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Double the Stars previews…

DtS in front of the remains of the famous 40-foot reflecting telescope made by William Herschel (Caroline's brother).

DtS in front of the remains of the famous 40-foot reflecting telescope made by William Herschel (Caroline’s brother).


My thanks to Royal Observatory Public Astronomer Marek Kukula, who is holding Double the Stars in front of the remains of the 40-foot reflector, one of many Herschel ephemera on display at the Royal Observatory Greenwich. We’ll launch the book there at 2pm on Sunday 28th September – save the date!

Also, my thanks to a sister alumnae at Randolph(-Macon Woman’s) College, who sent me a photograph of a poem about Caroline Herschel that she saw on display at Riverviews Artspace in Virginia. It’s interesting to see Caroline’s story from such a different angle – I’m used to thinking of Caroline as rather cynical and down-to-earth, and this is an ephemeral poem, but I particularly enjoy Long’s use of light.

Double the Stars is available from Cinnamon Press.


Poem about Caroline Herschel that I hadn't seen before - thanks to Emily Smith!

Poem about Caroline Herschel  - thanks to Emily Smith!

DtS with my friend Caitlin at my favourite place in the world, Napatree Point, RI!

DtS with my friend Caitlin at my favourite place in the world, Napatree Point, RI!

Double the Stars Now Available

Cover art by Cassie Herschel-Shorland.

********Sparkly celebratory cake******** Cover art by Cassie Herschel-Shorland.

It’s probably possible to not pun with astronomy, but I’m going to go ahead and say it:

I’m over the moon to announce that my debut novel, Double the Stars, is now available from Cinnamon Press! 

We’re officially launching the novel in September, in order to coincide with some exciting events. But, if you can’t resist reading it sooner, please do save those dates, and help me celebrate! I especially hope to see the many friends (if they live in the UK) who have been so supportive when hearing me talk about this book for the past six years or so…

Double the Stars will enjoy a ‘Double’ launch:

Bath & London


The Royal Observatory Greenwich, Octagon Room, Flamsteed House. Sunday, 28th Sept, 2pm. 


Bath: As part of the Jane Austen Festival!

Wednesday, 17th September, 5:30pm, at the Herschel Museum of Astronomy.

I will also be giving a reading and running a creative writing workshop on the 18th.


Several curious readers have said, ‘Wait, what? A novel? I thought you had another poetry book coming out!’ This is true. It’s a very unusual year. I expect there will never be another like it.

Cinnamon Press took on my poetry collection, Atlantic, for publication three years ago. We knew it wouldn’t come out until 2014, because of the list of books Cinnamon had already taken on for publication. This isn’t an unusual waiting time. Though Cinnamon Press took the manuscript on as it was three years ago, this past January, I spent a lot of time revising and editing Atlantic so it would be a book I am pleased to publish now. Please do join us for the launch of Atlantic on 23 July: details here.

Writers will appreciate that their work must evolve along with them, and if one’s writing doesn’t keep up with one’s thoughts and feelings, there can be a great deal of dissonance between the book that is published and how one feels as a writer. I was intimidated by, but also glad for, the editorial opportunity offered by Cinnamon Press.

As for the novel, Double the Stars has been in the works since I moved to Greenwich/Blackheath back in 2008. Learning about Caroline Herschel – I first heard about her at the Royal Observatory, Greenwich – and immersing myself in research both in the NMM Caird Library and at the Whipple Museum of the History of Science in Cambridge, helped me begin to feel at home in the neighbourhood, in London, and in the UK. I feel that Caroline’s story (the tale of a young woman tossed from Hanover into the confusion of Bath, London, and Windsor,) somehow became my own story; that, as the years passed and I learned more about her, whilst living out my twenties, my story became hers.

In the midst of this, a serendipitous thing happened: I met John Herschel-Shorland, the direct descendant of William Herschel (Caroline’s brother,) and his son William Herschel-Shorland. William introduced me to his sister Cassie – who happened to live down the road! I’m honoured to say that Cassie and I have become dear friends, and Cassie has made the hand-crafted paper-cut which is the cover design of the novel.

The novel has been through at least five or six drafts, and at least three complete re-writes, where I scrapped it and began again (though each new draft built on those previous drafts). I keep looking at the book in disbelief, holding it up to other novels on my bookshelf…gosh. A novel. Really? Amazing!

On Goals: I made it a goal to publish a novel before I turned 30. I’m 29 (my birthday is in January). I find it especially rewarding and encouraging to set myself goals, and to work out how to make them happen in the healthiest way – a constant juggling act that I don’t always achieve. It’s probably the most-said thing about writing, but if you want to be a writer, you have to write - and I am grateful and conscious of how generous life has been, to unfold in a way that allows me to, almost exclusively, write.

I also constantly make choices that make writing a priority, though some hard lessons have been learned about valuing friends, family, and relationships above all. I used to focus on the (hell-bent) motto, ‘sacrifice everything to writing’ of Hughes and Plath. Don’t. Don’t sacrifice everything.

Above all, maintain yourself, your well-being, and a balanced perspective. I intend to slow down a bit now, but some people will laugh at that. We’ll see what it means. I’m spending my summer writing up an MSc dissertation…hmm…

Dear reader, I hope you read, and enjoy, these books.



A novel!

23 July: Atlantic Launch

Join us at the Poetry Cafe on 23rd July, 7pm, to launch Atlantic, published by Cinnamon Press.

This collection has formed over the past eight years: indeed, as I was finishing my first collection, Darwin’s Microscopein 2007, the earliest poems which would find their way into Atlantic were beginning to take shape.

This is my most intimate collection of poetry, not based upon history of science (as with Darwin’s Microscope,) or history of medicine (as with Opera di Cera and Pocket Horizon,) but upon personal history. It is, I suppose, the poetry of my twenties, though I hope it is more nuanced and wise than that may imply! It is a book of mourning and of transformation.

Atlantic is available now with Cinnamon Press, with beautiful cover art generously given by my friend Henrike Scholten, whose work I’m honoured to have gracing the book.

It would be lovely to see you at the launch of Atlantic.

On Cambridge 105 Radio

Photo courtesy of Marcos Avlonitis.

Photo courtesy of Marcos Avlonitis.


During the Cambridge Science Festival, I enjoyed meeting Leigh Chambers of Cambridge 105 Radio.

She asked me to speak about Opera di Cera, as well as tell her a little bit about Double the Stars!

To lead in, Leigh asked me what makes Opera di Cera a ‘verse drama’…

Go to SoundCloud for the audio clip (less than 10 minutes long)

Or: the whole Book Night programme (my clip appears in the middle) is available to enjoy here.



I’m honoured to have been invited to contribute to Rebecca Goss’s blog project, posting poems for Children’s Heart Week, which starts today.

My poem will be part of the Friday group.

Please click on any of the text below to be redirected to Rebecca’s blog, and read the moving poems she’s gathered.

Rebecca writes:

For Children’s Heart Week this year, May 12th – 18th, this blog will be become a blog of ‘Heart Poems’, by contemporary poets, some written especially for the week. Each day, I will post some Children’s Heart Federation information – alongside the poems. I’m trying to raise awareness of the charity and congenital heart disease – and share poems.

Do please check in and read, but also feel free to spread the word on social media:

Twitter: @gosspoems @CHFed #HeartPoems #ChildrensHeartWeek

Opera Di Cera Launch_15 Opera Di Cera Launch_13 Opera Di Cera Launch_11 Opera Di Cera Launch_10 Opera Di Cera Launch_9 Opera Di Cera Launch_4 Opera Di Cera Launch_1

We had a full house at the Horseshoe Pub in Clerkenwell last night for the launch of Opera di Cera – It was a marvellous evening! I couldn’t be happier with the final published book: it is more beautiful than I could have dreamed – and my expectations are darn high! My sincere thanks to everyone who came, as well as to the team who has been an essential part of making this book happen: Jamie McGarry, publisher extraordinaire; Anna Maerker, my generous historical advisor; Tanya Marcuse, who donated the gorgeous cover art from her photography series; Rebecca Tremain and Garry Merry, who have been helping bring the poems to life for the past few months (and more to come, we hope!) and Richard Barnett, who is away in NYC, but was very much there in spirit. Also my thanks to Marcos Avlonitis, Paul Craddock, and Simon Barraclough for their photographic work! More photos here.



A stunning bouquet of flowers from my darling welcomed me at my door on the morning of the launch!



Opera di Cera launch


I’m looking forward to seeing many friends and readers at tomorrow night’s book launch!

Originally posted on P.S: Poetry & Science:

Valley Press

Valley Press

Join us for the launch of Opera di Cera!

8th April, 7pm

The Horseshoe, Clerkenwell Close.

Click here for more information as well as the book.

View original

On Tuesday, I ran my annual poetry workshop for the Medical Humanities students at Imperial College London, led by Giskin Day. For part of the workshop, we applied the techniques used in Tom Phillips’ classic art book, ‘A Humument,’ to the Hippocratic Oath. I provided students with four versions of the Oath: a translation of the original, a version for nurses called the ‘Florence Nightingale Pledge,’ a modern version written in the 70s, and the ‘Affirmation’ that Imperial College London medical students will take once they graduate.

I’ve written previously (there and also here) about the amazing adaptability and resonance of applying ‘A Humument’ to Medical Humanities workshops. Students respond with an overwhelmingly positive level of enthusiasm to cutting out paper, marking up the texts, and teasing out words and phrases relevant to their experiences. They’ve given me permission to post their works below – and this was from about twenty minutes’ worth of ‘treatment’ time! I’ve selected some of the most colourful, but I want to thank all of the students for their marvellous contributions.

Tom Phillips would, I hope, be proud of the range of styles, and also the humour here:

Stunning styles.

Stunning styles.

Hilarious? Sad? Both?

Hilarious? Sad? Both?













Each student came up with her (or his) own metaphorical style and approach. The artwork some of them did in just a fifteen or twenty minutes!

The doctor.

The doctor.

Seeing through the wall.

Seeing through the wall.


Ships at sea.

Ships at sea.

It’s not only impressive, but incredibly heartening, to see which words students chose:



Lab coat and blood (intended). Green field of poppies (interpreted).

Lab coat and blood (intended). Green field of poppies (interpreted).

A 'wordle'.

A ‘wordle’.

Opera di Cera

Opera di Cera

Opera di Cera is now in hand, and available from Valley Press (where you can read about details of the launch party on 8th April – do join us!) and Inpress Books (who names the verse drama as one of their favourite publications of the year)!

I could not have hoped for a more gorgeous quality of production, and I must thank Jamie McGarry for his fine attention to detail and uncompromising aesthetic. The path to publishing Opera di Cera before it found its proper home with Valley Press was treacherous at times and I’m relieved that I rescued it from a lesser situation and worked to make it a stunning VP book.

Some people have asked about the title: it is pronounced ‘Chera,’ or ‘Chair-ah,’ - Cera has a hard ‘ch’ sound. Ready? Channel that Italian accent: ‘Opera dee chair-ah.’ Opera di Cera. The title translates as ‘wax work,’ or ‘work of wax,’ and I’m ever grateful to Richard Barnett for suggesting it.

The ambition of the book is operatic, and I’m extremely fortunate to have caught the interest of actors Rebecca Tremain and Gary Merry, who joined me at Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre on Saturday for a brief dramatic reading as part of the Oxford-Globe Forum for Medicine and Drama in Practise. Our excerpts took place alongside scenes from Selimus and discussions of Titus Andronicus, and fit in well. Rebecca and Gary will also be reading at the launch!

Last Thursday, I was in Cambridge for the Science Festival as well to meet with Leigh Chambers from Cambridge 105 Radio for an interview about Opera di Cera. This should go on the air in the next month or so, and I will post details and links when it’s available.

Following the interview, I joined a distinguished panel of writers – some of whom I know well, some of whom I was delighted to meet for the first time – for ‘Science as the Spark’ – talking about writing creatively about science. The event was sold out, and we had a bright, engaged audience, who listened and contributed to a healthy discussion about historical fiction (from the two female writers on the panel) and science fiction (from the two male writers on the panel) – convened by someone I always enjoy hearing from –  Dr John Holmes, Chair of the British Society for Literature and Science, which sponsored the event. A great night, ending with lively discussion in the pub afterwards about the pre-Raphaelites and their poetry – one of my favourite topics!

Opera di Cera launch

Valley Press

Valley Press

Join us for the launch of Opera di Cera!

8th April, 7pm

The Horseshoe, Clerkenwell Close.

Click here for more information as well as the book.


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