so i can have a project i will surely regret

Any Regrets?

“So, who you kissing at midnight?” Jack asks casually as he and Conor lean against the counter on either side of me, and I look between them before returning my gaze to the crowd gathered at Joe’s flat.

“Not one of you two, if that’s what you’re implying.”

“You wound me, Y/N.” Jack puts a hand to his heart, pouting as he leans towards me. I laugh and shove him away, while Conor shakes his head.

“As lovely as that sounds, you’re practically our sister. So actually, it would be weird.” Conor nods towards the crowd, “But I’m sure there’s someone out there you want to kiss when the clock strikes twelve.”

For one quick moment my eyes dart over to Joe, who’s laughing at something Mikey says, but I make sure to not linger longer, instead switching to stare at the TV, which is set to one of the many countdowns for tonight.

“And if there is?”

“Well,” Conor turns his body to face mine, while Jack straightens up as well, smirking. “We have taken it upon ourselves to help you with that. We just need the target.”

“Target? Gods, you sound like you’re going to take someone out. Not get me a midnight kiss.”

“Stop avoiding it, and tell us. There’s limited options here, so we can just figure it out. I mean, you’ve already decided against myself or Conor.” Jack looks at the different males in the room. “Who else have we got?”

“Not Oli.” Conor says to his brother, “Because she considers him a brother too.”

“I consider all of you my brothers. Because we are friends. And it’d be weird to like one of you.” I point you.

“Hmm, what about Caspar?” Jack continues to speak as if I never said anything.

“Possibly. But I don’t really get that chemistry between the two.” I gape at Conor’s words.

“What are you on about?”

“Are we bringing sexual tension into this?” Jack raises an eyebrow, and when Conor nods. “Then in that case, the answer is simple.”

“How?” I turn to look at him, and he smirks at me.

“Because you and Joe have the most sexual tension out of any of us.”

“Oh, good point. Oh, look. She’s blushing! We have a winner!” Conor grins and I open my mouth to say something, but am unable to form any words.

“I think she actually likes him. Look at us. Come in looking for a midnight kiss, instead we get Y/N a boyfriend.” Jack high fives his brother and I finally manage to speak.

“Hold on! We never said anything about him being my boyfriend!”

“Not yet.”

“Give us some time to work.” Jack makes to move away, but I grab his arm quickly.

“No, you do not get to leave. I am not kissing anyone here at midnight. Especially Joe.”

“Why not?” Conor shrugs as he asks the question. “Clearly you want to.”

“Why do you two keep saying stuff like that?”

“Because it’s true.” Jack points at me.

“You don’t know that!”

“Ah, but we do. Now, let us go do our work.” Conor dodges me when I try to grab him, and somehow Jack slips from my grip. I cover my face with my hands as I watch them walk over to Joe.

I want the floor to swallow me up whole.


Somehow, by some miracle, I manage to avoid the Maynard brothers and Joe for most of the rest of the night.

It is now just under ten minutes until the New Year, and I’ve slipped outside, escaping the noise of the party for a short while.

When I hear the volume raise briefly before lowering back to it’s muted tone, I glance over my shoulder to see who’s joined me.

“Joe.” I gasp in surprise.

“Y/N.” He smiles at me as he crosses the short distance to stand beside me. “You’ve been avoiding me all night.”

“Have I?”

“I think so.”

“Sorry, didn’t mean too.”

“I’m sure.”

We fall silent, eyes raised to the sky.

“Any New Years resolutions?” I ask, wanting to break the silence.

“Keep making new videos, travel, and complete some more projects.” I notice him watching me from the corner of my eye, but I still can’t bring myself to look at him.

“Those sound doable. Any regrets from this year?”

“Just one.”

That does make me lower my gaze to his, and I can hear inside get noisier. We must be drawing nearer to the countdown.

“Oh?”

“There was this girl.”

I nod, swallowing.

“And I never told her how I feel.”

Ten…nine…

We both glance towards inside, where everyone has gathered around the TV.

Eight…seven…

“You still have six seconds.” My voice is barely a whisper as we face each other.

Six…five…

“What if she doesn’t like me?”

Four…three…

“One way to find out.”

Joe lifts a hand to my cheek, and I lean in to the touch, our heads tilting towards each other.

Two…one…

As the crowd inside erupts in cheers and hollering, Joe closes the distance, our lips coming together in a kiss.

To me, it is the most perfect New Year’s kiss.

And when we pull back, smiling at each other, I lace my fingers through his.

“I think she likes you. Don’t worry.”


Inside, Conor and Jack high five again.

HOW TO START A BOOK BLOG: Tips for Beginners & Starting Blogs

I’ve been having so many blogpost ideas lately but I really wanted to write this one as soon as possible, and by that I mean I’ve procrastinated for days and I’ve finally got around to writing it.
I think I posted about it somewhere and people were really interested to know how to start a blog or if you’re a starting blog, what you can do to expand it.

Firstly, these are just my tips on how to start a blog, I’m still learning myself but I’m in no way the best book blogger out there but hopefully, these tips will help you as they’ve helped me. I’ll also talk about my experience with each step I write about. You’ll see as we go along.

The reason I started my blog is because I’d watched tons of Booktubers and wanted to do the same but I was so self concious, I didn’t want to video myself and thus, I became a blogger.

So if you’ve been meaning to start a blog or you’ve started one and you don’t what to do now or how to gain followers etc, keep reading.

STEP #1: CHOOSE A BLOGGING PLATFORM

This is very important because you need a blog platform. This is where you’ll be posting all your reviews, blogposts and it’ll be your website. You need a platform you can use and one you’re comfortable with. There are many blogging platforms out there like Wordpress, Blogspot, Bloglovin, Blogger, Weebly.
You could even completely design your own website like on Wix or whatever lets you make a free website. It’d take more time and you might want to know what you want your blog to look like beforehand but it’s a fun project if you choose to do that.

The reason I chose tumblr is because I know how to use it, I know how to tag everything and it’s easy. Sometimes I do regret it because I think Blogspot or Wordpress would have been better as a blog but I’m fine with it and I can always buy my own domain (which I hope to do soon) to kind of lose to tumblr subdomain but you guys don’t need to worry about that.

So make sure you choose a blog platform you can use and maintain regularly.

STEP #2: CHOOSE A BLOG/BRAND NAME

Another crucial step because this is what people will know you by. You’ll use this name to grow, publishers and other bloggers will know it so make it good. Make a list of possible name for your blog. This is your brand so choose something unique and book related (it just makes sense to have a bookish name).  

I chose lovelyowlsbooks because I love with word ‘lovely’ thanks to Tom Felton (he called people lovely and I melted, he is a sweetheart). I like Owls too because Harry Potter and books because…books.

I like my name but I didn’t spend a lot of time thinking about it. I just chose it and went with it. I’m lucky I like my name but make sure to be happy with what you choose.

STEP #3: POST BOOK REVIEWS, SET UP ANALYTICS

So your blog is all set, you have a blog name. Now it’s time to post some reviews and set up analytics to record your stats. For reviews, you don’t have to go out and buy books to review, review what you have, review library books. Just post some good reviews that people will want to read and keep them all in one place. I have an entire page listing my reviews and it’s super easy to navigate.

I’ll give some quick tips on how to right a decent review.  

  • Never be rude or mean. Even if you hate a book, give constructive criticism, justify why you didn’t like it and what could have been done better. Remember that even if you didn’t like the book, someone else probably will. JUST NEVER BE RUDE. 
  • Review Layout. Make sure your reviews have the book cover, title, author, your rating. That’s the simple layout I used in my first reviews but you can also add the publisher, links to the author’s website, where to buy the book, number of pages. It’s best to add as much info and keep a template of it so you’re not constantly writing it out.
  • Spoiler Free or Spoilers; you can do one or both. It’s best to do just a spoiler-free review or like me you can write it in two parts. A spoiler free section first for people that haven’t read it and reasons why you liked it (without spoilers of course) and then a spoiler section for my discussion. This is for people that have read the book and so I can really talk about how I felt about the book.

The style of my reviews are more conversational and fangirly. You can have a professional approach but I like being conversational and really getting into what I loved/disliked about the book.

As for recording your stats and pageviews, you’re still a starting blog at this point so not much will have happened but it’s good to have stats monitored right away.

You can quite easily monitor your pageviews, you need to sign up to Google Analytics (or if you already have gmail, you can use that account), follow their set up tutorial (or hit up Youtube which is what I did) and quickly have GA set up on your blog and recording your stats. Google Analytics is free, there are some paid and some free software for analytics but I use GA since it’s free and easy.

STEP #4: ACCEPTING REVIEWS, REVIEW POLICY

Just as blogging and posting reviews means you can request ARCs (advanced reader’s copies), you can also get requests to review a book. By this I mean, you can get requests from people asking you to review a book. Usually self published authors may contact you.

I set up a REVIEW POLICY which is essentially setting out terms and giving people information on how they can contact you to review their book. If you click the link, you’ll see mine and it’ll give you a general idea.

You will have to display which genres you accept and don’t, your rating system and ways they can get in touch as well as any other crucial information you want them to note. Because of this, I made a book blog email where requests could be sent (and it ties in with point #6).

You don’t have to offer reviews and you can decline them. I’ve declined a few because I had plenty of ARCs and reviews to write and didn’t need more of top of that.

So if that’s something you’d like to do, you can.

STEP #5: CONTINUE POSTING REVIEWS, GAIN FOLLOWERS & PAGEVIEWS

Your blog is all set and for a few months you’ve been posting reviews, even blogposts like this are great and you’ve gained some followers. 

On tumblr it’s easy to gain followers, however on other blogging sites you might want to look into email subscribers, newsletter subscribers etc. 

There are ways to have people follow you. I know Bloglovin’ has an easy follow option like tumblr but with Wordpress or Blogspot, you’ll have to set up a way to let people follow you. So definitely keep this in mind, there are sites like Feed Burner and Mail chimp that make email/newsletter sign ups easy but since I used tumblr, I wouldn’t know how best to advise you about other platforms.

Gaining followers and monitoring pageviews is essential. One, because you have a following and can see how and who is visiting your blog and also because you will need to know these when you request ARCs which I will discuss soon.

Make sure to check your analytics and your monthly pageviews. You will be telling publishers the amount of followers your have and monthly pageviews you get when requesting ARCs.

When I started my blog, I never realised requesting or receiving ARCs were a thing. I solely wanted to write reviews to voice my thoughts on them. Only later, I realised that my blog, the reviews and follower build up meant I could request ARCs.

STEP #6: EXPANDING, OTHER SOCIAL MEDIA

Hopefully between the last step and this one, you would have requested an ARC. But I will write a seperate blog post on how to go about requesting ARCS, what you’ll need, who the contact etc. So you might go back and forth between these posts.

By now, you’ve got a decent following, say 1 or 2K followers? It depends really but maybe you want to start expanding and growing your blog. I currently have a Twitter, Instagram and a Goodreads. The latter is just for personal use and reading updates but people can still friend me and know what I’m reading etc. Goodreads is kind of a must if you’re a book blogger, it makes things easier and I love doing the reading goal they have.

Once you decide what other social media you want, create an account and start promoting it on the blog and letting your followers know they can find you on Twitter or something. You can link all your other social media on your blog and vice versa.

You could create social media right when you start but personally, I think it’s better to first focus on your blog and then venture out on Twitter and Instagram. Also, by then you’ll have followers on your blog and friends that will want to follow you elsewhere.

Having said this, if you’re blogging on Blogspot, Blogger etc, maybe starting a Twitter right away will be best. This way you can find other book blog Twitters or you can even find other book blogs, see their posts, leave comments and make friends. 

I created my Twitter and Instagram over the last two years, just seeing if people would like to follow me on them and if I could maintain it. I’ve debated creating a Facebook page for a while but I just think nah. Twitter and Instagram are fine for now.

I also have a Redbubble shop. This is completely a personal option, but because I love art and designing, I design book related merch which I promote on my blog. Other bloggers do this too but if you own an etsy shop, a deviantart account etc feel free to promote these. They can relate to book blogging or try see if you can bring other hobbies into book blogging.

SO THOSE WERE SOME BASIC STEPS TO START A BLOG!

I could have gone in-depth but I think this is a good starting point. Remember to have fun with book blogging, it shouldn’t feel like a chore. You don’t have to review every book, but try posting as much as you can. 

I may have forgotten some small steps so feel free to let me know anything I may have missed

My blog was a mess but slowly, I wanted it more organised and easy to navigate. You will learn along the way as I did and I’m still learning.

I’ve mentioned requesting ARCs throughout this post but I’m going to do a completely different guide on how to request ARCs otherwise, this post will drag on.

I’m more than happy to help starting or new bloggers. If you don’t understand something please ask and I’ll try my best to help.

Thank you so much to reading. I would really appreciate reblogs and comments. Let me know if this helped or if you’re thinking about starting a blog.

ICON8 Insights (pt. 1)

I’ve been meaning to do a write up on my experiences at ICON8 (the illustration conference) that was held recently in Portland. I got sick a few days after the event wrapped up and my mind was a bit of a blur post-ICON– with hundreds of attendees to meet and dozens of inspiring talks and workshops, it was a lot to process!


1. What’s the current state of illustration? Are there any trends that are coming about?

There are a lot of illustrators out there, and the quality level coming right out the gate is really high! I had the privilege of knowing a lot of the student volunteers (a lot of them were my students!) and meeting many of them; I’m equal parts inspired and intimidated by the talent level both out there currently and coming soon. I won’t say that there are any trends I noticed that are brand new, more that they’ve been steadily developing over the past few years. I noticed a lot of animals, a lot of hand lettering, a lot of people incorporating color and pattern into their work. Lots of illustrations of forests and characters, and a steady dose of humor threaded throughout.

I think for me personally, I’ve learned an important lesson to step outside of the illustration world for inspiration; everything is so visible all the time that the visual language could get easily diluted. But the bigger thing outside of visual trends that I was encouraged by was the sheer number of illustrators (especially at the Roadshow) with a story to tell, or an entrepreneurial spirit. Their interests, loves are on full display, which leads me to #2:


2. Don’t discount your point of view– making things you are excited by is contagious and can develop an audience.

The theme of ICON8 was work and play, and through its myriad speakers, a recurring anthem of ‘do what you love’ came through. Of course, this is sometimes easier said than done– how do you do that when you’re just starting out or struggling? It takes a lot of grit and a near-quixotic determination to bust down those windmills of self-doubt, that’s for sure.

The talks that stuck with me most were:

  • Spotlight Stories, where Jan Pinkava talked about Google’s new storytelling form focusing on smartphones.
  • Nelson Lowry’s talk about his work both for Laika and in his spare time, and how the personal work (robots! paintings!) feeds both exploits.
  • Uncool: The Anti-Gun Violence project at Art Center was something I’d never heard of and probably would’ve glossed over but was one of the most emotionally impactful projects. Geared to children through books, trying to solve the problem of gun violence being so invasive in culture without being preachy or condescending to its audience.
  • Carson Ellis, because she’s a delight– but also because you can see her life is creative, both in the work and in the way she spends her time. Seeing her pull lessons from gardening or quilting and applying it to her work, finding no distinction between her creative practice and her life really engaged me.
  • Calef Brown’s talk about his work because his work is so playful, is thoughtful but doesn’t take himself seriously, and wouldn’t let up with the humor. The strength of his personality and spirit shone through the work.
  • Souther Salazar’s talk about how play informs his work, and how little things can inspire big projects.
  • Robynne Raye (of Modern Dog) talking about the struggles and victories of fighting for your work, even against a giant like Disney.
  • Mac Barnett and Jon Klassen about their exploits collaborating on two books together. Really taught me a lot about the power of the page turn and where you can surprise and delight your audience.
There were takeaways from each talk of course, but these ones stuck out the most. So what did I take away from these?
  • You can take your practice seriously but you shouldn’t take yourself too seriously.
  • Every project has a problem to solve and an audience to impact in some way.
  • Whether projects were spurred out of a need to heal or an outburst of joy, you can see the pleasure of making and discovering something important in someone’s work. Work and play feeds us and the result feeds our audience.
  • Although I’ve heard you should make a separation between your work and yourself, many of the speakers seem to have blurred the lines even further. But this leads me to my next point:
  • It’s important to nourish yourself with playful endeavors that aren’t WORK. This can be creative, but if you spend your creative time only making things that feel portfolio-ready, there’s no opportunity to make mistakes and learn and grow from them. And these things can lead to new processes and ideas as opposed to just repeating yourself.
Of course, this doesn’t just mean 'follow your bliss!’ because frankly a lot of those sort of statements are pithy and useless. I read something earlier this year that talked about how following your passion doesn’t mean 'what you’re interested in’ but rather 'what are you willing to suffer with?’ Which is a funny statement to correlate with making room for play in your work– but you’re always going to struggle a bit with playing feeling too self-indulgent (aka the “BUT WHAT IS IT FOR??!?!” crisis), and you might suffer through some ugly results but it’s better to take those risks than just turning creativity into a 100% business. You won’t benefit from that, your clients won’t benefit from it, and your audience won’t benefit from it.


3. Who’s your tribe?

I heard the term tribe bandied about a handful of times (guess who’s read Seth Godin?) and while sometimes I think it’s a little bit overused, I get the point. We are in an age of audience, and forgetting our audience can sometimes be a detriment (although trying to please your audience too much might not be good either). One thing I kind of wanted to hear more at ICON8 was 'how do you really connect with this audience?’ beyond 'oh post to Instagram! Post to a personal Facebook page! And have an outside life! But show that online. Etc.’ Because it’s amazing to have so many people following your work but keeping up with it is exhausting and honestly a lot of the time leads me chasing a weird dopamine high that a little heart or retweet can provide. And sometimes it just feels like I’m oversharing. I feel like we need a more soulful social network. One of the things I’ve thought the most about Twitter is that I miss what it was when I first joined– a little water-cooler to talk with people about things. Now I hunger for conversation and deeper connection– two things I found a lot during ICON8 but don’t find as much on social networks. Or maybe it just takes more time online and I don’t have time for that noise.

And beyond that, the big question I had: how do you actually find a way to slow the stream? Because there are so many people on so many social networks, so many creatives sharing what they make and so many consuming and moving onto the next shiny thing. Which okay, this is how we are now; but I want to find ways to slow down with the things I enjoy, ask questions and also stir dialogue. And I want to encourage my audience to connect deeper and slow down.

So who is my tribe? I know that there’s over 130k people following me on any number of social networks (as one of them, I can’t thank you enough!). But that’s not really enough of a metric, because I only really connect with a sliver of them. Or maybe that’s enough? One thing that I found interesting was talking about Kickstarter with a friend of mine; I’ve always shied away from it because I usually just think 'it has to be good enough, something really important’ or 'I could just save up and fund it myself.’ But I also realized in that platform, your audience can find joy in supporting something they connect with and help bring it to life. Instead of just being a set of eyes glancing on something they get to be a part of the birth of something new. The audience gets to invest their interest and money into the creative. Which was kind of neat to think about and made me wonder about that as a possibility at some point.


4. You need to make time for play in your work, and you need to continue learning and trying new things in order to trust your point of view.

Hard lessons for me to learn but really vital. In the past few years as a teacher, I’ve gotten really good about encouraging others to push their point of view and explore their passions but I’ve lost faith in mine a bit. The whole 'but is it ________ enough?’ complex– which is a deadly game to play. I have started so many projects and given up before the concepting stage was complete because it didn’t seem to be enough; so many lost little ideas. I don’t regret this because it’s made new attempts stronger, but I am remorseful. So in my own personal practice I am trying silly ideas (more on that in a future post) just because I can, researching things I’m fascinated by that have nothing to do with my field, writing more to develop ideas and stories, trying to draw things I have no idea how to draw well, and pursuing little personal and collaborative projects to refill the creative well. I’m learning a lot. All the meanwhile trying to shush the 'is it enough?’ voice. I’m not sure these exploits will ever turn into a freelance project officially, but right now I am satisfied enough that I’m doing something that will feed something else somewhere down the line. The thing I wrote down in my sketchbook twice: this is a planting time.

I have more insights to share (including things I would’ve loved to see at ICON8 and what I’d love to see at ICON9!), but I’ll save that for a post on Friday.

Squish's guide to COLLEGE

I’ve been in college 2 years now and I’ve gained some knowledge of college things outside of my general major. Here’s the best I can offer in help for all those about to enter college.

1: Ask questions. Ask a thousand questions about everything. Financial aid saying you owe more? ASK WHY! A lot of colleges expect you to accept anything without asking and will run over you. Ask about everything!

2: Absolutely do not take an 8am class. DON’T DO IT. You will be sleepy, you will not listen well and you will regret it.

3: Talk to everyone. Find people in your major that have been there while and get to know them. If you get stuck on a project, chances are they’ve done that before and can help.

4: Find the nearest food sources within the first couple of weeks. I spent hours before classes hunting every restaurant so I knew my options. Also locate the nearest pizza place to the school; they will be your best friend.

5: Have fun! College is gonna be both your worst and best memories so make sure those best memories are fantastic. Go to class in pajamas, catch the frogs in the pond, eat a whole medium pizza, cook hot dogs in class; have a blast.

6: Find out who the best or nicest teacher is (you can get lucky and have the teacher be both!) and do your best in their class. Talk to them, get to know them. They’ll remember that and remember you. When recommendations are needed, they’ll be there for you.

You guys are gonna do awesome and have a great time and get super smart. If you ever need advice I’m always here to do my best to help