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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!

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.



It’s been ages… February 20, 2013

Posted by phoenixaeon in E301, General rubbish, OU, reading, Reading with Principessa, The Principessa Files, TMA05.

Neglectful of the blog? Moi? Yes, I admit it. The evidence stands up for itself, really. But, you know. Life.

Traversing the wall.

Traversing the wall.

The last month has been doctor’s visits followed by hospital appointments, followed by unrelated hospital appointments and joining a gym, only for the gym to be neglected due to being knackered from all the hospital appointments. And then interwoven through this is the constant read/write routine for the OU studies, the read/write with Princi for her reading diary, and the read/write of permission slips for school clubs and activities. I’m kind of thankful that it’s half term right now, and thankful for Uncle Gaz and Grandand, as they have been taking Princi rock climbing and swimming (she had her first ever taste of swimming today).

Engrossed... Or maybe just sleeping.

Engrossed… Or maybe just sleeping.

The studying. Princi is doing fabulously. I finally made some snarky remark in Princi’s reading diary about the rubbish books that she was being forced to read, books that were at the level she was reading three years ago, and the teacher finally gave her a book that was more her level. It’s driving me up the wall, this school lark. Princi is so bored because they keep repeating the same things over and over – I mean, she’s still being sent home with maths homework that asks her to add and subtract in twos. When she gets given something new and challenging to do while in school she thrives, yet this seems to piddle off the teacher no end because she can’t keep up with Princi, as Princi forces the teacher to have to provide her with harder and harder questions because she rattles off the work so fast. Two years ago I wouldn’t have needed to complain, as the teacher she had then was so happy to have a kid who wanted to learn that she wanted to challenge her. The teacher that she has now doesn’t really want to be bothered. It really irks me something chronic. So during the half term Princi and I have been working on her comprehension and times tables. And just as an example, Princi started rattling off the twelve times table the other night out of nowhere, something I nor the school (who now only teach up to the ten times table) have not gone through with her, as she’s finally understood how to work the patterns. She really does make me proud every day!



As for me… Well. I think I may need some rubber wall paper soon. I am just not getting this course at all! Don’t get me wrong, my essay results have been good – not distinctly good, just good – but I don’t feel like I’m retaining or even understanding anything! Despite my fascination with words it seems that linguistics is not for me. I would definitely rather play with them than study them. Still. Only three more essays to write, at the grand total of 8,500 words, and my studying with the OU is complete. I can hardly believe that I’m almost done. I really am going to miss it. But as it is, I should be getting back to the reading for TMA05. I just have to choose an excerpt of narrative fiction now so that I can fully prepare for the essay. I’m currently deciding between an excerpt from Little Brother by Cory Doctorow, American Gods by Neil Gaiman, or The Amber Spyglass by Philip Pullman. If only I could find my copy of Spares by Michael Marshall Smith, I think my decision might have been made already!

And breathe…. March 10, 2012

Posted by phoenixaeon in A330, Art, iPhone, OU, Principessa art, Proud Mummy, reading, The Principessa Files, TMA04, TMA05.

Well. After the rigmarole of last week, this week has been a steady, squeaky parp of air from a slowly let down balloon. The essay finally ripped its way from my brain and was submitted to the cyber-sewage works on Monday. It also saw Princi and I reunited with our favourite technologies – DVD and computer for Princi, iPhone for me. Yay! And there endeth the good times.

Wednesday brought the news that the NSPCC had decided they didn’t want to use Princi in their advert. And there is where the deflation of said balloon increased as it screamed around the room and flopped to the floor in a mass of flaccid finality. (Yeah, I used a few f words…) How would I tell Princi? She was so excited about it. I even thought about not telling her and hoping that she’d just forget about it. But that would be wrong, so when she got in from school I called her for a hug and told her the bad news. I needn’t have been worried. She gave me a wide-O shocked face, then shrugged, jumped out of the hug, and went to do some drawing and watch Dexter’s Laboratory. Whereas my disappointment for Princi sent me moping, it didn’t phase her at all. That is one quality that I really hope she keeps.


The Garden of Dexter.

On an up point, I’ve only two more essays to complete and that’s another course towards the degree finished. I can’t believe that this time next year I’ll be nearly done with the last course and the degree. I’m almost excited about it! Though what I’ll do afterwards is still a burning question. I’m still thinking about the MA in children’s literature, but I’m worried about making a fool of myself. At the same time, I’m hankering for the addiction that was sparked during the kidlit course. Sometimes, I hate being indecisive.

Anyways, time to bog off and read some more on muthos and logos, and the beginnings of Ancient Greek cosmology. Oh, to be a foetus living inside a fish-like creature, living on an earth made up of moisture surrounded by thorny bark

But here is evolution of a different kind:


Evolution of a Cybergirl.

Bleurgh! December 1, 2011

Posted by phoenixaeon in A330, I hate it when my nose drips like a tap, Mythology, OU, reading, TMA03.
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Cor, that's a big'un!

You know that scene in Total Recall, where Arnie has the tracking beacon pulled out from a nostril? That’s exactly how I feel right now. I have a horrifically snotty case of sinusitis. My face feels like it’s being repeatedly hit with a wet kipper, and my nose feels as big as that picture just there. Not good. I’m glad I managed to write my essay up and submit it last week now.


Romulus and Remus and the She-wolf

Talking of essays, I’m now into the preparatory reading for TMA03 – “‘The Romans had a primarily utilitarian approach to myth.’ Do you agree with this statement?” Well, I don’t know yet, but I’m sure my argument will reveal itself in the next couple of weeks. I’m currently reading an extract from Livy’s Histories, and it seems he’s not entirely convinced by the whole Romulus and Remus and the ‘She-wolf’ thing, but he’ll use it and other myths to add grandeur to Rome’s cultural history. So maybe that’s where I should begin my argument.


Well, I suppose I should get back to the reading and the tissues. *sniffle* *sneeze*

Divine intervention. October 26, 2011

Posted by phoenixaeon in EA300, Mythology, OU, reading, Reading with Principessa, TMA01.

Woohoo! After a year of rubbishy TMA results (by my stupidly high standards), I am back in the land of TMA results euphoria. I had been dreading the fateful ding of the impending percentage that I use to constantly re-affirm my intelligence by, and today was the day of ding.


The usual apprehensions gripped me. How crap am I? Do I really want to know how little I actually understand? Ah, stuff all that, I’m brilliant! But then, look how crap I was last year… So I ignored the inner turmoil and signed into the OU site. Tippety-tap. Click. Click. *Close eyes tightly, then peek through fingers* Woohoo! Distinction! And for once, really relevant comments on how to improve the marks for next time. Yay! So I am now in love with this course and raring to get going with the next essay.


But that will have to wait. I have a ton of reading to do before I can even contemplate planning the TMA, which makes me think reading Hard-boiled Wonderland and the End of the World by Murakami maybe wasn’t my smartest move. And even more stupid, ordering the new Murakami book 1Q84. I am so going to want to read that as soon as, because I am loving Hard-boiled Wonderland. Add to that reading Matilda with Princi – she’s outgrown the Oxford Reading Tree books that her school was having her read, so she’s now reading the children’s novels we have at home. I think my head might just explode with all this reading!


So, time to get back to it… Once I’ve talked Princi into bed – she is playing golf with a green plastic golf club and a  Hello Kitty bouncy ball, jumping around shouting ‘Yay! Go me, go me, go me!’ I wish she’d give me some of her energy!



And the countdown begins… May 13, 2011

Posted by phoenixaeon in A210, Exam, Oozing brainjuice, OU, reading, Revision, TMA07.

To the end of A210. A course I have probably learned a lot from but hated with a passion. I have had to grit my teeth and bear down just to squeeze some of the essays from my brain, it’s been that painful. But the last essay is more or less finished now, just post-production and cyber-flushing left to do. And then comes the bit I have been dreading for two years – that’s when I knew I had to take this course to get the degree I want – the evil exam. *shudder*

Yep, as you can tell, I get myself a little worked up – almost to petrification –  when it come to exams. I have five weeks to read over and review a nine month course, so I’m not actually sure that it’s the exam that worries me, but rather the prep time. Thinking of what I need to do scares the crap out of me! But do it I must… Yet I have chosen to totally ignore anything study-related for the last five days. Instead, I’ve bumbled about and watched some TV today, and I have read the complete trilogy of The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins over the last three days. I haven’t Terminator-read a series like that since Harry Potter ten years ago.

I quite enjoyed The Hunger Games, although I had totally prepared myself to hate it. Probably because of all the hype it’s built up over the last few years. But it is good. Though I’m not really a fan of the lead character, Katniss. She’s not whingy and moany like Bella in Twilight, but like Bella there is something really unlikeable about her. I found myself connecting more with the supporting (Gale and Peeta) and secondary characters (Cinna, Rue, and even the shallow prep team members). They seemed to be more rounded-out than Katniss.To me it felt like Katniss didn’t grow. She had moments of realisation, but it didn’t really seem to affect her characterisation. Other than that, it was a thumping good read. It has made me want to re-read The Bartimaeus Trilogy again, though. It’d be interesting to compare and contrast them.

But that will have to wait for the moment. I have novels I NEED to re-read first – Fathers and Sons, The Color Purple and Frankenstein – as well as choosing around 10-15 poems (ranging from the Romantics – anyone got any favourites? – to contemporary female poetry, got to get in the whole ‘gender on the agenda’ theme that is necessary to the course) that I can confidently (hah!) answer questions on, then mentally hack through As You Like It and Henry V. I’m probably going to throw in Elizabeth Glaspell’s Jury of Her Peers/Trifles and possibly A. M. Barnard’s (an alias of L. M. Alcott) Behind A Mask in there too. So, from Monday next week up until Wednesday 15th June, I shall be hammering out the details. Eeks! Wish me, and my particularly leaky brain, good luck!

Decoding picture books. February 23, 2010

Posted by phoenixaeon in Bloody books, Charlie and Lola, Children's Literature, Dave McKean, EA300, I Will Never Not Ever Eat a Tomato, Neil Gaiman, OU, reading, The Savage, The Wolves In The Walls, TMA05, Wolves.

Phew! Who knew reading picture books could be such hard work and so taxing on the poor gray matter? I didn’t, that’s for sure.

I am now gearing up to write TMA05. This essay is an analysis of a couple of pages from a picture book. Now, while this may seem simple enough, it has so far been nothing short of a befuddlement.

Problem number one: What picture book to use? The two set books for this block are Beatrix Potter’s Peter Rabbit and Anthony Browne’s Voices in the Park. OK, so I’ve become slightly addicted to Browne’s books since starting this course, his use of intertextuality is fabulous, but as the book was a set book I felt too much will have been covered by the course materials. Ditto Peter Rabbit – besides, I’m not a fan of Potter. I don’t quite know why, but I don’t like her style. There’s no questioning that she was a clever writer, illustrator and designer of children’s books, they just don’t appeal to me. So a new choice had to be made so I am able explore my understanding of the subject. I have narrowed my choices down to:

  1. The Wolves in the Walls

    The Wolves in the Walls by Neil Gaiman, illustrated by Dave McKean. I have been desperate to fit some Gaiman into the course somehow, and this seems the logical point. I also love McKean’s illustrations, so this appears to be a double whammy. But I am now struggling with the decisions regarding which pages to use!

  2. The SavageThe Savage by David Almond, illustrated by Dave McKean. Yep, more McKean. What can I say? I love his illustrations! But this is a good story, dealing with the subject of death and loss. It made me cry! The illustrations show the wildness of the savage, which in turn explain the feelings of the main character, Blue. There  are plenty of areas of analysis – graphically, textually, and semantically. A strong contender. Oh, and if you haven’t read it, then I recommend it.
  3. WolvesWolves by Emily Gravett. I discovered this book after reading a critical essay. I had a look around, found some of the illustrations, loved it! The idea of a rabbit borrowing a book about wolves from the library and the wolves then stalking the rabbit was too good to pass up. It’s on order and I can’t wait to read it, it looks so interesting and funny, and there appears to be a lot there that would be worth analysing.
  4. I Will Never Not Ever Eat a Tomato by Lauren Child. There had to be some Charlie and Lola in the list. They’re Princi’s favourite and best! And c’mon, there is so much in there to get your teeth into! There is one image in this that always sticks in my head. When Charlie is giving the alternative description of mashed potato, the shape of the text fits the image, if you know what I mean? He describes it as ‘cloud fluff from the top of Mount Fuji,’ and the words are shaped into the roof of a Japanese building. Just fab!

Problem number two: Understanding a whole new set of terminology. Again. This time the codes of picture books. I didn’t even know there was a code! More fool, me. I am working my way through an excerpt of an article by William Moebius called ‘Introduction to Picturebook Codes.‘ (Not all of it is included here, but you get the gist.) For me, it’s interesting reading even if I’m having a hard time retaining all the info. But another read through should sort me out. Then it’s applying this new knowledge to the pages I choose to analyse. Looking forward to it! All that’s left to do then is attack the post-modernist angle, which means another crash course. I think I may end up with concussion from all of the crashing I am doing!

So that is my current predicament. I think I am probably more or less settled upon Gaiman/McKean unless it twists my brain too much and becomes too wolfish for me. One thing is for certain, though. I am looking forward to writing this essay. And that’s not something you hear me say very often!

This week I will mostly be doing… February 16, 2010

Posted by phoenixaeon in Biathlon, Bog Child, books, Children's Literature, EA300, Illustrations, Olympics, OU, reading, Ski jumping, TMA05.
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With Princi off school this week there is no time for any real study. So I have decided to get some reading done – which means a little of catching up AND getting ahead. Catching up in the sense of reading Mildred D. Taylor’s Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry, the book I missed during the last block (I missed Peter Pan in the block before, and I probably won’t get around to going back to read it, so didn’t want to miss something else), and reading Siobhan Dowd’s Bog Child in preparation for the ECA.

Well, I finished Bog Child last night. It’s a fabulous book. Set against the backdrop of the 1981 hunger strikes, the main protagonist – Fergus – finds the body of a child whilst digging for peat with his Uncle. This discovery leads to strange dreams and first love, while battling against the reality of Northern Ireland during the Troubles. The story draws you in from the start, the opposition of politics vs religion glaring apparent throughout the novel. The shadowing of the contemporary Troubles against a Pagan tribe from 2000 years ago provides a sense of – in the terms of BSG – all of this has happened before, and all of it will happen again.

To say I enjoyed the story would be an understatement. I’m looking forward to a second, and possibly a third, read through closer to the date of the ECA. For now, though, I’ll just let the story percolate in my brain.

That leaves me with Roll of Thunder to read over the next few days, and maybe one or two of the critical essays during the evening when Princi is sleeping. I can definitely see some contrasts and comparisons that could be made between the two books, which means I am already formulating arguments. Woohoo! I’ve just got to make sure I don’t get too far ahead of myself, as I have two more essays to do before the ECA.

Oh, which reminds me. The next essay is on illustrated children’s books. While having a little trawl on the net last night, I found this: illustrated envelopes. How cool would it be to receive a letter with an envelope like these? I want one!

Envelope illustrated by Axel Scheffler.


As well as all the reading, there is also the lure of the Winter Olympics over the next couple of weeks. I’m already staying up way past my bedtime so I can watch (some of) the ice skating. I’m glad that the biathlon and ski jumping is on earlier in the day – or evening as is the case. The first biathlons have provided some of the best, and most shock, results. I wonder if the two pursuits on today will also prove as uncallable in terms of predicting the winner? I’m just upset that I missed the snowboarder cross last night, it sounds as if it was extremely exciting!

Anyhoos, time to get back to the reading while Princi is distracted.

Neglected. August 25, 2009

Posted by phoenixaeon in EA300, OU, reading.

Oops. I have been neglecting the poor blog. Sorry!

Unfortunately it’s not been due to having a crazy jetset life. No. I’ve really had nothing to blog about. I’ve been busying myself with collecting journal articles that could be relevant to the kidlit course and spending the other few spare minutes I get reading the set books. And yes, I am still reading Treasure Island. It’s been as neglected as the blog as I have ended up reading Tom’s Midnight Garden (TMG) and Junk. I was kind of expecting that I wouldn’t enjoy TMG too much, but I did. It was a lovely little story and had me wishing for a huge garden and lots of trees to climb (if only I could!). It’s a good job I’m going to have to read it again when it comes to using it in an assignment, because I am sure I’ve glossed over some of it.

As for Junk, I’ve got a few pages left before it is done with, but I’m not sure I’ve enjoyed it. I’m not even sure it’s a book that should be enjoyed. To be fair it is a gripping story and it does highlight how easy it is to become trapped in drug culture, but it is more car crash literature than an enjoyable read. You have to keep reading to see if the kids in the story find a way out and thankfully a lot of it is more telling than showing. It would be a highly uncomfortable read if some of the events were described more. Maybe that’s why it is not as shocking as it probably should be. Then again, I suppose it is written as it is due to the point of view – a switching first person point of view – so the experiences are muted thanks to the drug use. Even though the kids are living in a squat and are thinking that they have the life, the story doesn’t seem to take any of the shine off using heroin. It almost seems to say if you’re not doing it then you’re the stupid one. Or that’s how it seems to me. Anyway…

I am now being bugged to play balloon tennis, so off I pop!