reading

Book Review: The Night Brother by Rosie Garland*

12:00 pm


* Thank you to the Borough Press for the eARC of The Night Brother for review! *

Time for a quick review!

The Night Brother is a magical tale of identity, sexuality, and choosing your own family, centering around Edie, a young girl on the cusp of womanhood in the early twentieth century. As she grows, she interacts with her mysterious sibling Gnome, a mischevious and somewhat troubled young boy, who increasingly becomes more of a difficult presence in her life. Edie is allowed to live in the daytime with her gruff mother and caring grandmother, whilst Gnome lives for the nighttime, emerging to cause trouble and pretend to be a responsible young man. As Edie grows into a woman, she banishes the influence of Gnome from her life, with unpredictable circumstances. Can you ever get rid of such a crucial part of your life that easily? The Night Brother asks that very question, and more.

To me, this book is pure Angela Carter (whose The Bloody Chamber and The Passion of New Eve you must read if you haven't already) with a smattering of Margaret Atwood, dealing with themes of sexuality and your growing identity. It's very dark in places, and playfully light in others, but in general deals with rather heavy themes. We watch Edie struggle with her growth and come to terms with who she and her family are. For me there were long periods where my interest in the story ebbed hugely, to be picked up again by some revelation, twist in the plot, or introduction of a new character dynamic. This is a book you need to be patient with, as I feel it doesn't really pick up much of a pace until the halfway point, but perhaps the beauty is in its slow burn. 

A special mention for the gorgeous artwork, designed by Romanian illustrator Aitch, who won a competition to design the cover to this magical read. You can find out more about it here.

The Night Brother was published by Borough Press on June 1st, and is available to buy in hardcover for £10.99.

writing

Divinity, Part One

12:00 pm

Image Credit: Mats-Peter Forss

So, I've lost the knack for writing a little recently, and this is as far as I got with 'Divinity' before then. I decided to post it, almost as proof I wrote something at some point in the past, but also to remind me that this story exists and needs to be finished. I want to finish it, I just know it won't be any time soon. 

Here's Part One of 'Divinity', the rough first draft, and I honestly don't think I've proofed it for about four months.

--

She raised her hand to cover her brow as she looked out across the violet landscape, a veil of pink shimmering in the sky to the tune of the chants that echoed in the valley. Leaning into her side was the shoulder of the cohort she had in tow, his hand gripping into the top of her bare foot as he tried to keep his balance. The ground was dust, glowing orange with the light reflected from the spectrum glittering above. It was getting into his joints and making things more difficult than they needed to be, but she would strike him down with a glare if he tried to get to his feet. They needed this image as their cover if they wanted to get across the desert alive. He depended on her to get through this, and she depended on him, however much she resented admitting it.


It was night-time, but you wouldn’t guess from the brightness that surrounded the woman and her motorised companion, dragging his knees down the dune-side as he clung into the straps of her haulage sack. The indigo skin covering his knuckles had started to crack and flake, revealing the intricate map of nerves and wires that lay beneath to the frozen sun above. The chants grew louder as they usually did as night moved onwards, reverberating off the dust below until the entire valley was singing. 


“How long until extraction?”. He peered up, squinting through a dust cloud to get a good look at the woman’s face. She was hard to read, a permanent grimace across her dimpled skin, not much her own fault, but that of a lifetime of bounty hunting and finding herself on the wrong side of a lot of people. Her eyes flickered down and scanned his face, sensing his tiredness.


“Too long.” She eventually responded. A sigh, not at anything in particular, certainly not at him. Just a sigh. “We can rest now.” She dropped her sack onto the floor, which he took as a sign he could finally let go of her, rubbing his knuckles with the palm of his hand. He hated to see himself fall into this state of disrepair. Really, he had never been in this bad a state, but there was little he could do about it now. Complaining to her never got him anywhere, so he silently continued to investigate the damage as she unpacked the shelter, piece by piece. She laid various joints and bolts into a circle in the dust, occasionally adjusting slightly until evenly spread. He was used to her idiosyncrasies by now, but she was taking a little too long for his liking. Eventually, with a click of her fingers and her tongue sticking out the corner of her mouth, the shelter sprang up, fully-formed and airy, ochre to match the desert floor.


“Home, sweet home.” She muttered, removing her goggles as she stepped into the glorified tent. There was a stove, so that was something, and separate beds, which was definitely something. People with bounties on their heads never made good bedfellows. She had learned that more than once. Her companion’s knees grated as he finally got to his feet, taking a tentative pace into the shelter with gritted teeth. He didn’t feel the pain, desert nerve wear the norm by now, but the sound of his damaged joints made his brain itch. A reboot sleep would sort that out, then he’d be in good enough spirits tomorrow to brush some of the dust away. 


The woman sat herself down on the bedroll with a groan, removing her desert boots and socks. Dust now littered the floor of the shelter, but she felt a lot more comfortable for it, so she didn’t really mind. She looked across to the cyborg, watching his eye twitching as he bent his knee to and fro. There was nothing she could do for him, nothing she was allowed to do anyway thanks to her own set of rules she set down firmly, many years ago. More years than she was willing to talk about. She found herself pondering on time for a moment, then shook her head, as if to disintegrate the thoughts, punishing them for ever appearing in her mind. But thoughts can’t be destroyed. They grow, especially when you’re trying to ignore them. They scratch away until they’re noticed, until they make a well in your mind that cannot be filled with anything but the thought itself. It makes itself at home.


They settled for the night without another word, the gentle whir of the companion’s mind a gentle backdrop to the chanting that still filled the desert valley, enveloping them as they slept.


The navy of the morning sky appeared slowly, the shimmering veil disappearing, only to return when the midpoint of the day had passed. The woman had slept an interrupted sleep; her companion was well-rested, his heart back to a full-bodied flutter. As she cooked a small breakfast for the two of them under the new day’s sky, the cyborg spun his ankles off their threads and began to dust away the desert residue with a small brush tucked into the inner pocket of his jacket. The whole ‘lack of having lungs’ thing meant he couldn’t just blow the dust away, plus he rather liked the meditative state this task required, grounding him in an otherwise quite stressful situation. He also didn’t have the capacity to smell, but if he did, he would know that his breakfast was in the process of being slightly burned as the woman studied closely a small set of blueprints she kept stashed in the side of her haulage sack. Fortunately for them both, she did have olfactory senses and was immediately back at the stove, quietly scraping the slightly singed protein package off of the bottom of the pan, embarrassed. Fortunately for her, she seemed to lack the ability for her cheeks to flush, so the cyborg wasn’t any wiser.


Both of them knew why they were heading to the extraction point, but neither of them wanted to discuss it. Cyborgs were being shipped off to another, less-prone-to-dying planet, to create a new colony and thrive. They were, of course, the future of humanity, or mankind, or whatever society they could be called despite their sparse remnants of human flesh. Humans were to be left here, on yet another planet they had so selfishly destroyed, whilst the bright young (shiny) things of civilisation could live on elsewhere in the universe, the push of a button away. And that was the woman’s job: the hunt down the last remaining cyborgs, the ones who refused to leave, each with their own reasons. She didn’t care about their reasons. She would ship them off, receive the bounty, and live on this planet for however long it had left, roaming the ochre deserts and dry salted sea beds solo.

interview

Interview: Laurie McAllister on Girl & Tonic, Yoga, and Living Life Alcohol-Free

12:00 pm



Laurie McAllister's blog, Girl & Tonic, is about living life without alcohol, and personal wellbeing. In her own words, 'my version of wellbeing means removing alcohol, reading lots of books, meeting friends (and dates) for tea and doing a lot of yoga. For you it could mean choosing to have a night in and a bath rather than another night out drinking, taking a 30 day meditation challenge, simply pausing to think before you reach for a glass of wine or some chocolate when you’re feeling sad or starting a writing practice first thing in the morning.' I love to read her honest words about her journey, and today you can find out a little more about her. We chatted about yoga, her writing, and looking after yourself.

Magic & Musings:
Thank you for taking the time to answer some of my questions, Laurie! First of all, for any readers who don’t know your background, tell me a little bit about yourself and where you are today.

Laurie McAllister:
I’m Laurie, a 25-year-old based in London, UK, living life alcohol free. I’m a full-time marketing geek, part time yoga teacher in training, and writer of Girl & Tonic.

Magic & Musings:
If you could describe your blog in three words, what would they be?

Laurie McAllister:
Honest. Uplifting. Life.

Magic & Musings:
When did you first get into writing generally? Was there something that drove you to write? Did you study it formally or come across it as a hobby?

Laurie McAllister:
I studied English Literature at University but that was actually a lot more reading than it was writing. I was going through a tough time two years ago and spent a lot of time writing (or journaling as some may say) my thoughts and feelings, I really enjoyed it and decided to put my words out into the world.


Magic & Musings:
When did you first get into blogging and did you have to overcome any self-confidence barriers in order to get to that place where you could share your words?

Laurie McAllister:
Yes, I had massive barriers around putting my words out into the world – and still sometimes do. I write very openly and therefore I can sometimes have vulnerability hangovers but when people reach out and say my blog has helped them on some level it is all worth it.

Magic & Musings:
On Magic & Musings I love talking about female-identifying or non-binary artists and their work. Which writers and bloggers, if any, would you say have been influences on your work? Do you have any favourites to look at when you need a spark of inspiration?

Laurie McAllister:
I’m big on inspiration and self-improvement. Some favourite writers who I look towards for motivation and reassurance that I am on the right path are Rebecca Campbell, Glennon Melton Doyle, and Marianne Williamson. Daisy Buchanan and Laura Jane Williams are two writers I really look up to too. I love their honest voices and the breadth of their writing.


Magic & Musings:
Some fantastic choices!
This is a question I like to ask purely because of the variety of answers I get! I’m really interested in 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, like a milky cup of tea or a particular album of music you listen to?

Laurie McAllister:
With a full time job and yoga teaching, my writing tends to be when I have a spare moment. In an ideal world I would have complete silence, burn a candle, and have a cup of mint tea but often it’s scrawling on the bus – thank goodness for Google Docs!

Magic & Musings:
What do you do if you find yourself stuck in a rut creatively? Are there any books on writing and creativity you would recommend to others?

Laurie McAllister:
Yes, I love The Artist's Way by Julia Cameron and would recommend it to everyone (I bet everyone recommends this book ...)

Magic & Musings:
Have you ever explored working in a medium other than blogging? Is this something you would consider in the future?

Laurie McAllister:
Yep, I work in marketing and teach yoga; combined with blogging they keep me pretty busy ... although I would love to work as a life coach or a counselor and have looked in to courses in the past (watch this space)

Magic & Musings:
How would you describe your relationship with social media?

Laurie McAllister:
I LOVE the connection that comes from social media and the real life friends I have found via Instagram, but like many of us I struggle with mindless scrolling and comparing myself to others so I try to limit my usage


Magic & Musings:
What tools do you use to keep yourself organised?

Laurie McAllister:
Google Docs, I have the app on my phone and use it on my computer so I can keep my ideas and writing all in one go. I also use Streaks – an app on my iPhone – to ensure I am keeping on track of things I want to do every day like write and meditate.

Magic & Musings:
What one thing do you wish someone told you when you were first starting out blogging?

Laurie McAllister:
What DA was! I’ve only just found out about Domain Authority & it is a work in progress to build it up.

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

Laurie McAllister:
I just finished reading Ice Cream for Breakfast by Laura Jane Williams and would buy it for everyone if I could. It really added to my thinking and has encouraged me to embrace my inner child.

Ed Sheeran, 'Castle on the Hill' – for some reason it reminds me of home and I can’t stop listening

Magic & Musings:
Ice Cream for Breakfast was absolutely fantastic. I already feel like I want to read it again.
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 on the horizon for you in the next few months?

Laurie McAllister:
Thanks for having me here :)

More to come from me in the next few months as I will qualify as a yoga teacher, finish off my training, and add more yoga and lifestyle content to the blog.

You can find me at http://girlandtonic.co.uk, and over on instagram at http://instagram.com/agirlandtonic

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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.

interview

Interview: Jo Fisher on Heartfelt Writing, Inspirational Bloggers, and Film Soundtracks

12:00 pm


Today's interview is with one of my favourite ladies online, Jo Fisher. She writes, and reviews, and shares her words with the world. She's a wonderfully kind and caring human being, and I can't wait for you to find out more about her and what she gets up to! We chatted about some of her favourite bloggers, writing to film soundtracks, and sharing your truth through your words.

Magic & Musings:
Thank you for taking the time to answer some of my questions, Jo! First of all, for any readers who don’t know your background, tell me a little bit about yourself and where you are today.

If you could describe your blog in three words, what would they be?

Jo Fisher:
That’s a tough one! I’d like to think my blog is creative, engaging, and relatable.

Magic & Musings:
I would have to agree with you on all three counts.
When did you first get into writing generally? Was there something that drove you to write? Did you study it formally or come across it as a hobby?

Jo Fisher:
Not to sound utterly stereotypical, but I’ve always loved to write. I read constantly throughout my childhood and basically grew up with my nose in book. I loved writing in class as a schoolgirl and ended up studying English at university for four years. Though in later life my writing wasn’t really that creative, I loved coming up with stories when I was little, and I’m still hugely passionate about fiction and telling stories! Now I like to write for my blog, but I try and do some creative writing too (the operative word being ‘try’!). I’ve dabbled in poetry, and have attended a few workshops. As they say, practice makes perfect.

I have always loved sharing ideas and inspiration and stories with people so I suppose it’s natural to want to put that into words - I think it’s also helpful to put thoughts down on paper, too. It’s therapy. I can’t imagine not writing.

Magic & Musings:
When did you first blogging and did you have to overcome any self-confidence barriers in order to get to that place where you could share your words?

Jo Fisher:
I was a student blogger while at university and loved reading other people’s blog posts as a break from my studies. When I graduated and started working full-time back in 2013 I started my first proper blog, She Wears Burgundy, which I kept up for two years before taking some time out for a number of reasons. After a year off, I decided I wanted a fresh start, and that’s where I am now!

It’s a huge confidence thing. I’ve found it incredibly challenging to try and get past that and I still struggle now; there are so many posts and pieces I haven’t published for fear of them being seen as over-sharing, self-indulgent, or just plain boring. I think writers all tend to be more confident on paper, though, regardless of whether it’s shared or kept private. As an introvert, it’s nice to have time to make sense of what’s going on in my head.

I think, though, if your need to write is great enough, you’ll find a way of getting your words out there, even if you do find yourself self-censoring a bit! I’m always so aware what I write is going online, so I really think about what I’m sharing. I’m still working on that so that it doesn’t stop me from saying what I want or need to.

Ultimately, sometimes, I just have to publish pieces without thinking about it too hard; otherwise I’d never share anything! I’m a huge overthinker and worrier, so that’s always a risk.

I still don’t consider my writing to be very good, but I plough on regardless in the hope that someone enjoys reading it - and if they don’t, at least I’ve enjoyed writing it!

Magic & Musings:
On Magic & Musings I love talking about female-identifying or non-binary artists and their work. Which writers and bloggers, if any, would you say have been influences on your work? Do you have any favourites to look at when you need a spark of inspiration?

Jo Fisher:
Oh gosh. My inspiration, blogger-wise, has totally changed since I first started in 2013. Now I really love people who share stories rather than constant product reviews. The more creative and heartfelt, the better. A big inspiration for me is Laura Jane Williams who has a blog but isn’t a ‘blogger’. Now she has two books out and her raw, beautiful words continue to move and astound me; I hope one day I can write something that inspires other people like she does.

I also love the poetry of Emily Harrison. She writes a lot, candidly, about her experiences with mental health, and her poetry is awfully funny and powerful. I saw her perform locally at a poetry slam a couple of years ago and just would love to write poetry with such an honest spark.

In terms of authors and other writers, I love the style of Marina Keegan (The Opposite of Loneliness is heartbreakingly stunning), David Nicholls, and Nick Hornby. Basically anything with dry wit, dark humour, and an unhappy ending. I like characters to be realistic and a bit unpleasant! I’d love to be able to make people laugh with my writing.

Otherwise, I love finding new pieces to read on Twitter, when people share their favourite reads. I wish people would do that more!


Magic & Musings:
Wonderful choices!
This is a question I like to ask purely because of the variety of answers I get! I’m really interested in 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, like a milky cup of tea or a particular album of music you listen to?

Jo Fisher:
I HAVE to be in a tidy space. If my room is a mess, I need to clean it before I can write anything at my desk. I write mostly there, with a candle burning, a cup of tea, and some film soundtracks playing, in the evening after work. One day, when I have my own place (and hopefully an office!) I’ll take great joy in decorating it myself!

My aim is to get out of that routine and try and write creatively elsewhere; I need to get into the habit of carrying a notebook with me and writing anywhere. It could do me good, I just never find the time or motivation.

Sometimes I really find a change of scenery to work wonders, so if I have a day off or a free weekend I’ll go to a local coffee shop and write there. It’s such a cliche, I know, but I love it! Nothing makes me feel more like a writer than when I’m enjoying a well-made mocha in an independent cafe, watching the world go by. There’s normally cake involved too. It’s like taking myself on a creative date!

Magic & Musings:
What do you do if you find yourself stuck in a rut creatively? Are there any books on writing and creativity you would recommend to others?

Jo Fisher:
Honestly, most of the time I just ride it out. I’ve tried forcing myself to write when I don’t feel like it, and I just get angrier and more upset, and my writing comes out all wrong and jumbled and ugly. Sometimes I won’t write anything for a week or more until I feel the physical need to get something on paper. If I want to write something, it’ll come out better. I want to get more creative with my writing though, aside from posts on my blog; I’m still working on climbing out of that rut!

I do love an inspirational book. I’m still making my way through Elizabeth Gilbert’s Big Magic; I’ve not been reading it very quickly but it’s a book I can dip in and out of and there are some lovely ideas about creativity in there. I am reading a lot of non-fiction at the moment, and I think reading some fiction soon could get me back into the creative zone. There’s only so much life advice I can take!

Otherwise, I just read work by people I want to write like. Caitlin Moran is a good example. I’m reading Moranifesto so I can explore Moran’s short, witty, powerful way of exploring current affairs and ideas in a column-sized piece.

Magic & Musings:
I absolutely love dipping in and out of Big Magic; it always gets me out of a creative rut.
Have you ever explored working in a medium other than blogging? Is this something you would consider in the future?

Jo Fisher:
If we’re talking about other ways of writing; I really want to get into poetry more. I find I can write funny, lighthearted rhymes, like the poems Michael Rosen writes, but nothing heartfelt. That’s my next goal, I think. I would love to spend more time working on that, but it’s hard when I feel I have to be blogging all the time. In my head, I’d love to take part in a poetry slam or open mic night. We’ll see, though!

If we’re not talking about writing...I used to do art at school and briefly considered choosing that as my degree. I loved working with oil paints and exploring light and dark. I haven’t really painted since I was 18 which is a real shame, and I’ve tried getting into sketching but I’m pretty bad now! I also recently got into calligraphy, and I like to make cards and prints; it’s my way of working with words in a different way.

Magic & Musings:
How would you describe your relationship with social media?

Jo Fisher:
Tempestuous! I really do have a love-hate relationship with my social media channels. I’m definitely addicted to it and am always mindlessly scrolling. I recently went on a 5-day social media ban and it was really hard, but insightful; I think I’d like to use it more mindfully, and productively. Being a sharer, however, it’s hard to find a limit and stop myself from oversharing.

I love how much it opens up opportunities and relationships. Most of what I read, online and in terms of books I buy, is influenced by what I see on Twitter or Instagram. It’s a great way to share creatively, and discover people’s stories. I love storytelling, and social media is just another way of doing that!

It’s just so hard to find a balance and I dread to think how many hours I’ve wasted on Twitter and Instagram when I could have been writing or reading. Being mindful online is something I need to train myself in.

Magic & Musings:
What one thing do you wish someone told you when you were first starting out blogging?

Jo Fisher:
Don’t write to please people. My first blog was so clogged up with what I thought people wanted to read; makeup, restaurant reviews, random posts about what I got for Christmas... I ended up getting a good following but I hated most of what I wrote, and how I ended up portraying myself online; hence starting over again. My new blog is more focused on my needs, writing what I want to write about, and hoping someone might enjoy it. It’s hard not to worry when a post gets barely any interaction but I have to remind myself that it’s not all about popularity. I don’t want to write about something I don’t feel interested or passionate about.


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

Jo Fisher:
The Muse by Jessie Burton is probably the best thing I’ve read in the last 12 months. It’s just so beautiful! I also really liked We Are Called to Rise by Laura McBride; it’s not my usual choice, but a friend loaned it to me and I tore through it! I read David Nicholl’s Us two years ago and it still plays on my mind, so I recommend that one too.

Obviously I’ll throw Laura Jane Williams’s Becoming and Emily Harrison’s I Can’t Sleep ‘Cause My Bed’s on Fire in the mix too.

I couldn’t choose a favourite film! I saw Lion and Hidden Figures in the last few months and loved both, so you have to see them. I also can’t resist Hot Fuzz - I could watch that over and over again. Anything that makes me laugh and think, I love. British films are also the best, and I’m a sucker for a cheesy romcom. I tend to steer clear of films which make me think too hard; I’m not a big fan of action films and hate horror; if I’m watching something, I want to relax and give my brain a break.

Oh gosh, where do I begin with music?! While writing I can’t listen to music with lyrics, so I plough through film soundtracks. Thomas Newman and Andre Desplat create beautiful music, as does Ludovico Einaudi (his music is my favourite). I have a real soft spot for Elbow, The Staves, Florence & the Machine, Mumford & Sons and Athlete, however; their lyrics are so poetic and heartbreaking.

If I need to feel sassy, I’ll just stick on some Sia, Amy Winehouse, or Carsie Blanton.

Magic & Musings:
Oh my goodness, Hot Fuzz is one of my all time favourites. 'No luck catching them killers, then?' I absolutely adore it.
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 on the horizon for you in the next few months?

Jo Fisher:
I’m still pretty flattered to be interviewed in the first place! I’m still finding my feet, and am always looking to learn, build and find more inspiration. So, thank you so much for asking me to chat! It means a lot and just answering these questions has left me feeling a little more motivated to write.

I’ve had a few days recently where I’ve felt more motivated and I am hoping to harness this in the next few weeks. Otherwise, I’ll still be writing and thinking and trying my best to push myself out of my comfort zone! Who knows, someone might even read what I have to say!

I just want to get to the stage where I can describe myself as a ‘writer’ without feeling like a fraud; I feel like I’m on my way already.

I’m writing over at www.jofisherwrites.com, and am always waffling on over on Twitter (@joannefisher) or posting photos of cake on Instagram (@jo_fisher_). If anyone’s reading this and has some advice or something to share with me, please come and say hello!

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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.

reading

A selection of my bookshelf residents

12:00 pm


I'm starting to think I should fork out for a graphics tablet purely to make these edits a little less embarassing.

I love looking through bookshelves of the people I know, so I thought today I would return the favour and pick out some of the books I own...

The Poetics of Space by Gaston Bachelard
Taken proudly from the withdrawn shelves at my work. I love non-fiction about architecture, space, and how these things interact with our psyche. I admit, you have to be in a certain mood for it, but it's jolly good reading.

The Wasp Factory by Iain Banks
This was one of my favourite books as a teenager, but at this point I've forgotten a lot of what's happened. I remember it being incredibly disturbing at times, with some images lingering for years...

Endgame and Waiting for Godot by Samuel Beckett
My mini Beckett collection! I read a lot of Beckett at university, and wrote my undergraduate thesis on Endgame


Hyperbole and a Half by Allie Brosh
I absolutely loved Allie's webcomic of the same name, so getting my hands on this book was inevitable, really. She creates comics on her experiences with depression, some stories funny and others not so much, but they're always honest and told in her own unique style. She also has a great dog.

The Master and Margarita by Mikhail Bulgakov
I can't believe I still haven't read this, but I think there's a time and a place for Bulgakov, and that's not right now for me. I'm looking forward to that time though, as I know this is supposed to be a superb read.

I love a fairy tale, and I know any kind of anthology collected by Angela 'Queen' Carter is going to be a winner. Plus they're probably going to be dark as hell.


Dylan on Dylan edited by Jonathan Cott
A new addition pilfered from my boyfriend's collection. This is probably one of this 'dip in, dip out' books, containing musings from my weirdo hero, Bob Dylan.

Led Zeppelin by Erik Davis
I love the 33 1/3 series of books, having just read the one on Radiohead's Ok Computer, so here's another for my collection, again taken from my boyfriend. I'm not the biggest Zeppelin fan, but I'm really interested in finding out more about how they made their music.


The Red Tent by Anita Diamant
A novel about periods and womanhood based on Dinah from the Bible. A tonne of boss ass ladies I follow on Goodreads loved it, so why not me? Also, this is my mum's copy and I've had it for an age now. Sorry mum!

Girl Trouble by Carol Dyhouse
This book is amazing. It's basically a history of the young, rebel girl and how she was portrayed to society. From flappers, to 'chavettes', this covers women in the twentieth and early twenty-first century and the impact of media on their treatment. This is such an easy read, I'd recommend it to anyone.

interview

Interview: Elizabeth Howlett on Journalism, Print vs Digital, and the Free Press

12:00 pm


I went to university with Lilly, or Elizabeth if we're being fancy. We worked together in an archive. I remember meeting her for the first time and thinking, damn, she's cool, I wish I was that cool. She's massively charismatic, has an incredible sense of humour, and works for what she wants wholeheartedly. Naturally, I decided to friend the hell out of her, and it actually happened! We went to a crappy vintage fair together, got matching friend rings, and now have a plethora of ridiculous inside jokes based on Hammer Horror and bad 1950s film magazines. She's now a journalist, which I am ridiculously proud of, and we had a little chat about how she works and what she does on the day-to-day.


Magic & Musings:

Thank you for taking the time to answer some of my questions, Lilly! First of all, for any readers who don’t know your background, tell me a little bit about yourself and what you do. 

When did you first get into journalism? Did you study it formally or come across it as a hobby? If you did study it formally, would you say this was a good or bad experience regarding allowing your creativity to flourish? 

Elizabeth Howlett:
I studied journalism as a joint with film at university because I didn't want to study media. I really hated the idea of journalism and found it intimidating. I found the politics and history of it a challenge, but once I did work experience I realised how useful it can be. I loved going out and speaking to people, and representing their story in a way that made them feel special and appreciated. 

University didn't prepare me for the real line of work. At university you are constantly given feedback and told 'well done' so you feel highly creative and on point. The industry really doesn’t praise you for doing a good job, in fact, people are quick to remind you if you make a mistake. It is good for your creativity because you can chose how you want to represent a story and control the message it sends, however it is a double-edged sword. Sometimes editors will not agree with your interpretation of your story, or the message and you will have to stifle your creative voice to fit with the publication. 

Magic & Musings:
When did you first start sharing your writing and did you have to overcome any self-confidence barriers in order to get to that place? 

Elizabeth Howlett:
I started a film blog years ago on Blogger and it really sucked. It was just me moaning about films. Once I moved onto Wordpress and started to get comments and responses to my posts it gave me heaps of confidence to continue reviewing films online. I couldn’t ever write about myself though, I would find that difficult to take when people criticized it. 

Magic & Musings:
I personally liked reading about you moaning about films!
Where do you stand on the print versus digital front? Is online journalism the way forward? Is print dead?! 

Elizabeth Howlett:
I have just left a print journalism job and am moving to one that is more online-focused. I feel that printed newspapers are definitely feeling the pinch. Advertising dominates the print industry now and it is difficult (especially in trade press) to find a feature that isn't written purely to sell adverts. Online is the new free press because it is difficult to charge, control and advertise against. I'm sure one day, Murdoch will find a way to run an empire online and ruin that free voice, but for now it's brilliant. 

Sometimes the only way to find out about atrocities in the world is online. The only bothersome thing about online news is that anyone can become a journalist overnight and inform the news. That bothers me because three years of education and fees can be wiped out by someone being in the right place at the right time, but nevertheless it is really exciting. 

Magic & Musings:
This is a question I like to ask purely because of the variety of answers I get! I’m really interested in 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, like a milky cup of tea or a particular album of music you listen to?  

Elizabeth Howlett:
Oh wow. My work routine is awful, like seriously awful. I always tell myself that I will write X amount of words after a coffee or after a cigarette. I wish I could be honest and admit that it will be after three weeks of putting it off. I like to have quiet and ambient music. I find that if I am out, or in a library, I work harder to convince the people around me that I am 'hard at work'. A Studio Ghibli soundtrack mix is the best way to get work done in my opinion. 

Magic & Musings:
The soundtrack to Spirited Away is the ultimate working music.
What do you do if you find yourself stuck in a rut creatively? 

Elizabeth Howlett:
With my blog, I find that I lack motivation to write regularly. I usually watch lots of films, and I mean like five in a day. I read other peoples work and for some mad reason I drink herbal teas and do a facemask because I feel that somehow it will help. It doesn't help. It is just that eventually my mind pushes something through the void. 

Magic & Musings:
What one thing do you wish someone told you when you were first starting out working in this field? 

Elizabeth Howlett:
It is okay to have a vagina. It is okay to be dyslexic. It is okay to be thirsty. It is not okay if you don't drive a car. It is not okay if you do not have 100wpm shorthand. It is not okay to not have experience.  
Magic & Musings:
I approve of all of these messages.
Onto a fun question! Can you recommend everyone reading a book you've enjoyed recently, as well as a film and an album or song?  

Elizabeth Howlett:
The last book that I read and really loved was The Martian. It made me laugh in uncomfortably quiet stations, like on the train. I have been listening to the Guardians of The Galaxy OST and the last film I saw that was really kick-ass was Patriot Games – oldie but a goodie. 

Magic & Musings:
Is there anything else you would like to say before we finish? How can people find out more about you and your work?  

Elizabeth Howlett:
If you for whatever reason think you might want to look at my blog, it is bloggybalboa.wordpress.com
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interview

Interview: Laila Woozeer on Tape Parade, Quizcats, and Wonderful Female Writers

12:00 pm



Laila's blog, Tape Parade, is another of those that came into my radar when I first discovered the blogging world. Her images and words pulled me in, and I found myself constantly checking her page for new posts to appear...she even had her own bookmark! All of these years on, she's still doing wonderful things: writing about politics, the environment, vegan life, and women's rights, as well as making music and performing with Quizcats. Keep reading to find out more about her writing inspirations and live band karaoke nights!

Magic & Musings:
Thank you for taking the time to answer some of my questions, Laila! First of all for any readers who don’t know your background, can you tell me a little bit about yourself and where you are today?

Laila Woozeer:
Hi! No problem, thanks for asking me! Of course. I live in London, and my background is in music, although my work today is a combination of writing, performing, organising events, and lots of other bits and pieces. I’ve been freelance for about six years and I live in North London with four boys, various dogs, a rescue snake, a gecko, and a giant snail.

Magic & Musings:
When did you first get into blogging? Was there something that drove you to write?

Laila Woozeer:
Weirdly, I actually started blogging to try and improve my photography - writing wasn’t part of the decision at all. I didn’t read many blogs, so I assumed all blogs were fashion blogs and photo-heavy. This seems so bizarre to me now as the photography is the least commented-on part of my blog!


Magic & Musings:
If you could describe your blog in three words, what would they be?

Laila Woozeer:
Varied, honest…. erm…. possibly low-key?! Content-wise I’d say green, travel and life.

Magic & Musings:
Did you have to overcome any self-confidence barriers in order to get to that place where you could share your words?

Laila Woozeer:
No, not at all. I’ve been writing since I was very young, and I have a lot of confidence in myself as a writer.


Magic & Musings:
On Magic & Musings I love talking about female-identifying or non-binary artists and their work. Which writers and bloggers, if any, would you say have been influences on your work? Do you have any favourites to look at when you need a spark of inspiration?

Laila Woozeer:
With writing, I find I can only take inspiration from other art forms, or else I end up either in a comparison spiral or just blatantly copying and sort of blandly regurgitating somebody else’s style. I find that sort of mentality is particularly prevalent in the blog world where a certain type of post will become a trend, and then 9/10 versions are written in the exact same tone. It can be hard not to get caught up in that, especially given the eternal race for views and whatever!

I read a lot and I do think the more you read, the better you write. My favourite writers include Zadie Smith, Melissa Nathan, Angela Carter, Donna Tartt, Tove Jansson, Toni Morrison, Karen Joy Fowler, Maya Angelou, Wendy Cope, Doris Lessing. All the usual suspects! Off the top of my head, UK bloggers that I feel have a very distinct tone would be Vix Meldrew and Jennie from Sailboat, both of whom I love.


Magic & Musings:
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, like a milky cup of tea or a particular playlist you listen to?

Laila Woozeer:
Not really - it’s more just mindset for me. Although tea is welcome at all times!

Magic & Musings:
Moving on a little, tell me about Quizcats! What is it and how did it come about?

Laila Woozeer:
Quizcats are a band who perform live band karaoke nights, crossed with a pub quiz. There’s normally a theme, such as animated films, 90s, or musicals. It started in 2014 - the first concert was really slapdash compared to how tight we are now, but people seemed to really enjoy it! It’s just grown from there really - we perform occasional public nights as well as for private events. It’s really fun, and the group of musicians we have are all mates, so I love being able to have the opportunity to work with them. I started it as I saw a gap in the market for that kind of event.


Magic & Musings:
What do you do if you find yourself stuck in a rut creatively? Are there any books on writing and creativity you would recommend to others?

Laila Woozeer:
For me, it’s more of a mindset issue - the ideas are constant and the 'stuck in a rut' bit is more a motivational block rather than a creative one. I’d recommend reading essay collections; authors commenting on other authors is a great way to help you analyse writing. Similarly, writers in conversation with other writers is always fascinating.

Magic & Musings:
How would you describe your relationship with social media?

Laila Woozeer:
Twitter is great. I love how multi-faceted it is and how simple it is to connect. Pinterest I’ve started to use more and I find it helpful for planning trips or collecting photography inspiration. Everything else I basically avoid! I absolutely detest Facebook, I just do not see the point of it at all. I’ve given up with Instagram and just accepted I will never be the person with 100k followers on a trip to the Bahamas. I’d rather sacrifice my chances of being a 'mainstream' blogger than have to spend 45 minutes constructing a flatlay and ordering my feed each week. I tried that, and I so resented using my time that way. I admire people that use Instagram; I think it’s great that it’s inspired people to be more creative, but at the same time… I’m happy to leave it for them.

Magic & Musings:
What one thing do you wish someone told you when you were first starting out blogging?

Laila Woozeer:
Promote your posts! Mine were just lingering around in cyberspace for about three years.

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

Laila Woozeer:
I just finished re-reading The Passion Of New Eve by Angela Carter, which is a very progressive book considering it came out in the seventies. Angela Carter in general is a writer everybody needs to engage with at least once; she’s incomparable. Music-wise I’ve been listening to Solange’s 2009 release lately; I love charting the progression of an artist - it's inspiring!

Magic & Musings:
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 on the horizon for you in the next few months?

Laila Woozeer:
I’m on Twitter and Facebook as @tapeparade for blog stuff, or Facebook page Laila Woozeer for everything else. You can also follow Quizcats on social media, or at www.quizcats.com where we have a mailing list! I’ve also just launched my first ever professional website. Thank you so much!

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interview

Interview: Lizz Lunney on Comic Art, Female Art Influences, and Exploring Different Media

12:00 pm


Lizz Lunney is a comic artist, joke writer, and illustrator living in Berlin, and I can't wait for you to fall in love with her hilarious cartoons. I adore her sense of humour, probably because it mirrors so well to mine, and looking at her work is a surefire way to cheer me up when I'm feeling down. Today we chat about her artistic past, her long list of female influences, and the huge variety of mediums she works in and would love to work in in the future.

Magic & Musings:
Thank you for taking the time to answer some of my questions, Lizz! Would you like to introduce yourself and what you do?

Lizz Lunney:
Hello! Sure! I’m Lizz Lunney, I’m a comic artist, joke writer, and illustrator, I also make big plush versions of my characters for exhibitions and I work in the animation industry. I’m from the UK originally and now live in Berlin where I work in a small studio filled with my creations.

Magic & Musings:
If you could describe your illustration style in three words, what would they be?

Lizz Lunney:
Funny, weird, and colourful.


Magic & Musings:
When did you first get into illustration? Was it something that was important to you in your childhood?

Lizz Lunney:
My grandfather and mother were both artists, oil painters mainly, but my Mom also had her own business designing and making fancy dress costumes. It was partly their influences as well as my Dad’s love of the Beano and comedy which sent me in this direction. I have been drawing from as young as I could hold a crayon; it was definitely important in my childhood and is still the main thing getting me out of bed each day!

Magic & Musings:
Have you received any formal art or illustration training?

Lizz Lunney:
Yes, I studied animation at university and before that I did an art foundation course. Since then I have done courses in comedy writing too.


Magic & Musings:
When did you first start sharing your illustrations online and did you have to overcome any self-confidence barriers in order to get to that place?

Lizz Lunney:
My first website was made in 2005 but I had a blog earlier so I guess I was sharing work online since me and my brother first got dial-up internet at home, whenever that was! 1997 maybe? I don’t remember having any worries about sharing my work online but the internet was a bit different then. Maybe if I was starting now I’d be more concerned about having a brand image or being put off by the mass of illustration that already exists online. I would say every artist has self-confidence barriers they have to overcome but I try to ignore that voice in my head otherwise I’d never share anything.

Magic & Musings:
On Magic & Musings I love talking about female-identifying and non-binary artists and their work. Which female 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?

Lizz Lunney:
When I reflect on it I realise my early influences were mostly men, but now I have a lot of female influences and the list grows as I get older. I take inspiration from women in all sorts of creative areas, these are the names that come to mind currently based on the pile of books by my bedside: Carrie Fisher, Tove Jansson, Françoise Mouly, Nadja Spiegelman, Jeanette Winterson, Nora Ephron, Phoebe Gloeckner, Frida Kahlo, Caitlin and Caroline Moran, Jane Hissey, Yoko Ono, Emma Watson, Norah Vincent.


Magic & Musings:
What are your favourite tools you use to create your art? Are there any books on creativity and/or working for yourself you would recommend to others?

Lizz Lunney:
Usually just a Muji 0.5 fineliner pen and my sketchbook! I also love to paint big on walls or windows and create 3D characters from fabric. For book recommendations just anything by the women I mentioned previously!

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

Lizz Lunney:
It’s always weird looking back at previous work. Sometimes old drawings make me laugh and sometimes they make me cry because I hate them so much. I enjoyed writing my Street Dawgz comics and I still like some of my 4 panel gag comics, a lot of them are on my comic website http://www.lizzlizz.com but I’m not sure I could pick one in particular...


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?

Lizz Lunney:
I always need green tea to make a start and I like to watch documentaries or listen to podcasts while I draw. My favourite podcast is Mortified where people read out their childhood diaries on stage. When I’m writing I work best in a cafe or on a train going somewhere but mostly I’m at my desk drawing so I just need to get myself in the right frame of mind to concentrate.

Magic & Musings:
Have you ever explored working in another medium?

Lizz Lunney:
Yes, I’ve tried lots of ways of working: sewing, painting, drawing, drawn animation, stop motion, pottery, embroidery, making toys from resin. Recently I’ve been working with paper construction to make a cut out Theme Park and earlier this year I did an exhibition piece in Virtual Reality using Tilt Shift. I’m interested in making 3D versions of my 2D world in any way I can. I’d like to try wood carving next.


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

Lizz Lunney:
I try not to beat myself up about it. You can’t force it, trying to stay healthy and exercising as well as taking breaks can help when it feels impossible. Swimming and yoga breaks help me to feel more creative.

Magic & Musings:
What one thing do you wish someone told you when you were first starting out working in this field?

Lizz Lunney:
Save up a lot of money before you start so you have something to fall back on when it’s tough!


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

Lizz Lunney:
Book: I’m Supposed To Protect You From All This by Nadja Spiegelman.

Film: Only Yesterday.

Song: 'Hey Bulldog' by the Beatles.

Magic & Musings:
Is there anything else you would like to say before we finish? How can people find out more about you and your work?

Lizz Lunney:
On Twitter and Instagram I’m @lizzlizz. I have a Fun Club that people can join at https://www.patreon.com/lizzlizz where they will get access to secret work and competitions as well as being able to get a membership pack or a collectible postcard sent in the post each month! I have a mailing list too which you can sign up for here http://eepurl.com/cMCDun :-)


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interview

Interview: Yoona Hong on Photography, Being True to Yourself, and Fantastical Images

12:00 pm


Today's interview is with the outrageously talented photographer, Yoona Hong. Her dreamy images invoke feelings of femininity, sensuality, and softness. She loves animals, plants, the outdoors, and all things cosy. Today we have a quick chat about her photographic history, how to put yourself in your work, and the creative forces that drive her to create.

Magic & Musings:
Thank you for taking the time to answer some of my questions, Yoona! First of all, for any readers who don’t know your background, will you tell me a little bit about yourself and where you are today?

Yoona Hong:
Thank you for having me! I’m a 26-year-old Korean-American immigrant currently living in New Jersey. I have incurably restless feet, (I recently got back from Jordan), get emotional over succulents, almost always want to be barefoot, and put offensive amounts of butter on everything. Some of my favorite animals are rats, whales, sloths, pangolin, and dogs. But really, if it’s not a mosquito, gnat, or silverfish, I probably love it. I’m pursuing a career in international human rights, and am also a photographer, yoga instructor, and equestrian.

Magic & Musings:
If you could describe your photography in three words, what would they be?

Yoona Hong:
Emotive, sensual, fantastical.

Magic & Musings:
When did you first get into photography? Is this something you’ve been formally trained in?

Yoona Hong:
I can’t really remember 'getting into' photography, and I haven’t been trained. Even when all I had was a Polaroid camera or point-and-shoot, I was that annoying person constantly taking pictures. As I started traveling more I purchased my first DSLR and did a lot of travel photography. It was only last year that I began seriously doing portraits.


Magic & Musings:
Did you have to overcome any self-confidence barriers in order to get to that place where you could share your photographs?

Yoona Hong:
That’s an interesting question. I don’t think I did. For me, photography is an outlet and means of expression, but I don’t let it influence my sense of worth or confidence. I’ve also never put pressure on myself to make it my profession in case it lost its charm that way.

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

Yoona Hong:
You’re asking me to pick my favorite child? That’s so hard because I share a bit of myself with every shoot and concept. But I will say there is a different, special experience that comes with photographing my friends and family. Then my job isn’t so much to imagine and create as it is to capture and share something precious to me. With those types of shoots, I don’t care if it’s not perfect or revolutionary. I’ve said that if all I take are imperfect shots of people I love laughing, I’ll consider myself a success.


Magic & Musings:
On Magic & Musings I love talking about female-identifying or non-binary artists and their work. Which photographers, if any, would you say have been influences on your work? Do you have any favourites to look at when you need a spark of inspiration?

Yoona Hong:
Oh, I have so many! A few of my favorite creative forces are Mira Nedyalkova, Anka Zhuravleva, and Elizaveta Porodina (that’s a mouthful). Mira does otherworldly underwater work that blows my mind. Anka’s ability to create a character through a single image is immense, and Elizaveta is incredible. Her imagination and execution are so unique and I’m always left shaking my head and asking “How??” In terms of how they influence me, I would say I’m inspired more by their world-building and commitment to their vision than by specific images or techniques.

Magic & Musings:
This is a question I like to ask purely because of the variety of answers I get! I’m really interested in 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, like a milky cup of tea or a particular album of music you listen to?

Yoona Hong:
There isn’t anything I absolutely need to be productive, but I do prefer to be somewhere where I can move around and be shoeless. It’s always nice to have music that matches the mood of the images I’m editing at the time. Bonus points if there’s tea and an animal I can pet nearby.


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

Yoona Hong:
My inspiration comes from so many places that I haven’t often had to make a pointed effort to motivate myself. I often work by channeling how something like a quote, song, or place makes me feel into an image. So if I feel creatively depleted I just read some books, watch a movie, or watch the travel channel.

Magic & Musings:
What are some things you like to do in your spare time when you’re not working?

Yoona Hong:
You can find me doing yoga, gardening, riding a horse, reading, playing board games and watching movies with my friends, or petting animals. It’s also not unlikely that I’m getting on plane to another country.


Magic & Musings:
What tools do you use to keep yourself organised?

Yoona Hong:
I always have multiple things going on, and I can’t keep myself together without my planner and to-do lists. I like having physical lists and planners and the act of writing things out and checking off tasks is so satisfying.

Magic & Musings:
Have you ever explored working in a medium other than photography? Is this something you would consider in the future?

Yoona Hong:
I’m open to pretty much anything! I attended a Creative Arts Middle and High School for poetry and fiction writing. Writing was my first love when it comes to creative mediums, and I still write. I also play the piano occasionally. I possess no grace myself, but I love to watch dance.


Magic & Musings:
What one thing do you wish someone told you when you were first starting out as a photographer?

Yoona Hong:
Value and be true to your work even if it disappoints others, but also be open to critique and growth. And pretty please, do not forget to backup your lightroom catalogue.

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

Yoona Hong:
I read A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman and Teaching My Mother How to Give Birth by Warsan Shire while in Jordan. I also love The Raven Cycle series, which I saw you enjoyed too! I haven’t seen any films yet this year that I loved, but my favorite movie is Mononoke Hime by Hayao Miyazaki. It is lush and poignant with the most moving visuals and soundtrack. And I may or may not have watched Mad Max: Fury Road multiple times in theater.


Magic & Musings:
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 on the horizon for you in the next few months?

Yoona Hong:
A lot of changes are coming my way! I’ll be pursuing my master’s degree in Human Rights at Columbia University this coming fall, and I sense an exciting evolution in terms of my style and the direction I’ll be taking my photography. If anyone is interested in seeing more of my work or contacting me, they can find me at www.yoonahong.com or on Instagram as yoonakorn. I’m always happy to talk about pet rats or traveling.

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