The Need to Write

I love to write. I always have.

When I was a child, I would scribble endless stories on scrap pieces of paper and staple them together as little books.

Inspiration came from all sorts of places.

The animals in our garden were sentient creatures that would go on fantastical adventures among the overgrown trees and shrubs.

The lovebirds we looked after while my grandparents were on holiday were on their own vacation and would break out of their cage at night to socialise with the wild birds.

The ornaments on the shelves would come to life in my imagination and go on all kinds of adventures in the outside world, (my favourite of these was ‘The Pig That Lived in the Wild’ which I illustrated and recorded as an audiobook).

Once, I wrote a story about a squirrel that went into outer space in his squirrel-sized spacesuit. I have no idea where that one came from!

As I got older, my writing turned inward and rarely ventured beyond the boundaries of my journal pages. Severe depression and crippling OCD inspired poetry and introspective monologues that eventually helped to restore my emotional equilibrium. The mental health centre where I was treated kept some of my writings to help other patients, and ever since then I have believed in the power of creative expression to overcome emotions that would otherwise be suffocating. You can read more about those experiences in one of my previous posts.

Years have passed since then and my life is much busier now, to the point that sometimes I don’t realise that I NEED to write. The words force themselves through though, one or two lines at a time, until I have no choice but to notice them.

Sometimes, I dream about a dark room with a single spotlight shining on an easel holding a large sheet of white paper. As I watch, words appear on the page written by the invisible hand of my subconscious to form poems or extracts from stories. When I wake up, the words are still vibrant in my memory, and I make sure to write them down before they disappear again.

Other times, I find myself with a pen in my hand, idly scribbling words and ideas that won’t leave me alone unless I express them. Like this one that has been with me for the last few weeks:

Quote

It’s been a stressful start to the year, and I think these words are an expression of how I respond to emotional upheaval by taking refuge in writing. Those are usually the times when the words are at their most insistent and will run riot in my mind until I write them down.

I’m not sure where this blog post came from, but recently I’ve been feeling the need to write something, and this is what appeared when I sat down at my laptop.

I feel better now.

Advertisements

Kate Mulgrew’s ‘Born with Teeth’ and the impact she has had on my life

Born With Teeth CoverI was going to write a regular review of Kate Mulgrew’s Born with Teeth: A Memoir, but then I read it, and a simple review is not enough to express how I feel. This will be the most personal post I’ve ever written and I’m very nervous about it, but it feels like the right thing to do.

If you know me or are a regular reader of my blog, then you know I have been a fan of Kate and her work since I was 8 years old when I saw my first episode of Star Trek: Voyager, in which she played Captain Kathryn Janeway. I’m 27 now and my admiration and appreciation for her has grown exponentially over the years. She is an exceptionally talented actress; a wonderful orator; incredibly gracious towards her fans (I speak from experience); and a true joy to watch in any role she plays.

She is also, as it turns out, a beautifully gifted writer. Her lyrical eloquence weaves a tale so vivid and engaging that I could see it all playing out in my mind as if it were a movie. Kate lays out in unapologetic honesty a life filled with adventure, grief, trauma, and, above all, a tremendous passion for her work and her family. As she shares the intimate details of the pain of giving up her daughter for adoption, surviving a rape, losing two sisters and the kind of heartbreak only true love can bring, we are also treated to riveting stories of romance, travel and the drama of stage and screen. Kate is an astute observer of human nature and she uses this skill to craft dynamic and colourful depictions of the variety of interesting people she has encountered throughout her fascinating life.

Being the massive Star Trek fan that I am, the chapters about Kate’s time on Voyager were a real treat and I’m certainly delighted that she included them, but even if they hadn’t been there I would still have absolutely loved the book. At times intensely passionate and at others desperately sad, this was a memoir that had me completely hooked from beginning to end and left me with a profound sense of gratitude towards, and a greater understanding of, a woman I have admired for most of my life.

I love and look up to Kate for all the reasons I’ve mentioned, but there is one other reason that I have never spoken of because it was too painful and I didn’t think I was strong enough to give voice to it. But then I read Kate’s memoir, and the courage and bravery of her words gave me the confidence to find my own, and reminded me that there are some things which should not be kept hidden.

I grew up with a severely autistic younger brother whose inability to speak and frequent violent outbursts made for a very frightening and isolating environment in which to grow up. In their struggle to cope my parents inadvertently placed a tremendous burden of responsibility on me at a time when I was far too young to deal with it. I operated under the misguided belief that if I told them how terrified I was of my brother, how often he attacked me and how much I wished I could just go out and play with my friends, that my family would fall apart. I’m from a rural area in Scotland where there are few resources for special needs children, and with such little support our lives became subject entirely to my brother’s needs.

Eventually, the situation became untenable and my brother was moved to a specialist residential care facility where he could have the quality of life that we could not provide. By then I had become terribly withdrawn, fearful and anxious and struggled to relate to my family and friends. I was already a huge fan of Star Trek: Voyager and Captain Janeway was my favourite character. To help with my anxiety I took a Janeway action figure to school with me. It made me feel protected and gave me courage to get through the day; a tangible reminder of the strength and fortitude of the character herself.

This figure was far from a good likeness of Kate to begin with, made worse by its many paint-scraping trips in and out of my schoolbag!

This figure was far from a good likeness of Kate to begin with, made worse by its many paint-scraping trips in and out of my schoolbag!

A few years later I started to develop health problems. It’s a long and complicated story but, in a nutshell, an undiagnosed autoimmune disease left me with permanent damage to my digestive system and significant problems with my nervous system. When it all began the physical pain only added to the emotional pain I had been feeling for years and eventually it all got too much. One night, while I was watching an episode of Voyager, as I often did to make myself feel better, I was sitting with a pile of prescription medications and my mind started to wander.

What would happen if I took them all at once? Would I have time to sneak into my parents’ drinks cabinet and knock back a few bottles as well before they found me?

I have heard many people refer to suicide as a selfish act. It’s not. It’s an act of pure desperation. You don’t think about the devastating impact it will have on the people who love you. All you can think about is making it stop, about silencing the storm inside you, because how can life be worth living if every day, every second, feels like this? How can you possibly be of any use to anyone? There is no hope in that moment that it will ever get better, there is only the crippling fear and pain which has brought you there.

I took the first few pills. I don’t remember what they were, little pink, innocuous looking things, and just as I was about to reach for more, I heard a powerful and authoritative voice projecting from the television:

“In command school, they taught us to always remember that manoeuvring a starship is a very delicate process, but over the years, I’ve learned that, sometimes, you just have to punch your way through.”

It was Kate Mulgrew speaking as Captain Janeway, and in that moment of sheer hopelessness that line was like a bolt of lightning illuminating a very long and dark night. In this episode, (‘Parallax’, the second episode of Season One), Voyager is trapped in the event horizon of a quantum singularity. Their only escape route is closing fast and the situation looks hopeless. As I continued to watch the scene unfold, Voyager’s struggle suddenly became a metaphor for my own. My hand remained suspended over the pills as I watched Janeway urge her helmsman to “keep it together” as the ship was rocked by turbulence and structural damage.

When Voyager burst triumphantly from the quantum singularity, a surge of hope rushed through me as I began to believe for the first time that maybe I could escape too. I spoke to my parents and within a week my doctor had diagnosed me with clinical depression and OCD and I soon began treatment at a centre specialising in adolescent mental health.

As well as supporting me through my recovery, the psychologists there helped me to realise that creativity was the means by which I could find my way back to myself. I discovered that I could write poetry, and over the months that followed I crafted a path for myself made out of words and metaphors that personified my depression into a force I could fight. When I came to the end of my treatment, the lead psychologist asked if he could keep some of my poems to help the other patients, which I very happily agreed to.

Now, 12 years later, I have a job in the industry I love (publishing), two university degrees, and, most importantly, wonderful relationships with my hugely supportive family and friends. I write as often as I can and also run an online support group for siblings of those with Autism, Asperger’s Syndrome and Down’s Syndrome, in an effort to provide the kind of help I so desperately needed when I was young.

In 2012 I had the incredible experience of meeting Kate at a Star Trek convention in London. Living in Scotland and finding travel quite a challenge I had assumed that I would never get the chance to meet her, so when I did it was like a dream and I still feel so happy whenever I think about it. My mother kindly made the trip to London with me to give me support and said that she had never seen me as happy as I was after I met Kate, who was as kind, gracious and generous in person as I had always imagined her to be.

Kate and I

Whenever I find myself dealing with difficult emotions, trying to adjust to the side effects of a new medication or struggling with the physical pain and fatigue that are my constant companions, I see Kate as Janeway standing on the bridge of Voyager, telling her crew that sometimes you just have to punch your way through. And I do.


Kate now stars as Galina “Red” Reznikov on the Netflix series Orange is the New Black and she’s absolutely terrific, as is the show itself. You can read my review of the book the show is based on here.

The following are links to some great interviews and reviews of Born with Teeth. Read it. Seriously. Kate Autograph 1

The Washington Post

Publishers Weekly

LA Times

The Mary Sue

CBS interview

One last thing, a shout out to my dear friend Stefani, who very kindly sent me Kate’s book across the Atlantic from Mississippi to Scotland. She has an awesome blog over at Caught Read Handed that I would encourage you to check out if you love books and nerdy things!

Emotions of a Bibliophile – in GIFs (Part 2)

I really enjoyed doing yesterday’s GIF post about bookish situations so I decided to do another one! My dear friend Clara made some suggestions and I’ve also been talking to the lovely Stefani over at Caught Read Handed who gave me some more ideas. I had a great time finding GIFs to match their suggestions and I hope you like them!

You can find the first post here.

Clara’s suggestions:

When you keep being interrupted while you’re engrossed in a great book:

When you’re reading in public and the book makes you have a visible emotional reaction:

When you’re reading a book that you’re absolutely loving and then something happens which completely ruins the plot:

Stefani’s suggestions:

When an author kills off your favorite character:

What you really mean when you say “I have plans”:

When you fall for a character in a book and have to deal with the fact that they’re not real:

When someone says “It’s just a book”:

How it feels when you meet an author you love:

A few extra ones from me:

When someone has checked out a book you really want to read from the library and kept it past the return date:

When Kanye West said this: “Sometimes people write novels and they just be so wordy and so self-absorbed. I am not a fan of books. I would never want a book’s autograph. I am a proud non-reader of books.”:

When your friend buys you a book that you can’t get in your own country (Stefani and I just did this for each other and it’s awesome!):

And one more, because I am a MASSIVE Star Trek fan and we just lost a legend:

The Emotions of a Bibliophile – in GIFs

I love books, but I also love GIFs. Sometimes, you just hit on the right one that perfectly encapsulates the way you feel about something. The following GIFs match exactly how I feel about various bookish situations. It was really fun to put together and I hope you’ll all be able to relate to it.

When the release date of a book you have been waiting AGES for is delayed (this just happened to me and I am NOT pleased!):

When you finally get your hands on it:

When an unexpected plot twist really shocks you:

When you walk into a bookstore:

When you’re trying to decide which of your many books to read next:

When you feel like you’re drowning in your TBR list:

When you find it completely impossible to put your book down because it’s THAT good:

When you just can’t handle everything a book is making you feel:

When someone borrows your book and damages it:

When you try to sneak in some reading time when you should be doing something else:

When you get to the end of one book in a series and realize you have to wait over a YEAR for the sequel:

When someone says they don’t read books:

When the movie adaptation completely screws up the whole point of the book:

When you just HAVE to tell other people about the amazing book you just read:

When non-bibliophiles tell you that you “need to get out more”:

When a book has a really satisfying ending:

I hope this post made you smile! Are there any bookish situations I’ve missed? Let me know in the comments!

The Gif Book Tag

I’ve been tagged to join in with the Gif Book Tag fun by my good friend Stefani over at Caught Read Handed and the lovely Ashley from For the Love of the Page. Thank you, ladies!

The rules are simple:

  • Whoever tags you will give you a list of 10 books
  • Write a sentence and add a gif which shows how you feel about each one
  • Tag other bloggers and give them a new list of 10 books

Since Stefani and Ashley’s lists had quite a few duplicates (great minds think alike!) I’ve just combined the two and come up with 12 gifs. This was great fun!

1) The Maze Runner by James Dashner

I’ve heard some great things about this but for some reason there’s a vibe surrounding it that reminds me of Lauren Destefano’s Wither, which I hated, so I’m really conflicted about it.

2) The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky

The line “And in that moment I swear we were infinite” has stuck with me since I read this awesome jumble-of-emotions-coming-of-age novel.

3) Any or all of the Raven Cycle Books by Maggie Stiefvater

So many great sounding books; so little time.

4) It’s Kind of a Funny Story by Ned Vizzini

I’ve had this one on my TBR shelf for AGES and I’m really annoyed at myself that I haven’t gotten to it yet.

5) Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince by JK Rowling

I think you all know the event I’m referring to here.

6) The Young Elites by Marie Lu

This book sounds AWESOME and I really want to read it!

7) The Walking Dead comics by Robert Kirkman

Zombies. I’m sorry. I just can’t.

8) Lola and the Boy Next Door/Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins

I’ve heard great things about these books so I might read them one day.

9) Allegiant by Veronica Roth

It’s my kind of genre and I enjoyed the Divergent movie, so I will probably read it at some point.

10) The Fault in Our Stars by John Green

Obviously this book made me sad but I found the ending really uplifting rather than depressing.

11) The Mortal Instruments series by Cassandra Clare

I’m being buried alive in my TBR list and this series is in the pile somewhere near my head.

12) If I Stay by Gayle Foreman

I’ve hardly heard anything good about this book and the synopsis doesn’t sound that great so … nah.

This was so much fun so I don’t want to limit tagging to a short list of bloggers, so if any of you want to join in and create your own post then please do! I would love to see what you come up with for these books:

1) The Book Thief  by Markus Zusak

2) The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern

3) The Hunger Games series by Suzanne Collins

4) Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë

5) S. by J.J. Abrams and Doug Dorst

6) Falling into Place by Amy Zhang

7) The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman

8) Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell

9) The Humans by Matt Haig

10) One Day by David Nicholls

I’ve read quite a few of these posts and some people have commented that they don’t know how to include gifs in blog posts. I wasn’t sure either but it’s actually really easy. I found all mine at this site. Once you find one you want just click the share button underneath. Click the clipboard symbol to the right of the Gif option and then head back to your blog post. Click Add Media then Insert from URL and paste the link into the address bar. The gif should appear in the box below and can be inserted into the post.