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Fundraising update. September 6, 2015

Posted by phoenixaeon in The Principessa Files.
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SHE DID IT! Princi raised the £350 (and some) for the Little Princess Trust. Thank you to all who donated.


A charitable pixie in the making. June 26, 2015

Posted by phoenixaeon in The Principessa Files.
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I am a very proud Mum. I am very proud because Princi did something amazing this week.

Yesterday, before school, Princi looked like this:

Before the great shearing.

Before the great shearing.

and when she returned from her amazingly long day (she had had a taster day at our nearest secondary school, and had then completed an extra hour of tutoring at school) she looked like this:

After the great shearing.

After the great shearing.

The reason for this massive change was that she wanted to do something nice for another child – she wanted to donate her hair to help make a wig for a child who has lost their hair through cancer or another illness. We looked up the Little Princess Trust to find out how we could do this, and this afternoon after school she will be posting her hair to the charity. We also made a small monetary contribution (Princi even donated her pocket money for this week), and The Base Hair Company asked us to donate their fee and tip as well. But that wasn’t enough. She wanted to try to raise enough money to help produce a wig too. So we have set up a JustGiving page to try and raise the £350 needed to produce a wig. It would be, as Princi says, AWESOME if anyone reading this could spare a couple of quid for a good cause.

And that is (one of the reasons) why I am a proud Mum.

The writing post that was titled “It’s the ‘tearing my hair’ out post.” October 18, 2014

Posted by phoenixaeon in MA, Try my tiger fist on for style you dirty writer's block, writing.
Princi says, "Take that, writer's block!"

Princi says, “Take that, writer’s block!”

Earlier this week I tapped out a post whilst in the throes of writerly frustration. I never got around to posting it. I was up the wall with writer’s block, bouncing my head like a basketball off the floor. I was at the end of my rope. Here is what it said:

Why? Just why? Why did I sign up for the creative writing. Because my creativity was eaten by the cat and my writing is worse than my doctor’s. Argh!


Okay. Well. I won’t lie, I have (kind of) enjoyed the writing module so far. I’ve had some good critical feedback on the little exercises I’ve had to do, but the ability to spin any of the pieces out into something bigger is eluding me right now. I think I’ve got a solid start for one story, the only problem now is working out where it’s going to go. I am unbreakably chained to self-doubt and it’s strangling the words. And for another confession – I am seriously thinking of quitting. And I hate quitting. The whole situation has me stressed to the eyeballs, and when you add into the equation that I need to have something ready for peer review in two weeks, well… *cue retching and tears*


Why can’t I break out of this funk? My syncopation is out and my words have no rhythm. My writing is a dead beat. Hmph. Off to pen dancing classes, with some laptop tip-tapping classes for added value.


I decided it was time I took a step back. The two short stories that I was pinballing between were just not working – or wouldn’t work in the time frame I had available. One needs a whole truckload of planning and logistical structuring, the other one needs work on the voice (I think the lyrical tone is going to end up too cloying at the moment, but I like the idea of it. Still playing around with the option of breaking with the POV and switching to another character, but we’ll see). I ended up ditching both – for now.


I opened my book at a fresh blank page one night just before bed. It was probably Tuesday night. I started scribbling words that were nagging at the back of my head; words that had started to spill from one of the first writing exercises I randomly chose before the writing course began. They were like little evil Ashs – you know the ones from Army of Darkness who escape from the broken mirror – and they were jabbing me with pointy things. They were demanding to be heard. I only jotted about 150 words that night, but it was a beginning. The basic idea grew as I continued and I had no idea where I was going to end up. It was a complete seat-of-my-pants write, something that’s not ever really happened to me before. And today, I ended up with a first draft. Yay!


I’m not sure Princi was too chuffed because I asked her if she would read it. I needed a child’s reaction to the story. Of course, I was ‘making’ her read something. She wasn’t pleased – especially considering that one of the stories I’d ditched was something she wanted me to continue with. But she moaningly read it and said that she enjoyed it. I’m hoping she wasn’t just saying that to spare my feelings. But she did leave me with one critical positive from her reading: I asked her what age she thought the character telling the story was. She said, “Ten.” I took a deep breath and thanked the blue-haired fairy! That was the age I was aiming for with the character.


I am chuffed beyond belief to have a full story written (however open the ending might be!). I haven’t been able to break from my writer’s block for years – I think the last time I wrote a full story was 2009. I am hoping this trend will continue and that I can tippy-tap something longer than 3,000 words in the not to distant future. And that’s not including the fast approaching dissertation, although there’s still a year before I get going with that. So, with that happy relief, I shall get back to the studying – I still haven’t written this week’s writing exercise!

Freewrite, not Freebird. September 10, 2014

Posted by phoenixaeon in Children's Literature, MA, Mindless rambling that you could do without!, Tempus fujit stupidus, Time to recruit the word beavers, writing.
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I am trying. I swear I am. I am really trying to hoof my Muse into action. And freewrites suck. So bad.


At the moment, I am reluctantly engaged in working out my flow problems. You see, my writing ability is about as able as my walking ability. Which is to say, not so able. My writing appears to imitate the few jittery jolting steps I am able to take during the day. Stop. Start. Stop. Start. Concentrate to place a foot/word in the right place so I don’t fall over. Make sure the hips/sentences are stable enough not to need some sort of edit to stay upright. It’s not fun. And it is all the wrong headspace, especially when all of the writing manuals keep telling me to go out for a walk. I bloody can’t go out for a walk! And going for a roll (because obviously I can’t stroll) takes so much planning and dependence on other people that it’s just not worth the hassle. The logistics of writing are against me from the get go.


So here I am. Computer on lap – because I don’t have a desk – static and locked up. Maybe I should use that as a starting point for a story, and maybe I will at some point, but right now I need to work through my inability to write through the inner critic. I need to impale the bugger on a lance of lexical confusion to shut it up for 15 minutes of quiet writing time. Sometimes, writing an essay with all the analytical jargon is that much easier for the WTF-is-she-going-on-about that it can create in the mind. I used to read essay stuff out to my Mum and she’d stare at me with glassy eyes and her mouth would be set somewhere between a smile and an Elvis Presley impersonation, and I knew I’d hit the technical mumbo jumbo just right. But writing fiction? It only creates chaos in my head thanks to my feelings of creative inadequacy. Hmph!


And now I will apologise to anyone reading this. Sorry for flumping my inner critical vomit into your eyespace and invading your brain with wah wah wah. Yes. I hear you. I’ll bugger off and just get on with it and stop moaning. Yes. I know I can’t write if I’m not actually writing. No. I can’t promise I won’t wah wah wah all over my blog about bouncing off the rubber walls of I-can’t-write again. And yes. I am off to try and break the inner critic’s camel-like back with a house made of words, with a lovely musical interlude.


Why is it… August 19, 2014

Posted by phoenixaeon in If I could sit down and just write I might get somewhere, lists, MA, Procrastinating, reading, writing.
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…that the closer the writing module gets, the less inclined I am to write?


I’ve been pondering tapping out a blog post for the last couple of weeks, but every time I open up the textbox I think why would anyone want to read my mind-junk? It’s the same with my stories. I think what story have I got to tell and why would anyone be in the slightest bit interested in reading it? As you can see, the evil curs known as Procrastination and the Inner Critic have dropped by for an outstayed-your-welcome-already holiday. Fabulous. That’s not to say I haven’t been writing. I just haven’t been writing a lot. I’ve jotted down some ideas, but as of yet I have not had the drive to expand upon them. Procrastination has taken me by the hand and convinced me that I need to be watching this show or playing this game, so while I have the mental inspiration, I do not have the physical expiration… I am holding my breath rather than holding a pen. It’s not so good seeing as air is not a particularly functional writing implement.


Despite not writing (much), I have been reading. A lot. Well, a lot for me. I’m not an incredibly fast reader, and considering that I can count on one hand the number of books I’ve read over the past two summers, then I’m doing pretty well this year. In the list I put up previously, I have read through:

  • Tinder by Sally Gardner
  • One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel García Márquez – 6% through on the Kindle. Beginning to suspect this is a book that needs to be read as a book and not by e-reader.
  • Wonder by R. J. Palacio
  • Tanglewreck by Jeanette Winterson
  • A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness – next on the ‘to read’ list.
  • Varjak Paw and The Outlaw Varjak Paw by SF Said.
  • A whole bunch of creative writing books that will be used for the module. I have made a start, but snail’s pace about covers it.

So while I’m not through this list, I have read other stuff:

  • Rooftoppers by Katherine Rundell – a lovely story about friendship and family and the rooftops of Paris.
  • The Bone Dragon by Alexia Casale – another story about family, but through the opposing dichotomies of destructive vs. nurture and biological vs. adoptive.
  • Glaze by Kim Curran – an interesting near-future story about the perils of social networks.
  • Geek Girl by Holly Smale – a modern take on the Ugly Duckling.
  • The Julian Chapter by R. J. Palacio – the bully’s viewpoint (a side ‘chapter’ for Wonder).
  • Marx for Beginners by Ruis – a Ronseal title. Tells you all you need to know.
  • Write Your Novel from the Middle by James Scott Bell – Ronseal again. But an interesting take on writing guides.
  • The Bunker Diary by Kevin Brooks – Bleaky McBleakerson. No hope, no glory. Would suit a soundtrack by Leonard Cohen.
  • The Fault in Our Stars by John Green – Bleaky McPretentiouspants (my opinion only). But if I was a teenager, I’d probably love it.
  • The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane by Kate DiCamillo – A fabulous little tale of a toy rabbit’s journey to find his original owner (but also himself).

and I am currently reading:

  • The Problems with Dostoevsky’s Poetics by Mikhail Bakhtin
  • The Intruders by Michael Marshall (not a book that should be read in the same room as a child who talks in her sleep…)
  • Radiant Girl by Andrea White
  • The Writer’s Guide to Crafting Stories for Children by Nancy Lamb

So I’ve impressed myself by getting out of my can’t-read-for-toffee funk. And I have a whole new list of books I need to read in preparation for next month and the start of the writing module. I think my head might just fall off – which could be a result of holding my breath for too long!

Muted happiness. June 20, 2014

Posted by phoenixaeon in Children's Literature, Creativity, MA, Principessa's story, writing.
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The mintball train is chuffing again, but it’s not chuffing at full speed. It’s been about ten days now since the results were returned for the MA… While I’m happy that I passed with a grade good enough to merit a merit, I’m definitely kicking myself for not taking the time to read through the origins and development essay and simply write it better. I had the time so it’s all my own stupid fault, but I was so frazzled by the time I’d finished both essays that I only gave it a cursory glance over. Stupid, stupid me. Oh, the tortoise would be laughing his socks off at this stupid hare. Hmph.


Anyway. I passed! Yay! So I get to continue with the course. Good fun… Except I’m now crawling deep inside my impenetrable shell in anxious anticipation of the creative writing module. Argh! The evil cur known as the inner critic has already returned while the muse has definitely gone on a bender in the fantastical realms of the unreachable (therefore making them unwritable). Thankfully, I have the summer to massage the stress from my creativity – so out have come all of the creative writing books, writing prompts, and other ‘kickstart your brain into wondrous leaps of imagination’ paraphernalia. I must, I must, I must improve my… muse. One thing, though. I have company on this writing jaunt – Princi has also jumped onto the creative writing wagon and has joined her writing club at school. I am hoping that I can encourage her to continue with it once school breaks for summer. And I am also hoping she manages to retain her innate sense of irony (I will explain this to her one day), as she has already made me laugh with her most recent short story:

Once there was a small, little Veedramon. He was strong but not very special. He went on a short walk but thought “Why am I not special?” After he thought that, he went home and watched TV.



I know she won’t understand what she has done here, but it made me giggle somewhat when I read it this morning. I hope she can learn how to use this purposefully in her writing as she gets older.


So I’m worried about the writing. But I am looking forward to the second half of the next academic year as that’s when I’ll be studying picture books. I love, love, loved the picture book block of the OU children’s lit course, so to delve deeper here will be a joy *fingers crossed*. I can’t wait to dissect picture book codes again, to re-investigate endpapers, to draw meanings from different fonts and their associations to the images in the texts. I am planning to get completely lost in the module and try to absorb as much as I can. And I want to redeem my essay writing and rectify the embarrassment I felt when reading the feedback for these latest essays. And on that note, I’m off to give my muse a workout by doing another writing exercise.

Cheekiness is monkey-shaped. May 25, 2014

Posted by phoenixaeon in Conversations with Principessa, Parenting.
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Sunday. The day of inevitable argument. The day of taekwondo training and the excuses to be excused (not last Sunday, when we went to see Godzilla – a good but meh film all at the same time). Sigh.


So it hits about 11.30am. I tell Princi she needs to get ready, to make sure her hands and feet are clean, to find a t-shirt to be pressed and to get her trackie bottoms on. The first ‘But why?’ is disdainfully moaned as she peels herself away from the laptop and another episode of Mr. Bean. And so it starts.


She finally cleans up, finds a t-shirt, and disgruntledly climbs into her trousers, then runs into the kitchen to snaffle some biscuits. While she’s out there she bumps into Grandand and I can hear the mutterings of not-wanting-to-go-to-TKD. She comes back in with her biscuits and the tantalising taste of a hopefully winning argument on her lips.


Mummy, I don’t think I should go to takewondo today, because we could use the money for food and water.


Got to give her points here, this is a new argument. Not the regular “butIdon’twanna” that she usually throws at me. I give her the ‘are you really going with that as an excuse’ look.


Well, if we need the money for food and water, maybe we should call off the trip to town to see Francesca Simon on Wednesday? After all, that is going to cost much more than today’s training session.


Yeah, not getting to see her favourite author as my bargaining chip was a low blow, but parenting.  Princi gives me the angry stinkface, knowing that she’s not getting out of TKD,


P: But why would you say that?

M: I am using your argument against you, to show you how it isn’t going to work. If you want to save money by not going to taekwondo, then you need to be prepared to save money by not doing things you really want to do, too.

P: How would you like it if I did that to you next time we have an argument?


And normal programming is resumed: if Princi can’t win she has to dish out threats. But, if she could use my argument against me, well, I’d be pretty impressed. As it stands, Princi went to TKD and we are going to see Francesca Simon on Wednesday. Whether Princi gets a new book at the book signing is another question. We just might need that money for food and water…





Year One. May 15, 2014

Posted by phoenixaeon in Essay written, MA, reading.
Laser Loops.

Laser Loops.

[Apology for absence] Oops, sorry. Six months since I last posted. I am a blog neglecter. Please accept my apology in the form of little Loops with laser-beam eyes. [/Apology for absence]


As of yesterday, the first year of my MA came to an end. Holy cramola, that was hard work! I think I need to invest in rubber walls for next year, as my head bounced from one theoretical perspective to another with only the vaguest understanding of what was going on! Saying that, I was so glad to have at least have done the linguistics course with the OU, as that really helped at the beginning of the year. My critic crush on Bakhtin also came in useful, so I have decided that I will take the time to thoroughly read more Bakhtin stuff over the summer. And I will also get to grips with Marxism too.


These last few weeks have been taken up with the two big end of year essays – and I don’t quite know how I managed to write them. The first essay looked at the construction of identity in Almond and McKean’s Mouse Bird Snake Wolf (yes, I have taken my Dave McKean obsession into the MA too!) through the theoretical perspectives of carnivalesque and mythic archetypes. The second essay looked at death and morality and their combined effects on femininity and female values in Little Women, Seven Little Australians, and Peter Pan. I shocked myself with my choice of texts here because I hate Little Women and I’m not overly keen on Peter Pan, either. But Jo, Beth, Wendy, and Tinkerbell make for good essay fodder. I am hoping it’s good essay fodder, as now I have the month-long wait before the results come back. If I happened to be a nail biter, then I’d probably say something like, “I’ll probably not have any nails left by results day.” As it is, I’ll most likely just have a frazzled brain and a fractured mind instead!


So now Year One is done with, and as long as I pass, it’s now time to prepare for Year Two. That means a module of creative writing and a module of picture books. I am both looking forward to and feeling angsty about this. Looking forward to the picture books because I can easily lose myself in interpretations of the artwork; angsty about the creative writing because it’s so subjective and because my brain is on holiday from all things creative at the moment. I am trying to kickstart the muse with some Wreck This Journal-ing and maybe attempting to make a cuddly penguin for Princi out of some of her old clothes. I’m secretly hoping for some crazy spam comments – they sometimes lead to some fun creative play too (really wish I’d have kept the one about snow beasts and winter festivities, that might have given me something to run with!). *Fingers crossed* it nudges some life into my creative spark. If not, I will have to hope the summer reading list helps (of which this is just a little taster):

  • Tinder by Sally Gardner
  • One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel García Márquez
  • Wonder by R. J. Palacio
  • Tanglewreck by Jeanette Winterson
  • A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness
  • Varjak Paw and The Outlaw Varjak Paw by SF Said.
  • A whole bunch of creative writing books that will be used for the module.

And that is that. I will try to blog a little more regularly. And I’ll try to make it more interesting too.



Learning to fly. November 17, 2013

Posted by phoenixaeon in Crazy baby, Flying Principessa, MA, Neil Gaiman, The Principessa Files.
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Yep. It’s been a while since I last posted, but I have been sinking under theories hidden in the depths of the fairytale forest. That being said, I’m finding that some of these wolfish critics are maybe a little too attractive, turning me into Little Red and stripping my perceptions and inviting me into bed… Only for me to discover what big concepts they have as they devour my simplistic views on what I thought I knew. Ho hum!

Anyway, I’ve taken a step away from the books today to help Princi learn to fly. She asked me if I thought she could after watching the Neil Gaiman-penned short film that’s circulating around the nininet (thanks for that one, Sleepy Hollow!) at the moment. So we’ve been playing about with carefully timed jumps and clicks that give the impression that she is flying.IMG_4715

As you can see, the timing and framing of some of the shots




didn’t quite cut the mustard…

So we persevered. And then the magic started happening. I know the framing of the last one isn’t *quite* there, but it gives some sense of movement past the camera, as if she’s just zoomed into the room and past me. And it also allowed Princi, for a little moment, to find her invisible wings.




So now I have a happy, flying Principessa. All I need now is to have a happy, not-flapping-around-like-a-fish-in-a-chip-bag me when it comes to getting my head around all of these theories. As long as I have only a few botched frames before the magic clicks, I’ll be chuffed. I do hope it happens soon, as the first piece of written work is due in at the beginning of January. Yikes! *Fingers crossed* that I, like Princi, will fly.

It’s the obligatory graduation post! October 6, 2013

Posted by phoenixaeon in Degrees, Graduation, OU, Uncategorized.

So graduation day finally rolled around on Friday after a stressful couple of days preparation – making sure we all had smart clothes to wear, making sure everything was printed out that I’d need on the day, sorting out the train tickets, calling the train station to arrange for the ramp/assistance to get on the train, and generally just having panic attacks about public transport. After all, it was my first trip on a train since being in the wheelchair, and I wasn’t looking forward to it. Having said that, I’d do a train journey again. The people at both stations were fabulous, which made my fears about travelling disappear.

Arriving at Bridgewater Hall was so exciting! There were people milling around in their gowns, their proud friends and families strutting like peacocks behind them (Kirst and me graduationor looking like they were going to get up to some mischief). Getting into the hall, we careened through the tide of graduates towards the gowning area. Collecting my gown, I was ushered through to a lady who helped with robing and bobby-pinning the hood to the gown – and my hair! Youch! Mummy and Niamhie graduationBut my little Princi Munchkin was very proud of me, once I was all ceremonially-garbed up. Feeling more and more like a graduate, I realised that I had forgotten to book in at the registration tables. I must’ve pulled the crazy ‘aaaarrrrgggghhh’ face in my desperation to locate the tables, but thankfully I quickly spied where they were and navigated Dad, my designated driver, towards them. Good job too, because it was here I received my seating tickets, introduction card and complimentary drinks tickets.

Then I arrived at the most important part of the day – finally meeting my friend Ali squared graduation 1Nexie, my online study buddy and crazy conversationalist partner for the last five years. I think I nearly ruined my make-up, I got so teary-eyed! I have to say, going across the stage for the degree conferment was amazing, but meeting Nex made my day. Distance learning can be so isolating, so it made it that much more special to have someone there who had shared the experience with you. We both understood how much we had put into our studies, the outside struggles and stresses we had endured throughout the time we were studying, and the good times, devastations, and late-night panic sessions around TMA and results time. I just wish I had been able to see her cross the stage for her presentation, but I was waiting backstage after taking a roller-coaster tour of the building after my own presentation (all the wheelchair accessible ramps are backstage). I did clap as loud I as could, though!

All in all, graduation day was brilliant! I am glad that Nex and my cousin K spent hours talking me into going, and that I was able to share the day with both of them. I was also glad that Princi’s school allowed her the afternoon off school so she could be with me too – despite her antics ruining a lot of photos, as she held leaves or rabbit-ear fingers above my head! crown of leaves graduationleaf face graduation But the biggest, serendipitous giggle happened during the outdoor photographs at the end of the ceremony with the arrival of this van. It was just perfect after being awarded with a First-class Honours degree (please excuse the badly cropped together image!): Smart Alex