What if I told you August would be better?

Uhaul moving truck flying through the air over tree and building

July has been a crazy month. There’s been a few minor wins, and a lot of major setbacks. Most of it down to unfortunate timing and there isn’t much that can be helped in that department.

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Not without magic, anyway.

In short, I had four major things happen in July. The first was Camp NaNoWriMo, the second was getting a promotion at work that came with three events that need planning, the third was participating in NYC Midnight’s Flash Fiction Challenge, and the last was moving house. It was a perfect storm of so much to do, so little time.

While I enjoy event planning and have a strong background in it, it is a tremendous amount of work, on top of some things I already had going on. Working full time left very little time for writing, which also had to compete with packing and routine housework for my free time in the mornings and evenings and weekends. One of those weekends I dedicated to the Flash Fiction Challenge (though I did that quite gladly, it’s a wonderful contest and I had a blast writing my entry!), and now our intended new home has fallen through and is probably going to end up being a major pain at this point. We’re scrambling to sort out living arrangements for next month, with some very promising leads. So without further ado, here’s what was accomplished:

Photography:

I had a lovely shoot at Lincoln Castle and Lincoln Cathedral, bolstered by a few shots around Lincoln in general and some by London Waterloo. I’ve already started posting these on my Instagram, and started a travel-only Instagram featuring a tiny pink bunny. Follow my personal ‘Gram for bees, cats, and highlights from my photo shoots. Follow the bunny for his travel blogging.

pink stuffed bunny sitting on stone wall

How can you resist that face?

I’ve also signed up for several stock photography sites. You’ll soon find my work for sale on several websites, such as: Dreamstime, Alamy, Crestock, and Photo Dune. Watch this space for links.

Writing:

I didn’t reach my word count goal for Camp NaNoWriMo, but I wrote 16k words for my first draft of Nushada. I’m still proud of that, because it’s 16k words I didn’t have written previously, and it’s still an impressive amount in a short time span. I’m finding it particularly cathartic, and I still want to, and plan to, have it ready to query by 2018 (Agents…).

I did complete the first round of the NYC Midnight Flash Fiction Challenge. You can read that here, if you’re interested, and I’ll be finding out how I did before the next round in September, which is fine by me as it gives me a month to recover from July.

That pretty much covers all major developments this month, and I have high hopes for August. I want to continue working on Nushada, take more photos, and continue to brush up on my flash fiction skills. Until next time, kiddos!

rbR4W

 

Camp NaNoWriMo: The Road So Far…

Camp NaNoWriMo is going about as well as this car's owner's day.

I did it. Part of me probably knew it was coming, but I still didn’t see it coming. I hit The Wall.

Runner Athlete Fitness Wall Run Exercise

It started as a headache on Friday after an evening out with people from work. So that nixed Friday’s writing. Saturday I still had the headache. And now we’re at Sunday and I’m  struggling to reclaim that momentum I built up over the previous week.

I’m currently sitting at 13126 words, and by Day 9 I should be on 14516. 1390 words to go. I’m struggling to make it to 750.

What have I been relying on to maintain any sort of a habit?

1. The Extreme Harry Potter Word Crawls

This is the number one tool in my kit. Any time I’ve really seriously dedicated myself to writing, it’s been with this. You can find it here (requires a log in to NaNoWriMo’s website) and I highly recommend it. It makes things fun, and gives you small, achievable goals. Things like ‘write 250 words’ or ‘write for five minutes’. And it follows everyone’s favourite wizard! There’s even stuff for multiplayer (the ‘word wars’). What’s not to like?

2. 750 Words

We’ve all heard about the morning pages. For those who somehow are writers but haven’t ever googled ‘how to be a writer’, the morning pages are a recommended prescription for a busy brain. You write (by hand, if possible) at least three pages of whatever comes to mind.

This website allows you to write that, and provides some nice analytics tools as well as badges to incentivise maintaining writing streaks. It’s pretty addictive, especially if you’re like me and metrics are your kink. They can tell you how long you spent writing, what you accomplished while you were doing it, tone, POV, and most commonly used words.

camp day 5

My most visually impressive selection of stats.

3. Accountability Buddies

Guilt and embarrassment are probably the biggest motivators in human history, outside of the usual (carnal) suspects. So I decided to load up on those.

Nelson_Ha-Ha

I post about it as close to daily as possible on my Twitter and Facebook, to keep me accountable to both my close friends and family as well as the stellar writing community on Twitter.  I also exchange emails with a friend who is studying for a license exam and we check in on each other that way. Lastly, I’ve instructed a colleague (and friend!) to bung sweets across the divider between our desks if I’m able to provide proof of progress to her each morning. I’m grateful for the support. (P.S. The aforementioned colleague is a talented artist! You can find her here.)

4. Heavy Pre-Planning

I’ll return once more to the tropes littering every website that touches on the topic of writing: pantsers vs. plotters.

I fall heavily into the realm of plotters. Some people don’t need to do this, and they write beautiful organic stories and everything’s neatly filed away in their brains. I am not one of those people. I take plotting to its cold, functional extreme. I used the worksheets on Annie Neugebauer’s website, which you can find here.

They’ve totally become my crutch, because once I find something I like that produces even mediocre results out of my usual sludge, dammit I’m going to use it until it’s unhealthy.

5. Habitica

I go through highs and lows with my mood, and with it my productivity and creativity peaks and troughs as well. If I’m not careful, one day I’m going to end up with a diagnosis. But the important point is that I go through periods where I do a ton of research on boosting productivity and tracking goals and building habits. This leads to a flurry of apps to go with it and notebooks that are painstakingly designed and will most assuredly sit empty (RIP bullet journals).

The latest success story from one of these is Habitica. It’s a basic sort of RPG where you grind by completing tasks and goals IRL. You can set daily tasks, habits, and long term projects/goals, and even break these down into their individual component actions. There are pets, and quests, and equipment for your avatar, so the appeal is fairly obvious for most, as are the addictive elements. I’ll have to check back in with a later post about the long term results of Habitica, but so far, so good. It’s kept me on track with Camp NaNo, as well as the myriad other things I’m attempting.


So that’s what I’m using to try and tackle this behemoth of a project. What have you found useful in keeping the words flowing, come what may?

June is over? Julying.

This monthly update is gonna be exciting.

It’s been an exciting month around here.

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I finished my photography course, and I’ve been on several photo shoots, including one with human subjects! I haven’t done much with people, and I don’t think it would ever be a main focus, but I do want to try and get some studio portraiture under my belt. It’s just nice to have that skill set, even if it’s one I rarely indulge in. I’m quite happy with my bees and my flowers and things like that. I think that when you’re enjoying your work and have a passion for the subjects that comes through in your finished work.

I also received a promotion at work today, which was a great way to end a day, a week, and a month! I’ve got a new title, Marketing Executive, and a little more money in my pocket each month. It’s really nice to be in a job I actually enjoy, working with friendly people that see and appreciate the work I’m doing. I don’t dread going into work, I get to laugh a lot with my colleagues, and I no longer have to worry about watching what I say because of office politics or getting stabbed in the back. I’m also getting to develop some weaker skills, like in design, which I can apply to my writing and photography hobbies as well.

Speaking of writing, Camp NaNoWriMo starts tomorrow. I’m participating for the first time ever, and I’m pretty excited so far. Two days ago I finally hammered out a hard outline for Nushada, and got myself pretty psyched about it again in the process. I’m hoping that having a good plan of where the story is going will allow me to pick it up literally whenever I can, instead of hemming and hawing over where the story goes next before I start actually putting words down. For those of you participating, I’d love to hear about your projects!

It’s learned to use tools…

I’ve decided to give Habitica a try. I love the interface so far, because it lets me keep everything together. It has the functionality of smart diary or whatever that program was, but makes it fun and more interesting to use. I’m hoping I can find some other people to use it with. I think that that’s a huge hurdle for me. So if you use Habitica, let me know?

Today also saw me venturing back into the realm of actually writing things. I worked on Bootstraps a little bit this morning, and updated The Survible for the first time in months.

All of this, combined with increasing my participation in the frankly amazing Twitter-based writing community and no less than three batches of stellar photos in one month has truly felt like climbing out of a deep hole. Like that one from Milo & Otis. You know the one.

The grave bell’s ringing…

Another day, another rebranding. This one is sticking though, cause there’s a paid-for URL to go with it.

We’re L’Oiseau de Feu now! Whoo!

I decided I wanted an umbrella brand to do everything under. And a less common wording for Firebird became the brand, because I’m learning to give myself second chances.

I’ve been thinking for some time about The Side Hustle™ and decided that it would all fall under the L’Oiseau de Feu banner. So you’re hopefully going to start seeing more content here, more regularly.

I have ideas lined up for content, including a regular feature, and a revival of my Undead Darlings idea…possibly with a new name, due to the fact that there’s apparently a video game in development using the same name. I’m accepting replacement ideas.

One of the regular things I hope to start including is a monthly update of what I’ve been up to that month. Things like word counts, samples of photography, and activity online and off.

So far, I’ve left a really toxic job for a really lovely one. I didn’t realise how bad it had gotten, until I made it to this second job and started looking around at my situation. I’d dropped off the radar entirely, across all my social media and this site. I wasn’t writing, I wasn’t doing much of anything. I was desperately trying to figure out how to kill my desire to keep pursuing creative outlets and consign myself to clocking in, wedging into an uncomfortably small box, clocking out, going home, watching tv, and going to bed to start it all over again and being okay with that.

It didn’t work, and I’m so glad it didn’t. I  couldn’t snuff out the flame.

So now here I am, working on rebuilding my headspace and waiting to see the results of that. I’ve been writing poems, and flash fiction, and dipping my toes back into participating in writing tags on Twitter. I’ve also started writing a new WIP, working title is Bootstraps. I’m also taking more photos, building my skill set there, and enjoying seeing the fruits of my labours.

My goals this month include outlining all my currently open WIPs, so that I can write on them more easily, having pre-planned the routes of each of them. If I feel like writing sci-fi, I can pick up the map for CASI and pick up where I want to. Same for the dozens of others I have lined up. I’d also like to hit ten thousand words written this month.

Watch this space!

Mid-Month Memo

I finally got around to tidying up my site’s style. It was fun before, but I wanted to go something a little more minimalist and clean. It’s easier to read, easier to navigate, and looks less like a grandmother’s upholstery. Hopefully what’ll follow is more content, as I know I’ve let things slide recently.

NaNoWriMo 2016 – A Manifesto

nanowrimo 2016 logo

Well, here we are again, ladies and gentlemen and all things in between! November looms ahead, and with it, the trial by fire we all as writers go through at some point or another: National Novel Writing Month.

I have had several failed attempts at NaNoWriMo. Well, failed if you take it straight at its face value, that you either arrive in December with a rough draft of a manuscript or die trying. I like to consider them successes. The year I only wrote around ten thousand words? That was the month I wrote ten thousand more than the month before, so I counted it as a small success. The year I first attended a Write In event, and pushed that ten thousand to twenty five? Yeah, technically, I still failed, but I considered it a huge success in figuring out what helps me produce more words.

This year, I’m taking a different approach to the usual routine. I’m going to try looking at NaNoWriMo as a chance to create not necessarily a rough draft of a manuscript, but a set of good habits. I’m starting to see that, at least for me, NaNo is less about what you’re writing, and more about the fact that you’re writing. It’s about the communal pressure – and support! – to write every single day. It might not always be on a fresh manuscript idea. It might not always be on the same concept. But as long as I’m writing every day, I’ll consider it a success towards building good writing habits.

I’ll be looking at building the following rules into my daily routine:

  • Write. Might be 50 words, might be 5000. But every day, put something down in writing.
  • It’s okay to switch focus. I’m one of those people with a ton of half-cocked projects at any given time. And a lot of my motivation comes from idle daydreaming and brainstorming I do while doing non-writey tasks like housework and my Day Job™. So I need to grant myself the freedom to write what I’m feeling that particular day. Otherwise, I won’t write anything at all.
  • It’s okay to produce bad writing. I’m the sort of person whose procrastination somewhat stems from perfectionism. It can’t be done until it can be done perfectly. And as anyone who’s written anything knows, your first draft, without fail, is garbage. So I’ve been trying to learn that it’s okay to screw up. It’s okay to do a bad first job. It’s okay, because it’s gonna get revisited.

So, like all my other NaNo attempts, I probably won’t emerge with a finished rough draft. But hopefully I will come out with some solid writing habits that will produce many rough drafts, and revisions, and blog posts, and on and on and on…

frizz

Rabbit vs. Tablet: That Skoda Video All Over Facebook

[Warning here for strong opinions, an Americanised slant despite attempts to keep it more broad, and social justice themes.]

There’s a video circulating the internets, and because Buzzfeed made and hosted it, you’ve seen it. For those who haven’t, here it is:

It’s from Buzzfeed and European car manufacturer Skoda, and it’s about how because they grew up with technology like cable TV, tablets, and the internet, children these days can’t identify obscure items like artichokes by touch alone. And apparently that’s terrible, and the solution is to go buy a car.

Now, we’re going to dismiss the logical vacuum of Skoda ownership teaching your children about artichokes(Is a glovebox full of them a standard feature?). This video always gave me that nebulous, uncomfortable feeling of being angry with something and not being able to pinpoint why. But the other day, I finally realised what it was, so I’m going  to subject you to my issues with this video.

What I am going to get out of the way immediately is the standard anti-intellectual, anti-technological advancement trappings. Here’s a cool little factoid from the video:

techstudy

And here’s another factoid: A study I just did found that the amount of cars produced annually in the USA has increased nearly 75 times itself in the last twenty years, as of 1927. Are we losing touch with livery? Have we forgotten what a horse is? Go buy a horse and buggy so your children don’t go without the experience of horse manure aromas clinging to everything they own.

Twenty years ago was 1996. You might remember this time as when you didn’t spend tons of time in front of a computer because the internet was very slow, loading anything took a long time, and the target audience was only starting to include people who were off the clock. As this Slate article put it:

You rarely linger on the Web; your computer takes about 30 seconds to load each page, and, hey, you’re paying for the Internet by the hour. Plus, you’re tying up the phone line. Ten minutes after you log in, you shut down your modem.

internet-explorer-15-year-journey3Yahoo was still relevant. There was no Chrome.

So yeah, time spent with technology has doubled as the quality of that technology improved. Same as my little automotive history snippet up there. What changed in that time period? The cars got cheaper, more comfortable, and Henry Ford rolled out the assembly line and the Model T. And then more people got them. The time spent with the new technology of cars increased as access to and quality of cars improved.

Cool, now that we got the luddite bias out of the way, we can move onto what really bothers me about this video, and the school of thought behind it.

rupn8q41Mark this in your calendars: It’s the only time you’re gonna see Family Guy on this blog.

The between-the-lines takeaway of this video, as far as I can tell, is that parents should be ashamed and have failed their children, by plopping them down in front of a television/computer/tablet/video game instead of taking them on family outings to enjoy nature.

1-crop-article920-largePeople who were better parents than you. Probably.

Now, this is a lot to unpack, but what it basically boils down to is more bootstrap-style poor-shaming. This argument that parents need to stop being lazy and go naturing with their kids misses out on a whole plethora of socioeconomic reasons why people are probably not doing that.

Nature requires space, money, and transportation, as well as free time. These are things that are largely luxuries of the upper class. Let’s look at these individually, shall we?

We’ll start with free time and money. You might remember a small kerfuffle about an employee budgeting guideline McDonald’s put out a while back. It was ridiculous and insulting for a number of reasons, but it also tacitly admitted that anyone earning minimum wage is going to struggle to get by even while working two jobs. It lacks line items for childcare, gas for your car, or groceries.

American families spend on average $250 a month for gasoline, and it’s higher in other countries, like the United Kingdom. And Forbes reckons it takes nearly $800 a month to raise one child. Now, 3 million people are earning exactly at, or below, the national minimum wage in America. Couple that with the fact that people aged 25 or over were the second largest group of minimum wage workers. So you’ve got to have one parent working three jobs, or two parents with at least one working two jobs, in order to make ends meet.

This means they do not have time to pile the kids into the family car(which may or may not be reliable) and go find some nature to poke with a stick. Hell, they don’t have time to make, and eat, those wholesome family dinners we’re all supposed to be having, either.

Happy family having roast chicken dinner at table

So yes, kids are left to their own devices. And they’re probably not going to traipse out into the great unknown to look for bugs. Not when they have hours of homework even in primary school and every PSA, teacher, and parent is warning them of the dangers of going outside their home.

strangerdanger
Not in this article: mild annoyance at putting the vaguely Asian girl in a yellow helmet.

Wealthier families do have free time, because they don’t have to work the gruelling hours. When they do happen to work long hours, such as in politics, journalism, and corporate executive positions, the children have access to care givers, child minders, and all the camps you can shake a stick-bug at.

That’s free time. Now onto money. Let’s go back to that McDonald’s budget. Not a lot of wiggle room. A large swath of the population can’t afford to take their family to a zoo or aquarium. I personally could only afford the Georgia Aquarium once a year because locals were given free admission on their birthday. Don’t believe me? I did some hunting. Here’s a selection of zoo and aquarium admission prices.

tickets
And here’s a good currency conversion site.

You might recognise this as pretty expensive. The cheapest option in the Skoda’s geographic region is the Berlin Zoological Garden. And that’s still 29.50 Euros for one parent and two children, just for admission. That doesn’t take into account public transit tickets or gasoline in the car to get there, doesn’t factor in feeding those kids, and doesn’t even touch on the gift shop. I understand that zoos and aquariums have astronomical upkeep costs, and that’s fine. I would rather have healthy, happy animals and well-funded conservation research than cheaper tickets. But it’s still expensive(how about using taxes or lottery money to subsidise ticket prices???). A good cause doesn’t put the money in a parent’s bank account.

But wait, you say! It’s not zoos or nothing! What about parks? What about national parks and public green spaces?

Good point. Where are those, largely? Rural areas. Places far from city centres and suburbs and usually poorly served by public transit routes.  So you’ve got to have the luxury of time off from work, a car that can go longer distances, and which they can afford to fuel to the country and back. And no, they probably don’t already live in the countryside, as they then would not be able to afford their daily commute to the service industry jobs which have left rural landscapes in a sort of work drought.

On the flip side, you have the side of humanity that gave rise to yours truly: the rural poor. People who live in backwater areas, y’know, ‘paddle faster, I hear banjos’ territory.

200_sI always miss this guy between family reunions!

And the same thing applies. It’s down to socioeconomic capability. They can’t afford luxuries like tablets, and reception both for cell phones and satellite TV(they’re normally outside the coverage area for cable companies), is poor and largely determined by location (wedged between two mountains? no service), which the poor often cannot choose for themselves. Left with little else to do, they go explore nature.

But even this, I’d argue, is a window backwards through time, to an era before we saw a flip in the economics of the countryside. Long ago, the rich lived in the cities and poor people lived in the agricultural and mining dominated country. These days, the poor work service industry jobs in the city and live in cramped council estates, housing projects, and small apartments. The rich live in sprawling, picturesque country estates, decommissioned farms, or hell, even relatively spacious suburbs.

And here’s where you encounter the space issue. The lower classes can’t necessarily afford a place with a roomy garden, or even a sunny balcony. And have you seen an allotment waiting list? Land is a premium in the UK, and there’s too much of it in America(isolation of urban areas by suburban sprawl).

So, yes, kids are losing touch with nature, but don’t blame technology. For so many children, PBS, Netflix, Youtube, and other media outlets are their only access to nature, science, and other critical forms of education. And don’t blame parents; nobody wakes up and says ‘damn, I wanna be the worst parent I can be’. They’re doing the best they can in a system which is stacked against them. These attitudes of blaming the poor for their own situations have to end, and the poor have to learn to stop letting upper classes gaslight them into thinking they can just bootstrap themselves into an idyllic lifestyle with leisure, money, summer camps for kids, and paid vacations.

Speaking of the bootstrap rhetoric, Skoda has a companion website for this video, full of cute little craft and activity ideas to reconnect children with nature. Here’s a screencap from the lite version of the website:

whitewashing

You might realise this looks like a hipster’s vision board. You might also notice that it’s white as the freshly driven snow. And you may even notice a few things which only a small portion of children have access to:

  • LEDs to fart around with
  • space and materials for urban gardening
  • random rope for practising knots (no word on whether the government will subsidise this purchase as skill training for fetish club work)
  • a tree to climb and hang things in
  • parents with the free time to do this crap/supervise kids doing this crap

These are great ideas, but unless Skoda is also going to help with initiatives to bring this to all income levels(a free summer camp, for instance, which would be a boon to parents who rely on schools to feed their children) it comes off as a bit trite.

So if I wouldn’t blame parents, or children, or technology, what would I blame? I’d blame economics which prioritise productivity and consumption. They tie a person’s worth to their output levels and contribute to work cultures where manual labour is massively devalued as both ‘easy’ and ‘cheap’.  I’d also blame a deep-seated societal hatred of the poor. They’re taught it’s their fault they’re poor, it’s their fault they can’t give their kids a well-rounded natural education, and they learn that because they’re horrible people for being poor on purpose(????? who the hell chooses to be in poverty?), they deserve these awful jobs that continue the cycle.

In conclusion, parenting is hard. Making ends meet is hard. I have so much respect for all of you out there, striving to provide the very best for your kids. Don’t let these types of videos and such make you feel like a terrible parent because your kid doesn’t know what an artichoke is like without seeing it. You’re doing great and your kid is gonna turn out great.


There. That’s my rant over. Back to your regularly scheduled light-hearted writing and review related content. I’d love to hear your thoughts on this campaign, too! Do you find it easy to get out into nature?

Places to Write — The Art House

the art house, one of many writing places i've found

Why do we need writing places?

I’m a firm believer in the “going to work” school of thought when it comes to writing…or for that matter, any home based work. The gist is that you have a dedicated space which is only for work, and thus when you go to this area your brain gets into ‘work mode’. This is why I never write on my desktop PC. I can’t. My desktop is a Fallout Machine. That’s the place where I waste eight hours building a replica of my house in Minecraft. I’ve tried producing writing there. It doesn’t work.

The amazing, Atlanta-based writing group 10 Days Before… did not introduce me to the idea of commuting to write, but it did show me what I could do in the ‘write’ atmosphere. My highest ever word count was 2200 words in an hour, and that was achieved at one of 10DB’s write in events. It sold me on the concept of hunting out places to go to write.

The search begins…

So off to Google I go, trying every search term combination I can think of to try and find reviews of local watering holes written from a creative point of view. Do they have power outlets? What about just the right amount of background noise? Which are too loud to hear yourself think? Where’s the wifi? Who’s been to these places and tried to write there?

I found the results sadly lacking. Outside of New York City and London, no one seems to have compiled any sort of ‘best writing places in X’ type pages. So this is what I’m going to set out to do here. I’m going to go to random places in the Itchen Valley area–specifically Winchester, Chandlers Ford, Eastleigh, and Southampton–and write there for a few hours to try and get an idea of what it’s like to be there as a writer and how the place functions as a creative space.

My first stop is a well known landmark in Southampton’s cultural scene…

the front of the art house, one of many writing places i've found

The Art House

An eclectic cafe on a Mission from God™ and fighting the good fight. From their website:

We are a not-for-profit, Community Interest Company, a gallery, arts venue and cafe which has been running since January 2008 in Southampton, UK.  The Art House was founded by the four directors, Bik, Jani, Ziggy and Nina and is staffed mainly by volunteers.  We have three main aims:

– To promote the Arts.
– To enhance our local and global community.
– To encourage positive, healthy & sustainable living.

I can’t recommend this place enough. It’s an interesting atmosphere, full of bright colours, local artwork and crafts, and the occasional Doodle Book lying about. They also offer low key music, not too loud, and are just busy enough during the day that you can get some stimuli without being overwhelmed. They also offer free wifi, and a quiet space during the day, which demonstrates a commitment to giving people a creative space.

doodlebook at the art house, one of many writing places i've foundA taste of the decor, and a Doodle Book!

They stay busy, playing host to local musicians, a storytelling group, and even the local Makers scene. What this means for us hermity writer types is the opportunity to be a fly on the wall in so many different scenarios and soak up information on a broad range of topics. Maybe even discover a new hobby?

The staff are friendly and welcoming, as well as largely volunteer-based. They’re happy to help newcomers and lone travellers settle in, and the place is a magnet for solo questers. It strikes me as a venue which strives to be a safe place for everyone.

How’s the food?

loaded nachos at the art house, one of many writing places i've foundThe food is very good, and almost entirely vegan, with many gluten free options. I had some nachos while I was there, and an England’s own brand of cola, Fentimans. The prices are on par with a restaurant in the city centre, believe my nachos were around £5-6, total was around £8.

They also offer a lower cost option in their Magic Hat Tea Bar. This is a self-serve, by donation alternative to expensive drinks out. It’s part of their belief that public spaces are vital to mental and emotional wellbeing, and the lifeline this can give to those who are struggling financially…as a lot of writers and other artistic types are.

Where you are is where it’s at…

“Wow! I’m super stoked to go support this amazing business!” You chirp, eyes large with optimism. “Where is this magical place?”

Ah, well, it’s conveniently located in Southampton’s city centre. They’re on Above Bar Street, close to the Guild Hall. Easily accessed by rail or bus, though parking a car nearby can be an endeavour unto itself. As a nondriver myself, I can’t comment on this aspect, but I hear tell it’s a beast.

Opening time information

Pulled from their website:

Tuesday 11am – 10pm
Wednesday 11am – 10pm
Thursday 11am – 10pm
Friday 11am – 10pm
Saturday 11am – 10pm
Sunday 12 – 5pm.

Lunch is served 12 – 4pm and supper is available 6 – 9pm

So what’re you waiting for?! Get out there and absorb some of the local flavour!


What’re your thoughts on writing in the field?

Do you have a venue to suggest for this project?

Let me know!

 

Itchen to Write — The Art House

the art house, one of many writing places i've found

I’m a firm believer in the “going to work” school of thought when it comes to writing…or for that matter, any home based work. The gist is that you have a dedicated space which is only for work, and thus when you go to this area your brain gets into ‘work mode’. This is why I never write on my desktop PC. I can’t. My desktop is a Fallout Machine. That’s the place where I waste eight hours building a replica of my house in Minecraft. I’ve tried producing writing there. It doesn’t work.

The amazing, Atlanta-based writing group 10 Days Before… did not introduce me to the idea of commuting to write, but it did show me what I could do in the ‘write’ atmosphere. My highest ever word count was 2200 words in an hour, and that was achieved at one of 10DB’s write in events. It sold me on the concept of hunting out places to go to write.

So off to Google I go, trying every search term combination I can think of to try and find reviews of local watering holes written from a creative point of view. Which places have power outlets? Which have just the right amount of background noise? Which are too loud to hear yourself think? Where’s the wifi? Who’s been to these places and tried to write there?

I found the results sadly lacking. Outside of New York City and London, no one seems to have compiled any sort of ‘best places to write in X’ type pages. So this is what I’m going to set out to do here. I’m going to go to random places in the Itchen Valley area–specifically Winchester, Chandlers Ford, Eastleigh, and Southampton–and write there for a few hours to try and get an idea of what it’s like to be there as a writer and how the place functions as a creative space.

My first stop is a well known landmark in Southampton’s cultural scene…

DSC_0535

The Art House. An eclectic cafe on a Mission from God™ and fighting the good fight. From their website:

We are a not-for-profit, Community Interest Company, a gallery, arts venue and cafe which has been running since January 2008 in Southampton, UK.  The Art House was founded by the four directors, Bik, Jani, Ziggy and Nina and is staffed mainly by volunteers.  We have three main aims:

– To promote the Arts.
– To enhance our local and global community.
– To encourage positive, healthy & sustainable living.

I can’t recommend this place enough. It’s an interesting atmosphere, full of bright colours, local artwork and crafts, and the occasional Doodle Book lying about. They also offer low key music, not too loud, and are just busy enough during the day that you can get some stimuli without being overwhelmed. They also offer free wifi, and a quiet space during the day, which demonstrates a commitment to giving people a creative space.

doodlebookA taste of the decor, and a Doodle Book!

They stay busy, playing host to local musicians, a storytelling group, and even the local Makers scene. What this means for us hermity writer types is the opportunity to be a fly on the wall in so many different scenarios and soak up information on a broad range of topics. Maybe even discover a new hobby?

The staff are friendly and welcoming, as well as largely volunteer-based. They’re happy to help newcomers and lone travellers settle in, and the place is a magnet for solo questers. It strikes me as a venue which strives to be a safe place for everyone.

DSC_0533The food is very good, and almost entirely vegan, with many gluten free options. I had
some nachos while I was there, and an England’s own brand of cola, Fentimans. The prices are on par with a restaurant in the city centre, believe my nachos were around £5-6, total was around £8.

They also offer a lower cost option in their Magic Hat Tea Bar. This is a self-serve, by donation alternative to expensive drinks out. It’s part of their belief that public spaces are vital to mental and emotional wellbeing, and the lifeline this can give to those who are struggling financially…as a lot of writers and other artistic types are.

“Wow! I’m super stoked to go support this amazing business!” You chirp, eyes large with optimism. “Where is this magical place?”

Ah, well, it’s conveniently located in Southampton’s city centre. They’re on Above Bar Street, close to the Guild Hall. Easily accessed by rail or bus, though parking a car nearby can be an endeavour unto itself. As a nondriver myself, I can’t comment on this aspect, but I hear tell it’s a beast.

Opening time information, pulled from their website:

Tuesday 11am – 10pm
Wednesday 11am – 10pm
Thursday 11am – 10pm
Friday 11am – 10pm
Saturday 11am – 10pm
Sunday 12 – 5pm.

Lunch is served 12 – 4pm and supper is available 6 – 9pm

So what’re you waiting for?! Get out there and absorb some of the local flavour!


What’re your thoughts on writing in the field?

Do you have a venue to suggest for this project?

Let me know!