Every Day in May

So here we are, the 31st of May, and it’s official… I’ve managed to Blog Every Day in May!

This is Rosalilium’s final blogging prompt of the month:

Hoorah! Well done, you have made it through the month. How was it for you? Did you learn anything? What did you enjoy? What did you dislike? Sum it all up!

I have to say that although it was challenging at times, I really enjoyed pushing myself to blog each day. More importantly, I enjoyed pushing myself towards different topics. I think since I started this blog that has been my main concern… the what. When I started out I was blogging exclusively about my studies, and in that first year I only blogged 30 times. I kept telling myself that my blog was about this, so I could only post that. What a huge mistake! Since branching out into different areas I’ve enjoyed writing so much more (plus, this year I’ve already posted 104 times!). Now, rather than viewing my blog as a chore, I see it as a playground.

In the past month, I’ve also discovered how much I love engaging with other bloggers. It’s strange that I’ve avoided that for the past couple of years… but I think I always worried that (this is going to sound lame) they’d be mean. I didn’t really consider myself a ‘real’ blogger. I was so, so wrong. I’m sure there are blogging demons out there, but my experience so far (particularly of the BEDM bloggers) has been entirely positive. I hope to stay in contact with the ladies I’ve ‘met’ over the past month… I really feel like I know them. I think in the coming months I’d really like to start collaborating with other bloggers more… I’m not even sure what with, but I’m available if anyone has any ideas… I like to have a project! I’ve also jumped straight into another blogging challenge – Armchair BEA, and hopefully I’ll manage to connect with some like-minded people…

I’ve started to embrace that the only way I’ll be able to develop this little corner of the internet is through trial and error. I experiment and if I don’t enjoy something I’ll stop, if I love it, I’ll think of ways to do it more. In the past I’ve tried having a more rigid blogging schedule and it just wasn’t fun. I want freedom here, not ‘work’. You can’t jump into this whole malarkey and be as great as the people who have been doing it for years… and if that’s what you expect then you’re going to end up so frustrated that you give up on blogging altogether. I’m not going to sit here and tell you to write for yourself and not the readers, because any writer has to have their readers in mind, but try to do what you enjoy, not what you think others expect from you.

If you stay with me and my blog over the coming weeks, months and years, I’m sure you’ll see a lot of changes. Some will be fab and some will make me cringe in hindsight, but hey, the same could be said about my hair.

I’m in no position to give anyone blogging advice, but how about you? If you had to offer a nugget of wisdom to a blogger what would it be?

D x

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The nineteenth-century novel

Today is the second to last day of Rosalilium’s Blog Every Day in May challenge, and the topic of the day is all about inspiration. The obvious thing for me to do would be to talk about the artists that inspire me, but I’m considering a blog series along those lines, so instead I’m going to talk about my studies.

As you probably all know, I’m currently working on a Literature and Creative Writing degree with the Open University, and this year I’ve been studying AA316 (the nineteenth-century novel). Last summer when I was picking my courses I remember been torn between this one, ’20th century literature: texts and debates’ and ‘Shakespeare: text and performance’. What was the deciding factor, I hear you ask? Classics. I love ’em. I love reading books that take a bit of deciphering, that contain beautiful writing, not just an engaging plot. I love the total delusions of a lot of the characters. I love the quaintness of times gone by. I love the romance and the tragedy. Mostly, I love costume dramas.

One of the things that inspired me to do this module was sheer book envy. That feeling you get, when you’re convinced you should read something but just never seem to get to it… that’s what pushed me into the world of the nineteenth-century novel.

Working through my set books, I’ve come across some real gems. I’ve discovered some things I’ve LOVED and some things that are headed straight to the charity shop… even though I really did hate some of them, I’m glad I suffered through (because at least now I know A- who to avoid and B- that a lot of the time other people are WRONG).

So these are those infamous books I’ve had to read (linked to reviews) –

Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen

My first ever Austen… underwhelming at best.

Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte

A book I’ve read many a time before, and will undoubtedly read many a time again.

Dombey and Son by Charles Dickens

The book that changed my mind about Dickens! Despite my love for all BBC adaptations, my torturous experience of reading Hard Times really put me off… but I absolutely LOVED this one. Enough to download the rest onto my Kindle (thank God for Project Gutenberg!)

Far From the Madding Crowd by Thomas Hardy

I enjoyed studying passages from this novel more than actually reading it- there’s some truly stunning prose, but the dialects really bug me…

Middlemarch by George Eliot

In a word… long. Came from a snobby hypocrite, but an enjoyable read.

Germinal by Emile Zola

Enjoyed it waaaay more than I thought I would, could never be described as ‘nice’ but I’d recommend giving it a read… I’m currently trying to track down the rest in the series (not as easy as you’d think!)

Portrait of a Lady by Henry James

After a slight struggle with the first chapter I really got into this one only to be left a bit cold at the end, not one to read if you’re looking for a bit of action!

Madame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert

DREADFUL.

The Woman in White by Wilkie Collins

Again, long. A lot of build-up for a kind of boring scandal… I guess times have changed…

The Awakening by Kate Chopin

A good classic to start off with… purely because it’s so short! I thought it was ok the first time I read it but have enjoyed it more and more as I’ve had to study it. An appreciation for symbolism is required for this one.

Dracula by Bram Stoker

Enjoyable, if well-known, story. It’s just a shame about the insipid declarations, total chauvinism and two-dimensional characters.

Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad

Started to read and couldn’t get into it, then I realized I wasn’t going to get examined on this one so I’m leaving it for another time, and doing some revision instead!

I’ve definitely got a lot more classics on my ‘to read’ list that I’m hoping to get through…

So what do you think of classics? Do you read them because you enjoy them or because you just feel like you should? Do you just stay away altogether?

D x

Armchair BEA

The BEA (Book Expo America) Conference took place today in New York City, but for those of us who can’t make it there’s the Armchair BEA… which is exactly what it sounds like, a book/blog conference you can attend from the sofa!

Each day we’ll be given two themes to blog about, sounds like fun right? I’m a couple of days behind, but hopefully I’ll manage to get all my posts written by the time it all ends! And hey, who needs revision?

This post is a little introduction, so I’m going to answer a few of the set questions suggested by the ABEA team:

1. Please tell us a little bit about yourself. How long have you been blogging? Why did you get into blogging?

I started my blog a couple of years ago with the intention of writing about getting my English degree via distance learning. The topic didn’t manage to keep me massively inspired, so I started to branch out a little. Now I focus mostly on my reading exploits and creative endeavours. It’s kind of haphazard, but I’ve grown to love my little corner of the internet…

2. Where in the world are you blogging from?

Nottingham, England, also known as the city obsessed with Robin Hood. People seem to conveniently forget that it was actually the bad guy that was from Nottingham… but now we actually have a street called Maid Marian Way, and bi-yearly Robin Hood festivals.

3. What are you currently reading?

I just finished Circus of Ghosts by Barbara Ewing (which was great), so currently I’m between projects… any recommendations?

4. What literary location would you most like to visit and why?

No brainer, Hogwarts! For the thousand obvious reasons.

5. If you could eat dinner with any author or character, who would it be and why?

Roald Dahl, because I think he’d have some really great stories… and I can’t think of a single book he’s written that I didn’t love!

So I’ll be back tomorrow with my next bookish post, stay tuned!

D x

A slightly creative morning

Hi guys!

So today is day 29 of the Blog Every Day in May challenge – I can’t believe we’re nearly there! Today the topic is morning ritual, and because my morning ritual could be summarised in a line or two I’m going to try something a little different…

In my creative writing class last year I studied a lot of techniques for coming up with ideas for poems… one of these was to pick a really mundane topic and bring in as much figurative language into a piece of prose as possible, before turning it into poetry. So I thought I’d pull out my rusty writing technique and give it a whirl with my morning ritual:

My morning usually starts with my fickle friend the snooze button. He lingers quietly, letting my flirt with the Valhalla of slumber before ripping me away from all that is good about life.

The next twenty minutes are a blur of teeth brushing, hair brushing, face brushing. Of messy wardrobes, messy bags and messy buns. But I make it out, to the rush of mug that swallows me whole as I try to embrace this cold, grey day.

The walk through town is a perilous adventure, with all vehicles honing in on me, like salt to vinegar. That old man tries to hit me with his (push) bike for the twelfth day in a row, cars forget to indicate before their outrage at pedestrians devours all reason. Then finally, that sunflower saviour graces the horizon, and carries away to pastures new.

Pastures of phone calls and spread sheets, emails and folders, tea breaks and tantrums. But the gates to that peaceful meadow of monotony are barred until that beauty known as breakfast shows her face. Whether she’s dressing up as sausage sandwiches or swirls of cinnamon, maple dyed pastry braids or ‘breakfast biscuits’, calories are key. Sugar in belly, tea in hand, I’m armed to face the day.

Let me just say, this is not supposed to be literary genius, the whole point is to kick up a few interesting phrases that you can file away for later… and I pledge to you, my loyal readers, that even though I’m the least poetic person on the planet, I will turn this into a bit of verse for you. One day.

So you’ve read about my romanticized morning, how would you describe yours?

D x

Bad Advice

When I saw that today’s Blog Every Day in May prompt was about the worst advice you’ve ever received, I instantly knew what I wanted to talk about.

When I was seventeen and leaving home my mother’s parting words of wisdom were ‘Don’t bother going to Uni, it’s not worth it’. This may seem completely insane coming from a parent… but when she went away to Uni she came back with, well, me so it could be argued that she was just worried about her darling innocent daughter. Or she was doing what she always did, and worrying about appearances. The thing about my mother is that she wanted me to be better than everyone else’s kids, but not so good that I would be better than her; I was expected to have a better tan and blonder hair than everyone I went to school with, but I couldn’t have a smaller dress size than mummy.

I’m not going to hide the dysfunction, but I’m getting distracted.

What I wanted to say is that I’m so glad, and so proud that I ignored that terrible, terrible advice. Doing my degree has made me feel so much more confident about having a career, rather than just a job. I’ve learnt a lot more about my own strengths by engaging in distance learning – I now know I have the determination and ambition to succeed in whatever I set my mind to. I know that sounds a bit lame, but now I just have a lot more faith in myself (maybe it has something to do with living far, far away from somebody obsessed with my weight?)

I admit, I haven’t gone about the whole higher education thing in a conventional way, but that tends to be my style. I won’t go over the Pro’s and Con’s of the Open University (again) because I don’t want to bore you… but the most valuable thing it has enabled me to do is hold down a full-time job. Not only have a gained valuable work experience, I’ve managed to save. A lot. When I finish my degree I won’t be swimming in student loans, I’ll be in a position to buy my own home.

Plus, I’ll have the satisfaction of knowing I did it all on my own. (Ok, mostly I mean I’ll have the satisfaction of knowing I WAS RIGHT)

So is it just me, or have your parents laid some crap advice on you too?

D x

A Page of Affirmations

So today is day 27 of the Rosalilium Blog Every Day in May Challenge and the theme is Secret Talent.

This one is a hard one for me… I’m the kind of person who cringes when I have to talk about myself, if someone tells me I’m good at something I can’t help but say something sarcastic. And the only ‘secret’ I have is this blog. So I thought maybe I’d use a get out of jail free card and ask the boyfriend to share my special talents…

Want to hear what he came up with?

‘Well, err, you’re creative. And y’know, skilful. And you can multitask, that’s special.’

Obviously I have an excellent candidate for writing my next CV, but coming from the person who’s supposed to love and indulge me more than anyone, I don’t know how impressed I am…

So instead of using a boy as my source of information I’m going to share my latest Life Book page with you. This class was taught by the fabulous Dawn DeVries Sokol, and the idea was to create a page filled with positive words about you and the things you’re good at (so perfect for today’s blogging prompt!)

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The light bounced off the paint a bit so you can’t really read all the text:

Creative Soul * Nobody Stronger * Nobody Stranger * Mama Bear * Doodler Extraordinaire * Unique Creature * You see through the blurred lines * With a talent for sarcasm * You never forget * Somehow there’s someone who loves you enough to put up with all your issues * Ans you pull the best faces [evidenced by the photo!]

I wouldn’t say this is the most beautiful page I’ve ever created but I enjoyed making it… even if it’s not that easy writing things about yourself!

So how about you? Any secret talents?

D x

Whootie Owl Card

The latest Quirky Crafts challenge has gone live today, and the latest theme is black and white with a tiny amount of another colour. Check out the original challenge post here.

One of the biggest challenges for me as part of the Quirky Crafts design team is using the digital stamps provided by all of our great sponsors. If you’ve seen any of my other art work, you’ll know I like to create each element on the page; I prefer to use hand painted papers over scrapbook paper, my own writing over computer generated fonts, my own drawings over somebody else’s. But you should also know that I love a challenge, and these images we’re given force me to push myself, and find different ways to make my mark.

So to that end, today I’m going to share an artsy card making tutorial using the ‘Whootie Owl’ stamp from Limited Runs.

Supplies:

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Half a sheet of sturdy watercolour paper * a pair of scissors * a glue stick * a tube of acrylic paint * a pencil crayon in the same colour as the paint * a flat paint brush * a black felt tip * a fine black pen (I used a gel pen) * a white pen * a piece of bubble wrap *  a black and white image

Steps:

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Fold your piece of watercolour paper in half, then water down some acrylic paint and cover one half in a light wash. While it’s still wet, blot with a piece of toilet roll or kitchen paper for texture.

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Coat your bubble wrap with a thicker layer of paint and print onto your background. Set aside and let it dry while you work on you image.

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Using a black felt tip divide the image into smaller sections. Then start adding doodles with the gel pen.

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Fill in the rest with doodles, I’d recommend picking two patterns and then repeating them across the image. Remember to leave some blank space, or it’ll just look too fussy. Add a splash of colour to those blank spaces.

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Add a few scribbles to your background to tie in the black and white of your main image.

Cut out your image and stick to the background. Add a border using your black and white pens and your pencil crayon. This will add balance out the card and make each element look like it ‘goes’ together:

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I hoped you enjoyed this little tutorial, and I hope you’ll consider linking up to the latest challenge!

D x

P.S. If you make anything based on this post, I’d love to see pictures!