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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.


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.

And we’re off – in a strange dream time machine… August 29, 2013

Posted by phoenixaeon in Children's Literature, Dreams, MA.
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booksI have finally started the reading for the MA – well, when I say finally, I have been doing dribs and drabs for the past couple of weeks, reading books like Eva by Peter Dickinson (very interesting, and though not a Carnegie winner, it made me think about similar themes in recent winners by Neil Gaiman and Siobhan Dowd) and The Mouse and his Child by Russell Hoban. However, over the last couple of days I’ve cracked open the theory books. In particular, that one just up there, Beginning Theory. This has meant that I have re-entered the crash zone for theories such as human liberalism (needs a re-read) and structuralism (which I’m surprised at how much I’ve already covered and sort of understand). It has also resulted in my brain trying to find a way to sift through this information and therefore providing me with some very strange dreams… *Scooby Doo wavy cut screen*

I was house-hunting with my family when we stumbled across this new ‘community’ housing project, where the houses were all built one on top of the other, like some strange house of cards deal (or like this). We find one on the very top level that seems perfect, so we buy it there and then. Now, in this house there’s this strange storeroom that has windows on all four sides, something that made me dream-think ‘That’s a bit crap, security-wise.’ Anyway, there’s four bedrooms on the upper level – something else that I thought was impractical, as I wouldn’t be able to get the wheelchair up there (despite the fact that I was happily walking around this house!) – and the bedroom that I would have has this super-skinny doorway that even Princi would have struggled to get through. I finally squeeze through into a bedroom which is strangely huge but tiny at the same time. It’s all fully furnished, but I’m saying to my Dad that it’d be no good for us, because the wheelchair would never fit through the doorway, and besides, there’s a weird camber to the room making it completely wonky. Then I see this blue wardrobe, which suddenly falls over. I realise it’s not a wardrobe, but a life-size TARDIS. It’s also not made of wood, but from ceramic, as it cracks across the top when it hits the opposite wall. I get flashes of Sylvester McCoy’s Doctor when I touch it, then notice this props label stuck beneath the Police Public Call Box sign. It has a name (which I can’t remember) and the number 1701-I next to it. This makes me geekle (cross between geek and giggle) because of the obvious Star Trek connection and making me wonder since when did the TARDIS become the I incarnation of the Enterprise, but I’m still thinking that even with the TARDIS, we couldn’t really live there – and I couldn’t even sneak it out because of the stupid skinny doorway, and I hadn’t noticed a window…

And that was that. So brain, thank you for your weirdness in incorporating the Structuralist paradigmatic chain of space ships and time-travelling boxes into my dreams. And thank you for making me dream about houses after learning about paradigmatic chains through the word hut, and placing the dream-me into a strange structural and architectural nightmare! And thank you for giving me something to think about all day today, therefore making me not study at all!

That’s the way, aha aha, I like it! July 26, 2013

Posted by phoenixaeon in Children's Literature, Degrees, E301, ECA, Holy heck my head's exploding!, hospital, OU.


Yay! I did it! I got the first-class honours! I am so chuffed, the mintball train is positively chugging out the mintballs.

So the results for E301 came in. I was dreading this day, because it meant my OU experience was all but over (I still have my graduation ceremony to come). But I felt no dread staring at the nice red letters declaring I had a pass 2 for E301. It was only relief and jubilation.

How in the world did I manage 90% on the EMA?

How in the world did I manage 90% on the EMA?

Firstly, relief I had passed the EMA (the OES score). Then jubilation that I had somehow written something that was worth 90%. How in hell? Unbelievable! Thirdly, what was the point in applying the substitution when no matter what way you looked at it  – without substitution 79.35%, with substitution 79.45%, rounded down for the actual OCAS 79% – it wasn’t going to affect my result. I don’t know. Pointless maths at its most pointless. But whatever – I HAD PASSED! Joy of joys.

And that was just the topping on the cake of joy, which I had gratefully been chomping since yesterday. The first slice of joy appeared in the form of an email. This email contained my holy grail: a conditional offer of acceptance into the Children’s Literature MA at Roehampton University. *Snoopy dance* Now I have the first-class honours, this is a done deal. Can you see that super bright beam of light? No, it’s not a light sabre, that’s me in my happy. Yay! However, my happy also contains elements of gut-wrenching fear after seeing the reading lists for the modules. Yikes! Here’s hoping I can actually do this. I am so worried I am going to botch it all up.

The second slice of joy came at a hospital appointment. I had gone to meet with a surgeon about an operation to remove my gall bladder. Over the last few years I have been suffering with crippling, painful gallstone attacks. But thanks to Niamhie forcing our Lent promise, I have managed to change my diet quite drastically, meaning I haven’t had an attack since April. Once I had told the surgeon this he proposed that if I continued for the next couple of months without another attack then the operation could be deferred. Yay! I was petrified of this operation, as the meeting with the anaesthetist raised fears of being on a ventilator for the rest of my life due to the affects the muscle relaxant would have in combination with the muscular dystrophy. Now the possibility of not needing the operation is there, it’s made me more determined to keep up with the improved diet and not fall back into bad eating habits. Woohoo!

So there is my happy slice of cakey life as of today. I was aiming for 2:1 degree, but I think I overshot a little *squeeee*. Here, have some mintballs!

It’s World Book Day today, and oh! What a day! But the fights you will have about what to dress up as today… March 7, 2013

Posted by phoenixaeon in Children's Literature, Costumes, Creativity, Parenting, Pirate Penguin, The Principessa Files, World Book Day.
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And so the Hell that is the World Book Day dressing up party rained down…

The letter came home on Monday.

Your child can come into school dressed up as their favourite character from a book.

I dread these words every year. What is she going to choose this year? Please make it simple. But no. Gone are the days where she wanted to dress up as Lola from Charlie and Lola. She flat out refused to go in as Solstice from The Raven Mysteries. “How about Edgar the Raven instead?” But she’d done that one already and lost the beak from last year’s costume. Matilda was mentioned, but quickly binned. No. There was only one clear winner. Only one character that would cut the mustard.

Pirate Penguin.

The search was initiated for Princi’s pirate costume. The hat was a no-go: wrong shape, wrong colour. The hook-hand was broken. The cutlass was lost. Fab. All we had was the jacket and pants. Yarg! Scurvy seadogs!

I tried again to convince her to go in as someone else. Maybe Stephanie from Skulduggery Pleasant? No, if anyone, Princi wanted to go in as Skulduggery. Therein lay a whole new set of problems – skull mask, suit, tie. But still, Pirate Penguin was who she wanted to be. *SOB*

Thankfully, my very arty cousin visited last night, so we spent a couple of hours working out how to transform a Princi into a Pirate Penguin.

It turns out that red card, copious post-it notes, glue, and selotape all safety-pinned onto a baseball cap makes a good pirate hat. Tin-foil, cardboard, yellow plastic wrapping, and white paint make a fabulous cutlass. Tin-foil, cardboard, selotape and elastic perform well as a hook hand. Cardboard, elastic, purple tissue paper and selotape transform into a fabulous eye-patch. And elastic, torn-up paper and orange tissue paper make a wonderful beak. We had done it! A makeshift costume for a makeshift day…

Princi Pirate Penguin!

Princi Pirate Penguin! Yarg, me hearties!

And herein begins the charge… February 26, 2013

Posted by phoenixaeon in Children's Literature, Damn you evil inner critic I will soon show you my mettle.
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Well, I’ve done it. I finally grabbed that scared monkey and swung it by its tail and made it type an email to Roehampton Uni about the distance learning Children’s Literature MA. Eeks! Or, in the words of the monkey – ooo oooo aaaa aaaa! And not only that, but I’ve booked a place on the virtual open day that’s happening on Thursday. And so begins my assault on the evil attack of imposter syndrome. Because really, I don’t feel like I’m good enough to get a place on the course at all, so I was planning on not actually applying despite all my gung-ho-ness in this blog about doing the MA. I am absolutely petrified of taking this step in case I am found out to be dumber than a bag of rubber hammers. *sigh*


That is all.


Books and words, boys and girls. November 7, 2012

Posted by phoenixaeon in books, Children's Literature, Parenting, Reading with Principessa.
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Well. I never, ever imagined I’d be one of those parents who complain about what their kids are reading. After all, they’re reading, right? Okay, yeah, they’re reading and that’s a good thing, but have you ever looked closely at what the schools send home with the kids to read? No? Maybe it’s worth a look.

It’s reading time!

Princi’s school uses the Oxford Reading Tree system. This breaks up the experience of learning to read into various stages aimed at particular years/grades. It’s a good idea, as long as the kids aren’t held back if they show a knack for reading – as Princi was last year. Her teacher knocked her down two stages at the beginning of the year despite Princi reading competently at the higher level at the end of the previous school year. Anyway, that’s not my problem with this system. My problem is that it’s geared more towards ‘reluctant boy readers’. With the books being sold in sets of six, the ratio of girl:boy related titles is a maximum of 2:4, meaning that most books in the series are primed for male readers. Okay, so girls are more likely to read books centred around boys than a boy is likely to read a book centred around girls, but this doesn’t negate the fact that the boy’s books are all about adventure and football, while the few girl titles are set around flirty girlie love stories or kittens or kitchen maids. And another worrying thing is the representation of parents – especially mothers. They are seen as incompetent and useless parents, especially the ones who are portrayed as working mothers. It’s a case of ‘oh, you’re such a bad parent! You’re out at work, the washing machine needs fixing, and you have to leave the older kids to look after the younger kids. Isn’t it lucky you have a boy in your family who has a knack of fixing machinery!’ It’s all ever so slightly dubious.

And then we have a story, a retelling more like, of Sleeping Beauty.  It’s almost adventurous, except it’s another boy’s title. And the first characters you meet are two male ‘fairies’ trying to find a suitable prince to awaken Princess Aurora. It’s a feminist field trip, I tell you! But just like a reluctant boy reader, the main character – the typical messy boy, but with atypical sensitivities due to being the outcast – is also reluctant to kiss the princess. But kiss her he does after an aggressive Fairy Godmother frog marches him to the princess’s castle. So now we have a role reversal, the sensitive boy vs. the selfish and tactless princess. Yes, it’s a Beauty and the Geek moment. By the end of the story, the charms of the boy have subdued and controlled the snippy behaviour of the girl, but that’s not all. To protect her ‘inheritance’, the princess more or less has to sell off the land around her castle to be developed into an amusement park while selflessly sharing her wealth with the boy. Oh, talk about sexual metaphors and harking back to eighteenth century relationship ideologies!

Or maybe the problem I have with Princi’s school reading is just me. Maybe I’m thinking too deeply about this. Maybe I shouldn’t be worried about the books Princi is forced to read as part of her ‘learning’. But to me it feels like girls are getting a little bit of a raw deal, something that has to be rectified at home with books about strong female characters who are adventurous and sensitive to others at the same time, rather than being the secondary character and reader to a system which appears to be geared towards encouraging boys to read.

The realisation of learning. August 7, 2010

Posted by phoenixaeon in Children's Literature, Conversations with Principessa, EA300, Films, OU, The Principessa Files.
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Last night, Princi and I sat down to watch Star Wars: The Clone Wars as her choice for the Friday night film. She’s been asking to watch it for weeks, but either she gets distracted or I get distracted. Either way, we’ve never managed to sit down and watch it. So when she got home from Tae Kwon Do last night, she set up the portable DVD player on my bed, settled herself down, and immersed herself into the world of Star Wars for the first time.

Now, firstly, do I ever want to be a Jedi after watching that! I can’t understand how the Jedi were ever in any trouble after the way Windu air-swiped a whole legion of clones to dust with the Jedi mind-trick. (Yes, I know it’s a cartoon, but I have invested my time to geek out a bit!) Anyway, magical mystery Force and my want for that power aside, Princi loved it. As usual, she presented a running commentary (one bit in particular tickled me. Once the underwater, squid-headed blokie started making headway in his battle right at the start of the DVD, Princi turned round and said, ‘Yeah, now he’s starting to get somewhere!’), but halfway through, she showed me the DVD box.

‘Look, Mummy. The baddies are in the blue half of the picture and the goodies are in the red half of the picture.’

And yes, she was right. I’d not paid too much attention to the cover before, but now Princi had drawn focus to it.

‘Oh, yes. You’re right. So what does that make the guy in the middle? A goodie or a baddie?’

Without any hesitation she said, ‘He’s a goodie.’

‘But is he? Look, he’s standing in the blue and the red.’

‘He’s still a goodie. He has been helping the good guys fight the clones.’

‘I know, but look. He is more in the blue than the red. So does that mean he’s more a goodie or a baddie?’

‘He’s definitely a goodie, Mummy. He has droids.’

‘That might be true, but does he do what he’s told all the time? Remember when he was told not to chase the baddie ship?’

‘No, he doesn’t do what he’s told all the time. But he still helps the goodies.’

‘But would a goodie fight like he did near the end? You know, when he went mad and killed the robot lady?’

‘Yes. He would. She was a baddie. He is a goodie.’

She wouldn’t be swayed from Anakin’s affiliation to the good side, despite the suggestions of the cover. She simply went on what she had seen and what she believed had been shown on the DVD, any implicit ideological suggestions on the box were ignored. All she cared about was that there were goodies and that they fought the baddies. But for me, I became aware of the change that had occurred in how I look at and interpret things since studying Children’s Literature. Before, it would not have occurred to me how the positioning of the character could inform me in such a way about the character’s belief system – okay, I know I have prior knowledge of the Star Wars universe, but still. I had to apply that knowledge to the image. Just that simple flick of an analytical switch by Princi had me smiling: what I had learned on EA300 had sunk in, and I am no applying it to situations that stimulate conversations between Princi and I. Above all else that I loved about the course, that is the most satisfying aspect.

I really want to continue studying Children’s Literature now. It does feel as if it has become a passion, rather than just something I have studied on the way to getting a degree.

Results are in… August 3, 2010

Posted by phoenixaeon in Children's Literature, EA300, End of EA300, OU.

And I am distinctly happy! Yay!

(As for the actual score – 94% for the ECA. That is 4% lower than my best TMA score, but 5% higher than my overall course assessment score. Rock on!)

Eeks! July 29, 2010

Posted by phoenixaeon in Children's Literature, EA300, OU.

Oh crapadoodle!

Now the panic sets in… And this is the state of my thoughts right now:

Did I answer the question?

Have I passed?

Oh crap, I’ve got to have failed!

I couldn’t have failed, I did OK on the TMAs.

Don’t be stupid, of course you’ve failed!

No, I haven’t failed. And I’d be happy with a pass 2.

You really wouldn’t be happy with a pass 2, not with those TMA results!

Actually, I’ll be happy just to pass.

Please, just don’t say I’ve flunked it!