Tuesday, June 15, 2010

In Which a Clown Is Made to Feel Old

Ahoy there, my little loin chops! Seem to have skipped a week or so, I’m afraid. Eurovision happened and the larks spread somewhat. We came last, of course. Terribly cunning. We’ve already saddled ourselves with the Olympics – we’d have to mortgage Wales to host Eurovision as well. I lost my poor Fanny in all the excitement, and I didn’t find her yesterday morning. She had somehow managed to get herself buried neck-deep in the antirrhinums. I have no recollection of the incident, but I will own that my fingernails seemed muddier than usual.

In my current state of advanced toxicity it seems unjust that I should have to review the blog of a fresh-faced young woman who is years away from the legal drinking age. Of course, there are a great many people who would say that I shouldn’t be allowed anywhere near any fourteen-year-olds, under any circumstances, and they are probably right, but Andrea has submitted herself for review and I must do right by her. I fear this may be a lengthy endeavour. Refill your glasses now.

Andrea writes a blog called Another Amphigory. She describes herself as “Just another fourteen year old girl writing about Vonnegut, knitting, grammar and the stuff under my bed”. She has only been blogging since the beginning of this year, and it did not take me long to read every last one of her entries.

Andrea, cherub, I know you are only fourteen, but I’m not going to pull any punches here. If you are big enough to read this site, you are big enough to be treated like everybody else. I will have to admit that the first page of your blog is not very appealing. There are some photos of you, a couple of brief snippets and - my personal bugbear - a list of things that you did but are too tired to write about. The last post on the first page talks about how you are struggling for content, how you want to go back to writing little vignettes about your life, as that is when you feel your writing is strongest. Yet after that, you seem to decide to start publishing daily pictures of yourself, and then you stop doing that, too, and then you stop posting altogether.

Looking back through your archives, your content is markedly uneven. You post song lyrics and recipes and the kind of guff I could find under any internet rock I cared to pick up. It is as though you are just hurling content at your blog in the hopes that it will become more than the sum of its parts, and this is a shame, because I think you are far, far better than that.

Andrea, I believe you have a lot of nascent talent. I have been waiting to read a blog that contained a line that made me stop to savour, and your line about unpicking the embroidery on your pillow said so much in such an elegant manner that I did just that. I agree that your writing is strongest when you are writing your little snapshots. You have a way of pinning a moment to cork that is lacking in a lot of the ‘adult’ writers I read online. However, don’t be afraid of expanding on these little toothfuls. There is more to be said, and relish to be had in the saying of it.

You talk about your blog as though it was a journal, but it isn’t one, not really. Keep a journal under your mattress to vent to, by all means, but put only your very best work online. Think long and hard about what you are going to write and then write it as well as you possibly can. It may seem private at times, like there’s nobody reading, but there are still standards that you should try and retain. Especially now you’ve gone and shown your ‘journal’ to all these big, bad people.

Throughout your blog you mention being worried that people you know are reading your work, and this makes you feel unable to write honestly about certain matters. I would suggest that if you think this for one moment you should immediately up sticks and start writing somewhere you are sure you are anonymous. It is sometimes pleasant to think of people we know reading our work and being astonished by our brilliance, but it is much, much more important to both your readers and yourself that you feel you can be honest.

I understand that it’s hard to think of things to say, especially when one feels like one is shouting into a void. Sometimes, in my own personal writings, I look at the blank page in front of me and feel as though every thought I have ever had has been sucked out of my head like my Fanny hoovers out a Cadbury’s Creme Egg. When I get stuck like this I sometimes find it helpful to pick a thing at random and just try to write about it in the best way I can. You can make a magnum opus out of a tin of Spam if you put your mind to it, especially if, like you, you have a cunning eye for detail and a pretty way with words.

Sometimes, though, nothing helps. The muse professes a headache and goes to bed early with Danielle Steele and you need to find inspiration in another source. So, take that post you wrote when you were too tired to write anything properly. There were ten items on it. Take each of those and sum them up in two hundred words or so. Et voila! Your first ten posts. Or show me New York – I cannot comprehend what it must be like to be a fourteen-year old with easy access to New York City. My, what carnage I could have caused. The School was ten miles from the nearest sweet shop and the penalties for escape were harsh.

In conclusion, Andrea, I think you should treat Another Amphigory as a practise run. Kill it dead and plunder its corpse, take away all the juiciest organs and leave the rest for the dogs. Then set yourself up in a plush new home and write like I believe you can. You should treat your blog as though it were a strange baby you birthed through your brain. Feed it well and keep it safe from banality.

And Andrea, if you do relocate, I would be very pleased if you would email me with your new address. I would like to keep track of you, in the least upsetting way I know how.

I am going to give you two and a half stars, for now, but I think that in the future, you could come back and bag a few more.


  1. I wanted to write a quick comment to thank you for your review, Forcemeat. You were both kind and constructive, and I think that I've learned a lot to better myself with. Unfortunately, despite my best Google-stalking efforts, I can't find your email address. I suspect I'm being hopelessly thick.
    This username is linked to my brand-new blog, I hope you keep in touch, and feel free to rip me a new one every once in a while!

  2. Good show, Andrea. I will most certainly be popping round your new gaff for a nosy.

  3. Andrea, good for you for submitting and for already taking the Clown's good and sage advice.

  4. Way to take it Andrea. Lots of good advice in this review.

  5. Mmmm Cadbury Creme Eggs......

    Had a little nosey over at old and new blog....looks good. But if she links her new blog to her old one, won't she just bringing the unwanted readers along for the new ride?

  6. Oh, none of my friends ACTUALLY found my blog. So the link is safe. I'll probably take down the link in a month or so, and just leave my email address up. But yeah, you're right :)

  7. I really like her blog. Colorful little snippets.


Grow a pair.