Autistic at YALC

Or any other busy conference really…

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On Sunday I went to the last day of the three day Young Adult Literature Convention. It’s only its second year, and is held with the London Film and Comic Con (LFCC).

It’s only four months since I was diagnosed as autistic. Or technically, as having an “autistic spectrum condition” and I’m still fitting this into my self image and learning to own my autism. Because 39 years and 8 months of being undiagnosed autistic and of being “high functioning” and “coping” (Ha. Ha.) doesn’t lead to instantaneous acceptance or “feeling autistic”.

So. Autistic. Geeky conference. Day out without the children. Get to spend it with friend. Sounds great.

Considering that a much higher percentage of geeks are probably autistic spectrum than average population, my minuscule experience of LDCC made me think it pretty much sucked at autism friendly.

And I consider myself to have comparatively mild traits. Most of the time.

Not that I was going to LDCC, it was YALC. But I live in an Oxfordshire village and on a Sunday the earliest trains meant I got there after 11am, so LDCC was in full swing and the early entry for YALC was irrelevant.

If Jax hadn’t tweeted me that YALC was on level 2, I wouldn’t have known where to start. There was a huge mass of people. Dark corridors of people up and down in lines. Tables full of film and comic merchandise, blurring into a mass of colours. Cos players everywhere. People randomly stopping in front of you to take pictures of cos players. People all around. Noise all around.

(I don’t get cos play. I get being different but after several Joker / Harley Quinn couples, Batpeople of all sizes, Harry Potters, zombies, and hair in every shade of pink, blue, and green, it’s not so different any more.

I still want to dye my hair blue. I like blue.

Or maybe purple.)

I think it took me over twenty minutes to get from the entrance, and up a mere two stories to find YALC. Which was practically empty in comparison, and a much nicer set up to deal with.

The signposting at the venue was terrible. There were “maps” near stairs and lifts, if you could call them maps. I could just about work out what floor I was on from them, but it wasn’t easy to see where on the floor you were, and finding the stairs was a matter of walking around walls until you got lucky. And then the stairs were one directional, which was only signposted at the staircases. On A4 paper taped above the door.

There were also lifts. I got one from level one to level two. It was going down but I figured it would go back up after so I got on. Almost everyone else in the lift was also going up, but the staff member controlling it was going down first. Two people got out on the ground floor. Back at the first floor, one person got annoyed that the lift was going up.

I’ve spent my life thinking that everyone else got given a rulebook that I didn’t, and Sunday made that feeling even stronger. Fortunately I now know that most people did get that rulebook, but there are lots of people who didn’t either, and we rock at different things.

I openly stimmed. It’s not something I usually do, but I’m letting go and letting what happens happen. I sway back and fourth a lot without noticing usually. And clench fists. And open and shut zips. And bite lips. Okay, I stim a lot. On Sunday I noticed my hand doing some jiggling. I’m not sure what it did, I was concentrating on other things. It was a new one for me.

You may think I didn’t enjoy YALC. I enjoyed YALC. I may not have done half what I planned; I may not have heard three quarters of what was said at the workshop I did attend; I may have got frustrated (internally) at the staff member who didn’t seem to have been briefed on what she should be doing; I may have talked to only a handful of people, bought no books, and gone to no signings; I may have left earlier than I originally planned.

But.

But I experienced what it was like. I know how to get to a new place I didn’t know how to get to before. I learnt a bit more about how London Underground works to get the right train. I stood about three feet away from Tom Savini accidentally (Tom Savini!) I saw lots of lovely books to drool at. I listened to people be passionate about books. I rekindled my knowledge that publisher publicity people are very lovely.

I also learnt that I’m probably not really going to be a YA blogger. I like YA and read it for me, but my passion is for fiction aimed at younger ages. I feel a lot more comfortable with picture book people.

I also learnt that I’m a lot more of an experienced blogger than I give myself credit for. I know what I need to know, even if I’m not the best at implementing things. I need to believe in myself more.

And I learnt that spending the day with a good friend lets issues and anxieties fade away. But I think I knew that anyway ūüėČ

Nonsense and Stuff

I’m somewhere in the middle of changing my social media accounts from @ChildLedChaos to @ChaosCastleUK so things will probably go wobbly while I do that.

I’m also currently not posting anything, but that isn’t on purpose. Actually getting the metaphorical pen to the virtual paper isn’t quite happening.

Instagram is probably where I’m most active at the moment.

I have lots of posts in draft: Cotswold Wildlife Park, The Story Museum, Little Tiger Press, lots of books. If only they’d write themselves.

Hopefully if the depression and anxiety tone down I’ll be at YALC tomorrow. In the meantime I’ll be bowing out of a friend’s birthday do because I can’t do socialising today.

I wish I could cancel my own birthday do. I only agreed to it because people told me I had to.

Clash of Clans appears to be my current mini obsession. And parenting books.

Wedding Shoes

weddingshoes

One of the (many) female stereotypes I don’t fit into is a love of shoes.¬†I just don’t get it. Shoes should be flat, comfortable, and worn until they’re full of holes.

I compromised on our wedding day, and bought one inch heeled ivory silk shoes. “You need proper heels,” I was told. “I don’t want to fall over,” I replied.

By the time of the wedding breakfast, after wearing them for a few hours, my feet were thoroughly uncomfortable and I ditched the shoes under the table during the meal and went barefoot (tight-footed?) for the rest of the day.

The picture above sums up our wedding for me. Mr Chaos getting to be James Bond for the night, and neither of us completely conforming to other people’s expectations (although I¬†still think we were too conventional really…)

Our Week in Books #21 & #22

Other than on Goodreads, Twitter, and Instagram, I’ve not been doing reviews. I want to populate Chaos Castle but my procrastination skills are honed to exceptional levels. Sulk.

I am trying to be good with books, and will do some library reservations soon instead of buying all the picture books I want. I can do this. Review. Review. Review…

Our Week in Books in Numbers
Year progress: 139/365 = 38.1%
Read 52: 25/52 = 42.3%
Picture books: ??/52 = ??%
Short reads: 26/52 = 46.2%

Books reviewed: none published
Cumulative: 3

Books read (excl picture books):
George’s Marvellous Medicine (read aloud)
The Giraffe, The Pelly, and Me (read aloud)
Armageddon Outta Here
The Maleficent Seven

Books added to shelves:
A Slip of the Keyboard – Terry Pratchett (bought from Amazon)
The Curse of the Gloamglozer – Paul Stewart & Chris Riddell
The Giant of Jum – Elli Woolard & Benji Davies (bought from Amazon)
Armageddon Outta Here – Derek Landy (bought from Mostly Books)
The Secret Rescuers: The Storm Dragon – Paula Harrison & Sophy Williams (bought from Mostly Books)
The Maleficent Seven – Derek Landy (bought from Mostly Books)
The Nowhere Boys – Elise Macredie (bought from Mostly Books)
Dogs Don’t Do Ballet
Raising Steam – Terry Pratchett (bought from Sainsburys)
Batman Hush Part One – DC Comics Graphic Novel Collection #1 (bought from WHSmith)
Cheer Up Your Teddy Bear, Emily Brown – Cressida Cowell & Neal Layton (review book from Hachette)
Coming Up Roses РRachael Lucas (£1.89 Kindle)
Cumulative: 139

Library books borrowed: none
Cumulative: 16

Books removed from shelves: none (I think)
Cumulative: 102

A reading challenge from http://liveotherwise.co.uk/makingitup

 

Our Week in Books #16, #17, #18, #19 & #20

I should probably just call this Our Month in Books really… Probably missed things somewhere along the way.

Our Week in Books in Numbers
Year progress: 139/365 = 38.1%
Read 52: 22/52 = 42.3%
Picture books: ??/52 = ??%
Short reads: 24/52 = 46.2%

Books reviewed: 3
Please Mr Panda
A Tale of Two Beasts
The First Slodge
Cumulative: 3

Books read (excl picture books):
The Jolley Rogers and the Cave of Doom
Reaper Man
Soul Music
The Imaginary
Death Bringer
Kingdom of the Wicked
The Scandalous Sisterhood of Prickwillow Place

Books added to shelves:
Knight in Training: Dragons Can’t Swim – Vivian French & David Melling (bought from The Book People)
How Are You Feeling Today? – Mollly Potter & Sarah Jennings (bought from The Book People)
The Science Book – DK (bought from The Book People)
The Shakespeare Book – DK (bought from The Book People)
TinTin 3 in 1 – Herge (second hand from charity shop)
You Have Been Warned! – Roger McGough & Chris Mould (second hand from charity shop)
The Jolley Rogers and The Cave of Doom – Jonny Duddle (bought from Mostly Books)
Where Oh Where Is Rosie’s Chick? – Pat Hutchins (review book from Hachette)
Wild – Emily Hughes (bought from Mostly Books)
Mermaid – Cerrie Burnell & Laura Ellen Anderson (bought from Mostly Books)
Cinderella’s Sister and the Big Bad Wolf – Lorraine Carey & Blanco Migy (bought from Mostly Books)
The Three Little Wolves and the Big Bad Pig – Eugene Trivizas & Helen Oxenbury (bought from Mostly Books)
Little Red and the Very Hungry Lion – Alex T Smith (bought from Mostly Books)
The Fairytale Hairdresser and the Little Mermaid – Abie Longstaff & Lauren Beard (bought from Mostly Books)
Dinosaur Police – Sarah McIntyre (bought from Mostly Books)
The Father Who Had Ten Children – Benedicte Guittier (review book from Salariya)
The Chicken Who Had Toothache – Benedicte Guittier (review book from Salariya)
A Step in the Wrong Direction – Colin West (second hand from charity shop)
The Granny Project – Anne Fine (second hand from charity shop)
The Finger Eater – Dick King Smith & Arthur Robins (second hand from charity shop)
Midnight Over Sanctaphrax – Paul Stewart & Chris Riddell
Sugarlump and the Unicorn – Julia Donaldson & Lydia Monks (bought from Book Depository)
Only Ever Yours – Louise O’Neill (¬£1 Kindle)
Cumulative: 127

Library books borrowed: none
Cumulative: 16

Books removed from shelves: none (I think)
Cumulative: 102

A reading challenge from http://liveotherwise.co.uk/makingitup

I Should Be Doing Something Else

No matter what I’m actually doing, I always feel I should be doing something else. If I’m decluttering, I should be cleaning. If I’m reading, I should be reviewing. If I’m walking, I should be doing the laundry. If I’m putting the clothes away, I should be tidying the lounge floor. If I’m sweeping the kitchen, I should be cooking dinner…

The problem with all these conflicting thoughts is that my brain just freezes and can’t decide what to do. I can’t do everything, so which things should I prioritise? I want it all done already, and if I schedule I get stressed by the length of the list.

I spend far too many hours starting at walls, or playing inane games on my phone. If I’d walked in all that wasted time, the house would still be a mess but I’d be fitter.

And I’d still feel guilty about the mess.

I’m still processing my autism diagnosis (autism spectrum condition, not Aspergers, although I assume I’m Aspergers) and trying to work out methods that will work for me. I have spoon limitations (look up spoon theory if that makes no sense) and now I know I also have executive function limitations, I can’t follow a scheme that might work for thousands of other people. I need a way of decluttering and organising that actually works for me. I need to get rid of the backlog of mess and have time to have a life again.

And I really need to write all those book reviews I have in my head. Sigh.

Unveiling Chaos Castle

Chaos Castle

I’ve wanted to start a book-only book for a while. I had an idea, that grew into a concept, that I searched for an illustrator for… And all that was in place with a theory of opening by Christmas 2014. Hahaha.

I have a problem with getting stuck in details (it’s an autistic thing) and so spent too much time on working out a perfect format, and the categories, and all the technical things that don’t matter anywhere near as much as the content.

Having spent several months avoiding writing anything at all, in case I get it wrong, I’m forcing myself into the open with the first two reviews on Chaos Castle. It’s a bit empty there at the moment, but I don’t think I’d ever write a word if it isn’t ‘live’, so please be patient while I kick my butt into gear and I hope you enjoy.

Please Mr Panda - Steve Antony: Link to Chaos Castle review

TaleOfTwoBeastsTNIllustrations by Duncan Wilson

 

Music With Rocks In #TerryPratchettBlogTour

Soul Music is the 16th Discworld novel, and was first published in May 1994. It was two years since I read my first Terry Pratchett novel and at that point I’d read everything published and Soul Music became my first hardback novel purchase (to be followed by almost all Terry Pratchett novels since…) I was nearing the end of my first year at university: a plump, weird, and mostly friendless eighteen year old whose only wall decoration in a drab room on the third floor of the smallest halls of residence was a copy of The Streets of Ankh-Morpork…

TPSM1

Perhaps knowing I was on the autistic spectrum might have helped me through the teenage years, but instead I had books. Reading (the town) in the mid 1990s was a great place for a fantasy fan, with a host of book signings. But the first signing I remember going to was for Soul Music. I was lucky enough to meet Sir Terry a few times at book signings (too many years ago) and although it was for mere minutes and I was too shy to say much, he was the sort of person who actually remembered people at later signings.

The list of books I submit to review for the Farewell Terry Pratchett Blog Tour (organised by Viv from Serendipity Reviews) was Wyrd Sisters, Mort, Reaper Man, or Soul Music. In retrospect, given its importance in my life, I should have put Soul Music first but fortunately all the others were taken. Wyrd Sisters was the book that started my love of Discworld, from reading the first page in the library, and the Death books were always my favourite.

I didn’t feel I could write about Soul Music without reading Mort and Reaper Man first, so I’ve just re-read all three in preparation, reminding myself of Terry Pratchett’s genius with words and humour. Over the years, the Discworld developed and grew,¬†and even in reading books four, eleven, and sixteen, I could notice the books maturing. Although I can see that Soul Music could be described as lacking compared to later Discworld novels but whether for nostalgia or the huge number of pop culture and rock’n’roll references (or DEATH) this is still one of my favourites.

Soul Music follows the story of Imp Y Celyn (“Buddy”) from Llamedos (read it backwards) as he leaves his rural life and seeks his fortune in Ankh-Morpork.¬†It includes familiar characters like Death and Albert, the Wizards, the Watch, CMOT Dibbler, the Patrician, and introduces Susan Death, the Canting Crew, and an embryonic Hex.

Soul Music is the story of rock’n’roll seeping where it doesn’t quite belong, while Death takes a short holiday to try to forget everything (including joining the Klatchian Foreign Legion and drinking the contents of The Mended Drum.) Susan Sto Helit, technically Death’s granddaughter (see Mort), gets roped into the family business by the Death of Rats (interpreted¬†by a raven named Quoth, who doesn’t do “the N word”) and Cut-Me-Own-Throat Dibbler gets rich,¬†very briefly.

It’s funny. It has an animated series with¬†a soundtrack that gives¬†a potted history of rock’n’roll in eight songs. The signing tour included t-shirts with the dates on the back. If you’ve not read any Discworld, it might not be the best place to start (I recommend Mort or Wyrd Sisters), but can still be enjoyed without any prior knowledge of recurring characters or Discworld politics.

As this post is ridiculously late, I will stop rambling for now. Luckily for us all, his written legacy will ensure Terry Pratchett will never fade away…

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The Farewell Terry Pratchett Blog Tour 2015
9th April – Introduction at Serendipity Reviews
10th April – How Thief Of Time Changed My Life at Hapfairy
11th April – I Shall Wear Midnight at Serendipity Reviews
12th April – Guards! Guards! at Dark Readers
13th April – Reaper Man at Pewter Wolf
14th April – The Colour of Magic at So Many Books, So Little Time
15th April – Top Ten Discworld Characters at YA Yeah Yeah
16th April РThe Wee Free Men at Della Says
17th April – Good Omens at Sister Spooky
18th April – Pyramids at Empire of Books
19th April – Cover Love (vlog) at Dark Readers
20th April – Equal Rites at Readaraptor
21st April –¬† Nation at Tales of Yesterday
22nd April – Raising Steam at Thoughts from the Hearthfire
23rd April – Pratchett Adaptations at An Armchair by the Sea
24th April – Music With Rocks In at Child-Led Chaos (You Are Here)
25th April – Going Postal at Kirstyes
26th April – Truckers at Fluttering Butterflies
27th April – The Late Great Terry Pratchett (vlog) at Sable Caught
28th April – Memories of Mort at Making It Up
29th April – Wyrd Sisters at Tamsyn Murray
30th April – The Amazing Maurice and His Educated Rodents at Green Mum
1st May – Terry Pratchett Farewell Tour at Teen Librarian
2nd May РHogfather at Bookish Treasures
3rd May – Pratchett Inspired Pictures at Making It Up
4th May – Wintersmith at The Fleeting Dream
5th May – Truckers at Feeling Fictional

Remembering Terry Pratchett

I was 16 when I read my first Discworld novel. It was such a notable experience that I wrote it in my diary at the time, and have kept that diary for 23 years…

On March 12th this year, when I heard that he had died, I cried. I sobbed big gulping tears for someone who I’d met for mere minutes, causing my children to worry about me. It’s okay, I said, someone has died but it’s okay to be sad.

I suppose I shouldn’t say Terry Pratchett had a huge impact on my life, I should say that his novels (especially Discworld) have. But his genius shines through the words in novel after novel and it’s a huge loss to the world that he died far too soon. Sixty six years wasn’t long enough.

When Viv from Serendipity Reviews asked for contributions for a blog tour in his memory, I jumped at the chance. I’ll be reviewing Soul Music on Thursday. The tour started on 9th April and because I’ve been a bit lax with blogging I’m behind on reading all the posts but I look forward to catching up.

TPblogtour

 

Adult Autism Assessment (UK)

I had a plan. I was going to write the process of going for autism assessment as an adult as it happened. This fell apart within the first month, when I received an extremely vague referral acceptance letter from the local service, which started a long process of anxiety and uncertainty.

From initial referral to diagnosis, my process took 14 months. This varies from county to county depending on waiting lists and local services. It will take at least three months, with an unknown upper limit. This is not particularly helpful.

Wherever you are in England (and possibly the UK, but the services vary and my experience is in England), the first step to getting an adult autism assessment from the NHS is to get a GP referral. Alternately, you can try a private route.

Book an appointment specifically for the purpose of talking about a referral, and prepare a statement in advance. If you have come to the point of looking to go through assessment, you have probably read a lot about the subject to suspect that you are on the autistic spectrum. The most useful thing to take to your GP is an example of how you think you fit the three areas of the ‘triad of impairments’. To be honest, I just waffled and didn’t prepare at all, but it would have been helpful.

The next step is to wait, and wait, and wait… Actually it was only two weeks since seeing my GP that I got a letter from the local autism service accepting the referral. If you have heard nothing with a month, you do need to chase.

The rest of the steps vary from county to county, and are very personal. It’s not possible for me to write about the process in detail because I am still processing much of it, and also I don’t actually want to share most of it because it it so personal.

However, here is a summary (with timescales) of the stages I went through:

Jan 2014 – GP referral

Feb 2014 – Referral acceptance letter

Aug 2014 – Pre-assessment letter, and form to complete

Sept 2014 – Pre-assessment interview in person (1 hour)

Oct 2014 – Pre-assessment questionnaires to complete (200+ questions)

Jan 2015 РAssessment day in person: 6.5 hours including  interview, lunch, tests, interviewing informant (in my case, husband)

Mar 2015 – Assessment feedback in person incl diagnosis if any (1 hour)

In between those dates were many, many e-mails chasing up what was happening, asking for clarifications, sending further information (including from a parent) etc.

In some guides I’ve read, it states that diagnosis will be given at the end of an assessment. With the service I was assessed with (ADRC Southampton),¬†they have a meeting once all evidence is collected for a¬†wider¬†team to confirm whether the correct diagnosis has been made. They do not give any hints of any diagnosis until the assessment feedback session.

I won’t lie, it was a stressful process. The full-day assessment was especially¬†draining, but the uncertainty and waiting caused me huge anxiety. It affected¬†my entire household.¬†There were¬†¬†times I wished I’d never started¬†but¬†I’m glad I went through the process and have the diagnosis.