Approximately 30 years ago, when I was a little girl, I lost my voice.
I was bullied, ridiculed, left out and generally socially awkward. This resulted in me developing what I now come to know as Selective Mutism.
For most of my life I have in some way been silenced. Whether this is due to my own issues and feeling so alien in the world, that I developed anxiety at 4/5 years old. Whether this was because being female I have had people look down upon me as the inferior sex. Whether this was because being young and inexperienced, people believed I didn’t have anything useful to add to the table. Whether this is a direct result of being misunderstood from actually being autistic, which had never been picked up.
I’m now learning that I am not alien in this world, there are others like me.
I now know being female isn’t the inferior sex, I am just as equal to men.
I might be young and potentially inexperienced, but that doesn’t mean I haven’t got something valuable to say.
I know that the misunderstanding is the lack of awareness in the general population for autism, especially in females.
Now in my 30s, I am unlearning all the negativity I associated with myself, the bad habits and finally coming out of my shell.
I am also speaking up against the inequality and misunderstandings.
One of the reasons why I became an author was because I wanted to get my voice finally heard. I wanted to use the medium of written word, in stories, to get certain topics out there. Including my own story.
But just writing stories is just the stepping stone onto bigger things.
The next stepping stone…
Is becoming a UN Women’s Delegate for the UK!
I’m extremely humbled to be a part of the delegation. To be a part of something as important as gender equality. But I’m also extremely nervous.
But I’m going to continue practicing speaking up, like I have been slowly building up on, and push through these nerves.
I have finally found my voice.
And I’m certainly going to make as much noise as possible!
This blog post is a little different today, and I know I said ‘self-diagnosing’, there’s a lot of issues surrounding self-diagnosing medical/psychological/neurological issues, but bare in with me…
I had Selective Mutism…
You may already know that I had Selective Mutism as a child. I haven’t been officially diagnosed with it, but I’m 100% sure I had it as a child (and still suffer slightly with it today – either I clam up and don’t talk, or someone says/does something that is a ‘trigger’ and sets off an anxiety attack). If you didn’t know, I recommend you read my blog post here and check out my very first video on my new YouTube channel here.
Now, the reason why I haven’t been diagnosed is simple… it was missed. Instead, I was thought to be ‘shy’ in school, which is true, I was shy. Painfully. But, I also believe it was missed because there wasn’t enough education into it back in the 90s and early 2000s when I was at school. And the reason why it hasn’t been diagnosed, or at least officially put on my medical records NOW is because of three reasons;
1. I only learnt about it recently, say in the last few years. I stumbled across it actually. I can’t remember where it was I first saw/heard about Selective Mutism, but something in the name made me think “can it be?”. Before then, I never knew it was a ‘thing’ – I thought I was different, special, ‘odd’, that I was the only one who suffered the way I did as a child. Then, one day I came across it, read up about it, and went, Oh. My. God. That’s a THING?! So, yeah!
2. I kinda grew out of it. I developed SM (Selective Mutism) when I was at Primary School (about the age of 4 or 5) and it got worse as I became a teenager through Secondary School. But when I went to college, I went to a completely different college than all my cohort at school so I was no longer around those kids that new me as The Girl Who Whispered and I managed to break the cycle – if I didn’t, I probably would be still suffering today.
3. I learnt to mask. It took me YEARS, but I learnt to mask, hide, pretend I didn’t have it and learnt to fake confidence around people. I was ashamed of having it. I was ashamed of what people would think about me if they found out how weird I was in school, that I didn’t talk, that I whispered. So, I would mask that I had it, to the point of pretending that part of my life didn’t exist. When people would reminisce over their school days and say how they wish they were in school still, I would disagree, saying I hated school, but never said why. It was also hard to explain why I have a fear of certain things – one for example, I HATE people whispering to me now, because that was one thing the bullies in school would do, but try explain that to someone that doesn’t know about your background and you don’t WANT them to know.
It’s not that I don’t want it on my record, I just haven’t yet had chance to really talk to the doctors about it. I struggle with talking to the doctors, not only because I have moved around a LOT over the last few years, but because I have had some very bad experiences in the past. Plus, with the whole Covid situation at the moment, I find it difficult to go to the doctors – I can’t just walk in and ask for an appointment and I’m absolutely TERRIBLE on the phone (I had recently had to email my new doctors surgery to ask for an appointment, but they have just emailed me back asking me to ring them – urgh! Need to find the courage to do that!)
Is this Autism…?
Which kinda brings me onto my own self-diagnosis of Autism…. because SM is a SIGN of Autism… especially in women. So, when I learnt that… I did some digging.
Firstly, I want to apologise if I say anything that may offend anyone, I am still new to Autism, I’m still trying to understand it and I may get things wrong, or may say something that isn’t politically correct. Please bare in with me, I mean no offense. I know at least that some people do not like to be defined by their autism, there is a difference between being ‘a person with autism’ and an ‘autistic person’. I’m new to this concept and am still trying to get my head around it. I will probably use these interchangable and I do not mean offense. I’m still unsure how to define myself – and if I should even be using the term undiagnosed.
Now, I knew about Autism, I’ve heard about it, I’ve seen it, but my understanding of it was HUGELY WRONG. So, yeah, I used to think there were a few things that I saw in myself, but I never really associated myself with Autism until very recently (in the last few weeks).
Another sign of Autism, I have recently found out is masking. Which I do! A LOT! And I didn’t/don’t even realise I do! Masking is the ability to mimic non-autistic traits, or social interaction to hide the fact you have Autism. I’ve heard this is more prevalent in women with Autism, as opposite to men. I used to say that because of my SM, I didn’t learn social skills, but I’m now starting to think that, yeah, the SM didn’t help matters, but actually, my social skills were actually a result of Autism. In fact, I didn’t even realise this was a thing until recently either, because I just thought “this is how we learn” to socialise. Nope, it’s just me, being different.
There are a few other signs/criteria for autism, and more specifically ones found in women, and I will break those down, focusing on the main ones for women, because I want to show you why I have decided to self-diagnose myself with autism…
I took the following list from a YouTuber (shout out to Dan @TheAspieWorld, thanks, dude!) which I will post the video down below for you to watch. He has been diagnosed with asperger’s (which is technically Autism, but that’s a whole other discussion that I personally do not 100% understand yet, so will refrain from saying anything and getting it wrong…)
Autism in Women
Lack Of Eye Contact
✔️ Yep. I used to HATE looking people in the eye. I felt it was too intrusive. I felt like I was staring. Being rude. I also felt uncomfortable when people would look at me too long too, so if I felt uncomfortable, I would think others would too. I wouldn’t know how long to look, do I glance to make them aware I know they’re there and talking to me? How long is too long until it becomes weird and awkward? But, I learnt that eye contact was a ‘typical’ thing to do – so I had to learn how to make and keep eye contact. Some days, though, if you catch me on a bad day, or I’m a little too intimidated by the person, I will struggle – One of my coping mechanisms for those days, I find something else to put my eyes on.
Also, I am an anxious person so I tend to be hyper-aware of my surroundings, and even if I’m not hyper-aware, I am easily distracted by sounds, sights, lights, smells, etc, so if I look like my eyes are darting to things like that… it might not be that I’m struggling to keep eye contact, just something shiny has caught my attention.
✔️ Yep. Difficulty starting conversations (I hate small talk) and keeping them going. Although, this isn’t always the case, if you start talking to me about something I am interested in, passionate about (I can talk for hours about my book, for example) then I can talk so fast, you wouldn’t be able to keep up. I also struggle to understand what is oversharing, what is undersharing, when to stop talking if I’m talking too much, when to ask for help, and what the correct ‘socially accepted’ response is. I used to get people asking me how I am… and I would answer truthfully (“I’m terrible today, I just had a bad day with…”) and apparently people aren’t actually interested in knowing how you are… apparently this is a typical ‘greeting’ for some people. So, I learnt to say (“I’m good, thanks, how are you?”).
Introverted Personality But Outgoing In General
✔️ Yep. I have said to a few people before I am introverted (I like my own company) but I LOVE going outside. Maybe not to bars, clubs, restaurants, etc. Because they can be too loud, or busy, or have too many people. But I love the outside/nature (as long as it’s not too cold, but that’s a story for another day!) I love going out somewhere new, taking my camera, exploring the sites, smells, sounds, etc. I do also prefer going out with people… usually just the odd one or two people that I get on with, as that tends to help with my confidence, but if it’s someone I don’t know well, I’m too worried about how to act around them that I don’t tend to enjoy myself too much.
✔️ I feel personally attacked. Let me just hide my Pokemon collection… My postcard collection… And my collection of bad habits… okay, maybe not including in this category… But yeah, I have been and still am a collector… and a hoader. I also go through phases. I had a large collection of bouncy balls, keyrings, postcards (which I regret getting rid of), bugs (yep, I was that kid! Sorry, mum!), I even came back home from a holiday with a new collection of pretty shells at one point. Unfortunately, I either stupidly got rid of a load of stuff, was asked to get rid of stuff (i.e. moving house) or I lost interest in that thing (I mean, why bouncy balls? What was I going to do with them?) but I have always been one to collect things, to the point of obsession. Currently, I am obsessed with collecting Pokemon on my Pokemon Go app, recently re-started a Pokemon card collection and re-started my postcard collection too. I also, not sure if it’s really an obsessive collection as such, but I HAVE to get something as a memento from where I went – a little gift to myself from a holiday destination, postcard is a must of course, but maybe a painting, or an ornament, heck, even a stone! And LOTS of photos! I also hoard, I’m terrible for it… I don’t like throwing something out if it may be useful in some way – tin cans I can upcycle, jars to store things in, a pretty candy wrapper for no other reason but because it’s pretty – and then I throw away because it’s technically rubbish, ribbons that I think will be useful for something, somewhere, someday and left forgotten in a draw, buttons… because you never know when you’re going to need a bright purple button from a cardigan you had when you were twelve… birthday cards, old electronics because you might want to learn how it works or try to fix it… boxes… does a collection of unironed clothes also count, or is that just me being lazy and hating ironing?
✔️ I have already mentioned this previously, so I don’t feel the need to expand too much on this one. It’s obvious this means Selective Mutism, right?
Masking To Meltdown
✔️ Now, what this one means, is that you mask so often, to the point of exhaustion and then something tips you and BOOM meltdown. If I had seen this without the context that Dan said in his video, I probably would have disagreed with this one. But when he mentioned about the meltdown over something simple like realising someone has eaten all the chocolate sauce and you couldn’t have ice-cream and chocolate sauce… yeah… I realised that was me too. I may be fine one day, have the ‘issue’ not bothering me (Oh, you’re going to replace it… okay, that’s fine!)… but if I’ve had a bad day, or I’m exhausted from masking in a social situation all day… I would have meltdowns over something minor. (IT’S THE END OF THE WORLD!) It could be from moving something I own. Breaking something. Eating my chocolate in the fridge. It could even be just asking me to do something simple. I can have a meltdown. And it physically hurts… I mean, seriously feels like an anxiety attack. It’ll also take me a while to calm down, and it’s seriously difficult to be around me because I can either get mad and angry, or I can turn the opposite and get depressed.
Shy And Quiet
✔️ This one is a yes and no answer. But only because I struggle to know whether I was actually shy, or if it’s my SM and/or social skills OR if it’s my masking, but I used to define myself as ‘shy and quiet’ but less so now because I have had to ‘force’ myself to be confident and outgoing to ‘fit in’ and be ‘professional’. It’s difficult, it’s exhausting, and there are times when I just cannot be bothered to be social as I’m so tired from it, so I will become quiet. But I’m not sure if the shy part actually defines me. I guess you could say I used to be, I am nervous in social situations, especially if I don’t know you or there is a big group or I’m put on the spot to talk (please make ice-breakers illegal!) but I feel as if that goes hand-in-hand with the selective mutism checkpoint.
So, yeah, reading through that, it makes me realise I hit all of those points. But, I want to point out there are others, some I agree with, such as the sensory overload issues – only today I had to move my feet from the floor of my flat because downstairs was making noises that was vibrating up through the floor. Inability to listen to people (I find it easier to read conversations/information than listen… it will seriously not go in!). Inability to express or understand emotions (well, there are some I understand such as anger or disgust, but others not so much – I’m really not good with knowing if someone is flirting!)
But, other points I don’t agree with; some Autistic people apparently are good with numbers, I’m not, I am TERRIBLE with numbers, my brain just cannot understand them, I’m terrible with dates of birth, for example (but I’m good at problem solving, I loved algebra in school and found statistics fascinating!). Some Autistic people have great memories, I haven’t, mine is terrible, remembering someone’s name, remembering what I did yesterday, apparently this is a trait from mental health issues too though. Some are geniuses, and yeah, I have a few qualifications, but I do not see myself up there on the genius scale at all – I had to fight to get my MSc, I nearly failed it!
I also, have heard that women with autism can be misdiagnosed with ADHD (or vise versa) and one of the traits in ADHD is the inability to stick to one task, having to do things all at once… that’s me too. I also get distracted easily, by something shiny, or something out of place, something wonky (my damn picture on the wall keeps moving, guys!) But I feel I relate more to Autism than I do ADHD, plus, if I don’t finish a task… I get nervous and frustrated. If I start a task, I have to finish it. It’s hard to let go.
Should I self-diagnose?
But, why have I self-diagnosed myself? Why did I decide in the last few weeks to just go ahead and start saying I am Autistic without getting officially diagnosed? Well, because it helps me. It helps me understand myself, it helps me try out the label and see how I feel about it, and it helps me explain to others about myself.
One of the things I have always struggled with is getting people to understand me. I remember writing about it in a diary I used to keep once, I was so upset that people didn’t understand me. I couldn’t understand why people struggled. I tried to explain myself all the time. Online. To people’s faces. I would write hand-written letters with all the intention of sending them and chickening out. It was EMOTIONAL. I was more upset about that, than actually keeping friends. And yes, that also upset me. It still does to some extent. I really struggle to make and mostly, keep friends. My MSc was torture for that reason and I ended up struggling with my mental health for a bit too. I also tried too hard to get people to like me, which I think put people off.
I recently spoke out on my Facebook profile, my personal one for my friends and family to see, that I am going through the process of diagnosing with Autism and a realisation hit me… if I get this diagnosis, will people finally accept me? Will they finally understand me? And oof… all the feels… I was emotional again!
I also came across another YouTuber (shout out to Paige Layle) who talks about self-diagnosing and explains why it’s okay to self-diagnose. You can watch it below too, I have included the video at the end of this blog. Yeah, okay, I live in a country with free health care – but believe me guys, it’s not all it’s cracked up to be! (That’s a whole other rant that I will not discuss here!) I will at least say that a lot of people have said it’s difficult to get diagnoses for these things here in the UK. It took me until 2010, when I was in my 20s to get diagnosed with depression (one counsellor even said I was just ‘having a bad day’ after one meeting!). It wasn’t until I moved to Scotland (about 25/26) that they did tests to see if I actually had thyroid issues or vitamin deficiency. Getting a diagnosis for Autism is going to be hard and I’m expecting to get misdiagnosed too!
So, although I am probably going to be referring myself as Autistic from now on, for these reasons I have mentioned, I am still going to push to get a diagnosis. To put my mind at rest – and to have it officially on my record in case I need any extra help in the future (ie. with work or education, which I feel would have benefitted me so much if I had that before!) AND, in the process, I hope my SM will also be diagnosed officially too.
Another thing I hope to get diagnosed is my Fibromyalgia. I’m 90% sure I have it now, as it’s getting worse, but that is also one other thing I have had trouble getting a diagnosis. Again, for my own peace of mind. But, this also is another story, possibly for another blog post!
Lastly, here are the videos I recommend you guys watching:
Dan @TheAspieWorld on the Female Autism Checklist:
Paige Layle’s Video on Self-Diagnosing:
I just want to point out, that although I personally have self-diagnosed myself with Autism on these above points, this isn’t a proper diagnosis, so please refrain from diagnosing yourself or someone else you may know, especially on just this one blog post. Please do your own research or, if it’s possible, seek professional advice. This blog post is only short in comparison to all the information out there, and all the research I have done, it’s only scratching the surface. This is only to inform you why I have done this in the limited space I have available on a blog post, and doesn’t give you the full picture. 🙂
Don’t forget to like, reblog, share, comment and/or follow!
I’ve recently been thinking a lot about the LGBTQ+ community and my own sexuality/gender , I have always had a “it’s your life, your business” kind of attitude towards everyone.
If you want kids. If you don’t want kids. If you don’t want to get married. If you’re happy being single. You like to watch cartoons. If you’re a model. If you’re a stripper. Have a weird fettish. If you’re a stay at home mum. If you like to collect Pokemon cards (ahem). Want to live on a boat. Want to move country. If you are gay. If you were born in the wrong body/gender. If you prefer the pronouns ‘they/them’.
I have no say over how someone wants to live their lives. I have no say over someone’s gender or sexual orientation. I have no say over the individual’s struggles. I personally do not understand why there is such a big deal over it (and that wasn’t an open invitation to tell me, so please, keep your negative comments to yourselves!). As far as I am concerned, if you are happy – then I am happy. As long as you’re not being violent, racist, sexist or otherwise shaming someone else, for what EVER reason. And, yes, I also am aware of the biological side of things, but this isn’t a post about explaining how it IS possible! I just want everyone to live their most authentic/true/happy life!
Okay, I will admit, there was a time when I was a teen that I hated gay people. Mostly gay men. Why? I have no idea. It was a social norm, I guess. Everyone else around me either hated, disliked or would avoid gay men, so I learnt to do the same, I looked up to the adults in my life and learnt it from them. It was expected of me to be a woman, get married, get a house, have kids (I want to point out my mum was never like that, this is more of a ‘community’ or social norm – my mum has always been interested in me just being happy and healthy). Until, one day, I found out a very good friend of mine at college was gay. I was immediately ashamed. Not because he was gay. But I was ashamed that I had EVER hated gay men. This guy was the NICEST person you would ever meet, he was funny, smart, and was an absolutely joy to be around.
It got me thinking about gay men and lesbians, and I realise now that I had never had an issue with lesbians (I have heard they don’t like being called gay, as the word ‘lesbian’ was shunned in media/films and they’d be referred to as ‘gay’ instead – so, if I ever say ‘gay’ and refer to a lesbian, I apologise!) and I realise how bad that was. I hated gay men, but never thought negatively towards lesbians. Why? Media. Gay men were always seen as ‘wrong’ yet lesbians were okay because they were seen as a sexual item, for men’s entertainment. And, don’t get me started on my thoughts on how women are perceived as objects! That’s a rant for another day!
My own sexuality/gender
Fast forward a few years and I started to question my own sexuality. Not because I knew something was wrong, not in the conventional “having to hide in the closet” sort of deal that most people have had to go through. But I started to realise that I wasn’t just attracted to men, I was also attracted to women. And started to think I was bisexual. I have never really felt the need to officially come out though (hi, mum and dad!)
Now, over the years I have had this in mind and started to educate myself in the LGBTQ+ community, watching as the letters in the acronym grew (I will refer to it as LGBT+ or LGBTQ+ periodically in my blogs, posts and other ramblings, but please be aware that I mean no disrespect if I miss a letter!) and attempting to learn along the way. Not only learn about the community, but also question my own sexuality and gender.
I then started to educate myself in what ‘demisexual’ and ‘pansexual’ was. If you don’t know, demisexuality is a branch of asexuality where a person only feels sexually attracted to a person when they have a deep connection with them on an emotional/intelligent level. Pansexuality is basically similar to bisexuality but openly agrees that there are more than two genders (hi, to my gender-fluid and non-binary friends!) And, when I heard someone refer to themselves as demi-pansexual, and learnt what it meant… I immediately went… THAT’S ME! (I never understood why people can have one-night stands).
Recently, however, I had to further educate myself in what it means to be pansexual. I have in the past told people that I am pansexual (or part of my sexuality) because I openly didn’t mind if I became involved with someone in the trans community. BUT, I recently found out that THAT isn’t what it means to be pan, in fact, that is extremely offensive to a trans person because that is implying that they are NOT that gender. For example, if I were to meet a trans man and say to him I would date him because I am pansexual, I am implying they are NOT a man. Because, whether they have transitioned or not THEY ARE A MAN. For me, my pansexuality means that I recognise there are more than two genders; that I also include gender-fluid and non-binary people.
On top of that, I also started to think about my own gender. Mostly after coming across a few videos about non-binary and gender-fluid. I have always been referred to as ‘she/her’. A woman. Or a girl (although I hate that as it implies I am a child) – I also recently started to refer to myself as ‘Ms’ instead of ‘Miss’. But, most people will know that I have never been girly. I hate having my hair done. I hate wearing dresses. I’ve never been into the same things that girls my age (when I was a child) was into. Everyone called me ‘a tomboy’. That’s still true. I am. But, it’s led me to realise that what does that mean about my gender? Am I female? Who just likes cars, bikes and drinks whisky? Or am I actually a man? Or am I non-binary? Or gender-fluid? I told someone at university once that I was more ‘gender-fluid’ than a woman, and it fits more, so I consider myself that more than anything. I cannot detach myself from womanhood completely, but I also cannot personally identify as a woman as it doesn’t quite ‘feel right’.
HOWEVER, I also recently had a think about all these labels; demi-pansexual, bisexuality, gender-fluid and I’ve come to the realisation that labels are for other people, not for me. I only really worry about these labels because it’s a way of explaining to others who I am. When the conversation of sexuality comes up and people wrongly assume “when you get a boyfriend” I feel the need to explain. When someone wrongly assumes that I must like girly things because I was born female, I feel the need to explain. These labels aren’t for me, they’re for others, because others cannot understand who I am outside of what the stereotypical majority are. And, because the majority of the world doesn’t actually understand what demisexuality or pansexuality is, I am also having to explain what they are, and I don’t really have a connection to the words, only the meaning behind them.
So, for clarification; I am Alex. I go by the pronouns ‘she/her/they/them’, and unless I openly say I am attracted to you, my sexuality isn’t any of your business.
I don’t like labels.
Being an Ally & adding in the LGBTQ+ community into my writing
Supporting the LGBT+ (and yes, that also includes transmen/transwomen too!), doesn’t mean you have to be LGBT+ yourself. You can be an LGBT+ ally! I’m looking at you straight cis men/women!
And, they also need you! Regardless of your gender identity or sexual orientation! We need to add to the discourse to educate ourselves and end the stigma. Although, I consider myself part of the LGBTQ+ community, I try to stand up for people, I actively engage in educating myself and I am open to understanding different view-points. I am not going to say that I am 100% right, there is still a lot I need to learn, and there is a lot that I will probably get wrong. Just like my previous view on gay men and what it means to be pansexual, and there are a lot of people out there that have a viewpoint and openly express that opinion. I just want to say to those people; it’s okay having an opinion, but it’s not okay spouting off hate and misinformed ideas at people trying to shove this opinion on them when it can be damaging. Not only is it damaging to those you are talking about (trans, gay, lesbian, etc), but it can enforce ideas in the general public and you are indirectly causing damage. Let’s learn to have healthy conversations, ask questions, don’t enforce your ideas, look up research (real peer-reviewed research, not news reports!) and question your ideologies. Just because the majority of the people, the ‘social norm’, thinks it’s one thing, doesn’t mean it’s true. Heck, the whole world thought everything revolved around the Earth and when Galileo suggested everything revolved around the sun, he was sentenced to life imprisonment! I will just leave that thought with you.
Alongside my self-discovery of both my own gender/sexuality and educating myself on LGBTQ+ topics, I also try to add these elements into my writing. I mean, yes, I try to add topics that revolve around certain issues – such as my book ‘I Fell In Love with a Psychopath’ which talks about psychopathy and trying to bring about the idea that psychopathy as not overtly bad (because not all psychopaths are mass-murders, they can be model citizens and a part of the community!), as well as the idea of adding in topics about being gay, lesbian, trans, gender-fluid, mental health issues, and many more.
I recently decided to write a story about a girl with Selective Mustism, it’s a true story, in a way, although the characters are made up, the experiences in it are very true and what I have both experienced and still experience, it’s going to be called ‘The Girl Who Whispered’.
I also will be adding in MANY topics into my book Rose Garden Sanatorium, which, I cannot say too much as I do not want to give anything away just yet – and also because I haven’t finished writing it, so things might change (again!).
But I don’t want to just add in a character just to make them ‘fit’ in the story to keep everyone happy. I don’t want a story that is supposed to be about demons, supernatural, the underworld, and randomly add in a new character that is a lesbian and she have no real point to the story. I will add in a few, because of course, the real world obviously have them, but not MAKE them fit just because. The story will have gender-fluid, gay, and demi-sexual characters because it fits with the story – with the plot… I feel like I am both contradicting myself and not making sense… Read the book/s (when it’s finally done) and it’ll make sense.
The J Rowling Fiasco
I feel the need to add a small section about this, as this is probably where my recent interest in educating myself in the trans community was really sparked. J Rowling. And, you’ll notice that I say “J Rowling” here and not “J. K. Rowling” because the “K” was added onto her books to make it “look better” – she doesn’t actually have a middle name!
Recently, say in the last year or so, J Rowling has done and said a lot of things that publicly shuns the trans community. I won’t go into detail, as again, it is very long and not the point of this post. If you want to know more, I encourage you to research it and form your own opinion. This section is merely to tell you why I no longer can support J Rowling and the Harry Potter franchise – and believe me… it’s been a VERY difficult decision for me!
You might have come across that I would mention that a lot of my writing work has stemmed from Harry Potter. I have always been interested in reading and writing my own stories, from the age of about eight. But my interest in books came back when I was in my teens and I came across Harry Potter. I had a troubled childhood, as I had Selective Mutism (read more about this here) and Harry Potter was one of my ‘escapisms’ (along with Dragon Ball Z). So, after my mum gave me that first book, I was hooked. I would wait eagerly for the next book to come out. I would wait eagerly for them to come out on film (although, I wasn’t as interested in the films as I was the books). I would write fan-fiction. I would day-dream about being in the world of Harry Potter and away from my horrific life. I went to the Harry Potter studios in London. Dreamed of going to the studios in Orlando, Florida. Collected different editions of the books. Even collected different languages. Got loads of clothes, trinkets, notepads. I even got a damn tattoo of the Hogwarts castle on my left arm!
But when I heard that J Rowling has been publicly supporting transphobes and making her own comments on the community… I was torn. At first I believed that she was just misinformed, that she isn’t educating herself and being as someone with such a public following and power in the community, should. She made some comments that made sense about looking after children’s welfare, but as many in the trans community have explained, are just not accurate. I was torn because I felt like J Rowling was just speaking out wrongly, she wasn’t actively being transphobic, just voicing her (inaccurate and very wrong) opinion, and although she was going about it the wrong way, there wasn’t really much wrong with having an opinion and starting a discourse (although, her ‘research’ was very inaccurate and not actually sourcing credible, reliable and peer-reviewed sources!)
UNTIL I heard that she was writing a story about a ‘man in a dress’ that goes around killing people. And THAT was when I put my foot down and said ‘NOPE!’ to J Rowling and the Harry Potter franchise. I looked this up and true enough, her newest book is based around a ‘man in a dress’, who kills people: here’s the wiki page for it (bare in mind, this book was done under her alias Robert Galbraith). And yes, there is a small bit on the wiki page that says “the transphobia accusations were baseless and slanderous, noting that Dennis Creed is investigated along with a dozen other suspects” and “people who have not read the book were making wrong assumptions based on a single review.” A small bit of research also found her other book ‘The Silkworm’ (under the same alias) also has a transgender character ‘Pippa Midgley’ who tries to attack a character with a knife (here’s the wiki page). And okay, I will have to admit, I haven’t read either of these books, so I cannot comment on the context or the full story on these characters, nor will I be interested in buying these books and letting any more of my money go to support a transphobe, so there may be something I am missing here. I also will note that Wikipedia isn’t the best source, but without actually plagiarizing the books, it was my way of showing you some truth about these books at least. But, add this with everything else she has done to build a picture.
Yes, there have been more incidents too, which a few men and women in the trans community (and allies) have explained. But, forgive me for not going into detail about everything! This post isn’t to discuss everything surrounding J Rowling’s transphobia, it’s about why I currently cannot support the woman and the Harry Potter franchise. Like I said, I encourage you to go out there, do your own research on both sides, speak to people, and form your own opinion, but be willing to be open.
Either way, I was hurt. Upset. And extremely disgusted that not only the woman I looked up to, a writer myself wanting to be LIKE HER, but my whole childhood now feels like it has been a lie. My writing has been influenced by her; the realism in my books is taken from Harry Potter. Even the book sizes are deliberately EXACTLY the same size as hers.
Now, the reason why I am writing this, is because I feel the need to OPENLY disagree with her PUBLICALLY. I need to OPENLY support the trans community PUBLICALLY. And I hope this encourages others to do the same! Now you know where I stand. Let’s stand up together for trans rights and LGBTQ+!
Like I said before, this is my own opinion, and just my way to explain why I cannot support J Rowling and the Harry Potter franchise. I haven’t gone into detail about other research I have done – including watching videos of trans YouTubers (I recommend checking Samantha Lux and Jammi Dodger) – and I still have a lot of research to do too. My opinion may change slightly – but either way, I support the trans community!
NB: I have purposefully removed the ability to comment on this blog post to avoid any negative, hateful, hurtful and violent comments.
I’ve included a few links for help with LGBT+ and mental health and people you should check out:
Mindline Trans+ (part of Mind, the mental health charity) is an emotional and mental health support helpline in the UK for anyone identifying as transgender, non-binary, genderfluid… mindlinetrans.org.uk
Scottish Trans is an Equality Network project to improve gender identify and gender reassignment equality, rights and inclusion in Scotland: www.scottishtrans.org
Samantha Lux’s YouTube Channel – an (absolutely beautiful) transwoman who talks about her struggles with her transition, being trans and other transgender issues: www.youtube.com/user/samproductions516
Jammi Dodger’s (Jamie Raines) YouTube Channel – a (yes, he’s pretty handsome too!) transman who talks about his struggles with his transition, being trans and transgender issues: www.youtube.com/user/MrPinocchio17
As always, don’t forget to like, reblog and share, and/or follow!
So, there has been a ‘slight’ hick-up, which has resulted in changing my plans with my Route 66 Charity Tour.
BUT DONT FEAR! I’m still going!
I won’t go into detail, but long story short – I’ll be going on my own now. The friend I was supposed to go with has decided he no longer wants to be my friend. Don’t ask me why, I cannot answer that. As I cannot for the life of me work out what I said or did, I am just going to assume that it’s got nothing to do with me. I also do not want to divulge into it publicly as it’s not fair to do so. I will wish him luck in the future though.
It never really crossed my mind to cancel any of my plans. We had discussed a trip around the Highlands (the NC500 – Scotland’s Route 66), taking camping gear with us, and I’m still planning on doing that in the Spring/Summer once I’ve got my motorbike. And, of course, he was going to come with me down Route 66. If you’ve been following this story from the beginning, you will know that I tried to do something like this before; I was going to tour America and Canada for Charity, I had actually paid for a working holiday visa to Canada already, but my plans fell through. I’m determined not to let my plans fall through again! You can read about it here.
Plus, I really want to raise funds and awareness for Selective Mutism!
In light of what happened recently, it has made me realise that the only person I really trust is myself. People can easily let you down. So, I’ve made the decision to do this ALONE. It kinda feels poetic, actually, like one of those soppy life-changing movies that hit you in the feels. But with cars, motorbikes, food and the open road!
Hell, it’s going to be scary, but I’m hoping that I’ll build up my confidence, work on my skills filming and editing, and plan the socks off it, all in the next year or so until I go. It also has some new challenges that I never thought of before.
The three main challenges are; 1) filming myself – I have limited filming experience, other than just starting filming myself for my YouTube channel I am going to create, which involves me sat… still… at my desk, I have no idea how this will work. I’m going to research into hand-held cameras, go-pros or similar and figure out what the best options are. I know for sure that my beloved Nikon DSLR isn’t a good option – it only records 20 minutes at a time for a start! And I cannot see the screen to record myself – sitting at a desk is fine because I can set it up and sit still…. or try to at least.
2) the other biggest challenge is doing all the driving! With a second person, the driving can be split between us, but now I will be driving it all. Theoretically, I don’t see it being an issue, as I love driving and I will be taking my time seeing sights anyway along the way, so will be doing plenty of stops. I also am pretty handy, knowing a fair bit about mechanics in case something breaks, and will be considering this in the planning stage in case I need to look into breakdown cover options, researching recovery companies in the areas I drive through, and even taking a set of tools with me. But practically, I could get tired and make mistakes, getting lost or stuck. I also have to be weary when I’m taking to a camera and driving!
3) the last, and probably one of the more important ones, is personal safety. I’m sure the majority of the trip will be safe enough. I will be researching how safe areas are, making sure I only stop in safe areas and stay at hotels that have good ratings and so on. I do have some self-defense training from one of my old job roles, but I am also considering taking self-defense classes too. This is going to be one of the biggest things I will be researching and planning, especially being a female solo traveller!
On the up side though, doing it alone has it’s benefits – I can do what I want without compromise. I’m also introverted; socialising can drain me and I need to recharge, doing a whole month-long trip with someone else can get very tiring, and I know I like my own company. I can also be in control of the music. Also, being a solo-traveller, you’re more likely to get upgrades! 😉
So, although it was a huge shock and was a little upset when I lost a friend, I’m not going to let these things stop me from what I want to do in life!
Watch this space for more updates soon! Also, watch this space for my first YouTube video – it’s currently being edited and will be uploaded soon!
Don’t forget to like, reblog, share, comment and/or follow!
Last year (it feels weird saying that) I decided to interview a few fellow authors with the intention of helping them get their work the recognition they deserve. It’s been pretty successful too, I’ve had a few people approach me and I’ve had some nice comments. I’ve also made some good contacts, found some really interesting books and even learnt a few new things along the way.
Keeping up with my daily life as well as writing and blogging has been pretty difficult lately, and I’ve struggled to keep to a schedule – and let’s face it, book marketing isn’t the easiest either – I’ve decided to create this blog post so that I can reach more people easily and help their hard work get recognised.
So, if you are a writer/author, would like your short story/novel/true story/memoir featured on my website, please feel free to get in touch! I have listed a few questions below and a contact form. Feel free to email me between 5-15 questions and I will see if I can get your featured on my website!
What got you into writing?
Where do you get your ideas?
What inspired you to start writing?
Have you always wanted to be a writer?
Do you have a schedule when writing? Or do you try to fit it in when you can?
How long does it take you to write a book?
Do you use a pseudonym? If not, have you considered it?
How do you deal with criticism?
Do you Google yourself?
What was your hardest scene to write?
Which one of your works is your favourite?
Are you working on anything at the moment?
Are there any themes in your work you are trying to portray?
What’s your current book about?
Is your book based on a real person?
What is your most unusual writing quirk?
Do you play music while you write – and if so, what’s your favourite?
What’s your favourite under-appreciated novel?
What, to you, are the most important elements of good writing?
How many unpublished or half-finished books do you have?
Do you prefer to read the book first, or watch the movie first?
What is your favourite word, and why?
Was writing your dream job as child, or was it something else?
What do you like to do when you’re not writing?
Can you tell me a little about your book?
Can you tell me a little about the main character(s)?
Do you think the LGBT+ community in literature is unrepresented?
Do you have a LGBT+ book you’d recommend everyone read?
What is your upcoming book about?
Do you write every single day?
What is the most difficult part of your writing process?
How do you use social media as an author?
What’s your favourite and least favourite part of publishing?
How much research did you need to do for your books?
What do you need in your writing space to keep you focused?
Do you have any projects you’re working on at the moment?
If a film were made of your book, who would you like to be cast in the leading roles?
What advise would you give to someone thinking about writing?
Do you have any good blogs you’d recommend for writing?
Anything else you’d like to add?
Please submit your answers (between 5-15) via the contact form below. Alternatively, you can contact me on email@example.com. If you have any images of book covers, marketing images or even wish to have a photo of yourself, please feel free to email these over to the email above.
NB: Please note, if you submit more than 15 questions, I may not publish them all and will pick 15 at random.
Here’s another installment of author interviews, and this week is slightly different as today it’s a short story author.
I’ve been meaning to interview Jethro for a while now (sorry for the delay, Jethro!) and I’m glad I finally got around to doing it. Although, I hate to admit I haven’t read his books, after interviewing him and reading the reviews on Amazon – they’re both going straight onto my wish list! Seriously, you guys have to check them out!
About Jethro Weyman
Jethro is a fellow Brit, born in Buckinghamshire and raised in Hertfordshire, not only does he write mind-boggling short stories, he works for the NHS as a physiotherapist in Birmingham. He manages a small team of five (including himself) on a specialist stroke and neurology rehabilitation ward. He also recently snagged some work as a supporting artist working on a film – which he can’t name yet!
As well as writing (and acting, so it seems), he enjoys cycling, bouldering, and as many forms of media he can cram in. He’s a big fan of nature, so tries to surround himself with that as often as possible. He loves animals, although doesn’t currently own any, and in his own words he “also loves not having fur or vomit or the outdoors all over the house!”
Bang to Begin
One of Jethro’s books; Bang to Begin, is a series of short stories, although a mix of genres, they are all linked and, by the end, become one. It’s designed to be a bit of a “head messer”, but also one that grows with a second read through. Read the synopsis below.
(It’s already on my wish-list, Jethro, will be purchasing it as soon as I move into my new apartment!)
Reality is Relative. There is no such thing as universal truth. But lies are always lies. From auctions to assassinations, from cosmos to subconscious mind, the roots feeding into these short stories start fine, but thicken and tangle as they grow deeper. Follow these wayward souls through their darkest moments, each beginning with a bang and each trying desperately to avoid ending with the same. A metaphysical, visionary exploration of the human psyche and all that it means to be real – discussed via an anthology with a difference.
Interview with Jethro
Now, let’s get into the interview and learn more about the inner workings of Jethro’s mind and these books of his…
What got you into writing?
I actually got into it a little by accident. I had an idea for a scene stuck in my head for a few momths and just felt I needed to get it down on paper for it to stop irritating me. Fortunately, that didn’t work… and I was irrirated all the way to writing a full novel. It definitely wasn’t expertly written, but it was something I could work with. I recently edited that scene out, which was a bit of a blow, but I’ve got it stored on my hard drive for reminiscence purposes.
What is your most unusual writing quirk?
I’ve got no idea if I have any quirks, let alone unusual ones. I guess I’ll need to set up a camera and keen an eye on myself… although, I probably wouldn’t like what I find!
Do you write every single day?
I wish I had the discipline and the energy, but sometimes I get home from work and jus tneed to sit down and watch something mindless for a while. I do go through periods of daily writing, but it’s rare these days. If Twitter stories count, then I do write most days, but substantial writing probably comes about twice a week right now, at best. There’s a lot of life happening at the moment and that’s not necessarily a good thing!
What is the most difficult part of your writing process?
That definitely has to be the editing side of things. I can quite easily have the enthusiasm sucked out of me by a long editing stint, especially when I’ve had some brutal feedback calling for a big rewrite. I’ve had to kill a lot of darlings… I’ve had to kill a lot of things I wouldn’t call darlings too, but I’m a bit of a perfectionist as I write too… so having to go back and realising how imperfect it all is after a first draft can be quite dishearening. But such is the life of a writer!
What, to you, are the most important elements of good writing?
For me, as a reader, it’s all about the flow. If a writer can entice me with their premise and make me look forward to reading what sounds like it will be right up my street, only to write in a clunky and fluentless way, that’s really disappointing. It also shows when someone has a handle on their genre or their style as well… it probably shows even more when they don’t. Since starting to write myself, I feel like I’ve become a lot more critical over these aspects as well. I’ll notice and get annoyed by a lot more than I used to, but I think that’s probably true of all of us.
How do you use social media as an author?
I am definitely guilty of a shameless self promo or several, and I think social media is a fantastic marketing tool, at least in the early days of a writer’s career (which is my only experience). I also use it to connect with other writers, to practice my craft with short stories using many word prompt games and also, to a certain extend, to feel part of a wider community, especially in times like these where it’s more difficult to have a social life. I’ve made a lot of friends via social media, primarily Twitter, and if you ignore as much of the toxicity as possible, it can be a very rewarding place to be.
What’s your favourite and least favourite part of publishing?
Self-publishing is definitely a pain – My least favourite part of it (or most hated) was formatting. Especially in the first book I published, which is made up primarily of Twitter stories. The formatting took forever and it drove me a little insane for a while… in fact, the remnants are probably still rattling around in there somewhere. My favourite part was definitely the satisfaction of being a published author, although I do still feel I need to get traditionally published before I can truly accept that. Anyone can publish a book these days, but not anyone can nab an agent and get a publishing deal.
How much research did you need to do for your books?
I must admit… I’m a bit of a write now, research later kind of chap. If I stop too much to focus on the details, I lost that all important flow and that’s something I really try to avoid. However, there are certain things I had to look up beforeI wrote for example: the geography of where I used to live in Buckinghamshire for my first novel – I needed travel times and names of nearby places and I even did a bit of google map street viewing to make sure it was accurate. For my fantasy novel, I did very little research other than finding names and designs of weapons which could be used or modified for use in the story. And with Bang to Begin, the only thing I can remember fully researching was what happens to someone when they hang themselves for one of the horror elements… so my search history is probably not as bad as Stephen King’s, but there’s a few dodgy key words on there.
What do you need in your writing space to keep you focused?
I wish I’d found it!… probably an EMP device which stops all electronic devices apart from my laptop from working… and will only let me use the internet for research purposes. I basically need a parental lock on my writing space.
Have you ever Googled yourself?
Of course… there’s nothing particularly interesting on there, but it does come up with the awful photos that are on the profile I have with an Extras casting agency. Twitter and my books come up as well… but I’m yet to get the all important Wikipedia page… maye I should make one myself!
Do you play music while you write – and if so, what’s your favourite?
I used to be unable to write unless I was in total silence, even bird song would put me off. Nowadays, maybe I’ve mellowed a bit, but I put on instrumental music. This could be acoustic guiter or piano music, but my favourite music to write to is Neo-Soul or Chillstep – there are a good few playlists on Spotify which absolutely hit the spot for this, including one called Mellow Beats and another called Lo-Fi Beats. When I don’t need to think too much about how I’m working things, I often put on some Tom Misch or Jordan Rakei or their playlists. Whatever I have on… it has to be calm and rhythmic.
Can you tell me a little bit about your book “Bang to Begin”?
I can! The idea for the book came to me after the 6th chapter; a story called The Death of Fate. Originally I was just writing completely disparate episodes as a series for a reading subscription website called Channillo. After that 6th chapter, I thought it should be more than what I set out to create, especially as this chapter gave me the idea of how to link them all together. The concept of face (and other metaphysical concepts) are the cornerstone of the book. What if these concepts were personified? What if that personification were a construct of an individual’s perception or ego? So, I worked prospectively and retrospectively to fit all of the stories together… the original versions are still available on the website and are even harder to follow than the final.
It’s all quite dark and more than a bit twisted, but writing in this way gave me space to dabble in all of the genres I’ve had an interest in. There are stories primarily based in the thriller/suspense genre, in horror, in fantasy and sci-fi and, to begin with, it can definitely be quite confusing. I’ve written it in a way which, I hope, begs for a second read, because there are little callbacks and subtleties that won’t be noticeable at first. I don’t want to give anything away, but once you realise what this book really is… it should come as a bit of a revelation, if not a relief! Plus, it’s only short… which can only help.
Both of your published books are short stories, have you considered writing a novel?
I definitely have considered it and I’ve done it. I wrote a thriller called Kept in the Dark, which I’m currently querying – this was my first foray into proper writing and I’ve had some good feedback from readers, but I’m yet to land an agent. I’ve done some more revisions recently, and I hope that helps. It explores government and insitutional corruption and how the people who oppose this are viewed. It’s set in what I call a near-future dystopia – a little bit Black Mirror. I’ve also written an SFF novel called Craft (Working Title), which explores social, racial and gender inequality in a way I hope is unique. I try to incorporate more meaningful themes into my work when I can.
Do you have any projects you’re working on at the moment?
Too many, and I curse myself whenever I add another. I’m currently working on a short story (should end up about 5000 words) which is a YA (ish), supernatural thriller. I’m not too far off finishing the first draft of this, but I have no idea what I’m going to do with it. I’m also editing my first screenplay using the wise words of Syd Field and some beta readers as a basis. I would love to write for the screen, so I’m going to try and make a go of this. It’s a post-apocalyptic comedy. I should be editing my second novel, but it is hard to tear myself away from the new stuff (this is always a problem) and I did start writing the sequel to this as well when I was stuck in a Brazilian airport for about 8 hours. So, I’ll get back to that at some point as well.
“Alex!” said a loud voice next to me, making me jump. It was my work colleague, Stella, as she sidled next to me in her office chair. “Drinks after work?”
“Oh, I don’t know,” I replied, unable to control the frown that had involuntarily creeped on my face.
Stella and I weren’t really friends, she was just some girl I worked with. I hadn’t been working at the company for long, but I was conscious that I should make a bit of an effort to be a little friendlier with people. I didn’t have many friends in Scotland, it was always something I struggled with. Although, I wasn’t entirely sure about Stella. She seemed nice. Well, nice to me. But she had a habit of being a little bitchy about the other girls and I worried she was like that with me, behind my back.
It was only a day after the incident at Da Vinci’s, and I knew I shouldn’t, but I couldn’t help but think constantly about that guy I had met. I realised I didn’t even catch his name nor did I even introduce myself properly. It was terribly rude of me. I was too flustered though. But I was proud of myself for actually approaching him, even though I’d never see him again. There were plenty of fish in the sea, as they say. Maybe I would find someone, one day, who was just as handsome, kind, caring and I could settle down and live happily ever after? A best friend who I loved, and he loved me. I had images of waking up in the morning to him cooking breakfast for me, cuddling up on the sofa while watching a scary film, going on little trips away at the weekends somewhere fun, getting a cat and maybe even one day having kids.
“Oh, please come! Not many people are coming now. It’s just going to be me and that girl with the big nose. What’s her name? Julie or something? We’re going to that cocktail bar. It’s two for one on Thursdays,” she said, fluttering her eyelashes like that was going to flatter ,e. It might work on every guy she met, but she seemed to have a habit of doing it the girls too. I groaned.
“Okay, but I can’t stay out for long, I have university work to do,” I said, trying desperately not to get annoyed with her lack of remorse over the kind girl that had started around the same time as me. I had noticed she had a bit of a big nose, but she was actually a lovely girl and her name was Judith. But I had no energy to correct Stella.
“University work?” she asked, frowning at me like I had just sprouted another head.
“Yes, I go to unveristy.” I sighed in annoyance. I had told her this before, I had told everyone at work. I had to constantly remind them. Especially when I would get my supervisor asking me to gin for extra shifts to help out with a backlog of work and I had to constantly remind her that I couldn’t because I had classes. She would always look at me like I was lying to her to avoid going into work, but the truth was, I actually needed the money. I studied part-time and worked part-time around my classes and although I was working in Administration, which was mostly just boring data entry in a small team, it wasn’t a well-paid job when you lived on your own in Glasgow.
“Which one?” she asked.
“You go to Strathclyde?”
“Yes,” I said, trying not to groan again. Although, I couldn’t be bothered to muster a fake smile. I was too tired.
“Oh, that’s cool! What do you do? You doing a degree or something?”
“A master’s degree,” I corrected. I could have told her what subject it was, but I doubted she would remember anyway.
“Oh, that’s right!” She nodded as if she had just remembered, but I doubted she did. “So, you coming?”
“Sure.” I shrugged, having a feeling that if I didn’t say yes, she wouldn’t leave me alone. Besides, maybe a drink was what I needed? I had already decided to have a night off doing any university work. I was going to work on my book, but I realised that maybe I needed a night off from that too?
Later that day, after my shift at work was done, I found myself sat in a loud pub. It was one of those chain pubs; with the same drink menu, served the same cheap food, and had the same two-for-one deals. Drinks were usually served in cheap, plastic pitches rather than nice fancy glasses. It was a pub popular with those who wanted a cheap night out to get drunk, or a cheap pub meal with the kids.
There was a large TV on a wall at the back, which was playing the highlights of some big game that was on earlier in the day. Huddled around it was a load of loud Scottish men either laughing at their mates in a drunken state or yelling at the TV screen. In the centre of the pub on the left, was a large bar with loads of people milling about trying to grab the attenion of the bar staff and get another round of drinks. The rest of the pub was littered with cheap wooden tables and chairs for those who were finishing up their late dinners of cheap steak and chips or a bland chicken tikka masala.
I wasn’t particularly happy with my predicament; it was too loud, the tables were sticky and I was constantly getting eyed up by guys who looked like they were fresh out of school and barely legal to drink. This also wasn’t the place Stella had promised.
Stella had decided to go to a different place to the one she had first suggested, although I wasn’t sure why. But if I had to guess, it was the guys that were there as she kept looking around at them like a lioness stalking prey.
“So, what’s your bachelor’s degree in?” Stella shouted acorss the table at me, huffing at something that clearly upset her. Either that or I was too boring for her. Judith never showed up, so it was just me and her, and I was starting to feel a little awkward with it being just the two of us. I had even contemplated finding an excuse to leave.
“The one I’ve completed?”
“What?” she asked across the table, clearly not being able to hear me properly above the noise.
“The degree I’m doing at university?” I asked.
“Yeah,” she replied. “What’s it in? I did a bachelor’s degree in Hospitality and Tourism,” she whittled on, and I realised she wasn’t really interested in knowing what I was doing or had done at all, she just wanted to find something to talk about herself. Plus, she had already forgotten I was doing a master’s degree, not a bachelor’s. “Passed it last year, but I found it so hard! I actually had to learn Spanish too, which was stupid! I didn’t want to learn another language! I just wanted to go into Tourism. I love going on holiday, figured I’d do it as a career, you know.”
I nodded politely as I drank my glass of white wine. Although, it tasted a little like oak and I wasn’t too keen on it. Regardless, I persevered; the alcohol would help me cope with the girl better.
“All that work too; eassays upon essays!” she continued to moan. “So, don’t feel bad if you have to quit, you know, it’s really hard work!”
“I’ve done a bachelor’s degree already,” I said before I realised what I was doing. Her comment annoyed me and I took it personally.
“What?” she called across the table. Clearly, I didn’t speak loud enough. Truth was, I hated shouting; the idea of shouting across a table just to be heard was frustrating.
I opened my mouth to repeat what I said when I caught sight of someone in the bar. I gasped. Luckily no one could hear me—not that I really cared what Stella thought. But, standing at the bar, I caught a glimpse of that handsome guy from Da Vinchi’s again. My stomach did a summersault when I saw him. He was even more handsome than I remembered. He wasn’t in a suit this time, he was in a black t-shirt, leather jacket and dark blue jeans. He looked dark and mysterious and I think I fell in love with him right there on the spot… I was a sucker for a handsome guy in black, especially leather. I noticed he looked a little annoyed or tired maybe, as a blonde girl was holding onto his arm and trying to speak something in his ear.
I smiled as he bought a glass up to his lips and took a sip. It looked like it was whisky again. I wondered if it was Dalwhinnie.
“He’s gorgeous,” said a voice next to me.
I jumped and looked round to notice Stella had moved to sit next to me, she had obviously noticed I hadn’t replied to her and had instead been watching the guy at the bar. She was staring holes into him as well, which made me feel a little annoyed. I had no idea who the guy was, he might have been as ass for all I knew, but I hated both men and women staring at the opposite sex like they were pieces of meat in a butcher’s shop. Stella might be a lot prettier than I was, with her long blonde hair and her long fluttering eyelashes, but she wasn’t pretty on the inside, as I recently found out.
“Way out of your league, honey,” she said in my ear.
I resisted the urge to roll my eyes at her, mostly because she was right; he was.
“I wouldn’t drool either, that girl looks like she’s his date for the night, I bet she’d happily scratch your eyes out for him.”
I looked round at Stella, giving her an annoyed yet confused look. What a weird thing to say. But as soon as I did, Stella’s eyes went wide.
“He just looked round at me and gave me a horrible look,” Stella said, looking away from him and taking a large swig of her alco-pop she had bought.
I looked round at him again to see what she was referring to, although having already missed the look, I was still curious. He was now frowning heavily at the girl next to him and saying something to her which I wished I could hear. Her hand had fallen from his arm and they were instead crossed. I couldn’t see her face, she had her back to me, but I could his and he looked pissed about something.
Suddenly the girl snatched up her purse from the bar table and swung round, looking upset about something as she wandered out of the bar, a hand up to her face as she looked like she was wiping tears away from her eyes. I watched her curiously as she stormed right for the bar door and disappeared out into the street beyond. I felt like running after her and making sure she was okay, but I just couldn’t bring myself to leave.
“Fuck,” Stella suddenly muttered next to me and I sensed her straighten up. I looked round at her as she was staring wide-eyed at the bar, at someone. Rather than asking her what was up, I followed her gaze just at the same time a tall figure came into focus beside me.
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I wrote a previous blog post explaining about my charity tour of America, and why I’m doing it, here.
Since then, I’ve already done a lot of planning (yet, still a lot more to go!). I’ve come up with lots of amazing ideas, bought some maps, found some amazing resources and I’m finally getting there with the intial interary.
We’re doing a road trip down Route 66!
Now, Route 66 sounds like an easy thing, just follow the sign posts for Route 66, right? But Route 66, as I have found, has had many alterations over the years, bypasses and re-directs, bridges no longer used, cities and towns built up over it, even the start and end posts have moved.
The original Route was established on the 11th November 1926 (although, from what I can gather, it was being built before this), it was altered in 1930 to follow a completely different line between Springfield and East St. Louis. In the late 1930s, the route was redirected again to cut off Santa Fe. The original route used to connect gold and silver mines such as Oatman, but in the 1950s these were cut off, leaving Oatman abandoned. And a lot of the interstates that were constructed saw the Route 66 abolished, some even cut through the route, meaning it’s no longer possible to drive the whole of the old route anymore. I even saw one section is on private land now – and the owners were selling parts of it to keep it safe from further distruction!
As for the start and end points, these were also moved, both in Chicago and Los Angeles, which you will learn more about both when we come to do the tour but also in blog posts along the way. You can see the map below has the old and new routes, the red is the newer route, the pink/purple bits are the older routes.
Now, we could just stick to the newer route, the one that is mostly mapped on modern maps, but that would be too easy! So, we plan to travel down as much of the old route as possible (unless the road is too dangerous, a dead-end, on private property or no longer exists) to see the areas that those early road trippers would have seen.
Originally, when I was coming up with ideas on what I wanted to do for this American tour, I was adamant to fit in lots. I wanted to see the Florida Keys, Atlanta, Washington DC, maybe visit New York city again, drive up to San Francisco up the California State Route 1 and visit the Bonnerville Salt Flats near Salt Lake City. When I realised doing the Route 66 will take a minimum of three weeks as it is, I knew we couldn’t do all of it. Well, not unless we can take two months off work and have lots of spare money! So, we stuck to Route 66. There will be other opportunities to see the others another time (maybe, if this one is successful, more road trips?)
Of course, we will be doing a few smaller things, such as going up to Milwaukee to visit the Harley-Davidson Museum (already got an invite), a two-day detour to see the Grand Canyon and another one/two-day detour to see Las Vegas (driving over the Hoover Dam of course!). We also plan to fit in a motorbike ride in Los Angeles, not all the way up to San Fransisco, but maybe at least to Pismo Beach.
We have a lot of ideas that we want to do along the way too, as you know, we will be doing this for charity; well, we have picked out at least four charities. One is close to my heart, one is close to Mozz’s, and the other two we both choose. Of course, I haven’t contacted any of them yet, as I’m still finishing off the itenary, and I have to sort out some personal things, but hopefully in the next few weeks, we can share! But we also have a few ideas such as little challenges or charity events on the route itself, one is even quite big, but again, I need to contact a particular charity to pull it off!
Although we have planned a lot of it already, not only researching where the old route goes, marking it on a map, what sites to see, what time of year to go, and so on. We still have a lot to do.
* We need to make sure we get the right visa; this isn’t just a tourist visit, we plan on filming and fundraising, this might not be suitable on a tourist visa, * We need to work out the best camera equipment; do we spend a bit more to get a decent go-pro or will cheap action cameras be okay, * What rigs will we need to set up cameras inside a car and on bikes/helmets, * Maybe even microphones so we get a decent quality sound, * We need to work out costs involved; visas, flights, fuel, car, insurance, food, side-trips, hotels, even the costs of bags, cameras, internet wifi dongle, subscriptions and software we might need, * we also need to know which areas are American-Indian territory so we can respect their land (I plan on contacting the AIANTA – American Indian Alaska Native Tourism Association for this too), * And lots more!
I still have yet to set up a YouTube channel, get it establed now and practice filming, editing and the like. I also plan on getting my social media verified, which is very difficult to do. And of course, around all this, I work full time and I’m trying to publish a new book and write a memoir.
So, now I’m going to get back to marking sites on my USA map after spending two days researching the route and marking it out, then hopefully, I can contact the charities and get the ball rolling!
Watch this space!
Don’t forget to like, reblog, share, comment and/or follow! I also recently had my hair cut off for charity! Read about it here!