Tuesday, 30 May 2017

Snippets!

To be honest, I'm so excited about this book. It combines my love of Disney and jiu jitsu and hanging out with little kids and hating physics homework and Star Wars and red rubber boots and long boarding and my little Australian town. It also talks about cancer and death and when words fail. I've been working on it since my gap year, and I haven't had a lot of time to edit it in the past few weeks but I'm excited to start up again sometime. 

Background: The following snippet is from Stella's point of view, who's five years old. Tyler is her best friend, and Xavier is Tyler's best friend, who's in the hospital getting chemo.



***

We visited Xavier in the hospital a few weeks before he was supposed to finish his medicine. He mostly just looked really tired and unhappy. I'd brought the letter from Tabitha with me, and I had also brought a drawing that I'd done in class to make him feel better. It had bubbles and people inside the bubbles, and trees and rainbows and a giant tree and lots and lots of flowers. I'd even drawn in Rapunzel's tower from Tangled. 

"Hey Stella," Xavier said, and he gave me a tired smile. It looked like the one Mum gave me after she'd spent all day working and was really tired because Baby #2 was heavy and kept jumping on her bladder, which she kept complaining about. 


"Hi Xavier." I stepped around Tyler and crawled up onto the bed Xavier was lying in, even though there wasn't a lot of room. He had tubes in his arm which I tried to avoid because I didn't know how they put a tube in his arm, and as I tried to think about it I realized that it must have really hurt. "I drew you a picture." 


Tyler grabbed it from his backpack and passed it to me, then I gave it to Xavier. "See? Those are bubbles and there are people inside the bubbles, see, that's me and that's you and that's Tyler. Then those are the trees and Rapunzel's tower and the rainbows and flowers..." I trailed off, because I'd just realized that the drawing wasn't very good at all and I shouldn't have given Xavier something that wasn't very good. He was sick, after all. I shouldn't give sick people things that weren't very good. But he just smiled and high-fived me. 


"Thank you Stella, it's beautiful."


"Shall I?" Tyler asked, and I turned around to see that he had a roll of tape in his hands. He pulled it really hard and it made a weird shhhhlerck sound, then he bit one end of it and a giant piece of tape came away from the roll. 


"What?" I asked, but Xavier gave him a thumbs-up and Tyler grabbed my picture and taped it to the wall, and we all stared at it for a second and I hoped they liked it, especially Xavier because the wall was boring and plain and made me sad so it must make Xavier sad too. They both clapped, and I joined them after a moment even though I wasn't really sure if I should be clapping too. 


"How are you feeling?" I asked Xavier. That was what you did in hospitals. You asked how people were feeling.


"I'm alright. They have some pretty serious painkillers and stuff in the meds they're giving me."


"Is the medicine going to make you better?"


Then the boys exchanged a look and I didn't know what it meant, but then Xavier just gave me another tired smile that I hated. "Yep. Now how was school?"


I told him everything and I just couldn't stop talking. I fiddled with my glasses as I told him all about Bailey my friend and Ms Jones the nice teacher who wore bracelets on her ankles and who was really nice and smart, but then again all adults were smart. I told him about how we did lots and lots of crafts and it was really fun, but I didn't tell him about Luke or how we were learning our ABCs because Bailey and some other kids in my class knew them and I didn't and I didn't want the boys to know because they'd be sad. 


Tyler finally picked me up off the bed and set me on the floor on the other side of the room, then pulled a colouring book out of his backpack. "Here, Xavier and I are going to talk for a little bit. Here are some coloured pencils. Colour whatever you want." I settled in the chair and flipped through the book, noticing with a grin that they were all Disney princesses. There were a whole five pages with Rapunzel and Flynn and Pastel the chameleon and Maximus the horse. I wanted to do all the Rapunzel ones first. 


Tyler went and sat down on the chair next to Xavier's bed, and I listened while they talked. It was pretty hard to listen and draw at the same time, but I wanted to hear what they were saying. It sounded like a grown-up conversation, and now I could finally listen in. 


"How're you doing?" Tyler asked. I decided to start with Rapunzel's hair, then her purple dress. 


"Fine."


"Can I get anything for you?"


"Not really."


"A drink, or-"


"Dude, your bedside manners suck."


"I'm aware of that, thanks for the kind reminder. Can you just write it on my forehead or something so I don't forget it? Seriously though, if you need anything then I'm here," said Tyler. I frowned as I searched through the coloured pencils. There wasn't the right kind of purple for her dress. I'd have to choose a different colour. 




"I'm surprised you didn't bring any homework for me."


"I actually have a stack in the car, but thought I'd leave it there because homework sucks and I wasn't going to let you share in that suckage."


"Which isn't a word."


"It totally is. Look it up."


"You passed English how?"


"I think the teacher cheated a little. She just can't withstand my irresistible charms." They both laughed, but I wasn't sure what was so funny.


"Didn't she used to be a nun or something?"


"Yeah, in like 1826. You're so lucky you've never had her, she likes to bring it up every other sentence. And Macbeth's ambitious hamartia reminds me of the time when I met a young man who came into the convent, for I was a nun you see, and he tried to steal the candlesticks!" Tyler's voice went high and silly like in a cartoon, and both Xavier and I laughed but then Xavier frowned right after and tried to stop laughing. 


"Sorry, it just hurts a little to laugh."


"Oh, sorry, I'll stop."


"Hey, can you pop by my house and say hi to Amelia?"


"I thought my restraining order prevented that?"


I imaged Xavier rolling his eyes, because he did that quite a bit. I tried to do it too, but then Mum got upset with me. "Ha. Ha. Ha. Seriously though, she'll appreciate it. She does every time and it just sucks that she's alone right now." 


"Anything you want, anything you want."


Then we all went really quiet for a few seconds, and Tyler decided it was time to go even though I'd only coloured in Rapunzel's hair and her dress and hadn't gotten to the tower yet.


"See ya, Xavier," Tyler said. 


"Bye Xavier!" I said, then ran and gave him a hug. He hugged me back, then Tyler towed me out and we left him there, looking very alone and sad. Dear Lord Jesus, I prayed in my head, which was hard because I couldn't close my eyes or fold my hands while walking down the hall with Tyler. Please make Xavier better. I don't like seeing him so sad. 


Tell me about your projects in the comments! 

Tuesday, 16 May 2017

Homesickness in the form of rhubarb pie (a poem)

So I was going to write this really epic post about asylum seekers in Australia for today. It was going to be super well researched and professional-ly, probably with the proper margins and font size and Harvard referencing and the whole shebang. Then I looked up and it was 11:00pm, I had just finished my homework and I still had no blog post written. Hence, I've decided to grace you all with one of my poems I wrote last year when I was visiting Canada. (I am not responsible for any injuries that result to your brain and/or eyeballs from your choice to read the following poetry. I am not a poet. You have been warned.)



The Clouds were Rhubarb and 
Strawberry Cream a Careless Chef 
had Dripped onto the Tile

saskatoon berries
lukewarm tea
cousins
canoes
picnic bench
slivers
pie crust
laugher
canadian geese
fold-up chairs 
relax
plastic spoons
moss
corn-on-the-cob
oversized sweatshirts
smiles
mosquitoes
photos
pine needles
crumbling trailer
family

home

Tuesday, 9 May 2017

In defence of female protagonists

If you've read/read about young adult books in any way shape or form, you're probably familiar with the fact that there are more female protagonists than male protags. According to this random website I found (points for research skills there), 65% of characters in YA books are female, 22% are male and the remaining 13% is shared. Just by looking over my library, I can see that there's way more female protags than males. 

Why is this? 

Not a real human skull, btw. My fabulous brother 3D printed it.

I believe it's because publishers believe more girls read YA than boys (who are off reading sci-fi or non-fiction or manuals whatever), and thus more books are targeted at teenage girls. It makes sense, right? People like to read about people like them, so more books have girls as main characters. (It's the same reason there's such a huge push for books with diverse characters at the moment. It's such a powerful thing to see yourself represented in media, and can be quite damaging when you're not or when you're wrongly represented. But that's a discussion for another day. (It's also why I like Spider-Man so much. I finally get to see my level of awesome on-screen.))

In response to this, there's been quite a backlash across the Internet. We're tired of female main characters, we need more boy books, we need more variety. All the female protags have the same voice, let's do something different! 

I have issues with this. 

First of all, I don't have a problem with male protagonists. I love reading them actually, because it's good to get into someone else's head. The writing style is usually quite different, and the stories end up being very different to stories by female MCs. 

I do, however, have issues with some of the reasons why people want male protagonists or why we have so many female MCs in the first place, or even over the fact that people don't like the fact that there are more female protags than male. But honestly? I think we're all just over-reacting. 

Let's get this straight right off the bat. Boys will read books with female main characters. The end. No arguments. Boys might not read books aimed at girls, which often have female protagonists by the way, which is fine. I don't usually like to read those either. But boys will read stories with female protagonists. To say anything else is to insult and stereotype boys, something I'm not interested in. 

That's also what annoys me about why we have so many female main characters in the first place. Why do publishers think girls will only read about girls? It's the same thing as assuming boys will only read boy books. People are intelligent and open-minded for the most part, especially if they're bothering to pick up a book. Give us some credit. 

Now for the controversial part of my post. I think we're just over-reacting. Look, teenage girls, proactive, strong, independent teenage girls, are so underrepresented in the media. It's ridiculous. Most of the positive teenage girl representation is in book-to-movie adaptations (The Hunger Games anyone?). Most other films/advertisements/TV shows/whatever show teenage girls as shallow and stupid, people who drain their daddy's bank account and get way too obsessed with makeup and boys. I'm not saying those girls don't exist. I'm saying they're not everyone. 

What's wrong with having better representation? Maybe so many girls read YA because that's the only place they can find someone like them having adventures and actually doing stuff. We should stop freaking out over the fact that there are more female main characters and just enjoy the fact that for the first time ever we have a half-decent representation of an often marginalised group of society. What's even better is that people of other diverse groups (for example, people of colour) are getting onto the page as well. Honestly, how often are independent, three-dimensional Chinese-American teenage girls represented in the media? (Answer: not often enough, but there's more than there used to be.)

Let it go, people. Enjoy a small victory. Yes, there are issues with the inundation of female protagonists in young adult fiction. No, we don't need to panic. 

Do you prefer male or female main characters? Do you think there needs to be such a controversy around this? 

Tuesday, 2 May 2017

Good days

Lately good days have been hard to find. I have my ups and downs, my slants and my drops but for the most part they're few and far between. But today? Today's different. 

My darling sister brought me back watercolour
pencils from Canada. I have no idea how to use them.

I wake up at 7:00am, as usual. It's Saturday but I have to go to work, and I've discovered a long time ago that it's better to wake up earlier than have an extra hour of sleep and be rushing out the door. I eat breakfast (a bowl of frozen fruit with milk) while I listen to my crime podcast, Generation Why. The theories and evidence flies, all real cases, all real people. I am riveted, my mind sunk deep into the pools and twisting rabbit holes the case presents. 

At work, I force myself to stay awake and focus on the customers the best I can. I find that if I pretend to be happy, that's usually what I become. A customer catches me glancing too long in the mirror, yawning, and asks if I had a late night. I was making sure I still looked human. I laugh, a sort of hysterical, strangled laugh, and reply that I've had many late nights. My eyes are rimmed with streaks of boysenberry and I feel swollen, slow, stupid. But still I smile, and somehow I stay happy. 

When I get home, the first thing I do is slide my headphones back over my ears and finish my podcast, then grab my art book and pencils. The rest of the world fades and is replaced with appeals and accusations, cotton candy and cobalt, false evidence and trials, and for a moment I fade away too. I dissolve into the space between my watercolour pencils and the paper, into the sound waves winding through my ear canals. It feels nice to fade every once and a while. Becoming as watery as my drawing is less painful than the sharp edges and unoiled hinges of reality. 

In the evening, after I've done my homework, I join my family as we lay on Mom and Dad's bed. We laugh and discuss dumb movies, eat halva, take selfies, laugh. I curl up and listen, too happy that we're all together for once to say much. I like hearing my sister's voice, my dad's laugh. They've been gone for a month while they visited Canada, and I've missed lying on Dad's soft stomach while we play board games, missed watching obscure movies with my sister. They've been gone for too long, and now that we're all here I don't want it to end. This isn't reality, this is me faded. And it feels nice. 

For once, this is a good day. 

How often do you have good days? What are your good days like?

Tuesday, 25 April 2017

Why Appreciate an Artist Week is kinda (sorta (definitely)) cool

In case you've been living under a rock and aren't reading the Internet's #1 most popular Canadian/Australian teen book blog about all things nerdy (which in that case what are you doing with your life?), about two years ago I started a thing called Appreciate an Artist Week. Basically you appreciate an artist during that week. (Raise of hands, who saw that one coming?) (I may possibly be the only person who's ever actually taken part in this international holiday week thingy, but I choose to remain optimistic.)


In the past, I've written to Owl City (one of my favourite musicians/bands/music person thingy) and Patrick Ness, one of my new favourite authors. I've never expected anything in return, of course. The whole point of this exercise is to take a moment to thank the people who have improved my life through their art. Art has majorly influenced my life for the better and I wanted to take a moment to say thank you to the people who I've never properly thanked. (Hence Appreciate an Artist Week.) 

A few weeks ago, I got a letter in the mail. It was from London, which I thought was strange because I don't know anyone in London, but hey. Mail's cool. It had my name on it, right? I tore into it, read through the letter then jumped around the house, laughing hysterically. It was a personalised letter and signature from Patrick Ness, thanking me for my letter. 

Can we just pause and appreciate the awesomeness of this for a second? 

I didn't put a return stamp on it. I didn't ask for a signature or a letter in return. He took time out of his day to buy a stamp and write a letter and put my address on it and pop it in the mail when I didn't even ask for it. Dude. That is amazing. Because I took the time to say thanks, he took the time to say thanks back. It made my month, and to this day it is safely tucked into the front pages of my copy of A Monster Calls, a scanned copy sitting on my hard drive. That is something I'm going to treasure for the rest of my life. (Sorry, I can't post a picture of it for privacy reasons.)

So the moral of the story here is to say thanks every once and a while. You might not get a reply, but they'll probably read it. They'll listen. And it's going to feel pretty good for them too. 

Have you ever written fan mail? Have you ever gotten a reply? Have you read anything by Patrick Ness? (If the answer is no, then go forth and read something immediately.) 

Tuesday, 18 April 2017

A bit of a life update

This post comes to you in a list, because I like lists. Lists are cool. (Just like bowties are cool. *flails with all the other Doctor Who fans* 



1. I've started university. Which is weird. And fun. And hard work. And mostly weird. Can we talk about how much work engineering is? It's a lot of math and driving and sitting and studying, but it's cool to be in the same place as people like me. 

2. The newest Spider-Man trailer came out and I'm dying, it's so beautiful. (Pfff, as if I'd get through an entire post without mentioning Spider-Man. Don't be ridiculous people.)

3. I did some dog sitting! I always love dog sitting. (Hence the photo for today's post.) If you have a dog, I will be there people. It's how I make friends, I kid you not. 

4. I have done next to no writing. To be honest it's a miracle the last three posts have gotten out on time, and let's not even mention my manuscripts. It's been at least five weeks since I've even looked at them, and it's making me very sad. But what can I do? School is school. 

5. There was a flood and a cyclone but we're all good now. Basically there was a lot of people panicking for little to no reason while I sat in the corner like a weirdo and enjoyed the copious amounts of rain being dumped on our heads. 

6. I bought some fish? It was a very spur of the moment thing but already I love them half to death. I've never owned fish before so we'll see how long they last before they go belly-up. (I'm optimistic. I've managed to not kill my indoor plants so far so this is a good step up.)

How's your life been lately? Is school driving you absolutely insane? Comment below, peeps.

Tuesday, 11 April 2017

Rearranging your bookshelf

Eventually, we all come to a time in our lives when Spider-Man swings through the window and - wait, no. We all come to a time in our lives when the Doctor lands his TARDIS in your front yard - um, no, that's not where I was going with this. 

What was I saying again? Oh, that's right. Rearranging your bookshelf. 


I would like to officially claim the title of Queen Whose Pictures Never Match Her Posts.

I tend to avoid rearranging my bookshelf for the obvious reasons of it taking forever due to the crazy amount of books I own. Besides, it takes forever to remember where I put everything because I don't organise them like a normal person by author or alphabetically. (My method is usually hey! That goes there! And that goes there! That would look nice over there!) So I try to avoid rearranging it. 

However, eventually we all come to a time in our lives when things need to change. (Ha, got there in the end.) For me, the first time I rearranged my bookshelf was when I ran out of room and had to upgrade. The second time was when I moved to Australia, and let me tell you that was an impressive undertaking. Anywho, that again took quite a bit of time. 

There's something magical about rearranging your bookshelf, though. It's like putting the world back in place, bit by bit. It's putting a ballast on your unstable and forever-shifting life, grabbing an weight of paper and ink to anchor yourself to while the storms of life drag you every way but the direction you want to go. It's rebuilding your life, book by book by book. And it's beautiful. 

How often do you rearrange your bookshelf? Do you have any specific methods of doing so?