Let’s not pretend that 2016 won’t go down in history as utterly awful. But amongst all the death and elections and heartbreak, there were a few shining – or at least weakly glowing – lights. Here’s a few I could remember… help me out and suggest some more to get me through the next few days?
Leonardo diCaprio won an Oscar.
I decided to go to Asia I am about to pack up my belongings in a rucksack, finish my final shift at my final job and spend three months on a continent I’ve never seen. LET’S DO IT.
Gravitational wavesgot discovered (proven? I am not a science person but I think it means that Albert Einstein was definitely quite clever).
I passed my driving test! I started learning to drive in summer 2014, took a ten-ish month break, took it back up about 18 months ago and passed first time. None of that really conveys how terrified of driving I was when I started versus how not-terrified I am now. Maybe one day I will write about it in relation to facing fear or whatever but right now I CAN DRIVE MYSELF PLACES and deal with Southend’s ridiculous car park charges.
Science people (seriously, help me out) are making leaps and bounds in cancer treatment research, like this.
Rio 2016 Give the British some green sludge to fall into and they start acing contests what a metaphor. But seriously if there hadn’t been a break in actual news coverage this year I think the year might have lost the plot… also, can we please take a minute to hero worship the Refugee Team and the life guards at the aquatics centre? This year did not deserve you.
It’s been a week since I last blogged oops. I’ve got a genuine reason instead of the usual ‘I couldn’t think of anything to say and that GWay gif is wearing thin’; I’ve been so busy the week has flown by. And because I’m feeling smug, here are some of the things I’ve been up to lately:
Getting really well acquainted with my local postbox
I’ve had the busiest week on Etsy since February… there’s just something about Halloween that makes people very open to stickers which include the phrase witch ‘n’ bitch.
Clearing out ridiculously overstocked bedroom cupboards
I can’t show you a photo of my newly organised shelves, because I don’t really want to admit how many toiletry bags I own, but let’s just say that binning a handful of broken hairbands and two years’ worth of Private Eyes (don’t worry, I recycle), putting one adhesive hook into a wardrobe and buying a couple of plastic filing cabinets is both good for your mental health and ridiculously tiring. I’ve even put an empty box in my room to fill with things I don’t need any more, and as a natural hoarder I’m quite surprised (and totally ready to #humblebrag) that I’ve filled and emptied it about four times. I’ve still got clothes to go through, a couple of cupboards that I’m not brave enough to look at yet and way, way too many socks… but I highly advocate browsing Pinterest for cute storage ideas and going through your shit occasionally.
Oh I went dancing
Solid tens. Also, I won a pamper day in a raffle. Pretty sure it’d take more than a day to rescue all my cuticles, ease out the knot in my shoulder and cleanse my inner soul, but you gotta start somewhere…
Reading Game of Thrones
So now I understand the fuss about Ned Stark.
I must dash, I have stickers to post. Oh and if anyone has any tips for getting a lot of storage out of a small space, hit me up.
I submitted a piece of writing to a publication today and holy shit I had forgotten how stressful it is. Not the writing (okay maybe a little bit the writing) but the titling and proofing and second guessing whether you can even speak English.
I’m going to de-stress by looking at my recently-filled bank account and browsing Etsy for cute things. Speaking of cute, this arrived in my postbox the other day:
The Raven Arcana
The Raven Arcana
I love fan art zines and anthologies (this is going alongsideLadies of Literature Volumes I and II, and a Heroes of Olympus one). Reading them is the only time I ever wish I could draw as well as I write, because no one ever does writing zines… I guess they would be called books. Anyway thank you to Caroline who very nicely sent me this even though the project’s closed (can I just say that the level of sleuthing required to find zines that aren’t taking orders any more but you want one anyway and were just broke and abroad when orders were open is insane).
I’m going to peruse it and play a game where I choose which artists I would want to illustrate my work… spoiler alert ALL OF THEM. Also if you have no idea which book series this zine is from you need to read The Raven Cycle immediately. I’ve even reviewed it for you, kind of.
Urgh, now I want to organise a zine where writers and artists collaborate on work. Or just organise a zine. Or just buy more zines.
Last week I got philosophical/grumpy about what it’s like being mere mortal during the Olympics, and in the spirit of WINNING THAT GOLD MEDAL, here is a list of ambitions I would like to have fulfilled by the next summer Olympics. There are other, more personal, things as well – but these are the things I want to brag (and complain) about publicly between now and summer 2020.
Finish a screenplay
And then have it optioned in record time by the BBC and win five BAFTAs. Obviously.
It doesn’t have to get anywhere (statistically, it would not get anywhere). I just want to finish one before I qualify for OAP cinema tickets.
Publish a book
I’d love to know the odds of getting a book published next to the odds of having a screenplay made, but since I would be responsible for almost all the content of a book, as opposed to one of many, many people making a film, I prefer my chances of actually holding a novel in my hand. Plus, I’ve had more practise. Still gotta double check how to spell practise, though.
Earn enough at 1-3 jobs that I don’t need 4-5 jobs
Travel to every country in the EU before my lazy arse has to fill out paperwork to do so
Britain will have Brexited by Tokyo 2020, and there’s nothing like a deadline to spur one on to visit Slovakia while it takes minimum effort. Where is Slovakia.
Travel to basically everywhere
I could probably stand to miss Baghdad, Aleppo and the North and South Poles, but places I haven’t been to yet that I want to write postcards from include but are not limited to:
The Colosseum in Rome
South East Asia
The Giant’s Causeway in Northern Ireland
The Edinburgh Fringe Festival
Learn (or rediscover) a sport that doesn’t bring back horrible memories of PE
They never taught us aerial yoga, maybe I could try that… or trampolining. Ooh, or dog walking.
Pass my driving test
Possibly this is cheating because if I pass my theory test on Friday I will technically be half way there. Then again, I started learning in 2014, so let’s not get ahead of ourselves. I strive for Maggie Stiefvater-esque skill and style, but I think I’m going to be more like this:
I have some deadlines to attend to (and theory to study for) so I will leave this here and maybe revisit it on a periodic basis to brag/complain/mentally compare notes with the athletes aiming for Tokyo. Do you have any goals or four year plans? Let’s compare ourselves to Olympians together!
So I might have mentioned I went to the Young Adult Literature Convention. Here is a brief summary of my day.
The Working Toilet Search
I came into town on the Liverpool Street line, which is a) shittier than the Fenchurch Street line and b) obliged on Sundays to stop at every station in east London between Shenfield and Stratford. I necked a coffee somewhere around Rayleigh and by Billericay was thinking ‘yeah this carriage could really use a toilet’. By Stratford I was actually going to die so I hopped off in search of one. The only facilities in the entirety of Stratford station, as far as I could see, were out of order – so I made a quick detour to Westfield. Pro tip: Westfield is a ghost mall at 8:30am on a Sunday. Go then.
Why is Everyone So Quiet?
I clocked in just after ten – too late to muscle in on the first event I’d bookmarked, too early to spend all my money – so I got another coffee and sussed out where the fire exits were.
Which was easy to do
Because it was almost deathly quiet
Because everyone who wasn’t a vendor and probably some of the vendors
Was reading The Cursed Child
Which I had forgotten about
Because I am broke and try not to dwell on the things I can’t buy yet. Spoiler: it turned out I wasn’t too broke to buy an illustrated Philosopher’s Stone that was on sale. So I don’t know what past me was thinking, but she was a plonker not to reserve a copy. Pro tip: make sure you have money for Potter-related purchases. Another pro tip: cons are supposed to be buzzing. People in a group reading is wonderfully quiet and stupefying. YALC might be the only con in the world where stupefying is better. Go to it.
Agent Arena Publishing 102: God Exists
There’s quite a large part of my soul that belongs to the book industry, and the Agent Arena talk on publishing filled that part of my soul with hope that I might be able to work in it one day. Could I work in publicity? Maybe. Could I work in editorial? Maybe. Could I work in foreign rights? Probably not, because my grasp of foreign languages is shite. Pro tip: sit up the front because whoever designed Kensington Olympia forgot that sometimes small groups convene and like to hear one another.
Why the Fuck is there No Food Here
See Stories from the Bathroom Floor for why a packet of crisps and a pot of melon three hours apart does not constitute an acceptable meal. In the end I found the food court at the main London Film and Comic Con (which looks way more chill than MCM, for the record) and scarfed a baked potato. Pro tip: bring more snacks than you think you’ll ever need. Especially if there’s a chance you’ll join a queue.
The Queue for Maggie in Conversation
Around about the time I was exploring the fire exits, people turned up. I turned a corner and oh, shit, there’s a fucking large queue to see Maggie Stiefvater in conversation. I should mention at this point that I went to YALC by myself, not expecting to see anyone I knew. I met a lot of people at various points, from bloggers and readers to agents. I completely forgot to ask names and swap Instas. So if you met someone wearing Blue Sargent dungarees and hair that vaguely resembled the bisexual pride flag, leave a comment. Pro tip: if I looked like I wanted to kill someone, that’s my normal face.
Maggie in Conversation
Some of you may yet see Maggie on tour, so I’ll let her tell you the story of the broken sunglasses. And the story of setting John Green on fire. And the story of her child vomiting on a long haul flight. Pro tip: there are no Raven King spoilers.
The Queue for the Queue for Maggie’s Signing
Only in Britain would you be made to queue for tickets that determine your place in another queue. Pro tip: get in there before number 238 of 250 if you want more than one book signed.
Queuing is really just like waiting for a gate to open in an airport, ie after a while you forget why you’re there
‘Come back in an hour.’ I did another round of exploring. I sourced a pot of melon. Then I sourced a baked potato. Numbers zero to 20 had become numbers zero to 40. ‘Come back in another hour.’ I made two phone calls. I took a photograph.
I discovered that my bag made a great pillow. I wrote some notes. I reflected that the last time I queued sitting down was the last time I saw Mindless. I missed seeing Mindless. Pro tip: bring friends to talk to for this bit, or learn to chat.
Actually Meeting Maggie
It was 5:55pm. The con was closing. The queue was urgently shuffled forward. My number was called. I met a girl named Lizzie who had brought a notebook for autographs. I gave a lady my phone to take photographs. I gave another lady my book with my name on a Post It. A girl in front said ‘please pronounce the name of the boys’ school.’
‘Aglionby,’ Maggie said. Pro tip: she pronounces the G.
The other lady gave Maggie my book, plus Post It.
Once upon a time an interviewer asked Gerard Way what fans usually said when they met him. ‘They usually just say thank you,’ he said.
‘Thank you,’ I said.
Then I said, ‘my dad told me to offer you his car.’ Then I said, ‘it doesn’t have a clutch.’
IT’S AN AUTOMATIC. I MEANT THAT IT’S AN AUTOMATIC. Also it is a Mustang and was either born in Texas or assembled there.
‘What colour is it?’ she asked.
‘Red.’ Officially I think it’s called something like “Midlife Crisis Ruby Metallic”.
‘Tell him to paint it black, lower it an inch and a half, and then we’ll talk.’
I have told him, but it’s probably a good thing that she has a no-driving-readers’ cars policy. Southend Borough Council dislikes paying out for road maintenance when the cause is drag racing down the seafront. Pro tip: they usually catch you drag racing down the seafront and moan about you in the paper. (No, that’s not a confession. I don’t think my Micra could drag race. I will wait until the Mustang is unattended.)
Then I hobbled back to the Liverpool Street line (my blisters actually have blisters), did a lil bit of Instagram bragging and thought that I might, like, go to Venezuela.
Remind me to never ask you guys’ opinion ever again.
Moving swiftly on.
Question: who’s going to YALC this Sunday?
I’ll be signing autographs at 2pm. Look for pink/blue/purple/still mostly brown hair if you want to say hi, because I’ll be the one wearing it. I’ll also be clutching my copy of The Raven King to present to Maggie Stiefvater. It’s dogeared already because I sometimes read it in the bath. If you say hi, do not mention the bath. Compliment my dungarees or whatever I’ll be wearing to deal with the weather (could be a ski jacket by this weekend, who knows).
I have to go back to my quarter-life crisis now, which today has been exacerbated by Horrific 2016-Worthy News StoriesTM and half an hour counting the float for my craft fair on Saturday which I didn’t even need to do because I did it after the last fair. I also booked my drivers’ theory test yesterday for very soon and I’m just starting to comprehend that a) it’s verysoon and b) my knowledge of road signs and motorway etiquette is almost as bad as my knowledge of when it’s okay to go at a roundabout.
I suppose that when I pass both tests I’ll be able to drive away from the crises.
I read the other day that the average deposit for a home in the UK is currently £80,000 and as my reactions were limited to either throwing myself into work or jumping off the QEII bridge, I’ve been writing a lot. I don’t want to show it to any of you yet (for a staunch non-spiritualist I am ridiculously superstitious about sharing work before it’s done) but I’m quite quietly pleased with myself for having picked up a pen.
It got me thinking about that other great writer great pieces of literature, and I wondered if any of you have been watching Upstart Crow? It’s on BBC2 on Monday nights should probably be required viewing for every student studying Shakespeare. It was written by the same guy who co-wrote Blackadder, so maybe we should just appoint him head of schools and be done with it.
So it was on this very day, sort of, that I released my Ghost Stories zines last year. If you haven’t read them – and you should – they’re full of short stories, advice columns, quirky advertisements and art all pertaining to death, the afterlife and magic. And I hadn’t even heard of Maggie Stiefvater then. Anyway, I don’t have a Volume IV to share with you all, but I have made even more ridiculous death/the afterlife/magic work since, so I thought I would take today to share a bit about how and why I ended up with so many macabre-ish, funny-ish arty-ish things in my portfolio.
A couple of years ago I wrote a (very) little story for The Story Shack about something that in retrospect sounds suspiciously like the church watch on St Mark’s Eve. It was sitting by itselfie on the internet and last January I noticed that 2015 contained three Friday 13ths. I am not one to look a gift horse in the mouth and it’s useful to have solid deadlines, so I thought I could do a project to practise my Photoshop, actually write and maybe have a laugh. My friend Ruby, who proofread, had less of a laugh. By 13th November I had three relatively well-formed zines, a more thorough understanding of the YouTube playlist format and a healthy respect for the black and white filters on Photoshop. I kind of love Ghost Stories – I mean, I also hate it because I read it back and think ‘ew’ – but it’s the first thing I made after I finished school for the hell (ha) of it, and it reminded me why the term ‘black humour’ warms my soul. Now go warm your soul.
You know that feeling when you’ve recently quit a job, rediscovered supernatural YA novels and decided to dye your hair pink and commit to being a full time eccentric? Last autumn I tried to supplement my income with waitressing, which to cut a long story short was not the career for me. When I rejiggled my freelancing so I could afford-ish to go back to marketing full time, I realised how much I valued being my own boss, muttering swearwords, blasting Fall Out Boy and making ridiculous things because I could. There’s a stall in Southend high street selling home accessories that say things like ‘eat glitter for breakfast and shine all day’, ‘life’s a journey’, etc.; I always wanted to paint them black and ad lib… so I did.
I even made stickers. Hell’s Belles – which was also influenced heavily by the pastel goth tag, 9 years of listening to My Chemical Romance and the exact colour I wanted my hair – is one of my favourite lines on my Etsy. It’s weird, either offensive or funny depending on your sense of humour and made of everything I’ve been interested in over the last couple of years: magic, cynicism, cursing, cynical cursing and inspirational Instagram posts.
I have a suspicion I’ll make more of one or more of the above. Look out around Halloween.