A GIFT FOR YOU

Just before Christmas, Penguin Random House sent me two copies of a book. One for me and one for one of my readers.

Not one to normally frequent the Self-Help section in bookshops (there’s nothing wrong with doing that by the way, it’s just not where I personally seek solace) this is one that I otherwise probably wouldn’t have discovered. It is a sort of dip-in-and-out-of book with the aim of setting you on the road to mindfulness, painted in soothing pictures and calming words. I don’t want to say too much about it as the best gifts are given as a surprise, but I believe this this book should go to someone in need of a break, who enjoys the beauty of print and needs a little help in taking some time out for themselves at the moment.

So if you know someone who you think deserves this as a new year treat – whether they have just gone through a major break up or if they just need assistance in stopping for more than a coffee – then comment below/Facebook/Tweet/Email me with their name, why you think they deserve a copy of the book and I’ll be in touch with details about sending it on its merry way. The catch? I’ll give it until the 25th January when I’ll choose a winner at random. Oh, and your nominated reader needs to live in the UK.

Help someone beat their blues this January.

Good luck!

GIVEAWAY!

The lovely people at Puffin have sent me two fantastic books to give away to my readers: ‘Hold Me Closer’ (a signed copy- shush!) written by David Levithan and ‘Will Grayson, Will Grayson’ written by both Levithan and John Green.

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‘Hold Me Closer’ is a story told by Tiny Cooper written in the form of a musical. Different, I know. But it works. “Filled with humour, pain, and ‘big, lively, belty’ musical numbers, readers will finally learn the full story of Tiny Cooper from his birth and childhood to his quest for love and his infamous eighteen ex-boyfriends.”

The book is a follow on from ‘Will Grayson, Will Grayson’, which is about “Two guys with the same name, running in two very different circles, suddenly find their lives going in new and unexpected directions, and culminating in epic turns-of-heart and the most fabulous musical ever to grace the high-school stage.”

If you love John Green, like most of us do, you are guaranteed to enjoy both of these books. And I promise you won’t weep as much as that time you read ‘The Fault in Our Stars’ in public.

‘Maybe there’s something you’re afraid to say, or someone you’re afraid to love, or somewhere you’re afraid to go. It’s gonna hurt. It’s gonna hurt because it matters.’ – John Green

To enter, all you have to do is tweet me telling me something that you have accomplished that you are proud of (this giveaway is in conjunction with Pride, after all). If you’re not a fan of Twitter? Simply comment below. You can tell me something that you have achieved yourself or, if you would like to nominate a friend, then tell me what they’ve done to make you feel proud today. I’m starting to feel a bit like Heather Small, so I’ll stop now.

Once everyone has submitted their celebration, I will then choose a winner at complete random and have these two little golden nuggets sent out to you STAT. You have until 31st July.

Best of luck!

THE BOOK

large (22)After running a competition where I was giving away five beautiful, limited edition novels, I had twelve replies. Yes, TWELVE.

Now, with the likes of Google Analytics, I’m well aware how many people viewed the post and can tell you that the number of entries I received was considerably lower than the number of hits it got.

I didn’t run the competition to gain followers, drive traffic or benefit myself. In fact, the books were free, I’ve made no profit from doing it and I actually have to fork out money for postage. And I’m happy to. The whole reason I chose to run the competition was to aid World Book Night in their quest to promote reading to those who have forgotten about the written word.

I clearly failed. But why am I so bothered?

I’m bothered because, had I been giving away a mascara, a bronzer or even a framed photo of Jonathan Ross, I guarantee I’d have been inundated. But a book? With pages? Giving life to a beautiful story?

Silence.

We all say that it’s not easy to find the time to read, but really, if you find the time to browse YouTube videos or scroll through pictures of cats online, then you do in fact have time. Plus, everyone needs a poo at some point or other, so instead of counting floor tiles, turn some pages and use your imagination.

This post sounds aggressive, probably because it is. But it’s only because I care.

Perhaps I care because I’m currently surrounded by books on a daily basis? Perhaps it’s because I studied Literature at university? I think the main reason is because I appreciate how much work goes into producing a novel. Particularly a good one. Which is why I have been dedicating twenty minutes each evening to reading. No excuses.

I’m genuinely begging you to chuck a book in your bag before you set off for work in the morning. Then, on your lunch break, on that same old lengthy commute, or just when you’re really, really bored, get it out and begin your reading journey.

I went through a phase of not reading for a while, it happens to everyone. And when I started back up again, it felt weird at first. And dare I say it, a bit boring. But once your author has introduced you to your characters for the next 573 pages and has transported you to their chosen destination, you’ll find yourself no longer on the dreary Northern Line, but wherever they’ve decided to take you that morning. And that’s much more appealing than avoiding eye contact with strangers or playing Candy Crush for an hour.

Of course, there are some books out there that are a bit shit. Others just might not be your cup of tea. But saying you don’t like books before you’ve read all the books in the world is like saying you don’t like music without exploring all avenues: you just haven’t figured out what your taste buds are craving yet. So, much like I used to tell my old English students, do a taste test or a “fifty page run” and then decide whether to stick with it or sack it off- no one is forcing you to read a certain type of book. It’s the reason we have thousands of imprints; different folks, different strokes and all that.

Aside from all of this moaning from little old me, I was really happy to receive some competition entries. And I loved them.

The winners of my beautiful book are:

Heidi Dyson

Imani Backes

Cha Cha

Marielo

Catherine Dunne

and…

Fleur McCorkindale

Thank you so much to all of you who entered, I (and the books) really appreciate it. Don’t forget to pass them on when you’re done.

Happy Reading!

The Block – A Guest Post

large (11)“Writing about a writer’s block is better than not writing at all.” – Charles Bukowski

So, to take Charles at his word, let’s give this a go, with the aim of overcoming The Block.

Before we start, yes, I am aware of the obvious irony of writing about writer’s block. However, as my writer’s block is currently consuming any creativity relating to anything else, it seems this is the only topic about which I’m actually qualified to write about at present.

All my life, I wanted to be a writer or some sort but never really got off the ground in that respect (career wise), until now, where I have become a content manager for a digital brand and am responsible for writing nearly all their content. It is not exactly writing a best seller but it is at least a start! It is a horrible coincidence therefore, that I seem to have hit a creative quagmire and can’t seem to write anything particularly inspiring, at the one time my job demands that I do.

Perhaps that is the problem? Being creative on demand is often the challenge of writers and designers in corporate situations around the world. Creativity, by its very definition, is not constrained by the 9 to 5, by office regulations, by sitting at the same desk every day, making that kind of role an automatic challenge. The regularity of my job could be the reason why my copy is coming out so uniformly uninspired and repetitive.

I have tried to shake it up a bit, as much as possible, within an office environment. I have locked myself into various different rooms around the office to try and remove myself from the distraction of colleagues and to get away from the desk itself, to somewhere new. I have also discovered I write much better with an actual pen and paper, (I know, I’m old school!) not a blank page of MS Word. I also write better in the afternoons. It’s been interesting to find out my own personal preferences that I’d somehow never even realised before, like I’d been keeping secrets from myself.

However, at present, I still feel a sense of dread when I have to write, like my creativity has disappeared behind a cloud as soon as I put pen to paper. This is not right. I became an English student because of my love of words and my love of writing, and I wanted a job where writing was an integral part of it. I used to write for pleasure when I was a little and well into my teens, disappearing into stories of my own making. Where has that gone? I am determined to get it back. I miss it.

I tried to start a blog, to force myself into writing, but I couldn’t even get past the sign up process as I was utterly stumped as to what to name the blog in the first place. Yes, I write for work, but writing content for a market research website is not half as fun as writing for yourself, and I’m also convinced my current output is not nearly as good as it could be without writer’s block hanging over me, taking away any originality.

I have Googled the answer. Everyone has different advice, but the most comprehensive I found came courtesy of an American writer, published author and (from what I can tell) self-help guru, Jeff Goins. His points that spoke most to me were about how you prolong writer’s block, not how you overcome it:

  • You do not overcome writer’s block by refusing to write until you feel “inspired.”
  • You do not overcome writer’s block by procrastinating or making excuses.
  • You do not overcome writer’s block by wallowing in self-pity.

I realised I was guilty of all of these. I had found ways to avoid writing, to keep it out of my life, waiting to be inspired, expecting for creativity to walk right back into my brain, for a fully formed novel to just appear, clamouring for me to write it down if I just gave it long enough – in much the same way that JK Rowling says Harry Potter “just strolled […] fully formed” into her mind.

This is obviously not the way. Unless you’re incredibly lucky (or awesome) like JK, you have to work at it. As [my new guru] Jeff says: “The fail-proof way to overcome writer’s block is one you already know. In fact, you’ve been avoiding it this whole time […]. You overcome writer’s block by writing.”

Thanks Jeff. Obviously in our heart of hearts we all know this, but the simplest answer is often the hardest to execute. However, this small essay is testament to me giving it a go!

With that in mind, I am also taking up a 31 day challenge, to write 500 words (or more) a day for the next month or so, to break the wall, to disperse the cloud, to throw off the shackles, get the creative juices flowing, whichever metaphor you prefer; to shift the writer’s block and do what I love again.

Maybe this time I’ll actually get past the WordPress sign up page too?

I feel better already…

Written by Laura Watkins

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Writer, creative and all-round lovely lady.

The Library

Okay, so I’m in the depths of revision/essay/third year hell and thought I’d take another trip to the library today in order to relieve this stress and get lots of work done. However, as my concentration dwindled this afternoon, I began to notice things about the London library.

London libraries invite everyone inside, making for some sort of mad hatter’s tea part or something. Without wanting to sound too elitist, it seems as though all the people of London who have no one to talk to, come to the library, a place to study IN SILENCE, to talk to people. It really is beyond me. There’s always some nutter asking the librarian lots of utterly pointless questions, gaining everyone’s attention as they peer from behind their desk lamps, pretending to be absorbed in whatever it is they’re reading. There’s always a group of cackling GCSE or A Level students in hysterics over dropping a pen or flirting with eachother over Chaucer. There is always a fittie reading some romantic novel making him seem even more attractive due to his intelligence… actually that I am not complaining about. Distractions are welcome in this case.

A distraction that is not welcome, is the ruffling of newspapers. It really irritates me when people come to the library to read the newspaper. I will never understand this. Why would one choose to sit on a hard wooden chair in partial darkness and in a cold room (because libraries, for some reason, are always cold) to read the morning paper? Go and BUY a newspaper for 30p and enjoy it in your own living room. Or coffee shop. Or anywhere but here. You are taking up valuable study space.

However, despite all these issues with my local library, I still don’t know which library I prefer: the university library or the London Library. I mean, the London library has easy access to ameneties such as Starbucks and Pret but at least university libraries have wifi access! Maybe it’s just Fulham that is stuck in the dark ages but all they provide are four computers for the public. Four. That’s incredibly helpful isn’t it. On the other hand though, university libraries are tedious because everyone who goes there to study is there to be looked at. They’re all like ‘ooohh i’m studying. I’m going to do better than you because I’ve been here for five hours already and you’ve only just arrived.’ No you won’t. I do English and you do Maths. They’re completely unrelated. Pillock.

Not only that, people actually dress up for the library. I’ve been informed it isn’t just Exeter that upholds this rule of compulsory eyeliner and a fit pair of leggings whilst studying, it happens at Nottingham and Durham too. And probably everywhere else for that matter. The thing that annoys me the most? I uphold this tradition and I don’t even know why!!

My concern centered around study space only goes to show how boring my life is. So much for 2011 being eventful eh!