Saturday, April 02, 2011

Jo from Once Upon A Bookcase and Ink and Paper (Awesome Women)

Please welcome to the blog, one of my favourite bloggers and a truly awesome woman, Jo from Once Upon A Bookcase and Ink And Paper! Jo is a wonderful blogger and friend and it's an honour to have her here on my blog. Over to you, Jo...

Can you tell me a little something about yourself?

I’m 23 – or rather 24 considering when this post will likely go live. Being a book blogger, I’m obviously an avid reader, and blog about YA on Once Upon a Bookcase and fantasy Ink and Paper. I’m a Journalism Studies graduate, chocolate addict, The Big Bang Theory fan, fussy eater, theatre lover, and your general all round average girl! :) Make mine a vodka and bitter lemon!

Did you have a role model growing up?

I don’t think I necessarily had a specific role model as such, but I did kind of look up to certain types of people. I was really into my music as a teenager, and thought people such as the guys in Busted (I know they’re not female!) and Avril Lavigne were cool. Not only did I like their music, but they were the only artists I knew of at that time – I have found many more since – who were serious about music, but injected humour into it, but also had this silly, cheeky “I don’t care what you think” attitude. They were the kind of people I wanted to be.

Who do you look up to now?

Since being a teen, I’ve grown up a little more. Although I still want to be the person I wanted to be as a teen, the people I look up to now I look up to for completely different reasons. I tend to look up to people who have overcome something, or fought against something, or have done something wonderful to help others. Whenever the Pride of Britain Awards comes on TV each year, I am there with my tissues, knowing I am going to be moved by the amazing things those people do. I have a tremendous amount of respect for our soldiers who are out fighting for their country, whether the reasons are right or wrong. I can’t even express how amazing I think the people with illness, disease or disability are, who have to struggle each and every day to live, breath, or go through ordinary tasks that you and I don’t even think about. All of these people, these strong, brilliant people, they’re the ones I’m in awe of, and who make me want to be better.

When you were little, what did you want to be when you grew up?

When I was very little, I wanted to be an actress, singer, and general all round fabulous, famous rich person. Basically, I wanted to be Kylie Minogue. I absolutely adored her. And I still think she’s fantastic, her music is generally pretty good, and I think it’s just absolutely wonderful now she’s well and free from cancer.

As a teen, I still wanted to be an actress – I absolutely loved Drama, and I took it for GCSE and A-level. The only problem was I was terribly shy, so wouldn’t really have worked. So I decided on Make-Up Artist. I spent a year taking a Cosmetic Make-Up and Beauty Consultancy course, to then discover it bored me stiff, and I missed writing my English Literature A-Level essays – which I couldn’t stand at the time.

Tell me something about the women in your life who have been an influence on you?

I would say there are three main women in my family who have had an influence on me; my Mum, her sister and my aunt, Nikki, and my Nan, their mother. I really have quite a close family, and although we don’t see each other as often as we used to due to people moving away, it’s always so good when we do get together.

Through my teens and as I’ve got older still, Mum has become not just mother, but also friend. My Mum has always been sensible and responsible, a proper lady, where as I’m more inclined to joke around. Despite this, we’re quite close and have our own shopping and cinema days out. We have fun. But she has also had a strong influence as my Mum in the type of person I am. I have really strong morals when it comes to things such as relationships and sex. My Mum has never told me how to live my life in this respect, but there have been serious and mature conversations over the years about such things, with her being completely open to any questions I had, and with her (and Dad, of course) generally bringing me up to know what’s right and wrong to now form my own opinion of what’s right and wrong in a grey world. I’m extremely proud to say that my Mum has helped shape me into a young woman who knows her own mind, knows exactly how she wants and will be treated, who will do things in her own time in her own way without being walked all over. And as I said, we’re now friends, and she’s probably one of my best friends. And for reasons I can’t go into, my Mum is also absolutely fantastic, and I am in complete awe of her every day. My aunt Nikki has been a strong influence because, where as Mum is sensible, Nikki is a little more care-free. Nikki can just be associated with fun and a good time, and I’ve always considered her to be more of a cool older sister than an aunt. She’s always cracking jokes and taking the mick, and I can’t help but smile when she’s around. However, Nikki is also one of the strongest women I know and incredibly, incredibly brave. She’s just completely wonderful. I also know, though, if there was some reason I felt I couldn’t go to my Mum with something, I could go to her and she would help me out. It’s not likely to happen, but it’s good to know she’s there.

Then there’s my Nan, who’s less like a typical grandmother and more like a glamorous granny. I get my love of high heels, long nails, rings, dressy clothes, and dancing and drinking all night from her! I have always though, even when I was very young, that my Nan is a party animal, and that I always wanted to be like her “when I’m old” – she’s not that old, really, only mid-sixties. And she always looks amazing! She’s a big believer of “if you’ve got it, flaunt it”- so she does! But you could never, ever accuse my Nan of looking like mutton dressed as lamb. She looks fantastic and I envy her. Age is slowing her down a little now, but she will never fail to get up and Jive with me when we’re down my local. She absolutely loves that me, being “a young girl”, likes going to visit her Nan for several days and take her down the pub. I don’t think you could find a grandmother and granddaughter who have a better relationship. And I love all three of these brilliant women!

Who is your favourite fictional character? And why?

My favourite fictional character would be Polgara from David Eddings’ The Begariad series, the follow up The Mallorean series, and the prequel “autobiography” to both, Polgara the Sorceress. As the last title suggests, Polgara is a sorceress in a few high fantasy series, but as well as being powerful in the magical sense, she’s powerful as a woman too. She is very much the mother figure for so many people through all the books – even those in their 30s and 40s, but you can get away with telling people what to do and how to behave when you’re a several hundred year old sorceress. She is aunt and carer to our main character, Garion, at the beginning of the first book, a great cook, a great healer, and strict about tidiness and cleanliness. Despite being a sorceress and being able to have the food and cleaning cook and clean itself, she is determined to do everything “the long way”, much to the annoyance of her sorcerer father, Belgarath. Through her mothering and “you will behave properly” attitude, she helps a number of people grow up and see what’s important. With her love, caring, and a gentle hand, she helps people find the right direction. And I think that’s her best power of all.

What were you like as a teenager and how did you cope with all the changes that occurred?

As a teenager, I was very quiet and shy, and a good girl. I did my school work, my grades were pretty good, I did as I was told – and didn’t end up very popular with the other students because of it. I was really quite low in my teens when at school. Home life was fine, school work was fine, but it was just the students there. They made me feel like nothing, because I didn’t do anything “right” or “cool”. I didn’t have a boyfriend, I didn’t wear the right clothes, I didn’t listen to the right music. Add on top of that being ginger, which made me stick out, and being very skinny... I got attention for all the wrong reasons, and I was hugely self-conscious. P.E. was a nightmare because, 1. It meant getting changed in front of other girls, and 2. It meant getting picked last for teams. I was very self-conscious of the changes happening to my body, because it would only be cause for more attention I didn’t want, but then when I developed less than other girls, it was even worse. Being very slim, I’m in proportion for my shape, but I didn’t see it that way back then, I just thought I looked like a boy at the point when I was already getting grief.

But something clicked one day, and I just decided I didn’t care. Obviously, I still cared how I looked, and I didn’t like that people thought so badly of me, but I was me and there was nothing I could do about it. I wouldn't stuff my bra with tissue or roll up my skirt, I wouldn’t pretend to like the music everyone else liked or start swearing at the teachers. I decided the only way I could fight back was to be me, be as happy as I could with who I was at the time, get the grades I needed to get somewhere in life, and try to have fun along the way.

Now, I’m happy to say, I have no problem with the way I look, who I am or where I’m going. I’m completely happy with myself, and it’s a brilliant feeling!

If you had any advice for yourself as a teenager, what would you say?

Keep doing what you’re doing, but speak up a little more and stand up for yourself. You’re just fine as you are, you’re going to get there, and they’ll soon be out of your life. (Oh, and PLEASE get yourself a Saturday job, you’re going to end regret not having had one when you’re older and are looking for a job on no experience!)

Of the issues and concerns that women are faced with today, what's the area you most like reading about?

In fiction, it would be the body issues theme. In this world where we’re surrounded by everything the media shouts at us, it’s really, really hard to be able to look at yourself and not think “I need to lose/put on weight,” “I need a nose/boob job/tummy tuck/face lift/liposuction/botox”. It’s really hard to look in the mirror when naked and think “I look good and I’m really happy with how I look,” and I think that’s just so sad, that we put ourselves down so much and don’t think we’re good enough. I love reading stories about women or girls overcoming these issues, and seeing just how wonderful they really are.

Generally, I love reading about the choice of going back to work or not when women have had children. I love how we have the choice now to go back to work, earn a living, and be strong, ambitious women, but I think sometimes people do forget that it is a choice that we now have, and look down on women who choose to be stay-at-home mums and look after their children, like they’re letting women down. I think the women who think that are letting women down. Yes, it’s great that women can now work alongside men, but that doesn’t mean we can choose not to, and being a mother is no easy task. I also think it’s sad that, in this current climate, women who may want to stay at home with their children just can’t afford to.

Is there anything else you'd like to add?

I absolutely LOVE this idea! Thanks Michelle for asking me to take part! :)


  1. Brilliant answers! I am a ginger too, I know how you feel, but I don't let it get to me!

  2. Wonderful post, and I love the pics! Thank you so much, Jo (and Clover)!

  3. Thanks again for having me, Clover!

    Cliona - Thank you! Oh, I've always been perfectly happy being ginger, it's just other people weren't so keen on it, lol.

    Luisa - No problem! I'm glad you enjoyed it!

  4. great post! loved all the answers!

  5. This is a great interview with fab questions & answers :o) It was nice getting to know a bit more about you Jo!

  6. Thank you so much Jo for taking the time to answer my questions, and so brilliantly too! And for the very fun photos :)

    I've not read much high fantasy before, but it's been something I've been thinking about lately. It's always been an area that I felt quite intimdated with, but there's nothing to be afraid of, I'm sure!

    Also, how much would I have to loved to be part of your family. Your mom, your aunt and your nan sound so wonderful and supportive. It sounds like the complete opposite of my men-only childhood! :)

  7. You said one of the things I would say to the teenage me, speak up, don't be as she. It's funny how we become more confident the older we get. x


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