Category Archives: Writing

A new pair of eyes

A new pair of eyes

The problem – I couldn’t see the woods through the tress:

I pride myself on my attention to detail and proofreading ability. It is a skill I have spent years working to hone and improve; and something I have become good at. But recently, since starting my new role, I have become increasingly frustrated by the number of proofing and formatting errors I have been making. Even worse, these errors are being spotted and picked up on by powers that be who are high up, such as managers and directors. Every email and red-penned copy sends shivers down my spine and I found myself starting to beat myself up about it. One of the reasons I was hired is because of my proofreading experience. So I started to feel pretty useless.

Flashback – I used to take it so personally:

A few years ago, perhaps I would have taken this really personally and blamed myself for being a bad and incapable person but over the years I have grown and learned to realise that mistakes do not equal failure and failure does not equal the end of Everything! That in fact, these are great learning opportunities and instead, I decided to apply these principles.

Fast Forward – what I know now:

I decided the first thing to try was to increase the size of fonts and zoom in as much as possible. I now have two screens, which makes this much more doable. However, this didn’t seem to be helping my cause and silly mistakes, such as writing ‘form’ instead of ‘from’; and punctuation errors, such as using commas instead of full stops, kept creeping in. Even formatting errors such as using different sizes and styles of fonts, which I’m incredibly pedantic about, still slipped in!


My next port of call was to book am opticians appointment. After completing my eye test, the optometrist looked horrified when I told her I’d been driving with my current prescription. It has changed so much since my last visit and what a relief to find this out! I immediately contacted my partner to come and help me to choose new glasses because I’m practically blind without them. How could I possibly choose a pair when I couldn’t see!

What I have learned:

I have just collected them and honestly I didn’t know what I was missing. Everything is so sharp and focussed and reading is now so clear! I am yet to test my proofreading skills with them but already I’m noticing I’m spotting mistakes more readily. It’s like I’m seeing the world through a new pair of eyes! And the way I approached this matter proves that my perspective on life has changed, matured somewhat. Younger me would have taken much longer to go and get the eye test done and would have struggled through the constant criticism ad self-blame and eventually started to lose her confidence! What I’ve learned over the years is that it’s so important to know yourself well enough not to always jump to conclusions and put yourself down first as it is equally as important not to blame others.


Resolutions and Reflections

Resolutions and Reflections

This time last year I was looking for a role. In life, employment and as a way to fulfil my sense of purpose. I am fortunate enough to be able to say that I believe that I am significantly closer to fulfilling that role.

I am now in full time, permanent employment at The University of Portsmouth. This has been a goal of mine for several years, having studied there twice, what’s more, I am working in the Research and Innovation Services department.

I still have a way to go to achieve my goals. I would still like to gain a PhD or ProfDoc, move to the countryside and have a horse! But I am much closer to being able to achieve these goals.

So this begs the question, how did I get here? About this time last year, following an interview for a research assistant role in the School of Education at The University of Portsmouth, I received a phone call to tell me, “thanks but no thanks,” feeling disappointed at this outcome, I swallowed my pride and moved on. More interviews followed. A few weeks later, as I walked out of a particularly tough gym session, I got a phone call out of the blue offerring me the job! It was on a part-time basis and a 9 month contract. By no means perfect but it was a great start!

Even better, the Research area was in mental health in childhood and education. The faculty had funded The MICE Hub and I was to be responsible for blogging and maintaining the site – this was right up my street! I also got to be involved in organising events and set up a Twitter account for the Hub. A great wealth of experience to add to my CV.

This is what led me to gain the confidence I needed to apply for my current role – supporting the University’s research themes. I get to be part of a brand new team and vision and get to create and build so much from scratch, it’s very exciting.

It’s great to feel I’m in a much better place and have moved forward so much since last year but this does not come without it’s challenges. For starters, moving from part-time to full time employment is a big upheaval to routine and requires much more intricate planning. Managing to get to bed and get enough sleep is a constant battle! As discussed in my previous post.

These are challenges that can be overcome with time and integrated in to a new lifestyle. The point of this post is to end on a positive note, to encourage you to keep looking forward as you never know where your journey will take you, be persistent and never give up on your goals!

Sleep Sucks!

Sleep Sucks!

Here I am again, gone midnight, already been in bed for over two hours, no sign of sleep in sight. I’ve tossed and turned and practiced some mindfulness and then it starts. My mind . . . There’s a reason they call it ‘mind’ ‘full’ ness I’m sure. I can’t get rid of them! These thoughts . . . These ideas . . . Over and over they whirl and churn and grind. Deep, deep, deep in my mind.

They could be about horses, or money . Quite often my career and education. How can afford to do this PhD I so desparately want to do? Am I capable of doing it? Asking myself why I’m still fat and then why can’t I stop eating and I know it’s because I’m not sleeping . . . There’s a whole plethora of hormones and circadian rhythm and other signalling chemicals that are responsible that I just see whizzing around in my head as I lay here in the dark with my eyes wide open! Imagining the inner workings of my somewhat broken body.

And then I feel the stirrings of some ideas, wonders, marvels! Things that will make me rich, successful, fit, healthy, fulfilled. And then I feel annoyed, angry even, that I need this state if inanimation and unproductiveness we call sleep. Why? Why?! You’re just trying to fool my plans I swear. There’s only 24 hours in a day. Why can’t I use all of them to get to where I want to be without you. It’s not fair. I know I need you. The less I see of you, the less I’m able to follow those dreams I dare to hold on to when I do finally meet you. The more my creativity slips away from me with a long lost memory and inability to see within. I don’t want you, if I keep telling myself I don’t need, if I believe in you enough will that make real? Or is it all just one everlasting nightmare. I’ve thought about it for a long, long time through many a sleepless night. Sleep, you suck. Goodbye.

The role of mental health and the responsibility of the author in young adult fiction

The role of mental health and the responsibility of the author in young adult fiction

I recently attended a workshop hosted by Tom Harris, author of The Amber Room, The Amber Antidote and the forthcoming Wings, Wands and Weird Worlds series, and Hannah Morton, ambassador for Time To Change campaign which took place on Wednesday 7th June at The Spring, Havant. Both Tom and Hannah work for The University of Portsmouth’s Student Union and as such have become increasingly aware of the importance of the student voice for everything. This led them to feeling it necessary to address issues surrounding mental health in literature for young people. As a researcher at the University’s School of Education and Childhood studies, I am also very aware of the importance of this and especially the role it plays in the protection of mental health and wellbeing of children and young people.

This translates to the use of language for the YA author. To quote Hannah’s opening slide: “The average high school kid today has the same level of anxiety as the average psychiatric patient in the early 1950s.” As someone who is researching the development of mental health from the Victorian era to the present day, I find this both fascinating and alarming. Books being written that begin to deal with the turmoil of mental health in childhood and education are becoming ever more prevalent and popular in modern young adult literature but do they deal with the issues sensitively and sympathetically? There are certainly many authors that do but I still feel there are several examples of authors who do not necessarily focus on mental health and wellbeing that can carelessly use language that can cause internalisations that have a serious impact on children’s and young people’s mental health and wellbeing. I am not going to ‘name and shame’ as it were, but a few examples are as follows:

“You’re mental”

“Cheer up, it might never happen,”

“I need my room to be clean, I’m so OCD,”

“Why do you look so depressed, have you forgotten how to smile?”

As expressed by Tom and Hannah, I think it is really important to bear in mind the way words and language are used to convey certain ideologies and expressions. Terminology is especially important as we try to work towards greater acceptance and equality in this world. Children may, for example, come across terminology used by authors that they wouldn’t necessarily encounter and then translate this in to their own everyday use of language thinking this is OK, when in fact, it is exacerbating the situation of inappropriate use of language, this in turn could impact the reader and/or their peers in terms of their self-perception, confidence and overall wellbeing. The initiation of unhealthy thought processes and responses could be triggered by simply not feeling enough, when that was not necessarily intended. For example, “you’re so gay,” used in a negative connotation, or, “You’re far too sensitive,” such seemingly innocent phrases have a plethora of connotations that indicate to the young person that there is something “wrong” with them and that they will be judged for this.

What is interesting is that many of these phrases were originally coined as medical terminology; for example, idiot, imbecile and lunatic were used during the late 1800s to describe people expressing particular behavioural traits. The word spastic was first used in a medical context to describe people with the condition, cereberal palsy. It was only later that these words were adopted as insults as language evolved, as its nature. For that reason, it is essential to ensure that we, as authors, evolve with it so that our use of language parallels the generation(s) that we are writing for. Some suggestions for swapping some of the following expressions and phrases to more ‘mental health promoting’ ones could be as follows:

“s/he was feeling down/sad/upset” instead of depressed.

“Oh that’s alarming!” instead of mental/crazy

“S/he is a psycho,” instead say, “this person suffers with [the illness].” Or, “s/he has been diagnosed with [the condition].

“You’re so bi-polar,” or, “s/he’s got such a split personality,” or, “s/he’s such a moody . . .” these phrases should not be used to describe someone who is indecisive, of two minds or experiencing severe mood swings. If someone you know is exhibiting such symptoms, do not be off with them, instead ask them, “Are you OK?” You may perceive them as being ‘moody’ or ‘off’ towards you when they are in fact experiencing severe inner turmoil and require support or someone to ‘lend an ear’ to listen.

Book Review: The Essex Serpent – Sarah Perry

Book Review: The Essex Serpent – Sarah Perry


Waterstones ‘book of the year’ 2016, The Essex Serpent comes highly appraised by several renowned authors and literary professionals, including Jessie Burton. Set in the 1890s between Essex and London, it portrays the life of Cora, a palaeontology enthusiast, who finds herself in Essex through circumstance: where she is more than intrigued by the local legend that is the Essex serpent.


The Essex Serpent is the second novel written by Sarah Perry. Born in Essex, she has a PhD in creative writing and won the East Anglian Book of The Year award in 2014, along with several other nominations.

Main characters

Character One

Cora Seaborne – tomboy, strong female character before her time ‘modernist’. Palaeontology enthusiast.

Character Two

William Ransome – vicar and farmer. Typical hard outer and soft inner type who dotes on his family.

Character Three

Francis Seaborne – Cora’s son. Autistic? Peculiar tendencies.

Character Four

Martha – Cora’s companion – a very strong and feisty female character with opinions, an active and vocal socialist.


To be honest, it is hard to give a traditional overview of the plot and flow of this book as it doesn’t really have one as far as I can tell. The main focus is the journey of the protagonist, Cora – from a timid wife to an independent widow, which she accomplishes by overcoming a number of challenges and new experiences. To me, Cora’s transformation told through the interactions with several characters – of which I felt there were a few too many, highlights some of the issues prevalent at that time, political, medical, scientific and religious. I believe it to be a good portrayal from my understanding of the time, but then I by no means claim to be a historian of any kind.


Historical issues of politics, medicine, science, religion, socialism and feminism from the 1890s. A portrayal of the challenges faced by widows and unmarried women, those from backgrounds of poverty and deprivation and the balancing act of newly emerging science with traditional religious beliefs, amongst others that have probably flown over my lesser educated head.


I am attempting a retrospective review of this book, which I read over Christmas 2016. The Essex Serpent is beautifully written with wonderful flowing prose; displaying page after page of beautiful literature. Technically, Perry cannot be faulted in as a wordsmith. However, despite this, I found myself wondering what on Earth had happened between page 1 and 300? Not a lot! Full of colourful characters all described in great intricacy; as far a plot is concerned, not very much happens. I felt that Cora’s voice wasn’t strong enough to be heard above the buzz of all the other characters and became somewhat lost amongst the hype of the Essex serpent gossip. I was disappointed by the final outcome relating to the Essex Serpent and it doesn’t really have an ending per se, it just ends with no conclusions. Perhaps it is the scientist and romanticist in me, but I like a proper ending, preferably a happy, or at least a feel good one. The Essex Serpent just left me feeling unfulfilled. As I had chosen it as a Christmas read for our book club, I was really looking forward to it and found myself rather disappointed, to be honest. It just doesn’t end up going anywhere. When I read, I love to go places, I want the author to really take me there with them and on this occasion that just didn’t happen.

I have approached this review as best as I can based on my limited point of view, but it is just an opinion. For a more in-depth and academic approach to the review of this book, please visit:

I am sure this fellow author enjoyed and appreciated the book far more than I ever will, though it is clear his intellectual capacity supersedes my remedial intelligence by far.

Overall, a well-written novel and a great educator in historical issues and an imaginative portrayal of realistic historical fiction (as far as my limited knowledge allows me to tell).




I hope you enjoyed reading this review and are able to glean at least a spec of usefulness from it. Please leave comments below if you have any suggestions or . . . anything really! Be nice though  . . . it’s my 1st one!

Pursuing Passions

Pursuing Passions

So, with my job search journey finally over (for now), I have found myself once again with time and energy to pursue my love of The Arts, in particular, creative writing. My too-long-dormant novel has been metaphorically brushed off, printed out and read through. Once again I am picking up a different book every hour and enjoying the dance of different shapes and the meaning that they form across the page. Once again I feel hopeful, ignited, visionary.

Some may be wondering, why am I not writing about the elated success of my return to employment? A good question. And my answer is, I have spent so long dwelling on it that I once again left a part of myself behind. That subject, I want to leave that for another blog post and first and foremost, focus on the real reason I started this blog. Which is to pursue my passions for all things creative! Which I feel that I am once again, now able to do.

So where to re-start? As it were. Something I have been thinking about for a while. Last year, I joined a book club and most recently, I have signed up to the Portsmouth Writers Hub which I intend to attend on a monthly basis with at least a paragraph of a piece of writing for the required subject. What I have really kicked off with though, and something I am most excited about, is I have entered a writing competition! Not only that, but it was free. I found a list of writing competitions via a quick google search and the suggestions of others. I am hoping I will find out the result in due course this coming month.

So back to the book club. I think it would be naive of anyone to think that you can become a good writer without first, becoming a good reader. And that is exactly what I intend to do. As I have been partaking in the reading and reviewing of several books outside of my comfort zone anyway. I thought I may as well publish my thoughts here. So that is my plan, each month (hopefully) I will read a book and write a review for it here; with the aim of focussing my direction for my own writing development. I am also going to publish my reviews on Good Reads A place I have left long forgotten until now. I will probably do some reflective reviewing as a start. I hope at least some of you will find this interesting.