Why ‘No Post on Sunday’

If you’ve ever seen Harry Potter you’ll remember well the scene where Mr Dursley sits back smugly with a cup of tea, indulging in the fact that there’s no post on a Sunday. Obviously you’ll then remember that he does, in fact, recive some post. Quite a lot of it.

But without magic letters delivered by magical owls down quite ordinary chimneys, the rest of us are at the mercy of Royal Mail who do, in fact, not deliver any post on Sunday. No squeaky hinged letter box opening and slamming shut as hoards of junk mail and the occasional council tax bill flop to the floor of our tiled entryway. We just wait until Monday to recive that Chinese menu and local flyer.

Now obviously, being a book blog, this post is not about the postal system. Despite it’s opening it’s actually an emerging but not often noticed theme on my pocket of the internet: I never post on a Sunday.

I can’t remember when I made this rule so if you delve into the murky realms of my blog’s conception you may find the odd post thrown up on a late Sunday night or early Sunday morning, potentially back when I was stumbling into my student house after a late night trip to McDonalds for a share box of chicken nuggets and a handful of laughs with my friends. Regardless, certainly in the last few months I’ve been firm to not post on a Sunday.

It’s not just posting I don’t do. I don’t blog hop, I don’t reply to comments and I don’t, and this one is the hardest of all, check social media. No squeezed in scroll of Bookstagram while waiting for the pasta to boil, no far too long read of Twitter in bed, that was only meant to be five minutes but is now pushing an hour. Even, despite it not being anything to do with my blog, no peak at Facebook to see the people I only vaguely once knew on holiday with other people I don’t know at all, coupled with memes that stopped being funny the first time they appeared on everyone’s feed.

Not posting, or blogging, on Sunday doesn’t mean I don’t read. I still have an audiobook on while I mop the floor, stretch out in a warm bath clutching my latest loan from the library, squeezing the pages extra tight so the book doesn’t land in the soapy scented water. But it takes the pressure of it, not thinking about which reviews I need to write up next. I often stall over the app screen on my phone when I have some down time, landing on Duolingo or the Tetris app than my go to social medias and WordPress.

I enforce no social media Sundays to give me a guaranteed moment of quiet in the week. A day where there’s no work deadlines crammed in and no niggling pressure to compare my life with others through an unhealthy screen addiction. Blogging isn’t my day job and I do it for fun, but that doesn’t mean it’s not a lot of work.

I never had the luxury of balance at university: hitting drawn out long periods with no deadlines and suddenly the frenzy when they all come at once. Getting in late from the library only to set my alarm for 8am, laptop an arms reach from my bed to start ASAP the next morning. My friend and I would meet outside her house, sit together in the library crawling over our notes, tapping away at our assignments, allowing ourselves one quick soggy sandwich break outside before starting it all back up again. Then we’d have dinner as a group, some budget meal like curry or our speciality: chicken nugget pizza, before saying we’d do it all again tomorrow. I’d often start my laptop back up again that night, if we didn’t all take a late night trip for ice cream or chicken nuggets.

Leaving university I was craving the balance a 9-5 job gives you. Not squinting at a computer screen after dinner, trying to polish an assignment of before bed, and going on actual proper day trips with my boyfriend, rather than quick afternoon trips down to the beach where we’d skim stones and eat ice cream, finishing up with piping hot chips on the seaside and the promise to not think about work for those few hours.

Having no social media Sunday is not exactly easy. I find myself using it just a little bit more Saturday, before I go to sleep, knowing I’ll miss it Sunday morning. It is definitely, and strangely, addictive. I’ve heard the Instagram algorithm punishes you for such inactivity and I find myself behind on blog comments at the beginning of the week. I don’t allow myself to take photos for my Bookstagram on Sundays, because it’s a no blogging day, and that often means I’m behind and don’t have the light to take good ones midweek.

I wouldn’t say I feel incredibly relaxed for this detox and, only being one day, it’s not a massive deal. I’ve not given it up for good or for a few months, like some of my friends have. I also don’t think I’m massively addicted. I know it’s what everyone says but I do have quite a good balance generally: I’m not glued to my phone over dinner, I don’t login to my socials on my work laptop and my Saturdays are often spent in remote countryside castles where lack of signal reverts my smart phone to a slightly rubbish selfie camera.

However, I still am sucked into the murky realms of social media, time flying away from me too fast, all too often and I have felt the pressure to be more on top of my blogging to do lists. I think it’s important to spend a day away from a demanding hobby like blogging, to keep it fun and just to put it in perspective. Because, at the end of the day, nothing bad is going to happen if I don’t reply to the odd comment on a post or ignore a Twitter chat for a while. It helps me step back and I think I’m a better blogger, and more chill person, because of it.

What about you? Do you spend any days away from your social media, or do you have other way of balancing your life? What are your other hobbies, besides blogging? Would love to hear from you in the comments!

Problematic Tropes that Misplaced Readers Hopes

This weeks Top Ten Tuesday is supposed to be all about tropes we love. The ones we read and cling on to, absoloutely adore and base our tbr on. But honestly, I don’t have that many? Call me crazy but I like the unique, the odd sprinkle of unusality and crazy turn of the unexpected. There isn’t one or two plot devices that I just think yep, I must have that.

However, because I’m a terrible person who loves a good moan, there are tropes I don’t like. Tropes I think are actively problematic and really need a rethink. Plot devices that really shouldn’t exist. So here’s an unorthodox list of those instead!

I’m not naming and shaming, this was just a pretty picture but is not related to the tropes!

Not Like Other Girls

1 Oh gosh, isn’t this so cringe? When the love interest likes a girl and says they’re somehow different, usually meaning they’re more like a man. It’s implying that all of the female population bar one are the same and the implication is usually catty, air headed women who can’t save the day.

Strong Women Can’t be Feminine

2 Women shouldn’t have to be like men to be strong, they can enjoy makeup, flowers, pretty dresses and save the world.

He’s Different for Just Her

3 I’m sorry to break this to young, angsty teenage me but boys with big egos, dark pasts and unexpected tempers who are guarded to everyone they meet probably don’t actually make the best boyfriends. It’s a sign of a really unhealthy relationship and he’s probably just an arse glorified in YA for far too young impressionable readers.

Your First Love is Forever

4 Ok, I get it, it’s cute to ship people. We don’t want them all to sink and it’s pretty depressing reading about break ups all the time. But also most readers are going to go through a breakup? How inadequate are we going to end up feeling if the novels we’re surrounded with are screaming that the first taste of a relationship is all we’re going to get? That little spark was meant to be forever? Yeah, no, that’s not a great message to young readers guys.

Women Not Supporting Each Other

5 Too often in media are we presented with that catty group of girl friends. When the male characters are sensible, getting on with it, showing themselves to be good friends and the women are just… nowhere? Or worse sitting jealous on the sidelines. Women don’t need men to save the world and female friendships should definitely be focused on more in YA.

The Lone Wolf

6 You know those characters that have no one else in their lives but their partner, or two love triangle caught potential suitors? Where they blow off all their friends in favour of the pursuit of love but it’s a book so obviously it all works out in the end, and the relationship is all they ever needed to be fulfilled? Yeah, that’s unhealthy. And needs to go.

Instant Love

7 The eyes meeting across the room thing is cute. Bumping into each other in the coffee shop, corridor, while fighting a deadly monster and instantly feeling a connection? Adorable. But not love. That’s called lust, that crazy hazy bit where they fart and you’d think it was perfume, can do nothing wrong and everything is butterflies and magic. It’s when they fart, you slap them on the arm, wrinkle your nose and say they stink that’s it’s actually love and the distinction is rarely made in YA.

All Love Interests are Unimaginably Hot

8 Besides seemingly every character in YA being described as drop dead gorgeous, which is getting really old by the way, all love interests have a formula. Big pecks on men and pretty without trying women that can leave readers feeling inadequate. Protagonists of YA a man does not need abs to be considered hot and you should all stop setting this unrealistic standard that could lead to readers feeling insecure.

Everyone Needs Love

9 We got to pair off all the characters right? They’re not happy if they’re not in a relationship, are they? No. They are. They can be single. They can be happy with a handful of close friends and nice shiny sword and maybe a pet dragon if they’re lucky. Not every protagonist needs a love interests and for goodness sake stop pairing off all the side characters like it’s the one route to paradise.

Toss in a Bit of Trauma

X One day I’ll get a discussion post out about this but for now this paragraph will have to do. Don’t toss in a dark past for the sake of it. If your character isn’t going to deal with that trauma and give it proper respect you shouldn’t shove it in there for the sake of it. It can upset readers and make them feel like they should ‘just get over it’ if they have gone through something similar. If you don’t have the page time to deal with a traumatic event you’ll have to use good old fashioned prose to make us feel something for your characters.

Let’s Compare Notes

So there you have it. Ten tropes that I see cropping up time and again and just wince at. Do you agree? Think any of these are particularly damaging? Have a list of tropes you’d like to share? Drop it in the comments section.

I’ll be back Thursday with my review of Heartless by Marissa Meyer.

STEM Representation in Literature

Media is full of negative conations about women in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths)- they can only do biology, men are better, the STEM character is the least attractive and clearly undatable. I struggle to find female STEM role models in media, and finding positive female STEM role models? Yeah, nearly impossible.

For my A Level years I went to a single sex school. It was the first year my school ran computing A Level and I was the only pupil doing it. I was super worried I’d be the first and last to do the subject, that there’d be no interest once I left. I ran coding classes for different levels: two in the senior school, one in the junior school, slowly and surely getting more girls into the computing room at lunch. You wouldn’t believe my joy when a girl in a younger year at school messaged me on Facebook a few years ago saying she’d taken computer science at the same university I had. That there’d been three doing computing A Level in her year. I couldn’t believe I’d actually made a difference.

But can the literature change the gender imbalance in computing? I’d say yes, it definitely did for me. My first real role model was probably Violet Baudelaire. Orphan, inventer and heroine of A Series of Unfortunate Events. Before I could even tie my shoelaces I was trying to tie my bob haircut up with string, to no avail, like her. In my eyes she was the epitome of cool: she used wacky inventions to save the day, she was the one her brother turned to when they were in a tight spot, she was everything ten year old me wanted to be.

Wanting to be an inventor like Violet changed my career path. I got an old excise book and drew pictures of inventions I planned to make one day. I tried to become a computer guru and became semi established with this title in year seven. I remember one particularly taxing ask by my aging English teacher: to get a digital version of a picture a girl had printed out for homework up on the projector. Sadly my ICT skills didn’t stretch to plucking search terms out of students’ heads and I failed to produce the image, a few Google Image searches later. Nevertheless, it will be no surprise to any of my teachers that I became a computer scientist. It always appeared to be on the cards.

Until it didn’t. At fourteen I went to a new school and suddenly computing wasn’t a subject. We learnt about Word and PowerPoint and ‘cool’ subjects became Art and History. It wasn’t just school that changed for me- it was media too. Violet was stuck in my past and my role models became Katniss and Tris. Computer science was restricted to The Big Bang Theory where it was ridiculed, because what kid wants to grow up to be like Leonard, at best? It didn’t look like the future, or the way to solve problems, it became another reason to laugh at the sad nerd in the corner.

I still had a love of engineering, a gutteral sense that it was for me, but I’ve no doubt I wouldn’t have questioned my decision, my place and right to take the subject, if I’d still been reading about Violet, kicking Olaf’s butt and saving her siblings with her mad inventions. And I wouldn’t have even consider computing if it wasn’t for characters like her. The interest she drummed in me meant my dad offered to teach me how to write my first computer program when he saw me reading a massive copy of “Programming for Dummies” that I’d gotten out the library.

Katniss and Tris, they taught a teenage me that women can do anything. But does literature tell kids that they can be anything?

Literature definitely has before. Take Hermione from Harry Potter. How many girls grew up under her fantastic influence, showing young women that brains is a form of strength. Characters that confront rather than conform to negative stereotypes can make a big difference. Or at least, they did for me.

I know not every novel can be about a female engineer, and wouldn’t want them all to be. If a debut is about a lawyer, or a warrior, or a writer or even a frog, then that’s fine. But there could be some small changes. A character gets advice from a wizened old professor at one point? Why can’t they be a woman. There’s a side character who happens to be in STEM? Make them strong. Attractive. Not that nerd with glasses and low self esteem. And there should never be demeaning and derogatory jokes about women in STEM (and yes, I have genuinely seen this in modern literature). Five minutes of laughter isn’t worth the terrible stereotype being instilled in young audiences.

I don’t have any statistics on whether media makes a difference to young people’s career paths. I don’t know how to magically change the public’s perception of women in STEM, I don’t even know if it’ll ever be a social norm for women to take STEM subjects. But I can’t help that think that maybe, just maybe, making it a fictional social norm could be a good place to start?