But I hadn't come to Sysmä as a tourist, or even an accordion enthusiast. I had come to spend a month at the Villa Sarkia, a literary residency for young writers, with the deeply hubristic stated aim of making 'significant progress' on my debut novel.
As a visual artist, I find great inspiration in the varied disciplines of creativity. When I was first introduced to the renowned cellist Jacqueline du Pré, my soul was electrified by her virtuosity and sensitivity.
The last month has been completely bonkers, Sealed with a Kiss was still number one in the Amazon romance chart. I hadn't really had any thoughts about what would happen next. And then the emails started arriving from agents. My instinctive reaction was to steer clear - I was quite liking the whole going-it-alone self-publishing thing.
Glasgow, the city in which I grew up, has the largest amount of refugees and asylum seekers in Scotland. Although mostly pushed to the periphery, this new wave of Glaswegians are quietly weaving themselves in to the fabric of the city - and none more so than my friend Farida.
Last week we travelled down to rural Sussex to interview collage artist Joe Webb in his new studio about his up coming solo show Pulp Friction - 8 June - 21 July at Hang-Up Gallery.
The Syrian uprising has torn Syrian artists and no less Dahoul. He is clearly tortured by events back home. Yet he does not wholly support the uprising either.
My desire was to experience some traditional pastimes of Oaxaca. Everyone likes massage, I've tried most. I've been needled, poked, pulled. Pummelled in Asia, scrubed to within an inch of my life in Morocco. Now I was ready for some Mexican action. Temazcal. A pre-Hispanic, type of sweat lodge.
18 months ago, I walked out on my publisher, HarperCollins, because I was sick of seeing my novels getting packaged as frivolous, girly 'chick lit'. This week, eminent British children's author Jacqueline Wilson spoke out about the pink covers assigned to her books, which 'pigeonholed' girls and put off boys. And now, young adult author Maureen Johnson has come up with the #CoverFlip challenge in which she encouraged her 78,000 followers to take a well-known book, then imagine what that cover might look like if the author's gender were flipped.
As I was sitting at the Buying Committee of the Tate Modern, my eyes were arrested in awe and also complete ignorance by a piece from an artist I did not know about, Monir Shahroudy Farmanfarmaian. I was struck by the strength of her art. The fact that she is a woman working in Iran, in her 80s, made her even more striking.
So, here's a thought: without the trolls, the internet wouldn't be worth having. No doubt you've heard by now that anonymous commenters who are destroying the web, vicious trolls who are gleefully trampling on the virtual communities that other people have calmly and carefully built from the electronic ground up. And that's where I'd say we have it all wrong. The internet doesn't simply encourage trolls, it thrives precisely because of them.
The 18th century was a Golden Age for newspapers. The Georgian press delighted in cataloguing the vices of the age, and playwrights, politicians, actors, and courtesans were all afforded celebrity status by magazines and popular prints of the period. The parallels with today's media are startlingly obvious.
Modern literature suffers from the lack of an epic novel which encompasses and defines the times in which we live, containing as a result that elusive but necessary quality of timelessness necessary to accord it the status of the classic. Having just read Victor Hugo's magnificent Les Miserables, this lack of serious literature in and of our time is even more evident.
Ever since machines were invented, it has been speculated that we too are machines. The rise of molecular biologyand molecular genetics,with its spect...
We often see this with readers who believe poets have hidden messages in their poems. This is the kind of reader who has been taught - often in school - that meaning is something that poets deliberately and sadistically withhold, and that what we have to do to the poem is ... batter a confession out of it.
If we study the Gatsby phenomenon in detail, we would realise that every society has its Jay. But the factors that produce a Gatsby can be amazingly different. For instance, in the case of India it was not war, but economic reforms which gave birth to this culture. Here I shall discuss the strange case of three Indian tycoons who had shades of Jay, and like him met violent deaths.
'No political or cultural figurehead has ever come up with the phrase "a British dream", so Mod appeals to me politically because it's the closest we've ever come to having an American Dream.' So says Richard Weight, author of Mod: A Very British Style.