vendredi 11 août 2017

Courtly Love

Courtney's right.  This IS a really sick song.  We all know that.  It's actually always really annoyed me how people in the crowd cheer when she says it.  It's not cool.  Sick is not cool.  However, I *do* like - a lot - how dirgy Eric makes the guitar on this.  It's much more fitting than a girl-group sheen, although that obviously has its place.

I've been listening to this and other obscure Hole gems this week (I'm genuinely not trying to be obscure when I say 'My Body The Hand Grenade' is my favourite Hole album).  Thinking about it, Hole are really good on cover versions.  My faves are (look 'em up; they're worth getting hold of):

  • The Void (Raincoats; this cover was a B-side to the original Doll Parts CD single)
  • Hungry Like The Wolf (Duran Duran; another B-side, can't remember which)
  • Gold Dust Woman (Fleetwood Mac; from 'The Crow: City of Angels', which IMHO is one of the most beautifully shot yet thoroughly awful films ever made, but bizarrely has a properly great soundtrack)
  • Take This Longing (Leonard Cohen; I don't know if a recording of this exists, but I saw her sing it live - with billowing sleeves, strewing roses across the stage - and it made me cry and cry and cry)


I'm trying to channel a lotta Courtney lately, basically.

This post is also brought to you by: migraine medication, watching 'Nocturnal Animals' while bombed on migraine medication (emphatically NOT recommended under any circumstances), not getting enough writing done and eating a lot of leftover macaroni cheese.

Bon weekend...


vendredi 4 août 2017

The Brighton Fanzine Tea Party!

I am extremely excited to announce that - following our wildly brilliant mini-workshop at YALC - Harriet Reuter Hapgood and I are hosting our very own BRIGHTON FANZINE TEA PARTY.

If you'd like to come, you can buy a ticket here!

Here's the deets:

I AM NOT ASHAMED zine (by YA authors Harriet Reuter Hapgood and Eleanor Wood) presents THE BRIGHTON FANZINE TEA PARTY. Come and spend a cosy afternoon with us, making zines and celebrating DIY culture – with cake and music and glitter. Teens welcome!
  • Make your own zine
  • Chill in the zine library
  • Buy personalised zines and books
  • Browse the jumble sale
  • Drink tea and eat cake
What you get:
  • Everything you need to go home with a master copy of your own fanzine
  • Zine-making tutorial, advice and all craft materials (much glitter)
  • Chat to authors about your book/zine/writing
  • Tea and coffee and homemade cake
  • Hang out with friendly creative people in a lovely cosy place
  • Exclusive I AM NOT ASHAMED party bag



mercredi 2 août 2017

The modern world.

Exciting news, I have made myself a Proper Official Author website!

You can look at it here.  It's very fledgling, so feel free to let me know if you have any comments or suggestions (you can use the handy contact page!), but please be kind.  Technology is not my strongest suit, and neither is self-promotion.  However, I have lots of events and things coming up (more to be announced!) and thought an actual website would be useful for such matters.

I will definitely still be spouting my random thoughts and feelings on things that don't really matter here, in my usual ramshackle and sporadic fashion.  Nil desperandum, obvs.  But please do have a look at my website proper for news, events and official things.

Over and out, more soon.

mardi 1 août 2017

Cowboy Mouth

I was a big fan of Sam Shepard.  His writing, his acting, his face.  Mostly his writing.  Mostly his face.

He was a man made of dreams.  ‘He was just everything one could want,’ said Patti Smith of their first meeting.  A cowboy, a writer, a rock n roll energy, a classic face.  A crescent moon tattoo in the crook of a hand, of course.

He’s the sort of hero one would conjure up.  A cowboy and an American literary genius.  Is there any word sexier than the word ‘playwright’ (and even then they so seldom look like Sam Shepard)?  A man of letters and the outdoors.  He was Cowboy Mouth perfect.

Last night, I spent a lot of time flicking through his Seven Plays.  Just reading odd pages and lines, the rhythm of it all.  The set-up to La Turista, talk of whisky under the sofa…

“This isn't champagne anymore. We went through the champagne a long time ago. This is serious stuff. The days of champagne are long gone.”

Later in the evening, and all I wanted in the world was to watch Paris, Texas.  (Shepard wrote the screenplay.)  It’s a film I haven’t watched in a long time, but which haunts my memory like I suspect it does all those who have ever seen it.  The loneliest film I have ever seen.  Nastassja Kinski in her pink sweater.  I watched it as a teenager, around the same time I first saw Betty Blue, and I still conflate the two in my mind.  Photogenic desert ennui, doomed love.  Something to aspire to – they probably had too much of an effect on me at too young an age.

The day before, the worst sort of Sunday, I had woken up in a half-dream panic: I could not remember the number of the house where my ex-boyfriend and I fell in love.  It was over a decade now, and yet this struck me as all wrong.  It was a significant house, even though it didn’t look like one.  I looked the road up on a map and I discovered the very same house was currently for sale.  The breath was knocked out of me as I scrolled through photographs.  An ugly sofa where there used to be a drum kit.  A baby's room where we used to sit on the floor and watch subtitled films with the curtains drawn, for days on end.  I knew those rooms; I walked those floors.  I used to live alone before I knew you.

The same desert feeling of sadness.

I was convinced I owned a copy of Paris, Texas.  Maybe once I did.  Turns out now I don’t.  I couldn’t find it anywhere.  I thought it had to be on Netflix; it wasn’t.  The closest matches that came up were Paris is Burning (a favourite that I have watched and watched into the ground) and Last Tango in Paris.

I had never seen Last Tango in Paris all the way through.  I vividly remember seeing part of it.  Drunk-ish, late at night, in bed with a boy called Rich, who was not my boyfriend.  He was an old friend, though; he was a sweet soul.  I was 21, before all of it.  Marlon Brando on a tiny TV propped in the corner of the room before we passed out.

Last night, I watched the whole film.  I hated it.  It was the worst thing to watch.  I thought I’d like that early 70s mood, the Paris apartment, the coats.  I love a good coat.  I hated Last Tango in Paris.  Did I mention I hated it?

It’s like when I read The Story of O and expected it to be much like Anais Nin, who is my favourite.  Safe to say, it was not, and I still pretty much take that book as a personal insult.

I suppose it doesn’t help that I do not find Marlon Brando remotely attractive.  Not at any stage in his career.  I do not care for his face.  I would like it to be known that I do not find angry men attractive.  I do not.  Give me the good ones.  Give me the Cowboy Mouth playwrights, please.  Or just a man with a truck in the desert, who writes books no-one will ever read.


It was number 26, by the way.  I don’t think I’ll ever forget it again.

vendredi 21 juillet 2017

Oh, how you do reflect the sun...

I am a Courtney Love apologist and I don't care who knows it.  I have a picture of her on my bedroom wall, which is in my eyeline when I wake up every morning (a greater honour than even Patti Smith, over on the other side of the room, has).  It's in black and white, when she had a chubby face and her original nose.  I have spent many, many hours of my life arguing with a certain type of boy over Courtney Love.  Too many to mention.

As such, it is probably not a surprise to know that I think her first solo album - America's Sweetheart - is criminally underrated.  But IT IS.  Even retro of-the-moment early-00s digs like 'But Julian I'm a Little Bit Older Than You' are still hilarious and poignant.  Even the lady herself calls it 'that coked up piece of shit I made in the south of France when I needed the money'.  However, most of all, it has some of her most affecting songs.

I am, of course, also a great proponent of the iPod iChing.  Yesterday, on a train, I flicked onto shuffle and asked the universe for a sign (it's been that kind of a week, dear reader)...

This is what I got.  Oh, sigh - baby, you were almost golden..

It took me way back to the year this album came out.  I was 23 years old, working a boring temp job and trying to be A Writer, without quite knowing how, living in a sweet little cottage with a girlfriend - where we barely slept for the entire year we lived there, and a boy once pissed on our sofa.  I used to listen to this album non-stop.  Once, literally, all night.  That was when I wasn't listening to What Would The Community Think? by Cat Power and crying my eyeliner off, TBH.  It was a time of total extremes, for which this was the perfect (half) soundtrack.

We would spend days on end in the pub, have post-gig parties with all the bands back at our place.  On Sundays I could be found at Camden Market, helping out my new boyfriend with his art stall.    I still played bass sometimes, then.  Sometimes we had people round for spaghetti bolognese and felt grown up.  I spent a lot of time in my bedroom, with its wooden floorboards and a huge mirror, taking big-haired panda-eyed pale-faced selfies for my MySpace profile.  We used to watch The Dreamers repeatedly, while drinking wine in the afternoons.  We were still young enough that skipping dinner and drinking cheap fizz on a schoolnight felt impossibly glamorous.  It was the house where we saw a ghost.




mardi 18 juillet 2017

YALC

So, this year, I will once again be at the Young Adult Literary Convention (YALC), part of the London Film and Comic Con!  I am very excited about this.  Last year I had a great time, did lots of booky things and saw lots of lovely friends, but also sneaked off to see Dolph Lundgren and a Game of Thrones panel.  Dream.

This year, I am extra excited, and with very good reason...  My wonderful friend Harriet Reuter Hapgood and I are hosting a MAKE YOUR OWN YALC ZINE workshop!

Harriet is one of my favourite people in the world to hang out with, and when we do, a lot of our time and chat revolves around zines.  Early in our friendship, we established that we were both former makers of our own 90s lo-fi fanzines.  We talked about how cool it would be to resurrect the scrappy, black-and-white photocopied labours of love from our youth.  We drank some wine, ate a lot of snacks, worked on our novels and sometimes even cut up old copies of Vanity Fair for inspiration.

Then, one sunny Saturday, we spent the day in Harriet's garden with her cat Stanley and we finally put together our new fanzine I AM NOT ASHAMED!  It is a lo-fi wonder, homespun and very much put together in a day, which is how a good proper fanzine should be.

Copies will be available for the first time ever at YALC (each individually decorated and numbered!) and we will also be hosting our workshop on how to make one yourself.  There will be inspo, activities, ideas, snacks, music and LOTS OF GLITTER.

I can't wait.  Hope to see you there... for revolution girl style now!




vendredi 14 juillet 2017

I Blame Jilly

I blame Jilly Cooper.  For many things.  I love her beyond all reasonable measure, but I can’t help but feel it’s all her fault.

Jilly had far too great an effect on me at far too young an age; I spent my pre-teen years nicking my mum’s copy of Rivals and discussing with my cousin which character we’d be.  We don’t still do that; no, not at all.  We’re grown-ups now, honest.  (Ahem, Prudence and Imogen.)

In Jilly World, women should be fun and naughty, just a little bit grubby.  Self-control is not only boring but deeply suspicious.  Pouring stingy measures is so frowned upon it might as well be illegal.  Lunchtime drinking is not only fine, it’s positively de rigeur.  You shouldn’t be too healthy or too good at your job (you’re allowed to be bright, as long as you take two-hour lunch breaks and fuck everything up a lot, but everyone in your office loves you so it’s fine); your house shouldn’t be too clean.  You should be charmingly self-deprecating at all times, a little bit indiscreet, just a tiny bit too fat for your favourite slinky dress (which may be covered in cat hair).

Basically 'Jilly made me do it' is my standard get-out for all of my many character failings.

However, the most important thing I learned from Jilly is that romance has a formula.  The path to true love – with a Matt/Corey/Ace/Declan type if you’re really lucky – is well signposted.  So, obviously I thought this would be the case in real life: heavy hints dropped throughout the story, the happy ending clear cut and arriving just in time.

If the universe would only conform to the Jilly rules, I know exactly the man in my life who I am supposed to end up with.  According to the Cooper Law, here is how it works:
  • You are entirely disinterested and/or antagonistic towards Said Man at first
  • Love Feelings sneak up on you when you least suspect them
  • You find yourself engineering meetings, putting on lipstick when you are going to see him and denying to your friends (who have suspected all along) that you are falling for Said Man, while fervently trying to deny it to yourself (after all, he's not your type/you despise him/you're mad about someone else!)
  • Said Man kisses you and a thousand bolts of lightning go through you, etc
  • You possibly have ill-timed/drunk sex, which makes you both feel awkward and handle it badly in the morning (despite both of you having The Secret Love Feelings)
  • Just as it looks like you might get it together, there will be a dramatic obstacle in the way (a secret girlfriend/estranged wife/evil ex; meddling family/local busybody; a sudden death/illness/horse-related crisis)
  • You are heartbroken and slink off to be consoled by your hilarious boozy girlfriends and their pun-based one-liners, in either a tumbledown country cottage or a flat in Putney (NB their love lives will suddenly and unexpectedly be going brilliantly, just to make matters extra depressing for you)
  • There may be some sort of miscommunication on the way to tangle things up even further and lead you to think it’s all utterly, utterly hopeless
  • He turns up, only to find you in a red-eyed and hairy-legged state of despair, having just eaten an entire jar of pickled onions, yet still manfully declares his undying love and willingness to take on your grumpy cat/blind dog/demanding family/crippling debt
  • You have a very jolly wedding, where Janey Lloyd-Foxe gets off with the best man and your long-divorced parents get so pissed they end up in bed together
  • Live happily ever after.

I mean, is that really so hard?  It’s how it’s supposed to go, according to everything I have ever learned in my life.  I genuinely do not understand why the Cooper Law cannot apply to the actual universe.

The idea that it doesn’t is personally upsetting to me.  I am both affronted and terrified.  I mean, what are you supposed to do if Said Man doesn't appear to have read enough Jilly novels to know how this is supposed to end?  Shit.  There is no Jilly plot for this.

Yep, I blame Jilly.  I'm still going to spend the weekend rereading Prudence in the bath and eating pickled onions.

jeudi 13 juillet 2017

I WANT MORE

I know using the phrase 'hashtag mood' in a bored and ironic way is really overdone (and I'm totally guilty of it).

But if there is one thing that sums up my mood right now, non-ironically, it is this song.  I cannot stop listening to it and over-relating with EVERY SINGLE FUCKING WORD.

We should all want more.  We should all be more Viv - 'I'm not brave, but I'm not scared'.

I CHOOSE DISASTER!
OPEN DOORS!
I WANT THE TRUTH!
I WANT MORE...


mercredi 12 juillet 2017

Hi. How are you?

Hi.  How are you?  It's been a while.

What's been going on?  Not a lot, in the scheme of things.

Re-reading Viv Albertine's 'Clothes Music Boys' (incidentally, I always love that 'boys' is at the bottom of that list - quite right), and listening to her 'The Vermillion Border' A LOT.  Basically, I love Viv Albertine very, very deeply.  She is always great for life advice and general inspiration.  Did I mention I love her?

I have also - slowly, carefully - reread Tracey Emin's 'Strangeland', for the first time in a long time.  I also really love Tracey, but in a different way.  I think she's one of my favourite artists because she is so much about words.  Powerful words.  Words like fucking grenades.  But also incredibly beautiful.  I once nearly passed out with vicarious raw emotion at one of her video pieces in the Hayward Gallery.  True story.  It's how she makes me feel.  I can't read that book very often, but when I do it's an experience.  I want to go back to Margate.  And to Turkey.

I went to the launch party for Chris Russell's 'Songs About Us', the sequel to his 'Songs About A Girl'.  Now it's probably no secret that I enjoy teenage books involving girls, bands, music, romance and drama... so, obviously, it's a yes from me.  It was a lovely party, in a great pub called the Cat's Back that was like a cosy living room in a really cool house.  I can't wait to read the book.

Other than that... trying to stay on the straight and narrow, working hard and not getting enough done, feeling lazy but not getting enough sleep, trying to get out into the sunshine and fresh air, dreaming of impossible things.  Keep on keeping on, comrades.

lundi 19 juin 2017

#authorsforgrenfell

My beautiful and amazing friend Harriet Reuter-Hapgood has organised an online auction to benefit the residents affected by the Grenfell Tower fire in London, with all proceeds going directly to the London Fire Relief Fund.  I am overawed that while I was sitting at home, refreshing the Guardian website and weeping, she has actually organised something brilliant.

You can bid to hang out and talk writing with me and my awesome fellow author pal Jess Vallance in the pub - details here!  Jess (the author of BIRDY and THE YELLOW ROOM) is quite possibly the funniest person I know, and I have literally no filter (plus we both love getting drunk, quite frankly), so I can guarantee it will be great fun and possibly scandalous.  Please bid, because I'm worried nobody will and Jess and I will be sitting about in the pub by ourselves, necking gin and crying (as usual).  Warning: I have never in my life hung out with Jess and not been horribly hungover the next day.  Official fact.  Apologies in advance to the 'lucky' winner.  I can't wait!

There are also loads of other ace bookish things you can bid on, involving writers far more famous and proper than us.  Please do have a look, bid and share - thank you!!!

NB - I would say there are some particularly great opportunities here if you happen to be an unagented/as-yet-unpublished writer.  Agents and editors are offering critiques of manuscripts/submissions that will be worth their weight in FAIRY GOLDDUST.

For more explanation on the topic, Harriet puts it far better than I could, so here are some of her words:

Authors for Grenfell: An Online Auction is now live
This is an online auction of items from authors, agents and editors with all bids going directly to the British Red Cross London Fire Relief Fund, to benefit the survivors of and community around Grenfell Tower.
On offer are signed books, original manuscripts, school visits, meet the author opportunities, query critiques from agents, editorial feedback from editors, and more. New items will be added throughout the week. Famouses are involved.
Bidding opens 1pm BST today (Monday 19 June) and closes 8pm BST Tuesday 27 June.
Many items are open to bids internationally. We want to raise a lot of money.
To be clear: this is the biggest act of criminal negligence and state-sanctioned violence since Hillsborough, and it is fucking appalling that charities and volunteers are cleaning up where the government has barely stepped in. The Red Cross?! In the richest borough in London? C’mon!
Charities, churches, mosques, volunteers and residents should not be cleaning up the state’s mess, nor should we be raising funds this way. But the government has let these people down and we’re doing this anyway.
But I don’t believe Theresa May’s paltry £5m is enough. £5m between 100 displaced residents is £50k each. How does that pay for homes, furniture, food, clothing, replacement possessions? The £5,500 paid out so far is laughably meagre and polices the poor with what they're trusted with.
Money is needed immediately. £3m has been raised by Just Giving but much, much more is needed, as soon as fucking possible. 
Here’s how it works: find something you like, bid on it in the comments. When the auction closes in a week, winners will be contacted by Authors for Grenfell and asked to donate directly to the Red Cross fund.
Here’s how you can help:
Writers, agents, editors: Can you contribute a school or Skype visit, signed copies of your books, editorial feedback? Are you pals with Zoella or JK Rowling and want to give them a nudge to help?
School librarians, teachers, parents: You can bid for in-person classroom visits or even Skype visits from authors such as Angie Thomas, #1 New York Times bestselling author of The Hate U Give.
Unagented writers: There are query critiques on offer from The Bent Agency agents Molly Ker Hawn and Gemma Cooper. Gemma sold my book The Square Root of Summer at a multi-publisher auction, so she knows what she’s about. Bid!
Readers: Do you like books? Signed books, dedicated especially to you? Bid! You can bid for personalised copies, original manuscripts, afternoon tea with authors, naming a character in their next book, swag… 
Everyone else: Please share the link on social media, pass on the information to anyone who fits the bill above, hassle the author in your life into donating, bid for stuff, or volunteer to help us out with the back-end admin by emailing authorsforgrenfell@gmail.com 
(Obviously if you know me, Molly Ker Hawn or Sara Barnard you can contact us directly.)
Share widely. Bid bigly. #authorsforgrenfell


jeudi 15 juin 2017

Silly, and pretentious, and a freak.

On holiday, with time on my hands, I found myself – as ever – over-relating to song lyrics.  This is acceptable in times of high emotion, if the song in question is – say – Lover You Should Have Come Over by Jeff Buckley or That Was My Veil by PJ Harvey (NB both highly recommended for times of heavy weeping).  However, probably less so when you are lying on a sunlounger, drinking gin and listening to Madonna.

I listened to a lot of Madonna on holiday.  I still listen to the (IMHO) criminally underrated American Life album A LOT.  I am constitutionally incapable of hearing Nothing Fails without welling up.  For that song alone, Madonna and Guy will always be one of the saddest celebrity divorces for me.  Although, for poignancy, nothing beats the scene in Truth or Dare when she is asked ‘who is the love of your life?’ – no syllable has ever sounded more tragic and regretful than her certain and succinct reply: Sean.  I live in hope that one day they might get back together.

As you may have gathered, I have a lot of feelings about Madonna.

Listening to The Immaculate Collection, it struck me that, in her guise of 80s supreme confidence, she manages to make romance sound like some sort of sexy Stockholm Syndrome.  You may try to leave Madonna, but you will fail.  It’s a skill I wish I had.

‘You can’t get away/I won’t let you’ – from Cherish, otherwise possibly the sweetest and most lovely song.

‘Don’t try to run, I will keep up with you/Nothing can stop me from trying’ – from Open Your Heart, a song that appears to be one big boast about stalking.

By this point, drunk on gin and emotion and deep analysis of pop songs, I was over-relating to every line.  Which is where Rescue Me comes in, just at the right time.

There are few things I love in life more than a Madonna talky bit – this one even opens with her stating ‘I’M TALKING, I’M TALKING’.  Now, I am not sure I like the idea of being ‘rescued’ by love, but it’s hard not to be convinced by Madonna, and by lyrics that play directly into my hashtag relationship goals:

‘You see that I’m ferocious.
You see that I am weak.
You see that I am silly,
And pretentious, and a freak
…But I don’t feel too strange for you.’

Dreamy.


When she talks about being ‘hungry for a life of understanding’ and the beauty of the triumph of hope over experience – always – I am sold.  Madonna, your love has given me hope.


mercredi 14 juin 2017

If you lived here you'd be home now

I am back from the wilderness (well, a whole FORTNIGHT in Spain with my grandmother).  I am very suntanned, so zen I am practically levitating.  I did very, very little.  I feel I have slowed down to octogenarian pace, which is a rarity for me.  Readjusting to real world life - alarm clocks and trains and general bullshit, quite frankly - is HARD.

I did writing, mostly on a sunny balcony, sometimes in a cafe.  I tried to go running every day and to chant every day.  I drank gin.  I read precisely zero books.  I sat still an awful lot.  I swam in the sea.  I had Thai massages on the beach.  I ate chips.  I slept.  I walked.  I wore a hat.  I listened to a lot of Radiohead and Prince and Steely Dan and Cat Power and Devendra (my nan's new favourite OF COURSE).

While I was away, I had a birthday.  How (HOW?) am I 36 years old now?  Nothing is what I thought it would be.  Mostly that's OK.  I got some great birthday presents.  The best ones were: a rose quartz necklace and the Brian Eno Oblique Strategies cards that I have been fascinated with for the longest time (I seriously cannot imagine a duo of presents that 'get' me more than this, from someone I haven't known for very long); and a black/red reversible Chinese silk jacket, that my dad bought my mum in Hong Kong in the 1970s and I have coveted literally my whole life (THANK YOU, MUM).

I am seeing a lot of cats and a lot of 11.11.  (WHAT DOES IT ALL MEEEEAN?  The cats speak Spanish so it's hard to tell, obvs.)  This generally means evolution is afoot.  Or that I am overtired.

Today I am mostly trying my best to hang on to the zen.  Wish me luck.

lundi 22 mai 2017

Sundays in Vienna

A whirlwind of a weekend... I think I have had the total of one night's sleep in the past four days, pretty much.  Entirely worth it.

I went to Vienna, where I hung out with wonderful family (including Mochi the dog), drank (a lot of) beer and ran with 30,000 women through the park.  A favourite discovery was that there is a gemstone vending machine outside the toilets at Vienna airport.  True story.  All your crystal-powered emergency airline needs met - you're welcome.

In other news, I read THE HATE U GIVE and I'm going to join the chorus of people saying that it's worthy of all the hype and more; a truly important book and you must read it.  It's (rightly) a tough read, but I wasn't expecting some of the well-placed humour and quite how much I would care about the characters (especially Big Mav, who - although I'm sure he would be appalled at the idea - has made it straight to the top of my Dream Fictional Husbands List), compounded by Lisa's advice on how to assess whether the good outweighs the bad in any relationship, which feels like a timely lesson for me.  Anyway, you don't need my words on the matter.  At all.  Just read it.

This post is also brought to you by: Roxy Music (pretty much new to me, ridiculously); kitchen discos (always) and pyjama parties; my new silver boots; Soap and Glory lipsticks; watching the video for Ashes to Ashes by David Bowie and getting the song stuck in your head literally forever; my new rose quartz necklace, which was the nicest present ever; rose-tinted octagonal sunglasses.


jeudi 18 mai 2017

Meet me in the bathroom...

You may have seen Vulture's oral history of The Strokes.  I for one am currently a bit obsessed with it.  I have many Thoughts and Feelings on the matter.  It's a fascinating all-tea-all-shade read, even if you were not into The Strokes.

I *was* into The Strokes.  Of course I was.  It was summer 2001.  I had just turned 20.  I was going out with a sweet boy called Mat who I'd had a crush on for ages; he had a mod haircut and a red military jacket. We would drink cheap fizzy wine and stay up late at night in his flat, spending hours watching a weird new show called Big Brother on his little black-and-white TV.  I had a short bowl cut and wanted to be Karen O from the Yeah Yeah Yeahs.  I was writing: odd snippety sad little stories about a girl called Holly Cherry.  They were supposed to be modern magic realism.  They were pretty terrible.

The Strokes were very exciting to me.  I can't remember which song I heard first - it would have been Last Nite or Hard to Explain, but I have no idea which one it was.  We all spent a lot of time talking about them, and were literally counting down the days until the full album hit.

We saw them at Reading Festival that year, when they had to be moved onto a bigger stage because they had suddenly out of nowhere exploded into the biggest band in the world (as far as we were concerned, at least).  They were so fucking cool.  So New Yorky, which obviously always appeals to me.  So louche.  So SEXY, in the way that popstars should be.  Julian was definitely at the top of the dreamboy list for a while back then; he's probably still on it somewhere.  I mean, LOOK AT HIM.



That was also the year I saw PJ Harvey, wearing a PVC bra and matching skirt, playing my favourite songs from Stories from the City, Stories from the Sea.  I don't care if it makes me basic; that's my favourite PJ album.  It still sounds like summer to me.  It was perfect.

I think that was the last time I ever went to Reading Festival.  When it was over, I broke up with Mat (in a young and ill-equipped way that I remain mildly ashamed about) and went to Hong Kong.  I worked at MTV and wore Hysteric Glamour and Superlovers T-shirts.  I spent hours walking around and riding the trams, listening to music and scribbling in my notebook.  I disappeared.  After a summer of drugs and bands and going out every night, Hong Kong was a meditative time.  I came back different.

Things didn't change straight away.  I still loved boys who looked like The Strokes (still do, although I've sporadically tried to grow out of it).  I vaguely remember once singing Maps by the Yeah Yeah Yeahs outside a boy's window, some time after that.  We all got quite into Franz Ferdinand instead, briefly.  A couple of years later, I met Gordon Raphael at another boyfriend's gig in Camden, and I totally embarrassed myself by fangirling all over him about Is This It.  He was wearing a cool jacket that had a picture of Debbie Harry sewn onto it, and looked utterly confused.

It took me a while to take my writing seriously enough to actually finish a full-length novel.  I grew my hair.   I grew up.  I still love music but I've probably never loved a brand-new band like I loved The Strokes - not in that same way, anyway - since that summer.

vendredi 12 mai 2017

It's a very good sign.

I have woken up with this song wedged in my head.  This is neither the original, nor remotely cool.  However, on a gloomy Friday, I say you should always go with the 10 Things I Hate About You version.  Always.


Today I am mostly wearing my sparkly Star Wars sweatshirt, visiting the crystal shop later (I have a hankering for black obsidian in my life right now)... and probably watching 10 Things I Hate About You.

Bon weekend.

jeudi 11 mai 2017

Energy Detox

We're in a Scorpio full moon this week.  As one of my favourite websites, The Hoodwitch, has pointed out:

It's Full Moon time again, kiddies, and this week is likely to bring hella chaos, so get ready! 
The Moon will be full at 20 degrees of Scorpio on the 10th at 2:42pm PST. Expect feels to be at heightened levels of intensity leading up to this event. It’s a dangerous time for building up resentments, developing grudges, or obsessing on your ex, so don’t say I didn’t warn you. Scorpio is the sign of death and regeneration, healing and destruction; whatever happens with this Moon, it isn’t likely to be chill. You’re going to want to get deep, and that can be complicated if things do go your way, which I’m sad to say they probably won’t.

There's a lot more useful stuff on there; I recommend having a look if you are so inclined.  Whether it's the full moon or what, I'm really feeling this chaos and intensity.  So, today I have written a list of the myriad hippie bullshit ways in which I am going to have a two-week energy detox.  How very Goop of me, right?  This ranges from 'no/minimal drinking', 'daily exercise' and 'more lentils' to 'pay attention to red flags' and 'don't get on someone else's rollercoaster'.

I'm hoping it will help.

One thing that *has* helped lately, is the book 'The Course of Love' by Alain de Botton.  My stepmum sent it to me in the post, as she thought (very rightly) that I would find it helpful. It was only when I started talking to friends about it that I realised how much love there is out there for this book, and how many people have found it genuinely transformative.   Cannot recommend enough.

Finally - while chatting about dating and the universe with a lovely friend today, she gave me the best piece of advice I've heard in a while: If it's right, there's literally nothing you can do to fuck it up; if it's wrong, there's literally nothing you can do to make it work. Wise words worth bearing in mind, comrades!

Now, please excuse me - I'm off to do some chanting, eat some lentils and howl at the moon. Or similar.

samedi 29 avril 2017

And don't f**k it up.

I'm in bed this morning simultaneously writing, watching RuPaul's Drag Race and drinking coffee.  Not even 9am and I've written over 1,000 words before I have to get up and go to Zumba class - not bad.

Drag Race is now into series 9 and obviously I am following it avidly (even though the absence of my bae Santino Rice still looms large in my heart).  In fact, it occurred to me this morning that I have written much of my recent work with RuPaul playing gently in the background.

It only just struck me - is this where the theme of makeover and identity in BECOMING BETTY came from?!

Thanks, Ru (I absolutely adore you).  I would also like to mention that my all-time faves are Pandora Boxx, Sharon Needles, Alaska Thunderfuck 5000, Adore Delano, Jinkx Monsoon, Bianca Del Rio, Kim Chi, Ivy Winters and Jiggly Caliente.



May we all have Charisma, Uniqueness, Nerve and Talent.  Don't f**k it up.

vendredi 28 avril 2017

Betty Stuff

I can't believe that BECOMING BETTY has been out for over a week!  Launching a new book is SO nerve-wracking, so I am incredibly grateful that people have been kind about it.  Seriously.

Thank goodness, people really seem to 'get' the book (sometimes I feel like such a little weirdo, out of step with the world, so this is genuinely a wonderful surprise) and to love Lizzie as much as I do.

Here is a little round-up of some nice blogs and stuff about Betty in the last week.

An interview with the fantastic Jim from YA Yeah Yeah

Lovely little review from 100 or less...

A post by me on the My Kinda Book blog

A guest post and review on the wonderful Tea Party Princess

Lovely review by the lovely Rebecca

A guest post on the power of the makeover with wonderful Kirsty


In other news, I did a very fun Sunday YA chat on BECOMING BETTY (thank you to everyone for all the ace questions and book recs).  Last night I went to the launch night of Acoustic Coffee Club (it was great; if you're in Brighton, you should totally go to the next one).  I just finished reading WHO RUNS THE WORLD? by Virginia Bergin and am full of feels about the future global matriarchy (obvs).  Any free time is currently taken up with trying to write my next book and obsessing over season 9 of RuPaul's Drag Race.  Although, this weekend I also intend to paint a wall.  Exciting times, dear reader.  Exciting times.

lundi 24 avril 2017

Dirty Harriet

IMHO, all the greatest bands are based on great friendships. The band is the ultimate gang – or should be, if it’s done right. The best bands look like a gang of mates having a laugh, not like some slick corporation.

I know all the classic pairings are obviously, like, Lennon/McCartney etc, but the best friendship gangs in the history of music are always girl gangs. It’s why as a teenager I loved Kenickie and Shampoo, and even the early Spice Girls back when they looked like they dyed their own hair and bought their stage outfits from Camden Market, and Geri (my fave) always looked a bit like she’d just fallen over at all times.

My new book BECOMING BETTY features a lot of bands (which makes sense, given that the action centres around a Battle of the Bands contest). My favourite of the lot are the all-girl gang, Dirty Harriet. They have been getting a lot of love from readers, which particularly delights me as they are pretty much my dream girl gang.

I thought 'Dirty Harriet' sounded like such a classic riot grrl band name, like the DIY punk bands I loved as a teenager and still do – like Heavens to Betsy, Bratmobile, 7 Year Bitch or Lunachicks. I googled the name to make sure it hadn’t already been done, and was actually shocked (and pretty delighted, for my purposes) that it hadn’t been used before.

I discovered the original riot grrl bands via reading interviews with Kurt Cobain in NME, in which he sang their praises (many of my early musical discoveries came via my love for Kurt Cobain and his love for generously bigging-up his favourite obscure bands). I discovered a whole world of DIY culture, bands and fanzines, and it was genuinely life-changing. The riot grrl DIY ethos made me feel like I could have a go, create my own culture and get involved – the same message I would love to give readers of BECOMING BETTY.

Dirty Harriet are made up of Harry, Jess and Lola. They are friends first and bandmates second. In fact, Harry and Lola are cousins – an important fact as my cousin is my BFF and it adds to the tight-knit gang mentality (see also: Shampoo made up of cousins Jacqui and Carrie; Throwing Muses revolving around stepsisters Kristin and Tanya). Also, when you're a teenage girl who doesn't have that many friends, having a cousin the same age is really useful (just saying).

Dirty Harriet take their band seriously; music is the most important thing in the world to them and they practise diligently. As they say themselves:

‘Basically, we all have no life. But that’s OK because we didn’t exactly have glittering social lives to begin with. We’re all music geeks.’‘…But that’s OK, because it’s always the music geeks who win in the end. Every cool rock star in the canon was once a music geek. That’s the law.’


 However, they also want to have fun and remember that friendship is more important than anything else. They have their own manifesto to prove it, which covers everything from their influences to gig etiquette to anti-fashion ideas.

Most important, Dirty Harriet are about doing things their own way: playing what they want, wearing what they want and not caring about what anybody else thinks. Just like all the best girl gangs in history.


Here are some of their favourites…