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Brighton Fringe and Broadway Baby (and me)

History of Ireland's cast wear colourful ballgowns in the Rose of Tralee beauty pageant

History of Ireland’s cast in the Rose of Tralee beauty pageant

I’ve joined Brighton’s Broadway Baby review team, which means we’re only four days into Brighton Fringe and I already have a favourite venue & place to stand at the bar.

Brighton Fringe is:

Brighton Fringe is the largest open-access arts festival in England. It is an international festival that is at the same time rooted in the community. It embraces every art form and every form of artistic expression, and supports both new and established performers in trying out new work and taking risks.

and Broadway Baby is a:

performing arts hub containing thousands of listings, reviews and articles about everything on stage in the UK.

So far I’ve reviewed Poets v Mcs (Brighton v Sheffield) and the History of Ireland–and both were a delight. They made me laugh at things I didn’t expect, they inspired me about what writing (in all formats) can do, and they both made me dance.

I’ve got at least six more shows to see, including Shakespeare, sci-fi and more spoken word shows. If you’re in town I’d recommend Dead Happy, You’re In A Bad Way and Witch-Hunt as the three shows to check out. Happy fringing!

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Review: An Absolutely Remarkable Thing by Hank Green

cover of an absolutely remarkable thing by Hank Green

What I’m reading

An Absolutely Remarkable Thing

by Hank Green

I received this book free from the publishers in exchange for an honest review

I beginning-loved this book. But it beginning-tricked me.

I went from addicted, ‘just one more page’ reading sessions to thinking ‘who is this person and do I really care.’ I wanted moar robots but got pages upon pages about internet fame instead.

A third of the way through I forgot the main characters name, even though she’s called April May. Maybe that’s why I forgot it? Was it my brain rebelling? Her name put me off in the same way I abandoned (500) Days of Summer halfway through, despite everyone saying I’d love it. Too artificial-cutesy-whimsical. I can enjoy cutesy, but it needs to earn its place.

I think I was supposed to forgive April May some of her failings because she was ‘Quirky,’ but really I needed her to be strong enough a character for me to forgive her quirkiness.

I don’t think it’s a bad book, and when I checked the blurb it did say it’s a book about

“how the social internet is changing fame and radicalisation; how our culture deals with fear and uncertainty; and how vilification and adoration can follow a life in the public eye.”

I enjoyed some of the riffs about marketing, and I liked that the characters were older than most YA casts (post-college, first job, still uncertain about money & love). But the pacing was patchy, the theme over-wrought, and getting to the end was a slog. I understand why other people like it, but I was relieved to move on to my next read and I won’t be back for the sequel.

Setting

The New York of action movies, all bustling sidewalks and apartments too tiny to sneeze in. A city so full of wonder and activity that when a giant robot appears on a street one night, no one cares. Apart from April May…

Favourite character

Miranda, the scientist.  I recognised my own science-y friends  in how enthusiastic & unstoppably-inspired she gets. My BFF’s eyes light up when she talks about genes & she loses track of time, the same way Miranda gets excited about the strange, giant figures in NY.

What can I learn as a writer?

There are lots of writing books and classes who warn novelists not to mislead the reader about what kind of book they are getting.

Holly Lisle talks about Promises in her writing classes, Les Edgerton’s Hooked is a book all about controlling what you’re signalling with your first chapter, and my writing lecturer swore by Nancy Kress’ Beginnings, Middles and Ends.

I’m not saying Hank Green personally wanted to trick me, but a couple of tweaks to the start of An Absolutely Remarkable Thing could have re-framed my expectations in time for me to like it more.

File with

Not Transformers 😉

 

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Etsy does Bookish: Literary Gifts for your Fantastic Gang

james and the giant peach cushion pillow roald dahl

The creativity of bookish folk is magical. 

The imagination used to fall down rabbit holes, explore fantasy kingdoms, and pledge ourselves to our fae overlords boyfriends must switch on something sparkly in the brain. 

How else do people find enough wi-fi in those witchy attics, roof-top mirror worlds and spooky forests to set up Goblin Market Etsy shops? 

Does imagination come first, or does reading fiction turn us into dreamers, makers, conjurors? 

I pulled on my selkie-armour and finest spell-helmet to go foraging for the shiniest and brightest baubles, and this is what I found:

red london candle, ve schwab a darker shade of magic gift

1. A Darker Shade of Magic Candle

‘I’d rather die on an adventure than live standing still.’

Let Lila do the swashbuckling while you live lying down, reading, burning this Red London candle to conjure Kell’s city instead.
The Polished Parlour is a treasure-trove of bookish goodies, with this one smelling of lilac, firewood and mulled wine. They stock White and Grey London candles too, but why take the risk?
As travars!
The Red London Candle: Inspired by V.E. Schwab’s a Darker Shade of Magic Series

raven boys maggie stiefvater dream thieves blue lily blue raven king aglionby ronan lynch adam parrish blue gansey gift present book read book read present gift etsy bookworm

2. Raven Boys Aglionby Pin

Drop in on the Raven Boys on your way back from London. It may seem far but there’s a lay-line for that, right?

Pin on this beauty to show your love for Noah/Adam/Ronan/Gansey, just be careful what you say around those trees. They can hear you…

Aglionby Pin from ArtofIVDP (a shop crammed with fandom delights)

little women tee tshirt meg & jo & Beth & Amy

3. Little Women Tee

I’m mournful now. Being #TeamNoah has that effect. Time to indulge myself with some Little Women merchandise. I’m straying from the fantasy stable here, but Jo is definitely made of magic.

I want seven of these so I can wear one every day of the week. One wouldn’t be enough to soak up my tears. There’s a reason Joey put this book in the freezer

Little Women tshirt from Mighty Circus. (They also do a Care Bears tee I’m dying for!)

sarai funko from strange the dreamer laini taylor

4. Sarai Funko (Strange The Dreamer)

Back to true fantasy with this beauty from Fandomly Selected. I love her, the hair is the exact cinnamon red I imagined while reading.

Does not come with a handle at the back which you turn to eject one hundred moths, but you can’t have everything*.

Sarai Funko from Fandomly Selected

everything everything literary print picture nicola yoon framed

5. Everything Everything Print

*You can, however, have this pretty-pretty Everything Everything print as a gift. How cool would this look in a bookish boudoir, or next to your bedroom window?

It’s made from antique paper, which is a tender touch that matches the spirit of the book. This is another one which makes me cry, so I’d have to frame it fast to catch my tears on the glass.

Everything Everything Print from Book Cover Art.

handmaid's tale tee tishirt praise be margaret atwood

6. Handmaid’s Tale Tee

Time to stop crying & take action. March on the menfolk – no, away from the menfolk!- in this zinger of a red tee. Not the best colour to blend into the snow, granted, but you’re clever enough to overcome that.

Praise Be tee from Ninety5 prints

howl's moving castle calcifer pin

7. Howl Pin

There’s an age where you’re supposed to stop believing in magic. Or, so some people think.

I remember being a kid, as my friends gave up on spells and broomsticks, thinking, ‘But what if I stop believing and  right then something magical happens and I miss it?’

The risk was never worth it. I’m now officially Grown Up and can report no ill-affects from continuing to believe that fairies could be lurking under hedges and that, given the right pair of wings, I might fly.

This Calcifer pin from Howl’s Moving Castle is the perfect small accessory to signal to others that you know about magic and other worlds, while blending in with the muggles. NayukiDraws has the cutest gang of Ghibli characters around, alongside other anime, video game artwork and keyrings.

james and the giant peach cushion pillow roald dahl

8. James and the Giant Peach Pillow

Cushions for book-lovers make the best gifts, because after a long afternoon’s reading they’ll need a good nap. This Roald Dahl pillow is my favourite because it’s so cheery, but it’s a hard choice with so many in the Storiarts shop to choose from. The same seller stocks literary scarves, gloves and bags, ranging from Shakespeare to Strange The Dreamer, so I’m sure I’ll be back next time I need a gift for a book loving pal.

Keep an eye on my bookish etsy treasure-trove list as I update it through the year – and let me know if you find new shops for me to add! Why not check out my list of crafty geek presents next?

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NANOWRIMO jealousy

revision supplies, bright stationery and writer toys

Photo by Tim Gouw on Unsplash

I have a Twitter friend who is also revising her novel & we’ve been watching wistfully, noses pressed against the window, while others get to do The Fun Part, aka NANOWRIMO, aka just writing with abandon & making new things every day & getting to hit tangible word count goals, fingers flying & beams beaming and sentences running on, long and lovely like this one, because they don’t have to be well behaved & polished yet, la la just do it la.

Revision & editing, on the other hand, are slow and laborious chores, & neither of us have faith that what we’re working on is going to be worth it.

We’ve swapped some DMs to be mutually supportive, & today I’m taking my reply public, in case any others in Edit Land find it useful. And so I can get my daily dose of procrastination before I open Scrivener…

Yes, Twitter Friend, there is an argument for giving a misbehaving novel a cut-off point, by which time it must behave or be abandoned. But I have a Maggie Stiefvater quote pinned above my desk which says that the ones who make it are the ones who keep going:

…even if they know that this novel is not the one that will be good enough to get published, because they know that practice is the only way to get to the one that will be good enough to be published

I’ve kept going on this damn novel because I think the experience of finishing it, with all its knots & tangles, will teach me something valuable, even if no one ever reads it but me.

But, hey, I don’t know what you’re working on & it’s also true that Laini Taylor only wrote Daughter of Smoke and Bone when she gave up on the Sci Fi project she was supposed to be finishing instead. I don’t want stoicism to stop us writing our own DOSABs!

Yes, Twitter Friend, I do have editing/revising resources I use. They are Holly Lisle’s How To Revise Your Novel, the questionnaire in Donald Maass’s Breakout Novel Workbook, & the section on edits in Rachel Aaron’s 2k to 10k.

Holly’s course is massive & takes months, It’s also marvellous, but I suspect you don’t want to dwell that long on your project so check out the others if you haven’t yet – Rachel’s is fastest, Maass’s is medium.

A mix of these methods has left me with a Revision To Do list in Excel, full of promises that if I ‘just’ do those things (make X younger, foreshadow Y, make the flea market a cafe), this novel will be better.

I’ve spent too long trying to figure out which thing on the list to do next. Which one will be the cleverest, the most sensible, the one I with the smallest rubiks cube effect, where one scene is now perfect but it’s made a knock-on mess of all the other ones. Which action will make me happiest, fastest?

It’s become an excuse that freezes me. So I’m just going to pick one. Here it is:

Block out the moves & drama & consequences of the very last scene. What precise ways does the threat manifest, and how exactly is it defeated? Then I can foreshadow that in the previous scenes.

The other thing I’m going to do is *actually write* version 2 of the scene. I’ve been leaving a lot of notes for Future Me about what to do to improve things. But I haven’t been doing those things, just imagining how good/bad (depending on my self esteem weather-vane) the eventual scene will be when I do. Time to do more writing than planning, Rhian.

Has writing this post been procrastination? Kinda. Is it wonderful to get to start & finish & share something, even just an imperfect 500 word blog post? YUP!

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