Introducing: A New Stories Blog & Patreon Campaign

Friends, readers, randomers who came here through Google. Let’s talk jobs, writing and money. It’ll be more fun than it sounds.

Last week I got a rejection from a company I really wanted to work for, not because it’s relevant to my career plans but because the job was regular hours, good shifts and relatively well paid. Well, it paid. I’m on one, one-day-per-week internship at the moment, plus an informal one from home and I love it, but I have bills to pay and a mother breathing down my back because you left school three years ago and you haven’t done anything since then, so I’m looking for other work too. When I got that rejection I realised how much I’d been counting on it and how much I loathe job searching in general (you want to torture someone? Have them browse Indeed.co.uk every day for a week. They’ll crack). I’m still looking and early signs are positive, but in the mean time I need something creative to focus on (and preferably something that pays, let’s be honest) or I will go bananas.

I had another look at Patreon, because it’s always been the obvious choice for a writer to raise funds. If you’re not sure what Patreon is: it’s crowdfunding, but on a rolling basis. Instead of pledging, say, $30 once, you pledge $5 a month until you decide to cancel. Like a direct debit, but fun. It dawned on me that the something creative has been staring me in the face. I want to publish some stories and I want to earn some money and hang on a minute why don’t I combine the two?

So I’ve made a new blog, Francesca’s Words on WordPress, where I’m going to upload all the stories I’ve got lying around on a fortnightly basis. I’m really excited to show you all the little stories I’ve been poking around with in the last couple of years, and I can’t think why I haven’t done this sooner. I’m aiming for one upload per fortnight to see how I go, because some drafts need more work than others, but that may well increase to one per week. We’ll see!

Now for the money bit.

Patreon Francesca Burke

If you pledge a dollar per month to my Patreon (which ahem is two stories a month) you’ll get early access to every story and I’ll name a character after you. That’s just the one dollar tier. Depending on your reward tier, you can also suggest story prompts or themes, I’ll write you letters and your name will be in lights forever. Kind of. It’ll be in a blog sidebar. You’ll also have a warm, fuzzy feeling in your soul from directly funding a small, financially insecure writer. You can cancel your pledge at any time, I won’t buy a gold toilet seat with your cash – it would be diamante – and you will genuinely be helping me pay my bills (and if you’re wondering why I need more cash when I run a stationery business: I don’t take a wage from that yet. It’s #startuplife until 2019 at the earliest).

I’m still feeling this all out – it’s been a while since I wrote fiction to a deadline – but I’m tentatively excited. Is that an oxymoron? I’m tentatively hopeful. One of the best bits of my teenage years was uploading fanfictions to the web and seeing what people thought of them – I was a simple kid – and I miss that interaction. I miss writing and knowing people might actually read it. And since this is 2017 and we might all be nuked by Trump and/or North Korea before Christmas, I kind of feel I have nothing to lose by trying. If you have any questions or suggestions, leave a comment. The new blog is here and my Patreon, along with a full list of rewards and info, is here. Let me know what you think. Am I shouting into the void?

Are You There, Internet? It’s Me Again.

I came back from a walk this afternoon and did some admin, then thought ‘I would like to write a blog.’ I didn’t get much further than that (topic? Title? Relevance to target audience?) but I’ll take what I can get, so I made a hot chocolate and sat down to say hello. So far I’m really into the hot chocolate.

Right, so, hello. It’s been a while. Well it hasn’t really, but a lot has happened since I last wrote, and in my head I had to post. You see that monthly archives list in the sidebar? That lists every single month from November 2009, because I have posted here every single month since November 2009. In the back of my mind I’ve always been convinced that if I miss a month, I’ve failed. I don’t know why I’ve never mentioned this before now – I think probably because it’s slightly vain but also quite depressing. Look, kids, that girl ties her self worth to a blog archive that she can choose to remove from her website! Part of my mini break was to reclaim some headspace, and I think that writing honestly will help with that, so there you go. I nurse fragile self worth and high standards no one else cares about! Well, that felt… suitably awkward to write. Now I think about it, I’ve probably written a lot of blogs with dubious levels of honesty, but I think that might be something to explore in another post. For now, let me catch you up on everything that’s been going on since my last blog. Now I sit and think about it, I’ve been busy in a good way:

Operation Instagrammable Bedroom is going well! I have a desk now, and I’m in the midst of spray painting shelves. The actual bedroom part is a bit doubtful, because my lack of shelving until this point has allowed me to give into my messier inclinations and leave stuff on the floor. I added some art to the wall as soon as the desk was in, and I can’t wait to decorate it more:

Office Decration
Seen here: correspondence from friends (and Cuba), two fandoms worth of art, my old designs and a postcard from Chantal Claret.

I’ve been hard at work on Francesca’s Words and I’m going to tell you all about it. Another weird thing in my head was that I couldn’t blog too much about running my Etsy, because it would be self serving and sound as though I were begging for business. The back of my head is an idiot: this entire blog is self serving and so is my shop. My name is literally on the door. God. So, in the last few weeks I’ve made a couple of big changes. The first is that I now offer free UK postage on everything in the entire shop. There’s no messing about with coupons or links either. At the moment it’s just a trial, but so far people seem to be pretty into it. I’ve also been designing new products and re-designing old ones, and I recently swapped banks. I know how boring that sounds (okay, I know how adult and therefore unpalatable that sounds) but the fresh start has spurred me on to take another look at my business practices, my running costs and my goals. Other than ‘make enough money to take regular overseas trips’, I want Francesca’s Words to be a stopping place for anyone who’s fed up with shit stationery and patronising greetings and gifts. No one likes giving crap birthday cards, and no one should have to spend a fortune on a nice notebook. Enter, me. You’re welcome.

I actually downloaded that social media blocking app. It really works, too. I’m on the wrong side of broke at the moment because I didn’t have my publishing internship for most of July, so I might have to stop paying for it for a bit, but I can already feel my bad habits edging away. I’m still doing Headspace with relative frequency too, and I’m trying to work my physiotherapy back into my daily routine. I’ve found it helps to pretend I’m in physio because I’m a medal-winning Olympian and not a Millennial who spent too long texting as a teenager. I spend an hour or so each evening writing and it’s going well, although I keep oversleeping the next day. Oh how one suffers for one’s art.

Oh, I also rang up my car insurance firm yesterday, mere hours after receiving an email detailing my ridiculous bill for the next ten months, and instead of ignoring it I put the bill onto a direct debit in my designated ‘car shit’ bank account. Look at me, finding solutions to problems!

I’m going to take a small break from my desk now – I have a stool instead of a chair for the moment and comfy it is not. I’m not sure when I’ll next blog, or what it will be about. I’d like to keep posting my Asia blogs, and I’d like to talk more about running Francesca’s Words alongside everything else I’ve got going on, and I’d like to reach 2012 levels of participation from my readers. Fun fact: Indifferent Ignorance peaked, audience wise, five years ago. Do you have any idea what it feels like knowing that your 16 year old self was better crowd draw than you are? Hint: it’s a bit like watching Usain Bolt lose a race to an athlete with questionable morals. You can’t do anything about the situation but seriously?

Look at me, getting all current events-y. This has been fun. See you soon.

Brownout & Beige Sofas (I’m taking a mini-break)

I’m thinking of taking a holiday. But you already had a giant holiday in Asia, you can’t just live on holiday! Not that sort of holiday (although Southend Airport has announced flights to Malta, so if you hear about me making any bad financial decisions, it will involve a payday loan and a budget flight to Valletta). Since I got home I’ve been on a job-searching-life-affirming-I-will-spend-my-days-doing-things-I-love-let’s-have-a-fresh-start mission, and so far it’s gone pretty well. I have two internships, new hair – well, new colour in my hair – fewer ugly clothes in my wardrobe and a new car. Taking a break from my Etsy really helped me get some perspective and it’s doing better than ever. There’s loads of freshness! New things! New me!

Except this afternoon I trudged back from town wearing a pair of tracksuit bottoms that really should not leave the house, and I felt exactly the same as I did when I was freelancing. I was still worrying about my bank balance, I was still working eleven hour days and sleeping through alarms. I had the precise feeling that made me go to Asia and look for a fresh start in the first place. The only way I can describe it is that it’s the emotional equivalent of a beige sofa. There is nothing wrong with a beige sofa. Plenty of people are very happy with beige sofas. I’m just never going to willingly own a beige sofa. It’s fucking beige.

Now my savings are gone and because I’m refusing to do anything that isn’t relevant to my career interests, the internships are all I’ve got for the moment; I’m earning a lot less than I was before I went travelling. I should mention that the eleven hour days are entirely my own fault – since I still have so much free time I’m putting together a business plan for my shop and swapping banks doing all the behind-the-scenes business shit that I might not have time for in a few months. So although everything is pointing in the right direction, I’m still pressed for cash and stressing out about it. I’ve even started stressing out about stressing out, which is a new low.

I read that there’s a thing people get called ‘brownout’. Unlike burnout, which is a recognised condition, brownout is what they’re calling it when you’re technically fine – you’re putting in the hours, you care, you’re miles away from a breakdown – but you’re overwhelmed and disengaged. Even though you’re checking your email 8000 times a day and #poweringon, you’re not actually getting that much done. Apparently technology and a change in work patterns since the recession is to blame. Wonderful.

I think I’ve got a touch of brownout. In retrospect think I might have had reoccurring bouts of it over the years, but you can’t really beg time off work because you’re feeling a little lethargic. Also, I love to work. I could spend all day working on my Etsy listings or drafting blog posts or whatever. I’ve got an empire to build and a new car to pay for and I will see you tomorrow at 8am!

Back to the holiday. Regardless of whether or not I’ve just diagnosed myself with a problem that may or may not actually exist, I think I need to rethink my working practises. The empire won’t get built if I’m too busy thinking about how I don’t want my life to be a beige sofa. Even with all the free time, I’m not writing that much more than I was before I went away. I’m still struggling for blog ideas and wearing ghastly tracksuit bottoms. This was not part of the plan. So this weekend and next week I’m going to take a mini-holiday. I’m going to turn off my pointless alarms, see my family at my cousin’s 21st and decide how I want to proceed with the empire building. I think I might start with an out-of-hours notice on my email accounts and an app that blocks Twitter after 9pm.

Has anyone else experienced this? Do you have any tips? I’ve never kept hours before. What are normal hours? HELP. I’ll get back to you, um, within two-to-three working days?!

I Learnt How Tennis Works and Now I’m an EXPERT. Also, here’s a drawing of a rodent.

I started a quick five minute sidebar update about… half an hour ago? More? I can’t even remember what the intended effect was but I know I don’t want to look at the sidebar for another half an hour. You look instead.

Possibly I chose the wrong time to poke about with delicate design work – I’ve not really woken up from Saturday’s heat/festival/but seriously the heat brain fog and I’ve got one of those to do lists that seems to be getting longer every time I tick something off it. I just tried to spell ‘to do’ as ‘two do’. Hmm. Possibly what I need to do is clock off early and watch Wimbledon. I recently learnt that ‘game, set, match’ isn’t just a turn of phrase. Whoever wins the most games wins the sets and whoever wins the most sets wins the match. How did my exemplary education miss out that nugget of info? Now I actually understand what the point of Wimbledon is!

It is of course possible that my exemplary education did mention that, and I was too busy rolling tennis balls across the court with the edge of a racquet to notice.

18th century drawing of a shrew from unseeliefaerie.tumblr.com
I was looking for a sporting gif and this 18th century illustration of a shrew perfectly sums up my attitude to physical education. Hahaaaaa. [from unseeliefaerie.tumblr.com]
Anyway. The festival. I wrote some actual thank yous over on my portfolio site but in case I haven’t been vocal enough: I loved meeting everyone at Village Green and I can’t wait to do another market or event and meet you all again… once I’ve had about 30 hours sleep and a sack of Colombian coffee. I’ve had about a thousand and one ideas for art and blogs and projects, so watch this space – well, I’m in a lot of spaces on the Internet, I think that’s what I was going for when I added 20 links to the sidebar – and in the mean time, I’m curious: is there anything you guys would like me to blog about? Indifferent Ignorance has been, amongst other things, a politics blog, a book blog, an MCR fan blog and a satire blog. Sometimes it’s been all of them at one time, sometimes it’s been none of them. I quite like that I chop and change according to the weather, but I’m aware that can make for uneven viewing. Since I’m feeling very enthused (honestly, I’m so delighted by the game, set, match thing) I thought I’d put it out there.

If you guys just want more shrew illustrations, I am totally down for that.

Broody BFF Challenge: YA & Music (ft. Maggie Stiefvater, Troye Sivan and… fan fiction)

Okay, so you might have noticed I’m a Maggie Stiefvater fan. I reviewed The Raven Boys way back, I met Maggie at YALC last summer and offered her my dad’s Mustang, I irritated my brother into reading The Raven Cycle and he took The Dream Thieves to Asia with us and now it looks like this:

 

Coincidentally I’ve also been trying to practise my screenwriting, and since I cut my prose teeth on FanFiction.net (yes, you can still find me on there and no, I’m not providing a direct link) I thought I’d do the same with scripts: using a book as a template so I could stop worrying about inventing a story and focus on practising how to tell it. Since The Raven Cycle is one of those books that has found its way into my bloodstream and will never leave, I played around with ideas for a Raven Boys TV show (this was way before the actual TV series was announced). I have index cards and post it notes and tiny little Fade In documents, and it’s safe to say I will look at them again when I want to pull out my eyeballs with embarrassment – think very bad fan fictions, then think of something worse. 

Onto the #BroodyBFF challenge. Last year The Raven King came out and if I love my own books half as much I’ll be pleased. I won’t give anything away but there is a scene that reminded me of a song. Or the song reminded me of a scene, I can’t remember which came first. If I were writing this in a show, I thought to myself, this is how that episode would end. Here is the song:

It would not be a spoiler to say that Bite is not really about anything to do with that scene – it’s about certain clubs with sticky floors and certain men who visit them – but I can’t not think of The Raven King when it comes up on my playlist. Which, once you’ve read the books, is either really appropriate or really inappropriate. Kind of like fan fiction is, now I think about it.

Am I looking forward to the TV show? No. I’ve only ever come across one good book-film adaptation, and that involved the book’s author, who is also a screenwriter and director, doing the screenwriting and directing. As far as I know, Maggie Stiefvater’s long list of talents does not include those things. Also, I’m not writing it. That scene will never end that way with that song. So probably one day I will either write that scene myself into my Fade In documents to satisfy my artistic hunger or I’ll put it in  piece of my own work instead. It’ll be fucking awesome.

I’m at Village Green this Saturday so Read, If You Like... will probably go up Monday. If you’re one of the #BroodyBFFs, link me your blogs! And if you’re involved with the TRB TV show, I am prepared to trade four books worth of script feedback for my firstborn child.

Read, If You Like… Ostrich Boys, by Keith Gray

I could have sworn that I reviewed this way back in the day before I called it Read, If You Like, but I can’t find it so clearly it didn’t get past the idea stage. I’ve had this book lying around for ages, and although it took me a while to get to it, it was one of those that surprised me in the best way. It’s either on the children’s end of YA or on the young adult end of children’s (do we let children read the word ‘tits’? I just saw it when I was flicking through) but I think it’s one of those that, should you be emotionally mature enough for tits, you’ll enjoy it.  Anyway. I meant to blog on Saturday, but I looked up the publication date for Ostrich Boys just now and it was actually published on this exact day nine years ago. So that’s a point for my lack of organisation…

Ostrich Boys by Keith Gray (2008)

Read, if you like…

  • Groups of kids
  • Grieving kids
  • Kids who kidnap
  • Okay, one of the kids is a dead kid. Not in a ghost way, in a ‘present in our thoughts’ way
  • Day trips (as in one trip over multiple days not multiple trips)
  • Ostrich metaphors
  • The hamlet of Ross in Scotland
  • Honestly, the best thing is the kids read it for them

Ostrich Boys Keith Gray

I was going to give this away but now I think about it, I might keep it on and read it again. I think it’s one of those that you can take something from each time you pick it up. Also, it involves teenagers kidnapping an urn of human ash, so it’s worth reading just for the escapism (if you’ve ever actually kidnapped an urn of human ash, hit me up. How’d it go?). I’m rereading The Raven Cycle at the moment but I think I’ll make it on to something new next week. I’m a bit harassed with Village Green until Saturday – I have an internship to attend, hair to dye and several paper bags to stamp before then – so comfort reading is paramount. A stiff drink may be in order on Saturday night. I should probably go and stamp some paper bags. Any ideas for my to-read list?

The Nervous, Jetlagged Backpacker’s Guide to Surviving Hostels

I haven’t shared a room since I was about eight, so three months of  12-people dorms with shared bathrooms was in my top five Reasons I Should Maybe Call This Off. By the end of our time in Asia I had mellowed – I even spoke to some of my roommates – but my bedroom and the space that came with it was the thing I missed most other than family. I know that a lot of people who are thinking of going backpacking are put off by the dorm situation so here is a handy guide I put together!

The Basics

If you’re nervous about sharing a dorm, or if you’re jetlagged or tired or just not feeling it, don’t share one. Maxim and I got a room to ourselves when we first arrived in Bangkok because we knew we were going to arrive and pass out. The first few days of another timezone is what I imagine hell will look like when I get there, so invest in two or three nights of not dorms while you get your sea legs. By time we went home I was happy to sleep in a 30-bed dorm with two bathrooms, but I worked up to it.

In Otres in Cambodia one of our dorms was open air with about 20 beds, and one morning I overhead and English guy book a private room because some stoners had sat out smoking with a stereo on all night and he hadn’t slept at all. If you can’t beat them and won’t join them, get a private room. I  kind of wish I’d had the budget to have a private room – or to stay in a hotel, come to that – because there are some days when the thought of sharing a toilet with 20 other butts does not appeal. I met one guy who had been on the road for two years or something like that, and all I could think was ‘do you never get tired of waking up to the morning breath of eight nationalities?’ Self care is paramount, kiddies. Speaking of self care, if you want to have sex – either with yourself or other people – book a private room. Most hostels have signs up banning sex in dorms with little reminders that they offer private rooms specifically for you to go do that. No one wants to see, hear or have any hint of you boning, ever.

Hostel Bathroom Sign Vietnam
It’s been four months and I still have no idea what the Q-Tip bag was.

Use the tools you were given

Unless you’re pretty chilled about where you sleep or pretty militant about backpacking like they did in the Stone Age, use the Internet. Hostelworld has a really good search and filter system, so when I booked ahead I never stayed anywhere that didn’t offer security lockers and/or working plumbing. If you’re short on money or don’t know how long you’ll stay somewhere, book one or two nights in advance then pay cash for extra nights once you’re there. It’s cheaper – no added fees for the booking site – and you can up and leave if you want. We stayed in a few places that other people recommended either in person or online (I’ll do another post with names of hostels in SE Asia to head for/avoid) and they were usually bang on the money. If you’re happy to rock up to a destination and mooch about until you find a hostel then ignore this, but if you’re anywhere near as neurotic as me then utilise the Internet and enjoy bedbug-free sheets.

Use your common sense

You’re in a room full of strangers. Don’t leave anything lying around that you wouldn’t want to replace. Most travellers own smartphones, portable chargers and headphones, and most of those tend to be kind of gross, not to mention really cheaper and easier to buy than they are to steal. Your stuff probably won’t get nicked, but don’t flaunt it. Use lockers and padlocks and don’t leave your bag wide open (dirty laundry probably works as a deterrent, but don’t hold me to that).

Let sleeping backpackers lie

If a person is wearing earplugs, headphones or an eye mask, has constructed a curtain on their bunk with a towel or sarong so you can’t see their face, is reading a book or appears to be asleep, leave them the hell alone. Unless there is a fire, you think they are dead or there is a general emergency, do not approach them. Ever.

 

Hanoi Hostel Vietnam
I am 90% sure that typeface is the one I use in a line of stationery. Also, don’t be the guy who throws toilet paper in the toilet.

 

Look, just don’t be a dick

Dorms are pretty nice places generally. People chat, they exchange money with travellers going to/from somewhere they’ve been, they give out their stuff if they’re going home. A guy in Hanoi who was heading back to Europe gave me bugspray I still have, when I left Bangkok I gave a spare bag to an Indian dude and in Chiang Mai I swapped some Lao kip for Thai baht with an American who was travelling the other way. I’ve got dinner with roomates, swapped destination recommendations in the lobby and lost my temper exactly zero times. I nearly lost my temper once or twice, but you are talking to someone who has thrown phones at walls and remote controls at heads in her lifetime, and it never came to that. That being said, there is some etiquette you should probably live by:

Don’t leave your stuff in the bathroom. Partly because other people will think your bar of soap is disgusting (your hair looks like hair to you and like pubes to everyone else), and partly because someone might use it and then you’ll be on the receiving end of Pube Hell.

Turn out the main light after 10pm and don’t hold loud conversations in the dorm between 10pm and 7am unless you want your roommates to accidentally tread on your phone (some fuckers in a different place in Otres came in drunk at 3am, started a fight with another guy and left the goddamn ceiling lights on as they did so and it’s the only time in my life I’ve wanted to wake up to a room full of corpses).

There is never enough room for your giant backpack, but you can do little things like not leaving it at the foot of a bunk ladder or in the middle of the floor, to improve the rooms ambience and to avoid your roommates constructing a voodoo doll of you.

Okay now I’m gonna leave you with a photograph of the canyon in Pai, Northern Thailand, and go and remind my dogs that it’s not dinner time yet so quit staring at me. I’ll compile that list – and the blog about Hue and central Vietnam – in the next few weeks. In the mean time, if you have any pressing questions about hostels (or dogs) ask away.

Pai, Northern Thailand
Look at that tranquillity. Can you tell it’s rainy and miserable in England right now.

Read, If You Like… #GIRLBOSS by Sophia Amoruso

If any of you are familiar with Sophia Amoruso, the ‘#Girlboss’ movement/Insta hashtag and/or Nasty Gal, you are probably aware that Nasty Gal is a clothing brand, originally on eBay, that enjoyed one of those meteoric rises to fame that puts its founder on the Forbes front cover and wields legions of loyal fans. Said founder, Sophia Amoruso, amid the meteorism, wrote #GIRLBOSS as a part memoir and part ‘this is how a young woman can become a financial success’ guide book. Last year Nasty Gal went bankrupt, and has since been sold to BooHoo. If I hadn’t read #GIRLBOSS before the bankruptcy, I would look at it and think ‘clearly this woman has no idea what she’s doing, why would I read that?’ But I had – it was recommended to me last year – and when I gave it another whirl a few weeks ago, I found it as inspiring and helpful as I had the first time round. Most businesses fail and most within the first five years; Sophia was at the helm of Nasty Gal for the best part of a decade, and the company is actually still going. So with all that in mind…

#GIRLBOSS by Sophia Amoruso (2014)

Read, if you like…

  • Self help books that don’t require a PhD in Translating Corporate and/or Hippie Bullshit
  • Cute illustrations
  • No-nonsense advice. Sophia does not mince her words and the book’s underlying massage is ‘get off your bum and get to work’
  • Words of financial wisdom that don’t sound like your Careers teacher went off on a rant about Millennials buying avocados
  • A really Instagramable cover and hashtag
  • The occasional slightly annoying almost-cliche. I nearly didn’t include this as a point because I’m aware people have difference levels of tolerance for sage advice wrapped up in snappy, alliterative sentences. My tolerance is very, very low so maybe I picked up on the odd sentence here and there, but the advice itself is solid gold so who cares
  • An entrepreneur who doesn’t tear down the competition or pretend they were born with a company that had already succeeded. Other ‘girlbosses’ have passages in the book, and Sophia is very open about her past lives as a freegan and a petty thief. She started her eBay store as a way to avoid getting a proper job, so she kind of had me at hello
Girlboss by Sophia Amoruso review
That stain? I dropped the book in the sink.

Maybe this is a book too close to home for me not to recommend it. I also run an online shop, swear frequently and dislike being told what to do; I think what I like most about #GIRLBOSS is that Sophia is all of those things and she’s successful. Bankruptcy or no, she’s one of America’s richest self-made women. This isn’t a book about somebody I could never recognise in myself – it’s about somebody I recognise in a tonne of people I know, most of them young women who are usually patronised by people with Sophia’s level of money and influence. So if you’re in the market for something that might improve your bank balance, get this. From the library, obviously.