Isn’t that a crazy thing? Three whole MONTHS since my lil book baby was born (/published. I did not give birth). It has been a magical three months, in all honesty. Here is a recap, especially for u.


The best part so far FOR DAMN SURE has been finding copies of The Nicest Girl out in the wild. If you haven’t heard, Waterstones has been reeeeeeally struggling with stock issues this year, which has meant that many books haven’t actually made their way onto shelves. But in September we took a road trip to Oxford and found three copies in Blackwell’s! They were outward-facing! I cried! I signed them with my special pen!! Just an all-round lovely day.

This is me, cheesin:

After that, I found another copy in Waterstones Solihull, which is the Waterstones I spent all my time in as a big-fringed youth – like, I had DREAMS of writing a book that would end up in there. The wonders of the internet told me The Nicest Girl also existed in Waterstones Picadilly, Liverpool and York. They’ve now been sold, and that blows my mind a bit. Who bought you, little books? Which corners of the country have you traversed to??

The Irish Times review

Another hefty highlight was definitely seeing my book reviewed in the Irish Times. Writer and author Claire Hennessy had THIS to say about Anna Campbell and her antics:

“…realistically messy and difficult. Jo captures the small dramas of everyday teenage life beautifully.”

Isn’t that the coolest thing?? It is for me. Thank you, Claire.

Off the Shelf

A few weeks later, in September, I was invited to write a piece for Big Issue North’s ‘Off the Shelf’ series – I got to talk all about my favourite children’s and YA books that focus on niceness and the idea of ‘pushing back’. I wrote about Mia Thermopolis, from Meg Cabot’s The Princess Diaries, which was (and will forever remain) an absolute favourite of mine, largely because Mia was the first character I read as a pre-teen that just FELT LIKE ME. Also chatted about Alice Oseman’s Heartstopper, Holly Bourne’s The Yearbook, Sara Barnard’s Beautiful Broken Things and fellow UCLan author Natasha Devon’s Toxic. If you haven’t read Toxic, give it a go – it’s a very clever deep-dive into the world of unhealthy friendships, without being preachy or one-sided.

What’s next

WELL. I’m now head-down writing book two, as well as arranging schools visits so I can go and talk to actual real-life teens about book one! If you are a teenager reading this, PLEASE BE NICE TO ME IF I COME TO YOUR PLACE OF LEARNING.

I’m a Coventry-based author, so I’m speaking with lots of lovely librarians and English teachers from my neck of the woods to work out how we can support each other in 2023. Other than that, I will probably continue a) my wobbly foray into TikTok, and b) shouting as loudly as I can about The Nicest Girl. All in all, v exciting stuff.

P.S. If you’d like your own copy of The Nicest Girl, you can buy it from many a decent bookshop. Here are my links, or Google/ask an indie directly. Thank you! ❤


I had a wonderful time talking all things THE NICEST GIRL with fellow author Emma Finlayson-Palmer and the #UKteenchat community. If you missed out on Emma’s questions, here’s an easy-to-sift-through summary — and be sure to swing by the #UKteenchat hashtag on Twitter to pick up on all the other questions and chat!

Could you tell us a little bit about THE NICEST GIRL?

THE NICEST GIRL is a Teen/YA book about a 17 year-old girl named Anna who realises (you’ve guessed it) that she’s ‘too nice’ and decides she’s gonna do something about it. Think people-pleasing turning into boundary-setting, with a lot of relatable setbacks on the way…

Was there anything in particular that inspired you to write about a character who is too nice to say no?

In my 20s I reached a point where I was sick of hanging out with people who spoke to me disrespectfully, taking on extra work in the office, and always being the one who said “I don’t mind”. I realised I did mind! And so a lil seed of an idea came from that.

A lot of people inspired me as I was writing about Anna – Marissa Cooper from ’00s TV show ‘The OC’, for example! She is a real Nice Girl and the people around her often take advantage of that or read too much into her kindness.

You know who else I found oddly inspirational: the Vicar from the BBC programme ‘This Country’. He is the nicest man, but ALWAYS at the detriment of himself and his own enjoyment of life. I loved how the show explored his reasons for being so generous with his time.

Did you need to research anything for THE NICEST GIRL?

I spent a lot of time checking in with friends to find out their own experiences of ‘niceness’. Honestly it was really comforting to learn that people I’d always thought were SUPER ASSERTIVE and NEVER EVER MEEK OR MILD had their own struggles with saying the word ‘no’.

I find it SO interesting to explore why people act the way they do, so I wanted to use my novice take on things like attachment theory to explain why my characters might be behaving in a certain way.

I actually wish I’d gone deeper with that sort of stuff in the book and delved into the fact that some people (those who’ve experienced trauma or are neurodivergent, for example) are ‘too nice’ because at some stage in their life, being nice was actually the only safe option for them.

Without being too spoilery, is there a scene or moment in THE NICEST GIRL that you particularly enjoyed writing?

Anna has a big argument at one stage (won’t tell you who with!), which was so much fun to write. All of her frustration and resentment comes out at once!

I also really liked writing Anna’s messages with her best friend Marla, who is constantly terrified her boyfriend Carl is about to leave her (and v vocal about it too). I’m probably biased but I think Marla is an absolute hoot.

Are you a plotter, or are you a pantser who prefers to write and see where the story/characters go?

I used to think I was a pantser, because I am with most things, but then I had to take a good look at myself and wonder why I never got anywhere with a writing project and consistently felt lost, hahaha. And it transpired… this was why! So now I have a loose chapter-by-chapter plan and a calendar, which helps me with pacing.

Has your work as an ambassador for Women’s Aid inspired any aspects of THE NICEST GIRL?

Definitely – one of the characters has just come away from an abusive household so I liaised with a lovely contact at Women’s Aid to make sure I was telling his story in a way that felt true to life.

There’s also discussion in the book about male/female friendship and about boys taking kindness from girls as something romantic when in reality it’s anything but. So many girls/women have experienced the hurt and frustration of a straight boy/man not wanting anything to do with you the second he realises you’re not interested in him romantically. Although that’s not directly linked to domestic violence, I am a fierce believer that these kinds of issues are linked and are all different sides of the same (deeply misogynistic) coin…

What advice would you want readers who are ‘too nice’ to take away from THE NICEST GIRL?

I really hope that readers take away the nuances of it all – like, it isn’t a character flaw to solve so that people think you’re the fun friend or the funny friend or the assertive friend instead of the nice friend. It’s a reeeeeally complex thing (and we all have our own reasons for struggling to set boundaries or say no).

Being kind and courteous and self-aware is underrated, in my opinion, so the book isn’t trying to tell anyone to start being mean. It’s a reminder that it’s OK to push back sometimes and say, no, that isn’t alright with me, and the world won’t end if you do.

Also, I hope that it comes across that everyone has their own issues and learned behaviours / defence mechanisms. Yours may be Being Nice and someone else’s might be Never Acting Serious or Keeping Constantly Busy, you know?? We are all just trying our best.

Do you have any writing rituals or a favourite place to write?

My ideal writing situation is a really long lunch at a restaurant by myself on a super-quiet weekday, so I can eat nice food and drink ridiculous amounts of Diet Coke and get lots of work done and nobody wants me to be anywhere else anytime soon. Doesn’t happen a lot!

Can you tell us anything about what you’re currently working on?

I’m currently writing a YA with a main character who’s very feminist and boundaried and opinionated — a huge change from Anna and v fun to do.

One day I would love to write something about Anna’s world again. I am obsessed with her best friend Marla and the thought of writing a book from Marla’s perspective just fills my lil heart with joy.

Do you have any writing advice or tips you’d like to share?

I find it hard to share tips because I still feel so new to all this and WHO AM I TO SHARE ADVICE??? WHO?

But as a result, that probably IS my advice: respect yourself and your work and its importance. You are writing for a reason and somebody needs to hear what you have to say! So buckle up and get some typing done…


I did! I really did, and it’ll be published with UCLan in August.

Here’s what you need to know:

Sixth-former Anna Campbell is the go-to girl when anyone needs anything. Teachers, friends, random strangers… It never occurred to her that she could say no. After all, Anna Campbell’s always been too ‘nice’ to say no. But Anna is sick of being that girl, the nice girl, and she’s going to do something about it. Only, is she prepared to risk losing everything she cares about – even herself – along the way…? A novel for anyone who’s ever struggled to put themselves first.

And here’s the front cover, which I have stared at on a daily basis since it was designed:

Keep an eye out for pre-order links and that sort of thing. You can also sign up to my mailing list.

Until then, remember: August. 4th August, which is a Thursday, as it happens. Keep it in your diaries my friends, the bookshops need you and so do I!!


I mean really.

The last time I wrote on here I was 29. It was a month after my birthday, so really I was practically 28, if you think about it, and it feels fake if I do think about it, because now I am practically 32.

How does that work? I don’t know. In the same way all time works: it happens, and then you feel surprised. And it’s not like I haven’t been writing – I wrote a book since the last time I logged in, which feels strange to type out. I WROTE A BOOK, hidden away until it’s ready for me to fling it out into the world and hope that you like it. You know? I really hope that you like it.

But before that, I used to post ~blog stuff~ all the time, like a diary only strangers could read, like a ’00s LiveJournal that just wouldn’t die. I felt very comfortable blogging about all manner of shit, to be honest. Confident with it. Vulnerability is strange and that took me a while to realise – you have to find a balance somehow, share without exposing, tell the people who deserve to be told. Either way, I think I felt a lot more interesting back then.

I wrote about the demise of a long-term relationship. Mental health and anxiety. Living alone, and how much I learned to love it. I remember talking about living alone as this real, breathing thing, like a plant, and how it had shoved me in the direction of movement and GROWTH. It forced me to do more, say more, think more, and I felt this weird mixture of fear and accomplishment throughout it: the before and after bit of a bungee jump.

The world was a lot busier at that point. A better kind of scary. I had a job which required me to be in the office for nine hours a day, five days a week. I walked to the shops on my lunch break. I washed my hair regularly, put on make-up, wore clothes that looked good. I went out for meals after work with friends, acquaintance-y lunches, that sort of thing. I barely spent any time in the house, which meant that when I did, it felt good. I was an adventurer, a gallivanter: bring me to your social event, I will flourish.

In 2021, things are different. I wake up in the morning and put on one of my many giant men’s hoodies. I can choose from AC/DC (genuine fan before you come for me), Metallica (not a genuine fan whatsoever but have seen the documentary with their creepy therapist so leave me be), Tigress (my boyfriend’s band, very good and I’m not just saying it) and a few others. A lot of the clothes that looked good have been given to charity, either because they don’t fit me anymore or because they feel restrictive and uncomfortable. What do I like to wear now? What would I select for a night out? I’m not really sure. My hair is this awkward sort of long bob at the moment and I just let it do its thing, which isn’t the end of the world but also doesn’t make me feel great about myself, so I’ve started using that German caffeine shampoo. Alpecin. I am willing it to move. Every meal is eaten on the sofa because the dining room table is now a desk set-up. So: work on the sofa. TV on the sofa. No plans on the sofa. My 2021 world seems to revolve around the sofa. And how is that supposed to work for anyone long-term?

The evenings are weirder. I’m on my own, then – my working day is over but my boyfriend’s has just begun. So I have time to kill, and you know what? A lot of the time, it no longer feels like the growthful treat it once did. It feels lonely. It feels like I am hiding inside from this lingering threat, still. And I am happy to do it, because I want to keep people safe, but I am also at the point where I am kind of terrified that this is just life now. That I will never be able to have another night like my 30th birthday party, where I walked around knowing everybody in that room was safe and that they loved me, and I felt so comfortable with it. Sometimes I bump into someone in Sainsbury’s, an old work colleague over by the apples or something, and just for a second I forget how to speak. Then I’ll go home sad, scared that the sociable side of my personality is somehow dwindling through lack of use. I work on my own. I write on my own. A lot of my life is a solo mission. My friends are still my friends but I miss them. I miss stuff that just happens: little trips and unplanned drinks and funny things that turn into funny tweets. I have nothing to say these days; I told you, all I am doing is sitting on my sofa. I want to call up the people who manage to turn their Domino’s pizza delivery into passable Instagram Story content and be like: look, how. How did you manage not to turn boring throughout this, because I am newly fucking dull.

I’m all good. I am healthy and lucky and I still fill in my gratitude journal at nighttime. I am deeply happy to be here, but…………………………oh my god.


About a year ago, I told you all that I was living in a shed.

THINGS ARE TERRIBLE! I said. ABSOLUTELY TERRIBLE. I find pleasure in nothing — only dramatic and ill-considered break-up metaphors I am likely to cringe at in twelve months’ time. AND HERE WE ARE!! A full three-hundred-and-something-something days after…… cringin’ hard.

I mean, in my mind that is progress. Of some sort. I always think it must be progress if you look back on stuff from a year ago and want to burn it, whatever it is, because that shows you have developed and maybe hopefully possibly in a positive way. What is the point otherwise?? Though I won’t lie to you: I still like a good (bad) metaphor, and dramatics-wise there has been very little change.


It was very silly because I wasn’t living in a shed. I was living back at my mom’s house, about to move into a little flat. An actual flat, a non-imaginary flat, an APARTMENT, if you will, but I won’t. It was cold and I had packed all of my stuff and put it into cardboard and bags for life and then it got bundled onto a big lorry with sofas and kitchen tables and I had “ALL MY POSSESSIONS IN BOXES” bouncing around my head for the day even though I hadn’t listened to Atom and His Package since 2007. My brother carried a million books up flights of stairs like a champ. Somebody mentioned Marie Kondo. I asked everyone in attendance if they said it like in-vun-tree or in-ven-tor-ee. They weren’t really fussed. We went to Subway for lunch. The day was strange and sad but it was also movement, which felt like something. A lot of people sent their best.

Are you supposed to tip removal teams? I wasn’t sure, but I was so grateful to Michael and co. for giving me reassuring looks and for not accidentally smashing any part of my carefully-curated Disney collection that I decided it was a given. They said “We are going for beers after work and now the beers are on you. Thank you and good luck in your flat. Would you consider leaving us a Google review?” and I said yes I would, a glowing one. Then they congratulated me on choosing a home with such good natural light and I said it was a conscious decision because gloomy rooms make me feel listless, a bit like the Beast when Belle leaves, and they told me that sometimes they walk into a sunless house like that and they think: rather you than me, pal.

When everyone had gone I looked around my new home and tried to think: rather me than anyone, pal. This is good this is good this is good this is good and this is also what you asked for, so chin up and calm down.

For the first few nights I sat hunched on the edge of the sofa like a nervous guest. Three-weeks-minus-the-internet, so I watched my Friends DVDs and laughed deliberately and gratefully at jokes I had heard a thousand times before. PAPER! SNOW! A GHOST! I know that Friends is not to everyone’s liking but I also know that, at least in my mind, it is the TV version of comfort food. Monica is a baked potato on a wintery evening. Rachel is beans on toast at 9pm when you really can’t be arsed. Friends is stodge, and when it is dark outside and your living room smells like Sebastian and Emily, the couple who sat in it before you, sometimes stodge is what you need (said Sophie, ticking a box marked 2019 METAPHORS).

I pretended I hadn’t seen my data limit warning. I made sure other people still existed when the curtains were closed. I saw them tweeting when I was supposed to be asleep and I thought: carry on, this is so soothing. I started eating meals at the table because I decided that a tray is a treat if it’s unusual but a stupid solo sad face if it’s often. I realised that I REALLY DO take an abnormally long time to get ready for bed but marked it as an endearing quirk and carried on making up dances to ’80s pop songs while I was brushing my teeth. (IT’S A NICE DAY TO………….. START AGAIN.) I slept at 2am and then at 8pm. I liked not having to choose. I finally watched Before Sunrise and Before Sunset but couldn’t get into Before Midnight and knew for sure that this was a reflection on me and not the film. I worked out that if I could hear my elderly neighbour singing her Les Mis medley then she could probably hear me crying in the bath. I stopped crying in the bath and started taking showers instead.

Unless you count a short stint in a studio flat at university (WHICH I DON’T, because the walls were so thin it’d felt like I was sharing with my Kasabian-loving neighbour anyway), I had never lived alone before. It was jarring, and then it was so-exciting-I-am-going-to-scream, and then it was lonely, and then it was okay-I-guess-some-of-the-time, and then it was quite-nice-actually, and now it has been a year. I have seen seasons here, all four of them. It has snowed and scorched and I have worn three layers under a dressing gown and sat on the carpet in my underwear thinking of ice. It is a luxury in a million ways — there is something tingly about walking into a space and knowing that it is yours and yours alone, made up of lots of things you consider to be good. It is a treat that no-one else can snack on; do whatever you want with it. Within reason, anyway. My landlord Anthony advises no candles, no pets, no clothes left to dry on the radiators lest you start a fire, but knock yourself out the rest of the time. GO TO TOWN. OR DON’T. STAY HOME, BECAUSE YOU LIKE IT HERE.

Sometimes — not often — the space gets a little too much. At 6pm on a Wednesday night you will cook dinner and suddenly be struck, hard, that it is just you. There is no-one there to say “HOW WAS TODAY?” or “TELL ME MORE ABOUT BECKY’S BREAK-UP, IS SHE OKAY??” No real-life-person on the sofa to care that you saw a rabbit on your lunch break, or to rush to the rescue when you slip over in the shower and cry. Your shin will feature a dark rectangular bruise for two weeks and nobody will ask about it because nobody knows about it. Has it gone yet? No, look. You will feel sorry for all of the poor tiny capillaries that did nothing wrong and wonder what is going on under your skin as you heal. You won’t include Netflix in your Monday morning recap, because watching Netflix with whoever-you-live-with has the potential to be relayed as lazy weekend fun but doing it alone with a large bar of Dairy Milk just sounds a bit like nothing. When you live with someone else, nothing is nothing. Everything is a plan.

But when you live on your own, everything is growth. You learn how to cure boredom; how to pull yourself back from sad Thursday evenings that would’ve floored you two years ago; how to be a better host; how to make decent social plans during the week instead of scuttling home to watch American sitcoms in the dark; how to assemble flatpack furniture that swears it requires two people; IT DOESN’T; how to sleep soundly despite knowing that if a murderer comes to call at 2am there is no-one around to fight him off while you escape. Every day can be a little drip-drip-drip of progress, everything can be a secret project that you work on when no-one else is around.

Some nights, before I go to sleep, I make a list. There is a notebook on my bedside table with Aladdin on the front of it and a turquoise feather bookmark attached to it and at least once a week I pick it up and write three things from the day that I did well or am proud of. ACHIEVEMENTS. SOMETHINGS. Some of them are small and some are bigger, like: I learned how to make aubergine lasagne, or I realised everything is uncertain at the moment but whatever the outcome it will all be okay because I was fine before this and I will be fine afterwards too.

They are not things I would tweet about. They are not ~exciting announcements!!!~ and they are also not things that might surface naturally when I bump into someone from school in Tesco and they ask “so, what’s new?” while their baby stares at me. But they count. They count they count, and a lot of the time I feel like the most important achievements and somethings are these smaller, quieter ones we might not feel warrant sharing — the ones we keep chip-chip-chipping away at in the background while only those closest to us observe. I am living here alone, I am alone and I feel more myself because suddenly I have time to work out who that could be. I keep forgetting that this is all growth — it is scary as shit, but it is movement.


(An advance warning that this contains spoilers. LOTS AND LOTS OF SPOILERS.)

I knew that Vanellope von Schweetz would go far when she announced that she wanted to be President of Sugar Rush. It really DID have a nice ring to it, and after years as the outcast glitch I was rooting for her to take her new position of power and use it to do whatever the heck she wanted. So on Saturday I sat down in my cinema seat, cried at the opening shot of the Disney castle (as per the norm) and then waited a little breathlessly to see how my old pal Vanellope was doing.

And you know what the answer was? Well… not really so good.

I mean, don’t worry. Vanellope is FINE. She’s still racing. She hangs out with Ralph. She’s not in danger. She has everything she needs. But in Ralph Breaks The Internet there’s something niggling at her, something that started small at the very back of her brain and has now begun to grow and shout, and you can see it every time she talks. There’s this scene right near the start of the movie where Vanellope asks Ralph if there’s anything – anything at ALL – about his life that he would change. Anything he would want to try or do differently if he had the chance. Ralph is baffled and says no, and Vanellope apologises for acting weird. It seems as if she’s torn. On one side there’s security and warmth and gratitude – because, like Ralph, what she has now is SO much better than what she had before – but on the other side there’s the unknown. The WHAT IF?s. The WHAT NEXT?s.

Ralph isn’t torn. He hasn’t even thought about that other side, because that other side is scary and for the first time ever he has an actual real-life friend. He isn’t visiting Tapper alone or sleeping in a pile of bricks anymore — he’s content with the way things are. Just him and Vanellope. And you can see him start to process and struggle with her urge to pull away and try something new — why would she want to do that? Why can’t she be happy with what she has? Why isn’t Ralph – and only Ralph – enough for her?


Ralph calls Vanellope “kid”. This isn’t new — and it’s always been super-sweet — but watching Ralph Breaks The Internet all of a sudden I noticed how often Ralph says it, and then I started to wonder if it could be laced with subtext without him even realising it.




Ralph and Vanellope’s relationship is interesting because (in my eyes, anyway) it has the potential to represent SO many different forms of love. In the movie they’re friends – best friends – but at times I saw Ralph flit over to more of a paternal role; he worries for Vanellope’s safety and wants to keep her close. He wants to be needed. During one scene, the way they argue reminded me unintentionally of a couple – “She wants a new track? I’ll give her a new track!” – and Ralph’s dislike of Shank, a racer Vanellope instantly clicks with, feels rooted in jealousy and reminiscent of relationship insecurities. I felt like I could see Ralph’s fear and Vanellope’s restlessness in so many of the complex connections we all have. That’s why the crux of the movie – the focus on stepping back and allowing the people you care about to grow – is as relatable as it is.


What I got from Ralph Breaks The Internet was not simply that Ralph liked Vanellope and would be sad without her — it was messier and more complicated than that. The way I see it, Vanellope is the source of all of Ralph’s positivity. He says it himself at the end of the first movie – “if that little kid likes me, how bad can I be?” – and I feel like his knowledge that Vanellope cares for him and enjoys his company was probably what started to rebuild his wrecked (hur hur) self-esteem. But as all good therapists would tell you, that’s not really enough. “Ralph”, I would say, if I was a Bad-Anon group leader, “You’ve gotta have some DEEP-DOWN-SOLID-CONCRETE LIKE for yourself – if you’re basing all this on what someone else thinks of you, you’re setting yourself up to fail. You’re giving that person too much power.”

And power isn’t always a good thing, because Vanellope actually seems like she’s crumbling under the pressure of it. She is the only good thing in Ralph’s life. She is the only person he wants to spend any extended amounts of time with. When Ralph refuses to let her go to work as a pop-up across the internet, you can see her torn between irritation and dejected defeat. At that point, I started to cry — I hated seeing Ralph so needy and Vanellope so trapped.

What’s powerful about Ralph Breaks The Internet is that we have all been Vanellope, and we have also all been Ralph. We’ve had friends we loved so much that we wouldn’t step back to share them when they started dating someone. We’ve been in relationships with people who can’t understand why we’d want to spend time with anybody else. We’ve secretly, selfishly hoped our pal would choose job A instead of job B so they could stay living a five-minute drive away. We’ve all felt smothered and numb and penned in, yet conversely we’ve all felt that shoulder-crunching, stomach-searing despair of please don’t go.

It’s part Marlin and Nemo in Finding Nemo. I’d argue it’s actually kind of part Mother Gothel and Rapunzel in Tangled, when it reaches its worst form. But Ralph isn’t a bad guy. He doesn’t want Vanellope to be unhappy; he just wants her to be happy with him and the life that she has. He wants her to swing by Tapper every day and stick to her routine, and that’s not enough for her. I feel like Vanellope is angry that it IS enough for him — she tells Shank that life will never be exciting if she stays put, because every day is the same with Ralph and that’s how he likes it. Even at the start of the movie, when there’s the potential for the broken Sugar Rush game to be permanently switched off – and for Vanellope to become homeless and jobless – Ralph still doesn’t really GET it. He hates that his friend is sad, but he still cites the positives of being in her situation: she can sleep all day and hang out with him all evening. Great, right?? Vanellope, on the other hand, is dripping with ambition and enthusiasm, and the thought of being minus a racer job – even one that was getting stale – is crushing for her.


I have always been a huge fan of a recurring theme from the 2002 movie About A Boy, which is: no man is an island. And, more importantly: even if a man stops being an island, he needs to make friends with more than one person on the mainland (I’m paraphrasing, but you know what I mean). Remember when Marcus (AKA a young Nicholas Hoult) says: “Suddenly I realised – two people isn’t enough. You need back-up. If you’re only two people and someone drops off the edge, then you’re on your own. Two isn’t a large enough number. You need three at least”? THAT was what I kept thinking about throughout Ralph Breaks The Internet.

Look at it this way — Ralph is so excited to spend time with Vanellope that he doesn’t have a huge amount of interest in other activities or other people. Felix? A bit. The Nicelanders? He spends enough time with them during the day. New stuff? No thanks. Things are fine as they are. I felt really strongly that Ralph had lost his way a little when it came to investing time in other people OR (hear me out, I know this this sounds cheesy) IN HIMSELF. And as a result, I really loved that he started to get involved in other social events and actively wanted to better himself by the end of the movie. He wasn’t doing it because he was bored or because he missed Vanellope, but instead because he could now recognise the perils of expecting one person to provide him with everything he needed, and because he wanted to grow and learn and build his support network. And that to me was as important as Vanellope getting the chance to move over to Slaughter Race, because it wasn’t just about Ralph accepting Vanellope’s growth — it was about him ENCOURAGING it while still taking steps to focus on his own, enriching his life with new stuff and new people.

Is Ralph a bad guy? No. He was an insecure guy, and at times I saw the potential for that to really flip into something not-at-all cute. But you know what makes Ralph a cut above the rest? HE SAW THAT TOO. HE RECOGNISED THAT IN HIMSELF, AND HE WORKED TO CHANGE IT. My love for his character has only increased, because instead of taking his insecurities and throwing them onto Vanellope and saying “HEY KID, WHAT ARE YOU GONNA DO ABOUT THIS? HOW ARE YOU GONNA MAKE THIS BETTER FOR ME???” he turned inwards and asked “HEY RALPH, WHAT ARE YOU GONNA DO ABOUT THIS? HOW ARE YOU GONNA CHANGE YOUR OUTLOOK SO YOU CAN KEEP THIS PERSON IN YOUR LIFE?”

And personally, I feel like we could all learn a lesson from that.

(Image credit: Disney /


THE RUMOURS ARE TRUE: I AM A FAN OF MY OWN COMPANY. Not wanting to blow my own trumpet or anything but…… here we are. Toot toot.

Really, though. I make myself laugh. I give A+ pep talks to the mirror. I write good stuff sometimes and then sit there clutching my own arms as I read it back because I’m so feverishly excited about what I’m doing or how it sounds. I don’t know. Most of the time I like me, and that means I like spending time with me.

One time I was off work with a plan-free day ahead and I ended up at a Mexican restaurant, where I sat in a booth and wrote a poem about Dudley Dursley (as ya do) until my food arrived. I ate my main course plus a side plus a sharer dessert and the waiter was like “lol you won’t finish that” and I was all “WATCH ME ROBERT.” Robert did watch me and was proven wrong as I ate everything in sight like a female Augustus Gloop.

Sometimes I go to the cinema alone. Years ago, one of the later Twilight movies was a solo-Sophie-date (it was the best of a bad bunch of offerings okay) and I would be lying if I said I had not had a blast, largely due to spending two hours stifling my laughter re: the CGI baby. OH RENESMEE! YOU STILL HAUNT MY DREAMS YOU CREEPY THING.

“I could NOT do it. I literally could not walk into the cinema on my own,” one friend admitted as we had dinner together. I asked her why and she said she would hear a voice in her head that just screamed: EVERYONE IS LOOKING AT YOU. I get that. Sometimes anxiety is a pain in the ass and you feel like certain things are impossible. But if that isn’t what’s holding you back and it’s just a little twinge of discomfort or embarrassment, then here is a hot tip 4 ya: give it a go.

Because what is the alternative, really? What if your friends aren’t available? What if you just fancy taking yourself out for dinner? What if nobody wants to see The Muppets live in concert or eat churros with you right now?? What if the other option is sitting in your house all evening or NEVER GETTING TO WATCH THE TWILIGHT SAGA*, in case a few people you’ll never see again happen to glance in your direction???

*Team Jasper. Clearly the hottest.

At the start of June, the Sophie’s Solo Adventures tour bus decided to head outside of the UK — I took a four-day trip to Barcelona, because I had a week off work and a very strong urge not to waste it. It was great! The flights were cheap! I ate a lot! I only got lost once! Nobody stared! Nobody died! And ya know what? I would do it again. So, as per the norm when I have a Slightly Eventful Life Experience, I have written a blog post nobody asked for, which is part ‘here’s why YOU should consider jumping on the bandwagon, even if you’re a bit scared’, part ‘therapy for me’. HERE WE GO:

You deserve a holiday, even if there’s no-one around to come with you

For the eight years that I was part of a couple, weeks off meant days out or plane tickets. Shared time. Relationship roadtrips. Now I am single it’s a different kettle of fish, and to be honest YES, left to my own devices I probably COULD easily spend an entire week watching Netflix, making vegetarian enchiladas and wearing my Harry Potter jogging bottoms. I mean, it’s weird. I am only just realising how weird it is. You might have a few days off or a holiday booked with friends or family, but you’re probably not going to use up your entire annual leave year at the same time as other people. Hence the Netflix. And the Hufflepuff clothing. I DON’T MAKE THE RULES, said Sophie, pulling up a badger sock.

I have a point here (I think) and my point is: DON’T BE THE NETFLIX GIRL. Or rather: be her for a bit. Be her if you want to be. But don’t forgo fun stuff for Riverdale just because no-one you know is available and you don’t want to look like Loner McLonerson or his dad, ol’ NoFriends McGee. You deserve days out and weekends away and happy holidays, regardless of who is or isn’t with you.


In the words of Anne T. Donahue (my fave), NOBODY CARES. I don’t mean that in a bad way, like EVERYONE HATES YOU AND SECRETLY HOPES YOUR PLANE FAILS. What I mean is: nobody really gives a rat’s ass who you go on holiday with.

I am being serious. None of the Barcelona natives sat there on the bench with a newspaper thinking “GOD, look at that woman on her own.” None of the tourists in the Sagrada Familia were like “WTF, A SOLO TRAVELLER??” There were a lot of us! Nobody cared! I had a phone and a book to keep me company, and I walked around with a moody American man who I mentally named HERB, which is what all 60+ year-old American men are called in my head.

Some people will have something to say. I had a few “poor you” comments (SINGLE AND READY TO MINGLE DIE) and a couple of “will that be…….. SAFE?”s, from people who winced hard, as if they could foresee me fighting off an angry pickpocketer on La Rambla (GIVE ME BACK MY EUROS, THIEF! OH MY GOD IS THAT A KN-). But generally, nobody cared — and, I guess, if you’re being super-mature-and-emotionally-astute you will know that the people who do seem to care largely mean well. They just WANT TO SEE YOU SAFE AND MARRIED ALRIGHT.

Long story short: it really doesn’t matter. You don’t owe anyone — at home or elsewhere — an explanation. There is something quite nicely neatly liberating about booking something alone, paying for it yourself, and knowing that you are ~AN ADULT WHO CANNOT BE STOPPED~.

If you can be alone with your thoughts, you’re doing pretty well

I don’t know about you, but I tend to fare better when I’m busy, because when I’m busy I don’t have time to think. But when I’m alone and takin’ some downtime, it’s harder.

Like… do you remember when we had really bad snow earlier this year? THE BEAST FROM THE EAST! I tried to slay it. I could not. No-one could drive anywhere and I spent three days alone in my flat, stewing and feeling claustrophobic because the world had turned white and the sky had disappeared. (I have a weird thing about looking up and only seeing clouds, with no blue at all. It frightens me if it lasts too long because it feels like a big man – possibly God – has put a blanket over our birdcage.) But I cried several times and wrote in my journal and drank a lot of wine and by the time the three days were over I actually felt better, because I’d been forced to lie in the bath like Juliet Capulet and deal with some of the stuff that had been stored in an old box at the back of my brain.

Being alone and unbusy (and almost-literally trapped with my thoughts) had helped, even though I’d wanted a weekend of anything but that. Barcelona was similar in some ways — productive and difficult — but a lot more cheerful. I would recommend it. You’re probably not going to come back A CHANGED PERSON, because we don’t live in a movie, but you’ll come back having allowed yourself some time and space to process or think or mourn or recharge or whatever else you might need to do.

I have a lot of respect and back-pats for people who make time to hang out alone with very few planned activities, because it isn’t easy for everyone. Whether you struggle with that or not, if you can take yourself on a solo holiday and come back feeling brighter or lighter — or just plain old NOT WORSE THAN BEFORE — it’s an achievement.

It’s not depressing, I promise

A few weeks after booking my Barcelona extravaganza, I called my mom in a panic and was like “IS IT DEPRESSING? JUST BE STRAIGHT WITH ME, IS IT LAME AND DEPRESSING TO GO ON HOLIDAY ALONE??” And you know what she said? “I don’t think so. Going on holiday on your own is fine – what’s depressing is if you come home and have nobody in your life who missed you and wants to hear about it.” I was calm after that, and I felt kind of dumb for calling. I thought that was a pretty good way to think about the whole thing.

Being there, on your own, can be what you make of it. You can sit in your hotel room all week if you really want. You can stay in a hostel and have dinner with other people every night and go on enthusiastic walking tours with a man holding a red umbrella. Or you can do something sort-of-in-the-middle and have a little mooch on your own and chat to people you happen to come across. It’s your holiday, so do what you want. But LET ME TELL YA: none of it is depressing. It’s exciting.

It’s exciting!

ISN’T IT?! Just think of all the things you will do.

I met a girl in the queue for the plane and we talked for hours about her ex (scumbag). I bumped into a skateboarder by the sea who told me my sunglasses were cute and that he wanted to marry me. I waved at happy tourists from my open-top bus. I sat on the beach and drank freshly-squeezed orange juice and felt the sun on my face. I bought fruit salad from the food market and cried because it looked so pretty. I read I Am Legend from start to finish and took pictures of all of the lines that stood out to me. I felt like I was a broken leg that was close to healing. And when the cast comes off I will smell repulsive and look even worse and there’ll probably be a load of crumbs or a paperclip stuck to me……. but long term, I know I’ll be better.

Here you are in a brand new place, ON YOUR OWN. Who are you going to see? What are you going to think about? What will you remember from this in 10 years? What is going to inspire you or test you?

We are lucky lucky lucky lucky. What is going to happen next?


Sometimes all you can do is put your Madonna playlist on and try your damn best.

Which is your favourite Madonna song? Mine is Don’t Tell Me but I am also a big fan of Ray of Light, because I mean who isn’t. I genuinely remember hearing it for the first time on the radio in 1998 which is slightly strange but also very unsurprising because I have the memory of a CREEPY ELEPHANT: I was sitting in my dad’s car at the local allotment wishing for time to hurry up and for various family members to stop their damn weeding, and Ray of Light distracted me for three minutes.

(Sidenote: until I was about 15 I thought ‘prima donna’ was ‘pre-Madonna’, like ‘before Christ’ but referring to a time many moons ago when Madonna did not yet exist in the public eye. It made sense to me because she had been around for so long and showed no sign of leaving. None of us could picture a world without Madonna. The 1970s were pre-Madonna, and we shuddered at the thought of them.)

ANYWAY. How are you? I am up and down, like an overzealous child on a swing. BE CAREFUL, RICHARD! I am in-between, like… some sort of sandwich filling. I could think of a better simile but I’m not going to.

(Another sidenote: don’t you think it’s weird that the word ‘simile’ is basically the word ‘smile’ with another ‘i’ in it? If I was learning English as a second language and I came across that discovery I’d be impressed and deflated at the same time.)

WHAT ARE YOU LOOKING AT? I am quoting Vogue, not being mean. Another Madonna classic, I’m sure you will agree. I am looking at everything laid out on a table and wondering what to do with it: where it should all go and where I fit in and where I want to mould things and where I don’t need to. I am very lucky to be here, and even on the most difficult of days I can’t not wake up and feel something at the bottom of my gut that says “THIS IS EXCITING.”


I don’t live there anymore. The shed, I mean. There is a chance that I will go back to visit from time to time, not because I want to but because Things Happen and Life Is Unpredictable and that is just the way it goes.

Working late makes me happy. Finishing early sometimes on a Friday also makes me happy. I like it to be one or the other: leaving ahead of schedule to do something fun or wandering out at 7pm with a buzzing head. On Monday it was the latter. I went food shopping afterwards and I thought how weird it was that I was so happy to BE. There was nothing special about my evening or about buying spinach, and Mondays are not particularly interesting days anyway, but there I was. HERE I AM. MONDAY. I have my bags for life. I can put all of this stuff into them, walk out of the shop and not need to check my bank balance immediately afterwards. I can drive home and make myself something nice to eat and then I can write or read or call a friend or practise my winged eyeliner or roll around on the floor or pretend I am a famous woman on a talk show (“Well, the thing is, Ellen…”) or decide what I want to do with my life, like really do with it, or anything else.

Anything else, ever. The day after that, I saw a low-flying plane in the dark as I was heading back down country lanes, and in my head it was a spaceship I would never forget. The day after that, I laughed so hard I cried and Diet Coke nearly came out of my nose. The day after that, I thought about this: “You are different. Before you were in the background but now you make things happen and you don’t care.” I do care, but I can end the week knowing I am so markedly altered that someone who has been with me since the age of 11 is knocked back by it. And then start the next.


Sometimes life is hard, and at the moment I am waiting it out.

I am waiting it out in a old, rickety shed on a beach somewhere. This is where I live, for now, and it rains a lot of the time. Some days I don’t mind the rain – I put a bucket or two out, just in case. If I could whistle, I would. I wear a turquoise waterproof and my motions are slow and I say “this is all manageable” three times over, like I am chanting a magic spell.

Other times the rain gets heavier and I look up at the sky like it is going to eat me. The bucket overflows. My socks are damp and my heartbeat is fast, thumping no-it-isn’t, no-it-isn’t, no-it-isn’t. I kick the bucket hard, heavy, but nothing dies and I feel the bones in my foot flinch, horrified. What did we ever do to you?

On all of the days, it helps to talk. I am talking a lot, just quietly.

At work. With friends. To dogs. In the doctor’s office, during my smear test. “Sometimes these things just happen, don’t they, love?” They do.

Honesty is weird. Saying “Actually, I’m finding things quite hard right now” when someone asks “How are you?” is weird. My mouth blurts “Good, thanks” before my brain has had chance to catch up, because I am always good. Good, thanks. Good, thanks. Good, thanks.


You? is pointless, mostly, because Good, thanks begets more Good, thanks. I am trying honesty, LIKE BILLY TALENT. People don’t really mind vulnerability, and I tell myself they do but they don’t. People like knowing that it isn’t just them who cries in the toilets sometimes or feels claustrophobic when the sky is grey. They get it when you tell them your brain won’t work today because all of its energy is devoted to something else, something sad. Every time I share a little of myself, every time I talk about it, someone else surprises me by what they share in return. Now I am talking a lot. Just quietly.