National Trust: Literary Edition

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Days out with the National Trust are always good fun, especially when they help maintain lots of houses and estates where famous writers once lived! From my experience, they really maintain the authenticity and atmosphere of the times, which always makes it a really rewarding experience. Here is my list of National Trust places I want to visit.

1.

Bateman’s, Burwash

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I’ve actually already visited Bateman’s! This gorgeous Jacobean house was once home to Rudyard Kipling, the writer of The Jungle Books. At Bateman’s, Kipling wrote his first major work, Kim, and soon visitors will be able to see Park Mill after some extensive restoration. Also, Bateman’s has a collection of gardens which makes it a great place to visit in the summer. Bateman’s is open all year round from 11-5pm and costs £10.40 for a standard adult ticket.

2.

Monk’s House, Rodmell

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This 17th-century house was once home to Leonard and Virginia Woolf, before her death which occurred at River Ouse, not too far from the home. After her body was found, it was cremated and buried beneath an elm tree in the gardens of Monk’s House. I’ve just been to visit this house, recently, and it was amazing to see where Virginia lived and wrote. She even had a “room of her own”, her writing room, at the end of the garden. Monk’s House is open Wednesday through to Sunday, after lunch until 5 pm, until the last week of October. A standard adult ticket costs £5.75

3.

Greenway, Devon

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This grand estate was home to the famous crime writer Agatha Christie and was specifically the holiday home for her and her family. Like Bateman’s, there are lots of gardens that make it perfect for going on walks, and dogs are also welcome according to the website. Greenway is open from 10:30-5pm, every day until November when it only opens at weekends through to December. A standard adult ticket is £11.00

4.

Hill Top, Cumbria

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This 17th-century farmhouse was home to Beatrix Potter, and resides in the northern part of England, compared to the rest of my other picks. Ms Potter bought the Hill Top farmhouse with the proceeds from her first book The Tale of Peter Rabbit. Those wanting to visit, be mindful that entry to the house is ticketed to prevent overcrowding. Tickets cannot be bought in advance and a sell-out of tickets is possible. Hill Top is open every day until November, from 10-4:30 pm and standard adult tickets are £10.40. Access to the gardens and shop is free during opening times.

5.

Hardy’s Cottage, Dorset

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Thomas Hardy, the writer of Far From the Madding Crowd and Tess of the D’Urbervilles, was born in this cottage in 1840. It was built by his grandfather and has been maintained ever since, and Hardy actually wrote Far From the Madding Crowd in this very house! Thorncombe Woods is nearby, providing a beautiful picturesque walk for all who visit. Hardy’s Cottage is open every day up until November, where it only opens Thursday-Sunday. Opening times are 11-5pm and a standard adult ticket is £6.30.

I’ve put all of these National Trust estates on my list of places to visit. Have I managed to sway you too? Let me know in the comments!

black butterfly – how would you feel

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How would you feel

if you were in

my position:

I’d like to see how you handled it.

 

People called me out

already, I’ve only known you

a few months.

It’s not what I feel

that bothers me. It’s the fact

that I do feel for you

at all.

I guess this letter

is going to be bitter, because I can’t stand the fact

that you’re with her, when I know I could give you

so much more.

 

I can’t stand the fact

you’d rather be with someone else

than with me, who lives

right next door.

 

I’m bitter because it makes me think

we could have had

each other, we were almost there.

I’m bitter because you’re getting the fairy tale

and it isn’t with me.

 

I wonder why

I feel this way, when you give me so much pain.

You’re scared

You’re shy

You’re insecure and yet

I’m scared

I’m shy

and insecure.

 

Do you remember that time

across the dinner table, you looked

at me.

You held my gaze

for a second longer than necessary. I hold onto the smallest things.

You looked

gorgeous that night, too.

 

I cried over you

and I hate myself

for it.

Great Reads: Grief

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As a person who has been, and continues to be, bereaved, reading books that represent the emotions I’m going through is really important to me. Finding works of literature, songs or even films that put into words exactly how you’re feeling are just priceless, and so these are my top five favourites that deal with the subject of grief.

Please note that these books and further content of this post may contain triggers for grief and bereavement. 

1.

Looking for Alaska by John Green

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Loss: Best Friend / Love Interest 

Miles “Pudge” Halter is abandoning his safe-okay, boring-life. Fascinated by the last words of famous people, Pudge leaves for boarding school to seek what a dying Rabelais called the “Great Perhaps.” Pudge becomes encircled by friends whose lives are everything but safe and boring. Their nucleus is razor-sharp, sexy, and self-destructive Alaska, who has perfected the arts of pranking and evading school rules. Pudge falls impossibly in love. When tragedy strikes the close-knit group, it is only in coming face-to-face with death that Pudge discovers the value of living and loving unconditionally. – from Goodreads.com

This was the first grief related book I ever read and was struck about how honest and raw Pudge’s account of bereavement was. It makes a point of addressing the fact that although Pudge didn’t know Alaska for very long, she still made a huge impact on his life, which really validates those grieving for friends.

2.

The Sky is Everywhere by Jandy Nelson

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Loss: Sister

Lennie Walker spends her time tucked safely and happily in the shadow of her fiery older sister, Bailey. But when Bailey dies abruptly, Lennie is catapulted to centre stage of her own life – and, despite her nonexistent history with boys, suddenly finds herself struggling to balance two. Toby was Bailey’s boyfriend; his grief mirrors Lennie’s own. Joe is the new boy in town, with a nearly magical grin. One boy takes Lennie out of her sorrow, the other comforts her in it. But the two can’t collide without Lennie’s world exploding. – from Goodreads.com

Although there is a lot more to this book than just the death of Bailey, Lennie has a lot that she must accept which is the biggest struggle for her. Lennie must continue with her life without her sister, and paints a very real picture of life after someone passes.

3.

Far From You by Lisa Schroeder

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Loss: Mother

Years have passed since Alice lost her mother to cancer, but time hasn’t quite healed the wound. Alice copes the best she can by writing her music, losing herself in her love for her boyfriend, and distancing herself from her father and his new wife. But when a deadly snowstorm traps Alice with her stepmother and newborn half sister, she’ll face issues she’s been avoiding for too long. As Alice looks to the heavens for guidance, she discovers something wonderful. Perhaps she’s not so alone after all. – from Goodreads.com

Not only is this a book on grief, it’s also written in verse! It also tackles the topic of the afterlife which is something I haven’t really seen done in many novels about grief. It truly is one of a kind. This book also means a lot to me because I lost a parent, just as Alice did, and so it paints a very real picture of life without a parent and having a step-family.

4.

PS I Love You by Cecelia Ahern

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Loss: Husband

Holly couldn’t live without her husband Gerry, until the day she had to. They were the kind of young couple who could finish each other’s sentences. When Gerry succumbs to a terminal illness and dies, 30-year-old Holly is set adrift, unable to pick up the pieces. But with the help of a series of letters her husband left her before he died and a little nudging from an eccentric assortment of family and friends, she learns to laugh, overcome her fears, and discover a world she never knew existed. – from Goodreads.com

 Like some of the previous books in this list, PS I Love You deals with letting go, moving on and accepting the loss. Holly is eased back into life with the help of her husband Gerry who leaves letters for her posthumously.

5.

The Secret Year by Jennifer R. Hubbard

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Loss: Girlfriend

Colt and Julia were secretly together for an entire year, and no one? Not even Julia’s boyfriend knew. They had nothing in common, with Julia in her country club world on Black Mountain and Colt from down on the flats, but it never mattered. Until Julia dies in a car accident, and Colt learns the price of secrecy. He can’t mourn Julia openly, and he’s tormented that he might have played a part in her death. When Julia’s journal ends up in his hands, Colt relives their year together at the same time that he’s desperately trying to forget her. But how do you get over someone who was never yours in the first place? – from Goodreads.com

This novel is similar to Looking for Alaska but presents the story of grieving for a girlfriend/boyfriend in a different way. It tackles the similar themes of Green’s piece too, as well as presenting a death due to accident rather than illness, and puts some mystery around the death too, which makes it even harder for Colt to deal with.

These are my choice picks for books with themes of grief. I hope that people looking to read books that deal with bereavement will find this list helpful. Do you have any to add to the list? Let me know in the comments!

Great Reads: Poets

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I absolutely love reading poetry, and being a poet myself it would be silly not to love them. For me, poetry is as good as reading a short story, as whatever you’re doing, whether you’re snuggled in bed or on the tube to work, there is always time for a poem. Poems are bite sized chunks of emotions, with the ability to make you feel grounded at any time during the day. Below, I’ve listed some of the poets I think are great!

Sylvia Plath

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Sylvia Plath is not only the most famous female poet on the planet, she’s also the most famous poet, period. Born in Boston, MA, she was diagnosed and sort treatment for depression, which inspired her to write her only novel The Bell Jar as well as many poems that were published in the eight anthologies she penned. Her most famous is Ariel that was published after her death by suicide. One of my absolute favourites from her collection is a poem titled Mrs Drake Proceeds to Supper, which you can find in her Selected Poems anthology, edited by her husband Ted Hughes.

Charles Bukowski

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Another poet that struggled with mental health, and alcohol addiction, was Charles Bukowski, who’s dirty realism of life in Los Angeles was captured perfectly in his poems and novels. In 1986, Time Magazine called Bukowski the “laureate of American lowlife”, which seems to perfectly resemble not only Bukowski’s outlook on life but also the tone in which he wrote. In 1962, the love of his life, Jane, died, which resulted in a lot of poetry as a way for Bukowski to cope with the bereavement. Like Plath, Bukowski also wrote an autobiographical novel about his life in the American Postal Service, aptly titled Post Office. One of my favourite poems that Bukowski wrote is a short and simple one titled Dark Night Poem. They say nothing is wasted / either that / or it all is.

ee cummings

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Another Massachusetts born poet is Edward Estlin Cummings, who was better known by his pen name ee cummings, and styled as such in most of his publications. Cummings is known for his unique style, abandoning any structure through favour of fluidity. He also wrote an autobiographical novel in 1922 titled The Enormous Room about his experience of being imprisoned in France during World War I. Throughout his life time, Cummings wrote approximately 3,000 poems most of which were chronicled in anthologies. One of my personal favourites from his collection comes from the selected poems of 1923-1958 anthology which begins “if there are any heavens…”

Carol Ann Duffy

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Moving onto one of the more contemporary poets on the list, we have the current Poet Laureate, Carol Ann Duffy. I first was exposed to Duffy’s writing at school when studying for my GCSEs where I read and loved her poems on Anne Hathaway and Miss Havisham, but many years later I found a second-hand anthology called The Kingfisher Book of Poems about Love where I was blown away by her poem titled Words, Wide Night. Lets just say, there is a reason Duffy is the Laureate of Poetry.

Roald Dahl

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Roald Dahl is the pioneer of children’s literature, having written seventeen books over his lifetime. He also wrote two poetry anthologies for children, one titled Revolting Rhymes, which gave a new spin on original fairy tales like Cinderella and Little Red Riding Hood. The other anthology was called Dirty Beasts, and in true Dahl fashion, made us feel sick to our stomaches in a way only Roald Dahl could achieve.

So there we have it. Here is the top five list of poets I think really are worth reading. Are any of these poets in your favourites list? Or do you have a recommendation for me to get my teeth into? Let me know in the comments!

#CampNaNoWriMo – Week 4

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I did it! I managed to write 50,000 words in 30 days! AGAIN!

This last week has been a real uphill struggle for me, as I really felt like I was burning out, but I managed it none the less. At the end of week three, I managed to stretch ahead and get back on target as I was a day or so behind on my word count. It’s funny how just skipping out on one day can sometimes really make you struggle to get on target again, but I did it, and in the final week four, all I had to write was a further ten thousand.

Most of that ten thousand went on back story, filling in the gaps and structure. In my story, there is so much that goes on behind the scenes that the main protagonists don’t know about, that it’s important for me to get straight in my head what’s happening so I can correctly convey the story and how much information to reveal to the characters and when. Some of this information I translated into the story in different ways, some I left as “extras” for myself to refer to. I did consider a multiple POV at one stage, but firstly, I would have had to go back and interject the other points of view which seemed like a lot of work, and secondly, it really felt much more powerful and harrowing if we kept the characters, and to the same extent the readers, in the dark about the true nature of what’s going on outside of their circle.

My plan moving forward with this story is to be more ruthless with the structure, as I really just let the words flow without worrying too much about what was going in which chapter. I don’t know when I’ll be revising the piece, as right now I’m going to be taking a well-earned rest from writing, but hopefully soon. I also want to write in, and incorporate, lots of other short stories and creative works that really formed the foundations of this book. I had the initial idea in my first year of university which was almost six years ago now, and there’s a lot in what I wrote then that I want to rework into the form it is now. I’m really, really proud of what I’ve been able to achieve with this story, and it’s true what they say about never throwing anything away. You don’t know when it’s going to crop back up into your mind again, in different clothing or fully formed.

How did your April #CampNaNoWriMo go? Did you manage to complete your word count? Or did you find it as difficult as I did? Let me know in the comments!

#CampNaNoWriMo – Week 3

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This blog post comes a day late due to technical difficulties with my WiFi and also with my laptop. I’ve managed to push through and so here we are! These are the stats for my week three stint of CampNaNoWriMo.

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As you can see I’ve been lagging about a day behind with my writing due to the day I missed. It was a simple case of life getting in the way and so my creative project suffered for it. I know lots of writers have a similar problem balancing those areas of their lives, and I definitely struggled with balancing mine last week. Having said that, I only missed one day of writing, and have continued on never the less.

Last night was actually the night where I had a break through with my piece. I was in the shower, which is one of the many places I find I have good ideas, and it felt like a light bulb had been switched on over my head. At risk of giving too much of the plot away, it concerned something that I had been struggling with for a few days. I knew what I wanted my characters to get, or achieve, but I didn’t know how to get them there, or really what “there” looked like. I got there in the end, and it gives me hope that eventually I’ll be able to work all the kinks out and have a really strong arc if I just give myself the time.

I’ve also been considering the structure of the novel this week. I had originally split the piece into three parts as I usually do to help with structure, but it the plot has presented itself in very straightforward “before” and “after” pieces. The “after” section that I’ve been working on has, for the majority, been made up of the part three section of the story, and so I’m thinking it’s going to be a much more fluid, and full of pace, if I move with where the story takes me and leave figuring out the structure to a later draft. At the moment, I’m only concerned with getting my characters from A to B, and getting the words down.

With my writing epiphany yesterday, I happily only have ten thousand words left to write of my piece, which is going to lift a lot of pressure from this final week. I feel like I’ve asked and answered a lot of questions, and I’ve really been smoothing out areas of the plot that were very grey, and almost invisible to me at the start.

I hope your third week of CampNaNoWriMo has been going well. Have you had a similar journey to me this April? Let me know in the comments!

#CampNaNoWriMo – Week 2

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This week’s blog post comes a little later than usual, as in the past twenty four hours I haven’t been doing as much writing as I should have. As is the usual with most of my NaNoWriMo attempts, the second week has been incredibly difficult compared to the first. I have frequently lost my writing thread, and due to a combination of reality and emotional stamina, and because of this I haven’t arrived at the place I wished I had by now. Having said that, after I complete today’s word count, I’ll be halfway through my manuscript. My goals are still within reach. And I know that I’m being incredibly hard on myself because I’m a perfectionist.

My writing this week has had me jumping all over the place. I wrote sections of the last third of the novel, the epilogue and of course more of the beginning. I like to know where my characters are going to end up. It gives me a much clearer goal for them, and me, to strive for. However, trying to piece all of these bits together has proved challenging. Having said that, if I’d had to write in a linear fashion, I would have been stuck by the various ideas I’ve had along the way. It’s swings and roundabouts.

Coming into the third week, I’m hoping to pick up the pace and get on target with my daily word count again. I’m also back to work after having two weeks off which will help me establish a routine. I just need to make sure that I’m striving every day to get the words down on paper, and not let the weight of the struggle keep me from achieving. I’m going to try and get some of the middle section of the novel done so that I can string together the beginning of the last third I wrote in the first week. Being able to do that will make me much more confident and give me a direction.

It’s so important to get words down on paper during this time and worry about them after wards! I hope everyone is still doing well with their CampNaNoWriMo challenges? Let me know in the comments!