Books: Girl, Missing by Sophie Mckenzie*

Girl, Missing isn’t my usual read. Especially with YA or teen fiction, I mostly go for the extravagant fantasy, or at least a dash of magic and the supernatural, rather than books set in the real world.

But the blurb intrigued me and I’ve been feeling a bit lost lately, plus I quite fancied a real book for the beach so my Kindle didn’t get all sandy, so I took it with me on holiday and dived in.

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And much to my surprise, I was hooked!

It’s fast paced and clever, and I found myself really caring about Lauren and Jam, and the situations they find themselves in.

It unfolds with some twists, and there were a few moments where I said “oh!” out loud, because I was so surprised.

Around halfway through, when some darker things started to happen to the central characters (it’s so hard not to give things away in reviews!), I succumbed to one of my own quirks and read the last few pages, so that I could get through the darker bits without them stressing me too much.

This is something that happens with most books, especially the dystopian YA titles I used to read loads of, and I attribute it to being HSP and having a ridiculously overactive imagination. I don’t see it as a bad thing, but for some reason it drives other people mad…!

So once I’d assured myself of the ending, I could go back and enjoy it.

I finished it in one sitting, partly because I was on holiday and I could, but mostly because I couldn’t put it down – I desperately wanted to know where they were going next and what would happen, and how they would get out of the next crisis.

Also very much loved the extra chapter at the end, which was part of the first draft – as someone who writes more naturally than she talks, but rarely attempts fiction, it’s wonderful to have little snippets into other writers’ processes and lives.

Overall an unexpectedly enjoyable read – recommended!

What’s on your holiday reading list?

 

 

*A review copy of Girl, Missing was provided to me free of charge. All opinions are my own honest & unbiased thoughts. 

 

 

 

A Harry Potter midnight party

It’ll come as no surprise that I adore Harry Potter – books, magic and friendship are three of my favourite things after all, and I grew up with Harry and his friends – Philosopher’s Stone came out the year I started secondary school, Order of the Phoenix in the middle of sixth form, and Deathly Hallows as I returned to university for my final year.

The downside of being just a few years below Harry at Hogwarts is that for the most part, I’ve been too young to go to the midnight release parties for most of the books – and either working or without local likeminded friends when I was old enough.

But trekking to London for a release party, and trying to find my way back at 1am, didn’t appeal either – so I was muchly excited when I discovered that Colchester Waterstones was having a celebratory party for pre-orders, with books collected at midnight!

This time, Maddy, Sarah and Sophie were also enthusiastic enough to dress up, go for dinner first (there’s a fab Brazilian BBQ restaurant just opened in Colchester, we tried it and it was amazing), sit in the pub in our robes & hats playing HP Trivial Pursuit, and then head off to the party to play silly games and collect our books.

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And I might’ve bought a few other bits and pieces too, because a lock in in a bookshop is far preferable to a lock in in a pub, for me!

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Big Magic and belonging

Last week I went to see Elizabeth Gilbert talk about her new book Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear, and met up beforehand with old and new friends from the Free Range Humans movement (i.e. people like me who want to get the hell out of 9-5 work and create a life that works for them).

Unusually for me, although I know I want/need/have to write about it, to get such an incredible experience down on paper and screen before the details escape me, I also don’t know what to write. I don’t know how to encapsulate everything that the evening was to me.

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Firstly, I’d forgotten the excitement, constant inspiration and sense of total belonging that I have with these guys. We are the most random group of people ever, from all sorts of backgrounds, all sorts of ages and at all sorts of stages in our journeys. Every single one of them feels like an old and true friend, even though some of them I only met in person for the first time last night (Vaska, Lisa, Issy, Marianne, Jenny, Becs – I’m looking at you!!).

We used to have regularish meetups and then somehow life got in the way and they tailed off – but I am determined to resurrect that regularity, I hadn’t realised how much I missed the boost they give me and the indescribable feeling of my worldview and plans fitting in so perfectly with theirs.

I’m also really hopeful that I’ll click with the Shining Lights girls in the same way, when I eventually get to meet them in person <3

And then after taking over Wagamama’s for a few hours, we wandered up to the Emmanuel Centre and settled to watch and hear Elizabeth Gilbert talk about Big Magic.

The two hours shot past in a blur, I had chills and tears and giggles sometimes all at once. It’s uncanny how much of what she talks about stirs recognition deep within – though she admits there’s no scientific evidence to back it up, every one of us in that room and hundreds of thousands more who have read the book identify on a deep level with what’s in it.

I won’t spoil the book, but I will leave you with my favourite scribbled notes from the four pages I took in my newly-beloved bullet journal:

    • Having one foot in the real world, and one with the faeries – this is something you sort of must do, to live a full creative life. (Validation, right there!)

 

    • On criticism: Does the critic have your best interests at heart? Do they know what you were trying to do? Can they offer criticism in a kind way? If not, fuck them – you don’t have to listen.

 

    • “Honesty without kindness is not a virtue.”

 

    • “I am willing to take the risk of being insulted, in order to be heard.” – this one really resonated – I am so lucky to be alive in a time where I’m allowed to say and do what I want, that I need to ditch my fear of criticism.

 

    • It is far, far better to be alone than with someone who’s not supporting or lifting you, or making your life better, easier or happier. If none of that is happening, what is the point? This was so good to hear, it’s my general philosophy on relationships but always good to know I’m not the only one who thinks this way!

 

    • There is a shit sandwich with everything. You have to work out what you love so much, and get so much out of, that you’re willing to eat the shit sandwiches. (I have a love-hate relationship with this analogy, something about it makes me uncomfortable – probably the fact that I don’t want to face the fact that everything I love has a flipside!)

 

    • Being creative is like having a border collie – if you don’t keep it occupied it’ll find something destructive to do.

 

    • You’re not obliged to use your creativity to save mankind, and you shouldn’t feel guilty for doing what lights you up.

 

    • Don’t be an art martyr, and try or feel you have to do everything by yourself.

 

The quote that stood out the most, for me?

The ultimate act of creativity is to turn your own life into a work of art.

I am printing this to stick on my desk, my wall, by my bed, in my bathroom. That is what I want from this life, whatever form it takes – mermaiding, photographing, writing, dancing, having blue hair and a unicorn horn… all of the things that make me me.

And Elizabeth’s parting thought was this:

What are you willing to give up or say no to, in order to have the life you say you want?

Big Magic indeed.

With love and unicorns,
Carla xxx

PS Have you read Big Magic, or seen Elizabeth Gilbert speak? I’d love to hear your thoughts!
PPS I know the picture isn’t great, but I was too busy listening to take a proper one!

Why being interested in ALL THE THINGS is actually a good thing

Discovering, a couple of years ago, that I was a Scanner, was a turning point in my life.

If you’ve never come across the word in this context before, alternative names include Renaissance woman/man/soul, polymath, da Vinci personality, multipassionate, multipotentialite, and some that are less complimentary – dilettante, flake, Jack-of-all-trades, fantasist.

Barbara Sher, who coined the term Scanner, goes into it in much more depth in her books, but the gist is that it’s someone who has many interests, usually moves jobs often, can’t seem to settle on one thing to do and who has ideas all the time, and frequently leaves projects seemingly unfinished.

I’m not normally one for labels, but I’d struggled for years with my many, many interests, and my attention span waxing and waning depending on what I was doing, but also on when I was doing it and what other things were currently on my radar. I had more hobbies than the rest of my group of friends put together, and found it utterly impossible to stay in a job for more than 18 months or so without being bored to tears. By the time I was 24 I had a CV which spanned as many pages as my Dad’s did – he was 66 at the time.

Even the line dancing I adored, I stopped once I’d reached a certain level. I qualified for, competed in and placed in the World Championships in Nashville in 2000, and it has taken me fifteen years to rekindle my love affair with line dancing. I got what I wanted out of it, and then I quit. (Though I’ve worn cowboy (girl?) boots ever since I was nine.)

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Modern Western society expects us all to be specialists, and to choose one thing to do for the rest of our lives. Even at 16 I raised eyebrows by choosing English, French, German and Physics for my A levels. So many people told me that I should have taken another Humanities subject. I’d have taken something arty (photography or textiles or something like that), but I was told at school, repeatedly from childhood, that I was academic and not creative. So I did what I could at the time, while dreading the thought of refining my choices even further.

My tendency to stop completely and move on, once whatever I was doing ceased to be interesting or fun, has been frowned upon over the years too – because in our society, whether at work or at play, quitting is seen as giving up, as being unreliable and therefore as a bad thing. I couldn’t understand why people would continue with all sorts of things, most of which were either supposed to be fun or which took up a considerable chunk of precious life –  work, relationships, hobbies, projects – long after they stopped enjoying them.

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Discovering blogs (or weblogs, as they were known in the misty recesses of 2005) was a revelation – here at last was somewhere where I could write about and share the day to day stories of being me, of everything I did – and instead of simply recording it in a diary, I found likeminded people! Other people’s writing, blog comments, forums for incredibly niche hobbies like collecting model horses – for the first time, no one judged me for having a series of bursts of enthusiasm for something, then taking a break and returning to it later.

(A vaguely relevant side note – I found it hilarious when people started extolling the virtues and wonder of internet dating, and meeting people online, a few years ago – because these were the same people that gave me repeated lectures on how stupid I was to go to London to meet new friends I’d met online through my hobbies… whether Wheel of Time fans, model horse collectors or photographers. My first internet meetup was with Chloe in London when I was 19, back in 2006 – and it was apparently far from normal to do that then. She’s now one of my dearest friends. Who knew something held in such suspicion would become so mainstream so fast?!)

Regardless of the type of project, idea or pastime, I followed (follow!) a pattern of sorts – I’d have an idea or something would pique my interest, I’d research it a bit and decide I wanted to learn about it or learn to do it. I’d do some more research, meet some people who already did it, buy some things related to it (craft materials, jewellery tools, small collectable resin horses, typewriters…) and then throw myself into it with an all-consuming passion. Until the next thing caught my attention.

An example – at the time I write, I have just found the new My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic series. I ADORED MLP when I was younger, and had avoided the new style ones in case I hated them. Then I saw an episode on YouTube and am now devouring the first and second series on DVD, while scouring shops and the internet for MLP memorabilia to keep on my desk, pin up in my studio, and hang from my handbag.

I’ve driven both my (now ex) partners and my parents, and probably my friends too, up the wall for decades with my wild enthusiasm for a new project which dwindles into inertia just as they’re starting to come round to the idea of me having chosen My Thing, at last.

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So after the best part of a decade of doing this and blogging, and trying to justify my inability to choose or find that One Thing to do with my career and free time that was supposed to keep me interested for the rest of my life, I found one of Barbara Sher’s books in the library.

And I read it, and I cried… because there at last was proof that I wasn’t alone, that I wasn’t a flake and that I wasn’t broken. I just had a different kind of brain – and there were other people out there like me.

Fast forward a couple of years, and I’ve actively sought out other people who get it, though the majority of people I know still don’t. Which is ok – we’re just wired differently! Lots of the solopreneurs I now count among my dearest friends (the internet is a properly magical thing!) are also scanners, and we’re learning how to make our personalities work with our businesses rather than forcing ourselves into a box.

When I find a new thing, the time I spend engaged with it varies – from a few days to a few years, and I am never without several things on the go. (if I’d had a £1 for every time someone asked me how I fit so much in and follow so many hobbies, I could probably retire tomorrow). And I have a noticeable cycle, though the timing isn’t consistent – generally, if it’s something I discover and like enough to chuck myself into it, I make friends within it and then continue to return to it after intervals, throughout my life.

Examples of these include collecting, painting and showing model horses; my car Poppy and the club I belong to through her; roller skating (started at age 6 and I go through phases of being addicted to it every few years); horse riding; jewellery making; papercraft and scrapbooking; customising shoes and clothes; reworking the interior of my home; sewing; camper vans; cross stitching, baking, wanting to write a book… the list is endless (almost literally).

The only things which are consistent are writing and photography. Which brings me to the heart of this post.

When it became apparent at an absurdly early age that I was going to write, and read, far more than I was going to do anything else consistently (the photography came later), it’s been suggested repeatedly that I should be an author and write books, or a journalist and write articles, or a travel writer, or [insert traditional writing-related-job here].

And they’re all good ideas on the surface. But the trouble is, I don’t want to write whole books (well, I do, but I know myself well enough now to know that completing more than one is highly unlikely – the kick I’ll get when I finish Unfurling is highly likely to be enough for me to move onto something else instead of writing a second book).

I don’t want to dive so deeply into one subject that I don’t have time or energy left over to explore all the other amazing things out there – which, if I pursued a traditional writing career, I would have to do. Even journalists, who write short to medium articles instead of whole books, usually specialise in a broad topic – business, or travel, or cookery, or lifestyle.

And while thinking about my blog, and where it’s headed over the next few years, and how I got into blogging in the first place, it occurred to me that it really is the perfect place for my scanner personality to develop, grow and flourish.

It takes the two things I do naturally and consistently, and applies them to the ever-changing series of things that I do equally naturally, but much less consistently. I can write one-sentence posts, or 2,000 word epics like this one – and I get to choose, rather than an editor.

Since I very first started blogging back in 2006, and in a more structured way since the inception of Ducking Fabulous in 2010, I have used my very own space on the internet to record, write, think out loud and muse about life, learning and all the things that catch my fancy.

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To explore and investigate my passing enthusiasms, catch ideas I’d like to follow up in the future, and record my journey through learning and practising and discovering. It gives me a self-made library to refer to when I come back to something I’ve done before, and means I have tangible evidence of how I’ve improved, changed, or grown in a particular area.

Through my writing I’ve learned to give myself permission not to finish things, and to hop, if I want to, between interests. I allow myself to stop doing things if they’re not working – a complete antithesis to the previous generation’s work ethic, which tends to be along the power-through-and-keep-going-even-if-it’s-hard-and-it-should-be-worth-it-in-the-end lines.

Credit is also due to the rise of blogging in popularity and as a career choice – I no longer have to explain what a blog is, and it’s the best excuse I’ve ever had for trying out new things – all in the name of fresh content for my lovely readers. Yet this blog, seemingly uniquely for a blog that supports a business, is still very much my little space on the internet. I’m forever reading articles which tell you what you must and mustn’t do in order for your blog to be businesslike, or relevant, or grow your readership… and I stand by my belief that a blog is the equivalent of your home online.

I want people to see me for who I am, and if they resonate with me and like my writing, then some part of my business will probably be a good fit for them. Whether it’s jewellery, tarot decks or courses depends very much on them and what they’re looking for.

I’m trying this year for the first time to schedule my posts and write them in advance, and while it works for some types of post, it’s failing miserably for others. Like these. I need to write them when the inspiration strikes, and then I want them out there so I can have the conversations they spark while the subject is still fresh in my mind.

So what about you? Are you also a scanner, or beginning to realise you could be one? Let me know in the comments (or email me if you’d prefer it not to be public) – I’d love to know.

With love and unicorns,

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What’s your A-Z?

A summer of Instagram and meeting some photographically minded friends last weekend have inspired me to get out and about with my camera. If I’m exploring a new area, I love doing an A-Z challenge alone or with people.

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Decide on a theme, and then fill it in before you leave or as you go along, and use as a shot list. You can do it solo or with friends, collaboratively or as a competition.

You can also use the list for gratitude lists, blog or article series ideas, places you want to visit… anything that’s alphabetical really.

You can download your own copy of my blank list here (no sign up required!) or by clicking on the image. And don’t forget to show me how you’ve used it on Instagram! The more inventive, the better…

Wishing you unicorns and happiness,

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Guilty confessions of a former librarian #1: befriending characters in books

With the very best of books, the ones that are dog-eared from re-reading, and which stay with you long, long after you’ve reached the last page, I often find myself referring to those characters as my friends. Not directly; but in a “a friend of mine said that…” or “I know someone who…” in conversation.

And often it’s days afterwards, if ever, that I remember that it wasn’t a friend at all but a much loved character in a book. It’s no secret that I’m an avid reader, and also no secret that I tend not to read great literary tomes, but instead fresh, light books that allow my imagination to run riot. large_3986164316

photo credit: Vivi Calderón via photopin cc

The hook that will pull me into a book is not its subject matter (though if it has a heroine with her own biz, that’s a good starting point) but whether or not I care about its characters.

I suppose it shouldn’t be a surprise – my alter ego is named after the character I loved most in Enid Blyton’s Mr Galliano’s Circus, and I am fascinated by cosplay – but it amazes me how much people laugh when I explain that sometimes what I’ve said came not from a friend but from a fictional character.

They laugh fondly, and they say it’s one of my many quirks that makes me an original… but to date I have only ever found one other person who absorbs the characters as I do and sees them as more than words on a page. She happens to be one of my best friends.

There must be some more of us out there who care so deeply about the people they’re reading about that they can’t sleep for wondering what happens next… or find themselves distracted during the day at work because of an unresolved argument between two characters… or who feel bereft at the end of a book when there is no sequel and you have to bid goodbye to your new friends?

Is this a unique quirk, or one I share with lots of people? I embrace it either way but I’d love to know!

Away with the fairies

Wanton Fairies, by the incredibly talented Catherine Daniel and Rosie Lee, is one of the very loveliest books I’ve read in a long time.

Do you believe in fairies? Even if you don’t, you’ll find yourself keeping an eye on your garden after reading this. The Wanton Fairies are just that – naughty, risque, real and hilarious, and beautifully captured in delightful words and glorious illustration.

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I’m a fairy fanatic, so it was a natural choice for me. It would make the most wonderful Christmas present for anyone with imagination, wonder and who’s never quite stopped believing in fairies. Or anyone who needs a cheeky reminder that they very much do.

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It’s an e-book (all the better to take with me on journeys and amble through at impromptu moments, and perked up the old London commute no end) but I’d adore a printed version too. So if any of you know any fairy-friendly publishers, let me know!

Go on – make someone’s day with these irreverent lovelies!

You can find the Wanton Fairies:
At wantonfairies.co.uk, on Twitter, and you can buy the ebooks here. Photos courtesy of Wanton Fairies 😉

Happy fairy spotting!

[reading] away with the fairies

Wanton Fairies, by the incredibly talented Catherine Daniel and Rosie Lee, is one of the very loveliest books I’ve read in a long time.

Do you believe in fairies? Even if you don’t, you’ll find yourself keeping an eye on your garden after reading this. The Wanton Fairies are just that – naughty, risque, real and hilarious, and beautifully captured in delightful words and glorious illustration.

elderberry fairy

I’m a fairy fanatic, so it was a natural choice for me. It would make the most wonderful Christmas present for anyone with imagination, wonder and who’s never quite stopped believing in fairies. Or anyone who needs a cheeky reminder that they very much do.

fairy

It’s an e-book (all the better to take with me on journeys and amble through at impromptu moments, and perked up the old London commute no end) but I’d adore a printed version too. So if any of you know any fairy-friendly publishers, let me know!

Go on – make someone’s day with these irreverent lovelies!

You can find the Wanton Fairies:
At wantonfairies.co.uk, on Twitter, and you can buy the ebooks here. Photos courtesy of Wanton Fairies 😉

Happy fairy spotting!

What do you want to be able to say about yourself in a year?

I spent some of my lunch hour today listening to this video interview.   As I’ve also been reading The Creative Habit and the Happiness Project, it’s all clunking into place rather nicely.

The video sparked me into thinking – what do I want to be able to say about myself a year from now? What do I want my daily life to look like, what do I want my habits and routines to be, what kind of a person do I want to have become in that time?

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To become a pro at anything is as much about mindset change and daily routines as anything else, and the gist of the interview is that in order to do this, you need to change your existing and new habits from amateur ones into professional ones. Keep going through adversity and crap. Don’t let life get in the way of your goals.

Twyla Tharp advocates morning rituals to get you going for the day, among other things, and as I find mornings the hardest part of the day, I’ve been pondering what I could do to make them better, more joyful and to set me up better for the day.

Now I find my thoughts going further than just the morning. Without taking on so many commitments that I get overwhelmed and give up, what can I commit to changing? Writing every day? A photograph every day? Getting up by a certain time so I can accomplish these things and better self-care (like actually eating breakfast)?

It’s certainly made me consider what I do every day in a new light. I shall continue to ponder and blog my specific changes when they’re a little clearer in my mind. Right now they’re a confused blur of DO ALL THE THINGS BUT BETTER…

What do you want to be able to say about yourself in a year’s time?

Further reading:
The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin
The Creative Habit by Twyla Tharp
Turning Pro by Steven Pressfield

Image credit – Ducking Fabulous / Letters from my Twenties

[experiences] Stepping into the Night Circus

A weekend of pure magic is over… and I’m looking back and sighing with happiness at every moment of it.

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On Friday, The Night Circus arrived at Tea and Sympathy, my favourite place in Colchester. The dress code was black and white and circus-appropriate, with a red accent for the reveurs – those who had read the book. (And if you’ve read it, you’ll know why!) For those that haven’t had the pleasure, the theme was around the book The Night Circus, by Erin Morgenstern.

My red accents were my sequined shoes, scarlet lipstick and a peek of a red bra… 🙂

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I don’t think I’ve ever felt more thoroughly myself, though my outfit wasn’t entirely appropriate for the multi storey car park where we put the cars when we arrived… lol. But I’ve always been fascinated by the circus – my burlesque name is a tribute to my obsession with Enid Blyton’s circus stories!

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I arrived with Gabby and Chris, after the quickest house tour in the history of the world, and we wandered in a haze of happiness through the shop, up and down the tiny, twisting staircase, to hidden rooms, magic and wonder at every turn…

There were fire dancers, burlesque from Miss Fanny Darling, magicians, fortune tellers and some cocktails, which I’m told were lethal… I declined to sample them, as I quite fancied getting home without getting arrested!

Here’s Gabby and Chris, looking like they belong with the Cirque…

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Miss Fanny Darling as the Raven…

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And the incredible fire dancing duo (I have plans for a skirt just like that one… I LOVE IT!)2013-04-26 22.05.06 2013-04-26 22.05.28

I’ll leave you with the video of the fire dancers – a little taste of the most magical evening I’ve had in a long, long time!  With thanks to Tea and Sympathy for making dreams reality 🙂

And the winner is…

The winner of the Super Pops book is Maria Turner 😀

I gave everyone who commented (except me and the lovely Editor of Make & Craft) a number in order of comments…

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and then I  used random.org to generate the winner….

Winner

Which was number 11, Maria!

I shall tweet this shortly, but Maria if you could ping me an email (duckingfabulous at gmail dot com) or tweet/DM me @duckingfabulous – let me know your address and I’ll pop the book in the post for you 🙂

Thank you all for entering, and Make and Craft and Search Press for providing the book 🙂