Monthly Archives: September 2013

Read What Thou Wish To

Judy Blume Quote

I was brought up allowed to read anything and everything I wanted for which, when I look back, I was very lucky to have. My mum took me to the library every week (Monday night after school), to exchange my four library books for another four. I had books that I read and re-read – Enid Blyton to death, Watership Down, The Babysitters Club, Goosebumps – then as I got older Anne of Green Gables, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, Point Horror, and Stephen King. My parents both read, although not as avidly as I did, and encouraged me greatly. My nana was a librarian for 45 years and adores reading as much as I do. Every time I go home to visit she asks what I’ve been reading, even though we both know she’s unlikely to read it herself, she wants to know where I am.

In case you’re unaware, this week is Banned Book Week. It highlights the great books of our time which have been banned in some areas of the world for various reasons. These books are usually already classics, or can become classics, famous for their storylines and plots but manage to outrage communities for their content.

Because of the freedom I had as a child, I was never aware if I read banned books. I had no limitations as far as I was aware. As I got older and bought books more regularly, I continue to have the freedom to choose what I wanted, and as I got older still and owned a Kindle, I could download anything which was available. For most of my younger life, I wasn’t even aware books could be banned. Why would anyone want to ban such incredible creations of worlds?

On this list from BannedBooksWeeks.org I have read three of them, without ever realising they had ever caused controversy. The Call of the Wild, Fahrenheit 451, and A Streetcar Named Desire. In fact, the latter was studied in school in English Literature. Knowing there are books out there which have been banned or censored in some areas of the world is enough to make me want to read them. I want to know what’s inside the covers that have caused such outrage.

Children’s booked get banned too. On Buzzfeed in 2011, there was a list compiled of popular children’s and young adult books which have been banned somewhere.  From this list I’ve read seven of them, many when I was a child.

In blunt honesty, I don’t agree with banning books. I think anyone who wants to read, should be allowed to read whatever takes their fancy, especially children. At the risk of sounding old, in a generation of the Internet, video games, and smartphones, children who want to read anything should be greatly encouraged!

I understand that communities have beliefs, and that some books may go against their beliefs and this leads them to feel that said books shouldn’t be read. But who gives them the right to decide what other people should believe and read? You think Harry Potter should be banned as it is based in a magical world and therefore affiliated with evil? Okay, that’s fine, you’re entitled to that opinion of course. But the person sat next to you may not feel the same way. So why ban the book from your local library?

We are all wonderfully unique people with individual ideas, thoughts, beliefs, and desires. What works for one person won’t work for another. If everyone had everything they thought was bad banned or censored from those around them, the world would be a very simple and boring place indeed. Books, along with other things, make the world continue turning. They inspire, they create, they evolve, they connect. We would be a very different place without them.

If you’re going to read a new book this week – make it a banned book.

“A word to the unwise. Torch every book. Char every page. Burn every word to ash.
Ideas are incombustible.
And therein lies your real fear.”
– Ellen Hopkins ‘Crank and Smoke’

Behind the Magic

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Last Saturday, Boyfriend and I had free tickets to go and watch ‘Catchphrase’ being filmed. For those not in the know, Catchphrase is a Saturday night TV show from the 80s which has recently been re-done. It involves contestants seeing an animation on a big screen and identifying the catchphrase. For example, we saw one where a guy was having a drink in a pub with a big cheque. Answer? Checkmate. (A mate who is a cheque!) Literally, “say what you see”. Simples!

The show is actually about 20 minutes long once you add in the advert breaks. We were in the studio for three hours. It was a lot more interesting than we expected. The set was a lot smaller than it looks on TV, and you get to see just how much is re-shot. Sometimes over and over. The presenter would say a sentence, pause, then repeat it slightly differently without missing a beat. Of course in the final cut, it would look seemless.

At the end, the presenter was filmed making puzzled faces at the camera, and pointing to where the contestants had been and saying their names over in various ways, and making random comments. This, of course, will be cut into the final edit and it will look like he’s reacting to the contestants in front of him, when he was really talking to thin air!

It wasn’t just three hours of watching bits be re-filmed. There was a lot of breaks and set checks and things, and we had a great entertainer to chat to the audience and keep us amused between filming. He would jump in any moment filming was over. It was great.

So, why am I talking about this? Other than it’s something different to do on a wet and windy Saturday afternoon, it goes to show just how much goes on behind the scenes that the audience never knows about. This is the same with other TV shows, movies, and even writing. How many times have you edited something, only to move whole chapters about? How many times have you inserted a character half way through and had to go back and enter the backstory afterwards? Have you ever written the ending first? This is all behind the scenes goings on that the audience (the reader) never sees. These are the secrets behind the front image. The audience doesn’t get to see the sweat and blood and rewrites and edits. They don’t get to see the swearing, the bad times, the times when nothing goes right. They don’t see the characters who just won’t behave.

The audience only sees the final product.

But that’s okay. It wouldn’t be as sexy if they saw behind the scenes. No-one wants to see an author slumped over a stained desk in their favourite oversized PJs, half a mug of cold forgotten coffee by their hand. They want to see the shiny prettiness when you’ve done the hard work.

And likewise you don’t always want to see what a mess your favourite TV show is before you get involved in it. But sometimes it can be fun to understand the effort that goes into something you enjoy. It can be enlightening.

If you have the chance, be nosey. It doesn’t always ruin the magic, and you might get an interesting insight into the unknown.

And if someone asks to see how you work out of curiosity, think about letting them. They might learn from you.

When Life Takes Over

Life gives you lemons

I had one of those days yesterday which was full of ups and downs. I walked into work to find an email from a parent thanking the company, but me personally, for her daughter’s summer experience, then got some bad news at lunch, then spoke to a friend on the phone in the afternoon who I haven’t spoken to in months, then my Friday night plans turned out to be a little disappointing and I got soaked on the way home. Then I had pizza and chocolate chip cookies for tea, which fixes everything.

On the days when life just decides that you need a bit of a rollercoaster ride (and I actually love rollercoasters, but they tend to make me sick), it can be hard to focus on what you want to be doing. After the bad news at lunch, I spent a couple of hours attempting work but kept getting completely side-tracked and then irritated that it took me five minutes to do a 30 second task. Luckily a friend appeared on Facebook chat and kept me company for the rest of the afternoon.

As we get closer to November (and therefore NaNoWriMo), I feel it’s important to brace yourself for Life. No matter how much you plan your writing schedule, something is going to come up and stand in your way. It could be something as small as walking home in the rain and getting in not wanting to do anything but curl up under a quilt with your favourite movie, or something huge that just blocks your mind of all other thought. But it will happen. Of course, something amazingly happy could happen which involves your schedule going completely out of whack as well! Last year, my boyfriend and I got together smack bang in the middle of November. There are few things more distracting than a new relationship. (This year he gets the delight of living with me during November.)

The big obvious distractions in November are the upcoming Christmas and Thanksgiving (for the American Wrimos). I learnt earlier this week that Thanksgiving is November 28th this year. I do not envy you, my fellow American Wrimos. I’m sure Thanksgiving is a wonderful time, and I would love to experience it, should I one day make it to the Night of Writing Dangerously one year, but at the same time I would not like to loose precious writing time that close to the end of November. And of course with Christmas comes the pre-Christmas parties, which for some reason aren’t always held in December.

My biggest Life distraction in November I can foresee, and plan accordingly. My birthday lands on November 27th. That night is already out, as we have gig tickets. The weekend before is also out as I’m going home to visit my family for four days. That’s basically five days right there that I either won’t write at all, or won’t write as much as I should do. Then November 29th is payday, and therefore will be my birthday celebration with friends from work. Essentially, if I’m not at the very least on target by November 21st, I’m going to have a frantic November 30th.

But not everyone has the luxury of seeing the big events coming up. I’ll re-emphasise this nearer the time, but plan for the days that you can’t see coming but will inevitably come. The days when you’re ill, the days when work or school dumps a major new project on your head, the days when friends or family need you more than your writing does. Therefore, write more than you need to when you can. That buffer of extra words will be needed. Trust me.

And just generally, when life smacks you around the head without warning, find the little things to keep going. The little things will help you get back on track.

Stepping Out of the Comfort Zone

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I am your typical introverted writer and reader. Often my ideal Friday night is a good book, a mug of hot chocolate, and a movie I know backwards for background noise.

But every so often I get the urge to do more with my life. I live in London but don’t know all that many people. I feel that’s not right. This is a big city, there’s lots to do, and I should have options on the nights when I don’t want to curl up and read. So, I recently signed up to MeetUp.com – a website of groups to join where you can meet like minded people. On Saturday night I bit the bullet and signed up to a pub quiz meet up for 20 something year olds (the group is actually called ‘20somethings’ – does what it says on the tin), which took place last night.

There is something to be said about going outside your comfort zone. There’s the nerves, the anticipation, and the excitement. There’s that slight adrenaline rush as you take the final step, and the surge of pride that you’re conquering something.

NaNoWriMo 2014 is 7 ½ weeks away (I know…). If it’s something you’ve never done, then you may be feeling part of what I describe above. Hey, even if you have done it before, you may still feel it! In my eleventh year (!), NaNo is very much part of my comfort zone now. It would be much weirder to do the year without it, and probably more stressful (odd as it sounds) to not have NaNo in my life. But, for many, it is a huge jump from the comfort zone circle. Or square. Or decagon. Take your pick of shape – it’s your zone.

In some ways, parts of writing are going out of your comfort zone, too. Typing the first sentence of a new novel is always a leap of faith, even for the seasoned writers. No matter how much planning you do, taking that first step is always going to require a deep breath beforehand. And then there’s the genre. Do you write about something you’ve not written before? That’s always a bit nerve-wracking. What about something you struggle with? Do you focus on it or avoid it?

I remember in my second year at university, one of my creative writing tasks was to write a dialogue heavy piece. I have always disliked writing dialogue and will fall back on description when I can do, rather than transcribe a conversation. I remember feeling unhappy that I was being forced to do this, But at the end of the day, I was there to learn, so I took a breath, stepped out of my zone, and tried to write a comedic little piece geniously called “The Tea Argument”. It wasn’t anything inspiring. If I remember rightly, it was supposed to be just dialogue but I still had to slip in a few paragraphs of description every few lines. It wasn’t very good, but I do remember feeling proud about it at the time! (I still dislike dialogue, but I can face it much better than I could a few years ago.)

I think it’s healthy for the soul to do something new, something scary. I believe it was Eleanor Roosevelt who said “Do one thing everyday that scares you.” Everyday may be a bit much, but the feeling is there. I recently read this article on exactly this. It said that whilst it’s good to expand your wings, every so often you should retreat to your comfort zone to take stock on your new achievements, and relax with something familiar knowing that you can do whatever you want. 

Take the leap, do something new. Skydive, smile at the cute stranger on the bus, write in a genre you have never tried before. Go and meet strangers in a pub quiz in Shoreditch.

(For the record, I had an amazing night. I spoke to someone out of choice within five seconds of walking into the pub, and found myself approaching people during the course of the night just to say ‘hi’. It was a lot of fun anyway, and I came away feeling very happy and pleased that I was able to just be sociable with complete strangers without waiting for someone to approach me first. I wasn’t the quiet girl sat in the corner. I made friends who asked if I was attending the Friday night event as well. I was out of my comfort zone, and it felt good.)

The Big Blog Re-Vamp

Angelus

In honour of my blog’s re-vamp, an image of the sexiest vampire to grace our screens – Angelus himself. Swoon…!

After several weeks of no blogging and a general realisation that my blog was starting to look and feel a bit sorry for itself, it’s being given a make-over. Layout has been changed already, and I’m in the process of updating the static content, and beginning next week I will be updating it regularly again. 

As we head towards NaNoWriMo 2013, expect some NaNo-centric blog posts, as well as general editing posts. After a huge gap, I’ve begun editing again. Hopefully, this time I’ve got the drive to get through it. Boyfriend has given me the deadine of December 31st 2013 to have it edited. I’m going to try my best.

I’m also trying to get into reviewing books, so look out for my thoughts and theories on some of my upcoming reads. Goodreads has been kind enough to grant me the winner of several of their book giveaways lately, so I’m dedicating myself to reviewing them as a thank you to Goodreads and to the author.

So, hello to my new readers! And thank you to everyone who’s stuck with me. I’ll see you next week with my new, improved blog, Spilt Hot Chocolate. 

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