This year I’ve been pushing myself to write more. Creative writing was my first love when I was a child, I went through endless notebooks writing my own stories and ‘novels’ (usually about dragons). As the years have gone on and I’ve moved through university and academia my fingers have become more and more occupied with non-fiction and academic writing. This isn’t a bad thing but I do miss regularly writing fiction, even if it’s mediocre fiction. In 2018 I’m trying to focus on doing things I love and after finding that I was spending more time writing in 2017 than I had been recently I wanted to set aside time to pursue that pleasure on a regular basis this year. I am, however, somewhat rusty so I’ve been experimenting with lots of different forms and having a bit of fun with it. A few of you mentioned you’d be interested in reading some of the little things I’d come out with so here is a piece of ‘flash-fiction’ I wrote earlier this year that I’ve imaginatively titled ‘Hungry Eyes’. Enjoy! (Or don’t, whatever.)
He had a hungry look in his eyes.
Sitting next to my aunt, a decorative seat warmer allowed to observe but not to contribute, I wondered if they could see in my eyes how much I craved to stretch out my hand and pick out another pink frosted fancy from the plate. Saliva was practically dribbling from the corners of my mouth.
They always do, replied my grandmother.
I’d heard them use this phrase before but it never quite made sense to me.
The context in which it was employed never seemed to refer to food.
But to them, it was a secret code that required no further elucidation. They simply nodded and locked eyes, knowingly.
This time they referred to the boy behind the counter in the bakery.
It seemed perfectly understandable to me, surrounded by all those cakes and buns.
But neither smiled when they spoke and there was no lightness in their tone.
Instead, a darkness crossed their faces.
Honestly Elizabeth, sit up straight; my aunt elbowed me indiscreetly much to my embarrassment.
I straightened my spine and moved my eyes upwards from the cakes on the table to the women before me.
Hungry for what? I asked.
Both women looked at me astonished; they did not expect me to speak, I’m not sure they thought I could hear let alone comprehend.
I could tell from the shocked expressions on their faces that my question was unladylike.
You’re too young to understand, my grandmother stated, conversation closed.
If it were up to them we’d all starve, this disdain for hunger wherever it comes from.
If I could sneak away from my aunt’s stifling stare I might just visit the baker’s boy by myself and maybe we could eat together.
I wonder what they’d say to that?
Title: A Great and Terrible Beauty
Author: Libba Bray
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
This is the first book I have read by Libba Bray who is, in fact, quite the prolific author and incredibly popular amongst fans of Young Adult literature. My interest was peaked in Bray’s writing after reading an article she had written here for EW that Monica from SheMightBeMonica shared online. Upon reading Bray’s article I immediately ordered both A Great and Terrible Beauty and Beauty Queens by the author. Seeing her discuss the influences and objectives of her young adult work made me see them in a much more complex light than perhaps the blurbs alone would have. Not only did my first foray into her work not disappoint, it far exceeded all of my expectations. A Great and Terrible Beauty is the first in her Gemma Doyle series and what a beginning it is.
The year is 1895 and our story follows Gemma Doyle, a young woman from a wealthy English family who has spent her entire life thus far growing up in India. After tragedy strikes, however, her life is uprooted and she is sent to board at a girls’ finishing school in England. Her life in England is far more than elocution lessons and keeping up with this season’s latest fashions; Miss Doyle is haunted by visions of another world, one both terrifying and beautiful.
This book melds together 19th century Britain, female friendships, sexual awakenings and magic. The story and characters are engaging and mysterious with so much more bubbling under the surface. There is so much I enjoyed about this first book in the series that it is difficult to condense my feelings for you in one blog post, but here I go.
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Title: Hollow Pike
Author: Juno Dawson
Publisher: Orion Books
Rarely does an author’s debut novel accomplish everything it sets out to do. Hollow Pike sets up a premise, introduces us to its characters and takes us on a journey that ticks every box the reader is looking for it to fulfill. The novel itself first came out in 2012 and is not my first foray into Juno Dawsons’s writing. I had previously read Say Her Name when it was released in 2014, a novel which also falls into the Young Adult Thriller/Horror genre, and shortly before picking up Hollow Pike I had finished listening to the audiobook of Dawson’s first adult nonfiction work The Gender Games. In fact, it was listening to The Gender Games that had me itching to finally pick Hollow Pike up from my shelf having acquired it shortly after finishing Say Her Name. This is not a review of The Gender Games but I think it is safe to say that the book had to be pretty good to have me jumping straight into another work by that same author.
Hollow Pike, as I have mentioned, is a Young Adult book that could be described as a thriller or even horror novel. Due perhaps to the flexibility of Young Adult writing, where Dawson herself feels authors are freed from the confines of a single genre, Hollow Pike offers a little more than goosebumps. The book follows Lis who has recently moved from her high school in Wales to one in Hollow Pike, Yorkshire, after a bad bought of bullying at her last school. Bullying, moving, new environments, making friends and first romances are all prevalent themes throughout the novel; all accompanied by a good, creepy mystery.
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No matter the life you lead it probably requires some sort of time management. Sometimes it feels as though the world around us thinks we all have time-turners stashed in our back pockets when loading our plates with daily tasks. Whether it is simply balancing your workload for school or university or juggling multiple work loads from your actual paying work to your creative pursuits, I hope I can help you with your time management with a few simple tips that have always worked for me.
Falsify Your Deadlines? (Creating Personal Deadlines)
This is my number one tip for time management and that is simply because it has always helped me. I don’t know about you but time makes me anxious (inconvenient given how it’s always there). Because of this, I like to take a little control when it comes to my deadlines. If I have a big project due on a certain date, assuming I’ve been given more than a week’s notice, then I will always put the deadline in a few days earlier in my diary than it is really due. At university this was usually a week ahead of an essay deadline but there is obviously room to tweet this tip to the piece of work you are dealing with. I would then, without hesitation, work to my new, self-imposed deadline. This significantly decreased my personal anxiety at having a deadline. Despite my treating the new deadline as seriously as if this was really the day an essay was due in, almost always completing my work for that day, simply knowing that if I missed that deadline I wouldn’t affect my overall grade put me at ease. It is also effective if you have multiple projects like essays due in on the same day or very close together. Set new, evenly spaced deadlines for each project, one of which may be the original deadline. It helps to take the pressure of that one date and to focus your mind on each item individually.
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All pictures are my own and were originally posted on my Instagram account.
Edinburgh has always struck me as unique in its ability to be a bustling capital city where you can easily turn a corner to wonder if you have accidentally stumbled into the countryside. In this post I want to share with you four of my personal favourite green spaces in Edinburgh, from extinct volcanos to magical fairy gardens and much, much more.
Arthur’s Seat & Holyrood Park
There is nowhere I love in Edinburgh more than Arthur’s Seat and the surrounding parks. It is the one place in Edinburgh that I miss now that I live in London, as I truly cannot find anything comparable in the hustle and bustle of the UK’s capital. Arthur’s Seat itself is an extinct volcano and it is surrounded by expanses of greenery, multiple lochs and is attached to Holyrood Park where, surprise, surprise, Holyrood Palace is situated. Once you find yourself roaming the hills around Arthur’s Seat you forget you are in a city. It’s a beautiful place to escape to, never too busy especially if you explore the areas off the beaten track. I’ve spent a lot of my life in this park: playing imaginary games with friends, walking our dogs, rolling eggs on Easter and just taking time to myself to walk and unwind as an adult.
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Title: Stay With Me
Author: Ayobami Adebayo
Publisher: Canongate Books
This book was first put on my radar when it was longlisted for The Baileys Women’s Prize for Fiction this year (2017). And let me tell you, I will be forever grateful it did. For me, the experience of reading this book demonstrates what is so magical about the Women’s Prize for Fiction, as without it I may never have picked Stay With Me up. Which would, I assure you, have been a great loss for me.
The book itself takes place in 1980s Nigeria and predominantly follows Yejidi, whose husband Akin, in the very first few pages of the book, takes a second wife without informing Yejidi that he is about to do so. Although he is not alone in their circle of family and friends to marry multiple women he did so against the express wishes of his first wife. The reason that Yejidi’s life is suddenly turned upside down is due to her inability thus far in their marriage to conceive a child and the pressure that has incurred from Akin’s family to find a wife who can. From that point on nothing unfolds as you might predict.
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Around the world, the 8th of March is International Women’s Day. Originally founded in 1909 by the Socialist Party of America, International Women’s Day is an opportunity to celebrate the women who have fought for change and is an opportunity to discuss current issues faced by different people across the world and what can be done to initiate change, inspired by those who have gone before us.
In the spirit of International Women’s Day, I wanted to take this opportunity to highlight just a few individuals, groups, projects and reading materials that you can watch, read, follow and get involved in.
You can also watch my International Women’s Day Reading List video here.
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