Change is afoot…

If you’re a follower of this blog (you lovely thing, you) you may notice there are a few changes to the blog. You like them?

I fancied a change, something that said ‘I am a graduate now, and a serious writer and blogger’. So I thought I would revamp the blog a little to reflect this. As you can see it’s very fancy and professional now. Isn’t it? Do you think it’s fancy and professional?

Anyway, just thought I would mention this. It’s the same wonderful prose (if I may say so myself) just in a shiny new packaging. Have a look around and see what you think.

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Are writing courses a waste of time?

Hanif Kureishi, novelist and creative writing teacher, while speaking recently at the Independent Bath Literature Festival was quoted as saying that creative writing courses are “a waste of time” and that most of his students cannot tell a story. Well… I must try and keep my head during this post. Forgive me in advance if I don’t.

First of all, creative writing is a skill that must be honed. I didn’t believe this until I began to study it, at which point I realised both my prose and poetry were clunky, awkward and sometimes a complete bore. I needed the feedback and direction my lecturers gave me to make my writing the best it could be. It still isn’t, but this is a process that never truly ends.

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Gendered books – do they still exist?

When I was a child I was an avid reader. I would read anything and everything I could get my hands on. I had the added bonus of a brother who also read – not as much as me, but thankfully completely different books. So when, after Christmas, I had finished all of my Famous Five adventures, I would turn to his Secret Seven. Bu we both fought tooth and nail for the Roald Dahl’s and Goosebumps. We had our own books, and then there was a little slice of ambiguity that we both loved.

These days, with the likes of Harry Potter and Malory Blackman’s Noughts and Crosses series, is there such a thing as gendered fiction? Boys and girls are reading the same books with no second thoughts. Equality and gender expectations have changed from ten years ago. Yet books such as The Dangerous Book for Boys and it’s female equivalent still sell like hot cakes.

I don’t think it’s a bad thing. As mentioned, I love books. I will read almost anything you put in front of me. At twenty-six I will still happily browse the teenage section for a good, shorter read. And I’m not the only one – the success of The Hunger Games trilogy has proved that. Maybe we don’t even have the age barriers there once were.

I think it’s a great thing that children (and adults) are free to read whatever they choose now. There will always be the ‘girlie’ books and the ‘boy’ books for the very young. I can’t see an eight year-old boy picking up an Animal Ark book voluntarily, nor will many girls choose Captain Underpants as their first choice. That’s not a bad thing either. Sometimes you need to fit the stereotype now and again. As long as they have the freedom to choose, and as long as there are those transcendental series such as Narnia and Harry Potter to bring them together, I say let them read what they like.

IBiS Lit Badges

What on earth, I hear you say. What is an IBiS Lit Badge and how do I get one? Well let me explain.

IBiS is a fabulous blog written by associate literary agent Maria Vicente. I discovered this in the early days of January when I was trawling the internet looking at new years resolution ideas. This is my favourite and is something I am very very slowly working my way through. The idea of the Lit badges is to get you to read a variety of things you wouldn’t normally choose, to broaden your literary horizons as it were. There are 24 badges to aim for and you have the whole year to get through them. That’s only 2 a month which I think is more than achievable. So which have I got so far?

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Why ‘The Amazing Spiderman’ kicks ass

Christmas is a time for relaxing, watching lots of movies and tv and eating as much junk food as you can mange without exploding. For once, I’ve been managing to do just that. Granted I have been writing and doing uni work at the same time but I’ve managed to relax more than I usually do. So far today I’ve watched ‘Stardust’ (always makes me feel Christmasy, don’t know why) and ‘The Amazing Spiderman’. Which I have decided is one of the best superhero movies made recently. Why, I hear you ask. One reason.

Gwen Stacey.

Emma Stone as Gwen Stacey

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Tom Daley: Something I Want to Say to him…

Tom Daley. Olympic bronze medalist. Commonwealth Games gold medalist. Bi-sexual. Teenager. Brave young man flung into the world of celebrity. What is the most important face in this list?

The newest celebrity scandal is Tom ‘coming out’ in his very poignant and personal YouTube video. There have been mixed emotions from people regarding this. It was obvious he was gay. Why did he have to make such a big deal of it? Why does it even matter?

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Beaufort War Hospital

Glenside Hospital Museum is looking for information about anyone who stayed or worked at Beaufort War Hospital between 1915 and 1918. If you had a parent, grand-parent, uncle or aunt who spent time at the hospital, either as an employee or as a patient, they want to hear from you. Perhaps in your attic there is a photograph or letter that you have previously overlooked. Any information is welcome. The hospital is keen to turn the people in their pictures into individuals with real lives and real histories.

The hospital, Bristol’s first purpose built asylum opened in 1861, was appropriated by the government during WWI. Thanks to funding from the Esmeé Fairbrain Collections Fund, the team at Glenside, led by Stella Man, are trying to find the personal stories behind the many photographs and postcards in the museum’s collection. Though they have many pictures the figures within them are largely unknown, without any names or personal stories attached to them.

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On Russell Brand…

So I’m sure many of us have seen the video, and heard various opinions from both sides about the validity of Brand’s arguments for ‘revolution’, whatever that may mean these days.  Personally, I can’t help but feel immensely menial every time I watch it.  Here is a man, an actor and comedian, who was brought up in Essex and is open and frank about his drug abuse as a youngster, debating (really rather intelligently) with Jeremy Paxman, a man who has been interviewing politicians for thirty years.  Ok, some say it wasn’t a debate, it was an interview – but have you seen Paxman’s interview technique?

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Work experience just isn’t enough any more

As most of you who read my blog will know, I am now in my third year of university and fretting somewhat about the impending doom that is ‘being a grown up’.  Granted, I have already done the real world thing once before, being a ‘mature student’, but this time I know what I want to do with my life.  I don’t know exactly how to get there, but that’s another matter.  Several of my house mates are sharing my trepidation at entering the full-time working world, and not a single one of us is entirely sure how to make our degrees work for us.

Of the seven ladies I live with, only two have come straight from school into university.  The rest of us have taken anything from one to five years out of education to really decide what it was we wanted to study.  For this reason we have all chosen subjects we are genuinely passionate about and want to follow into a career.  However, we have all found one massive problem.  Good grades and work experience just isn’t enough for employers any more.

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Treating myself to a new toy

Recently I have been doing what every university student spends every summer doing – job hunting.  And being rejected by employers.  It has been seriously getting me down.  So yesterday I thought I would cheer myself up by treating myself to something I have been wanting for a long time – an ebook reader.

Now I have had, to date, three previous ebook readers, all of which I have loved and all of which I have sold on to progress to the latest upgrade.  Some might say I have gone backwards this time.  I started off with a Sony, then got the upgrade to that, then purchased a Kindle.  The Kindle was sold to justify the buying of my iPad, which I love with all my heart.  But it’s not the same.

Reading on an iPad is much like reading on a laptop.  There is glare, you can’t take it in the sun, it’s just like a laptop screen with the backlight.  So I did some browsing.  And I found this.

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This little beauty is the Barnes and Noble Nook Simple Touch and it is simply Heaven to use.  I have only had it for a few hours but already I feel like my summer reading is going to take off.  I have an enormous amount of books I was hoping to get through this summer and I think this will help me do it.  Why, I hear you ask?  Here are a few reasons.

1)  It’s super light.  It’s lighter than your average paperback.  And as I like big books (Ken Follett’s The Pillars of the Earth is one of my favourites) it makes it a real joy to read as I don’t have to carry over 700 pages around with me on a daily basis.

2)  The battery life is incredible.  Obviously I’m yet to test this fully but the website states that the battery life lasts over two months.  Which means no annoying cables to take on holiday with you!  I can happily read for the entire five hour bus journey to see The Bearded One and not have to worry about charging up before the journey back home.

3)  Storage.  I have a book problem at home – I have too many for the space I have.  This is the perfect solution.  I can buy as many books as I like and never run out of storage space thanks to the Nook’s capability to use a micro SD card.  Perfect!

4)  I can upload my own writing on there and edit on the go without having to carry a million devices.  I can pop my pdf scripts and drafts on there and read them whenever I like and just make notes with a good old fashioned pen and paper.

5)  No backlight.  Thanks to my years of working at computers I now need glasses to stop the words dancing all over the flippin’ screen.  Not so with my Nook.  The wonderful E ink display means it’s just like reading on paper.  No backlight and no headaches.  Which also means…

6)  I can take it in the garden and read in the sunlight!  No backlight means no glare and no freak outs to the sunshine.

With all of that in mind I’m off to do some reading.  On my new Nook.  Which I love.