reading

Book Review: Ice Cream for Breakfast by Laura Jane Williams*

12:00 pm


* Thank you, thank you, thank you to Hodder and Stoughton for sending me a copy of Laura's new book. All opinions are my own and, come on, was I ever going to not love this? *

PRAISE THE GRECIAN GODS ABOVE, LAURA HAS A NEW BOOK AND I CAN HOLD IT IN MY TINY HANDS.

Laura, Laura, Laura. You know, Laura? If you don't, you should.

If you've been reading my blog since June last year, you'll know how much I loved Laura's book Becoming (review here!). Now, this book is incredibly different from her previous publication, but still boasts her wonderfully compelling, friendly, and strong voice. As you'll probably pick up reading through this post, I bloody love reading Laura's writing. There's something about it that just works for me. It's easy but complex, and not like anything I could attempt to write. She makes me want to try harder.

After releasing Becoming, Laura admits that she fell into a place where she could no longer write. She was anxious and depressed, no longer feeling the high of reaching her dream of getting a book published. So she became a nanny, earning some money and taking some time out. Ice Cream for Breakfast is a collection of life lessons she believes we should all follow that she learned during this time looking after three lovely little girls. Each chapter outlines one thing she learned from the girls, one event that caused her to realise a truth about life, and gives you ideas on how to implement that lesson yourself into your everyday existence. Some of these truths are ridiculously fun, some are a lot more serious. Allow yourself to be angry and then let it pass, speak the truth even when you think you shouldn't, laugh like you mean it, dream ridiculously big, forgive, adventure, improvise, love endlessly... Our bullshit adult problems are just that. Bullshit. Where did we learn that it's all got to be so bloody serious?

Much like Becoming, I sped through this at breakneck speed and now feel a little sad that, once again, I have ingested all of Laura's catalogue of writing. I'm always on her blog, reading through her updates, relishing in her voice and the tales she has to tell. She's pretty much one of my literary idols at this point. I fortunately now have the absolute joy of having a place booked on one of Laura's writing workshops. I've heard a lot about them, and they seem to draw in such a wonderful, inspiring selection of women. New friends, new ideas, new confidence! Stay tuned.

Ice Cream for Breakfast will be released by Hodder & Stoughton on April 20th. You can read more about Laura's reasons for writing it in her initial blog post announcing the book, as she'll do a better job than me! I really urge you to pick this up if you're facing any sort of life uncertainty, or feel like you've stopped having fun.

interview

Interview: Sarah Fisher on Paper Cafe, Typography, and Impostor Syndrome

10:00 am


This week I'm interviewing the lovely Sarah Fisher of Paper Cafe, a graphic designer and illustrator from Southsea in Portsmouth. She's been an absolute treasure to get to know and I'll certainly be following everything in store for her in her inevitably exciting future! We chatted about creative inspirations, getting ideas from the world around you, and her favourite projects she's worked on. Grab a cuppa, and meet Sarah with me!


Magic & Musings:
Thank you for taking the time to answer some of my questions, Sarah! Would you like to introduce yourself and what you do? When did you first get into graphic design and illustration? Is this something you've been formally trained in?

Sarah Fisher:
Hello! I'm Sarah, I'm a freelance graphic designer and illustrator and I live and work in Southsea. I've always been an 'arty' person and some of my earliest memories are of painting flowers and patterns on a little easel in our kitchen when I was growing up. I studied Graphic Communication & Typography  at the University of Reading and fell in love with the way that type and images can be used to communicate ideas and to solve problems.

Magic & Musings:
When did you first start selling your designs online and did you find yourself overcoming any hurdles regarding your confidence?

Sarah Fisher:
After graduating from university I worked for a design agency for a couple of years before going freelance in 2015. As part of that I decided to open an Etsy shop called Paper Cafe to sell cards, prints, and wedding invitations. Before opening the shop, I had no idea if anyone would like my stuff, let alone buy it! As designers we are very susceptible to impostor syndrome and it's very easy to feel like we don't belong or that people won't like what we're producing, but I've learnt that there is a place for everyone in the creative world and that although it'll take hard work and determination, it is possible to find your niche.

Magic & Musings:
That's a very nice work ethos to have. Which female-identifying and non-binary artists, if any, would you say have been influences on your work? Do you have any favourites to look to when you need some inspiration or motivation?

Sarah Fisher:
One of my favourite current artists is Jessica Hische - she describes herself as a lettering artist and her typography is exquisite. Another of my favourite female typographers is Martina Flor whose technical precision and care always inspires me to push my own work to the next level.


Magic & Musings:
Of all of your designs, which are you the happiest with and why?

Sarah Fisher:
Two book projects spring to mind that I'm really happy with, the first is a 140-page book that I designed and typeset for a church in Reading. I loved the project because it gave me the opportunity to turn a long and complex piece of text into something fun and engaging to read, and the various constraints of the project forced me to think outside the box and come up with creative solutions. The other project that I absolutely loved working on was for Quadrille Publishing, where I had the chance to illustrate two colouring books for Cath Kidston. The amount of detail in the drawings was a bit mind-boggling at times but it's made me a much more confident illustrator.


Magic & Musings:
Both of those projects look absolutely stunning; I'm particularly in love with those colouring books! Now, I'm interested in knowing how people work and get things done. Do you have a particular place you work or find yourself the most productive? Are there a particular set of things that need to be in place for things to get done? A specific hot drink? A relaxing album?

Sarah Fisher:
I usually work from home in our space room-turned-studio. I'm definitely a morning person so I try and get all my designing done before lunch, usually while listening to a 'focus' playlist on Spotify. In the afternoons, I often head down to a local coffee shop (Southsea has lots!) for a change of scenery and to get through some admin.

Magic & Musings:
What do you do if you find yourself stuck in a rut creatively?


Sarah Fisher:
One of my favourite things to do if I've got creative block or am not feeling particularly motivated is to go outside (preferably down to the beach!) and just have a wander around. I'll almost certainly come back feeling inspired by the colours of the sea, some details on a plant, ghost signs on a building, or typography on a shop front.


Magic & Musings:
How wonderful to be so close to the sea! So, what are your favourite tools you use to create your designs? Are there any books on creativity and/or working for yourself you would recommend to others?


Sarah Fisher:
I'm a big fan of Adobe Creative Suite and use InDesign, Photoshop, and Illustrator every day. I also have a Wacom tablet which has been something of a lifesaver and I couldn't live without my Canon DSLR. I'm currently reading This Year Will Be Different by Monika Kanokova which I am thoroughly enjoying. It's a very practical guide for anyone wanting to start their business featuring lots of inspiring stories from entrepreneurial women. Next on my list is How to Style Your Brand by Fiona Humberstone.


Magic & Musings:
You've said to me that you're really interested in typography. What about typography captures your attention? Is there something in particular about the subject you'd like to talk about?


Sarah Fisher:
Whether or not we realise it, typography is all around us, all the time! I'm continually fascinated by the power of letters to communicate. My favourite part of my job is when I get to design typography in a way that solves people's problems - whether that's by making your book easy to read, or helping your poster convey information effectively, or designing your logo in a way that reflects your business.

Magic & Musings:
I have a rather burgeoning collection of books about typography so I'm definitely with you there. What one thing do you wish someone told you when you were first starting out working in design?


Sarah Fisher:
I wish someone told me that inspiration often comes from the most unlikely of sources. It's easy to scroll through Instagram or Pinterest looking for inspiration, and while they have their value, often my most unique and exciting designs have come from other inspiration that I've spotted while out and about.


Magic & Musings:
Time for a fun question! Can you recommend everyone reading a book you've enjoyed recently, as well as a film and an album or song?


Sarah Fisher:
I do love a good book. Lately I've been getting into John Grisham books - perfect bedtime reading and worlds apart from the creative scene! For a film, if you haven't seen Lion yet, then you really should. It's SO good. An album I'd recommend would be The Social Network soundtrack - a bit of an odd choice I know, but always gets my brain in gear and I like to work away pretending that I'm Mark Zuckerberg making the next big thing ;)


Magic & Musings:
I absolutely adore that soundtrack; I completely understand your interest in it! So, thank you for answering my questions, Sarah. Is there anything else you would like to say before we finish? How can people find out more about you and your work?


Sarah Fisher:
Thank you so much for having me! :) You can see more of my work over on my blog at papercafe.co.uk where you'll find lots of creative DIYs, project and design work, photography adventures, and lots more. I'm also on Instagram, Twitter, and have an Etsy shop

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Enjoying this series? Want to keep it going? Consider supporting me on Patreon for lots more exciting things in the future. Find out more here.

personal

The art of asking for money (I got a Patreon)

8:36 am

Image Credit: @flenjoore
'From what I've seen, it isn't so much the act of asking that paralyzes us--it's what lies beneath: the fear of being vulnerable, the fear of rejection, the fear of looking needy or weak. The fear of being seen as a burdensome member of the community instead of a productive one.' - Amanda Palmer.

In The Art of Asking, Amanda Palmer write about how crucial it is to ask people for things. About how it makes us in turn vulnerable and strong, but it's what we need to do it we want to progress and create and grow as a person.

I set up a Patreon account at the weekend. For those of you who don't know what it is, it's a service 'creators' can sign up to and ask people to become patrons, who pay the creator money either every time they release something new, or monthly. Rewards and perks and goals are set up in order to see the creator's progress, and for them to give something back to their patrons above the work they create. I've set up some rewards, some a little silly and others to do with my writing.

So I'm asking you to look at my Patreon account. If you like what I do, or want me to do more of what I promised I'm going to do (that short story collection isn't going to write itself), then you could sign up to give $1 on a monthly basis. Or don't, it's your call. But the option is there. I know we don't all have money to burn, but I figured this was the first step towards that whole 'becoming a paid writer' thing. Depending on yourself and the support of those around you.

You can find my page here. $10 a month will get you a copy of my ebook when that eventually happens. For $25 a month you could even be in it.

I asked, like Amanda told me to. Now it's time to not feel weird about it. Usual content will resume on Wednesday!

interview

Interview: Hayley Jordan on Palace Lungs, Funky Basslines, and Björk

10:00 am


Today I'm interviewing the superbly wonderful Hayley Jordan, aka one of my loveliest, kindest friends who I've had the pleasure of knowing since school. She's pretty much a badass and she spoke to me about her musical venture, Palace Lungs. I really hope you enjoy what Hayley has to say, are motivated by her messages, and check out her music at the end!


Magic & Musings:
Thank you for taking the time to answer some of my questions, Hayley! Would you like to introduce yourself and what you do? When did you first get into making music? Is this something you've been formally trained in, or a hobby that turned into a business?

Hayley Jordan:
No problem, I'm happy to help! My name is Hayley Jordan, I'm a trans woman, and I make music. I'm currently song-writing and producing music under the alias Palace Lungs, as well as studying Music, Technology, and Innovation at De Montfort University in Leicester. Around the age of 12-3, I started to teach myself the guitar, and this is what sparked my interest in making music, which would eventually lead to learning how to create music on my computer. For a long time it was just a hobby. I would make music with friends, or just learn new ways of writing music. I was always told or given the impression that making music was not a job, and so I never perceived it as one. During my time in college studying Music Technology, one of my assignments was to release an album or an EP on the college record label. I took this opportunity as a chance to release my own music, and it paid off really well as I'm still making music under the same alias!

Magic & Musings:
That really does sound like it was a good opportunity for you! Did you find yourself having to overcome any hurdles when it came to initially sharing your music with the world?

Hayley Jordan:
I doubted myself a lot to begin with. I wasn't musically trained at a young age, and I was always comparing my music and feeling like it was never good enough. I still feel the same way not, but instead of seeing it as a disadvantage, I'm trying to flip it and use it as determination to get better.

Magic & Musings:
I think that's the best way of dealing with those feelings when it comes to creative work. Which female creatives, if any, would you say have inspired your work the most? Do you have anyone you look to when you need some inspiration or motivation?

Hayley Jordan:
Nora En Pure was a huge influence towards my music early on, more specifically her track 'Come With Me'. I loved the way she incorporated piano and strings alongside a funky bassline and a butt-grooving drum beat. Her songs always had a positive feeling about them; they inspired me to recreate this feeling within my own music. In my recent album, Paradise, you can definitely hear Nora En Pure as a source of inspiration. Grimes is another musician who has been quite an influence on me. She's very in control of her artistic intention and her music is really unique and refreshing to listen to.


Magic & Musings:
I'm interested in knowing how people work and get things done. Do you have a particular place you work or find yourself the most productive? Are there a particular set of things that need to be in place for things to get done? A specific hot drink? A relaxing album?

Hayley Jordan:
A coffee is always a must! I also try to do a bit of brainstorming before I jump into something, just a list of ideas about what I should try. I tend to forget about things when I'm working spontaneously so writing stuff down helps quite a bit.
 
Magic & Musings: 
Of all of your music, which pieces are you happiest with, and why?

Hayley Jordan:
It would either be 'Wonder' featuring Evie Kerr, or 'Paradise'. I was really proud of 'Wonder' when I made it and when I got to hear Evie's vocals alongside it, I got goosebumps. I couldn't quite believe that I had made something that sounded as well as it did. I still get quite impressed by it when I listen back. When writing 'Paradise' I felt rather depressed and hopeless; I feel like it represents that perfectly. I also taught myself how to use a vocal emulation program (Vocaloid), because I wanted the song to feature vocals but I couldn't find a vocalist in time.


Magic & Musings:
'Paradise' is probably one of my favourites too. It's got such a good chilled out summer vibe! Next question: what do you do if you find yourself stuck in a rut creatively?

Hayley Jordan:
Either by taking a break, or by trying to improve on what's holding me back. Quite recently I've been working on my song writing and I've been really struggling with it. In order to help myself out I looked for articles and videos on the subject; I came across a TEDx talk with Rachel Claudio that was about translating feeling into sound, and suddenly I'm back on track.

Magic & Musings:
I love it when you suddenly find that magical piece of inspiration that gets you back in the zone! What one thing do you wish someone told you when you were first starting out working in music?

Hayley Jordan:
It's okay if somebody else's song sounds better than yours. Try to learn why it does and then find a way of implementing it into your own song.

Magic & Musings:
Can you recommend everyone reading a book you've enjoyed recently, as well as a film and an album or song?

Hayley Jordan:
Icons of Pop Music: Björk by Nicola Dibben is a wonderful book that gives insight into Björk's uniqueness. I watched The Ides of March a couple of weeks ago, and I've not been able to get it out of my head. Voyager by Fleece is an album I came across recently. It's a beautiful album that has something nostalgic about it.


Magic & Musings:
I adore Björk, so I'll be sure to check that book out. Is there anything else you would like to say before we finish? How can people find out more about you and your work? What's in store for Palace Lungs in the future?

Hayley Jordan:
I've been super busy with university work recently but I had a 4-track EP coming out sometime in May. I'm also looking to develop a live set-up for the future; I've been wanting to do it for a while now. All of my music is available on Youtube, Soundcloud, or Bandcamp.

You can follow Hayley's journey as Palace Lungs on Facebook here, or on her website here.