Wednesday, 22 June 2016

Summer and 'Easy Reading': Why Change Books through the Seasons?

My Thoughts on All Things in the Creative World
Every Wednesday

This weekend saw the longest day of the year and the official beginning of summer. And it's nowadays when thousands of families get ready for their holidays. They will flock to the seaside, lay down their towels on the sand, and pull out a book.

Many of those books will be 'light reads'. Speaking mainly for women, the ones I've usually seen in the hands of tourists are chic-flick style; rom coms dominated by a Mary Sue. They are not heavy or meaty; their underlying goal isn't to act as food for thought or transport you to another place. After all, on holiday, odds are you're probably in another place which you don't want to escape from! Instead, they are mainly there to pass the time and get a few giggles out of their reader. They don't demand anything of us or expect us to become as invested as maybe we would do with, for example, Lord of the Rings.

I say this somewhat sarcastically, since I first read Fellowship of the Ring whilst beside a pool in Greece. But why the sarcasm?

Personally, I think it's because our reading habits fall in with something a lot more primal: our survival skills.

Since antiquity, humankind has lived with and understood nature well enough to structure our cultures around it. In many civilisations, this was expressed in the form of acknowledging the seasons. Spring was the time of new growth and the birth of animals; autumn was the time of the harvest and preparation for the cold days ahead. Indeed, many religions honour these changing times and their associations in their holidays. And even today, with all our modern conveniences, we are still ruled by and surrounded by nature. Just like we still hold the fight or flight reaction from the days of our ancestors, so too are we aware of the seasons.

For us modern people, summer has kept a lot of its original basic associations. Strip away the barbeques and sprinklers and you find this is the time of year when many feel we can finally relax. The days seem endless, the heat is delicious, kids are off school and everyone can be together. Millennia ago, it was the breath of fresh air when weather-related danger was less likely to strike, so people could allow themselves to enjoy this time before preparing for the long dark winter.

Even though we no longer rely as heavily on nature as our ancestors would have, the sensibility remains. This is, of course, the time when we are most likely to switch off and go on our holidays. We still allow ourselves to relax in the sunshine. And like nobody wanted to spend this time working hard for the harvest, why burden your mind with a heavy story?

I know reading books and bringing in food from the fields is different, but our culture has ensured their appearances share a common psychological root. There is a time and place for everything to ensure wellbeing and, in the most primal part of our brain, survival.

In a sense, the light summer reads you can commonly find is the flipside of the coin to winter. Even though many people dislike the cold season, it is also Christmas time: arguably a calendar point even more important than summer. But this was not always so. Winter was an ominous time, full of darkness and danger, when people would pray for the sun's return and the promise of summer.

The way our ancestors stockpiled their food is mirrored in our saving every penny we can to buy presents. To keep their spirits high, people would gather together and tell each other stories. And today, we do the same. Christmas is hailed as a magical and carefree time in the midst of the harshest season on earth. Not just from our own tales and legends that dominate the festival, but also because our modern lives protect us from many of the dangers our ancestors would have faced. Now, it is safe to frolic and relax in winter; there is a much lower threat of imminent death or food running out.

So once again, we find the light reads return. The ones that bring us close to our families and awaken nostalgic memories. But even though these types of books usually market themselves to a specific season, they do not necessarily dominate it. The increased knowledge of our own safety against nature has meant we can expand our horizons - and essentially go for the heavier stuff because our brains tell us it's safe to do so.

I was reading Lord of the Rings in Greece simply because I can't stand chic flicks. No matter whether I'm home or not, I like my stories to be the meaty kind. But that's just me. I have seen many other people reading more involved books on their holidays - everything from horror to sci fi, memoirs to historical fiction. I have also seen many keeping to the bright Confessions of a Shopaholic type books.

Good on them - both of them. Read whatever you want, whenever you want. The market might still play on our old primal psychology, but that's just part of advertising. Whether it's summer or winter, we can all find time now to relax, and enjoy something light or heavy when we open a book.

Happy Midsummer, everyone!

Tuesday, 21 June 2016

The Bat Returns

Hello there, Batties!

(Any Studio Ghibli fans will probably notice what I did with the title there!)

As you might have gathered from the sudden barrage of updated posts, I am back!

To cut a long story short, I moved my blog from here to my (then) new website, to try and keep everything in one place on a single central hub. But even though aesthetically it looked very nice, it's been an absolute pain to maintain behind the scenes. I updated it a few times, including giving it a new makeover and structure, but I found I just wasn't enjoying it as much as I did on here - what was technically my first ever author site.

While my main website is still up and running and will remain that way, I've moved the blog back here, reborn as E. C. Hibbs' Writing Desk. So I've dusted off the cobwebs and have a whole bunch of new and exciting content to offer!

What can you expect from the new blog?

BOOKISH RAMBLES - Every Wednesday
The centrepiece of Writing Desk, this weekly post will cover anything and everything from the creative world. There will be books, movies, my thoughts on storytelling, and more! Past posts that I've moved across from the website blog include:
and more...

WRITING TIPS - First Friday of the Month
A new YouTube series tackling some of the problems faced by writers.
(I take requests for subjects to cover so please let me know if you have any!)

TOP SHELF - Last Monday of Every Month
A book of the month feature, these posts will highlight a story I have read and present it with an honest review.

DESK LAMP - First Monday of Every Month
Here I will shine a spotlight on a fellow author and post an interview about them and their books.

In addition, I will also occasionally post cover reveals, book releases, and blog tours.

Outside of book-related things, there will be posts regarding my artwork, modelling with Alternative Fashion Fest, snippets into my daily life, and general news/announcements.

I hope you'll enjoy what's coming and that you'll stick around for more! To access the main website, please click the link at the top of the blog to be whisked away!

 It's great to be back!

Saturday, 18 June 2016

UV Photoshoot with Stephi LaReine

Ever since I was a teenager, I've been an advocate for breaking stigmas and intolerance towards people who choose to express themselves differently. That has led me to become a part of the revolutionary Alternative Fashion Fest. I challenged myself to try something out of my comfort zone in the name of what I believed in; it's introduced me to some fantastic people who all feel the same way I do, and want to bring positive change to our societies.

One of those amazing people is my fellow blogger Stephi LaReine. She organized a photo shoot to showcase the idea of unique beauty, and I put my name down. The interesting thing was, it would involve a lot of UV paint. Because we would be expressing ourselves and our stories in glowing body artwork.

Being me, I went with the idea of a dark faery. I wanted to illustrate how books and fantasy had influenced me in all aspects of my life: both reading and writing them, sparking my imagination constantly. When I was a child, my teachers often said I was "away with the fairies", too lost in my own mind to potentially make anything great of myself. Creativity has always been a light in the darkness: an anchor that has helped to pull me through trauma and mental health issues to become optimistic and determined. So I donned my pointy ears, dressed in black, and headed to the studio.

Some behind-the-scenes pics that I snapped while painting myself up. L: left arm, with a quill going down my finger. C: in normal light and UV light. R: right arm, with ivy leaves.
First and foremost, it was a load of fun. All of us sat around talking, helping each other with designs, and laughing about how we all looked as though we'd turned into Na'vi. I was second to get in front of the camera, and it felt magical to be sitting there with my skirt spread all around me, book in hand, staring into the air at something only I could see. I was truly away with the fairies: embracing and yet breaking everything that might have been expected of me. Being creative had never hindered me. It shaped me into who I am, and as that otherworldly glow seemed to resonate from under my skin, it was now on film for everyone to see.

In 2013, some writer friends came up with a little tagline that they said suited me to a tee: Sweetness and Light in the Dark. I loved it, and still do. But back then, I didn't think I'd be personifying it literally!

To see all my modelling photos, including this series BeaUVty is in the Eye of the Beheld, visit my website by clicking here.

Thank you so much Stephi, for letting me be a part of this amazing project!

If you want to find out more about Stephi and follow her blog, then visit her website by clicking here.

The series of photographs will be appearing later this year in magazines and galleries.