Chat

Chat: Hibernation urge – how to go forward when all you want to do is crawl under a blanket.

Hibernation urge – five simple ways to feel better. 

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Adapt your routine as the days get colder.

September: Even those of us past our uni days invest in planners and highlighters.

January: Reading trackers, fitness monitors and every other type of goal setting under the sun.

What falls between is November. If you are currently huddled under a fleece-blanket and wishing you could lock yourself away from the rest of the world, know you are not alone. Welcome to the November-slump.

It hit me as Halloween approached.

Regular readers know I am editing a middle-grade manuscript. Since I returned from my trip South, I have been thinking about my writing beyond this project. The average number of manuscripts written ahead of publication is four. There won’t be any need for me to set resolutions in 2019 – the year will be about working through as many novel-sized stories as possible.

In the week of Halloween, I sat down to develop some ideas. Ten minutes later I was hit by the strangest feeling – I wanted a plot then and there or I was crawling under the covers with a family-sized box of Quality Streets and staying there until mid-April.

This attitude does not a story write.

 It was only when I returned to my social media that I figured it out. There was a prevalent mood across my Twitter feed. The wording of each tweet was slightly different – some said demotivated, others tired or in a slump but they were saying very nearly the same thing. The sky is darker, the nights colder and it is too early to put up the fairy-lights.

When I realised I was not alone, I changed my approach. November-slump would be better known as the hibernation-urge. It comes as surely as the desire to buy a box-file comes in September. Instead of working against hibernation-urge, I chose to embrace it.

That’s not to say I put on a onesie and locked the door. The Quality-Street-and-a-blanket plan could only be healthy as a short-term solution. What this mood tells us is it is time to pull out the fleece-lined boots, cook porridge for breakfast and take care of ourselves. It sounds indulgent but putting these changes in place now might mean a more productive and happier winter.

Here are five ways to embrace hibernation urge and take care of yourself this winter.

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Eat a warm breakfast:

Start the day as you mean to go on. My hot breakfast of choice is porridge – cook a batch at the weekend and you can microwave it each morning. Porridge can be dressed up with cinnamon, honey and raisins. Those flavours combined give me an instant boost and I am warmed to the tip.

 

Dress for the weather:

Fleece-lined boots, thermal leggings and winter-tights are my go-to clothes for keeping wrapped up outside the house. Evenings are about winter pyjamas and warm socks. Sort your wardrobe so you are wearing the right gear.

 

Keep hydrated:

As we crave sugary chocolate-drinks it can be easy to forget the most important thing – water. To keep motivated we need to drink enough water. Carry a bottle and aim to refill it several times a day.

 

Light the room:

String-lights. Candles. Sparkly lamps. Our spirits lift at Christmas and it is not all to do with the joy and goodwill. We add light to our homes and hang decorations like tinsel which sparkle as they reflect the light.

It may be too early for the tree but now is a good time to put out extra light. My friend bought me some kitty-shaped string lights for my birthday. I’m going to put them in a jar for some instant sparkle. 

Use scented products:

Scent is the sense we neglect most often despite the fact that smells we associate with particular things have the power to affect our mood. Smelling basil reminds me of holidays in the sun, while ginger and cinnamon remind me of making gingerbread ahead of Christmas.

Using ginger bath products or lighting a scented candle is an easy way to lift my mood.

Make a list of scents which remind you of a time when you felt comfortable then make a shopping list. Whether it is bath bombs, essential oils or scented candles, this could be a simple way to make yourself feel cosy and warm.

 

Have you experienced hibernation urge? What little things help you to keep on track in the winter? Let me know in the comments below.

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Chat · Monthly Wrap Up

Four things I learned in October

October. It has gone quickly, leaving the branches bare.

I travelled across the country to see a friend, blew out the candles on my birthday cake and edited, edited, edited my middle-grade manuscript. It is coming to six months since I began this work and the changes it has seen in that time are ginormous. There is no way to explain to someone who hasn’t written a story of this size how much it takes to make it even vaguely like those things you see on the bookshelf. 

This also marks the first full month of GrasmereBulletJournal – a blog about literature, bullet-journalling, and stationery. I began the blog in consultation with The Wordsworth Trust, who loved the idea of Dorothy Wordsworth as a bullet-journaller. I have translated parts of Dorothy Wordsworth’s journals into bullet-journal form, and this is the journal at the centre of the blog. The first month has given me new experiences – such as making a YouTube video – and put me in touch with wider networks. 

So begin the dark nights and the countdown to Christmas. Snuggle up, find time for yourself and decide what is really important to you rather than being swept along by the festive-tide. 

Let me know what you’ve been up to this month – I love hearing from my followers. 

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MG Leonard at the Guildford Book Festival

We’d be dead without dung beetles

Really. MG Leonard told me and she is the undisputed queen of beetles. 

It was a pleasure to get to an author talk with my friend Christina, especially because our long talks about children’s literature are a special part of our friendship. My visit to the South East coincided with the Guildford Book Festival, so we booked tickets to see M.G. Leonard. 

What a fabulously interesting morning. 

Leonard’s trilogy is about a group of children who befriend genetically-enhanced beetles and uncover the plot of fashionista and scientist Lucretia Cutter. One of Leonard’s early thoughts was that there were no books in which beetles were the heroes. We think of insect life as creepy and other, when in fact our planet wouldn’t be the same without beetles.

Take the dung beetle. By gathering rolling dung into balls, burying it underground and feeding on it, dung beetles take it away from the surface of the environment. Without them, there would be far more parasites, and large areas would be inhabitable. 

This is one of the true joys of children’s literature – it teaches us so many interesting things about our world. 

 

Lights, Camera, YouTube

I am camera-shy. Painfully so. A good picture emerges every six or eight years but mostly when I see a camera I stop acting naturally.

But you know what? I took part in a YouTube video

I filmed this with the team at The Wordsworth Trust, to promote the GrasmereBulletJournal blog and the bullet journalling station which we’ve created at the museum. The whole experience has been tremendous and the video explains everything I would have hoped.

New experiences are pivotal – they give us a taste of other disciplines and encourage us to think more widely about what we can do. I have learned so much about other social media over the past two years and have totally embraced content-creation. It was amazing to learn about creating for YouTube. 

 

How to make a hedgehog from an information booklet 

There has been lots of discussion on the Twittersphere about what should happen to old proofs. Several weeks ago I came to the conclusion that the proofs I didn’t want to keep were perfect for crafting. 

Following on from that, my friend and I checked into her local library for a session on paper folding. 

Without scissors, without anything other than folding, I turned an information booklet into a hedgehog. It certainly took patience – there were a lot of pages to fold and the action was the same every time – but it was a lovely craft for a Saturday morning. Two googly-eyes later and my hedgehog came to life. His name is Harold and he lives on my shelves. 

Papercrafting is a brilliant solution to the proof question – so brilliant that I hope to feature some posts in the run-up to Christmas. 

 

CS Lewis never considered the mental health of his characters

You’re eleven years old. World War Two is raging around you, so you’re sent to live with a total stranger. All that is traumatic enough. While playing with your siblings, you find yourself trapped in another world. A world which is also at war, and by the way, only you and your siblings can end that war. Although you solve the war, the door to your own world is shut, so the only option is to stay in that realm and grow into an adult.

Then suddenly you are eleven years old again. The Blitz is still very real. 

The characters in The Chronicles Of Narnia showed unswerving loyalty to this other world. Once a King or Queen in Narnia, always a King or Queen. The exception was Susan Pevensie, a character derided as shallow and vain.

This month I read  The Light Between Worlds, a book which takes up the same narrative through different characters, and considers the impact such an experience might really have on different people. Susan is vindicated as the one who was able to adjust back to her past reality. 

I will always love Narnia, but the questions posed by The Light Between Worlds are valid. I wonder whether CS Lewis imagined how this experience might affect his characters? The assumption that they would become good, loyal Narnians never considered the impact this would have on their other lives. 

 

What have you been up to this October? Let me know in the comments below.

 

 

Announcements · Chat

Chat: About my second blog and why I can’t wait to hear your thoughts.

Love literature? Love stationery and bullet journaling? Check out my new blog.

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The secret is out. 

As secrets go, it wasn’t very well kept. I hinted several times during Twitter chats that I was involved in a project with a literary heritage group. I shared pictures with two of my very closest blogging friends. 

The blog was up in the webosphere from June 2018.

Nevertheless, it was my project but now it is out in the big wide word. I’m so pleased to finally share Grasmere Bullet Journal with you. This is my new blog which I am going to run along with BookMurmuration.

Grasmere Bullet Journal began, as all good projects do, with a conversation. I was having a cup of tea with a friend, and pouring over her books when I told her something which had been on my mind.

If Dorothy Wordsworth was alive today, she would make a killer blogger. 

Dorothy Wordsworth was a journaler, pioneering walker and sister of the Romantic poet William. She kept journals throughout her life, most famously the Grasmere Journal which she kept during her time at Dove Cottage from 1800 – 1803. 

Her journal wasn’t a private diary. It was a place where she recorded her observations as well as tracking her daily activities. As I wrote here, this is very much the same thing people do in their bullet journals today. If Dorothy Wordsworth was alive today, I said during that conversation in March 2018, she would be a bullet journaler. 

An idea was born. An idea which I’d had all along without recognising it until I said it out loud. 

One bullet journal and a set of brush pens later and I set to work. 

GrasmereBulletJournal is two things. Firstly, and at its heart, it showcases my creative project – to present information from the Grasmere Journal in bullet journal form. 

Secondly, it is a blog which covers stationary, bullet journaling, and literature. Inspired by the exhibition as Dorothy Wordsworth as a walker, and proud of my own muddy walking boots, I would like to branch out and include posts about walking and nature. 

I would *love* to hear from you over on Grasmere Bullet Journal, as well as right here on BookMurmuration. There are people who comment regularly on my blog who talked to me when I had ten views per post. I value your feedback as much as I did then. As much as always. 

Here’s to our creative pursuits, to blogging adventures and to online friends. 

 

Do you keep a bullet journal? Are you currently working on any creative projects? Let me know in the comments below.

Chat · Reflection

Four Things I’ve Learned This September

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Fresh fruit and nature – September 2018

August ranks as the third most disappointing month of the year after February and January respectively. Which used to seem strange, given how much I love September. Then I figured it out.

September is supposed to be autumnal.

Nobody expects sunshine and beaches and ice-lollies. If I have to get a raincoat out in September, I’ll go with the flow. In August, that’s a disappointing summer. These days I’ve learned to embrace the cycle of nature a little more but I still notice the darkness creeping in every August.

My month has been about editing. Editing a 42,000 word (give or take) manuscript. It’s a strange old time – a triumph because I am putting in so much hard work and learning heaps about chapter and scene. In reality, many authors write three or four manuscripts before they are published (I’ve heard everything between 2 and 9). This perspective is important – too many people think novel-writing is a one-shot game – but it is also daunting. I will have to face the blank page many times over if I want to make this a reality.

What have you been up to this month? Is August your favourite time of year? Chat to me in the comments below and I promise to reply. Here are some of the things I’ve learned this August.

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Old proofs are THERE to cut up

One of the highlights of book-blogging is getting to read books ahead of publication. Sometimes this happens in the form of a digital file. Sometimes a finished copy is sent weeks ahead of publication. Sometimes bloggers are set proof-copies.

A proof is essentially an unfinished copy of the text. That’s not to say the story isn’t finished, but details are allowed to change between the proof and the final version. Selling proof copies is blogger-sin No1 (Don’t. Just don’t.)

What do you do with a proof copy you don’t want to keep? Throwing away or burning them goes against everything I have ever been taught about respecting people’s hard work.

This month I found a solution – use them for craft.

Hang on a second – I won’t burn them but I’ll cut them up?

Craft is about creation over destruction. I think this act of creation means I’m treating the used proof with respect. The publishers don’t want those texts in circulation so using them for craft seems like a great answer. I’m partway through a Christmas decoration and can’t wait to share pictures online.

 

Collaborations = creativity.

This month I wrote a post in collaboration with the wonderful HelloBexa.

As much as I love my blog, there are times when I worry it gets a bit same-old. Those are the times to reach out to other people.  When I suggested the collaboration, I wanted something which would suit both our blogs. By looking at Bexa’s niches, I brought something new to my blog.

The Scrapbook Memory Jar may be one of my favourite blog posts this year. I would love to collaborate with other bloggers, especially bloggers outside the bookish-sphere.

 

Heritage open days are my new hobby

Late in August, I was asked by a member of my poetry group to help with the heritage open day at the local church. I was happy to help … but little did I know how much I would LOVE it.

Seriously. Next year I am signing up for every single slot.

What’s so great about leading people up and down a church tower?

Firstly, I met people from all over. A group of cyclists from Amsterdam on their way to the Irish Sea. People from the local area who I’ve never met before. People from other parts of the country with interesting jobs and life-experience. As an aspiring author, the best thing I can do is get out and *listen*. Heritage open day offered people to listen to in abundance.

Secondly, I learned so much history. Our guides were incredibly knowledgeable about the local area as well as the church and one of our visitors talked about local sites of interest from different time-periods.

Dare you to sign up for something different. Netflix is fun but talking to people is better.

 

Fruit tastes better when it is fresh from the trees

I learn this every autumn and relearn it with every mouthful. There’s no denying it. Food is supposed to be fresh.

We picked apples and plums from the trees on the village green and were sent apples and pears by different neighbours. Now everybody has taken their first crop there are buckets of apples all around the village looking for good homes.

As well as eating some fresh, we freeze lots of apples to keep a stock for apple-pie.

 

What have you learned this September? Do you love autumn? Let me know in the comments below.

 

Chat · Days Out · Round-Up

Event Round-Up: Abi Elphinstone at the Edinburgh festival.

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Her books are bestsellers, she’s sledded through the arctic in search of eagle hunters and her ancestor (according to the fun facts ahead of the event) plotted with Guy Fawkes. Abi Elphinstone writes middle-grade fantasy full of magic and animals and vast, untameable landscapes. I loved her writing from the word go and was delighted to see her at the Edinburgh Book Festival on 24.08.2018.

Elphinstone says her dream job – aside from being a writer – is to be a Blue Peter Presenter. I reckon they’d have her in a second. Her enthusiasm for her audience and her spirit of adventure made me think of Blue Peter long before she was asked her dream job by a member of the audience.

Her resounding message was you don’t have to be the cleverest person to be a writer. At the age of seven, Elphinstone’s life-ambition was to become a unicorn and it wasn’t until she was older that she found her way into writing through the places visited and things she saw in the natural world.

A slide-show of places which had inspired Elphinstone’s writing proved that adventures can be found closer to home as well as further away – from Tromso to some water off the M25, the outdoors has been a starting point for different aspects of Elphinstone’s writing.

I have never seen children so excited about reading. From pop-quizzes about arctic animals (with signed bookmark prizes) to the chance to try on a fox-fur hat, Elphinstone grabbed the attention of each and every child in her audience. This is what a book event should look like – excitement and chatter and children bouncing on their seats because they are so desperate to ask the next question.

Elphinstone’s final message was that she wrote four novels had had 96 rejections before publication. The people who get there, she says, are the ones who keep going no matter how many times they appear to fail. Failure is not finite. It is a stumble along the way. The audience (young and not so young) were left with more confidence in themselves and their eyes open for adventure. 

Following the event there was a signing. Having books signed and meeting authors is one of the most special and inspiring things about being a bookworm. Thank you very much to Abi Elphinstone for signing my books and for a memorable and uplifting talk. 

 

 

 

Chat · Days Out

Event round-up: Northern YA LitFest – The Supernatural and Fantastical in YA

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NYA Literature Festival 

You may remember how much I enjoyed the first Northern YA Literary Festival back in March. Lots of other people did too, so much that the organisers held a spin-off event. The Supernatural and Fantastical in YA was held on Saturday 21st July 2018 at 53 degrees in Preston. 

The day was centered around two panels, with a merchandise stall, book stall, face painter and book-swap to keep everyone entertained. There were author signings following each panel and everyone in the queue got their books signed. 

Author Panels 

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Fantasy: Melinda Salisbury (chair), Sally Green, Taran Matharu and Alexandra Christo. 

The first panel discussed fantasy-fiction – worldbuilding and infleunces and the place of fantasy YA in the publishing industry. 

The authors the importance of real-world themes in fantasy fiction. Stories are about issues and experiences from the real world whatever their setting. There was also some discussion abut how to keep a setting believable.  Melinda Salisbury suggested that even the most fantastical world should have real-world ‘touchstones’ and rules to remain believable. She used the example of a polar-bear in a jungle to suggest breaking certani rules would make a story difficult to beleive. Alexandra Christo reminded the audience that authors create stories, not worlds. The world exists to serve the story. 

Fantasy YA may be a bestselling genre, but consensus was it is seen as something lesser by the publishing industry. Melinda Salisbury suggested that people sometimes forget to take the real-world themes away from a fantasy story. 

The authors talked about their forthcoming work and current writng projects. Taran Matharu is working on a series with dinosaurs and Sally Green wants to write contemporary fiction. 

I have read Alexandra Christo’s novel and two of Melinda Salisbury’s series, and wait straight to the bookstall for my first taste of Sally Green and Taran Matharu’s works. Taran Matharu likened his series to a cross between Pokemon and Harry Potter. Sold, sold and sold. 

 

 

Supernatural: David Owen (chair), AJ Hartley, Melvin Burgess and Sally Green (standing in for Marcus Sedgwick.) 

What is the difference between fantasy and supernatural? Melvin Burgess summarised it very succinctly – fantasy is about worlds outside our own while the supernatural is about things from outside a world coming in. As in the first panel, the authors thought it was important for a story to feel as realistic as possible. AJ Hartley spoke about anchoring aimg_6576 story in reality. The more ordinary it feels, the more a reader is prepared to believe. 

Melvin Burgess and Sally Green spoke about exposition – revealing information which is relevant to the story without overloading it with irrelevant facts. 

David Owen asked possibly the most interesting question of all time -do zombies exist in the same world as ghosts? The reason this rarely happens is that both answer the question of what happens when we die. 

 

A big thanks to the organisers, University of Central Lancishire and all the authors who took part in the event. A large number of book events take place in London, and are out of reach to many people. Getting authors up North important and exciting. 

I can’t wait to the next NYA Literature Festival in March 2019. Rumour has it some stellar authors have already signed up and the publishing swag stall will be back. See you there? 

Chat

Five Things I Learned In July

July is an odd month. Summer has barely started and yet it isn’t so long until autumn. At home, we are coming to the end of a three-week heatwave. I have been working in the summer house with the windows wide open and the birds singing in the trees. 

The format of this post was inspired by Anne from the wonderful Modern Mrs Darcy. Anyone who hasn’t found this blog needs to get on board ASAP. It is the epitome of all things bookish and it is one of my major blog-crushes. Anne proves that bookish posts can sit alongside lifestyle content. 

I want to bring more chatty content to my blog. To tell you what I’ve been up to and to hear from my readers. We learn so much over the course of a month – we learn about ourselves. We learn big, life-changing philosophies. We also learn small things like our latest favourite dessert and book-gossip from the publishing world. What have you learned this month? Let me know in the comments below. I love hearing from you. 

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Still here reading 

Posing is a misleading word

 

Regular followers might have noticed there are very few pictures of me on either my blog or my social media. While I believe in maintaining a level of privacy, I would love to include more photographs of myself. There is only one problem: I have never found it easy to pose for a photograph. With ambitions to grow my blog, I decided this was something I wanted to overcome.

Several hundred awkward selfies later and I have realised that posing is a misleading word. Tell me to pose and that’s exactly what I’ll do – pull my face into an overdramatic expression. A parody of a smile. Instead of posing for the camera we need to simply be. Be as if the camera isn’t there. How would you smile for your friend? How would you look at a book?

This journey is going to be long-haul but I’ve figured out what’s putting me off.

 

Kids need reading role models

For the first time in a thousand years, I watched football. 

 My interest in football is limited to major tournaments, on the occasions when England reach a stage worth talking about. And that’s fine. I have my hobbies, you have yours and we can all get along together. 

What’s not fine is sporting personalities bashing readers. Not when the audience includes millions of children. Sporting figures seem happy to put their names to ghost-written fiction. Perhaps they could tell children about the place reading has in their lives.  It doesn’t seem too much to ask. 

During the World Cup quarter-finals, Martin Keown, former Arsenal defender and BBC co-commentator, told anyone reading a book to ‘get a life’. It’s a sad precedent and the exact opposite of what children need to hear. No, I’m not suggesting we interrupt the football with book trailers, but casual comments like that affirm negative beliefs children hold about literacy. Kids need role models to promote the joys of reading.

 

Finishing a draft is only the start

I am about to write the immortal words the end under a 40,000-word draft. More than that, this one is worth editing. I already have a list of changes I want to make and I am looking forward to developing the characters. At the moment they are more like sock-puppets. They need fleshing out with characteristics. 

The rough draft is finished. Now the hard work begins. 

 

In with the old 

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Time to catch up 

New releases are a delight. The biggest change my blog has brought to my reading habits is my reading calendar. I often promote books several months ahead of their release. By the time their release date falls I have heard a lot about the title in question. It’s amazing … but it sometimes comes at the expense of other books on my shelves.

No longer. I have vowed to work in other books even if my blog schedule falls a little behind. This month I have been catching up on Robin Stevens’s Murder Most Unladylike series and I have a mental list of books which I have been staring at for the past eighteen months. It’s time to catch up on my unread novels. My blog will be better for it.

 

Evanesco money

Evanesco is the vanishing spell in Harry Potter. The Lego Company are, once again, about to perform a vanishing spell upon my life savings. Aside from the new Harry Potter sets, a new series of minifigures is set to focus on characters from the Harry Potter universe. The lineup includes figures never before seen in Lego such as Cedric Diggory and Cho Chang. There are also six figures from the Fantastic Beasts franchise, which, as you will find out later this year, rules my world. 

My skills as a blind-bag feeler will once again be put to the test.