Tag Archives: reading

How writing crept up on me (A guest post from Natalie Cherry)

This is a guest post from a talented young writer Natalie Cherry, who I recently discovered when she wrote a post over at SJB Teaching on the teacher stereotypes she would like to see less of. I enjoyed her laugh-out-loud descriptions of the PowerPoint addict (I know, they’re everywhere!) and the Shouter,  so I popped over to her blog to read some more of her work and was impressed with what I found. I got in touch and asked her is she would be interested in sharing her thoughts about writing so that you, too, could discover this young talent. I’ll let Natalie take it from here… 

Natalie CherryIt started, unbeknownst to me, in Year Five. In my feverish nine-year-old brain I was convinced that my class teacher hated me. There was no proof, but I just knew it. I saw looks that weren’t really there and heard a distasteful tone of voice that seldom existed and for that whole year I spent day after day playing out a ridiculous battle in my head.

The funny thing is, it turns out that this teacher, my great villain, knew me better than I did. She saw what others didn’t see. She knew that I would write.

It’s strange really, because looking back now I can’t understand how I didn’t realise that’s what I wanted to do. I blundered about for so long, oblivious to all the signs quite plainly telling me that my life was centred around writing. Piles of books and magazines teetered on my bedside table from about eight years old, while reams and reams of list after list scaled the walls and filled up small scribbled notebooks. I wrote a daily diary (and continue to do so), documenting every day down to the most insignificant of details.

Natalie's diaries

Then came the stories – scenarios focused around that year’s crush that played out in my head, written down in the Disney-esque hope that they might spring off the pages and into reality. Needless to say, these have been thoroughly hidden.  I once started to write a film based on a Katy Perry song and I even used to bring writing into my everyday life, using letters to say sorry to my family after big arguments, leaving them outside the door like an overly emotional postman. I always loved English at school too, and every year I started a new project, story or series of books that led me along a long literary trail where anything was possible.

I’ve always read books, often older than my age group, naturally enjoying the way language moves across the page and into my life. My window of education on the world of the teenage girl world came from the Princess Diaries; my understanding of the opposite sex limited to Harry Potter. Most of all, though, I loved to tackle books that I had to really think about when reading – my beach read at fourteen was Barack Obama’s autobiography, and I picked up a battered copy of Little Women at around twelve. The big jump into reality happened when I started reading newspapers, however, and now I access the news obsessively in every available format. Oh, and don’t even get me started on the stacks of travel magazines that sit waiting, calling me to their glossy pages.

My childhood threw just about everything it could at me, and yet I still didn’t know writing was the path I would take until last year. Of course, my Year Five teacher did. Yes, after seven years of believing that she hated me, I have discovered the truth. My mother revealed recently that at parents evening my teacher had told her that she believed I had great talent in literacy and should consider becoming a writer someday. I was shocked. My mighty enemy, my grand opponent, my fictitious foe was really a friend? Excuse me while I look sheepish for a while.

Once over the disbelief, I couldn’t help but think that I may have realised my potential sooner if I had let go of my deluded misgivings. Of course it’s always easy to say that with hindsight, and perhaps I needed to pass through my life completely clueless in order to develop, unaffected by pressure or expectation. Either way, I’ll never know for sure. There is one thing that I do know for sure, however, and that is what I must say now;

Dear [my] Year Five teacher,
Apologies for my dishonourable daydreams – especially the unfriendly ones.
I didn’t know.

Natalie is 16 and a bit busy working through her A-levels at the moment but she hopes to become a journalist and write everyday. In the meantime, she blogs over at Life as a unicorn. If you enjoyed this post, why not head on over now and hit ‘follow’?

An award (for refusing to live in the real world)!

I am extremely flattered to have been nominated for this award, which is for literary and book-centred blogs and bloggers who read widely. I’m told that this award is usually given to writers who have published books but I’m assuming I’ve been nominated for other reasons! I was nominated by Jenny over at ‘Jenny the Wren.‘ Thanks Jenny!

After accepting this award, I have to list my five favourite books – explaining why they are my favourites – and nominate five other bloggers to receive this award.

I’m not very good at choosing favourites. You know that Quality Street advert that asks which one is your ‘favourite favourite?’ Well I still list five of those. And they’re just chocolates. These are books… So here are five top picks from a long list if ‘favourite favourites.’ All of these books link to amazon.com in case you want to find out more and add them to your wishlist!

Of Bees and Mist
Best described as a gothic fairytale for grown-ups, this book drew me into in its magical world from the first page and I could not put it down. Lent to me by a friend who ‘thought I might like it,’ it got me writing again after a dry spell. It had a huge influence on my writing at the time and I loved it so much my friend let me keep it (this does not happen often).

All my friends are superheroes
This book has been top of my ‘favourites’ list since I read it a couple of years ago. This novella is a beautiful little love story, which stays with you long after reading. Actually, I’ve called it a love story but it’s so much more than that. I re-read it often and get something new from it each time. Buy it, and see which ‘superhero’ you identify with. Then buy it for someone you love.

The Slap
I read this book while I was heavily pregnant with my son and it got me through several hospital visits, the early stages of labour and a further ten days in hospital after the birth. I’ve heard it’s since been made into a television  series but I’ve not seen it and I’m not sure I want to as I have such a strong visual representation of all the characters in my head. It’s the story of the reactions of a group of friends after one man slaps his friend’s child. As a new parent, it really made me think. If you’ve read this, tell me – whose side were you on?

The Book Thief
When I first heard that this book was narrated by ‘Death,’ I wasn’t so sure but I read the prologue and was immediately hooked. Who knew the Grim Reaper was so poetic? As with ‘Of Bees and Mist,’ I found the style of this book reflected in the poetry I wrote at the time.

The Five People You Meet in Heaven
Another simple little book that stays with you long after reading. A beautiful way of approaching the age of question of the meaning of life. Death, it turns out, is not the end. In fact, the book begins with the death of Eddie, whose story unfolds as you read and learn more about his life through the eyes of those he meets in heaven.

What’s your favourite favourite?

I would like to nominate the below bloggers (listed in no particular order) for this award. Please note that it’s not compulsory to accept! If you do accept, please post the award on your blog, list your five favourite books – including why they’re your favourites – and pass the award on.

Alice Fenner – I interviewed Alice back in 2010 as part of my ‘Ordinary People,’ series. Far from ordinary, Alice’s blog posts are beautifully written prose that make you rethink the way you look at the world.

Petra Kidd – Author of ‘The Eight of Swords‘ and its sequel, ‘The Putsi,’ Petra’s writing is so engaging I nearly missed my stop while reading on the tube! I urge you to download her books or at least pop by her blog.

Kellie Elmore – Author of ‘Magic in the Backyard,’ Kellie’s poetry paints a vivid picture of her past and is often somehow quietly reassuring. Kellie also hosts a great writing prompt, ‘Free Write Friday,’ on her blog.

Miriam Driori – Writer and Social Anxiety sufferer Miriam was also kind enough to take part in an Ordinary People interview. She writes with disarming honesty about living with Social Anxiety. She also writes about a wide range of other subjects, including everyday life in Israel. Miriam writes brilliant short stories, one of which you can read here.

Julia Skinner – founder of the 100WC project, I know Julia has been nominated for this award before but I couldn’t not nominate her! For services to child literacy and also for weekly inspiration via the 100WCGU challenge, providing the same opportunity to adults who still like to play with words.

There are many many more bloggers deserving of this award but as with the books, these are just five from my current list if favourite favourites!

50 Shades of OK

I’ve read the 50 Shades of Grey trilogy and you know what? It’s ok. As I was reading the first book – which Mr B bought for me – I thought it wasn’t that good – I kept reading everywhere that it was spectacularly bad and that EL James was a terrible writer. I kind of got caught up with anti James hype and started to say something along those lines myself. However, once I had finished the first book I ‘just wanted to know what happened next,’ so I downloaded the second book. And then the third. And I enjoyed them. But I still said, when asked, that they although I did enjoy them, they weren’t very good.

Yesterday my brother-in-law, who is halfway through the first book (Yes. Men are reading it too) asked me what I thought. I told him I enjoyed them but didn’t think they were very good. He asked, ‘in what way?’ and I reeled off the same nonsense I had said before. But his comment made me think. Really think. In what way are they terrible? Is EL James really such an awful writer? Well, she’s not the greatest writer, in my (now humbled) opinion. I found some of the scenes (yes, those ones) repetitive and predictable after a while, and Ana’s constant references to her ‘inner goddess’ were cringeworthy. For the most part… Except when they were so awful they made me laugh out loud. I’m not sure that was James’ intention but a good laugh doesn’t hurt, does it? And I found myself caring about the characters. I mean, let’s face it. I didn’t read all three books just for the sake of it. And that’s why I want to take back my earlier comments. Well, some of them.

So, no – El James is not the world’s greatest writer, and her books certainly won’t be on my ‘read again’ list. However, if you take the 50 Shades trilogy for what it is – which, essentially, is a modern ‘Pretty Woman’ style love story. Yes, with a lot more sex – then it’s not bad. I don’t want to give any spoilers but let’s just say that by the end of the trilogy most of my questions were answered and I wasn’t upset by the ending. I felt satisfied. Not as ‘full’ as when I read, say, ‘Of Bees and Mist,’ or ‘All my Friends are Superheroes,’ – my current favourites, but still. EL James, if you’re reading (and I doubt you have time), then I’m sorry. You did good. 50 Shades of Grey is ok. There, I said it. Yeah, it’s OK. Have you read it yet?