet. I read it when I am questioning myself. I make a point of telling other people how much I enjoy their work. Sometimes, we can be the light that brightens a person’s day – no matter how dark the weather gets. Cultivating gratitude is important. I am a part of loads of great things coming up – check out my events page for details. I need to remember to be more like Zen Dog and just enjoy the ride.

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Win some, lose some

I’d been wondering when I’d hear back from an application I’d made for a Scottish Book Trust New Writer’s Award. The website said December. I’d been obsessively checking my emails since the first. I got the email yesterday – nopes. It isn’t my first rejection. I’ve had quite a few. I did, however REALLY want this one, and I think those are always the toughest to process.


Aye. It was that sare.

However, instant sane perspective is not my default setting. It takes me a little time to see the big picture sometimes. I draw on the wise words of my tutor “Being a writer is 9 tenths rejection” and I remember to breathe. I got a DM on Twitter from a lovely lady who got her award on her third application. My tutor was the same. All is well with the world once more.

Keeping on keeping on is the hardest part of being a writer. I’ll consult my schedule and see which deadline is next. I’ve a heap of poems from my bus pass poems project to edit and tinker around with. I’m working on a completely new piece, a short story for a local literary journal. I am having lots of fun performing and traveling around.

Giving myself a hard time will only stop me writing and submitting. I’m a hardy cheal. I’m not giving up that easily. Another great piece of advice I read the other day was “You only get one first collection”. I really took that on board. I was ‘hingin ower masel’ trying to get published in print because I viewed it as some kind of validation.

Don’t get me wrong, it is. Publication is every writer’s dream. But – do you submit something you know is not your best work just to get that fabled bit of print? It is something worth considering. I’ve not applied for the PhD this year. I’m going to spend next year writing and reading as much as I can. I’ll be submitting to journals and online publications but not publishers for a collection – yet. I’ll re-evaluate in the summer and see where I am at then.

I’m having loads of fun in the process, so why not just kick back and enjoy it, instead of putting so much pressure on myself to achieve achieve achieve. Life’s no fun when you are an exhausted robot. It is okay to just play – I need to remember that. On that note, I’ll leave you with the Godlike genius that is Mr Iggy Pop.


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Mare stuff and things…

I was swithering about writing this post, feeling like I’m blahin ma ain trumpet jist a bitty too muckle lately. There’s been hunners gan on, though. I don’t want to fall into the trap of thinking that I’m the greatest thing since the last greatest thing. I’d begun this blog to help me write, but posting work online means that it has little chance of being published. So, what is this blog for?

I like a rant. That is clear to anyone that knows me, but I don’t want to be perpetually angry. I end up being the one carrying the poison around. I’m nae fond of constant moaners. Aberdeen is stappit full of them as it is. I like celebrating things I love far more. So what’s this blog for? Whatever comes out of my crazy head. I’m buzzing at all the good things, so why not share that? I’ve even started an events page, so stalkers can easily find me. Just kidding. If you’re really a stalker, bring cake. The moaners can awa an bile their heids.

neggy vibe

Swiftly moving on, after the whirlwind of graduation, I was launched into another epic week. The Aberdeen English Literature Society invited me to do a headline set at their first poetry slam and be a judge. “Wahaha they think I know things!” I exclaimed to my bestie as I rushed from work, grabbing my set out of the printer on the way and headed to the Blue Lamp. Halfway through my set, I realised in horror that I had only printed half of it. The printer must have run out of paper.


I made a few jokes and (think) I held everyone with me. I definitely received sympathy applause if nothing else. The judging part was fun, but very tough. They were all so good – and the majority of them didn’t have any paper. Far more professional than their, ahem, headliner.

The universe is telling me to let go of the paper.

Nothing gives me the fear like my head going blank onstage. The paper is like a security blanket. It is there if I need it. I actually don’t. I know my work. Well, most of it.

I went to my second poetry slam, the Loud Poets Giggling Gladiators Invitational at The Mash House in Edinburgh last Friday. I was determined to let go of the paper. I didn’t take paper copies with me. I had my phone on me, with the poem ready if I needed it. I must have been doing something right. I won the slam!

Loud jojo

I am still reeling from that. Two slams, two wins. This is madness! But good madness.

The good stuff doesn’t end there. I’m performing a short poetry set out at Inverurie Hospital as part of the Resonate:Disseminate project. It will be at the hospital at 5.50pm but the whole event is from 5pm – 7pm. I’ll have to tone it down. Less swearing, more Doric.

I’m also chuffed to bits that I’ll be reading a piece of flash fiction at Granite Noir on the 24th February 2018 at The Lemon Tree, 11.30am before one of the talks. Go and buy tickets for some of these fabulous events, immediately. I’ll also be doing a pop up reading at the library over the weekend, more details to follow. Keep an eye on my events page, I’m not promising I’ll have the time to blog about everything.

I’m also in talks with local people about starting up my own spoken word night, and running a creative writing workshop. I feel like I am living someone else’s life here, wandering around in a daze, thinking is this really happening? It actually is. I have several photies to prove it. Me, the lassie that ‘doesna di photies’. There are videos too. Let’s not discuss that. I’m only getting used to the photies, and letting go of the paper. That’s quite enough for now. I’ll leave you with a musical ditty that pretty much sums up how I’m feeling at the moment. I’m fair tricket.



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So much writing, so little time

grad hat

My masters graduation is over and I’m feeling a little reflective. Looking at the past year fills me with amazement and gratitude. Brilliant things have happened and keep presenting themselves to me. I keep saying yes. I’ve made a plan of some of the things I’d like to write. I miss the structure of classes and assignment deadlines, so I’ve had to set a few for myself. This is the hard part of being a writer. For me, anyway.

I’m great at generating ideas. I have email inboxes, texts threads to myself and notebooks stuffed to the gunnels with weird and wonderful ideas. Taking one of those ideas and making myself sit down to finish it, well, that’s where I struggle. My work style is chaotic. I bounce from task to task, becoming bored very easily and doing bits of things. My writing practice is the same. I’ll draft a poem, then leave it for a while and edit a short story. Then I’ll start another poem, after scribbling down several more collection ideas.

I wanted to have something that kept me writing. I am beginning to submit work seriously now, and I’m finding that I don’t have enough of a quality that I am happy with to send out. I need a stockpile of varied themes. I decided to start a little project that would mean that I am writing every day, but without the pressure of having to finish (yet). It may become a collection one day.

I purchased my first ever digital bus pass. I’m still amazed by technology. It has a QR code on an app that you scan on the bus. I was rather taken by this leap in progress. Possibly to stop people faking tickets, there is a flashy bit underneath that switches from the current time (how does it know?!) and a random four letter word. The word changes each day. Boom! Light-bulb moment.

lightbulb moment

I could write a poem every day inspired by the word on my bus pass. So, I have been doing exactly that. Most of them so far are rubbish, but I am writing every day. I have a couple of belters that I want to take time to polish up. That’s the whole point. I’m going to do it every day for a year and see what I come up with. The project has a working title of Bus Pass Poems.

I’ve posted a couple here, that are a bit silly and aren’t very good, but you’ll get the idea. Most journals and publishers won’t take anything that has been published previously, including self published on your own website, so you’ll just have to wait until I get an acceptance from one of my (many) submissions. I’m not willing to post anything I might want to refine and send.



Blink blink squint

I feel like a mole

When the lights go on

I emerge from the dark



I used to be a surfy dude

But never on the waves

Sofa surfing year on year

Dodging early graves



The woman carped on

The carp swam in the pond

This poem is crap


I’m working on a number of submissions at the moment and I’ve missed more deadlines than I’ve made. I’m still working with my women’s writing group, which I absolutely adore. I need to finish The Boy’s book as well. So much writing to do, so little time. I’m also considering a PhD.

Yes, I am completely mad. Don’t tell me you didn’t know…

Jo gilbert uni



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