samedi 29 avril 2017

And don't f**k it up.

I'm in bed this morning simultaneously writing, watching RuPaul's Drag Race and drinking coffee.  Not even 9am and I've written over 1,000 words before I have to get up and go to Zumba class - not bad.

Drag Race is now into series 9 and obviously I am following it avidly (even though the absence of my bae Santino Rice still looms large in my heart).  In fact, it occurred to me this morning that I have written much of my recent work with RuPaul playing gently in the background.

It only just struck me - is this where the theme of makeover and identity in BECOMING BETTY came from?!

Thanks, Ru (I absolutely adore you).  I would also like to mention that my all-time faves are Pandora Boxx, Sharon Needles, Alaska Thunderfuck 5000, Adore Delano, Jinkx Monsoon, Bianca Del Rio, Kim Chi, Ivy Winters and Jiggly Caliente.

May we all have Charisma, Uniqueness, Nerve and Talent.  Don't f**k it up.

vendredi 28 avril 2017

Betty Stuff

I can't believe that BECOMING BETTY has been out for over a week!  Launching a new book is SO nerve-wracking, so I am incredibly grateful that people have been kind about it.  Seriously.

Thank goodness, people really seem to 'get' the book (sometimes I feel like such a little weirdo, out of step with the world, so this is genuinely a wonderful surprise) and to love Lizzie as much as I do.

Here is a little round-up of some nice blogs and stuff about Betty in the last week.

An interview with the fantastic Jim from YA Yeah Yeah

Lovely little review from 100 or less...

A post by me on the My Kinda Book blog

A guest post and review on the wonderful Tea Party Princess

Lovely review by the lovely Rebecca

A guest post on the power of the makeover with wonderful Kirsty

In other news, I did a very fun Sunday YA chat on BECOMING BETTY (thank you to everyone for all the ace questions and book recs).  Last night I went to the launch night of Acoustic Coffee Club (it was great; if you're in Brighton, you should totally go to the next one).  I just finished reading WHO RUNS THE WORLD? by Virginia Bergin and am full of feels about the future global matriarchy (obvs).  Any free time is currently taken up with trying to write my next book and obsessing over season 9 of RuPaul's Drag Race.  Although, this weekend I also intend to paint a wall.  Exciting times, dear reader.  Exciting times.

lundi 24 avril 2017

Dirty Harriet

IMHO, all the greatest bands are based on great friendships. The band is the ultimate gang – or should be, if it’s done right. The best bands look like a gang of mates having a laugh, not like some slick corporation.

I know all the classic pairings are obviously, like, Lennon/McCartney etc, but the best friendship gangs in the history of music are always girl gangs. It’s why as a teenager I loved Kenickie and Shampoo, and even the early Spice Girls back when they looked like they dyed their own hair and bought their stage outfits from Camden Market, and Geri (my fave) always looked a bit like she’d just fallen over at all times.

My new book BECOMING BETTY features a lot of bands (which makes sense, given that the action centres around a Battle of the Bands contest). My favourite of the lot are the all-girl gang, Dirty Harriet. They have been getting a lot of love from readers, which particularly delights me as they are pretty much my dream girl gang.

I thought 'Dirty Harriet' sounded like such a classic riot grrl band name, like the DIY punk bands I loved as a teenager and still do – like Heavens to Betsy, Bratmobile, 7 Year Bitch or Lunachicks. I googled the name to make sure it hadn’t already been done, and was actually shocked (and pretty delighted, for my purposes) that it hadn’t been used before.

I discovered the original riot grrl bands via reading interviews with Kurt Cobain in NME, in which he sang their praises (many of my early musical discoveries came via my love for Kurt Cobain and his love for generously bigging-up his favourite obscure bands). I discovered a whole world of DIY culture, bands and fanzines, and it was genuinely life-changing. The riot grrl DIY ethos made me feel like I could have a go, create my own culture and get involved – the same message I would love to give readers of BECOMING BETTY.

Dirty Harriet are made up of Harry, Jess and Lola. They are friends first and bandmates second. In fact, Harry and Lola are cousins – an important fact as my cousin is my BFF and it adds to the tight-knit gang mentality (see also: Shampoo made up of cousins Jacqui and Carrie; Throwing Muses revolving around stepsisters Kristin and Tanya). Also, when you're a teenage girl who doesn't have that many friends, having a cousin the same age is really useful (just saying).

Dirty Harriet take their band seriously; music is the most important thing in the world to them and they practise diligently. As they say themselves:

‘Basically, we all have no life. But that’s OK because we didn’t exactly have glittering social lives to begin with. We’re all music geeks.’‘…But that’s OK, because it’s always the music geeks who win in the end. Every cool rock star in the canon was once a music geek. That’s the law.’

 However, they also want to have fun and remember that friendship is more important than anything else. They have their own manifesto to prove it, which covers everything from their influences to gig etiquette to anti-fashion ideas.

Most important, Dirty Harriet are about doing things their own way: playing what they want, wearing what they want and not caring about what anybody else thinks. Just like all the best girl gangs in history.

Here are some of their favourites…

mercredi 19 avril 2017

Launching Betty.

So, my new book BECOMING BETTY is officially out tomorrow!

Launching a book is a really anxious process (for me, anyway).  When I was younger, I used to keep all of my writing in a box under my bed, refusing to let anybody read it - not even my best friend, who was always asking. She still jokes that in a perfect world I'd probably still rather keep all of my writing - along with my feelings - in a box under the bed.

Writing a second book (and this is my second 'proper' book) is HARD.  Everyone says it's hard.  I wasn't prepared for quite how hard it would be, particularly as a lot of Other Stuff was happening in my life at the time.  It involved a lot of tears and sleepless nights and missing my best friend's birthday party.

However, it also involved a lot of joy.  Amid all the Other Stuff, it was an escape.  I wrote a lot of the book sitting in cafes in France, in the sunshine with a cup of coffee or a glass of pastis.  I wrote some of it on cross-channel ferries.  I wrote a few big chunks of it at a borrowed desk at weekends, in an empty tower block with a beautiful view of Brighton, taking breaks for cups of tea and dancing around with my then-boyfriend to 'Take Me Home' by Cher, on a Paradise Garage bootleg compilation mix.

I hope some of that joy comes across.  BECOMING BETTY is a book about music and friendship and identity (and flapjacks and haircuts and milkshakes and band T-shirts).  I've had a funny relationship with Betty, but now I can look at her with a lot of love.

Tonight I am having a party to celebrate.  I have a ridiculous outfit and new shoes.  I have made a lot of cakes.  I'm really happy to be celebrating this book coming out into the world.

So here is a playlist I made celebrating girlbands, which is definitely fitting - and brings me a lot of joy...

mardi 18 avril 2017

Guess we're not actually Girls anymore.

It’s a funny old feeling when a TV show lasts longer than the life you thought was permanent. You know, actual proper things. Whole universes. Whole lives.

GIRLS first aired in 2012. Funnily enough, I commented to a friend the other day that I think the last time I was uncomplicatedly happy was in 2012. Sounds melodramatic, but it’s true. That year, I lived in a sunny top-floor flat and went on holiday with my nan. It was the year of the London Olympics and I swear the world was a nicer place back then.

In the interim, there has been death and divorce. I have been forced to wonder if I have had a particularly shit run of it, or if this is simply what being a grown-up over 30 looks like.

Of course, a million other tiny things have happened. I have met new friends and in some cases not seen enough of old friends. On the good side, my best friendships feel a million times stronger than they ever have.

My hair has grown. I have new tattoos. I have had new jobs, a new house (now not even new any more). I have written a few books. I have read a lot of books.

I don’t know if the science holds up – that’s not really my thing – but I’m sure I once read somewhere that our cells fully regenerate every seven years. In that case, I am almost a completely different person. My hair has grown, my face definitely looks older.

So... To the end of GIRLS. A show I loved so whole-heartedly when it began, that I actually felt like it changed my life a tiny bit. I wrote about how exciting it was to see girls like me on television, in a mainstream show (while reflecting on what a small demographic this may represent). I enthused about the cleverness of Lena Dunham’s writing and basically everything to do with the show (especially Jessa, obv).

It was genuinely exciting to me.  Even (maybe especially) when I lived with a boy who insisted on referring to it as ‘Sad Sack and the Fellas’. He once walked into the room, took one look at the television screen, said ‘oh, ugly people having depressing sex – great, must be Sad Sack and the Fellas’ and walked out again.

My friends and I discussed it at length, passionately. When season 2 was released, my friend Ruth and I preordered the DVD and cleared an entire weekend so we could watch in one go, together. Season 2 may in fact remain my favourite – when my love for GIRLS was at its strongest. I still think the episode with Jessa’s dad remains one of the most affecting pieces of television I have ever seen. It may be purely personal, but I tear up even thinking about the moment when Jessa says ‘BUT I’M THE CHILD’.

Like so many relationships, it has become more problematic as it has gone on. GIRLS is problematic. My relationship with Lena Dunham is not as unquestioningly positive as it was, to say the least. But that’s because we have all changed and (I hope) grown. That’s what should happen over the course of six years.

I have watched this final series with a fond nostalgia, even while it has been happening. It’s time for it to end, and in the most part it’s done so pretty well. I will say: I know I’m in the minority but I love Jessa and Adam together. No matter what anybody else says, I refuse to think that Marnie is the worst. I will never not love Ray.

I also don’t mind saying that chief of my Many Feelings about the whole thing is: I can’t believe we are ending this with Hannah having a baby and not me.  But it’s OK – sounds trite, but it’s all a lesson that anything can happen in six years. Who the fuck knows how it will end?

jeudi 13 avril 2017

"This library could be all you ever need..."

I write books about music.  My brilliant friend Chris Jones (AKA Mister Jones and his Guitar) has written a song about books!

The song is called 'Library' and it is wonderful.  I genuinely cannot overestimate how much joy it brings me that such a lovely song about books and libraries exists!

So, Chris and I got to thinking...  We are both of the same opinion that in these times when libraries are in danger and art is basically all we've got, we should Make a Nice Thing.  We are both fans of doing all the things.

The answer was obvious - clearly, we should make a video to celebrate the wonders of books and music and libraries!

The concept is this: a video of writers interpreting the lyrics of the song (see below...), and (as RuPaul would say) lip-synching for their lives.

That's where you come in...  If you are a writer and you would like to be involved, please make a video of yourself (ideally in front of a bookcase or reading a book or in a library, or doing something cool and bookish of your own choosing), lip-synching to 'Library'!  Any part or all of the song; interpret it however you would like, and feel free to get as creative/silly as possible!

Chris is going to edit all of the videos together to make one big beautiful bookish musical video extravaganza to celebrate art in all its forms!  We'd be very happy if you would like to be involved.

The technical bit: no need to get too professional about it, a short video on your phone will be great.  Ideally with the phone turned sideways so it's in landscape.  Get in touch with me here or on Twitter or via email and I'll give you the deets on where to send it.

Finally...  You'll need the song; you can download it for free at the following places:

Mister Jones and his Guitar

written and performed by 'Mister Jones and His Guitar'

One day I stepped into a library
I found some books that I always meant to read
with each new word - builds up my strength
like the protein shakes that bodybuilders drink.

You might say...
that I'm not helping you today and that the world gets in the way
you say you can't change...
the mind you're trying so hard to tame
take your time, read the print and then... turn the page.

You kept me up till half past three
You made the world that day a little better place to be
I see the burning log  - you see the growing tree
but now I've cracked your spine I know you'll never just be mine.

You might say...
that I'm not helping you today and that the world gets in the way
you say you can't change...
the mind you're trying so hard to tame
take your time, read the print and then... turn the page.

Cos this Library could be all you'll ever need
full of hope and full of memories
find the right books and find a little time to read
cos there's room for more adventures before we fall asleep

You might say...
that I'm not helping you today and that the world gets in the way
you say you can't change...
The mind you're trying so hard to tame
take your time, read the print and then... turn the page.

mardi 4 avril 2017

Volcano girls, we really can't be beat.

On Saturday evening, after a day of fanzine-making in the sunshine, I walked home with my headphones on.  The first song to come on was VOLCANO GIRLS by Veruca Salt, which seemed apt after such an old-school day.

When this song came out, my sister and I were obsessed with it and would shout/sing along together with total glee.  Most of all, we would try to recreate the video by simultaneously jumping on the sofa.

It still makes me very happy.  Which on a sleepy rainy Tuesday, we all need.

lundi 3 avril 2017


It finally exists!

To explain, my wonderful friend Harriet Reuter Hapgood* and I have been talking for AGES about how we are going to make a proper old-school photocopied 90s-style fanzine.  Just talking about it has been the best fun ever - a bit like being a teenager and discussing at length with your friends about how you're going to start a band but never actually playing a note (was that just me and my friends, maybe everyone else used that time to actually learn to play guitar properly?).

Anyway, we spent days drinking tea and eating snacks, talking about how great our fanzine was going to be.  Obviously, this was a very worthwhile exercise.  We would write bits, ambitiously plan bits, draw bits... then put them in a drawer and kind of forget about them.

This weekend - during a Brighton heatwave - we decided: ENOUGH.  We spent a whole day sitting in Harriet's garden in the sunshine, with her cat and a bag of cookies and a stack of craft supplies and a suitable playlist, and we GOT IT DONE.  We made a fanzine!

Our fanzine is called I AM NOT ASHAMED.  Its (very broad, quite vague) theme is ENTHUSIASM.  Be an unapologetic enthusiast.  Enthusiasm is good.

I AM NOT ASHAMED will probably be available at a publishing event near you soon.

In the meantime, here is a little zine inspiration board.

*If you have not done so already, I cannot recommend enough that you read Harriet's beautiful book, The Square Root of Summer - it is truly wonderful and I am still pretty blown away that this amazing and gorgeous genius is my friend, TBH.