Snapshots of a new home

I’m starting to get to know this city, to feel how it moves and how I should move with it.

-Andrea

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Writing cliches: The Ever-growing Tea Collection

A well-known cliche says that writers drink a lot of hot beverages, and if we are to believe the writers’ blogs’ homages to steaming coffee, that’s very true. Countless instagrams of pretty mugs, neat notebooks on coffee tables and writing dens with window sills filled with old coffee-cups, tells us that no writing can ever happen without a cup of something warm next to your laptop.

Originally I thought I’d try and steer away from this cliche; that I wouldn’t mention tea or anything like that in my posts. However, as my veins are basically flowing with equal parts blood and strawberry infusion, this did not work all that well, and my mugs have started popping up in images here and there.

That’s why I figured today I’d just live the cliche I am, one hundred percent, and take you on a tour through my favourite teas; the brews I need to wake up, to write, to curl up on the sofa.

So make yourself a good cup of something you really like, and let’s get started!

Andrea’s Ultimate Tea Tour (with overly enthusiastic and staged summery pictures)

Twinings’ Pure Peppermint:

I don’t drink coffee, but I need a cup of this every morning. Either as a five minute moment at the kitchen table before I face the world, or as a cosy treat in a travel mug on the 06:35 bus to town. Just boiling water, no sugar or anything, preferably in a big, “open” mug so the taste really gets to do the “swirly thing” that tea needs to do.

Writing tea/cozy tea/sleepy tea/energy tea
Big mug/small mug/coffee cup mug

Lipton’s Blueberry Muffin and Infusion’s Turkish Apple Tea:

I’m always here for a good fruit tea! The blueberry tea in the picture is one I drank buckets of on camp as a youth leader for the first time, and every time I drink it I still think of that wonderful weekend a good 6 years ago. It’s also just a really really good tea. It smells and tastes more like muffins than blueberries, and it’s got a really round taste.

Writing tea/cozy tea/sleepy tea/energy tea
Big mug/small mug/coffee cup mug

This Turkish Apple tea is also a really good fruit tea. I found it in a tiny tea shop in Camden, where the lady running the store spent almost 45 minutes telling me about and letting me taste and smell all of the teas she had in the shop. Such a good time!! It’s the strongest tea I’ve ever had when it comes to pure taste, and it’s made out of dried apple and pineapple and other fruits. It also smells divine.

Writing tea/cozy tea/sleepy tea/energy tea
Big mug/small mug/coffee cup mug

Both of these teas do need a little bit of sugar for the taste to really get through, but they’re both the ones I always serve people who say they don’t really like tea. Most people end up surprising themselves and loving them!

Twinings’ Camomile&Honey and Picklecombe’s Lavender Honey:

Okay, so I’m aware that that jar of honey is not tea. But it is Lavender-infused honey and deserves an honorable mention here! It’s also really good in tea, and on its own in warm water. The proper star of this section though, is the Camomile&Honey tea from Twinings. I’m usually not a fan of camomile teas, but the honey is the overpowering taste in this blend, and it’s so warming and soothing. There is no better tea to curl up with after a long day.

Writing tea/cozy tea/sleepy tea/energy tea
Big mug/small mug/coffee cup mug

Dorset tea’s Strawberries and Cream and Twining’s Glow:

Strawberry tea! My two favourite teas are both strawberry teas, and I always have to restock them when I’m visiting Harvey in Swanage as that’s the only place I’ve been able to get my hands on them.
The Strawberries and Cream one is a hug in a mug – warm, cozy, comforting and sweet. It also turns bright red, something I greatly appreciate. The countless shirts I’ve stained with it, however, really don’t. It’s the perfect companion to an evening in with your favourite book and fresh bed sheets, and I’ve always got a couple of extra unopened boxes waiting in the pantry.

Writing tea/cozy tea/sleepy tea/energy tea
Big mug/small mug/coffee cup mug

The last strawberry tea, and the last tea on this list, is Twining’s Glow. It’s a green tea with strawberries and aloe Vera in it, and it’s one of those teas you feel healthy after drinking (I know that’s not a thing, but the feel is definitely there). Much like the earlier mentioned Peppermint tea, this doesn’t need anything added. It tastes strangely like strawberry lipgloss (only so much better, of course,) and is the perfect cup in the morning, if you want something with a bit more taste to it.

Writing tea/cozy tea/sleepy tea/energy tea
Big mug/small mug/coffee cup mug

Well, that got longer than planned! Thank you so much for listening to my ramblings, I can get really passionate about tea, as you might’ve understood. There are of course a billion more wonderful teas, but these are my everyday essential beverages. (Also, I don’t know if I really need to say this, but just to be safe, this post is 100% not sponsored in any way, I just really like tea!)

Do you need any hot drinks to function?
Are you a coffee or a tea person?

Have a wonderful day,
-Andrea

The Winchester Bucket List

Are you going to uni next year, and wondering how life will be as a student? Are you worried about working part time alongside your studies? Even better, are you going to uni in Winchester, UK, and are curious about new places to go, small nooks to discover and explore? For questions like these, the University of Winchester has created a student life magazine that focuses on simply living life as a student, no matter what course or degree you’re on.

Remember I told you about this article I was writing a while ago? The magazine it’s in has been available at the uni for a couple of months, and it’s been handed out to students at the open days for a while, but now I’ve finally got my hands on a copy of my own, and can show you guys!

My article is called “The Winchester Bucket List”, is featured on the front page, and I’m listed on the contents page as a “student contributor”, which I’m really happy and a little bit proud about!
Talking about the article; this one was a lot of fun to write for a lot of reasons:
Firstly, I was contacted and asked to write something for this! After emailing back and forth with the management and content team, we figured out that a “tour” of Winchester would be a fun thing to put in there.
Secondly, I got to pick out my favourite places in Winchester and write about them, and now I’ve basically got the perfect memento of the town I’ve loved living and studying in.
Thirdly, for the first time ever I did both the article and the pictures! The photos in this piece are all by me (except for the St Catherine’s one), and taking “proper” pictures that would look good in an article like this was an interesting challenge I’d never taken on before.

I sent this piece off with pride when I was done with it. Then I was told that it would be given three full pages, something I was not expecting but really, really appreciated! And, drumroll please, here is the finished piece:

Look how cool it looks!! I had no idea how the design would look, but I’m really proud of how it turned out. The whole magazine is available for free at the University of Winchester, and it’s filled with tips and tricks on how to survive life as a student, created and written by current students and recent graduates.

Question of the day: am I the only one who finds it really difficult to take pictures of grassy hills (i.e St Catherine’s hill)? Everything just turned out very green for me… Also, does anyone know how to put separate pictures together into a pdf file? Help and suggestions are very welcome!

Hope you have a wonderful day!
-Andrea

Writer’s Log 4

Writer’s Log 4
21/05-2018

Mission Log
Today’s goal is to finish the Creative Voice-Creative Piece.
I’m in Swanage for the time being, staying with Harvey. He’s in the process of applying for jobs and I’m writing this piece, to hopefully finish my degree with a bang. Most likely my last ever creative piece at uni. So weird!

Andrea Wold Johansen Writing Nook Swanage

10:35 I’ve got this.

10:42 So, I just went through everything I wrote about in my last Writer’s Log, and I may or may not have scrapped it all. Didn’t really resonate anymore, it was too much backstory and not enough actual story. Will keep it and maybe put the backstory in as an appendix though, or just use it as something to reference to as I’m working on it.

11:17 Scrapping what I had might actually have been the most useful thing I’ve done with this story! Ended up creating an entirely new storyline, and now the protagonist has a proper mystery to solve. “Kill your darlings,” and all that; even if you like something you’ve done, if it doesn’t move or add anything to the story, it doesn’t belong in it.

12:00 So, this story has taken a completely new turn, and I’m loving it. It now starts out with a teacher fleeing into England’s last existing forest (in the year of 2187), to hide a 100-year-old forbidden dream journal. This is gonna be a ride.

12:22 This feels more and more like a speculative piece, and when it’s done, submitted and marked, I kind of want to post it here. At the moment I’m trying really hard to not make it into a Technology-is-scary story, though, it’s more a comment on how we as a society overwork ourselves and where we might be headed if we keep it going like this. The technology parts are just a bonus!

13:03 Rocky demanded belly rubs, so I had to take a break. It doesn’t matter if you’re well into writing or if you’re in the middle of a good “flow”, there is always time for belly rubs.
Andrea Wold Johansen, Rocky 004Andrea Wold Johansen, Rocky 001Andrea Wold Johansen, Rocky 002

13:15 Since I started the day by deleting everything and had to start again, I’ve changed the goal of the day to 1500 words. Should be doable.

13:45 I’m really struggling with updating the writer’s log today, but that’s actually not a bad thing. I started the writer’s log series to keep myself accountable for how I spend the time I set off as “writing time” and to keep track of how well I’ve been working, but today I’ve just been busy writing and writing. I’ve been banging my fists against a bit of a creative block lately, so suddenly just having the words flow out feels really good again. Not gonna worry too much about the earlier stated goal for today, but I’m having a really good time writing now.

15:05 Okay, Rocky is demanding pets again and I’m feeling good-tired from having been at it since about 11. Gonna call it a day and just keep working on the plot in my head until I can get some more words down!

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Also, just found this image again from June last year (while looking for some research on my laptop), and I have to admit that I do miss the hair a bit…

Recap of the session:
Did not reach either of my goals (1. to finish and 2. to reach 1500 words), but still, a very productive session! Starting from scratch gave me new drive to keep writing, and I’m a lot happier with what I’ve got now. Now it’s actually an interesting story with a proper action and character-driven plot, instead of just being musings about how the world ended up being as it is.

Mistake of the day: Accidentaly. Acidentaly. Acidentally. ACCIDENTALLY!

Wordcount of the day: 1367

Writing location: My favourite ever writing nook looking out over Swanage bay.

Phone breaks: Not a single one, my phone is very battery-dead at the moment.

Beverage of choice: Started off with just a Yorkshire tea, but have switched over to this green tea one of my flat mates brought from Hong Kong. I’m normally not a fan of green tea, but this is really good!

Mood before writing: I’m not entirely sure where to find my plot after the 1000 word long backstory I wrote last time??”
Mood during writing: Delete everything. Start afresh. See what happens.
Mood after writing: Need some time to really figure out how to use the plot to explain how this world works, and how to use the characters to show how not physically (and genetically) being able to sleep would affect an entire population. This is gonna be fun, though!

Question of the day: When you write, do you start by planning out the plot or the setting?

-Andrea

17th of May

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Not really a writing or book related post, but yesterday was the 17th of May, Norway’s Constitution Day. I celebrated the day in London, my first time ever not celebrating it at home with my family, and it felt weird not being enveloped in old traditions and places that stay the same. It turned out to be such a great day, though, Cathy came along, and it was so much fun being able to “show” off the traditions I’ve grown up with, if on a smaller scale. Beautiful bunads, marching band songs, flower crowns and Norwegian flags as far as the eye could see.

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There was a parade, speeches, lots of music, waffles, ice cream and food. All the things you need to really make the 17th of May the day it is.

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There is something I really like about the fact that on one day every year, the entire population of Norway, both at home and abroad, put on their nicest clothes and meet their family, only to eat ice cream and play games all day.

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The focus of the day and what many of the speeches were about, was belonging. How we as people always belong somewhere, how hopefully everyone feel at home in a group, be it their nationality, their faith, a community. What really hit me, though, was when the Minister of Culture said that “Belonging somewhere doesn’t mean that that has to be the only place you ever feel at home; we can all belong in multiple societies, we can all belong in different home countries.” Right now, as I’m kind of in the process of coming to terms with leaving England after these three years, that felt oddly comforting. I keep saying I’m leaving England behind, but I’m not really, am I. England’s still gonna be here, the friends I made along the way will still be here, it will just have to be the sowing grounds for new memories, new experiences, new challenges and victories.
Aha, didn’t think a day all about eating ice cream could get so deep, did you!

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Celebrating with Cathy was also so much fun; she waved her new Norwegian flag higher than anyone, and marched in the parade with newfound vigour. I showed her Norwegian waffles (Sjømannskirkens Vafler) and we had Solo, the Norwegian equivalent of Fanta. I’m well aware of my Solo-bias, but it’s actually a lot better than Fanta, haha.
Then we had some 17th of May Fish and Chips, which is one hundred percent not traditional 17th of May Food, but they put a little Norwegian flag on it and we ate while listening to happy people chatter, watching bunads walk past, and seeing all the kids play games; sack races, potato racing and quoits.

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A day I felt a bit anxious about going into, because of the weight of the traditions I’m used to and not being able to be a part of them, turned into an absolute fairytale and a memory I’ll take with me forever.

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(Have a Cathy marching towards the Winchester-bound train, post ice cream and festivities)

Gratulerer med gårsdagen, alle sammen, and Happy Birthday, Norway.

-Andrea

“Are we all Creative Writers?” or The first time I ever tried my hands on teaching

There is an age-old saying that goes “those who can’t, teach”. However, whenever my mum (brilliant nurse-gone-teacher) encounters this saying she’ll just say “you’ve got to know something really well to be able to teach it”. I like that better.

The University of Winchester hosts these Taster Session Days, as part of an initiative called Widening Participation. The goal is to make attending university feel more accessible for currently under-represented student groups and to break down barriers future students might have about going into Higher education. On these days, the uni is open for Year 8 pupils from schools in the wider area, and they all get a taste of life at the uni, with campus tours and taster sessions where they get to try out different courses.

I’ve been lucky enough to be part of two of three days of Creative Writing sessions, and this has been both such a challenge and so much fun. Years ago I lead two children’s theatre courses and I’ve done five years of volunteering with leading youth groups, but I’ve never actually taught something like Creative Writing, and it feels new and exciting to be in a position where you can call yourself a “tutor”.

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-Calm before the storm; waiting for the students to appear. Beth (in the picture) also held a really great session about modernist poetry!

I had so much fun, though! My session was called “Are You Already a Creative Writer?” and I wanted to challenge the Year 8s (12/13-year olds) to think about all the different kinds of writing they’re doing in their everyday lives. A lot of the students participating thought about Creative Writing as something fancy and difficult to do, but I wanted them to think of themselves as writers because, in a way, we all already are. We also talked a lot about how you might benefit from a university degree, and they challenged me back, with asking about why they should get a Creative Writing degree, if they were already creative writers?*

What made the session interesting from the start, was that the students in the groups all had very different experiences with writing. Some of them had already written lots of stories (one girl even showed me a digital copy of her 60k first draft of a novel!), and some of them didn’t think they could write at all. Some of them didn’t like it and some didn’t even want to try. To get them started, though, I had them all choose a picture of a person. I found the pictures on the Humans of New York website, and made sure to tell the kids where they were from, and that they were already telling a story. “Now, however,” I said, “we’re going to give them new stories.”

 

 

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-To have the students move around a bit, I put all the pictures on the sofas in the back of the classroom, so they had up get up from their seats and pick them up.

 

The first writing exercise I gave them, was to write about the person in the picture like they were introducing them as the main character of a novel. I gave them some questions to prompt their imaginations a bit, and then walked around and chatted with them about their ideas as they were writing. So many good stories came out of this! From intergalactic romances between alien princesses and human London-buskers to Einstein’s time-travelling, evil twin brother. Some of the students worked together and linked their characters, some worked on their own, some didn’t really want to work at all. The great thing, however, was that even the students who didn’t want to take the class seriously ended up doing exactly what I wanted them to do. Being 13 is a weird age, and when someone who doesn’t technically look like an adult (read: me) tells them to do something, it’s quite natural that some of them didn’t want to. Still, this meant that they were trying to create the craziest, furthest-out-there stories, to show me that they didn’t care, but this was how some of the most fun stories came to be, and they were definitely being creative with their pictures and characters.

After they wrote their character introductions, we agreed that novels, short stories and poetry are the things most people think about when they hear creative writing. However, we also talked about all the other types of writing there are, and how we don’t even think about many of them as creative at all. To make the students try this out, I asked them to write about their character in a different way. A blog post written from their point of view, an article about something they’d done, a diary entry, or, if they were particularly brave (which a lot of them were), some song lyrics.

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-A slide from the PowerPoint talking about different types of creative writing

Then, after two writing exercises, a couple of discussions, lots of talking and an actual workshop, we linked all the things we’d done to what the Creative Writing Course is about. Creative problem solving; I gave them a problem, the picture, and they presented me with a solution, the story. They wrote to prompts and followed guidelines like “professional writers” have to do, and we spent about an hour being creative together.

These days doing teaching has been fun, challenging and very educational, hopefully also for the students, but more than anything, for me. Planning lessons and talking about how to engage a room full of students is something very different from actually doing it, but I’m so glad I challenged myself to do this, to try. To quote Lucie Fink, “let’s make trying the new doing.” And the same can absolutely be said for a lot of the Year 8s that day, they tried something they’d never done before, and their attempts became fantastic stories and interesting characters. A couple of very successful writing sessions, this is definitely something I would love to do again.

-Andrea
*The answer to “why do a degree in Creative Writing”, btw, is that anyone can sit on their own and write, but a CW degree betters your time management skills, your creative thinking and problem solving, gives you the focus and the discipline of a degree but in a creative atmosphere, and also teaches you the professional sides of the business, like writing to word counts and briefs. It’s also a very good time. Challenging, but great.
If you want any more reasons to do a creative writing degree, I’ve actually written a blog post about that too, on the UoW’s student blog! Check it out here if you think a CW degree might be something for you, or if you’re just curious!