Wednesday, 1 May 2013

NaNoWriMo: Mission Complete

Some of you might remember this post on the 1st of April where I talked about my challenge to complete Camp NaNoWriMo. To summarise, camp NaNoWriMo is a version of National Novel Writing Month which is held every november. The two events are almost exactly same, except that the camp is in april as a 'writers retreat' for serious NaNoWriMo fans who get withdrawal symptoms at the 'six months on' mark. During NaNoWriMo participants challenge themselves to do a 50,000 word piece of creative writing. I wasn't sure if I was going to complete this challenge, and at times balancing life and school with my crazed typing was a game of logistics, but I am proud to say that yesterday I finished my final words! I'm not going to talk about my story much because it is a 'draft zero' at the moment and the plot will probably change entirely with redrafting. It is a young adult fiction with dystopian themes and a splash of scifi... I think.

The challenge was tough and in the early days- or weeks- I was convinced that my protagonist was dull and, frankly, a waste of text. This was very discouraging and made it difficult to write but eventually I resuscitated the poor thing enough to make him a worthwhile character. I also developed several psychosomatic illnesses which (for an unbeknown reason) prevented me from writing now and again. At that point I knew it was time to boil the kettle and get on with it. Failure was not an option because of all the people I had foolishly told about my mission at the start of the month, and I hate admitting that I haven't done something to the best of my ability. 1,667 words a day is completely possible but things get in the way... in my case procrastination and blatant laziness.  One thing that really helped me through this was getting out of the house to write, particularly a sunny day at a stately home armed with my iPad and keyboard. Not only did it make me feel like I am doing the whole writing thing 'properly' but it also made my plot flow with inspiration from the beautiful grounds and fresh air.

I have really enjoyed the challenge and it has prised me away from Facebook and Twitter for a while which I think can only be a good thing. It is an achievement of determination if not anything else, and though I know I don't poses a masterpiece I know I have something. Someone once said that "Writer's write", these are wise words because turning ideas into text can really be the hardest part. It is surprising how just hammering out words can be therapeutic and eventually you might even string a few vowels and constants together to form an OK word, sentence, paragraph and so on until you have a book! I don't know where I will stand in november but this very positive experience has inspired me to maybe take up the challenge again for the original NaNoWriMo event.

Would any of you consider doing NaNoWriMo?
What is the hardest part of writing regularly for you?

A picture of Imi writing in the sun on an iPad with a headphone in her ear.

Tuesday, 23 April 2013

World Book Night- Why You Should Read!

Tonight, the 23rd of April, is World Book Night. World Book Night is an event to celebrate reading and books which takes place every year on this date. The 23rd of April is a significant date in literature as it is both the date of Shakespeare's birth and death. 397 years since his death, this year world book night is being celebrated in the UK, Ireland and the USA. At the heart of the event is giving books and encouraging reading in those who don’t read regularly. But it is also so much more: it is a chance for communities to get together to share stories and the love of books. Each year 20,000 book lovers are recruited to spread the written word amongst their communities and this year that figure includes myself and Mum. 

Twenty titles are up for grabs including "Noughts and Crosses" by Malorie Blackman and "The Knife of Never Letting Go" by Patrick Ness. Tonight we will be giving out "The Ladies No. 1 Detective Agency" a great read by Alexander McCall Smith. With twenty copies in a brown paper package (how wonderful) we will be heading to several local venues to give out the books to members of our community. 

What people often forget is how lucky we are for physically being able to pick up a book and have the potential to understand it. Figures in this spreadsheet show that in some countries people aren't as fortunate. For example in Afghanistan only 28% of people are literate. 'Literate' is defined as the ability to read and write. This basic skill that many overlook, or even choose not to use, could be detrimental in changing a country such as Afghanistan. 

Here are ten reasons why you should pick up a book today (no excuses):

  1. You do have time. Why waste another minute on Facebook scrolling up and down and waiting for something to happen when you can watch a full play unfold in your head? 
  2. No annoying casting errors. In your head your word is law. Take that film industry!
  3. Escapism. You can go to a foreign country, sail magical seas and even befriend mythical creatures. Disappear down Alice's rabbit hole into a book and let your imagination run wild. 
  4. Knowledge. People who read are wordy. When was the last time you dropped a word like tintinnabulation in a conversation? If you have a brain box of a protagonist this could indeed be you. 
  5. It's portable. Surely waiting half an hour for a film or latest TV series to download to your phone or tablet just so you can go out is a bit extreme? Pop a book in your bag and off you go. 
  6. Social. After a certain point in a friendship books are going to come up in conversation- it's inevitable. Though you may ignore the Biblio blighters they are there and other people enjoy them. Wouldn't it be nice to be able to discuss, or openly debate, about a plot line in your favourite book? 
  7. It can be free. Don't be a shelf snob- head to the library and pick some books you will enjoy. There are even people in there who will help you find a book you might like if you don't know yourself. Also, you could come to one of the many World Book Night events around the country! 
  8. Improves empathy. Though you may have very little to say about your best friend's extreme blisters and struggle to emphasise as she struggles to her seat, you might read a book with a character in the same scenario and gain a whole new perspective. Put yourself in those imaginary shoes and get your friend some plasters!
  9. The perfect way to spend a rainy day. Who's going to tell you to do something 'more important' than reading? You are brainy, and feeding those brain cells with information. Who could object?
  10. Because you have the ability to read this list. May that be with your eyes, fingers, or ears you are understanding what I'm saying. Reading isn't just for your eyes- get an audiobook or another alternative format if you prefer. One in eight people in the UK cannot read standard print and only a small number of the 130,000 books published each year only a small figure are made into accessible formats. Go to Right to Read to find out more. 
Happy World Book Night! What's your favourite book?

Sunday, 21 April 2013

My Second First Bike Ride!

As I climbed onto the saddle I was reminded of being a small child again who had stabilisers on her 'ice princess' bike wobbling up and down the cul-de-sac. Or maybe like the time when I took my cycling proficiency test at primary school and failed miserably- twice. Cycling has always been a source of great enjoyment for me but I am not particularly brilliant at doing it 'properly'. Gears are just handle bars you can turn in my opinion and as for 'correct braking'... if you need to brake you just yank on them until you stop. It has been a long time since I last rode a bike because I was too nervous with my sight deterioration. Maybe the fact that I was told to: "Just act like you can see over your left shoulder" during cycling lessons was a contributing factor- considering I have always seen nothing on my left side so traffic assessing would be... tricky.

Picture of Guide Dog Laila watching authoritatively as a man, dave, blows up a tire.
Laila and Dave MOTing the bike!
Today I was offered the chance to ride my bike for a bit. I surprised myself by jumping at the opportunity and soon my tires were pumped up and my saddle was deemed low, but not too low, after all these years. This was the first time in roughly four years that I had ridden a bike since developing my eye condition. It was terrifying, tense, worrying but overall amazing, fun and liberating. Sure- for the vast amount of time I was either crashing into things or riding in circles- but it felt pretty great!

Myself, Mum, and Dave used a variety of methods to get me moving better after this video was taken. The most effective being a 'follow my voice' technique which worked well but it was rather difficult to judge handlebar positions when I needed to turn. We also discovered that it is difficult to use the 'small child' approach of holding the back of the bike when a blind fifteen year old is riding it as Mum found out. The problem arose when I thought right was left and Mum -after shouting "TURN LEFT"- did so, and I went my own version of 'left' which happened to be 'right'. I cut in front of her and she fell over... I feel a bit bad about that still.

I was riding a single bike as apposed to a tandem which maybe was not the best option if I wanted to be serious and directional with my peddling. However, it certainly added the adrenaline factor of not being able to see where I was going. I can be seen in the video below, recorded by my laughing mother, crashing up and down from curb to curb and at one point into a tree. It really was fun! I am going to look into tandem groups for the visually impaired because I would like to do some more cycling but maybe the more 'travelling' kind! Considering the cycling proficiency failure I am not sure if I will be much good, but surely it has to help if someone who can see beyond the handlebars is steering!

Me narrowly avoiding a car looking surprised on my black bike

Friday, 19 April 2013

Wonder - R.J Palacio

Auggie wants to be an ordinary ten-year-old. He does ordinary things - eating ice cream, playing on his Xbox. He feels ordinary - inside. But ordinary kids don't make other ordinary kids run away screaming in playgrounds. Ordinary kids aren't stared at wherever they go.
Born with a terrible facial abnormality, Auggie has been home-schooled by his parents his whole life. Now, for the first time, he's being sent to a real school - and he's dreading it. All he wants is to be accepted - but can he convince his new classmates that he's just like them, underneath it all?
WONDER is a funny, frank, astonishingly moving debut to read in one sitting, pass on to others, and remember long after the final page.

My Summary:
This book made me laugh and cry so much that I listened to it over and over again. It is the story of Auggie, a young boy who has a facial disfigurement, who has to face what many people who find themselves as 'different' have to face- "What is it to be normal?". The story follows him as he goes to a typical school and encounters for the first time the 'real' world away from his parent's control. It is scary, and inevitably he has to face the relentless wrath of questions and bullying. Will he get by in school where he can't wear fancy dress to escape his differences? 

This book has multiple engrossing narratives from the family and friends of Auggie which allows an amazing birds eye view of the plot. I found the thoughts and feelings of others affected by his disfigurement interesting, such as his sister who will tirelessly attempt to support her brother despite her own problems. Then there is Miranda, a family friend who would secretly love to have Auggie as her real brother. I really enjoyed this book, however it was slightly uncomfortable reading at times. 

I found it in audio format on 

Wonder cover- a bright red background with a boy in a space helmet which covers his face.
Four Stars!  

Sunday, 7 April 2013

Your life: A Motivational Synopsis.

Description:  A brightly coloured comic strip in blue and yellow. The drawings are basic but professional. Each bullet relates to one image in the strip. Here is something true, one day you will be dead.   Here is something false: you only live once.  It takes about seven years to master something.   If you live to be 88 after the age 11 you have 11 opportunities to be great at something.  These are your lifetimes.   Most people don't let themselves die (stick man): "I've always just known I am good at organising spreadsheets".  Some are afraid of death: "I'm only trained to do one thing and if I'm not doing it... then what am I?"  Some think they are already ghosts: "I was good at basketball, but then I hurt my ankle. Now I spend most of my time mentally stimulating a reality where that didn't happen."  But you have many lives. (thought bubble): "Two years till I die, I wonder what I'll do next."  Spend a life writing poems. (In script): "True wit is nature to advantage dress'd what oft was thought, but ne'er so well expressed."  Spend a life building things. Man 1: "It's a hoverbike!" Man 2: "Because..." Man 1: "Because hoverbike!!"  Spend a life looking for facts. (Looking at molecule diagram): "How?"  Spend a life looking for truth. (Looking at the same diagram): "Why?"  These are your lives.  Use them.

Whilst doing the sometimes uphill battle which is writing a fifty thousand word novel in a month you go through several thought processes. One of which is: "I'm going to fail. There is no point. Why have I done this?!". Right after this stage comes developing a psychosomatic cold, flu or plague which 'unfortunately' stops you writing for a while. Sure, doing this one month writing challenge is only a penny in the bank of success. It is only one month out of the eighty-four which this comic identifies as 'a life'. When you put it into perspective- why does anyone even bother doing anything?

However, as I curled up on the sofa, cradling my laptop, willing my hands to move- I realised something. Sure, there are things in the world that I might enjoy doing more right now than trying to breathe life into imaginary people. I could waste the day online and sleep, but that would be exactly that: a waste. I set myself a goal: "five hundred words and you can sleep Imi", but I overshot it with enthusiastic ambition. Maybe I wasn't that tired after all! It was touch and go whether or not I would meet my word count target but I am so glad I did. Now I have 1,667 new words on the page and that will make today easier than if I had given in to my laziness.

The truth I'm learning is: Everyday is part of your life, so make every moment count. Do things that will make you feel good in the long run even if it's less enjoyable in the short term. "When you're walking through hell keep walking"- this can apply to anything and everything. Waste time intentionally instead of by accident by making sure that it's what you want to do with your day first. Don't let social networking steal your time: you don't belong to your friends list on Facebook or your twitter followers either. Your life belongs to no one but you. What I am trying to say is do something that makes you happy so that you feel you have achieved something by doing it. Even if the only thing you achieved is happiness. So many people at school say they have no hobbies, no skills, no talent. They sit and write their CV's in lesson with the teacher telling them what their qualities are. Learn what is good about yourself, and make that an achievement in it's own right. There are too many talented people in this world who don't realise their skills.

Graphics courtesy of SMBC comics.

Friday, 5 April 2013

Coloured Cane Controversy

A picture of me wearing light purple doc marten lace up boots, a dress, brightly patterned leggings and a denim jacket. I am also holding a bright yellow cane.Today I had the delightful experience of receiving a parcel in the post. Who doesn't love it when that happens? It's like a present to yourself has magically appeared on your doorstep. My excitement escalated when I realised it was my bright yellow mobility cane from RNIB via Ambutech. I ordered it a month and a bit ago; but it took it's time to arrive because the canes are custom manufactured in Canada. I ordered the cane itself for use where my trusty guide dog cannot help me out, such as noisier films at the cinema, my hopefully upcoming trip abroad, and more commonly to help me to and from science labs at school. The cane itself is a lovely ultralight graphite model with an excellent grip on the handle. However delighted I was on it's arrival there was a part of me that knew that the cane wouldn't go down well with everybody.

When in the past I, or friends of mine, have talked about coloured canes on social networks we have been met with a variety of opinions. It is one of the newer topics in the visually impaired community to cause controversy and some people feel very strongly about it. Coloured canes have been produced for children for quite some time, but have only in the last few years started gaining popularity with adults and young people. I can understand the viewpoint of some of the arguments presented to me: a white cane is used worldwide to represent visual impairment and is a statement as well as a practical aid. The main point here is: "What if people don't realise your disability by the change in colour?". I understand why this might be a concern, but I can't fathom why people should oppose to coloured canes as a whole because of this. In my opinion the use of these canes is not making visual impairment any more difficult to understand to the public. A skill that is important for anyone with any kind of disability is being able to accept and ask for help when you need it. Otherwise, you should just try to be as independent as you can however you feel most comfortable! Though the general public can be rude, patronising and challenging at times I think this argument is giving them less credit than they deserve. Anyway, why does it matter how strangers perceive you?  If you want to support the symbol of visual impairment, then use a white cane by all means, but what about people who don't want to?

Where as I am not shy to admit that I have a disability and to raise awareness by talking about it I do not want to be, and fight against being, a walking representation of sight loss. I am a teenage girl, who loves words, series box-sets, Doc Marten boots and the colour yellow. However, to the outside world I am seen regularly as 'the blind girl' but I refuse to think about myself in that way. I am Imi and I am visually impaired. Not: 'A visual impaired person who happens to be called Imi'. This article is my personal opinion on my own situation only, I know a lot of people who shine with confidence and the colour of a cane makes no difference to. 

A picture of me raising my new cane in a sword like manner.Anyway, I ordered the cane in yellow because I thought it would be fun and look nice. Nothing more to it than when someone buys a pair of shoes. A mobility aid is something which you use a lot, and so why should you use something you don't feel comfortable with? In my opinion it isn't anything more than a freedom of choice and if you are happy using a white cane then good on you! The cane that lives in school to get me to and from science is a large, stiff and clunky white cane. When people see me walk towards them they will a) move out of the way and b) be reminded of the fact I am visually impaired. I don't think using a coloured cane affects this much because anyone sweeping for objects and navigating with a cane clearly has some kind of difficulty in seeing. The only thing that it adds for me is personality, which is something that sometimes people forget I have in the midst of my disability. And although I still have a white cane, and I understand the situations where it's representation to my sight loss is valuable, I am proud of the fact I have made a choice which will make me more confident in my appearance. I would encourage anyone struggling with the image of being a cane user to try a coloured cane because it could make a huge difference to your self esteem. The canes are available from phone order from RNIB and custom orders are available from QAC. 

Monday, 1 April 2013

Camp NaNoWriMo April 2013

Today is the first day of Camp NaNoWriMo, and the start of a new challenge. National Novel Writing Month (or NaNoWriMo) ritually takes place in November every year. Participants challenge themselves to write a fifty thousand word novel in one month. The quality may be questionable, the morale may be low at times, but you can't fault the commitment of the NaNoWriMo troopers. I've never taken part in the event, though my best friend did it last year with concerning side effects. She became invisible, a slave to her keyboard, and ever since has been permanently addicted to writing. She beat NaNoWriMo though, and has an awesome t-shirt to prove it.

I know what you are thinking, no I haven't lost my calander or been living under a rock, I am aware it is not November. However the people at The Office of Letters and Light (the NaNoWriMo wizards) have caught on to the fact that people like my friend start getting withdrawal symptoms from the challenge around spring time. That's why they put in camp NaNoWriMo, it's exactly the same challenge but this event takes place throughout April and another during July. I was planning on doing the July camp, but I am pretty busy anyway in July and wanted something to liven up my april. I also have a bleak hope that spending time writing will draw me away from Facebook (which I despise the concept of more and more everyday).

So here I go, with one idea, and 50,000 words ahead of me! I've got several youtube playlists full of instrumental songs, perfect for writing, and plenty of teabags! I have found my cabin mates, a trusty group who are also casting aside their april in the name of creativity. I plan to blog or vlog my progress during the challenge. Good luck to any other NaNoWriMo-ers!

Saturday, 23 March 2013

First Day of Holiday Creativity - The Ceiling Dancer

After breaking up from my last EVER full term at school, what was I to do with myself? Read? Blog? Maybe even revise? Oh no. Yesterday I created a youtube account, a new and surreal experience and an excellent way to battle my body blues. I made myself an intro video, and got some lovely feedback.

At 1am this morning inspiration struck- in fact it woke me up with it's strength. The inspiration ironically being a poem about insomnia. Having had the (not overly wonderful) experience of being an insomniac before, I wanted to show the frustration it can bring and the patterns it can take. Naturally, as soon as I picked up my laptop I couldn't stop writing and the whole poem was done in half an hour. I was slightly pessimistic on how the poem would be in the light of day and found I, very fittingly, couldn't sleep after I closed my laptop.

When I (eventually) woke up I recorded the soundtrack to the video, me reading the poem and editing it with James Yorkston's fantastic song 'would you have me born with wooden eyes'. I also put in some birds singing from a compulsive audio recording day I had last week. Doing the video was great fun too because I love acting and film making. The hardest part was definitely filming in the dark because my camera kept trying to be clever and making everything brighter! Setting up the shots was also hit and miss because I wasn't utterly sure if I was in view or not!

I've really enjoyed the whole process and will definitely be doing it again. I'd really appreciate it if you could like and subscribe to my youtube channel: yellowlittledragon.

Hope you all have a happy easter if I don't see you before!

Wednesday, 30 January 2013

Should We All Be Barbie Girls?

'Barbie without makeup' on the right is the classic face of a barbie, on the left she has no make up and looks dull, bland and is a lot less desirable. Lazy night on the internet and I stumble across these statistics- actually they hit me like a bus. Though as a child I was more a 'BABY-born' girl I had a small, very select, crew of Barbies. I never saw them as being the image of normality as such (their feet were far too pointy) but I did think Barbie was very pretty. Barbie may look like an airhead girly girl but she has serious skills in business: making big money since 1959.

But should she still be bought for young, easily influenced, girls? She's just a harmless doll isn't she? Read the stats below and see how you feel: 

  • If Barbie was an actual woman, she would be 5’9” tall, have a 39” bust, an 18” waist, 33” hips and a size 3 shoe.
  • Barbie calls this a “full figure” and likes her weight at 110 lbs.
  • At 5’9” tall and weighing 110 lbs, Barbie would have a BMI of 16.24 and fit the weight criteria for anorexia. She likely would not menstruate.
  • If Barbie was a real woman, she’d have to walk on all fours due to her proportions.
  • Slumber Party Barbie was introduced in 1965 and came with a bathroom scale permanently set at 110 lbs with a book entitled “How to Lose Weight” with directions inside stating simply “Don’t eat.”
Eating disorders damage lives. This is something I fear the media will never understand or portray. An eating disorder isolates you- scaring away all your friends and frightening your family. It wraps you up and makes you lose track of the rest of the world. All you care about is what your next meal is, and how many little numbers go alongside it. Yet this is what we are promoting as the image of beauty. Barbie isn't beauty- she is horrifically deformed. 

Still just a harmless dolly? 

Barbie has a sinister side. Maybe she should put on a few pounds so she can begin to represent what a real woman is like- instead of giving little girls unrealistic images of beauty.

A woman holding a barbie, outlined on her skin is the shape of how the barbie is proportioned, she looks frightening.

Wednesday, 16 January 2013

The B Word and The Bumpy Road

A large parcel clearly from RNIB with the Articles for The Blind postage stamp.
When my Dad proudly announced on the phone to me at lunch that my RNIB parcel had arrived; I knew I had done it. I have hereby made the decision to become a braille reader, and let my useless eyes get on with whatever the are there for (something I am yet to gather). I am now stepping in the field which was once filled with grenades- the 'B word'- Braille. Braille has always been an imaginary safety net for me- imaginary as in, although asking, I was never offered it through the Education Authority but it was a nice, warm, fuzzy way of envisioning that I will always be able to read.

A few years ago I learnt grade one braille on my own through the internet. I loved using the nifty skill, but I could never in a million years depend upon it. So I carried on using my eyes, which read a few lines of text and then do the equivalent of a snail curling into it's shell. When my eyes say it's game over, it really is game over. Everyday it is painful to read, it's like I'm cursed with the ability to see text, making learning braille supposedly unjustifiable. Until now. 

I have taken matters into my own hands so to speak. Reading is supposed to be painless- yet when I do it isn't, suggesting the fact: 'can I actually read print?'. The words move and twist and disappear, what I can see at the start of the day is not there by the end. Frankly- I've had enough of it. My decision was made with the help of the Audioboo community and my parents ordered me 'Fingertips' grade two braille course from RNIB and it arrived in a huge box. I will work on it at home everyday and it will be undoubtedly hard, but I will get there. 

And, as if the situation isn't bizarre and sudden enough, I want to be plausible in grade two braille by september when I go to college so I can revise and study until my mind is tired, and not my eyes. I plan to apply for a Braillenote apex (a braille computer) in my section 139a (a transfer document with all my requirements and needs in). I think this will get me off to a really good start at college and I am so excited! 

Fingertips braille course unpackaged, a pile of yellow braille books, a green box of CD's and a large print bookMeanwhile at school it's all a struggle. All my revision guides are in size 24 print, which due to my nystagmus increase I can no longer read, so I have to try and find electronic copies of EVERYTHING so that the speech software on my mac can read them to me. Sure, I could get bigger print, but the next size they could offer me is 32 which is around the size they would suggest braille anyway (supposedly) and it would make one revision guide huge and spine breakingly heavy. 

I'm standing up for myself now- this is what I want. I have a right to be able to read like everyone else!

I will label any posts about my braille learning journey under the tag "A Bumpy Road"- because I'm sure it will definitely be!  

Monday, 14 January 2013

WOW... (and other exclamations)

At some point in the last few days Small Print Larger hit the big 10,000 hits- and since has hit 400 more. All I can say is "Gee Whizz" and thank you. Seriously, thank you. I started using Google Analytics last year and all these 10,000 views have been in the last 12 months. It's unbelievable, insane, and the most flattering thing ever.

Starting in 2010- with random articles, limited style and patchy content- I feel SPL has got bigger and better over time. The emails I get, the comments, and every single number on that chart make me aim for a better article next time. I could post on here all day, if I didn't have more pressing GCSE based issues *cough cough*, but the point remains that I am proud to call myself a blogger- and I think I am getting better at it. Occasionally people find me through this little space on the internet, leading me to write in magazines and websites and meeting new friends as I go. It's like some kind of electronic daydream.

So hats off to you guys for sticking with me, and thank you for joining me on this mad journey :)


Friday, 11 January 2013

To Kill a Mockingbird - Harper Lee

OK, so we have all heard of this classic, everyone knows it and every teen is being nagged by parents/teachers to get their head out of Twilight and read something more like this. But now hear comes the surprise…. READ IT! No, I haven’t turned into a boring adult my dear bloggers – this book is actually really really good. I also believed it has changed many a persons’ attitude towards other races.
It is narrated by a young girl called Scout as she tells the story of her life and how it changes due to racial controversy. She has a brother called Jem and she feels deeply sad as he grows up and he ‘doesn’t wanna see her no more!’ and wants to be a scowly teenager. She also has a father called Atticus, he for me is one of the finest characters in English literature, he is a loner but is respected greatly by both the black and the white communities of their town, Maycomb. The charatcer of Atticus is such a great work, he is mysterious but conveys a good heart and great caring with very little description of this. He really comes alive in your imagination. Atticus is a lawyer and is very good at his job, he is incredibly well educated and taught Scout to read as soon as she could hold a book. The story tells the tale of when Atticus takes on a rape case. Tom Robbinson,a good black man, is thought to have raped a white women who the whole town didn’t like. Until now that is.
I read this in the lovely oriental gardens on holiday in Monte-carlo and I have re-read it since, I love this book so much. It also makes you feel great to know you’ve finally read it when you turn the final page! I would recommend it to just about anyone and give it a Five star rating!
* * * * *
Book Cover

Tuesday, 8 January 2013

All For One? I'm for it.

Tonight I will be going to my third choir rehearsal with the 'All for One' Choir. I've got to say when I first went to a rehearsal I was sceptical, firstly because my Mum was a committed member, and secondly because she thought it was cool. This instantly projects the opposite in my mind, just about every honest teenager would agree that if your Mum thinks something is cool it will almost certainly not be. But after going to one of their shows at City Hall, which was packed with people, they sounded really good, so I decided to go along.

On my 'taster' session, I was amazed at how well everyone got along. At the show there had been many a mention of being 'One big family' but I didn't really expect it to be so literal and true. Everyone talked to everyone, and lots of people said "Hello" and chatted to me. Also the way Laila was accepted was truly heartwarming, people took it on board when I asked them not to stroke her and they respected how good she was being with the loud music and just lying down while I sung, jived and gestured along to the music. I have to admit I was surprised when I found myself signing up to become a real member at the end of the session- I had really thought I would hate it! I was handed an anorak and a t-shirt and I was in the choir.

All for One was having an event the following saturday at Hull KC Stadium, where they would be performing to the crowds pre-match and at half time. Having been exposed to the practice CD in my Mum's car for the last year, on constant repeat, I knew most of the words and the Tenor part. Yes, I'm an alto, but the adaption wouldn't be that hard to make... right? I was amazed that they trusted me to come and perform with them after only one real rehearsal, but I listened to the Alto CD to undo all the Tenor-ness of "Mary's Boy Child", practiced the moves, and I felt sort of ready.

That morning, my Mum, Laila, and I drove to the stadium- and I had won the battle of "Tenner or Alto Practice CD" so we were also rather comically singing at the top of our voices as we went. There were sound checks, greetings and chats with other members, and then we started singing at the doors while people arrived. I was really starting to get into the swing of things by the time we made it to the pitch. After a slight debate, Laila was able to become possibly the first dog ever to put paws on Hull City Pitch, and we were Sunshine, Moonlight, Boogying like pros. Everyone in the choir were so helpful in supporting me around the seating stands, it was quite overwhelming actually! We settled down for the game and by half time Hull were winning, and we were ready for another sing. It occurred to me that what the choir promotes is true, singing really does make you feel better. Despite all the pain from my head and eyes- I felt good. We sang in front of 17,000 people, I mean who gets to do that?!

It's crazy, out of my comfort zone, but I'm loving it. Thanks All for One.

The crowd in the standsThe choir, all dressed in red, stand on the pitch

Hull City Mascot gave us the thumbs up.

Saturday, 5 January 2013

Flaunt your Audio Description - A Tale of Two Cinemas

Long time followers of my blog, tweets or campaigning actions will remember all the way in November 2011 when I recorded this piece with BBC Newsround about Audio Description availability for visually impaired people. In this report I spoke to a very nervous looking representative of my local 'Spinnyworld' cinema. So lets call the cinema's involved Spinnyworld and Odeom...

Last year in October my Mum and I wanted to go to the cinema together, but of course this opens a can of worms of the accessibility variety. At first Mum checked my local Odeom cinema's website, where it labelled no films as being AD. My Mum, being a campaigner for VI access by blood, emailed Odeom Guest Services asking if this indicated all films or no films were audio described. We got this reply: 

"Thank you for your email.
Unfortunately, currently have no films showing with Audio description.  We list any subtitled films or audio described we are showing on our website. The films appearing as either Subtitled or Audio Described have an accessibility button appearing by them. If you click on the accessibility button it will show the performances available in the particular format.Also, if you are on the cinema home page, there is a filter at the top whereby you click on the necessary format you require.
Should you have any further queries, please do not hesitate to email us again or call ### 

In the footnotes of the email it detailed that if we were to call for more help, it would cost us 10p per minute! This badly worded instructional email of 'How to use a website' we felt was patronising and it did not answer our query at all. We then asked for this to be taken as a formal complaint in respect of their scheduling and accessibility.

Next we tried Spinnyworld, where my Mum asked the same question at the cinema branch itself. We got an amazing response of "Oh yes, all our screens are digital now, every film with an AD soundtrack will have it played every showing." How amazing! All the complaints, mentions and even bringing Newsround in, had payed off! But we didn't want to see any films right then, so we left it a few weeks. We checked the branch website when I wanted to see one of the latest films with friends, and NO AD SHOWINGS. How could this be? We emailed to find out... 

"Thank you for contacting 'Spinnyworld' I'm sorry it has taken longer than normal for me to respond to you, we have received a considerable volume of customer correspondence recently. Although not every film at 'Spinnyworld' **** is Audio Described it is very simple to use our website to find which films offer this service...

What followed was a string of instructions on how to use their very basic website. No wonder they received lots of correspondences, whilst their answers were so inadequate. Though, to give Spinnyworld credit, the email did actually make sense. 

Mum responded saying:
"Thank you for your response. I understand that thank you. I am fully sighted myself and find your website helpful and easy to use. What I don't understand is why staff got us all excited and happy at the prospect of more choice for VI people and a more typical cinema experience and range of viewing ahead when clearly what they said is not true? Thank you."

And then silence fell in cyberspace and we received no response. We began to wonder if our emails had actually been received by people, or by cyborgs employed by cinema companies to reply to all queries in the most patronising and annoying way possible. That is, until yesterday, when our quest for accessibility (after three months) came to a close. 

My Mum had to look quite hard for my local branches number, as we were not going to miss 'Quartet' like we had so many other films due to lack of AD. She got hold of the number and got through to a real human. At first the same old spiel was recited: "Well if you check the website it shows that, no: there are no audio described performances..." My Mum queried the claim that everything was now digitised and that, if there is an AD soundtrack in the production, why shouldn't it be played? The manager was called and all became clear! 

We were in fact initially told the truth, all the branch's screens are now capable of AD, and if there is a soundtrack available with AD then I can just pick up the headphones and enjoy the film. I believe this is a success!

But it does prompt the question- if you have it, why not show it? And if you don't, why not? Why make customers enquire for three months? We heard no more from Odeom, but in my eyes Spinnyworld has turned it around. In this case it seems that the website is wrong, but I really hope they correct it soon before anyone else misses opportunities due to bad information communication. 

Audio Description Logo

Friday, 4 January 2013

Wintergirls - Laurie Halse Anderson

“Dead girl walking,” the boys say in the halls.
“Tell us your secret,” the girls whisper, one toilet to another.
I am that girl.
I am the space between my thighs, daylight shining through.
I am the bones they want, wired on a porcelain frame.

Lia and Cassie are best friends, wintergirls frozen in matchstick bodies, competitors in a deadly contest to see who can be the skinniest. But what comes after size zero and size double-zero? When Cassie succumbs to the demons within, Lia feels she is being haunted by her friend’s restless spirit.

In her most emotionally wrenching, lyrically written book since the multiple-award-winning Speak, Laurie Halse Anderson explores Lia’s descent into the powerful vortex of anorexia, and her painful path toward recovery.


Frightening is the only way to describe this book, it is a spine chilling horror story of the worst sort: the real one. Frighteningly poetic, seamless, somehow beautiful and to say it's deep is the understatement of the millennium. The characters are entrancing and you as the reader quickly become engrossed in the almost rhythmic words of the book. The narrative is immersive, but not suffocating, and you quickly find yourself seeing through Lia's eyes. 

No matter your knowledge, opinion or experience of eating disorders I think the main thing this book offers is a true 'eye-opener' to the mind of an anorexic. The awareness this book has raised is amazing, and it has (in my opinion) glided over the risky waters of 'pro-ana'. There is never any illusion that anorexia is great, or a life choice, or any of the popular misconceptions. It is plain and clear that Cassie and Lia are stricken by a flesh burning disease, not a radical diet. 

But the book makes you forget all the medical side. The engrossing narrative takes you deeper into living with the disease, where all the symptoms and feelings are just part of life. This avoidance of clearly stated medical morals against eating disorders is possibly why the book tends to be misunderstood as being pro anorexia. It isn't though, because never is a single benefit of life with an eating disorder portrayed (maybe because there aren't any). The book instead looks deeper at the psychological affects of eating disorders. Winter girls isn't as depressing as it sounds though, with other key elements like friendship and family making it more up-beat. I think the world has a lot to learn from this book and it deserves a possibly controversial five stars.  

Tuesday, 1 January 2013

2013: Reflections and Resolutions

This being my first post in this blogs FOURTH year is very very exciting. Last year I had 44 well received posts and after discovering google analytics in January, have had 9,404 page views! Heaven's knows how many I've had throughout the years without knowing, but I am so proud of what I've achieved on here. When people mention that they have read something of mine on Small Print Larger it gives me such a great feeling.

2012 has been a mixed year made up of many emotions, with very distinct highs and lows. The major high of my year has been getting my beautiful guide dog Laila, who has changed my life completely. Being able to walk down the street at night without misjudging roads, falling, or being afraid is something I thought I would never experience again- but have done thanks to her. I also became a young leader at brownies and guides, but am yet to make my promise, and also qualified as an online cybermentor for bullied and distressed children and young people. My year wasn't all bunches of roses though: losing a vast amount of sight to Nystagmus (a never ending war), having a two month long headache and missing a month of school have been set backs. But it doesn't matter now. I'm slowly learning that when you are born you are not a sealed 'Life' package, things change, and that really doesn't matter because everyone and everything else does too. For example getting ill and dropping GCSE's, this was a major crisis for me, but I will make sure I get enough qualifications to make my next step and that is what's really important. As many people have said to me recently "It's your health that's important".

In 2013 I'm hoping to have a better time, finishing school and moving onto college and all the adventures that come along with that. I also hope to continue using this blog to it's full potential and making use of the huge (unexpected) audience which has landed on my lap. Whether you are viewing from the UK, Latvia, America, Sweeden, Malaysia, India or Germany thank you so much (and aren't google analytics great?!)

So the big 2-0-1-3, I'm not usually one for resolutions but this time I went overboard:
1. Write a diary.
I received the diary for christmas and I am really looking forward to using it and hope that I can complete a diary for the first time rather than a time-spread journal.
2. Keep 'Tea Time Reads' going.
I've had some fabulous feedback about TTR, so I will keep going for as long as I possibly can.
3. The Fact to Fiction Challenge.
I have set up a challenge for myself, every week in 2013 I will write a piece of creative writing based on item from the weeks news. I will post each piece on this blog: and do a round up once a month on Small Print Larger with links to all of the pieces.
4. Eat healthy. My Dad was particularly concerned this was code for 'lose weight' but no, I assure you, that games over. Just a healthy diet could do me some good.
5. Drink more water.
I am always always thirsty and always dehydrated so I think a little effort to drink more water could help me out in the long run.
6. Make a big push for dreambook.
You can find out about The Dreambook Movement in the tabs, but it is a project I have set up and due to various things it has slowed down somewhat- I need to get back on track!
7. Improve my posture.
I am developing a hunched back and I need to stop now, and anyway it is not a sophisticated look!
8. Try hard to get through my remaining GCSEs.
So I can move on with my life at last.
9. Learn to play the mandolin I got for Christmas.

May you all have an excellent year and, once again, thank you so much for another fantastic year.