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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.

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Let the Next Chapter Start!

So… I’m back. Having posted only a small amount over the last few months (my bad) I have now officially become a full-time blogger. Does that mean I’ll be posting every day? Well, no, it takes a bit of time to read the books and create the dishes, but it does mean I shall be posting more often (assume once or twice a week).

Now, I’ve made a big decision visa-ve (honestly, this may not be how you spell that) what I create the food from, and the truth is in the modern age stories can come from many different places– not just prose, but poetry, non-fiction and visual mediums such as films and television. And I love TV and Films as much as prose, plays and poetry, so why not focus on them too?

There are some Christmas themed dishes planned for next month but until then, let’s get through some of my favourites. Do you want a hint as to what they could be? Well, I’ll give you them anyway.

  • Number 1. In charades terms, a film, four words, first word ‘the’. Your other clue for this is that it was originally intended as a Halloween post, before I lost use of the internet for a month and a half. Yet, even though this is the case, it’s now more apt than ever.
  • Number 2. It provides a lot of ‘scope for the imagination’. Hint, hint. It is a book, and one of my favourites from my university reading, but I’m celebrating it because of my excitement for the upcoming new series (season to an American) on Netflix.
  • Number 3. My final one before Christmas officially starts. This is also a book but it is a very famous film too. Anybody that actually looks at my very bare Twitter account will know that I was reading this a couple of months back. The dish has been planned for awhile, even before I’ve finished the book (which I’m still yet to do, as I’ve not found it the easiest of reads).

And then, in the words of Slade and Noddy Holder ‘IT’S CHRISTMAS!’

There’ll be new recipes, new dishes, reviews– and along with this a new YouTube Channel with videos to help you learn some basic skills in the kitchen (sharing a bit of that knowledge from my Professional Cookery qualification).

If that’s not your thing, or if you also have another thing, feel free to check out my other brand, shiny, new blog ‘Literary Scribbles’. Here you can read my home-written stories, poetry etc. and read my posts dedicated to the craft of writing.

Thank you for reading this and thank you for your patience (assuming you actually waited). Here’s to the year ahead… New Year may not be for another month and a half, but it certainly feels like it’s starting now for me.