Saturday, 16 May 2015

Dealing with Exam Stress

Bit of a different post today, but as I have my IGCSE exams from Monday until 10th June I've been thinking about them a lot. I'm stressed, you're stressed - we're all stressed. So, here's something I wrote in the hopes that it will help not only me but also some of you. 

Note: this entire post is based on how things work in the English education system. Most of this should still apply to people in other countries, but grades I mention might not. 

Here's the thing. No one should be pressuring or expecting you to get the very highest grades in every single exam you do. That's just going to make you feel worse. They're probably only looking out for you, but in this situation you can ignore them and do what feels right for you and only you. Hey, you might be capable of getting the highest grades in every single subject and if so then that's amazing and you should feel proud of yourself, but I find that the best thing to do is aim for a C. If you get that, then great - you've passed! If you get higher, that's a bonus and you should treat yourself to cake. Put enough pressure on yourself that you revise a substantial amount, but don't drive yourself into the ground with stress. 

Imagine someone who revises all day. every day. They don't schedule time out for themselves, they haven't seen their friends in months and it's quite possible that the last time they read a book or watched TV was some months ago. They cry a lot, but they keep going even though they feel a bit dead.

That is the kind of thing that does more harm than good. It's incredibly important and perfectly okay to balance revision with fun stuff, not to mention the fact that you need to eat and keep hydrated. Otherwise you'll drive yourself mad. Scheduling time for you is important, and that leads onto my next point...

When revision gets too much and you're contemplating ripping up the past paper you're doing, have a nap, go for a run, or watch funny YouTube videos. You've clearly reached your limit so any revision you do after that isn't going to benefit you at all. Take some time out and come back to it calmer and refreshed.

At the end of the day, no matter what anyone tells you, your results do not define you. How can a single letter sum up how creative, intelligent, funny and kind you are? It doesn't say anything about you as a person except how much you managed to remember about a certain topic on a certain day. And it's not the end of the world if you don't pass your exams first-time - resits exist for a reason, and that reason is that lots of people have to do them every single year. There's no shame in it.

Exams are great for certain people and their results will allow them into the university of their choice or the career that they like the look of. But the world does not revolve around exam results, thankfully. In my opinion, staying happy and healthy is the most important thing. You could have all A*s but be really unhappy. You could have all Cs or lower but be happy, healthy and still experiencing lots of different things. Exams are important, of course, but not life-defining. There are always other options and if you're passionate enough about something, you'll get it.

Overall, do what's best for you, but remember: keep hydrated, don't push yourself past the point of exhaustion - seriously, guys, revising all night is not going to help - and make sure you're taking time out of your day to relax. If you balance it well, you'll be fine.

This may be hypocritical coming from the girl who fully expects to cry through her Maths papers, but there's more to life than exams. And now I'm going to stop sounding like a school counsellor. *steps off soap box*

Do you have any exam advice?

Saturday, 9 May 2015

EVENT REPORT: Carrie Hope Fletcher talk and book signing

On April 24th I read and loved All I Know Now by Carrie Hope Fletcher, and on May 7th at Waterstones Piccadilly I got to meet the woman herself.

I'm not going to lie, the first part wasn't pleasant. The event was in the basement - which I only found out after trudging up four flights of stairs - and even though I was there early, there weren't any seats. On top of that it was boiling hot, dark, and very crowded. As you can imagine, that wasn't very nice! But there was free cake. Doesn't it look amazing?

At least I think it was free. I really, really hope it was free and that the one I ate wasn't actually stolen. That would be awkward.

As you might know from many sarcastic tweets of mine like this one, nothing annoys me more than standing in a crowd trying to see something and being met with a wall of tall people in front of me. It really sucks. But this time - and this actually made my day - a girl near me asked if I wanted to stand in front of her because she'd be able to see over me anyway. Seriously, my day was made and she is clearly a true Hopeful. Unfortunately I didn't get the girl's name, but in the unlikely event that she's reading this, thank you for being awesome!

I am so sorry about the poor photo quality; I considered not including this photo and the next one as they make me cringe they're that bad, but I figured you'd want to see them anyway. You'd think after bringing out so many different models that iPhones would have a good zoom by now, but apparently not.

Anyway, the talk began and was hosted by the one and only Internet-genius and friend of Carrie, Ben Cook. He talked a bit about how proud he is of Carrie before 'throwing some shade' at YouTubers who have their books written for them, which was hilarious even though it's not something I'm personally bothered by. For the record, Carrie wrote and illustrated the book herself!

After they'd chatted about the book and taken some questions from the audience, Carrie whipped out her guitar and played a quick cover of We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together by Taylor Swift followed by her original song Boys in Books are Better. It was so unexpected and the crowd went wild. Watch my vlog of the day here if you want to see that.

Soon enough it was time to get books signed and I was fifth in the queue, thank god, because the signing was estimated to go on for three hours and my feet were just about ready to drop off!

For once I didn't make a fool of myself; I am very happy about that because this is rarely the outcome when I meet an author. I'd been planning to tell her that I reviewed her book but then when I got there I didn't trust myself not to be an idiot. After getting my own book signed I got one signed for Ami, the girl who won my Twitter giveaway.

After that I traipsed around the stationery section and found a sketchbook almost as big as me, before receiving a surprising amount of tweets from viewers, I guess, who said they'd seen me at the signing but hadn't said hello. Really weird but really cool.

Before the signing, I'd been to Laduree to get some macarons. If you know me at all, you'll know that I have an unhealthy obsession with macarons and the joy I felt as I entered the shop was probably a bit over the top. But there we go.

And then I came home! Overall, it was a great day and I'm so glad I went. Carrie is honestly one of the nicest people I have ever had the pleasure of meeting and if you ever get the chance to meet her, you definitely should.

Click here to read my review of All I Know Now, or click here to see my vlog of the day!

Thursday, 7 May 2015

All I Know Now by Carrie Hope Fletcher

Title: All I Know Now
Author: Carrie Hope Fletcher
Published by: Little Brown
Publication date: 23rd April 2015
Pages: 288
Genres: Non-fiction/Memoir
Format: Hardback
Source: Bought.

Dear You,

My name is Carrie and I'm twenty-two years old. Apparently that makes me an adult. Yikes. *hides stuffed animals*

Anyhow, grown up or not, I did manage to make it through 'the Teen Age' more or less in one piece and, a few years ago, I started talking and writing online about some of the things I learnt back then... and a few things I've realised since. My daft videos and blogs about broken hearts, bullies and body image - among other things - seemed to help people, so I collected all those thoughts and bits of advice and ramblings into a book. This book. And gosh, isn't it pretty? Go on, stroke it. You know you want to.

I'm not an expert on 'life' (things I am an expert on: cake, Disney, making the perfect cuppa - that's about it) but I think I do know a bit about what's worrying you and maybe, with a little bit of luck, some of my stories will make you smile, make you think and, most of all, give you faith that it will all work out all right in the end. Because it will. Promise. All I Know Now is not all that much, but I hope it's enough to help.

Lots of love, Carrie

As you know, it doesn't bother me at all that vloggers are getting book deals,  and it doesn't bother me that some books by other vloggers were ghostwritten; it doesn't have a negative impact on me or the world, and it's none of my business how others live their lives. As I see it, it's another book to add to the shelves, and I do like books, as you might have noticed... However, I think All I Know Now is in a league of its own to other 'YouTuber books' simply because Carrie wrote and illustrated it all by herself, and she approached the publishers rather than being approached by them. It lends to a much lovelier reading experience.

I've enjoyed Carrie's videos for a while now, and I fully believe that, like her book is in a different league to other vloggers' books - she is, too. She's so down-to-earth and humble about everything, and she's always willing to have discussions with her viewers. She is also a true example of the saying that if you believe enough, think positively enough and work hard enough, your dreams will come true. For example: when she was eight, she played Young Eponine in Les Mis. Afterwards, she said she would be back as adult Eponine. And twelve years later, that's exactly what she's done!

So, as you can imagine, Carrie has had a rather eventful and extraordinary life. She's an honourary big sister to hundreds of thousands of people around the world, she's written a book, and every night she performs in London's West End. She grew up watching her brother become part of a globally-famous band, she dabbled in a bit of TV acting, and she is also a musician. But, like everyone else, she's had her heart broken multiple times, she was bullied, and she found herself in an array of awkward situations.

Carrie is wise beyond her years and in All I Know Now she tells us what she's learned from her mistakes. I originally wrote that as, "wise beyond her ears." That would be a bit weird, wouldn't it? Anyway - in one of her videos, Carrie said that the aim of the book was to help, and that if even just one person drew comfort from it, her job would be done. As much as I was looking forward to reading the book, I didn't expect to be helped by it - not many books have that kind of impact on me. However, I did draw comfort from it, especially from pages 169 and 278 which I noted down so you can have a look, too, if you like. When reading the last quarter or so of the book, in which those pages fell, I shouldn't have been reading. Instead, I should have been mulling over a really, really important decision about something which I'm not going to go into here. At the time, I was stressing out and half of me was reading the book while the other half kept going back to what I was supposed to be thinking about. I wasn't sure what I was going to do and I felt well and truly stuck. Limited. Trapped. So, as I read, those particular pages resonated with me because they seemed to go so perfectly with the problem I was having at that moment in time. Don't you just love it when that happens?

That was quite deep. On a less serious note, I love the cover. It's so bright, bold and wonderful. It also made me realise that yellow is, in fact, my favourite colour. I always thought it was blue, but apparently not. So, there you go. You learn something new every day.

Overall, this book is so Carrie. Disney, Harry Potter, musicals and tea all seemed to wriggle into her writing - which, by the way, felt really personal as Carrie writes exactly how she talks. I also love that, instead of chapters and parts, there were scenes and acts. Even the resources section - a great addition, by the way! - was called 'props'. How cool?

Don't deny yourself the pleasure of reading All I Know Now because it's (in a grumpy voice) 'just written by a random YouTuber.' Reading it is worth every hour in the day, and it truly is a big sister in book form. Grab yourself a cuppa and a cuddly Disney toy of your choice, Carrie-style, and prepare for all of your worries to disappear.
P.S I'm meeting Carrie tonight! I'm sure an event recap and/or vlog will be up in the coming week. :)