Alana’s Mistake

Hi guys,

I just want to let you all know that I am writing a brand new story on Wattpad!

It is a thriller, no less, and a sexy one at that : ) If you liked Gone Girl or Fatal Attraction then you may well love this story.

Please read!

A young, happily married woman has a one-time affair with 
a man who refuses to allow it to end and becomes 
obsessed with her. 

Alana is 22 years old, but she got married at 
16 to her husband Noah, father of her sweet 
little girl Snow. Because they got married so 
young Alana sometimes wonders if she missed 
out on all the fun her friends seemed 
to be having. Noah is the only man she has ever 
really known, that is until she meets 
musician Elias Smith. 

Alana and Elias end up spending a reckless, 
wild weekend together. When it is over Alana 
wants to forget the whole thing and 
return to life with her family. 

But Elias has other ideas. 
He doesn't want it to end. Not when Alana is 
the one woman who has ever made him feel 
something. Elias wants Alana for his own, 
and he will stop at nothing to get her.

My feelings about Lemonade

My good pals Fran Perbohner and Sophia Fraser told me that I had to watch the visual album, Lemonade by Beyoncé. Sophia is a big time Beyoncé fangirl and they told me to watch it weeks ago. However I never got round to it. I liked and respected Beyoncé a lot (who doesn’t?) but I wasn’t a hardcore fan.

However, yesterday Fran insisted that I watch it and so I did and I told her I would write a blog post expressing my feelings about the album, whether I liked it or not. So here we are. My feelings about Lemonade!

I think I didn’t want to watch it because I had heard that it was about Jay Z cheating on Beyoncé. With them having a little child and it being Beyoncé (the thought that any man could cheat on her is depressing to me), I found that to be off-putting. Which is naughty of me really because I should know, well, I do know that a lot of art, if not all art on a fundamental level, comes from the artist’s experience, their life. But I think in this case it was somehow just too close to home because I already know the characters involved.

You could say Adele does the exact same thing, she writes songs about her own personal heartbreak. And that is raw and wonderful and relatable. However I’m not actually familiar with the guy that dumped Adele, prompting her to write 21. I didn’t really know anything about Adele before that so there were quite a few degrees of separation that made the work safer. Much safer than watching work about a family I already know, admire and support in my own way.

So yeah. I also think it doesn’t help that the initial introduction to Lemonade was in that very tabloid ‘Jay Z cheated’ way – this is how I first heard of it online. Because now I’ve seen the work I would say that the cheating is just one part of it, a catalyst to a much more epic communication that spans history, culture and music.

And that’s the thing that startled me the most when I watched and listened to this album. That from one woman’s personal experience could come an exploration of the entirety of womanhood, the entirety of race, the entirety of a nation. And more!

I have a newfound reverence (not even respect, reverence!) for Beyoncé after this, for a lot of different reasons. She risked something. Possibly almost everything. Her career, her family, a lot of stuff. And she did it anyway. I feel like she knew it would work and I feel like many people thought that it wouldn’t.

But she forged on anyway. She could have gone down in flames, and the unbelievable pressure that it must have put on her family… How do you have that conversation? Husband, I know you cheated on me but I want to make a huge visual album about it. And please can you be in it with me? It’ll be brill, promise!

That’s the thing isn’t it? What I learnt from this album artistically is that it isn’t about the idea. It is about the execution. This is a breath-taking example of someone coming up with an idea and then battling the living daylights out of it. We can all come up with ideas right? …I’m going to make a film about a racing car driver who lives large and dies on the track… I’m going to make a music video featuring girls dressed as tortoises… God, ideas are ten a penny, good, bad, ugly, whatever. But the execution is the thing. Given the time and expertise and passion both those ideas could turn out to be amazing. They could also turn out to be abysmal.

And that’s what Beyoncé embodies. From the original idea of – I’m going to make an album about this pain I feel about my husband cheating, it has grown and grown and grown and grown some more! I knew we weren’t only going to be finding out about Beyoncé’s troubles when imagery of some kind of colonial plantation house came up and we get these unbelievably beautiful images of black women… And that’s just the start. It becomes about more ideas, more music, more references than I can possibly keep up with.

On a personal level it spoke to me in a way that genuinely made me change, like actually change, the way I think of my own life. I wasn’t excited to watch it because it wasn’t a palatable subject matter to me. And I think this is what happens in life. And I think it explains some things that have happened in my own life.

When I went through a difficult time when I had my first son I found that it was hard to have the same ‘appeal’ to other people that I normally had. I felt like there were parts of my life that were no longer interesting to others, in fact they were down right ‘off-putting’ – just as I had described my idea of what this album would be like right?

I wasn’t as easy to be around, as enjoyable to talk to, and I found my circumstances difficult to admit to. I saw that it visibly confused some people to see me not the same as I usually was. This is not a damnation of others, it’s what happens, I’ve done the same myself… But watching that album made me realise that it is ok to have times in your life where things go wrong, where the screen goes blank and the unthinkable happens.

It’s ok because life is this adventure and if I avoid life then maybe, yes I won’t have to experience these things. And maybe if Beyoncé had not become an international singer and married Jay Z and had a beautiful child, then she would not have had to go through the pain of world famous adultery. But I don’t think that she would have it any other way, and that inspires me to think the same about my own life. So thank you Beyoncé, for that. And thank you to my pals Sophia and Fran for making sure I saw it!

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Whiplash

This weekend I watched one of those films that is so memorable I’m still mulling it over days later, and I’m telling my closest friends that they just have to watch it. The film is Whiplash, and it is about a young guy who attends an elite music school in New York. He’s a jazz drummer and he wants to be the best in the world. He doesn’t just want it, he really wants it.

Like, he doesn’t have much of a life, at all, apart from his dad and his music. He just wants to be the best, friends take up too much time and judging from the other students in his school nobody would want to be friends with them anyway. He’s quiet, and cute and he practices his drums a lot.

There’s this conductor/teacher who leads the top ensemble in the school and our guy is invited in. He’s thrilled to have the opportunity… Then all sorts of stuff ensues (to cut a long and complex story short). I won’t spoil it for you, if you haven’t seen it. Let’s just say the story is about being pushed to one’s artistic limits… the complexities of artisitic greatness, what that is and how it comes about.

It’s one of those films that leaves you feeling like you’ve been punched in the stomach, in a good way. I relate to it on quite a few different levels. Firstly the guy and his desire to be the best in his field. I was never so focused as he is at his age. If I were in New York at the same stage in my life, suffice it to say I would not have spent the time in my room practicing… But at this age I am at now – 36 – I can completely and utterly relate to his devotion to his craft.

It has always been there for me, that I wanted to write and that I wanted to be really, really good at it – great at it. I’ve always written but I’ve always lived too, which I would say, in hindsight, is actually a large part of writing. The living. The adventures I’ve had, good and bad, inform my writing now. For me at that age, I could not have had the maturity and deeper understanding of life, people and situations necessary to write very well.

These days I am much more like the character in the film. It’s like all roads have led to this point and now I am more than happy to spend hours and hours and days and weeks and months and years… devoted to my craft. Great story-telling has developed into something of an obsession, because I finally feel like that’s all right. I can spend my minutes doing that, because it is what I am here to do. And it doesn’t matter who would prefer me to be doing something else, or the fact that it is in no way financially viable. I believe that it will be, one day soon.

So yeah, I relate to the drummer. I relate to his willingness to sacrifice for greatness. One of the visual motifs of the film is him drumming so hard and so long his fingers are actually bleeding. His drums get covered in blood. And the first reaction could be, ew, that’s gross. And it is. And it’s what I thought. But then I remind myself that I might not have outright bled at the keyboard but I have bled in my own way, in a different way.

I could have been doing a million things that are much easier and far more lucrative than writing a book. I have a baby who I love with all my heart. I need to raise that baby, feed him, clothe him and give him the best possible start in life that I can give him, that is the most important thing to me. Things got real when I suddenly had a child in my life. The stakes raised but instead of running from writing I turned to it and the pressure of parenthood has pushed me along more than any other experience I’ve ever had.

I also relate to the conductor, despite the fact that he is a grade A jerkass. He pushes his students to breaking point and it is really quite ridiculous the lengths he goes to. I’m in no way condoning abuse however he says he’s doing it to get the best out of his musicians. And on a more humane level, looking at it metaphorically, it makes me think of again of pressure. That’s how diamonds are formed, right?

Without pressure I find it harder to produce the work I’m proud of. I need pressure. Now, I seek it out. I gain pressure from, like I said, the pure necessity of looking after another small person. The need to provide for him and his future. The need to ensure that he is never ever left without the resources he needs to lead a decent and fulfilling life. I gain pressure from the desire to lead the life I’ve always wanted, to actually live the life I always believed was possible.

I know from experience that this life can come to an end. An abrupt, unexpected end. It can seem like we live in this comfortable world where everything is A-OK most of the time and there’s all this stuff around us that makes it seem easy and makes us feel content. But the fact is that it can all end, in a moment. And there are things in the world that are very much worth fighting for. Other people, perhaps in places far away from us, that need us to be the best we can be so that we can create the resources to help them. I think of all this, and it makes fingers hit the keyboard.

I also relate to the director whose name I don’t even know, but by watching this film I have a certain understanding of who they are. And I feel like they have mirrored the artistic rise and perfectionism of the young drummer in the film itself, by making it one of those rare pieces of film-making that live in your heart for a long, long time.

 

 

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Interview With a Book Lover

I love it when you find a great blog to read. And that’s exactly what I did a few months ago when I started following Polyliteramore. Written by 19 year old Gillian Ebersole, the blog includes regular insights into her life and her loves, which include books, dancing, travel and more.
Gillian drinking real butterbeer!
The posts are composed in such an honest and eloquent way, they really caught my attention. I just had to reach out to Gillian, to ask a few questions of my own. So, here we go…
1. What are your top 3 books and why?

My all time favorite book is A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith. I also love The Book Thief and Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore. In general, I love historical fiction and watching a character triumph despite incredible hardship. To me, the best books are ones that encompass both the joy and the pain of the simple moments of everyday life, and these three books capture this perfectly.

122. I noticed you did a series of posts ’52 Weeks of Gratitude Challenge’ – what things are you most grateful for in your life? 

I am so grateful for so much, but it truly is the little things that make me stop and take a moment to wonder at the world around me. Light rain, good books, bustling coffee shops, summer sunsets, the thrill of dancing – all of these are the most precious aspects of life I give thanks for every day.

3. What is your favourite thing to bake?

Pumpkin muffins. Or any kind of cupcake really. I read this book called The Cupcake Queen in middle school, and I have been in love with baking cupcakes ever since. They are just so fun!

4. What is your favourite place in the world, and why?

Over the summer, I travelled to Amsterdam, and I fell in love with the city and the culture. The lifestyle there focuses so much on living in the moment and enjoying everything from food to biking and walking to art and architecture. If I could, I would move there in a heartbeat.

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5. If you could give a few words of advise to your younger teen self, what would they be?

I would tell myself to stop doubting the worth of my own thoughts. Older generations tend to pick apart the thoughts and arguments of the teenage generation, and I think this age range holds some of the most powerful ideas. Society is stifling six years of valuable and unprecedented creativity when teenagers are told to grow up and be adults.

6. What do you most want for your life?

I want my job to be my life’s work and passion. It is a lot to ask, I know, but I am determined to combine my love for art and dance with my love for writing and thinking. While I would love to perform as a dancer, I also am drawn to using dance as a form of social action to bring art to those who lack the access to it.

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7. Who has helped you most in your life so far?

I have been blessed with many excellent teachers, both in school as well as in the arts, who encouraged me to follow my dreams. When a teacher tells a young student that anything is possible, it has a massive impact on the formation of that student. My accomplishments rest upon the words of the teachers who believed in me; I owe everything to them.

8. If you could go anywhere in the world, where would you like to go the most?

Right now, I am dying to go to Spain. I speak a little Spanish, and I love the language and culture. One of my life goals is to hike the Camino de Santiago, from France across the northern border of Spain, and enjoy the art and journey along the way.

9. What do you think is the most important thing that needs to happen to make a better world?

People need to care for each other more. Today, so much focus is placed on numbers and data, and we lose the sense of humanity in these numbers. I truly believe that the world would change overnight if people looked around and gave a little more love to everyone they met. And, I think art, in all its forms, is a vehicle for this change, for it counters the data-obsessed nature of current society, encouraging open-mindedness and the need for appreciation of all people.

10. Who inspires you the most and why?

My hero is Anne Frank, and I had the privilege of visiting her hiding place in Amsterdam over the summer. Here is the message I left in the guestbook, “As a teenage writer myself, I can only aspire to convey the truth as Anne did. Her striking honesty and faithful optimism shine even today as an example of the human power to persevere and to thrive, even in the darkest moments of history. Anne’s voice will live on, fulfilling her dream to become a renowned writer and proving the potency of the thoughts of the teenage generation.”
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To follow Polyliteramore, go here. You won’t regret it!

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Good old fashioned face to face

For the past year my life has been all about the fulfillment of two roles – mother to a baby and writer of a manuscript. Both of these roles are big, meaty, rewarding hats to wear. Both of these roles also have a tendency towards loneliness. Looking after a baby full time is a relentless, exhausting task that can mean large bouts of time spent in the house, ensuring the latest nap goes well, the latest nappy is changed, the latest meal is served.

It is also an indescribably wonderful experience filled with joy I didn’t even know existed. The first time he turns to me with a little book in his hand, plonks himself down on my lap and patiently waits for me to read to him. Seeing that exuberant smile when he takes his first walk along the pavement whilst clinging on to my hand.

Then there is the writing. Also a dichotomy of agony and bliss. Long hours spent writing, writing, writing, working out that scene, going back to the earlier chapters and re-writing the whole thing. In my mind, all the time, thinking, creating. Then that moment where I know, I just know, the scene is there. My heart is on the page, and it is bleeding. I’ve made myself weep and laugh or gasp, and finally, it just works.

Both can be paths that are tread very much alone for large periods of time. So last week when I completed the edit of my manuscript and sent it along to my agent, I was suddenly able to stick my head out of the mist and the first thing I felt like doing was – not being alone! Communicating – with someone, about something, anything! Especially if that communication wasn’t about nappies or plot lines.

I am a user of technology with the best of them. I’m writing this very piece on a blog, on the internet for instance. However, I quickly realised, and this has been brewing for a good while, that my digital communications are just not providing the full connection that I need. In fact, at its worst moments, technological communication is making me feel more lonely.

I go to what’s app. Now, what’s app is very useful, don’t get me wrong. But it is no replacement for real, live communication. Those groups exist to ‘bring people together’, but do they? Really? Or do they replace actual face to face meetings between actual human beings? Maybe not always, but they can. It is so much easier to glance at one’s phone, type off a quick reply on what’s app and tick off the “I’ve communicated to those people” box. But. Did I see that person’s face? See their expression? Hear the tone of their voice? Pick up on their emotions? Did they see any of that from me?

No. They didn’t. And I think that can be where the loneliness breeds. In an age of technology designed to connect us, loneliness is still all around us, it’s everywhere. It can be the same with Facebook. Two thousand friends, hundreds of likes, but did I really get to know the truth of anyone’s life today? The triumphs and the struggles that really matter?

As usual, my approach is a radically moderate one – somewhere in between, some kind of balance, a bit of ying, a bit of yang. I use social media with the best of them – it allows me to reach thousands of people across the world, it is part of my work too, but at the same time I will be making sure I continue to see people, and have a good chin wag, possibly with a cup of tea, as often as I am able.