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Chiara / January 8, 2016 , Fri / general

Hello, 2016. I can’t believe you’ve already been here a week.

Last year I subscribed to Happy Mail (from A Beautiful Mess), and I received a gorgeous package filled with stationery cards/postcards/shopping lists/cool shit each month. In December, they sent me a piece of gold paper, with “2016 Goals” written on the back of it.

And I asked myself: what are my 2016 goals? Do I have any? Do I even want to have any? (Goals can be persnickety, to say the least).

The only goals I could think of were the following:

  1. Finish current WIP (which has been thoroughly neglected for many a month now).
  2. Write another novel (because there are far too many ideas floating around my head).
  3. Get an agent (this is not easy. This is hard. And scary).
  4. Work in a bookstore (also hard. No one EVER LEAVES THEIR JOBS AT BOOKSTORES).

And that was it. I mean, two conceivable goals (numbers one and two) out of four isn’t too bad, and to be honest, I want to do those things anyway, without a goal setting thingamajig. The other two are more or less dreams, rather than goals because both of them depend a lot on chance and circumstance.

Wouldn’t it be lovely if all these goals came true (is that what goals do? Come true? I don’t know, but I’m going with it)? I think so. I think so very much.

But I’m also not going to pin my happiness on these goals, because I don’t think happiness should hinge on successes, rather on the small joys like seeing your cat use his cat cave for the first time (which happened mere hours ago), or finding that out of print book you’ve been wanting for ages, or trying on a dress you think won’t suit you and realising it’s the dress you’ve been waiting for your entire life.

Goals are all well and good for motivation, but that’s where I’m leaving them. I’ll try and do all these things. I may succeed in some, I may fail in some others. But they’re more of a reminder of the things I want, and the things I want to do, rather than the things I base my self worth on.

I do hope they come true, though. Because dreams are like that. They ache and want to come true for you.

Do you have any goals for 2016? What are they?

Chiara / December 3, 2015 , Thu / books & reading, general

The question of “is it the book, or is it you?” can also pertain to movies, and TV shows. So in all reality, the title should probably have been “is it the source, or is it you?” but I wanted to reel people in, and ‘source’ doesn’t really get the point across as well. BUT ANYWAY.

I’ve been thinking about this for a while, but I still haven’t really ascertained an answer. I think it depends on what book you’ve read or movie/TV show you watched, and what kind of love comes from it. Hang on, let me explain.

example #1: book

raven boys

The Raven Cycle is one of my all time favourite series, discovered only at the beginning of this year. Now, while I REALLY enjoyed reading the books (the first and third were five stars, and the second was four stars, you can catch my reviews here), it was everything outside of the book that made it special. Talking about it with friends, making playlists, writing fanfic, reading friends’ fanfic.

My love for The Raven Cycle stopped essentially being just ABOUT TRC, but rather about all the things that came from it. Friendships, fun, conversations, analyses, fanfic. All of the stuff that is still centred on the books, but actually coming from me and what I put into my love for the books. Transforming it from just a: I love this series!!!!! feeling to: I am going to buy things with Ronan’s face on it, and write sexy AF fanfic, and make playlists, and scroll through every page of Maggie Stiefvater’s Tumblr just so I can compile all the songs she tagged with JUST Ronan and Adam.

So was it the book(s) that made this series so special, or was it what I took from them and made my own?

example #2: tv show

merlin

I barely have the words to describe what this show means to me, to be honest. My love for it knows no bounds. At all.

This is slightly different to TRC, though, because whereas my “outside” love for TRC began practically as soon as I read it, my “outside” love for Merlin didn’t start until the show had actually ended. I adored every minute of watching it, cried every tear in my body when it was finished, and loved it for itself without engaging this love in anything beyond the show.

I started to miss the show, and created a Tumblr account just to reblog Merlin related things, and made friends who love the show as much as I do. And then I started writing fanfic, and my friends read the fanfic, and I forced persuaded them to then go and watch the show. (I also purchased a ridiculous amount of beautiful fanart.)

So I think in this case the boundary between ‘the source’ and ‘me’, was clearer. My intense love for the show required nothing but what it gave me. This love only grew once I started adding to this love myself.

example #3: movie

p and p

When this movie released on DVD I rented it from my local DVD rental store, and returned it before watching it. And then, about two years later, my best friend was talking about how much she loved it, and then we watched it. We had to pause the movie every five minutes for her to explain exactly what the hell the characters were actually saying, and I naively thought that Mr Wickham was a slighted poor soul (oh how I was wrong), but I loved every second of it.

From then on, it became one of our traditions. We’d watch it regularly and flail about Mr Darcy (especially the hand flex), and swoon along to the soundtrack. It was one of our most precious ~things~.

I think it’s pretty clear from the fact that I didn’t watch it when I had the chance that as beautiful and gorgeous as this movie is, it was the happiness and measure of closeness that it brought to my best friend and I that made it so special to me. Without that, I think it would have probably remained unwatched, or at best a movie I thought was lovely. It would never have become one of my favourite movies that I somehow manage to watch without much time passing at all. It was me, in this case. I am sure of it.

But there are other cases when I’m really not sure if it is the source or me that makes something special. Perhaps it is some magical mesh of the two of them. Because no matter how much outside love I bring to something, if the source didn’t exist, the love wouldn’t either. But I also think that outside love can make something infinitely more special, because it becomes more than just a book, or a TV show, or a movie. It becomes the thing that gives you inspiration, or happiness, or a beloved tradition.

Let me know your thoughts! Is it the source, or you? Or a mix between the two?

Chiara / August 13, 2015 , Thu / books & reading, general

If you have read my book blog, I make it pretty known about my feelings on sex and its inclusion in the young adult genre. But in case you don’t know my specific stance … sex should be in YA. It should be in YA, and it should be in there positively. The days of fade to black “sex scenes” should well and truly be over. The days where the heterosexual couple doesn’t have sex until the third book should well and truly be over. The days where LGBTQIA+ sex scenes barely exist should well and truly be over. The lack of sex positivity should well and truly be over.

Teenagers and young adults have sex. Let’s not pretend they don’t, because that would be utterly ridiculous, and more than a little naive. They have sex. And that sex doesn’t have to be with someone that they are in earth-shattering love with, and that they think they’ll marry and spend the rest of their lives with. So why is that the message that YA books are (for the most part) putting forward? Why are female protagonists feeling lust and desire for their male love interests, and then curbing it until the third book?

Writing for a young audience comes with a level of responsibility. And that responsibility comes into play for a lot of themes, and sex is one of them. Messages that safe sex is the way to go, and that wanting sex at a young age is not a bad thing, and that having sex with a someone you might not spend the rest of your life with is okay are the messages that YA authors need to be putting out there.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that sex should be shoved in everyone’s faces when reading YA, and that it should be promoted, or described in explicit and erotic ways, but I am saying that things need to change.

Here’s an example (this was a fantasy novel, by the way): a heterosexual couple is making out fully clothed, and they fall back onto a bed. End scene. The next scene starts with “afterwards”.

Firstly, after what exactly? After a hot and heavy fully clothed make-out session? After a sexual exploration of the hands or mouth? After sexual intercourse? And if it was sexual intercourse, what exactly happened? Are there condoms in this fantasy world? Or a special herb (all the kudos to Sarah J. Maas for including the contraception herb in her Throne of Glass books)? Did the girl like it? What the actual hell happened after they fell back on that bed fully clothed? Because fading to black to save grace or save readers or save parents or whatever the reason for that fade to black isn’t helping anyone.

It might seem to some that safe sex and sex positivity isn’t the responsibility of YA authors, and that parents or guardians or sex ed teachers should be the ones that take on that role. And sure, they can do that. But YA authors can do that, too. They can show readers that safe sex is important, and that girls can want and enjoy sex. Sex positivity when it comes to girls is all too scarce, and the “we won’t do it until the third book” trope is just perpetuating that. That girls have to wait, and be unsure, and be vulnerable. Yes, of course girls can be those things. But they can also want it now, and be sure that they want it, and be completely unvulnerable.

And beyond that, there’s the fact that sexy times in LGBTQIA+ YA are even more scarce. It’s like there’s a diversity threshold and that kissing is all the wider (hetero) audience is willing to accept when it comes to reading about a relationship that is outside their own experience or attraction. But there comes the responsibility again. What about gay guys and lesbian girls and trans teens and intersex young adults (and everyone in between and beyond) who might not have any idea what they’re doing, or what they should be doing, or what kind of precautions or preparations they need to take when having sex? There needs to be examples of that in the books they’re reading, too. Queer teens need to see themselves, and the thoughts and feelings and to-dos of their sexual experiences, represented in what they’re reading.

I’m just so sick of YA taking sex and making it something completely unrealistic. We need books where girls don’t have to wait until the third book, where the actual act of being safe in a sexual situation is explicit, and that show what sex can be like for people who aren’t cisgender and heterosexual. We need to be so much more open about this because pretending and fading to black is doing no one any favours.

Chiara / June 4, 2015 , Thu / films & music, general

I was chatting to Topaz about Ben Howard (over on my other blog, where I implore you to listen to him, because it is a really good life choice), and we both said that Ben is our musical soulmate.

It’s true. I love Ben Howard like I have never loved a musician in my life before. I’ve had plenty of favourites in the past – Angus & Julia Stone, Thirty Seconds to Mars, Boy & Bear, The Paper Kites, Death Cab for Cutie, City & Colour, and Ed Sheeran are the notable ones – but they’ve all been surpassed by another one. That’s not to say I don’t still ardently adore these artists, they just don’t hold the same place in my heart that they once did.

And, to be entirely honest, I don’t think anyone will surpass Ben in my heart.

Everything about his music just nestles right into the deep and dark corners of my heart. His lyrics, his music, his voice – it’s like they were created to fill this little niche inside me that I didn’t even know was there until I listened to his songs for the first time and got this feeling. This kind of ache in my chest at everything that his music does to me.

I don’t cry a lot, or over many things. In fact, the list is quite small (and consists of things like stories about abused animals or animals that triumph [like the bunny kitten], academia [yes, I know], sad moments in movies and TV shows, and of course when I’m hurting over something).

I saw Ben Howard live for the first time last Thursday (and missed the last train home, and ended up spending $250 on a cab but hey, that’s a story for another day), and I was able to sit down and watch the entire time. This is surprising, because the venue is all standing general admission. I’ve been there twice before and had to stand for hours on end waiting for the musician to come out and just start playing already. But for Ben I decided I wanted to watch from the balcony, and I sat down at the railing because it was an hour before the freaking pre-band (I don’t know the actual name but I call them pre-bands) came out, and most everyone on the balcony was sitting down. But even when the lights dimmed, and Ben walked onto the stage, and everyone on the balcony stood up, our little corner didn’t. I turned around, and the girls behind me just looked at me – no desire to stand.

So I got to sit and watch my musical soulmate pour his art into the air.

I have two favourite Ben Howard songs: Depth Over Distance and Only Love (he didn’t play either of them – I actually have really shit luck when it comes to musicians playing my favourite songs), and a favourite collection: Burgh Island EP (which he sang one song from as his final final song in his encore).

So when my eyes filled with tears when Ben was halfway through playing I Forget Where We Were, I was kind of surprised. I’d only ever cried at one concert before, and that was when Death Cab sang Soul Meets Body, and I was holding hands with my best friend, and everything was kind of magical. But there I was, smiling and crying at the same time. I shouldn’t have been surprised, really. I mean, Ben’s music has really touched my soul – many times, and for many months.

Anyway, I thought I would tell you guys about my musical soulmate because my last few posts on this blog haven’t exactly been full of positive things.

Out of curiosity: do you have a musical soulmate? Do tell!

P.s. Here’s I Forget Where We Were, if you want to have a listeny (although this is a bit more acoustic than how he played it at my show):

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