Friday, 30 September 2016

Exciting news! Think: old papers and a new book

I’ve been meaning to tell you this for a while now but, until very recently it didn’t feel quite real enough to say out loud. But now it does, just about, feel real enough, so here goes: 

I’m publishing a book.

I want to tell you all about it, I do. And I can tell you about it; and I will.

In fact, I’ll probably go on about it for so long that it’ll make those 15 months I stretched out the story of ‘when I saw Benedict Cumberbatch in Hamlet’ seem as brief as an England football manager’s career.

But, right this minute … today ... I don’t know how to begin, or in what order to spill my beans, or how much to say without knowing all the specific details so … 

.... how about I just make a start in this post … and anything I forget to say, or anything you want to know more about we’ll take it in turns sharing afterwards? OK? OK …

So what’s the book?

The book is a collection of my Snipped Tales; my short, short, stories collaged together from words found in old books.

If you want to know what they look like then you can find several examples of them in this post.

That post was one of just a handful of times I've shared finished 'tales' from my book and - strangely, because I've shared all kinds of other collage projects here -  I never did share any more. 

I think part of me, somewhere, buried deep (possibly beneath many layers of paper) ... part of me  always hoped ... always knew ... that I was saving them up until I had a book's worth. 
A Snipped Tale in progress - on felt, because it prevents the snippets from slipping about too much.
And now I do; so I'm making a book filled with them!

Here's a link to one that I can share because it isn't in the book, but it does have a connection to it. I made that particular piece as a gift for my friend and frequent collaborator Kirsty Neale who has spent the summer reading through the tales and creating illustrations that pick out the book's main themes. I can't share any of those yet ... but here's some of my plans whose scribbling showing the kind of thing you can expect: 

This is how it began it's journey into a published book ... rough photographs of each page, printed out then sifted and sorted into 7 themed chapters: 
 Here's the first draft:
It's since been finalised and I gave my indie publisher's a second, completed, rough copy as an example ... and then handed over my actual original notebook filled with the tales so they can professionally scan and arrange them.

Is it an e-book or a paper book?
Go on; guess.

Yes, it’s going to be an actual papery book. One you can hold in your hands, slide into your bag, leave on your bedside table.
  • Paying for a colour print reproduction of my micro-stories is a gift I'm giving myself. 
  • But I'm sharing the work because it's filled with all kinds of wild and wonderful stories to make people laugh, smile, and maybe feel a little less alone, a little more understood. So I hope it's a gift to others too.  
  • And if it's then given as a gift ... then wouldn't that be perfect full circle? 
As for a digi-version – I don’t know. As it’s a photo-book I don't know how that works on an e-reader … so I’m not sure. File under: to be answered later. 

And finally ...

When will it be available?
It’s forthcoming. (ie. that's my attempt to sound professional while admitting I’m not sure).

It's not quite finished yet ...

But both me, and my indie-publishing house, are doing everything we can now to get it released in time for Christmas list making season. 

There's a chance we'll be taking pre-orders once the design work has been completed but while it goes on its journey to and from the printing process. Once all that's clarified I'll let you know. 


So that's my news ... but ... before I go ...

Even though you didn't know anything about my plans, I wouldn't have done this without you.

Without your comments and support over the 8 years I've been blogging here I wouldn't even dare to think that my own private notebook of eccentric collaged stories was something I should even attempt to share with a wider audience.

And now, because some of you seem to think I'm not so bad to have around ... I'm taking a chance that other people might feel similarly. 

Thank you. 

If you have any more questions ... do ask, ask, ask.

Do you know how hard it's been to keep quiet about all this for so long? But now that the cork's out the bottle, the genie's out of the lamp, the cat's out of the bag, and the page's been torn from the book ... there's so much we can talk about.
And rest assured that when I have more to tell ... I'll come and tell you ...

Julie x

Don't forget you can catch me more frequently on Instagram now, as well as over at my Facebook page and Twitter too.

Monday, 19 September 2016

The Power of Friends with Stripes - how a zebra aided my mental health

Hello hello.

Today, I have a guest post over at my local branch of the mental health charity Mind, and guess which story I decided to share ...

If you've been visiting me here for a long time then you'll probably already know the backstory of the unlikely bond I made with a plastic zebra. If you're newer to me you might just have thought I have a  zebra collection because I like stripes. Which I do ... but there' more to it than that.

I'm always, always, keen to have the story - and indeed little companion zebras - reach and help more people so I leapt at the chance to share it with the Middlesbrough and Stockton Mind blog readers.

Here's how the story begins ...

"Depression can be a lonely place; one where, as well as battling with ourselves, we might also struggle to explain to others how we’re feeling. [...] 

But what if we had a secret back-up to help us approach those moments with a little added confidence? What if we could find a calm, constant, non-judgemental companion who wouldn’t leave our sides, who could help us concentrate when things got a bit wobbly, who could reassure us that no, we aren’t going to die, we’re going to breathe slowly, get through this, and then get home for tea and biscuits unharmed. 

 What if that someone, that calming friend, could fit in our bag or pocket so no one around would know they were there? And what if that someone wasn’t a someone at all … but rather a plastic zoo animal?" 


If you know someone:

  • struggling with their mental health right now;
  • or who needs a little confidence boost;
  • or who is anxious about starting a new venture (maybe someone heading to University for the first time);
... and you feel like there's nothing you can do ... please know that there is, even if it feels like a tiny gesture.

Share my zebra story from the Mind blog today with them and maybe even find them a striped supporter of their own.

Or - if you are that person - get one for yourself, or print one out, or draw one ... whatever helps. (In an ideal world I'd buy up the world's supply of plastic zebras and hand them out to anyone who needed one!

Zebras don't solve our problems for us ... but they do make excellent companions while we work on the rest. (Now there's a sentence you don't expect to hear very often).

If you do join in the stripey army, whenever, do let me know. But for now ... make sure to read the full story here ... so that everything else begins to make sense!


Monday, 5 September 2016

My Month in Numbers 2016: August

Hello, hello.

I won't lie, I'm definitely struggling to keep up with my Month in Numbers but I'm determined to see the year out (marking 7 years of numerical-life-documenting) before setting it gently to one side. (I may cry ...)

And it's not just my own regular feature I'm struggling to carry on with ... I've also let the Summertime Photography Scavenger Hunt slide and, as September arrived, I would usually join in with Shimelle's Learn Something New Everyday project too ... but I can't seem to get going with that either.

I'm trying not to read too much into all of this (even though it's giving me a few pangs) as it just feels like another in a long line of shifts in focus I've had over the last year. And it's not like I'm not being creative any more ... I'm just not yet sharing everything I've been up to.  When I've got something properly share-worthy to tell ... I'll be telling you. I swear. You won't be able to shut me up.

And now ... before I postpone this for another week ... to the numbers ...

100 people, 1 novelist, 1 basement
 I travelled up to Waterstones Newcastle last month to hear novelist Jessie Burton discussing her latest book The Muse. You might know Burton from her bestselling debut novel The Miniaturist which the BBC have just announced they're adapting into a 3 part series due to air in 2017, but here she was, rightly, focussing on her new work which I read this summer on its release.

It's the 3rd author event I've attended this year and I'm not sure I'll ever get tired of hearing from people who've gone through the entire process from having a tiny idea and then nurturing it into a papery object that other people can hold in their hands. They make it all seem 'possible'.

We even sat in the front row, which came in useful as there was no stage, so if we'd had to sit further back I'm not sure we'd have been able to see her amid the other warm bodies in the stifling basement.

And I say 'we' because, for once, I didn't go alone. I met up with Dawn of the lovely Book and Brew blog  (Book and Brew. You can imagine why I felt she and I might get along.)

We met up in a slightly hipstery cafe - like bloggers are legally meant to do and we both took photos of the Jessie Burton window displays. For important Instagramming purposes. (I'm @withjuliekirk Dawn is @bookandbrew2719).

And, unlike the last time I met up with someone in 'real life' who I'd befriended online (which I wrote all about, in graphic, bodily detail last month in a post all about periods) nothing surprising happened to me in the toilets ... unless you count this ...

My 5th dachshund of the month:
Last month, in my crafty work life - I was commissioned by a magazine to work on 4 dachshund-themed items. Dog-phobic me. Not that I was afraid of paper and card dogs .. it was just a strange task to write up the text having to say nice things about man's best friend! But hey, I'm a professional .. and even I can see that they're cute dogs, so I finished it and sent it all off.

Then, inside the Tyneside Cinema cafe, where I'd met Dawn, I went to the loo only to be greeted by this chap:
Depending on how philosophical you're feeling it was either a sign from the universe that there's simply no getting away from your fears ... or just an advert for the Wiener Dog movie.

Now, while my crafting work's still fresh in my mind:

250 greeting cards, 10 gift bags, 13 gift tags: (BTW: for a few minutes after taking this photo I couldn't find the biscuits which I knew I'd put down in the mess somewhere ... #spottheRichTea)
I decided to sort out all of the projects I make for the magazine which then get returned to me following publication ... which took up a lot of space! Sometimes you take your own work for granted don't you? But en masse like that - several years' worth of my work laid out before me - I have to admit, with  all the colours, all the designs, all the care and attention  I impressed myself!  (BTW: If you fancy taking some of the 250 cards off my hands they're available in my Etsy shop)

And speaking of  Etsy ...

I reached over the 600 mark in my happy customer Etsy feedback!
I ask for feedback from my customers because I personally read feedback before ordering from a new seller as it's a useful barometer of quality and trustworthiness. So when I receive feedback (which you can read here) it really makes my day knowing that not only was that customer happy with their product and service but that future customers will now see those kind words and go on to trust me with their money and expectations. If you've ever left feedback for my shop or any independent seller, on Etsy or any other platform, then you've done a good thing - thank you!

Over 200 pairs of shoes from over 2000 years:
No, that's not what I bought last month, although you'd be forgiven for thinking ... it was actually the contents of the latest high-profile fashion-history exhibition at the Bowes Museum:
The Shoes: Pleasure & Pain exhibition was, as you might imagine, an absolute dream of a day out for a shoe-lover like me. I didn't take any photos inside - I wasn't sure it was allowed - but it's just as well as I'd have wanted to take sooooooo many that I might have missed absorbing the actual items in front of me. If you want to catch the exhibition it's at Bowes (County Durham) until 9th October before touring internationally. Check out more from the exhibition, including the thousands of red shoelaces dangling from the ceiling (which I couldn't stop looking at!!!) here.

After visiting the exhibition we walked into Barnard Castle right past a sign outside a church hall which read:
"Charity Book Sale. All Books 50p"
So we turned around promptly and spent a long while browsing the entire room filled with tables covered in boxes of books:
I bought 6 including a 111 year old copy of Hamlet!

(You could call it an anniversary gift ... as August 19th marked one year since I saw Benedict Cumberbatch play Hamlet. But you'd probably forgotten about that because I've never mentioned it since ... )

After finding those bookish gems my treasure-seeking good fortune continued ...

I discovered  2 vintage floral pillowcases, still in their original packaging,  in a charity shop for just £2.99!
Gorgeously gorgeous loveliness!!! Can;t wait to combine them with some of my other vintage bedding.

And, while we were shopping, we also spotted ... 1 cast member of Game of Thrones. Or at least we're 99.9% certain it was Gwendoline Christie, strolling past us which sounds incredibly unlikely ... but she's a striking woman, and not easily mistaken. We didn't bother her ... we just took great pleasure in seeing the almighty Brienne of Tarth window shopping in a little market town!

And finally ...

I watched the Jake Gyllenhall film 'Demoliton' twice in 48 hours:
When I work from home I rarely, if ever, take advantage of an empty sofa and a remote control to myself and watch TV during the day. But one day last month on a day I'd scheduled a day off my plans were cancelled last thing leaving me with time on my hands ... so I put a big mug of tea in those hands, plus a few butter crunch biscuits, put a blanket over me, and rented out Demolition from the Virgin movies on demand thingy.

When I told James that it was worth watching  (my amazing review "His wife dies then he smashes stuff up" clearly won him over) he watched it too ... and I sat in on it again because: Jake Gyllenhaal.

If you too fancy ... well if you fancy Jake Gyllenhaal then it's a no brainer, but it's also for you if you fancy watching a good film, with an unusual love/grief story. And, like me, you may be able to use it to win around someone who wouldn't normally choose an emotional / human interest type movie as they can enjoy:

  • all that smashing up of stuff (it made me cringe ... so much destruction!!) 
  • while you are left to enjoy - I know I should write something like "the great script" here ... but I just keep thinking about the scene where he's crying in the bathroom. Naked.

OK, I think that's a good place for me to leave things and duck out of here. If nothing else you'll want to get on with searching for and renting out Demolition your day.

I hope September's treating you kindly ... mine's OK so far but I'm not sure about that chill in the air. I don't approve.

Julie x