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Prince Charming- is perfect just a little boring?

After seeing the latest reincarnation of Cinderella last week (very pretty, not so much with any interesting backstory added, which was what I was hoping for) it’s made me wonder: Why must we beautify our princes?

This isn’t a post about masculinity or any of that crap, it’s literally the fact that a very handsome, and very (usually) talented actor Richard Madden (The One True King of the North) was stripped of any rough edges or…dare I say it…personality. We often have a whinge about the feminist issues surrounding princesses and fairytales, and when I work with kids I think it’s my responsibility to make sure the main character is something more than just beautiful. She’s kind, or she’s clever, or she’s determined. But why aren’t we doing this for our princes?

Teeth whitened, eyes brightened...personality dulled.
Teeth whitened, eyes brightened…personality dulled.
Here, rugged and not perfect but certainly more interesting.
Here, rugged and not perfect but certainly more interesting.

Charming (Or Kit, as he’s actually given a name) exists as the answer to Cinders’ problems. Sure, he’s got a little drama going on with his dad wanting him to marry a princess instead of a commoner, but really, we all know the old dude’s gonna cave in, in the face of True Wuv.

I know it’s a fairytale, and that the love story is really just the icing on the cake, and I know I was probably not the main audience for this (considering the alarming number of Disney store toys that this movie has created) BUT where is the drama? Even in Enchanted, a delightful cinderella-esque story, the Prince started out as a little bit of a smug ass who had no idea what his kingdom was really like. And we liked him for that because he GREW and CHANGED as a person by the end.

Maybe it’s because Prince Charming doesn’t interest me. Don’t get me wrong, Richard Madden interests me A LOT. But where was he in this? They shaved and shined, and whitened and brightened so much that it was like a living doll version of a human. No flaws, no details, no strangeness.

My current leading lady in my WIP is someone who studied English Literature and then fairytales. She knows they’re false, that they’re stories to teach and amuse, but it’s changed the way she looks at love. No, she doesn’t want the fairytale necessarily, but everything else in the real world looks a lot less dramatic. A lot more plodding. But flaws make us who we are!

This is a lesson I’ve got to take into my own writing, as often my female leads are in a time of transition, and their male counterparts have already had their issues and now (mostly) have their shit together. Is that fair? No, but you try writing two neurosis-filled characters into a love story. You’d spend most of the time with them being awkward and apologising at each other. So I hereby declare, I’m going to allow my leading men to be dicks sometimes. Because that’s real life. And we still love people when they’re idiots.

Let’s try appreciating some flaws, Hollywood. Because that’s where all the interesting stuff is.

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Writing for Wellbeing Workshop- this April!

 This workshop will use fun techniques to improve confidence, self esteem, and help us access our memories and stories! You don’t have to be a writer, you just have to be open to it!

 

When: Saturday 26th April – 10am-4pm

Where: The Amber Lounge, Underhill Stadium, Barnet, EN5 2DN

Cost: £65 – includes all handouts and writing tools, plus tea/coffee, snacks and a delicious lunch!

Where can I book? 

Right here!

As we like to keep this very intimate, we have very limited places, so please book early. If we don’t have space this time, please email and we’ll book you on the next!

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Writing For Wellbeing: Fragments of ‘Us’

Writing For Wellbeing: Fragments of ‘Us’

 

 

As many of you know, I’m currently setting up workshops in Writing for Wellbeing, as I continue training in my MsC in Creative Writing for Therapeutic Purposes. 

The Arts have always been accepted as having healing properties, it’s why art therapists and music therapists are so widely accepted in hospitals, hospices, rehab facilities, and why the arts are at the forefront of the health and wellbeing industry. But where have the writers been in this? 

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Writers are very often complicated people with complex lives and emotions, and putting things down on the page, whether as autobiography or as fiction, is a release from that. How about journals? As children and teenagers, diaries were encouraged as a way to share the thoughts that we weren’t comfortable or capable of expressing to the adults in our lives. Why is that any different now? Sometimes, we just need a space to address and accept the parts of our lives we’re not sure about, without judgement or comment. Writing is the simplest way to open a direct line with your subconscious, open up your feelings, and validate how you feel.

 

We all have stories of value, we all have moments that make us who we are. My style of workshops (and my style of writing) is influenced by ideas of fragmentation. We all exist in a series of moments, a childhood memory, a dream, a description of your mother’s kitchen, – our lives and our selves are made up of snapshots. They’re not necessarily in order, and you might not be the same person you were in those moments- but they’re still a part of you. 

Connecting to your stories through a fragmented writing process can bring a sense of calm, confidence, and a greater sense of self. It also allows us to be more empathetic with our ‘selves’. To look back and say ‘yes, I see why he/she made that decision, fair enough.’ To get some distance, some perspective, and look inwards with kindness.

Our lives are brilliant interweaving tapestries, complex and sustained narratives that are still growing and changing every day. Writing for Wellbeing, and working with fragments, can work a lot like therapy, helping us to break down the chunks, but to also take a step back and look at the bigger picture of who we are. 

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Sounds like a lot? It’s also fun! It’s brilliant to unearth those beautiful memories you thought you’d lost, to make up stories that make you laugh, to adequately and comfortably handle those stories that you never think about. 

If you’re interested in what Writing for Wellbeing can do for you, leave me a message here, and stay tuned for the workshop in April 2014, based in Barnet.

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Paying for Validation: Buying Success.

 

In my post on The Thriving Creative website, I wrote that publication cannot give you validation. That’s not entirely true. What I meant, is that there is a delicate balance between self-belief and the respect of others. To have a publisher wave their magical publishing wand over you is only to tell you two things: they like what you wrote or they think you can make money. Usually, both.

I know writers who spend all their time worrying about whether or not other people like their work. These are usually in the beginning of their career, before being shot down or attacked in writing workshops beats it out of you. Some go the other way, and become so defensive of their masterpiece that they don’t think they need feedback. They know their story, and your opinion (if negative) is void. If it’s positive it just reinforces that they know better.

This is not the writer’s fault- they have responded to the pressure of their work, and unless you can find a balance, it’s hard not to become a dickhead. The problem is that validation becomes both impossible and necessary. ‘I’ve got a book deal’ can be waved in the face of anyone who ever criticised. But a book deal hardly defines quality anymore. It just defines whether something might have a chance of selling.

So what happens to that validation when we can just buy it? If we can afford to self-publish, surely we need no-one’s validation but our own. And yet, that is why self-publishing is still looked down on. If you didn’t think your work was good, you wouldn’t put it out there. If it’s affordable to ‘make’ yourself an author, then why not? Do self-published authors feel they are missing a vital element, do they feel looked down upon in literary society? Or is it the only way for them to ensure a pure vision and retain control?

I am currently working in a studio/gallery where we are considering how we put on exhibitions. Until now, artists have come to us, requested an exhibition, rented the space and done it. But is that how real galleries are run? If you are an artist, hoping to be picked for an exhibition, hoping for that validation of a confirmation, how can you get that by forking over money and just doing it yourself?

I suppose what I’m asking is ‘How do we know we’re any good, if we can buy that belief?’ Does ‘good’ always rely on other people? Or is ‘good’ more about marketing, branding, audience, timing?

To sell your validation (as a printer or a gallery space) is a dangerous thing. People enjoy throwing your name around as if you christened them a genius, and yet, all you’ve done is let them pay to have their own one-horn parade, really. So are you helping or hurting?

I haven’t got any answers here, I’m just assuming that a shortlist exists for a reason, and that rejection makes character, and that something earned instead of bought, will reap more rewards. What do you think?

 

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MookyChick Flash Fiction Runner-Up. YEAH BOIYZ!

Yes, I used the word ‘boiyz’. Which, firstly, is not a word, and secondly is meant to be ironic, seeing as the MookyChick Flash Fiction competition was feminist.

I feel like sometimes I should explain Feminism (why thank you, A-Level politics, I remember this module). But you can clearly Google it. As long as you don’t automatically think that Feminism means we hate men, we don’t wear bras, we don’t shave our legs and we automatically believe that anyone with a penis is stupid. These are not feminists. Well, maybe the old-school ‘burn your bra’ femmies did have a point, and I’m sure that high heels are instruments of mass-torture. Also, shaving your legs is just a pain.

The point, dear hearts, is that the modern day feminist is an egalitarian (equality! Woo!) who happens to be interested in female issues. Because, most of the time, we are female.

So, there endeth the lesson. You should check out MookyChick’s site here, because it’s super-fun, and pretty much encompasses all the stuff I love, like writing stuff, and making stuff, and how to protect your house from ninjas. Yep. Oh, and this is my piece.

This is their Mission Statement, which is awesome:

Mission Statement

Mookychick believes that climbing trees and riding giant turtles is more fun and girly than worrying about make-up. But if you want to worry about make-up instead of turtles? Fine by us. Be you feminist, witch, vegan, horror junky, intellectual, Xtian, corset queen, geek, unicorn, sea monkey… be you into alternative style, comics or jock culture… we will always love you.

I’ll also point out that this was the first actual money I earned by writing. So I’m going to go right ahead (or ‘write ahead’- chortle!Gah Hah!) and start calling myself an actual Writer now. Sure, ‘Barista by Trade, Writer by Nature’ has always been my kind of summary, but let’s face the facts. It’s not always about the money. So far, from writing I have gained various free festival tickets, cinema showings, the chance to debate climate change at The Eden Project, and a private gig in my back garden. Not too shabby.

This is me. Making a face. With a cheque.

But somehow, money feels like a ‘real’ achievement. Because that, in this capitalist age, is how we define  success. (I’m not complaining, I have some money! Real money! That I didn’t make through serving coffee, but by putting words on a page. Sheesh!) So even if I don’t make any more Writer Money for a while, I shall know, that I once came runner-up in a competition, and won £25 for writing less than 300 words. And that, apparently, they were good words. Like, with a point, and everything.

So there’s my little explanation on how it feels to make money for the first time as a writer. And that I’m calling myself that now. A professional writer. Oh yes. And it feels good, my friends, it feels good.

I’ll also be uploading a new short story called Numbers. It’s about the outcome of giving a rather nice guy a fake number. Intrigued? Sure you are! You can hover over the Fiction tab to find it.

Oh, and you can jump on over to Pop Culture Playpen to see my article on Rihanna, and how she’s a bit unnecessarily sexy (in keeping with the feminist theme). Maybe next week I’ll do one on how Adam Levine is the boy-whore version, you know, just to be an egalitarian. (See, aren’t you glad you were listening?)