2017 Reflections and Dealing With my Fear of Flying

So, 2017 has been a big year for me.  I went to a book launch.  I went on holiday on my own, more than once.  I took a gigantic step towards my dream job and broke into an almost impossible professional field.  I started learning Italian and took drastic action to improve my French.  I walked up the Eiffel Tower.  I went to Disneyland for the first time.  I had a coffee with one of my favourite authors.  I almost finished a book(!!).  I saw the Northern Lights.  I saw sea otters playing free in the ocean…so yeah.  Dreams came true.  Perhaps biggest of all for me was the fact that my three holidays this year all involved me getting on a plane and bigger than that, I had to do it alone some of the time.  For most people this isn’t a big deal but I have a severe fear of flying which I am working to improve.

Unfortunately the first time I ever got on a plane was 3 weeks before my 16th birthday.  That’s extremely late for most people’s standards.  I have never been able to go on holiday abroad with my family and in fact didn’t even have a passport until that trip.  I didn’t have the luxury of being too young to remember my first flight.  A couple of things added up to make my first flight somewhat of a disaster.  One of those things was that it was a school trip – and we all know how horrible kids can be once they know something gets to you.  Another thing was my ears.  They never seem to pop.  Ever.  The pressure just builds and builds and builds until the pain is beyond unbearable.  I’d also never experienced that kind of altitude before and my body didn’t react well to it.  On top of all this I ended up sat in a seat next to a complete stranger, away from my best friend and we then had one of the worst landings possible for the first time on a plane.  I spent most of the week crying and begging my teacher to buy me a train ticket from Naples back to the UK and ended up almost being carried onto the plane back because I was in such a state.  It took me three and a half years before I left the country again, let alone got on a plane.

In the several years after that flight, the trauma of the memory spiralled, making my recollection now probably much worse than what actually happened, and I got to the point where I couldn’t even hear a plane fly over head or, when it was really bad, even see a plane without getting very distressed and crying.  I went to a convention at a hotel right next to Heathrow airport and had to walk into the restaurant with my back to the window because it was overlooking the landing runway.  Pathetic, right?  Even talking about it now makes my heart race beyond anything that is normal.  But it has improved.  My goal has always been to get to New York but how can I possibly do that when it involved an EIGHT HOUR FLIGHT.  Nope.  No thank you.

But I couldn’t live my whole life without getting on a plane again.  So I bit the bullet and when I was invited to an event in Scotland back in March,  I booked the 45 minute flight to Edinburgh instead of taking the easy option and getting the train instead.  I had to get on a plane for the first time in years and I had to grow a backbone and do it alone.  I had to do it.  Enter my ridiculous superstitions and coping mechanisms!!

Just booking the flight was a big step.  I did it at the kitchen table in the early hours of the morning with the help of my flatmate (who had to deal with me shaking so much I could barely type in my name let alone my passport number).  I had to book it from Stansted which I really didn’t like as I’d only flown from Gatwick before, and although I didn’t like it I thought that would be safer because I knew I didn’t die the last time I used that airport (I realise this is ridiculous logic as if I stuck to it I’d never go to new places ever again but just roll with my screwed up terrified brain will you?).  I also had to book Easyjet because that company had kept my alive the first time.  I then had to book a “safe” seat.  This is entirely based on my idea of lucky/favourite numbers and letters which basically means even numbers and window seat letters.  4A is the seat on a plane that makes me feel happiest.  3C or 6C would cause a meltdown beyond anything you’ve ever experienced.   Completely irrational I know but a “safe” seat number makes me feel better.  Which brings me on to window seats.  I have to sit by a window so I can see outside.  My first flight was in an aisle seat and I couldn’t see out (because leaning forward to look made my head swim and the arsehole by the window put the blind down so they could sleep) which was the worst thing ever.  Sitting by the window means that no matter how alien the feeling in my head, I can see the real world and, crucially, the floor thousands of feet below is staying still and level which seems to help keep my head still.

Finding ways for me to feel comfortable with getting on a plane was the first step to dealing with my fear.  I just need to keep being able to get on a plane.  Now don’t get me wrong, I sobbed from the second I got to the bottom of the stairs on the runway at Stansted until I left Edinburgh airport and the same on the way back but thats not the point.  I did it.

In June I flew to Paris to go to Disneyland.  This time I didn’t cry until I sat in my seat on the plane and only cried for the first 40 minutes plus landing on the way there and lasted until the take off engines started and only cried until we reached cruising altitude plus landing on the way back.  I did have problems at the airports though because they had floor to ceiling windows at the terminals meaning I had to sit and watch planes taking off and landing for ages which was horrible (whereas Stansted is completely boxed in until you get on the plane – God bless Stansted!)  When I went to Norway this Christmas it got slightly better again.  It was two flights there and two flights back – out of the four takeoffs I only actually cried once and just welled up on the other three (I seem to be pretty much okay now until the engines pipe up) and only cried on three of the landings – only of which was horrific because the back of the plane slipped around on the snow/ice (and for anyone who’s interested all the airports had floor to ceiling windows and I was fine until I got on the planes this time).  Each time I fly the list of conditions to make me get on a plane seems to be reducing or at least relaxing ever so slightly.

None of this is very interesting really and no one wants a play by play of my anxiety when I fly but my point is this: people were right.  It does get better the more that you do it and for me I think that’s the only way I can progress.  People telling me that it will be fine and that flying is apparently statistically safer than driving a car (which I cannot accept no matter the facts or figures – it just doesn’t make sense to me) does not help.  But getting on planes does.  I’m really proud that, even though I still make an absolute twat of myself on occasion, I know I can now get on a plane.

So thank you 2017 for getting me on a plane. And here’s to 2018 – the year I finally book that flight to America, because look at where planes can get you:

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Review: The Sin Eater’s Daughter by Melinda Salisbury

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Title: The Sin Eater’s Daughter

Author: Melinda Salisbury

Pages: 333

Amazon, Waterstones, Foyles

Seventeen-year-old Twylla lives in the castle. But although she’s engaged to the prince, Twylla isn’t exactly a member of the court. As the Goddess embodied, Twylla instantly kills anyone she touches. Each month she’s taken to the prison and forced to lay her hands on those accused of treason. No one will ever love a girl with murder in her veins. Even the prince, whose royal blood supposedly makes him immune to Twylla’s fatal touch, avoids her company. But then a new guard arrives, a boy whose easy smile belies his deadly swordsmanship. And unlike the others, he’s able to look past Twylla’s executioner robes and see the girl, not the Goddess. Yet Twylla’s been promised to the prince, and knows what happens to people who cross the queen. However, a treasonous secret is the least of Twylla’s problems. The queen has a plan to destroy her enemies, a plan that requires a stomach-churning, unthinkable sacrifice. Will Twylla do what it takes to protect her kingdom? Or will she abandon her duty in favour of a doomed love?

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#AmWriting – NaNoWriMo 2017

It’s happened. I’m writing. I’m not sure how far I’ll get with this as I still have a full time job and university to contend with but…

I. AM. WRITING.

**KLAXON – CANNONS – CONFETTI**

So here’s a few things about my NaNo 2017 project to give you an idea of what’s going on in my head.

  1. It’s a Young Adult novel
  2. It’s set in some version of our future where the world has fallen due to deceit, dishonesty and blatant lies from those in power. They caused irreparable destruction, civil war and the end of the world as we know it. The people now in control are obsessed with honesty (to a dangerous level) and the new society of the ‘New Common Era’ is built with this virtue as its core pillar of strength.
  3. It follows my protagonist, Verity, who has been brought up by a kind neighbour, Mrs Andrews, after her father’s death. Mrs Andrews is the only family she has.
  4. Verity is a driven young woman who is working towards her dream job within the government and is just starting an apprenticeship in order to gain enough experience and earn enough money to be able to pay for her training.

That’s it. That’s all the information you’re getting until I get this published 😉 😂

 

Let me know below how you’re doing with your own NaNoWriMo projects and any words of encouragement would be much appreciated. 50,000 words is more than a marathon right now… We’ve got to have each other’s backs through this.

Good luck all and happy writing!!

Review: A Shiver of Snow and Sky by Lisa Luddecke

After going to another panel event at Waterstones Piccadilly (Fantasy and Folklore with Samantha Shannon, Melinda Salisbury and Lisa Luddecke) I decided to buy one of the books spoken about: A Shiver of Snow and Sky. It sounded right up my street with mention of the Northern Lights, folklore, superstitions…I was not disappointed.

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Title: A Shiver of Snow and Sky – DEBUT NOVEL ALERT

Author: Lisa Luddecke

Pages: 341

Amazon, Waterstones, Foyles

On the frozen island of Skane, the sky speaks. Beautiful lights appear on clear nights, and their colours have meaning: Green means all is well, and the Goddess is happy. Blue means a snow storm is on the way. And then there’s red. Red is rare. A warning. Seventeen years ago the sky turned red just as Osa was born, unleashing a plague that claimed the lives of hundreds of villagers, including her own mother. This time, when the night sky once again bleeds crimson, she must discover what it means before so many lives are lost again.

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Review: Turtles All The Way Down by John Green

It’s been five years but here we are. John Green has a new book on the shelves again. We have this little gem in our hands. It’s something we all want to be a part of. More than a want, a need. (I’m sorry. That was too good an opportunity to miss. Let me know when you get the reference)

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Title: Turtles All The Way Down

Author: John Green

Pages: 286

Amazon, Waterstones, Foyles

Turtles All the Way Down is the story of sixteen-year-old Aza Holmes, a young woman looking for clues in the disappearance of a fugitive billionaire, while grappling with mental illness.

Turtles All the Way Down begins with a fugitive billionaire and a cash reward. It is about lifelong friendship, the intimacy of an unexpected reunion, Star Wars fan fiction, and tuatara. But at its heart is Aza Holmes, a young woman navigating daily existence within the ever-tightening spiral of her own thoughts. In his long-awaited return, John Green tells Aza’s story with shattering, unflinching clarity.

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Review: An American in Paris

Last night I went to the Dominion Theatre in London to see the new musical An American in Paris. The musical is an adaptation of the 1951 Oscar-winning film of the same name starring the likes of Gene Kelly. It features a 50-something strong cast of dancers, actors and musicians and is accompanied by a score belonging to George and Ira Gershwin. A musical is always in safe hands with a Gershwin. It was nice to escape for a few hours and be transported back to the Golden Age of musical theatre.

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Review: Rebel of the Sands by Alwyn Hamilton (Rebel of the Sands #1)

So last week’s tube read was *drumroll*

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Title: Rebel of the Sands

Author: Alwyn Hamilton

Pages: 358

Amazon, Waterstones, Foyles

“Tell me that and we’ll go. Right now. Save ourselves and leave this place to burn. Tell me that’s how you want your story to go and we’ll write it straight across the sand.” Dustwalk is Amani’s home. The desert sand is in her bones. But she wants to escape. More than a want. A need. Then a foreigner with no name turns up to save her life, and with him the chance to run. But to where? The desert plains are full of danger. Sand and blood are swirling, and the Sultan’s enemies are on the rise.

Here’s another book I bought and read off the back of an event I attended at Waterstones Piccadilly. Alwyn was a really engaging panel chair and I loved the snippets I heard about her books so I thought I’d give this one a go.

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Film Review: Goodbye Christopher Robin

For me, Winnie the Pooh started everything. 

I learnt to read with Winnie the Pooh books, the first videos (yes videos – I hope some of you are old enough to remember beautiful clunky VHS tapes) I remember watching were Winnie the Pooh. My bedroom, and my nursery for that matter, were stuffed with Winnie the Pooh soft animals. I’m not even going to pretend that I got rid of any of those because they occupy a permanent space in my heart (and my loft).

Long story short, I adore Winnie the Pooh and the occupants of the Hundred Acre Wood. A lot. Always have, always will. So you can imagine my heart flipped on hearing that we were getting a creation film based on the author of my childhood. I was so damn happy. It was going to be like Saving Mr Banks all over again.

My eyes leaked for the entire 107 minutes.

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Juggling and the value of a part time job

Anyone who knows me well will know that I am an incredibly busy person. Maybe even dangerously so. My gran says I’m not afraid of hard work. Everyone else calls me a workaholic. I’m not sure what label I’d put on myself. I only know that my brain is simply not cut out for university, and only the work I do there, to be my sole purpose of getting up in the morning. I need something else to occupy part of my days. Education can’t be my everything. I’d go insane if it was.

Because of this drive (can I call it that…?) I have always had at least one part time job alongside my studies. At the age of fourteen I began my first weekend job and by the time I reached my Alevels when I was seventeen/eighteen I still had that job and had acquired a second part time job whilst working full time almost every evening at my local theatre. Every second I wasn’t in a class room was packed with work to gain experience and earn some money to plan for the future.

You’re probably thinking I’m insane, right? But honestly I feel like a much better and more rounded person for it. If you need, or want, to get a job alongside uni then this might help you decide what’s best for you. You don’t have to go as mad as I did, and thankfully now I just have the one (almost) full time job, but maybe you might benefit from mulling this over.

Here are my tips for mastering the art of juggling.

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NaNoWriMo Prep inspiration

So I’ve kind of announced my intention to do NaNo. I’ve still technically left myself a way to back out of it – such a coward I know. But I came across this today and something clicked. I have tried so many ways to get my writing juices flowing to get a plot on a page, something I don’t feel I can write without, and finally I’ve found one that I more than like the look of…

In the absence of some more wholesome (and slightly late) Friday Fiction content, I share with you this lovely little piece on how to formulate a timeline for your novel.

Maybe this will be my project for this week and I can kick myself up the proverbial and fully dedicate myself to NaNo? Who knows…?

 

As we dive into NaNo Prep season, we’ve talked to some participants to get the inside scoop on how to best prepare for November. Today, participant Juliana Xavier shares how to plan out your story, even if you’re a committed pantser:When you think about NaNoWriMo, do you find that your palms are sweaty, knees weak,…

via NaNo Prep: How to Make a Timeline — National Novel Writing Month