Educate Yo'self!

What I’ve been reading: Eleanor and Park

Eleanor and Park – Rainbow Rowell

Before we go any further let me start by saying that this book broke me a little, in a great and terrible way. Because there are kids like Eleanor, and families like hers, living quietly and desperately all around us, and most of the time we don’t even know or we try not to see. Because the climax of Eleanor’s family story is sickening and made me cry long after I’d turned the final page. Because there are families like Park’s who aren’t perfect but are good and are trying, and these two family stories overlapping is wonderful in its sadness. I wanted to start by saying that because I’m now going to go on to say that I don’t think Eleanor and Park is a great love story, so I wanted to get those good bits out of the way before you couldn’t hear me over the roar of tweens with pitchforks.

Eleanor and Park isn’t a great love story, but I don’t know if it was necessarily meant to be. Without giving too much away, Eleanor and Park, by author Rainbow Rowell, is told from the perspectives of two main characters, Eleanor and Park (surprise!), and follows their relationship as it develops over a school year. Eleanor is the weird new kid, Park is a socially accepted misfit. They wind up sitting together on the bus to and from school, and build a pretty cute relationship that bounces along with all the highs and lows and pace that you’d expect of any realistic teen romance.

The way Rowell uses language to describe how both characters feel emotionally and physically as their relationship develops is pretty brilliant. There are so many quotable one liners that I expected the writing to start to feel contrived, but it didn’t. The book is written with a strong and really readable narrative voice that saves any moments that could otherwise seem overblown or corny. E&P really is worth reading just to experience Rowell’s masterful written craft.

Eleanor and Park

Teen romance in dire or dramatic situations has been well established as the new cool in YA literature and Eleanor and Park plays this genre superbly. But the thing that Rowell gets really right in E&P is that the book isn’t all taken up with the love story, and instead really hones in on the external situations affecting both characters. The family stories of both Eleanor and Park are extremely important to the narrative and are really well developed. The pacing of the reveals of information, particularly about Eleanor’s family and background, is spot on, and makes the reading experience as tense as it is giddy.

I think that Eleanor and Park is a good love story, and a fun love story, but more than that I think that it’s a great story of family, of exploring and establishing identity and of growing up. It hits on some really dark themes (everything from domestic and sexual abuse to class systems and racism), elements which don’t seem to come up in a lot of reviews, but which I think are important to mention and important to see this book’s intended age group grappling with.

It’s not a light or airy book and it’s not all a happy read. It is, however, highly recommended by me.

What do you think, have you read Eleanor and Park and agree/disagree with me? I love to discuss books, so add your thoughts below.

**There’s so much talk of this book being made into a movie. This kind of horrifies me in the way that the idea of The Lovely Bones movie did, because while the love story and the characters were delightful, the darkest elements of this story haunt my mind enough without seeing them in technicolour. But it’s important that these kinds of stories get told and we live in a world where everything is a franchise, so it’s no wonder that earlier this year Dreamworks announced that they’d purchased the E&P film rights. Are you excited? I’m half stoked to see these characters come alive and half scared they’ll tone some of the seriousness which I loved down for the film.

Educate Yo'self!

The Blogcademy – a triple treat of awesome

If knowledge is power and power is accompanied by responsibility, then attending the Brisbane Blogcademy workshop was a triple-decker in acquiring new playthings.

Group From Above

Hard at work on morning one, ready to take in all the blogging goodness!

To say it simply, The Blogcademy was probably the single most educational, empowering and growing weekend of my 2013. Taught by blogging megastars Kat Williams, Gala Darling and Shauna Haider, the two-day course covered everything from creating standout images and having brilliant and consistent branding to how to write stellar content and then use social media to promote it. Along with the knowledge imparted by the trio, a lot of which was also included in the take home workbook (a must for a learner like me who needs to re-enforce and revisit for things to properly sink in!), there was a good deal of cold hard blogging truths delivered, along with raucous personal accounts of blogging gone badly and inspirational tales of blogging success.

Reading my workbook, so much to learn!

While the blogging know-how will prove invaluable as I continue to develop That Crash Test Girl, spending the weekend in the presence of the three Blogcademy Headmistresses and the extraordinary group of Brisbane Blogcadettes, or Brisbabes as we like to be called, was far and away the highlight of the experience. I had originally decided I wouldn’t attend the Brisbane leg of the tour because, while having Gala Darling, one of my biggest inspirations in the blog world, actually visit my city was crazy exciting I just couldn’t afford it. There is a scholarship generously offered for each workshop, but without a blog to call my own at the entry cut-off date I definitely couldn’t count on winning!


Scholarhsip winner Gabrielle getting some tips from Gala, this girl is an absolute blogging powerhouse!

After visiting the to-be venue Bleeding Heart a few months before The Blogcademy to teach a writing workshop of my own, though, I pictured the room filled with inspirational and excited bloggers and I knew that whatever the cost I had to be part it. So I buckled down, invested in myself and my career and then excitedly ticked of the days until The Blogcademy!


Just a few Headmistresses filling the room with pizzazz!

I have been reading Gala Darling’s blog for many years and have been inspired by her hard work and creativity time and again. Being taught by her was a true pleasure and really rounded out my belief that I, too, could forge my own career path as a strong and individual creative woman. Shauna and Kat’s blogs were both introduced to me through reading Gala Darling, and I was no less excited to be spending the weekend in their presence. Kat’s bubbly and bright personality and her ability to learn “the facts” and then still do things in totally her own way are infectious. Her commitment to bringing both the fun and the facts to The Blogcademy class made each of the sessions she took totally interesting and worthwhile. Shauna Haider is probably one of the classiest and most stylish women I’ve ever had the pleasure of meeting, and her branding segments are already proving infinitely useful. To be honest, I could spend an entire weekend hearing this thoughtful and thought-provoking woman speak about branding, a subject I didn’t know I could be so interested in!


So many notes were taken during The Blogcademy, our to-do lists got a WORKOUT.

Since The Blogcademy I have spent a lot of time mulling over the goals and aspirations I have for That Crash Test Girl. There have been days as I’ve been busy moving house, completing freelance writing projects and working at my job, that I have forlornly looked at my seemingly endless post-Blogcademy to-do list and wondered just how I would ever get it all done. But then I’ve thought to myself WWGSaKD? (“What Would Gala, Shauna and Kat Do?” of course!) and seen the list as an inspiration and not a judgement on my blog or an eternal work sentence. It’s this shift attitude that has been best outcome of attending The Blogcademy. I can’t wait to make all the changes there are to make to That Crash Test Girl…it’s going to be great!

Working hard, but feeling like we're hardly working!

Working hard, but feeling like we’re hardly working!

I’ve always secretly wanted a posse and I just couldn’t write this post without giving a huge shout out to the rest of the Brisbane Blogbabes who have made the whole Blogcademy experience so delightful. Since The Blogcademy we’ve chatted daily on the special Brisbane Blogcademy forum as well as on the facebook page we created to keep the group in touch. We encourage each other to set and reach goals and help where we can with each others’ problems. We’ve banded together to beat the post-Blogcademy blues (in particular not letting each other get daunted by those epic to-do lists!) and there are already meet-ups in the works and group photo shoots being planned. Having a group of likeminded women to chat to about blogging is indescribably awesome, so very helpful and supportive for those of us who spend a lot of time working at home alone. So thanks, Brisbabes, for making The Blogcademy weekend the absolute best!

The Blogcademy Group Shot

Group shot in our fuzzy koala ears, made by Crown and Glory just for us Aussies!

Would I recommend anyone and everyone attend The Blogcademy? Absolutely. As a blog devoted to finding out the ways we can improve our lives, this is one method that I am only too excited and happy to endorse!

All photos generously taken and provided by the supremely talented Janneke Storm!