Freelance journalism….

Just over a year ago I started this Blog as my first foray into non academic writing. I didn’t know where I’d end up but I just needed to do something being off work on medical leave, with very limited capacity to do anything.

Here I am a year later and I’ve been asked to write a few opinion columns a month for SooToday.

Already they have published three of my articles:

The first was a report from the local dog show. The second an insight into living with a service dog. The third about living with rare anaphylaxis as an adult. Future columns are planned on other real life issues from my experiences as somebody living with multiple invisible disabilities and probably from events as they come up in my life.

So today, I once again place this Blog in hiatus. It has served its role and served it well. However, with the changes in my life that are coming ahead I won’t have time to keep this up as well. I don’t think!

Maybe I’ll find that I miss the outlet and continue it after all. Who knows?

A year ago I would never have believed that I’d be in this position. A paid freelance journalist with a regular column. Who would have thought it?

Blog resumes due to popular demand – thank you for all your support…

In the past couple of weeks, since I suspended this blog to get a big writing project underway I have been sent several requests for me to resume it sooner than later. Apparently, different posts are really helping people and there are more people out there reading this than I knew. To those people who took the time to comment and ask me to continue again – thank you.

I won’t promise that it will always be daily but I’ll commit to writing several a week. I’m also going to go back over the older blogs and edit them for grammar and spelling. Some of them were written when I was very, very sick and that didn’t matter too me so much. Now it does, so I’ll correct it.

As for the big writing project: that is now underway and completely framed out so I’m comfortable that I can continue with both that and keep this Blog going at the same time. I also had a couple of offers from people who would like to write a guest Blog on here. Please use the contact form to let me know if that was you as I’d love to have you write some entries.

As for me, I’ve now been home from the hospital a few weeks and I’m starting to get into a good routine for me. I’m getting support from both my respirologist, my allergist, my GP, my psychiatrist and my psychologist. I have a pretty amazing team helping me take care of my mental and physical health.

That probable break that I wrote about a week or so ago, turned out to be a bad sprain and an old avulsion fracture.

However, all of this would be nothing without the help of some great friends in my life, old and new, who have been willing to stop wearing all scented products, not eat citrus at all and in a couple of occasions made their homes safe for me to visit so I’m no longer trapped by my own four walls. I have safe places to go. Consequently, I’ve felt better able to manage the risk of being in public a little more and have now attended two events at my local library. My thanks to the librarian and group leader who helped to accommodate my allergies so well.

As for my friend, who acts as a ‘service human’ in partnership with my service dog words fail me when I think about how much my new found freedom is possible at all because of her willingness to accompany me, check for scents and speak up on my behalf when I can’t safely do so myself.I am blessed and privileged to know her as a friend.

Thank you.

Oh, and the really good news is that I’m finally at the point in getting better where my employer is working with my disability insurance, my GP and I to agree a graduated return to work plan. Initially it will just be for 2 days a week as I still have to start and complete the respiratory rehab. program but hopefully I’ll be full time again within 2-3 months.I have to reserve my spoons as this will be such a big change after such a long time.

However, I will be working from home to accommodate my extreme allergies.

I am really looking forward to that after 10 months of being on medical/disability leave! I wonder what Kai (my service dog) will think about my going to work in my home office rather than at the University ūüôā

Blog suspended…. To resume in the near future….

As I’ve started a big writing¬† project, I am taking a break from blogging for a while. I expect that Blogs will resume in a few weeks. If you want to be notified when they restart just register with this site and you will get a notice. Alternatively, you can follow me on Twitter @EnglishRose_eh


Hey, guess what? The internet is public!!

In the past week it has been very bemusing to me to find that people believe that the Internet is the whole story. Even people who know me well, and know that I am well aware that anything posted on the Internet will exist forever; seem to assume that I would be posting the full details of my health and current situation.

A blog is for sharing thoughts and ideas. It’s not, in my mind, an appropriate place for explicit details.

My posts will never include anything about myself that I am not comfortable sharing totally publicly. Whether that’s to protect my privacy or that of others.

Just in case you haven’t realised it – the Internet is public! Anything posted on it, even in a private Facebook group, is accessible by others. ¬†It’s also permanent. There is no way to completely delete anything posted ever.

You might make it much harder for people to find. You might make it so that they have to know it’s there to look for it. However, search engines are constantly archiving and indexing content.

As an example, there are sites that have information on them relating to past positions that I have held, or papers and talks that I have given at conferences, that hold out-of-date contact information on me. It’s impossible for me to get these corrected or updated.

Partly, this is because those sites are old and the people who used to manage the content are no longer in those positions or don’t have access to the sites anymore in terms of changing the content.

Sometimes, it’s more that they are an historical archive. The problem is that people aren’t great at dating everything on the Internet.

Therefore, if you search for my full name you will find current information as well as old information regarding my academic affiliations. For those that don’t actually know me it can be hard for people to find the current data.

Hopefully, people who know me in real life will also know my current affiliations which will help them narrow their search focus or they’ll be connected with me on LinkedIn¬†which I do keep current.

Anyway, my point is – please don’t forget that the Internet is only ever one facet of a person’s character and personality. It’s the facet of themselves that they’re willing to make fully public whether intentionally or inadvertently.

Some people like to share the minute details of their day down to what they eat at every meal. For many of us though the Internet is a means of communication. It presents part of a story and not the whole.

To understand the whole, you need to spend time with the real person, and have a shared understanding. There needs to be communication and dialogue. This can be mediated by technology and doesn’t always have to be in person, but there’s nothing quite like being able to watch somebody’s face as they speak to understand the nuances and meanings of what’s being said.

As somebody who reveres honesty I didn’t join Facebook for many years and even then I initially had a very simple account. Over time, and with being housebound now or months, I am more involved and active on Facebook than I was.

However, I will still not post anything that I don’t want to be public, even in private groups. There are too many stories of people breaking the ‘rules’ and sharing things outside of the group. Further, Facebook itself can always see anything I post. So I limit my posts on Facebook.

I have a limited Twitter account. I do use LinkedIn to keep my professional colleagues informed as to how to contact me. Beyond that, this Blog is a place for me to experiment with my non-academic writing.

As such, writers are challenged to write from what they know. So at times, my Blog includes personal information such as issues with my health or my wishes for my life like my Bucket List posts.

However, if you want to know ‘Me’ – you need to talk to ‘me’ and not just base your conclusions and understanding of me on one representation of a facet of my personality.

My Blog gives you a peep at who I am. It will never tell you the whole story.

I struggled this week with whether or not this is dishonest. I’m still debating that. Is it better to have a public presence and this forum to explore my non-academic writing in? Or should I delete (as much as possible) all online presence because others can’t distinguish between an online view on who I am and the reality?

It’s not that my online presence is a lie or a distortion of me. I’m not pretending to be a slim 20 something blonde; I am what I am. It’s just that online I will only ever present part of who I am.

I’ll only ever discuss aspects of my health saga and situation. Sometimes that’s because I do try and look at things as positively as possible and if I posted the full story it would often be far too depressing to write, let alone for others to read! At other times, it’s simply to protect my own privacy, or others.

I guess what I’m saying is to be careful. Don’t assume that you ‘know’ somebody based on the Internet alone. Remember that people don’t know the real ‘you’ based on what you post alone. We are rich, complex human beings with many facets to our personalities and constantly changing as we go through life.

I am not the same person today that I was yesterday or that I will be tomorrow. I think that’s a good thing. However, the Internet is static. It’s a series of snapshots of specific points in time.

It’s interesting even now to go back and see what I posted 6 months ago when I posted this Blog and to think about how I’d write it today. Some things would be identical. Others, I’d now approach very differently.

However, you wouldn’t know that by just reading my posts. You’d only know that by being in relationship with me.

So I ask you to remember, that if you’re reading my Blog I appreciate you, I thank you for your time, but please remember that you don’t know ‘Me’ based on this alone.


Comfort books are much healthier than comfort food…

Since coming across one for the first time I have been a great fan of the Chicken Soup for the Soul books. I have shelves of them in my home covering every subject that you can imagine and more. Most of them picked up in thrift stores or in discount books stores to be honest as I can’t quite justify paying full price for them here in Canada in comparison to the price of books in England (where books aren’t taxed, or weren’t when I lived there anyway).

Like the original author, Jack Canfield, I use them to illustrate ideas and concepts in lectures, talks and as I teach.

Unlike actual chicken soup, which makes me sick, I also love to read them when I’m sick. Every edition has 101 stories or poems and none are longer than 1200 words so they’re easy to pick up and put down as needed. Perfect for those brain fog days!

Today, I fulfilled a dream. I submitted my own story to an upcoming Chicken Soup anthology. The theme is “Inspiration for teachers” and I thought that it was high time that I said thank you to a teacher who had a huge impact on my life and probably never even knew it.

So hopefully, my submission will be accepted and in the future you can all read about my former music teacher, Mr. Nelson and the enormous impact he had on my life personally and as a teacher myself.

In the meantime, if you have a story about a teacher who inspired your or who had a huge impact in your life – why don’t you consider submitting a story too?

Questioning ones facts is not an assault on your integrity, until your actions make it so…

One of the Facebook groups that I’m a member of was celebrating its first year anniversary this weekend. To celebrate they held a competition with the winner being awarded a copy of around 40 books each published by individual members of the group.

Being an avid reader, a former English Literature student and being home housebound made this competition pretty appealing. It consisted of 30 questions on English Literature, plus two bonus questions that were intended as tie-breakers. As it turns out they had two people successfully answer all 30 questions and both tie-breakers so they’re having an extra round for those two people.

In the meantime, they posted the correct answers today.

Now, I should state that I did actually question one of the questions before the competition closed and was assured that the question was accurate.

Anyway, I was reviewing my answers today against the correct ones having been previously informed that while I had answered the two bonus questions correctly I had four of the actual questions wrong.

One of these I already knew about as I had not been able to answer it at all. One of them was the one that I had questioned. A third, I had simply not answered the question fully. Which my students would be very amused by as I constantly remind them to make sure that they answer all elements of a question! The fourth was one that I’ll comment on in a minute.

So the one that I couldn’t answer was:

In Hiding in Plain Sight, what book does the main character wish he was a part of?

I could think of about 4-5 books titled “Hiding in Plain Sight“. Not least the version by¬†Nuruddin Farah. As Farah has been awarded several prizes in literature¬†and is often nominated for the Nobel prize in literature I thought at first that the question had a typo in it and that it should read “she was a part of” but I couldn’t find any reference to the main character wanting to be part of a book.

The same issue held true for all the other books that I could find with the same title. They all had a female as the main character and none of them referred to wanting to be a part of a book.

The correct answer turned out to be a short story with the same title in an anthology of short stories titled ‘Through the eyes of another’ ¬†by one of the authors of the quiz, Christopher Ryan Broom.

I did previously ask if there were any trick questions when I questioned one of the other questions and was assured that there wasn’t. I disagree with that answer as I do feel that this was a trick question as the only way to know the answer would be to own, and have read, a copy of this modern book.

The anthology is no longer available on Amazon and so the only place that you could acquire the book ¬†from is the author’s own page. Nowhere can I find a list of contents for this anthology so knowing that it contains a short story titled ‘Hiding in Plain Sight’¬† is not something that you could identify even with a lot of research unless you previously owned the book!

However, fair point to the quiz developers.

This question did make a very important point to me. As, and when, I ever write a novel I will make very sure that the title is not identical to that of other work!

The fourth question that I had wrong was this.

Which of these sentences’ punctuation is correct?

  1. ‚ÄúPut me down!‚ÄĚ She said.
  2. ‚ÄúPut me down.‚ÄĚ she said.
  3. ‚ÄúPut me down,‚ÄĚ She said.
  4. ‚ÄúPut me down,‚ÄĚ she said.

I knew that a and c were definitely incorrect as the word ‘she’ was not a proper noun or the start of a new sentence. So that left me with b or d. I would actually have written it as

“Put me down!” she said.

So given that there was no continuation of what was said after the phrase ‘she said’ I went with answer b.

The correct answer was d.

This was accurate and verified in a number of grammar guides. Apparently, when a sentence should end with a period but is a direct quote and followed by the statement like ‘she said’ then the period should always be replaced with a comma.

The Oxford Dictionaries Guide provide much better examples.

Another fair point to the quiz developers.

The question that I just didn’t answer correctly was, ironically, the very first question!

This poet only wrote 1 novel, which was published the same month she committed suicide. Who was the poet/author and what was the novel?

The answer being Sylvia Plath and “The Bell Jar”. As I have studied the work of both Sylvia Plath and her husband Ted Hughes¬†extensively this was very annoying as I had no doubt about the answer and knew the name of the book! However, I only provided Sylvia Plath’s name as my answer.

Third point fair and square to the quiz developers.

Then we come to my ongoing point of contention; that I’m going to explain and then leave as a challenge to you, my readers. This is the question that I queried from the start. It was written like this:

Which Victorian author wrote the plays ‘Frozen Deep’ and ‘No Gobblins’? [sic]

Now, many people would provide the answer Charles Dickens to this question and in fact, if you google it, this is the answer you will find repeatedly. It is a question that is used in literature quizzes often.

However, Charles Dickens is another author that I studied extensively. So I knew that the correct answer to the first part of the question, referring to the play ‘Frozen Deep’, was actually¬†Wilkie Collins under the guidance of Charles Dickens. Charles Dickens produced the play Frozen Deep, but Wilkie Collins was actually the author of it.

Given the fact that ‘Frozen Deep’ is often attributed to Charles Dickens, and some sources say that they co-authored it the quiz developers accepted both answers.

However, while Wilkie Collins had nightmares about goblins due to the medication he was on, to the best of my knowledge neither he¬†or Charles Dickens, ever wrote a play with the title “No Gobblins” [sic].

In fact, I don’t believe that there is even a Play with the title ‚ÄúNo Gobblins‚ÄĚ [sic], let alone a Victorian play.

So I asked the quiz developers to provide me with a citation for their question simply because I’m curious.

Well, this is where it gets interesting.

Their first response was that as 90% of the people who answered the quiz got it right (including me), why was I questioning it at all.

I explained that I really would just like to know their source for this second play.

Then I got told¬†“I’m not doing your homework for you. That’s part of the game. Do your research. Google doesn’t always have the answer.” [sic]

To which I responded that I wasn’t referring to Google as Google kept coming up with this question and answer as used in multiple literature quizzes; I was looking for a citation to the play itself.

The next response, contrary to their first was that “It took me two seconds to find the answer regarding No Gobblins on Google.” [sic]

I again asked for a citation to the play itself. I have yet to receive an answer… but apparently, I have impugned the integrity of the quiz developers by asking any of the questions that I have.

So this leaves me with two issues. I’m obviously not continuing this argument because it’s the only question standing between me and winning as I had several others wrong. I’m asking because I genuinely want to know the answer.

The second issue is why do people take it so personally when you question factual issues? I can understand it if I was continuing to question the question that I consider a trick question, as it was the author’s own work.

However, I’m questioning something that is based on fact (or should be) from the Victorian era! I have always believed that if I don’t know about something that I’m interested in that I should find out about it and that the best way of doing that is often to ask questions.


It has always astounded me how often people won’t question and make assumptions. However, given the response that I’m getting from ‘professional’ writers and editors I can understand why people would stop questioning. I have been very careful to ask respectfully and without making anything personal. I’d just like to know their source.


However, their response is actually now making me question their integrity. For how hard would it be to post a link to the citation for “The Gobblins” [sic] if it actually exists?

Perhaps they didn’t do their research and simply used a question set in several literature quizzes that had been proven to be incorrect already. In fact, 7 of their 30 questions (including this one) were directly quoted from a literature quiz that was available online.

I personally found this very disappointing as I had been enjoying the challenge of new questions. I also consider it plagiarism and any student that submitted something to me with over a 1/4 of the work being plagiarized would be asked to provide an explanation and likely would be placed on academic probation, if not expelled!

However, the fact remains this is a fiction writing group and the rules seem to be quite different to that which I subscribe to being an academic author for over 20 years before I joined this genre.

It will be interesting to see if they ever provide an answer to my question. Curiously, other members are now calling them out on not answering my question too!

So I will continue to question everything as I do not believe that there are stupid questions. However, I will finish with a challenge to you – can you identify a source for a play titled “The Gobblins” [sic]? I’ll take one called ‘The Goblins’ too, and by any author at this point. However, surprisingly I still can’t find a single reference to such a play. Can you?


¬†UPDATE: One of my readers contacted me to provide this reference to a play called ‘The Goblins’. So we’re a step closer but unfortunately, this one was produced and published 200 years before Dickens and Collins!

Oceania Chase is created….

So having slept on it overnight and thought about it a while longer I have decided on my pen name.

So today Oceania Chase was created. Interesting timing given that it’s my birthday tomorrow!

Right now Oceania exists in the form of a Facebook Page, two website domains that need to be built: and and an email address:

Why Oceania Chase?

Well, the first name is a gender neutral derivation of Oceana which¬†is the personification of the ocean. I’ve always felt a great affinity for the ocean and rarely feel happier than when I’m by the sea or an an ocean.

It’s also pretty distinctive, there aren’t many people with the name when you run a quick Google or Facebook search, and it is also spelled like it sounds so that people wanting to follow my work should be able to find me pretty quickly.

The second reason for the choice of Oceania for the first name, is that it reminds me of an anecdote. Shortly after I adopted my daughter, in 2008, I learned that North American school text books often present quite different information to those which I grew up with in England. My daughter came home from school, in Grade 3, needing to learn the continents of the world. “Simple” I thought. So it was, until we got to Australia; because that’s where her text book and notes from school stopped, or that’s what I thought initially. They said that the continent was Australia.

Well, to my knowledge, Australia is a¬†country, not a¬†continent. So I asked her which continent her¬†teacher had said that New Zealand was in? Australia was the answer. Hmmm… I wasn’t quite sure how one island could be inside another one!

To cut a long story short, several meetings later, and it turned out that all text books used by the Alberta School Board labelled the continent that contains Australia, just Australia, and simply ignore New Zealand and the islands of Micronesia, Melanesia, and Polynesia.

Unfortunately for my daughter, I’m an academic, a scientist as well as a social scientist, and believe that we should teach students facts wherever possible.

So I negotiated with the school.

Having demonstrated to them that the correct name for that specific¬†continent is in fact “Australasia and Oceania” we agreed that my daughter would not be penalized on her tests if she wrote this rather than Australia. It is one continent that she has never forgotten!

My family, who immigrated to Australia in 1999 and became Australian Citizens subsequently, also appreciate the fact that their continent didn’t just decrease or disappear overnight.

However, to this day, this has been an ongoing inside joke with my daughter. Every time she gets a new geography text book the first thing that she checks is how they’ve labelled the continents!

So that’s why the name Oceania has meaning for me.

As for Chase. Well, Chase is in recognition of all the significant men in my life! I’m sure that I’ll talk in other posts about why they were significant.

My last name at birth was Hayes, my father’s name.

My parents divorced and my mother remarried. My last name was then legally changed to match that of my step-father – Abraham,

At just 22, I married for the first time and my last name was changed to Ellis. We divorced in early 2000.

Later in¬†2000 I was publishing my first academic book and realized that I didn’t want either my ex-husband’s name on my book, or that of my father or step-father as I had no relationship with either man at that time.

Consequently, I changed my name by legal deed poll to Shaw.

Shaw was my mother’s maiden name and as my grandfather had died while I was in my teens I chose¬†his name in memory of him.

In 2004 I remarried and, while I didn’t change my name legally this time, I was often known by my husband’s name of Cook. We divorced in 2007.

In 2014 my daughter and I lived together with my partner and his son. We planned marriage and had discussed my retaining Shaw professionally but changing my name to his, which is Craig, for my personal life. Unfortunately that relationship came to an end in 2015.

However, despite that Craig remains significant in my life as I maintain a relationship with his son, to the extent possible.

So if you rearrange all of those last names you get…

  • Cook/Craig
  • Hayes
  • Abraham
  • Shaw
  • Ellis

So that’s where Chase comes from.

So in order to be both open, and also to be able to use the name Oceania Chase to protect the ‘innocent’, this will be the only place where the relationship between my identity as the academic author, Dr. Nicola (Nikki) Shaw and that of Oceania Chase¬†will be stated.

So there you have it – you were present at the creation of Oceania Chase. Welcome to the party!