Two Days at the Derby Book Festival

This week was the grand opening of Derby’s debut Book Festival. This was the first year that the city has put on the festival and they definitely pulled out all the stops. The week was packed full of exciting events, from writing workshops to performance poetry. Special guests included Rufus Hound and Michael Morpurgo, author of War Horse.

I attended two of these events. The first one was ‘A Conversation With David Nicholls’. David Nicholls is the author of the bestselling novel, ‘One Day’, and also the screenwriter of many Hollywood films including ‘Great Expectations’ and the recent ‘Far From The Madding Crowd’. David Nicholls is a very funny, down-to-earth man. He told us all about how he came up with Douglas, the main character of his new novel, Us, and how one particular incident in the book was inspired by a real life event involving an angry biker gang in Amsterdam.

The other event was on publishing – both the life of a publisher and how to get published. As someone who one day dreams of being published, the information I learned from this event was invaluable. The speakers – Julia Murday, a publicist at Penguin; Karen Ball, a publisher of children’s books; and Diane Banks, a literary agent – were fantastic. They explained what they look for in an author, and also gave advice on how to self-market your books. For example, we were told that as long as you’re careful with what you put out there, being active on social media is a huge help to your career, as it enables you to prove that your have contacts and potential book-buyers. They also stated that it’s incredibly important to keep an eye on the ever-moving trends, so if the time for bestselling sci-fi novels has passed, hold onto that manuscript and wait for the trend to come back round. Publishers are much more likely to choose your book if it fits in with the bestsellers at the time.

I highly recommend visiting a book fair to those of you who enjoy writing and reading. There are so many opportunities out there to meet and network with other people who one day might just be the contact you need to take a leap into your career, as well as all of the events that are held to teach you everything you need to know about the industry. There are over 350 book festivals in the UK, and the number keeps growing as they become increasingly popular. This was my first time attending one, but I know it will not be my last. I can’t wait for next year’s!derby book festival1

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From Buses to Broadway to BFI BFFs

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Three months. It’s been three months since I last wrote to you. It’s unforgivable, I know, and I apologise profusely from the bottom of my heart. However, I do have an excuse: I’m a filmmaker now.

Since January, I have been attending a BFI Film Academy at Broadway Cinema in Nottingham (a lovely place by the way, with delicious cakes in the café – you should go there if you’re ever in the area). I honestly don’t know how I got onto this course. I remember my Media Studies teacher telling me about it after I moaned about the fact that I didn’t know what to do with my life, and then the next thing I knew, I was filling in an application form. I think I knew this was going to be an amazing thing when Ella (a tutor on the course), replied to thank me for the application and wish me happy birthday for the next day.

And then I got in! And so began the panic. I had only been to Nottingham maybe once in my life before, and my memory of getting the bus then didn’t go too well (cue lots of running and panicking and no money and no time and it was the last bus, and I didn’t know where I was or who I was with and gah! But that’s another story). I don’t know why I always panic about public transport so much. It’s not like anything bad has ever happened to me on a bus (touch wood!), but never mind. It turned out, as I was on the bus on the way to my first day of Film Academy, Dom, a guy from my drama group, was also heading to the same course. So I didn’t have to worry after all. Who’d’ve thought it?

I was so nervous on that first day, surrounded by a bunch of strangers (and Dom) who I was going to be working with for the next three months. I remember we had to write something down and I already had a pen in my hand, but Ella was handing them around and in my panicking, blustery mind I tried to take it from her, fumbled and dropped it, and wanted the ground to swallow me up. I was weird back then.

On that first day, I also met Shannon, who it turned out also went to my college but I’d never seen her before. We had to film a three-shot silent film with only one character and one prop, on a mobile phone. Guess who ended up as the actor. (Me.) Shannon was filming it. I think it might have been the scene where we left the lift and I had to turn dramatically to the camera that might have been the moment we clicked. Or it might have been the unstoppable laughter that came after that.

Over the next few weeks, we were given various lessons on things such as how to use the equipment, how to structure a story, how to dress a set, and many others. I don’t think I was particularly good at any of these things, but I enjoyed it nevertheless. And before every weekday session, in the time between college and Film Academy, we would gather in Broadway’s café and take advantage of our magical free teas. Those were the best.

The actual production project happened all of a sudden. One moment, 10968036_1069429213082493_1286670538_nwe were learning how to turn on the camera. The next, six of us were in a small, hot, smoke-filled room full of equipment, telling actors to make life difficult for each other. It was actually amazing to see the script that I had written be brought to life. I also brought in some props, which included a disgusting yellow blanket to go over the back of the chair. If you ever see the film, please ignore the continuity errors that occurred because of this prop from hell.

We had so much fun shooting this film, and our group was brilliant. Eleanor, Ben, Jordan, Finn and EB – if you ever want to make a film, these are the people to call. And the actors were amazing!

After the shooting was done, so began the editing process. As far as I know, the film is still being edited as we speak, and then the sound will still need doing afterwards. But once that’s done, the film will be all finished and shiny, and that’s when we’ll have our premiere.

The premiere is what I’m looking forward to the most. Not only will it be our chance to show off all of the hard work that everyone at BFI put into these films, the group will also be reunited.

Our last Film Academy session was pretty epic, and I think it stands to show how much we all loved this opportunity, because Joe Dempsie was just down the road giving a presentation at a local college, and no one ran away to meet him. Well, Jordan did, but he came back. One of the best moments was when, because we had bought a thank you card for the tutors, we all had to sneak out to sign it, but instead of going to the ‘toilet’ one at a time like normal people, we all went at the same time. As all of the girls crammed into a tiny public bathroom to sign the secret card, the boys were left to cover for us in the workshop. I’m not exactly sure how or why they chose this story, but they decided that when we came back in, we all had to dance. I did not.

But Sophie and Finn did! With a few of the classic dance moves (the shuffle and ‘reel him in’ included), they successfully distracted from the fact that we were blatantly doing something secret. The best part was when they began to feel awkward and decided to ‘teach’ us like Al and Roger, our tutors. Sophie snuck away in the guise of Roger by saying, “Roger would sit down and stroke his beard,” and she did just that. And then, of course, there was pizza and drinks, and lots of hugs and a little bit of crying, as we all departed from BFI for the last time.

Until the screening. Has it really only been three months since I didn’t know these guys?

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The Outsider (a poem)

A bed and a bookcase, and a small writing desk.
A doll and a sock, and a bit of a mess.
Through the window, the sunlight is just coming up,
But the nightlight’s still on, illuminating a cup.

The cup is half full, or half empty, or neither.
And the milk in it is old, a disgusting creature.
The clock on the wall watches. It ticks and it tocks.
And at the small, narrow door, there are three quiet knocks.

No one replies. Not a voice shouts, “Come in!”
And the outsider waits, listens closer. No noise from within.
There is not a sound besides the ticking wall clock.
Tick, tock. Tick, tock.
Tick, tock. Tick, tock.

Not a bated breath, not a whisper of life.
Not a sigh of contentment, not the chink of a knife.
So they push at the door, but it seems to be jammed.
They’ve their heart in their mouth and their nerves in their hands.

They push even harder, panic rising in their soul.
For locked out of the room, they are out of control.
And they shout and they scream the name of the child
But there’s no sound from within, and their heart’s going wild.

Finally, the door moves and they fall against it hard,
And open it’s thrown with the weight of their guard.
Adrenaline filled, they look to the bed
And stare in horror as they see their own head.

The outsider looks into their own glazed eyes,
And they see their own face that has already died.
And after such a wretched, sorrowful sight,
The outsider leaves. And the outsider smiles.

– By Bethany Morledge.

Worlds on Blank Pages

(Disclaimer: This is just a bit of nonsense I wrote during a free period today.)image

Faced with a blank page you have two options. The first, and by far the easiest (if also the dullest), is to sit and stare at it. You can think all you want, but if the voice in your head isn’t transferring to words on paper, what good is it going to do? You can watch the white and wait for something to happen, but if your fingers don’t start forming words, then nothing is ever going to happen. You will simply watch and wait forever.

The thing is, things will only start happening when you make the first move. Ripples in water will only occur when something touches it. Reactions only happen when there is an action already made.

So, unless you want to spend the rest of your existence waiting for something to happen that never will, the second option is what you should go for. You can start writing. It doesn’t matter what. It doesn’t matter if every single word that appears on the paper is complete nonsense.

Words should bubble from your imagination and seep into your mind, where they proceed to leak into your brain and drip through the veins in your arm right to your fingertips. From there, they should flow through the pen and into the ink, transforming into beautiful patterns and pictures that become: your writing.

And before you know it, the page is not blank. It is not vicious white, taunting you with its snowy complexion. Instead, it is positively brimming with fragments of your mind. The page is bursting with your creativity, and you can sit back, breathe it in, and think this is my world.

***

This is Earth. You and I are from the same Earth, but we are not of the same world. We share the same planet, but we live it different ways. We might not have the same culture or customs. We might not eat the same foods or tell the same stories, yet maybe we live in the same village. Maybe we have lived in the same village our entire lives and mixed with the same people as each other, but we’re still from different worlds. We still see our own worlds differently.

There are no two worlds exactly the same. Every person – every single human life, even those who are remembered by no one, has their own world. So does every animal and tree and flower. Some people have more than one world within them, so they need to find some way of getting it out of there system. Thus, the arts are born.

Every single book is its own world. Even if the setting is the exact same place that you grew up, right down to the flowery wallpaper, the pages still know things that you do not. You will see it from a new perspective – through a character’s eyes or a bird’s eye view.

And really, when it comes down to it, that’s what worlds are all about: perspectives. If everyone saw everything from exactly the same perspective, we would all be the same person. So, it’s not that the people make the worlds; it’s that the worlds make us.

That is why stories are so important. Every story we hear, read or watch, sinks into our membranes and becomes part of us. We breathe stories. Stories seep through our beings and, sometimes, they take over. Every aspect of life is a story. And every aspect of a story is life.

Entering Fictional Worlds

The thing that I love the most about reading, writing and binge-watching TV shows on Netflix is that they introduce me to new worlds, ideas and people that I never would have known otherwise. They completely sweep me away. It’s not that I’m not satisfied with the world I live in now because I freaking love my life, but fictional worlds give me a sense of exploring my world deeper.

One of my favourite questions to ask people (and I do ask it quite often) is which fantasy world they would most like to visit: Narnia, Hogwarts, Neverland, Wonderland, Panem, Middle Earth or Westeros? All of the characters from that world would be there for you to interact with. You can explore the worlds to your heart’s content. I think the answer that people give is always interesting. It says something about the person – not only that they are a fan of the story, but also what they want out of life. The kind of people they want to mix with. The kind of adventures they want to spend their lives having.

My answer is Hogwarts. Make of that what you will.

Just think. When you’re standing in the middle of a library, you’re surrounded by thousands of different worlds. Thousands of different characters to get to know. Thousands of adventures to be had. And when you write, more worlds, characters and adventures spill from your fingertips.

Everyone has a story in them. A writer’s job is to dig deep and pull them out in as many different ways as they can want. An artist does the same thing. So do actors, directors, musicians, chefs, builders, and basically every job you can think of. Everyone’s story is different. So is everyone’s world.

There are over seven billion people on Earth. That’s seven billion different stories. Seven billion different perspectives of the world they live in. I once read that every single person you meet knows something that you don’t, and I think that is a magical sentence.

What’s your story?

Writing Earfillers–Mozart, Thunderstorms and Fall Out Boy.

“Music expresses that which cannot be put into words and that which cannot remain silent.” ~ Victor Hugo, author.

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What do you like to listen to while concentrating? Can you work on your homework in blissful silence or do you prefer a little ambience while you work? In this post, I will offer some help and handy links if you’re struggling to find the perfect balance between dead silence mosh pit madness.


Every writer writes under different conditions. Some writers like to write anytime and anywhere, often scribbling pages of dialogue on crowded buses into town. Others prefer to sit at their desk at a specific time every day and only cease tapping at the keyboard when they reach 2,000 words. Some writers like to listen to the current pop sensations as they they hack away at their laptops. Others prefer to sit in stony silence as they type their latest masterpiece.

Personally, I do a mixture of all of these. When I’m busy with college, I tend to write at any opportunity I get, spending my free periods cramped up in the library with notebooks and folders spread around me as I scribble a chapter or two. But as it is summer at the moment, I have been trying to write every second of the every day. And, as you can probably guess, it’s not working very well. As a self-proclaimed Queen of Procrastination, the more I tell myself to write this stupid story, the more I try not to. The more Tumblr drags me away into the depths of Fangirland, and the more I want to rewatch episodes of Once Upon A Time for the sixth time. After all, what else are summer holidays for?

In regards to my musical writing conditions, my tastes are… eclectic to say the least. Here are some tips if you’re wondering how to fill your ears while you pour your emotions onto paper. I know that I write better in silence, and can hardly squeeze two words from my pen when the TV is on, although that doesn’t stop me from wasting hours trying. For some people, writing in front of the telly works just fine. If you’re one of those people, you are a rare genius.

I enjoy listening to music that matches the tone or theme of the piece I’m writing. Is my character angry? Fall Out Boy understands. Is my character lovesick? Taylor Swift gets it. But, like with the TV distraction, that doesn’t often work out very well.

Instrumental music is a good compromise. When writing a mystifying and fantastical scene, you could try listening to the beautiful flying music from the 2003 Peter Pan film (which never fails to give me goosebumps). If you’re writing something more dramatic, Mozart or Beethoven is a good choice.

Another of my favourite writing earfillers, are simple background ambient sounds. Although you can find some relaxing ambience on sites like YouTube or Spotify, there are specific websites set up for this specific purpose. Here are some links to my absolute favourites:-

Coffitivity and Rainy Mood really work for me while the others get a little repetitive after a while. If music is too distracting and silence too chiding, these are perfect.

How do you like to fill your ears while focusing? Let me know in the comments.

Rediscovering Old Stories

I started this story about three years ago, and have just rediscovered it. Beware, this hasn’t been edited since I found it. Fortunately, I wasn’t a completely illiterate fool so it’s still readable and hopefully interesting.


 

Promise

Chapter One.

Winter. I hate winter. It is just cold, dark and wet. It is when the sun hides behind the clouds, and the stars have trouble shining. It is when the moon seems spookier and gloomier. It is when it is too cold to rain, and instead the sky decides to fall on you. And then people decide to throw bits of fluffy, but deadly freezing cloud at you so hard (possibly with a stone or compacted into ice) that it gives you a black eye and concussion. I hate winter.

It was Monday 29th November. I woke up in my room which is pretty much the whole third floor. It was so cold in there that I could see my breath, and my teeth were chattering, even though I was snuggled up in three blankets, a duvet and two sheets. Very reluctantly, I dragged myself out of bed and forced myself into the luxuriously steamy shower, where I warmed myself up for half an hour.

After that, I dressed for the weather: three pairs of thick tights, two pairs of socks, skinny jeans, a vest, a top and a hooded jacket. After applying a bit of make-up and French plaiting my long, strawberry blonde hair, I tugged on my Ugg boots and leather jacket and headed downstairs.

“Morning, Lydia,” my overly cheerful mum greeted me as I plodded tiredly through the living room. She was curled up in her dressing gown on the armchair, sipping a coffee and reading the newspaper. I envied her so much.

“Morning, mum,” I replied, my voice an obvious contrast from hers. I sounded like there was a thunder storm pouring down on my head. I felt like it too.

“Did you know it’s snowed overnight? I think it still is,” she said, oblivious to my mood.

“I guessed from the frost that lay over me when I woke up,” I replied. She ignored me, and suddenly became engrossed in the article headlined ‘DEATH BY ICE!’ Oh, this was going to be a fun day. Note the sarcasm.

I ate half a banana, and gulped down a glass of juice as my breakfast. I was on a diet. All the girls in my new school were skinny. I wasn’t. But I wasn’t fat. I was curvy. I just felt like I could lose a few pounds, and then I wouldn’t stand out so obviously.

My dad came down the stairs, all ready for work.

“Are you sure your school’s still open?” he asked me. I looked to mum.

“Yes it is. I’ve already rang them and asked,” she said. Dad and I sighed simultaneously. Poor dad had to drive in it without slipping all over the place and creating a domino affect of accidents. I had to put up with huge snowball wars and frost bite. Yes, my school was tiny, but there were quite a few good throwers. And they hurt. A lot.

Dad dropped me off in the school car park, and then drove away as slow as a snail. Almost as soon as I turned the corner to the playground, I got hit with a snowball. Grumbling, I trudged through the thick blanket and made my way to the porch outside the main entrance, where I could shelter almost safely from flying white candy floss. I sank to the dry ground, and wrapped my arms around my knees.

I heard several fast approaching crunching footsteps, and slowly looked up. Stood around me in a semi circle were Ash Jackson, Charlie Opal, Rio Densall, Luke Stuart, and Jayden Skye. In there hands they all held two balls of snow, and on their faces they each held a smirk and a playful glint in their eye. That could only mean one thing.

“Oh crap,” I muttered, before swiftly covering my head with my hands. Instantly, ten snowballs flew in my direction, each bursting into a soft powder as it exploded on me. They were in fits of laughter.

“You freaks, this is my best coat!” I yelled at them, although I knew they were only messing around.

“Why did you wear it today then, you idiot?” Luke laughed. I just frowned.

“Stuff you,” I grumbled. I heard gravelling footsteps getting closer and edged away into the wall. Someone sat next to me. Carefully, I glanced slightly through my hair towards them. It was Jayden. My heart skipped a beat.

“You really hate snow don’t you,” he said. It was more of an observation than a question.

“Is it that obvious?” I rolled my eyes, although he couldn’t see because I was still hiding my face. He chuckled. The sound of his laugh made my legs turn to jelly. Thank god I was sitting down.

“Well, you look cold.” I felt his arm wrap around my shoulders and pull me closer into him. I couldn’t believe what was happening. Jayden Skye – the hottest guy in the whole school – was cuddling me. But then the realisation hit me. It hit me in the form of an icy cold snowball being crushed on the top of my head. I jumped up, shrieking and pulling bits of the white stuff out of my hair. Jay was clutching his sides, choking on his laughter.

That did it. Within a heartbeat, I had two handfuls of snow. I threw them right in Jay’s face, without giving him a chance to be warned. He looked up, surprised and then vengeful. Uh oh. Revenge is bad on anyone, but when Jay got it, it was sure to be painful and much, much worse. I backed away, my hands up in surrender. He took a handful of snow, moulding it into a ball. He walked towards me at my pace, the revenge glinting in his eyes.

“Um, Jay… I wasn’t aiming at you,” I lied. “It slipped out of my hands…” I backed into something behind me, but resisted the urge to turn around. Never turn your back on the enemy. However, this prevented me from backing away any further. And Jay was gaining. A smirk was playing on his beautiful red lips. The snow made his hollow cheeks and pale skin gleam. His shaggy brown hair hung over his right eye. He looked gorgeous. And right now, deadly. This is it, I thought, he’s going to bury me alive in this stuff.

And then the bell went. It only distracted him for a second, but that second that he was off guard was all I needed. I took off as fast as my legs would carry me for the main entrance, and got in to safety. Snow was banned indoors. He couldn’t get me. He would have to wait until break time.

Just as I got through the doors, a snowball exploded on the door frame. Woah, that was close. I turned around and laughed at Jay’s playful-angry face. He followed me inside and we walked up the stairs to our classroom together.

“I’ll get you at break,” he smiled.

“Not if you can’t find me,” I smiled back. He laughed as we entered the classroom and hung our coats up. The other guys, and Ruby and Lily, walked in behind us. They were all covered in snow from head to toe, laughing and messing around. How could they stand to be that smothered in frozen rain?

We had double history first. Our topic was world war two. All through Mrs Kingston’s lecture about evacuation, I kept finding my gaze fixed on the back of Jay’s head. He sat in front of me. His brown hair hung just above his shoulders, curly from the melted snow. His shoulder blades stood out giving the impression of the smooth muscles beneath his black tee-shirt. He was hunched over, resting his chin on his hands, with his elbows on the table.

The lesson dragged on slowly. But when it was over, I found myself wishing it would go on for even longer. Break meant outside. Outside meant snow. Snow meant snowballs. And snowballs meant Jay. Which meant revenge. Sure enough, as soon as the lesson finished, he turned to me with a grin.

“See you out there,” he said before running outside, barely remembering his coat on the way. I sighed, taking my time over putting on my leather jacket and gloves.

I walked slowly towards the main entrance. Luckily, Ruby and Lily were in there, waiting for me.

“So, what was that going on with Jay?” Ruby asked, a cheeky twinkle in her eye.

“Nothing, he just plans to get revenge on me for throwing snow in his face,” I replied.

“Mhm,” she said, knowing that it was actually flirting. But she can’t say anything about flirting. She never stops flirting with Ash, her long term boyfriend. They hardly ever leave each other’s arms. It is rare to find them apart for longer than five minutes.

“I can’t blame you, Lydia, he is so fit,” Lily said dreamily. I looked at her surprised. She was not the type of person to go all dreamy about a boy. She shot an innocent ‘what?’ look at us. We hastily shut our mouths and turned away. She had a good arm on her when it came to throwing stuff. Particularly snow.

“Would you like to explain why you’re hiding in here?” the snobby science teacher, Mrs Garland, asked snootily from the doorway.

“It’s cold…” Ruby moaned.

“It’s wet…” I moaned.

“It’s dangerous…” Lily moaned. Mrs Garland scowled.

“Out,” she pointed a long claw – I mean nail – at the door. Defeated, we went towards the door. And were greeted by a flurry of snowballs. They all missed me luckily, so without a second to spare, I legged it away, knowing that Jay and his mates were following me with flying ice.

I didn’t know where my legs were taking me. I was just trying to get away. However, when I found myself skidding to a halt around the corner, I knew I should have paid closer attention to where I was going. I had hit a dead end. And Jay, Luke and Rio were hot on my trail. Uh oh. I turned to face whatever was coming. Sure enough, around the corner came the three, with Jay in the middle giving me a cheeky smile. They had at least ten snowballs between them. There were three of them and ten snowballs, against one of me with no snowballs. This could not end well. I held up my hands. They didn’t stop walking to me. I stood still.

“Oh god, Jay… what did I ever do to deserve this?” I asked with exaggerated drama.

“Nothing,” he shrugged. We stared each other down for about a minute.

Come on then-

“Now!” Jay yelled and before I could do anything to protect myself ten snowballs exploded in a puff of powder all over me. They didn’t stop there. Somehow they had got closer to me while I was busy choking on the snow, and blinking it out of my eyes. They started grabbing handfuls of it and throwing it at me. They kept doing this until I was drenched in it, like an abominable snowman. They stopped for a minute to laugh.

“Jay,” I said, my voice full of fake innocence, “Do you want a hug?” Before he could do anything, I jumped on him and wrapped my arms around his body. I was surprised he didn’t struggle. Instead, he put his arms around my waist and held me to him. I never wanted the moment to end. But it did. Because Luke had snuck up behind Jay, and pushed him. I found myself sprawled on my back in the snow with Jay on top of me. We stared into each other’s eyes (oh! his amazing bright green eyes), bewildered at what the hell had just happened.

Then people’s laughter snapped us out of it. I pushed Jay, not even realising that my hands had been on his chest. He got up without having to be told twice, and held a hand out for me. I could feel my cheeks were a flaming red, not just from the cold. Blushing even more, I took his hand. He expected to be helping me up, so he was caught off guard. With every inch of strength I could muster up, I pulled him over into the snow while I leapt gracefully to my feet. With a light twirl, and curtsey, I flashed a playful grin at the dazed Jay who was sat on the ground rubbing his bruised tail bone. I looked up to find a lot more people than I had expected, laughing. They were all covered in snow, laughing and clapping at my trick. What was not so great was that most of them had probably seen what had happened a minute ago.

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The bell rang. Everyone grudgingly turned to go, leaving just Jay and I alone. He was stood up now, looking as if he had something on his mind.

“Are you okay, Jay?” I asked him. He shook his head, as if clearing his thoughts, and turned to me with a genuine friendly smile.

“Yeah. You?”

“Yep, I’m fine.” I said, just as the cold hit me. I shivered and my teeth started chattering. Jay looked at me, worry across his beautiful features. He slipped off his big black coat and before I could protest, helped me into it.

“Thank you,” I smiled, a blush creeping onto my cheeks only just after it had gone. He began walking off, not showing any reaction to the coldness. I followed a few steps behind him, eager to get inside to the warmth.


If you like it, let me know and I might upload more chapters.