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.