4 Novels That Inspired Me As A Writer

So ... I harbour this tiny ambition to maybe write a story someday.
Judging by what I've heard around the book bloggersphere, a lot of you are the same. Most of you will probably be further along than me - I'm still to pass the actually-finishing-a-first-draft stage - but I'm sure you'll know the feeling of having zero inspiration. Maybe even half-forgetting why you write in the first place. And, often, when I'm in that place, it's reading a really good book that fills me up with excitement again.

I thought I'd share some of those books today. Life at the moment is ridiculously fast-paced and, what with trying to keep up this beautiful blog here, I haven't actually had time to sit down and get some words out in a long time. That means I have a lot of ... overspilling inspiration? And I WANT TO SHARE IT, SO READ THIS OR SUFFER.

I'm only half-joking about how serious I am.

The Revised Life of Ellie Sweet by Stephanie Morill
There are many reasons that this is an awesome book to read not just for teenage writers, but also for all writers and ... well, everyone that has eyes, really.

First of all, STEPHANIE MORRILL IS A QUEEN. She's the brilliant mind behind Go Teen Writers, which is basically the best writing advice blog I've ever come across, and you can guess that she has a pretty intimate knowledge of what it is to be a teen writer. So, be prepared for lots of uber-realism that has you endlessly repeating the phrase "yes, that is exactly me" in your head.

Secondly, Ellie Sweet, her main character, is a high-schooler turned revenge-driven novelist. She's the underdog. The one who's always left out. But she doesn't just find the strength to write through the tough times, she lets those tough times give her strength. It was Ellie who showed me that, while there are busy seasons in life when writing is pretty much a no-no, just because you're hurting doesn't mean you can't make art.

In fact, it means the exact opposite.

The Great Automatic Grammatizator and Other Stories by Roald Dahl
When I say the name Roald Dahl, I'm guessing you think of children's books. They're what he's known for, after all, and his witty, slightly gruesome style has entertained generations of kids - plus their parents - in one foul swoop.

But ... it turns out he wrote ... other stuff? 

This is a collection of Dahl's adult short stories, and - well, some of them are about as far from kids' stories as they could be without being erotica. They have this amazingly creative morbidity about them, not to mention that his character descriptions are some of the shrewdest personality observations I've ever seen. 

He turned short-storytelling into his own personal art form, basically, and reading his work opened my eyes to the fact that novels aren't the only form of writing in the universe. And, seeing as I can be spectacularly inobservant sometimes, that was a more dramatic revelation than you'd think.

The title story of the anthology also happens to be a kind of satire about how ridiculously difficult writing is. a) Hilarious, b) relateable, and c) ROALD DAHL FELT IT TOO, YOU GUYS! 

One by Sarah Crossan

O, Sarah Crossan, your writing is utterly heartwrenchingly gorgeous. But you must be an ice queen to make me cry as much as you did.

One had been on my mental TBR for a few weeks before I decided to read a few reviews and realised it was written in verse. I was skeptical, to be honest, but the reviewer in question was very enthusiastic about the format and that made me curious.

Needless to say, it was approximately brilliant.

I'd never really considered writing a book with an alternative format, but One showed me how beautiful and raw free verse can be, and ... well, I'd love to give it a try someday.

The Harry Potter Series by J.K Rowling

Ok, fine. This one was kind of predictable. But how could you read Harry Potter and not be inspired? How could you dive into the world of Hogwarts and not be absolutely spellbound (believe it or not, that pun was not intended) by the mind-numbing detail?

And don't even get me started on Pottermore.

I know I could never write anything that'll become as popular as Harry Potter. There's just no way that could happen twice in a century. But what reading it does is remind me to aim high in my detail - to know every little thing about my characters and my world and its history - so that I can create a fictional place that I'll want to escape to, if nobody else does.

***
In the comments: Which books have inspired you as a writer? Why do you think they do that? Where else do you go to find inspiration?

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Announcing ... Disability Diaries!

Today, peeps, I have some very exciting news. The kind that calls for confetti, klaxons, and fanfares. Preferably on a bugle.

Wait - nobody has a bugle? I guess I'll just have to tell you without musical accompaniment.

You disappoint me, internet.

ANYWAY - I'm here to announce an event I'll be co-hosting at the beginning of next year. It's called Disability Diaries, and it's basically an extravaganza of disability-related reviews, discussions, personal posts ... and basically anything else we can think of that says what we want to say about disability in the book and blogging worlds.

This whole (may I say brilliant) idea is the brainchild of Ely @ Tea and Titles, and also hosting are Angel @ Angel Reads, Cee Arr @ Diary of a Reading Addict, Dina @ Dinasoaur, and Jolien @ The Fictional Reader. We're really, really excited - and we need YOUR help.

If you want to contribute with your own posts - and knowing how many brilliant conversations I've had with you guys about disability, I'm hoping you will - then please fill in the Google Form below. There's no need to sign up if you want to enjoy what we post and write on Twitter, but if you'd like to write your own stuff, this form lets us know who you are so we can keep track of and share your contributions.
That's all I'm going to say for now, since it's taking place on the 14th - 21st of January and that's a while off yet, but make sure you're following all of our blogs and Twitter feeds - we'll be making various little announcements as time goes on.

Also, if you don't trust me (or just want to get even more excited about the whole thing), you can read Ely, Angel, Cee Arr, Dina and Jolien's launch posts. I promise it's happening!

In the comments: Come squeal with me! What are you most excited about? Is there anything you'd like us to feature specifically?

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8 Ways to Make Yourself Smile

We've all had days when it just seems impossible to smile. Maybe you're stressed, or upset, or just tired of being so busy.

MAYBE AN ORANGE MAN HAS JUST BEEN ELECTED PRESIDENT.

But it's important that you look after yourself, and ... that thing you're down about? I'm guessing that, however bad it is, there's not much you can do about it. The good news is that the one thing you can control is the one thing that, I've found, really helps.

You have to step back and do something that'll make you smile.

(I guess it's important to note here that I'm not a doctor or a metal health professional. I'm just a human who gets sad, and these things have been known to help me be happy again.)

#1 ~ Bed. Book. Bliss

Grab that book off your TBR - you know, the one that you've been looking forward to for weeks but never quite got round to - brew some hot chocolate, or tea, or coffee, and burrow yourself inside your duvet. It doesn't even have to be evening, if you don't want it to be. Just laying back and drifting into your own little book-cocoon really does help you get perspective ... and, of course, puts a smile on your face.

(By the way, if you're reading this in summer ... sitting on your bed without the cocoon and sipping something ice-cold and fizzy is just as relaxing without the sweat factor.)

#2 ~ Enlist the help of the internet

After I've been upset about something, I'm often left feeling kind of fragile, as if I'll burst out crying at the slightest hint of something going wrong. And ... well, I'm definitely not smiling when I feel like that. 

I like to reach for my laptop and scroll through a special Pinterest board I keep called "I Need to Smile Today". It's stuffed full of ridiculous memes, bad puns and basically everything the internet has to offer that might distract me and lift my mood a little. And it might take ten minutes or so, but by the end I am always smiling.

#3 ~ Don't go it alone

When I'm sad and I don't really know why ... it often turns out that I'm more lonely than anything. And even if there is something I definitely know that I am sad about, it just makes me sadder to be sad alone.

That paragraph had the word sad in it a lot. Let's just go with it, okay?

So when you are sad, try to stop being sad by talking to someone. Hug your parents. Or your neighbour. Or your cat. If you need to talk to someone, call a friend - even if you just want to chat about something completely unrelated and get them to make you laugh for a while, they'll be there for you. Don't worry about being a burden, because if they really care they'll be happy to look after you.

#4 ~ Watch some comedy 

Sometimes just smiling isn't anywhere near enough. There are levels of sadness that cannot be beaten by anything but a full-on belly laugh, and if you're looking for full-on belly laughs you need people that are trained to make you full-on belly laugh.

That would be a comedian, if you're wondering.

Personally, I like to listen to people like Tim Minchin and Russell Howard, but they are very very rude. And some of the things they say might be a little - or a lot - controversial. So choose whoever's going to appeal to your sense of humour, type their name into Google, and be prepared to laugh so hard you can't breathe.

It helps. I promise.

#5 ~ Get on with something

After a while ... well. There are situations when you can look after yourself as well as possible and make yourself laugh as much as you can, but as soon as the last joke fades - you're back to crying again. 

It's a horrible cycle to be in, I know. I've been there - and to be honest, we probably all have. To stop it, though, you're going to have to give yourself a bit of tough love. Take a deep breath, put it to the back of your mind, and come up with something you can do instead. Something you can achieve - preferably in a pretty short time. Let it be the only thing you focus on until you're done; and trust me, the feeling once you've finished that task, achieved your goal, and ticked that item off your mental to-do-list, might just put a smile on your face.

#6 ~ Sleepy time, suckers

You know when you've got some sort of electrical device that just isn't working, you'll turn it off and on again? Well ... sleep is kind of like that. (I'm about 75% sure I got this comparison from somewhere on Tumblr, but the blog has hidden itself in the dark realms of the internet where I can't find it, so if you know where, tell me! I'll be a good girl and link up.)

So you've tried a bunch of things, and you still can't smile? You need to turn yourself off and on again, mate. Being overtired isn't exactly going to help in a situation where you feel run-down, and even when you feel pretty okay, it's important to get enough sleep so that it doesn't catch up with you. This, as I'm sure you're aware, would lead to sadness and that is bad.

Oh. You just woke up from a super-long sleep, and you're still sad? Maybe you're ... hungry?

Yeah. You're probably hungry. My point is, deal with your basic needs. They might be what's making you gripey.

#7 ~ Remember that you don't have to be perfect
Expecting the best from yourself when you've had a bad day is just kind of unrealistic. And silly. And unhelpful. I mean, I do it the whole time, but ... yeah. Isn't a good thing.

A rough day is often a sign that you need to take it easy and look after yourself. THAT DOESN'T MEAN YOU HAVE TO ACHIEVE EVERYTHING OF EVER AT THE SAME TIME, 'KAY?

Because ... perfect is overrated and unachievable. Trying to reach something impossible that probably wouldn't even make you very happy when you got there would stress anyone out. So don't.

Just be you instead.

#8 ~ Also, THIS. This ALWAYS makes me smile.

That's right. Only on Another Teen Reader could an almost cheesily earnest pep talk be followed by a comedy ballet.

In the comments: What do you guys do to cheer yourselves up? Would you recommend it to others, or is it just your thing? Do you have any advice for people going through difficult times?
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My Christmas TBR

IT'S CHRIIIIISSSSTMAAAS!

Well, technically it's not. We've barely finished Bonfire Night. But I'm an absolute Christmas addict, and I managed to hold out until mid-November before writing a related post, so ... this is close enough. And if my family are going to order all these lovely books in time for the festive season, then I need to give them enough warning to get their sticky paws on it.

See. It's not about my Christmas obsession AT ALL. I'm merely making my wishlist known in a responsible manner.

Mistletoe and Murder by Robin Schneider
This book came out about three weeks ago, and on release day I promised myself I was going to hold out until at least December - BECAUSE A BOOK THIS CHRISTMASSY MUST BE ENJOYED AT THE PROPER FESTIVE TIME, OKAY? I feel like I'll enjoy it a whole lot more if I do it properly.
It just turns out doing that much waiting is excruciating. Every time I turn on Twitter, it's just there. The beautiful, beautiful cover. People gushing about how it's the best Murder Most Unladylike book yet. Exclamations that fans of the series such as myself must pick it up immediately.

Basically, much pain.

Why I Need It: Murder. Boarding schools. Christmas. THE 1920s. It's like the author decided to play Lara-obsession bingo and got a full house.

... And A Happy New Year? by Holly Bourne
Ok, so maybe this doesn't 100% belong on a Christmas TBR, since I already kind of own it, but PAH! It's been my most anticipated book for over six months now and I've kind of forgotten how to write a TBR post without featuring its loveliness.

Why I Need It: The Normal Series is one of the best trilogies I've read in a long time, and And A Happy New Year? is the novella that will end it all. I can't exactly not read it, now can I? The Spinster Club is meeting and I clearly need to be there for the cheesy snacks.

Basically - I JUST HAVE TO KNOW WHAT HAPPENS, 'KAY?

The First Third by Will Kostakis
This one is all Cait @ Paper Fury's fault. She's the one who gave it a glowing review on Goodreads. She's the one who told me about all the yummy Greek food descriptions. She's the one who mentioned it had cerebral palsy representation. 

Darn you Cait and your TBR-multiplying recommendations! (Although thanks for writing such a brill review)

Why I Need It: Um, did I not put CEREBRAL PALSY REPRESENTATION in enough bold? I'VE NEVER ACTUALLY READ A BOOK FEATURING A CHARACTER WITH MY DISABILITY! (I know there's a few out there, but hush. They're tricky to find.)

I'm kind of super nervous as well as excited about that, though. Because while I am absolutely ecstatic to have found a book that acknowledges my existence in that respect ... what if it's all wrong? It would break my little heart to have a book with such an awesome-sounding plot ruined because of that.

*deep breath* I guess I'm just going to have to wait and see.

Enter Title Here by Rahul Kanakia
I'd forgotten this book was even on my TBR until I went to make this post, but ... now I want it again. Super super badly.

Oops.

I can't even remember where I came across it, to be honest. Maybe it was in my early Goodreading days? I think I have a vague memory of overexcitedly clicking 'Want to Read' on everything in sight, realising the release date wasn't for ages, and furrowing my brow in not-so-mild disappointment. I guess at some point I must have got over it and forgotten completely, because that was almost a year ago. And only now am I experiencing the torture of not having it yet.

I'm almost sad I remembered.

Why I Need It: Apparently it's about a chronic overachiever? Who writes sometimes? And ends up struggling because life happens inconveniently?

If someone was considerate enough to write a book about me, then I might as well read it.

A Study in Charlotte by Brittany Cavallaro
Trying to get my hands on this book became the bane of my life at one point a couple of months ago. It's not on Kindle. My local bookshop doesn't stock it. The Amazon shipping price is astronomical.
To be honest, I'm not even sure it's been published in the UK yet.

So I just kind of figured I'd give up and wait for someone to get hold of it on my behalf at Christmas. *fingers tightly and not-at-all guiltily crossed*

Why I Need It: More boarding schools! THIS TIME WITH SHERLOCK HOLMES! If anything, it being so difficult to find has only made me want it more, so ...

Urgh! Being a bookworm is so darn frustrating sometimes.
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