I Miss Being 11 Years Old…

aged 11

I went out for a run this morning, and thought about what my 11 year old self would think about meeting the woman she’d grow up to be ten whole years later.

When I was 11, I started secondary school, going to the local special needs secondary school in the area. I had my first ever crush (who I’ve cropped out of the above image because privacy), and went on a medieval school trip in costume, where the above photograph was taken.

I was also the most avid reader.

Considering the childhood I had, it was better to escape into a little world of my own for a few hours rather than face the reality of my situation, that I was in foster care, autistic and being bullied both at home and school.

So I read a LOT of books.

And I’d get through at least five books a week. I read anything I could get my hands on, be it for children or for adults. I even read Shakesphere, Dickens. Breaktimes would be spent either in the school library reading Anne Frank’s diary, or in the playground tucked under a tree with The Butterfly Lion by Michel Morpurgo. I’d go to Hogwarts with Harry, Ron and Hermione, time travel through Horrible Histories, walking through the streets of Heaven with Mel Beebie and her angel friends.

So, it’s safe to say that I read an awful lot, so many I can’t remember them all.

I also wrote a lot of stories. I wrote about the ‘Rainbow Agents’, where each of my classmates and I were representing a colour of the rainbow and saving the world from all sorts of crazy things that I can’t really remember anymore. It was ten years ago!

But what about now, ten years later? Would 11 year old Heidi recognise herself in me?

To be perfectly honest, I don’t think she would.

Since then, I’ve been studying, growing up, working, making friends and having relationships. I have a flat to care for, bills to pay, family to spend time with…

And I’m expected to write as well as look after my general health and well being.

Which doesn’t give me much time to sit down and read several books a week, or write a whole story in under ten minutes. Or the energy and motivation.

I spend too much time outside of studying, trying to manage my home and seeing other people dossing around on the internet and playing Sims 4 instead of reading and writing. It’s really not the best of habits, when I could be totally spending that time curled up with a book or jotting down a few lines of prose.

So, as of today, I’m going to start reading one book a week, and writing something daily, even if it’s something I end up scrunching up and throwing away. It also means actually blogging more often than I have been, and generally just being more focused on my goals.

I do miss being 11 years old. But I would like to think that she’d be proud of me ten years later, and starting to read again should help.

How To Write a Novel in 30 Days #1

Day #1 is here!

I’m in Portsmouth staying with my aunt and uncle for a week or so, so I’m using the change of scenery to help me focus in the initial stages of the project.

So, my aunt woke me up at half seven, and I rolled out of bed at eight, and started writing at nine. I had a mug of very sweet coffee, a couple of biscuits, some notes and my laptop, and got down to business.

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By ten, I had about half and a bit of the day’s target total, 1035.

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My initial aim was to have it all down by eleven, but it was about half past eleven when I hit gold…

With 83 extra words to the chapter! Huzzah!

I feel really good at this point. I’ve noticed how much easier it has been today after taking my ADHD medication first thing before sitting down to write. Starting a routine of writing a chapter a day will also probably help, as will writing a summery of each chapter down in my notes to remind me of where I’m at in the story so I don’t get side tracked. I can also write a quick line of how I want to work the next chapter, so I have an idea of where I’d like the story to go, but allowing the opportunity for my imagination to run wild and add other parts. It’s nice to be focused, and do things in manageable chunks. Says me on Day #1. By the end of the week I may feel differently, but who knows? At the moment I’m feeling pretty darn good about everything.

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I’m looking happy at the moment, though how long that’ll last, I haven’t a clue. Milly had better behave herself in the next few weeks, otherwise we might just fall out. Writing an ADHD character as someone with ADHD is proving to be an interesting experience. As I’m handing parts of the book in for university work, I won’t be sharing excerpts until I’ve had my marks back, just to be on the safe side of not self plagerising, yay?

The story was initially going to be a chic lit style novel, although already in the first chapter I feel the genre is going in a whole new direction, probably just a comedy, to be honest. Even though ADHD isn’t always fun to live with, you can get an awful lot of material from personal experience for both stand up and general comedic writing. I really need to hone my comedy writing skills, so I’m hoping this novel will be very good practice!

So, Day #1 is done, bring on Day #2!

Stats

Starting Word-Count = 0

Target Word-Count of the Day = 2000

Word-Count Total = 2083

Total Words Written Today = 2083

Minimum Word-Count Target for Tomorrow = 1917

The Books I Wish I’d Written

I was in one of my seminars at university, when the fateful task was set. Simply, our tutor asked us, “Which children’s book do you wish you’d written?” In the final seminar we’ll have for the module, we have to present the book of our choosing to our smaller table group, and talk about why we wish we’d written it.

So, as I was rushing out of my seminar (being let out early because it’s submission day), and back to my flat to get some things together before my study session, I pondered on this question.

Which book do I wish I’d written? Out of all the books I’ve read, loved and read again, which one would I wish I myself had written? I’m a young writer, beginning to hone her craft, and really work on her voice on the page. What book would I have wanted to have written for children? Or indeed, any audience?

I should answer this question in three parts, the children’s book I would of liked to have written, the modern adult novel I wish I’d written, and the classic book I’d love to have written.

 
Children’s Book 



Ah, The Book Thief, which was adapted into a very successful, beautiful film last year. The story of a German girl adopted by a couple, during the Nazi regime. Told from the POV of Death, the story of Liesel, the Jew hidden in the basement and the books she steals after learning how to read, among other things is one that is haunting, funny, sad and beautiful all in one book. Using an outsider who is omnipresent to tell the story in first person, with little quips every now and then, is a really clever idea that I wish I’d come up with myself in my own literature. 

Modern  Adult’s Book



Had to be this one! Telling the untold version of the story of Oz, and how the Wicked Witch of the West became Wicked, and how Glinda the Good became Good.  It is intricate, complicated, dark and erotic, among other things. This isn’t a bedtime story for the kids, that’s for sure! The way that Maguire took an established world, and completely turned it on its head, making it his own world, is something I’ve always envied. I also relate to Elphaba, the green girl who becomes the Wicked Witch we all love to hate. Her story is told in a way that is sensitive and empathetic, all those who have been shunned and abused for being different are given a voice through this prickly, angry woman. I wish I’d written Elphaba myself!

Classic Book



How could I not? This was a book that saved me when I was fourteen, lonely and depressed in a foster home where I wasn’t loved. The confident, feisty Elizabeth Bennet was a girl after my own heart. I lived vicariously through her as she went to balls, toured big houses and argued with Mr. Darcy. 

But why do I wish I’d written this book? 

The characters put in for comic effect, of course! Mr. Collins is just ridiculous, pompous, kissing Lady Cathrine’s butt in order to get ahead, and talking stupidly about her whilst in company. Not to mention his lack of manners in social situations… (Sorry Darcy!). And who can forget Mrs. Bennet? The neurotic, loud woman who is determined to ensure all her daughters are suitably married, driving her poor husband, who’d married her when she was still pretty and sorely regrets it now, into living in his study all the time, pretty much. Without these two, the novel wouldn’t be as good as it is. And it is that skill in comedic character building that I want to learn from Austen.

So, that’s my answer to my tutor’s question done. OK, I’ve gone through two books that I couldn’t look at in that class, but I couldn’t resist! 

It’s Been a While…

It’s been ages since I wrote a post for this blog.

I’ve been terrible at keeping you all updated in everything I’ve been up to. Catching up with a load of backlogged coursework, running Pagan Society, writing a novel and general living. But I thought I’d give you a run-down on how it’s been.

I did get one book for Christmas, from M, an anthology of love poetry, which was cute! Other than that, I got some nice presents from my aunt and paternal family. It was amazing to spend Christmas with my own biological family, which I hadn’t really done since before I was put into care. But the past is in the past, and we move on.

So, things are progressing with my ADHD life. I’m now on maximum dose of my medication, and it is actually making the world of difference. I can now, once it has properly kicked in, sit down and blitz a load of words down. I’ve even been able to start a novel!

Tonight I’m off to help out to prepare with stuff for tomorrow, as I’m taking part in my first ever Reclaim the Night! Can’t wait! I’ll write more about it tomorrow, as it’s going to be amazing! I’ll write it from a neurodiverse point of view, so it should be informative!

I should be posting a lot more often than I have been, I’ve missed you all!

Books, Books, Books…

They are a major part of my life. I’m not even kidding! When most women buy wine and shoes, I purchase books and tea, maybe some cosy jumpers too…

I saw an article about books affecting relationships, and about these two women’s reactions to books changing their relationships in various ways. I thought I’d respond.

I’ve even gotten into fights with partners over my reading habit. My ex told me I should stick to the TV, he did so happily, so why was that an issue? That sucked. I’d buy him books for Christmas, and he’d pretend to read a chapter before sending it on to a charity shop a week later. Another partner disputed my choice of reading material (“do you read anything post classics era? You know, published recently?”). And one moaned when I started reading Chris Ryan novels so I’d fit in with his literary discussions on the playground.

But I fell in love as a result of reading. When Matt was staying over one time, in my old halls, I had to leave him for an hour as I had an appointment with my mentor. When I got back, he was curled up with a book. He wasn’t even disturbed by my entrance, as I kicked off my heels and shimmied out of a little dress to climb back into bed. A man who reads is a man I shall attempt to be with forever!

And, we talk about books all the time! We go through the set novels on my lists for university, as well as general books we loved as children, teenagers, young adults. Even books we read for pleasure get discussed and reviewed verbally, exploring themes and ideas of the writers, coming up with our own theories.

I’m just hoping I get books for Christmas!

First Week Back!

So, I’ve finally finished my first week back in classes! I’m currently celebrating with a sneezing fit in the IT room as I type up this entry. Yes, I’ve heard a titter or two already coming from fellow inmates/students as I wonder why the hell it’s kicking off now. Maybe I’m allergic to studying?

All jokes aside, it has been great to be back doing what I love to do, that is, being in the academic environment, being in a routine once again.

Not to mention that there are some really interesting classes this year, compared to last year, with journals in Writer’s Workshop 2, in which I can get away with writing about the obcsene poems inspired by Ginsburg, and talk about not reading but screwing (sorry Matt!), reading picture books in Writing for Young People (Where The Wild Things Are, fabulous!), reading chick lit in Genre Fiction (even when a girl complains how deeply offended she is by the term ‘chick lit’, calling it highly mysoginistic, and that we should be banned from reffering to it as such, even though the industry itself refers to books as such. What do you lot think? I’m not overly fussed!), and writing poetry to be yelled at in Performance Poetry. I’ll admit that I did skive Sudden Prose to go to my Comedy Society session, but after an email from my professor asking me whether I’m still in the module or not guilt-tripping me, I’ll have to drop Comedy for a bit. It’s only for one semester though, so I can chillax.

So, it’s been a good week, other than realising that using a manual wheelchair to get around campus is an absolute nightmare, especially when your lecture/support session is at the top of a hill, or the postroom has been moved to a completley inaccessable spot on campus. In the next week, I’ll be writing an official blog post about my experiences as a person who is trying to get around in a wheelchair/crutches in and around Bath and Bath Spa University, and how I feel that things could change for the better in the way that people are being supported and assisted in these situations.

In the meantime, my laptop is back to normal now the malware’s off, I’ve got a journal to update, and Matt is over tomorrow, so I need to tidy up as much as I can! Woo?

The Rosie Project – Review

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It was the day of travel, when I had to go back to Blighty (more on that tomorrow). I’d gotten my last €40 out of the travel car account, and I decided to buy something to read. I dragged Josh into the airport bookshop, which was a weird, international mishmash version of WHSmiths, and had a look at the English section, unfortunately the smallest section in the whole thing. It meant that I had to do a serious dig, amongst all the chic lit and terrible erotic novellas, and came up with a couple of alright-looking ones (to be fair, I went back twice, as I wasn’t sure the first time whether I’d have enough for two books after feeding Josh and I from a really expensive airport café). The first one I bought I am yet to properly read, but the second book, The Rosie Project, which I’d seen in the bookshops back at home in the UK, was something I had to read first. After the magazines I picked up, obviously.

The story is of a genetics professor, and professional cocktail maker in Australia, called Don Tillman, who is undiagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome, although a couple of the characters attempt to hint to him that he may have the disability. He is precocious, has a rigid routine, and is eccentric both emotionally and socially. He decides he wants to get married, but hasn’t got a woman to marry. So he creates ‘The Wife Project’, with a full on questionnaire to make sure he finds the most suitable candidate. It’s a perfect idea to find the perfect wife… Until he meets Rosie. Whilst helping her to find her biological father, he starts to feel an emotion that he hasn’t felt before, even though she is completely incompatible with him according to his requirements. The novel looks at the growing relationship, and his struggle to understand and learn that sometimes, love comes to you rather than the other way round.

This was a book that was believable, funny, sweet and charming. Don is a character that, although you can so see that he is on the autistic spectrum, it’s not the main focus of the novel. It’s about him, and his growth as a person, rather than about his issues. Although, that said, it’s handled sensitively and realistically. The writer says in his interview, that he based Don and his characteristics on people he worked with as an IT specialist, rather than researching the condition in the traditional way. In this case, it worked. You can tell when a writer has had to research a condition, without any personal knowledge of it. This helped to portray Don in a positive light, despite his flaws.

And I liked the additions of  Don’s questionnaire, cocktail recipes and interviews in the edition that I picked up. It gave the book a touch that made you feel more included, not just a reader, but actually someone in Don’s world.

This is the first book ever, with an Asperger’s protagonist, that I actually haven’t had any issues with. I remember reading Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime, which I feel is one of the most stereotypical and terrible characterisations of an autistic person that I have ever read, as it really focused on the condition, and not the character himself, which is the biggest problem when writing autistic characters. I enjoyed this book, simply because it’s a book about a guy who wants a girl, rather than an autistic guy who can’t get a date.

My rating: *****

For a rom-com, brilliant!

On Being a Writer

It’s not the glamorous life that one expects, being a writer. I remember being a child, and dreaming of sitting at a little table with a cup of tea, a posh notebook with creamy white pages and a fountain pen, looking out of the window for inspiration with my hair flowing down my back. And everything that I wrote would be of first class standard, suitable for being a published best selling novel, with my name in lights. Fans would adore me, begging me to visit their schools, sign copies of the books, have interviews for their newspapers and magazines. People would even name their children after my characters, I would be so amazing.

However, I had the shock of my life. I had a tutorial about the last creative assignment that I handed in. I only just passed, with a third class mark. It was humiliating to be shot down like that, to be told that actually I need to pull my socks up, smell the coffee, see reality. I need to stop letting people in my family and circle of non writer friends tell me how amazing a writer I am, for they don’t know the craft, and what they are talking about. Being a writer simply isn’t about the dreaming, it’s the lifestyle involving sheer hard work, the slog, constantly editing, constantly changing. It’s all well and good to get the initial draft down, but that’s not what makes you a writer. The writer is the one who can look at a piece of work they’ve written, and thinks, ‘hmmmm, how can I make this better?’. A writer weilds the red pen like it’s the fountain pen they’ve used to initially write the little darling on the page. The red rips the tale to shreds, before carefully piecing it back together again, ready for the editor’s perusal. 

It’s like one of my favourite animes, Whisper of the Heart, about a young middle school student who wants to become a writer. She writes her first draft of the novel that she is working on, and brings it to the owner of an antique store who she has become friends with. He reads it, and tells her that it’s good, but needs work to make it better. When she is sad about this, he shows her a rock on his desk. He explains to her that her skills as a writer are like the rock, unpolished and rough. But he then shows her the inside, and reveals the rock to be a geode, with beautiful crystals inside, which he refers to as some of the best pieces in her novel. He explains that once the novel is completely polished, the crystals will be revealed for the beauty and brilliance they are, but, for now, they need to be brought out through editing.  

I collect crystals, and bought a geode in a shop in York last year, when I attended the NUS Women’s Conference. I like to have it next to me when I’m working on my writing, in order to remind me that I’m still rough around the edges, and that I need to keep polishing before I can see myself as a proper writer. I might write things, but until I learn to edit and accept criticism, I can’t really call myself a true writer. It’s not glamorous to be sat in your pajamas, on a loan laptop from the company who has messed things up with your own one, in the kitchen because said loan won’t charge its battery, trying to frantically type up some sort of story before the seminar you should of written for two weeks ago, on top of searching online to find the basis of the book you were supposed to read for that class. 

It’s an interesting idea, though. My idea of what a writer is has changed so much. I can almost imagine all the writers of my childhood getting up early, all stressed and untidy, swigging coffee and Red Bull as they sit in front of their computers and frantically write out a chapter before the deadline their agent has provided for them. It’s not a relaxing life, not at all! It’s bad enough that I have to write to university deadlines at the moment, without having to worry about how my life will pan out in the future!

So, for now, I’m going to enjoy what little literary freedom I have left, being able to work on little projects here and there. I’ve jotted down a few poems in the past three weeks, but am yet to write another short story. In the meantime, that’s my aim for this afternoon, once I’ve battled the storm to go and check the mail…

I Went Shopping!

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Today I went to Southampton, and took my vouchers from Social Services with me. TO WATERSTONES!

Sadly, we do not have indie bookshops in my part of the world, which breaks my heart. But even if there were, the love to shop vouchers wouldn’t be valid in them. But I didn’t get that much time to pick the books that I would cart back with me. I had to top up my spending by a couple of pounds on top of the vouchers. But so worth it.

I might actually sit down and write a To Be Read list, like other bloggers tend to do. I could even start vlogging if I wanted to, now I have a DSLR on the way (And when I get my laptop repaired), but that might be too much effort for me, especially as I have got a whole module to catch up on. I might do a reading challenge though…

So, I thought I’d share with you the books that I have purchased today, why I have bought them, and my expectations of the book.

1) The Library of Unrequited Love by Sophie Divry.  It’s a French novella that’s been translated from its original language. It’s about a librarian who discovers that one of the readers has unwittingly been locked in the library all night. The story seemed intriguing, and when I read the first couple of pages in the shop, I knew I had to get it. It’s told in second person, with no paragraphing or chapter breaks. I haven’t read much of it yet, but it is a charming little book, and the cover looked nice too.

2) Skellig by David Almond. This guy is one of the professors on my degree program, and he gave a talk to us at a plenary session. He was really inspiring, so I’ve been on the lookout for his debut novel about a strange birdman creature a young boy finds in a shed. I’m looking forward to reading this, seriously.

3) Stoner by John Williams. This is the Waterstones book of the year, and after reading the blurb, I can’t wait to give this novel a good go. The main story is about this guy who goes to unit to study one career, ends up doing something completely different, marries an unsuitable woman, and dies as an unmemorable person.However, it is also supposed to be a deeper story. Intriguing.

4) The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole aged 13 3/4 by Sue Townsend. This is a cult classic involving the diary of a young, awkward teenage boy, which changed YA and the way it was viewed forever.

So, that’s the start of the to read list! Can’t wait to get started, alongside all my uni reading! Yay for books!

Itchy Fingers…

Let’s face it. It’s the winter vacation. I know I am meant to be having some sort of holiday, where I don’t even so much as lay eyes on pen and paper, let alone write whole pieces of literature. 

However, I do have to draft an essay for Poetry, which involves going through all the lecture slides from the lectures of last semester, which I missed because I was originally in Scriptwriting. I also have to write three or more short stories for my Creative Project, which is basically going to be an anthology of creative work sold to students and lecturers alike to raise money for the National Autistic Society. Therefore we wish to write pieces involving the issues faced by people with AS, such as isolation, being accepted by other people, being different, that kind of thing. I will probably have to write an author bio, and find someone of significance to write a foreword for it, before we go to print. We’ll have to pay for the anthologies to be printed, and bound, out of our own pockets. But it ought to be worth it.

But, I also want to start another novel. I did attempt the chic lit piece, but it didn’t feel right. So I want to try something different.

You see, I was watching the latest Hobbit movie with Josh for our date night on Monday, and was watching the scenes involving the dragon very closely. After all, The Hobbit was originally a set of spoken tales by Tolkin to his young children, before he wrote it up as a novel for children. Considering the movies are being marketed to adults, it’s incredible the way that the original audience for the story was for children.

I used to say that I never wanted to write children’s fiction. But I’ve been in some wonderful lectures with children’s writers, including David Almond, who wrote Skellig, which I need to get my hands on when I get a chance to. I love it that children get more involved with the stories, with the writers too. I know that this sounds mad, but I love the idea of spending time at my desk, with posh paper and a fountain pen, and a bottle of perfume, and writing handwritten responses to all my readers who write in to me, and slip in a bag of sweets just for the extra thrill. I know how much children rely on stories. I know I did when I was a little girl. I remember climbing up to a low branch in a tree where the bullies were to scared to climb, and curled up with a battered old book. I also remember reading The Phantom Tollbooth when I was fourteen, and being able to escape into the crazy world of edible words and talking numbers, because the real world filled with mean students and cruel foster carers wasn’t as fun.

So, I want to write a children’s book. 

Itchy fingers, man…