Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Blog Hiatus

I doubt this will come as a surprise to most of you guys, but I have decided to take a break from blogging for a while.

I'm working on two writing projects alongside my usual day job, and I find that it's getting ever harder to find the time for blogging. Also, let's be blunt - I've been blogging about being an unpunlished writer for three years and it's getting harder and harder to find things to say without repeating myself.

For the moment, I'm hoping to come back to blogging in early July. Obviously, if anything interesting or blog-worthy happens in the meantime, I'll pop up :) I'll also still be reading blogs while I'm taking a break, I just won't be posting.

I have email comment notification enabled, so if you want to reach me, leaving a comment on the blog will still do it :)

Friday, May 11, 2012

Movies and Man-Children: Is Growing Up a Bad Thing?

Steve Rose has a piece in today's Guardian about the increasing presence in Hollywood movies of men who won't grow up. Men who live with their parents, act like kids, play computer games and have traditionally 'childish' hobbies.

I do agree that the overgrown man-child figure in films can be very annoying, but I also don't like the fact we live an a society that worships 'maturity.' Yes, it's important that adults should be capable of earning money, supporting themselves and not behaving like pre-socialisation children (there's a reason all our parents/caregivers taught us the lesson 'If you aren't nice, people won't like you.' Because, seriously, they won't). Note that I said 'capable' - sadly in today's economy, too many people can't do some of these things, through no fault of their own, or temporarily choose not to, to pursue other goals.

But what the hell is wrong with a forty-year-old man liking computer games or collecting Star Wars figures, or meeting up with his friends for a beer? For that matter, what's wrong with a forty-year-old woman liking Hello Kitty t-shirts and collecting Pez dispensers and watching Roller Derby? Whatever it is, I can't see it. And I know I'm voluntarily childless, so I don't need to worry about 'setting an example for the kids,' but honestly - I remember my mother singing along with Paul Simon and Elvis like a loon and it never did me any harm, nor did my dad's devotion to Manchester United.

I have a couple of very immature vices - I love what Americans call soft-serve ice-cream (we call them cones or 99s if they have a chocolate flake stuck in them  - mine always have the flake, all else is sacrilige). I eat chocolate and sugar in amounts that would sicken the average child and send the average adult into a sugar coma. I have no plans to ever stop travelling (definitely not just for the young!) and age has not, so far, given me a taste for 'mature civilised person' alcoholic drinks like wine and whiskey. I still like my vodka drowned in Coke or OJ or, ideally, replaced entirely with peach schnapps.

What about you? Still a child at heart or happy to be mature? What are your most childish vices?

Movies and Man-Children: Is 'Growing Up' a Bad Thing?

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

A-Z Challenge Reflection Post - Thoughts on Writing the World

April was a very challenging month for me.

I rarely write short fiction, and in April I wrote 26 pieces of short fiction.
I rarely set stories outside of places I know well - usually my books take place in Dublin or London, the two cities I know best. In April, I had to write about places I had never heard of, with languages and cultures and complex political systems I could never hope to understand fully.
I rarely write stories that could potentially offend people. In April I wrote about a man reflecting on the legacy of apartheid and about a woman sneaking over the border from Saudi Arabia to Yemen in order to learn to drive.

It's been great fun, but it's been tough.

One of the most difficult things for me was leaving my cultural comfort zone. I'm a white girl, living in a very white country that has only experienced inward migration for about fifteen years. Ireland is still very culturally homogenous compared to, say, Britain or the US. My day job is in a richly multicultural industry and environment, but nevertheless, I live in a country where I can go from dawn to dusk and not see a face that isn't white outside my workplace.

I also enjoy some serious priviledge - yes, as a woman I can expect to earn somewhere between 15% and 30% less than an equivalently-qualified man across my lifetime, but guess what? That may suck, but I'm allowed to drive a car. I'm allowed to vote, serve in the armed forces and run for political office. I can wear what I like, go where I like and read what I like. Hell, I can read.

I have never gone to sleep at night afraid that my house will be bombed, or that the police will enter my home and harm me or my family. I have been afraid to walk down streets, yes, but I've been afraid of the actions of individuals, not of the state. I'm Irish, so I carry some legacy from a time when we did not have freedom of religion or the right to own property (the Irish state was paying the British government for our own land as late as the 1930s, because when we earned the right to own property, our government had to buy it back from Britain. We were paying for our own country during the Great Depression, seriously) but none of these things happened to me, or to my parents. I have priviledge, and this month I took the very scary step of trying to write about people and cultures who didn't have any. Who got screwed a lot by people very like me.

This scared me a lot. As a woman and an Irishwoman (a post-colonial, if you will) I am used to being comfortably 'other', to being the underdog, the 'minority.' But on a global level, I'm really, really not. I was so scared, in fact, that you'll notice a lot of my little stories this month were about tourists. This was a safety device, designed to excuse any massive cultural screw-ups I made. 'It's not me being ignorant - it's my characters. They're tourists, you know.'

But I was supposed to be writing about the world, not some white people looking at the world. So I tried to be sensitive, and I wrote about a black guy in South Africa reflecting on the end of apartheid, feeling gratitude for the things I take for granted. I wrote about a Muslim woman crossing the border from Saudi Arabia into Yemen to learn to drive, because when I googled 'Women in Yemen' and 'Muslim women + rights', do you know what I found? I didn't find lots of stories about stereotypical people living happily under a regime that minimised their rights. I found stories about intelligent, smart, religious, observant, spiritual, strong Muslim women trying to make sure their countrywomen didn't die in childbirth. I found stories of how they honour Allah while still campaigning for an end to child marriages. I found people, so I wrote about people.

And I have no bloody idea if I got it right or wrong, but as a white person with no memories of oppression who feels gratitude for the freedoms I enjoy, I believe I might sneak across a border if I couldn't drive in my own country (I'd certainly think about it!), so surely there's someone who looks a little different to me, and has had a different experience of life than I have, but who feels some of the same things that I do.

I doubt I will ever have the insight and intelligence to write extensively about cultures that are not my own. But it was certainly a fascinating experience to try, and I think it helped me to find some resources for researching characters, because I don't want to spend my entire life writing about bored white girls in their 20s.

Do any of you guys write about people from very different backgrounds to you? How do you find it? What resources do you use to find information?

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Post A-Z Post (see what I did there?)

I cannot say enough nice things about the people who visited me on the A-Z Challenge this year. I appreciated every comment, every pageview and every follow, so thank you all :)

I'm leaving Dublin for a few days break (not to recuperate from the A-Z Challenge - geographical flash fiction is hard, but it's not *that* hard!), so things will be quiet on the blog front until next week, when I'll be back with a Reflections post next week, and to share what I learned about writing microfiction.

It's a long weekend in Ireland, so I hope anyone who also has a day off on Monday enjoys their break, and those who don't - try to have an extra-nice Saturday and Sunday to make up for it!