#Goals: Review and Reset 2

Standard

#Goals: Review and Reset 2

I’m currently recovering from spending 2 hours in a car with no air-conditioning in almost 30 degree heat (that’s in Celsius for American friends), so I’ll keep this quarter’s #Goals: Review and Reset short.

It’s been a tough few months, with essay deadlines and dissertation work abounding, but I’m quite impressed with what I’ve managed to achieve.

Review:

Deliver 2 more essays for MA by 23rd of April. – Complete. After the essay I wrote in March drove me mildly insane, it was a relief to move on. I was a little worried, as I’d set myself the challenge of writing 2 papers that required me to choose my own research topic, and neither subjects were theory based. Fortunately, the lecturer leading the module where I had chosen to run an experiment was incredibly supportive and I was able to get my questionnaire out to run while I was working on my other paper. The other paper was slightly more stressful, as there was some discussion about what my question should be. But I did it. Both essays were submitted. And both went down very well 🙂

Identify data sample for dissertation by end of May. – Complete. This was completed…although it was maybe more like the middle of June, largely due to ethical problems that cropped up regarding fanfiction.net ‘s terms of service statement. It was easily solved, but set me back a few days in terms of research.

Get a firm grasp on ethics in relation to dissertation by mid-May. – Complete. Both myself and my supervisor are now fairly certain that I’ve covered my bases. Fingers crossed I don’t have to go dumping my sample again at this point (I’ve already started my analysis).

Write draft of dissertation by end of June. – Incomplete. ~Laughs~ I based this goal on when the university said we should finish a draft by, but it was never going to happen. Particularly not with the amount of gaps in my knowledge I needed to fill, and the amount of narrowing down I needed to do. I’ve essentially gone from “I want to analyse creativity and authenticity in ALL of fanfiction” to “I want to analyse the creativity and authenticity involved in the characterisation of popularly referenced characters involved in these four Sherlock Holmes fanfiction texts using these models.” It took a long time to get there, but I think I finally know what I’m actually doing.

Reach 85k of The End of Atlas by end of June.Incomplete. So close! But no cigar. I only managed to reach 84,143 words. To be fair to myself, with illnesses and dissertation setbacks, I’ve probably only had one session on The End of Atlas this quarter. I also started messing about with a short story, which quickly turned into the workings of a novella that I might try self-publishing in the future. That bad boy is 7.5k…  I do feel like I’m having an affair with these other writing projects. I really do.

Create new logo for blog by end of June. – Complete. I have a drawing done, but I’ve not had chance to digitalise or upload. I think I’m going to postpone making any further changes to this blogsite until I’m done with my masters. I really want to be able to focus and do it properly.

Write blog post at least once a week. – Complete. Popular highlights from this quarter include: The Dos and Don’ts of Double Helix Piercings, Kit the Kat: Warning – May Contain Copious Cat Pictures, and my poem from last week, Seen from a Window in Wales.

Read at least two essays/chapters a week. – Complete. Entirely necessary when trying to put together a model for a topic no-one’s really covered before. Even re-reading articles has been incredibly helpful, as well as making detailed notes in a bullet-esque notebook format. Some of my favourites included: ‘Authentic in Authenticity: The Evolution of Sherlock Holmes on Screen’ by Stephen Joyce, ‘Character Voice in Anime Subtitles’ by Peter Howell and ‘What is Fanfiction and Why are People Saying Such Nice Things about It?’ by Bronwen Thomas. If you can get hold of them, I’d strongly recommend giving them a read.

Keep daily questions journal up-to-date. – Complete.

Keep daily routine: up at 7.30 am, bed by 11pm. – Complete. Although, this routine is now more up at 8am and bed by midnight.

 

So, I’ve managed to complete 8 of my 10 public goals. In addition, I completed all 5 of my private goals, making a total of 13 out of 15 goals achieved 🙂 Not half bad, if I do say so myself.

The end of the next quarter will be the 30th of September, by which time I will have (hopefully) finished my MA. With that in mind, let’s move on to my new targets.

 

Reset:

  1. Write at least 1500 words of dissertation a week until the end of July.
  2. Finish and submit my dissertation by the end of August.
  3. Have a “summer clean” during August.
  4. Make significant edits to The End of Atlas by the end of September.
  5. Edit novella and look into self-publishing by the end of September.
  6. Update CV by the end of September.
  7. Read an actual book by the end of September.
  8. Keep daily questions journal up-to date.
  9. Keep daily routine.
  10. Write one blog post a week.

 

I’ve kept it to 10 goals again, as I know that the next few months are going to be hectic again, as I’m finishing my dissertation and moving. I’ve also not set a word count for Atlas because there are some major changes that I would like to make before I get much further.

I will also be setting 5 private goals for myself, as always.

I feel I should also mention, that I have now achieved one of my new year’s resolutions: keeping a plant alive for 6 months. Beaky the orchid is currently in rest mode, but his leaves and roots are still growing and very green. This is all kinds of impressive as I have literally killed every plant I’ve ever owned…including a few cacti.

Look forward to seeing you next week, folks!

Best,

EM

Advertisements

Comic Books: Reading for the Crazy Busy

Standard

Comic Books: Reading for the Crazy Busy

You’ll have to forgive me if I my grammar’s a little groggy this week. I woke up yesterday with a nasty cold, which has now shifted and set up camp in my tonsils. Thinking is fun, I got out of breath just walking across the room to get my laptop, and let’s not talk about what’s coming out of my nose right now. I am gross.

Anyway, I thought today would be a good day to talk about my new found love for comic books. My hope is that my enthusiasm will shine through the ill.

As most of you will know, I’ve always been a bit of a nerd. As a kid, I was the one who sat in the corner writing (when I wasn’t busy being a Kidiot). As a teen, I used Star Trek and Stargate Atlantis as my security blanket to calm me down before school. As an adult…well, I’ve finally discovered joy in comic books.

That’s not to say I hated them before. I just never really got on with them. I’ve always found comfort in words on a page, but there was never enough text in comic books for my liking. Not to mention, I really struggled to process images and words at the same time, so I’d often miss a joke or plot point and would have to read whole sections again.

However, in the last year or so, I’ve found myself building a collection. It started with the Harbinger series, which I came across on Amazon. A friend bought me the collected Blacksad for my birthday, and then the wonderful Chloe Dungate (aka Scarfdemon) put up a video of comic book recommendations. Suddenly, I’m up to my eyeballs in clever storytelling and gorgeous artwork. It’s great.

So, what caused this change of heart? Well, two things:

  1. My understanding of how comic books work has greatly improved since I was a kid.
  2. My life got ridiculous.

When you’re an English student, people make the assumption that you spend every waking moment of everyday having a good old read of a nice book. But, the last time I managed to read a standard prose novel of my choosing was over the summer, before my course started. Even then, I was reading Supernatural books because I thought I’d end up covering Supernatural fanfiction for my dissertation. Turns out, I should have been reading the collected work of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. The best laid plans, hey?

The fact is, I’ve been so swamped with reading heavy linguistics papers that the last thing I want to do in order to chill out is read more dense text. Hell, I’ve been struggling to get myself to write because I know I need to make edits to The End of Atlas before I can continue, and ow, my brain.

But in comic books, I’ve found something rather wonderful. A place I can enjoy the quiet comfort of words without having to summon an image of the whole world. Instead, it’s right there – on the page – drawn for me. Not to mention, a number of comic books are so quick to read that I can sneak one into the hour before bed, or into that awkward period after breakfast, but before I have to trek to see my dissertation tutor. They are the perfect reading material for someone whose life has become crazy busy.

Somehow, I’ve grown to love comic books so much, that I’ve even found ways to incorporate them into my MA work this year. In my first semester, I wrote a paper outlining how Harbinger uses non-textual elements to tell its story, and then used that as evidence to support myself as I ripped into two of the main theorists on the topic of “visual grammar” (possibly a little too much). For the semester just gone, I proposed my own question, analysed the use of gesture in Princess Princess Ever After, and provided a comparison between those gestures and the gestures we use in real life. I showed, amongst other things, that gesture in comic books can be used to replace language in order to avoid cluttering cells with lots of texts. So a cheering crowd can be represented by characters waving and punching the air.

Basically, what I’m saying is, comic books are super cool. They’re short and sweet, but they’re also this incredibly complex communicative tool. They frequently get put in the box of “kid stuff” or “nerd stuff” (as if that’s a bad thing), and are ignored for no good reason. There’s such a variety of comic books out there now, beyond the traditional superhero stories, that it’s just impossibly frustrating to hear people dismiss them as “not my thing” without ever having read one (as happened to me the other day whilst perusing the comic book section in Waterstone’s).

So next time you’re busy, but you really want that joyous feeling of reading a whole book in one sitting, try a comic book. Or two. I mean, no pressure, but you might be pleasantly surprised.

 

Best,

Em.

Then vs Now: Revisiting Please Mind the Gap

Standard

Then vs Now: Revisiting Old Work

So this last week I’ve been stressed out of mind by a car that only works when it wants to and an essay argument that even I’m not convinced by. With that in mind, I thought it would be good to look back at how far I’ve come. Back to the very first creative writing piece I submitted for my undergraduate course.

To those of you who took the course with me…that’s right. It’s the return of Please Mind the Gap.

The prompt we were given for our first piece of assessed work was “Generations”. Looking back, I realise that the intention was probably to let us have as much wiggle room as possible to write something we wanted to write, but all I could think about was the old people versus young people dynamic.

At the time, I was also fixated on the idea that I was going to write crime fiction of some form, so I had to find a way to lever in some deduction, some logic, some action. This resulted in a story about a young guy (Henry) stopping an old lady from throwing herself in front of a train…bridging the generation gap, I guess?

Now, unfortunately, I can’t find the feedback sheet for this (and believe me, after re-reading it, I tried), but I think I got 67 (a 2:1 in Britain) and I have no idea how it did so well. But anyhow, what follows is a list of my favourite lines and why they’re terrible. Forgive me for my sins.

Please Mind the Gap: A review by its baffled writer.

“He had his family of course, but family is a bubble of childhood recollections and the moment it comes into contact with the real world, it pops.”

This metaphor is rather famous amongst my writing friends as one of the worst things I’ve ever written. At the time, I refused to accept this. However, it should be noted that its original form was far worse, as it included the words “rainbow vapour”. I can only assume that I was trying to make Henry sound like a 3-year-old, high on sugar.

“The city had been a bit of a culture shock. More like a culture thunderstorm, if Henry was to be completely honest with himself. He wasn’t often. Henry liked to pretend that nothing was ever wrong in the world. It was his way. And he was set in his way. Or so he had thought.”

I’m going to give myself a little pat on the back for the culture shock, culture thunderstorm comparison. I think that’s not far off a nice bit of playful emphasis right there. But then past Emma had to go ahead and ruin it, didn’t she? What follows sounds like I’m in the middle of brainstorming who Henry actually is, only I accidentally did it in the middle of the narrative. It’s okay to have a character flipflop…but let’s not flipflop for 6 consecutive sentences.

“Her patent shoes glinted in the icy sunlight. The reflection slipped like a tear from the surface as she shifted her weight from foot to foot.”

WHY ARE HER SHOES CRYING? This is part of the description used to introduce my little old lady to the scene. Now obviously, what I was trying to say is, “this lady is sad”, but what I have actually done, with some ridiculous use of personification is say “her shoes are sad.” Why, Emma, just why?

“Everything was fine, he told himself. Everything was warm milk, and fresh blackberries and smooth, like the perfect surface of an eggshell.
“But eggshell’s are fragile,” his mother had once whispered softly in his ear, “So be careful you don’t drop it.””

Apparently, Henry’s mother is Yoda…or Obi Wan…and her seemingly irrelevant words of wisdom echo in Henry’s ears when he most needs to hear them. And let’s not go near why Henry, a university student from 2011, has a list of favourite things that sound like they were taken straight out of The Sound of Music.

No quote here. But just know that this story included a whole paragraph of heart-breaking baby chicken death…

…That I then turned into an extended metaphor. And I have no idea why. But I can only think that maybe my lecturer thought this was sophisticated and not just a horrifying use of flashback.

“Henry’s rucksack flew out to one-side and was dragged into the riptide of the speeding train. The bag of books ricocheted off a window and launched itself through the crowd, into the timetables at the back of the station.”

Where is physics? And, okay, I later suggest that Henry’s shoulders are both dislocated…but even then I’m still confused about how this bag gets ripped from his back? So I guess…where is biology, as well?

“‘That boy!’ They all thought, ‘That boy just pushed her right over! So rude! These artsy-fartsy students with their flat caps and sharp creased trousers. I hope he didn’t break her hip.’”

Apparently the people on this platform are part of some kind of hive mind. And I can’t decide whether to use single or double quotation marks, or how to format dialogue/thought. Also, the only way to describe Henry is to use the objects that I have already highlighted in the narrative. I’m sorry, Henry. You are your fashion choices.

“No-one noticed Henry’s disappearance.”

I call bull****, past Emma. A whole crowd of people just observed him shove a lady over and noticed enough detail to accurately describe his attire to the police. Somebody saw him fall down the side of the train!

“Henry had slipped down the gap. That gap between the train and the platform where all the debris of the rail is thrown. “

These people all think Henry is trash, and they should feel bad. Did I mention? DID I SAY IT LOUD ENOUGH WITH MY IMAGERY?

“The peak of his cap was turned upwards, allowing a few dark curls and a thin trail of red yolk to tease their way across his forehead.”

There’s the tail end of that chicken death metaphor, “red yolk”. ~Sigh~ Couldn’t have just called blood, blood, could you? Also, his bag got torn from his shoulders somehow…but that hat, that hat is fixed to his head with cement.

“The younger woman stared on open mouthed, dead of language.”

I bet you’re thinking there’s not much wrong with this sentence, except maybe for that flowery end. Well then, let me inform you that I’d never mentioned a young woman in this story before…so I have no idea why I’ve used the article “the”.

“People readied themselves to mourn an incidental.”

See, past Emma thinks she’s being real clever with that there use of “incidental”…but what I’ve actually done is make current me question whether or not I know the actual definition of incidental, and then try to figure out whether past Emma is trying to cram all the meanings onto it in a “look at me, I’m so poetic”. I’m dark and mysterious and broody. You can’t judge my ART!

In Conclusion

Uh, well, just so everyone knows, Henry survived this ordeal (again, WHERE IS BIOLOGY?). The final line is him getting a rude awakening as his shoulders pop back into their sockets, so I guess getting hit by a train and having apparent head trauma doesn’t mean much. It’s that bubble he lives in. When it pops the force from the train just dissipates into thin air. Possible? Right?

I hope you enjoyed this walk down memory lane with me. I know I’ve spent the past hour or so cackling at my own mistakes. It’s good to go back. It makes me feel so much better about the present. If you fancy reading something decent, check out Moth Rain if you haven’t already. See you next week!

P.S. In case you were wondering about the picture…we found a Tin Tin figurine in first year and put him on the lectern like this during a lecture. The lecturer said nothing. I collected Tin Tin after the session and he currently resides down the back of my bedside table.

Review: Every Day

every day
Standard

Every Day by David Levithan

WARNING SPOILERS

Every Day left me in two minds. It definitely has it’s good qualities; as a commentary on sexuality and gender, it’s an outstanding piece of young adult literature. However, as an example of science fiction, it made me want to weep, and not for joy.

The narrator of the novel, A, is an entity who jumps from body to body, regardless of gender. As such, A is not gender neutral, or gender fluid, but just a person, who doesn’t really understand what the fuss is all about;

“I had yet to learn that when it came to gender, I was both and neither.”every day

“In my experience, desire is desire, love is love. I have never fallen in love for a gender. I have fallen for individuals. I know this is hard for people to do, but I don’t understand why it’s so hard, when it’s so obvious.”

For me, this was so incredibly relatable. While I’m fully aware of being a female of the human species, I have never really understood phrases like “You think like a man” or “That’s not lady like.” I have often felt that you could pick my consciousness out of my body, park me in another, and I would still remain the same person. Seeing Levithan approach this subject, in a way that makes it accessible to readers who cannot identify in this way, was amazing.

However, by the end of the novel, that sense of awe had worn off. I found myself infuriated by the poor use of the science every dayfiction elements in this story, particularly in regards to character utilization.

From the beginning, Every Day sets itself up as a romance novel. You know the novel’s plot will rotate largely around A and Rhiannon, but alongside is the sci-fi sub-plot: who is A? Is A one of a kind? Is there a way for A to stay in one body? And through Nathan, A discovers answers to these questions. Vague, vague answers, that A decides to run away from. Just ups and leaves Rhiannon, this girl he loves. Don’t even get me started on the I-have-to-go-but-this-guy-who’s-currently-hosting-my-consciousness-will-make-a-great-boyfriend scene. To Patrick Ness, who calls Every Day, ” a wholly original premise racing along with a generous heart towards a perfect ending,” I say, “You, sir, are a heinous liar.”

As A runs away from the priest, Levithan seems to launch himself in the opposite direction to any kinevery dayd of satisfactory ending. He abandons the priest character, not even deigning to let us read the e-mails that A and the priest exchange. Here I am, thinking perhaps he could learn from the priest how to stay in the body of a comatose kid, thereby gaining a family and a happy life with Rhiannon, but no, no.

The ending was so insanely frustrating, that if I hadn’t been reading a friend’s copy, I would have actually thrown the thing across the room.

In conclusion, do I love the concept and characterisation? Yes, absolutely. Do I think it’s worth a read? Certainly. Do I recommend finishing the book when you’re alone, purely to protect those you love from flying objects? Oh definitely. Definitely, yes.

Review: The Long Dark Tea-Time of the Soul

the long dark tea-time of the soul
Standard

The Long Dark Tea-Time of the Soul

I was introduced to the character of Dirk Gently as a fresher with a serious Sherlock hangover, and only BBC iPlayer to keep me company. I fell in love with the BBC’s adaptation, partly because of my not-so-secret crush on Stephen Managhan, but also due to Gently’s infectious attitude towards life. Over the summer, I managed to read the first novel in this short series, Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency. I was so taken with Adams’s bizarre writing style, that most of my creative writing projects for the next athe long dark tea-time of the soulcademic year were dedicated to replicating that sound; the unequivocal, deadpan satirist, with a unequalled sense of humour. In particular, it sparked the creation of a certain giraffe scene that became semi-infamous amongst my course-mates.

Over a year later, I finally found time to read The Long Dark Tea-Time of the Soul, and I am pleased to announce, it was well worth the wait.

While the book is technically a sequel, reading the original is not at all necessary. All you need to know is that Dirk Gently is a man who takes the interconnectedness of all things deadly seriously, to the point where he has given up conventionalthe long dark tea-time of the soul methods of navigation, and instead follows cars and people that look like they know where they’re going. No, I’m not joking. The Long Dark Tea-Time of the Soul sees Gently investigating the death of a client, leading him down the back streets of London, past an old people’s home and straight into the great hall of Valhalla. Oh, did I forget to mention Thor, Odin, and a fella named “Toe Rag” all have a major role to play in the novel’s events? Woops.

This is definitely a novel for those of you who love the Marvel movies, or just have a passion for Norse mythology. While Toe the long dark tea-time of the soulRag lacks the sex appeal of Tom Hiddleston’s Loki, he makes up for it in his hilarious attempts at tormenting Thor. Thor himself is rather adorably unable to think and talk at the same time, and is prone to outbursts, which have a habit of transforming lamps into kittens and so forth. For the fanfiction writer’s amongst you, it will certainly provide some headcanon fodder.

In the middle of all this absurdity, it one of the best written female characters I’ve read in a while; Kate Schechtor. Unlike the usual floosies of your common noir, Kate is a curious, level-headed, the long dark tea-time of the souldriven woman, who has as much trouble comprehending bath salts, oils and bombs as I do. She is not your common dame, she is brave enough and smart enough to make her own path through the story, and is all about the practicalities, “Kate sighed. “Will I need a coat in Asgard?“. For a detective novel from the 1980’s, she’s a real treat, and you’ve got to love Adams for that.

My only complaint was the lack of MacDuff, the previous book’s secondary protagonist, and Gently’s onscreen sidekick. This is purely because, MacDuff acts as a Watson the long dark tea-time of the soulfigure, giving background information on Gently’s character from their university days together. For this reason, I personally recommend reading the first book, simply to get a fuller sense of Gently’s character, although the order in which you read them is up to you.

The Dirk Gently novels are certainly some of my favourites. As a student, they were a breath of fresh air in a pile of dense literature. As a graduate, they provide a wonderfully warm gulp of humour to fill the hours I spend in coffee shops. But most importantly, as a writer, I recognise that they are something entirely different, and that is what makes Adams one of my literary heroes.

the long dark tea-time of the soul

Finally, for those of you who find yourself hooked, there are further chapters available in The Salmon of Doubt, the third, but rather unfortunately incomplete, novel in the series. RIP Adams, you beautiful man, you.