Saturday, 30 December 2017

2017: A year on the blog.

Right, well this year has been considerably more 'turbulent' than last year. 2016, with all its natural disasters and celebrity deaths and poor political decisions has, at times, paled in comparison to 2017 with its terrorist attacks, Brexit rulings and celebrity sexual harassment spillages. I guess all we can do, as a nation and a planet, is to keep on and hope things get better. We do it all the time, don't we? Well, let's continue. Continue...continuing...




For me, 2017 was a bit of a shit storm at times. I found myself abruptly out of work in January - thank goodness, that job was killing my creativity - and after picking myself up and dusting myself off, getting into the interning scene at one of my favourite publishers in London...I fell ill. I was then on-and-off ill, in and out of hospital beds and the operating theatres; losing bits of my insides, a dozen kilos and what little mental health I'd managed to hold on to for the couple of years preceding this one. I let people down repeatedly; our family holiday plans were once again scuppered all thanks to me, friends' parties and book events in the city had to be missed and I couldn't even send anything their way to apologise or send belated congrats as I was a) ill, and b) piss poor (still am the latter, tbh), my writing powers dwindled for a while and that no doubt disappointed the lovely literary agents contacting me...

But then, in amongst the shitty stormy nonsense, there were good times. Yes, there were. I'll be devoting a whole post to the best memories of 2017 in the next few days, don't you worry. 

As usual this blog, forever my happy safe space, kept me going and let me vent, rage, release and let go. I know a lot of bloggers who have packed up and quit in the past year, but that will never happen here. I'll never be put off by the 'dramas' in the blogging community, nor the endless stream of 'deals' I'm offered - that when replied to with a 'sounds good, what's your budget?' are met with sudden silence - because this blog is, first and foremost, my place, my therapy, my outlet.

Now, let's look back at what's been happening on here this year...

(Spoiler: one of the best things to happen to me and to the blog this year was finally meeting Erin Veness IRL and having lots of photographic fun)


In January, I looked a little into how creatives feel about death, then switched for a lighter topic - how personal a bookmarks bar can be. 
I fell even more in love with London, and I wrote about my idea for changing the world

I read only Middle Grade fiction. It was the first month in my 2017 Reading Schedule - the one that kind of fell apart towards the end of the year, but was very enjoyable and easy to stick to for 10-ish months. I thoroughly enjoyed my foray into 9-12 fiction; the writing styles reminded me of being a library geek at school, and tucking novels into my Science textbooks to read under the desk during lessons. 

I also wrote about the Books That Give Me Life in January, as part of a blog tour for Will Schwalbe's non-fiction about his reading journey in life. It was so fun listing some of the best books I've come across in my 24 years. 


My January 2017 wrap up post contains love for 'La La Land', dissection of bagels, gym joining, and snow. I focused on the good parts of a slightly crappy month and start to the year.

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February saw me revisiting the past a little; I filled in the answers to 99 Stupid Questions I'd first answered when I was a teenager, and looked back at some romantic moments I've experienced in my life.
I talked more about my love for my body, and about flying alone to Berlin.



I read only non-fiction in February. A highlight was Claire Eastham's book on social anxiety, 'We're All Mad Here'. I have since befriended this excellent woman via DMs, and written for her new website; I feel like 2018 will be the year we finally meet for a coffee...
I also wrote about not reading magazines all that much.



I also wrote a piece for Almost Writers, about sex noises. No big deal.

My February wrap up can be found here. It was the month I truly fell in love with podcasts again...and Dev Patel, too. It was also the month I was declared 'stable' for the second time in 3 months by my neuro-oncologist and a team of radiographers. 

I wrote a thank you letter to my hospital and all those inside it for The Olive Fox on World Cancer Day.

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Then March saw me transform most magnificently into an intern! I worked at the wonderful Walker Books in London for 5 weeks; end of February 'til end of March.
I mentioned it in my Reading Schedule post, as I had decided to only read books published by Walker for that whole month. It was a massive success! I particularly liked 'Truth or Dare' by Non Pratt, 'The Hate U Give' by Angie Thomas, and of course I read every single picture book I could get my hands on while I was there. 

Another bookish post was a guest/co-written post with author Chris Russell, about his 'Songs About a Girl' playlist

I saw my high school crush at a train station on my way into London one day. That was...an experience. I then apparently was on a roll with the personal posts, so I shared some stuff about my social anxieties. Then I may have shot myself in my socially anxious foot by writing about toxic friends - of which I have had many in recent years.
Oh, and then I posted one of my now best-performing pieces of all time, ever: 'The Girl Who Changed You'.


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In April, I found myself suddenly crippled with indescribable abdominal pain so, y'know, my activities and writing slowed down considerably. 

I read mostly non-fiction by badass women, and in keeping with that theme I attended Laura Jane Williams' 1-day writing course in London. This led to me writing a creative post about the various important meetings in my life. 


(Coffee with my favourite people, in my favourite cafe? Ughh. Sickeningly good.)

I got to interview the awesome Laura about her second book 'Ice Cream for Breakfast'.

The 'Ask Grace' thing made a comeback; I opened up my Twitter to questions, and posted the answers on here. It's such a lovely thing to do, I may bring it back now and again in 2018...

When writing my April wrap up post, I tried hard to pull out some good things from the horrendous month. These things included: becoming a Young Ambassador for The Brain Tumour Charity, seeing Dad get the tattoo we bought him for his 51st birthday, a lot of love for the family cat, and shout-outs to the NHS professionals who took care of me while I was in hospital. 



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Hmm, May was a bit of a mad one, too. Many peaks and pits. 

Book-wise, I did well. I had a fabulous amount of reading time, as I was mostly sofa-bound. I wrote about a couple of Cat Clarke's (excellent) books, and my Reading Schedule featured novels I'd been meaning to get to for ages and was happy to now have the time to read. I also interviewed Lisa Heathfield, one of my all-time favourite authors, about her latest novels and her writing process.



I shared my #1 Life Hack with readers, I had a major realisation about what I want in the future, and to break up the more serious stuff but keep with the personal theme I threw in a post in which I was 100% honest about my Instagram uploads.




My creative post 'A Map of Me' got so many views, I was blushing as I checked the stats and blown away as my Twitter mentions blew up after sharing it. I have never felt so overwhelmed with love online - well actually, not since my now somewhat infamous 'women wank too y'know' post in 2015...




My May wrap up featured an art exhibition, a tragic level of coffee consumption, and the start of my perfectly sickening love affair with Ru Paul's Drag Race (I finally started watching it after dozens of recs from close friends).



My favourite reads in May included 'The Loneliest Girl in the Universe' by the wonderful ingenious Lauren James, and 'The Wolf Wilder' by Katherine Rundell - who I got to meet towards the end of the month, when I chaired my first ever panel event in Waterstones, Kensington.

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Soon, it was June. The month my family were meant to visit the rellies in Aus land...oops. It was a shaky 'if' anyway after my dramatics in April, but the second bowel op at the end of May really hammered in the 'nope'. 

It was another good month for reading...and writing about reading. I decided to devote June to 'YALC prep'; prioritising YA fiction and even more specifically the UKYA novels I wanted to devour ASAP and then queue to get them signed at the convention. 
I also got to reveal something bookish and big on the blog: the cover and first chapter of the angelic Chris Russell's second book in his 'Songs About A Girl' series ('Songs About Us'). I participated in Independent Bookshop Week (Books Are My Bag) at the end of the month, and explored the best indies my old home of Winchester had to offer.

Oh hey, I also got to chair another panel (and didn't have to rush away early to throw up this time!!) in my very favourite Waterstones branch (TCR, obvs) of beautiful, magnificent, fantastically inspiring authors: Lisa Heathfield, Bonnie-Sue Hitchcock and Tanya Landman. I was buzzing all day waiting for it to start, and massively psyched all the way home, high on the excitement and inspo of it all. Thank you Faber, for organising that and coming to me with the idea. Let's do it again sometime, yeah?




June also saw me genuinely scared to write something, for the first time in years. I eventually worked up the nerve to post the piece ('Losing weight...in a bad way!?') and was so grateful for the immediate influx of support I got from it, but wow it was a dicey draft to compose. I then wrote my first of just 2 'Weekly Warm 'n' Fuzzies' - inspired by other lovely bloggers who'd been a level of positive I, at that point in my life, could only dream of. And then suddenly the month was over - and I was almost well again. 

My June wrap up was a little lighter than its two predecessors, but then that wasn't exactly hard. It did open with the words 'I only went into hospital once this month!!' though... *sigh* But then there was also pizza and poetry and polaroids, so...


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July began with me posting about the best dates I'd been on in my stop-start romantic life...hey, start with a bang right?! 

Book-wise, I was a little less inspired to invent a Reading Schedule, and I was still not fully prepped for YALC, so I stuck with YA reads only - but added in a couple of new release hardbacks, just in case. I then published a little something I'd been working on for a while - a post with quotes from author pals about naming characters; how do they do it, what are their 'rules', what do aspiring authors needs to know are definite 'don't's? That was rather fun to make happen. 

After the more sensible bookish posts, I went back to the shameless romantic ponderings, but with an added taboo element: I wrote about my belief that looks can be as important as personality. And I still stand by that, just FYI. Another opinion post that followed was the shocking Is Blogging Dying?! one. Oohh, and then I yanked open another 'taboo' and discussed the politics of women shaving their legs.

July was also the month my ex from uni got married. So, of course, I wrote him an open letter. And, of course, it became one of my most popular posts. 
(He and I actually met up later in the year, and I can safely say we're friends again. Not sure he ever saw the letter, though. Didn't fancy asking...)



My July wrap up was filled with reflections; on the weather, on my old second home, on my relationships...but also featured a lot of new things, such as a new local cafe and the excellent world of the Scarlet Ladies!


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Then came August, the month that started with me turning 24. I wrote a list of 24 things I've learned in 24 years, and then took an unexpected social media break for the day of my birthday. 


(The only time I went on social media on my birthday was to post this rather fabulous photo of me, taken by little sis, celebrating turning 24 with a perfect coffee at my favourite cafe.) 


I found out some hideous truths about the hometown ex who was trying to worm his way back into my life (no such luck, mate) and yeah, he got a letter

And I guess the amazing response to that made me brave and broke a seal of sorts, so I then dished the dirt on that guy who ghosted me.

My journey with the Scarlet Ladies' #ITalkSex campaign continued, and I wrote a post about why I talk sex.

August was a mad month for bookish blogging. I took part in several blog tours: 'Lola Offline', 'Editing Emma', 'Freshers', and 'Another Place'. I decided that besides these excellent YA novels, I'd also make an effort to re-read old favourites. Oh, I also devoured Matt Haig's 'How to Stop Time' and just had to write about that one. 




August's wrap up involved London adventures (quel surprise!), filming for the news, a filthy favourite podcast, LUSH, a terrible tarot reading, a first date in Brighton and some cute little plants.



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September is always a weird month, at least ever since I came out of education 3 years ago. And this year, it was weird because I only posted like, half a dozen times?!
I wrote about my pet hates on Twitter - a post I worried may anger some tweeters, but actually got some lovely feedback that definitely made me feel less mean. I also wrote about my tattoos



I book-blogged about finally re-reading Harry Potter, took part in the gorgeous Deirdre Sullivan's blog tour for 'Tangleweed and Brine', and I interviewed Lisa Williamson about her new novel, 'All About Mia'.



My month wrap up was written in England, Spain and Germany. I shouted out to my favourite local jewellery shop, a vegan doughnut from a bakery in Carrer del Carme, the fab 'Behind the Scars' project, and my alma mater, which I revisited with little sis on an Open Day. 


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When October arrived, I was having my last night of drinking in Berlin before Sober October commenced. I shared more intimate stuff in a post about my love of sex, and then relayed a particularly emotional GP appointment
I saw and reviewed 'A Woman of No Importance' in London.

I read Anne Cassidy's 'No Shame', which stirred up a lot of feels in me, and then took part in the blog tour. I read a few different things in October actually - alongside the continued Harry Potter re-read, of course. I suspended the Reading Schedule, and started Recent Reads back up again. That actually took some pressure off me that I didn't even realise had built up. 

My creative piece about the people I've lost in my life got so many kind responses, it made me stop dwelling on the past friends and appreciate the current - real - ones all the more. Shh, soppy moment over.

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Only 10 days of November were spent in the UK. My posts per week definitely dropped again, but I didn't really care...I was too busy packing, then flying, then exploring and catching up and generally Aussie-ing. 

I started the month with a basic little post; the 33rd in my Facts series, which worked well for my guest lecturing gig that involved teaching uni freshers about blogging. I then accepted, after months of denial, that I was going to Australia for 9 weeks. Then after being on the other side of the world for 2 weeks, I realised I was on holiday, and didn't need to stress about any of it. 


(Coffee on the beach is excellent, too. Very handy to know.)

My most controversial post that month was the one about Sharenting

I posted another Recent Reads, and this one was all about the novels I'd been reading that boasted the strongest voices.

My monthly wrap ups for October, November and December are still waiting patiently in my Drafts folder. October is actually good to go...but have I missed the boat with that one, or can I do it retrospectively in 2018?! We'll see. 
I guess my Nov/Dec wrap ups were replaced by my not-travel-blogging venture, Grace's Great Voyage Down Under. That's been so much fun to make, and I know someday I'll be so happy to look back on the posts and remember the little things about this trip, as well as the big.

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And now, here we are (only just). It's December, and the end of 2017. Again, most of my posts this month have been travel updates, but I managed to squeeze in a post about my favourite artists online and an extensively researched opinion piece about the mystery of Winston Bishop. I also created the COFFEE section on this blog, and although it's only propped up by a few little cafe reviews at present, just you wait. 2018 will be the year I start to properly document my best coffees and maybe share more pro tips as an award-winning ex-barista...

I almost ended 2017 with my latest creative/travel post about the man I met on a Melbourne train, but then I kicked myself up the butt (very hard to do given my limited mobility, what with constantly lying on the beach these days) and made myself look back on a year as Almost Amazing Grace. And yeah, it's been a good one. But 2018 will be even better. 



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Tag posts I did in 2017 include: 


Happy New Year, readers. I hope your NYE is not at all anti-climatic, quite the contrary in fact, and that 2018 brings you all the things you most desperately desire. I absolutely love you all, for coming back again and again, and giving me the drive to continue. And stopping me from feeling like the angsty teenager who made her own space on the internet specifically to shout into a void...and never get anything back. This blog and its audience gives me a crazy amount of purpose. 

Thank you. 



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