#DearJune Days 21 – 30

Part 3 (and the final part) of my #DearJune posts. See Days 1-10 here and Days 11-20 here.

Day 21 – Tea

Day 22 – Space

Day 23 – Diary

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📔 #DearJune Day 23: Diary 📔 ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ These are my two diaries (I couldn’t find one once and now I just have two on the go. Both Moomin themed for reasons). I like to keep a diary for three reasons: Improving my writing, Venting and exploring my emotions, and the hope that in the far future my diaries will all be discovered and become an interesting piece of history and I will be posthumously famous. ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ Keeping a diary makes you oddly vulnerable. Diaries might hold secrets or just emotional processing that you’re not comfortable putting into words for other people. Using my diary for venting nearly ended a friendship in high school. If someone had read my diary during University it definitely would have outed some of my carefully constructed coping mechanisms and boundaries. It seems almost foolish to me that I let so much of myself be discoverable just by picking up a book I keep by my bed (though good luck reading my handwriting). ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ It is also fun having a diary. I get to write more often, I get to choose the lens I tell my life through, I get to keep a record of all my adventures. I do think keeping a diary has made me a better writer, I think it has helped me to be able to address my experiences more thoughtfully, and most of all it’s just so fun to go back and have a friendly laugh at your younger self over crushes, and short term friend fallouts, and even the strange and silly experiences you’ve had as a fully grown, totally mature, adult – because there will always be times you just want to call someone a butthead.

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Day 24 – Magic

Day 25 – Sunflowers

Day 26 – Playing

I like structured fun. I was keen on hide and seek and other playground games long after they were popular. Quite honestly, if someone suggested hide and seek today I might still be down for it.
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The next phase of games in primary school was card games and werewolf. When interest in these tapered off I was pretty bummed. Several years later we got to drinking games and boy was I relieved.
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I don’t get bored of these games the way other people seem to. I’m sure part of it is coming to them later, and I feel like they’re different enough each time. I do know that I find it so much easier to socialise through games. So much of my anxiety in social situations is managed by having like… cards to play with. I used to be quite confused that other people got bored by these games and the fun wore off for them. Having reflected on how I’ve felt about games my whole life, and how I feel when someone suggests a game over just sitting around talking, I think it’s just part of the way I am and the way my brain works. It’s not exactly the only aspect of social interaction that’s taken me a while to wrap my head around throughout my life.
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I am a pretty extroverted person, so I will endure unstructured fun and I can definitely begin to enjoy it. But if you ever want to play board games with me, or cards, even jackbox or role playing games, don’t hesitate for a second to invite me along.

ginger cat sits on a large dollhouse like structure for cats

Day 27 – Citrus

Day 28 – Changing

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🕰 #DearJune Day 28: Changing 🕰 ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ My first instinct for today’s prompt was just to write out the entirety of the lyrics to the song changes but I’m bored on a train so here’s more writing. ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ I used to resist the idea that I don’t like change, because it always seems to be a bad thing. I’m coming to accept that while I’m actually happy with change more broadly, it does make me apprehensive. This is because I’m a planner. I definitely get bored if there’s no switching things up, but I don’t like a quick switch. If I know it’s coming I can prepare myself and maybe throw together some lists and agendas to make the transition more smooth for myself. ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ Outside of my day to day life I think change can happen frustratingly slow. Earlier this week I attended an event at parliament where an MSP chose to use the word ‘impatient’ when addressing a room full of LGBT activists. I knew what she had meant in context but the word made my heart fall into my stomach. I might not like a quick change, but I’ve been thinking about how I could feel when society is more equal ever since I realised society wasn’t equal. I’m only 23 so there’s many people who have been much more patient than myself waiting for that change. I might be a cautious person, I might like a gradual change and the chance to check in, but there’s some changes we just can not wait any longer to make. ⠀⠀⠀⠀ Anyway, let’s end capitalism.

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Day 29 – Flashes

Day 30 – Social

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👫 #DearJune Day 30: Social 👭 ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ I spend a lot of my time alone. When I’m not alone I’m usually with my partner, or I’m at work. People are often impressed with how comfortable I am going out to dinner, the theatre, or to a movie all by myself. Truly it is a result of convenience with a dash of unyielding fear of being rejected (which I’ll then subconsciously use as evidence that I am secretly widely disliked). It stems more from my lack of confidence in reaching out to people than confidence in myself. ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ I am terribly lonely. Since high school I’ve completely failed to build friendships that meet my needs. I still have virtually no friends I feel really close to in the UK. Most people I have connected with either turned out to just be kinda shitty friends, live nowhere near me (why must you all be in London?), or were so intrinsically tied with university experiences that I haven’t heard from them since (bar awkward cafe run-ins). ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ Being social is incredibly important to me. Despite my hounding self doubt in regards to being liked I am at heart an extrovert; I draw energy from other people and I feel so much joy when I am with good people. People are surprised when I do something like volunteer flat out at Summer in the City for 3 days straight, or travel to London for one weekend just to go to an all night Disney movie marathon which nearly kills me, but it’s these experiences with these people that really keep me going. Otherwise, I am just alone, always.

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#DearJune Days 11 – 20

Part 2 of my #DearJune posts for the Instagram challenge set by Hannah Witton.

Read Days 1-10 here and Days 21-30 here.

Day 11 – Sea

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🌊 #DearJune Day 11: Sea 🌊 ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ I didn’t think I loved the sea until I got in the sea when it was warm. I have long adored being in water; I love to swim more than almost any other kind of exercise, and water is so effortlessly calming. I have never been as confident in the sea though. It’s often cold and wild, and you’re never really quite sure when you will step on a crab or brush up against a jellyfish. Perhaps one of the reasons I prefer warm sea is because it’s often also clear sea, and it’s harder for creatures to hide. ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ In September I visited the island of Korčula and just let myself float in the clear glittering water trying to shut off my brain. It felt so good to be in the sea. The day before I had made an impulsive decision to visit another beach I happened upon on my way to the ferry. It had been months since I had been in the sea and something inside of me just clicked, the only thing that got me out of the water was knowing I was going on to even quieter beaches. ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ On New Year’s 2018 shortly after the clock struck midnight my friends and I wandered down to the beach and dived amongst the waves. I had been so nervous about this new year’s, not being sure how everyone would get along, and if I would feel welcome. Jumping around like an idiot in the sea that night was one of the times in my life I have felt the most content.

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Day 12 – Superheroes

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🦸‍♀️ #DearJune Day 12: Superheroes 🦸‍♀️ ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ I think I purchased this T-shirt in 2014 and haven’t let it go since even though it now has holes in it. I was a little scared to wear it at first – women in particular are often questioned on their knowledge of whatever logo is on their shirt. I didn’t know a lot about comics, or superheroes, but I knew I liked badass women and I look cute in a crop top. ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ Since then both comics and films have been edging toward better representation for women, and I’m beginning to pay attention. I genuinely can’t put into words the emotions I felt watching Wonder Woman and Captain Marvel. They sure weren’t perfect but I was actually seeing women superheroes! In big budget films! Fighting bad guys with their ridiculous powers! (Even watching the all-woman ghostbusters I felt awesome). I know it’s cliché but I always leave movies like that with the thought ‘is this what (cis, abled, straight, white) dudes feel like all the time?’ because I do genuinely come out of those movies feeling empowered. ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ When I learned about the fat superhero Faith I lived above a comic book store, so I literally walked down the stairs and bought an issue immediately. I had never bought a comic before in my entire life, but I HAD to read about this badass woman superhero who was FAT. That was all it took to get me into a comic store.

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Day 13 – Blood 

Day 14 – Learning

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📝 #DearJune Day 14: Learning 📝 ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ I love to learn. According to a ‘Via Institute on Character’ test my love of learning is my greatest strength. However, while I love it, I definitely struggle with it. ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ I did not always find learning difficult, it came very easily to me as a child. At primary school I was exceptional at maths in particular, but never struggled with other subjects. In my first year of high school I became embarrassed by being good at maths. By my fourth year I missed it. I couldn’t process science and maths the way I had been able to before. It was incredibly frustrating. University was a whole different ball game. I worked my ass off for my degree, and I didn’t do badly, but I couldn’t believe how hard I found it all even when I put hours and hours and hours into something. ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ While I often didn’t enjoy ‘education’ I still love learning. When I discover amazing facts online, or in museums, or passing conversation, I light up inside. Not only do I enjoy it more, but I actually remember it! I don’t have to pore over books and test myself for hours and hours to drill it in. Something that strikes me is how less than a year ago I could name maybe 10 British birds (don’t tell the people that hired me). Through my job I now know more about Scotland’s wildlife than I could ever do anything with. Someone suggested to me I write a book about birds the other day, like, in a genuine way. I never sat down and forced myself to learn about birds, I’ve just read, and written, and shared such a volume of content at this point that if I didn’t know these things it would be incredibly strange. But the best part is I’ve enjoyed (almost) all of it. Maybe it’s because I’m getting paid instead of paying, maybe it’s because of the variety of ways I’m exposed to information, maybe it’s because the people I learn from are so passionate that they’ve dedicated their entire lives to the subject. It’s just so different to just listening, taking notes, and regurgitating information, and now that I’m learning outside of school, I’m learning to love it again.

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Day 15 – Home 

Day 16 – Icons

I was struggling with the theme of ‘icons’ a lot because I don’t have any specific icons of my own I look up to, and I couldn’t think of anything clever to say about computer icons. I googled icons and read the sentence ‘Pop icons of previous eras include Benjamin Franklin and Mozart’. This seemed kind of wild to me both because those two people are surely still iconic in some way today, and also because the term ‘pop icon’ just doesn’t seem a comfortable fit for them.
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I’ve realised I associate the phrase ‘iconic’ quite strongly with the queer community. Interestingly, there are many, many people with ‘queer icon’ status who aren’t queer. We end up in this weird position of wanting so desperately for both characters and actual real people to come out as queer because they fit this queer icon image. I hope in the near future there will just be more queer queer icons. They are definitely out there. I’m glad there are already some amazing queer icons to look up to, I’m just always starved for more.
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It really struck me at the Spice Girls how many of the attendees were visibly queer. I feel like the Spice Girls are such a weird image of 90s feminism and even though they were going full out with the inclusive messaging, I felt like I could see the split in the audience where there were super straight people and super gay people. Are the spice girls queer icons? Discuss.

dear june icons allie grace

Day 17 – Balloons

This is the first dear June I have failed to source my own picture for, but all I could think of for this prompt was the balloon photograph in the film Funny Face and I am far too sleepy today to think much beyond that.
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The part of the movie where they go out and take all the different photos was one of my absolute favourites, even though the song in that bit is one of the least fun (Give me Think Pink and Clap Yo’ Hands please). Someone please give me pretty dresses and a bunch of balloons and let me run around Paris.
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Also, take more candid photos of me you cowards.

Audrey Hepburn dressed in black dress holding a large number of balloons of different colours with some classic cars in the background

Day 18 – Post-its

You’re really challenging my need to sound pretentious and poetic with this prompt. I don’t really use post-its myself, I like the idea of them but actually they are of very little use and they are never sticky enough.
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The only real uses I can think of for post-its are for sticking the phone number for IT services to your work desktop, and then I suppose I see lots of people put post-its on top of stacks of paper about a thing to remind them what to do with that particular stack of paper.
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I’m not sure that I have ever regularly used post-its, but nowadays they seem particularly outdated. Do you think post-its could become obsolete?

two yellow post it notes stuck to a window. One has the word 'post' on it while the other has the word 'its; with a sketch of a pad of post its

Day 19 – Wishing

Day 20 – Skin

#DearJune Days 1-10

During June I took part in an Instagram challenge named #DearJune from superstar and friend Hannah Witton. I surprised myself by managing to write at least a little something every day and also by being brave enough to be so open and to share pieces of writing at all!

I’ve decided to put the pictures I shared and all the pieces of writing up here as well, largely because I’m about to get a bit pretentious about my Instagram ~aesthetic~ and archive some of the posts.

Don’t forget to follow my Instagram @alliegrce and I might share more writing there in the future!

Day 1 – Beginnings

Day 2 – Yellow

Day 3 – Music

Day 4 – Forgetting

Day 5 – Lightning

Day 6 – Travelling 

Day 7 – Risks

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🎲 #DearJune Day 7: Risk 🎲 ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ This is a photo from the day I graduated university. I think it’s fair to say moving over 18,000km and spending let’s-not-say-how-much-money for university is the biggest risk I’ve ever taken. It didn’t really feel like a risk when I first started, I don’t even remember feeling that scared (though there were some really sad goodbyes). I don’t remember when it hit me that I was so far from home, but I remember a lot of the times it hit me hardest. ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ I didn’t always think I would make it all the way through my degree at Edinburgh. I got homesick a lot, friendships that were incredibly important to me at the beginning crumbled by second year and weren’t replaced, some academic achievements seemed to be beyond my reach no matter how many hours I put in, my heart was broken at least twice (i think i only broke one heart in the same period), and I went through some of the worst periods of my mental illness that I’ve ever dealt with. I went through a lot of this alone. ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ What got me through was 1️⃣ my determination and drive (I am part Slytherin, fight me) 2️⃣ the amount of money my parents had invested in me and 3️⃣ not wanting any of the people that thought I couldn’t do it to have the satisfaction… ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ Spite can be a powerful tool sometimes 💁‍♀️

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Day 8 – Connections

Day 9 – Bodies

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👯‍♀️ #DearJune Day 9: Bodies 👯‍♀️ ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ I could say A LOT about bodies. Much of it about mine, but I’m not short on commentary on societies perceived ownership and right towards other people’s bodies. The obvious example being reproductive rights, but it doesn’t even come close to stopping there. I’ve decided to talk about fatness. ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ As someone who has been fat most of my life, people have often felt entitled to comment on my body. I remember almost every incident when strangers have commented on it in public. I remember people telling me how awesome I looked when I lost weight. I remember all the times even family and friends made me feel guilty for eating while being fat, filled with good intention. I remember people thinking I should be grateful that they wanted to hook up with me. Up until this very day people will assume a lot about my health and not be afraid to tell me about it. Society’s fatphobia has become completely ingrained in me. I am still terrified to show my body. ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ Yesterday I went to Murrayfield stadium and I didn’t fit through the turnstile. Now, I’m a small fat, so I still have mucho privilege, probably amplified by my mostly hourglass shape, and I STILL have these moments where I don’t fit through spaces, I’m in pain in cinema seats, and I get people giving me angry side eye when I slide into the plane seat next to them. The world is not designed for us. ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ There’s a body positivity movement, which has been embraced by people of all sizes. There’s a big emphasis on learning to love yourself, regardless of what society thinks or says. While I understand the value of that; I understand that my journey to loving my body isn’t complete (though I have come very far), it’s not really the problem. What good is loving myself if I’m still less likely to get hired, taken less seriously by medical professionals, and unable to even find clothes to wear. The problem isn’t fat people not loving themselves, I think you’ll find most of us know we’re fucking brilliant. The problem is the rest of society acting like it’s our fault we didn’t love ourselves in the first place.

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Day 10 – Glitter

 

Read days 11-20 here and days 21-30 here.

NaNoWriMo Day 1 (and Radical Book fair day 1!)

This year I’m participating in NationalNovelWritingMonth (NaNoWriMo) for the first time since I was 15 (I just logged into my account and my username was ‘Starwhale’ so that’s where I was at back then).

So, without further ado, I would like to introduce you to three of the characters in my novel:

Theo – One of our leads. She is 23 and works two part-time jobs. One is at the University, the other for an indie publisher. She likes to bake.  She’s bad at it.

Margot – Another leading lady, she’s just a little older than Theo. She writes and makes coffee at an edgy cafe. The cafe falls apart whenever she leaves. She goes on holiday a lot.

Robin – Despite his efforts to be mysterious, we are pretty sure he is just your average guy-in-his-20s.

So here is our trio, with many more characters to come.

The story is going to be set primarily in Glasgow (wow look at me distancing my characters from my reality by a whole 1-hour train ride). It’s speculative fiction and I think there’s plenty about Glasgow that will add to my fantasy.

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💡💡💡

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The other quick thing I wanted to say is that LighthouseBook’sRadicalBookFair started today! Followers of mine will know I love Lighthouse books and the rbf is a highlight of the year. They have loads of fantastic events over the next few days – find out more about them here!

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See you soon,

Allie

Summer in the City: Books!

Obviously the growing overlap of books and YouTube is controversial. I won’t go into that. For me, it was really cool to see how the two different interests of mine overlapped. There were two panels I was really excited about – and luckily managed to get to (I was volunteering at the event so panels were not the top priority). I saw the Booktube panel on the Saturday, and the Women who write panel on the Sunday.

Penguin Platform stall
Penguin had a great stall at Sitc and even gave me free books and a cute ass tote bag

When I tried YouTube when I was younger I had always wanted it to be related to books, and if I ever try again I suspect I will come back to that. The Booktube community was one of my early points of access to the wider YouTube community. The Panel was moderated by Sanne (booksandquills) who I have followed for years and years. Other speakers were Hannah Witton, Ariel Bissett, Lucy Powrie, Genista Tate-Alexander, Olly Thorn (PhilosophyTube), and Imani Shola. I had known of and watched about half of the panelists before, and am really interested in what the other panelists do.

I was particularly interested in Olly Thorn’s work on YouTube. As a soon-to-be Psychology graduate I have often thought about making academia that I am familiar with more accessible by making YouTube content. This is effectively exactly how Olly got his start. I think it’s so important that knowledge is made more accessible to everyone. University is insanely expensive. Textbooks, journals, and even general non-fiction books can really empty out one’s wallet quickly. I was glad to see people are already doing the things I have thought about in approaching education accessibility, and I hope to be a bigger part of it someday.

It was interesting to hear Hannah and Imani speak a little on their own published works. I had already read ‘Doing It’ as a big fan of Hannah and as someone who is very involved in improving sex education. I now have Imani’s poetry book ‘Heart Shards and Lip balm’ sitting on my bed for me to read ASAP. I did not know of Imani before but she was such a highlight of the event. She radiates positivity and thoughtfulness, and I think it was so worthwhile having her voice on panels at the event. I can’t wait to see more of her.

women who write panel
Women who write panel

I would love to write more, so hearing from people who have written is an opportunity I don’t like to pass up. Whether it be poetry, non-fiction, or something else entirely, I love to hear about other people’s processes and experiences with writing (particularly if their writing is out there in the world, on bookstore shelves and in amazon warehouses). This brings me on to the second bookish panel: Women who write. As well as Hannah and Imani making an appearance again, Savannah Brown, Hazel Hayes, Connie Glynn, and Dodie Clark were there to talk about heaps of different kinds of writing.

Each of them were coming at writing in different ways. Hannah, who was moderating, has written her non-fiction book about sex education. Imani and Savannah both have published poetry books, and Savannah is also in the process of writing a novel. Connie (who you may know as Noodlerella) is writing a series of YA books. Hazel is a film-maker, and has written a number of scripts, but also has a background in short story writing. Finally, Dodie is primarily known for being a song-writer, but also has a non-fiction book being released later this year.

It was so interesting hearing all of their different perspectives and experiences with writing. I was really fascinated by what each of them had to say, and was taking notes on my phone about some of their strategies and techniques. I particularly like hearing women speak on it, and it was really interesting to hear about the prominence of women in the book industry (Especially in contrast to the film industry, which Hazel had good insight into).

I’m really glad to have had the opportunities to hear all of these people speak at both panels. My love and passion for writing, books, and publishing, was well supported at the event, which was really exciting for me. I hope to see more insight into this world in the future, and continue to explore how it connects with online media and personalities.

Allie x

P.S. Later this week I will probably write a blog about YouTube culture more broadly, and being a ‘fan’. As I have a lot of thoughts I’d like to write down, and as I’ve learned in the last 24 hours, Twitter is not sufficient for sharing those thoughts…

 

Mentioned in this post:

Sanne Vliegenthart
Hannah Witton
Imani Shola
Lucy Powrie
Ariel Bissett
Genista Tate-Alexander
Olly Thorn
Hazel Hayes
Dodie Clark
Savannah Brown
Connie Glynn

Are self help books any good?

I’m a depressed, anxious, b12 deficient individual who lacks motivation and lacks energy. A 15-minute task will often take me an hour. So maybe it’s not surprising that I’ve found myself increasingly drawn toward books that are supposed to give me a different perspective on life.

In late 2015 a break-up and a precarious mental health moment happened to occur at the same time. After a few days of not moving or eating I made a very determined effort to distract myself with, well, life. This was not a route I was accustomed to taking but it was 1 month until Christmas, and fuck being sad at Christmas. So, along with a bunch of other less well thought out coping mechanisms, I ordered a bunch of books to try to help me… find myself… or something.

On December 1st, the following books arrived; The art of pretending to be a grown up, #Girlboss, Made, and You are a badass.

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#book purchases of the day. Bit of a theme📚

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Aside from the fact that not long after I ended up in another weirdly weird relationship, I think they helped. Grace Helbig’s book made me laugh as I recognised way too much of myself in her words. Girlboss was inspiring and intriguing at the time, although since then I’m not so keen on Sophia Amoruso and the concerning tales that surround her business. Made was not so invigorating as it was calming. It felt like a slightly too rich friend having a wee gab about her lifestyle to you, and I still refer to it two years later (although I will never live so glamorously as Millie).

Finally, we have ‘You are a badass’. While I started this that December, I didn’t finish it till nearly a year later – having been generally distracted by university, and abandoning it when I went home for summer. Heading into my 3rd year of uni was the best time for me for me to pick this back up. Somewhere in myself, I found a drive I have literally never had before (Well, maybe back in primary school). My very first week back were some of the busiest days, and for months after that, I was non-stop. For the first time in years, I had energy and motivation. Now I’m not going to put it all down to Jen Sincero’s book (I did get some B12 injections), but ever since I could read I’ve drawn my strength from doing just that. Books written specifically to inspire me, and to sort me out, are no different.

I’m coming up on my fourth and final year of university and I’ve recently picked up two books. How to have a good day, and I want to be organised. While on of these sits in my office, the other joins the pile of Sarah Knight books by my bed. I hope that these, maybe paired with a few more B12 injections, are the boost I need to ace my last year of uni, and finally get out into the real world.

This Must Be The Place…

The completely honest reason this book ended up in my possession was that Amazon had a 3 for 2 sale and I liked the cover.  When it arrived in the mail (with Everything Everything and How to be Parisian) I was struck by fear reading the blurb on the back. It sounded … kind of trashy. Not at all the kind of thing I’d usually pick up. But I had it now, and I really did like the cover, so I persevered.

Thank goodness I did because it was while reading this book, in Lovecrumbs cafe, that the spark of starting this blog went off in my brain. And so I suppose this is the very first proper reading books in cafes blog post.

 

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Rose & Pistachio Cake at LoveCrumbs Edinburgh

 

Even a little bit into This must be the place I still wasn’t feeling quite sure about it, but I was quickly becoming terribly invested in the story without even thinking. By the end of it, I had laughed and cried and made a ton of weird reaction faces that made everyone who saw me reading rather concerned. This is, of course, the downside of reading in cafes, people do think you’re a weirdo when you burst out laughing sitting by yourself.

I came to care about the characters more than I ever dreamed was possible when I began the story. Even the ones that were kinda a little bit scumbaggy had my attention. One of the things that pained me the most was how, as I closed the book, I still wanted to know so much more about each and every single one of them. You do get a few different perspectives throughout the book, but there were some characters who I would have quite happily read 20 more chapters about.

Normally when a novel is jumping from character to character, and across time periods, I can get a little frustrated. But for the most part, O’Farrell did it rather beautifully. Towards the end, I will admit I felt it fell apart a bit. There was a weird jump, with bits that were glossed over, which took me out of the story I had been so wrapped up in. She saved it, however, and brought me right back. There is something about the way the author looks at so many relationships, in such a unique story, that is a bit magical. It’s the sort of set-up, the sort of tale that could never really happen quite the way it does. But Maggie O’Farrell sells it to you, and it becomes quite jolting every time you have to yank your nose out from amongst the pages.

I ended up falling totally in love with the story. I can absolutely see how it wouldn’t be for everyone. Hell, I didn’t even think it was for me for quite some time. Now, however, I am so glad to have read it, and I think it sparked something in me I hadn’t felt about books for a while. I think I shall be looking into more of Maggie’s work.

 

Allie

 

Event: Publishing and Translation in Africa

Yesterday evening I left work early, hurried along to Blackwell’s, and sat myself down for a panel event exploring the world of publishing as it is in Africa.

Hosted by Dr Ola Uduku, the conversation delved into telling African stories, publishing those stories, and translating them. The challenges of sharing African voices was explored in depth, with the speakers highlighting issues I might never have considered living here in the United Kingdom.

Abdulai Silá was one of the guests. He has written three novels, but the tale up for discussion was A Última Tragédia (The Ultimate Tragedy). He told us of the battle Guinea-Bissau had fought for their independence. He told us of the different kinds of battles that followed. Última Tragédia is also about these stories, experiences told from different perspectives. It is a work of fiction, but he spoke of it being akin to a memoir. The words that stuck with me the most as he spoke were ‘I did not want it to have a happy ending, because colonialism isn’t a happy thing’.

I had come to the event because I am interested in publishing, but I had also come because for every African experience I read about, or hear, there are ten white people trying to re-tell that story. I want to learn more about the culture and history of countries all over Africa, told to me not by the colonizer, but by the colonized, and those living after colonization. The statement really drove home to me that Abdulai Silá was one of the few of those voices I had heard.

The discussion shifted to Jethro Soutar, the translator of A Última Tragédia. One of the reasons we do not hear stories from those outside of our bubble is because of the time and money that has to be dedicated to producing a translation. Soutar highlighted both poetic and practical challenges of getting the book to an English speaking audience. The very first sentence was an almighty challenge in itself. Across languages there is different meaning, and power, in certain phrases. When a writer chooses their words, they choose them carefully. Soutar shared the struggle he faced to not lose the story Silá wanted to tell, and to not impose a translation on it if it didn’t fit. He then turned to other challenges – for this story he received a grant, but for many translated texts it’s hard to get the investment in the work when the publisher themselves can not even read the original material.

The third speaker, Louise Umutoni, had more to say about the practical difficulties of publishing and sharing stories. Umutoni is the founder of Huza Press, based in Rwanda. She has had an extensive career in journalism and communications, and I immediately felt I was very lucky to hear her speak. One of the areas she spoke of was the challenges of publishing within Africa. She highlighted how when Huza began they had to look at improving the foundation of writing in Rwanda. They began hosting workshops, and they encouraged writers further when they were able to set up a prize. At this point Silá chimed in again. In Guinea-Bissau they had had to break down existing presumptions about writing, and books, in order to make the whole idea feel accessible for the community.

As someone who grew up in a family with books lining the shelves of every room, and as someone who regularly tuns to them for comfort, it was important for me to hear how different communities and different cultures had experiences that meant they haven’t been a position to see writing and literature the way I grew up seeing it. I mean it was a total ‘well duh’ moment in some ways, but it was interesting and educational to hear about the practical and cultural elements that prevent African literature from being established. And it was exciting to hear how these driven people are working to face these challenges.

I learned an incredible amount at this panel, and I am inspired to go out and learn more about this industry and it’s place in Africa. I did not get a chance to read A Última Tragédia prior to the event, so I am excited to start there.

 

A Última Tragédia (The Ultimate Tragedy) – Abdulai Silá

The event was a pop up event by Africa Writes who run an annual festival celebrating African literature. You can find out more about it HERE

During the event these organisations were also discussed:

African Books Collective

International Alliance of Independent Publishers