Tag creative writing



On day 5 Lisa travels outside London, all the way up to the Scottish Borders:




I’d like to celebrate not one, but many, independent book shops in the Scottish Borders.
I was lucky enough to be at the Borders Book Festival in Melrose at the start of IBW (yes, marvellous – thanks for asking). It’s always great to be up in Scotland and the Borders Festival is one of my favourites. For those of you who don’t know that most beautiful part of the world (think Sir Walter Scott/Abbotsford and rolling postcardy green hills) it’s especially well served by independent bookshops. In fact there is a Borders book trail featuring some of the best independent book shops in Scotland, if not the UK, if not the universe. There are some fabulous local bookshops on the trail from Mainstreet Trading Company in St Boswells to Masons of Melrose.

Taking time out from the packed book tent at the book festival in Melrose, I walked down the pretty streets to visit Mason’s (which has recently had a smart do-over). Two women coming out of the shop said ‘Oh I do love an independent bookshop, we must keep supporting them’ ‘Ooh yes, said her friend, clutching a book bag’. Well said m’dears, but I was spooked by the coincidence. I think it’s the mark of a good bookshop to have a full display of the best of new fiction and as a fully paid-up member of the Rose Tremain Appreciation Society I happily succumbed to THE GUSTAV SONATA and the inevitable 12 post and greetings cards. I was also very tempted by THE ESSEX SERPENT (Sarah Perry) and GOLDEN HILL (Francis Spufford).

Back to the book tent which was heaving with people buying, signing and talking about books. I think that a festival book tent is one of my favourite places in the world, along with John Lewis and my sofa. It’s thanks to the enthusiasm of readers, writers, and energetic and imaginative booksellers that we have these special places. Long may they thrive.

Find out more about Independent Bookshop Week here. And discover the Borders Book festival here: http://www.bordersbookfestival.org/

IBW2016 - Borders


IBW2016 - Borders

IBW2016 - Borders

IBW2016 - Borders



Another day, another bookshop.

This time Kate pops in her new local indie, Burley Fisher Books in Haggerston:


A few months ago, a little bookshop opened just over the road from where I live in Hackney. Hooray! Books on my doorstep! Over the last few months I’ve dipped into Burley Fisher frequently, but, alas, I’ve just moved and they’re no longer my local, so I thought I’d pick them as my IBW2016 in a slightly gloomy, farewell-to-Hackney-are-there-any-bookshops-in-Wandsworth sort of a way.

Nestled between a kebab shop and a corner shop (of course!), Burley Fisher is an eclectic, bespoke bookshop, with some fabulous and unique displays. They also have a lovely, quiet café with some great coffee on offer – the perfect place for perusing your purchases. Run by Jason Burley and Sam Fisher of Camden Lock Books, this is a bookshop with a great pedigree, but with a really fresh feel.

I came away with two entirely unrelated, entirely unplanned purchases – Edward Gorey’s THE DOUBTFUL GUEST, a darkly absurd illustrated book about a distinctly penguin-ish creature that moves in with an aristocratic family, and EVERY GRAIN OF RICE by Fuchsia Dunlop, a primer on Chinese (particularly Sichuan) cooking, simply because the illustrated/cookery table at Burley Fisher looked SO good.

Find out more about Independent Bookshop Week here. And get in touch with Pages of Hackney directly to buy/order a book and support independent retailers: http://burleyfisherbooks.com/shop/

IBW2016 - Burley Fisher


IBW2016 - Burley Fisher


IBW2016 - Burley Fisher


IBW2016 - Burley Fisher


IBW2016 - Burley Fisher


Bringing you festive, bookish cheer from our authors and the Two Roads team!

DAY 12: FINAL DAY! – Feat. Ross Fraser, Two Roads’ marketing champion.

Two Roads 12 Days of Christmas Day 12Reading at Christmas is a chore.

It’s not because I’m too busy drinking with good cheer, or because I’m watching It’s a Wonderful Life for the millionth time or even because I’ve fallen asleep surrounded by the crumbs of many a fallen mince pie. Deary me no…

The reason is because the choice of exactly what to read can be too daunting. How do I choose between my personal seasonal favourites like A Child’s Christmas in Wales or Ethel and Ernest, and the new ‘good’uns’ like The Fox and the Star or The Explorer’s Guild? It’s tricky…

My solution though is simple: read them all and consume excessive amounts of Turkey and festive Toblerone to keep going – it’s the only way through!


Bringing you festive, bookish cheer from our authors and the Two Roads team!

DAY 11 – Feat. Gretchen Rubin, Two Roads author of international bestseller Better Than Before (find out more at http://bit.ly/betterthanbefore)

Gretchen Rubin (credit Elena Seibert) Two Roads BooksI run a monthly bookclub on my website gretchenrubin.com (you can sign up to the bookclub newsletter here) and here are my December recommendations:

An outstanding book about happiness, good habits, or human nature: Walden by Henry David Thoreau. I find Thoreau maddening; I also find myself quoting him constantly. Whether or not you agree with his ideas (and I often don’t), his work is relentlessly thought-provoking.

An outstanding children’s book: The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins. Don’t worry about whether you liked the movies, or even saw the movies, it doesn’t matter. This is a great book. If you like dystopia, and boy I sure do love dystopia.

An eccentric pick: Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte. Well, maybe it’s not so eccentric, given that this book has been wildly popular for more than 150 years. I was just re-reading it, for the millionth time, because I was trying to figure out if Jane Eyre is a classic Questioner (read Better Than Before and you’ll see what I mean!) – and I remembered how much I love this novel!


Bringing you festive, bookish cheer from our authors and the Two Roads team!

DAY 9 – Feat.Two Roads author Ruth Hogan, whose début novel The Keeper of Lost Things will be published in early 2017.

Two Roads 12 Days of Christmas Day 9I’m always dreaming of a white Christmas, but as the English climate rarely obliges, I’ll turn to The Snow Queen. This wonderful edition of Stories from Hans Christian Anderson has magical illustrations by Edmund Dulac and was given to my mum as a Christmas present in 1942. I remember it from my own childhood and I still love it today.

I’ll also be reading A Christmas Carol (again!): Charles Dickens’ prose is as rich and satisfying as a dollop of Christmas pudding and who can resist a ghost story at Christmas?

John Betjeman is my literary comfort blanket and I’ll be snuggling up with his poetry, lighting the log burner and drinking a Banana Blush cocktail. I think he would approve.

Finally, A Place Called Winter by Patrick Gale is a treat I’m saving for after Christmas, when the guests have gone, the house is peaceful and the sofa beckons.

Let it snow! Let it snow! Let it snow!

#IBW2015 Two Roads Indie TourINDIE BOOKSHOP WEEK – Day 5


Day 5 of our Indie Tour is upon us and we’ve got a treat for you: follow our Publicist Yassine as he pays a visit to Brick Lane Bookshop

Pungent smells of turmeric and spiced onions mingle in the air over the lower end of Brick Lane as I walk up from Aldgate East tube station. Dancing past the curry-house waiters who try to tempt you in with promises of 25% off your bill, a much more tempting mainstay of Brick Lane can be found up ahead – Brick Lane Bookshop. Located at 166 Brick Lane, this is a small bookshop in terms of space but its bookshelves have a pulsating array of texts – ranging from children’s books to classic texts to London history to contemporary fiction. The time I spent scanning the shelves and tables and speaking to the owner Denise Jones found me feeling that this is a bookshop that is assured in its identity and proud of its history.

Brick Lane Bookshop was originally known as the Tower Hamlets Arts Project (THAP), later to be known as Eastside, with Brick Lane Bookshop being the latest incarnation. The shop started out in the early 1970s when there was not a single bookshop in Tower Hamlets. As the owner Denise Jones has said, ‘There was a group of local people who were not prepared to put up with this we realised that we would have to start one – but start small.’ This determination to put right a visible wrong has clearly stuck and fuels the bookshop’s ethos to take books out into the community. This is evident in the bookshop supplying books to local schools, having stalls at school author events as well as having author events at the bookshop and conducting its own reading group every month.

I walked away with three titles that were recommended to me by Denise. The first was Rebel Footprints: A Guide to Uncovering London’s Radical History by David Rosenberg (Pluto Press) which is a book that looks at periods in London history where dissenters have tried to usurp the Establishment. Each historical episode is then followed up by a map and route that you can walk in the footsteps of past heroes. I was also handed the sublimely designed pamphlet for Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s essay We Should All Be Feminists (Fourth Estate) – a well-crafted treatise on gender inequality in society and how he can set about curing such disparity through an increase in awareness and inclusion. Probably my favourite of Denise’s recommendations was The Diary of Edward the Hamster, 1990 to 1990 (Boxtree) by Miriam Elia and Ezra Elia – a tragic, comic, and stirring read of poet/philosopher Edward the Hamster’s journals during his days in caged confinement. Existential angst pours out of each entry, replete with beautiful monochromatic illustrations – a diary that make you laugh and think in equal measure. Each of these recommendations echoed the identity of Brick Lane Bookshop – one that believes in the power of words and books in making us more socially conscious. For a bookshop that is such a part of its immediate community, I hope those further afield will flock to visit.

Brick Lane Bookshop - Two Roads IBW indie tour day 2

Brick Lane Bookshop - Two Roads IBW indie tour day 2Brick Lane Bookshop - Two Roads IBW indie tour day 2

Brick Lane Bookshop - Two Roads IBW indie tour day 2

Come back tomorrow for our next stop and find out more about Independent Bookshop Week at indiebookshopweek.com.

Slightly Foxed - Two Roads IBW indie tour day 1


#IBW2015 Two Roads Indie Tour



If there’s one thing that’s absolutely brilliant about our new offices on Victoria Embankment is that we are so close to the Southbank. So it seemed only fair that we go across the river for Day 3 of our IBW 2015 Indie Tour and say hi to the great people at the Southbank Centre branch of Foyles. Find out what Rosie – our Publicity Director – loved about this bookshop below:

You can almost – almost – wave to Foyles Southbank from Two Roads’ new home in Carmelite House and what better way to make an IBW book buying visit to our new neighbours than a summer night stroll along the Thames? After crossing Blackfriars Bridge and resisting the temptations of the Wahaca burrito truck, I arrived to find a busy Foyles on Belvedere Road.

Laid out on one floor and joining on to the busy Southbank Centre, it’s an airy space with a wide selection of titles, with bestsellers and new releases welcoming you at the door, and a large children’s section stretching across the shop. They hold launch parties here fairly regularly (no wonder, it’s a great spot for an evening drink, and you’re unlikely to find space anywhere else if the sun is out…) and have lots of signed copies, courtesy of the bookselling they do for the Southbank literature programme events.  Despite the fact that this is one of London’s busiest tourist hotspots, the very helpful staff tell me that they do have regulars, as well as the theatre goers and Southbank flaneurs.

I met manager Emily and her colleagues Nick and Kajra. When I asked them for recommendations, it was quickly clear they’re a brilliantly informed and enthusiastic team – Nick was able to tell me  more about the publication of THE VORHH by Brian Catling (a book from within the Hodder group) than I knew already! Interesting to hear that THE EXAMINED LIFE by Stephen Gross remains one of their bestsellers, over two years on from its original publication date – with Ali Smith’s HOW TO BE BOTH a more obvious recent popular title.

I came away with a copy of Theodore Zeldin’s LIFE (more for the unusual format than the content…) and THE VERSIONS OF US by Laura Barnett, another title that is currently doing well for them, and is headed for the beach with me. Given that the office is only a 15min walk away I intend to reclaim my lunch hour every now and then to cross the river more often…

Foyles Southbank - Two Roads IBW indie tour day 2

Foyles Southbank - Two Roads IBW indie tour day 2

Foyles Southbank - Two Roads IBW indie tour day 2

Foyles Southbank - Two Roads IBW indie tour day 2

Foyles Southbank - Two Roads IBW indie tour day 2

Come back tomorrow for our next stop and find out more about Independent Bookshop Week at indiebookshopweek.com.

Slightly Foxed - Two Roads IBW indie tour day 1

Sarah Hepola’s first book Blackout is published in June, she visited London ahead of publication. First impressions quite favourable…

Sarah Hepola in London

I am standing at the desk of an immigration officer at London’s Heathrow airport. The man flips through my passport.

“And what is your business here?” he asks, not looking up.

“I’m a writer,” I say.

It took a while to put that down on official forms. I usually put editor, and then sometimes I put journalist. To says you are a “writer” still feels like too much of a brag, like you are daring the world to call your bluff.

The man looks up. “A writer.” He says the word with a bit of music. “And what have you written which brings you to our fair shores?”

“I wrote a memoir, and it’s being published in the UK, so I’m coming here to meet the publisher.”

This grabs the attention of the middle-aged woman with glasses who has been shuffling through paperwork beside him. “A memoir, eh?” she says, looking me up and down. “But you’re so little.” I think she means young, but then again, I have been working out.

I explain that it’s a book about my troubled relationship with drinking, and more generally, about women’s relationship to alcohol. “Oh that’ll be good over here,” says the guy, and the woman beside him nods. “No shortage of women drinking,” she says, rolling her eyes.

“I have an idea for your next book,” says the guy, putting aside the passport now and leaning in, “and I hesitate to bring this up, because I don’t want you to go through another ordeal, but then again, you’re a writer, which means you enjoy unusual experience. But you know what would be a good subject for your second book? Women who have total breakdowns after the end of a relationship.”

I tell him I have some field experience with that one.

“Depression,” he says, his eyes going wide. “A real problem with depression here.”

“The heavy drinking is related to that,” I say. “It feels like it helps, until it doesn’t.”

He tells me how England has changed. It’s a pressure culture now, one defined by work and accomplishment. Gone are the Sundays at church, lazing around with the family. People can’t figure out how to relax. They’re estranged and isolated. Over in mainland Europe, he explains, you can still find that slow unspooling of the day. But in London, people are always going. Shopping, texting, rushing to work.

“Sounds like a toxic American export,” I tell him.

He nods. “Everything toxic from America drifts over here eventually,” he says, “and I wish we could just shove it back.”

The world may be rushed and too anonymous, but you can still find connection in the most unlikely places. He stamps my passport, and the two of them bid me farewell and best of luck with my book. And I move on to the baggage carousel, and into a city I’ve never been.

This blog post first appeared on Sarah’s website sarahhepola.com

BLACKOUT by Sarah Hepola - Two Roads Books

In June Two Roads publish an incredible new memoir of addiction and recovery – Sarah Hepola’s Blackout. To all extents and purposes a fairly functional alcoholic, Salon.com editor Sarah’s biggest problem with drinking was blacking out: losing time and memories, and waking up in random places with a blank space in her head where the last few hours should have been.

Memory is such a fundamental part of who we are and how we see ourselves that it’s little wonder it’s such a rich area for writers, and so in the run-up to Sarah’s fabulous book here are a couple of other recent ‘memory’ books to get you in the mood.

Elizabeth is Missing, Emma Healey

Both a gripping detective story and a moving study of dementia, Emma Healey’s debut novel tells the story of Maud, whose best friend Elizabeth has gone missing, and whose sister, Sukey, went missing seventy years earlier. Something is nagging at her; some wrong that needs to be righted, or a crime that needs to be uncovered, or a connection that needs to be made, but as the shoutline says – how can you solve a mystery when you can’t remember the clues?

Elizabeth is Missing

Where Memories Go: Why Dementia Changes Everything, Sally Magnusson

Sally Magnusson’s mother, Mamie, was a bundle of energy, intelligence and wit. Then everything changed. Slowly, insidiously, she started to forget what she was doing, where she was going and who she was. Weaving together the story of Mamie’s slow decline with glimpses of the incredible woman she was, Where Memories Go is a beautifully written chronicle of the sorrow, unexpected laughs, pain and ultimately of the love involved in caring for someone with dementia.

Where Memories Go


If you’ve read any fantastic books about memory recently, why not visit our facebook page – facebook.com/TwoRoadsBooks – and join the conversation?

Our website has a new page! Just click here to discover more about Carrie Snyder‘s brilliant debut novel Girl Runner, published by Two Roads in February 2015.

Part historical page-turner, part contemporary mystery, Girl Runner is an engaging and endearing story about family, ambition, athletics and the dedicated pursuit of one’s passions with a formidable protagonist at its core, 104-year-old former Olympic athlete Aganetha Smart.

Not convinced yet? Well then, listen to an audio excerpt below to hear the voices of the novel come to life: we can assure you, you’ll want to find out more after that!

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