Wednesday, 25 October 2017

How To Organise Your Autumn & Winter To Be Read Pile

how to organise your autumn and winter reading

I may not be one of those people that sails through autumn and winter without a lull in their mood but I do appreciate the excellent reading conditions that the seasons afford. I'm all for reasons to wrap myself up in my blanket burrito. 

Since I've spent the past week or so trying to determine what I want to read, I figured I'd procrastinate and share a selection of tips on how to organise your autumn and winter to be read pile. 


We all have a certain genre or series that we return to when we want to feel at 'home' and the colder months offer the perfect conditions for calling upon blankets and picking out something warming to read. 

Comfort reading can mean different things to different readers. For some, it might mean reading a book that fills them with nostalgia for bygone winters and for others it may mean re-reading the book with all of the pages that fall out because it has been read so many times. Find books that make you feel cosy and comfortable and keep them near.

A lot of readers tend to put off lengthier books because they're a big commitment and nobody got time for that. However, life slows down ever so slightly during autumn and winter and it seems more acceptable to let your reading follow suit. Read a chapter or so per night and you'll soon work your way through them. 

Halloween is a big deal for some readers but spoopy reading can, again, come in many different guises. Round up your Agatha Christie's and the like for comforting teatime-telly murder mysteries or break the spine of your favourite contemporary 'reminiscent of Gone Girl' blurbed thriller and lose a few hours between the pages. Make sure you leave all the lights on if, like me, you get a little too involved. 

Treat yourself to a re-read of your favourite well-thumbed books. It's nearly Christmas, after all. 

There's something about the festive period, with the bustle of family members and mismatched seating, that makes me want to read the stories of other families from generation to generation. Find a book on your to be read pile that spans many decades, or takes place many years ago, and get immersed. For historical fiction, I recommend Tipping The Velvet by Sarah Waters.

Classics thrive during the later months of the year! I'm talking lengthy Victorian novels that take ten pages to describe the buttons on the protagonist's jacket, slices of Gothic literature packed full of spirits and madwomen in the attic, and sprawling tales of smuggling on the moors. Classics, particularly the dark and looming ones, are the stodgy steamed pudding of literature and I love to indulge in them every now and then. 

During the second half of the year, I tend to get reflective and start thinking about my life and where it's headed. I then procrastinate. The best way to procrastinate from making actual big life decisions is to read about someone's else's life through a memoir or collection of personal essays! I'd highly recommend Patti Smith's memoir, Just Kids, for that sort of thing, or Olivia Laing's The Lonely City. 

Inspired by one of the prompts for Mercedes' autumn readathon, you could pick up a book set in a cold place. Be if fiction or non-fiction. There's no way you're going to want to read something set in a freezing cold cabin when you're sunning yourself in July so you may as well read it now. 


The autumn term has well and truly kicked in, for students and teachers, so what better way to celebrate than by reading a campus novel?!  I haven't read many, granted, but the first one that comes to mind is The Secret History by Donna Tartt, which I read a few years back.

Hope for the future?! Pfft, that's a thing of the past. Round up a selection of bleak dystopia and get ready for the year ahead. Make time for some good old science fiction, passages from post-apocalyptic hellscapes and worlds that actually don't feel too far off our very own right now. Happy holidays!

So that's my advice on how to organise your autumn and winter to be read pile. I have a general how to organise your reading post if you're looking for more organisational tips too! God, I'm so helpful.

If you're after some more book-related posts you can find a ton in my archives.


Saturday, 21 October 2017

Autumn & Winter Manifesto 2017

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this autumn and winter, i will:

take poppy to the woods 
not lose my head

take an obligatory feet-in-leaves photograph 
read a handful of cosy reads

light the seasonal candles 
finish what I've started 

create a seasonal playlist for the evenings
make the house more of a home

make a new recipe or two 
find the words 

take care
try a new country pub 

go on a photo walk 
jump in head first

look for some seasonal secondhand clothes 
write some personalised poetry 

work hard 
embrace the quiet moments 

trust in my abilities 
switch off when I need to 

be more present 
use up film 

finish the jar of chai 
watch elf for the millionth time, just because 

look for secondhand furniture 
roast even more root veg, as if I haven't already roasted enough

try, try, try 
and believe in more

I write lots of lists. Read my list of things I love about autumn.


Wednesday, 18 October 2017

How To Get Out Of A Writing Slump

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I was walking Poppy this morning, pj's on and parka zipped right up to my nose, when my brain got to thinking about the current creative fog that I find myself in and the possible ways that I could troubleshoot myself out of it. A few years ago, I shared advice on how to get out of a reading slump and, with my own current struggles in mind, I thought it was time that I shared tips on how to get out of a writing slump. 

These tips aren't one size fits all, sure, but there's hopefully something here to help you work your way out of whatever creative black hole that you find yourself in.



I have spoken a few times about keeping a notebook for inspiration when writing, or when preparing to write, and I think during slumps is where the notebook really comes into its own. Think of it as a creative bible that you can consult in times of great need. Fill it with snippets of ideas or other people's ideas that you enjoy or simply just fill it with words that you might quite like to use in a future piece. Flip through the pages when you're feeling a creative drought and you'll hopefully find something to use. Allow yourself to keep a messy notebook and you may reap the rewards.


Writing prompts can be an excellent way of exercising the creative part of your brain and, best of all, the results of these prompts don't even have to go anywhere. I have a whole host of word, sentence and image prompts on the blog if you're looking for some inspiration. 

Alternatively, you could write some book spine poetry or twitter fiction or some blackout poetry to get you in the mood. There are loads of fun writing exercises to warm you up. And, like I said, these exercises don't have to directly inspire your next piece of work. They can just be used to take creative thought for a walk. 


Take some inspiration from the idea of writing morning pages and jot down everything that comes into your head there and then, be it random slices of creative work or your next shopping list. This stuff doesn't have to be good or interesting or even relevant. It can be an exercise in putting pen to paper, or finger to key, again. 


Every project starts somewhere. Create a pin board, virtual or otherwise, for images or snippets of things that capture your imagination or match the vibes of your proposed piece. I have my own, albeit secret, Pinterest board where I pin images that I'd like to return to in the future. This is particularly useful if you're a visual learner. 


Read something. Watch something. Go for a walk*. Use this slump as time to gain inspiration from things. Don't just stick to your old faithfuls either. Switch it up and you may be amazed by the results. Whilst you're doing these other things, and consuming different types of media or content, pull them apart and work out what draws you to them. Consult my post on how to annotate books for more info!  

*If you choose to go for a walk, why not record yourself as you wander about?! Whenever I clean my bookshelves, I set up the voice recorder on my phone and chat ideas into existence. The quieter moments can often be the most lucrative for productive thought. Listen back and see if anything is of substance. 


Use the non-writing time as research time. Head to the library. Scroll through Google. Dig deeper if you have an existing idea that needs more flesh. Or, alternatively, search out a topic that's of interest to you if you haven't a clue what you're intending to write about next.  


Profile an element of your project through scribbled notes. By honing in on one aspect of your piece, your brain isn't going to feel too overwhelmed and will instead compute things in stages. Write a gingerbread character study a la Year 11 drama class or scribble a list of places of interest with regards to the setting of your piece. Creative ideas aren't born polished so it's okay if they're developed via scribbles on scrap paper. 

Create building blocks for your creativity to cling to.  


If you have a sliver of something, be it a title or a paragraph or a passing idea for something, why not share what you do have with a friend? Ask them to workshop it for you and provide feedback. Their comments may give you another burst of energy to go forward with. As I said in my tips for studying a creative writing degree post, workshopping can be hugely useful even though it seems incredibly daunting. It can often change the face of a project so it's so worth doing.


Start a Wreck This Journal, go for a photo walk, do a spot of painting or lose an hour or so to gardening. Play around. Use your hands. Let the embers rise into an idea for something written. 


Do other things for a while. Come back with what you now know. Accept that sometimes your brain is actively telling you to take a backseat. Rest. Come back in minutes, hours, days, weeks, with a new head.

Hopefully you're now clued up on how to get out of a writing slump. It's never easy when your creative brain just doesn't want to co-operate so go easy on yourself. Get some rest, take care and then come back to it. It's okay to take breaks and it's okay to need them too. 

If you're looking for more advice or more creative posts, you're in the right place as there's plenty in the Vivatramp archive.



Wednesday, 4 October 2017

Things That Make Me Happy 75

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family games of charades
cruel summer playing in the sunshine
michael scott, always 
sweet honey 

(photo credit)

I have been sharing things that make me happy lists for years. If you'd like to read some more, you can scroll through the archive.



Monday, 2 October 2017

My Favourite Things 9

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September flew by in the blink of an eye. It brought with it celebratory floor picnics, a second surgery for Poppy, a couple of little trips out and waving Cub off for her last year of university. 

September was a challenging month for me regarding my mental health. I reached out for help to find it basically wasn't there.

As a result, I found myself having some big bouts of PTSD-related anxiety and even found myself having spontaneous chest pain which made my PTSD even worse. Oh, what a cycle. 

So yeah, here's hoping that October is kinder to me. 

Whilst all of that was happening, I was coveting fun with loved ones, a family indie biz and a newly-released album.

arnolfini bookshop bristol harbour vivatramp blogthe burger joint bristol food blogthings to do in bristol blog uk vivatramp current favourites

At the start of the month, I headed up to Bristol to see a handful of my best friends. After having an absolutely horrendous breakdown on the train, I dried my snotty nose with a tissue that a kind man gave me and I set about having a peaceful afternoon in the city. I met up with my pals and we strolled around Wapping Wharf, browsed in the Arnolfini bookshop, had a rainy harbourside drink and went for burgers. Unfortunately, I was having some really bad anxiety-induced chest pains relating to the earlier breakdown so I got the train home before the girls headed for cocktails and a sleepover but it was nice to escape my head for a few hours. Next time will be better. 

monthly current favourites vivatramp blog

I was sorting through my clothes the other week when I came across this New Look paisley dress that I picked up from a charity shop a few years back. I used to wear it all the time because it was such an easy piece and I'm glad to have re-discovered it again. 

I like clothes that sort of speak for themselves so that I can just throw them on and create a chilled outfit with minimal effort. This ticks that box for me. It's lightweight, easy to layer and fun. Perfect.

handmade soaps scottish borders bubble trouble soap

My cousin recently set up her own hand-poured soap business, Bubble Trouble Soap, and last month I received a box of soapy goodies to try out for myself. Bubble Trouble Soaps are all about products that are kind to your skin and, as they're based in the Borders, they all come with names lifted from the Scottish dialect. I'm talking Ayebidin', Hae a Whiff O' That and Floo'ers to name a few. 

The first thing that hit me about my box was how good the soaps smelt and I'm not just saying that because the owner is related to me and can, therefore, kick my ass. Only my favourites go in my Favourites. I'm getting a botanical soap dish and a super cool tie-dye soap to add to my collection next. So cool. You can find her on Etsy at Bubble Trouble Soap as well as on Instagram and Facebook

the mother cooker family food blog uk

The Mother Cooker is the passion project of one of my oldest and dearest blogging friends, Gem. If you're looking for a new food website for meal inspiration then this is it. The food photography alone is worth the visit, pals. Gem's passion for what she does is infectious and it shows in the great care she takes with each post, whether she's sharing a light bite for a kid's party or sharing inspiration for tablescapes or even reviewing already-out-there-and-published recipes for her 'Tried and Tasted' series. I've been loving her content this past month and I also love that she has now taken to Insta Stories to share behind-the-scenes insights into her world.

Full of pinnable and cookable recipes, you're probably going to want to give The Mother Cooker a bookmark. 

books are my bag orla keily

Books Are My Bag is a nationwide campaign to celebrate our bookshops up and down the country. Bookshops are magical places, full of knowledgeable bookselling elves that create wonderful displays, but they can often be forgotten due to people's 'click-of-a-button' book buying habits. And so, BAMB are encouraging everyone to head out on the 7th October to purchase that 'must-read' book in store. If you have a bit of cash spare, or have a gift card lying about, head out and spread some love on Bookshop Day. Your bookshop may be doing something to celebrate, you never know. 

Last month, I was lucky enough to receive this year's bag design, designed by blogger favourite Orla Kiely, as well as a gift card to help me on my book-buying way. Now what to spend it on...

alvvays band current favourites blog

Alvvays, of 'Maaaaarry meeeeee, Arrrrrrchiieeeeee' fame, are back with a new album and I have had it kicking around in the background whilst I get on with things for the best part of a week now. I'm all for dreamy pop vibes and this has them in spades. With vocals that descend into little howls and instruments that seem to melt into one another, this is music for the high af and the head-in-the-clouds kids. Great stuff. 

autumn tbr blog book bloggers in the uk vivatramp
(photo credit)

One of the best things about autumn is, arguably, cuddling up underneath a blanket with an atmospheric read and I have been so excited about curating my seasonal TBR pile now that the nights are drawing in. I've got some spoopy reads in mind, that's for sure.

I'll be sharing my Autumn TBR, alongside some tips for curating yours, in the next week so keep those conker-like eyes peeled.  

bbc strictly come dancing blog favourites

Strictly is back, baby! I, unashamedly, adore Strictly. The sequins, the glitter, the mishaps, the new skills, I'm all about it. It also, rather excitedly, signals the lead up to the c-word. No, not that c-word. Minds out the gutter. Filth. 

I may dance like a drunk Kate Bush whenever I hit the dancefloor but that doesn't stop me from behaving like a fifth judge when the dancers take to the stage. I can't wait to watch the series unfold.

birnbeck pier weston super mare things to do in somerset blog

Cub headed back to university towards the end of September so we took a trip to Weston-super-Mare to hit up the cheap homestores for back-to-uni pans and such. We were about to head home, with a boot full of stuff, when we spontaneously decided to grab some fries and sundaes and sit and eat them on the green overlooking Birnbeck Pier. 

I spent a huge chunk of my childhood padding around Weston and looking over at the old pier still fills me with the same excitement as it did as a child, wondering how badly I'd get told off if I ever got close to it. If, like me, you're curious, there's a video on Youtube that someone took when they were exploring it a couple of years back. The green overlooking the pier is a great little spot that is usually quite quiet so if you're local and looking for a bench with a view...


Our garage was in a bit of a sorry state so, after years of saying we would, we finally decided to begin the sort out in September. I had the job of going through pile-upon-pile of childhood drawings, birthday cards and photographs, and it was actually really nice to sit down and be a little sentimental. I'm sure as hell not keeping every single one of my old childhood drawings and stories though...

I love a good clear out, me.  

•  these beautiful fireworks 
  Maddy created this beautiful illustration of Matilda for Doodle Tube
•  Need someone to write on living with IBD, health, and other fun things? Kathleen is available for hire!
•  Bethany and Alice have started What Page Are You On? - a new bookish podcast
  Ella wrote a post on the realities of loss which was so important
  Liv hit 200 subscribers on her Booktube channel. head over and subscribe if you know what's good for you!
  Annie's illustrated affirmations are excellent - would make great gifts too
  the wonderful Mercedes reached 30k subscribers on her channel and announced a readathon!
  Ruby has started a food-related newsletter
  the incredible Laura has done a cracking collage job on Liv's new blog design
  Alice and Liv went on a bookshop crawl in London

•  monthly things that make me happy list
•  a book haul ft. lots of picture books and a freebie or two
  my August favourites as I was a little slow on the uptake last month...
  book reviews of the picture books & a tiny TBR 
  50 creative writing prompts 
  tips for how to survive a book buying ban 

September flew by, for me at least, so it's reassuring to see it broken up into little favourite sound bites. It was a challenging month but, looking back, it wasn't all bad.

If you don't want to leave quite yet, you can stick around and read up on my previous Favourites!

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