book club: this is going to hurt

From cover to cover in 2 days. 2 days. I could not get through the comedic chaos written into this book quick enough.

As someone who has an interest in the medical profession (and who still wants to ‘someday’ be a paramedic – whenever ‘someday’ is) I was intrigued by this book, even before it was recommended.

So why on earth it took me the best part of a year to buy, who knows!

If I’m watching TV in the living room you’ll hear it a mile away. There’s usually the sound of sirens, telephones and beeping machines, along with screaming patients and lots of swearing. My obsession with medical programmes is hard to miss.

Whether it’s 24 Hours in A&E, 999 What’s Your Emergency?, Helicopter Heroes, Countryside Rescue, Ambulance… you’ll not be short of gory injuries and tales from medical staff. My fascination over guts, gore but also the intricacies of the medical world have left me with a serious interest that’s now spanned most of my life.

Picking up this book, there was no doubt in my mind that I’d enjoy it. The topic alone I knew would be interesting, and Kay’s inclusion of terminology and explanations had me convinced it was going to make my top 10, if not 5, all time favourite books.

And I was right.

There is a clue is in the title, though. It is going to hurt.

From humorous anecdotes to matter of fact statements that left me shocked and upset, Adam Kay has mastered my emotions and left me reeling, but more importantly, grateful and passionate.

Passionate about our National Health Service and all it takes on and delivers, and passionate about one day being a tiny cog in the mechanism of it all. (Yep – it didn’t put me off.) Instead of persuading me that joining the NHS would be a bad thing, it did the opposite.

I empathise wholeheartedly with Kay, and his execution of the book is heroic. He demonstrates the reality of life in the NHS, spanning the six years he worked as a Junior Doctor.

“I should have had counselling — in fact, my hospital should have arranged it. But there’s a mutual code of silence that keeps help from those who need it most.”

As a rebuke to Jeremy Hunt’s remarks about pay and working conditions, the rhetoric tells the brutal truth of what the workforce of the NHS are up against. The book gives a rare and honest insight into the life Kay had, and his comedic personality leaves you laughing out loud or unsure if he’s joking, or if it’s that bad.

Kay reflects that the hearts of those working in the NHS are holding it together. The ‘good few’ dedicated individuals who have energy left after all the overtime and double shifts. It is an incredible story of the reality of anyone working in the medical profession. They’re humans. Just like us.

Hats off to Kay, and to doctors everywhere, NHS or not, for taking on such a commitment.

Whether you love the NHS or find it painful and frustrating, this book is definitely worth a read.

love sophie

a letter from: bath

It’s been far too long since I stepped foot in the beautiful city of Bath, and this week made up for that completely. With a double dose in one week (both Graduation and a Kilimanjaro reunion weekend) I am well and truly cream crackered.

It has been blooming lovely, though.

The sun shone, I got to meet up with people I hadn’t seen in faaaaaar too long, and see my words in print as part of our MA Anthology (which was epic!)

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Graduation was lovely, as was seeing all my lovely course friends and writing pals again. It’s surprising how close you get to each other and how much you help each other through the process. It was amazing to celebrate altogether, and surprisingly emotional to be reunited again.

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There’s so much to do in Bath that if you don’t really know the city, just wandering aimlessly means you’ll see beautiful things and stumble across some absolute gems along with gorgeous architecture.

Having lived there for four years, it’s amazing how much I still haven’t seen. We’re famous for never being tourists in our own cities, and I’m exactly the same with Leeds. But, there’s always a favourite place I stumble back to, and the cobble streets and golden stone buildings will always scream ‘home.’

Mr B’s Emporium is one of my favourite places in Bath. Unfortunately (and typically) it was closed for renovation over the days I was there so I didn’t get to step into the bookshop of reading delights (a shame but my purse was pleased!)

We also popped across to BookBarn (my absolute favourite place) which I last visited in June. It’s a twenty minute journey from the centre of Bath, but if you love books (or vegetarian food) it is a real treat. We were even treated to a reading by Dan.

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Most books are £1 (and there are over a million), there’s an open fire, and the freshly made food and tea make it a lovely place to spend a few hours. There’s a kids reading nook, and it’s all enclosed so you can sit in the cafe and leave them to feel grown up, playing or reading to their hearts content.

The Darwin Room is a relatively new addition, boasting spines that are hundreds of years old, alongside first editions and collectables. Unfortunately these aren’t £1!

In between the rugby matches on Saturday, we even managed to sneak in a tower tour up Bath Abbey which was amazing, and a must do – such great value and such great views.

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The journey up is just as good, and the winding corridors and little nooks and crannies you can see and squeeze through make you feel like a kid again. We even got to ring one of the bells from the top! (…I promise I didn’t wear the same outfit the whole time.)

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Glorious sunshine hitting Georgian stone is such a beautiful thing to witness. Visiting Corsham Court after my graduation ceremony was something I’m really glad I did. I was fortunate enough to call it campus for a year and it really is beautiful, more so in the sun!

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(I ditched the heels for my Docs as soon as the photos were taken – if you know me, you know!)

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It felt very good to go full circle and I left Bath with a very cheesy grin on my face!

Let’s hope it’s not too long before I go back for another adventure!

love sophie

the blog turns one

It’s our birthday *does happy dance* and officially one year since write me wild began… where did that year go?!

It’s been a weird one, full of finishing off third year, starting a Masters, and handing in manuscripts, along with some other bits of busyness in between, but I’ve enjoyed sharing my blog with you all and hope to have more time to blog this year.

I’ve continued my monthly soundtrack series, my lactose free loves recipes, and my book club, all of which will be staying, and I also have some more super exciting things coming that you can look out for…

More recently I’ve even added a tab for my artwork, for those of you who don’t have Instagram, and tried to keep on top of my ‘a letter from’ series, which relies on me actually leaving the writing desk!

I hope you’ve all enjoyed reading my posts, and although I haven’t updated Instagram as much as I’ve blogged, I hope you’ve still had a mooch when you got chance.

If there’s anything you’ve particularly enjoyed, or something you think I could do more of, let me know! I want the blog to be a space of interest, and something you want to read.

Thank you for sticking with me.

love sophie

channeling my inner dolly parton

Welcome to the real world, Sophie.

After several applications, lots of CV editing, and interviews, I landed my first job – post MA – at the gorgeous The Little Bookshop in Chapel Allerton last week. It’s the only children’s bookshop in Leeds, and it’s right up my street.

As well as teaching me how to use a coffee machine, it’s keeping me on my toes about my knowledge of children’s books, as well as what’s current and up and coming in young fiction.

What I love most, apart from being surrounded by books all day, is seeing books I’ve never come across before. There really are some scrummy books out there for children, illustrated so beautifully. The big, hardback non fiction books are my favourite at the moment. They make learning about space, history, and the world so fun, and fancy.

I’m still getting used to how things work, and what sells, but I am thoroughly enjoying being back near books. If it’s quiet, I enjoy putting them back in alphabetical order and organising the shelves, getting a closer look at the covers and reading lots of blurbs. It’ll be chaos again after little fingers get intrigued, but I don’t mind. (I’ve got a to be read pile longer than my arm and I’ve only been in a couple of days!)

As much as I probably should feel like an adult now, I’m still enjoying letting my imagination run wild when kids, and parents, come in and ask me for recommendations or ideas.

As for the gorgeous autumnal smells coming out of the kitchen, it’s a heavenly torture. With the new menu, and increasing popularity, it’s lovely to see so many people trying it (even if it does make my jealous tummy rumble as I bring it out of the kitchen!)

I’m looking forward to a bookshop Christmas, and dressing the shop ready for it. There’s something so magical about bookshops, and the festive season, so I’m excited for what it will bring, and the books I’ll discover.

love sophie

 

soundtrack series: september

The final month of my Masters is finished. My novel has been handed in. I am free (aka officially an adult). Here are my five favourite songs from the novel writing process. They got me, and my characters, through a lot of uncertainty, and inspired me in many ways. I owe them a beer (or several).

1. MIKA

Another Kilimanjaro reunion means another throwback artist. This time, one of those classics you just can’t forget. Mika came into full force in the car, with singalongs on the regular. What’s a car journey without some Lebanese love? Firm faves have to be Stardust, Live Your Life, Blue Eyes and Origin Of Love. But they’re all good.

2. George Ezra

A popular one on the soundtrack series this year, and popping up all over the place. One of my favourites, Hold My Girl, was on repeat a lot whilst I was writing the majority of the last half of the book.

3. The Coral

One of those controversial choices, The Coral are fab, and In The Morning was a song that would get me feeling motivated to get up and write (don’t ask me why – the lyrics tell a completely different story entirely!)

4. Fleetwood Mac

Absolute Legends. What more can I say? Dreams, Everywhere, The Chain, Landslide, Go Your Own Way… there are too many good songs to shout about. They were a constant background noise to my keyboard tapping, and I thoroughly enjoyed their company.

5. Birdy

The girl who started it all. I don’t think I would have got through the whole book if it hadn’t been for the beautiful music Birdy creates. Skinny Love was the first song I ever began writing to, and it will always be a firm fave. But there are many more that have made a name for themselves within my novel. What a babe.

What have you been listening to this month?

love sophie

reader, i finished it.

Reader, I finished it.

The pen has been dropped, the printer is out of ink, and I don’t think my hands would let me type another word if I tried.

I’m back in Bath after handing it all in, and it feels surreal.

I stayed with Nina, a friend I met at uni, and we celebrated by dancing to ABBA, drinking prosecco, and making vegan cookies. I wouldn’t have had it any other way.

I drove to Corsham Court to hand it into the uni drop box, making sure it was presented in pristine condition and that I’d filled out the correct course and the right details (knowing my luck I’d have put the wrong module number, or student reference).

I’d been in touch with some of my classmates and we all ended up meeting for a picnic before the ceremonial photo in front of the building and dropping our manuscripts off before heading to the pub! I don’t think I felt like I was sending my baby out into the real world.

It wasn’t perfect, and in places it was very rough, but it was a first draft novel. And what’s important, is I had finished it.

I’m heading back home to bask in my success before the job hunt and adult life seriously begins. That’s the bit I’m dreading most.

But I’m one chuffed writer. After the last few months of struggling to write paragraphs, I’m so pleased I managed to complete my manuscript and hand it in with my peers.

Now to celebrate properly back home in Leeds!

(And no, you can’t read it yet. I’ll let you know when it’s ready for eager eyes, don’t worry.)

love sophie

the power of grief: writing and living through it

Sometimes, there really are no words.

Sadly, my Grandma passed away last month so the pens have been dropped, my plans have been cancelled, and I headed home from Belgium to be with my family.

What I didn’t even think about at the time was the effect it would have on my writing ability. With little under two months to go until I have to be ready to hand in my manuscript, I wasn’t prepared for a complete lull in my writing.

But, the show must go on.

Change is something we all have to adapt to, and this was something I knew had potential to happen as she had been ill for a long time, but still wasn’t fully expecting. And finding my way back to my creative mindset was really tricky.

Initially, I didn’t do anything. I didn’t write, I didn’t make plans, I didn’t leave the house that much. I wasn’t depressed, and it wasn’t an active choice, I think I was just confused and my way of dealing with it was to shut away from the world for a while whilst I tried to process the massive change. And there’s nothing wrong with that.

A few weeks passed and my lack of writing started to niggle at the back of my mind. I started to meet up with friends who were around, tried to keep myself occupied and busy with other projects, and ultimately hoped that after a creative break the juices would start flowing again. They didn’t.

One of the most frustrating things as a writer is being unable to write. Whether you’re at your writing desk, sat on a bus, or scribbling on a napkin in a cafe, it can be blooming difficult. The glossy life of a writer, the one people imagine (lots of tea and cake in coffee shops, and lots of long chapters written in short hours) is totally false – unless you’re a writing god. So, when you can’t write, it’s often hard for people to understand why.

With my deadline looming, and my manuscript tutor worrying about my word counts, I had no choice but to get back to the basics, pen and paper, and write.

Firstly, I wrote about mundane things, like what the tree looked like from my bedroom window, or what I had done the previous day. Then, as this opened my head back up to writing, I began thinking of how my characters would act in the same situation. Would they sit on their grief? Would they showcase it in anger? Would they cry? Writing with pen and paper was more fluid and I enjoyed just being able to keep the pen moving, even if what I was writing wouldn’t be going anywhere because it was pants.

These things helped me work the niggle out, and got me back on track. It wasn’t easy – I’d often manage a whole paragraph over two or three hours – but I knew that it was working, so tried to stick at it. Some days, it was soul destroying, and I just wanted to give up. I’d try writing at home, writing out of the house in cafes, writing outside in the garden. Nothing seemed to make a difference.

Having just moved back home from uni for the first time in four years, this also saw a huge change in my lifestyle. Living at home is something I am finding really hard now that I’m here for good. Or until I find a job which means I can afford another option. As my mum works from home, I find trying to do work nigh on impossible without being interrupted by noises, or without having to plan my day so it fitted with her routines.

After a few weeks of feeling defeated, I took some time away in my Grandma’s house, which was standing empty. She didn’t have internet, there was barely any signal, and it’s not near a busy town centre or somewhere I could get distracted.

I didn’t know how I was going to find it, so originally just went for a couple of nights, but the first time I was there I managed 7000 words, the most I’d written in weeks.

I stayed a few more times, longer length, to try and bash out as much as I could. With my manuscript meetings every Friday, I got into the routine of staying for four days and then coming home to use the internet and Skype.

Being away from the world for that amount of time, and being left to just write at my own free will was priceless. It gave me back my confidence in my novel, and on my writing breaks I’d often flick through the photo albums left out in the living room from when my grandma was younger. It motivated me and cheered me on, and I really appreciated the time I spent there.

Having my independence back, to a certain extent, also did wonders. Running off my own schedule, without being questioned over my plans for the day or where I’d be for dinner, really helped me crack down on the word count.

I ended up changing the plot of my novel towards this period too, as I didn’t want to include my grief in it at the time, as it was something I was still dealing with. I took out a huge part of the story, something I’m looking at editing back in at a later stage, when I feel more comfortable.

I didn’t initially realise how much grief would effect my novel, but then again I never thought it would.

I’d definitely recommend taking some time away from your writing, unless you have the urge to write about what you’re experiencing, as I know that can sometimes help.

For me, having my own space, without the distractions of social media, was a saving grace.

It makes me sad that my grandma will never get to read my novel, or any books I write in the future, but I’m sure she’ll be pleased I stayed in her house and it helped.

love sophie

 

bogged down in word counts: where did my story go?

I’m feeling pretty rubbish about writing at the moment. I don’t know if it’s the impending doom of deadlines, or the fact I’m struggling to write even a word of my manuscript, but the pen has been dropped and I’ve left the writing desk. I even devoured a full punnet of blueberries and scoffed a full block of chocolate in misery (did I mention I’m lactose intolerant?) I can honestly say: it doesn’t help.

I just can’t blooming do it.

And I’ve decided, for now, that it’s fine.

Writing is such a solitary venture that even with a head full of characters you can feel more alone than ever. My attempt at giving up social media during the daytime to focus on my work was an absolute disaster which hasn’t helped. And the worry of falling behind with work has left me skipping fun sociable things which in reality are helpful for my writing and spark my creativity.

I’m finding the balance of it all really difficult, and every time I think I’m getting there, the scales start tipping.

Alas! I’m hoping a couple of days off topic, mooching around on my bike, and reading other people’s words, will do wonders to mine. Here’s hoping!

Have you got any top tips on how to keep ploughing through your word count? And how to keep motivated? If you do, I’m all ears!

love sophie

gay in YA

My research project this term has surrounded the growing presence of LGBTQ+ characters, and stories, in YA fiction, among other children’s books.

I thoroughly enjoyed reading books for research around the topic, and learning more than I thought I knew about the topic. It is so easy to become ignorant to topics, so I think it’s really important, especially when writing and analysing it, to be aware of the facts, and talk to the community, being involved and understanding, listening to what they have to say.

I read Kalaidoscope Song, by Fox Benwell, an alumni from my course, as well as Two Boys Kissing, by David Levithan which are both completely different examples of representation, from characters right through to plot. Both authors are also both members of the community.

Something I found whilst researching was that lots of the books covered the same plots and themes: coming out, being accepted socially, self acceptance, bullying, mental health etc. which I didn’t think fully represented the community. Obviously these themes are prevalent, but they don’t equate to everything the characters are feeling. Surely they’d want to read something where the character, no matter what part of the LGBTQ+ community, had the normal teenage life, and where their sexuality didn’t define them?

I think there is such a gap in the market for these books. Many of the books I looked at for research were fairly recent to the market, with only a few years between them, a couple proving to be quite ahead of their time. But more recently, we are seeing more LGBTQ+ books being published, along with authors from the community which is really important.

I hope this brings with it a new wave of publishing for this community. Books are a platform to bring controversial and often unspoken topics into the open and for many they are the way they learn things about the world.

‘These characters and narratives can shine a light into the corners of possibility for children searching for signs that they are not alone in their otherness.’

love sophie

writing dates: do they help or hinder?

February was one of those head-down-get-on-with-it kind of months (as well as lets-hit-Sophie-with-the-flu-just-when-she-doesn’t-need-it.) With just shy of 15,000 words due, I was trying to save every ounce of energy up to write my essays, and assignments. But when you can’t even think straight and spend most of the day coughing (my whole January was more like dry cough January than dry January) it’s difficult to get much done.

Cue a lot of writing dates with other writers/peers/anyone who would take me up on my offer of free flowing tea and biscuits, in the hope of it being inspiring and actually making me do some work.

But did it really help?

Here are the things I noticed happening to my work/me:

1. It got competitive

I’m not a hugely competitive person *flips the board of monopoly if she doesn’t get Mayfair* but there’s something about people sitting around laptops, typing endlessly which gets incredibly competitive. Now, this in theory is great, it means that you’re in competition to write the most and do the most work. But actually, what comes out of this (unless you’re a Sara Barnard level A+writer) is a very very very first draft which makes no sense. Yes I managed to write lots, but it wasn’t necessarily good stuff and needed lots of editing when I managed to escape back under the blankets with a cuppa.

2. It can be the world’s best procrastination

So you’re sat with your laptop, you’ve got a brew and you’re ready to get cracking on your next chapter. WRONG. Instead, you end up listening to your friends detail the whole night out that you missed in the classic debrief. You get way too into it, completely forget the reason you’re there, and suddenly you’re watching videos of cute goats on YouTube? (please tell me I’m not the only one?) Three hours later and you’ve exhausted yourself to the point of no work, so you turn to Netflix and drown your sorrows in tea, saying ‘It’s okay, I’ll do it tomorrow…’ even if tomorrow is the deadline.

3. It can be very distracting

This is especially the case if you’re all working on the same assignment. Or even if you’re all trying to do the same kind of thing. When it comes to writing, a lot of research is involved, especially if it’s high fantasy or historical, or you need to be factually correct with characters etc. This is all good and well until someone whips out a truck load of information which is then put on you because you just need to know it too. I think I’ve learnt more from my peers who have been researching for their books than I ever did when it came to researching for my own things. And then there’s the breaks. If someone pops to the loo, makes a drink, or declares lunchtime, it only seems fitting to take a break too. Even if you’ve only written the title.

4. It’s an emotional battle

Just like reading a book, there’s a definite emotional rollercoaster that comes with writing dates. I don’t know whether it’s having someone you can complain to/talk things through with, or whether it’s just because it can be really hard, but writing dates often turn into therapy sessions punctuated with ‘you can do this’ and ‘just focus on writing this chapter’ which is all good and well if you have an idea you believe in. This is when those extra biscuits you brought (just in case) make their way out whilst you shut down all your word documents and cry internally over the fact you’re never going to get published. You then have to sit there whilst the other people, who are still tapping away on their keyboards, continue to casually mosey on through the brick wall ahead. Total writing torture.

5. Everything takes time

When initially planning the date, you have to bear in mind that at least 70% of it will be spent making tea, talking, scrolling through your phone, eating, giggling, watching funny videos, etc. So you only ever really get 30% maximum done. This is something you should take into account when planning when to meet and where. If you meet before lunch, you may be more productive in the morning but end up having more breaks. If you meet after lunch you might have passed the most productive part of your day. It’s a battle you sometimes just can’t win. I try and meet up as early as possible because then at least I’ve given myself the whole day to procrastinate. And even if I don’t manage the target of words I set (or even half of them) I know that it’s more than I would have done anyway.

Let me know if you have any tips on writing in a group, and whether there are any ways it helps you/any suggestions to make it work better!

love sophie