Autism, Experiences, General

My Publishing History (4th Anniversary Special)

Hello everybody, this is George Harvey (aka The Autistic Blogger). And today is the 4-Year-Anniversary of this blog. So before I begin, I just want to say a big thank you to everyone who’s continued supporting me. Whether you follow my work regularly or stumble across it by chance, I really do appreciate every one of your views – no matter where you are in the world.

Anyway, for this anniversary, I wanted to talk to you about something personal to me. Many of you already know this, but my biggest ambition in life is to become a published author. Since I was 4-years-old, I’ve had creative ideas swimming in my head, eager to get out. Then one day, I tried writing a mystery novel. I’ve never looked back since.

Admittedly, when I first started out, I didn’t really know what I was doing. I had no idea what I wanted to my writing to achieve and even writing itself proved tedious given my Autism. However, I was keen to hone my craft. That’s why I applied for a Professional Writing course at the North (West) Kent College in Dartford. Since then, I’ve had varying degrees of success in getting my work out there. So, today, I’m going to look back on some of the more significant ones; telling you how they came to be and what I learned from them. This is George Harvey/The Autistic Blogger’s publishing history.

First Publication (The Real Me)

My first publication came about during my first year of college. And how it happened was actually due to a happy accident. It all started when we were given a writing assignment. I can’t remember what it was exactly – it might’ve had something to do with Creative Non-Fiction. Anyway, I decided to write mine based on my Autism; explaining how it affected me, what I thought of other people representing it, and how you can’t understand the condition properly unless you have it yourself. Follow the link below to see it:

https://georgeharvey2015.wordpress.com/2019/05/31/the-real-me/

After completing the article, I printed it off and left it on the side for later. I was planning to put it in my bag, but then my mum just so happened to be passing by. After noticing the piece and reading it, she came to me and said it was one of the most aspiring things she’d ever read. In fact, she insisted I let her have a copy so she could show her work colleagues the next day. One of these colleagues had connections with the NAS; who then asked if I’d like to feature it in their Communication Magazine. I agreed without hesitation. And after a few edits, it was released in their Summer 2013 Edition.

Looking back on it now, while this was my first publication, it also wasn’t my best-written. I hadn’t taken English as one of my Sixth Form subjects, and it clearly showed in my grammar; I was using dashes rather than commas too often, and some of my sentences could’ve been better structured. However, the NAS didn’t seem to mind. All that mattered to them was having someone like me who was willing to share their opinions and life experiences with Autism. And then it suddenly hit me.

For the longest time, I’d been so unsure how I was going to sell myself as an author. What made me different from the billions of others who wanted to be published? After this article, however, I had my answer. Unlike many of those people, I had experience in a specific field – one that not everybody is willing to talk about. If I could express my Autistic experiences through writing, then those who had the condition could relate to it, and those who didn’t would be given a better understanding of it. At long last, my path in writing was made clear; I would write to raise awareness of Autism and other personal issues.

Second Publication (Successful Studying)

My second publication was more of a group project. And it was released mostly due to my tutors’ involvement. However, it was still satisfying to see my name credited in a real book. Towards the end of my first year, we had the opportunity to write a guidebook called Successful Studying. This would be made available to future students and help them to overcome the difficulties of studying at a university level. For copyright reasons, I can’t post the chapter I wrote here – so I’ll leave you a link to the book:

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Successful-Studying-Neil-Nixon/dp/1907502130/ref=sr_1_31?keywords=successful+studying&qid=1559068665&s=books&sr=1-31.

To summarise, though, I give readers tips on how they can stay focused on their work, even if they have learning difficulties. These tips include: interacting with fellow students, asking for help from their tutors, staying in contact with everyone, not stressing over workloads, studying at home and knowing how to manage their time efficiently. I then ended the chapter by revealing it was written by a student with Autism – assuring them disabilities don’t prevent success.

Compared to the magazine article, this piece was much better-written. There were still some grammar issues, but my structuring and overall presentation had improved since the year began. It was also the first chance I had to make use of my new writing style. Because I was drawing from personal experience (i.e. using studying methods that had worked for me as examples), it made writing the piece that much easier. Plus, the way I conveyed it made things more relatable for the reader – adding something of myself to it brought out its full potential.

Working to my Strengths

As the course continued, I would use this writing strategy wherever I could. It would even be the driving force behind my Overcoming Limitations presentation, which I gave at the end of my second year (see my 1st Anniversary Special: https://georgeharvey2015.wordpress.com/2016/06/01/1st-anniversary-special/).

After that, however, things became more challenging.

My third year of college was, quite literally, make or break for me. I’d moved away from North (West) Kent to Greenwich University (London). And it brought changes that I ultimately wasn’t prepared for. The new workload and deadlines were so tight that I barely had time to relax my mind anymore. It got so stressful that I was actually waking up every morning, shaking and vomiting with anxiety.

But even with the course taking a toll on my health, I was determined to make the most of any opportunity presented to me. That’s why I became a student ambassador; it was another chance to share my experiences and advise younger students on how they could survive university as I had. I also briefly joined the student magazine, before committing to it became impossible. Arguably the best opportunity I had, though, was contributing to another book. This one was called Making Our Mark.

Making Our Mark

Towards the end of the year, a project manager was looking to feature students’ work relating to future ambitions. Although I was up to my neck in deadlines by this point, I didn’t want to let the opportunity pass. Who knew when I’d get another chance to be published? So after attending a briefing on the book, I wrote two pieces of flash-fiction for it. Both of which were included in the final publication. Again, for copyright reasons, I can’t post them on this blog – so here’s a link to the book:

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Making-Reeves-Editor-19-May-2015-Paperback/dp/B013RPI1VY/ref=sr_1_159?keywords=making+our+mark&qid=1559072399&s=books&sr=1-159.

But I will share what each is about.

First of all, although the book says flash-fiction, my pieces were actually based on personal experiences. So they were technically “creative flash-non-fiction“. Not that the editor minded.

Anyway, the first piece was titled Never Judge a Book… and drew inspiration from my time as a checkout operator. The idea was that people who saw me probably thought I had a very easy job; beeping items, sitting down for hours and getting paid for it. However, they couldn’t see how I felt on the inside: the strain of repeating the same actions, the stress of dealing with challenging customers, the overall dissatisfaction I had with the job. They didn’t know it, but I had connections in the world of writing and was fixed to become something greater than they could imagine. Emphasising you should never judge a book by its cover.

Aside from my usual grammar errors, this piece turned out better than I expected. It comes off as insightful, creative and even metaphorical at times. It’s an inspiring piece to anyone who’s striving to become better than what they are.

The second piece, Believing is Achieving, was more of a story. It draws inspiration from two of my past experiences: seeing my work published for the first time and receiving advice from Jacqueline Wilson. It features a boy named James (me), who is surprised to find something he wrote (The Real Me) published in a magazine (Communication). He never intended to show it to anyone because he lacked the confidence and doubted the praise his mother gave him. Realising she submitted it on his behalf, however, he sees the positive effect it has on other people. He then makes the bold move to contact his favourite author, Mrs W (Jaqueline Wilson), who actually replies to him and gives him some advice. From then on, James is more determined and confident to become a successful writer.

Like the first piece, this was intended to be something inspirational. Names and events were changed slightly, but the message was the same. You shouldn’t let your disabilities/confidence prevent you from pushing forward in life. With the right motivation, you can achieve almost anything.

Making Our Mark proved, once again, that writing from experience was my winning formula. However, once I left university, I knew it would be harder finding ways to be published. I wouldn’t have nearly as many resources, contacts or opportunities as I once did. Consequently, this was the last book I contributed to as of 2019. But that doesn’t mean it was my final publication, period.

Ambitious about Autism

Going back to when I was writing for the Student Magazine, I had the opportunity to interview Johnathan Andrews; someone who was heavily involved with promoting Autism. After I graduated, he invited me to join Ambitious about Autism; an organisation that works to improve the livelihood of people with the condition. Some of their previous work includes setting up Treehouse School (http://www.treehouseschool.org.uk/) for severely Autistic children and advising producers on how to represent Autism in the media. During my time there, I took part in several of their projects. Including Know Your Normal, where I was a panellist discussing what normal is for people like me, and Are You Autistic? – a documentary by Channel 4 (see my 3rd Anniversary Special: https://georgeharvey2015.wordpress.com/2018/06/01/are-you-autistic-review-3rd-anniversary-special/).

The most fruitful of these projects, however, was their Employ Autism campaign. Not only did I give a presentation, explaining why employment needed to be improved for adults with Autism. But Ambitious held an event teaching employers what to look out for when recruiting these people. A brochure was made to assist with proceedings, and I wrote an article detailing my own opinions:

https://georgeharvey2015.wordpress.com/2019/05/31/autism-in-the-workplace-2/

Unlike my previous publications, this one didn’t have much creativity. It was just me giving my honest thoughts about what could be done to fix employment procedures. It still came off as professional though; explaining what problems Autistic people face when applying for jobs, and what support they need when starting out. Additionally, the message about not using Autism as an excuse to refuse employment was made abundantly clear.

However, there was one issue this article had in common with my other pieces. It’s limited availability.

If I was going to continue producing content, I needed a proper outlet; somewhere to showcase my work to as many people as possible. That’s when somebody introduced me to WordPress.

Blog

Like many things, I wasn’t entirely sure what I wanted to achieve with my blog at first. I didn’t even give much thought to the title, hence why I called it the least-searched Google term in history: georgeharvey2015. Over time, however, I got a better idea of it’s identity. It started off small, with short pieces about Autism and how it affected me. They weren’t anything special, just samples to show everyone the kind of person I was and what I wanted to achieve. It later grew to include reviews – like the ones I’d been writing on Amazon for years:

https://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/profile/amzn1.account.AHNGEVB42MLFVOSAZTJJKBFBACEQ

But these had an emphasis on disabilities and personal issues. If I felt something touched on a subject like Autism (Lesson Zero), child neglect (Lily Alone), or living independently (Kiki’s Delivery Service) very well, then I’d feature it on the blog. Hence its tagline: “Home of Reviews and Autism Advocacy“. I also started a second blog to show off my older Amazon reviews, but regularly updating it proved too difficult; I was torn between fixing old pieces and writing new ones, and the latter required more attention.

As time went by, my ideas got bigger. And my Autism pieces got longer. I knew I couldn’t keep writing something every fortnight. So I decided to pace myself and write new content only when I had the mindset for it. This would evolve into the once-every-other-month schedule I have now.

Today, blogging continues to challenge me. But the benefits have been invaluable. My presence on the internet has put me in contact with many new people. Including those who’ve asked me for advice, and others who’ve listed my site on their own. In 2016, I even got in contact with somebody who ran after-school clubs for Autistic children. After showing her my posts and giving my Overcoming Limitations presentation, she invited me to become a volunteer myself. This would mark the beginning of a new ambition for me.

New Ambition

Until now, all of my future goals had been writing-based. But working with Autistic children made me realise something. The best people you can confide in with your problems are those who’ve experienced them personally. What made me such a valuable asset was being the only volunteer who also had Autism. This made it easier for me to relate to those children and understand their behaviours (shyness, isolation, lack of motivation, etc.). I also remembered something else. Some of the best support I’d had was during my school years. Without my various TAs keeping me on track, I never would’ve made it through school – let alone attended university. From this point on, I wanted to try becoming a teaching assistant. And that brings me to where I am today.

Hopes for the Future

Currently, I’m 25-years-old and have been taking courses in Special Educational Needs. I’ve also had chances to go into schools and get experience, but they haven’t lead to anything permanent so far. I still get notifications about positions today, but applying for them isn’t as simple as it used to be. Why? Because like most people, life has caught up to me.

I now live in my own studio flat; paying bills, going to work and occasionally meeting with friends and family. Additionally, the job I have is full-time with the hours and days varying from week to week. This makes it difficult for me to plan anything long-term, as I never know my rota until a month in advance. Even if I wanted to quit my job and become a full-time TA, I’ve been made aware of several money issues I could face – it’s tricky paying my rent even now. However, I don’t want to give up on being a TA. Because if I become one, it will be a two-way benefit; I can help children overcome their Autistic problems and learn what life is like for them in primary school. The latter of which would be essential to my most ambitious project.

Ever since my first year of college, I’ve wanted to write a children’s book series that raises awareness of disabilities and personal issues. In recent months, I’ve been brainstorming more solid ideas for it, but I still have a long way to go before writing the first story. And that’s not considering the time I’d need to finish the thing and refresh my memory of the publishing process. It might sound easy. But there’s a lot that eats into my spare time; work, socialising, drama, relaxing. Even blogging.

One reason I keep writing is to maintain my profile. I don’t want people to think I’m some random person who wants to get published. I want them to know how devoted I am and what I want to achieve. But like I said, blogging takes time for me. Sometimes I wonder whether I should even hold back writing longer pieces and push forward with my personal projects. My book series might be a long ways off, but I still have other ideas that could work. There was even one that came close to being a reality – before the organisation said they couldn’t provide what I was after.

I think maybe I should set a goal for myself. For the 5th Anniversary special, I should get something of a finished project completed and share it with you on this blog. Even if it’s not published at that point, a sample will show the progress I’ve made, and keep me motivated for the future.

Anyway, that’s all I have to say for this post. Again, I want to say a special thank you to everyone who’s continued supporting me. It really helps to know that my work is being shared and enjoyed by many people. If you’ve enjoyed reading this post, or have any questions, then please leave me a comment – I’ll be more than happy to answer them. And, until next time, stay tuned.

Autism, College, Experiences, General, Schools

Two Special Messages

Hello everybody, this is George Harvey (aka The Autistic Blogger). I’ve recently started work on my next big project, but it probably won’t be finished until after the New Year. This is because I’m currently rehearsing for my latest stage performance (A Christmas Carol) and December will be a hectic time for someone who works in retail. In the meantime, I’d like to share a couple of messages with you.

Over the years, I’ve been in contact with numerous people who’ve had a profound influence on my professional career. Whether it’s about something I’ve written or something I hope to do, their messages have inspired me to keep working towards my dreams – even when they seem a long way off. The first of these came just over five years ago.

Before I started working on this blog and raising awareness of Autism, my biggest ambition in life was to become a published author. And it still is to some extent. There are magazine articles and books out there with my name on them, but they’ve always been collaborations with other people. One day I hope to publish something that’s all my own, and that it can help raise awareness of disadvantaged people and their problems.

The most ambitious project I’ve had is a children’s book series. The idea first came to me during my first year of college, when we were asked to write a series of short stories to promote a fictional product called Chunky Monkey. I got so into the task that I wanted to use what I’d learnt to create my own series, which would teach readers about the joys and hardships of childhood. I had a pretty good idea of what I wanted, but there was just one problem: I didn’t really know how to write a children’s book, let alone a series of them. Fortunately, I knew somebody who did.

Out of all the authors I’ve admired over the years, Jacqueline Wilson has been the most influential on me. Her stories not only address real-world issues, but they do so in a way that’s relatable to children. You could literally pick up any one of her books and believe it was inspired by a true story. I knew that if anyone could understand what I was trying to achieve with my writing, then it would be Jacqueline Wilson. So, on October 18th 2013, I sent her this email:

Dear Miss Jacqueline Wilson
My name is George Harvey. I am 19-years-old, and I am an inspiring writer. I work in an ASDA’s store in Swanley and whenever I see one of your books on our shelves I just know the story is spectacular, without even having to read it – especially your latest book Diamond. Your illustrator, Nick Sharratt does a wonderful job with his cover art, too.
I am writing because I recently read something you said in an interview once. You said: “I want to write to every age group, in a way that can prepare them for what happens in the real world, and raise the awareness levels of many life-changing situations. I want to be a friend, really.” These words captured my heart because this is almost precisely what I want to do with my own writing.
As an Asperger’s sufferer, I have experience of what life can be like for someone who has a personal life problem or condition. I also know that if these issues are misunderstood, they can cause troubles for those who suffer from them. This is why I want to use my writing skills to raise awareness of not only autism but other personal issues so that readers can understand them better and more people would be treated fairly in the future.
Also, while my intended audience is children, I want my stories and characters to appeal to as broad an audience as possible, so that readers, young and old, can understand my intentions. (Would this be commercial or literary fiction?)
Anyway, I have been taking a professional writing course at my college for two years now. And ever since my first year, I’ve had an idea for a children’s book series called ‘The Adventures of Nicky Dream‘. I won’t bore you with details as I know you’re very busy and you get a lot more fan-mail than mine. But the basic idea is that Nicky Dream is a 10-year-old girl who lives alone in a large house, and she has a large number of friends who she shares “adventures” with. The twist is that each of her friends has a personal issue about them (e.g. one friend is childish and represents immaturity, one has damaged vocal chords and is partially mute, one is a bully turned friend, etc.) and the adventures not only focus on their individual characteristics, but also advises readers on how such issues should be treated, and how those with similar problems can overcome them. (Sorry if that is too much detail.)
I am confident this is a good idea, but my trouble is making it work. Whilst ‘Adventure’ and ‘Slice of Life’ are two genres I would use to describe my vision for this series, I have a lot of story and character ideas that might crossover with their limitations, and I sometimes wonder whether or not even I, myself, know exactly how I want to write this series – I’ve often imagined it as a TV series in book form. (Did you ever have a story idea without knowing exactly what genre it was going to be?)
My question to you is when you write about such personal issues as abuse, grief, foster care, etc. how do you do it in a way that’s entertaining for all audiences to read, while keeping the focus on raising awareness, and avoiding anything that could be hurtful or insulting? Also, with your book series’, did you intend them to be series’ when you first started writing the original books or was it down to their popularity that you wrote sequels? Any other advice you could give me would be very helpful, too.
I have written to you because I think you are the one author who can truly understand my feelings and ambitions for writing. I hope I can hear from you soon.

Yours Faithfully
George B. Harvey

(P.S. I’m very sorry that this is a long letter/email. I tend to over-write things a lot.)

Now, to be honest, I wasn’t really expecting a reply. As I mentioned in the message, I knew how busy Jacqueline Wilson was. And she probably received thousands of fan letters a day. It didn’t seem likely that mine would be one she’d personally respond to.

But then, twelve days later, I discovered this in my inbox:

Dear George
Thank you so much for your long and interesting email. I’m so pleased you’ve enjoyed my books. It’s good to know that you give them a favourable glance when you’re at work! It’s great that you’ve studied writing and now want to create your own children’s book series. Your Asperger’s condition will give you a true understanding of Nicky Dream and her friends, and I think the series could have great potential, helping to raise awareness of young people’s problems.
I don’t think you necessarily need to fixate on whether your stories are going to be ‘adventure‘ or ‘slice of life‘. It’s possibly a bit overwhelming too, to think of a whole series of books at this stage.
If I were you, I’d concentrate hard on your characters first, thinking about them in detail until they become absolutely real to you. Then get started on your story and try to imagine it’s happening inside your head. Describe it as if it’s really happening with as much emotion and detail as you can manage. Think yourself down to a child level and write from their point of view, and that way you should naturally be able to avoid anything too hurtful or insulting.
Good luck. I really admire your determination and ambition.

Very best wishes,
Jacqueline Wilson

I have treasured this email ever since. To think, the Jacqueline Wilson had taken the time to read my message and given me advice on my writing. Needless to say, I took her words to heart. Now, whenever I can, I plan my series to the smallest detail: mind-mapping locations; thinking of ways to develop it; and most importantly, writing character bibles which detail every aspect of the characters from their favourite colour to how they became the people they are. It’s an arduous process, but I know it will benefit me in the long-run. As Jacqueline Wilson said, the world I’ve created now feels real to me.

This second message was sent to me just a few months ago.

Since starting my blog, my pieces have lead to many professional opportunities for me. One of the earliest came from a lady who ran an after-school club for Autistic children. She read my ‘Diagnosis‘ post and asked if I could come in and present my life story to her members. She then offered me the chance to become a volunteer supervisor there, which I readily accepted. I, unfortunately, had to resign from the post after two years, due to work commitments, but the time I spent there was invaluable. Interacting with Autistic children, relating to their problems, and helping them make a difference in their lives, made me realise just how much I wanted to do for this for a living too. Hence I started to pursue a new ambition: becoming a teaching assistant.

While my current job makes it difficult to apply for anything permanent, I do occasionally take online courses in Special Educational Needs. I’ve also had the chance to present my life story in primary schools, and I spent the day as a teaching assistant in one of them. Sometimes people will even come to me for advice. Following one of my recent posts, a secondary school TA asked me how to help one of her students prepare for their GCSEs. For privacy reasons, I won’t reveal names. But this is what she had to say:

Hi George,
I wanted to ask you for some advice. I wondered if you completed your GCSE English exams or how you managed them. I am supporting someone with ASD and, after reading your story, I sensed some similarities. They are also a perfectionist which is causing great difficulty when practising for her GCSE’s next year. I wonder if you have any tips that may help us? Thanks for sharing your story and your work it really does make a difference.
Thanks.

After thinking long and hard about my answers, I sent her this response:

Thank you for your message. It’s not often I get comments on any of my posts, so it’s nice to speak to the people who read them. In regards to your question, I was able to pass my GCSE English exam, but I think it took me three tries to get the grade I wanted. The literature part was easy enough, but language has always been a challenge for me. I’m always second-guessing myself on whether I’ve used the right punctuation marks, or if my sentences are too long, etc. So it does take me a while to write the pieces you see. Even so, I try to learn from my experiences and I do have some tips that could help your student.
First of all, before anything else, make sure she spends 5-10mins planning what she’ll write. It’s very tempting to start straight away – especially if you’re conscious of the time. But if you go into anything without a clear plan, you’ll end up stopping, thinking and rethinking as you go – which will waste more time than if you lay everything out in the beginning. What I do is highlight everything I need/want to talk about in each of my paragraphs. I do this by making subheadings (e.g. Introduction, Dogs, Cats, Why Dogs Hate Cats, Conclusion/Summary) and then bullet-pointing two or more things I could say in each paragraph. By doing this, you’ll never be lost for what to write, and you might even work out a definite order for everything. For example:

Introduction
Why do dogs hate cats? (attention-grabbing, opening sentence)
– If a dog sees a cat, it will give chase? Why?
– How the cat looks at them? The way they smell? Why would the dog want to get rid of the cat?
– Let’s look at both these animals and find out.

Dogs
– Nature – friendly, cuddly, protective
– Confined to home, unless taken for a walk
– Territorial – bark at new things and mark their territory

Cats
– Nature – friendly, cuddly, adventurous
– Able to roam anywhere freely and still return home
– Not territorial, but will return to a place they like and defend themselves fiercely if provoked.
– Why dogs hate cats
– Are dogs protective of their territory when cats turn up?
– Are they scared to see something new?
– Are they annoyed when they keep returning?

Conclusion/Summary
– Easy to see why dogs would hate cats – protective of their territory, thinks cat is invading, constantly returning, could feel threatened.
– Maybe there just needs to be better trust between animals (concluding sentence)
– I also think about how to end and begin each of my paragraphs so they can lead into one another seamlessly.

The second tip is one I’m sure you already know. But it’s resisting perfection. Once your student has come up with a plan, make sure she sticks to it. It’s common to suddenly have an idea you think is better than what you’re writing. But it’s better to make a mental note of it and return to it later. If you try correcting things then and there, you could spend ages “fixing” it, and you probably won’t make it to the end of your piece. The quicker you finish it, the faster you can improve things at the end. This is helpful for two reasons. It prevents your student from going off-track and undoing all their planning work. And it stops them from making unnecessary changes. I’ve often found that the way I’ve written something the first time is better than what it ends up being after all the edits. Trust your initial thoughts and then you’ll have less fix at the end.
Finally, my last tip concerns reading work back. Sometimes you’ll want to check over your paragraphs to make sure they’re written well. But if you do this after every sentence or paragraph, your perfectionism will take over – you’ll keep spotting more and more things to “fix” and lose momentum for writing. Only read through the work once you’ve finished the final paragraph. If your student has made a good plan, she’ll be able to look back on it, and it should help her get moving again if she’s stuck. It’s better to trust your instincts than second-guessing yourself.
That’s all I have to say. I hope these tips have been helpful to you. And I hope your student does well in her GCSEs. If you have any other questions, please don’t hesitate to contact me.
Best of regards
George B. Harvey (aka the Autistic Blogger).

P.S. I’m sorry for not replying sooner. I wanted to make sure these tips were perfect for you.

Admittedly, my reply may have been a bit long. But I wanted to make sure that whatever I sent was the best advice possible. Plus, if it was shared with anyone else, then anyone could benefit from it just as much as the TA. It’s incredible to think that five years ago I was asking Jacqueline Wilson for advice, and now people are asking for mine on Autism. It makes me proud to know my blog is making a positive impact and helping others to do good in their community.

That’s all I have to say for now. I hope these messages have given you an idea of how far I’ve come, and where I hope to be in the future. I’d also like to give a special shout-out to anautismobserver.wordpress.com, who were generous enough to list my website (The Autistic Blogger) on their own, so more people could find and enjoy it. Be sure to check them out and some of the other Autistic bloggers they have listed.

If you have any questions, please leave me a comment – I’ll be more than happy to answer them. And, until the New Year, stay tuned.

General, Into my Autistic Mind

Into My Autistic Mind: My Year so far

Hello everybody, this is George Harvey (aka The Autistic Blogger). It’s taking me a bit longer to finish the last part of my Life, Animated Review. So in the meantime here’s another peek into my Autistic mind. You all know the drill by now. Everything you read below will be the raw, unfiltered thoughts that go through my head as I’m writing. Only this time, I’ll be trying to focus primarily on what I’ve been up to the past couple of months. Enjoy:

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It’s hard to believe it’s already been two months since the New Year. I’m thinking of fireworks and the ending to My Little Pony: the Movie. Which had fireworks. I just made “New Year” have capital letters. My sister is home and playing music on the radio. I’m sitting in the dining room. The table is turned in a new position to what it used to be. It’s apparently so the room looks bigger. My room has been completely repainted. I still can’t get the ending of MLP: the Movie out of my mind. Now I’m thinking of the Rugrats in Paris movie and a scene with Angelica and Chuckie. Saying that name makes me think of the Child’s Play movies – and the original film’s poster. Now – SORRY – sorry again my typing is a bit off. I keep mistyping and putting things in capital letters. I’m typing on my laptop instead of my iPad like I usually do. I remember an old kid’s show called Out of the Box that I used to watch with my sister on Playhouse Disney. I just paused to look at the bullet points I’m trying to stick to. To think, by the time I post this it will be the first of March – excuse me, March 1st. Then the old £10 notes will no longer be useable and people will have to be 16 in order to buy energy drinks, according to the new law. Give me a second. Sorry about that. I just had to move some things around. I needed to plug in my laptop as it was running low on power. Sorry, I just tried to type something there, but then thought better of it. Okay, now my laptop is charging. I just had to flip the switch. I’ve been quite tired today. I was up until 4:45am last night watching WWE Elimination Chamber on the WWE Network. I can’t believe I’d never subscribed to it before now. I’m thinking about somebody I sent an email to today. Anyway, I’m hoping when Wrestlemania comes around this year that I’m not working the morning after. If I’m free that Monday morning I’ll be able to watch the whole thing live Sunday night. But if not, I’ll have to watch it on catch up instead. I’m sure my friends will be watching it live too. Anyway, I remember New Year’s Eve. Sorry I’m constantly thinking of MLP. It’s probably because I watched somebody’s blind reaction to it on YouTube last night as well as Elimination Chamber. I didn’t get up until 11:45 this morning. And even then I had an hour’s nap to make up for the hour I missed sleeping this morning. I just had to say hello to somebody there. As I was saying, I remember New Year’s Eve. I didn’t have any plans until my aunt invited me to go out to dinner with her, my uncle and my cousin. There was a man there who wasn’t too happy with the service and had to be physically thrown out of the restaurant for disturbing the peace. I had a hard time spelling “restaurant” there. Thank goodness for auto-correct. I’m thinking of the Rugrats again. It was definitely one of my favourite Nick Toons. They even released a couple of PlayStation games, which I would play at my dad’s house. Anyway, I remember after dinner I went back to my aunt’s house and I had my laptop with me. I was racing to finish not just my last edition of Into my Autistic Mind but the review I’d been working on for five months. I’m thinking of an episode of SpongeBob and the Simpson’s Hit and Run game. I was able to upload both pieces onto my blog with something like 5 or 15 minutes left before the New Year arrived. It was actually kind of thrilling to finish them before the countdown. Since the New Year a lot has happened. One second, I’m thinking of an episode the Powerpuff Girls and a Lilo and Stitch movie. With everything that’s been happening I’ve been very busy. I had wanted to post something other than this edition of Into My Autistic Mind, since I do like to give my readers a bit of variety and I never want to seem lazy. However, with the deadline approaching fast, Feburary being – I can never spell “February” right on my first attempt – February being such a short month and all the hours I’ve been working, I knew I’d never complete on time. I think I’ll save it for a later month when I can actually put more effort into it, instead of rushing it to completion. I want to avoid doing things like that now. Which is why one of my New Year’s resolutions was to take my writing more seriously. I’ve been going over some GCSE English revision guides I bought a while back, I’ve been planning things more clearly and thinking about when best to write. I think it really is helping. Just this month I posted a review of the DS game Pokemon Ranger and it only took me a few weeks to finish, instead of five whole months. I just thought of a Comic Relief segment that was made a few years ago. The one where Alan Sugar is a contestant on Dragon’s Den. Now I’m remembering the one with Smithy (James Cordon/Gavin and Stacey) and various celebrities debating who should do the appeal film in Africa. There’s also the one where David Tennant was first playing Doctor Who; the one with Doctor Who and Lauren Cooper (The Catherine Tate Show); the one with Lauren Cooper in a war of words with Peggy (Eastenders). Wait? Was that last one a Comic Relief sketch? Actually no, maybe none of them were. I might be getting mixed up with Children in Need. It’s a shame Terry Wogan passed away a couple of years ago. I remember that sketch where he appeared alongside Lee Mack on the set of Not Going Out. I’m thinking of the Don Bluth film All Dogs go to Heaven for some reason. I’ve just heated the tea that I have and made a few text messages. Another thing that has kept me busy these past couple of months has been my drama. It wasn’t long ago I was performing in a panto of The Wizard of Oz. My characters were: a posh school boy; a munchkin in a red outfit, which I really liked; a crow with a Jamaican accent; a forest animal; a Poppy; and Winkie Soldier, who starts off tough, but then reveals he’s gay. Did I mention this was a modern retelling of The Wizard of Oz? It was a bit more like The Wiz. We even had the song Ease on Down the Road playing at the end of Act One. Apparently, it’s the biggest song in musical version of The Wiz, but in the movie version it wasn’t performed well. They just has Michael Jackson (as the Scarecrow) and the actress playing Dorothy performing the number with their backs to the camera and filmed it at least 30ft away. I’m thinking of the Spy Kids movies. But I did really like playing those parts. We had a real dog playing Toto, before he becomes an actor in a furry costume once Dorothy arrives in Oz. I could tell you a lot more about the panto, but then I could also write a whole other piece on that. I’m looking forward to going back to the hall where we rehearse this Sunday. We’ll all be watching a DVD of Dream. Which is what we called our show that was dedicated to Disney songs. Out of all the shows I’ve done so far I think Annie Get Your Gun was my favourite. Have any of you ever heard of the song Muffin Time? Go look it up on YouTube. It’s really catchy and gets stuck in your head. I’m thinking of an old PlayStation 2 game I had called Spyro: A Hero’s Tail. I actually had two copies of the game since the first one got scratched and became unplayable. I’m only just realising I’ll have a lot of editing to do after I’m do. This piece is already two pages long. As for my work life, things have been improving. There was a very long period of time where I wasn’t getting my contracted hours and I was starting to dislike working at the store in Welling. Since the New Year I’ve returned to Eltham and things have been a lot better. Being a small store it’s easier to get around and you get the chance to do more than just one job all the time – before I was only ever working on the tills. Now I work on the self-scan, de-card the store, help tidy up, etc. Plus, since the store isn’t overstaffed like the Welling one was, I’m getting my contracted hours now. In fact, the last two weeks I’ve been given almost double my weekly hours. So all in all, things are going well for me at the moment. However, I know this year will bring a lot of changes. Not too long ago I completed an online course in SEN, and I’m hoping this will allow me to find employment as a Teaching Assistant. I’ve even purchased another course which is tailored to exactly that. I’m also hoping to use what I learn in the book series I’m planning to write someday. I’ve been putting it off for much too long now and I really want to see if I can make a break as a published author. I might even get my very own place to live. It’s something I’ve been interested in doing for a while and it seems like the ideal time to do it. I also think I should try online dating as well. So much to do, so little free time to do it all. I’ll have to make sure I stay organised. I’m thinking of another Powerpuff Girls episode now. Actually, two. Now three. Now Disney’s The Kid. Now Holes. Now Goosebumps – which I wrote a review on once. And now Rugrats the movie. Now Doug’s First Movie, which I’ve never actually seen myself. I’ve just seen clips and snippets. This could go on for a while if I let it. I’ve said pretty much all I want to say. Hopefully, by the end of next month I’ll be finished with my Life, Animated Review. Then I can start debating about what to post for the 3rd Anniversary of this blog. I’m thinking of an old Cartoon Network show I used to love called Cubix. This is a good place to stop I think. I’m less than 25 words from this piece being 1900 words long – introduction included. If I think of anything else to say while I’m editing maybe I’ll add it in somewhere. I won’t change things too much though, as these are meant to be my raw, unfiltered thoughts. Whose Line is it Anyway just popped into my head. And wrestling and the Beast from 20,000 Fathoms and King Kong vs Godzilla and the original American remake of Godzilla. I’m just rambling now. I hope you’ve enjoyed what I’ve had to say. Now I’m at 1969 words.

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If you have any questions regarding Autism or some of my pieces on it, then please feel free to leave me a comment – I’ll be happy to answer them. As I said, I will try to complete the last part of my Life, Animated Review by the beginning of next month. I hope you’ll enjoy it when it’s released. And until then, stay tuned.

Experiences, General DVD Reviews, Reviews

Equestria Girls: Magical Movie Night Review

(Review begins where text is all italic.)

Hello everybody, this is George Harvey, aka the Autistic Blogger. Some of you may remember earlier this year I posted a random review of a random DVD (Sword Art Online II: Part 4). Today, I’m posting another one, for similar reasons.

Below is my analysis of Dance-, Movie– and Mirror-Magic; the three Equestria Girls specials that were released this past summer. For those of you who don’t know, Equestria Girls is a spin-off brand of My Little Pony, where all the characters are re-imagined as humans. I’ve reviewed each of the movies before, so it made sense to write one on the specials, too – especially as they were said to be the beginning of a series. While I am happy with the finished piece, posting it here feels bittersweet for me. Let me explain.

Usually, when I write a review, I submit it to Amazon.co.uk. There, people can read my analysis and let me know whether it’s helpful or not. This time, though, I wasn’t able to do that. Because, for whatever reason, these specials aren’t available on DVD outside of America. I’ve checked the US version of the site. But apparently, you need to spend at least $50 to post a review there – which would be costly to me. So, with very few options, I posted the review here just to get it online.

However, I would’ve done the same even without the uploading problem.

You see, much like my SAO analysis, I was worried nobody would find this review on Amazon – it’s easy to miss on such a vast site. The thought of that happening was too unbearable, considering how long I’d slaved away over it. I’m not exaggerating either. You wouldn’t believe what I’ve suffered through just to get this done. To give you an idea, let’s look back at my SAO review. When I uploaded that piece, I discussed beforehand how difficult writing was for me sometimes. How my Autism affects my thought process and makes me a perfectionist, which cause me to edit for weeks on end. Since then, I’m afraid to say very little has improved. In fact, it’s worse than before. I began writing this review around early July. It’s now New Year’s Eve! You can do the math for yourself.

To be fair, I haven’t spent every waking moment of my life working on this piece. There have been days, even weeks, where I’ve taken breaks to focus on more important things; like work, drama and online courses. These projects have kept me motivated, and I haven’t stressed over the review as much as I usually do. However, given it’s still taken me this long to finish, I’m honestly having concerns about my future. My dream is to become a children’s author one day. If I can’t write a review within three weeks, what chance do I have finishing a book? It doesn’t seem likely, does it?

With all this in mind, I’ve decided it’s well and truly, seriously time for me to sort out my writing problems. And I think I know how.

I’ve always said my biggest regret was not taking A-Levels in English. If I had, perhaps writing wouldn’t be so complicated now, and I’d have a firmer grasp of its rules. It also would’ve made University a lot easier.

I think what I need to do is go back to the basics. If I can refresh my memory and learn to be confident in my abilities, then it’ll help me avoid the problems I keep encountering. In theory, this should also stop me second-guessing myself, and I can finish things quicker and more professionally. To help me do this, I’ve purchased some GCSE revision guides on Language and Literature. Plus, I still have my old college textbooks and computer programs such as Grammarly. It’s going to be a challenge, but I’m determined to make 2018 my best writing year yet.

I think that’s enough rambling now.

I understand this review may not appeal to everyone. But I do hope you’ll take time to read it and appreciate all the effort that’s put in. This piece could be the last time I write something of this length and quality. It’ll be interesting to see if anything has improved within in a year’s time.

Happy New Year, and enjoy the review. (Be warned: it’s quite long.)

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If there’s one word I can use to describe Equestria Girls lately, it’s independent. Back when Hasbro first commissioned this brand, it was intended to be a loose tie-in with their Friendship is Magic series. Specifically, it featured Twilight Sparkle visiting the human world and protecting it from various magical threats. It also featured other ponies from the show as high school students, creating a unique blend of fantasy and teenage drama. While this concept was successful, there was only so much it could achieve as an extension of the show – especially as the high school clichés gave it limited creative potential. Fortunately, Hasbro had a solution. In 2015, their movies began focusing solely on their human characters and had little to no connection with the series. They even created their own version of Twilight (Sci-Twi) and pushed her into the lead role alongside Sunset Shimmer, a former antagonist. These changes, along with the new magic girl aspects, gave the brand its own identity, allowing it to appeal to a broader audience.
With its newfound popularity, Hasbro wanted to try making Equestria Girls into its own TV series. All they needed was the right opportunity to present one. That opportunity came in 2017. Due to the release of My Little Pony: The Movie, the studio decided not to make a fifth Equestria Girls film. Instead, they produced three half-hour specials that would air on TV as backdoor pilots. If they were successful, it would assure them that releasing two series a year would be worth their time and money.
So now that Sunset and the gang have episode-length adventures are they good enough to warrant a full series? Let’s take a look.
The first special, Dance Magic, takes place sometime after the fourth film. With Camp Everfree still needing repairs, the Hu-Mane Seven are trying to raise money for it. Unfortunately, they’ve only gathered half the funds, and the deadline is next week. That’s when Rarity has an idea. If they can win Canterlot Mall’s Chance to Prance competition, they’ll earn prize money worth more than double what they need. Everyone likes the idea. But it soon becomes apparent they aren’t the best dancers. Plus, some old rivals return from Crystal Prep. And when they steal Rarity’s video concept, she wishes she hadn’t spent the pre-earned money on costumes.
First of all, I love how this story focuses on someone other than Twilight or Sunset for a change. One of the core issues with the Hu-Mane Seven, lately, has been their limited screen time. This has led to them having diminished film roles and almost flanderized personalities. Fortunately, that’s the advantage of shorter stories: they provide individual character development, without tediously dragging out the plot. In this case, the spotlight is on Rarity.
For the most part, Rarity is still her typical fashion-obsessed self, who’s more concerned with appearance than practicality. But we also get to see her creative side and just how passionate she is towards her work. She’s so devoted that she won’t be satisfied unless she’s perfected every detail – even if it means cancelling rehearsals to fix torn clothes. It’s this determination that brings out the best in her character and makes her an ideal director. Additionally, she adopts some of pony-Rarity’s quirks for good measure (e.g. her fainting couch, her running mascara, and eating ice cream when she’s miserable). Most importantly, though, she keeps her other self’s generosity, which plays a significant role in the climax.
Another interesting note is that this story features the return of the Shadow Bolts (Sugarcoat, Sour Sweet, Lemon Zest and Sunny Flare). I actually made a mistake in my Friendship Games review when I said these girls didn’t have individual personalities. In fact, they’re supposed to represent darker versions of the Hu-Mane Seven. Sugarcoat is honest (like Applejack), but she’s also harsh with her words and never sugarcoats anything. Sour Sweet is nice (like Fluttershy), but she’s prone to mood swings and often follows her compliments with sour remarks. In Dance Magic, they retain these traits, along with their highly competitive nature. Which I found unusual at first; until I realised it was done for realism. You see, too often in My Little Pony, villains are reformed after a single good deed. Which isn’t entirely plausible. The best-reformed characters are those who’re given time to reflect on their actions and then progressively make amends for them. That’s how Sunset became the brand’s most well-developed character. The Shadow Bolts are similar in a way; it’s revealed they had good intentions for winning, but they lost sight of them in the heat of competition. It takes Rarity to show them that.
Aside from the video itself, which is lyrically appealing – despite containing a rap number – there’s nothing else to say except Dance Magic delivers. It may not be anything epic or magical, but it’s a solid example of a character-focused story, which every good series needs.
The second special, Movie Magic, sees the girls visiting a film studio. One of its directors is an alumnus of Camp Everfree and has graciously invited them to the set of Daring Do. Unfortunately, production of the feature is in turmoil; costumes have been lost, set pieces are falling apart, the lead actress is threatening to quit. And when some valuable props are stolen, the Hu-Mane Seven begin to suspect there’s sabotage at work. Now they have to find the culprit and save the film before it’s cancelled.
If I can be honest, this feels like the weakest of the three specials to me. I do give it credit for being the most like a TV episode, but there’s a constant sense that it’s trying to be something it’s not. Let me explain. Going by the set-up, you can tell the writer took a lot of inspiration from the classic Scooby Doo cartoons. You’ve got the group of teenagers who stumble across a mystery, a talking dog who’s obsessed with finding food, comical yet pointless chase scenes, a girl in glasses who explains the villain’s scheme after they’ve caught them, the list goes on. It’s not a bad idea. But having a more comedic tone does affect the story’s quality. Some scenes try so hard to be funny that they abandon all sense of logic and realism. Consequently, the tension feels downplayed and it’s hard to take anything seriously. Even the villain’s motives are board-line ridiculous. It works fine for a Scooby Doo cartoon. But because Equestria Girls also teaches important morals, their stories need to balance out humour with serious moments, or they won’t get these messages across. On top of that, the mystery itself isn’t that engaging. Why? Because it’s too obvious who the culprit is! I won’t give away any spoilers. But if you pay attention to all the not-so-subtle hints, and realise there are only two potential suspects, you can work things out within the first 10mins. It doesn’t help either that the characters blatantly try to mislead us.
Overall, Movie Magic isn’t on par with episodes like Rarity Investigates or MMMystery on the Friendship Express. But that doesn’t mean it’s all bad. In fact, there were quite a few elements it handled quite well. For one thing, all the Hu-Mane Seven share the same amount of screen time. And while their intelligence is questionable at times, they do stay perfectly in character throughout. Twilight and Rainbow Dash are especially memorable because they’re portrayed as fan-girls – something that’s been shown numerous times in the series, but never in Equestria Girls. It’s also good to see the girls using their geode powers for the first time since Legend of Everfree (e.g. Rainbow Dash’s super speed and Twilight’s telekinesis). However, certain flaws with these abilities do get addressed as well. Namely how they’re overpowered and could resolve problems too easily. Because of this, limitations had to be established, such as the girls needing to wear their geodes to use them. It’s a bit dull to hear the old we forgot to bring them excuse, but just having the powers adds some much-needed fantasy to an otherwise standard comedic mystery.
Another aspect worth mentioning is two of the new characters they introduce. The first is Juniper Montage. She’s the director’s niece and production assistant, who’s also a big Daring Do fan. She plays a more prominent role in the third story – so I won’t go into details here. But the plot does well to establish her character and sets everything up perfectly for her appearance later on. The other new face is Chestnut Magnifico, who – I have to say – I don’t particularly like as Daring Do. I get that she’s an actress and not the real thing, but it bothers me she’s even associated with the character. In the series, Daring Do is a wise-cracking tomboy, who’s a mixture of Rainbow Dash and Indiana Jones. Chestnut Magnifico is a generic movie diva, who’s loud, obnoxious and always in a bad mood. Even when filming, she barely looks or sounds anything like her counterpart. If the writer wanted to reinvent a fan-favourite character for Equestria Girls, they only succeeded in tarnishing it.
Perhaps the best part of Movie Magic though, is its pop-culture references. Taking place in a film studio, there are various nods to movies like Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs, directors Steven Spielberg and Ron Howard, and even episodes of Friendship is Magic, One of my personal favourites is when the girls end up on a superhero set, dressed as the Power Ponies (Season 4) – with Sunset Shimmer hilariously typecast as the Mane-iac.
So all in all, there are parts of Movie Magic that do work. It’s just a shame that most of them aren’t well-presented.
And then you have the third special, Mirror Magic. I have just one thing to say: Sunset Shimmer meets Starlight Glimmer! This is the scenario fans have been dreaming about for ages. I don’t know what it is about 2017, but it seems to be the year of wish fulfilment for the fandom. There’s this, My Little Pony: The Movie, and the majority of episodes in Season 7. But anyway, let me explain how this meeting of two worlds came to be.
While spending time at Canterlot Mall, Sunset Shimmer tries to write a message to Princess Twilight. Only for her magic journal to suddenly run out of pages. Just then, she gets a reply from her mentor, asking her to come to her castle. That’s right, Sunset Shimmer goes back to Equestria! And, we see her in pony-form for the first time in years! Anyway, upon arrival, she’s greeted by Starlight, who gives her a new journal as Twilight and her friends were unexpectedly called away. Sunset can’t help feeling a bit disappointed. Just as she’s about to leave, however, Starlight becomes curious of the human world and asks if she can see it for herself. Sunset agrees, as long as they keep a low profile. That’s right, Starlight Glimmer in the human world! Meanwhile, an old adversary has returned and imprisons the Hu-Mane Seven. And when Sunset is caught too, it’s up to Starlight to save the day.
Admittedly, when I first heard there was going to be a Starlight in this special, I wasn’t too keen on the idea. I was concerned a human version would overshadow Sunset, and the latter would lose significance as a brand-exclusive character. The individual brands work so well, in my opinion, because they have two different ponies as their seventh lead. Fortunately, Sunset wasn’t undermined. Because, rather than creating their own version of Starlight, the writer merely borrows the one from the series. Knowing this, we’re assured she’ll return to Equestria and Sunset will remain the face of Equestria Girls.
However, I’m not saying Starlight’s inclusion here was a bad thing. In fact, by the end of it, I was hoping she’d become a semi-recurring character. This is mainly due to her relationship with Sunset. The chemistry between these two is just perfect; they’re charming together, they have similar backgrounds, and they’re able to help with each other’s problems. Starlight offers Sunset advice on the rogue magic that’s loose in her world, while she gives Starlight a chance prove herself as Twilight’s pupil. Additionally, they’re both incredibly funny characters. In one scene, Sunset forgets to walk on all fours and use magic in Equestria. Then, Starlight behaves like a pony in the human world. It’s definitely a treat seeing them play off each other, and it never feels like one is upstaging the other.
Of course, Starlight and Sunset aren’t the only stars. As mentioned before, this story also features Juniper Montage. Following on from Movie Magic, she’s now a theatre usher and has developed a hatred towards the Hu-Mane Seven. One day, while slacking off, she finds a mirror infected with Equestrian magic. It seems harmless at first, showing her reflection as a famous movie star. But then she discovers it can also banish people she hates to a mirror-dimension. Eventually, she’s so overcome by its power that she transforms into a giant, delusional monster – one only Starlight can subdue.
I have to say, regarding Equestria Girls villains, Juniper might be my favourite character to date. She’s a perfect example of how the brand can create its own characters, rather than relying on those from the series. True, she comes off as being a spoiled brat. But thanks to Movie Magic we understand why. Like any girl her age, Juniper had strong ambitions for the future. She dreamed of becoming an actress and was fortunate enough to have an uncle in the film industry. If she’d bided her time as his assistant, it could’ve led to many great opportunities for her. Now, because of a mistake she made, she’s lost that dream position and ended up in a job she feels is beneath her. On top of that, she’s constantly reminded of her enemies’ success, which only causes her to lash out. With this in mind, it’s natural that she’d become infatuated with the mirror’s reflection and allow herself to be corrupted. I’m not saying this justifies her actions, but the narrative does make us feel sorry for her. Deep down, all she really wants is friendship.
I suppose my only complaint about Mirror Magic is the runtime. Given Starlight’s presence and the depth of Juniper’s character, the story really could’ve been expanded into a full-length movie. It’s especially troubling for Juniper since it makes her development feel rushed and forced. If they’d held back on her return, she could’ve become a recurring villain for the brand. Now it seems she’ll just fade into obscurity like Diamond Tiara did. Nonetheless, the special is of movie-quality standards, and many agree it’s the best of the three.
So how well do these stories hold up collectively? As backdoor pilots, I’d say very well. Although each of them varies in focus and quality, they all share a common desire to present Equestria Girls as a plausible series. They have on-screen credits, similar to Friendship is Magic and theirs; an original – albeit short – opening theme, and even individually designed title cards. They also do a good job tying-in with each other, as well as the movies. Dance Magic refers to the Friendship Games and Legend of Everfree; Movie Magic features a character seen briefly at the end of the fourth film (i.e. the director); and, Mirror Magic has both Juniper Montage and the Dance Magic music video.
In conclusion, there’s no reason Hasbro shouldn’t make Equestria Girls into a full-length series. The fandom wants it, they’re capable of doing it, and the brand has proven countless times it can support itself with fleshed-out characters, evocative storylines and limited MLP nostalgia. The best part is, a series seems closer now than ever before (in 2017). Not long after these specials aired, Hasbro released the Summertime Shorts. These segments continued the Hu-Mane Seven‘s adventures, but also expanded their universe; showing us some of their hobbies, where they lived and even where they worked – that’s right, they have jobs this world! The shorts were so popular that within weeks Hasbro announced they’d be releasing a digital series on YouTube. This, unfortunately, turned out to be more shorts, but their quality and world-building remained. Plus, extended episodes could be on the horizon, given that a fifth film is rumoured to be in the works.
If you love Equestria Girls, and want to experience the brand in series-form, then these specials are an absolute must-watch for you. If you’re not a fan, but you still want to get into them, then I’d recommend at least watching Legend of Everfree first. Once you’ve seen where a series started taking shape, you’ll be eager as a brony to see more.
That’s all I have to say for now. So until next time, stay tuned.

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If you have any questions, please leave me a comment – I’ll be happy to answer them. And, until next time, stay tuned.

(Image courtesy of: https://mylittlepony.hasbro.com/en-us/characters/meet/equestriagirls)

Autism, Reviews

‘The A Word’ (Autism in the Media)

Hello everybody, this is George Harvey (aka The Autistic Blogger).

The views I’m about to express are specifically my own, although they may also be yours too – depending on how much you agree with me.

On March 22nd (2016), BBC One aired its first episode of a new drama series called The A Word. The story follows a dysfunctional Lake District family and their five-year-old son (Joe) who’s Autistic. From his initial diagnosis to the parents’ reactions, the series attempts to show us the effects of Autism, common misunderstandings about it and, most importantly, how to cope.

As the drama is heavily focused around my condition, I decided this would be a perfect opportunity to talk about Autism and its portrayal in the media. Like many real-word issues, there’s no better way of raising awareness than through TV, social media and other forms of mass communication. When it comes to disabilities and conditions, however, it’s important to represent them correctly. Both the benefits and set-backs should be addressed. If one mood overshadows the other, audiences could get the wrong idea about disadvantaged people and unintentionally mistreat them.

Over the years, different mediums have attempted to communicate Autism. Some better than others.

I hate Channel 4‘s The Undateables because it feels too negative. I understand the people taking part agreed to have their lives filmed. But all we’re show are the struggles they face and how disabilities prevent them finding love. There’s nothing to suggest Autism has any good points to it. In fact, people watching the show might feel worse about themselves. I know I did when I saw two grown men with Autism playing Yu-Gi-Oh cards.

The Autistic Gardener communicates things more positively. It still talks about the difficulties people face (e.g. prioritising and social communication), but it also highlights the benefits of having the condition; a creative mind, good organisation skills and perfectionism. More importantly, it shows how they use these traits to make unique contributions to the world of work. In other words, The Autistic Gardener helps Autistic people find employment – it doesn’t ruin their chances at love because their condition supposedly classifies them as Undateable.

Books and stage plays also do their part to raise awareness. Not only are there helpful guidebooks (e.g. The Asperkids Secret Book of Social Rules), but some stories allow us to see exactly what goes on in the Autistic mind. The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime is a good example of this. I’ve not read the book myself. But the stage adaption really does Autism justice. The actors and visuals show us everything we need to know – without even naming the condition once.

When creating Autistic characters, it’s important to get their portrayals right or else people will take offence. Holby City recently featured a side character with Autism. I think the actor did an amazing job, because his dialogue was well-written and everything about his performance – from the way he talks to the way he behaves – feels believable. It makes me proud when the media represents Autism so accurately.

With all that being said; what are my thoughts on The A Word?

To make sure I don’t spoil the series too much, I’m only going to talk about what happens in the first episode – and maybe a bit of the second.

The episode begins with Joe walking alone, listening and singing to music on his headphones. This immediately defines his character. Throughout the series it’s made abundantly clear that Joe is obsessed with music. He refuses to talk or co-operate with anyone, unless it’s song-related.

When you’re Autistic it’s very easy to become obsessed with the things you love. They become your source of comfort and you never want to be without them. The series shows us why this can be a problem. Because Joe is so absorbed in his music, it’s nearly impossible to get his attention. That’s why he struggles to follow simple instructions and barely takes notice of the people around him.

There’s no doubt Joe’s music is an issue. Especially as his headphones are the perfect tool for blocking out reality. But one thing I really praise the series for is showing the benefits of his obsession, too. Because he listens to music all day, he’s memorised the lyrics of every song he’s ever heard. Plus, he can tell you a song’s title, the artist, who wrote it and what year it was released. Keep in mind he’s five-years-old! (I’m almost 22; I could never have this kind of encyclopaedia-like knowledge.) Furthermore, it’s mentioned that Joe does well in school and is smarter than most kids his age. These small details are essential. They make it clear to the audience that having Autism doesn’t mean you’re stupid or inferior. It just means you’re gifted in some areas and need additional help in others. Two people who don’t seem realise this are Joe’s parents (Paul and Alison Hughes).

Going back to the episode: it’s Joe’s birthday. And mum and dad are throwing him party. They try to get him involved, but it’s clear he’d rather be listening to music. He even makes a fuss whenever the stereo is turned off.

After the party, the whole family is gathered. Among them is Nicola – the partner of Paul’s brother, Eddie. She asks the parents if they think Joe’s behaviour is because he has something. Almost immediately they lash out. Paul excuses his son’s behaviour as being normal for five-year-olds. Whilst Alison is furious Nicola would suggest such a thing.

This scene is important. It highlights the most common feelings parents have when they first consider Autism: fear and denial. Paul and Alison obviously love Joe with all their hearts and want him to have the best chance in life. Just the thought of there being something wrong with him is frightening, because they know it means he won’t grow up like normal children. Worst still, they think he won’t grow up happy at all – which of course is completely wrong.

Not wanting to face the possibility of Autism, they try to continue their lives as normal. But Joe’s symptoms soon become overwhelming. Eventually, his grandad (Maurice) can’t stand the lack of action and takes Joe for a medical assessment – without Paul or Alison’s knowledge.

By the way I have to say this quickly. I just love that Christopher Eccleston plays Maurice in the series. What can I say, I’m a sucker for any actor who used to be in Doctor Who. Anyway…

The Hughes are, understandably, upset by Maurice’s actions and tell him to stay away. However, it turns out the assessment was a good thing, because it’s confirmed that Joe does have Autism. Mum and dad are still doubtful, but they listen to the doctor’s prognosis.

This might be the highlight of the whole episode for me. Everything that’s described about Autism here is very accurate. The doctor mentions how it’s not just one condition, but a series of conditions that affect different people in different ways. She also talks about prioritising, repetitive behaviour and how it’s difficult for these people to process what they hear. I felt a genuine connection to the series after this, because it sounded like she was describing me. Many other Autistic people can also relate. (If there’s any scene worth watching in the episode it’s this one.)

Following Joe’s diagnosis, the reality is almost too much for Paul and Alison. They think there’s obviously been some mistake and want to get a second opinion. Even Maurice is sceptical.

“He talks, he laughs, he looks you in the eye, he smiles; how is he Autistic? I don’t understand.”

This sums up the main problem people have with Autism. Because everybody is effected differently, it’s near-impossible to pin-down specific behaviours. They think if someone doesn’t act a certain way it’s proof they don’t have Autism – which isn’t necessarily true.

Maurice then asks if there’s a cure. To which Alison immediately (and correctly) responds: “It’s not a disease!”

The point of Autism isn’t to cure it, but to understand its effects on someone. Once you do, you’ll be able to come up with a plan – specifically tailored to that individual – which gives them the exact help and encouragement they need.

However, there’s a right and wrong way to handle Autism. And Alison, unfortunately, chooses the latter. She’s so afraid of “labelling” Joe, she thinks the best course of action is to make sure nobody else finds out about his Autism – she doesn’t even want the word mentioned in her house.

This is the absolute worst thing she can do. When somebody is Autistic, nothing is more important than letting others know about it. Many parents don’t understand this. They think if they hide their child’s problems, their son or daughter will be able to live a normal life. Quite the opposite. They’re allowing a small issue to grow into an even bigger one.

Let’s put things into perspective.

If people don’t know a child has Autism, they’ll think he or she is acting strange on purpose and want to avoid them. Maybe even bully them. If teachers don’t know, they can’t give that child the support they need in lessons. They’ll blame bad grades on lack of effort – rather than learning difficulties – making the child feel stressed and miserable about themselves.

To put it simply, refusing to acknowledge someone’s Autism, actually prevents them from living a normal life.

On the other hand, if people are made aware of the Autism – and they’re given a proper explanation of it – it will help them to understand why the child behaves the way they do. They’ll learn to accept it and be more willing to engage with them. Plus, if the child is given support in school, they’ll learn to get better overtime and eventually not need it anymore.

Eddie tries telling Alison the first step is honesty. But she ignores him, saying he doesn’t know anything. (Newsflash mum: neither do you!)

The episode ends and the preview suggests Alison is going to handle things a lot worse; she’s thinking of home-schooling Joe and taking away his music.

So do I think The A Word is a good series? Absolutely. There are just so many things it gets right about Autism. And a lot people agree with me. The episodes have been praised numerous times on social media for their subject matter and quality acting. I don’t know if Max Vento (Joe’s actor) has Autism in real life, but his performance is right on the money.

There are many things I share in common with Joe. When he sings, he sings loudly and doesn’t consider he might be disturbing nearby people. I sort of do the same thing when I’m listening to YouTube videos. Also, Joe wanders the playground, allows the smallest things to distract him and occasionally references lines from movies like Toy Story – all things I’ve done in my life at some point.

However, there are differences between me and Joe, too. When I was younger, I never had problems making friends and I was always invited to birthday parties. I also did a lot of outrageous things, but it never got to the point where I slapped anybody or broke something in frustration. (I think Joe is portrayed as having a slightly higher form of Autism than mine.)

Another thing I love about the series is its sub-plots. We see Joe’s sister feeling like she’s invisible; Eddie and Nicola having relationship problems; Maurice getting stalked by his music instructor, etc. Each one is believable and adds something different to the drama (e.g. humour or tension). It really shows how Autism effects not only the person diagnosed, but the people around them.

In conclusion, The A Word is a beautifully crafted masterpiece and I highly recommend it to everyone. The series may not tell us everything about Autism. And Joe shouldn’t be used as a template for all Autistic children. But it’s an essential piece to watch if we aim to make this world a more inclusive place.

That’s it for this post/review. I hope you enjoyed reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it.
Please remember that April is Autism Awareness Month. Do whatever you can to show your support on social media.

#EmployAutism (Ambitious about Autism)

#TheAWord (The A Word)

Be sure to check out the other material I’ve written for this blog and Autistic Blogger Reviews (https://autisticbloggerreviews.wordpress.com). If you have any questions, leave me a comment – I’ll be happy to answer them. And as always, keep an eye out for the next post. Stay tuned.

(Image courtesy of http://www.bbc.co.uk/mediacentre/latestnews/2015/the-a-word)

Autism, Experiences, General, Reviews, Updates

Update January 24th: A Great New Year so Far

Hello everybody, this is George Harvey (aka ‘The Autistic Blogger), with my first update of the new year.

2016 has been going great for me so far. I haven’t managed to find a full-time job just yet, but my part-time work at ASDA has been earning me enough money to keep me going. Plus, I’m doing all sorts of writing in my spare time in addition to this blog.

Last week HighlightNation uploaded another of my wrestling articles to their website, which talks about WWE’s latest ‘Royal Rumble’ pay-per-view (2016). If you’re interested in seeing it all you have to do is visit HighlightNation.com and search ‘George Harvey’. There you’ll be able to read all the articles I’ve written for them so far. The people behind HighlightNation are really dedicated to music and wrestling, and they’ve even been generous enough to post a link to this blog in the past, so definitely check them out.

Something else I’ve been writing a lot of lately are Amazon reviews. For the past two years, I’ve written all sorts of customer reviews for animes, books, DVDs and games. There’s even a couple I’ve rewritten slightly and uploaded to this blog – ‘Lily Alone’ and ‘Kiki’s Delivery Service’. Very soon now I’ll be reaching an impressive milestone when I post my 50th Amazon review overall. This could mark the beginning of a change for me because, although I enjoy writing reviews, I often spend too long on them and I never have the time to write more important things. It’s hard for me to accept, but I’ve come to realise I can’t review everything I see – if I do I’ll never be able to move forward. I’m thinking once I’ve uploaded my 50th review I’ll post a link to my Amazon profile, so you can all see some of the work I’ve done over the last two years. After that, I’ll only occasionally review Jacqueline Wilson books, the rest of the ‘Dork Diaries’ series and anything else I think has significant meaning to it. I may also go back to my original idea of creating a separate blog to post my reviews on, but we’ll just have to wait and see.

Speaking of reviews, I should hopefully have another one on this blog very soon. I’ve been saying for a while now that I’ve wanted to review Jacqueline Wilson’s book, ‘Lola Rose’ (2003). After much delay, I’ve finally gotten round to reading it and I’m already starting to make some notes. I just need time to finish the book, write up the review and edit it before I can upload it to this site – and Amazon. It should be an interesting book to talk about since it touches on personal issues like domestic violence and cancer. I’m also planning a couple more reviews to write in the future including an anime movie, part of an anime series and an episode of a TV show – the latter of which, I think, touches on Autism.

One last thing I want to mention is the work I’ve been doing for ‘Ambitious about Autism’. I didn’t get the chance to mention this before, but early last December I had the opportunity to visit the Palace of Westminster and talk to local MPs about Autism and unemployment. I even gave part of a presentation which talked about some of my personal experiences and raised my concerns about careers guidance. The day was a great success and now on February 2nd we’re hosting an event called ‘Employ Autism’ (11:00am: Santander UK plc. Registered Office: 2 Triton Square, Regent’s Place, London, NW1 3AN). Our aim is to create discussions between employers and people with Autism so more of the latter will have a better chance of finding employment. It should be a very beneficial day.

That’s it for this update. If you have any questions then please leave me a comment – I’ll be happy to answer them for you. And, as always, keep an eye out for the next post. Stay tuned.

Autism, Experiences, General, Updates

Interests, Update and Music Video

Hello Internet. This is George Harvey, aka ‘The Autistic Blooger’. It’s been a while since my last post, as I’ve been on holiday in Majorca, and had other commitments. So to make up for it, I’ve decided to upload something special.
Over the last several months, I’ve written many posts about my experiences with Autism, and why I’m so passionate about raising awareness of it. I’ve also written creative pieces and reviews that showcase my other skills as a writer. However, one thing I’ve not been able to discuss in great detail are some of the interests I have as an ‘Aspie’ (autistic person).
I’ve said in the past that Autism makes me interested in a variety of different things. And these interests sometimes distract me from important things, like finding a full-time job, talking to people or completing a writing task. This is actually why it takes me longer to do certain things than other people – it’s not just that I’m a perfectionist. I’m not ashamed to say I have these interests. In fact, I think they’re what makes me relatable to other ‘Aspies’ around the world. Depending on whether they share my interests, of course.
So what does my Autism make me interested in?
Those of you who’ve read ‘Into My Autistic Mind’ would’ve noticed that I keep mentioning the series ‘My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic’. I will admit that I’m a fan of the show, like so many other Bronies and Pegasisters. A lot of people have problems with older audiences – especially teenage boys and grown men – liking ‘My Little Pony’. But I really think those people should watch an episode themselves, before they point fingers. The reason I like the show is because, unlike previous generations – which were so sissy even the target audience (little girls) would cringe – ‘Friendship is Magic’ teaches very sincere morals, which kids and grown-ups of all ages can learn from. There’s even one episode, which I think portrays one of it’s main characters having Autism – or at least Autistic traits. So I’m actually thinking of writing a review on that episode in the future. It’s called ‘Lesson Zero’, so please check it out. Also, check out the documentary ‘Bronies: The Extremely Unexpected Adult Fans of My Little Pony’ on YouTube.
Other interests I have include trading cards. I have a large collection of ‘Yu-Gi-Oh’ cards at home – including one of the Sacred Beasts and two the Egyptian Gods. Every so often, I like to take them out and build decks, so I can see how they match up against each other in duels. I’ve only ever had real opponents during my time in secondary school, when I played against my friends in the spectrum base. Since then, I’ve only played against myself. It’s rather lonely, but still enjoyable. I’d love to take on real opponents, or teach somebody how to play, if I was given the chance to.
Another of my interests is wrestling. I first discovered WWE in 2002, and four years later, I became a full-time fan; watching ‘RAW’ and ‘Smackdown’ on TV, buying merchandise, visiting WWE.com, and even going to live events when they came to London. Not to mention I own all 31 editions of ‘WrestleMania’ on DVD. I’m usually not much of a sports fan – I actually quit football, karate and gymnastics when I was younger. But what I love about wrestling isn’t just the athleticism of its superstars. It’s also the creativeness that goes into the storytelling. Everyone knows wrestling is ‘fake’. But that doesn’t matter when you get to experience a great show. Sometimes what you see is so engaging, you completely forget what you’re watching is staged. This is why WWE sometimes influences my own creative writing skills. It takes a lot of talent to suspend your audiences disbeliefs. And that’s exactly what I aim to achieve with fictional writing.
I love wrestling so much that I’ve even written for HighlightNation, a website dedicated to all things WWE. They were generous enough to post a link to my blog there, so I feel it’s only right I do the same for them. If you like WWE as much as I do then visit: http://www.highlightnation.com.
Another interest that influences my creative writing is animes. I absolutely love animes. Ever since I saw ‘Sprited Away’, I’ve been obsessed with Japanese culture and how well they do animation. The ideas that go into their movies and TV shows are so unique, and inspiring, you couldn’t imagine them being made anywhere else in the world. Not even in America. Why? Because Japan comes up with stories that other countries wouldn’t dare to try. I now own more than 50 different anime DVDs. Including almost every Studio Ghibli film, and ‘Sword Art Online’ – which in my opinion is the greatest animated series ever made, and one every anime fan should own. When I decided to become an author, I knew I wanted to create books that would be as memorable and exciting as animes.
A good writer is first and foremost a good reader. And as a writer I do love to read. Especially the Jacqueline Wilson books. Most of you will have read my review of ‘Lily Alone’, and learnt just why I love Jacqueline Wilson as an author so much – I’m thinking of reviewing another of her books, ‘Lola Rose’, soon. I’ve also read book series like the ‘Harry Potter’ and ‘The Hunger Games’. I sometimes even read series that are outside my target audience, like ‘Dork Diaries’ and ‘Magic Animal Friends’. My reasons for reading them are the same reasons I’m a Brony. Plus, it’s good research for me as a writer to learn what makes certain books best-sellers.
My final interest is one I never thought I’d have. I was never much of a music fan growing up. But I started listening to Michael Jackson songs after he died, and realised just how good they were – it was like he told a short story while singing. Soon, I was listening to his music daily; going to see ‘Thriller Live’ at the Lyric Theatre; I even created my own ‘Billie Jean’ music video as an ICT project once (see below). I’m so passionate about MJ sometimes I like to imitate him. In fact, during my holiday in Majora I saw a tribute band to him, and they invited people to dance on stage. I showed off my stuff, and they thought it was pretty good. It was the highlight of my visit.
I could go on and on about other interests I have, like Doctor Who and YouTube videos by Markiplier, Mr. Enter and AniMat, but I think you get the general idea. I want to finish off by saying that I do still have plans for this blog. As I mentioned, there are two reviews I’m thinking of writing – one will touch on Autism, the other will touch on another personal issue. I also still have plans to interview people in my life and ask them how my Autism effected them. But before all that, I want to write something I’ve been meaning to for a long time now. Months ago, I uploaded pieces that talked about my experiences in primary and secondary school. However, I’ve yet to speak about my college and university years. The next upload will likely be a piece on when I first entered North West Kent college.
I’ll now leave you now with this music video of me trying to be Michael Jackson.
If you’ve enjoyed this post about my interests, then feel free to check out the other pieces I’ve uploaded to this blog. Leave me a comment if you have any questions – I’ll be glad to answer them – and, as always, stay tuned.

I do not own the song ‘Bille Jean’ or anything else. This was simply made as an ICT project.