Quick question, one I’d like to pose to you all. Just out of curiosity.
As I said before… I usually devour books. That is the only way to describe how I breeze through them with a quickness that sometimes has me forgetting I’ve read the book and taking it out again at the library (this has happened to me multiple times and I’ve only realised like a third into the story….)
I usually don’t want to put the book down, I gotta get through it as soon as possible and then marinate in my thoughts.
Recently though… as I’ve been reading books on short intervals via my stop-over commute to and from work/ during my lunch hour… I’m starting to enjoy taking my time with stories. Actually savouring the words instead of acting like I’m Naruto Uzumaki at Ichiraku’s you know?
Both ways are fun methods of reading… but back to my question.
What’s your favourite kind of read?
That un-put-downable, I don’t want this to end, counting how many pages til I reach the end book. aka. The book you can’t wait to finish
That slow-burn, I need to ruminate over the sentence structure and cyclical themes to collect every single detail book in bits and pieces book. aka. The Book You Don’t Want to End.
At the end of 2017 I said to myself, you’re already making the moves Fayola, you know what your goals are, it doesn’t matter when you start them or when you achieve them as long as you’re striving towards them.
Last year my most important goal was to get a job in publishing. It was one of the few I ended up achieving. (unpacking from undergrad after…. 3 years… was also one of these things).
I set myself this challenge in January… it didn’t happen for the longest time. It wasn’t until the summer that I was actually going to interviews on the regular and actually landed an internship which eventually led to me looking experienced and comfortable enough to get hired full time at my job (which I started at the end of October).
I know what sort of things I’ll be trying to make progress on this year.
I want to complete the renovation of my room aka reclaiming my space at home, knowing that I’ll be living at home for a long while still.
I want to learn how to drive, I still can’t drive. On this year where I’ll be living for a whole quarter century, I think it’s time I actually step up, plan it and follow through.
I want to be healthier to myself. Get a better relationship with food and exercise. To be healthier with the boundaries I set and enforce with my loved ones. To be able to say “no” with my chest and not feel bad about being pliable, unavailable or too broke for something else.
I want to take time to enjoy myself, attend more events, travel more, try new hobbies until I find something that I don’t want to stop.
I want to be the best version of myself possible, but of course I want that every year.
I want to replenish my savings account, which has suffered over the few years of my unemployment.
I want to continue using the bullet journal method- because in the month that I haven’t been… my life has been a small, small mess.
I’m also going to take the time to acknowledge that even though I only achieved a few things, they were good things. And honestly, that was an achievement in and of itself.
So last year, I decided I was going to #TreatMySelf!
So I bought tickets to see Harry Potter an the Cursed Child. The play (parts 1 AND 2). Set in the future!
With BLACKHERMIONE!!!! which was a main selling feature for me, tbh. (Because sometimes JKR’s diversity stunt queen antics can come off mad dumb)
On my birthday!
Which it is! Which is NOW!
And I have friend’s down to visit with me. Friends I haven’t seen since we left MMUC because of distances and clashing schedules. Friends I am very happy to see and was very happy to have with to discuss theories with.
Not going to talk about it other than I think, for fan fiction, it was fun. Parts of it were so obvious you kind of wished they didn’t happen. Some things literally made no sense in terms of the characterisation. The stage was beautiful! The props were beautiful! THE COSTUMES AND CHANGES WERE REAL LIFE ACTUAL MAGIC!
But that’s all I’m saying. #KeepTheSecret and all that.
I have accepted that I’m moving on from this part of my life. But I still want to retain the memories that I’ve acquired over the years.
I’ve been watching almost every fashion and aesthetic blogger that I follow talk about minimalism. I read all the articles on the KonMari art of cleaning. I watched the documentary on netflix. Researched the appeal of this lifestyle change.
The freedom that comes from not relying on possessions and purchasing to create happiness in you. It’s something I can totally get behind. So…
I’m embracing the minimalist movement into my life.
It’s kind of like, reclaiming the space in my house and making due with what I have. When I moved to cheshire for my undergrad, my brother moved everything in my room to the attic and moved in, painting over it and leaving me to sleep in his old (still cluttered, and yes, smaller) room when I came home for the holidays and reading weeks. Over those three years away from home, I accumulated so many things that for two summers I would only return to London with suitcases of my clothes and my personal electrics. Moving back home… These things take up space.
My room at university was bigger than my current one. Everything was a bit cluttered, but it didn’t stress me out. Having half of these belongings in my room, and the other half stashed around the house for over two years however… it does stress me out. I feel suffocated in stuff. Or I used to.
I am slowly beginning to take back my space. My room is in the process of being refurbished. My possessions are currently being evaluated on usage, sentimental memory and aesthetic- then being sorted and either gifted, donated, recycled or thrown away.
There is a bit of a rush in getting rid of things in this manner. And in the planning of what my room will eventually look like (and by proxy, what clearing the house of my other unused possessions will do). In between job applications, it’s a project I can work on.
I’m funnily reminded of studying Virginia Woolf’s “A room of one’s own” just because, well, I’m crafting a room of my own. One that helps me stay inspired, relaxed, creative and focused. A place, specifically carved out and designed for Fayola, to just be Fayola.
I’m at that age now where I don’t exactly qualify as a “child” for Christmas anymore. I’m not as upset about it as I thought I’d be, because this year I finally understood our family rule, “Only the kids get gifts.”
I have accepted my Auntie position now, and having worked the holiday period in a book store, with a 50% discount on everything on the store floor, of course everyone was getting one thing at least. Books.
Which meant I gained an Auntie category. I’m the Book Auntie now. The Auntie you come to with an amazon reading list the length of your arm, who will either slip you a £20 note when you’re in a book shop and set you loose on the shelves, who will ask you what series you’re collecting and collaborate with your parents so that on birthdays and Christmases you get to tick the latest installation off of your personal “to buy” list.
Everyone I bought a book for was under 14, three of them at that wonderful age where their book choices were tied between the 9-12 age range and the ever widening Teen/ Young Adult section. As a seasoned YA reader, I know that there can be some mature elements that I knew these parents were not comfortable with their children being introduced to. I had to make sure that along the way, I wasn’t exposing them to anything that would push them into maturity closer than they needed to, and in this process got to read books that maybe I wouldn’t have chosen to sit permanently on my own bookshelf.
It was a book a day situation. Sometimes, even the books I bought with the intention to gift (See: Nicola Yoon’s The Sun is also a Star) ended up a resident on my bedside table. I hadn’t read so much, so fast since the summer before I went to university. Then, it was a way to kill time when the schedules of friend’s didn’t link up at the right time or to escape from the boredom of being the only one jobless and vacationless before embarking on that next stage of life that was living at university.
Now, reading became a critical act. I had to take in the styles of the authors, and the actions of the characters. Would X like this long, winding prose? Were the metaphors too flowery? Was the text condescending in anyway? Was the story enjoyable? On the bus, on the train, during my mandated breaks, I would fish a book out of my bag (and I always carried two, incase I completed one earlier than expected), sit and read.
It was like the scene in Ratatouille, when Remy is trying to explain the complimentary tastes of foods perfectly paired to his brother. And after a summer of reading the genre I love only to analyse it, and three weeks reading anything that my Auntie Yvonne could spare from her daughter’s shelves because the lack of books in the family home was killing me it was liberating to have books that I could enjoy… and pass on without that dreadful fear of “I’m never going to see that again” when you loan someone a book.
Because I knew that was already going to happen. I wasn’t going to see these books again because they were bought with someone else in mind. And maybe they’ll have those thoughts in the future when they want to share these stories with their friends.
Today I gave the final gift of books to the last book giftee I acquired through my mum’s Nurse Auntie Conglomerate (Please, I have been running on BPT since the womb, and have only recently showed signs of improving that). She shrieked with joy. She’d been at the very same bookstore I was working at a week before and wanted the two books I’d picked, read and assigned as her gift, but she didn’t have the money to buy them alongside the other four books she’d picked up.
I start to think about my late godmother, who was my Book Auntie and if she felt the same happiness as I do now when I’m being trusted to provide a good selection of literature that encouraged putting the screen down and getting grounded in my own imagination. If she felt the same way as I do now, when doling out these gifts, as she did when I was first presented with So Much or Amazing Grace or Noughts and Crosses or Assassin’s Apprentice, then I know each of these books were given out of love and understanding of my tastes and my interests. And that just makes them all the more precious.
I spent three weeks after my dissertation hand-in in Trinidad and Tobago. It was the first time I had been back since I went with my dad to bury my grandma. It had been seven years- for perspective: at my grandma’s funeral, my cousin Dominique was five or six month pregnant- two weeks ago, I was getting called “Aunty Fifi” by several new (second) cousins under the age of six.
It was a moment of celebration. When I graduated my BA, my dad took me to Malta for a fortnight and we enjoyed a little bit of European sunshine while we could. MA completion got a level-up for vacation, and timing was perfect. My mum’s birthday was in October and she wanted to spend it with her family, we also wanted to travel somewhere and see family without the sad knowledge that we were also there to say goodbye to someone who had only been a collection of pixels on our screen as we face-timed or a voice on the phone that sometimes cut out due to connectivity issues.
My grandpa was in the family home my mother grew up in. He was planting all sorts of fruits and vegetables that would make their way to our table, and he was also taming a wild squirrel who know has their own dining plate on the mango tree overlooking the football field. Every morning I had omelettes or hard dough bread with butter and cheese, or just whole avocados sprinkled with salt and fresh lime from the tree in grandpa’s growing garden. The whole time we were there it was changing, air conditioning, building plans proposed, rooms becoming fully furnished, I got to see my mum project her vision on what a true family house could be for everyone who stepped into the house escaping from the cold countries that they’d all migrated towards for opportunity.
Every day, I spent at hours in the sun. Reading, walking, talking, sitting, playing.
And I was wearing bug repellant because those damned mosquitoes followed me around singing “fresh blood! fresh blood!” in my ears morning, noon and night, while leaving my cousins the locals alone for the time being. Everything tasted like the sunshine, the coconut bake, the coconut, the fruit, the cakes and sweets that my grandpa would call me over to taste with a smile wide on his face. When I looked into the mirror I could see the proof that the Caribbean sun was cooking me to the perfect shade of a rich brown that I was supposed to be as dictated by my genetic make-up and erasing the sickly yellow-looking tone that I’d gotten from too many years under overcast skies.
Then, three weeks later. After a slew of birthdays, weddings, cousin introductions and a mini-vacation to Tobago… I had to say goodbye. Again.
The day we left, my Aunty Yvonne joked “I don’t know why you’re spending time inside. Shouldn’t you be outside soaking up the sun?” She was right.
Even now I regret that I didn’t spend more time soaking up the sunlight, basking like a lizard in the driveway with maybe a sorrel shandy or a bowl of mango chow.
Things are darker quicker. The sun feels so weak in comparison, even when magnified through the glass of my bedroom window. The wind isn’t a comfort when it passes and sets the cold back into me. The sky is grey, even when it’s not “overcast” in comparison to the blues and pinks and oranges I used to see from the front porch at my mother’s side. The food doesn’t taste as delicious.
It is winter, and Christmas is approaching.
I’ve been working two temp jobs that require me to be indoors for most of the time that I’m awake. I only see the sun when I’m coming home mid-morning from my night shift and in the early afternoon as I get ready for a full shift at my other job. The brown shade I acquired is fading, though I’m still not as pale as I once was.
Most of all, I miss standing in the sun and the connective feeling it inspired deep down in my being to the land that my parents affectionately call “home” all these decades after leaving.
After my undergraduate degree, I’m sure I fell victim to the Post-grad Blues. Not only did I move far away from everything I’d grown familiar with after three years, but I found trouble in looking for work. It took me three months to go through my savings trying to not burden my parents and live as independently while I job searched,as I had in Crewe (even though I was living at home); took another month for me to gather up the courage to take the advice of some others in my position and sign up for JSA while I tried to get a publishing placement or internship or basically anything at all to do with books.
After all, since sixteen I knew whatever career I ended up in, bookseller, editor, writer, production (sometimes I even hoped illustrator), I always hoped the focus would be books… or magazines, e-books, blogs. Anything you could read. My mum always said, she wanted my brother and I to be happy with whatever we did with our lives- and when reading was my favourite pastime, the Publishing industry was the thing to aspire to.
My first publishing job search fresh from my undergraduate degree was not very successful. I rarely got an interview, and when I did- it didn’t get further than that. The stress put onto me while on JSA was ridiculous- I got the idea that they didn’t care what industry I got into, as long as I got hired and removed myself from the program ASAP. And you know, that internalised societal shame of being seen as too lazy to work or being a scrounger when in all honesty it should be recognised that looking for work is like a full time job in itself with all the various sites, newsletters, interviews and networking events you end up attending.
I got very nervous when it came to applying to positions. It even effected my MA a little bit- I was so sure no one would be interested in what I had to offer, and was sure to get no replies to the emails- let alone land an interview or get the placement that I needed (and wanted) for one of my modules. But I did, and my confidence grew. I had people reassuring me that I did have something to bring to the table and educating me on the topics where it was necessary. I left the course feeling competent.
Unlike some of my classmates, I decided I was going to focus solely on my dissertation over the summer. I didn’t want to burn out because I was so determined to leave my MA with a grade that I would feel proud of (because shame/disappointment was the initial fuel for my Post-grad blues). Now I’ve done all of that, I received my results two weeks ago and felt confident in my abilities. What I felt seemed like that “Imposter Syndrome” you hear about, although it doesn’t appear to have taken root, and for that I’m thankful.
This second foray out into the world of employment is different. I am more relaxed, and having made friends with those in a similar aspiring position- I don’t feel as unfulfilled as I thought I might looking for and taking part in non-book related work. I don’t shy away from the thought of stacking cans or waiting tables because I’ve learnt that I can’t expect to get a dream job right away.
And I do need money to buy all of the books I’m eagerly anticipating in 2017. I know I’m good for the job, any job.
One of my new years resolutions was to put myself out there. I don’t know if anyone else noticed (yeah right) but I am a bit of a shy introvert prone to second-guessing myself… a lot.
So usually my social life is a little bit of a struggle. It’s an Asocial life.
But this year, I reckon I’ve at least made a step closer to calling people “friends” and actually meaning it, not just saying the word because it sounds better than “acquaintance” or “Yeah, I met them like three times IRL and now we’re Facebook friends”
So, my biggest problem is something that you’re “supposed” to outgrow in primary school (apparently… news to me). I have trouble cultivating friendships of convenience to last, I’m great when I’m in a specific situation, I have people I consider close friends, we have inside jokes in person. Outside of that…. not so much. I have in the past followed an admittedly ridiculous set of lists that I used to follow about maintaining friendships.
Honestly, these “rules” I followed because I’ve been burned by friendships, I’ve had falling-outs that were worse than break-ups. I’ve ghosted and been the ghostee. I’ve had toxic friends, and I’ve also been the toxic friend who lashes out at everyone. I’ve kind of… drifted away and became uncertain how to approach rekindling a friendship’s potential.
But that’s not to complain, baby steps. That was how I was. Now I’m improving. Got myself a solid set of friends init.
My rules have changed. Or rather, my attitude to socialising has changed and my anxiety has decreased.
I’m a stickler for keeping my Facebook friend list… actually full of my friends, but that doesn’t mean I can’t interact with them on different platforms. Twitter & Snapchat are becoming my go-to for casual friendly interactions.
Everyone is surprisingly chill when asking for numbers, then I’m getting added to WhatsApp or DM group chats and welcomed into [situation] squad chats.
It’s completely fine to bring up something I’ve seen online. THAT ICEBREAKER THOOO. Most people like when you put them onto things that remind you of them… like duh.
Just because I’m friends with a certain person in one situation, doesn’t mean I have to have them integrated into my central friend system. I think that’s the thing that used to make me the most anxious- wondering how all of my friends (with their varying interests and the differing environments where our friendships grew) would interact and if their perception of me would change based on meeting each other. I’ve learned to not worry, and to be wavy about it. Not every day every situation friends must meet.
It has been really nice to see myself grow and interact with people. Even though this term I stretched myself thin, I’m slightly grateful that I was forced to socialise with so many people and so often. I’ve really gained and understanding some of the things that really help me solidify positive notions of friendship.
It’s a bit of alright actually, this socialising thing.
Applying to my MA course I started my cover letter with this sentence:
I am a black girl who loves to read… and I’m also a black girl who has been let down by the industry that provides the majority of her entertainment.
The lack of racial diversity the entire industry is a big problem in my opinion. There are only so many books you can read searching for representation, eventually swearing off of books because they’re not for people like you. It’s alienating as a reader to be repeatedly shown you are unimportant and invisible in fictional worlds, especially if reading is an escape from those Real Life Problems™️.
We’ve been talking in lectures about the evolution of Publishing as a whole. As a Publisher, my job will be to acquire content, manipulate the content and attempt to make a profit. It sounds like a simple enough business model right? And despite this, there are still large audiences who are not being catered to.
This is where #DiverseDecember comes in. It’s now been officially over two weeks since I found out about this twitter campaign (I can’t believe it’s halfway done)… So I want to talk about the difference it has made in my To Read List and the importance of campaigns promoting diversity in Publishing like We Need Diverse Books, Diverse YA, Creative Access and Inclusive Minds.
BAME Authors, like BAME students in a majority-white class, are pigeonholed and made the “go-to” spokesperson for their entire race and culture. Like, how stressful is that- carrying an entire race and culture on your shoulders? They’re criticized for writing or talking too much about raceand they’re criticized for not writing or talking enough about race.
Marlon James recently said in an article for the Guardian Books that BAME writers, if they want to succeed have to pander to the views of publisher’s main consumers (middle class white women). Which then leads writers to fall into the trap of the single narrative that Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie warned us of, in order to succeed. I’m talking acacia trees and sunsets, rastafarians, steel pans and lounging in hammocks, curries, arranged marriages and “mythical” religions, martial arts, “weird” delicacies and lotus blossoms… You see what I’m getting to right?
Like #ReadWomen2014, the hashtag is about promoting different kinds of reading. #ReadWomen2014 was about reading more books from female authors, because despite the fact that the majority of the industry audience and workers are female, the most celebrated writers are often men. For example, YA literature is full of female writers, and yet John Green has been labeled the savior or “crown prince” of the genre.
#DiverseDecember was started by bloggers Naomi Frisby and Dan Lipscomb with the aim to celebrate the work of BAME writers, encourage people to read diversely and to “spread the joy of stories”. The twitter page and hashtag is full of people recommending their favourite classic and contemporary authors of colour, authors and stories from around the globe, other campaigns promoting diversity in publishing and stories about BAME-centric literary projects like Nikesh Shula’s upcoming letter collection “The Good Immigrant” and the fact that Nosy Crow is currently accepting submissions from BAME authors. For someone who used to struggle finding particular authors, the hashtag is a god send. It is so wonderful to see people promoting books that they have loved and want to share with others.
The importance of hearing BAME voices in literature is for more than just having a wider selection of reading. It’s a positive affirmation of my Black-British existence. In my youth I often felt as though I didn’t really have a place in this country, or the one my parents immigrated from. Learning of the history of your country, and finding out that the only way you are connected through it is through the effects of conquest in the name of Empire, is not the one. I’m sure that many BAME readers must have felt the same kind of disconnect, and campaigns like this only serve to bring us closer to each other and our dual-identities.
Change doesn’t have to be completely radical, the Publishing Industry isn’t going to get diverse in the snap of our fingers. We can’t collect all seven Dragonballs and ask Shenron to grant our wish… Marketing doesn’t have to be a pushing tactic- it’s easier to pull in this case, as I’ve learned from the last guest speaker of the term- Sam Missingham (the queen of twitter).
The audience is here. We’re identifying ourselves as potential customers.
We’re just waiting for someone to point us in the direction of something we would enjoy. Most of the time, its a close friend or relative- but what if it was direct from the source?
Imagine the profits.
Imagine the books (and apps, and events and the potential for other media tie-ins!).
Imagine the audience returning time and time again because they know you are serving up exactly what they’re looking for?
Yes, I’m thinking about #DiverseDecember from a Publishing Student point of view right now. But a year ago, when I had just graduated, all I wanted to do was read books for and about people who looked like me. As a consumer, I am grateful for this campaign because I’m finally seeing myself as part of the process, and part of the story.