Tuesday, 31 January 2017

30 Days Grace: January.

2017 got off to a shaky start for me. Maybe because I was expecting everything to change – to be better – overnight. I think that's a classic New Year feel, though. And, well, it's bullshit for the most part. 

Sunday, 29 January 2017

What I read in January 2017.

As you know, faithful readers, I've adopted a new reading regime for 2017. Each month I'll have a set theme for my reading – this will hopefully help me write reviews, catch up on what I keep putting off and just generally get my life more organised!! Let us pray...

Now, January was my Middle Grade month. I read 4 books from the 9-12 fiction zone, and they were all rather lovely. One thing I picked up on was how fantastical and magical a Middle Grade will be – every character has some kind of power in them, even if it's just a natural ability to read or run or write...everything sounds more exciting and sparkly! 

Okay, time now for a quick run through of my January reads. 

Saturday, 28 January 2017

(More) Musings on the Bookmark Bar.

Some years ago, I wrote a little piece about a person's browser bookmark bar, and how it can actually reveal quite a lot about the person it belongs to. 

No, seriously. Think about it. The things we save on the internet for easy access, the things we check or use daily, are actually pretty personal. 

(Because a photo of my bookmarks bar would have been boring; here, have Harvey watching Newton Faulkner being beaut.)

My bookmark bar, for instance, features a few folders. One is entitled 'blog shit', and contains photo editor site PicMonkey, colour palettes for editing my template, the Etsy site I got my design from, and quite often I'll save a post I'm working on or reflecting on in there as well. 
Also DaFont, a site that sells designer fonts, which is where I got the gorgeous type my blog title is made from. 

Another folder is entitled 'Clothes', and it's a dumping ground for the many many beautiful outfits I see and then cry at because lol, my bank balance tho. I check the pages I save now and again just in case they are magically on sale for 70% off suddenly. I'll also often go into stores to try certain items on – so I'll know what size fits me best for when the sales hit, and I can order without hesitation. Yeah.

Now, the rest of my bookmark bar is less organised...and more, ermm, silly. I have my gmail inbox saved on there, for official writing business, and that's where the professionalism ends. I have the product page for a print 'Peacock in a Scottish Bonnet' on Alice Tams' excellent Birds in Hats website that I very happily came across via Emma Gannon's podcast (I'm waiting for a lovely little windfall and some wall space to allow me to purchase it). 

Then there's The Pool, a site I fucking love and need to get more involved with someday. 

I recently added my Ko-Fi homepage to the bar, please check it out if you fancy helping me with blogging expenses (e.g. postage for giveaways, £3 tickets to book events and, well, coffee!). No pressure, but I'm currently unemployed, so there's that (more details on that situation in time, guys. Please don't push. I'm laying low for now. Low, and poor af). I've only started it up recently, but the donations so far have shocked me to happy tears, I swear. 

And finally, All4's episode guide page for 'This Is Us', the first show in forever about love and couples and shit that has actually made me feel things.

I recently deleted a folder full of old friends' blogs – because it had been so long that most of them were inactive, oops – and am now needing to make another, crammed with the blogs I regularly follow and will retweet forev. I also would like to start looking at web comics again; xkcd used to be in my bookmarks, as did this other really cool one that I cannot remember the title of goddamnit.
Yes, those are my bookmark bar resolutions. Watch this space.

Also I feel I should mention the sites that I haven't got saved as bookmarks but don't need to because they automatically appear when I type a single letter into the search bar, e.g. YouTube, Netflix, Blogger, Twitter, y'know the standard stuff. 

What's in your bookmarks bar, my friends? Anything weird or...juicy? Do you agree, that it shows a lot about you - or disagree and hate me for suggesting such a thing?! Comment below or tweet me! Happy bookmarking! 

Saturday, 21 January 2017


Hi, my name's Grace, and/or Gracie. 
Sometimes I really wish I could sing and dance, I've played badminton on and off since I was quite young, snail mail is the way to my heart, I have my eleventh tattoo booked in, venturing into Planet Organic both thrilled and intimidated me, Will Smith will always be my dream man, I'm sick of waiting on people, the bookseller's life isn't for me, 'This Is Us' has thawed out my icy heart, I'll always blog before I vlog, my parents and I recently decided that my car is gender fluid, I hate breakfast tea, updating my blog template has made me squeal with joy, I don't selfie that much, getting my legs waxed gives me life, I hate the texture of onions, my 3rd trip to Berlin is in 3 weeks, 2017 is going to be the year I do everything I keep meaning to, and it's about damn time. 

These very irregular posts are popular with followers now, and it's impossibly cute that y'all wanna know me a little better.

Friday, 20 January 2017

A most creative death.

I heard something recently. Something intriguing to say the least... 'Creatives fear death less.' Bold statement, right? I mean, whoa, don't we all fear death, even just a little?

My stance on death has always been a little cloudy – until I was kind of facing my own mortality a couple of years ago. Then I realised, clear as day, clouds lifted: I don't fear my own death, not at all, but I hate the idea of anyone close to me dying. Friends, family...and okay fine, maybe fictional characters too. 

(Sketch by the uber-talented Leticia Cronin - see her response below)

So when I was thinking about this recently, it occurred to me that maybe it is a creative thing, but...what about the different types of creatives?! Like, do writers like myself fear death less than...dancers? Or actors? Maybe abstract artists are a little more aware of peril, while sculptors are more brazen in the face of fatality? '
...You get the idea.

So I thought I'd test out this theory, and satisfy my own curiosity, by asking some of my creative pals what they think of death. As you do...! 

Some of the responses completely stunned me...

Wednesday, 18 January 2017

Ode to the city dwellers.

Shout-out to the Londoners. 

The ones who wear suits and carry briefcases stuffed with papers, who have work phones and read the Evening Standard. 
The ones that commute in every day, and never complain about a fatality delaying them as they get their usual trains home to their precious families. 
The ones who trek far and wide for their perfect lunch break. 

The ones who make full use of that cafe on the Strand for important meetings. 
The ones who tweet photos of the sunrise from their office windows. 
The ones who decorate their desks with photos and bunting, and bring in birthday cake for their colleagues...even though the rule is for them to get their own.
The ones who have 7-7 shifts most days but still go to work socials every other night to network, connect – and get to know the people they share desks with. 

Monday, 16 January 2017

Trying new things on the blog! (and in life...maybe....?)

I really like trying out new things on my beloved blog. Even though at times it can make me feel like that awkward old pub just down the road, always putting out a freshly-painted blackboard with the week's many zany events and various new and exotic recipes listed, in the hopes that they'll draw in more of a crowd...I power through and give things a go. 

My new feature 'Just Some Things' is something I'd been cooking up for ages, on the slow burner, but then the crucial fundamental idea – the missing ingredient, if you will – actually hit me quite suddenly. Then I got a plan together and had sent emails out within 2 days. I love it when that happens; inspiration strikes and shit gets done. Sometimes shit happens...but mostly, it gets done. The feature has done insanely well stats-wise, but it's really not about the number of clicks for me. It's about getting some of my favourite writers' pieces out into the blogging universe! I am trying to only post one every week, but with a hefty backlog building up I may have to make it more regular than that...! 

Another idea I'd entertained not too long ago was the #AskGracie thing. That went so well too, and had me all warm and fuzzy; helping others with their problems like an Agony Aunt at times, or just answering the odd 'about me' questions. However, I soon felt that I was indulging myself a bit too much and surely people wouldn't want to be bothered with me begging for Q's that I could A...so I have stopped doing that. At least for a while. I may bring it back sometime, but not yet.

The numbered Facts posts, a really old blog feature of mine, were often used as a space filler in the beginning. A couple of years ago I'd post a list of facts about me, the girl behind the blog, which really read like a stream of consciousness, and was always accompanied with a less-than-flattering photo. I enjoyed writing them. I still do. I actually enjoy posting them that much more now, as they get such an awesome response. Having someone tweet me saying 'I worry about this too', or 'I LOVE crunchy peanut butter as well, smooth is rank' just...makes my heart burst.

One thing I've never really properly tried, however, is...life updates. I actually thought about this when I read one of Debbie's; her posts about what she's been doing, what she's been reading and what she's been seeing make me smile. It's like Emma Gannon's email newsletter – or Fiona's, or Amy's. And of course several YouTuber humans do a monthly round-up, often with a cute punny title such as 'Time of the Month' or 'PMS (here meaning Pretentious Monthly Scrapbook, though)'. I often have to set aside chunks of time to get through those, but I do love them. 
One of my favourite YouTube trends is the 'Monthly Favourites' tag, too. I may draw inspiration from those as well. 

I love a quick snapshot of others' lives and a chance to see what they've seen. Y'know?
So, I thought I'd give that a go next. Also because I really enjoyed doing my 2016: A Year on the Blog post. 
I'll be posting (hopefully) monthly updates on my life; the things I've seen, done, read and loved. Or hated...
I said to my lovely pal Kasim, back when we attended the National Short Story Awards in the BBC Radio Theatre, no big deal (?!), that I kept going to these events or parties or shows and thinking 'I wanna blog about this' but worrying that I won't have enough content for an entire post. Or maybe it's something I'd tweet about, but that would be too...brief? So this updates thing would be perfect, right?! Let's hope so. 

Please let me know in comments or tweets of any blogs you follow that do this kinda thing. I wanna read them and learn (I promise not to copy anything, obvs).

Also if anyone can come up with a cool title for these posts, y'know, I'd owe you a drink. Ta. 

Friday, 13 January 2017

My idea for changing the world...

Caitlin Moran (my hero etc.) said upon the release of her latest hardback modern classic, Moranifesto, that everyone has 1 idea that could change the world. So here is mine, Caitlin my darl. 

(oh, look, it's us. That time we met. No big deal.)

I swear I've said a million times, my 1 idea for changing the world would be: make every human being, at least in our ridiculously privileged First World, work at least 1 week in customer service. And not just in one shop. I'm talking a full 7-day stint in the various branches beneath the Customer Service umbrella: Monday, dive in the deep end and be a barista in a chain cafe, Tuesday you can run in heels working in a boutique, Wednesday you're in a restaurant from coffee time til closing time, Thursday you sell books, Friday you're in the post office, Saturday you get a lie-in but then you gotta be in a central London bar from midday til dawn. Sunday? If you've survived, you can muck in at a garden centre or your local farm shop.

Yep. That'd do it. That would make everyone appreciate the person serving them in various places every day and goddamn it would make everyone a better customer. 

Tuesday, 10 January 2017

Books that give me life.

Hello, my bookish friends! I was fortunate enough to receive a copy of a new release from Two Roads: 'Books for Living; A Reader's Guide to Life', by Will Schwalbe
It's safe to say I was sold on the title alone, when the beautiful Emma first mentioned it to me as we sat down for lunch, but upon hearing more about the idea behind the book and the unique way it's been written...by the end of our lunch date I was demanding a copy. 

Basically this book is made up of a vast selection of other books; books that have all aided Will Schwalbe in some way in his lifetime. His sharing of the titles and their effects on him is perhaps the loveliest gift to us, the readers, and it could be the best thing to begin the new year with. 

So, each chapter is dedicated to a book. And beneath that book's title at the head of the page is the word that indicates the purpose it has served in Will's life. You get me? Like, the opening chapter is entitled quite simply 'The Importance of Living' then under that is 'Slowing Down'. I quite liked that the chapter 'Stuart Little' had the word 'Searching' underneath it. And 'What I Talk About When I Talk About Running' had 'Napping' attached to it...

Naturally, this rather gorgeous book made me reflect on my own life and the many books that have influenced and indeed helped me in some way during the more turbulent or just less sure times; I've blogged before about the books that changed my life, and the books that came into my life through school, and the books I'd re-read because I loved them so much...but these books I will be listing now are the ones that gave me things, big or small, that have kept me keeping on. 

Friday, 6 January 2017

Just Some Things #11: Darran Stobbart.

This is the latest instalment in my feature Just Some Things!

I send a writer an individual email with a series of prompts from the '642 Things to Write About' book – chosen entirely at random most of the time – and then when I get the responses, I dedicate a post to them and their piece. It could be short, long, backwards, in another language, I don't mind. It'll be an adventure whatever happens! And they can use or ignore however many of the prompts they wish.

When published on the blog, their piece will be put in first and then I'll add in a little piece beneath it, my response to the same prompt. I will always ensure mine is shorter and less prominent, obviously. It's all about featuring my fave writers.

This post features and celebrates the delightful Darran; blogger, zine editor, Twitter pal of mine, Waterstones alumnus (of 8 years), hard worker at ED PR....and of course an incred, if somewhat twisted at times, writer. 

His prompt was: The advert a young couple post looking for a surrogate grandparent.

Monday, 2 January 2017

What I'll be reading in January 2017.

I will be sticking to a reading schedule this year. That's right, I said it – or rather, wrote it on the internet – and now I gotta do it. I won't tell you all what I have planned for each month, partly because I wanna keep the element of surprise and partly because I may change my mind now and again hehehe...but it'll be fun and hopefully shake me up a bit.

So, January is going to be Middle Grade Month. *cue endless excitable squealing*
I am so thrilled to be dedicating a whole month to this particular genre, as I feel it is so often overlooked in my reading life. I get so many gorgeous MG new releases and ARCs sent to me at work and at home, plus I'm always eyeing up the newbies in the 9-12 section at work as I shelve, and without realising I have been saving a lot of them up for this moment, this month! 

© Almost Amazing Grace.. Design by Fearne.