Tuesday, 22 January 2019

Summer On Film, Me On Perfection


I only posted on this blog 8 times last year. Did you notice? Probably not. That's okay. The thing is, I got distracted. I could tell you now about how eventful 2018 was for me. Probably most of the blogs you read have done a similar retrospective this month, looking back at the last year, but I don't want to. Parts of it were great, parts of it were terrible. I want to focus on what comes next.



There are hundreds of unedited photographs on my desktop, stretching back as far as April 2017. I just stopped editing them. I could go into why but again, I don't want to dwell. I want to edit them. I want to post them. So I will. Starting with these.

I took these photos last summer, at Mount Edgcumbe, Buckfast Abbey, and Dartmoor, with my dad's old Olympus OM-10 and a roll of film that's been in my desk drawer for nearly 10 years. I've only tweaked them a little bit, just a minor adjustment to the shadows and highlights in photoshop, and as you can see, most of them are still overexposed and blurry, but there's something about some of them that I really love.



I think what I love so much about film photos is that they don't have to be perfect. (Of course, it would be nice if some of them could be a little more in focus, but I'm sure I'll get there eventually.) With film, the imperfections are part of the charm. Light leaks and weird colours just remind you that these are physical things, even when they've been scanned into a computer and edited in photoshop. They were made using hands and chemical processes that I still don't totally understand, even after spending hours in the darkroom at school.



I get caught up on perfection sometimes. Okay, a lot. I abandon photos because I can't get the colours how I want them, I stare at a blinking cursor for days because I can't get the words to sound right, I get frustrated because I can't get a cake to come together the way the recipe says it should. I stop doing those things altogether. I know it's impossible to be good at everything right away without putting in any work but I still sort of expect to be anyway. It's a confusing character trait, I'll admit.



I've been making a lot of banana cakes. I've made them so many times over the years that my Mary Berry's Baking Bible falls open at that page but I got bored of them for a while and refused to make any more. Recently, I've gone back to them. They're easy, they're meant to look plain and unfussy, and even if I forgot to adjust the timing for our oven and burn one, it still gets eaten in a few days. Sometimes I put cherries in them too. I cut them up, wash them, dry them, cover them in flour. Sometimes it works and they don't all just sink to the bottom. There was probably a metaphor in there somewhere but I didn't get much sleep last night and I think I lost it with the cherries.



Anyway, my point is that I'm trying to let go of the idea of perfection. I'm not the best photographer in the world, I'm certainly not the best writer in the world, but there's always something to like, even in imperfect things, and the point of creating isn't to create perfect things anyway. It's just to make something you enjoyed making, and the more you enjoy it, the more you do it, the more you do it wrong, the more you learn the tricks that make you better. Like how to correctly set the exposure on your camera (I hope). Or that you should wash the cherries and coat them in flour before you put them in the batter.

There it is. There's the metaphor.


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Tuesday, 4 December 2018

Christmas Mix Vol. II


Three years ago I shared a Christmas mix, made up of an hour and a half of absolutely outstanding Christmas music, but the thing is there are just so many excellent Christmas songs out there! So I'm back again with volume 2! Please enjoy another hour and a half of some of the absolute best Christmas songs, new and old. My gift to you this festive season. Merry December!


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Saturday, 8 September 2018

The Summer of Cornish Short Stories


Last year I wrote a short story. It was called 'The Haunting of Bodmin Jail', it was about a fake medium and some real ghosts, and it was chosen to be part of the book Cornish Short Stories: A Collection of Contemporary Cornish Writing. This year, Cornish Short Stories was published by The History Press, and because of that short story I wrote last year I got to do some really cool stuff.


In May we launched the book at the Falmouth Bookseller. I got to celebrate my first piece of creative writing in print with my parents and my closest friends, and I got to meet my fellow writers for the first time! The bookshop was packed with people and they sold every copy they had. I wore shoes with a little ghost on them, that were too big for my feet, and afterwards my parents took me and my friends for dinner at Whetherspoons because even when professional writer stuff is happening, you have to keep it real, you know?


The book was featured in the May edition of Cornwall Today, with a lovely write up by one of our editors.


And it was featured in the window of Waterstones in Truro! My mum made me pose for a picture next to it but you'll have to check out the Cornish Shorts highlight on my Instagram page if you really want to see that. It was just a little bit embarrassing. Actually, last time I checked there were still copies in the window, so if you're in Truro feel free to have a look and don't tell me if they've moved them because I'll be heartbroken. Thanks.


In June I did my first ever public reading from 'The Haunting of Bodmin Jail' at The Great Estate Festival. We didn't, strictly speaking, have much of an audience but I think that just means I'm a real published writer now, right? Reading in front of less than ten people, half of whom are also reading from the same book, is a rite of passage for a writer, and honestly, I love a good story, and this was a fun one to tell my friends afterwards.


In July, not only did I get to attend The Port Eliot Festival, a festival I have wanted to attend for years, but I got to be part of it. I got to walk around all weekend with the word 'artist' wrapped around my wrist. I got my name in the program on the same page as Billy Bragg. I got to read an extract of my story in front of a real audience, who laughed at my jokes and asked engaged questions about my writing, and then I got to spend the whole weekend watching other legit writers do that and remembering that, oh yeah, technically I was one of them! It was pretty cool.


To top off all these cool things, we've had reviews! Two of them so far, but they're both particularly special to me because they both mention my little story specifically! From Literature Works
Anastasia Gammon's 'The Haunting of Bodmin Jail' provides a darkly comic and witty portrait of one of 'the most haunted places in Britain' and demonstrates a canny awareness of craft from a refreshing new voice.
And from Created to Read
My favourite story in the collection was 'The Haunting of Bodmin Jail' by Anastasia Gammon - a ghost story with a hilarious twist, as a real ghost appears on a ghost tour, and Jane (the protagonist) must persuade a whole host of ghosts to go back and leave her in peace. I won't forget that one in a hurry!
This little story has brought me so much joy this year and I am so grateful to our two editors, Emma and Felicity, who chose to include my story, and to everyone else involved in the book for making it a reality. It's been a blast.

Cornish Short Stories is available to buy from all book retailers, online and in store, and it's on Good Reads, so, you know, feel free to leave a review if you want... I promise I won't even mind if you don't mention my story specifically.


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Wednesday, 20 June 2018

Snow


Something a little bit different to my last set of photos today, a little bit darker, a little bit moodier, certainly not so many bluebells. We had a few days of snow earlier this year and on the first day when it was quite heavy, my parents and I went for an evening walk up to the old cemetery near where we live. I don't know why. It was Mum's idea. I've tried not to make the pictures too creepy but, well, we were in a cemetery close to sunset so there was only so much I could do. Please enjoy this very small collection of uncharacteristically gothic pictures. Right up until the last one that I took on the walk back home. That one is slightly less gothic.







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Monday, 11 June 2018

Bluebells


It's been a while, hasn't it? Four months since my last post and over a year since my last photography post. I don't even have an excuse. What I have is a year's worth of unedited photos on my laptop and a desire to fix that. So, let's start with some snaps from a bluebell walk party I went to last month.

Every year my friend Kate's family throw this party, inviting people to come and walk among the bluebells, eat, drink, and generally be merry. This is the first year I've been and we had perfect sunny weather for it. We saw the bluebells, ate homemade pizza, toured the orchard, hung out with the dogs, and got a little too much smoke in our faces trying to toast marshmallows on the bonfire. And I hope I got a few okay pictures.













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Tuesday, 13 February 2018

The Haunting of Bodmin Jail

A snap of Bodmin Jail that I took four years ago.

A few weeks ago I mentioned that I have a short story coming out in an anthology this year, and that you would hear more about that soon. So here I am to tell you more. Are you excited? I'm excited.

Early last year I was flicking through an issue of Writing Magazine, even though I still hadn't read the previous month's issue, and even though I normally would have just tucked it under the stack of unread magazines on my desk and read it six months later, when my eyes caught on a call for submissions, for a planned anthology of short stories set in Cornwall, by Cornish writers. Calling it fate would be way too corny but it did seem almost too perfect to be true, and I did think to myself, 'If I don't do this, I'm an idiot.'

After a couple of false starts and far too much procrastinating, I wrote The Haunting of Bodmin Jail, a ghost story set in a building that isn't haunted. I got the idea from an advert I heard on local radio (and I'm not kidding when I say I never listen to local radio) for nighttime ghost tours of Bodmin Jail with their 'resident medium'. I cracked a joke to my parents about pretending to talk to ghosts for a living, and then basically ended up stretching that joke out to an almost 5,000 word short story.

I sent the story in (on the deadline day, of course) and a month later I got a reply. It was a yes. I've been unnecessarily secretive about it ever since because I am forever worried about jinxing good things, but since I have seen the proofs for the book now and my story is definitely still in there, I think I'm safe to finally tell you about this book I'm part of, Cornish Short Stories: A Collection of Contemporary Cornish Writing.

Cornish Short Stories features a wide array of writing from both emerging writers (like me!) and more established writers, covering a range of different subjects. It even has woodcut illustrations, which I'm very excited about. The one thing every piece has in common is that they are all set in Cornwall, a place that is full of great places to set stories in.

And it has a beautiful front cover.

This bold and striking new anthology showcases Cornwall’s finest contemporary writers, combining established and new voices. 
Ghosts walk in the open and infidelities are conducted in plain sight. Two teenagers walk along a perfect beach in the anticipation of a first kiss. Time stops for nothing – not even for death. Sometimes time cracks, disrupting a fragile equilibrium. The stories are peopled with locals and incomers, sailors and land dwellers; a diver searches the deep for what she has lost, and forbidden lovers meet in secret places. Throughout, the writers’ words reveal a love of the incomparable Cornish landscape.
My story, The Haunting of Bodmin Jail, is a ghost story, but with ghosts who are more annoying than they are scary, and that's all I'm telling you! If you want to know more you'll just have to buy the book, which is due out on the 2nd of April 2018. You can pre-order it already, if you want to, and I've included a few links below to help you find it. I'm incredibly proud of The Haunting of Bodmin Jail and beyond excited that it has been included in this collection. I hope you'll like it as much as I do!

Pre-order Cornish Short Stories:
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Wednesday, 7 February 2018

Witch

You’ve felt the hum of the earth in your toes from the day you were born. Seawater floods your veins, the crackling of fire is barely contained beneath your skin, and the rush of wind settles in your every breath. There is dirt and magic under your fingernails. The world is yours to command. The very things that make life and death are under your power. 
But you are not. 
The above is an extract from a short story I wrote for deardamsels.com, called 'Witch', which was published on the site this weekend. 'Witch' is a story about magic, secrets, and you.

The magic obeys you, it is the one thing that does, even when that means holding it down where it can not breathe, where it struggles against your ribcage and fights to be free. For the sake of your brother, you kept it where it could not see the sun.

I'm incredibly grateful to Dear Damsels for how kind they've been about this strange, dark little story and I sincerely hope this won't be the last time I write for them.

If you've never heard of Dear Damsels, this, from their website, explains it best: 'Dear Damsels is an online platform championing young female voices – a place where women can come together online, to read and write about the things that matter to them.'

I guess the thing that matters to me is witches?

You can read 'Witch' right here. I hope you like it!

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