October Reading & Writing Update

What I Wrote in September: 7,000 Words Total

  • 2 Poems (100 Words)
  • 2 pieces of Micro-Fiction (400 Words)
  • 3 Blog Posts (2,000 Words)
  • 900 Words of Non-Fiction
  • 1,000-word Essay
  • 2,700 words of Fan Fiction

What I Read in September:

Currently Reading: The Sun is Also a Star by Nicola Yoon

My ‘To Be Read’ List for the Next Four/Five Weeks: 

The Dogs of Humanity by Colin Dardis

I have something a bit different on this blog today for you, folks: an interview with local poet Colin Dardis about his new poetry collection, the Dogs of Humanity. Without any more preamble, let’s get into it!

Can you tell us a little about the themes of the collection? 

I’m not a massive fan of reducing a collection down to themes; for a poetry book, it’s almost an injustice, although it has to be done. I don’t read collections due to the themes mentioned; I read because I want to be subjected to strong, startling poetry. For example, I have no interest in beekeeping, but I absolutely adored Sean Borodale’s Bee Journal.

To be absolutely drawn on themes, the poems use dogs and other animals as a central motif to look at how people treat each other in an increasingly toxic world, touching on bullying, self-identity, chauvinism and mental health. But there’s also so much more. As Mary O’Donnell kindly said in her blurb, there is “an avoidance of zeitgeist poetry, what really sets the work apart tonally and in subject is its assumption of a counter-position at all times.” That counter-position could be the schism between the individual and society, between perceived norms and personal attitudes; but it’s equally a stance that allows any subject matter to be explored, as long as it is well written. That’s what poetry validates.

Why did you feel drawn to the themes? How did it all come together?

The poet, at the starting point, is drawn to every poem they write as they are compelled to write them. In some ways, your best poem is always your most recent poem, as that has been the one that allows the poetic muscle to continue flexing. Only with time and distance however does the poet realise which pieces will continue to speak to them, and for them. Therefore, almost all the poems in Dogs have been about for a while. Only the closing poem would have been written from scratch in the past year. Many predate poems that were in ‘the x of y’, my previous collection.

Fly on the Wall Press had a call out for chapbook submissions at the end of last year. I knew I had a number of poems mentioning dogs; a few years ago I had done a set at a reading exclusively of dog poems. The collection bloomed out of that, and Isabelle Kenyon at Fly on the Wall Press was immediately on board with the idea. She’s made the whole process very easy, and has been incredibly supportive and motivated in spreading the word about the book.  Continue reading

Six-Month Stats Round Up

It’s a new week at the start of a fresh month. We’re now entering the second half of 2019 and, personally, I’m excited. But before I jump headlong into the next round of CampNaNoWriMo, it’s time to look back. I said I’d be more open with my stats, going forward, so here we go:

Books Read

  • 31 out of my goal of 60 for the year = 52%
  • So, just ahead of target. That’s a win.

Words Written
(Rounded to the nearest thousand)

  • January: 4,000
  • February: 6,000
  • March: 6,000
  • April: 37,000
  • May: 12,000
  • June: 13,000
  • Total = 78,000

Continue reading

2019 Goals Part Two: Summer

Back in January, I changed things up a little and only set myself one goal for the entire year. That was my 2019 Goodreads challenge to read sixty books. By the time this post goes live, I should have completed twenty-two of those, which means I’m on track.

With regards to other goals, I wanted to focus on things in the shorter term so I decided to plan things a few months at a time and no further. Although it’s not fully accurate, for the sake of simplicity, I’ve split my 2019 into three segments which I’m calling Spring (January to April), Summer (May to August), and Autumn/Winter (September to December).

My Spring was pretty good, all in all. I had my second wedding anniversary in February and my thirtieth birthday in March. I spent a lot of January catching up on all of my accounts for my freelance work so I could get my tax return in before the deadline (which I did!). The rest of that month and part of February was spent doing voluntary work and, when I stepped back from that, I threw myself into decluttering the house following the Kon Mari method.

It felt good to get rid of things and, in the process, simplify my life (simplicity being a big theme of mine, the past few years). The end tally was: 4 bags of clothes (between my husband and I), 1 bag of bedding, 1 [big] bag of books, 8 boxes of komono/miscellaneous items and an untold number of trash bags and recycled things. I also paired down a lot of my social media profiles. Continue reading

On Believing Abuse Victims

I have just finished listening to the audiobook of Educated by Tara Westover. Once I started, I found myself taken over; not able to do anything else until I got to the end. It’s twelve hours long and I finished it in a day.

For those who aren’t familiar with the book, it’s a memoir: a personal account of an unconventional and abusive childhood alongside the story of how, as an adult, Tara came to terms with what happened and escaped the life of her family via going to college and getting an education.

This blog post isn’t about the book, as such. I gave it five stars on Goodreads and wrote a sentence-long review in which I said I had a hard time summing up my thoughts and feelings about the book, but that I knew it was important. The reasons I can’t sum up my thoughts and feelings is partially because I have so many of them and partially because those thoughts and feelings are tied to my own experiences of childhood. While my experiences and Tara’s differ in circumstances and severity, so much of it is similar. Someday, I plan to write a book about my own set of circumstances growing up. I have a title picked out, and an epigraph. I have started certain sections, but I am by no means ready or able to unpack much of it even yet.

This post isn’t about the book or my experiences, or a comparison of the two. That’s just a preface to what I want to say about some of the negative reviews Educated has on its Goodreads page.

Now, for the most part, the book has had an extremely positive reception. The negative reviews are few and far between. I probably shouldn’t focus on them, but it physically hurt me to read them and I need to talk about why. Continue reading

Another Six Months of Books

Now that we’re into July, it seems like high time I update my reading progress again. This time last year, I had read thirty-seven books across several genres. This year, my total goal for the year is fifty-two and I’ve read thirty-four so far. Not too shabby!

So, here’s what I read:

Novels

Continue reading

Reading and Writing Update – March 2018

What I’ve Been Reading

As of right this minute, I have read eleven books this year so far – three audiobooks, three poetry collections, two non-fiction books, a novel, a short story collection, and a novel-length piece of fan fiction – though I’m hoping to make it twelve this evening.

11 books off my goal of 52 is 21%, which means I’m exactly on track.

You can follow my reading challenge on Goodreads here.

What I’ve Been Writing

After a very slow start to the year, which I promise to stop going on about from here on out, I’m finally getting back in gear.

I wrote just over 5,000 words in January, almost 6,000 in February, and I’ve written roughly 3,000 so far this month but, again, I’m hoping to finish another piece tonight. Mostly, I’ve been editing. A lot. Which brings me on to my next topic.

Works Accepted & Published

In January I had a small, jokey piece of flash fiction posted on the Belfast Writers’ Group website – we decided that’s something we’re going to do periodically, now.

In March I had a poem published in the inaugural issue of the Bangor Literary Journal, AND I’ve recently heard that a flash fiction piece by myself will be included in Issue Two as part of a feature on Women Aloud NI members. That’s due out in April, as is a different literary journal that is publishing a flash fiction piece of mine – not sure if I can publically announce the details of that one, yet, but keep your eyes peeled on Twitter and Facebook.

Things Just Passed

I’ve just finished my first term at Crescent Arts Centre as a tutor and my last there as a student.

International Women’s Day is over for another year, but it was fantastic to be part of a brilliant set of events both on the day itself and the following weekend. There’s a video of my reading at the Irish Writers’ Centre in Dublin here.

The past two days, I’ve have had Kindle editions of my books all on offer for free and was delighted to find that I topped a few of Amazon’s charts in doing so – see photo, below.

Things Still to Come

Camp NaNoWriMo is happening in April, and I’m all signed up. My target is set to 20,000 words which will see my novel finished. Hall-e-lu-jah! It can’t come soon enough. But, that said, I have one important thing before that – my birthday, which is on Friday *does happy dance* 

Finally, a new term is starting at Crescent Arts Centre soon – after Easter – and I’m all set to teach again. My class will be running on Friday evenings, and I’ll be trying out an all-day workshop as well. More details on that here.

Did I mention things had been busy?

February Update

For me, January felt like a too-long month but, despite the fact that it seemed to stretch and stretch, I never quite managed to fit in everything I had planned. I only finished reading one book (a novel-length piece of fan fiction) though I did listen to most of an audiobook, too. I finished it (Star Wartz by Patrick Tilley) in the early hours of this morning. So, here I am on the first of Feb. with two books off my 52 book goal for the year and five-thousand words written of my ten-thousand-word January goal.

I think it was getting sick right at the start of the year that threw me off. For about a week, all I could focus on was the physical pain I was in and whether I was going to be taken into hospital. The jury’s still out on that one. I may be sent back there tomorrow after I see my GP again, or I might have to wait a year – who knows?

On the plus side, after having to cancel the first week of my class, I started it a week late and it is going well. My task for tomorrow is to put in a proposal for next term. Now that my taxes are (finally!) in, I can really focus on it.

Maybe I can even get back to writing fiction after that. I certainly hope so!

Reviewing 2017 & Making 2018 Resolutions

There is so much I could say in this post, about lots of good and bad and trying things that have happened this year, but I’ve already spoken about many of those things in lots of different other places, both as they happened and after the fact – yes, I’m a serial reflector, I confess! – and I’m going to cover what I wrote and what I had published in a separate blog post in the new year, so let’s talk resolutions. I started 2017 with six of them:

  • Get married
  • Read 50 books
  • Join the Society of Authors
  • Get a literary agent
  • and a cat
  • Take an official proofreading course

Getting Married – I did that. It was awesome! Probably enough said 🙂

In terms of books – my Goodreads goal for 2017 was 50 and (as of an hour ago, when I finished a collection of stories by Dr Suess) my total is 57. Of that, there was the usual mix of genres and formats. Audible tells me I listened to 12,760 minutes of audiobooks this year, and my most active day for listening were Sundays, apparently. My reading goal for 2018 is 52.

I didn’t join the Society of Authors or get a literary agent, so those goals have moved to 2018. But I did get a cat and (as a complete surprise to me as well as you), I ended up getting a dog as well! Giles (pictured above; bottom right) has been with us less than a week and having the time of his little life.

The proofreading course I mentioned is something I keep changing my mind about. Part of me wants to do it, but then there are other things that would be of more use to me that I want to do more, so it’s nothing I’ve followed up on thus far. It would be nice to have, but if I never complete it I won’t exactly feel sad.

Things of a higher priority on my ‘to do’ list currently are getting my driver’s license and eating a bit more healthily. I’m not intending to go on a diet, exactly, but I do want to take better care of my body.

Those are pretty much my plans for the new year. I guess we’ll see how it goes!

August Reading Audit

After reading this article about taking a closer look at what’s on our bookshelves, I decided to have a look at my own and crunch some numbers. Because, really, I can’t resist scribbling notes and coming up with stats. (Yes, I’m a nerd, are you new here?)

For context, I went into the task thinking I had:

A – a lot of books in general
B – most of my books still unread
C – most of my books (both read and unread) written by women

I should say at this point that I was looking at my physical shelves, e-reader, and audiobooks. I didn’t bother with comics or graphic novels. Fan fiction also wasn’t included at this stage.

Without going into too much detail (knowing that others don’t love stats quite as much as me) my findings were basically:

A – I don’t have as many books to read as I thought
B – I’ve already read a fair chunk of the books I do have
C – most of my books are indeed written by women, but not by a particularly high percentage

Seeing as gender representation isn’t an issue for me (Yay!), I’ll end discussion of that particular point here. Though it will be something I’ll keep an eye on, in future.

Regarding points A and B: I have approximately 100 things in my possession, either in print or online, ready to read. That includes some novel-length fanfics I’ve bookmarked but doesn’t take into consideration a bunch of free Kindle books I got once upon a time and I have no intention of ever starting.

Because of these 100 things (novels, poetry collections, audiobooks, etc), I’m going to reinstate the book-buying ban I placed on my self during the first half of the year. So, between now and Christmas, I’m going to see how low I can get that number.

Wish me luck!