Growing up Starbucks

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Growing up Starbucks

Over the years, my obsession with Starbucks has been met with raised eyebrows, scoffs and looks of disgust. On a couple of occasions, I’ve been berated for not supporting “local” business (including the 50 store strong chain, Coffee #1), despite the fact that Starbucks is a franchise, and therefore the stores you see are usually owned and run by local people who pay a sum to use the Starbucks branding.Photo-0466

However, the fact is my love of Starbucks has never been political.

As a child, I never really went in coffee shops. My mother can’t stand the smell of coffee, so she avoided them like the plague. So, my relationship with Starbucks – and journey through caffeine addiction – didn’t start until I was 13/14.

My best friend at the time was a sarcastic boy with Tony and Guy hair, limited addition converse and a penchant for caramel macchiatos. He would drag me into the dark gloom of a Starbucks, and I would drag him swiftly out again, intimidated by the noise, smell and complicated menu. I still remember the first time he gave me a sip from his mermaid embossed cup; we were standing in the Virgin Megastore in Cardiff (RIP), and I had to struggle not to spit the sickly sweet coffee all over the CD’s.

It was, by no means, love at first sight. I really didn’t get the appeal, but on one occasion I succumbed to peer pressure. I was desperate for a drink, so asked my friend what he would a_cup_of_history_by_emortrecommend. Something with no coffee. I ended up ordering a Strawberry Cream Frappuccino. It wasn’t great – it tasted like jam and regret –  but we were in there so often that I began experimenting with my order, until I stumbled across the Iced Mocha. My gateway drug, an summer love. The chocolate disguised the coffee just enough that I grew accustomed to the bitterness, and  it wasn’t long until I graduated to unflavoured lattes.

Friendships shifted, and I took to spending almost every Saturday in my local StarbucksDSC00070 (also RIP), tucked up the stairs on a bar stool by the window. There were only two seats, so I could be completely alone and write. First came 20,000 words of a vampire novel, about the teenage vampire with a pulse, that got swiftly abandoned when Twilight became popular. Then came Idiots, the first novel I ever got anywhere near to completing. It involved a fictional retelling of the lives of myself and my two closest friends – tall, lanky heroes who got me through hard times – living and working in a coffee shop in London. I still have my eye on an old fire station, hoping one day it’ll go up for sale and I can convert it into my dream store.

I got older, went to 6th form college, and my social circle expanded. Starbucks became the place I brought people at the end of days spent in town, but only good friends made it up to that balcony seat at the back. It was odd how private I was over a very public space, but it became an in joke. They were my seats, and I would sit with friends and glare at any strangers who dared to take them.

Then the day came for me to head off to university in Birmingham, leaving behind my 11255209_10152987978808897_4982465154794542299_nold home on the high street. My first major concern was establishing which of Birmingham’s vast array would be my Starbucks. You laugh, but I was literally 100 miles away from creature comforts. So the research and dedication I put into this was 100% necessary and I don’t know why you’re looking at me like that.

Fortunately, a couple of friends had provided me with Starbucks gift cards to go away with. Unfortunately, the Starbucks on university campus did not take these cards. Not to mention it was ridiculously busy all of the time, which quickly ruled it out as my new place. However, I lived close to the city centre in first year, so I had options. I took a walk, and found four possibilities on my first try; two in the Bullring, one on New Street and one just off Victoria Square.

I won’t tell you which I chose, but it was a fairly easy decision. After all, my criteria were: height, bar stools, and a view.

My current Starbucks has seen me develop as a writer and build The End of Atlas into what is almost a complete manuscript. It’s also the first Starbucks in which the baristas have learnt my name…and my order. Which was weird, so I dyed my hair just to confuse them. That didn’t work. I have a problem. And I have a gold membership on the app now, which I consider to be all the more impressive since I quit caffeine in 2012.

21034348_10155084615918897_4212018558492282820_nOh. I can also literally find a Starbucks anywhere, from Brighton to Barcelona. I’m a human radar. It’s impressive.

So I guess, what I’m trying to say is, my relationship with Starbucks isn’t political; it’s historical. It’s where I spent a decent portion of my time forming as a writer and a human. Want to take me somewhere else? That’s fine. But if I’m alone, I will always choose to hunker down in a shop with a two tail mermaid in the window.

 

Please note: All of the images in this article are mine. Some of them were taken on a Samsung SGH-D500 from 2005 (hence the quality). Oh, and yes, I made the tiny Starbucks logo on miniature lollipop sticks. It was a graphic design project at AS level. Don’t judge.

 

 

 

 

 

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#Goals

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#Goals
In my post earlier this week, you may have noticed that there was a general theme of #Goals.

Not many people know, but since 2014, I spend some time on the 1st of January making a list of New Year’s Resolutions in the back of my latest journal, and I’ve gotten quite good at completing them.

Okay, finishing The End of Atlas has been on that list since I started this practice, but I didn’t say I was perfect.

Last year’s goals included:

  • Get into a regular writing pattern.
  • Read at least 12 books.
  • Get MA offers.
  • Get MA funding.
  • Go on holiday.

And I’m happy to say I ticked all of these off. My writing pattern is now knocking out 1000 words in Starbucks on Sundays, and Grace the barista has taken to coming and asking how the novel’s going. I’ve read a considerable number of books, then switched to a 100 pages of research a week when my MA started, so I consider that a success. Lancaster and Birmingham both offered me a place for my MA, and after choosing Birmingham, I managed to get an MA scholarship from the College of Arts and Law. In August, a couple of friends and I went to Barcelona. It was the furthest away and hottest country I had ever been too, and while I can’t say my pasty-white-self was built for the weather, I had an amazing time.

Not everything worked out  exactly how I had planned it, but 2017, all things considered, was a good year.

This year, I really want to focus on my writing, my career and getting Atlas off my resolution list once and for all. So, I thought I would take a leaf out of Jenna Moreci’s book and make a quarterly goals list. I normally update my resolutions list anyway, but this will mean I get into the habit of regularly reviewing it, and keep up the momentum throughout the year.

From January through to the end of March, these are the #Goals I will aim to achieve:

  1. Update Atlas with edits from Writeryjig Clubamabob (WC).
  2. Reach the 90k mark for Atlas.
  3. Redraw Atlas timeline.
  4. Write a blurb for Atlas.
  5. Celebrate 1 full year of WC.
  6. Write a blog post at least once a week.
  7. Redesign blog.
  8. Rebrand blog.
  9. Write 2 linguistic essay drafts before the Easter Holiday.
  10. Read all the required material for my classes.
  11. Try and read 1 extra article/chapter a week.
  12. Write MA dissertation proposal.
  13. Vet possible fanfiction profiles for MA dissertation data suitability.
  14. Talk to personal tutor about ethics for MA dissertation.
  15. Keep daily question journal up-to-date.

On top of this I’m going to set 5 private aims, that I’ll keep track of in my diary. At the end of March I’ll do a review, let you know how it went and what I want to do for the next quarter. ~Fingers crossed~ I’ll have a whole draft of The End of Atlas and an MA to show for my pains by the end of the year!

The Sequel Part 2: Return of the Sequel

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The Sequel Part 2: Return of the Sequel

On the 7th of June, 2014 at 12 am, I posted a super short blog post called “The Sequel” that, to this day, has 1 view. It was my way of drawing a line under the work I had previously done on this blog, and starting afresh.

The way I did that was by creating a schedule and producing some really rigid boxes that I had to tick off every week. In a way, while I was just post graduation and unemployed, it was an excellent idea. It kept me focused and it gave me something to break up the monotony of job applications and failed interviews.

But, when I finally went back to work, it became clear pretty swiftly that I was not going to be able to stick to that routine.

So here I am in early 2018, drawing another line in the sand and starting afresh once again. You find me now doing a Master’s course in Applied Linguistics, something that I have long wanted to do, but finishing my MA is not my only goal.

My plan for this site is to return it to what I always intended it to be. I started this blog in the first year of university with the intention of making it a platform for me and my creative work, and then I got the ususal writer’s paranoia about putting things online, so it turned into something very different. Don’t get me wrong, I still read my old articles and smile, which is why I won’t be privatising them for this reboot (feel free to have a flick through if you fancy). 

Instead, I’ve made a goal to fill this site with actual blog posts about life, thoughts about writing, and *shock horror* samples of my work. Those of you who follow me on Facebook, Tumblr or Instagram already know that I have been working on my novel The End of Atlas (previously known as Rimjhim…don’t ask) since the final year of my degree, and I’m happy to say it’s almost finished. I’m aiming to have a completed first draft by the end of the year, at which point I will be sharing snippets, talking about editing, and moving on to how the hell am I gonna get this thing published.

Basically, I want this blog to reflect who I am and what’s happening in my life. The plan is to post every Saturday, and if I find the time, I may throw in the additional bit here and there. For those of you who have been following this blog for a while now, I hope you’ll enjoy the switch up. For those of you new to the site, hello! I hope you stick around 🙂

Welcome to The Sequel Part 2: Return of the Sequel

Prepare for change!

The Graham Greene Affair: Week 2

The Grahame Green Affair
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The Graham Greene Affair: Week 2

The Graham Greene Affair continues to work well for me. Despite feeling like I have a head full of cotton wool, I’m somehow managing to keep pace, and am actually finding it more and more difficult to stop at 500 words. Last night I found myself awake at 1 am, Googling the name meaning of a new character, debating what superpower I would give them, and how it would affect the story if I did. Then I drifted off in a haze of, “I should definitely move that scene”, “Something else needs to go in between that and that”, “Maybe I should cut that in half and whack something in the middle.” Yes, this challenge is keeping me up at night, but honestly I’ve never been more pleased by a bout of insomnia. It’s the kind of sleeplessness you have as a kid the night before Christmas, or your birthday. It’s exciting.

Part of what has triggered this excitement is talking about Rimjhim in a pseudo-academic style again. I spent the better part of yesterday swapping notes with my friend Jo, who is joining me on this epic quest to finish a novel. I’ve got to say, I greatly appreciated the input, and it was good to hear that my writing was having the desired effect. As always, there were things that I loved that she didn’t, and there were things that I hated that she loved. In particular, there was a scene in which my protagonist, Alec, and his best friend sit down to catch-up. Personally it drives me crazy. I think it drags on, and I don’t like the way the Alec dithers over what to say. But Jo liked it, and thought it worked well. Obviously, I will probably still edit the scene to a point where I’m satisfied with it, but I don’t feel the need to hack half the scene away, as I was planning to do.

I would highly recommend finding a writing buddy if you’re thinking about trying this challenge, or even if you just want to get serious about your writing in general. While I’m a fairly solitary writer, I find that having a second set of eyes for redrafting is crucial, and it never hurts to have a sounding board to bounce ideas off. Yesterday, 90% of the questions we asked each other were about plot. Mine were mostly about the age of the characters, and whether I needed to age them up or down to fix the storyline. Jo’s were about character arcs, personality changes and possible relationships. I think we both came out of there with a better idea of where we were going.

Of course the best thing about having a writing buddy, is that, unlike your other friends (or family members), who are likely to tell you that your writing is amazing and they love it and that they can’t wait to read more, your writing buddy will know when to get a bit ruthless. They know the importance of brutal honesty, and what to look for. Jo pointed out that in one scene I had given Alec a phone with a battery life of over a month, and I had crammed about three major plot developments into another. The first was a mistake that I had completely missed, the second, a reoccurring issue (I get over excited sometimes, okay?) that I have picked up on in some places but not in others.

Discussing work like this can be difficult at first – believe me, if you’d asked me 4 years ago if I wanted someone to thoroughly critique my writing, I would have told you where to go – but the fact is, a novel is never just yours, not if you actually want it read. At some point you are going to receive negative criticism, and the sooner you learn to separate the constructive from the pure opinion, the better. You learn to take what’s useful, and disregard the rest, and so you improve. Honestly, I don’t know where I’d be without you, Jo!

Love,

Mort.

P.S. If anyone else would like to join us, you are still more than welcome. I’m sure I will be editing and discussing long after I’ve finished my first draft, so seriously, come on, my friend! Let’s do this!

The Graham Greene Affair: Week 1

The Grahame Green Affair
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The Graham Greene Affair: Week 1

I am genuinely surprised by how well this is going. Even last night, when my face was on fire after an unpleasant trip to the dentist, I managed to crack out 500 words. I’ve discovered that 500 words really isn’t much for me, and I’ve actually overshot it a few times. I can usually crack it out in and hour or an hour and a half, and that’s when I’m mucking about on thinkbabynames.com, and researching penalties for Class A drugs. So what are the Pros and Cons I’ve found at the end of Week 1?

Pros

1. Making consistent progress – At the begining of this week, my novel was 11,000 words. It had taken me almost a year to write 5000 words. Rimjhim is now over 15000 words and counting. It feels so good to be making progress again.

2. Getting enthusiastic – By stopping in the middle of a scene, I cause myself to keep thinking about what comes next. I learn new things about my characters, and find myself acting out bits and pieces in my head, as I used to. I was so worried this story had gone stale, feeling that spark of enthusiasm again was a big relief.

3. Get’s you thinking – In order to knock out 500 words, you need to have some idea of where you’d like to go when you sit down to write. For me this is particularly difficult because I’m working on four time frames congruently, switching back and forth between time frames. While I was thinking out what I was going to write next, I realised that each of these time frames needs to tell it’s own story that lead to the same resolution. This solved so many pacing problems, you wouldn’t believe.

4. Dat regular writing pattern though – Writing frequently, will tell you a boat load about how you work best. And this is exactly what I needed. I’ve learnt that I work best with the deadline of  sleep looming over me. But my friend, who is joining me on this epic journey fits her 500 words in whenever, and wherever she can.

Cons

1. It’s time consuming – Of course it was always going to be, but I forgot to factor in editing time. I am one of those writers that likes to pick things apart as I’m going along, so while writing doesn’t take that long, I have already deleted 400 words.

2. Self-awareness overload – Earlier this week, I became hyper aware of how much dialogue I write, to the point where I was actually adding in unnecessary description. It took a long look through The Adventure of Charles Augustus Milverton (my favourite Sherlock Holmes story) to remind myself that when you have two characters with good chemistry, all you have to do is set up the scene, and then roll with it.

All in all, it’s been an interesting first week, and I’m impressed with my stamina. Writing everyday has caused some issues, but it’s reignited my love for Rimjhim. I’ve become one of those over-eager parents, desperate to see how my baby’s going to work out. Fingers crossed, I’ll be this happy next week.

Ciao,

Mort.

Tip Tuesday: How to be Smooth as Fudge

smooth as fudge
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How to be Smooth as Fudge

(Flirting tips for awkward folks.)

Up until fairly recently, I was completely incapable of flirting. When I was 19, I signaled to a person that I liked them by pufferfish kissing them, Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs style. Then, just in case they didn’t get the message, the next time I saw them I kissed them on the lips and before running off to catch my bus. Fortunately, they found it cute, but in hindsight, if they hadn’t felt the same way, that would have been the creepiest thing I have ever done. However, since then I like to think I’ve got a handle on things. I’m still mahoosively awkward sometimes, but I’ve developed techniques to help keep me smooth as fudge, bae.

1.

I’m so awkward, I don’t even know how to flirt! How would you let someone know that you like them?

smooth as fudge

Address the above to the person that you like. Then not so subtly do what they suggest. If they’re as awkward as you, and so don’t flirt either, look up tips online, and act these out. The beauty of this is, that if they start to get uncomfortable, you can laugh it off as “practicing”, apologise, and then distract them with a question about what they’ve been watching/reading lately.

2.

Are you multiple sea creatures with tentacles, cuz girl, you octopi my thoughts.

smooth as fudge

Go ahead and learn some crazy pick-up lines, the weirder the better. You want them to be so strange, that no-one in their right mind will think you’re using them unironically. That way, whether the person likes you or not, you’ll get a laugh. Laughter is infectious, so even if you don’t get the girl/boy/other, you’ll feel better, and you’ll gain a reputation as a bit of a comedian. Who doesn’t want that?

3.

Hey the weather is nice today, by the way I like you, don’t you think that cloud looks like a lion?

smooth as fudge

Honestly, the best way of finding out if someone likes you, is to tell them how you feel. But of course, this can be terrifying. The trick is to keep it casual, to remind yourself that it’s really no big deal. My favourite way of doing this is to sandwich the words into an ordinary sentence (see above). It makes it seem like you’re just dropping a random fact into conversation. And when they inevitably respond with, “What did you say?!” you can say it again. It’s always easier the second time, because the words are already out there. Stay calm, and ask how they feel. If they feel the same, well then it’s time to get excited! And if they don’t, tell them it’s okay. Because it is okay. Sometimes people won’t like you back, but there will always be someone else.

Lines and techniques aside, however, the main reason I’m able to talk to people now, is because I’ve learnt how to be comfortable with who I am. I’ve learnt that being a nerd is amazing, that needing to be alone is perfectly fine, and that you can get away with doing all kinds of weird stuff (meowing, putting glitter on your flatmate’s nose, lying under the coffee table to think etc. etc.) in the right context. All you have to do is be brave, and remember that, love is not everything in life.

Mort out. xx

smooth as fudge