Hitting My Stride

This is the first week of my final MA year with the Open University. I’ve worked my way through the reading for the week, engaged with fellow students in the forums, and I’ve started writing a new novel which will be my project for the rest of the academic year.

So far it’s been a good week. At the start of the week, Leslie Tate published an interview with me on the subjects of Climate Change, transition, love, and creative writing.

CLICK HERE TO READ THE FULL INTERVIEW OVER ON LESLIE’S WEBSITE

In other news, I’ve been constructing a new language called Voidish which will be the native tongue of some characters in my comic fantasy novel which I’m publicly drafting on Wattpad of all places, uploading chapters whenever I feel like it.

HERE’S A LINK TO “THE PEACEBRINGER” IF YOU FANCY HAVING A READ

Back to School

Realising I can defer my completion of The Open University Master of Arts in Creative Writing no later than 2020, I have made the decision not to waste my previously earned credits from my Postgraduate Certificate in Humanities, and will be returning to part time study at the beginning of October.

This is a big deal for me. Back in my undergraduate days it was always my plans to follow up my BA with an MA, then maybe one day go on to complete a creative PhD. Academia was exciting and brought me joy, but somewhere along the way I got caught up in life’s dull game of earning money and having a routine.

Now I’m ready to go back for another bite of the academic apple (I should probably work on my metaphors, right?). I’ll prove to myself once and for all that my years of scribing until sunrise and writing furiously whilst the world burns haven’t been in vain, that this isn’t just a hobby and I’m not living on planet cuckoo, and I am actually a Master of the Arts.

I’m very excited to get back into the scholarly creative writing community, to share work with my peers, critique each other and exchange wisdoms. This is an enticing new chapter in my life, and I’m thrilled to have the opportunity to channel the many lives I’ve lived in my mere 27 years into something productive and artistic and new.

The Clock is ticking (from medium.com)

I also published this story on Medium.com

Tomorrow I’m returning to my day job after being off on the sick, recovering from life-changing surgery, for the best part of four months. Before I left, I envisioned myself coming back to the grind as a better version of who I was before, but now it’s the eve of my return and I feel disconnected with who I was back then.

Who I Was Back Then was concerned with decorating her new flat with her partner, saving up the money for a Vespa Elettrica, and progressing in her career so she could lay a solid infrastructure for potentially adopting children in the future. Now, after a twelve week break in the cycle of work-eat-sleep-repeat, my perspective has shifted.

Being laid up on an IKEA corner sofa, eating codeine like Smarties, gawping at a 4k TV and scrolling through Twitter on a MacBook Pro, I’ve come to fully accept that material possessions don’t make me happy… The only things I actually care about are spending time with my partner, writing stories, and intermittently eating and drinking. I could happily let go of everything else, so long as those four staples were guaranteed.

If I’m being totally blunt, I’ve realised I don’t want to live in a consumerist world, and I don’t want to be reliant on a corrupt economic system. I want to feel free and live a life full of meaning and love instead of living a life of monotony and depression, struggling to cope, upping my antidepressants every time it feels like it’s getting a bit too much, just so I can step back in line with what’s expected of me as a mindless cog in the machine.

Complete chance has given me this limited time offer: a shot at existing in the universe, but it will only happen once, then I’ll go back to not existing, just like I did for millennia before I first started breathing at the end of the cold war. I’ve got to say, having only existed for a tiny portion of time compared to how long I didn’t exist, I’m pretty sold on this life thing. It was touch and go a couple times in my early adulthood, and I considered going back to the void, but now I’ve got my personal affairs in order, I’m determined to live a good life for as long as possible. The downside? Oh, it’s this little thing called HUMANITY’S IMMINENT EXISTENTIAL CRISIS.

How naive of me to have hoped that just because I’ve taken steps to counter my own issues- such as taking loads of Prozac to supposedly make my clinical depression bearable, and undergoing medical and surgical transition to oust my dysphoria- that my life would become full of joy and meaning, and there would be nothing to worry about, and the incessant stabbing pain in my head would fade away, and I wouldn’t be worried that me and my partner are potentially going to starve within the next three years.

If this is the first you’ve heard of this, or if you think I’m a wild conspiracy theorist, I urge you to do a little bit of research. The truth is quite shocking, and it might knock you sick when it starts to sink in, but we are on the precipice of complete societal collapse. The first I heard of it was when an optometrist I was working with started ranting about the Holocene extinction and how we were all going to die. Not long afterwards, that person was struck off, and I assumed they were just talking shit, but then last April, while I was on my back in hospital, Extinction Rebellion made a stir when they occupied roundabouts down South and caused a massive disruption to the traffic, to raise awareness of the impending climate emergency.

“This is an emergency and for emergency situations we need emergency action.” — Ban Ki-Moon, former UN Secretary General

World scientists have been warning us for decades about the melting icecaps, the rising sea temperatures, the extinctions of countless animal species across the globe… And we’re not prepared for what’s going to happen when all our hens come home to roost, and there’s only three days worth of food left in the supermarkets before the shelves and fridges are bear, and you’ve got to pay a shifty guy on the street corner £20 for a loaf of bread, then scarper back to your hidey-hole as quick as you can before you get raped or robbed by a rioter.

I’ve since heard Roger Hallam, founder of Extinction Rebellion, recite the figures and confirm everything that I’ve read, and it’s not good. In fact, it’s left me horror stricken. I can’t go back to how I was before; hopelessly drifting through life in a little bubble, living under the governments and corporations that are investing in and enabling the collapse of Humanity. “It’s up to us!” as the Sunday school children at our local church have recently declared.

So tomorrow I’m going back to my day job, because I don’t want to get evicted right before the shit hits the fan, and also because I like my boss and the people I work with, but I can’t go back to ignorance or denial, or trying to fit in to a society that really doesn’t care about me. At this moment in time, I don’t know exactly what my part is in all of this, but I am ready. The extinction is coming, and I don’t want to passively let it wash over me without doing everything I can to survive. Our future isn’t guaranteed. We need to take action, and the clock is ticking.

Liberty Rising: a web series

It’s finally here, about two years too late. Originally this was going to be my zero budget debut feature film, but now it’s a web series which I sunk more of my personal funds into than I’d like to admit, and for what?! … I’ll let you decide. I hope you enjoy episode one of LIBERTY RISING!

Ungodly Distractions: Available online

UNGODLY DISTRACTIONS is a collection of absurd stories, peculiar projects and queer scribbling from the mind of Niamh Calderwood, a British writer who once walked with gnomes, and now plays with eyeballs for a living.

Click here to order a copy from Lulu

This is an unusual little book, full of strange ideas I came up with when I was in college, and after when I was trying to earn a living as a full time creative whilst also living with depression and other mental illnesses.

The Gray Paradox: Available online

Alfie Gray lives in his own little world. He gets out of bed, eats his breakfast and goes to work in a charity shop where he is a volunteer. He has his systems set in place and he doesn’t like change. He starts to notice unusual things happening around him, and everyone seems to know something he doesn’t. Haunted by paranoia, his brain is working overtime and he makes more accidental realisations than he would like to. The world he knows begins to collapse, and he can’t make any sense of it, nor can his family who are forced to watch as Alfie slips away before their eyes.

Click here to order a copy from Lulu

This was my first piece of published fiction, back in 2010. I’m surprised I wanted to immortalise it in an independently published second edition, but here it is.

Stranger Town: Available online

Jessica Henry leaves behind her broken family as she embarks on an artistic pilgrimage which takes her to the North East of England. She starts working in a drug store under a kind boss, but his kindness can’t shield her from the trouble she gets into when she starts hanging out with Scarlett, a local art dealer with a mysterious and intriguing personality.

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Click here to order a copy from Lulu.com

Niamh’s ability to draw you in and then pull the rug from beneath your feet in a smart and unexpected way is the number one reason you should buy this book.
-Leigh, Leighlalovesyou.com