Sunday, 30 September 2012

The Kindle has landed

I celebrated my birthday last week, and knowing that I am a writer, book lover and English student, my parents very generously bought me a Kindle Touch! I know that e-readers are nothing new anymore, but it has taken me a while to get to a point where I feel like I want and could make good use of one. I'll admit I am a sucker for physical books; I love the way they feel in my hands and the way they look on my bookshelves!

Recently though, I began to see how an e-reader would be a good investment in my life...but more as a writer and a student, than purely as a reader.

English students spend how much on books each year?!

Yep, the biggest draw is the money I can now save on my books for university. I was talking to a friend  recently who studies sociology, and she was having a bit of a rant about her £10 course reader and the other £15 she'd spent on a mandatory text book for the term. I bit my tongue, and didn't tell her that in my first term as an English student I spent nearly £100 on my books, followed by about £70 for the second term.

Whilst there's no way my massive anthologies will ever be released as e-books, a lot of other books are accessible, either at a significant reduction or, through sites such as Project Gutenberg, for free.

How many English students break their backs each year?!

OK, I'm exaggerating slightly here. However, I have a back problem that may have been caused by the heavy loads I've been carrying throughout my school/uni life, and is definitely exacerbated by those days where I have a lecture and two seminars for different modules, and need three+ different books for the day. (Especially when one of those books is a Norton Anthology. Seriously. Go and find one if you think I'm stretching the truth about how massive they are!)

Bring an e-reader on to the scene, and my day gets a little less painful.

Students' eyesight deteriorates by how much per term?!

I have to read a lot of PDFs from the university's electronic library. These essays and articles can be thousands of words long, and require translating into laymen's English and serious note-taking. I can't look at a computer screen for more than about an hour before I start to get a headache and tired eyes. And popping pills every day isn't a brilliant solution.

Thank you, Kindle, for your non-glare, 'just like paper' readability! You will be giving my optician something to smile about for the first time in 10 years!

You want to write? Read!

This isn't a new idea by any means - it's common knowledge that if you want to be a writer you need to know what's popular, what works, what doesn't...and that means reading a lot. And how does one read 'a lot' of books?

Besides finding making the time, you need to have the books in the first place. My library is great, but they don't always stock the newest releases (particularly for kids books) and they don't always have a great selection in certain genres or the sorts of non-fiction books I need. Buying the books builds up the cost, and then there's the issue of storage. Where on earth am I supposed to keep ten different children's books about rabbits that I bought because for a while I was dead set on writing an amazing children's book about rabbits?

My e-reader stores something like 3000 books. Amazing!

It has taken me a while to get here, but it now looks as if my Kindle and I have a beautiful friendship ahead of us...

Friday, 21 September 2012

Brothers Grimm on The World Tonight

Last night, the Brothers Grimm featured on BBC radio 4's The World Tonight programme, as part of celebrations for the 200th anniversary of their first published collection of fairy tales.
The World Tonight  
BBC radio 4, 22:00, 20th September
It was only a short segment of the programme, but they discussed some pretty interesting things. For example, according to a survey of Britain's parents, 90% say they read fairy tales to their children, and more then 50% prefer the Grimm fairy tales to all the others. 90%! I didn't expect the number to be so high considering all the negative media recently about 'how bad fairy tales are for children'. 

One writer was asked why fairy tales still appeal to children - because surely it is all about Harry Potter these days - and they said a large part of it was probably to do with the fact that things just happen to you, regardless of who you are, unlike in Harry Potter, where only certain children are selected for great things to happen to, who then have to spend time in training anyway.

They did bring up the violence and unjust punishment in the earlier tales, e.g. in the original Frog Princess, the princess attacks the frog in order to gain her reward. A psychologist commented that this is how children learn to deal with scary situations - within the safe confines of a book.

There appear to be quite a few Grimm features around the BBC at the moment, so keep your eyes and ears peeled!

Wednesday, 19 September 2012

Sussex Centre for Folklore, Fairy Tale and Fantasy

If you live in the south of England you may be aware of the Sussex Centre for Folklore, Fairy Tale and Fantasy, based at the University of Chichester. They frequently hold events that will interest any fairy tale fans out there, and this is the latest one:

Sex, lies and Videotape: The brothers Grimm experience
Wednesday 10 October 2012 5.15pm-6:30pm, Cloisters, Bishop Otter Campus,University of Chichester**Professional story-teller Janet Dowling presents the story of how the brothers Grimm cleaned up their act for contemporary readers … and what Disney did next
Their advisory board is made up of big names in the global business of fairy tales, including Jack Zipes, Maria Tatar and Marina Warner. There are a couple of videos of lectures on the site, and a link to buy their journal, Gramarye.

It has occurred to me that I am only about 1 hour and a £13 train fare away from Chichester, and that I should definitely make use of such a wonderful centre that is practically on my doorstep!

Marshland by liselotte-eriksson @ dA

Tuesday, 4 September 2012

Contradictory thoughts


I have returned. I returned a week ago, actually, but I've needed a bit of time to adjust and catch up with my tiny corner of the world. I have also been struggling to figure out how to write about my experiences - I've certainly been awed and inspired, but there is so much to say, so much going on, so much variation in India that I can't find the right words.

I think the best way to sum it up is probably in a single word: contradiction. 

'Holy' cows wander the streets, avoiding starvation by eating rubbish
I could spend a long time talking about the myriad reasons India is contradictory, my chief concern and confusion being that the world's second most populous country lacks basic looks like an epidemic waiting to happen. How can an 'emerging' global player be so floundering? The mind boggles. But I have been thinking about this with a certain sense of irony too, because if I were to write India, or 'world-build' a place based on what I experienced there...I don't think it would be believable to a reader! Seriously, I highly doubt I could get away with it; there are too many loose ends, absurdities and...yes, contradictions.

This trip has reminded me that nothing is as insane and unbelievable as real life. Books might contain the most accessible adventures, but nothing beats going out and experiencing things first hand for their randomness, uniqueness, and that overwhelming, heart-stopping feeling of wonder.