Spread The Word Life Writing Prize 2019

I was shortlisted for the Spread the Word Life Writing Prize in 2019. From almost 1000 entries, my story Hometown Legacy was selected as one of the final 12.

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You can read more about the prize here and the showcase of writing by the 12 finalists is here.

You can read Hometown Legacy here.

Rewilding and the power in nature’s history

When I was a small child, nose constantly and firmly stuck in a book, I rarely lifted my head enough to look to the world outside for inspiration. Sunshine was to be avoided, cold was too horrid to be contemplated, and the static indoor warmth of central heating was a dream compared to the wild worms and grasses of the outside world.

Times change. Had I known then what I know now, I would have committed to a childhood of climbing through ruins, scraping my knees on trees, and exploring ant colonies. As an adult, the draw I feel to nature knows no bounds and I wish I’d found this love sooner.

To read more, visit Book Riot.

On the history and experience of tattoos

Tattooing has been part of the communicative culture of humanity for many thousands of years. According to the Smithsonian, tattoos have been with us since at least 3250 BCE, the dating suggested for two of the oldest mummies ever found. Ancient tattooing was most prevalent among the Austronesian people, who punctured skin using a small hammer and thorn, fish bone or shell. Tattooing was also documented among the Papuans and Melanesians, as well as the Ainu people of Japan, Berber women in North Africa, Native Americans in pre-Columbian America and the Picts of Iron-Age Britain.

It’s commonly believed that the modern fascination with tattoos dates to James Cook’s voyages to the South Pacific in the 18th century, when the word ‘tattow’ was imported to western languages. Though tattoos weren’t unheard of at that time in the west, the first documented professional tattooist in Britain popped up for business in the mid 1890s, servicing, among others, royals who wanted their own art, according to Tina Brown in Tattoos: An Illustrated History. Some 50 years before, Martin Hildebrandt opened the first tattoo studio in New York City. Civil war soldiers were frequent visitors (both Union and Confederate) and Hildebrandt went between camps offering his tattoos to soldiers and sailors, to aid identification in the event they died in action. David McComb uses 100 Years of Tattoos to explain the emergent adoration for the form from 1914 to the present day, covering 100 years of war, fashion, art and resistance.

To read more, visit Book Riot.

Learn about ‘rising populism’ with these books

Unless you’ve kept your head firmly under a rock for the past few years, you’ll have noticed that, well, the world is in political turmoil. It seems that dictators and cults of personality are back. Nationalist movements are on the rise. The far right are growing on both sides of the Atlantic and a cut-throat hatred of woman, migrants, and minorities has stepped up its game to such an extent that it’s become a mainstream political point of view.

So, what happened? How did we end up here? If we take lessons from history, there is a suggestion that we will find ourselves back in a struggle of warfare and a breakdown of international cooperation.

Given the recent rise of these movements in multiple countries, publishing on the topic is on the cutting edge and therefore (I say with a sigh) dominated by white male authors, though many of the books featured below are at least half produced by women). However, when the world seems both very frightening and our places in it less secure than they were 20 years ago, seeking knowledge about these movements and where they come from is key to understanding what direction we want the world to go.

To read more, visit Book Riot.

Great books for the writer in your life

Back in September, I went back to university to study creative writing. After decades of reading and a general sense that I should, at some point, follow the dreams that my four year old self envisioned, I figured that maybe it was finally time to give it a proper go.

I’ve been writing for publication since I was 16 years old. Magazines. Newspapers. Book chapters. Blogs. You name it, I’ve written in. But I’ve never finished a draft of a book. I’m working on it actively and it’s the best part of my week when I get to sit down and write, but even a year ago I would have been too scared to even try.

To read more, visit Book Riot.

DTF: Books about Contraception, Sex Ed and Reproductive Justice

I’m not here to deliver sex education, but a story about the National Health Service in the UK recently caused a kerfuffle on social media, so I think this needs addressing. The NHS recently changed its guidance and now advises that women take the contraceptive pill continually, diverging from decades of insistence that a week-long break be adhered to, in order to facilitate the continuation of periods on a 28 day cycle. This original guidance essentially came out through efforts to have the Pope approve of contraceptive use for married couples.

When I was in secondary school in (very Catholic 1990s) Ireland, a biology teacher told my class one day that this advice was bullshit, and that scientifically there was no reason not to take the pill continuously. She told us, full of raging feminism, that this was a prime example of women cowed into accepting a rule that took away true choice and rendered consent uninformed and meaningless.

To read more, visit Book Riot.

Trying to grow your own? Read these books about gardening

Gardening is a relatively new hobby of mine, in that I’ve been growing plants in my house for about three years and last year moved outdoors and rented an allotment in London. In that time I’ve read more gardening books than I care to think about (some better than others) and I’m constantly talking up the benefits of being outdoors, growing things and the total joy of pulling your own carrots from the ground.

The books featured here should help set you and your family on the road to gardening life. All of them are authored by women, but there seems to be a persistent and niggling lack of people of colour in the annals of gardening books. I can only hope that in time this changes. Plants themselves are culturally resounding and depending on where they come from, can have real tangible worth for the communities that love them.

To read more, visit Book Riot.

5 Books about sex work and feminism

Discussing sex work and feminism in the same sentence can mean inviting controversy, but it’s an issue that’s been playing on my mind a lot for the past few years. Academically, the field of sex work research is growing and is dominated by women’s voices – many of them white women, but that’s an improvement on the overall story of sex work being told by men. In fictional media for many years, sex workers have been mere objects in our stories – damsels in distress, cold corpses in dark sheds, reduced to being just low risk victims for serial killers seeking release.

The story of sex work is often interlaced with that of human trafficking, exploitation and abuse. The people who choose to work in the sex trade rarely have their voices heard and are less visible in the mainstream media. In the past few years, this gap has been addressed with some extremely thought provoking publications on the topic of sex work, some of which are discussed below.

To read more, visit Book Riot.

Read these and be better with your money

I’m not here to bore the pants off you with an article about money, but I’m here to deliver a cold truth: no matter how much you dislike money and no matter how bad you are with it, your decisions about your finances will define your life much more than you’d like.

For the past two years, I’ve been investigating, researching and reading about money. I’ve read self help books, blogs, Facebook groups, investment literature, and the Financial Times (I know). I’ve learned some stuff about saving and spending, passive incomes and minimizing some aspects of my life to make them cost less. I’ve learned that I can be ethical while also making sure my future is secure.

To read more, visit Book Riot.

Gift books for the knitter in your life

Everyone knows a knitter, whether they’re the type to knit their own socks on the bus or whip up miniature toys for their nieces’ birthdays. Knitting has been celebrating a resurgence in the past few years, with more and more people making use of crafts to exercise dexterity, find a little relaxation and build self-sufficiency.

When I was a kid, it was all about garter stitch scarves and purses, but like all crafty undertakings, knitting has become refreshed and renewed with the new millennium and there are some positively genius folks out there making patterns and breathing new life into time-worn crafts.

To read more, visit Book Riot.