Meet Blogger Helen McCombie !

Helen McCombie is a lifestyle and art history blogger who discusses “culture, lifestyle and travel with a side of social awareness.” Read Ms. McCombie’s interview below!

1. How long have you been blogging about art history and culture and what is your educational background?

My blogging began in 2011, when I began writing longer pieces about my encounters with art.  I had studied art history at school, and was volunteering in an art museum, and wanted to find a way to express my thoughts and ideas about art with greater freedom than simple school essays had allowed.  Writing about art is a fascinating process – it makes you really stop and look at the work. Often I find myself feeling quite differently about a piece when I have finished writing about it!

The Feminist Gadabout started just about a year ago.  As I’m growing older and more politically engaged I wanted to explore a wider range of topics, but also see how our political lives can seep through into our understanding of the broader culture.  And that seeing things through a feminist lens doesn’t mean you can’t have fun! A lot of my pieces don’t have an explicitly political bent or point to them, it’s more an acknowledgement that my appreciations might be moulded by my feminism.  I’ve enjoyed creating a space in which I can express my ideas and opinions, but also just write fun content that evaluates the world around us. One of my recent pieces compares Jane Austen characters to avocados, so I’m never quite sure where my mind will lead me!

I have a slightly unusual educational background in that I was home-educated until Sixth Form (the last two years of school).  I think this really helped me develop a sense of independence, ad of knowing my own mind, which I’m still reaping the benefits of even as my thirtieth birthday looms ever closer.  After school I studied art history at both Oxford and Cambridge Universities. This was such an enormous pleasure; it’s so rewarding to push yourself intellectually, especially on a subject you’re passionate about.  Having to produce so many essays definitely helped hone my writing skills too!

2. Your blog’s subtitle is Culture, lifestyle and travel with a side of social awareness. How do you define social awareness in this current CoVid19 era?

I think I chose to use the term ‘social awareness’ because it’s quite an open one – it acknowledges the all-encompassing nature of the fight for equality.  When you’re hoping to achieve justice for all genders and people, it’s not something you can turn off and on at the switch of a button, it will impact your whole world view.  I think this is more true than ever in the COVID-19 era. It’s tempting to think that ‘all bets are off’ now we’re facing this enormous crisis, but all the old issues remain, and intersect and interact with our experience of the coronavirus crisis.  From housing healthcare and housing inequality to gendered professions, mental health and childcare, the current crisis is greatly impacted by issues we’ve been working on in the pre-COVID-19 era.

I think of ‘social awareness’ as being the lens of social justice.  It’s not necessarily the act of fighting for social justice, but the way in which we look at and interpret the world around us.  In times of crisis like this, it’s more important than ever that we critically engage with the message we are receiving, and look out for one another.  The crisis presents an opportunity for empathy and unity – we really are all in this together. If we can do even small things to help each other now and in the future, that will be an enormous comfort.

3.  When you are not blogging, how do you spend your free time?

Right now I’m mostly staying in the house! But normally I like tog et to as many museums
and galleries as possible, travel and explore whichever local food scene I find myself in. I
don’t consider myself particularly ‘well-travelled’, which is something I’m trying to work on.
Reconciling this with my attempts to reduce my carbon footprint isn’t always easy! I
wouldn’t call myself a ‘fitness freak’ but I do enjoy running and working out too, so try to get
a couple of runs and a few sessions in each week. Physical exercise can provide much
needed balance to more intellectual pursuits. I still write all my drafts (including this one!)

by hand before typing them, and know I can get very hunched up over my desk. A long run
or a steady workout is a good way to stretch out and loosen up again!

4.  What can we expect to see on your blog in future months?

 There’s going to be a lot of fresh material to see on The Feminist Gadabout in the coming year.  I’ve very recently moved to Melbourne, Australia, so I’m hoping that once the lockdown restrictions are relaxed a bit I’ll be able to get to know the city.  Melbourne is said to be the culture capital of Australia, and is world-famous for its food, so I can’t wait to explore! I’d also like to get out on some road trips and long-weekends to familiarise myself with my new country, so expect some exciting travel posts.

At the moment thought my content is quite focused on getting us through the greatly increased amount of time we’re spending at home.  From film and book reviews to indoor workouts, I’ve got a lot of material under the new tag ‘indoor life’, with lots of ideas and recommendations for how to stay healthy and happy over the coming months.  This is balanced with pieces about more strictly social justice issues – for instance I’ve got a piece coming up looking at how our experience of the lockdown is impacted by housing inequality.

I’d really like to welcome some other writers to the The Feminist Gadabout as it gets into its second year.  So if you’re looking at the world through an intersectional lens and have a piece you’d like to share, please do get in touch!

Meet Author and Publisher Colleen Tews!

Colleen Tews is both a publisher and author of paranormal urban fantasy. If you’re a fan of vampires, romance and suspense, check her out! Read her interview below.

1. Can you describe your writing style? My writing style can be described as WTF mixed with dry humor. I want a movie to play in the reader’s mind, make the fiction as real as possible and make you think that what the character’s do is either logical, horrifying, or hilarious. Why funny? Because we need it to balance the dark scenes. You can’t have drama without comedy when your goal is to flesh out the world.

2.  What do you enjoy most about writing paranormal? Its boundless. Anything is possible and plausible. Being able to examine human behavior in extremes is sexy to me.

3. Besides writing, you also own Delphian Hope Publishing. How do you balance writing, publishing and your daily life?I don’t balance it well at all. But that’s more me feeling overwhelmed, then not being able to handle the work. PTSD and anxiety can be rough. On good days I can slam out 20 thousand words, edit a couple chapters, and still have time to read a manuscript an author set in. As of right now, I’ve only published my work, including created my own cover art. During this pandemic I will be writing out my five year business plan. Once that is done a posting for submissions will go up on Delphian Hope Publishing’s Facebook page.

4. Do you have a current work in progress?  Currently, I’m working on a new edition of the second book in the Shadow Faith Series, Virus Within. Don’t worry it has nothing to do with the coronavirus. All the books in the series have a word with the letter ‘V’. This new edition will be out in May. Then in late August the third book, ‘Vindication’, will be available to read. All of my books are available in ebook wherever they’re sold, paperback on Amazon, and audiobook by the time ‘Vindication’ releases.

Meet Author Lorna Shultz Nicholson!

Canadian author Lorna Shultz Nicholson has written several YA series. She holds a B Sc. in Human Performance from the University of Victoria. Read the interview below to get to know this prolific author!

1.How has the current CoVid19 crisis affected your writing routine?

Good question. For some reason, I am working an adult suspense/thriller novel. I’ve been writing children’s for so long but this is what is coming my way. Obviously, things are on hold, and my agent has some of my other work, but since things have slowed, I found myself wanting a project to work on. Will it sell? I have no idea but there is something freeing about working on something with no expectations.

  1. Where do you draw your inspiration for your books?

From everywhere. Ideas are about keeping your brain open to stories around you. Sometimes an idea comes from the weirdest place, the strangest sentence or comment. Then you start swirling it around and it grows. Much like a seed in the ground. Needs some watering and attention, and suddenly it is something that can be made into a full length project. 

  1. Your series One to One, Amazing Hockey Stories and Podium YA deal with the pressures young people face. How do you keep yourself up-to-date on current issues today’s youth is facing?

I’m surrounded by youth because I write for youth. So, when I’m at conferences or school visits I try and spend time with students and listen to them talk. I always talk to them instead of going to the staff room and it helps me get their lingo and new stories. Sometimes any little thing gives me a story. 

  1. What are you currently working on?

I’m working on a new novel that is an adult thriller. But I have a YA novel with my agent and a middle grade novel as well. So, once they sell, (hopefully), they might have sequels so waiting for those to sell. I also sent in a proposal for a non-fiction book on female athletes and I would love for it to sell. Lol. I would love for all my books to sell!!!!!  For me and my agent and my readers.

The Bane of my Childhood Existence

Yesterday, April 3rd, I turned 55. And today, my former classmate and dear friend Colleen turns 55. And I wish her all the best as she begins her 56th year.

My relationship with Colleen inspired me to blog on her birthday because ours, from start, was a rather strange relationship.

Like oil and water.

Colleen was one of the first few children of my own age I met before going to kindergarten. We met when our mothers and other local women started their own weight loss group ( You’ve heard of TOPS? Well Mom and her friends called their group the SPOTs–Spare Pounds Off Together, but us kids just called it the Fatty Club). Being the isolated, selfish little brats we were with undeveloped social skills, Bill and I would always hide our toys when it was Mom’s turn to host a SPOTs meeting and the other ladies brought their kids!

Being the socially inept child I was, I had no real sense of how to interact with my peers. Worse, the other children already seemed to know each other and I was thrust into the role of outsider for the remainder of my school years.

And for most of those years, Colleen was present.

As my bully.

On rare occasions, we got along, attempting to be “friends,” but it never seemed to last.

Fast forward 2015. One of my old schoolteachers posted our class photo ( I think it was 4th or 5th grade). Her caption read, “Most of these children will be 50 this year!”

Apparently, Colleen had also friended this old teacher of ours, and I was tagged in the photo. Colleen contacted me, which, after 32 years, was quite unexpected! Talk about a “blast from the past!”

So I replied, and we started videochatting. She was extremely apologetic (“I was so mean to you; I’m sorry,” she’d repeat often). I truly had put the past behind me and welcomed this new relationship gratefully.

This year began with Colleen and her husband David visiting us, and we had a wonderful time with them. I’m extremely glad she looked me up all those years ago and SO grateful we renewed and improved our relationship. Colleen and David are exceptionally nice people and I’m glad to call them both my friends.

So it’s with great joy I wish my friend a happy birthday. It’s because of her we reconnected and for that I am truly grateful.