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SortedFood Meal Packs App: Review

You may have heard of the SortedFood crew. If you’re reading this review I would certainly expect you have, but I’ll give you a brief summary if not. The SortedFood are a collection of ‘mates’ (friends, if you’re not familiar with the British vernacular) who live in London and cook together on YouTube. They do relays, challenges, create recipes, test products and a plethora of other things. They’ve also become my mother and mine’s latest addiction to watch, whilst there’s been a lull in cooking programs on TV. Their gimmick is often pitting trained chefs (Ben and James, both of which wear chef-whites on the channel to prove they’re professionals) against their ‘normal’ home-cook counterparts (Barry, Jamie and Mike—apron wearers). It’s a fun watch and a great way to find out some of the latest trends in London.

            But this review isn’t about their YouTube videos. This review is about another project they use to, I can only assume, help fund their videos: their apps. For £4.99 a month you can download and use both their Meal Packs app and their Cookbooks app. We wanted to see if their recipes met the expectations from their videos—and if the way they were written was developed enough to work for every person, every time. So, without further tangents, let’s get into it.

Two apps- first month free!

Meal Packs App

IS IT USER FRIENDLY?

The first app I want to talk about is their main one: the main one they consistently try to sell on their channel, that is. The Meal Packs App allows you to choose one pack of meal recipes a week, with one credit received each Friday with your subscription. The app itself is fairly simple to use. You simply click on the packs collections, flick through and click ‘Get’ if you want it. The issue comes up after you get the pack.

            The pack comes with a choice of 2 People or 4 People and you can switch to one or the other as soon as you open the pack, but for some reason everyday I went on it kept switching me back to 2 people. It was only a small gripe however and as soon as I realised what was happening I learned to check to make sure the 4 person recipe was on.

            When you go onto one of the recipes themselves it shows you the ingredients you’re going to need. Very helpful and made creating shopping lists very simple. It does offer to create a shopping list for you but, as it only plans for three/four days and I tend to use other recipes during a week as well, I made my own in my notes app on my phone. I do like that it offers to make the list for you though and I think a lot of people who use their recipes more consistently would find it a time-saver.

            After the ingredients you go straight into the recipes, which I personally wish it wouldn’t do. I learned a long time ago, on my first disaster in the kitchen involving burned-something and uncooked lamb, that you should always read a recipe through first. On the Meal Packs app a voice starts telling you the steps before you manage to mute it and click on the full-recipe. However, I do appreciate that they give you the option to look at the full recipe, which is a positive.

I personally would just wish to see the full-thing first and then go into the individual steps. It helps me to plan around my own kitchen where things are not always to hand and I may need to go find something in another area. Not so much in my latest kitchen, but certainly in previous ones where I kept kitchen tools in different rooms of the house (due to lack of space) I would need to be fully prepared before starting.

            The steps are read out to you by one of the cast or crew, a different one for each recipe. This was a great choice as it allows for hands-free cooking (easier to keep your hands clean—your phone will be the germiest thing in your kitchen, I assure you). If they could somehow make it voice-activated to go onto the next step, that would be another step in a positive direction as I had to wash my hands consistently after pressing a button to the next step (or—I got my Mum, who wasn’t cooking, to do it for me). The best thing about the experience with the app was that the screen never went dark after no use for a while. You may think this is a very strange positive but I have other recipe apps on my phone that consistently do this all the time. It was amazing not to have to stop every few minutes to turn my phone screen back on.

            I had my Dad test one of the recipes to see whether non-cooks/non-technology lovers could use it just as easily. He really enjoyed the experience and was excited to do it again. He even offered to do the recipe again the following week, so thank you for that, Sorted Crew.

            Overall my experience with the app has been positive. With a few tweaks I think it could be even better but I have faith that they’ll consider this as they seem to be open to users’ feedback.

Recipes

And now we move onto, arguably, the most important part of any food-based product: the actual food or recipe. I tested a few different packs over a couple of weeks: vegetarian food, family food, cost-savers etc. and I had some… mixed feelings. Instead of trying to remember them all loosely I thought I’d look at one pack in detail and give my review of the individual dishes within it.

1st PACK I COMPLETED: Hone Your Skills

Lemon Baked Salmon with Watercress and Potato Salad

An Old’un, but a Good’un.
  • Okay, I’m not going to lie, this was not difficult. I can say with complete surety that this is one of the easiest dishes you can make, and the reason for that is I already made it regularly. Salmon in tinfoil has been a staple in my household throughout my entire childhood. 100%, if you want an easy recipe you can use over and over again and requires little skill, do this one.
  • I don’t like potato skin or potato salad, but for anybody who does it was a fairly simple process. Their may-be slightly too much mayonnaise for some people (like my mother) but on your second time cooking this dish, it’s easily adjusted. My only suggestion would be to put some fresh herbs and perhaps some caper juices to loosen the mayonnaise before putting on the potatoes. It was just missing a bit of freshness, but otherwise it was very well seasoned with a nice texture.
  • The timers that were included in the recipe, for this one and all of the others, were a great addition. The reminders to wash hands were also helpful for home-cooks/normals as until you train to be a chef it can be a difficult thing to remember.
  • The cider vinegar added to the package with the salmon was a great addition and provided an amazing dressing for the mache we used in place of watercress. However being accurate about the size of tray to initially use would have been helpful for a new cook like my Dad.


OVERALL RATING FOR RECIPE: 9/10. I’d certainly suggest it for a beginner but would say it’s a little too simple for an experienced home-cook.

My own potatoes, simply boiled and heated through in melted butter, parsley and capers.

CHICKEN MOZZARELLA BAKE WITH WATERCRESS

  • This recipe, unfortunately, I had a lot of issues with.
  • We were given a 15 minute timer for cooking the chicken, which is great, but it came out overcooked and chewy. I have issues with my jaw so it was near on impossible for me to eat.
  • The sauce had too much sugar in it. It may be a difference in the canned tomatoes that were used but, if something like a can of tomatoes may change the outcome, I would somehow give the person a fair warning. It tasted similar to a tomato toffee sauce and didn’t balance with the rest of the dish.
  • The breadcrumbs toasted separately to top the salad were a great textural and tasty addition, however the breadcrumbs on the chicken became soggy underneath the sauce and slid straight off when eating. The mozzarella had no flavour (it was good quality mozzarella, tasty to eat outside of this dish) as there was nothing to balance with it and make it shine.
  • It was easy to cook, which is a great thing, but it took a substantial amount of time for my mother (an experienced ‘normal’ with all the ingredients prepared) to make this ‘easy’ dish. Again there was a lack of tray size and I would argue that, in order to help with pane, you should recommend the use of plates for the breadcrumbs and flour (it’s far easier with a wider surface area).
  • I understood where they were going with this recipe as there is a popular dish very similar to this one but I felt the balance was slightly off. With a richer, deeper tomato sauce served separately to the baked chicken, and some more flavour injected into the chicken it would have been a lot better. I would suggest as well that the breaded chicken should be fried completely, or poached then baked to keep its moistness.

OVERALL RATING FOR RECIPE: 4/10—With a lot of tweaks it may be accomplished dish, but in this guise it’s lacking balance and texture. Even though it’s simple to make it takes a lot longer than it would suggest which, for the people cooking after they get home from work, may be an annoying wait.

POACHED EGGS WITH ROAST POTATO SALAD

  • Okay, where to begin with this one? How not to be insensitive about this recipe? Genuinely—and honestly—it was inedible.
  • Where the chicken dish was overly sweet this was ridiculously sour. If you had no tastebuds you would still say it was too strong. My mother only put in 3tbsp of the recommended 4tbsp of mustard and even that became like a cough syrup. It certainly cleared my sinuses. Granted, again, our mustard may have been stronger than theirs, but how was a hypothetical amateur cook meant to know this? It really should recommend to taste your ingredients and decide for yourself when it comes to flavouring like this. Even still, with a weaker mustard, I would still think it was too much mustard. Perhaps they meant tsps.?
  • The potatoes didn’t take 20-35 minutes to cook. They took 45 minutes. Other recipes I’ve done from both their apps have also had issues with timings. The entire dish took longer than expected, despite how easy it was to make.
  • The vegetables included in the dish were all bitter and the green pepper should have been roasted (it also would have been better if it had been red or yellow pepper). The peas didn’t add enough sweetness to the dish. The main problem was a lack of balance. It was all hitting the acidic receptor on our tongues and missing the rest of them.
  • My mother followed my own easier method for poached eggs but their method does work, as it’s another method I’ve used plenty of times. If you were to follow their recipe I’ve no doubt that it would work.
  • I assume the sauce was meant to be an alternative to a hollandaise, but an easier alternative for a beginner cook. I would suggest to any beginners that you follow the Sorted Recipe for hollandaise instead as it’s a new skill to learn and it’ll taste 1000 times better. They have a hollandaise recipe in one of their other Meal Packs, which my Dad managed to follow and make, despite not even knowing how to separate an egg at first.

OVERALL RATING FOR RECIPE: 1/10. The poached egg method was explained well but everything underneath the sauce became inedible, unless washed.

This was simply one pack and we’ve done more since then. There are certainly issues with many of them, usually circulating around lack of balance or wrong timings but, for a beginner cook, I would recommend using them to gain the skills and encourage you to cook. It gives you the feeling that you’re not alone in the kitchen which, especially for people who live by themselves would be a bonus. An option to cook for one person would be a good step for the app as it certainly is a perfect design for them (and also, from experience, cooking for one is harder than cooking for 2 or 4).

            The aubergine curry was a bit more balance away from being perfect (it was a bit sweet again), and a bit more flavour in the flatbreads would go towards an amazing dish (similar to their flatbreads in their Can’t Be Arsed 2 Cook Cookbook which utilised spices to make the flavour go up a notch). In fact, all the recipes in their Fail-Safe pack seemed to be of a good standard. Unfortunately I haven’t made the cheese souffle yet as we decided to try something different than the eggs we’d already had the day before.

            The Sorted Crew often try the ‘Economy Gastronomy’ method (it’s an amazing cookbook and old show from the UK; one of the first cookbooks I ever used), in that they try to repeat ingredients and use them differently the next day. This works sometimes and certainly cuts down on waste but often, not dissimilar to the book above, the people following aren’t likely to do it. To have watercress as a side two days in a row isn’t too bad, as it’s a side and inconsequential, but to have chicken two days in a row is less likely to make you happy. Also, leftovers from good chicken aren’t likely to be around for the next day and you could buy a smaller packet of chicken easily so you didn’t have to repeat.

            The App itself is easy to use and with some minor tweaks would be perfect for a home cook but, unfortunately, I think all the recipes need some more development. More choice would also be amazing as they all fall into a similar vane of cooking, although I do appreciate the high amount of vegetable-focused recipes as it promotes healthy eating and shows how much flavour you can get from your veg. For experienced home-cooks like my mother the choice is perhaps not as exciting as she’d hoped. For the first week she was excited to try the meal packs but, having been subscribed now for a couple of months, she’s finding it harder to choose what she would actually like to do each week. The Cookbooks have definitely been utilised more in our kitchen.

            Which reminds me, as this has become a very long post, I’ll move the review of the CookBooks App to another post which will be released next week. Thank you for reading and, if you download the app, happy cooking. I hope you enjoy yourselves, as I know I did. If you’ve used the app yourself, what did you think? Did the recipes work out for you?

Poached Eggs and Hollandaise ‘Sorted-Style’ with a few tweaks. Beautiful.
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Why It Takes Me So Long To Edit

Editing. The word I love to say and love to do… as long as it’s for other people. Yes, I’m one of the sad people who actually will sit there helping to proofread or edit other people’s work. Have I ever been paid for it? No. Although I think I’m competent at it, I feel uncomfortable taking money for something that up until now I’ve always offered to do for free. Part of me knows that’s stupid. After all, I’m currently sat in a house with my parents with no income coming in. Money would certainly help me a lot, but my stubborn brain refuses to accept it for something like editing.

            Now, I count myself as very good at editing. Ever since University, when I read an entire book about spelling and grammar (it repeated a lot and was very dull) I’ve been pretty good at utilising it. I also understand flow, syntax, how to write descriptions, how to build characters and when you should ‘tell, rather than show’. I also make sure when helping friends/other writers with editing that I find some positives to tell them so they’re not completely defeated by negatives. I’ve helped edited for University friends (including one who this year, despite having been locked in and isolating since March, has now officially gained her Masters. Woo!); I was in charge of a group of editors who helped edit fanfiction a few years ago and my old computer is riddled with all the stories…

            But then it comes to editing my own work. I hate it. I love editing, hate editing my own stories. But why? If I like to edit others work? I’m the sort of person that will say, when editing others work, that there’s good in everything. If you work on the bad things it will only make the good things even better. But, despite this positivity towards others, I look at my own work and I can only groan. These are characters that I love, people I’ve spent my life with. Some of these characters have been inside my head since I was a child. They’re as much my family as my actual family, and closer to me than a lot of them as well.

            The thing is, because of this, I want the work to be perfect. I want it to be perfect for these people that I love and that makes me brutal when editing. I will tear into my own stories like a hungry wolf, separated from its pack. By the end there’ll only be a few scraps for the vultures to peck at. It sucks. There’s no formal term for it, it just sucks.

            At one point I was so bad that I would delete whole stories from my laptop and throw the paper in the bin, never to see again. Now, I look back at this and curse myself. Even if the writing wasn’t up to standard it was a look into my brain: a brain that has a few good ideas. I could have taken the idea and improved them. Luckily, the majority of my characters remain in my head, but the words disappear.

            My Mother monitors my editing these days. She reads it before and she reads it after, knowing full well my tendency to pounce on any perceived mistake. In the past stories that she’s loved have been destroyed in my attempt to perfect them. I assure her that I only do it because I want the words to match the care I have for these plots and characters but that doesn’t change the fact that she’s right. I destroy my works and leave my initial effort pointless.

            Now, you could ask whether I edit these pieces before posting them on my blog? Well, you’re reading it, what do you think? No, the answer (at least usually, not always) is no. The truth is, this being myself speaking, makes me even less likely to edit. I have no confidence in myself and I hate to speak about myself in the first person (sometimes even breaking into third, accidentally, in real life as well). I read these posts, occasionally, to my parents to make sure it sounds okay. Then I spend a few days on a picture (yes, it takes me that long) and post it.

                        I don’t, however, do that with stories or poetry. They have to hit that perfect mark that my voice never will. You can see one of my story collections on this blog: ‘The Street Crawlers’. Now, you may have believed that I’m currently writing them and that’s why it’s been a long time since I posted another one. Nope. I wrote these stories over a course of a few years (starting at 16/17 years old) and finished them about four years ago. I’ve been editing them ever since. Yes, I have all of the stories to post all ready to go on my laptop. I’m just waiting until I’m happy with them and I never am. It took all my courage to put the ones out I have. I still have plans to put out the rest as, at least in my eyes, the best ones are yet to come but editing… it takes me a long time.

 Editing for me isn’t just a job to do. It’s a battle with myself, with my emotions and a fight to keep sane. It’s a battle ground where my anger and perfection keep charging at my optimism and determination, knocking them down with hit after hit until they fall to the ground and I walk away. It’s tiring but it’s how it is.

I’m not aware of anybody else feeling this way, but I could be wrong. I know nearly all writers struggle with editing their own work. My friend, who I edit often, comes to me because she reaches a limit on being able to do it herself. But as far as I can tell, the problem she has is that she loves her pieces so much that it’s hard to see the bad in all of the love she has for the piece. I’m the opposite. I see all the bad and none of the good. It puts me in a very negative head space.

            So, is anyone else like this? Does anyone else find themselves hating their own work so much that they struggle to edit without seeing red? Or is everyone, like my friend, so in love that they can only see the good? I’d love a sprinkling of your optimism. It would certainly makes things a lot easier (in writing and in life).

Thank you for reading my ranting. This was mostly to serve as an explanation as to why it takes me longer to upload a new post than perhaps I would like. I do plan to upload more Street Crawlers stories, including some of the really good ones (in my personal opinion—actually, that’s a lie, I’m mainly talking about my Mum’s favourite). I have plans for the Books Into Dishes, but again I need time to be able to make them work. Unfortunately, I’m seriously lacking in funds (i.e. I have no funds) which makes it harder to work on dishes that I need money for. I hope that you’re having a good 2021 so far, despite all the misery it seems to be trying to push. Keep writing, keep trying to edit and let’s make 2021 a good year for everyone (characters and real people).

Bonsoir, les ecrivains.

The Literary Onion

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So Can This Be ‘2020: Take Two’ Then?

An excerpt from ‘Comet’s Quiet Christmas’ by… well… me 😛

It’s another year. 2021. After all we’ve been through in 2020 it’s hard to be optimistic about the future. I could count the numbers of bad things that have happened to me personally on more than two hands, but hey, I’m still here. I’m alive which means I still have the potential for good things or, at the very least, a few more stories to tell. So, instead of counting the bad things I want to use my new year to think of all the good things that happened in the past year (no matter how small the list could do). I could joke around, as I usually would and end the list right here but, you know what? I’m not going to do my usual and hide behind jokes. I’m going to be honest with myself. Positivity let’s go:

  1. I successfully opened a business on the 13th March 2020. I did this in a different language, in a different country and I’ve kept on top of looking after the website etc. even after the disheartening lockdown that happened (and continue to happen) since the 17th March.
  2. In the first lockdown of many, I successfully finished a short novel from initial idea to editing. I may have done this for a competition that I then went on to not win but I actually did write again. More importantly for me, I finished it, which is rare on a normal year.
  3. I created a picture book in a month about a Christmas day under Covid regulations (a Christmas Lockdown) and I put myself out there on Amazon. Again, it was unsuccessful as it didn’t sell any copies (I’ll admit I’m still not good at marketing) but I actually did something towards gaining a career as a writer. And, unlike my usual negativity towards my work, I’m actually very proud of the drawing and the writing. It may have cost me a thumb for a month as I got a massive cramp from working so hard on it but it was 100 percent worth it.
  4. I started working on cookbooks and other picture books. Although they won’t be ready/up to my own self-prescribed standards for a couple of years I have started to compile a selection of my own creations. As anyone who saw my limited creations on this site (or it’s predecessor Literary Onion, which I disbanded because of money issues) I have a high amount of creativity and I throw them into my cooking. Hopefully I will be putting more recipes up on this blog this year, but I’m not holding myself to it because… well, hopefully new year, new me will mean something to me this year.
  5. I got through my depression. I’m not a-okay by any means but the fact remains that I don’t feel like staying in bed and staring at the floor anymore, which is a major win. As anyone who follows my Twitter may know (all two of you), I lost my dog a couple months ago. This is a big deal for me. We got her when I was fourteen. I wanted a dog, not just because I loved them, but because I had a fear of them. Kimi helped me to get over that fear and because of her I got myself another dog after I graduated university. On top of how much Kimi had helped me, it also came as a major shock when we lost her. She was well. She wasn’t young but she wasn’t old (according to the vet). She was bleeding, so we took her to get checked out. We gave her medicine and a week later we took her back, as she seemed to get worse. They gave her more meds and again we waited to see if anything would happen. Again, she didn’t get better. She started to become a rag doll, not able to lift her head to drink. We went into another lockdown, shutting down everything but managed to get through to the vet and agree to an emergency appointment. She went in again. The vet drained her and gave us more meds. It turned out we never had to use them. By the next morning, Kimi was gone… And I’m crying as I type that. So that’s fun. What followed was utter misery and, unfortunately, I’m still unable to sleep properly, but I’m starting to accept that she’s no longer here. I’m slowly starting to be able to remember all the good things that happened with her. All I want to tell her, and I am as I let loose in this blog, is thanks, Kimi. Thanks for helping me get over that fear. Thanks for being a good friend and loving me, despite all my faults. You were the best.
  6. Okay, on to more positivity. I started to design the gardens. You’re most likely going to see more of this in the future as it very much suits the theme of my blog. Our new house, which we moved into just before the first lockdown and is the basis for our business has a lot of land. We have woodland we’re slowly climbing our way through and three fields to work on. My plan is to turn each of these fields, slowly, into book-themed gardens. Unfortunately, it won’t be very fast at this rate as we’re lacking majorly in the money department but we’ve started our first two at least (Merlin and Beatrix Potter). I’ve also helped my sister to design her garden in England so, all in all, I’ve got to start doing something I truly love and haven’t been able to do in years (this time on a grander scale so… yay).
  7. I taught my first class on Creative Writing and I actually managed to help a fellow writer. When you’re a person as low on confidence as me all the time, it’s hard to think of yourself as anything but an idiot who doesn’t know what you’re talking about (even if you know you do) so it’s nice to have someone to talk to who does think you understand the things you love. It turns out I’m a smart person. Weird, huh? All joking aside, I’m glad to be able to be of use for someone and to help them. I’ve only managed one class so far, as we went into another lockdown straight after, but hopefully I’ll be teaching a lot more in the future (is this the point I shamelessly plug my courses on my website: www.lestylonoirretreat.com ?).
  8. I successfully helped somebody I loved through a panic attack. As someone who has them a lot it hurt majorly hearing someone I care about experiencing the same but I managed to help them out of their panic and taught them a bit about how to manage it next time. I guess there are benefits to having so many problems with anxiety? Who knew?
  9. Although we lost one dog, we did gain two new troublemakers into the household. Two little rescue kittens called Clio and Trixie (Beatrix for long). They are both little terrors and cuddle buddies. Pepper (our other dog) absolutely adores them and will rush to see them whenever she can. So far they’ve climbed everything they can see, got stuck underneath the stairs (which is blocked off), chosen Dad as their lord and saviour (the man who didn’t want them in the first place) and successfully infiltrated every place they shouldn’t be going. But they did it all with a cute face and purring so we forgave them.
  10. I didn’t want to leave it at nine, so here’s a tenth. I started writing and preparing a project for YouTube. Basically for me this was the year of Percy Jackson. It was the year I decided to read the books and then buy the next series and then buy a shirt and then think obsessively about a Percy Jackson themed plate of food. So, with that in mind (with many things on my mind), I decided to write a Percy Jackson-based audio series and record all of it with my own voice. It will explore a previous generation of Camp Half-Blood campers, before any children of the big three, came around in Percy Jackson. In other Percy Jackson related news, we found a natural archway in our woodland that we have now declared to be the entrance to Camp Half-Blood (picture below). This is the first and only time you’ll probably see a picture of me so… well… enjoy, I guess.
I seriously hiss at any pic of me like a vampire in the sunlight…

Overall, 2020 has been a horrendous year. It’s a year where I feel like I shouldn’t complain because I am still alive, and everyone I care about (bar one, none-Covid related) is alive too, but I still feel like screaming. I opened a business in an industry that was set to self-destruct four days later. Every other industry I have any skills in is crumbling as well and all I can do is watch because, well, I’m in it too. I don’t have any money to help them. I’m barely able to get up in the morning and I can’t sleep at night.

            It’s a year in which everyone, ironically, got a glimpse into how I think on a normal day. A year where everyone had to experience anxiety, misery, low confidence and over-thinking in a way that I wish they never had to. I wouldn’t recommend living like me as a lifestyle choice, just for your own sanity. But I’m glad I could find some positives. It’s highly unusual for me.

            I hope you’re all doing okay. If you actually made it to this sentence then thank you. Thank you for reading my rambles. I can’t promise anything for the future of this blog, especially as money continues to be an issue (it costs to be a blogger, unfortunately, especially one with food etc.) but I really do hope I can get up the courage and the motivation to write again because when I do I’m at my happiest.

            Have a great 2021. Let’s find more positives, shall we?

Dedicated to one of the best friends I’ve ever had, Kimi/Kimbo/Kimboo-a/Dig-Dog
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Poem: Tell Me What You Write!

What do you write?

Don’t skirt around the issue.

Horror? Romance? Fantasy?

What do you write?

Do you write tales of

Daring doo? Where the good

Defeats the bad? Do you write

Of orks and elves and dwarves?

What do you write?

Do you create courtly romances

Or a boundless journey to the east?

Do you marry princes to dames

And damsels or kill them all

Bloodily?

What do you write?

Do you create suspense with kidnapped

Kids or drop anvils and blood

From heights? Do you write of

Villages, of gossip and drama

Or give us insight into our past?

What do you write?

Why not tell us what you write?

What do you have to hide?

What’s your genre, where do you lay

Your metaphorical hat? What is

Your speciality? Your favourite?

Why not tell us what you write?

Do you not write a genre? Do you

Write plays or poetry? Are you

A Wordsmith, Worth all your Words,

Or can you Kubla Kha-not.

Do you place a body in front of us,

Or steal some hidden jewels. Shaken not

Stirred, or a sleuthing saviour?

Tell us what you write.

I write all, don’t you see,

I’ve tried my hands in all. I write

Of villains, heroes, of normalcy,

I write mysteries and poetry.

I show deep horrors in the human

Mind, and run around with joyous

Vigour.

I have princes, royalty, sure and

Damsels and Dans in danger.

I write of stars, and science and

Nature. I teach as I write and I hold

The key to many saviours.

But you ask me what is my favourite one?

I cannot answer to that, because all of

These I bring together and hang

In my metaphorical hat. I do not

Write a genre, per se, for I write for age,

Not for specifics.

I hold the key to apocalypses that don’t

Weigh down so heavily.

You want to know what I write? Well,

I write everything, applicable for

Everyone.

I’m a children’s writer, you see,

And children’s writers have all the fun!

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Why You Should Write FanFiction

Do you know which FanFiction line is for what show/book?

Fanfiction. You may have heard of it, you may have even partaken in it, or (just as likely) you have no idea what it is. Fanfiction is exactly as it sounds—it’s you as a fan of something, writing a fiction about it. You can write Fanfiction about anything: do you love a TV show so much that you can see new storylines in your own head? Do you appreciate a book’s characters so much you want to see what they’d be like in a different setting? Do you want to play in somebody else’s lands but copyright stops you along the way? Fanfiction. That’s the answer.

            I wrote fanfiction when I was seventeen, through to about twenty. Many of my friends write fanfiction, even now, as it keeps them sharp and engaged with other writers. Incidentally, the most famous fanfiction is ‘Fifty Shades of Grey’ which started out life as a Twilight Fanfiction and then was tweaked to make it what it is (holding off on my opinions of the actual text, as I’ve only read snippets of lines). If you think back though, there’s been many cases of fanfiction writing being published. If you continue a deceased author’s work, you’re writing fanfiction. If you’re re-writing a classic story, you’re writing a fanfiction. ‘Four Children and It’ by Jacqueline Wilson, ‘Austen Land’ by Shannon Hale, any Enid Blyton book written post Enid Blyton. All of these are merely fanfictions that someone has been allowed to defeat the copyright (given special permission).

            Now, of all my ramblings, why am I so adamantly telling you this? Because, my dear readers, I believe we should all start out by writing fanfictions. Why? Because it will ultimately make us better writers. When we start out we can appreciate what makes a good character, we can even create the basics of one, but to truly understand how to write characters we have to know them inside and out. The best way to do that is by characters we’ve seen and read multiple times, who we already know inside and out because of another writer’s successes.

            During my time writing fanfiction I got to know the process of developing characters. Because it was in a fantasy world, I got to learn the process of developing worlds that people love and wish to escape to. I became an editor, helping many people on the platform I was on help reach their story’s potential. I became involved in the writing world, and got to know many people across many different countries and continents who all shared the same passions as me: the show/book and writing.

            Fanfiction is also useful for another reason. As well as growing you as an author, it connects you to an audience. You learn to take criticism, you learn to pick yourself up, you learn to accept praise. If you become a popular enough fanfiction writer, you can then more easily sell your own original stories to them. You’ve gathered yourself an audience. Yes, admittedly, an audience that’s there because they want to read stories based on the shared book/story you love, but one that you can persuade to love your writing style; to love your work.

            When writing fanfiction, you can go with any genre. You’re not stuck writing romance, if it’s a romance (remember somebody took ‘Pride and Prejudice’ and made ‘Pride and Prejudice and Zombies’, if that’s not fanfiction in a nutshell, I don’t know what is). You can do anything with fanfiction. If you want to change the plot of the original story, or change one of the characters, or the details of any of the characters—write an Alternate Universe (AU) story. If you want to take an episode of  ‘Friends’ and make it into a thriller, then do it.

            Do you know what’s so amazing then? If you spend your time developing your skills, using the building blocks somebody has already laid out for you, you can then start creating your own building blocks. You can understand the effort it takes to create all the different elements that make up a book. You can take your fanfictions, later on, look through them, pick out all the elements you like and write an original piece mixing the two pairs of building blocks together. If you’re very, very lucky you could be able to write fanfiction professionally (again, if the copyright police deems it so).

            Does it feel slightly dirty, like your cheating by not coming up with your own original ideas? Sometimes, yes, but most of the time, no. It’s an easy way to teach yourself how to write, and for me (mostly to do with the website I did it on) I learned by reading other people’s work and editing some others. There’s plenty of websites you can use, some better than others. I know some people who do it through fanfiction.com, some who do it through writer’s apps, some who write on their own blog (hey there!), some who do it on specific shows fanfiction sites (fimfiction.net, being the main one I know), even some who do it through social media. My friend, the main one who continues to write fanfiction, does all of hers through Tumblr and she often collaborates with other writers through the site.

            And on the fanfiction sites, you can often find even more. Due to my (very small) success on my site, I had people offering me artwork for front covers of my stories. All of these artists where better than I was, and the relief at not having to spend hours labouring over my own covers was amazing (unfortunately, I do all of the artwork on my blog though, hence why certain posts take so long to come out).

            I even met poets, like myself, who loved to write poetry about the shows/books we loved (incidentally, poetry is the easiest way to get through copyright, I think). You can choose anything, even real people (though I often think that’s a tad creepy, especially if they’re alive) and have fun with it. Because that’s the word of the day with fanfiction: Fun. Have fun, mess around a bit and see what you come up with. You’ll be surprised how much better a writer you’ll be by the end of it.

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Plotters and Pantsers

Recently, over on the Social Media sphere, I’ve seen a lot of people questioning if other writers are ‘plotters’ or ‘pantsers’: a plotter being someone who heavily plans their stories and a pantser being the complete opposite, somebody who can just sit down and write without any idea where it’s going to go. Now, what am I? I know you didn’t ask me specifically, but I want to answer it anyway.

            For short stories or poems I can get away without planning anything. The idea is in my head and then I freely write. For the starts of novels and plays I can do the same thing, but soon I become lost in the words and have no idea what I’m doing. This happens especially if I’ve had large breaks between writing, because the story has left my mind. Then I become a plotter.

            Planning a story can be hard, it can be enjoyable, it can also sap the joy out of it sometimes, but it is nearly always useful. Even if all your plan involves is a simple idea, that’s a plan. If you only have a genre, it’s part of your plan. Usually I start a plan with a few basics, even if I don’t necessarily have much else. You start a plan with your idea, your genre, your demographic (age of reader, mainly) and then your Beginning, Middle and End. Characters are, of course, important also. But start with your main character. Plan out their beginning, middle and end. I’ll give you an example, shall I?

            The first thing I write on my piece of paper is my idea. We’ll say:

            ‘The Gods are Playing Table Tennis’

            (Yes, this is a real idea I found that I’d written down a while back).

            Okay, basic idea is down. I could easily write a short story with that, without much planning. But what if I wanted it to be longer. I wanted it to go beyond the basic premise.

            So, I add a genre. A genre changes the way you write the book. If I were to write it as a comedy, then I would have to be make it absurd (more so than it already is). I would have to go over the top with the drama and exaggerate everything. If I were to write it as a drama then I would have to play it completely seriously and make my reader believe that the idea of the gods playing table tennis isn’t a completely absurd idea. I write my genre underneath my idea:

            ‘Speculative, realistic, calm.’

            Yes, these are more an idea of a genre than an actual genre. That’s fine. As long as you know how you want it to feel, how you want it to read, then that can be your genre.

            Next I write the demographic. If you want it to be for your eyes only, then great. Write that. If you want it to be for children, or for teenagers, for women, for men, for the LGBTQ community, for whoever you want. This doesn’t necessarily mean that these will be the only people to read your story, it merely gives you an aim to sell it towards. It gives you clarity on what you want to emphasise in your book. In children’s fiction our main character will mostly be a child; in a fantasy for women we create strong female leads; in an LGBTQ aimed book we emphasise and normalise the relationships from that community. In each demographic we give the people reading someone they can relate to, or aspire to, and that’s why you should choose your demographic.

            I’ll say my story is for ‘Myself’, because I believe I’m the only one who would want to read it. That’s fine. Your demographic can be you. Other people like you may then become your later demographic.

Now, my main character. The key to any story and the main thing that a reader will take away. You, of course, usually have many ‘principal members’ of your ‘cast’ but there will always be one above the rest. This is the person we’re following throughout. The person who’s eyes were seeing through, even when we use an omniscient narrator. I write it down.

            ‘Main character: Janus, god of doorways’.

Great. Now, after this I would usually do an extensive character plan (see my previous blogs on how to create characters) but for now let’s keep it simple. He’s the god of doorways, a lot of gods look down on him, he has a lot of pride in his work and is constantly trying to hide how inferior he feels by presenting himself with a large ego. He’s the underdog of the gods, but has proven to be a successful table tennis player.

            There we go. A few basic points about the character that can drive the plot. And speaking of the plot, now that I’ve got my main character sorted out I would do my (often used by me) Beginning, Middle and End.

            These are not set in stone. I repeat, these are not set in stone. If, after I’ve wrote my beginning I think of a different twist for the middle then it’ll be changed. If I finish the middle and decide that the ending I have written down wouldn’t make any sense any more, it will be changed. I purely do these as placeholders so that I have a direction to aim towards, even if I end up down another path entirely. Okay:

            ‘Beginning: Janus steps onto the table tennis field, beaming with pride. There are cheering gods on all sides and humans calling to him telling him how important he is to them. He wakes up. It’s all been a dream.

            Middle: Janus infiltrates Hades realm, looking for a secret table tennis paddle forged by Hephaestus, stolen years ago by Persephone’.

            End: The gods put the blame on Janus for their own misdemeanours in the game and punish him by banishing him to Earth.’

There. There’s my beginning, my middle and end. I know the path I have to take. This is the basic format for my plan. If I were to take it a step further I could break the three plot points down into individual parts and write what is going to happen in each chapter. I could develop each and every character, even minor ones, and make sure I know how they would react to Janus. I could play with tropes of the genre, develop relationships, foreshadow the end by having Janus mention how he would hate to live on Earth or have another God tell of the time they were banished to Earth. There are so many things I could do with this story, and it’s all been developed from simply writing down basic plot points.

            If you’re a pantser, great. Have fun and enjoy writing. If you’re a plotter, enjoy plotting (and don’t forget to write). But if, like me, you like a mixture of both, your basics will stand you in good stead. Let your imagination run wild and flesh out your story before writing, and don’t forget: every good story will change as you write it. Don’t rigorously stick to your initial plan. If it looks like it needs to change, change it. If you don’t like a character being in a certain scene, try it with another character. Sometimes we only figure out our true plan when we’re halfway through writing. It’s annoying to go back and change everything beforehand, but it happens, and it makes your story better. Why?

            Because it makes you love it even more, and your love is what truly matters with your work.

A Bientot, Les Ecrivains,

The Literary Onion

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Re-Reading Your Old Favourites

We’ve been out of lockdown a certain amount of time. We’re constantly watching the news, constantly thinking about how to react to it and constantly worrying about what’s going to happen next. This is we as a country, we as a people, we as the world. Each day we, humankind, get flooded with information. We start to become desensitized to some of the bad and then boom, another thing hits bringing in a new type of bad. At the beginning of the year, there were constant jokes about having 20-20 vision and yet now we’re as blind about what’s going to happen as a badger-mole that’s lost its earth-bending (yes, I have been re-watching Avatar: The Last Airbender. It’s an amazing show).

            On a personal level I opened a business in the hospitality and tourism industry at a time when nobody wants to travel. I’ve tried multiple other ways to bring money into my household, so that I can keep myself (and my sanity) afloat. I’ve attempted to give people peace of mind, I’ve attempted offering teaching classes to locals, I’ve attempted writing and entering competitions and each time that I’ve failed I’ve felt a little bit more of myself breaking off. And the worst part is, I know there are other people in worse positions. I feel guilty for my stress. I feel like I should punish myself for feeling the way I feel. But everyone has a right to that. Even me.

            So, what do we do when all these worries wash over us? What do we do when the world seems so uncertain and stress-inducing? Do we start a new project, one with a fulfilling end? Do we begin to watch a new show, to enter into an exciting new chapter? Well, from what I’ve been seeing over the internet and in my own household, I’d have to argue no. What we do is we return to something familiar. Something that, unlike the year of 2020, we know the end to. We re-watch Avatar: The Last Airbender. We re-read our favourite books. And then we realise what we hadn’t noticed in those things ever before.

            Beyond remembering how amazing of a show or book something is, we also start to see new things. Last night I started to re-read one of my favourite books from when I was a teenager: ‘House at the Corner’ by Enid Blyton. It’s not a book you may have heard of. Enid Blyton, maybe, yes. She’s an extremely famous author. One of the only authors allowed to continue being published during World War 2, in fact. But when you think of Enid Blyton, you tend to think of The Famous Five, The Secret Seven, Malory Towers, Noddy etc. These are all big household names (speaking as a Brit. I’m not entirely sure how well known she is in America etc.). I love all of these books, don’t get me wrong. Despite the fact I didn’t know until University that Lacrosse was a sport still played today, despite the fact that many of the views and language are outdated, even despite the fact that the main characters in reality would never have even probably had the time of day for me, I love them (bar Julian from ‘The Famous Five’, who for some reason annoys me no end).

            But ‘House at the Corner’, one of her more obscure works is my favourite. It relaxes me, and even as an adult I give a round of applause to how well the characters are portrayed. I still love it. I still will re-read it and re-read it again, but I could not stop laughing at certain things that happened on this journey into it.

            Okay, to quickly summarise. The story is about the Farrell family. Pam, the oldest: eighteen, too smart, too beautiful, big ego. Tony: fourteen, again too smart, doted on by mother, fairly strong, joker, big ego. Delia and David: ten year old twins, the most sensible members of the children, very serious, very kind, very honest, love them completely, always get ignored by their family. And then there’s Lizzie: sixteen years old, plain looking, wears glasses, wears braces, dotes on her family, drops anything in a heartbeat to help them, shy and quiet. Most importantly for this discussion, she’s a writer.

            Now, maybe there’s a particular reason I’ve always liked Lizzie (or sorry, Elizabeth, as she prefers). Maybe it is that she represents a successful writer at sixteen (let that age wash over for you for a while. Does it sting, just a little?). Basically, Lizzie gets persuaded to write stories because her Great Aunt says she’s good at writing letters. We’ll let that one slide for now. Although a woman I talked to recently mentioned that her friends believed the same of her because she was good at writing letters, and she found she was not very good at stories. Hey hum, moving on.

            So Lizzie writes a successful story, with little to no editing. As you do. Her Great Aunt loves it. Amazing. She sends in to a newspaper aiming to be published. Gets rejected and her Great Aunt persuades her to try again. Great. That’s amazing advice, from a writer to a writer (thank you, Enid Blyton). She sends off to another paper and they accept her. They agree to publish her across six of their papers in children’s corner and agree as well to publish one of her stories in each edition for a paid sum. She starts at £3 a story and then moves to £5 a story. A substantial sum at the time.

            Tony comments at the end: Would they have published her if they’d known her age? Yes, ladies and gentlemen, they were publishing her knowing nothing about her. She could have been under the age for working for all they knew (which, as far as I’m aware, though lower, did still exist at the time). She could have been anyone.

            I think what irked me about this is, not that she’s successful at a young age and I’m still sat here desperately trying to find the confidence to put down words, but that she gets to be completely anonymous. I know that’s not what she wanted. She wanted her name in print. But I want that, please. I’d love to publish things without a name, just get paid and then get on with writing again. That’d be great. Please. Can I do that, instead of making my books all about selling me? I’m not nearly as interesting as what I write. Believe me. I have to live with myself.

            Why, you ask, am I sat in my garden writing a rant about this one point. Well, to be honest, it’s been a while since I’ve written on my blog and it was about time. If Lizzie can be anonymous, getting published and being paid for it, then maybe there’s hope for the world yet. It turns out even in the 1940’s (or around about when Blyton was writing) writers still had a fantasy of being a writer. It’s okay to dream about it. It’s okay to want to earn a living from it. At sixteen. Anonymous even to your publishers. You do you. And have fun with it.

            For real though, how was she so productive? One story each edition? Edited? And she claimed she wrote children’s stories because she wasn’t up to the standard of writing adults fiction? Come on, children’s fiction is hard work. They’re very harsh critics. Although, ironic that a children’s author should have been the one to write that line.

            I would highly recommend reading ‘House at the Corner’, especially if you’ve got any aspiring young novelists in your household. I hope you’re all having a good time escaping into your own fantasy worlds.

A Bientot, les ecrivians,

The Literary Onion

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Characters In Quarantine, Part 1: Dorothy (of Oz) and Alice (of Wonderland)

Quarantine’s quite a fun thing, isn’t it? Lots of drama, lots of boredom, lots of lessons and lots of arguments. So, how would certain characters feel if they were forced into 2020 Lockdown with each other? Fun scripts for anyone to preform (at least one adult joke is made in this one). If anybody has any ideas for characters combinations, send them my way.

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We enter onto a plain room. It has white walls. There’s an ugly, old brown couch in the centre with a colourful knitted throw thrown over it. There’s a fireplace to the side of the couch, lit and a pile of ash at the bottom of it as it’s been going a long time. In front of the fireplace there’s an old knitted rug, in similar colours to the throw. There are a few pictures of cats hung on the wall and one picture of a scarecrow in a field next to another cat. Dorothy is sat on the couch, flipping through an old book. Alice is sat on the rug near the fireplace, her shirt partly down as she’s too hot in her dress. She’s hugging her knees to her chest, rocking back and forth and fanning herself.

Alice:              Can we go out yet?

Dorothy:        Nope.

Alice:              (brief pause) What about now?

Dorothy:        Still nope.

Alice:              Surely it must be over now?

Dorothy:        Not according to the news. We just have to be patient.

Alice:              I don’t like being patient (kicks the floor with her heel).

Dorothy:        Well, unless you want to be a patient, you have to be patient.

There’s a minute silence as Alice rolls around on the floor, doing many different silly poses to try and get comfortable. Dorothy continues to flip through her book and doesn’t look up.

Alice:              How are you so good at this?

Dorothy:        I’ve had to sit inside for days when tornado season comes to my Aunty Em’s farm.

Alice:              (shuffling again) Lucky.

Dorothy:        Not really. Why don’t you read a book, Alice?

Alice:              Don’t like books.

Dorothy:        Maybe paint a picture then?

Alice:              (gestures to the room) I’ve already done that. Do you not see all the cats?

Dorothy:        (looks up from book) Oh, yeah. They’re… nice.

Alice:              You didn’t even notice them.

Dorothy:        No, I did.

Alice:              Well, you didn’t say anything about them.

Dorothy:        I was busy, reading.

Alice:              You’re always reading. Can’t you play with me instead?

Dorothy:        Can’t you do your homework for class on Monday?

Alice:              Already done it. What about you?

Dorothy:        I’ll do it later. After I’ve finished my book.

Alice:              Ugh, I should’ve just stayed with my sister. Either way I’d just get someone reading a book and ignoring me.

Dorothy:        Take a nap. That’s what I do when I’m bored.

Alice:              Tried that. Not one sign of a White Rabbit.

Dorothy:        Honestly, I think that’s kind of a good thing to hear. I haven’t seen a sign of Oz lately either.

Alice:              They’re probably all stuck in quarantine too. Ugh, they must be so bored.

Dorothy:        Well, they do say it can get anywhere. I wouldn’t want to get the Good Witch ill. I don’t think she’d ever forgive me.

Alice:              Are you ready to play yet?

Dorothy:        No, Alice. Let me finish my book.

Alice:              Please.

Dorothy:        No.

Alice:              Come on, you know you want to.

Dorothy:        I’m busy.

Alice:              Can we at least turn the fireplace off? It’s boiling.

Dorothy:        No. It took me ages to light that fire. It stays on. A book’s always better with a roaring fireplace going on in the background.

Alice:              Who told you that? The scarecrow or the tin-man? (snickers)

Dorothy:        Don’t be silly. The scarecrow can’t go near fire. And the tin-man’s too scared that he’ll set his forest on fire.

Alice:              All your friends are kind of lame then?

Dorothy:        Oh, yes, what about your friends? The Mad Hatter who’s high on caffeine all the time or the caterpillar who’s high on something else entirely? Doesn’t everyone in Wonderland pretty much just want to kill you?

Alice:              At least it’s interesting there. Never a dull day. Unlike here.

Dorothy:        Well, then, next time this happens you can go and stay with someone else. I’ll be quite fine on my own.

Alice:              Oh, please. You like the attention too much to be all alone.

Dorothy:        How dare you. Get out.

Alice:              I can’t go out, remember?

Dorothy:        Then, go to another room.

Alice:              Fine. I’ll go play with the yellow bricks in the garden (makes to leave).

Dorothy:        It’s raining outside, remember?

Alice:              Ugh. I hate this stupid house.

Dorothy:        Hey, at least you weren’t swept up in a tornado.

Alice:              Oh, please, Dorothy. Everyone knows it was all a dream.

Dorothy:        It was real. I’ve got bruises to prove it.

Alice:              If you had bruises to prove it, why would they still be there? Liar.

Dorothy:        Call me liar again and I’ll…

Alice:              You’ll what? Read me to death?

Dorothy:        (throws her book at Alice, Alice dodges) Get out!

Alice:              Fine. I don’t want to see your stupid face anymore anyway.

Dorothy:        I don’t want to see yours either (goes to pick up her book). It’s corn on the cob for dinner tonight.

Alice:              Ugh, again?

Dorothy:        If you want to do the shopping, why don’t you go next time?

Alice:              I don’t want to.

Dorothy:        Then, we’re eating corn on the cob.

Alice:              Fine.

Dorothy:        Fine.

                        Alice storms out and Dorothy brushes down her book. She wanders back to the couch and fans herself.

                        Wow, geez, it’s hot in here.

                        She continues reading.

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COVID-19: The Wrong Time to Open a Business?

Front of the Retreat– Believe it or not, this picture was taking in Winter.

It was March 14th. A lot of milestones were happening, a lot were yet to happen. I turned 25, I went out to eat at one of my favourite chain restaurants in France, I went to the zoo (another favourite pastimes of mine, harkening back to my ‘Animal Studies’ days), I planned to go home and buy some kitchen equipment to use in the future, and most importantly all of the adverts I’d painstakingly paid for, written and worked on were coming out or were already out. Finally, the future looked bright; finally, I felt proud about something I’d done, something I’d created to help myself and to help other writers.

            And then, the Virus came. Yes, I realise that this all sounds like a rough draft of an apocalypse or dystopian story. I realise that even my backstory would add to a character in that world, but unfortunately it was a reality. Its name was Coronavirus, Covid-19 was its street name, and on the 14th March (although earlier in some countries) it shut down France. My birthday meal was the last time, to this day(it’s been a week at time of writing), that the restaurants in France were open. I was either extremely lucky or extremely bad luck for somebody else.

            I’d planned a blog post about my business, about how excited I was to show writers what I’d created for them, following up to the blog post I’d written for the Good Life France. Eventually, I’ll hopefully be able to put that up for real but it seems stupid to put it up now. The borders are closed, there’s quarantines throughout the world and everyone is worrying over the economic future of their country. Not exactly a time to be presenting a new business to the world.

            Honestly, of all the things I thought could put a stop to my dream: the Mairie denying us, Google not seeing our website, people not wanting to come, I never even once considered an illness preventing people from leaving their homes. It sounds so storybook, right? Like somewhere there’s a writer realising that their pen is enchanted and trying desperately to burn the pages? But, no, it’s real. It’s really here. It’s killing people around the globe and people are scared. Suddenly, there’s anxiety everywhere, and I’m sure most other usually-anxious people would agree, it’s really freaking weird.

What can I do about it?

            The short answer, nothing. I have to hope that after all this over, after we’ve finished our self-isolation and helped to continue people’s lives, people will still want to come. We’re in a beautiful, peaceful spot with plenty of fresh air and lovely views. I’ve managed to get more writing done here than I have in the last few years. I’m inspired and have helped to inspire ideas from my non-writer of a mother and even my no-imagination of a father (he’s great with numbers and has been a big help with other jobs though, so we’ll forgive him).

            It works. My place works and I’m really hoping one day writers will feel safe to come across and see if it works for them. I’m working on new recipes, made all the more difficult by the lack of ingredients in the supermarkets (the only place we’re allowed to venture to, basically). I’m getting some of the garden ready so it can look really nice by the time we actually do manage to open. All three of us inmates at the Retreat have delved into the library of books and are working our way through the different genres. If nothing else, we won’t run out of books to read.

What’s the point of me telling you all of this?

            I know, I know. Other people are having it hard to. As I said, people are dying of Covid and I’m not going to lessen that tragedy. Even the tutor I’ve booked in for teaching my summer courses is currently stuck in self-isolation (although an extreme form where she isn’t leaving a bedroom with en-suite) because she’s high risk. I worry for her and anybody else who could really suffer from the disease every day but my own worries about the future are still there, and I can’t simply make them go away.

            I’ve always believed in being honest. I’ve had a horrible habit of keeping things to myself and increasing my anxiety in the past. Okay, yes, I still do that a little bit now. But not on this. This is too serious. So, I’m telling you, whoever’s reading this, how I’m feeling. I’m trying to show you the mind of an anxious person who has opened a business at the same time as a pandemic strikes. I’m proving that your random story ideas are as likely to happen as anything else. Because anything can happen… to anyone.

            I know it’s hard to stay calm right now. The world’s pretty much telling us we should panic. But don’t give up on your writing. If you don’t feel like writing, that’s fine, but don’t lose it forever. Your story is just as valid and realistic as everything that’s going on in the world right now. And maybe, if anything happens similar to this in the future, by reading your book future generations may be able to figure out quicker and better solutions to prevent any more deaths.

            Because, as proved by the media in this wild situation, words are even more powerful than a small, invisible virus. Make your words be powerful in the right way. Make the world better one word at a time.

            Sorry for the unintentional sappiness there and, if you have any downtime, would you please consider checking out our website: www.lestylonoirretreat.com . Be safe and let’s get through this.

A Bientot, les ecrivians

Signed,

Amy Rose, The Literary Onion

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Welcome to Imagination Industries!

So, welcome to my new blog. My name is Amy, formerly known (and continuing to be known) as the Literary Onion. Only now, I’m not just the Literary Onion, food creator and book lover, but I’m also my second blog ‘Literary Scribbles’. I know, I know, I really don’t have to mention that, if you’re reading this you’re already here. You already know me as Literary Scribbles. Oh well, a little bit of context can go a long way, because we want a good relationship you and I. If you’re going to read my painstakingly and lovingly creative works of art (apologies for the sarcasm) and sit there and take in any lessons about writing I can give you to help you write your own masterpieces, I want you and I to get off on the right foot.

Okay to start off, I have been writing since, I believe even before I could. As a child I was a little attention seeker who was afraid of every single thing in this big, bad world: the dark, heights, dentists, doctors, small spaces, large spaces, thugs, thieves and murderers. My imagination was rife with dangers and, thankfully, also rife with friends. Together with my real-life human friends I would lead them into stories unknown, create characters unlike they’d ever heard of (many of them with more dangers than I care to admit… Children’s imaginations are darker than I think anyone would ever dare say).

I wrote my first proper story at, I assume perhaps the age of six or seven based on the legibility of the writing and my friend’s drawing skills. It was titled ‘Snowy’s Adventures’ and detailed my teddy dog, Snowy’s, believe it or not ‘adventures’. All I can really recall about those events where that a very-kind woman who worked at the Nursery (where it was written) stuck the pages together with a staple-gun in the wrong order and by the way I reacted you’d think that she’d destroyed Snowy teddy herself.

 Since then I’ve started many projects, finished a small handful, self-published a monstrosity written at eleven-years-old at fourteen-years-old (regretted, but I truly only wanted a copy for myself) and achieved a degree in English Literature and Creative Writing (along with many other, not-important-to-this-situation qualifications).

I’ve worked a handful of jobs, all very distracting to my writing. I’ve seen many therapists etc. about my constant anxiety and fear of, although less than I was a child, still a considerable number of things. And now, my wonderful and supportive parents, putting up with me in the way that only parents can, have decided to help support my dreams of moving to France to open a Writers’ Retreat, far away from the outside world.

 It was a big step, a terrifying step, but also a much needed one. My anxiety, although focused on other things, has died down. I feel a considerable amount better and I’m taking the steps to actually do something I’ve always been afraid of—sharing my beauties, my babies, with other people. You see, that’s what a novel or short story or poem is to a writer. Non-writers wouldn’t understand that because, well, it’s weird to be so attached to a piece of paper. But you can’t tell me that Dickens didn’t sit there after spending so long on Hard Times and think, ‘Wow, this is amazing. I love this. I’m so proud of how it’s grown from a little idea to a novel all its own’.

 To all the authors and writers out there, consider that the first lesson I’ll teach you on this blog, if you don’t love what you’re writing—alla Conan-Doyle and Sherlock Holmes—then stop writing it. Move onto something that does make you happy, something that makes you excited again. Trust me, one day you’ll feel that pull again and you’ll move back to it, but a work without love is like an artist without paint—it’ll be blank, dull, without life.

 Alright, alright, I think I’ve talked long enough for my first blog post. This was only meant to be a getting to know me segment, after all. I hope you enjoy all that’s to come: poetry, plays, short stories and serial stories; along with weekly posts to help you with your own writing: how to create characters, ‘show, don’t tell’ and editing old pieces, to name a few.

I hope you’re enjoying National Novel Writing Month, if you’re taking part and I look forward to taking part in it next year. A Bientot, mes amis.

Non.

A Bientot, les ecrivians.