Friday, 2 October 2015

Raise your hand. Be brave anyway. #YAtales

You could hear the incensed whispers from across the country.

“What the hell is she playing at???”

“She’s disrupting the status quo, someone do something!”

“Is she ill? Shall I call 999? I’m gonna call 999.”

There was no doubt that my old university course mates, now dispersed across the UK, would have sensed that something was awry in that packed out room at Waterstones Piccadilly where, sat at the back by a protective pillar, I had just raised my hand to ask a question.



This is unheard of. You don’t ask questions. It is the one Victorian tradition we are ok with keeping: you do not ask questions. No one asked questions in university lectures. And if you did, you were shunned and burnt at the stake. So why on earth had I found myself feeling compelled to put my hand in the air like I just don’t care?

This wasn’t a university lecture. This was a M&S univ- This was an event at Waterstones Piccadilly consisting of a panel of three incredibly talented and badass YA women writers, who had me quite literally on the edge of my seat with my face beaming as they spoke about things from what drives their writing, to how much importance they put on meanings within their stories (that was my question, just saying).

Phil Earle (host), Annabel Pitcher, Jenny Downham, Katherine Rundell

I’d never been to an event like this before. I’d never even been to a book signing. So when I found out three of my favourite authors, Annabel Pitcher (My Sister Lives on the Mantelpiece, 2011), Jenny Downham (Before I Die, 2007) and Katherine Rundell (Rooftoppers, 2013) were going to be at the mighty Piccadilly store for a chat and signing, I couldn’t resist. Obviously I dragged my friend Katie along with me for support. Although, she also asked a question, so the only dragging to be done involved our bodies to the depths of woodland after being executed for treason.

I expected a standard Q&A and readings from each of their new novels: Annabel’s Silence is Goldfish, Jenny’s Unbecoming, and Katherine’s The Wolf Wilder, but what I got was the most inspirational few hours of my life. These women are all so incredibly different in how they write, their style of writing, their motives behind their stories, and their personal backgrounds, but rather than their successes and brilliance being completely intimidating, they instilled the strongest sense of determinism and empowerment in me. And for that, I am beyond thankful.

Annabel Pitcher is growing a tiny human inside her. I assume it has a face and limbs and recognises its mum’s voice by now. She used to be a teacher. Jenny Downham used to act and she takes years to write a book. Katherine Rundell is an elected Fellow at Oxford University and has a voice that would either seduce me or send me into a blissful, transcendent sleep. 

It was exciting and calming to listen to them talk about their individual lives, and it reminded me that to be a writer, you don’t just write. You do other things. You have other jobs, you have a plethora of experiences, and you live a life so varied and full of thought and passion that you have no choice but to turn the depth and expanse of that life and your mind into stories. YA stories.

Because that’s what young adults need. Options. Diversity. Choice. Freedom.

I was gripped. I hadn’t been so full of joy about life and all the things I wanted to achieve in years. I hadn’t been inspired so deeply since I discovered hummus. It was exciting to see three different women, three different loves, three different lives, and still all so powerful and strong in who they are. But their one main thing in common is that they are just… so…


Getting to the 20,000 word mark is absolute hell, and God forbid if anyone reads your draft before you’re happy with it. AND WILL YOU EVER BE HAPPY WITH IT? What if no one is happy with it? What if you’re never happy? Ever?

“The voice on a writer’s shoulder is a terrible one, but you have to shut it up and tame it.”

It was so affirming to hear that these incredibly talented writers suffer with the same doubt and self-deprecation that I do, that a lot of us have. But there was a glow around them all that proved that their pride, determination, and love conquers it all.

“It’s okay to be afraid. Be brave anyway.”

That was it. That was the line from Katherine Rundell that said it all. It is okay to be absolutely terrified of life and your dreams and yourself, but be brave and storm it anyway.

We all suffer with it; that fear that nothing will be good enough, that we won’t be good enough, that we are making all the wrong choices. But there are no rules and there are no limits and there are no repercussions for trying your hardest with your braveface on. Use the fear as excitement for whatever lies ahead. Be brave anyway.

To look into the eyes of women who simultaneously terrify and inspire you is an odd feeling. To raise your hand and speak to them is even odder. But to have passions and dreams in the life that once started in a tummy, just like Annabel’s imminent arrival, is the oddest thing of them all. And isn’t it just wonderful? 

Silence is Goldfish (October 2015) by Annabel Pitcher: 

Unbecoming (September 2015) by Jenny Downham: 

The Wolf Wilder (September 2015) by Katherine Rundell:

Tuesday, 15 September 2015

Louise vs Laura #Couchto5K

“You can do it, let’s go!”

“Shut up, Laura.”

“You’re doing so great!”

“Your husband left you because you’re a bitch, Laura.”

“You’ve done so well, keep going!”

“I’m gonna punch you in the face, Laura.”

I just went for my first ever run. By ‘first ever run’ I mean my first proper adult run that didn’t involve getting changed into loose shiny P.E. shorts and a sweaty P.E. polo shirt that I forgot to ask my mum to wash over the weekend. Nor did it involve hiding behind the tree at the back of the school field waiting for the others to do an extra lap before I pretended I was tagging along the whole time, or running into a bin because it’s a foggy Monday morning in December but the teachers are made of stone (so was the bin) and made us do cross-country anyway, and gaining an impressive scar that unbeknownst to my 14 year old self, I would look back on fondly during my first ever adult run.

Laura is my running pal. She only exists in my earphones. And I hate her. She’s a bitch. She’s so cool and calm and acts like EVERYTHING IS FINE EVEN THOUGH YOU CAN’T BREATHE AND YOU JUST TROD IN HORSE SHIT AND THE WHITE VAN MEN ARE BEEPING AT YOU BECAUSE OF COURSE I LOOKED LIKE I WAS IN BAYWATCH.

Laura is inside the NHS’ Couch to 5K app. I had no intention of running this morning. I was happily watching Desperate Housewives (just started season six – how DARE someone hurt Julie) but someone tweeted about going for a run and it helping her depression and I thought, ‘Well, I suppose I could’. I had a google of how Couch to 5K works, I asked Twitter for some tips and motivation, and I found that the NHS’ app was free and super colourful so obviously that was reason enough to have a go. I went upstairs, grabbed the first pair of shorts (loose denim ones that I had to hold up the whole time) and t-shirt (it was knitted but I’m dedicated to Autumn and didn’t consider it to be an issue (it was, obviously (SO obviously))) I could find, and turned on Laura.


She told me to go for a brisk walk for five minutes, which was easy enough. You can listen to your music along with having the app open, and Laura just turns it down when she needs to talk to you. Much like your mum walking into your room without knocking. When my five minutes was nearly up, Laura told me to run for one minute. “Easy,” I thought, “One minute is a tiny amount of time.”

So I ran. Quite fast. I had the energy, so why not? I’m a good runner. I’m also a cocky little shit. Laura told me to keep a slow pace but fuck the system. TECHNOLOGY WILL NOT CONTROL ME. BACK IN YOUR CAGE, LAURA.

It bloody hurt.

I now understand why I should have slowed down.

You win, Laura.

During the first week of Couch to 5K, you spend 20 minutes doing intervals of 60 seconds of running and then 90 seconds recovering with a brisk walk. It sounds simple enough, but if you’re not a fitness kinda gal or pal, then it’s tough and you need to BEHAVE. I have learnt my lesson.

The 20 minutes were tough, I’ll admit. I had to skip two of my runs because I LITERALLY COULDN’T BREATHE but I never stopped moving. I was red in the face when I got back, and was still red faced even after a freezing cold shower and spending a good 10 minutes in front of the fan.

I feel good though. I feel really good! I’ve surprised myself, I’m proud of my body, and I’m even MORE proud of my mind for sticking with me and behaving itself.

And Laura? I have a feeling we’ll be enemies for a while, but I sense an impending friendship. Shh, don’t tell her though.

Monday, 7 September 2015

You've Got Me

After reading my last blog post, my boyfriend wrote me a letter. This is his side of my story; an important side that isn't often told...


Dear Louise

Dearest Louise



Sometimes I feel like I’m losing you. At least that’s how I feel when the little monsters take hold. I know that you’ve been scared of them, and I’m scared of them too.

I don’t know if it’s just me, or if it’s how other partners in my situation would feel too – but when things have gotten bad, when you’ve been feeling at your worst it’s almost like you aren’t there anymore. It’s those little monsters taking hold of the command centre of your brain. And it hurts. To see you like it, to hear you like it.

I know that when they take control the things that come out of your head aren’t you, but sometimes that doesn’t stop me from taking what you say to me to heart. What they say to me. What they scream from that little space the monsters have decided to claim as their home. It’s a temporary home, mind. Like a holiday let. But it’s still a home for them.

Sometimes I’m scared. Sometimes I cry. Sometimes I just want to scream.

But I can’t be those things. I can’t do those things. I have to be better than doing that because it’s what you need me to be. And I’ve learnt that options 1, 2 and 3 just won’t help.

But you’ve been doing something recently. Something amazing. Something that I know seemed a long way off. A long, long, long way off. Maybe even like it would never happen. Like when you’re a kid and it’s January and you’re already wishing for next Christmas and you just want more presents.

You’re finding your presence.

That little trapped you is getting bigger and bigger every day, getting louder and louder. And I’m incredibly proud of you for that.

When you told me what happened, I was shocked, then sad. And then full of pride. Pride that you were able to fight the little monsters off. And I notice the difference daily. I know that you didn’t want to be on medication, but the meds aren’t what are filling those bin bags up. You’re the one gathering up the rubbish, pushing those monsters in there. The meds are just going to drive the bin lorry. Because, you know, you don’t have a driving licence.

When you’ve been experiencing the lowest points, I’ve been able to sense it. Almost like I can feel it coming. Your tone changes. Or suddenly out of nowhere you’ll say something like “they’re talking about me” or “they hate me” and I know you’re already there, and pulling you back from it is going to be almost impossible. Because once your mind has gone there it gets stuck. And I don’t see it that way. I can’t put myself in that space and understand you feeling like that sometimes because the notion that anyone could hate you for being you is completely alien and ridiculous to me. Because I know you’re brilliant and I’m an idiot, so if I’m smart enough to see how incredibly fucking great you are then everyone else is too. Then I’m desperately trying to convince you that you’re LOVED, and LIKED and RESPECTED but somehow what I’m saying makes it seem like the opposite because it ends up sounding as though I’m trying to dismiss the way you feel. And before I know it I’m repeating the same things over and over again like Radio One. The same things five times in the space of two hours and it’s all pointless, irritating shite. And each time you hear it you just want to throw the radio out of the window.

I’ve not always known what to do. And that’s something I hate. Because all that I want to do is know the answer and make it better. It’s like I’m playing Trivial Pursuit and I can’t remember what the capital of the Central African Republic is. Except now it’s not just Trivial Pursuit. It’s University Challenge and Paxman is giving me that withering stare that he usually reserves for students wearing shit jumpers with names like Tarquin Hudson-Smythe-Billington-Bumbleton. The answer’s there, lurking somewhere in the background and I’m reaching for it, trying to give you what you need and then I fall short and the game’s over and I look a fool. A fool that couldn’t give the all-important winning answer. (The capital of the Central African Republic is Bangui (I think)).

I’m always going to be here though, dangling a rope to try and pull you out that hole. Because it’s not about answers, I know that now. It’s about love, and support, and me being in your corner. Sometimes that means just sitting and listening and letting you get it all out. Sometimes it’s me taking control and saying, “This is what we’ll do. This is how we’ll do it. And this is how long we’ll spend doing it.” Changing things up a bit to make sure you’re comfortable, that we’re in places/venues/groups etc that you’re comfortable being in. Because at the end of the day, as long as you’re safe and happy and enjoying yourself, then so am I. I am always in your corner. You’re Muhammad Ali and I’m… errr… You’re Rocky and I’m Paulie. Now there’s a simile I can work with. I’m there with the towel and bucket and water. But we aren’t throwing that towel in. You won’t get rid of me. You’re making real progress already.

You’re not there yet, it’s not all gone. But even now, when it seems like something dark is trying to take hold you’re wrestling it off. Fighting it. Finding strength where perhaps before you couldn’t. I guess that’s when those little monsters manage to climb their way out of the binbags. And they need putting back in their bloody place. The little shits.

Like you said; “There is always hope.” I truly do believe that, and I hope you do too. And I hope you feel that, and that the feeling grows a little bit stronger every day. Like the love I feel for you. (I’m not going to start getting soppy here. What do you mean I already have?) Even when you are at the lowest ebb, there will always be people who love you, who want to do everything they can to support you. But also when you are at your lowest ebb, there is you. You will always be there. You can always find your way back to you. You can do this.

And if the rubbish starts to pile up, if the binbags start to split, you will be there to put the mess in to fresh ones. And then those little binmen will roll up with the lorry and start to pile them in the big compactor at the back.

So remember this, Louise. Remember that these little monsters will not get the better of you. You felt the bounce, you leapt back up and you hammered on that thick glass ceiling and you shouted yourself back from the brink. You did that. This incredibly strong, incredibly powerful, wonderful you. You are all those things. That is you. It’s who you always have been. Louise Emily Jones - fighter, contender. CHAMPION. You’re taking out the trash, one little monster at a time. And one day, they’ll all be gone. But until that day, you’ve got that little workforce helping you to keep the rubbish under control. And until that day, and for all the days beyond that day, you’ve got me.

All my love,


Winterton-on-Sea, August 2015
Images by Freepik