Saturday 22nd October 2016 saw the second YA Shot take place in Uxbridge! Spread across three venues, the whole event was masterminded by awesome author Alexia Casale and her team of interns and contributors. I was lucky enough to work as a volunteer mentor for the intern team, and was super-excited about attending the event!
I was lucky enough to be approached by Grace to write a piece of short fiction based on a prompt. My prompt was:
Introduce Your Long-Term Imaginary Friend
I decided to play fast and loose with the word ‘introduce’, and wrote Cherry’s story from there. You can read it here!
One year ago, I got interviewed by the BBC for Bisexuality Visibility Day. I answered a few questions, and gave a few opinions, and the interview was posted online. I promptly sent the web-page to my parents, and posted it on Facebook.
I was very lucky.
The only negative comments I got were from strangers online, and there weren’t many of those. All of my family and friends were happy and accepting, and it was generally a non-issue in terms of how I interacted with people close to me.
In terms of my writing, it was as though I’d given myself a green light to go forth and bend the heck out of anything and everything. Not a single main character I’ve created since last year has been ‘straight’.
If you’ve been following me on Twitter lately, you might have seen that I’ve been attending, then quit, then started going to therapy again. There are a lot of reasons why I felt I needed to speak to someone qualified to listen, and to ask the right questions, which I’ll save for another time.
But one of the methods employed by the first therapist, who was using a very surface-level approach to CBT, was the idea of rewards and treats.
I had a bit of a problem with this, as I honestly don’t think I do enough to earn a treat every single day. To me, treats are deserved for good writing news, job offers and finishing manuscripts – not walking out to the park, as (in my broken brain) anyone should be able to do that sort of thing. Apparently, this is one of my problems – not thinking what I do accomplish is good enough (oh boy, is that ever true?). The therapist gave me a printed chart to fill in activities, and to rate them based on how enjoyable vs how much of an achievement they were.
It was super, super dumb. For a start, I don’t nevessarily do one activity per hour. If I write, I can be doing that for four – six hours without a break, and the ejoyability level can swing wildly during that time.
I quit that therapist, for unrelated reasons, and whilst the team sorted my out with another, I decided to start tracking my writing progress with some sort of graph. Which led me to Victoria Schwab’s star charts, which led me to thinking that maybe I could do the same thing: I could list five things of importantce – things that I had a good chance of doing – and reward myself with a sticker.
If nothing else, it would look pretty!
Anyone who follows me on Twitter will know of my deep, pure and true love of The Bone Season Series. It’s the best fantasy series I’ve read since Potter, and everyone within earshot (or net-shot?) has pretty much had to put up with me banging on about it since I started reading it. Have you read it yet? Why the hell not? Honestly.
The series is so original and crisp in its description and world-building. Nothing is left to a shrug or a ‘I hadn’t considered that’ – Samantha Shannon’s world is so believable and rich, it’s Writing Goals AF. Paige is a heroine with flaws and goals and wants and needs – she does good and makes mistakes and is passionate. She’s the most complex main character I’ve read in years. The pamphlet On The Merits of Unnaturalness made me both hate and love Jaxon Hall so much that if the hard copy of said pamphlet wasn’t one of my prized posessions I might have stamped on it.
My collection of The Mine Order – Proof, Hardback, Paperback
I applied to be a Bone Season Advocate because it’s a series of books I am pleased to have come to at the (relative) beginning, for a change – again, not something I’ve done since Potter. Not once have I wondered if I’ll get the next book or not – I ordered it as soon as the preorder link went live. I’ve collected the different covers, and even the proofs, with the kindest person donating their proof of The Bone Season to me after I was about to lose hope of finding one in the wild.
So getting the news today that I’ve been accepted to share exclusive excerpts and news with my followers was astounding. Promoting books I love is something I do anyway – if I’ve enjoyed something, I will make sure you enjoy it too, and then we can cry about it together. But this was something special. And something I’m super proud to be a part of.
So, below is the incredibly spoiler heavy if you haven’t read The Mine Order prologue from Samantha Shannon’s next book – the third installment of The Bone Season series:
The Song Rising
I recently ran a poll on Twitter asking my followers what their relationship was with fanfiction. In all honesty, I was really surprised by the result.
I’ve read fics for the past sixteen years or so – since the days of LJ prompts, ff.net’s dodgy uploads and when it took half an hour to load an animated gif. I found fanfiction after someone linked to one of their stories on a BBS board (showing my age, here), and after that I just googled for it.
I read fics for years before I started writing my own, and when I did I started with a 50k Harry Potter / LOTR crossover that I printed off and gave to a friend who read it with raised eyebrows, and gave it me straight back. It’s probably fortunate I was too chicken to post it online.
When I was at uni, I started writing properly. One friend was a very keen fic writer, and showed me how to set up my (now defunct and deleted) ff account. And I started writing, posting chapters one by one every few days.
To my absolute shock (and horror) I found it was being read. Quite a lot. I racked up 15,000 reads in less than a month. People were asking for more. I didn’t know what to say. For the first time, I felt part of a real writing community, where people wanted to help me write better, and they wanted to read my work.
This is probably when I realised why I wrote – so it could be read. Because I had stories to tell that I needed to get out of me, and to share.
The comments I received for those early fics helped me work on my craft. I learned how to pace, how to write convincing dialogue that mirrored characters in shows and books. I got heavily into AUs (Alternative Universes), and found they were essential to aid me learning to world-build and describe.
But more important was the reading. My uni course was full of dry, centuries-old texts by dead white men. Fanfic writers were, mostly, women. Young women, older women, women of colour, queer women, disabled women. I read fanfiction where the canonically cisgender-straight characters were queer. Where they were genderbent, racebent, given disabilities, put into societies more equal than ours.
It was the first time I had easy access to fiction – any fiction – where queer characters outnumbered the straight.
Fanfiction made me want to write queer characters. It made me want to represent. Fanfiction made me realise not all tropes are bad, and the phrase ‘guilty pleasure’ is not necessary.
Writing fanfiction “counts” as writing. Reading fanfiction “counts” as reading.
Read what you want. Read widely. Read fluff. Read smut. Read angst, slash, pwp, hurt-comfort, or ABO Dynamic AUs. Find yourself in fics.
Write one, if its not there.
My packing, before the panic set in.
The weekend of the 29th July 2016 saw the biggest Young Adult literary gathering of the year in the UK – YALC! The time for sensible packing and dressing normally was over – I had three days of books and geekery ahead of me (let’s not forget YALC is held during the same weekend as London Film and Comic Con), and it began bright and early on the Friday…