Wednesday, 31 December 2014

End Of The Year Quiz!

That's me on Christmas Day. Yes, I look awkward. The dress is from H & M. The tights are just-tights. They're the punctuation to the outfit. The choker is from Dunns Jewellery, a really cute little handmade jewellery place. And yeah, that's a blue streak in my hair. Blue, purple, red hair extensions-fun mixing them up.

Anyway, here's the end of year quiz.

1. What did you do in 2014 that you'd never done before?

Started a blog. Got a Twitter. Got a Tumblr. Found my OTP-Destiel, in case you were wondering. Got a black canopy for my bed. Got coloured hair extensions. Got my writing published professionally. Made a lot of new friends. Started taking anti-depressants. Appeared in a professional play. Got involved with more social activism. Met people I really admire and love. Sorted a lot of things about my future out. Started educating myself, along with only being in school two days a week. Worked out a little more of who I want to be. Started writing a diary almost every day.

2. Did you keep your New Year's Resolutions, and will you make more for next year?

Didn't make any last time-apart from maybe to keep going and still be here this time next year-and this year, not making any resolutions-more just deciding what I want to accomplish and then accomplishing it.

3. Did anyone close to you give birth?


4. Did anyone close to you die?


5. What countries did you visit?

Tenerife. It was amazing. Next year, I'm hopeful to visit Tenerife again, Italy and the United States.

6. What would you like to have in 2015 that you lacked in 2014?

Hopefully, something definite on a novel I'm working on. More writing published. Hopefully, to interview some people. To do more social activism. To keep growing creatively. And a person.

7. What dates from 2014 will remain etched on your memory and why?

3rd July-my grandma passed away.
18th December-got somewhere I'd wanted to be for a while.
28th December-someone I knew of and liked passed away.

8. What was your biggest achievement of the year?

Getting my writing published. Being in a play. Taking control of my OCD. Getting closer to where I want to be. Working on my novel. And discovering more about me.

9. What was your biggest failure of the year?

Probably not freaking out as much.

10. Did you suffer illness or injury?

Yep. Depression, OCD, anxiety-and flu and tonsillitis and stuff.

11. What was the best thing you bought?

Some of my jewellery and my DFTBA shirt. But definitely some of my T-shirts and skirts. And my trilby hat. Absolutely love my black trilby hat.

12. Whose behaviour merited celebration?

My family's. My friends. For putting up with me. My parents, particularly. My cousins. And my grandfather. Also, my friends who listen and laugh me out of things. Also, organizations that are willing to listen to me and let me get involved. And definitely Bethany Lamont and Fleur for their friendship, kindness and help! Oh and Briana Bailey at Germ, for being so willing to help me! And special mention to Flossa, for our cool email exchanges-may there be more in the future!

13. Where did most of your money go?

Clothes, books, music.

14. What did you get really, really, really excited about?

Getting writing published, Doll Hospital, Holy Glitter Zine, Tenerife, the person I like, Destiel, Sherlock Season 3, the Supernatural musical, getting closer to where I want to be, getting better, feeling happier-a lot.

15. What song will always remind you of 2014?

Jeez, can't choose just one.

Cha-Ching ('Til We Grow Older) by Imagine Dragons
First Love Never Die by Soko
Teenage Rebellion by the Gaslight Anthem
All of the Stars by Ed Sheeran
New Tile Floor by Farewell Continental
Boom Clap by Charli XCX
Youth by Daughter
You Suck by Abigail Breslin
Blank Space by Taylor Swift

16. Compared to this time last year, you are:


Definitely, definitely, yes.





17. What do you wish you'd done more of?

Honestly? Not really sure. Yeah, pathetic.

18. What do you wish you'd done less of?


19. How will you be spending Christmas?

Already spent it. Spent it at home with my family. Visited my granddad, saw all the kids playing. Spent it at home, eating Christmas dinner and surrounded by my presents. And Facetiming with my cousins.

20. Did you fall in love in 2014?

*twists hands together, wondering* Don't know...

21. What was your favourite TV programme?

SUPERNATURAL. And Not Going Out. And Sherlock. If we're talking short series, The Missing was awesome too.

22. Do you hate anyone now that you didn't this time last year?

Hmmm. Maybe. Try not to hate anyone but...

23. What was the best book you read?

Cannot choose just one here:


And my absolute favourite:


24. What was your greatest musical discovery?

Um *takes a deep breath* Arctic Monkeys, Best Coast, the Dollyrots, the Gaslight Anthem, Candy Hearts, Tigers Jaw, Farewell Continental, Skating Polly, Venus and the Moon, Citizen, Dresses, Daughter, Joy Division, Kate Nash, Metric, Metro Station, MGMT, Passion Pit, One Republic, Natalia Kills, The Naked and Famous, Paper Mache, Switchblade Kittens, the Postal Service, Stars, Sarchasm, We Are Scientists.

25. What was your favourite film this year?

Released this year? The Fault In Our Stars, The Hunger Games: Mockingjay, The Imitation Game, Nightcrawler. Released any other years? Probably Little Miss Sunshine and Stuck In Love. Maybe Carrie and About A Boy. The Help, too.

26. What did you do on your birthday? And how old were you?

I was seventeen and I went out with my parents and then watched Carrie on my actual birthday. Then, a few days later my friends all came over, we got takeout pizza and all watched The Conjuring.

27. What one thing would have made your new year immeasurably more satisfying?

Don't know....reading 100 books?

28. How would you describe your personal fashion concept in 2014?

Er-at the start, gothic-punk-indie, but now, maybe others would describe me as that, but I just think that I look like me.

29. What kept you sane?

My friends-specially school and drama crew. My other friends too. Flossa, Bethany. Rookie. Online community. Fanfiction. Writing. My family, particularly all my cousins. Sometimes by encouraging my insanity.

30. Which celebrity/public figure did you fancy the most?

Hmm, does Castiel from Supernatural count? Yeah. Him. And Misha Collins. And I kind of have a crush on Lee Mack, to be honest..

31. What political issue stirred you the most?

Police brutality, racism, same-sex marriage, gender rights, gender equality, transgender rights.

32. Whom did you miss?

My grandma. Childhood. My cousins, when they're not there. Someone who went too soon, even if I didn't know her well. And others that I care about.

Happy New Year!

The Whole Playlist Thing: New Year's Eve Playlist


So, 2014 has been a pretty-hmm. Changing year for me? And 2015 looks to have a lot more in it for me, too. So, here's my New Year's Eve party playlist that I made for our New Year's Eve celebration:
Change of Seasons by Sweet Thing
The Past Six Years by Deaf Havana
Together We'll Ring In The New Year by Motion City Soundtrack
Use Somebody by Kings of Leon
Man On The Moon by R.E.M.
Dear God by XTC
We Will Rock You by Queen
Happy by Best Coast
Cha-Ching ('Til We Grow Older) by Imagine Dragons
Could It Be Another Change? by the Samples
Nineteen Hundred and Eighty Five by Paul McCartney and Wings
New Year's Eve by Cabb
Tomorrow by Daughter
Yellow by Coldplay
Starlight by Taylor Swift
We Didn't Start The Fire by Billy Joel
It's Time by Imagine Dragons
Wonderwall by Oasis
Hey Ya by Outkast
The New Year by Death Cab for Cutie

Tuesday, 30 December 2014

The Whole Cool Person Thing: Ned Vizzini


The day I found out Ned Vizzini had committed suicide was a day that everything had been dragged down. That's what I called the days when a depressive episode hit-a day when things were just so low that I couldn't see them ever climbing their way back up again.
I knew who Ned Vizzini was-I knew he was an author. I knew he'd written It's Kind Of A Funny Story which I had on my bookshelf but had never read. I knew he'd had depression. I didn't know much about him but from what I did know, I thought he was cool.
I found out about his death on Twitter. It was actually when I was hovering over the Twitter of one of my favourite authors, Hannah Moskowitz, that I read something she'd written that was something like "Please don't let this news about Ned Vizzini be true.." I can vividly remember frowning and typing his name into Twitter. I got a load of similar tweets along with his own Twitter account which I scrolled through. He'd last tweeted about a month beforehand, and most of his tweets made me smile or laugh a little, lifting the heaviness in my chest slightly. I kept thinking that it would turn out to be a hoax, that it would turn out Ned Vizzini was fine, and that everyone's lives would go on.
Later that evening, I went online and discovered that Ned Vizzini had committed suicide the previous evening. The tweets had now turned to expressions of grief and devastation, rather than earlier, when everyone had still been in the "Please say this isn't real..." phase.
I was shocked. I was shocked that a guy who'd seemed to have such a hilariously witty, brilliantly positive outlook on his life and others could have been struggling with something like this for so long. I was shocked that it could have happened this suddenly. But then maybe I shouldn't have been. Because that's the awful nature of mental illness. It sneaks up on you and grabs you when you're least expecting it sometimes. It's that creature in the dark that finds you just when you think you're safe.
I feel awful that I have to write that first, as if mental illness is the only thing Ned Vizzini will ever be associated with. But that's how I found out about him and I suppose, in a lot of ways, it influenced a lot of my views within everything I would go on to find out about him.
Ned Vizzini was a writer who started out writing essays for the New York Times which he eventually compiled into the book Teen Angst? Naaah!... The title alone should probably make you want to read it. He also was a YA novelist with his debut novel Be More Chill currently being something I really want to read.
But his most famous book is probably It's Kind Of A Funny Story. It's about Craig Gilner who calls a suicide hotline one night after months of depression and ends up spending five days in a psychiatric ward-except it's the adult psychiatric ward and he's fifteen. It's about that and it's about a lot more than that.
It's weird that I mentioned Hannah Moskowitz earlier because my reaction to It's Kind Of A Funny Story was pretty similar to my reaction to one of her books-the words won't wrap around the feeling the story slams into you. It's different. It's other. It's something you need, and it's something you want to keep reading, over and over.
When I read It's Kind Of A Funny Story this summer, I was low. Really, really low. We were on holiday and I should have been happy. By anyone's count, I should have been happy. Instead, each day, I kept asking question after question about the future because I was scared that if I left it even one more day, everything would collapse in on itself, a tower that couldn't be rebuilt. And when I read It's Kind Of A Funny Story, it kind of felt like meeting up with a best friend you haven't seen in years. That's what it was like, because it felt like this was something that got it.
It's always great to find something that gets it. But when you struggle with mental illness, it can be even rarer to find something that reflects exactly what you're going through right at that moment. It's one of the reasons I think Doll Hospital is so necessary. It gives you something. And so does It's Kind Of A Funny Story.
Ned Vizzini was a screenwriter, a novelist, and he was brutally honest about his battles with depression and anxiety. He hosted creative writing workshops for years which allowed young writers to get their work published on a blog, he'd often agree to do interviews with students via webcam. He was a guy who was reportedly one of the nicest, funniest people anyone could ever meet.
A few days ago, I was looking through the To Write Love On Her Arms blogs and a post about Ned Vizzini written by Ilana Jaffe. She described her reaction when she heard about his suicide:
If I'm completely honest at first, I couldn't help but feel a little abandoned. Not by Vizzini as a person; I didn't know him. It would be selfish and ridiculous of me to say and feel such a thing. But it did feel a little like the superhero had just told me the villain would win this time.-Thank You, Ned Vizzini
That's similar to how I felt. Even though it's now been a year since his death, I still feel shocked and sad when I think about how and why Ned Vizzini died. I don't wish to make it sound like his death has overshadowed his whole life for me but I suppose in a lot of ways, when someone's life ends in that way, it does affect the way you view their work. Everyone examines it, desperate to know why something like this would happen. And that's when you come to the realization that yes, sometimes the illness wins. But all we can do is try not to let it. And not blame ourselves when we fall down because humans fall down sometimes but we can get back up. As Ilana put it:
Now that I've had time to think about it, I'm reminded that, even though he impacted me so deeply, Vizzini was still, well, a human being. And even though he had taken his mental illness and turned it into powerful literature, he was not impervious to hardship. None of us are. We can address our struggles and learn to live with them, but they may not fully disappear. I don't mean this in an "Everything is always going to suck and be awful, so get used to it” kind of way. I mean it to say, rather, “What can we make out of all these broken pieces?”-Thank You, Ned Vizzini

I read his book almost a year after he died and it helped. Even though he was gone, he left something behind that would still help people, still help another kid who felt hopeless and drained and lost. Ned Vizzini helped people. He gave us bits of himself in his beautiful, brilliant, hilarious, real writing and in his candour and honesty and truth about how sometimes humans can fall apart. But then we can put ourselves back together.

Ned Vizzini



Wednesday, 24 December 2014

The Whole Christmas Eve Playlist Thing


It's Beginning To Look A Lot Like Christmas by Johnny Mathis
We Wish You A Merry Christmas
Fairytale In New York by the Pogues
Stop the Cavalry by Jona Lewie
All I Want for Christmas Is You by Mariah Carey
I Believe In Father Christmas by Greg Lake
I Wish It Could Be Christmas Every Day by Wizard
Santa Claus Is Coming To Town by the Jackson 5
Do They Know It's Christmas Time? by Band Aid
Twelve Days of Christmas
A Spaceman Came Travelling by Chris de Burgh
Away In A Manger
Silent Night
Wonderful Christmastime by Paul McCartney


Friday, 12 December 2014

The Whole Cool Character Thing: Addison Stone

It's not a spoiler to say that Addison Stone is dead-it tells you on the first page of the book. In fact, the title kind of gives it away. THE UNFINISHED LIFE OF ADDISON STONE.
Addison Stone is an eighteen-year-old artist, visionary who doesn't fit into any category. In fact, her book is made up of memories-of the people who knew her trying to understand her as they did when she was alive. But the clearest impression we can get of Addison is that she's a mystery.
Addison is sharp. Addison swings from chandeliers to get a clip uploaded to Youtube and going viral. Addison says what she thinks, to anyone. Addison hears voices no one else can hear. She seems to ghost between the past and the future. And  no one knows if that's another gift or a curse that's driving her insane.
Addison is determined. And she gets what she wants, one way or another. She'll take things. She'll steal things. She's in love with the idea of the perfect heist. And she's a genius.
But Addison is also on a knife's edge. She's spent time in psychiatric wards. She hears voices no one else can hear. She never knows quite when to stop.
When Addison's ex-boyfriend takes things too far in getting back at her, Addison burns his house down.
Addison breaks into a museum to steal her own piece of art.
Addison Stone could be the epitome of a tortured genius. But she's too happy for that. Except when the voices are there, she relishes life. Life and her own weird perception of it, even when it's a perception everyone else fails to understand.
In the first pages, Addison attends a creative writing class. Everyone has to take a turn talking about themselves. Addison simply says "I'm not here yet."
And maybe that's the thing about Addison. Maybe she isn't here yet. Or maybe she's here too early. Maybe the world wasn't ready for her but she made it be ready for her, pushed it over the edge into the fire of her paintings and the flames of her creativity. Addison does what she wants. There's no question about it.
Addison is contradiction. She buys her family endless gifts, but lives on virtually nothing. She can hate someone one moment, and fall madly in love with them the next. Addison is crazy to many people who might secretly long to be a drop more like her.
And so it stands to reason that Addison's death ends up as big  a mystery as her life. And that she may have relished it as much.
As her best friend puts it, Addison may have thought she was sailing towards "the most perfect New York death imaginable." Addison was never afraid of anything.
The book is told in a weird way, which means a good way. It's written like a biography, but it's fiction. There are photographs of Addison. There are photographs of her art. It's the kind of thing Addison Stone herself might have come up with. Adele Griffin is totally a genius.
And we don't get a load of answers to the questions about Addison's life. (We get more questions, more flame-torched questions about what leads to Addison's death.) But that's what real-life biographies are often like. We don't often get an answer. Instead, we're left with more questions.
But Addison Stone is a pioneer. Even though she only lives eighteen years, she makes her mark on the world. A confusing, different mark that makes a good deal of her world look at itself a bit differently. She's a firecracker that only burns for a little while before it blazes out.
There's a moment where someone says that Addison reminded them of the Keats quote "I need a brighter word for bright, a darker word for dark." She's someone who takes the words about the world, turns them upside down, rips sentences apart and makes her own meanings blaze. And because of that, the art she creates as a result may be truer than anything else.

Tuesday, 9 December 2014

The Whole Cool Person Thing: Lindsay Ellis

Aside from the fact the Nostalgia Chick is the coolest name ever, there are about fifty more reasons to love Lindsay Ellis. OK, I haven't counted but there probably are.
Lindsay Ellis came onto the Internet when she won Doug Walker's contest (Doug Walker being the hilarious if-you're-having-a-bad-day-you'll-die-laughing-at-his-videos Nostalgia Critic) to become the Nostalgia Chick-originally, a kind of female counterpart to the Nostalgia Critic, she quickly became an Internet personality in her own right and amassed a huge following of fans. And she's branched out from more than being just the Nostalgia Chick, with her own website ChezApocalypse and her involvement of her friends in her videos, with their own characters and even story arcs. They even wrote a parody of Fifty Shades of Gray-Fifty Shades of Green-and have written another of a YA paranormal-romance. (It's worth checking out. Just-trust me, it's worth checking out.)
But one of the reasons I love Lindsay Ellis is how down-to-earth she is. She's hilarious on Twitter (@thelindsayellis, why haven't you checked it out yet?) But more than that, she's straightforwardly honest on her website about various aspects of her life that go beyond commiserating with her fans over being the person who dislikes that one film that everyone else loves. She's talked about how she used to write Phantom of the Opera fanfiction as a teenager which is in fact how she met some of those friends she works with now. (They hung out on message boards and ended up going to NYU together.) So basically, for a lot of people, Lindsay is the embodiment of that trope of One Of Us. The fact she wrote fanfiction just makes her even better. Seriously, too cool.
She's also a feminist and isn't hesitant to call out not just other people but also herself on things. (During one of her Phantom-haunted times, she talked about how misogynistic and snobby she felt her and her friends' posts had been on some fanfiction message boards as teenagers. I mean, it was years ago, but Phantom kudos to her, because most people like to bury their Internet past in the back of their Windows 95 pages and pretend that anything bad never happened.) And she's totally fine with calling people out if they're showing ignorance or misogyny, even if that leads to a load of insults fired Twitter-style. (Twitter-style insults and Youtube comments=seeking to tear down the world, one day at a time.)
On a more serious note, Lindsay's honest about some of the aspects of her life that most people would keep hidden away behind closed doors. In 2010, she made an award-winning documentary, The A-Word, about the fact she had an abortion and what had led up to the decision. It wasn't something that screamed "Anyone who wouldn't have an abortion hates women!"-it was something that just calmly explained why an abortion was right for her in those circumstances and how even though it was emotionally difficult, she felt she'd made the right decision-and that what might be the right decision isn't always an easy one or the first solution that leaps into your head. When young girls' brains are bombarded with screaming adult voices about pro-choice, pro-life, it can help to see that the only choice you have to make is the one that feels right for you.
On another note, after the tragic suicide of Robin Williams earlier this year, Lindsay wrote an almost painfully honest post about her own struggles with depression and about how the common misconceptions of it in the media are harmful and dangerous. All the stereotypical answers are nothing compared to an illness that makes you feel as if you want to curl up and die while your heart goes on beating and your body goes on surviving a life it's not living. As a writer for Doll Hospital, an art and literature journal focusing on mental health, Lindsay's post was highly necessary and important. It pointed out what should be obvious but often isn't; everyone's experience of mental illness is different and there is not a one-size-fits-all cure.
But Lindsay never sets herself up as someone who's trying to be important or preach to anyone. She just talks, honestly and candidly, about this stuff that's happened to her. And that's what makes her so listenable. (I think I just made up a word. Coolio.) She's someone who doesn't try to be anything other than herself and that's what makes her cool. She's honest about the fact she makes mistakes and that sometimes, she gets things wrong. And she's honest about what makes her vulnerable. In a world where girls are often encouraged to hide those aspects of their personalities, it's amazing to see that and to see it demonstrated that vulnerability does not decrease someone's strength. It's OK not to be superhuman. It's OK just to be human.
On a more hilarious note, Lindsay bills herself as likely to be remembered for being the girl getting hotdogs thrown in her face from a GIF. Just in case you needed another reason to think she was coolio.
(I just wrote hotdogs as hotgods. I don't know what that says about me.)

Tuesday, 2 December 2014

The Whole Cool Song Thing: Elevator Love Letter by Stars

Someone once described this song as reminding them of a movie that hadn't been made yet, and that's one of the closest descriptions I can find to what it's like.

For me, it's like that moment where two people both get up and say goodbye at the end of a conversation, when both people have something more they want to say. Each person hesitates, with the words on the edge of their lips, knowing that the other person will listen if they say it. They might look at the other one, their eyes flickering back and forth, and wait to see if the words will rise to either of their lips. But then they both turn away, and let the conversation die in the air, and neither of them will know exactly why.

It's that moment when you want to love someone and you're scared to let yourself, or you're scared to let yourself know that you already are.

My eyes cast low
And I don't know how to love
And my hopes are low
And I don't know how to love

You want to have the courage to love someone but you already know you won't. So you tell them and yourself that you can and you will while the voices of your doubts prickle at the back of your mind.

And if she likes, I'll tell her lies
How we'll be in love by the morning
I don't think she'll know
That I'm saying goodbye

Stars are a band that write songs that seem to have beautiful, aching echoes of real life-of how sometimes things collapse in small disasters that only two people see or sometimes someone stops stretching their arm out for something that was in their reach. Elevator Love Letter seems to be that moment you want to run from the truth, whether it's something you want or something you don't. You just want to hide from it, just for a while.

My office glows all night long
It's a nuclear show and the stars are gone
Elevator, elevator, take me home

But there is something to cling onto anyway, for a time. There is something to hold onto, just for a day and hope and hope that it won't end, that this could be the first step towards something you dream of but don't dare to imagine.

Don't go, say you'll stay
Spend a lazy Sunday
I won't take anything away
Don't go, say you'll stay
Spend a lazy Sunday
I won't take anything away

You'll do anything to keep the dream going, to keep it living through the night, even when you don't know how this is going to end. I always listen to this song in the middle of the night, when nobody's awake, and all there is to do is wonder about the future and the past and the way memories sometimes seem to fall out. You don't know how things are going to work out but you cling to the idea that even as your heart beats and your mind flickers in time, it could be about to unfold into something wonderful.

My office glows all night long
It's a nuclear show and the stars are gone
Elevator, elevator, take me home