Tuesday, 28 April 2020

Writing: How does it work?

Hello blog. As an attempt to keep the writing muscles intact, I'm writing a bit now and then. I'm trying not to focus on whether these words have much by the way of inherent value, nor edit or refine them too much. The aim is just to put thoughts down.

I've been reading The Journey to the West. Anthony C. Yu has done a marvellous translation of all one hundred chapters with all of the poetry translated, including dozens of explanatory footnotes per chapter. What I'm enjoying about my reading of JtW is that I can lend however much weight I like to it - if I want to go off on a tangent into the footnotes, I can; if I want a lighter reading of a particular chapter, I can simply read the text and only dip into the footnotes if I really don't understand a particular word or concept.

Another thing I really enjoy is how much I've felt amused by, fond towards and in awe of a piece of 16th century Chinese literature. This book has transcended time, space, society and culture to come to me, a white twenty-something in the UK, and make me grin like a loon whilst sitting on my garden wall in the sunshine.

Monday, 13 April 2020

Canon or Not? Episode 1 Notes

As mentioned in my previous post, I started a podcast!


'The podcast where we quiz people on things they know nothing about!'
[listen here]

Here's the full SoundCloud description:

CANON OR NOT? is a podcast which takes a light-hearted look at bizarre fictional lore, as Sash (@Sp1ritJam) and guests puzzle their way through various true/false questions. 
The catch? 
They know nothing about the media in question, armed only with their base assumptions and whatever they've absorbed through pop cultural osmosis. 
Play along and test your knowledge, or sit back and enjoy as guest and host alike experience your favourite pieces of fiction for the first time. Either way, you'll come out the side finally knowing whether that weird tidbit you've heard about really is canon or not. 
(Get in touch on Twitter by tagging @Sp1ritjam or with the hashtag #CanonOrNot)

Sunday, 12 April 2020

Writing again, and a new podcast.

It is so embarrassing to click back into this blog and be reminded that it's been over a year since I last updated it. Even more embarrassing, and frustrating too, is realising that I've fallen once again into the cycle of becoming enamoured with a new pursuit before losing patience with myself when I don't manage to make the time for it, and subsequently trail off. Then I look back and think how I could have had a decent writing portfolio by now if I'd just kept it up.


I'm planning to retroactively insert some of the book reviews I've been writing the last few months, cross-posting from The Lesbrary but for the most part, besides the occasional bit of fanfiction I just haven't done all that much.

However, with us being now in the midst of a global pandemic, the entire world has slowed down and I've taken to thinking about creative work again. I've been reluctant to admit that my anxiety around writing - which is a thing that I really, truly love! (I think) - is down to low self-esteem. That is essentially what it comes down to, however. The feeling of "Well, since I made this, it can't be that valuable." I also spent some time in a relationship with someone who, whilst supportive in a general sense, couldn't muster any emotional investment in my work. That combined with my tendency to 'disappear' into relationships and prioritise partners' needs over my own made for a very-not-great combination. No blame to cast here: that's just how it is.

Due to life bestowing this sudden stillness on me and having been single again for a few months, I've had another crack at podcasting. I'll try and update this blog with behind the scenes notes for each episode, just to keep some activity going here. I also made a stop motion animation recently and I want to learn to animate properly! I have a few ideas. Further to these aims, I've added Twitter to my Internet blocklist. The news is so, so bleak right now and I want to switch off for a while.

I'm also going to try and write the space web serial that I've been plotting in my downtime. I've got a notebook sat next to me and a three page outline of the main arcs and more free time than I'll probably ever have in my life and I just... don't feel like I can? It's odd how draining writing is. It's been something so deeply tied to my sense of personal validation for so long, that the process of even getting a first draft down is like shoving an enormous boulder uphill. Before every word comes this litany of thoughts, like--

Hasn't this already been done? Ugh I wish I could write like Le Guin/Tolkien/Wynne-Jones/Shakespeare. Why did I not start earlier? I wonder who's younger than me and more successful because they actually sat down and did things. What if I'm not meant to be writer? What if I spend all day/month/year writing this and it's a waste of time because it's total trash. Why am I so unoriginal? Where did I subconsciously lift this character/plot point/trope from? Will people immediately start telling me what my plot is similar to? What if I accidentally write something so heinously offensive that I get cancelled forever? Ughhhh, why am I procrastinating by re-reading the same 70-chapter fanfiction I've already read ten times. I should be absorbing more original content. I should be MAKING more original content. Why is it so hard to just write things? My character is so boring. Would someone really act this way? Why aren't I writing? Let me just check the Internet... Wait, it's been an hour and I haven't done anything. Okay, I'll just write a few paragraphs... Huh should this scene be set during winter or summer? Why am I writing set in a sleepy English village when that's going to cause so much logistical trouble when everyone comes out of their houses and tries to interact with the alien visitors? Should I set it in America? I'll start writing after I've done some more research... Ah, another hour gone, I will write this time. Hmmm... What will the layout for my website look like? Where should I host this? What if no one reads it? What if people DO read it? What if it's bad? What if it's good and I peak here? I just need to get something down on paper but I'm so drained.

-- and so on and so forth.

Sometimes I talk to my therapist about all the thoughts that run in my head in a regular basis and she'll look at me for a long time and say (of herself), "I need to lie down, hearing that, I am absolutely exhausted!" She's being tongue-in-cheek but goddamn she is so right.

Part of me likes the idea of having written something, having published something, far more than the process of actually writing it, because that's where the pain and hard work is. Not necessarily within the crafting of the story itself, but in the exhaustion of facing my own existential fears about my creative value, my talent and my innate sense of self-worth.

Another part of me truly, passionately loves the written word, has written pieces I'm proud of, has fallen down rabbit-holes of research to create genuinely fun pieces, has had good feedback and a network of support, and loves the feeling of being absorbed in creating a brand new world.

Perhaps in admitting the weight of the former, in sloughing some of it off, I can ease the way for the latter.

Thursday, 14 March 2019

Fiction: Conversations With the Witch Next Door

She had made tea for him, she said.
Scavenged the berries and leaves, poured in great helpings of things like tenderness and excitement and hope. He had tasted them, politely, but ultimately found them too much for him. He bought his own tea in boxes from the store; black with sugar, mild and polite and unassuming.
It wasn’t about the tea, the witch reassured me. It was just that her way of doing things was not quite right. She hadn’t realised, had kept making the tea and finding it left on the counter, cold, always assuming the best of him, assuming he had just forgotten.
If she had listened more, she realised, she would have understood that she was not right for him, nor him for her.
If the strangeness was all a little more than he could handle, that didn’t mean she should dim her light just for him, I told her. Burn as brightly as you like.
- Excerpt, “Conversations With the Witch Next Door”

Friday, 1 February 2019

What I'm Up To: Zine Workshops

I've spent my last few Friday afternoons attending a Poetry and Zine Workshop at a local women's centre. I'm so pleased that I discovered this place existed, they are a community hub which welcomes all women and afab genderfluid folk and offers a variety of useful and fun things, from CV workshops to book clubs.

We had all built up a nice rapport from spending so much time together over the last few weeks, and it was so validating to be part of such a supportive group. We had been working on erasure poems, streams of consciousness writing based on found objects, and responses to other poems from a huge zine library.

Looking at the masses of small press spread out on the tables in front of us, I felt overwhelmed by this huge sense of kinship with all of these writers and artists over time. Every pamphlet showed so much history and passion, all lovingly put together to share, celebrate and educate.

I'm not sure if I'm any better of a poet for it, but I did rediscover the simple joy of just writing. I also gathered some ideas for how to get inspiration flowing again the next time I'm stuck.

Below are some photos of my contribution (poetry and illustrations) to the collaborative zine (W)hole that the group produced. I will attach a downloadable PDF when one is available!

Thursday, 17 January 2019

Review: 'The Sleeping Dragon' by Jonny Nexus

[Note: This review is largely spoiler-free! No major plot elements are revealed, though I do discuss character arcs and such.]

I love Dungeons and Dragons (RPGs in general) and I love supporting indie publishers, so I was pretty pleased when the opportunity to review The Sleeping Dragon came about via my attendance at Dragonmeet. Published by indie company Wild Jester Press, this book promises a Tolkien-inspired, Pratchett-esque, science-fantasy tale featuring all of your favourite fantasy character archetypes in a delightfully subversive way.

What's it all about?  To give a brief summary:

The five greatest adventurers of the age discover that in five hundred years, the Sleeping Dragon will awake and destroy civilisation.

Many many years later, in a world so transformed by mass-produced magic that it seems heroism itself is rendered obsolete, five misfits find themselves tasked with preventing the plague, war, famine and destruction that the Sleeping Dragon will bring forth.

Wednesday, 2 January 2019

Review: 'Arrow Borne: Fate Loves the Fearless' by Jess Taylor

Here's the third in my recent comic reviews out of the batch I picked up at Nottingham Comic Con in 2018. After this we're veering into unknown territory - new year, new comics!

Today's comic is called 'Arrow Borne, Fate Loves the Fearless' by Jess Taylor and it is a beautiful work of art. Here's what it's about:

Fate loves the fearless...

In 2016, as the world falls apart around her ears, one woman is expected to piece it back together. Arrow Borne is a superhero tale about love, loss and the lure of Greek Gods.

'Fate Loves The Fearless' is the prologue for the upcoming Arrow Borne series and this special edition release includes sketches, concepts and rejected pages as issue #2 goes to the press.