Tag Archives: social media

#100HappyDays – challenging my anxious nature

I’m probably the last to the party here, but I’ve recently been noticing the #100happydays tag on Twitter and Facebook. Eventually, I became curious enough to investigate and discovered that it’s a simple record of highlights captured in photographic form over 100 days. The ideas is that it gets you into the habit of noticing the little things that make you happy. 100 days is certainly more than enough to establish a habit so it does seem like a good idea and I’m starting today, having signed up at the challenge website.

I’m not sure I’ve really mentioned it here before as such, but I suffer from anxiety and have had a relatively difficult time over the last two years or so. Anxiety has been an issue for me since school and it’s something that seems to rear its ugly head every so often. I’d always explained it away by reference to my circumstances before – you know, from “It’s my GCSE year, of course I’m stressed” to “Have you seen all this marking?” but recently I’ve had to accept that I’m the common denominator and recognise that I still feel anxious when everything’s fine. So I’m hoping that taking the #100happydays challenge might just be a useful habit to cultivate. (Obviously, I realise I need more than just this to sort me out, but it can’t hurt, right?)

I’m not going to blog my pictures daily – I’ll use more ephemeral social media for that – as I think that would clog the blog up too much. I’m thinking (at the moment – and this could of course change) that I’ll post a weekly update here with a couple of highlights. I think this could be a nice way to vary my blog posts a bit and make it more personal, but we’ll see how it goes. If it’s dull beyond words, I’ll try to notice and stop 🙂

Anyone else doing the #100happydays? How many days in are you?

Joining in: the online teaching community

There is a thriving online teaching community, a lively collection of educators with a host of ideas and tips. I was going to say that I’ve learnt more through Twitter in the last twelve months than in the last three years of whole inset-type provision, but that’s probably not fair. I’m thinking of the whole-school/whole-college inset stuff whereas of course the material I see on Twitter is already filtered according to the particular teachers and experts I choose to follow. And that’s the point, really. There are so many tweeting and blogging teachers and education leaders that it’s relatively easy to find people with ideas that appeal to you.

Anyway, for anyone interested in finding their niche in the online teaching community, here are some of the people whose words I generally appreciate:

Geoff Barton (@RealGeoffBarton) – a model of good sense and grounded views

Joe Kirby http://back2thewhiteboard.wordpress.com/ – some interesting and practical ideas (his suggestions for speed-marking books in a meaningful way are brilliant)

Christopher Waugh (@Edutronic_net) – founder of the fabulous blogsync project, bringing teacher bloggers together

Michael Rosen (@MichaelRosenYes) – interesting and outspoken views on education

Alan Gibbons (@mygibbo) – libraries campaigning and sensible discussion about reading and literacy

Isabella Wallace (@WallaceIsabella) – author of ‘pimp my lesson’ – some quick and dirty ideas for livening things up

Calderstones English Dept (@CaldiesEnglish@LucyD1237 – author of the fabulous GCSE persuasive writing ‘Boxing to argue’ resource)

TES English (@TESEnglish)

Guardian Education (@GuardianEdu; @GuardianTeach)

This is just a small selection to get you started. Feel free to check who I follow – don’t feel you have to follow me! (I’m @BethKemp)

Top Five Reasons I’m a Tweeter, not a Facebooker

I really don’t know why I still have a Facebook account; I barely look at it. Possibly keeping tabs on my teen online… Anyway, here’s why I prefer Twitter.

I can read what interesting people have to say without having to ‘friend’ them

The one-sidedness of Twitter – ‘following’ someone rather than ‘friending’ them – makes it okay to listen in and gain the benefit of others’ wisdom without them having to have any reciprocal interest in you.

I can discover additional interesting people via RTs, MTs and mentions

Every so often, something interesting will get RTd (or MTd) into my timeline that will lead to me discovering another person to follow. That kind of interconnectedness just isn’t there on Facebook, as far as I can see.

I can get involved in conversations with people I don’t even follow (yet) via hashtags

Again, sometimes this leads to a new connection, but it might also be that I have a single exchange with someone via a mutual interest in a particular topic. And again, this is about the web-like connectedness of Twitter (to my mind), whereas Facebook is much more linear in my experience.

No silly games!

I hate Farmville, Mafia Wars and all that stuff. I’m not a gamer, and I don’t want to collect ‘hugs’ or ‘hearts’ or ‘teddies’. Just ugh.

I have made genuine friendships via Twitter and truly feel part of a community.

This is not my Facebook experience, where you have to know someone already to then find them online.

It’s Safer Internet Day today!

Today is Safer Internet Day, with a focus this year on learning to be safe online together, intergenerationally. I think this is a great focus as I think often some of the ‘be safe online’ advice that we are encouraged to give to the young is too broad and basic, and starts from too scared a position. It’s like the standard ‘stranger danger’ advice given to primary age children that makes me more than a little nervous. Kids are, statistically, more at risk from people known to them than strangers, and many younger kids are led to believe that greeting neighbours (whom you see often but don’t ‘know’ in any real sense) is dangerous or somehow bad.

So let me tell you about the positive things I’ve gained from online networking:

  • reassurance when having my children, from others expecting in the same month
  • friendship and stretching discussions from special interest groups in a range of areas: crafts, tarot, books
  • thought-provoking debate from other women on postgrad courses with a women’s studies element 
  • conversation and resources from others teaching the same subject and age group as me 
All of the above come from specific communities that I have opted into (and often opted out of again as circumstances change and interests and time availability shifts), and all have, above all, offered me the support that can only come from shared experience. This is the big thing that the internet allows which we can’t replicate elsewhere: we can find people who are doing/experiencing/feeling the same as us. The scale of the internet makes this easier than it would be to do physically, as well as the fact that it is easy to browse in quite a utilitarian way online. It’s less easy (and less socially acceptable) to wander around locally looking for people with similar interests, whereas online groups are clearly and explicitly set up to enable this kind of niche networking.
These are the things that I would want to celebrate about online networking. Of course, kids need help and advice to help protect them from predators, and to help them realise the effects of cyberbullying, but not to the extent that they are discouraged from finding online friends. I wouldn’t want to deny my daughters the sort of invaluable support and friendship that I have found online.

Thrilling Thursday: Post Number One Hundred!

OK, so it’s probably only thrilling to me but hey, if I don’t mark it, no-one will, right?

I have now been blogging for 9 months and this is the one hundredth post I’ve published. These are my blogging highlights:

  • I’ve made lots of new online friends, many of them writers or book bloggers. The online book community rocks and I’m so happy to have my small place in it.
  • I got to go to Orion’s Indigo book blogger event, which was awesome!
  • I’ve written 21 book review posts.
  • I completed the A-Z Challenge, have reviewed the required 12 books for the British Books Challenge (don’t think I’ll make the magic 50, but I’ll keep tagging them and see where I get to), and am participating in the #writecampaign too (see my last post for my entry on the first challenge).
  • I’ve been interviewed on Michele’s blog A Wanderer in Paris. Most exciting to visit another blog!
  • Most importantly, it’s given me a focus for regular writing that complements my other writing. I love the range of stuff that’s possible on here. It really does reflect my diverse interests at this point, which is great.

Here’s to hundreds more posts! 

Review: Soul Beach by Kate Harrison

A fascinating start to a new YA trilogy, publishing 1st September by Orion under their new Indigo imprint.

Find it at Amazon UK

Amazon description:
When Alice Forster receives an email from her dead sister she assumes it must be a sick practical joke. Then an invitation arrives to the virtual world of Soul Beach, an idyllic online paradise of sun, sea and sand where Alice can finally talk to her sister again – and discover a new world of friendships, secrets and maybe even love . . . . But why is Soul Beach only inhabited by the young, the beautiful and the dead? Who really murdered Megan Forster? And could Alice be next? The first book in an intriguing and compelling trilogy centred around the mystery of Megan Forster’s death.

My verdict: intriguing and inventive. Left me desperate for the next instalment.
I haven’t as yet read widely in the YA paranormal genre, but I found the premise of this book highly original. Combining social media, a murder mystery and the paranormal is inspired! 

The characterisation of Alice is strong and she fully had my sympathy. Harrison has drawn her well at a few months after such a shocking loss, and deals effectively with the alienation she experiences from her friends, and her parents’ grief-stricken behaviour. Her growing obsession with Soul Beach is also entirely believable, as are her initial reactions to it. I found this a fairly quick read, as it drew me in and I struggled to put it down. As well as Alice’s character, her feelings for her sister and the relationship they have through Soul Beach are also convincing and formed part of the book’s apppeal.

The intriguing premise of a paradise acting as a kind of limbo (but only for the young and attractive dead) creates enough interest to sustain the reader, with many associated mysteries (why can’t other guests see Alice? what are the rules? who decides these things?) but Harrison doesn’t rely only on this. Her voice is effective at keeping us reading on its own, and there are other mysteries to ponder also, such as the unsolved murder. Occasional passages in the murderer’s voice heighten the mystery and encourage us to ponder who might be guilty.

My one complaint is that there is no overall wrap-up to this book. It’s very definitely instalment one of a series. Now that I have finished it and thought about it a bit more, I suppose that the book does present Alice, the main character, with a problem which she does solve to bring about the book’s finale. It’s just that this particular problem has been a subplot rather than the main narrative thrust. It’s hard to talk about clearly without being spoilery, which I don’t want to do. But trust me, after my initial reaction (but I want to KNOW…), I can see that there is some resolution which brings about progress from the start of the novel. I suppose I just usually expect each book in a series to conclude more strongly and definitively than this one does. Leaving questions unanswered is fine, but this book does that far more than any others I’ve read. That said, I would still recommend it as it is a good read – I just wish that the second and third books were available now!

This is my thirteenth British Books Challenge review.

In My Mailbox 1

This is my first In My Mailbox posting. Having read many other IMM posts, I thought I’d join in too. The meme is run by The Story Siren.

Apologies to Google Reader users for my inadvertent posting of this briefly yesterday as well (I took it down when I realised). I’ve got the Blogger blues 🙁 
Here are details of the lovely books entering my house in the last couple of weeks:

The Adventures of the New Cut Gang

The Adventures of the New Cut Gang
Philip Pullman (David Fickling Books), 9-12 – ARC obtained through a Waterstones giveaway

Description from Amazon:

Thunderbolt, Benny, Bridie and Sharky Bob are a mixed bunch of vagabonds and urchins who come together to form the New Cut Gang in two comic tales of stolen silver, skulduggery and desperadoes.

Fake coins are turning up all over Lambeth and the finger of suspicion is pointing at Thunderbolt’s dad – could he really be the forger? The crime-busting New Cut Gang come to the rescue!
And when just two clues – a blob of wax and a Swedish match – are discovered at the scene of a break-in, the children find themselves on the trail of an extremely cunning criminal.
Set in late Victorian London, these two action-packed thrillers have now been put together in a single volume – with new illustrations throughout from Horrible Histories illustrator, Martin Brown.

This is being released on the 1st September and looks really good. Look out for a review in the next few weeks.

Magus of Stonewylde
Magus of Stonewylde 

Kit Berry (Gollancz), YA fantasy – sent by the lovely SciFiNow from their blog giveaway

Amazon description:

Sylvie is dying. A victim of crippling allergies, poisoned by the pollution and chemicals of modern life, Sylvie is trapped in a hospital bed while her mother and doctors watch her life slipping away. But one of them offers her a chance. There’s an alternative community – Stonewylde – hidden away behind high boundary walls in a corner of Dorset. If their leader, the charismatic Magus, would let Sylvie visit then perhaps the clean air and green lifestyle may restore her vitality. Or at least give her some measure of peace before she dies. It’s a chance, and when Sylvie and her mother take it, they find themselves in a haven of tranquillity and beauty. But it’s not all idyllic. The Magus sends a moody, secretive Village boy to work in their garden as a punishment. He warns them to stay away from him – he’s rebellious and in deep trouble. But Sylvie is curious about Yul and, as their forbidden friendship grows, she sees that all is not quite as it seems at Stonewylde. Why was she told to keep away from Yul – and why are she and her mother so drawn to the Magus? Is the crone on the hill really a powerful wise-woman, or just a crazed old hag bent on destroying the peace with her wild prophecies? And what exactly is the magical secret at the heart of this seemingly perfect community?

The first three Stonewylde books were originally self-published between 2005 and 2007 and have now been snapped up by Gollancz; four are out now, with the fifth and last to come in 2012. I devoured the self-published editions a few years ago, but the gorgeous new covers and the promise of “tighter, grippier” new versions (as stated by Kit Berry on Twitter) made me add the Gollancz versions to my wishlist. I couldn’t believe my luck when SciFiNow chose this as my giveaway title for supporting their blog! Again, I’ll be reviewing this at some point, together with the rest of the series.
Black Swan Rising
Black Swan Rising

Lee Carroll (Transworld), Urban Fantasy – sent from Transworld as part of their Reading Group promotion (click the logo to the right for more info; signup closes end of August)

Back cover blurb:

Jeweller Garet James isn’t the same as everyone else.She just doesn’t know it yet.With her fair share of problems – money (lack of), an elderly father, a struggling business – Garet should be just like any other young, feisty, single New Yorker. If only it was that simple…

It begins with the old silver box that had been soldered shut. All Garet has to do is open it. A favour for the frail owner of the antiques shop. Who wouldn’t help?
Only it’s then that things start to change. Garet doesn’t notice at first, the shifts barely perceptible. But the city in which she grew up is beginning to reveal a long-hidden side – darker, and altogether more dangerous: parallel world of chaos, smoke and blood.
And now it’s out of the box…and it has no intention of going back in.

This came out in paperback in May. It looks like a smart urban fantasy and I’m looking forward to reading it – I’ll review it when I have.

Agatha Parrott and the Floating Head
Agatha Parrot

Kjartan Poskitt (Egmont), 5-8 – purchased


Hiya! This book is about Odd Street School where I go with mad Ivy who always jumps down stairs four at a time WAHOO! And Martha who is big and can sort out boys anytime.

The oddest teacher we’ve got is Miss Barking who wears goggles and gloves to use a pencil sharpener. This story is about when she tried to execute Martha with a floppy cardboard axe, but instead Martha’s head floated off and exploded ha ha brilliant!

This is newly published (1st August) and is a smashing read for 7+. Click here for my review
Dead Man’s Cove
Dead Man’s Cove

Lauren St John (Orion), 9-12 – purchased

Amazon description:

When orphaned Laura Marlin moves from a children’s home to live with her uncle in Cornwall, she longs for a life of excitement just like the characters in her favourite detective novels. A real life adventure is on hand as she is deposited at her uncle’s spooky house . . . Why does her uncle, Calvin Redfern, forbid her to go to Dead Man’s Cove? What’s the truth about Tariq, the silent Indian boy who lives with the flamboyant Mukthars? Who is J? Who has left the message in a bottle for Laura to discover? Mysteries abound and who better to solve them than Laura Marlin, ace detective? Accompanied by her trusty companion, Skye, a three-legged husky, the dog she’s always wanted, Laura’s adventures begin in this first captivating mystery, winner of the 2011 Blue Peter Book of the Year Award.

This came out last year, and the second in the series – Kidnap in the Caribbean – has been published since. I’ve been meaning to get my hands on this for a while. It seems like Famous Five for the 21st century, so we’ll see how the youngest and I get on with it. 
Tweet Right: The Sensible Person’s Guide to Twitter
Tweet Right

Nicola Morgan (Crabbit Publishing), reference – purchased on my Kindle

Amazon description:

Tweet Right is your guide to getting started on Twitter. Nicola Morgan leads you gently but firmly through the whys, the hows and the how nots. Whether you are intrigued or confused, sceptical or raring to start, whether you are a complete beginner or you’ve already taken tentative steps, Tweet Right will guide you from the beginning until you are ready to fly. 

Nicola Morgan is a highly successful author for all ages. She wrote the best-selling Write to be Published and many acclaimed books, including Wasted, Fleshmarket, Blame my Brain, and Mondays are Red. She created the renowned blog Help! I Need a Publisher!, and was responsible for a No 1 worldwide trending topic on Twitter, the compulsive game #lessinterestingbooks. Although many of the examples of good Twitter-use in Tweet Right come from her experience as a writer, her advice is designed for any sensible person wanting to enjoy and benefit from Twitter, personally and professionally.

I got this on the Kindle yesterday and am really pleased with it so far. I’ve been using Twitter seriously for a few months (like many Tweeps, I signed up, failed to ‘get it’ and left it alone for a bit before returning and getting properly stuck in), but have still picked up a couple of useful tips here. And I really like Morgan’s style (see my review of her Write to be Published here).