2016Weaving Pages: 2016

Thursday, 29 December 2016

How do we define 2016? Death? No, Hope.

Portuguese tradition has it that at midnight on New Year's Eve you eat twelve raisins, and each time one passes your lips, you make a wish; twelve raisins, twelve wishes. The minute action is barely perceptible in a room which fractures with the mellow dreams of twenty people, their thoughts glittering with the promise of the coming year. Three hundred and sixty-five days lie as bright, white squares, fuzzy with inactivity that begs them to be coated thickly with painted laughter or have caffeinated tears spilt all over them.

This year, the blank squares have been scrawled over with names. David Bowie. Alan Rickman. Harper Lee. Prince. Muhammed Ali. Gene Wilder. Leonard Cohen. George Michael. Carrie Fisher. Debbie Reynolds. Written in a smudge of black, these are only a few of the names of the very brilliant, very great people the world has lost in three hundred and sixty five days, people who have challenged the world to love with their own self-love; icons of a generation who were able to capture the hearts and minds of countless amounts of people.

There should not be a minute which shudders by that we do not think about them or remember the words that they sang, spoke or wrote that harmonised with the roaring white noise of our world. There should not be an hour that we think of them as absences; they are presences only. There should not be an day their essence does not saturate individual persons; the nerve-endings of the earth who shiver and flare with the legacy they have left. There will not be a year they are not remembered, or a year that we do not implode into the dulcet tones they illustrated the world with.

If there is one thing that remains of this year, no matter the hatred that has raged or the wars that have savaged and the people we have lost, is that we have hope. We have hope because we are still here, still able to see the drizzle of flames fireworks leave in the sky and breathe the sharp air clotted with the spray of champagne. We still have twelve wishes and three hundred and sixty-five blank squares to slather in desiccated memories of our own choosing. Hope exists because we exist, because those who have left the world this year existed. It is the driving force that means next year, one of us will pick up the pen another has put down or pluck the guitar strings that have stopped being played, and with ink-embedded, metal-scarred finger-tips set this world alight.

Hope: as far as we know, that was Carrie Fisher's official last line in a movie, and this year, like all the others, it will be our last line too. We do not need to treat the burns and the scars; they are part of us now, a reminder that we are fickle, mortal creatures who have just as great a gift for destruction as we do for redemption. They will only be dangerous when they heal. For now our stinging pains fuel our fight. We have three hundred and sixty-five days, we have twelve wishes and we have hope, and we will have that the next year, and the next, and the next.

When the world teems with death, the most terrifying weapon we possess is raw, living hope.

Thursday, 8 December 2016

GUEST POST: Fictionalised Truths by Robert Eggleton

Today's guest post is by Robert Eggleton, the author of Rarity from the Hollow, on the topic of fictionalised truths or perhaps more descriptively the ways that both reality and fiction can impact one another.

Fiction can speak truth. Sometimes by reading stories, reality slides in through a side door and presents itself with greater impact and meaning than any other way that we find it in life, such as by watching the TV news or studying research.
Of course, the extent that we recognize and accept truth that is in accordance with fact or reality is very personal. There is a subjective aspect that is dependent upon faith and beliefs as much as upon scientific evidence.

There’s a fancy term that could be applied to holding beliefs that fly in the face of reality: cognitive dissonance. For example, some scientists have accused some politicians of cognitive dissonance for denying evidence from studies on climate change.

Furthermore, humans have a powerful and essential psychological defense mechanism that is used unconsciously – DENIAL. Some truth is just too hot to handle. Denial naturally and healthfully reduces anxiety arising from unacceptable or potentially harmful stimuli, such as truth that we are not equipped to face.

Reality presented through artfully crafted fiction can be less threatening – a less direct challenge to our beliefs about oneself and the world. A reader can simply close the cover when a little outside of one’s comfort zone, give it a rest and pick back up on the story when ready. With a fictional story, we are in control. There’s nobody to argue with if we don’t want to. We can just stop reading and give truth time to become digested and accepted or rejected over time.

Some fiction prompts one to think about life and the issues that it presents, while other stories entertain us by presenting a short-term opportunity to escape from life stress. Some are quick and easy reads, the story ends when the last page has been read. Other stories reassert messages that we appreciate for a lifetime. Both reading experiences are valuable and mostly we find some measure of our own truths within both literary and genre fiction.

I’m a retired children’s psychotherapist with a lifelong dream of becoming an author, but who didn’t begin writing fiction for publication until late in life. I tried to ignore the voices in my head and attempted to write the type of novels that I knew were most popular, romance and young adult stories. It didn’t work. What really kicked my butt and inspired me to write Rarity from the Hollow, my debut novel, an adult literary science fiction story, was a skinny little girl with long brown hair, a victim of child abuse – one of the strongest persons that I’ve ever met.

In 2002, I accepted a position as a therapist for an intensive mental health, day treatment program for kids. Most of the children had been abused, some sexually. Part of my job was to facilitate group therapy sessions. One day in 2006 during a group session, I was sitting around a table used for written therapeutic exercises when a little girl, who instead of just disclosing the horrors of her abuse at the hands of the meanest daddy on Earth, also spoke of her hopes and dreams for the future: finding a loving family to protect her.

My protagonist was born that day – an empowered victim who takes on the evils of the universe: Lacy Dawn. My productivity as a writer immediately increased because I had found a cause that I could believe in and that compelled me forward. I began to write fiction in the evenings and sometimes went to work the next day without enough sleep. To totally lock myself in to completing the project, I decided to dedicate author proceeds to the prevention of child abuse – a commitment that nobody could turn one’s back on. The Lacy Dawn character, like so many other maltreated children that I’d met during my career, started to become too complicated. I wanted to stick with a simple story. It seems that many consumers of fictionalised truths increasingly value simplicity, as evidenced by short tweets, blurbs…even the television news is reduced to sound bites with little time for much more than reaction before the next topic.

Once the novel was completed, I anticipated that an editor might instruct me to “keep it simple” if accepted for consideration. I cut, cut, and cut, but, I just couldn’t oversimplify the truth when writing Rarity from the Hollow. Life is just so complicated. With tragedy to parody, satiric dark comedy, the novel developed to include commentary not only about child maltreatment, but also about poverty, PTSD experienced by Vets, domestic violence, mental health issues and political ones too.

 “…You will enjoy the ride with Lacy Dawn, her family and friends, but don’t expect the ride to be without a few bumps, and enough food for thought to last you a long time.” — Darrell Bain, Award Winning Author

The truth was that in real life, Lacy Dawn’s father was a disabled Vet who experienced flashbacks and anger outbursts. Her family lived in an impoverished hollow with little economic opportunity. It all affected her performance and behavior in school, which influenced peer relationships, including viewpoints on romance and teenage pregnancy. That's why I wanted to write about important issues that one person may think support a particular position but the next reader finds the opposite because I don’t have the answers to the most important questions and challenges that humans face.

With mixed feelings, I submitted the first draft of my debut novel to an agent, Robert Stephenson from Australia. I knew that something was wrong with the story at the time and he confirmed that Rarity from the Hollow was just too tragic Рtoo sad. I agreed to rewrite because as it was the story would trigger both cognitive dissonance and denial. So when rewriting my novel I wanted to get as far away as I could from it being perceived as an expos̩ or a memoir. For the truths to slip in through the side doors, the story had to be fun to read while not losing the tragedy.

The SF/F backdrop for Rarity from the Hollow was selected because it was the best fit by process of elimination. The story includes early scenes and references to tragedies in contemporary America. As such, it was not a good fit to the historical or western genres, although the social problems addressed in the story have existed throughout history, and are not restrained by our world’s geography, cultures, or religions.

The story had to be hopeful; Lacy Dawn and her traumatised teammates needed fantastical elements to achieve empowerment. But, as in life, one cannot overcome barriers by simply imagining them away. That’s where the science fiction came into play. It provided a power source. I tied the science fiction to capitalism because in today’s reality it will take significant financial investment by benefactors to improve the welfare of children in the world, and to invest in economic development.
As symbolised in the story, the systems in place to help victims are woefully inadequate. The intent of the novel was to sensitise people to the issue of child maltreatment the way that Charles Dickens’ Tiny Tim worked his way into the hearts of millions of fans.

I’ve read every single book review, glowing and critical. Based on the receptiveness of book bloggers and book reviewers to this novel, and input from reviews, a decision was made to republish Rarity from the Hollow. The second edition is scheduled for release on September 30, 2016. The book cover was changed a little to emphasise that it is a children's story for adults with a science fiction backdrop. A new blurb was written. Some of the stronger language was toned down a little, the political allegory was strengthened, and a formatting problem which affected the internal dialogue in the first edition was corrected.

I’m very proud of this book. I am forever indebted to the real-life Lacy Dawn. Life’s funny, ain’t it? Sometimes when you lend a helping hand, you benefit many times over.

Author proceeds have been donated to child abuse prevention. Children’s Home Society of West Virginia is a nonprofit children’s services program. It was established in 1893 and currently serves over 13,000 children and families each year. http://childhswv.org/ You can buy Rarity from the Hollow here.

[Edited for length and/or clarity]

Tuesday, 15 November 2016

We Fight On - The 2016 Presidential Election

Tuesday had the opportunity to be historic; Hillary Rodham Clinton, the first female President of the United States of America, a symbol that women could shatter that "highest and hardest glass ceiling."

The glass stayed unshattered.

Tuesday had the opportunity to symbolise two victories: one for progression, a unanimous cry that prejudice does not and will not define the futures of our children; the other, a sign that we still collectively cower in fear, flinching away from what we are convinced is different, carving ourselves into our own enemies.

The fear won.

This election has shaken communities around the world to the core; the results are personal. There are people who do not have the luxury of simply waiting out the next four or eight years, because the rhetoric of the winning campaign has turned them into scapegoats, has threatened them based on aspects of themselves they cannot control. Being able to "put up and shut up" is a privilege not many can afford.

Women, African Americans, Muslims, the LGBTQA+ community, immigrants, Hispanics: His campaign has frequently and hatefully targeted minorities, ranging from insulting a Muslim gold-star family to his derogatory manner of talking about women, immortalised by his words that he could grab them by the genitals. These people face a man in power who claims to represent them and then vilifies their very being, who threatens their civil liberties and wishes to silence them. They, we, refuse to be silenced.

A single apology was received at the end of this election, from the one person from whom it was not required. "I am sorry that we did not win this election for the values we share and the vision we hold for our country." These were the words of Hillary Clinton, an apology when although that glass ceiling has not been shattered, because of her we can now see the cracks. When it all finally smashes it will be the loudest reminder that love trumps hate.

That is the message that now stands tall. This election has failed people everywhere, people who are mothers, fathers, daughters and sons, not statistics on a screen. They are your own family and friends, the people you pass on the street, who make your coffee, look after you when you are sick and they cannot be allowed to believe this atmosphere of hate and fear is now the status quo. It wasn't before, and it will not be now, no matter the twisted words and values of a single man in his walled castle. In the words of Michelle Obama, "When they go low, we go high." That is our driving force.

So stand taller, hold your head higher, make your voice be heard loud and clear. The battle may have been lost, but the war against contempt and prejudice continues. More than ever we must fight harder, write faster, hold each other tighter and together we will rise up as people who understand that liberty, equality and love will make us greater than anything else ever could. 

What we are fighting greatly surpasses this election.

And so we fight on.

Monday, 19 September 2016

Harry Potter & the Cursed Child by J.K.Rowling, Jack Thorne and John Tiffany

Title: Harry Potter and the Cursed Child
Author: J.K.Rowling, Jack Thorne, John Tiffany
Series: Harry Potter #8
Source: Bought
Publisher: Little Brown UK
Published: July 31st 2016
No. of Pages: 343

Based on an original new story by J.K. Rowling, Jack Thorne and John Tiffany, a new play by Jack Thorne, Harry Potter and the Cursed Child is the eighth story in the Harry Potter series and the first official Harry Potter story to be presented on stage. The play will receive its world premiere in London’s West End on July 30, 2016.

It was always difficult being Harry Potter and it isn’t much easier now that he is an overworked employee of the Ministry of Magic, a husband and father of three school-age children.

While Harry grapples with a past that refuses to stay where it belongs, his youngest son Albus must struggle with the weight of a family legacy he never wanted. As past and present fuse ominously, both father and son learn the uncomfortable truth: sometimes, darkness comes from unexpected places.

 5 stars

Friday, 16 September 2016

FANTASTICALLY GREAT WOMEN WHO CHANGED THE WORLD BLOG TOUR: "If it hadn’t been for one great woman..."

Author Kate Pankhurst has written a book that I will pass on to my sister, my parents, my future daughters and sons, and their daughters and sons too; that's how shiny of a gem I think this book is. With gorgeous illustrations, this is something for you to feast your eyes, your heart and your mind on, but until you get your hands on it I have another wonderful thing for you. 

Here at Weaving Pages, we are all about empowering girls to be passionate about life, and we are all about stories too. It's no secret that everyone has a fantastically great woman who changed her world, and that woman should be celebrated. Today, Kate is here to share her story about the great woman who changed her world, so that perhaps everyone who reads this can take a moment to remember all the fantastic women to whom we owe so much to. Don't forget them.

Want to know what I thought of the book? My review will be posted in the upcoming weeks, but in short I adored it! Another thing I would adore would be for you to comment who the fantasically great woman who changed your world is. Share it with me in the comment below!

A Great Woman Who Changed my World …

To say I feel lucky to be doing a job that really doesn’t feel like a job is an understatement. It doesn’t feel like a job because everyday I get to do something I’ve loved since childhood.

I’ve always loved the surprising things that can happen as you doodle. I say surprising because even now I still find a blank white page daunting. I get the fear that I’ll never draw anything good or think of a new story idea. But slowly, from scribbles emerge sparkly new ideas. Drawing seems to tap into a part of my brain that is otherwise hard to access, where all of my best story ideas are squirreled away, waiting to wiggle their way to freedom onto the page.

If it hadn’t been for one great woman, I might never have got past that fear of the blank page. (It’s something that seems to take over many people as they get older when it comes to drawing.) That great woman was my Mum, Lyn. Without her my passion for the pencil might have remained a nice little hobby I was once quite good at, in a childish sort of way.

Drawing and painting was something both my mum and my nan, enjoyed and were good at when they were young. But back then the freedom to toddle off to study a degree in something like illustration wasn’t really an option. Painting was a pastime rather than a career.

For over forty years my mum has enjoyed a satisfying career as a children’s nurse at Alder Hey Children’s hospital in Liverpool, but she always said that she’d loved to have had more opportunities to develop her artistic talents. The endless encouragement my wonky sketches received from mum helped me to believe in myself and not to listen too much to that voice that says you can’t do something.

Mum never said, “oooh, maybe you should do something that you’ll actually be paid for?”  Or, “perhaps it would be safer to do business studies instead?”.  In fact, it never crossed my mind that I couldn’t have a career in the arts. As a child you don’t realise that you are very fortunate to have that freedom to follow your talent. I can see now, especially after years of working with children in primary schools as a visiting author and illustrator, that being surrounded by those who encourage you and make you think that anything is possible is essential to having the confidence to follow your dreams.

Back in the eighties, I remember the living room focal point at my nan’s house – two colourful oil paintings of birds hanging above the gas fire. Nan proudly told me that it was my mum who painted them when she was young. I was hugely impressed. Birds were tricky and were something I just couldn’t draw very well. These looked like the sort of realistic artwork you’d see in old fashioned Ladybird books about British hedgerow wildlife.

Mum would talk wistfully about bird paintings and the talent she never had time to explore anymore, saying that when she retired she’d get a shed put up at the end of the garden to use as a painting studio.

The shed idea never really went away. When I returned home from university after graduating from an illustration degree, my parents set up a shed at the end of the garden for me to begin work on my first two published picture books. As a skint ex-student I had nowhere to work apart from my childhood bedroom. Without the shed my career really may never have got off the ground. (Although the resident spider population that came to join me in the shed did make me question my career choice.)

My mum never got round to using my shed to revisit her talents but she has since semi-retired and dabbled in an art course and randomly, tap dancing.
I really should remind her of her plans for the shed next time we speak.

Thanks mum. 

Monday, 12 September 2016

This Savage Song by V.E. Schwab

Title: This Savage Song
Author: Victoria Schwab
Series: Monsters of Verity #2
Source: Publisher (Edelweiss)
Publisher: Greenwillow Books
Release Date: July 5th 2016
No. of Pages: 464

There’s no such thing as safe in a city at war, a city overrun with monsters. In this dark urban fantasy from author Victoria Schwaba young woman and a young man must choose whether to become heroes or villains—and friends or enemies—with the future of their home at stake. The first of two books.

Kate Harker and August Flynn are the heirs to a divided city—a city where the violence has begun to breed actual monsters. All Kate wants is to be as ruthless as her father, who lets the monsters roam free and makes the humans pay for his protection. All August wants is to be human, as good-hearted as his own father, to play a bigger role in protecting the innocent—but he’s one of the monsters. One who can steal a soul with a simple strain of music. When the chance arises to keep an eye on Kate, who’s just been kicked out of her sixth boarding school and returned home, August jumps at it. But Kate discovers August’s secret, and after a failed assassination attempt the pair must flee for their lives.
4 stars

Thursday, 8 September 2016


1. You get what you give.

In the words of Angelica Schuyler, 'WORK!'. It's a pretty simple equation. The effort, the time and the work that you put into your exams will ultimately control the outcome of your results. Yes, I know everyone tells you this, but trust me, you won't believe it until you've actually experienced real exams. Somehow, people always fool themselves into thinking that no matter what happens it'll be okay, and that's a lie. That person (and there's always one) who claims they got 12 GCSEs without lifting a finger is also a liar. Everyone has to work during exams, and ultimately that will define how you feel when you receive your marks. Even if you're convinced that your friend is the next Einstein and therefore the laws of the universe state they must do better than you, stop. Stop for a minute and realise that the only person in control of your success is you, and you must be willing to work for it.

2. It won't be easy; that's not the point.

You've made countless mind maps, run out of ink in way too many pens and now you're about to walk into the exam room. This is going to be easy, right? Let me stop you there, I wish it was like this. At one point, I thought it was going to be like this. Then I realised it wasn't. The reason behind that is exams aren't meant to be easy, otherwise there would be no point to doing them. If you're taking an exam properly, then you should be having to think and reason and use logic to get an answer, and that isn't meant to be easy. So even if you've memorised the entire textbook, and well done to you if you have, don't expect the exam to be simple. These things are meant to test you, and that's especially true for when you know all the information.

3. Prioritising is key.

The other regrettable fact of exams is that sacrifices will have to be made. With a lot of your time allocated to studying, other aspects of your life will suffer, and the best thing to do is try to accept that. Attempting to fit in time for everything is exhausting, and will ensure that you don't actually get the full benefit of the work you are doing or the time you are using as a break. You have to rest, and so you can't constantly be working at lots of different activities. For me, this is true in regards to blogging. During exams, I often find I can't blog because my time has to be allocated to doing something else, which can be frustrating. Yet I know that for my blogging and my revision to be as beneficial as possible, I have to prioritise the latter over the former, which is a very important step to being able to work efficiently.

4. Procrastination is NOT key.

Okay, so you chose to spend two hours on Saturday revising, and that consisted of creating a revision timetable and organising the brightly coloured stationary you bought that now is carefully placed all over your desk. I get it. Revision is repetitive and boring, stationary is.. well, it's everyone's weakness. But, please, put the cute little bunny eraser down. Procrastination is the worst thing you can possibly do. You're not revising, but you're also not relaxing, so in short you are going nowhere. When revision gets too much, what you should be doing is taking a break and enjoying your time away from the textbooks, as opposed to deciding that now is the perfect time to move your bed over to the other side of the room. Doing this will ensure that you're ready to study once more, instead of feeling like you'll have to dredge through a load of facts and information that you won't actually take in.

5. Enjoy the little things.

Here's the thing, exams may not be all that enjoyable, but you can do a few things to stop them from being downright miserable. One of those things is to focus on the things you actually enjoy during that time period. Whether that's the glorious feeling of crossing out another exam on your list, or even the relief of finishing the exam paper and being able to forget all the stress that comes with it, just remember the little pleasures of life instead of how much you want it all to be over and done with. This is the most important lessoned I learned out of all my exams, because it reminds me that things don't seem as horrible if you look at the entire picture instead of focusing on the little negatives.

Monday, 5 September 2016

What About Law? by Catherine Barnard, Janet O'Sullivan and Graham Virgo

Title: What About Law?
Author: Catherine Barnard, Janet O'Sullivan and Graham Virgo
Series: N/A
Source: Publisher
Publisher: Hart Publishing
Published: October 1st 2007
No. of Pages: 213

Most young people considering studying law, or pursuing a career in the law, have very little idea of what is involved or how universities teach people to become lawyers. This new book provides a 'taste' for the study of law. It is a short, accessible presentation of the study of law as an academic subject, designed with invaluable advice to help pre-college level young adults and others decide whether law as an academic discipline is the right choice for them when entering the university level of study. The book will also counter the perception that law is a dry and boring subject, showing how the study of law can be fun, intellectually stimulating, challenging, and of direct relevance to them. In doing so, it introduces to prospective law students issues involving the legal system, including the structure of the courts and the legal profession, precedent, statutory interpretation, and comparative law. This is a book that any student about to embark on the study of law should read before they commence their legal studies. Each of the editors has been involved in advising prospective law students at admissions conferences. -(Goodreads)
 5 stars

Monday, 18 July 2016

Head Over Heels by Holly Smale

You may remember a while ago I wrote about how a book got me through my sister's operation, which you can read all about here. That same post made its way to the eyes of Holly Smale, who's book All That Glitters helped me in that really tough time, and in response I was sent this lovely pack of Geek Girl related things, along with the 5th book, which is the one I'm reviewing now. So before I begin, here's a massive thank you to Holly and HarperCollins for their kindness and being absolutely amazing in sending me the next instalment in one of my favourite series!
Title: Head Over Heels
Author: Holly Smale
Series: Geek Girl #5
Source: Publisher
Publisher:HarperCollins Children's Books
Published: April 7th 2016
No. of Pages: 416

“My name is Harriet Manners, and I will always be a geek.”
The fifth book in the bestselling, award-winning GEEK GIRL series.
Harriet Manners knows almost every fact there is.
She knows duck-billed platypuses don’t have stomachs.
She knows that fourteen squirrels were once detained as spies.
She knows only one flag in the world features a building.
And for once, Harriet knows exactly how her life should go. She’s got it ALL planned out. So when love is in the air, Harriet is determined to Make Things Happen!
If only everyone else would stick to the script…
Has GEEK GIRL overstepped the mark, and is following the rules going to break hearts all over again?

4 stars

Friday, 15 July 2016

5 Easy Ways To Improve the World This Summer

1. Volunteer

It's SUMMER! That means at least six weeks or more of holiday time, which you can spend volunteering. Just finished your exams? Great! Volunteering can help fatten up your CV ready for job applications or even University ones too. Head out to your local area and see if anyone is in need of volunteers; the best thing you can do is just ask. Local dog or cat rescue shelters are good places to start if you love animals, and I've known vets to take people on too. Clubs such as Brownies can always do with helpers, and if you're proficient in a sport there are often events organised for younger children that I can promise will be grateful for some help. I'm not even that sporty- dance is my preferred area -but I've actually helped out with three sport related events already this summer. Just remember, the opportunities you get are entirely dependant on you looking for them, so put yourself out there! Of course, you have to remember that availability can vary depending on your age, but if you look hard enough you are sure to find some great options that are suited to you.

2. Get Sponsored

This one is probably the most obvious, but it can make a world of a difference. In the summertime you will always find great events to take part in that you can get people to sponsor you for. Whether it's a marathon or colour run or a race through the mud, if it's for a good cause you'll find that people are happy to donate some money and sponsor you. Of course, this isn't limited to runs: you can get sponsored for loads of different activities. This can be sky diving if you're looking for something extreme, and even staying silent all day if you're not. Or be creative and organise a read-a-thon or a dance-off that people can get sponsored for partaking in. The point is, the choice is yours, and in the process you can raise money for a charity or local hospice, for example. You don't have to raise a huge amount of money; people will be grateful that you've put in the effort and contributed at least a small amount to furthering cancer research or helping refugees. That itself is amazing enough to improve the world.

3. Summer Clear Out

So school's over, and your parents are telling you to clear out your room. I've been there, although I have yet to properly do it- who knows when I'll need this year's maths notes? Still, I have a huge pile of unwanted books sat outside my bedroom door and I'm sure you are in a similar situation. All those old clothes, decorations, books and piles of 'things' you need to get rid of? Well they can improve the world. Donate them to charity shops or places like Oxfam and they can then sell them for a profit which can then be used to improve the lives of other people. It's as easy as literally shoving everything in your car and dropping it off at your local place. It's worth noting that old blankets and towels can also be given to dog and cat shelters, old books to libraries or schools and whole lot of other places. It's a simple thing to do- the only difference is that you don't class it as improving the world, when in reality, that's exactly what it is.

4. Use Your Artistic Talents

I've included something for the sporty people, but for all of you lot like me that prefer running in the opposite direction to a netball, this is another brilliant option. If you love art, you can produce some paintings or drawings that you can sell at local events like school fairs or festivals. The money you make can then be given to an organisation that supports something you feel strongly about, such as LOVE146 which aims to bring an end to human trafficking. The same applies for all types of art, including music or film; you're free to use what you love to help others. You also don't actually have to make money from these things. If you can, it's actually a whole lot more challenging but rewarding to produce art that raises awareness of a problem. If you need some inspiration, check out these photos by Linda Forsell that raise awareness of child pregnancies in poor countries. This is personally, one of my favourite options if you want to improve the world, because it shows some serious dedication to fighting injustice!

5. Get Writing

Maybe you've known you were going to be a world-class author since the age of two, or maybe you've just always loved reading. Maybe you hate reading with a passion (WHAT!?). It doesn't matter; you should try out some writing. You see, if you've ever seen the film Dead Poet's Society, you'll know that words and ideas can change the world. If you've ever seen or heard of Hamilton, you'll know that words and ideas can change the world, especially if you're the kind of person that's up for writing 51 essays. So if you're coming to me and asking, "Rita, how can I improve the world?" I'm going to tell you to get writing. It can be a book that you'll ensure never sees the light of day, or a blog or even a diary. Write down your thoughts, your feelings, your hopes, your dreams. You'll probably never feel like you're actually improving the world, but I can honestly say to you that you are. Write those words and ideas down, because you never know what they may bring.

Monday, 11 July 2016

BLOG TOUR: Eden Summer by Liz Flanagan - REVIEW + VIDEO

Today I am the first stop on the Eden Summer blog tour, which is a brilliant little book by Liz Flanagan which is now on the shelves of your local bookstore just waiting to be picked up... Looking for an excuse to break your book buying ban? I have one here for you. Read on for my review- which surprised me with how easy it was to write- and a little video from the author herself.


“My mind will not accept the possibility that Eden could be dead, now or ever. Stopped. The end. Nothing. No. My best friend is too alive. Too everything. She can’t just disappear. What happens to all her Eden-ness? What the hell happens to me, without her?”

It starts like any other day for Jess – get up, plaster on black eyeliner, cover up her tattoos and head to school. But it isn’t any other day: Eden has gone missing. And Jess knows she has to do everything in her power to try to find her best friend before the unthinkable happens. So Jess starts to retrace the steps of the summer they’ve just spent together. And she starts to notice things she didn’t notice before.... She starts to question what she thought Eden’s summer had been...
Set in the beautifully described stunning countryside of West Yorkshire, this is a tense and thrilling journey through friendship, loss, betrayal and self discovery. 
4.5 Stars

Saturday, 9 July 2016

DEBATE: "Illegal Abortion Laws Only Serve to Punish Women"

Under the 1967 Abortion Act, abortion is legal in the United Kingdom up to 24 weeks of gestation, with exceptions made in times of grave necessity. This act brought an end to the years of back-alley abortions many women had suffered in the United Kingdom, as they attempted to reclaim control over their own bodies with poisons and wire coat hangers that left them irreparably damaged. Due to the act, in 2014 184,571* women were able to access safe abortions, this being the total number of abortions in England and Wales.

This image of reform and social growth, however, is not true for the rest of the world, or to be more specific, for all of the UK. The Abortion Act exempts Northern Ireland, so that instead it continues to be punishable with a life sentence under section 58 of the Offences Against the Person Act. In 2014/2015, there were only 16 abortions in Northern Ireland, which provides an explicit idea of just how restrictive the law is.
"They promise to protect the rights of the unborn child, to give a voice to the voiceless, and in the process they take the rights and voices of women everywhere instead."
Laws like this one are employed under the guise of being pro-life. They promise to protect the rights of the unborn child, to give a voice to the voiceless, and in the process they take the rights and voices of women everywhere instead; a fair trade, some may argue. I definitively don’t. The truth is that these laws aren’t about protecting life, but instead a cruel and completely legal form of retribution. The life sentence may be lawful, but the undue suffering that women are subjected to by the exact same laws is unarguably extrajudicial.

Thursday, 7 July 2016

4 Badass Women to Include in Your Next American History Essay

1. Abigail Adams, 1744-1818

The second First Lady of the United States from 1797 to 1801,  Adams was educated by her mother, and so by the time she married John Adams in 1764 she was an intelligent young woman with progressive views for her age. This would go on to have a profound impact on her husband, and as such the United States themselves, as their in-depth correspondence showed him to continually seek her advice and discussion on political matters. As a result of her proactive participation and advocacy, she took a stance for Women's Rights and the Abolition of Slavery, writing down her beliefs that married women should be granted property rights and increased opportunities, as well as denouncing slavery as evil and violative of the American principles of 'Freedom.' In total there are 1200 letters between John Adams and Abigail, and they depict a woman ahead of her time both intellectually and emotionally, who shaped her country with her passionate beliefs and political stances. If you want to write about an extraordinary woman breaching expectations, Abigail Adams is a serious contender.

2. Sacagawea, 1788-1812

Despite a variety of differences of opinion as to firstly, the nature of her name, and secondly, the story of her death, Sacagawea has undoubtedly been adopted as a symbolic figure for American women due to her essential participation in the Lewis and Clark expedition. Born into the Agaidika tribe she was, during a battle, captured and taken to a Hidatsa village where she later became one of the two wives of French-Canadian fur trader Toussaint Charbonneau. What Sacagawea is famed for, however, is when in 1804 at six months pregnant she became one of the translators for Lewis and Clark as they explored the 'Louisiana Purchase'. Several events defined her as a key member of the expedition: upon the capsizing of the boat they were in, Sacagawea was able to save many of their essential supplies, with Lewis and Clark showing their gratitude by making her the namesake of part of the river; her understanding of both Hidatsa and Shoshone enabled communication and trading between various groups and the expedition, particularly as Sacagawea's presence often created a more trustworthy atmosphere, and finally her knowledge of the environment allowed her to both guide and advise the group. All this was done with her baby son; an incredible feat for which she received no compensation, unlike her husband. Sacagawea really was a remarkable woman who would do great justice to any history essay.

3. Arabella Mansfield, 1846-1911

Mansfield is known for being the first woman in America to become a lawyer, after being admitted to the Iowa bar in 1869. Earlier, she had graduated as valedictorian from Iowa Wesleyan College in 1865, and went onto become a teacher of History, English and Political Sciences at Simpson College. However after a year, she returned to her home town to marry John Mansfield, a decision which would turn out to be beneficial as John encouraged her interest for law, and so together they studied for the bar exam. During this period, Mansfield studied under her brother in his law office, as he had already passed the bar exam, although it is interesting to note that Arabella and her brother had originally graduated in the same class, the former with higher honours. When 1869 came, Mansfield took the bar exam, achieving such distinguished scores that despite the bar being exclusive to males over 21, she was admitted after challenging the law in court, which ruled in her favour. If you're looking for a woman unwilling to be limited by her gender, Arabella Mansfield is a very notable candidate.

4. Bessie Coleman, 1892-1926

Everyone's heard of Amelia Earhart, but I have another first for you: Coleman was not only the first African American female pilot, but also the first female pilot of Native American descent to hold a license. In an era where women of minority descent were all too frequently ignored in history- the women's right movement in the 1920s being particularly problematic- Coleman's story is pivotal. only having enough savings to complete a term of university, Coleman was a manicurist in Chicago, but was fascinated by the stories of pilots coming home from World War One. However, as an African American woman, no place in America would teach Coleman, so instead with funding from the Chicago Defender and Jesse Binga she travelled to Paris to go after her dream. There she learned the trade in a Nieuport Type 82 Biplane and after arriving in 1920, by June 15th 1921 she had become the first of her gender and ethnicity to have an possess an aviation licence. By September 1921, she was back in New York where she continued to train build a repertoire as an accomplished stunt pilot. What Coleman really wanted was to set up a flying school for young African Americans, and all her activities were dedicated to this cause until her death when flying a plane in Florida in 1926, meaning she never got to fulfil her plan to give others the opportunity she had never been given. Despite this, Coleman's legacy continues today, and her prodigious story sure is one worthy of being told.

Who is your favourite woman in American History? Tell me in the comments below!

Monday, 4 July 2016

If I Should Have A Daughter

A favourite poet of mine is Sarah Kay, who wrote the beautiful piece IF I SHOULD HAVE A DAUGHTER. I remember watching the clip of her speaking the poem, and falling completely in love with the the way she connects the most everyday things like rain boots, solar systems and chocolate into the life lessons every parent wishes their child to know. You can find her beautiful writing here, but I've also written my own piece inspired by Kay's If I Should Have A Daughter which you can read right here.

If I should have a daughter, her first word will be her own name, and she will sing its melody so many times that when others try to drown it out she will simply create harmonies. That way she will know no one can take it away from her. And she will play with the looping and curling letters that she was gifted with, dreaming and crafting and slipping and falling, so that she learns that words are what you make them but what you make can easily hurt you too.

Instead of wrapping her in bubble wrap, she will learn to pop it, because the things meant to keep us safe are sometimes the things that harm us the most, and this daughter of mine will not trip over herself on the way forward. No, she will learn that the stars are her climbing frame, the moon is her friend and the sun her torch light, but she has to want their help first. She will clamber through the solar systems and slide on Saturn's rings so she can truly say the universe is her playground. Her eyes will sting from the stardust caked on her hands, her hair will be tangled into galaxies and she will imagine that perhaps she is the universe, and she herself is the playground she must explore.

And there will be times when this daughter of mine finds her tongue cuts deep, when she trips others in her haste to stand upright. And there will be times when that universe she loves knocks the air right out of her, and things won't look so beautiful anymore. If there is one thing I can promise her, is that I will be the first one to not tell, but to show her that she can make this universe a little more beautiful, if only she offers a hand to those on the ground and an umbrella to the world when the rain starts to fall.

If she tells me she wants to fly, I will make her a cape, but first she must know that the only way to soar through the air is with a heart as light as a feather. And maybe if she takes after her Grandfather and falls for the intricacies of physics, she will tell me "Mama, if you're talking about weight, a feather will be equal to any other object on earth." and I will laugh and hug her closer. But because she will take after her mother and never be satisfied, she will ask exactly what I mean, and I will give her flowers to hand out on the streets or let her smile at everyone she sees. And at the end of the day when she puts on her cape I'll ask her, "Sweetheart, don't you feel closer to flying now?" If she takes after her Grandmother, she'll be asked to bottle up her smile and allow the world to keep something so precious. If she takes after her aunt, she'll have a heart lighter than a feather any day.

As much as I hate it, the days will come when I question what world I'm leaving her. The poetry caught in her eyelashes and the castles she could bring down with her determined glare will be the reason I'll fight to set the world alight in the hope something better can be born from the ashes. I will see her in everyone around me, and I'll fight for them, too. She will ask me why I hate all these wars, and I will answer that we fight enough of them everyday. She will ask why the sad people we see on the news make me upset, and I tell her that it's because in someway we are those sad people too. She will ask me what she can do to make it better, and I'll tell her that she should fight and rage and never just accept what everyone else tells her. And then I'll regret it when she uses those words against me in an argument.

If I should have a daughter, and I fail to teach her everything I've said, I hope that she grows up to know one thing. That she is loved. And I ask one thing; that she shares that love in her smile, in her words and in her actions, every single day.

Saturday, 2 July 2016


Exams are over, and the blogging is kicking off once more, beginning with this fabulous interview I have for you all about FLY Festival: the only major literary festival aimed at teenagers who don't read. Sounds kind of like an oxymoron right? I promise it's anything but that! Read on to find out more:

Aimed at teenagers from 14 to 18 who don't read, FLY Festival is very much one of a kind. FLY wants to get more teenagers involved in reading, which admittedly can be a hard feat, as Antoinette Moses told me. "That’s not an easy thing to do. How do you get non-readers to come to a festival all about reading? They won’t go out of their way to buy tickets. With young children, their parents will buy tickets for them and organise for them to go, and adults have the passion and initiative to buy tickets themselves. But our audience won’t do that." Inevitably, that is one of FLY festival's greatest challenges: attracting an audience who traditionally would want to run in the other direction. Instead, they choose other methods to entice interest in the festival and in reading itself. Moses explains that one of the ways they attract their target audience is through schools. "The teenagers go with their teachers and suddenly they realise, ‘my goodness, this reading business is actually fun’. That’s why we’re unique."

Once the audience is present, FLY Festival has very clear aims in mind, along with the resources to do so. They are a university too and so put on workshops and get students actively involved, hosting 40 workshops this year. Not only do they hope to inspire young people to read by presenting them with talks, readings and the best authors in YA, but also by providing hands on experience in the form of poetry slams. "We think that FLY can change lives," says Moses, "since it can enable students who don’t read books to actually start reading. That changes lives. That changes lives completely. People reading for pleasure is something Natalie and I come back to again and again; it is the most important factor in a young person’s life, more important than their socio-economic status and the world they grow up in. Encouraging reading for pleasure can change literacy levels more than anything else." 

Creating FLY Festival also requires a serious amount of work, with preparations beginning a year in advance and the FLY dates booked for the next five years. "Next year is the 10th-14th July," says Moses. She depicts a gorgeous image of what creating a festival is like, comparing it to a dream event which you explore with a series of questions. "What kind of festival would I like to go to? Who would I like to hear? What if we could run a competition where students write their own stories? What if we ran such and such a workshop? It all starts with a lot of ‘what if?’ questions, just like storytelling. Storytellers always use ‘what if?’, and running a festival is the same. So, it starts with a dream, and then we have to raise the money to make it happen. Then when it all comes together, you have the money, you have the ideas, you have the authors, you have the space, and then you put the show on and we market it."

Of course, organising a festival aimed at teenagers means you also have a lot of involvement in the current issues faced in YA literature. Particularly I was interested in how it has evolved or is evolving, and Moses brought up the very relevant point of how literature treats gender.  "I think it’s very important that we don’t try and segregate gender too much, but marketing sometimes makes that hard when you have books covered in pink butterflies that come with free friendship bands – you’re not going to get a tough 15-year-old boy thinking ‘oh, that’s what I really want to walk around with’ when you have other books that’s black and gritty and covered in grime." It's effectively an issue which is too complex to summarise in an interview, but which is becoming more and more common. "I think that what’s important in a time where people are now more aware of the problematic interpretations of gender binaries, where we now realise that many boys want to show their sensitive sides and girls want to prove themselves as tough, there shouldn’t be this differentiation. Not every girl is a little princess. I think publishers are beginning to realise that," adds Moses, and she names Holly Bourne as an author who is able to successfully target some of these problems in her novels.
"She appeals to a large number of female readers and is very much about feminism, but she’s also aware that when it comes to mental health issues, suicide is responsible for more deaths in young men than anybody else. It’ll be interesting to see if she ever explores that in her work."

FLY is undeniably the exact kind of festival we need today; one with passionate people like Antoinette Moses behind it, and one which directly incites a love for reading in young people. In the future, FLY hopes to maintain it's current format, and continue providing literary opportunities that many young adults would never think of reaching out to them themselves. Moses concludes,  "Being the producer of this festival and being able to meet all of my favourite authors is such a joy and a privilege. I just feel very lucky to be doing it. It’s so exciting to just see this buzz at the festival and to see how students react to these voices. It really is a privilege being able to do this. It’s something very special." If there is one festival you support or visit, FLY should be it.

Thank you to Antoinette Moses for answering my questions, and to Nathaniel and Bobbie for organising the whole interview. You can find out more about FLY festival on their website, here.

Saturday, 7 May 2016

Prentice & Weil Blog Tour: All About Beth

Elizabethan London is in the grip of devil fever, teeming with thievery, sorcery, and black magic. Lovable rogue Jack’s biggest talent is not being noticed in-amongst the fray, but when he turns his dab-hand to pickpocketing a mysterious traveller, he finds himself drawn into a metropolis of danger like none he’s ever encountered before... 

As part of the Prentice & Weil blog tour, celebrating the brassy and magnetising novels BLACK ARTS & DEVIL'S BLOOD, I have for you a post by Jonathan Weil himself on his favourite character: Beth. Described as perfect for "fans of Jonathan Stroud, Charlie Higson and Rick Riordan", this series is sure to be a hit.  Intrigued? Then read on!

Sunday, 24 April 2016

World Builiding and Writing Processes: A Q&A with Sara Raasch

Sara Raasch is the author behind young adult fantasy series Snow Like Ashes, who's final instalment Frost Like Night comes out this December. A huge fan of the series myself (you can check out my reviews of the first two books in the series here and here) I was as happy as can be when Sara agreed to do an interview for Weaving Pages; Thank you, Sara, for your lovely answers to all my questions!

Where did the idea for Snow Like Ashes begin?

I wanted to write a book where "winter" was the "good guys" -- usually they're depicted as evil, so I wanted to flip that!

How do you go about creating Meira's world? Does world building take you a long time?

World building is my favorite aspect of writing, so it's the part I tend to spend the most time on. I have a list of questions to get me started (basic things, like country name, type of government, etc) and then add onto the world building through every stage of the story. It's an ever-evolving process!

What's your writing process? Are you a planner or a pantser?

SUCH a planner! I plan for months before I start writing. From world building to characters to plot -- I have notes/outlines for EVERYTHING.

Frost Like Night comes out this December- what do you think readers should expect from the finale? 

Tears, probably. I certainly cried.

What authors and books do you admire, and look to as inspirations?

Sharon Shinn, CS Pacat, and Seth Dickinson are some of my favorite adult fantasy writers. I just kind of stare at their books on my shelf and silently worship them. 

So there you have it: get ready to break out the tissues when Frost Like Night comes out this December, and go pick up those fantasy book gems that Sara recommends! You can also find Sara over on Twitter @SeeSaraWrite or on her Tumblr.

Tuesday, 19 April 2016

Guest Review: The Girl of Ink and Stars by Kiran Millwood Hargrave

Title: The Girl of Ink and Stars
Author: Kiran Millwood Hargrave
Series: N/A
Publisher: Chicken House
Release Date: May 5th 2016
No. of Pages: 288

Forbidden to leave her island, Isabella Riosse dreams of the faraway lands her father once mapped.

When her closest friend disappears into the island’s Forgotten Territories, she volunteers to guide the search. As a cartographer’s daughter, she’s equipped with elaborate ink maps and knowledge of the stars, and is eager to navigate the island’s forgotten heart.
But the world beyond the walls is a monster-filled wasteland – and beneath the dry rivers and smoking mountains, a legendary fire demon is stirring from its sleep. Soon, following her map, her heart and an ancient myth, Isabella discovers the true end of her journey: to save the island itself.  -(Goodreads)
3.5 stars

Sunday, 17 April 2016

Travelling Solo - An Interview with Giorgia Ori

Giorgia Ori is an Italian photographer and storyteller currently in Los Angeles. With a passion for travel, she has backpacked through four continents already, and now is using her experience to teach a four class workshop all about 'How to Travel.'  Ori explains: "A few days ago I came across the letter of Guadalupe, regarding two girls killed while travelling in Ecuador. I felt the need to do something, as woman, and as traveller. I know that on social media you’re bombarded of beautiful images under the hashtag “travel”, and everything looks easy and beautiful. But it’s not.
To travel means much more than a Valencia filtered photo. It requires a lot of pre-planning, mental preparation and physical training."

Ori's classes focus on teaching people how to plan the trip of their dreams, step-by-step, in a four class course. The first class covers planning and budgeting, the second safety, the third is a hands-on photography workshop, and the fourth a writing workshop.

The letter Ori mentions to have been motivated by is one that addresses the victim blaming and sexist culture that women often face, definitely not excluding those who travel. When two Argentinian Girls were killed whilst travelling in Ecuador, people asked, as women, why they were travelling alone? Ori disagrees with this. "I would say that women can do whatever they want. Women can have the same strength, passion and motivation of a man. And most importantly, women should realize that to be a woman is a power and for sure not a fault."

In fact, she is a firm believer travelling solo is a good experience for everyone. "Travelling alone completely changes your perspective of life. It makes you realize there’s no distance between places -which is a very pragmatic way of realizing that there’s no distance between what you want and what you can have. When you travel you understand that everything is possible. Travelling alone gives you fundamental skills -such as a great sense of adaptation: you will come back and be able to adapt to a broad spectrum of environments and people," she explains. It's clear she is very passionate about the seeing the world and what it has to offer.

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