Ruth Padel September 26 2018

posted Sep 20, 2018, 2:18 AM by Catherine Davidson   [ updated Sep 20, 2018, 2:19 AM ]

We are delighted to welcome Ruth Padel as our first guest in a new incarnation. She will read from her beautiful new book, Emerald, a meditation on  her mother’s life through the lens of a jewel packed with natural - and human - history and meaning.  Padel is an acclaimed and award-winning poet and prose writer, one of our most engaged voices, whose work includes Darwin, A Life in PoemsThe Mara Crossing, and 52 Ways to Read a Poem.

Looking for a Weekly Writing Group?

posted Apr 14, 2016, 1:42 PM by Sarah Glazer

We are an experienced, long-established group of prose writers in search of one or two new members. We are challenging, thorough, and supportive, and we enjoy a rich variety of styles and voices in our writing. We do not require our members to be published though we each take our work very seriously. We meet every Friday afternoon from 3 - 6 pm at one of our houses in Kentish Town or Tufnell Park. If you would like to apply, please contact Emily ( or 07769193966) or Albyn ( or 07808767371) .

Now We are Eight

posted Sep 18, 2015, 12:11 PM by Sarah Glazer   [ updated Sep 20, 2018, 2:34 AM by Catherine Davidson ]

This year we celebrate the Salon's eighth year since our first meeting in February 2010. Thanks to all the wonderful writers and Salon members who contributed to our provocative discussions over the past year.  Stay tuned for upcoming events in Winter 2018 and beyond.


posted Mar 24, 2014, 3:38 AM by Jenny McPhee   [ updated Sep 18, 2015, 12:21 PM by Sarah Glazer ]

I'm Winnie M Li, a writer/producer (currently shortlisted for the CWA Debut Dagger!) and I wanted to tell you about an exciting new arts initiative I've just launched in London.

We are currently crowdfunding for the Clear Lines Festival, July 30 - Aug 2, the UK’s first-ever festival dedicated to talking about sexual assault and consent through the arts and discussion. There’s an exciting line-up of literature, theatre, comedy, visual art, and documentary film exploring the issue — alongside panel talks on the role of the media in representing sexual violence, what men can to do help, how the arts can be used for activism, and other important angles. Artist, experts, survivors, and the public will come together in an open space to start having the conversations that can bring about change.

We need your support to make the festival happen, so please pledge to our Crowdfunder campaign by July 8th — and spread the word. We’re 2/3 of the way to reaching our initial target, and raising beyond that will enable us to film the events, share them online for free, and impact a larger audience outside of London.  Thanks for your support!

Salon Member Clare Clark Makes the Longlist for The Sunday Times Short Story Award 2014

posted Feb 5, 2014, 2:31 AM by Jenny McPhee   [ updated Feb 5, 2014, 2:43 AM ]

Clare Clark - Ward Three


Clare read History at Trinity College, Cambridge, where she was a Senior Scholar and graduated with a Double First. She spent eleven years in advertising, working both in the UK and in the USA. Her critically acclaimed debut novel, The Great Stink, was published by Viking in 2005. It was longlisted for the Orange Prize, and won both the Pendleton May First Novel award and the Quality Paperback Book Club New Voices award. She has three more novels: The Nature of Monsters; Savage Lands,which was long-listed for the Orange Prize in 2010 and Beautiful Lies.


Clare is a regular contributor to the Guardian's literary pages and writes for several other broadsheet newspapers, both in the UK and the USA. She also works as a guest tutor for the Creative Writing MA at City University, run by Jonathan Myerson, and sits on the advisory board to the Cheltenham Literary Festival. Clare is married with two children and lives in London. She is currently writing her fifth novel, after which she will be writing a play.


Story synopsis

This story is about War veterans recovering from disfiguring and life-changing wounds who share a hospital ward, and looks at how reconnecting with people from their past can sometimes create unforeseen devastation.


First lines

'Tom thought Ward Three must be easier for the men who had been at public school. That was most of them in those days, the Spitfire years before the bombers came in and took over. The ward had the air of a Sixth Form common room just before the Christmas holidays.'

Click here for complete longlist 

Weekly Writing Workshop with Fiction Writer, Poet, Songwriter Alba Arikha

posted Sep 5, 2013, 1:27 AM by Jenny McPhee


Pens at the ready. Queen's Park author Alba Arikha is running a weekly writing workshop from  Monday September 23rd. Arikha wrote the coming-of-age book Major/Minor, which was selected among the 'best books of 2012' by the New Yorker, and endorsed by Edmund de Waal and Paul Auster, among others. Her new book, a narrative poem, has just been published by CB Editions. Queen's Park Fiction Writing Workshop' will focus on short stories and novel writing and be mainly for unpublished (though published are welcome) writers who want to perfect and improve their craft, and get constructive feedback. If you're interested you need to send Alba a 300-500 words sample page of prose. The class is limited to 5/6 people max. The workshop will last two hours. The cost is £95 pounds per person.

All this will take place at Alba's home once a week, in Queen's Park. The workshop will be from September to March. Anyone who's interested should contact and read more at Besides books, Alba has just written an opera called 'Soon,' with her husband, the composer Tom Smail. It was performed at the Riverside Studios in August 2013. 

Meike Ziervogel's Peirene Press launches PEIRENE MASTERCLASSES

posted Mar 24, 2013, 4:47 AM by Jenny McPhee

Peirene Press, the award-winning publisher of contemporary European novellas, is launching creative writing classes in the art of the novella. Over the weekend of 18th-19th May, acclaimed tutor Shelley Weiner will draw on three Peirene novellas to teach the fundamentals of this short form of prose fiction. Held in Highgate, the course is suited to all levels of experience, from accomplished writers keen to experiment with new forms, to those at the beginning of their writing career. For full details and booking, click here.

Have Myriad Editions, Peirene and Persephone a place in the world of publishing?

posted Mar 24, 2013, 4:43 AM by Jenny McPhee

Salon Member Barbara Cotter blogs about the small press salon at Peripheria 

posted Mar 24, 2013, 4:05 AM by Jenny McPhee   [ updated Mar 24, 2013, 4:54 AM ]


posted Jan 14, 2013, 4:19 AM by Jenny McPhee

On the front and back covers of the Turkish edition of Elif Shafak's novel İskender (to be published in the U.S. as Honor), the author appears in two different poses dressed as her male protagonist İskender, a handsome, savvy-looking youth with slick hair and a five o'clock shadow wearing a stylish suit. In Shafak's story, he is the murderer of his own mother. Honor is a sprawling saga about a Turkish-Kurdish mixed family who emigrate in the 1970s to London, a city simmering with racial tension and a hothouse for an emerging radicalism. Spanning several generations, time frames, cultures, and geographies, the narrative unfolds from the viewpoints of multiple characters and seeks to discover the myriad forces and influences that lead İskender to commit such a heinous crime.

Asked why she opted to appear so disguised on her book, Shafak explained that one of the most difficult aspects of writing the novel had been to put herself in the murderer's shoes, "to see the world the way he sees it, without judging him from above." Shafak wanted to emphasize to her readers that one aim of her fiction is to inhabit her characters' otherness to the point where she is able to understand each of them as part of herself. In Shafak's inspiring TED talk, "The Politics of Fiction," she furthers this idea by discussing the restrictiveness of identity politics, challenging the notion that fiction writers should necessarily "write what they know." She quotes James Baldwin, who recoiled at the "homosexual writer" label constantly pinned on him by critics: "There's nothing in me that's not in everybody else, and there's nothing in everybody else that's not in me."

Shafak is disturbed by the tendency among critics, especially in the West, to insist writers -- particularly "ethnic" women authors -- stick to subjects that describe their own direct experience (or what the critics hold to be their experience). Shafak believes it is the fiction writer's prerogative to use his or her imagination to go as deeply as possible into characters who are different in order to gain -- and pass on to one's readers -- an understanding that goes beyond our own. She finds deep parallels between mystical traditions such as Sufism and the creative writing endeavor: both attempt through empathy to transcend the limits of the self in order to find universal truths. In her talk, she tells of when the poet and mystic Rumi met his spiritual companion Shams of Tabriz: "One of the first things the latter did was to toss Rumi's books into the water and watch the letters dissolve. The Sufis say knowledge that takes you not beyond yourself is far worse than ignorance."

Born in France in 1971 to Turkish parents, Shafak returned to Istanbul with her mother as a young girl and was partly brought up by her grandmother, a healer. Her mother became a diplomat and Elif's teenage years were spent in Madrid, Cologne, Amman, Ankara, and Boston. She has a degree in international relations, a master's in gender and women's studies, and a PhD in political science. Described by her publisher as "postfeminist, cosmopolitan, commuter, mystic, and human rights defender," Elif Shafak is, after Orhan Pamuk, the most renowned Turkish writer in and out of Turkey. She has written eight novels and three works of nonfiction including a memoir about suffering from postpartum depression entitled Black Milk. Her best-selling novel The Bastard of Istanbul (2006) caused the Turkish court to bring criminal charges against her under the infamous Article 301 of Turkey's penal code for "denigrating Turkish national identity." She was eventually acquitted.

When I asked Shafak about the "postfeminist" tag she told me, "There's no such thing. As long as one woman is oppressed anywhere in the world due to her sex, feminism is needed, and I am a feminist." She said, however, that she felt feminism so far hadn't found a broadly effective way to include men and make them understand that the subjugation of women results ultimately in their own misery. By conforming to misogynistic practices, they end up harming those they love and becoming alien to themselves. Shafak also thinks women willingly collaborate in their own enslavement by not questioning their beliefs and practices. "For example, we bring up our sons as 'little sultans.' It's unfair to our daughters but to our sons as well. We all suffer because of it, and we must take responsibility for that and change it."

At the heart of Shafak's novel is an honor killing, a concept Westerners find difficult to fathom in this day and age. We wonder how a man's self worth can be so rigidly linked to his control of female family members that he would be driven to commit murder over the loss of it. Yet for every Gul Meena, Gastina, and Shafilea Ahmed, victims of recent honor killings that have featured prominently in the Western press as evidence of barbaric "Muslim tribal practices," we pay little attention to our own barbaric crimes which we call "domestic violence" and shove under the rug. As the Violence Against Women Act languishes in Congress, the number of women murdered at the hands of men they knew intimately continues to rise. In the past decade, according to the FBI domestic violence statistics, 11,766 women have been killed by men close to them.

In Honor, Shafak shrewdly addresses the role of the press in shaping our perception of what some call a "global war on women," by looking at the issue through the murderer's eyes. In prison, İskender reports: "A journalist came to see me... She visited me a few times, seemed to be on my side. 'Please rest assured, Alex, I only want to understand the story, and increase awareness in society by writing about it.' How noble is that! Then she goes and pens the shittiest article. I was mucked around with as a child. It was all Mum's fault: as the elder son, I'd been spoiled by her. 'This is a typical case of Middle Eastern patriarchal tradition,' blah, blah, blah."

In a recent article entitled "Kasandra Perkins Did Not Have to Die," the feminist blogger Jessica Valenti warned that Western journalists are quick to depict domestic murderers' behavior as aberrant -- he was an alcoholic, on drugs, he snapped–thereby enabling a culture of violence against women. "Because if you don't contextualize this violence as part of a structural misogyny you give credence to the myth that there was nothing anyone could have done to stop it."

İskender gets to the point when he says, "To all these people, I'm invisible. So is my mother. We're just a means of furthering their own ends."

In her TED talk, Shafak urged: "Imaginative literature is not necessarily about writing who we are or what we know or what our identity is about. We should teach our young people and ourselves to expand our hearts and write what we can feel. We should get out of our cultural ghetto and go visit the next one and the next. In the end, stories move like whirling dervishes drawing circles beyond circles. They connect all humanity regardless of identity politics and that is the good news."

Jenny McPhee's novels include A Man of No MoonNo Ordinary Matter, and The Center of Things. She lives in London, but mostly she resides at

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