Blog · Book Recommendations · Creative Writing

A Tough Story To Write

Hey everyone, hope you’re doing well. If you haven’t already, please check out my latest short story. Part One is here and Part Two here.

For today’s chatty post, I wanted to discuss a piece I’ve just finished. It’s for a competition and the brief was simply “Life Writing” or in other words it needs to be about an experience of the authors that’s “intended to be true, but not fiction.” At first I was a bit confused, so I decided to just pick a prominent experience I’ve had in life and write about it.

I usually tend to lean towards more sad experiences. I believe sadness is such a powerful emotion, it is often the dark times that wedge themselves into your memory rather than the happy. Or maybe that’s just my pessimism.

I decided to write about regret. I wrote a short story of around 5 pages based on an experience I had as a teenager, that still visits me in my moments of contentedness. Almost as if it demands to be acknowledged, and for it to be acknowledged, I need to feel all the emotions that come with it. Grief, anguish, sadness, regret and then some more regret.

It’s the first time I have ever written about my grandad. For those who don’t know, I lost my grandad in 2017 and it has taken almost 3 years to be able to think of him without crying. However, as I reflected on this moment in my life that I shared with him, I did cry. I cried when I remembered the day, I cried after I wrote my first sentence and I cried once it was finished.

It was extremely difficult to write. I hope in writing it, I will somehow find the strength to put the regret I feel to bed, for good. I’m not feeling it just yet though.

Maybe once the competition is over, I will post it here.


To end this post on a slightly happier note, here is a book recommendation.

I said this was a happier note? Apparently I don’t know the meaning of it. Although this book is sad, it follows a group of friends who undergo awful treatment, but still manage to salvage something from it. Small victories in a life full of large downfalls, are still victories worth celebrating.


Signed,

Jen X

Blog · Book Recommendations · reading

To Read Or Not To Read: How To Squeeze More Reading Into Your Day

“We read in bed because reading is halfway between life and dreaming, our own consciousness in someone else’s mind.”

– Anna Quindlen

Like any reader knows, we have good reading weeks and we have bad ones. We can all empathise when we see others in the dreaded “reading slump”. When your TBR books bore into your soul every time you go to pick one up, but make a cup of tea and get into bed instead. Maybe that’s just me, but it can be difficult finding the time to read; especially if you fall out of the habit.

Sometimes it’s a case of taking a break only to come back with a replenished sense of eagerness to read. Other times there are things you can change in your daily routine that can help you read a little bit more.

These tips are just what I do when I feel like I need to read more! Maybe try some and see if it helps.

Put Your Phone Down

It sounds simple enough but I’ve found that you can either pour through social media scrolling endlessly seeing snippets of other peoples’ lives; or you can dedicate those lost hours to reading that book that’s collecting dust. When I’m on my phone it feels like I blink and its three hours later. Comparing that to the feeling I get after getting lost in a book for three hours is what makes me think twice when I wake up in morning. I consciously ignore my phone and reach for a book instead. Take thirty minutes to read silently, welcome the day with a good start and an exercised brain.

In short: put away your cellular devices and pick up that book.

Read What You Like

Again, it sounds really obvious but I ran into an issue with reading a few years ago. I wanted to read the books everyone else was reading, so I only read books that were trending at the time or on a bestselling list. I’m not saying they were bad books because I enjoyed them. The issue is, none of them were so gripping I couldn’t put them down. Not until I discovered the genres that suit me best and the kind of stories I am interested in. I still read multiple genres but key ones such as psychological thrillers, crime thrillers and horror are definitely my top favourites.

When you read a book you enjoy but wasn’t necessarily sucked into, it can demotivate you to carry on reading. Just keep reading, a lot, until you find the types of books that really excite you and motivate you to read more.

To cut a long story short: read whatever interests you, don’t focus on the popularity of the book because who knows, it might be your new favourite.

Read E-Books

Although I am usually a paperback kind of person, e-readers can be so useful when the desire to read strikes you whilst travelling on public transport. However long it takes you, if you have a Kindle or the Kindle app on your smartphone, you can utilise that time to squeeze in a quick chapter or two. They are so portable and you can choose and download a book instantly while you wait for the next bus.

If like me you prefer a hard copy book, make sure you always pack at least two in your bag the night before. I find that when travelling somewhere I like to have a couple of options as sometimes the story is too complex to fully absorb while you are out in public. Sometimes I can but other times I find it difficult to fully commit, which is why I pack a more light-hearted book just in case.

If you feel comfortable eating lunch by yourself, I recommend trying to find a quiet place close to your workplace to eat and read. I used to work in a very fast-paced and busy environment so I liked to be alone during my break in order to recharge my batteries. Having a quiet and beautiful spot to read and be alone is a lovely way to get more reading in, as well as relaxing you half way through the work day. If you use an e-book, the wind can’t blow your pages around while you eat with one hand and hold the book with the other.

TLDR: Read on transport and during your lunch break.

Read In The Bathroom

Yes that is correct. Read in the bathroom. Or the toilet. Whenever I am really into a book, it becomes more like a third arm than a book; it comes with me everywhere I go. That includes but is not limited to the bath. There is nothing more relaxing than taking a steaming hot bath with candles (a substantial amount as I am blind as it is) and a book. Of course, it can delay the cleaning process but you just need a bit of self discipline. Tell yourself to read up to a certain page or chapter and then put it down.

Create A Goodreads Account

Managing a Goodreads account is an amazing way to track your reading. You can see all the books you’ve read, all the books you want to read as well as thousands of ratings and reviews to help you decide what to read next.

I got back into reading around three years ago and I loved to watch my collection grow. However, it was difficult to appreciate just how many books I was reading, until I created a Goodreads account. I was both shocked and excited at how many books I managed to read.

It is an amazing platform for both avid and casual readers to discover their next favourite book. Goodreads also has a list function in which its users can compile lists such as: ‘Best Thrillers’ to more niche lists such as: ‘Books About Videogames and Virtual Reality’. Whatever you’re interested in, I’m confident you will find something on one of the many lists available.

Listen To An Audio Book

Another relatively obvious tip, but if you enjoy being read to this might help kick start your reading again.

I personally always always fall asleep when listening to an audio book so it takes some time to finish one. Their voices are so soothing and calm it lulls me off into a deep and peaceful sleep.

To Conclude

I hope if you’re reading this you’ve found one of these tips useful! If you have any of your own feel free to leave a comment.

Just remember, you only have to read as much as you want to. There is no correct number of books you should be reading. If you find yourself in a slump, give one these a go. Reading is like exercise for the mind, sometimes its hard to find the motivation.


Daily Reading Recommendation

“A priest I knew once told me “a candle loses nothing by lighting another candle”

– John Marrs

I came across the book whilst scouring Amazon for new books to devour. I read the synopsis and went to buy it when I realise: it’s not coming out for a couple of months. I was upset I wasn’t going to be reading this amazingly original book the next day, but on the otherhand I had something to look forward to.

Marrs eloquently delivers a hardhitting, thought provoking and relevant story in such a unique manner. I would urge anyone to read this book.

I am currently working on a full book review of “The Passengers” so keep an eye out for that if you’re interested.

Signed,

Jen Writes x

Book Recommendations · reading · writing

You Are What You Read: Top Five Most Important Books You Should Read Next

I think it is fair to say that I am a voracious reader. I also think it is unfair to say this has always been the case. I remember loving books at a young age. I would read them over and over again until the spines were so cracked you could barely make out the title; though I loved them anyway. However, that love began to feel more like a hindrance than a passion. When secondary school came around I started to read less and less, until eventually I stopped all together until a few years later.

I thought I would list my top 5 most important books that have shaped and influenced my life as well as my reading preferences. Maybe your next favourite book is on my list too!

5) Cirque du Freak by Darren Shan

Meet Darren. He’s sixteen going on immortal.

– Darren Shan

The reason this young adult/horror/vampire literature book is on my top 5 is a good one! This book was my first taste of the horror genre of which would lead to my love of another author featured on this list. In retrospect, this novel was the first step towards more serious stories aimed at an older audience.

During my time at secondary school, we attended a tutor group everyday for 40 minutes. Once a week we participated in an initiative called DEAR time: Drop Everything And Read time; in which we were expected to read a book for the entire lesson in silence. On a day like any other, I realise I had forgot to pack a book that morning. Fortunately, one of the lovely teaching assistants had a box full of books and there it was, amongst the dusty and mostly ripped books laid Cirque Du Freak. The title immediately caught my interest I grabbed it and got stuck in.

I was so enthralled by the end of the 40 minutes, I plucked up the courage to ask the TA if I could borrow the book and give it back once I had finished. All day I felt the book calling me. I tried to read it during my science lesson but was swiftly told to put it away. Finally when the end of the day came I returned to the magical world of vampires and consumed its words with such haste, I finished it within hours of arriving home.

The next day I returned the book and went straight to the library to check out the next book in the series. This was the first book that really inspired me to write a story of my own. I called it “The Nightwalkers”. I bought a notebook and from this my first ever attempt at novel writing came to be.

Thank you Darren Shan, the Vampires Assistant.

4) The Boy In The Striped Pyjamas by John Boyne

“Bruno: We’re not supposed to be friends, you and me. We’re meant to be enemies. Did you know that? ”

– John Boyne

This is another pivotal book of which shaped who I am and the type of books I am attracted to. I had an amazing primary school teacher in year 6 who believed we were old enough to read and understand the complex themes within this book. My early memories of this story take me back to sitting on the carpet with my peers intently listening to the characters developing and the story unfolding before our eyes. Despite our young age, I remember the emotions the story evoked from not only myself but my peers. We wrote stories from the perspective of the main characters, which helped form my understanding of empathy and the idea that everybody experiences the same event differently.

I re-read it a few years later and found I was reading a completely new book. My life experiences had changed how I interpreted it, the characters felt more real than they did the first time and my knowledge of Nazi Germany made the story even more harrowing.

This is a definite must read for anybody who loves historical fiction.

3) Kill The Father by Sandrone Dazieri

“Have you ever heard of the boy in the silo?”

– Sandrone Dazieri

I feel like I’m repeating myself with every book, but this is another pivotal novel in my reading career. It rejuvenated my passion for reading fiction. I had been reading so many academic texts, articles and books I had lost the desire to get lost in a fictional characters life.

I was a second year in Brighton, waiting for a delayed train back home. My phone was dead and the journey was long and cold. By chance, I walk into a small WHSmith to grab a drink when I spot a display of books on sale. I remember feeling a dusty switch flicking in my head and a light began shining inside me. It was a feeling of comfortable familiarity. I read the back of a few books until I came across this one. The plot was so interesting I felt my irritation at the thirty minute wait transform into a sense of gratitude. I was grateful I had thirty extra minutes to absorb this new story.

The feeling of dread caused by delayed trains and miserable weather dissipated as I got lost amongst its pages. The writing is beautiful, the characters are scary real and the story is original. Overall, an excellent, emotive and satisfying read.

2) IT by Stephen King

“Eddie discovered one of his childhood’s great truths. Grownups are the real monsters, he thought.”

– Stephen King

It wouldn’t be a top 5 books without a bit of the King. Luckily for me, I grew up around the biggest Stephen King fan. My grandad must have owned all of King’s classic books when I was a kid; I would often wander in his room to see him reading one by the light of a single lamp. Although I love many of King’s novels, I have a special place for IT. I first read this mammoth of a novel as a young teenager and watched the TV mini-series soon after. There is something about being scared witless by his words that is so entertaining… Captivating even. Words on a page can evoke true fear, but that fear is remedied by the satisfying underlying themes present in this story.

My grandad also had a tattoo of a clown on his right shoulder blade holding a shiny knife. He always joked it was Pennywise the Dancing Clown. It made the story feel even more real.

Everyone needs to read this book at least once.

1) Sleepers by Lorenzo Carcaterra

“As we grew older, the violence around us intensified. The moment a boy’s age hit double digits, he was no longer a mere nuisance to the older neighbourhood kids: he was a potential threat.”

– Lorenzo Carcaterra

This is the single most important book on my list, for multiple reasons. My mum had two copies of this book and she noticed I was reading the same old young adult books over and over. Although this book contains distressing and graphic language, she felt I was old enough to appreciate its contents. I must have been eleven or twelve the first time I read it and I have lost count how many times I have re-read it since.

Firstly, Carcaterra claims this book is based on real events he experienced as a young boy. I have never doubted his sincerity although it has been widely contested but I am not going to go into the politics surrounding this amazing book. My personal opinion is that he is being honest.

Secondly, the author beautifully shows what life was like in 1960’s New York, I felt as though I was walking along Hells Kitchen’s streets as I read every word. The story telling is outstanding.

Thirdly, this book changed my life. It changed who I am and I truly believe the heartbreaking stories of four childhood friends helped shape my emotional intelligence. Carcaterra retold his story with such elegance, such vivid detail and with pain lurking in and amongst its pages it forced me to face the fact that the world can be a horrible place. It taught me to understand the evil in the world; but more importantly it showed me you don’t have to succumb to the demons living amongst us.

My Beloved Copy

 

As you can see, this book has been through a lot. It has definitely been well read but it has sadly sustained tearing on the spine and front cover over the years. This is partly due to water damage – I brought this book with me to University and managed to spill a bottle of water over it. However, most of the damage is due to its age. This copy once belonged to my mum, she bought it back in 1996; the year it was published but more curiously… The year I was born. Make of this what you will!

In Conclusion…

I hope if anyone is indeed reading this, you have enjoyed my little list! I enjoyed taking a look into my past and showing my appreciation for these momentous books. Each story takes me back to the first time I read them and I am pleased to have the opportunity to share them with anyone who stumbles upon my blog.

Feel free to comment your most important reads!

Signed,

Jen x

Blog · Book Recommendations · New Blogger

Jen Had A Dream She Was A YouTuber: Blogging Is A Better Fit

Creativity serves us all

Words are a lens to focus one’s mind.

— Ayn Rand

I have started this blog primarily to keep myself accountable in terms of my writing. I am currently around a quarter of the way through my first ever novel. I started off strong and was writing around 2000 words per day, though I soon burned out and my word-baby has been left unopened for a couple of months.

I believe if you have a genuine passion for something, you should strive to achieve it but we almost always forget that we need to crawl before we can complete the marathon that is novel-writing. This blog is my first baby-step. Although I have already started my book, that alone is not enough momentum to keep it hurtling towards the finish line.

I plan to upload snippets of my book as I continue this journey as well as any free-writing I do. I have just joined an online writing class in which we are required to submit pieces of creative work; those will also be making an appearance in the near future. I am so excited to have finally taken the plunge and started this blog. I created my first writing blog when I was fourteen after seeing a school peer enjoying fashion blogging so much. I was discouraged at the time and deactivated the website.

I have promised myself, even if my mother was the only one who ever reads this; I’m glad I have a space to share my work as well as improving my writing.

Daily Reading Recommendation

“…It’s better to ask for the Earth than to take it”

-J.B. Priestley

Although this is not a book, I believe a lot can be taken from a script. I have loved this play for many years. I first read it in when I was 12 years old as my mum wanted me to be prepared for my English GCSE’s which began the year after. Unfortunately I never got the chance to study An Inspector Calls at GCSE level, but that didn’t stop me from reading the play again and again.

The moral message of this play is hard-hitting and still relevant to this day. I would recommend this play to anyone and everyone.

Stay tuned for further posts!

Signed,

Jen x