World Book Day

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Happy World Book Day!

I’m not sure how much this gets celebrated in day-to-day life, but luckily I work in a primary school and therefore get the full blast of the celebrations!

Books, as you may well have guessed from the very subject of this blog, mean a hell of a lot to me and growing up they were an enormous part of my life. I was a serious book worm and would spend hours upon hours totally absorbed in the pages of some fantasy or other. I think it’s vital that children are not just taught how to read but given the opportunity and encouragement to really find the love in books. Teach a child to read and you are providing them with some of the basic and necessary tools for life. But, teach children how to enjoy reading and you are opening up whole new worlds for them to delve into and explore.

It was joyous to see all the children and a few, (I was disappointed to see only a few), of the teachers dressed up as some of their favourite book characters and to listen to them explain just why they chose their particular characters. I, typically, threw myself into the fancy dress element of the day, choosing to portray the Mad Hatter from The Adventures of Alice in Wonderland, by Lewis Carol. This is just such a classic piece of literature and for me, no matter how much the film industry tries, it cannot be overdone. It captures so much of the fantasy and wonder that goes on within the imaginations of children and I simply think it is truly wonderful.

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Me as the Mad Hatter

I encourage reading and writing whenever I can at school and it excites me to think that some of these children may grow up to become writers in the future. This is why, for me, it is absolutely vital that we continue to celebrate books in all their glory and make the most of brilliant days such as today. If you didn’t celebrate world book day this year, please do make a note of it for next year; I know we don’t need an excuse to celebrate books but it’s always nice to have an extra opportunity!

Keep on reading. Keep on inspiring.

Mia x

#worldbookday20

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This week I’m reading…

It’s been a while since I’ve really read anything at all. That’s a lie. I’ve been doing lots of reading but either I keep leaving books unfinished, (which is very unlike me; normally I read, even a book I’m hating, until the bitter end), or I’ve been rereading pleasant little books that require no effort or brain power to get through. Perhaps my mind has been too preoccupied with other things to be able to connect fully with a book recently. I’m not sure. Either way, I am now finally edging my way back into the world of literature.

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This week I am reading…

Currently I am reading Good Omens by Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman, which tells the story of the birth of the Antichrist and the end of the world. Being a huge fan of both authors, when I was given this book for Christmas, I knew immediately that it would be just my cup of tea. I’m now about half way through it and so far it has not let me down. It is a story packed full of witty observations on modern day life that leave me trying to smother a knowing smile when reading in public, or bursting out in unbridled laughter when in the privacy of my own home. Both Pratchett and Gaiman have such characteristic writing styles that, at times, I feel sure that I know which one has written which part. Pratchett, who took on the bulk of the novel, really shines through with his playful comments on life and zany sense of humor. I’m finding the book a great inspiration for my own writing, teaching me that I can really have fun with my writing, and the importance of letting my own personality and passions shine through, rather than attempting to write for someone or something else and ending up with something rather lacklustre, (which is the road I’ve been suspecting my writing has been travelling down for some time now).

So far I am seriously relishing reading Good Omens. So much so that I can waste no more of my time here and must sign off now to go and immediately delve back into it!

So long!

Mia  x

I have returned!

After nearly a year away from this blog in order to focus on my travel blog, I have finally decided to return. My relationship with writing has been a tricky one since we last spoke and so it’s been difficult for me to decide to come back and commit myself to this blog, but I feel that it is important to keep sharing my experiences.

I have been writing over the last year, but not nearly as much as I intended… not nearly half as much as I intended even. As I mentioned, I was focusing for a while on my travel blog and so did spend a lot of time writing for that, but in terms of creative writing, I had a very low out put. I think the problem is that I got bogged down in one story that I was determined to finish despite having all sorts of other ideas which I felt more drawn to. In the end the piece I was working on became a chore and eventually I stopped writing all together. I have now realised that leaving off one story because I have got more interesting ideas is no bad thing and that perhaps I should do it more. I have in no way decided to scrap the original piece, just to leave it while I explore other avenues for a while, possibly to come back to at a later date.

What I really need to focus on at the moment is improving my writing and developing my own style and so I am going to start to do much more writing practice and short pieces in order to evolve, (recommended activities welcomed!). I shall make the effort to post as much as possible of it on here – as much as my ego will allow at any rate!

It’s great to be back and I’m looking forward to sharing my ideas and experiences with you again!

Mia x

Where have all our bookshops gone?

Since putting my teaching course on hold and dedicating myself to my writing, it’s become clear that I’m going to need some sort of job. Money is an obvious draw but mainly I need something to get me out of the house for two or three days a week to stop me getting cabin fever and give my brain a break from writing.

My perfect job at the moment would be to work in a bookshop and so I quickly set about searching for bookshops around London where I could apply. I came up with a small handful. That’s it. That’s all that’s left.

I knew that amazon and Kindle had killed off bookshops but I hadn’t quite realised to what extent. A couple of years ago my favourite second hand bookshop (My Back Pages in Balham) closed down to be replaced with a shiny new estate agents, and I was genuinely devastated. Now I search for books in local charity shops as that’s the only option near me now.

Well, no. It’s not the only option. There’s always Amazon. I admit that in the past I’ve been lured in by the cheap prices and quick delivery that Amazon offers. Indeed, during my English Literature degree, while I got as many books as I could find in charity and second hand bookshops, I wouldn’t have been able to find all the books I needed without relying Amazon.

Now, I’ve decided that enough is enough. Even Waterstones, the big conglomerate that we once used to scorn for killing off the independent bookshops, is struggling under the weight of Amazon and people are lamenting the closures of Waterstone’s shops throughout the country. I’ve decided to stop buying books from Amazon and to only buy from charity and bookshops instead. How long I’ll be able to keep this up before books can only be purchased online I don’t know, but it’s worth a try.

It’s time to start supporting our bookshops! Join me in boycotting books from Amazon and supporting your local shops too. I can promise you that spending time in bookshops and libraries is a much nicer experience than sitting at home online and you may even find some real people to talk to about books. Hopefully it’s not too late and we can turn this around before bookshops disappear altogether.

Keep supporting bookshops! x

This week I’m reading…

After months of reading children’s books I’m finally back onto grown up literature! I worked my way back up, having a splurge of young adult fiction with all of The Hunger Games last week, and am now ready for a spell of adult literature. ‘Adult literature’ is the wrong phrase, it suggests steamy romance novels, but hopefully you know what I mean!

So this week, on the recommendation of my sister, I’ve started reading The Year of the Hare by Finnish writer Arto Paasilinna. I’m only a couple of chapters in but am already of fan of this best-selling book.image

This short novel tells the story of a middle-aged journalist, fed up of his unhappy marriage and dead end job, who after rescuing a wild hare that’s been struck by his car decides to to break free from his life’s constraints. Quitting his job and leaving his wife, he decides to take off into the wilds of Finland with his new-found friend, the rescued hare.

The book has been a best-seller in Finland and France, has been turned into two films and is frequently dramatised for stage. So far I’m enjoying it but I’ll give you my full thoughts about it when I’ve finished it.

Keep reading! x

An Interview With: Gareth P. Jones

This week I had the honour of interviewing renowned children’s writer, Gareth P. Jones, author of the series The Adventures of the Steampunk Pirates, The Society of Thirteen, Death or Icecream? and many more brilliant children’s books. I first came across him during an author event at my university and, captivated by his energy and passion, I immediately went and purchased a copy of The Thornthwaite Inheritance, (review coming soon). I knew at once that he would be an interesting and inspiring writer to interview and his insightful and humorous responses have not let me down!

What kind of thing do you write?

Mostly I write what comes to mind. Mostly these are children’s stories. I write for lots of ages but in honesty I don’t write for any age other than my own. I think that’s all you can do in the end. Write to please yourself and hope other’s like what you’ve written.

When did you first seriously pick up a pen and start writing?

I am yet to seriously pick up a pen and start writing but I remember writing my first book (unpublished of course). I was doing a writing course once a week and holding down a customer service job. I wrote mostly at work. I was quite regimented and focussed as soon as I decided to set my mind to completing a book. I thought about it mathematically, thinking about how long my chapters were, how long it needed to be and therefore how many chapters would be needed. I still do this sometimes. It helps to make the mountain of writing a book feel more climbable.

Why do you write?

Because it’s fun and I think it’s the thing that I’m best at doing.

Where do you find inspiration for your writing?

Anywhere and everywhere. And on a bad day, nowhere. Children are a great a source of inspiration. My own and the kids I meet when I visit schools.

What are you working on at the moment?

The first in a new series to be published next year. I’ve been struggling with it a lot. Not sure why but I think I’m over the worst of it now. I hope so. The deadline is on Monday.

What writers inspire you?

Any who had to work for success and struggle to get noticed. Ian Rankin is especially inspirational on this subject. Those writers who were lucky enough to be successful with their first book will never fully understand what it’s like for the vast majority of writers. As Lynne Truss once told me, people think getting published will be the end to all their troubles. In fact for many of us it’s only the beginning.

What are you reading at the moment?

I’m a slow reader. I used to worry about that but now I accept it and enjoy the books I slowly read. Also, I seem to spend most of what you would normally consider reading time writing so books can last a long time. Recently I have been slowly reading David Mitchell’s Ghostwritten because I have just published my own collection of short interlinked stories in disguise as a novel, Death or Ice Cream?

Do you set aside a certain amount of time to write or do you write when the mood takes you?

Yes, I set aside the time when I am awake for writing. I almost never write when I am asleep. Unfortunately my deadlines do not allow me to wait for muses to descend.

How do you like to unwind when you aren’t writing?

Playing. Playing with my kids, with my musical instruments, with my wife and friends. Playing is a great way to unwind.

What advice would you give to those thinking of picking up the pen to write?

It depends. If they are writing a shopping list, I’d say try to write the list in the order that you’ll find the things in the supermarket. If they are writing a book, I’d say write and write but don’t get attached to anything you write. It’s all disposable. Nothing is guaranteed entry into your final book until the type is set.

I’d like to thank Gareth P. Jones for taking time out of his busy writing schedule to answer these questions. I know that I have found his answers hugely inspiring as a novice children’s writer and I’m sure my readers will too. If you have not already read any of his work, I urge you to do so as soon as possible! I’ve recently finished reading The Thornthwaite Inheritance, which I can highly recommend, and will be posting up a review shortly. In the meantime you can find out more about his work here, or follow him on Twitter here.

Keep reading! x

Coming up soon

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Gareth P. Jones

 

I’ve managed to get an interview with British children’s writer Gareth P. Jones, writer of The Dragon Detective Agency Series, The Society of Thirteen, The Thornthwaite Inheritance and many more beloved children’s books. I’ll be publishing the interview in the next day or two so do keep a look out for it. I’ll also be doing a review of the The Thornthwaite Inheritance shortly. In the meantime why not check the author out for yourself here.

Watch this space! x