10 gift ideas for one university student from another

Despite the fact that Christmas is still more than a month away and that I hate the over-commercialized monstrosity that November 1st-January 1st has become, Christmas is beginning to be unavoidable. I bought eggnog on the weekend, I’ve caught myself humming Christmas carols, and I started mentally saluting those who have decked the sidewalks of the city with the first tricklings of twinkle lights.

Christmas is coming, and along with it, a slew of online pieces declaring the best thing to get the X in your life. Most of the items on these lists are cute but costly, and the lists of adorable DIY gifts are oriented to talented people who have time.

University students have neither an abundance of pocket money or the time to make something thoughtful for the important people in their lives at Christmas. While I don’t completely buy into the idea that everyone IS COMPELLED BY THE BLAZING PITS OF CONSUMERISM HELL to give presents to absolutely everyone they know ON PAIN OF DEATH, I understand the desire to give your friends and family something for the trouble they go through in simply knowing you.

So here we are, you on that side of the screen and me on this side. Hi. Thanks for still sitting there. You must be pretty cool.

Finding gifts for your family will be a little easier–you’re likely more willing to spend what little money you have on the people who created you and are responsible for your survival up to this point. But what about tes amis? I mean, you love the people in your tutorial for That One Interesting Class You Have, and you still feel like the members of your high school gang are your beloved homies, but you can’t buy cute things on Etsy FOR EVERYONE.

And with finals taking place just before Christmas, you’re going to be too busy sleeping studying to make a hundred decorative clay owls.

Here are a couple gift ideas for your fellow university student. 😉

1. FREE BACK RUBS.

Seriously. University is stressful, and everyone is tense and tired by the time the end of the semester rolls around. Maybe they’ll return the favour. This could be a bonding experience. Or maybe it could be creepy. Mostly it’ll be awesome for them. Maybe they’re cute and this could be your chance. LOLOL.

2. FUZZY SOCKS.

Dumbledore and Dobby got it right. Socks are awesome. And cheap (thanks, Dollarama). And come in a variety of colours and patterns. Not to mention super practical because winter is coming and chances are, like you, your friends have yet to invest in a pair of decent winter boots. This makes socks all the more welcome.

Master has given Dobby a sock!

3. COFFEE/TEA DATE.

Take your pal to a cute cafe (or Tim’s–never undervalue Tim’s. Tim’s can still be cute) and buy them a hot beverage. It’s like three bucks, two if you don’t get a latte. Your company is the real gift here. If you really wanna treat someone extra special (high school homies, what up? Long time no talk except on Facebook!) bring them back to your apartment/dorm and MAKE them tea. Cost goes way down. Also you can cuddle and talk about things that ought to not be discussed in public.

4. TOILETRIES.

If you go to Costco and buy a ton of soap, set aside a chunk for a bro. Us new adults, we’re not used to remembering to buy that stuff, so if you distribute some no-name toiletries to your friends a few less people will have to wash their hair with Sunlight Oxi Action dish detergent until next grocery day. Just put a bow on it.

(Bonus points: toilet paper. It’ll seem like a joke gift, but it will be put to use.)

5. CONDOMS?

Could also be perceived as a joke gift. Also very much free at your university’s student union. This is the cheapest and lamest of the cheap and lame. But hey. You never know. VOILA.

6. PAJAMA DANCE PARTY.

Recommended location: public place.

Recommended music: soundtrack to Guardians of the Galaxy.

Recommended attire: Santa pajamas or Star Lord costume,

Fun guaranteed. Film it. Post it. Become an internet sensation.

7. BUILD AN OLAF TOGETHER.

Everyone loves building snowmen, and for many of us it might have been awhile since we birthed one of those snowy creations. Snowball fights may or may not ensue. Weather dependent.

8. MASON JARS WITH STUFF IN THEM.

Or other kinds of jars. Like Kraft peanut butter jars. Throw in a bunch of stuff and decorate the lid with a bow and their name.

Ideas for “stuff:” tea bags, chocolate kisses, hot chocolate mix, candy canes, (or even condoms or socks).

9. ANY VARIETY OF CHEAP FOOD, BASICALLY.

Crackers, Mr. Noodle, Tim bits, Dollarama chocolate. A mini jar of peanut butter and a loaf of bread. I’m sure they’ll eat it, because you know you will.

10. DO THEIR DISHES.

Lol I’m kidding. It’s Christmas. No one wants to do dishes. Take a nap together.

In the Village: EBSNS supporting young artists

“Think of the long trip home. Should we have stayed home and thought of here? Where should we be today?”
― Elizabeth Bishop

Elizabeth Bishop is one of those poets few people know about, but there’s no particular reason she isn’t a household name. A writer who went on to earn international acclaim, she spent some of her childhood living with her grandparents in Great Village, NS. I’m not entirely sure why every Nova Scotian isn’t yelling her name from the rooftops, but Great Village is one place where Bishop is praised and raised proudly to the lips of many of the people I’ve talked to.

I first became involved with the Elizabeth Bishop Society of Nova Scotia (EBSNS) three years ago when I entered their writing contest for the Elizabeth Bishop Centenary Festival, celebrating the poet’s 100th birthday in 2011. The contest revolved around the theme of home, an homage to the fact that Bishop’s own writing often reflected back to her childhood in Great Village.

I was pleased and honoured to find out I was one of the winners of the contest, along with several others in different age categories. As a wee, shy fifteen-year-old, reading my short story at the festival in August 2011 was daunting, but there my love of reading to others took seed and began growing — plus I met Laurie Gunn and Sandra Barry of EBSNS, author Sheree Fitch, and took a poetry workshop with Anne Simpson. This time spent in Great Village among passionate poets and painters, along with other young writers, was the first big push in continuing the idea of turning my writing into a career (still entirely not sure how to do that, but heading that way nonetheless).

In 2013, the EBSNS published Echoes of Elizabeth Bishop, a collection of all the winning entries from the contest. The launch was once again an inspiring experience, and one of the first times I was able to see my work printed in a legitimate printed form you could, like, buy.

When I got an email from the EBSNS inviting me to read at the new cafe, In the Village, of course I jumped at the opportunity. The afternoon featured several young artists (poets, painters, writers, and actresses) with a connection to Bishop: Maria Duynisveld, Laura Sharpe, April Sharpe, Anneke Stroink, and myself found ourselves at the microphone in St. James United Church. The talent I heard and saw today once again reminds me that I am far from alone in the prospering front of young artists.

For Maria and I, this was a flashback to our participation in the Centenary Festival three years ago and a reflection of how we’ve changed since then; Maria shared this reflection in her reading.

What the EBSNS has done for me and other young artists is remarkable. As I’ve written about in the past, I’m a strong advocate of supporting young writers and giving them the opportunity to have their work shared with the public and with other artists of a similar age. It’s hard being taken seriously, and the reward of seeing the genuine emotional impact our work has on others is what young artists need to keep pursing their goals, dreams, and talents.

The importance of receiving such support is paramount to young people. They need to know their work is good, valued, accepted, and cherished, or someday they might stop doing what they love. Many people write or paint or act for themselves, but having the chance to be supported by those working and volunteering in the field, or even just as an enthusiastic patron of the arts, can be the difference between a hobby and a career.

The support from those I’ve met as a result of my interaction with the EBSNS is some of the support that has done the most for me and my pursuance of my writing career. Thanks to the EBSNS, I’ve been published, had the opportunity to share my work multiple times, have met some truly wonderful, kind, supportive people, and have firmly established that I’m headed in the right direction. Merci beaucoup, mes amis!

For more information about the EBSNS, Elizabeth Bishop, and Great Village, please check out these sites!

The Elizabeth Bishop Blog

The Elizabeth Bishop Society

The Elizabeth Bishop Society of Nova Scotia

Poems by Elizabeth Bishop

 

I did some writer things

If I’m a writer that means I’m a writer everyday, right? I don’t just don on the writer hat when I’m writing or doing writer things. I always wear that hat, right? Along with my human hat and chocolate addict hat, yes?

Of course, some days I don’t feel like a writer at all, just a stressed, unemployed student with hardly any time to read or write thanks to university preparation, job searching, and upcoming graduation. It’s been awhile since I felt like a “writer.”

Last week I was feeling particularly writerly, however. On June 12 I ventured with Zozie to Calabay Cafe in Truro to participate in a night of music and poetry, organized by local poet Chad Norman. The night featured local musicians Brian Porter, Dave Hayman, and Dale McCabe, and poet Paul Zann along with Chad and myself. Paul Zann is amazing reader. If I can ever read as engagingly as he can, I will be perfectly happy.

It had been awhile since I had done a reading in public, and I forgot how great it is to share poetry (and music) with people who enjoy it as much as I do.

Naturally I’m an introvert, and for the most part pretty quiet, but I love reading to others and hearing others perform. Whatever nerves I have (most of them being stamped out through seven years of 4-H public speaking) vanish when I start with introducing whatever it is I’m reading. Poetry is something I’m happy to share. I enjoy it. And it’s when this happens that I remember that I am a writer, not just an anxious, penny-pinching student.

And, to show you how small Nova Scotia is, two of the audience members were past graduates of my high school (one of who was a lovely gentleman kind enough to buy my book).

Calabay Cafe is beautiful, the staff is wonderful, and the chai lattes ARE TO DIE FOR (THEY ARE GLORIOUS CLOUDS FROM HEAVEN IN A MUG). I highly recommend stopping by — the chai lattes alone are enough to make me go back.

What else have I done to make me reaffirm the ownership of my writer hat?

I did an interview with Colchester Weekly, posted on the Truro Daily website.

I sold the seventieth copy of my book (which is currently out of stock, by the way).

I’m in the process of designing a bookmark.

I’ll be publishing something (it’s a surprise) at some point in the very near future.

And I’ll (hopefully) be able to spend some time this summer working on my YA novel.

Bonne chance, mes amis!

Libby

 

PS: Chad Norman is organizing the third annual RiverWords Poetry and Musical Festival for July 12th in Bible Hill, NS. I participated last year, and this year has a great line up. Spread the word and help support local artists. 🙂RiverWords 2014 (2)-page-001

The Truth Will Out: The Age Closet

Thirty-five is a very attractive age. London society is full of women of the very highest birth who have, by their own free choice, remained thirty-five for years.

~Oscar Wilde

Greetings, Internet! I’ve recently had a bit of an online identity crisis. This has happened before: flashback to 2012, and then my super long extended blogging hiatus in which I abandoned Let Them Grumble and created this blog/website/thing in August. Since I started blogging two years ago, a lot has happened to me.

I’ve been published in three anthologies. I self-published my first collection of poetry and short stories.

I have met some wonderful people online and in person, and haven’t followed any of your blogs nearly as diligently as some of you have followed mine.

I’ve changed my main blogging topic from Anne Boleyn to writing to feminism and everything (and I mean everything) in between.

I’ve switched countless themes and two domain names and attempted a character blog.

I’ve grown in the last two years. Every post, comment, like, and follow has impacted how I perceive other writers, history fans, feminists, bloggers, and people in general. And I wanted to thank you all for that — goshdarnit I don’t care how cheesy I’m being. I know I sound like Bilbo Baggins at his one hundred and eleventh birthday party, but I swear I’m not going to pop on a magic ring and disappear again.

When I started blogging, I made the decision to remain somewhat anonymous. The main reasoning for this (other than online safety) was because I wanted to be taken seriously as both a blogger and a writer. I know I’ve posted some very non-serious things, but I didn’t want who I was to impact how people thought of me and my writing.

I was afraid of being stereotyped because of my age.

Of course some of you knew how old I was, or guessed, and obviously I wasn’t a 95-year-old woman judging by my profile photos, but I didn’t want my age to become relevant to my content, even if it was a compliment. I wrote my first blog post just before I turned sixteen. Now I’m eighteen.

I know those of you who take the time to read, like, and comment on my posts don’t care how old I am because you’re fabulous anyway, but there would have been those skeptical to read the blog of a sixteen-year-old rambling on about the validity of Anne Boleyn’s reproductive organs or researching for novel-writing. I didn’t want to be labelled as a “teenage blogger/writer.” I wanted to be a blogger. I wanted to be a writer. Period. No stigma of teenagers attached. I didn’t want anyone to think, “Oh that Libby. She’s so cute thinking she’s a writer, and she’s only 15-18.”

So, the little italicized voice asks, why are you coming out of your age closet, Libby? 

And yeah. I take selfies.
And yeah. I take selfies.

Since I joined Twitter I’ve interacted with several “teenage bloggers/writers” and these are the ones that inspired me to come out of my age-caged turtle shell. Not only are they successful at both blogging and writing, but they have a certain pride regarding their age. They don’t care that they’re XX years old, but it is a part of their life and it is something many of them talk about in their social media outlets. I loved “meeting” them online. There’s an entire online community of teenage writers that I had no idea about. They were fascinating. I wanted to support them because I understood. I had things in common with them, things I wanted to say “Me too!” at, until I remembered I was keeping my specific age locked away in a dungeon so none of my adult followers would judge or label me, consciously or unconsciously.

I want to be able to relate and reach out to other writers/bloggers/feminists who happen to be in their teens. I want to support them and swap experiences with them.

Do I want my age to suddenly become centre stage? No. But if my age makes it easier for others to share their experiences or for me to share mine, then I will happily add the phrase “teen writer” to my online bio.

I’m tired of hiding in my age closet. It’s unnecessary and inconvenient. If I want to tell you about the time George Elliott Clarke visited my Advanced English class, I will. (Sidenote: it was fantastic.) If I want to give advice on how to apply for scholarships, I will. (Sidenote: user discretion is recommended.) Where I previously avoided talking about age-related activities, I will embrace them.

So yes. I am a teenager, and it does take up a considerable amount of my life. Unlike some writers I have tests and exams to study for, research papers to write, and preparations for university to make. I haven’t seen a whole lot the world yet, but I will. I like teenage things and adult things. I’m afraid and excited for the next stages of my journey — writing, publishing, attending university, and otherwise. I want my work to continue to be taken seriously, and hopefully more seriously as I accomplish more in the coming years.

My name is Libby, and I am an eighteen-year-old writer, blogger, feminist, and chocolate addict extraordinaire.

Rainy Cafe

I just wanted to pop in from my busy life and share this with you!

This came up on my Facebook newsfeed a couple weeks ago, and I’ve been using it ever since when it comes to writing or get work done. (Who are we kidding? Writing IS getting work done.) You can fill your ears with the sound of rain, the sound of a busy café, or both. You can play with volume and whatnot, but this has been a surprisingly helpful focus agent for me.

Happy writing/reading!

Keep on loving, dudes,
Lib

Enter the rainy café here.

oscar wilde world

Sofia Brie Child-Milbey?

During the summer I read the Gemma Doyle series by Libba Bray (a fun sort of reading that summers are meant for), where the main characters explored the idea of anagrams to hide one’s identity. You can read more about anagrams here, but basically the idea is you rearrange the letters of a name, phrase, or word to create a new one. Ann Bradshaw became Nan Washbrad, and the word orchestra has an anagram of carthorse, Tom Marvolo Riddle became “I Am Lord Voldemort.” You get the idea.

It reeks of adorable letters between secret, forbidden friends or lovers, Victorian serial killers, and women disguising their names to further their works.

I was intrigued by the idea. If I had a pen name, it might be a neat idea to simply rearrange the letters of my real name. It would be sneaky, very sneaky, and I would have a good laugh about it.

Not so simple when you’re just using a piece of paper and your brain (I’m sure there are generators out there, but this was more fun). It took about an hour with a friend to come up with one for me, after several attempts where my name was Billy or Bob or Dilda. The final result? (As so helpfully given away by the title of the post…)

Sofia Brie Child-Milbey.

Well, that’s the not best name for an author out there, but it’s pretty interesting nonetheless. Sofia Child-Milbey. S.B. Child-Milbey.

Either way, it was fun trying to come up with something, and it killed some time with some good laughs. You can probably come up with something at least half decent, unlike poor T.S. Eliot who mourned that “My name is only an anagram of toilets.”

Try it! What would your anagram be? I want to know!

Image

A Post in Which Libby Summarizes A Lot

Time! Wha — who? I don’t understand.

The leaves have turned, and whenever I have the opportunity to be outside, I take especial satisfaction in hearing the crunch of them beneath my boots. Boots! Sweaters! Scarves!

Reading?

Well, yes. But no.

I read Laura Best’s Flying With a Broken Wing last week — or the week before? — and I adored it. I had planned on doing a full review, but, you know, time. Cammie is a wise and witty protagonist, and the community is a stunning setting for Cammie’s story. I didn’t want the book to end. Sequel? Laura? I would love to know what happens to Cammie. My sister, to whom I lent the book, came storming up to me with the words, “I hate Aunt Millie. And I love Laura’s book! It’s SO good! But Aunt Millie. Eugh.”

What else?

Novel writing. Sort of. I found my lost brainstorming notebook and am doing a lot of brainstorming — mostly in my brain, though, and as notes in my phone during my transit time.

Tea. Definitely. It was a key player in getting over my annual September/October cold. And comforting me.

Life decisions. Yes. See above line.

Busy. Y-E-S.

Back to writing. The Night is Starry  should be published as an ebook sooner than later, hopefully, and I’m selling print copies a la “from my car.” Another anthology, yet untitled, should be published this summer, this time a series of interrelated short stories based around a university art project and the students involved.

Pumpkin spiced latte. I need to try one, but haven’t yet.

What else am I reading? Right now I’m reading Cibou by Susan Young Biagi upon near-forced request from a friend. She literally put it in my hand and said, “Read.” That was in June…but hey, I’m reading it, and loving it. I feel bad for putting it off this long.

I actually have blog posts planned, in which I will actually share actual ideas and they will not be me blathering on about how busy and uncreative I’m being. But for now, what are you reading? Have any recommendations?

If you’re interested in keeping update to date with some of my smaller musings and rambles (which I promise are at the least as amusing as a bathtub with clawed feet and at the most as amusing as Benedict Cumberbatch talking in his sleep), follow me on Twitter!

Cheers!
Cheers!

WOTS, Oscar Wilde, and Fall

Yesterday across the country thousands of authors, readers, and publishers flocked together to celebrate reading and writing in Canada! The weather was perfect, often as we remember September days to be, and bookworms bustled around the Halifax waterfront — quite literally. Tents canopied over stacks of books and book paraphernalia and booksellers and, well, more books. Readers occupied seats as local authors read from their creations, bags of reading swag and brochures sitting on their laps and clutched in protective hands, and under one tent a bucket played home to finger puppet versions of Oscar WIlde, Jane Austen, Edgar Allen Poe, and Mother Theresa. Mr. Wilde had the honour of coming home to live with me. Miss Austen will join him next year, and eventually I’ll have more finger puppets than fingers!

WOTS is always a blast. This year a couple of my writing friends and I spent the day wandering through tents and stacks of books and stuffing our bags with The Hobbit posters and flyers for local publishers and businesses. At one point, only an eager swarm of approximately 75 people deep separated us from Jian Ghomeshi. We managed to glimpse the top his head. We also took the opportunity to pose for awkward/hilarious pictures at various landmarks on the waterfront, like the famous Dr. Suess-esque lamp posts, and with the Bookworm.

One of the highlights of the day was meeting the lovely Laura Best, author of Bitter, Sweet and Flying With a Broken Wing. Laura and I have interacted through our blogs before, and it was great meeting her in person! I’ll be reading Flying With a Broken Wing through the week (I’m so busy it’s ridiculous) and I’m very excited!

In other news, it’s fall! My favourite season. Full of purple asters and ripening apples and pumpkins, and the edges of the leaves are tarnished red and gold. It’s time for scarves and knitted hats and boots (not that summer prevented me from wearing any of these…). The air smells alive with dying things and things getting ready to sleep for winter, and is meant for crisp evenings reading with a mug of hot tea.

Can you tell I’m thrilled at the arrival of fall?

I’m hoping to get more writing done this season with the world providing daily inspiration — work on my next anthology and maybe, just maybe, dip back into my WIP novel.

In the meantime, did you attend your local Word on the Street? What’s your favourite season? Any new books to read this autumn?

 

Jobs for Writing are Non-Existent

If you’re a writer, you’ve probably been told this at least once, or some variant of it. Perhaps it hasn’t been said directly to your face. Maybe it was the look in their eye when you mention a new short story or novel attempt. Maybe they snort or laugh, thinking you’re joking when you say you’re a writer.

My mental reaction. 😉

Well, that italicized voice in your head growls, thank you for your love and support.

Oh, we know they don’t say it to be mean or rude or to crush our dreams (if they did, I suggest new friends). They had benevolent intentions in saying it . Probably because they don’t want us to end up stubbornly writing poetry in a box under a bridge across from a MacDonald’s with a big NOW HIRING sign on their billboard.

Because really, JOBS FOR WRITING ARE NON-EXISTENT. How how are we supposed to support ourselves, and possibly families, with silly words our brain makes up and our fingers spit out? That doesn’t sound plausible. Like, writing as a job? Excuse me while I try not to laugh in your face.

Please.

And then you wonder, did they tell me this because they think I’m a terrible writer and are too nice to say it outright? Are they jealous about my writing skills? Am I suffering from delusions? Do they not want me to be happy? Are they so unhappy that they want me to be unhappy with them? Does no one love me? Why do I exist? 

We writers, especially young and new writers, tend to have vivid imaginations and rather tender egos when it comes to our writing. Please kick cautiously. We might break. Questioning our writing, ability to write, and future in writing is akin to insulting our purpose for living. You did NOT just say that. You didn’t. I’ll pretend you didn’t, because otherwise I’ll have to curse your family. You threaten what makes me happy and I’ll write you into a dead character so fast you won’t be able to repent your lifelong overuse of exclamation marks.

Yes, writing as a career is tricky and trialing and yes, sometimes it doesn’t work out. We all know the odds of us becoming the next  JK Rowling or EL James John Green are very, very slim. We don’t expect our stories to hit the big screen starring Johnny Depp and Zoe Saldana. We don’t expect to sell millions of our very first novel. Heck, we’re lucky if we e-publish a short story and someone decides to pay the $0.99 for it.

But there are jobs for writing. The only job for writing is not titled BEST SELLING NOVELIST. There are plenty of jobs out there. You may have to look. You may be rejected (well, you will be, multiple times). You may cry and scream and pull your hair out because, man, deadlines and expectations and I have no knowledge about the eating habits of earth worms and gaaaaaah.

But they exist. THEY EXIST. (Can you hear me screaming?)

Journalists, reporters, screenwriters, commercial writers, speech writers for politicians, freelance journalism, magazine contributors, bloggers, songwriters (hook up with a local band!), travel writers, biographers, poets, advertisers, playwrights, spoken word writers, campaign writers (social, cultural, political), e-zine writers, university professors, GREETING CARD AUTHORS, comic book writers, video game writers.

Heck, edit essays for students. Tudor Tutor someone. Write reports for companies or businesses. Be a ghost writer, if that’s your thing. Some people are too busy to run their own websites. Design posters. Make word art. Team up with a couple people and start your own magazine addressing issues you care about.

Writing is often the principle part of our being. If we didn’t have that part of ourselves, what would we have? I, for one, would be lost. I wouldn’t be me. I wouldn’t be as happy.

I’m willing to set aside the dream of BEST SELLING NOVELIST if I can only be content and you know, live in a house of some kind. I want to be writing. It might mean writing articles about the eating habits of earth worms, but I’m okay with that. It’s writing. Writing is what I breathe for. It provides me with the most amount of self-fulfillment I could imagine.

Sacrificing that would be, frankly, stupid.

Maybe I believe too much in personal happiness, but to me happiness is the purpose of life. And the first step to being happy is being happy with yourself. And I’m my happiest when I’m writing, thinking about writing, reading, thinking about reading, and talking about reading and writing.

I’m not willing to give that up because “jobs for writing are non-existent.”

To everyone who has ever told me this, this isn’t a direct jab at you. I’m just ranting in general. You helped me write this. So thank you. 🙂

Yes, I should be writing because it increases my happiness. It would be stupid to not write. Always listen to Gaiman.

I’m back blogging, baby!

Terrible title, I know. But I couldn’t resist.

Blogging is a lot of work, which is why for the last several months I was on a blogging hiatus over at my old blog, Let Them Grumble. During this time frame, I put together my first collection of poetry/short stories and wrote 10 000 words on my new contemporary YA novel (huzzah!).

But I missed blogging.

This is why I’m picking it up again, but not on Let Them Grumble. This is my new blog. Welcome. Greetings. Live long and prosper.

I’m still going to be focusing on working on my current project (I want the first draft to be finished by the end of October), but I’m planning on posting once or twice a week — about writing, reading, interesting things I read or write or find. Pictures or rhymes or rambles. Thoughts or questions or ideas. Perhaps a quote. Perhaps a word.

But the fact of the matter is, I’m back blogging, baby!

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