Wednesday, 29 May 2013

Ripping Yarns Bookshop - we need your help

'Ripping Yarns bookshop is a treasure trove.' - Michael Palin.

So, folks, times are tough at the moment. Ripping Yarns, the antiquarian bookshop I work at in north London (and the home of Weird Things Customers Say in Bookshops), has been a bookshop since the 1930s. We specialise in antiquarian children's books but stock all kinds of other fiction, and everything from comics and old newspapers to poetry, plays, art, and much much more. Celia Hewitt, the wife of poet Adrian Mitchell, took over the shop in the 1980s, and next month we'll find out the details for our new lease. Unfortunately, it looks as though we might not be able to stay open, which would be very sad indeed.

So, if you're in London, or will be visiting the city soon, do come and say hello. We're just opposite Highgate tube station, and opening times are on our website. If you're further afield and you'd like a present for your friend or yourself, you can find some of our stock online over here. We're happy to post to anywhere in the world. You can also email us about any books you might be looking for and we'll have a hunt for you. We've got a lot of stock off site, so if you're planning to visit us for something in particular, let us know beforehand and we'll make sure that the book is in the shop when you come in.

Apart from anything, wherever in the world you happen to be, if you have a local bookshop and you'd like them stay open - please do support them in any way you can. :)

We'll keep you posted about the bookshop, and hope to see some of you soon.

Lots of love. x

'More Weird Things...' on BBC Radio 4

Extracts from 'More Weird Things Customers Say in Bookshops' were acted out on BBC Radio 4's 'Open Book' this Sunday, which was fun. You can listen to that over here, 23 minutes in.

If you're in the US or Canada, I'm doing a giveaway of two copies of 'Weird Things Customers Say in Bookstores' over on Goodreads. You can check that out over here.

I hope you're all having a lovely week. x

Tuesday, 28 May 2013

Author Visit: Matt Haig

Good morning, lovely blog folk! I hope you've all had a fantastic Bank Holiday weekend. Last week I ran away to the Spanish mountains for a quick break from running the bookshop, writing and doing author events. It was very peaceful, and my batteries are now fully recharged. There were lots of poppies there, too; they were very pretty:

Now, to make us all feel better about the terrible weather, here is an interview with the lovely Matt Haig. His novel 'The Humans' was published a couple of weeks ago by Canongate. Here's what Jeanette Winterson had to say about it: 'Matt Haig uses words like a tin-opener. We are the tin.' She speaks the truth. It's a fantastic book. I devoured it on a couple of train journeys.

Here's the blurb:

One wet Friday evening, Professor Andrew Martin of Cambridge University solves the world's greatest mathematical riddle. Then he disappears.

When he is found walking naked along the motorway, Professor Martin seems different. Besides the lack of clothes, he now finds normal life pointless. His loving wife and teenage son seem repulsive to him. In fact, he hates everyone on the planet. Everyone, that is, except Newton. And he's a dog.

It's a wonderful book. Everyone who replies to this blog post by Sunday 2nd June will have their name put into a hat. The name pulled out of that hat will win a copy of The Humans. The giveaway is open worldwide.

So... pull up a seat!


Hi Matt! Welcome. 

You say that The Humans is the book you're most proud of writing. Why?

It felt different, writing this book. It sort of came with its own energy. It feels the most me, out of everything I've written. I just went where I wanted to go and didn't care if that included frowned upon things - romantic comedy, sentimentality, science-fiction and even a bit of self-help.

How long did it take you to write?

Thirteen years, in that I first had the idea thirteen years ago. But it took me a long, long time to gain the confidence I needed. The actual writing of it took only a few months. It was very fast. 

You must have looked at the human race from some very strange angles when writing this book. What do you think humans do too much of? What don't we do enough of? Did you make some self discoveries along the way?

I think we do too much worrying over the small things. I think we need to be a bit more philosophical. We're also very good at seeing the differences between each other, and our fears lead us to a whirlpool of regrets. 

(Jen: Everyone should take a look at this, by the way

How do you think your writing has evolved over the years?

I have got slightly more optimistic. Some would say more sentimental. I think I have got braver. I used to be a bit more self-consciously 'literary'. I now try and forget all that stuff and just tell a story. I'm not scared of telling jokes either, these days.

What are the most important things about the publishing world that you didn't know when you started out, but found out along the way? 

There is a London bias. No-one will admit this, but it is inevitable. If you live in London and are out-and-about at the right parties, and know the right people, favours inevitably happen. That's not cynicism, it's just the way it is. 

What parts of your writing career, so far, have you enjoyed the most?

The writing, when it is going well, is the best thing about this job. When it is going badly, or not at all, then it is the worst. Other than that meeting readers who have, in whatever way, been affected by what I've written. 

What are your plans for the future?

I have been asked to write the screenplay for The Humans, so that is my immediate plan. I have also written a book for teenagers called The Echo Boy, that should be out next year. Oh, and a HOLIDAY. 

I think that a holiday sounds like a splendid idea! Best of luck with The Humans, Matt!

Everyone who replies to this blog post by Sunday 2nd June will have their name put into a hat. The name pulled out of that hat will win a copy of The Humans. The Giveaway is open worldwide.

Friday, 17 May 2013

results of 'Weird Things...' giveaway, and two new poems

Thanks to everyone who entered the giveaway this week. Using a random number generator, I picked out the winners:
A copy of Weird Things Customers Say in Bookshops goes to MistyRios
A copy of More Weird Things Customers Say in Bookshops goes to Anna (a case for books)
& a copy of The Hungry Ghost Festival goes to Kath Kerr.

I've messaged the three of you, and once you send your addresses over I'll post them out.
For those who didn't win, you can track down copies of these books by clicking on the links above if you'd like to.

In other news, the new issue of The Rialto (#77) is out, with writing from Ruth Padel, Georges Szirtes, Luke Wright, Jane Griffiths,
Rebecca Perry, Hannah Lowe and many others. It's also got two new poems in by me: 'entomology' and 'the girl aquarium  You can purchase a copy over here.

Monday, 13 May 2013

Three New Poems

Hello, all.

Here's me reading the three poems from my Jane Martin Poetry Prize portfolio. I hope you like them! The first two play around with my hometown dialect, and all three explore ideas of growing up.

If you'd like to read more of my poetry, there's a list of my publications over here. And there's also my poetry pamphlet, The Hungry Ghost Festival


Sunday, 12 May 2013


This week I'm giving away a copy of each of my books. This giveaway is open worldwide. Simply reply to this post by midnight (GMT) Thursday 16th May saying whether you'd like to win a copy of 'Weird Things Customers Say in Bookshops,' 'More Weird Things Customers Say in Bookshops' or 'The Hungry Ghost Festival.'

I'll pick three winners on Friday using a random number generator. The books can be signed for you or a friend.

Hope you're all having a lovely weekend! xx

Wednesday, 8 May 2013

'Weird Things Customers Say in Bookshops' in Chinese!

'Weird Things Customers Say in Bookshops' is heading to Taiwan! It will be published in Chinese by Global Group Holdings Ltd, and will be available in Taiwan, Hong Kong S.A.R. and Macau S.A.R (though not mainland China). I'm rather excited about this! Not sure about illustrations or publication date, but will let you all know when I have more details.

The Dutch translation of 'Weird Things...' ('Gekke dingen die klanten in boekhandels zeggen'), will be published on the 15th July. Finnish & Swedish editions are also out now: 
Finland: Kummallisia KysymyksiƤ Kirjakaupassa
Sweden: Bokhandelsblues
The German translation will be published in 2014.

Hope you're all having a lovely week. x

Sunday, 5 May 2013

Bookshop Spotlight #10: Spellbound Children's Bookshop

Happy Sunday, folks!

I bring you a Bookshop Spotlight with a difference. Spellbound Children's Bookshop in the States are using crowdfunding to help their bookshop survive. This is their story. If you like it, please do share it to help them reach their goal by 15th May!

Over to Leslie!


"Spellbound Children's Bookshop, an independent bookshop just for kids in Asheville, North Carolina (US) has launched a crowd funding campaign on IndieGogo.

"Like most indie bookshops, Spellbound was hit hard by the recession. While many closed, we are grateful that we managed to survive by being adaptable--moving and downsizing to a smaller space to cut costs. However, it is time for us to grow back to full size so that we can better serve our community with a larger inventory and more room for events that connect kids with books and have made Spellbound a beloved community space for nearly a decade. We just need a little nudge financially to cover the costs of moving to a bigger space. When you contribute to Spellbound's campaign, you are investing in the culture of independent bookshops and the all too rare specialty of children's bookshops--and getting wonderful gifts in return!

"Please visit the campaign home page here to watch a super cute video starring some of our young customers, read more about our plans to expand space, inventory, and programming, and learn about all the cool, free gifts you'll earn for contributing--lots of free books, plus posters, t-shirts, a Spellbound Bookworm plush toy designed exclusively for this campaign, naming opportunities in the shop, and more. You can even earn a year's worth of free books just by sharing the campaign link and referring other funders! IndieGoGo is an international crowdfunding platform, and Spellbound is happy to ship contribution perks anywhere in the world.

"Here is a sketch illustrating what we envision for the new store space, including a separate event room that can be closed off for private birthday parties, baby showers, workshops, and more. When not in use for events, this room will house the large inventory of used and bargain books we plan to add, as well as lots of comfy seating.

"Our funding goal is $18,500 by May 15th, 2013. Beginning May 1st, the next $5,000 in contributions to our Indiegogo campaign will be matched by a generous customer. So, as soon as we hit the $6,670 mark we will receive an additional $5,000 toward our campaign goal! Any size contribution is helpful, especially if you share with your friends and community saying that you have contributed and ask them to consider contributing as well. Spreading the word is one of the easiest ways to help… lots and lots of small contributions are just as good as a handful of large ones. Better, even…it shows how much support there is out there for locally owned independent bookshops that support local communities economically and culturally.

Huge thanks to everyone who has already contributed, and please help us spread the word from now until May 15th!"

Campaign Page


More bookshop spotlights:

#1 Ripping Yarns
#2 Constellation Books
#3 Storytellers, Inc.
#4 Belgravia Books
#5 Riverbend Books
#6 Blackwells, Oxford
#7 The Book Barge
#8 Book End
#9 Re: Reading

Friday, 3 May 2013

2013 Jane Martin Poetry Prize


I'm really thrilled to be able to say that I've been awarded this year's Jane Martin Poetry Prize. It's an award from Girton College at Cambridge University, based on submissions of poetry portfolios. Mine included three poems: 'Swimmin,' 'Birdlasses' and 'small infinities.' You can read those poems over here.

I'll be at Girton College next Thursday (9th) for the prize-giving ceremony, where I'll be reading the poems. If you'd like to come along, details of that are over here.

I hope you all have a wonderful weekend! xx


(PS. Tomorrow (Saturday 4th), I'll be at Waterstones in Salisbury signing copies of More Weird Things Customers Say in Bookshops 11am-2pm, if you're in the area and would like to say hello :) x).