Monday, 24 September 2018

The BBC Young Writers Award, 2018; an exclusive extract.

It’s that wonderful time of year again – the BBC Young Writers’ Award is upon us! 

This is the fourth year of the wonderful award which invites all 14 – 18 year olds living in the United Kingdom to submit short stories of up to 1,000 words. The BBC Young Writers’ Award was launched as part of the tenth anniversary celebrations for the BBC National Short Story Award and aims to inspire and encourage the next generation of writers. 

The five shortlisted writers will attend the exclusive BBC Short Story Awards ceremony on 2nd of October 2018 at Cambridge University, when the winner will be announced live on BBC Radio 4’s Front Row and they will have the chance to meet high-profile authors, publishers, agents and broadcasters at the award ceremony. 

And I’ve been given a lovely job in promoting it, by sharing an exclusive excerpt of a shortlisted young author’s entry! Below, you’ll find a brilliant piece of Davina Bacon’s story, ‘Under a Deep Blue Sky’. 

Thursday, 20 September 2018

Valuable Things Having an Uneven Face Has Taught Me.

I have had a somewhat disfigured face for the past three years; a dent formed on one side, and an accompanying bulge just underneath it, after my temporalis muscle moved following my second brain op in 2015.

It’s over a fortnight since I got my face fixed by a brilliant cosmetic surgeon. In that time, I’ve seen my face change a little bit every day. Bits of it have gone from yellow to purple to grey to blue; the enormous swelling has stuck out, shrunk, and shone. I’ve had two black eyes, an irritated scalp, and crusty blood in my hair (that I am still washing out). But I’ve been trying my best to live with all these things that have come with my recovery, and I’ve even been out and about a few times since I’ve got some strength back. I’ve felt quite confident, considering. 
And I’ve learned a lot – before this latest operation, and after… 

(Photo: Erin Veness)
(dress and earrings from JOY)
(necklace from Stargazy)

Tuesday, 18 September 2018

Treat your shelf! Perfect gifts and goodies for bookworms.

I realise a lot of my posts have been about books lately… oops. Sometimes I just can’t stop, okay? My bookwormishness (it’s totally a word) runs deep and often I can’t keep it under control. Fortunately for me, I know a lot of you readers and followers are also book lovers, so you’ll not only humour me when I post reviews, recs and rambles, you’ll also geek out with me and spur me on! 

I thought that in this post, I’d share some bookish bits and bobs I’ve come across online and IRL recently that I really feel need to be shouted about – and maybe even bought – by my book-loving brethren. Get your wallets out, gang... 

Saturday, 15 September 2018

Post-grad life - am I doing it right!?

It’s coming up for 4 years ago that I graduated from the University of Winchester with a pretty sweet 2:1 in Drama and Creative Writing BA. It was October 14th 2014 when I got to walk up onstage to collect my certificate in that beautiful cathedral, then walk out of the big red doors to crowds of smiling friends while a funky band played. It was gloriously cheesy, and I really felt the enormity of the achievement, that day – so much so that I burst into tears several times and hugged everyone in sight a little too hard. 

But… what have I achieved in these past 4 years? How have I used the degree that cost me over £10K!?

(I am so happy I was in the last year group that paid £3,500 per year, because geezz the interest is a killer 4 years on.)  

(Photo: Erin Veness)
(jumpsuit and earrings from JOY)

Thursday, 13 September 2018

'Race to the Frozen North', by Catherine Johnson; a mini review, giveaway and author interview!

The fabulous author and real life heroine Catherine Johnson has written a brilliant book with Barrington Stoke: 'Race to the Frozen North: The Matthew Henson story'. It will be published on the 15th of September, but here’s a little preview just for you readers… 

Publishing ahead of Black History Month in October, this amazing fictionalised story of a real life BAME hero is not to be missed.

Matthew Henson was the first man to reach the North Pole in the early twentieth century, but his story was suppressed for decades because of the colour of his skin.

Matthew Henson was simply an ordinary young man. That was, until Commander Robert E. Peary entered his life and offered him a chance at true adventure. Henson would become navigator, craftsman, translator, and right-hand man on multiple treacherous journeys to the North Pole. Defying the odds and the many prejudices that faced him to become a true pioneer, this is his incredible and often untold story. 

I was able to chat with the lovely Catherine (IRL!!) recently about her latest novel, and here’s what I found out… 

What is the story of this book? How did it come to be?

I wrote a non-fiction book for Barrington Stoke maybe… 10 years ago!? It was about Matthew Henson. [This book] has done very well over the years, and they wanted to do something different this time. So I wrote a dramatic, fictionalised retelling of his life! So, although it’s true, it’s written as a story. It was quite hard, because he’s a real person – I don’t know exactly what he says, I don’t know precisely what he did! I’ve joined the dots between things that I knew had happened.

I don’t think you’d ever find anyone like Barrington Stoke. Every writer will say the same thing, every writer wants to work for them! Because they know what they’re doing, they believe in their books… and they’re great!

So, what do we need to know about Matthew Henson before we read this novella?

He had an amazing story. It’s like a fairy tale. Over 100 years ago, he achieved the greatest things, including going to the North Pole… and it all went unrecognised. There was an issue with the North Pole expedition; people didn’t believe they could do it, mostly because they couldn’t believe that Peary, the white man in charge, would ever have gone [on the expedition] with a black man. The one he trusted most on that trip was a black guy? Oh no, surely not!

So they gave Peary a medal but not Henson. Henson then came home and worked driving cars, sending messages… he worked in his late fifties as a messenger boy! He did do some lecture tours in the black colleges, but he wasn’t recognised and never received a medal or was admitted to the prestigious clubs. When he died, he just had a regular funeral. It wasn’t until the 1980s when he was celebrated and recognised by mainstream America – so these days there are probably a lot of Matthew Henson schools and colleges. He came from nothing, he was illiterate and he was brought up by his stepmother, who would beat him. Eventually he ran away at just 11 years old, and met a sea captain who taught him how to read and write and took him around the world, and Matthew picked up all kinds of languages – he saw everything, and that was the making of him. And of course after that, he was spoiled for regular work.

It’s an amazing story, because it doesn’t seem real. 

Did you find this book fun to write?

I am a big, big chicken and would never do any brave things like cross icy crevasses or pull sledges over snow… I’d rather be at home with a little heater and an extra pair of socks, writing. I’m quite happy pretending; that’s what’s fun about being a writer, you won’t get frostbite or have your toes fall off, you don’t have to cut open a seal and eat it while it’s warm – you don’t have to do any of the practical stuff. 

What do you love most about writing, in general?

I like writing because you don’t have to actually go to work – you don’t have to put a uniform on or leave your house. These are advantages and disadvantages; you have to be able to motivate yourself. I’m really lucky, and I know I am. I wish I could be more productive; I know some authors who are like machines!

[Writing] is like falling in love, you can’t help but think about your pretend world and your pretend people and all the ideas you get. You go about your daily life, all the while thinking about your world and your people – like you do when you’re in love. You almost don’t want it to end – you want to stay there.

In fiction, especially young fiction, yes your protagonist might have it hard, but there will always be some kind of hope. In most cases, there will be some kind of comeuppance for the bad guys – and sometimes it’s the protagonist engineering it. It’s not like that in real life! In real life we’re hostages to fortune. But in fiction, you choose what happens. You can face adversity and come out stronger. It enables massive positive life change – which in real life, it doesn’t always. Sometimes, in real life, it’s just sh*t! So that’s why I like fiction… because it’s better than life. 


Thank you so much for chatting with me (over a lovely lunch at Bullet Coffee House), gorgeous Catherine.

Wanna keep up with my reading before I post about it on the blog?

Find me on Goodreads!

Wednesday, 12 September 2018

How To: do Fresher year!

Yes, yes I know. As a graduate, I’m kind ‘past it’. However, as an aspiring MA student and a proud holder of an NUS Extra card (thanks to a loophole), I like to think I’m not too far out of the bubble.

Oh, I am also about to become a big sis to a Fresher. That’s where this post started from; the two of us chatting about her buying a specific fluorescent events wristband for her first week (see tip #2) and me going off on a tangent, giving out a few of my best tips on uni life, made me realise there was a list that needed writing on here. Read on to get a few tips on Fresher Year, from this wise old graduate! 

(To spice this lecture of a blog post up, there will be Fresher year photos of me throughout. You’re welcome) 

(the shelving unit above my desk in halls. I was very proud of it. Plz don't judge my film taste.)

Monday, 10 September 2018

The Body Positivity Revolution, with Chidera Eggerue (@theslumflower) & Michelle Elman (@scarrednotscared) ; a write up.

I was so excited to host an event in Waterstones TCR on Thursday 26th of July, in which I got to ask two extraordinary women questions about their brilliant books ('Am I Ugly?' and 'What a Time to be Alone'), body positive theses and massive online movements. The event was very fabulously entitled ‘The Body Positivity Revolution; with #saggyboobsmatter and #scarrednotscared’. 

Me, living a dream, seeing my name on the big events board at Waterstones TCR. Had to get a pic, didn't I? 

Despite knowing it may take me ages to do afterwards, given how perfectly talkative and inspiring these women are, I was determined to record the whole event and write it up for all those of you who were unable to make it on the night (because, FYI, we sold out. Or as Chidera said: ‘we broke Waterstones!!’).

So, I am sitting on my bed as it rains outside, a peeler mask on my face and my phone beside me with the voice memo open. Here goes…

(photos all taken by gorgeous friends - let me know which is yours if you want credit!?)

Saturday, 8 September 2018

Recent Reads: the 33rd and 34th of 2018.

I recently read two very cute lil books, both of which helped me get my head around this crazy ride of life and get into a positive mindset. They were written by my queen, Lorelai Gilmore… and a unicorn. 

Wednesday, 5 September 2018

'True Sisters', by Keren David; a review and giveaway!

I recently read ‘True Sisters’, Keren David’s lovely novella published by the babes at Barrington Stoke. It was a little gritty, immensely powerful, super sweet and enormously important.  

Saturday, 1 September 2018

Grace's adventure to Barcelona, 2018.

Before I caught my flight to Barcelona (literally, I tweeted it from the airport gate where we passengers all sat for approximately 2.5 hours waiting for the damn plane to turn up) I asked friends and followers for suggestions of spots to look up over the 2 days I was there – I wanted vegan restaurants, good coffee, museums, nice wanders and quirky bars. 
I was so happy with the recs I got – the wonderful Stacey @theprettybooks sent me her brilliant Barcelona blog post, Isra @ivebeengilmored shouted out Veggie Garden (and I went there on my last night!) and Lydia @lydiaruffles (the utter babe who I spoke to on here recently) suggested Flax & Kale (where I had my breakfast on my last day!). Everyone seemed to rate Mount Tibidabo and MACBA, too. 

It’s safe to say I had a long To Do list. Here are some of the places I managed to get to while I stayed in the city... 

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