Last night I received an intriguing email from LoveFilm. They, clearly feeling threatened by Netflix and its recent success with “House of Cards”, have produced eight LoveFilm original sitcom pilots and want their viewers to call the shots about which ones get made into full series.
Challenge accepted. I know I have been neglecting this blog of late and I aim to remedy that over the next fortnight by not only watching and rating, but also by writing a full review for each of the eight pilot episodes.
It will be exactly three years ago tomorrow that I handed in my final university project: a screenplay consisting of three thirty minute scripts for an original sitcom set in a supermarket. While I acknowledge that my own work will probably never see the light of day, I do feel that producing (and researching for) those ninety minutes of script qualifies me to comment on the potential success of other sitcom concepts.
So watch this space. In the interest of fairness, I have opted to tackle the offerings alphabetically, starting with “Alpha House” tomorrow.
You can read all about the LoveFilm Amazon Originals project here. You don’t even have to be a LoveFilm subscriber to watch the pilots, so feel free to watch along with me and offer your own opinions as we go.
The Independent has asked “Are we watching the future?” [of television commissioning]. It’s too early to tell I think – it all depends, really, on whether Amazon actually listen to the public with this venture or go with what their executives tell them regardless of public opinion.
On the other hand, pilots are tricky. You have only thirty minutes (or as few as 22 sometimes, by the time you’ve factored in titles and adverts) to introduce your cast and their ‘universe’, while enticing viewers to come back and spend more time with them next week, and the week after. The pilot of M*A*S*H was, in my humble opinion, a tad wacky and a poor example of what the show went on to become, while the Frasier pilot is the only example that I can think of off the top of my head which was pretty much perfect; it even won an Emmy.
Both of the above shows went on for eleven seasons, despite their different starts. Pilots may not be make or break, but they are a series’ ‘calling card’: whether streaming via a site like LoveFilm or purchasing the DVD, someone trying to get into the show is highly likely to start with Series 1, Episode 1. If you lose them there, it doesn’t matter how great the rest of your run is: they won’t be watching.
So I am interested to see what the Amazon Originals will have to offer. You only get one episode of each, so they’re going to have to speak for themselves. But at the same time, they’ll have to demonstrate that there is more to explore, that audiences will ‘buy’ more episodes and even more series if they are on offer. I’ll let you know what I think!
In the meantime, which is your favourite sitcom pilot of all time, and why?
With both the Huffington Post and The Independent now reporting that Spring is finally here, we thought it was time to re-introduce our annual drive to raise awareness of the dangers of leaving your dog in a hot car. Dogs die in hot cars. The RSPCA knows it, PETA knows it, The Dogs Trust knows it. “…
It’s not often that a headline gets me angry enough to write a blog, but yesterday the mainstream media achieved just that with their eager reporting that ready meals are “healthier” than those cooked by celebrity chefs.
A study of the nutritional qualities of 100 recipes taken from some of the UK’s bestselling cookbooks found they were “less healthy” than a random selection of 100 brand-name ready meals from leading supermarkets, according to “several Food Standard Agency metrics”. Specifically: “per portion, the recipes chosen from these books contained significantly more energy, protein, fat and saturated fat and significantly less fibre then the ready meals.”
While the study did concede that “neither the TV chef’s recipes nor the ready meals met national or international guidelines for a balanced diet”, almost every news source decided to run with a “newsflash, microwave meals are better for you than those cooked from scratch” type of headline.
The question I put to the media today is this: define “healthier”.
Lower in fat? This is usually because ready meals substitute butter for margarine, real cheese for processed etc – these have awful health implications of their own which are rarely taken into account (like, for example, the potential that they increase your risk of cancer…) Low fat cheese, made that way with chemicals and scientific processes, might have less saturated fat than real cheese, yes, but is it really better for you? I’ll take a block of Cheddar made with real cow’s milk over the stuff that’s dyed orange and comes out of can any day. (Michael Pollan makes this argument much better than I ever could in his excellent book “In Defence of Food”.)
Low calorie? Of course we should all try and restrict our calorie intake where we can. But not all calories are created equal. It’s an oft quoted ‘fact’ that a McDonalds’ salad has more calories than a Big Mac. Potentially true, but it also has more nutrients, fresher ingredients and, hopefully, less salt and refined sugar. The calories in that big Mac are mostly empty, while the calories in the salad are not. Orange juice has more calories than Diet Fanta as well, but I doubt anyone would suggest you swap the vitamin-rich juice for the aspartame and additives-rich soda. (See “Good Calories, Bad Calories” by Gary Taubes to back up this argument.)
Less protein? Since when was “more protein” a bad thing when it comes to food? Protein is a vital component of our diets and one which is increasingly getting the stamp of approval from dietitians and nutritionists alike, due to its ability to help regulate blood sugar levels, build and maintain muscle and keep us feeling fuller for longer. (For a full defence of protein’s place in our diet, and exactly why our carbohydrate heavy diets are responsible for a whole raft of modern health problems, check out Gary Taubes’ “Why We Get Fat”.)
Replacing (expensive) meat and bulking dishes out with (cheap) carbs is a standard ready meal trick to keep costs down. (Heck, even the dog food manufacturers have cottoned on to this one, with most mainstream pet food brands made up of more cereals than meat.) What no one ever mentions is that carbs (especially the refined carbohydrates found in ready meals) cause spikes in blood sugar which lead to obesity and diabetes, not to mention troughs which leave you feeling hungry and reaching for more unhealthy food. (One third of our pets are overweight now too, I wonder why that could be?)
I also suspect that, like for like, a ready meal cottage pie or cauliflower cheese etc would contain far less vitamins and minerals than its fresh cooked equivalent. The way these sorts of meals are processed, packaged, stored, reheated and served at home removes incredible amounts of goodness, not to mention flavour. (In fact, the study itself did concede that these factors were not taken into account, an inconvenient truth not picked up by any media sources who covered the story.)
Recent relevations about the presence of horse meat in some pre-prepared beef products highlight the problem with food which is prepared by someone else, behind closed doors. If you cook a meal yourself from fresh ingredients, you can see the supply chain and you know for sure what is in your food. Unhealthy? Hardly.
And don’t even get me started on the artificial colours, flavourings, and preservatives which are pumped into pre-prepared food, or the hideous plastic which they are packaged in!
Ready meals are NOT healthy, (ready meals are, to my mind, barely even meals, but that’s another rant for another day.) The media should not be publishing reports which claim they are or perpetrating this myth in any way. They especially should not be trashing freshly prepared, home cooked food made with quality ingredients; not in this health climate of rising diabetes, malnutrition and obesity.
Now there will be a move away from the “fresh is best” mantra which people have tried so hard to implant, new lines of “healthy” mircowaved meals released just in time for the summer swimsuit season and thousands of obese and unhealthy people the length and breadth of the county tucking into ready meals with virtuous feelings! ‘Heck, they’re so good for me, I might even have two…”
I think it’s safe to say that post and snacks are two things which everyone can agree on; they’re great. So what if I told you that there was a company which would send you snacks in the post?
“Graze” is one of my top discoveries from 2012, and I wanted to share it with all my dear readers. They’re a company which promotes healthy snacking and innovative food combinations. They believe variety is the spice of life, and so they devised a clever way to send snack foods (including nuts, seeds, dried fruits, tasty crackers, dips, olives, freshly baked bread, flapjacks and cakes) in the post. Four little pots of food now arrive at my house once a week, all wrapped up nicely in a box which fits through the letterbox.
You can choose which sort of snacks you’d like to receive, and let them know if there are any foods which you’re not keen on, so you never get something which you don’t like. New snacks are added to the range all the time, so you get to make new discoveries all the time. And, if you’re watching your weight or trying to maximise certain health benefits, you can tailor your box around your own desired nutritional plan.
I personally adore my Graze box – the snacks are varied and delicious, and they really help with portion control and self restraint. I’ve tried a number of things which I wouldn’t have discovered otherwise and it’s an inexpensive and simple way to incorporate things like nuts, seeds and dried fruit into your diet. Even though they are healthy, they are far from boring, and a number of them even include chocolate or biscuit bites! Plus, I get food in the post, instead of just junk mail.
So what are you waiting for? You can try a Graze box for free today if you like; just enter discount code 3RV7ZW3D at https://www.graze.com/uk/signup
Subsequent boxes will cost just £3.89 a week, which is a small price to pay in my humble opinion, if you consider that it includes postage and packaging, and means you won’t be reaching for the chocolate, biscuits or crisps next time you nip to the shop.
Go on, you know you want to!
Woops. Once again I have been neglecting this blog in favour of other projects, and once again I would like to apologise to my readers for this.
However, I do have a little something for you today! Back in October, I became involved with Intuition Magazine, an online student publication. Since then, I have produced a monthly column for them, with the theme of “Life After Graduation”.
Today, I have compiled this collection in one place, for your reading pleasure:
October 2011 – Introductions
This is a difficult time of year for us graduates; our social media feeds are full of people making us jealous. I am talking, of course, of the 1st and 2nd years we knew back at uni, who are now 2nd and 3rd years and regaling us with tales of all the new friends and fun antics which we are missing out on.
Of course, it’s not their fault that we handed in all our coursework and passed our exams. In fact, if we’re honest, the people we’re really jealous of are the Freshers; they have at least three marvellous years ahead of them and they’re just starting out on the whole experience. (Plus, no dissertations…)
One of the first things I noticed upon my arrival to academia in 2007 was the difference between secondary school and university. At school, you had one group of friends, maybe three to five core people who you spent every lunch hour and weekend with. It was quite cliquey, and everyone was just trying to fit in.
Uni is very different. You have your hall/housemates. You have your course mates. You have the folk from your sport or society of choice. These people all form your social circle, and you swap between them or allow them to mix and mingle as you choose. You can be much more yourself at uni, because you don’t have to conform to the expectations of any one group of people.
And, unlike my secondary school crowd, who I had to ask “what are we doing this weekend” every Friday, I rarely had to arrange to meet my friends at uni anywhere. I went to English lectures and oh look, there were Sam, Fleur and Mel. I went to Creative Writing seminars and found Kirsty and Kayleigh. Coffee ensued. I then headed into the office where I volunteered as Editor of the uni paper and there, oddly enough, were Jacob, Alex, Tom and Phil. We would often head out for drinks after work. At uni, I had a social life without even trying. I was constantly busy and doing things.
Not so the life of the graduate! Once the funny flat hats have been tossed, everyone goes their separate ways. Email and Facebook become something you check because a friend might actually have sent you news, not merely a tool for procrastination. Even people who stayed nearby still have to be called; a mutual time has to be found, difficult if you both work, and something solid decided. It’s also harder to meet new people, especially if you get stuck in the cycle of never going anywhere because you don’t know anyone. If you don’t make the effort as a graduate, you may very quickly find yourself isolated and alone.
So take note, current students. Enjoy it while it lasts! Get out there and do things. Meet people; make the most of your time. If not for yourselves, do it for us, the unemployed graduates who are stuck at home feeling jealous.
November 2011 – It’s just not fair!
Job hunting sucks. I think we can all agree on that one. And in this current economy, any job hunt is likely to be a long hard slog. Trust me, I know. I’ve been unemployed and actively looking for a position since August.
It’s not fair. My entire life I have been led to believe that hard work produced results. So I have always worked hard. I left secondary school with good grades. While at university, I sacrificed a lot of my free time to the university paper, being heavily involved as Editor for three years and learning a lot in the process. I graduated with a solid 2:1 degree in a relevant field for the type of career I want to pursue. In short, I’ve done the work, and now I want the results.
But instead, I spent the past year working as an Admin Assistant for the local council. I know it’s more than most graduates get these days, and I was grateful for it, but it was hardly the bright career starter I was imagining. Now, budget cuts due to a recession quite beyond my control mean that I don’t even have that job anymore and I am finding it impossible to get another.
It’s not fair. I have heard all the platitudes about how it’s hard for everyone and the state of the economy etc, but the positions are out there. I know – I’ve applied for most of them! But somehow, despite my qualifications and experience, I keep getting passed over.
I’m beginning to feel like all my efforts were a waste of time. I fear that this is something which a lot of students will end up feeling eventually; not exactly a sentiment you want to take away from the university experience.
There is little justice in the graduate job market these days. It used to be that entry level jobs were ours for the taking, but now we’re expected to first pay our dues in an unpaid work experience placement before we are even considered for generic work we could have done without a degree. So three years of tuition fees and student loans land us in a huge wad of debt, and then they expect us to live off of air while we spend a year photocopying and making tea.
So here I am, and I’m sure there’s many others like me, stuck in unemployment limbo, unable to take unpaid work but not able to start our careers otherwise.
It’s tough out here in the real world kiddies, so don’t waste your time at university. Apply for those summer placements now – and start networking. You never know who you might meet or who knows a guy who can get you in. It’s hardly the “work hard and you will be rewarded” message that I was raised on, but in this day and age it’s seems you’re far more likely to get in the door that way.
Like I said, it’s just not fair.
December 2011 – Christmas
One of the many advantages that students enjoy is an extended Christmas holiday, usually two to three weeks of blissful, uninterrupted time off.
Most of you will presumably spend this time at home, in the bosom of your family. Maybe it will even be the first time you’ve gone back to your parent’s house since flying the coop. And while you may be homesick now, sitting in your cold room in Halls after yet another awful microwave meal, I am here to warn you that, however much you may love your family, the buzz soon wears off, and you’ll be wishing yourself back at uni within days of arriving.
How pessimistic, you cry! Not so. Any person who has left home will tell you the same. We love the homecooked meals, we’re ecstatic to see the dog and catch up with our siblings, and it’s great to see all our old school chums who have also come home for the holidays. “Pub at 8?” “Sounds great!” We fly downstairs to tell our mother we’ll be out that evening and then we hit the crux of the problem.
Our mothers, not realising we’ve been free and independent for the past 3 months, walking home drunk at two in the morning, coming and going as we pleased, off on our merry adventures, want to know who we’re meeting and when we’ll be home. When we do head off, she reminds us to wear gloves. She’s forgotten that we’re 19, not 9, and that we’ve been taking care of ourselves just fine without her.
It’s a dynamic that never changes. I have been living at home for the past five months, due to my lack of income, and most of the fights my mother and I have centre around the fact that I am used to having my own place, doing what I want, eating and sleeping when I please, and popping out to see friends whenever it suits. She, on the other hand, knows I am used to being independent, but still treats me like she did when I was 13. She’s constantly asking what I’m up to and, since I don’t drive, I can’t go anywhere without begging a lift.
You may think I’m acting like a spoilt brat, but trust me, it’s frustrating. You First years will see what I mean when you arrive home; Second and Third years already know what I’m talking about.
Just try to remember that they love you; that they do it out of general care and concern. That they probably missed you just as much as you did them, and that they want to cherish the time you’re around because they might not see you again until Easter. You can be free and independent in January – let them “mother” you for a few weeks, if you can. Try and keep eye rolling to a minimum. After all, in a few years, you may only get one or two days off at Christmas.
January 2012 – Philanthropy
Philanthropy sounds like a big word which philosophy students would examine in their seminars, and which the rest of us should ignore. But it’s actually a huge part of the student (and graduate) experience, especially if you want to get the most out of your time at university.
Philanthropy, as defined by the dictionary, is the “altruistic concern for human welfare and advancement”, altruistic, of course, meaning “unselfish”. Here’s a much better definition: “private initiatives for public good”. Things like donating to charity, giving your time to help a cause, or using your skills to help others; giving back to the community.
So what does this have to do with students? Well, philanthropy is something that is increasingly lacking from many aspects of 21st century life; businesses are out for themselves and care more about the bottom line than anything else. Isn’t it about time that our generation made a move in the other direction?
If I called it the “Big Society”, would that ring a bell?
Students and graduates should embrace this concept, and give freely of their time and knowledge where they can. We’re all in this together, so let’s help each other out where we can.
The very best student philanthropist shares the skills she’s gained with others, whether in her seminars, during work experience, or in her future place of employment. The best part is that she’s usually rewarded for her efforts.
To pull a random example out of thin air, take this column. I am not paid anything to produce these words every month. But I still do, because I know that without content an online magazine is just a blank web page, and I want to help out my fellow student journalists and editors by providing that content. In return, I can put Intuition Magazine on my CV, and demonstrate real writing abilities and commitment to a project. It’s win win.
Each and every student who wants to succeed at and after university should ask themselves how they can get involved in such philanthropic endeavours. Perhaps you could help out on your university newspaper (as I also did), or assist your Union’s Raising And Giving team. If you want to be a vet, you could volunteer to walk dogs at your local rescue centre, and if you’re looking to be a teacher maybe you could tutor kids at the local primary school.
These are all ways in which you can enhance your skills while boosting your CV. And you get good karma, and will hopefully make some friends along the way.
I’m sure you’ve heard all this before. Volunteer, take part, get involved. But seriously, think about it. Life after graduation is tougher than ever – believe me, I know – and you have to do everything you can to stand out from the crowd. Maybe being a good person, giving your time and helping others, will be the one thing that will make you stand out from the crowd. If you’re not already involved in philanthropy, there’s never been a better time to start!
February 2012 – Ambition
There’s a scene in the movie “Cool Runnings” – bear with me, I am going somewhere with this – where the hero is talking about his dream of competing in the Olympics. He says: “I don’t care how fast they run, I’m going to run faster. I don’t care how much they want it, I want it more.”
This month’s topic is ‘Ambition’, and that’s why the above quote has resonated with me so much the past few days. Ambition is wanting something – whatever it may be – more than anyone else, and being willing to put in the work to get it. Ambition is what the most successful students and graduates will have; not just the desire to succeed, but acknowledgement that nothing in life is just handed to you, and the drive to do what needs to be done to achieve your dream.
Take myself as an esoteric example. One of my interests is dogs. I have loved dogs for as long as I can remember; I read magazines, books, and articles about them, and will always stop to say hello to a puppy. To that end, I started contacting dog websites to see if I could write for them after I graduated. This lead to me launching a Twitter feed of doggie news stories in June 2010, and last year I attended Crufts (the world’s biggest dog show) as a reporter for a pet website. Shortly after, I extended my Twitter feed into a website in its own right, and now have around 1000 visitors a month. I have become well known and respected in canine circles. To that end, this year, I have a press pass for Crufts with my own name in it.
You may think I am a massive nerd, but it’s a huge personal achievement. I am combining my skills (writing and social media), with my passion, and I am getting results. No one is paying me to do this, but they are a lot of little steps down the road towards becoming a dog reporter full time, which is my dream job. Maybe it will never happen, but at least I can say I tried. And no one can fault my ambition; I juggle these and other commitments (including a job and this column) because I need to know that I did everything I could to reach my goals.
I know almost everyone has dreams, be they realistic or impossible. But only a few people really have the ambition, the drive, to make them realities.
I hope you, dear reader, are one of them. It’s a tough world for students and graduates these days, but those who really want to succeed will. They will find the chances rather than waiting to be found by them, and they will chase their desires to the ends of the earth. Keep saying it to yourself: “I don’t care how fast they run, I’m going to run faster. I don’t care how much they want it, I want it more.”
I hope you have enjoyed my little collection of columns. Please come back soon for more!
Not a proper blog, but hopefully it will spark some discussion anyways:
This was on my Facebook Notes section for ages. It’s a list of Disney Animated Feature Films by Year (thank you Wikipedia). I want to keep it for reference but also wanted to tidy up a – let’s face it – largely useless section of my Facebook page, so I thought I’d move it over to my blog instead.
I think it’s safe to say that most of these films are classics. I love a good Disney movie and have quite a few of my favourites (including “Aladdin”, “The Lion King”, “Mulan”, “101 Dalmatians”, “The Emporor’s New Groove”, and “Sword and The Stone”) on DVD.
Thanks to a childhood neighbour with a freakishly large VHS collection, I have seen all but “Saludos Amigos”, “Meet the Robinsons” and “G Force”! That’s 66 out of 69, or 95.7%! (Yes, it is quite possible that I need to get out more!)
How many have you seen? Which is your favourite, and why?
1937 – Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs
1939 – Pinocchio
1940 – Fantasia
1941 – Dumbo
1942 – Bambi
1943 – Saludos Amigos
1944 – The Three Caballeros
1945 – Make Mine Music
1946 – The Song of the South
1947 – Fun and Fancy Free
1948 – Melody Time
1949 – The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr Toad
1950 – Cinderella
1951 – Alice in Wonderland
1953 – Peter Pan
1955 – Lady and the Tramp
1959 – Sleeping Beauty
1961 – 101 Dalmatians
1963 – The Sword in the Stone
1964 – Mary Poppins
1967 – The Jungle Book
1970 – The Aristocats
1971 – Bedknobs and Broomsticks
1973 – Robin Hood
1977 – The Rescuers
1978 – Pete’s Dragon
1981 – The Fox and the Hound
1985 – The Black Cauldron
1986 – The Great Mouse Detective
1987 – The Brave Little Toaster
1988 – Oliver and Company
1989 – The Little Mermaid
1990 – The Rescuers Down Under
1991 – Beauty and the Beast
1992 – Aladdin
1994 – The Lion King
1995 – A Goofy Movie
1995 – Pocahontas
1995 (Disney/Pixar) – Toy Story
1996 – The Hunchback of Notre Dame
1997 – Hercules
1998 – Mulan
1998 (Disney/Pixar) – A Bug’s Life
1999 – Tarzan
1999 (Disney/Pixar) – Toy Story 2
2000 – Fantasia 2000
2000 – Dinosaur
2000 – The Emperor’s New Groove
2001 – Atlantis
2001 (Disney/Pixar) – Monsters Inc
2002 – Lilo and Stitch
2002 – Treasure Planet
2003 – (Disney/Pixar) Finding Nemo
2003 – Brother Bear
2004 – Home on the Range
2004 (Disney/Pixar) – The Incredibles
2005 – Chicken Little
2006 – The Wild
2006 (Disney/Pixar) – Cars
2007 – Meet the Robinsons
2007 (Disney/Pixar) – Ratatouille
2008 – Bolt
2008 (Disney/Pixar) – Wall-E
2009 – G Force
2009 (Disney/Pixar) – Up
2010 – The Princess and the Frog
2010 (Disney/Pixar) – Toy Story 3
2011 – Tangled
2011 (Disney/Pixar) – Cars 2
2012 (Disney/Pixar) – Brave
2013 (Disney/Pixar) – Monsters’ University (coming soon)
2013 (TBC) – King of the Elves (coming soon)
People might think that, because I’m a writer, I’m excited that it’s November because November is National Novel Writing Month – or, as it’s more colloquially known, NaNoWriMo.
However, I have always been one writer to whom NaNoWriMo makes no sense at all. Not least because, since people all over the world take part, it really should be called “IntNoWriMo”, but perhaps that’s just me being pedantic…
Anyway, the aim of NaNoWriMo – which is getting so annoying to type that I shall just refer to it as “Nano” from now on – is to produce a first draft of a novel in the space of a month. It started back in 1999 as a motivational stunt for a small group of writer friends, and has since grown into an institution with some 130,000 participants last year.
A rough target for a completed manuscript is set at 50,000 words, which means that people taking part should aim to churn out 1600 – 2000 words a day. And so, being a writer who is friends with other writers, during November my social network feeds descend into word count updates and rants about writer’s block.
I want to make it clear before I go on that I am not putting down people who are currently attempting the Nano challenge. I think it’s very brave of you to undertake the task and I wish you well. But seriously, please stop telling me about it. One of the main reasons that Nano grates with me is because writing is, to me, such a private process, and the real joy of writing is creating something.
It seems the joy of Nano, however, is to be SEEN be creating something, and all that that implies. It’s a bit like THIS:
That’s why I haven’t ever participated in Nano, and why I don’t plan on participating in the future. I, personally, can only write fiction when I am inspired, and a lot of creating goes on in my head first and a lot of crafting goes into it afterward. I physically could not produce 2000 words of anything decent day after day after day just because an internet ‘competition’ dictated that I should. Real writers write because they have to, whatever month of the year, not because they have to meet a target.
Secondly, coming back to the writers’ block, please stop getting stressed. No one is forcing you to do this to yourselves. If you miss your word target a couple of times, no one is going to come to your house and tell you off. There isn’t even a real prize at the end of the challenge, so let’s all just relax a bit, okay? I know that some people take Nano very seriously, but I swear some people got less angsty about their dissertations! If you’re not enjoying it, stop.
(Also, if you’re on Facebook complaining about a lack of progress – and you don’t appreciate the irony behind that – then perhaps you need to reconsider your motives for taking part.)
I do acknowledge, however, that the point of Nano is to force you to move forward with your novel no matter what. It’s about getting past the notion that novel writing is some insurmountable task. And to that end I think it’s a good idea, in terms of a sheer volume of work produced.
However, my next observation is that I resent people who look down their nose at me for not participating in Nano. In November last year, while working a full time job, I produced some 6000 words of original writing. Last month alone, I wrote approximately 20 articles for various different websites. Some days I would probably not be far off 1600 words. Though not prolifically, though not anything of great literary merit, I was, and am, writing regularly. So what if it’s fact instead of fiction; does that make me less of a successful writer than someone who has completed Nano?
At least my work is solid; finished, polished articles. As it says on the NaNoWriMo website itself: “ the ONLY thing that matters in NaNoWriMo is output. It’s all about quantity, not quality.”
(And yeah, maybe that novel I’ve been working on (say it in your head like Stewie Griffin) will never get read by anyone but myself, but can you honestly say that the opposite is true of your Nano offering?)
To that end, as a final thought, I would stress to anyone undertaking the Nano challenge this year that what they are producing – unless they are some sort of genius – is a very rough first draft. Perhaps December should be considered NaNoEdMo: National Novel Editing Month. If you have been meeting your 2000 word target every day, you probably haven’t been paying that much attention to what you’ve been writing, so it will need plenty of revision before you even think of doing anything else with it. Agents and publishers up and down the country are bracing themselves for a pile of slush manuscripts as we speak; don’t let yours be one of them!
So no, I’m not really excited that it’s NaNoWriMo once again. I wish everyone taking part the best of luck, but this is one writer who won’t be joining you.
What do you think? Are you taking part in Nano and think there’s more to it than I’m giving credit for? Or perhaps you agree with me? I’d love to hear from you – just use the comments box below!
Greetings all, from the land of unemployment!
In the past I rarely blogged because I was too busy to, and now I rarely blog because nothing much has happened in my life and I have little to say. However, I realised that the last proper update was more than a while ago and I figured you guys deserved to hear from me.
So, where have I been? Well, in my last blog I mentioned that the Kennel Club in London had given me a 6 week temporary position. That ended up getting extended to 9 weeks in total, but sadly after that they couldn’t keep me on any more. However, it was a very positive experience: I had an amazing time, met some fascinating people and learned a lot.
Since that ended in early September, I have been feeling a bit sorry for myself if I am honest. I was – still am – living at my parents’ place, which is a step I never really wanted to take, and I have been unemployed and unsuccessfully job hunting ever since. Adam (my boyfriend) and I moved out of our adorable little flat in Portsmouth and we are currently a bit adrift, with stuff strewn between his parents’ place, my limited space in the guest room, and the garage. To make matters worse, both my sister and Adam started work placement schemes on the 12th September so have been full of tales of new people and experiences which I am horrifically jealous of.
And the cherry on this little self pity sundae is that I once again find myself in a long distance relationship, which is something I really never wanted to do again. Due to the nature of his placement, Adam has been away every week bar one since he started, which means I only see him on weekends. I know that in the grand scheme of things it’s hardly difficult (I mean, my Dad is in Malaysia at the moment for example) but I’m really hating it and there’s no way out of it until I find a job.
Once I do find work though – please hire me, I’m really nice, honest – then things will improve greatly. Adam and I are going to get our own place within an easy commute of where we both need to be, and we’ll be able to move forward with life. He knows where he’s going to be for the next two years and I am looking for something ideally career oriented and hopefully more permanent than anything I’ve had previously. We’ve even taken a big step and talked about getting a puppy. It’s just that I’m sort of stuck at the moment.
But it’s not all bad news. For one thing, with all this free time I have my doggie website has been coming along in leaps and bounds, reaching over 3000 hits last month and almost 900 Twitter followers. I have been doing informal PR for Pedigree and, somewhat ironically, The Kennel Club, so things are looking up even if I’m not getting paid for any of it.
Secondly, I added yet another website to my repertoire by becoming a regular columnist – yes, you read that correctly – for Intuition Magazine. I am writing a monthly series titled “Now What?” which looks at the realities of life as a graduate.
Plus, Adam and I, despite the long distance thing, are still going strong. Last month we celebrated our second anniversary.
Finally, thanks to a tip off and a cheeky email, I got invited to the Family Guy Season 11 UK premier next week. Fingers’ crossed that I meet some industry type who just happens to need a new writer…
So things are a bit tough right now, but they could be a lot worse I know. I am trying to stay positive and I generally do feel that things are moving forward. Here’s hoping that tomorrow is the day that I finally get ‘the call’ though!
Until next time guys!
by Edward Stourton
4/5 Paws Up!
I have to beg your forgiveness for being brief and non specific in this review; I read the book some time ago and then loaned it to a friend so have no copy in front of me to reference. However, I would still highly recommend this volume to any and all of my doggie acquaintances, as it was a very enjoyable read, which covers a wide range of doggie issues.
(I should also point out that a quick Google search for “Ed Stourton Dog Walker” or “Ed Stourton Paw Prints” will reveal links to many of the original articles included in this book, for anyone who has not yet had a chance to get their hands on a copy.) Anyway, on with my review:
Diary of a Dog Walker is a delightful title, if a bit small for my preference – I devoured it in one sitting and wanted much more. I thoroughly enjoyed Edward Stourton’s writing and found some of his insights fascinating. It is funny without trying to be and poignant at times as well.
I will confess that this is because Edward’s style was attuned to my own – I particularly enjoyed his references to canine culture throughout the ages and the thorough research that clearly went into each column. This is not some pet owner pertaining to be an expert, writing in ignorance, but a very knowledgeable man who had trivia to share which even I was unaware of; no mean feat I assure you!
Mr Stourton writes in a sort of pretentious, almost academic style – it is The Telegraph, after all – which suited me but might not appeal so much to others. This is a light read but one which is highly intelligent and people looking for a shaggy dog tale might be disappointed here.
To that end, the reason for the removal of the final star is simply that Kudu (Mr Storton’s Springer Spaniel) did not feature as heavily as I would have liked him to. This is because he was often the means of introducing and framing the story or the topic at hand rather than being a major character or plot point within them, but I still felt that I didn’t know Kudu much better coming out than I did going in.
Aside from that minor naggle however, this was a thoroughly enjoyable book and I highly recommend it to anyone, not just dog lovers. I just wish the column was still ongoing so that there was more to enjoy!
by Michael Hingson & Susy Flory
3/5 Paws Up!
This unique tale about a remarkable Guide Dog who led her handler down 78 floors of stairs to safety during the World Trade Centre attacks is both interesting and well written, and has made us sad that we don’t offer half paws, as it really does deserve slightly more than a 3.
However, a couple of things stopped this book getting the full 5 paws up. For one, the dog featured in it too little to, in our opinion, really classify this as a `doggie story’. True, Michael made it out of the World Trade Centre with his Guide Dog at his side, but she seems to be mentioned as a mere afterthought at times and this book was, we thought, more about overcoming the difficulties posed by blindness than about Roselle as a character. Having said that, we did enjoy reading about her antics before and after the event, and are sure that is deserving of all the accolades she has earned in the past ten years. Sadly, Roselle died in June 2011, so will not be accompanying Mr Hingson on any of the publicity for the book about her bravery.
I doubt that will make much of a difference to the `campaign trail’, as it seems this book is more about educating people about disabilities than about Roselle herself. I found Mr Hingson’s constant lecturing about how the blind wish to be treated and how he lived a normal life despite being blind began to wear on me after a while. (Especially since he seems to demand equal treatment and then highlight this by detailing an occasion where he had to kick up a fuss to get things his way, therefore making people go out of their way to accommodate him.)
Equally, I doubt the value of the essays and glossary etc included as appendixes to the text. No doubt someone reading the book in another context would find them significant, but as our group are interested in the canine aspect of the story these didn’t add to my enjoyment or study of the book at all. I would have liked to have read more information about Roselle’s life and training, or, indeed, more details on any of Mr Hingson’s past Guide Dogs.
I also felt that Mr Hingson talked down to the readers a lot. Passages which, for example, explain that on September 11th 2001 two planes piloted by members of a terrorist group called Al Qaeda crashed into the North andSouth Towers of the World Trade Centre in New York felt patronising and needless, given that everyone in the world knows about the events of that day. I will give him the benefit of the doubt and say that he included this information to make the story perfectly clear, and perhaps to make it last the annals of history or to be more accessible to people, but every once in a while he would go to the trouble of re-iterating what is largely common knowledge and it began to stand out and annoy me.
Finally, the other thing that Mr Hingson did which grated with this reader was to go on about how his religion influenced his life, how blessed he felt, how God was his guide and so on. Perhaps this is a personal thing (being an affirmed atheist), but he seemed to put more faith in the Lord to see him safely home than his Guide Dog, which seemed to make Roselle an interesting footnote in the whole thing rather than the star character. Personally, I would have enjoyed this book more if it was less about God and more about Dog.
But, all those negatives aside, I did enjoy this book and would recommend it to anyone with an interest in blindness, Guide Dogs or American history, as it is a truly unique tale and gives a very good account of what it was like to be involved in a moment in history. Like his dog, Mr Hingson doesn’t get caught up in the ideology of the moment or the anti terrorism/disaster rhetoric that so many Americans are prone to when recounting that day’s events.
He tells his stories – his life story and his September 11th survival story, interweaved throughout the book – with very little self pity and in a clear and concise manner. Co-author Susy Flory has obviously had a lot of input on the actual writing and the structure of the book and it works. I’m sure this will become a popular read once it is released in the more inexpensive paperback format.