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Being Miss Nobody by Tamsin Winter – #YAShot2018 Blog Tour

Happy International Women’s Day everyone.

Today I’m pleased to be hosting an interview with author of Being Miss Nobody Tamsin Winter as part of the blog tour for #YAShot2018.

YAShot is the brainchild of author Alexia Casale and is a one day book convention taking place this year on April 14th. The theme for the programme this year is Human Rights and Being Miss Nobody is a perfect selection.

Synopsis

I have not been a very nice person

I have lied to a lot of people I know

I have done some bad things

All of these things I have done pretty much deliberately

…I am Miss Nobody.

Rosalind hates her new secondary school. She’s the weird girl who doesn’t talk. The Mute-ant. And it’s easy to pick on someone who can’t fight back. So Rosalind starts a blog – Miss Nobody; a place to speak up, a place where she has a voice. But there’s a problem…

Is Miss Nobody becoming a bully herself?

Interview with Tamsin Winter

What is selective mutism?

Selective mutism (SM) is an anxiety disorder which makes it very difficult or impossible for someone to speak in certain situations. In Being Miss Nobody, Rosalind can speak completely normally in front of her immediate family, and her slightly batty next door neighbour, Mrs Quinney. In front of anyone else she can’t say even one word.

What is the worst thing about having it?

Not being able to ask for help, not being able to make friends, not being able to express yourself freely. SM is a condition which makes so many situations incredibly difficult. During my research for Being Miss Nobody I read about a young girl with SM who broke her arm at school but was unable to tell anyone, and nobody noticed she was in pain. For Rosalind, the worst thing is the terrible bullying she experiences at school. She is known as the weird girl who can’t speak and, because she remains silent, the bullying goes (mostly) entirely unnoticed.

What is the most positive aspect of having it?

SM is an anxiety disorder which, believe me, is not very much fun! But, people who have anxiety are usually hyper-sensitive. I can remember being called sensitive like it was a bad thing, and I used to think so too. But now I don’t agree. Being sensitive means you have a high level empathy, that you experience emotionsdeeply, and that you know what it’s like to not find life very easy. An anxiety disorder is not exactly a party, but it isn’t a death sentence either. Living with a mental health condition can make achieving things really, really hard. But it doesn’t make it impossible. Rosalind finds an awesome friend in Ailsa, who accepts her condition, supports her and most importantly of all – shows her kindness.

One of our human rights is the right to freedom of speech and peaceful protest. How do you think Rosalind’s blog Miss Nobody fits into that?

For Rosalind, her Miss Nobody blog is the only way she can speak out about what’s happening to her at school. She names the bullies and exposes them for what they are. She reaches out to other people who are being bullied, and she tells everyone exactly how it feels to be a victim of bullying. But she does all of this anonymously. Social media can be a wonderful way of speaking out but, as Rosalind discovers, it can easily spiral out of control.

Another right is the right to education. What would be your top tips to teachers and fellow students on helping someone with selective mutism to access school life?

The first step when teaching or communicating with a child who has SM is always acceptance of the condition. Accept that your student or classmate may not be able to respond through speech, but provide alternative ways for them to communicate their thoughts and ideas. Do not put them in a situation where they are expected to talk, or put under pressure to talk, as this will only make them feel more anxious. Do not exclude them from discussions or group work, instead find ways for them to join in. You have to be creative and you have to find out what will work for the individual student in your class because obviously, they are all different. Rosalind is given a set of cards she can use to signal different things like she needs help, or she needs the toilet, but she finds it very hard to use them at first because she doesn’t want to draw attention to herself. She is given a notepad by her teacher which she uses to have silent conversations with her classmate Ailsa. Many young people with SM get excluded from activities, so it is important to involve them in the lesson and in conversations, but allow them to express themselves without speaking. The absolute most important thing is to show them kindness. Living with a mental health condition is really hard, especially at school. It makes an enormous difference when people are kind.

Obviously speaking up is a big theme of the book. Why was that important to you?

I’ve worked with so many young people who find it very difficult or even impossible to stand up and say what they think. It’s something I found extremely difficult as a teenager. I think we’ve all been in situations where we’ve been unable to speak up for ourselves but, for me, it is a crucial thing to be able to do. It’s important for friendships, for protecting ourselves, for showing people our true selves, for romantic relationships, for achieving what you want in your career, for sticking up for your beliefs and values. Speaking out takes an enormous amount of courage sometimes. But if you can do it, even for a moment, then you have the power to change your life.

Bullying is also a major issue in this book. What advice would you give to someone being bullied?

Tell someone you trust. Then tell someone else, and then tell someone else. Keep telling people until something is done about it. So many victims of bullying stay silent. It’s one of the ways bullies operate so effectively. I’ve read so many heartbreaking stories of bullying that ended in tragedy, and the question is always the same – why didn’t they tell anyone? People stay silent about being bullied for all kinds of reasons. They are scared it will get worse, they feel ashamed, they don’t think it will make any difference. We need to make it a lot easier for young people to speak out if they are being bullied.

And what advice would you give to someone who has realised they might be bullying someone else?

I don’t believe that anyone is born mean. I don’t think that bullies are happy, fulfilled people. I think there are some young people who have had hate poured into them, and it comes out in bullying behaviour towards others. If someone gets kicks out of being mean to someone, then they’re probably in a home environmentwhere they don’t get shown very much kindness. If you’ve realised that you’re bullying someone, then I’d suggest owning up and asking for some help. Your victims may not be ready to hear an apology directly, so the best apology is changing your actions. I hope Being Miss Nobody ultimately has a positive and important message about bullying. We always have a choice in anything we do, so we can always choose to be kind.

What I thought

I really loved this. Ironically Rosalind had a very strong voice throughout and she really went on a journey of development, but one with a realistic ending, where everything isn’t completely perfect.

I adored her brother Seb and once again thought that it was a wise decision not to have Rosalind’s selective mutism arise as a result of his ill health.

The power of social media to give people a voice is explored so well and is balanced alongside the notion that it can also be used to silence or speak over others. It’s a tool that can be used in many ways and I think this book does a great job of addressing how to use it morally.

Huge thanks to Tamsin for taking the time to answer the questions. Join her and a host of other authors at #YAShot2018 – http://www.yashot.co.uk/.

To win a signed copy of Being Miss Nobody (UK only – winner selected after Sun 11th 5pm). Post the following to Twitter with your own response to the …

Being Miss Nobody by @MsWinterTweets is about speaking up. I found my voice when … (#yashot2018, @kirstyes @yashotmediateam)

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2018 – The Year I Turn 40!!!!

Yes, I know I look, and act, waaaaay too young to be turning 40 in 2018 but I am! I’m not making New Years resolutions but I will be trying to practice better self care, and I am setting myself two ’40’ challenges.

40 Special Things to do for my 40th Year

Dated Events

1. See Dreamgirls

2. See School of Rock

3. Harry Potter studio tour solo trip

4. See Sunset Boulevard

5. Harry Potter exhibit at Poole Library

6. Pierce Brown tour

7. See Cursed Child again with Cath

8. Be Bridesmaid for my sister and do all the hen do fun

9. Blood Brothers musical theatre workshop

10. See Hamilton

11. See Sarah Millican again

12. Go to YALC again

13. New Forest Fairy Festival

14. See Cursed Child again on my actual 40th birthday!!!!

15. Fab and Forty Cake Smash Photo Shoot with besties

16. Visit Prague

17. Harry Potter Studio Tour Halloween

Undated/Dates to be confirmed

18. Read 150+ books again including but not limited to Obsidio, Nevernight Book 3, LIFELIK3, Iron Gold, Dark Age, State of Sorrow, Vengeful, A Court of Frost and Starlight, TOG 7, Queen of Air and Darkness, The Witch’s Blood and #40YRS40BKS Reading Challenge (see below)

19. Reading weekend with Elizabeth and Rachel (to help with above)

20. Finish first draft of middle grade book

21. Complete a polished copy of a novel

22. Submit above novel to Agents

23. Self Publish some Poetry

24. Make excellent use of My cineworld unlimited card (see at least 40 films)

25. Watch a sunrise

26. Watch a sunset

27. Do a bat thing with Steph

28. Go to Chained Library at Wimborne with Stacey

29. Weekend in Cornwall with the family

30. Cornwall Boscastle Museum of Witchcraft and Magic

31. Bounce Below

32. Actually sit out in garden in summer (i.e. de weed and sort garden) and have birthday BBQ

33. Host Harry Potter Quiz (for Charity)

Crafting

34. Complete bookcase quilt

35. Make Seraphina Picquery Cosplay

36. Make Hogwarts model for front garden

37. Make a thestral model

38. Make Knight Bus model (3D puzzle now)

39. Host a craftivist event

40. Daily Happiness Journal (to have a lasting memory of the year)

#40YRS40BKS Reading Challenge

A number of my booksy besties all turn the big 40 over the next year so we’ve come up with a #readingchallenge between us that we’d love people to join in with. The rules are simple. There are 40 reading prompts – 10 each from 4 of us. During 2018 you just have to make sure what you read adds a tick against all 40 prompts. Personally I’ll be aiming for 40 separate books but you can count one book for multiple prompts if you like. Now go forth, read and help us celebrate. @kirstyes @catrad @svmitche @jkkenobi (Also feel free to substitute bookstagram for any online forum).

My other booksy aim for this year is to be a lot more on top of my reviews.

What’s on your list of things to achieve/experience/live/do this year?

Wicked Like a Wildfire – Lana Popović (2017 Debut Authors Bash)

I am pleased to be hosting an interview by author Lana Popović today. Her debut novel Wicked Like a Wildfire is a sumptuous fantasy that I received a copy of in Fairyloot this year. The writing is exquisite and I loved the female relationships in the story. It also includes LGBT+ rep, flowers and food!

Synopsis

All the women in Iris and Malina’s family have the unique magical ability or “gleam” to manipulate beauty. Iris sees flowers as fractals and turns her kaleidoscope visions into glasswork, while Malina interprets moods as music. But their mother has strict rules to keep their gifts a secret, even in their secluded sea-side town. Iris and Malina are not allowed to share their magic with anyone, and above all, they are forbidden from falling in love.

But when their mother is mysteriously attacked, the sisters will have to unearth the truth behind the quiet lives their mother has built for them. They will discover a wicked curse that haunts their family line—but will they find that the very magic that bonds them together is destined to tear them apart forever?

Interview with the author

Lana studied psychology and literature at Yale University, and law at Boston University. She is a graduate of the Emerson College Publishing and Writing program and works as a literary agent with Chalberg & Sussman, specializing in YA.

Lana was born in Serbia and spent her childhood summers surrounded by the seaside and mountain magic of Montenegro. She now lives in Boston, subsisting largely on cake, eyeliner and aerial yoga. She can be found on twitter as @LanaPopovicLit.

Can you tell us the meaning behind the title?

The book’s original title was Hibiscus Daughter, based on the twin nicknames Iris and Malina’s mother gave her daughters when they were little. However, it’s kind of an unwieldy title (I had a friend who was convinced I was writing something called Seabiscuit’s Daughter for a while, and was astonished that I apparently loved horses so much I was writing young adult lit about them), and when we started kicking alternates around, Stolen Like a Kiss and Wicked Like a Wildfire emerged as the favorites. I personally love all the connotations of “wicked” and the archetypes, positive and negative, that come with it, and given all the fire imagery involved–it could be argued that Iris is a fiery character overall–”wildfire” became the frontrunner.

How important was the setting of Montenegro to the story? You went back to visit, what elements of your visit made it into the book?

Montenegro, and specifically Cattaro (Kotor) and the mountain town of Zabljak, were such integral elements that they evolved into something close to characters. Cattaro is an ancient place, full of stunning imagery, iconic monasteries, and delicious food (the importance of which should never be underestimated), and I wanted to breathe some of the magic I felt there during my childhood summers into the book. All the places Iris and Malina visit, and the relics they see, are entirely real, and even their home is based on the little summer house my grandparents owned there.

In the acknowledgements you mention tweaking local stories and legends. Which one most inspired you?

I love the story behind the tapestry sewed by Jacinta Kunic-Mijovic, which is kept at Our Lady of the Rocks, a sailor’s votice shrine in the tiny fisherman’s city of Perast. The story goes that this sailor’s wife loved her husband so much that she wove an elaborate madonna and child tapestry while he was gone at sea–for 25 whole years, using silver and gold threads, and eventually her own hair. Towards the end, she went blind, and her husband never did come home to her. The fierce love, sacrifice, and ultimate tragedy of that story is woven throughout the sisters’ tale.

The female relationships in WlaW are so complex and imperfect. Which of the relationships was the most difficult to write, and the easiest?

I don’t have a sister myself, so writing a twin sister relationship was a challenging and fulfilling exercise in exploring how two women so closely entwined might relate to each other, both positively and destructively–so while it was technically the most difficult, it was also the most emotionally rewarding for me. I both adore and am heartbroken by fraught mother-daughter relationships (fortunately, not from personal experience!), so Jasmina and Iris’s thorny, almost abusive relationship was the easiest and also the most painful.

Your presentation of witchcraft seems quite unique. Can you explain what is meant by the terms Gleam and also ‘eating the moon’?

The gleam is the form of magic passed down through the girls’ ancient bloodline–the gift/curse of manipulating magic for the purpose of creating seductive beauty. Iris “blooms” gorgeous, fireworks-like fractals out of flowers, Malina sings others’ emotions in triple harmony, and their mother bakes scenery into decadent desserts. Of course, the potential of the gleam in embodying will and agency goes far beyond just making things pretty, as they later discover.

“Eating the moon” is a sweet, fairytale phrase the girls’ mother uses while the twins are little and she’s still training them, to describe the heightened experience of using the gleam together, as their own little coven.

You personify Death, make Beauty a gift or a curse and Love is explored in its pure and corrupted forms. What drew you to explore these three abstracts this way?

Personifying abstract concepts or turning them on their head is an easy way to delve more deeply into how we feel about these massive forces that hold such sway over our lives. Unfortunately, beauty is still a form of currency and power for women growing up in our world, and I wanted to dig into that intellectually while also inviting the reader to simply enjoy its many forms in a sensory way, through evoking enticing scents, tastes, and sights. As to Death, well, I believe it fascinates us all, especially when encountered in something like human form–something closer to what we can understand.

And love, while it may seem like an overused young adult trope, is what most of us build our lives around. I couldn’t imagine a story without it at the center, in all its many forms.

Nature, particularly flowers play a huge part in the story. Are you green-fingered. What flower is your favourite and why?

I wish I were! Alas, so far, my little globe of succulents is about the only plant I’ve ever had that hasn’t died a gory death. I’d love a little garden in the future, so maybe one of my new year’s resolutions will be to learn how to stop killing plants.

Morning glories are my favorite flower–and also my most elaborate tattoo. Their color is so dramatic (purple is also my favorite color), and that pale starburst at the center always makes me think of the divine.

With it being so close to Christmas what do you think Iris and Malina would get each other? And what gift do you least like to receive?

The girls don’t have much to spend on each other–and Christmas isn’t a particularly gift-oriented holiday in Eastern Europe–but they might exchange little tokens of affection; maybe Iris finds the perfect kitschy little locket for Malina at the open air market, while Malina teams up with Luka to buy Iris a rare flower.

The only kind of gift I don’t especially enjoy receiving is a certificate or coupon for something, because I’m eight years old in my soul, and I love the ceremony of gleefully tearing open wrapping paper and opening boxes.

Huge thanks to Lana for an excellent interview. Wicked Like a Wildfire and the conclusion to the duology Fierce Like a Firestorm will be our next year. For US readers only there is a giveaway (a copy of the book and swag pack of a bookmark and a perfume sample). To enter share a link to this interview on twitter tagging in @LanaPopvicLit and @kirstyes and tell us in what way you are Wicked Like a Wildfire. I’ll randomly select a winner on Boxing Day.

Check out the debut author bash schedule here.

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