Wednesday, 18 July 2018

On Work, Unhappiness, and Big Dreams

I feel stuck. Can I tell you a story?

At some point last year, I decided to take the pressure off in regards to blogging. For roughly a decade before that, I'd been pushing myself to get all manner of 'content' out there regularly, including videos which took entire days to film and edit, and blog posts that took hours too. There wasn't much reward - I was making a bit of money, but not enough to survive, so I had to get a job. It ended up being a full-on, stressful job, and soon enough I was officially burned out. Work sucked all of the joy and creativity out of me. I was, and still am, a cog in a big machine. When I come home, it's not even that I'm exhausted, although I often am, but that the creative juices have simply gone.

And for a fundamentally creative person, it's devastating. I rarely feel inspired to blog. I've completely lost interest in YouTube. I prefer my personal Instagram over my blog Instagram, where I often go months without posting. Before, these things were my life. And I desperately wish they still were, but the love has disappeared.

I think it's still in me somewhere, or I hope so, anyway. I want it back. But it doesn't help that my domain provider completely messed up my domain name when I renewed it a few months ago, meaning that you won't necessarily get to my blog when you type in my URL - it's hit and miss. And I can no longer link directly to certain blog posts, just my generic, which means if I want to point someone to an old blog post, I can't. My views have tanked but they can't seem to fix the issue. They've literally broken my blog, so even though I want to come back, there isn't a lot of point as it's pretty unusable. Honestly, if you're reading this, it's a miracle.

And I am very unhappy in my job at the moment. I only work four days a week, yet they are long shifts, mentally exhausting, physically laborious and painful, and... it's just not what I enjoy. It's not me. I've been close to quitting many times, and people online and in books are always like, quit the job you hate! Life's too short! But I can't afford to just quit my job when there aren't any others around. I want to chase my dream, but I can't put the finances of my future in jeopardy. If I dropped even one shift at work (if they let me) I wouldn't be earning enough, so that's not a possibility either.

For a while, work made me question if I even wanted to work in publishing/journalism anymore, despite having wanted that for years and years. I felt no joy for it anymore. I think it's slowly coming back to me, as well as the dream to finish a novel and become a published writer which is SO strong and SO big and it's a need, not a want. But I just can't seem to do that while working this job which I've come to hate.

I know most published authors have a full-time job as well as writing, but at the moment, I can't do it. My job is one you end up taking home with you. Even when I'm not there, I might as well be. There's no space for me to be me, whether I'm at work or at home.

So, readers, we come back to what I said before: I feel stuck. I am stuck. And I am well aware that this is a first world problem to have. At least I have a job. At least I have some sort of income. But it's having such a negative impact on not just my mental health but also my physical health (I was there for three months before I had to be referred to physio for my knees, having been perfectly physically healthy before).

Question, universe: why wasn't I born into a rich family, damn it?

In an ideal world, I would be back to putting all my time and effort into blogging, vlogging, freelancing, writing, and all that jazz. It would be making me just enough money to live on. I would be handing in my resignation right now (something I genuinely dream about). I'd be working on my new WIP, and seeing if I could take it further. I would be so much happier.

So, reader, what should I do?

Have you been in this situation? If you have any advice, I'd love to hear it. I miss you!

Wednesday, 13 June 2018

An 'Old English Company' Haul

One of my favourite things to do is decorate. I love interior design and always have (although if you asked me to design your house, I don't think I could. Sims, though? Hell ya.) My room has been through a few phases over the years: pink and purple, then just purple, then completely mismatched and crap and annoying, then covered in High School Musical and Harry Potter posters simultaneously... and now? Just how I like it. So when Old English Company got in touch, I was like hello beautiful shop of my soul, where have you been all my life? LOOK AT THE PRETTIES.

'Good Morning My Love' coaster: £2.95 | 'You Are My Sunshine' card: 50p (usually £2.50) | 'I Like You A Lot' card: £2.95 | 'Glad We're A Thing' card: £1.75 | 'Hello' card: 50p (usually £2.50)

Welcome to my beside table. I cannot go to bed without my phone, a book, and a drink. Unfortunately, this last one doesn't quite go with the fact that the table itself is white and that its owner is accident-prone. I don't know how long that coaster will last in the presence of moi, but it's very cute.

I've got two drawers which you can't see, and the top one is filled with greetings cards for all occasions, from birthdays and Christmas to cards that simply say I'm proud of you or that I appreciate you. These ones are the perfect addition to my collection. Beautiful typography? Check. Foil? Check. Smidgen of my favourite colour, which I'm sure you can't possibly guess...? Check.

I bloody love a good handwritten letter or card. I still have a box under my bed of letters that I've received from friends over the years, going right back to 2008... there's some questionable stuff in there, let's just leave it at that.

ANYWAY. I also really like unusual wrapping paper, and these three are so me. Can you tell I like showing my appreciation for people? *hoards all the greetings cards*

Gift wrap: £1.75 each | New York print: £21 | Shakespeare print: £13.95

Finally, I picked two art prints, another of my obsessions. The first is New York made up of its place names in beautiful gold foil. I chose this one (there were other locations) in anticipation of my trip in October, which has been a long time coming. The second is a Shakespeare quote: 'I like this place and willingly could waste my time in it.' For years I wasn't happy with my room, but I'm finally there.

Thank you so much to Old English Company for letting me loose in your wonderful store and I have absolutely no doubt that I will be returning as a customer at some point. The quality is great, the prices are reasonable, they ship worldwide, not to mention their massive range of pretty things. If you like Oliver Bonas or Sighh Designs, this may well be your kind of thing too. ❤

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Wednesday, 6 June 2018

A Health Update

Just over two years ago I raised £4,500 to do my A Levels at an online school, InterHigh. Some of you might be wondering... why? And some of you will know exactly what I'm talking about: my chronic anxiety and panic disorder, which forced me to leave the mainstream education environment at a crucial time. My old school had funded a place for me at InterHigh to do my IGCSEs, but once they were over, that was it - if I wanted to continue and work towards my A Levels, I'd have to pay. And I did. Came out of it in August 2017 with a string of As and a B.

I used to talk about it a lot, and since raising that money I kind of quietened down because people don't like talking about money or mental health. And because at that point I had to combine both, I started getting a lot of hate messages - a lot of support, too, but the hate was overwhelming. In addition to that, I'd started becoming what I can only describe as typecast. Whenever anyone wanted something from me, it was to do with mental health, and I wasn't given the opportunity to do much else. I have always done what I can to raise awareness of mental illness and I'll continue to do so, but no one wants to be known solely for their illness.

For people who've joined me in the last two years, here's a list of blog posts about the whole thing in chronological order if you feel like hearing the story from the beginning. I can't bear to re-read these blog posts because they're so personal, but they're there if you want them.

My Experiences with Anxiety and Panic Attacks (16th June 2013)
Where I open up about my illness for the first time. Trigger warning: it's very long and very detailed, and was written when I was at my worst.

14 Things You Shouldn't Say to Someone with a Mental Illness (15th July 2015)
Someone annoyed me so I wrote a blog post. I am basically Taylor Swift.

EVENT REPORT: YALC 2015 (20th July 2015)
I went to Comic Con and it was a sign of progress.

How I Deal with Anxiety and Panic Attacks (30th July 2015)
Two years after I went public with my mental health, I had a few strategies up my sleeve. I was still struggling, but things were ever so slightly better.

I Need Your Help (13th August 2015)
In which I began my A Level fundraising campaign which went on to be covered in the Independent, the MailOnline, MTV, Sky News, and many more far-flung unexpected places.

WE DID IT! (22nd August 2015)
One week and a day after the campaign launched, we hit our goal, and a few weeks later I started my A Levels at InterHigh.

Some Thoughts on Anxiety and Progress (30th August 2016)
I was making a lot of progress, and I was halfway through my A Levels.

Trying Something New, Overcoming Hurdles, and Hanging Out With YOU! (11th January 2017)
The start of a life-changing year...

So, assuming you now know what happened: here's a long-overdue update! I'm nervous about posting this because it's personal and when you don't talk about something for a while, people forget, and when you do finally talk about it, it's like you're talking about it for the first time all over again. So if you didn't know: surprise, I was ill, I still am, hi, hello.

The beginning of 2016 was bad for me. I wasn't happy, to put it lightly. Everything was hard, and it wasn't just my usual anxiety and panic attacks - it was even worse than it had been in the beginning, and we thought that was bad. Literally no one knows how bad it got in those first few months of 2016 because I haven't discussed it and I'm not going to - all you need to know is I decided to try the one thing left that I hadn't tried: Advanced Hypnotherapy.

On 29th March I had my free initial consultation with my parents and the hypnotherapist. It was pitch black, freezing cold, and in an old building tucked down a narrow, winding cobbled side-street. It felt weirdly secretive, as if it was the old days and I was the sickly child of some royal who needed to keep me away from the public eye. (Literally no one treated me like this, I'm just dramatic. Let me live.) It was lovely inside, though: a calm environment where we discussed my struggles and what I wanted to get out of hypnotherapy. He explained how it worked, how many sessions people usually had, how much it would cost (£280 or thereabouts, I believe). I told him everything I'd tried previously: online counselling, offline counselling, psychotherapy, online CBT, offline CBT, herbal medication, exposure therapy...

And he said he could help. I was sceptical. I'd heard of Advanced Hypnotherapy before, something which hadn't worked on my mum (spiders) but had worked on my aunt (smoking). This guy specialised in anxiety, though, and had great reviews. He too had struggled with anxiety, agoraphobia, depression, and suicidal thoughts - and come out the other side, having made in-depth studies into hypnotherapy and promptly used it on himself. No matter how sceptical I was at first, I also felt relieved. Here was someone saying that they could help me, that they had helped others. I was more than happy to give it a try - after all, what could be the harm? Everything's worth a try, especially when your illness is preventing you from going to school, getting a job, even hanging out with friends or doing anything remotely spontaneous. My life had been on pause for a few years.

My first session was on 12th April. It's a long time ago so forgive me for the hazy memory, but if I remember rightly, this appointment consisted of answering questions, telling the hypnotherapist what I wanted to be able to do ('to have a life' were my exact words) and him 'putting me under'. A big part of my chronic anxiety is the fear of losing control, so the idea of being 'hypnotised' kind of freaked me out initially. Would he click his fingers and I'd immediately be in some sort of coma? Would I have any control over what I was saying while I was under? What if I said anything embarrassing? What if I couldn't wake up? He let me express my concerns and calmly got rid of all of them. He reassured me that I would be completely aware of everything, just relaxed. I'd still have a filter. 'Waking up' would be simple because I wouldn't be asleep - I'd simply have my eyes shut. A bit like daydreaming.

And - not gonna lie, I'm pretty proud of this - he said that I was one of the easiest people he's ever hypnotised, if not the easiest. His process of hypnotism consisted of asking me to close my eyes and get comfy, and then he would start talking, taking me to an imaginary place in order to relax me before getting into the deeper stuff. But I'd be gone before he'd even taken me to that imaginary place. We put it down to how much I read, which he said is a form of self-hypnotism. He's right, if you think about it - as soon as you turn that first page, you're in an imaginary world, and you're aware of everything but you're mostly in this fictitious universe. Going under Advanced Hypnotherapy was as painless as reading a good book.

At the same time, he was recording the audio of the session. My homework was to put it on my phone and listen to it twice a day for a couple of weeks, basically being hypnotised by him but from the comfort of my own home.

My next session was on 10th May and it was my last. It was a pretty quick process. I can't remember as much from this one, but he asked me to tell him the first three situations that came to mind when I thought about my anxiety, and tell him what I could see. Then I had to act upon these situations in my mind.

I had my AS English Literature exam the next morning, and we had a little bonding sesh over Shakespeare, which was nice. Private healthcare, kids. Most likely my first and last.

The next day, I threw up on my way to my exam. Anxiety hadn't magically gone overnight, then. And when I was invited to be part of Instagram's #MyStoryUK campaign a month later... I was excited, just like I told you guys, but what I didn't tell you was that I felt sick with anxiety. Again. As usual.

But as the months passed, people said that I seemed different. They couldn't quite put their fingers on it, but something had changed. I was still anxious, but come July I was applying for jobs and doing interviews, when only a few months earlier I couldn't see myself ever managing to have a job. How could I, when I struggled to talk to people or even leave the house? As well as that, I started going to dinner with family members and friends. In October, I began driving lessons. I was asking to go to more places, I started volunteering for a local deaf charity, I met up with friends more, I got an A in that exam, and in December I started a new job which required me to spend 9 hours at a time in a place which had previously been a main trigger for my panic attacks. I gradually became more assertive, I passed my theory test and then my practical, I started going to London two or three times a month for events or to meet online friends. I went to concerts, I went to more job interviews, I chaired bookshop events with authors in front of an audience, I went to Paris, I got a new job, I met my boyfriend, I interned for a week at a publishing house in London...

Spontaneity became my middle name. I wasn't cured, but my life was no longer on pause. I'd specifically said to my hypnotherapist, half joking, that I wanted 'a life' - and I finally had it.

Like I've said before, though, 'anxiety changes, and so do you.' It shifts. In July 2017, I started at the place I work now, and nearly every morning for the first couple of months I would have to push through a panic attack that would go on for an hour or two. A few years ago, though, I couldn't work through it - that's why I had to drop out of school. And now I can. But the thing is, I don't need to nearly as often as before.

Relapses are always going to happen, and I'm not sure my anxiety will ever go completely. I still have a lot of struggles, and who knows what's around the corner? But I've changed a lot since my Advanced Hypnotherapy, and... I'm actually living.

2017 was the best year of my life. 2018 isn't looking too shabby either. Here's to many more good ones. ❤

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Wednesday, 30 May 2018

WONDER WOMEN: Louise Pentland on Business, Motherhood, and Being 'Wilde'

Wonder Women is a series in which I interview the women who inspire me the most. These women are making waves in their careers and changing the world one step at a time - but most importantly, they're doing it for themselves.

I recently got the chance to interview Louise Pentland, who you may also know as Sprinkle of Glitter: author, blogger, YouTuber, businesswoman, UN global ambassador, fashion designer, mum - not necessarily in that order. Here she talks everything from business and motherhood to dodgy 80's sweatshirts and secret snogs in cupboards...

Hi Louise! As a fellow blogger/vlogger type person I know every day can be wildly different, but can you take us through a typical day?

Ahaha, I'd love to but like you noted, it's different every day, especially when you throw two young children into the mix! The things that remain constant though are - I start work every day at 7am. Liam gets up at 6.30am with the baby and I sit in bed and write/plan/respond to emails until 8am when he goes to work. This is always my most productive hour because I'm most awake and fresh for it.

Pearl is on a 4 hour feeding schedule so I try to do all my errands before 11am when I feed her again. She'll nap usually 12-3 so I have another 2-3 hours to write/edit/film and then it's time for the school run to collect Darcy and be a full Mum until they are both settled and asleep which is generally by 8pm. I always aim to do a lot of work in the evenings but by then I'm shattered and don't have a lot of creative energy. Also, I have a lovely boyfriend who I like hanging out with. Usually we have a hot tub (yes, I'm very swish now and have a full on hot tub in my garden which I never tire talking of!) and chat about our days or watch a film.

If we don't have Darcy (I share custody with her Dad), then we put Pearl in her pram all snuggled up and we go for a little late night walk round our village which is really nice. Currently my working schedule is incredibly frustrating. I only have 3-4 good hours of work time and the rest is snatched moments here or there throughout the day. So, we hired a nanny who starts in June, 3 days a week! Ask me this question next month and hopefully I'll have a better answer for you!!

How did you get to where you are now? 

Persistence, determination and a positive attitude. I believe you have to take every opportunity that comes your way and have a grateful heart when they do. There are LOADS of days where I just cannot be bothered and would like to have a Netflix afternoon but if you want to be successful you mustn't. You have to dig deep and carry on. I love it.

Was there ever a time when you weren't sure you could get to where you wanted to be? Have you faced any hurdles along the way, and how did you overcome them? 

Of course. I've had lots of doubtful moments over the years and the best thing to do is keep going until the worries pass. KBO!

In Wilde Like Me, Robin has a support network of awesome and empowering women. What are a couple of your favourite moments from the book based on this?

The Easter Bonnet scene from Wilde Like Me will forever be my favourite. Firstly, where Lacey helps Robin make it, and then secondly, where Gillian and Finola support Robin in her interaction with meanie Val. Female friendships are some of the best and most supportive relationships women can have, and I'm so glad the book celebrates them.

Similarly, in real life, who inspires you?

I'm inspired by so many people, so often. I think my overarching inspiration though is my beautiful Mother who sadly died when I was Lyla's age, but the life she lived was incredible. I aspire to be like her in every way. Except for the dodgy 80's sweatshirts.

If you could steal a character from another book and pop them into Robin's world, who would it be and why?

A bit 'out there' but I'd like to wait until the book has progressed and Lyla is in her early teens and introduce her to Margaret Dashwood from Sense and Sensibility. I think they'd have a whale of a time!

Without giving anything away, what can we expect from Wilde About The Girl?

My God I'm so excited for Wilde About The Girl. It's my best kept secret this year because I've been dying to spill all the details but I won't spoil it for you (I think my publishing team would scrap me if I did!). I can tell you though that each character progresses on their personal journey, we have life and death (woah), romance where you'd least expect it, a secret snog in a cupboard and a bunch of new characters to love or hate! It. Is. Juicy.

Click here to buy Wilde Like Me by Louise Pentland, out now in paperback.

Monday, 19 March 2018

24 Hours in Edinburgh

On my list of 2018 goals, I said I wanted to return to Paris, as well as to see Edinburgh, Brighton, New York and Amsterdam for the first time. Paris and New York have been booked (I KNOW) and I went to Brighton in mid-February. Amsterdam... who knows when that'll happen. And Edinburgh happened this week!

We only went for one night, but that's alright - it was nice to get away from real life for a little while, and it means we have an excuse to come back. After a four-and-a-half hour train journey (which was fine, because we stocked up on Pringles, chocolate, biscuits and sandwiches like some kind of Enid Blyton novel) we got to the hotel at half two, and went straight out to Arthur's Seat. The weather wasn't amazing but the view was still incredible and I think we both made up for all the (glorious) crap we'd eaten. 76 floors, my phone tells me. 22,000 steps. 9 miles. It's all good in the hood.

In the short time that we were there, we...

  • Climbed 822 feet.
  • Went to Primark. Obviously.
  • Which is good because I slipped over in some mud and spent 40 minutes previous to that looking like I'd had a rather aggressive brown accident.
  • Alex took us off the path as a 'shortcut'. Meanwhile I was starting to think we would have to feast on tiny lost children for survival, but then I remembered I'm vegetarian so would just have to eat grass and non-existent berries, and I said that Alex might have to eat me but we decided he wouldn't. So that's nice.

  • Went back to the hotel so I could stop looking like I'd had an accident (a shitcident, if you will.)
  • Walked another couple of miles even though our legs were burning because we needed Gourmet Burger Kitchen and we couldn't be bothered to work out buses. Millennial, or making the most of the short time we had for sightseeing? You decide.
  • Visited Edinburgh Castle and their weirdly massive gift shop where I bought a tacky magnet because needs must.
  • Made the mutual decision that we were definitely 'abroad' despite not crossing a sea.

 See you again, Edinburgh. ❤

Saturday, 20 January 2018

My Goals for 2018

A couple of readers asked what my goals were for 2018, and everyone knows I love a good old list, especially during the first weeks of a new year. They're like the blank pages of a new notebook: full of possibilities, dauntingly empty, and weirdly satisfying...

My goals for 2017 weren't written down - or if they were, I can't find them. But I know that I made a hell of a dent in my bucket list last year, and I crossed off some of the biggies including trips to the Shard, the London Eye, and even Paris! Readers of my first ever blog will know that I've always wanted to go there. The Eiffel Tower was even my blog's background at one point...

My main goal for 2018 is for it to be as good or even better than 2017. But I guess for the sake of this blog post I'll be slightly less vague...

1. Go to Paris again. You should know me by now: Paris will always be my #1 - it's not coming off the list! The original plan was to stay in the same apartment again but the AirBnB host has moved, so it's no longer available. I FELL IN LOVE WITH THAT APARTMENT. Also, I don't like change. Can you tell?

2. This time I'm hoping to fit in Disneyland. I've never been to any of them. It's very sad.

3. I caught the travel bug, so let's add Edinburgh, Brighton, New York, Amsterdam, and wherever else I end up through friends with similarly long lists of places to go.

4. I need to learn to drive on motorways. I wrote about the time I ended up on one by accident, right? And that was my first time. On my own. In an unfamiliar place with like 2% battery left on my phone. It properly put me off but I need to sort it out. If anyone has any tips on motorway anxiety, throw them at me PLEASE.

5. Finish a novel. Not necessarily the one I already have going, because I have a few fresh ideas that I'd like to get rolling... but work has taken over my life so, you know, I'll write like one word and that'll be it.

6. BUDGET. Oh my god. I already do, but let's just say I give myself a cut of my salary every month to live on, and just over two thirds of it goes on petrol, which leaves me with basically nothing left for anything else like my phone bill or that necessity called food. I need to sort myself out or get a pay rise. The former option seems more achievable.

7. Keep this blog going. You might've seen this blog post letting you all know that I'm slowing down on the blogging front - and I have - but I don't want it to end completely. No, I don't tweet a lot anymore. No, I don't have a blog post up every single week. No, my Instagram isn't updated daily like it used to be. But I am still here, and I'd like to continue to be. (Is it just me or does that sound way darker than I meant it to?)

8. Get a set of keys to my own house. Because I don't have any, and I live here. And I have lived here for an entire decade... interestingly I have only been locked out a couple of times during that period. *shrug*

9. Learn to cook a few more meals, because seriously, I am twenty-one years of age next year and my main dish is still pasta.

What are your goals for 2018?

Saturday, 13 January 2018

My Week-Long Internship at Little Tiger Group

No rest for the wicked, I came back from Paris (read about that here!) and immediately began my week-long internship at Little Tiger Group in London. It comprises of four imprints: Little Tiger, Stripes, Caterpillar and 360 Degrees. I was travelling to and from London every day, and by the end of it I was completely knackered, with a new hatred of public transport but also a fun and well-rounded week of publishing experience under my belt.

On Monday, I got to the office for 10am and read through all the information I would need, looking over the safety paperwork and getting the log-in details for various things. I had a few emails from Beth waiting in my inbox, one of which was a list of Little Tiger children's books which had been nominated for a prize and needed mailing to the judges. I've heard a few publishing interns (and publishing people themselves) say that they find mailings really tedious, but I actually quite enjoyed it. I'm so used to being on the receiving end of them that it was nice to be the one putting the books into envelopes and popping their address labels on.

I also had to schedule some tweets for the Little Tiger account, promoting an exhibition:

I learned how to use BooksoniX, which is a database used to collate all the information you could possibly need about a book. Information is pulled from BooksoniX to do everything from creating a product page on a retailer's website like Waterstones, to creating press releases, to simply providing the best quality image of a book's jacket.

On Tuesday, I was pulling together press coverage of Little Tiger Group books and adding it all to a spreadsheet before filing it away. Fun fact: some of my reviews were already on there, and if you're a book blogger who's covered one of their books, you probably are too! When I wrote a press release later in the week, the press tracker was really handy for grabbing quotes from others.

Then I went with Charlie and Beth to a meeting with someone from a well-known books website and watched as they expertly pitched books for coverage. After we got back to the office, I started hunting for Halloween-themed props for an Instagram photo I needed to take for the Stripes account, and was promptly sent out with a fiver for a pumpkin. On Halloween. I've been somewhat involved in bits and pieces of this industry for a few years but nothing has ever made me feel more publish-y than rushing around west London looking for the perfect pumpkin for one social media photo. To add to the drama, I was half-relying on Google Maps with just 1% of phone battery. Amber Kirk-Ford: living life on the edge since 1998.

I had Wednesday off for a birthday surprise my parents had arranged ages ago (which funnily enough ended up being in London anyway) but was back at 10am sharp on Thursday morning. This wasn't at the office but a cafe in Victoria for a meeting. Again, Charlie and Beth (this time joined by Lauren, the brand director) pitched their books and their authors over coffees and croissants. Irrelevant but quite funny: on my way there, I stopped to check Google Maps and looked up to see that I was right outside the doors of one of the head offices for where I actually work (you know, my actual job, not the dream job I got to have for the week...) The place haunts me, clearly.

When we got back and I'd had lunch, I wrote the copy for an autumnal competition to go live on the Little Tiger blog, which involved me Googling random facts about hedgehogs; someone has to think of competition questions, guys, and this time it was moi. After that was the comms meeting, which is a long communications meeting that happens every so often where departments get together and update each other on where they are with certain books and what's happening going forward. It lasted a few hours and it was fascinating to hear about coverage highlights (including blogs, Twitter chats, Instagrams, vlogs), their stats, and how they'd impacted sales.

And then it was Friday, my last day. And the worst day for trains, it seemed, with the one I was on deciding to terminate with no replacement. Yay!... When I eventually got into the office, I added some more coverage to the press tracker and wrote an entire press release for We Are Family by Patricia Hegarty and Ryan Wheatcroft. I also got to create the #UKYAHomeBook photo challenge run by the Stripes Instagram account which was so much fun! I came up with each day's prompt and then wrote a design brief to be sent to the arty people who make pretty things. It's probably my favourite thing that I worked on during the week. Look, das meeeeeee.

I did lots of other things too, and I'm kicking myself for not writing a quick recap every evening to make this blog post easier to write, but here's the bulk of it at least. It was such an interesting time and I'm so grateful to the team at Little Tiger for welcoming me into their office for the week. As well as the above, I got to hear about some great looking 2018 titles, and the ones I'm most excited for at the moment are: Girl Thursday by Joanna Nadin (described as being along the same lines as Louise Rennison), The Eye of the North by Sinead O'Hart, and How to Write a Love Story by Katy Cannon.

Click here to follow @LittleTigerUK on Twitter.

Saturday, 6 January 2018

It Only Happens in the Movies by Holly Bourne

Title: It Only Happens in the Movies
Author: Holly Bourne
Published by: Usborne
Publication date: 1st October 2017
Pages: 416
Genres: Young Adult/Contemporary/Romance
Format: Paperback
Source: Gift.

Audrey is over romance. Since her parents' relationship imploded her mother's been catatonic, so she takes a cinema job to get out of the house. But there she meets wannabe film-maker Harry. Nobody expects Audrey and Harry to fall in love as hard and fast as they do. But that doesn't mean things are easy. Because real love isn't like the movies...

The greatest love story ever told doesn't feature kissing in the snow or racing to airports. It features pain and confusion and hope and wonder and a ban on cheesy clich├ęs. Oh, and zombies... 

It's no secret that I wasn't around much in the latter half of 2017. I took a blogging break, and I failed my Goodreads challenge for the first time ever, reading only 28 books when my goal was 40. It Only Happens in the Movies is a book I've been consistently excited about since its publication was announced, but even though I received it for my birthday at the end of October, it was the end of December by the time I got round to reading it: one of three books I read between then and July... shock horror.

Long-term readers will know that Holly Bourne is one of my favourite writers, though, so if anyone could chisel through my work-induced exhaustion and reading slump, it would be her. I fell in love with Bourne's funny and feminist Spinster Club trilogy, but I was excited to read her first YA standalone since the trilogy's sad end. If you're expecting the same level of British grit and humour neatly wrapped up in feminist discussion and spot-on teenage dialogue as seen in Bourne's other books, you won't be disappointed. Our heroine, Audrey (yes, named after Audrey Hepburn) is doing Media Studies at A Level (ayyy, been there) and focusing her coursework on why love is never like the movies.

The start of most chapters is a short snippet of Audrey's essay. I usually hate additions like this - I want the main plot, not something that's going to slow it down - but it worked well and I found the length was perfect for me. Plus, y'know, her essay was genuinely interesting to me and if it was available in full I would 100% read and love it. The bits we did see made so many brilliant points about romance in film, as well as points about gender, expectation, and society as a whole. Audrey would get along well with Lottie from the Spinster Club.

I also enjoyed Harry and his work-in-progress zombie film, and the fact that his and Audrey's main interests were similar in that they could bounce ideas off each other, but different enough that they had space to do their own thing.

There's a reason she's one of the UK's most popular YA authors... once again, Holly Bourne has smashed it.