Writing for Illustration: Graphic Project and Book Cover Designs.

For NMIT’s writing for illustration I chose to create a comic through Bitstrips based on the short story Too Much To Lose, one of the stories I self-published in the Behind Closed Doors collection that can be found on Smashwords here. Too Much To Lose takes readers into the reality of life with anorexia; the obsession, the isolation, the silence…

With any luck it might just burst into flames and I could leave, or the building might burn down and I could die. It is hard to feel anything about that thought. Wanting to die isn’t something I really do- it’s just a vague thought, almost a joke. I hear the creak of a chair and spy Carroll’s legs under the desk as she sits back in her seat. Her thighs spread out before her looking ready to burst from her stretched skirt. I’d bet anything that her thighs touch even if she stands with her feet apart. I glance down at my own thighs, poking at the hard bones that define them. I look up and meet Carroll’s eyes, my mouth twisted to the side in a smug smile – Too Much to Lose.

To see Too Much To Lose follow the links below:

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

Part 4

Part 5

The intention behind using this short story as a comic series published online is to counteract the massive online presence of pro-ana (pro-anorexic) websites, particularly those appearing on sites such as Tumblr. I wanted to illustrate the control an eating disorder can have over your life and the isolation. It was difficult making the comic appear as dark as I wanted it as I was really limited by the graphics provided on Bitstrips. I was only able to manipulate and edit so much. For example, I had very limited backgrounds on offer and to create a dark background I had to use the same gradient frame. If I could draw, I’d have made Ana (Ana being a personification of the protagonist’s ED) look like a hollow eyed, ghostly figure at times and as your stereotypical beautiful model at others. This would highlight the opposing sides of the image of an anorexic. In reality, you end up being skin and bones and look sickly. Your hair falls out, you’re constantly dizzy and pale. However, in the pro-ana forums there is this desire to see it as a lifestyle and beautiful. Many anorexics end up with a certain attachment towards starvation. Basically, the opposing images of Ana would illustrate all this. With more time, I would have fine tuned the dialogue too.

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Magazine 11 Reflections

Take a kick-ass subject and add to it a brilliant lecturer and what do you have?

(Translation: Please give me a HD.)

I’ve learnt so freaking much in this class (am I allowed to say ‘freaking’ if this is for an assignment?) When I nodded along when we were all asked if we knew what a media kit was, I was lying. I had no idea. I was surprised everyone else knew. Were they lying too? Or do I really need to get with it? Either way, I know now.

I also designed a magazine insert for this class which is something I would never have even though of before. It’s so simple but, still, it wouldn’t have occurred to me.

I am really happy with how my InDesign skills improved this semester compared to last. I haven’t actually had any of the classes were we’re taught InDesign so I’ve been learning by watching tutorials and playing around with it. I think I still have a long way to go though.

At so many points I wanted to smash my face through the keyboard because, dammit, designing a magazine is so…fiddly. Every time I’d sit back and think ‘there now, it’s perfe- oh, fuck!‘ Literally every time I think I’m done with it, I discover some tiny new error that irritates me.

The cover to begin with was atrocious until I purchased some stock images for it. The TOC (table of contents) was atrocious until I’d scanned some tutorials. As you’d expect, it’s still  little (a lot) on the basic side. Really, as far as the design goes, I have little to say. You can clearly see a colour scheme and I used the same two fonts throughout (why? They just have the right look). I just experimented in InDesign and messed around with colours and layouts until I had something nearing how I could picture it. There is still so much potential with designs that hasn’t even occurred to me though. The magazine presentation day illustrated for me the variety of layouts it’s possible to have. It’s something I’d want to experiment with a lot more.

That said; Lo and Behold! Here is an example of some of the magazine:

Magazine116 Magazine11 Magazine1113 Magazine1112 Magazine1111 Magazine118

I had the idea for the magazine in semester one when I was put on the spot and asked what I might possibly want to do a magazine on. I came up with a parenting magazine out of nowhere. I’m not actually a huge fan of children and prefer writing about women/feminist topics. The thing about this magazine though is that it’s about parenting and being a young mother in general- it’s not for children so it shouldn’t be an issue that I’m not crazy about them (apart from my own, obviously.) I did some research on parenting/lifestyle magazines and realised there is definite gap in the market where younger parents (and even single parents) are concerned. There seems to be plenty of parenting magazines for older, married mothers that are still trying to sell the image of the perfect, nuclear family.  I knew I had found a good angle for my magazine.

My other motivation is being a passionate believer that having a child young doesn’t mean the end of your life or that you’re a hopeless, brainless idiot. Lets face it, there is no end to that attitude. When I found out I was pregnant I had to deal with the most ridiculous comments. For example, being snidely asked after mentioning my desire to go to university, “You’re going to study and have a baby. Do you, like, even know how to do that?” Guess what, knobcloud, I know now. At my year 12 graduation I was also told the parents in the audience were disgusted that I was allowed on stage. I always wondered why there was this attitude meant that I shouldn’t be allowed to continue on with my life. There was definitely this expectation within the town I lived that I should drop out of school and do nothing with the rest of my life. Luckily, my family and I did not share that expectation.

Young Parenting was created with the purpose of delivering an honest yet positive take on being a young mother. It’s purpose is to inform, encourage and unite young mothers throughout Australia between the ages of 16 and 23. It would stress the importance of continuing with your education and taking your aspirations seriously. It would not be condescending, demeaning or be written with the assumption it’s audience knew nothing.

If it were an actual glossy generating a profit, in line with the above values, the magazine would offer two successful applicants a 10 week paid internship each year. The magazine would also keep readers up to date with various study and skills building opportunities and scholarships.

The Fourth Wave: Cyberfeminism

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The Fourth Wave, a podcast on Cyberfeminism in relation to digital publishing via online platforms such as social media and blogs like this one and YouTube, is available at PodOmatic: http://cyberfeminism.podomatic.com/entry/2014-10-03T02_06_01-07_00  

References and Further Reading:
Helft, M 2013, ‘How YouTube changes everything’, Fortune, vol. 168, no. 3, p. 1-10, viewed 05/08/2014.
Hess, A 2014, ‘Why Women Aren’t Welcome on the Internet’, Pacific Standard, 29/09/2014, http://www.psmag.com/navigation/health-and-behavior/women-arent-welcome-internet-72170/.
Hinsely, V, ‘On Our Terms: The Undergraduate Journal of the Athena Center for Leadership Studies at Barnard College’, Vol. 1, Iss. 1 (2013), Pp. 25 – 32.
Markman, KM & Sawyer, CE 2014, ‘Why pod? Further explorations of the motivations for independent podcasting’, Journal of Radio and Audio Media, vol. 21, no. 1, p. 1-17, viewed 29/07/2014.
Mirk, S 2014, Popaganda: The Evolution of Wonder Woman, Podcast, Bitch Magazine Media, 17/08/2014, http://www.feministfrequency.com/.
Munro, E, ‘Feminism: A fourth wave?’, Political Studies Association, UK, 1/10/2014, http://www.psa.ac.uk/insight-plus/feminism-fourth-wave.
Sarkeesian, A 2014, Tropes Vs Women: Women as background Decoration, Vlog, Feminist Frequency, 4/08/2014, http://bitchmagazine.org/blogs/feminist-podcast.
PEW’s 2014 social media fact sheet can be accessed at http://www.pewinternet.org/fact-sheets/social-networking-fact-sheet/.
FemFuture’s The Future of Online Feminism Infographic can be found at http://bcrw.barnard.edu/wp-content/nfs/reports/NFS8-The-Future-of-Online-Feminism-Infographic.pdf for more of their work you can also visit http://www.onlinefeminism.com.                                                                                                                                              Introduction music by Sahara Surfers accessed at http://www.last.fm/music/Sahara+Surfers/_/Intro.

Transcript:

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This is you

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This is non-poem poem. I don’t know anything about poetry technically. I did in year eleven. I knew all about stanzas and beat and all of that crap. I don’t know about it anymore though. And I rarely write it.

For example, I don’t know if I’m allowed to use a comma. How dumb is that? I am unsure of the layout. I changed it around a lot. Not the words, but the layout and how they are spaced.

I absolutely love poetry though. I love reading it. Some of my favourites are Poe, Sylvia Plath, Charles Bukowski, Andrew Marvell, and Maya Angelou.

So, anyway, here is some poetry that I am deeply uncertain about sharing but, whatever, I’m sharing it anyway. It is the internet afterall. There is no end of awful poetry here. It’ll be one amongst many.

You hold my heart.

Hand down my throat, choking.

You pull it out, view that frantic beating.

You stuff me in the shredder.

I come out as confetti and dance in the air.

You stomp all over me, drive me into the ground.

You tear the eyes from my sockets, poke pinholes through the pupils so no light can get in.

I explode in the dark.

I explode, I explode and still your hands are all over me, in me, tearing me apart.

When giving up is a good thing

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Day 2
8:46 AM: Cigarette. Cigarette. Cigarette. Arrr, I am dying. Although it occurs to me I’m not as sick as yesterday (I have a cold). Maybe recovering faster thanks to Not Smoking?
10:02 AM: This. Is. Hard.
10:21 AM: I wish I could fast forward two weeks.
10:26 AM: I can do this. I can do this. I can do this.
This is so hard.
Jeepers. I just have to remind myself about cancer. I was feeling this awful loss a while ago thinking ‘I can never have another smoke AGAIN. Boo hoo.’ But the thing is, why do I even want one? What’s it do for me? The only reason I feel that way is because I’m addicted. That will go away. Also, then I am slightly less likely, y’know, to freaking DIE. Smoking KILLS. Gotta keep remembering that little fact. Denial is a powerful thing. Imagine if we had as much ability in willpower as we did denial?
10:40 AM: Does quitting actually INCREASE your appetite? It seems to.
6:38 PM: I am impatience personified.

Day 4
7 AM: Day 4! I am so proud. This is my third quit attempt this year. I have been wanting to quit so much, I set it as my new years resolution, but until now my head was not in the game. I had to not want to smoke anymore (wanting to quit and not wanting to smoke are different).
It’s a mix of things that bought me here; Because I’ve been focusing on improving health through exercise, I want to improve the other areas too.
7:15 AM: Here is a list of the side effects I have noticed;
1. Mood swings (especially wanting to cry.)
2. Irritability (very snappy).
3. Increased appetite. I’m not eating out of boredom or to smother a desire for a smoke. I am genuinely hungrier (smoking IS an appetite suppressant.)
4. Unable to sleep.
5. Jittery/twitchy (my hyper level, usually a docile 2 or 3, is now a 9.)
The actual cravings are the easiest part of quitting. The mood swings are the worst.
12:19 PM:I used to smoke, on average, 15 cigarettes a day. Say, it takes 6.5 minutes to smoke one (and that is not including rolling it time) that is 1 hour and 37 minutes smoking took up everyday. Christ. Now maybe I can use that saved time to go for a jog or write.
By the way, that is 682 minutes (11 hours and 36 minutes) a week. Which is 35,464 minutes (591 hours) a year.
Why didn’t I ever think of this before?
10:30 PM: I had four hours sleep last night. I hope I can sleep better tonight. You know, I am noticing all sorts of annoying withdrawal effects. I am so pleased that I am doing this though. It’s amazing how simply not doing something is an activity in itself.

Day 5:
8PM: Earlier today I was smug about how easy this is and now I could cry because I want a smoke so badly. This is ridiculous. I may have screamed at the person who suggested ‘why don’t you just have one.’ Ha. But at least I did not have one and the craving is easing now.

Day Six
11:09 AM: I dreamed of smoking last night.

Day Seven
11:17 AM: Woke up feeling happy with myself. This is the end of the first week!

Brief Book Review: Bed Rest by Sarah Bilston

Bed Rest

Chick-lit is without a doubt the most scorned of genres. As a big reader, with a love for all genres (with the exception of erotic romance- think Mills and Boons. I just can’t find it interesting), I sometimes wonder why.

Sure, some chick-lit is simply awful. Think shallow, immature and unbelievably, well, dumb protagonists and you will be at the heart of the problem with a lot of chick-lit. Chick-lit like that loses the brownie points the genre stands to gain by being realistic. Women, when reading a good chick-lit book, should be able to relate to the characters. After all, it’s a genre written, mostly, by women for women. If women read it and find themselves angrily thinking the main character is ridiculous and questioning if other women are really like that? All the author has achieved is alienation of their audience.

On the other hand some chick-lit is quite good and what bothers me is that the good stuff is often written off as crap because of the bad. When browsing the book reviews for chick-lit titles so many of them begin ‘I don’t usually read chick-lit’ with a note about how the writer of the review is a Serious Reader (why such shame at picking up a chick-lit title?) They then either go on to trash the book (warranted, in some cases) or else write about how surprised they were to have enjoyed it.

I used to love chick-lit in my early teenage years, along with horror, suspense & mystery, fantasy and anything published as a penguin classic. These days my appreciation for fantasy and chick-lit has waned. I am not a literary snob, though. If someone gives me a pile of books (as my brilliant Grandma often does) I will read them, regardless of their genre. A book is a book is a book…

I think the scorn poured on chick-lit is, in some ways, just another socially accepted form of sexism but that is another topic for another time.

The book I am reviewing today is Bed Rest by Sarah Bilston.

Quinn “Q” Boothroyd is a young British lawyer married to an American and living in New York City. She’s checked off most of the boxes on her “Modern Woman’s List of Things to Do Before Hitting 30,” and her busy working life has been relatively painless. But when her doctor tells her she must spend the last three months of her pregnancy lying in bed, Q is thrown into a tailspin. Initially bored and frustrated, Q soon fills her days by trying to reconnect with her workaholic husband, provide legal advice for her sweet Greek neighbor, forge new emotional bonds with her mother and sisters, and figure out who will keep her stocked up in cookies and sandwiches. Q experiences adventures on the couch she never would have encountered in the law firm and learns a lot about herself and what she wants out of life—and above all, about the little one growing inside her.

On the cover there is praise for this book saying ‘even if you have never been pregnant you’ll be as instantly hooked on this addictive novel as I was.’ I’m thinking you’d be hooked especially if you had never been pregnant because the protagonist’s reaction to learning her amniotic fluid is low is not the teensiest bit realistic.

‘Amni-what?’ is her first thought. The first person narration then goes on to explain in depth how she had no clue what this meant, or what it even was.

Not realistic. Not realistic at all.

Q, the protagonist, is supposed to be an almost-30 year old lawyer who is pedantic about recording everything and making lists and so on. Basically, she seems like the kind of person who would have researched this whole pregnancy thing and not the kind of person who…well, I can’t even think of a comparison. Having had a child myself, trust me, if you are pregnant you tend to want to learn as much about pregnancy as you can. You definitely know what amniotic fluid is. She also doesn’t do any baby shopping until five weeks before the child is due and at no point are there discussions about baby names. The book skims over many of the milestones you would expect from a book in which the main focus is the protagonist’s pregnancy.

The remaining plot-points were dull. They were clichéd and the majority of readers would see the ‘surprising twists’ coming a mile away.

However, there were some funny parts, the voice was engaging and the protagonist was likeable. There were also some really good lines within the novel. Some even, I must admit, that I was surprised to find in a chick-lit novel that revolves around pregnancy and relationships.

In the darkness I listen to his heartbeat…In the darkness he listens to my heartbeat.

You could almost imagine its summer- until; you see the thin, stripped trees along the street, the pallid fawn sunshine, the pedestrians muffled up in furry coats and downy jackets.

I’ve always regarded mine with some bewilderment, its mysterious activities, its dark places where the blood flows close to the surface.

Crack open Sylvia Plath’s Ariel when life seems too hard to bear. It’s always good to discover that someone else has been closer to the screaming edge than you are.

A pause, a brief moment of silence, and then a cry to make a mother’s heart dissolve.

Whilst I would not recommend this book to anyone I know, I did enjoy certain parts of it and I do believe it would be enjoyed by readers who like this genre.

Behind Closed Doors

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Behind Closed Doors contains the following stories:

Wasted offers a tantalising glimpse into the derelict life a father attempts to keep secret from his wife and children.

He grabbed the bag of pills and made his way to the crumbling bathroom. Leaning over a mouldy sink he cupped his hands to capture some of the rust streaked water. Raising them to his cracked lips, he gulped the water down, pushed two of the pills into his mouth and gulped some more. He stood there, holding tightly to the rim of the sink as his teeth chattered – Wasted.

Please Stay highlights Ebony’s confusion when she awakes to find her long-term partner, Ryan, has disappeared in the dead of the night without explanation.

I open the cupboard beneath the sink; his shaving cream, his razors, his sleeping pills and cologne are all gone.  I race back into the bedroom, flinging open his wardrobe door. It’s empty. I search the whole apartment; living room, kitchen, the spare bedroom. He isn’t here and nothing of his remains, not even his musty old trainers that lived, untouched and forgotten, at the bottom of the shoe stand – Please Stay.

The Good Cop, the longest of all seven stories, follows the struggles of three characters whose lives are not what they seem, as observed by the main protagonist.

This girl is leaning against the wall, expertly inserting a needle into her vein. She injects and as the drug flows through her she throws her head back and moans. She has the look of a homeless person; unwashed skin, grimy, lank hair and muddied mini-dress. I know, even before two men approach her down the dark alley, that she is a prostitute. In this black and white image, I see one man hand her money as his buddy stands guard at the mouth of the alley. Once he is done they swap positions and his friend moves to the girl – The Good Cop.

Breakfast Time dives into the mind of a ten year old girl as she tries to make sense of the adults around her.

“Use your initiative,” she yells. Using my initiative means knowing what she wants and doing it before she has to shout, “or else!” Or else! Is a belt on the leg, cool leather marking my skin, or a slap across the face, the sting of a palm on my cheek. This morning something manages to pull me from my own head. It’s a box of flying cereal. It lands in the kitchen, spilling sugary puffs of grain across the floor. Dad had already stormed out, leaving his empty bowl on the table. There is only my little brothers and I. And mum, standing in the pantry, mumbling to herself. I look from her to the cereal. Am I going to be in trouble? – Breakfast Time.

In Followed you stalk a young university student, innocently slipping into her life to wait for a chance…

I am careful to make sure I saunter down to the same carriage as her. The train is practically empty at this time of day so it is easy to choose a seat directly across from her. I pull out my phone and pretend to be absorbed in it whilst flicking my gaze to her at every chance. Should I take a photo? I feel my pulse quicken and my cheeks burn – Followed.

In Dreamer Evelyn visits her family’s favourite picnic spot where she makes a life changing decision.

Reaching into her pocket she pulls out a small camera, moving carefully she raises it to her eyes, recalling how her mother had held it so delicately poised before her, and snaps a picture of the tree, the soft click of the lens echoing in the silence. Smiling, Evelyn slides the camera back into her pocket. Tomorrow she will bring some rope for the tree – Dreamer.

Too Much to Lose takes readers into the reality of life with anorexia; the obsession, the isolation, the silence…

With any luck it might just burst into flames and I could leave, or the building might burn down and I could die. It is hard to feel anything about that thought. Wanting to die isn’t something I really do- it’s just a vague thought, almost a joke. I hear the creak of a chair and spy Carroll’s legs under the desk as she sits back in her seat. Her thighs spread out before her looking ready to burst from her stretched skirt. I’d bet anything that her thighs touch even if she stands with her feet apart. I glance down at my own thighs, poking at the hard bones that define them. I look up and meet Carroll’s eyes, my mouth twisted to the side in a smug smile – Too Much to Lose.

Check out both of my free e-books on Smashwords. You can also follow the Black Ink Quill Facebook page or friend me on Goodreads to read more brief books reviews.