This Year

I’m perhaps a little late to the “2016 round-up” train, but I guess there’s no harm in plowing on with it!

I’m checking in here after my first visit to the Glasgow Women’s Library – I applied to join their book group last month, and this is the first sessions I’ve been able to make it to! We were reading Herland, by Charlotte Perkins Gilman, a very interesting early 20th century utopian novel. I’m hoping that going along will help me continue to challenge my reading, especially when it comes to reading non-genre fiction, which can be a bit of a weakness of mine.

This year, I will also be embarking on an alphabet reading challenge. In knitting, we use the term “stash-busting” to talk about trying to work through all of the unused yarn in our house… I guess I see this second challenge as a stash-bust for books, hoping that finishing B and saying “what do I have in the house by a C-surname author” will lead to me reading more books I already own instead of hoarding new ones.

I’m still working four days a week, and have a dedicated writing day. On the one hand, it’s been really good to have a dedicated writing day, and I have been writing every week. On the other hand, it’s somewhat frustrating to have a tantalising view of how much more creative work I’d be getting done if I could afford to spend less time working for money.

I realise this is a common problem in non-professional writers – but I suppose that doesn’t mean I can’t now understand it emotionally instead of knowing about it logically. Especially since I often feel self-conscious about how much I write – for me a carefully squeezed out 500 words, some of which I may backtrack on next time, is a good session, and more than 750 is a great one. It would take me over a year to write another novel from the start, and that’s assuming I write every week and don’t spend time and words deleting, re-doing, re-planning.

I am taking a break from my novel, since I’ve been having trouble editing it, and have been having fun writing a new – well, what began as a short story but is beginning to look like a novelette, at least. I’m hoping I’ll be able to return to my novel and finish it by the end of the year, but writing this right now I’m not sure if that will happen. I worry that I’m somehow missing my novel’s “moment” by doing so. When I started writing it in 2014, setting it in 2011 was only a few years back. The world has changed so much in 3 years – at what point to have to begin working in periodising it, or rework it for the new contemporary?

I shall leave off with a few pictures of my current on-the-needles knitting. I am hoping to finish at least these two projects by Edinburgh Yarn Festival, which I’m very excited for – I’ve finished a lot more knitting in the past year than I remember, and I’m looking forward to going back!

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This pattern is The Love Of Spiders, by Melanie Berg. It’s knitted in a mix of Rusty Ferret Yarn Doll (the purple) and Rainbow Heirloom Solo Light (the black). I wanted to challenge myself to knit things with ~more than one colour in them~, and this is one of the results. The colour combination is also, perhaps, partially a result of my abortive plan to knit a three colour shawl in black-white-purple to make something patterned after Miss Muffet from Undertale. Alternately maybe it’s just my teenage emo kid heart coming through. I’m listening to Welcome To The Black Parade right now, guys.

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Another result of my attempt to do more with colour, this is the Anchor Steam by Thea Colman in two different colours of A Verb For Keeping Warm Pioneer that I picked up on holiday. For the non-knitters: this may look less complicated, but is harder. The Spiders shawl uses only one colour per row because of Witchcraft Reasons. In this one, you need to switch colours within the same row. And that is TERRIFYING (or at least, seems so until you try it. Then it’s okay.)

I will update after Edinburgh Yarn Festival to fulfil the craft side of this blog – and with luck will be able to report that I’ve finished my new story, too.

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September Writing Check-In

A lot has happened over the past few months, enough for me to have a brag shelf!

  1. I had my first accepted story printed in the Temporal Discombobulation anthology, which was produced and released in line with the Gothic Time conference at the University of Surrey.
  2. …and my second accepted-and-to-be-printed story will be in the Thirty Years of Rain anthology! There are so many excellent writers in the anthology that I’m hoping some of the magic will rub off on me. The anthology is having its “official” launch at Fantasycon By The Sea, but will also be having a launch in Glasgow at the Argyle Street Waterstones.

It feels odd to be posting about a lot of things going on, because up until recently I felt like I’d reached a writing dead zone – I just didn’t have enough time or energy to write around work. But I’ve recently started trying out four days a week, and having a dedicated writing day has already led to me getting a lot more work done.

I was originally going to type “huge” amount for work, but I suppose that wouldn’t be quite right – since starting the trial two weeks ago, I’ve written/edited two scenes of my novel redraft and dusted off a short story I had on the shelf to try to get it finished. I’ve had a lot more writing sessions since I started, and feel like I’ve gotten more done than I had in months – so things are looking up!

June Writing Check-In & TGC12 Launch

It has been a busy few months for me – I’ve started a full time job, finished and submitted the short story I was talking about last post, and started, finished and submitted a second hitherto-unmentioned short story. And perhaps most excitingly for the moment, I dug my sketchbook back out and finished a piece for Team Girl Comic 12, which is out today!

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FOR REAL GUYS I MADE THIS

I’ve been seeing Team Girl Comic’s work around the Glasgow comic convention scene for years, and every time I saw them I swore I was going to totally make a comic for them – so I’m super proud of myself for actually doing it, and very excited to have my work printed alongside the work of so many talented ladies.

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Team Girl Comic weren’t the only comic around at the launch – I also picked up a couple of issues of Treehouse Comic, as well as the Scottish Independent Comic Book Award-nominated Sol, and I’m excited to get reading them!

Edinburgh Yarn Festival 2016

I almost can’t believe it’s been a whole week since I was at Edinburgh Yarn Festival. It’s been my first big “knitting event” and it was a lot of fun – everyone there was exceptionally lovely, and I picked up a lot of yarn and had a good time with the friends I went with. I’m looking forward to hitting up the Indie Burgh Yarn Crawl in June, but for now let’s show you what I picked up!

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Three skeins of Skein Queen Desire Bounce, and my adorable Edinburgh Yarn Fest logo project bag. It’s pictured as the beginning of a Distinction by Caitlin ffrench. It’s been my first ever colourwork project, and it’s so much fun! It’s come a long way since I cast it on a week ago, you can see my latest project picture on my Ravelry page.

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Two skeins of DyeNinja High Twist Merino Fingering, and my Edinburgh Yarn Fest tote bag. The blue is in the Queen Magrat colourway of DyeNinja’s special Discworld colourways, I was very excited to pick up the last skein she had for sale. I’m most likely going to knit this into a Byatt by Karie Westerman.

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Two skeins of Border Tart Blue Moon Merino Fingering, and a copy of the festival’s exclusive Wool Tribe magazine. I saw a few stalls selling yarn dyed with indigo at the festival, and thought I’d get in on it while it’s trendy. I’m still not sure what I’m doing with these – I might make a second Byatt, depending on how I feel after the first one, or I might make something else entirely – I’m sure I won’t struggle to find a project for this gorgeous pair. I am planning to make the Stevenson Cowl by Gudrun Johnston from Wool Tribe at some point, though – and I’ve already bought a few skeins of Jamieson’s to get me started.

I feel like I’ve been existing on wool fumes since I left – I’ve spent more time solidly working on the Distinction in this past week than I think I have on any other project, and I’m so excited to see my other gorgeous pickups as finished objects.

I was amazed at how it managed to have such a relaxed atmosphere despite half of the event being a sales hall – people were happy for you to browse and touch yarns, and respected if you said you were still planning your budget or wanted to see everything before laying down cash. I think the difference from, say, comic conventions I’ve been to is that most of these people seem to have online or physical stores that are doing fine – this event isn’t the only chance they’ll have to sell wool, whereas at a comic convention things can feel a little weird when you’re browsing the creator-owned comics and the creator in question obviously needs people to buy things so they can at least make back their table cost. I also ended up in a lot more casual chat than I ever have at a comic convention – telling people their scarves look nice, or asking what yarn they’re using, and having people do the same back to you, gave it a real tangible sense of community. I’m already looking forward to next year!

February Reading & Writing Check-In

Last month, I finished the story I started in January and sent it away, and have since started writing another one! I’ve been making very small edits to the novel since I’m still waiting for a beta to finish reading & send me their feedback, but the changes feel like they’ve been important – they’re all tweaks or rewordings of scenes or phrases that have been bothering me since the first draft but that I didn’t change because nobody flagged them in editing. While there’s still one part I’m mentally picking over, I think most of them are a lot better for the changes I’ve made.

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Wyrd Sisters by Terry Pratchett – Because of when the first Sunday of each month fell I ended up reading two Pratchett book club entries this month. I really enjoyed Wyrd Sisters, since I enjoy Shakespeare enough that I could a) laugh at all the jokey references made to them and b) enjoy the glorious melodrama of the Shakespeare-inspired main plot. I love the three witch characters, and feel that there’s enough to the book to enjoy as a standalone fantasy work with themes of magic and stories as much as I enjoyed it as part of my Pratchett-reading project.

Arrows of the Queen & Arrows’ Flight by Mercedes Lackey – Speaking of enjoying things, my boyfriend bought me a Mercedes Lackey omnibus for Christmas because he was sure I would love them. And I do. I’m two novellas through the great honking tome. There are elements of them that are pure “teen fantasy”, involving running away from home and finding out you’re something special and making new friends, but what elevates Lackey amongst lesser entries in the genre is her keyed-in understanding and deep exploration of emotions. The protagonists’ troubled upbringing and experience leave her with a whole host of mental scars, and the book takes this trauma as genuine and explores the different messy ways people notice or don’t notice, try to solve it and fail or succeed, and the way it affects her when new things enter her life. It’s a very effective book, and this truly successful psychological realism melds wonderfully with the more fantastical adventure elements.

Pyramids! by Terry Pratchett – This month’s second book club read. While I won’t say it didn’t have issues, re: Pratchett’s recurring joke that everyone, deep down, is a middle class English person taking on slightly troubling colonial connotations when transferred to an Egyptian environment, I still really enjoyed it. It’s the best-paced Discworld I’ve read so far, and does lots of interesting and fun things with its setting and its ideas about mathematics and the cosmos.

Bubblegum Garbage Disposal’s Alternative Oscars

Let’s be fair: most people are more than a little disappointed with this year’s Oscar nominations. And not just for the social issues – they’re also just  uninspiring overall. There’s nothing as ambitious as Boyhood, cinematographically intriguing as Birdman, or stylish as Whiplash or Grand Budapest Hotel. There isn’t even anything as dire controversial as American Sniper. In theory, there’s a race between The Revenant and Mad Max: Fury Road, but those two movies appeal to such different demographics that it’s less of a conversation and more of an awkward elevator ride. So, in the interest of personal fun, I’ve put together a personal list of what would make my personal Oscars list this year.

The Rules:

  • The film must be eligible for this year’s Oscars, or if it’s unclear whether the film is eligible, it must have had its first UK release since the last Oscars.
  • The film must have had a wide release, which I’m judging by whether or not it played at Cineworld. This is an alternate Oscars rather than a “my favourite films” list, and the Oscars tend to reward films which have a mainstream cinema release, partially because those films are more popular and partially because those distributors can afford to send out more screeners to academy members.

I erred on the side of including Beasts of No Nation and The Hateful Eight, because of the wide spread of Netflix and Tarantino’s mainstream popularity respectively. Additionally, I have not seen Brooklyn, Straight Outta Compton, 45 Years, The Danish Girl or Youth, so they will not be included in this list.

Are you ready?

Best Picture

best picture

My best picture list is only five, since I’d rather fill it with five films I was really sure about than spend three days arguing back and forth over what to fill the rest of the list with from other films I liked this year. Please mentally fill in the last five with popular films you liked.

The Big Short
Carol
Creed
The Lobster
Love & Mercy

The Big Short is the only real-Oscars nomination that makes it here. I wasn’t expecting much from it since I didn’t like the trailer, but it’s a good film – it takes a lot stylistically from documentary-making in a way that gives it a cool, off-kilter feel. It’s also the only real advocacy film I’ve seen in years that’s really trying to raise awareness of a current situation rather than portraying the issues depicted as historical or completely solved.

Best Actor

Since this is the better, not-real Oscars, I can nominate an actor for more than one film – which is great for Fassbender and Hardy, who gave excellent performances in two films each this year.

Matt Damon – The Martian
Paul Dano – Love & Mercy
Michael Fassbender – Steve Jobs/Macbeth
Tom Hardy – Legend/Mad Max: Fury Road
Michael B. Jordan – Creed

I was wondering whether to put Farrell in over someone else for his performance in The Lobster, but I’d already put together the rest of the list by then and couldn’t decide who to remove, so it stays as it is. Fassbender is probably my favourite here on account of the two-really-excellent-performances thing, so I suppose I’m glad he’s also up for the real thing. It’s a shame he’s likely to lose to DiCaprio’s Oscar-By-Attrition, especially since The Wolf Of Wall Street was much more interesting than The Revenant.

Best Actress 

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I had to set myself rules for Best Actress, which I suppose is an unfortunate comment on female roles – they had to be leads rather than large female supporting roles, so the film had to feel like their story. By these rules I ended up deciding that Mara should get the nomination for Carol rather than Blanchett.  Vikander is probably the fuzziest inclusion, but Ex Machina is structured in such a way that you can argue that all of the three core characters are alternately main or supporting characters at different parts of the film.

Emily Blunt – Sicario
Lola Kirke – Mistress America
Rooney Mara – Carol
Charlize Theron – Mad Max: Fury Road
Alicia Vikander – Ex Machina

Mistress America wasn’t a great film, but newcomer Kirke gives a great performance in it – and since I didn’t see Brooklyn and decided that nominating Lawrence’s performance in Joy ironically wasn’t in the spirit of what I’m doing, I had room to recognise her. Emily Blunt in Sicario is probably the oddest absence from the main list, but it was possibly too genre for mainstream academy voters while being too apparently-mainstream to win much big-indie attention.

Supporting Actor

supporting actor

I feel like people calling for Elba’s nomination for supporting actor cements my rules for best vs best supporting actress – Elba is a huge, charismatic presence with a lot of screentime in Beasts of No Nation, but he’s not the lead.

Benicio Del Toro – Sicario
Idris Elba – Beasts of No Nation
Domhnall Gleeson – The Revenant/Ex Machina
Oscar Isaac – Ex Machina
Sylvester Stallone – Creed

While none of Gleeson’s performances have been as stand-out as the other nominees, he’s the real MVP of being a supporting actor this year. He was also in Star Wars, which I’ve left out here since it’s up for my fictional “Best Ensemble” category, and Brooklyn, which I didn’t see. I’m sure he’s fine in that too. I used to joke that this should be the “why didn’t they dominate Benicio Del Toro” category, but after seeing their films Elba and Stallone give category-winning performances too.

Supporting Actress

supporting actress

Supporting Actress probably has the most fuzzy entries – Blanchett, Browning and Larson all have large roles in their film, with Browning even narrating hers, but the emotional centre of Carol and Room films belong to other characters, and Browning’s character takes the background towards the end of her film.

Cate Blanchett – Carol
Emily Browning – Legend
Olivia Colman – The Lobster
Brie Larson – Room
Kate Winslet – Steve Jobs

I feel worst about giving Larson supporting rather than main actress, but the reason I’ve given it to her is the same reason I’m not a huge fan of Room – towards the end, it leans more towards being an uplifting film about a precocious child than a psychological drama, and in doing so erases Larson’s character’s arc by literally never mentioning her suicide attempt again after it happens. Also, I nominated Colman over Weisz in The Lobster because, although they’re both great, I felt that Colman gave a really exceptional performance that was vital to selling the film’s off-key tone and highly stylised characterisation.

Best Ensemble

best ensemble

Sometimes, films have more than one main character, or a large equally-important supporting cast, or otherwise don’t quite work for the regular best/supporting categories. Since I can do what I want here, I wanted to reward those un-neat films as well.

The Big Short
The Hateful Eight
Magic Mike XXL
Spotlight
Star Wars: The Force Awakens

On cultural impact alone Star Wars feels like the runaway winner here, introducing a cast of varied and compelling characters that have gone straight to people’s hearts, but it wouldn’t be an awards-ceremony-written-by-me without Magic Mike XXL. Spotlight is an interesting one – it has a lot of characters, but none of them have arcs that do not connect in some way to the scandal-biopic main plot, which is unique in itself.

Best Channing Tatum

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Jody – The Hateful Eight
Caine – Jupiter Ascending
Mike Lane – Magic Mike XXL

It’s a close year for the most important award. Tatum’s performances as final-act basement gangster, half-wolf space husband and half-snake ex-dancer husband were all very compelling.

Best Supporting Dog

best dog

I found out about the Palm Dog awards a few weeks ago and they’re very important.

That Ant That’s Basically A Dog – Ant-Man
Daisy/Unnamed Pitbull – John Wick
J.B. – Kingsman: The Secret Service
Bob – The Lobster
Leo’s Dog – Room

John Wick has two dogs, which puts it at a real advantage.

Best Director

best director

I feel somewhat embarrassed about not having any female directors here. I thought that there must be at least one female-directed film I’ve seen this year that a) meets “the rules” and b) has awards-quality stylish directing, but… there wasn’t. So, consider this piece of commentary an apologetic honourable mention for  Céline Sciamma (for Girlhood, which didn’t get a wide release) and Lana Wachowski  (for Jupiter Ascending, which was very fun but not quite right for this list).

Danny Boyle – Steve Jobs
Ryan Coogler – Creed
Todd Haynes – Carol
Yorgos Lanthimos – The Lobster
Adam McKay – The Big Short

It can be hard to differentiate “direction” from “cinematography”, especially when you’re trying to award the “look” or “feel” of the film, so for “best director” I tried to choose films that felt like they had a notable approach to camerawork or overall performance style – so The Big Short’s documentary feel, Steve JobsWest Wing/Birdman-style backstage claustrophobia, The Lobster‘s consistently and purposefully understated line readings, Creed‘s stylish fight camerawork, and the lingering dreamy long-shots of Carol.

Best Visual Design

visual design

I’ve combined all of the visual design categories so that I don’t have to unpick the difference between cinematography, production design and film editing.

Carol
It Follows
John Wick
Macbeth
Sicario

When I look at the mainstream awards, Carol is obviously an odd omission from the Best Picture and Best Director, but I was also surprised at Sicario‘s absence from any acting awards and Macbeth‘s absence from… well, everything. It’s a really gorgeous film. Like many of my categories, Mad Max: Fury Road was a close runner-up here – I definitely remember enjoying it, but it’s become so over-hyped to me that I tend to end up rejecting it because it feels like a “should” rather than “want to” addition.

Best Sound Design

best sound

Like with Visual Design, I’ve combined all of the sound categories into one since I honestly don’t know the difference between “sound mixing” and “sound editing”, let along where they depart from “best score”.

The Hateful Eight [x]
It Follows [x]
Love & Mercy [x]
Magic Mike XXL [x]
Steve Jobs [x]

I’ve included links to either the film’s full soundtrack or an excerpt from it, since without an aural demonstration all you’d be taking away from this category is that “films with good sound design are probably blue and red”. Obviously, combining all these categories as one means you get some crossover of musical/choreographical films like Magic Mike XXL mixed in with more traditionally/experimentally soundtracked films, like It Follows‘ John Carpenter synths and the building tension of Steve Jobs‘ anticipatory percussion.

Best Screenplay

best screenplay

I’ve combined adapted and original screenplay since I am theoretically meant to be making these alternate awards for fun.

The Big Short
Inside Out
The Lobster
Love & Mercy
The Martian

The Oscar’s Best Screenplay awards can be odd, since they’re often used as a way to award nominations or accolades to films that are a little too odd or indie or just not-the-front-runners enough to get Best Picture, combined with films that are very stylish in wordplay or atmosphere. I suppose mine aren’t that much different, with The Martian and Inside Out not getting many other nominations in my fake Oscars and the other three being exceptionally stylish.

Worst Writer Of Third Acts

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I wasn’t planning to do a worst anything award, but while preparing the Best Actress category I remembered that Baumbach had written both Mistress America and While We’re Young.

Noah BaumbachMistress America & While We’re Young

Both films have the same problem – a really excellent, nuanced first two-thirds-or-so that establish complex characters, their relationships, and their issues with their lives & creative work, followed by an abysmal last third where the story and characterization fly completely off the rails before ending in the most clumsy and conventional way possible in spite of the earlier complexity of the issues raised. At the half way point, I might have listed either of them as in the running for one of my favourite films of the year. Then they kept going.

There are probably worse-overall films this year, but the promise of the openings made watching these feel like realising someone’s taken a shit half-way down a panini you’ve already started eating..


In the end, my awards weren’t really much less white, or much less straight, than the mainstream Oscars – so as much as I’d stand by every film on this list as great, there’s a wider distribution problem when it comes to films with LGBT or PoC protagonists getting the funding for the kind of wide cinematic release & screener distribution that gets films on the awards radar. There’s nothing inherently more “Oscar-film” about The Revenant than there is about a film like Girlhood or Tangerine, other than media “buzz” – though even that “buzz” didn’t help Carol, Creed and other films like them make it into a lot of the categories they were tipped for.

January Reading & Writing Check-In

I’ve had a busy writing time the last month – I finished another editing read-through of my novel, polished up two stories to send in to journals, and have written a new story, currently in the editing process. I’m intending to send it off this month. I’ve decided to give my novel a rest for a month, then come back to it with fresh eyes in March – it gives the betas that haven’t gotten back to me a chance to finish it, and means that I’ll hopefully have a clearer idea of whether a few changes I have in mind are improvements or just fiddling.

So, last month’s reads!

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Babel-17 by Samuel R. Delaney – I’d been meaning to read this one for a while – since I studied Linguistics in undergraduate, I’m interested in any story about language, particularly one with as sterling a reputation as this one. And it was worth it – its denseness made it a slow read, but it was fascinating, intriguing and entertaining, as well as very ahead of its time – possibly even still ahead of our time. Its intriguing ideas about language and society, as well as its effortlessly diverse cast of characters, would be the envy of many of today’s writers as something that appears cutting edge.

Less Than Zero by Bret Easton Ellis – It’s hard to recommend Bret Easton Ellis to people, not because he isn’t exceptionally talented, because he is, but because his work has so much oddity, so many bleak moments, that it would have to come with so many disclaimers that there wouldn’t seem much point. Less Than Zero is his first novel, and is about a college kid who comes home to 1980s Los Angeles for two weeks and becomes reabsorbed into the narcissistic nihilism of the friends he left behind. It’s absorbing, it feels like it was written by somebody who understands that subculture rather than somebody skewering it from the outside.

The Moomins and the Great Flood by Tove Jansson – This was a birthday gift from my partner – I’ve been slowly collecting Moomin comics for years, and he thought I’d enjoy one of the novels. I did. It’s very sweet, and the art is lovely, and it has the enchanting fairytale quality I’m used to finding in Jansson’s work. It is a children’s book, but a very good one, and one that’s as enjoyable as a modern adult as it would be to a preteen in the 40s.

December Reading & Writing Check-In

It does sometimes feel a bit backwards to be posting these at the start of the month after, but, well, it is literally my reading and writing from December. I’ve been making slow though not terribly exciting progress with editing – I’ve been spending a lot of time working on university assignments instead, but I’m over half way through my current read-through & redraft.

For the same reason, I have a smaller number of books read this month – also, since it’s been the holidays and I’ve not been taking the train most days, I’ve been having to make time to read in my free time. Imagine that.

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Queen of Sorcery by David Eddings – I read the first book in the Belgariad a few years ago. It’s one of my mother’s childhood favourite series, so she gave me Pawn of Prophecy for Christmas one year. Then I sort of – forgot about it, until I decided to pick up Queen of Sorcery in a second-hand bookstore. Much like the first book, I enjoyed reading it but less than a month later keep forgetting that I read it. It’s plenty of fun, the characters are very cute, and it feels like a very “classic” high fantasy book in a nice way – but it doesn’t necessarily transcend that.

Mort by Terry Pratchett – The Discworld Book Club is trying to knock out the last of the “early” Discworlds over the Christmas break, so I’ve been mostly reading Pratchett this month. This is the first Discworld book we’ve come to that I hadn’t already read as a child, so it already feels different from the others in that I’m actually having to use my brain to pay attention to what’s going on instead of filling in vague gaps in old memories. I’d been hearing a lot about how Discworld’s Death changes over the course fo the series, so it was intriguing seeing the first book to make a big attempt to flesh him out as a character.

Sourcery by Terry Pratchett – The final “early” Discworld! I think this may be the one that I struggled with the most out of the five, since the start of it is a bit difficult to slog through, particularly with the double viewpoints – instead of just having one slow fifty-page intro to get through, you’ve got two. It was definitely odd for me, as for some reason I’d imagined Sourcery as being book four and being the second part of Equal Rites in the same way that The Colour of Magic and The Light Fantastic are two halves of a whole, so it was a bit like going back to a childhood home and realising that you had, in fact, been imagining having a garden.

December Crafts – Emmer Shawl, Honey Cowl, Lapsang Hat

The past few months have been both good and bad for my knitting. On the plus side – I’ve been working on a few different exciting patterns at once, and managing to make at least a few hours a week to work on them. On the down side, oh god my wrists hurt so much I seriously need to space these out more (she says, using her sore wrists to play Dragon Age and write blog posts – okay so I can’t entirely blame knitting for my woes).

Emmer Shawl

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Pattern: [x]

Particularly eagle-eyed readers will recognise a much smaller version of this shawl in the photograph on my first reading round-up post. The first shawl I ever made took me a year. This… is the second shawl I’ve ever made. I’m going to generously assume I’ll take the same amount of time. I bought this wonderful hand-dyed wool from local yarn store Queen of Purls as a treat for myself in some beautiful autumnal colours. By my estimations, it may in fact be finished and ready to wear next autumn.

Honey Cowl

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Pattern: [x]

I’ve been working on this one on-off for a few months. I love the mustard yellow wool I’m working in, it looks great and feels squishy, and the simplicity of the pattern means it’s easy to knit while sitting in class or watching television… but the simplicity also means I don’t feel very challenged by it, which is how I ended up with two other projects on the go at the same time. I’m looking forward to getting back to it and hopefully finishing it soon.

Lapsang Hat

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Pattern: [x]

I left this one until last since it may be my favourite thing that I’m working on at the moment. It’s in super chunky yarn, so it knits up very fast, and since I took a bit of a break from knitting over the summer it’s nice to be making something that looks great, is fun to work on AND I’m going to finish pretty quickly. I’d seen a few friends making Tea Collection hats before, and since I got to pick up some of the Ginger Twist Studios yarn those patterns are designed for at an event at Queen of Purls, I decided it was time to make my own.

November Reading & Writing Check-In

It’s been a slow but steady writing month due to work – I’ve been making word-level edits to my novel draft all month, as well as pulling together a list of bigger edits from the full-draft feedback I got from my workshop group. I’m hoping to knock the rest of the edits out over the Christmas break ready to (gasp!) potentially start submitting to agents while working on Novel 2.

Because I’ve been working quite far out I’ve got a lot of reading done this month, thanks to the train rides.

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The Light Fantastic by Terry Pratchett – It feels like almost cheating to include this, as I was half-way through it last check-in and it’s already merged in my head with The Colour of Magic again. I still thoroughly enjoyed re-reading this – I really enjoy reading about Rincewind and Twoflower, and the ending even managed to be a little sad.

The Girl With All The Gifts by M.R. Carey – I picked this up second hand aaages ago, so it was good to actually get it read. It has a really intriguing take on the zombie story, and the different viewpoint characters all have a great depth to them. It’s not perfect – Justineau becomes a flatter and flatter character as Parks gains depth, which caused me to fall out of love with it a little towards the end – but it’s definitely worth a read if you’re trying to read good modern genre fiction.

The Earthsea Trilogy by Ursula Le Guin – Since Equal Rites riffs on this quite a lot, I wanted to read this before I read it – as well as just having wanted to read them for a while. I really enjoyed reading The Dispossessed during my undergrad, so I was intrigued to experience Le Guin’s fantasy works. While the first one is a little bit simplistic-fantasy-book-for-actual-children at points, it definitely ramps up towards the end, and the latter two built on the foundations of the first to create intriguing and often dark reads. Part of what’s interesting about them is how different they all are – A Wizard of Earthsea is a fun fantasy adventure novel, The Tombs of Atuan is a much weirder tale about a cult that’s geographically remote from the rest of the series, and The Far Shore is a corrupted version of the adventure tale that deals with existential horror about the idea of mortality. Reading them all together has been really interesting, and I’m glad they hold up to their classic reputation.

Equal Rites by Terry Pratchett – Another read for the Discworld book club. This is, infamously, the last Discworld book I read the first time I tried to read the series. It didn’t grip me quite as much as the first two did, but this version of Granny Weatherwax as an ornery witch who’s never been outside her village before is quite fun (though I’m told she’s basically a different character in later books), and it was a nice gentle read during a stressful week. I can definitely see where it riff on Earthsea, with the mountain villages and very gender-split magical philosophy.

Citizen by Claudia Rankine – This book was actually left to me by an American friend with not enough room in their suitcase for all of the books they accumulated while living here. I’ve read Lydia Davis’ prose poetry before, so I didn’t have any issues with the “genre” of the book in a way that I’ve heard debated – it’s a very powerful, emotional read based on the writer’s experience and musings on racism. It’s very creative with the way it’s put together, with pictures and multimedia that make it part poetry book and part art piece.