Me and Killing Eve

Like pretty much everyone in the latter half of 2018, I was gripped by Killing Eve. I watched it (savouring it weekly rather than bingeing, taking my time over it) and I read the first book, struck by the difference in tone to the series. It was, I reasoned, a product of a male novelist being adapted by a female screenwriter. After all, I spent a decade of my life looking at the representation of gender in minute detail as part of my role as an A-level Media Studies teacher. This was my bread and butter, something I was deeply interested in. I threw a tweet out about how I felt there were differences and then sort of forgot about it.

Until I got an email asking whether I would like to write a short piece about it to mark the publication of the second book in the States and the upcoming second series. Oh, and it was for The Washington Post- a paper I’d long admired right back to my uni days when, as a journalism student from a very working class background, working for newspapers like it seemed like an unreachable dream. Of course I said yes.

And so I set about researching everything I could about Killing Eve and its print counterpart, the Codename Villanelle books. I read the latest book and watched Fleabag, to better understand Phoebe Waller-Bridge’s writing style and how this had shaped Killing Eve into the phenomenal success it was; it struck me that as a spy novel (a genre traditionally very male-dominated), it had amazing resonance with women and seemed to be coming as part of a shift in TV drama. We’re now seeing more female-led writing rooms, with showrunners such as Shonda Rhimes, Tina Fey and Phoebe Waller-Bridge becoming more prominent and a move towards female led shows.

I spent hours re-watching Killing Eve, taking a whole notebook of notes on minutiae that I would never use but that helped me formulate my essay. I even took apart the fireplace in our living room to rescue a birthday card that had fallen down the back in an attempt to procrastinate. To me this was the most important piece of writing I’d ever done. THE ACTUAL WASHINGTON BLOODY POST.

I had 850 words. I had to keep it to the bare bones. I had to decide if ‘thrush cream’ would translate to an American audience (not really. Stephanie, the commissioning editor, explained that in the States ‘thrush’ is usually considered to be passed between mother and baby during breastfeeding. Nice.) I wanted to write about Fleabag and Phoebe Waller-Bridge’s weirdness around parent/child relationships and how this transferred to Killing Eve. I wanted to write about how the mostly female soundtrack made us feel that this was a more feminine environment than traditional spy dramas and how the attempt to make Charlie, in the recent adaptation of Little Drummer Girl, a fashion icon in the mould of Villanelle didn’t work. I also could have legitimately mentioned Olivia Colman twice, but I resisted the urge.

Anyway. I submitted my piece a week and a half early- despite my best efforts with a screwdriver and the mantlepiece. Mainly because once I started writing, I couldn’t stop. I remembered that I love writing and I love pop culture. Also, I can now actually say I’m a proper writer who has written for The Washington Post. And that’s really cool

You can read the article here.

Writers’ HQ: Seven Ideas In Seven Days

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Remember my novel? I was working on it loads last summer and then I did (most of) NaNoWriMo in November, before the world decided it really wanted to bring me down with its ridiculous ideas. I also got bogged down in family stuff, D’s operation, Christmas and then the hell that is working in a school when a new curriculum is trying to be introduced. I lost my way and I lost my mojo. My characters were still in my brain, my story was still asking to be written, but I just struggled to get it down or find time to write.

This is where Writers’ HQ comes in; its founders Sarah and Jo are time-poor, cash-poor, sliiiiightly sweary writers (both Sarah and Jo are novelists) who also happen to be mothers and needed a way to find time to do their work. They offer a range of ways for others to write too- monthly writers’ retreats in Brighton and Worthing, as well as online courses which are reasonably priced (there are also free exercises for a lot of the courses, if you want to check them out before committing to buy one) and take into account the pressures of daily life. Now, disclosure time: Jo is a friend of mine and has been trying to get me to go to the Brighton retreat for AGES, but I either never have money/time/anything to work on. Instead, she offered me the chance to have a go at February’s Seven Ideas In Seven Days course. I jumped on it.

Seven Ideas In Seven Days costs £20 and you are given a lesson everyday that takes around an hour to complete. I loved the variety of different tasks and the ideas I came up with were often completely new to me and very intriguing- I have at least three new ideas for different stories in completely new-to-my-writing genres (including one about the popularity of succulent plants being part  of an alien invasion plot, which I may just write for the LOLZ), as well as two new perspectives on the novels that have lived in  my brain for a long time.

I also liked the forum- although I’m not sure everyone signed up for this month’s course was using it. However, I found two supportive course members and Sarah who were all brilliant for bouncing ideas off, discussing what we’d written and where our work could go next. It felt less scary than a class and more like a friendly chat in a coffee shop (except that I was drinking tea. And in my own house. You understand the imagery though.)

Would I recommend the course? Yes. It was a lot of fun and I’d like to do another course if I get enough money together- there are all sorts of things on offer, from how to plot your novel right through to actually writing/editing the beast and eventually sending it off to a publisher. It was more personal than just using a book or an anonymous blogpost to write and I think the structure and the range of tasks meant that I sat down every night to work. It also made me realise that I CAN carve some time out of the day to write, even if it’s not much. It’s better to write a bit than not at all. I look forward to reacquainting myself with my characters. And the Mutant Succulents From Space With Mind Bending Powers Of Persuasion, obv.

 

#PaperHaul Featured: Jodie Goolding

Ah, #PaperHaul, I love you. I love how, after a month where I’ve been a bit unsure about a box, the following month you produce a box that is so me it’s like you read my mind. March’s box really did pull a rabbit out of a, er, box sufficiently sized to fit through a standard UK letterbox.

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If you read my #PaperHaul reviews regularly, you’ll know I’m a sucker for the animal boxes more than any other (but I’d like to put in my semi-regular request for a dinosaur themed box…) This month’s didn’t disappoint. What I like about it is that it’s on the right side of cute to not be too twee. Plus, the positive message is one I can really get behind. The notecards above are a perfect encapsulation of the overall feel of the box.

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The postcards remind me of adult colouring books- and actually, it might be nice if you sent them to a friend who could colour them in. But that’s up to you- I’m not your boss or anything.

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I am a worrier of the highest order. I am currently worrying about something that hasn’t even happened yet and is only a possible problem. It’s definitely a skill. Wouldn’t it be nice if you sent this card to your worrisome friend?

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The washi tape is another strong one this month. Most recently utilised on a child’s birthday present. (My hairdresser was amazed when she saw my washi tape bowl and couldn’t get over how many rolls I had. I like to think she was impressed.)

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I love these larger-than-usual stickers! I’ve stuck them onto my writing case. I’d definitely like bigger stickers to be a thing sometimes, although I do also like the smaller stickers for decorating letters etc.

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Finally, the notebook. It’s cute and I already have someone in mind for it.

Overall, a good box this month! I understand that every box won’t be to my taste, but I must say that I’ve found stashing the cards etc has been quite useful, as I always have something on hand, stationery-wise. I’d definitely say that #PaperHaul has made me seem 68% more organised when it comes to birthdays and other occasions.

You can register for #PaperHaul here.

Disclaimer: I get my box at a discounted rate, but my reviews are honest and reflect my own opinions.

 

Let’s ‘foster a conversation’

Recently, I’ve been told (twice) that a company wanted me to write a sponsored post on my blog, not for pay- or even, gasp, for the exposure!- but to ‘foster a conversation’.

Now, I want you to imagine a pipe burst in my house and I called my usual plumber. If I told him I wanted him to work for free, in order to ‘foster a conversation’, he would laugh at me and rightly so. Because I’d be paying him for his skills and his time. Even if he did accept to work for ‘the conversation’, because he’d heard somewhere that I was not actually socially awkward and was in fact a secretly brilliant raconteur, he’d still get tea and biscuits out of me. Which is more than I’m being offered here. Most galling was the very, very well-known, very famously profitable company that wanted me to write about how to earn extra money- by not paying me any.

My time outside of work is precious. I don’t have a lot of it, to be honest, and I want to use it well. A few years ago, I did do some work for free. I had a sleepy baby and was trying to get my writing up as a possible sideline. I made a bit of money, but then I had to go back to work in a job that is apparently one of the most stressful to do. I also have a three year old and they are hard. work. I want to do stuff in my downtime that’s fun and not pressured. If you want me to work to a deadline, you pay me for my time. It can be monetary, or it can be in the form of a product/book/event. (I’d also like to point out that I’ve turned down stuff in the past that, even though it was paid with money, didn’t fit well with me or my blog.) I do make exceptions for charities, which is only right.

The thing is, if you want me to spend my scarce free time on something for you, you’re getting my attention and my skills. If you offer me nothing in return, you’re telling me that these things are worth nothing. I’ve spent a lot of time doing stuff for nothing (I used to do a lot of stuff on the blog, a few years back), I thought about it and realised I’ve sort of outgrown it, to be honest. I want to work to earn money for me and my family and I don’t think that’s a bad thing at all. I’m envious of those who can earn a living writing; to me it’s been very, very hard to get anywhere with that.

These days, I’m a bit of a blogging bumbler. My life is very, very different to when I was doing my journalism degree, or even when I was flirting with being a bit of a beauty/parenting blogger. I couldn’t bear the pressure and I just wanted to write about things I did or books I read. I don’t make any money from either blog and that’s fine. I’m happy to work with companies I like and have a mutually beneficial relationship with- and I enjoy that work. Would I turn down something if it was interesting? No. But I don’t feel like I have to chase anything either- especially ‘exposure’.

The Happiness Project #5: Making mistakes

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I am my own worst critic and I always have been. But I also use that nagging little voice as an excuse- the reason I haven’t written anything on my long-neglected novel for ages; the reason I haven’t properly taught myself to sew, despite the fact I’ve expressed, time and time again (and often on this blog) the desire to learn to do so. It’s exhausting being so negative.

Last week, I went to the Savage Beauty exhibition at the V&A. Looking at McQueen’s beautiful designs, being in touching distance of some incredibly beautiful clothing and realising that McQueen had to start somewhere made me realise- I can do something if I put my mind to it. Sure, it’ll never be couture, but I can have a go.

One of the worst things, I think, is a fear of failure and making mistakes. So I’m embracing new things with a positive outlook. What’s the worst thing that can happen? No one will die if I write a duff sentence or produce a wonky hem and no one needs know if I made a mistake. I’ll just move on and learn from it.

So the tl;dr to take away from this: challenge yourself this weekend. Have a good opinion of what you could achieve (don’t start from a negative place!), but don’t go to pieces if it’s not perfect.

Keep me posted- what did you do to quiet your nagging self doubt?

Not another rant about writing

So yesterday, a well known brand emailed me, asking if I’d be interested in writing about earning an extra income; as we’ve signed D up for nursery in September (and they don’t come cheap, especially in Brighton and before he qualifies for free hours), I expressed an interest. After all- this was a very hyped, new company that I knew was making serious money. And surely, given the topic, they’d be up for paying?

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Nope. I was offered ‘exposure’.

Now, I’m not some entitled blogger who expects sponsored posts. I’m not in the big league and I have turned down stuff that isn’t relevant to my interests and those of the people who read what I write. But I have done paid work before, both on the blog and freelance copywriting. I think hard before accepting jobs- can I give it the time it needs? Can I meet the brief? If you pay me, I will work hard for that money. I’ll work fast, I’ll write well and I’ll stick to your brief. Heck, I even declare my earnings to the tax man, as I should. If you send me something to review, I’ll do that to the best of my ability too.

But if you email me, asking me to do something on how your employees work with you to earn extra money and then say you don’t have a budget, but just wanted to start a ‘fun conversation’- that’s chutzpah.

I politely declined (with a note that, like the employees they wanted me to write about, I also needed to earn an extra income.)

Blogging burn-out, me and where I go next

At the moment, I’m finding blogging more of a chore than it should be, especially as it’s meant to be a hobby. Although I’m way down on my record of posting everyday- sometimes multiple times a day (ah, maternity leave!)- I’m finding it hard to keep pace. I’ve been writing this blog for nearly three and a half years and in that time, blogging has gone properly mad. It’s hard to compete, not necessarily for money but for readers. I don’t have a clearly defined USP. I get lost in a Bloglovin’ crowd. I’ve never really been about endless self-promotion or had the means to host many giveaways.

I don’t know what this means for the blog. I have some ideas and also a couple of things I’d like to blog about- I’ve signed up for a language teaching thing for bloggers (I’m going to attempt to learn Spanish) and I have a review book that needs a write up. Other than that, I don’t know. Maybe I’ll relaunch the blog as something else, maybe I’ll take a hiatus. This blogging lark should be fun and at the moment I have so many other things that also need my attention.

This isn’t a ‘woe-is-me’ post and I’m not looking for validation or anything. It’s just a way of putting down what I’m thinking and also a way to explain to my (few) readers why I might not be around much. Work is also going to be stressful in the coming weeks as GCSEs start becoming ever present and I am going to be busy and most probably slightly stressed as a result.

So yeah, I’ll be posting intermittently as and when I feel I want to, not because I feel I should be.

See you soon. Maybe.