Category Archives: Gemma Burgess

On… guess where we’re going….

As you guys know, I’m writing Your Next Favourite Book Series. It’s set in New York, and pretty much the minute I got the deal with St Martins Press, I began the process of applying for a US visa.

Getting a US visa, as a writer, is tough. It’s called an O-1 visa, and you need to prove – and bear with me here, because it’s hard to say without an arched eyebrow at the very least – ‘extraordinary ability’. Proving extraordinary ability is, of course, recockulously hard and requires compiling everything you‘ve ever done in your life, for a start. The books themselves aren’t enough: I needed university transcripts, birth and marriage certificates, book reviews, sales figures, interviews, press, all of it, plus lengthy and detailed letters of recommendation from people I work with, and then – this was the kicker – reviews of the letters of recommendation of people I’ve worked with by independent-but-highly-esteemed-industry-experts. It took less time and effort to create and hatch a baby than it did to get my US visa. Seriously. Ask Errol.

But… drumroll… a few weeks ago, it was approved. (Thank to Mssrs Clark and Wang at Flynn & Clark! Woo! Round of applause for my lawyers, please!)

And so we’re moving to New York.

Naturally, it’s not totally uncomplicated (nothing worth doing in life, at least, not my life, ever is). Fox’s career requires him to be in Europe/the Middle East/Asia a lot, which does – and will continue to – suck a fat one. Our friends are all over the place, my parents are in Hong Kong, his family is in Ireland. But we’re finally going to live in New York. Which has been our plan since… well, forever.

I’m so happy. I think it’s my genetic make-up: my parents are big city people and terminal itinerants, and in my life I’ve moved countries six times and houses about, no exaggeration, 38 times (I just counted).

But moving to New York is The Big One.

Just saying the words ‘we’re moving to New York’ gives me a face-acher of a smile. Thinking about it makes me want to yap and shriek and clap and woo like a drunk chick in a karaoke bar. I want to wriggle and jump and roll like a sheepdog on ecstasy. I want to pee. I want to shout ‘YEAH BITCHES’ and high-five myself. I want to pledge allegiance, hail a cab, down a martini and slam my face into a bagel with everything. In that order. So I hope this explains the lack of blog posts and Tweets and newsletter updates, dearest friends, but between New York, the baby, and writing Your Next Favourite Book Series and a couple of screenplays, I’m a busy little thing. Forgive me and I will make it up to you. I swear.

Now. Anyone want to rent us an apartment?

This is New York.

This is us getting married in New York.

On… things I like right now

REN Glycolactic peel

Makes me look like I have my own personal lighting director. The blurb says it’s for ‘congested, mature or sun damaged skin’, of which mine is (d) none of the above, actually it’s rather pale and dry. But this stuff is magic nonetheless.

Sebastian Penetraitt Repair Masque.

My hair is like the feeble wheelchair-bound cousin in The Secret Garden. It doesn’t do what it’s meant to do, no-one likes it much and it whinges all the time. I think that’s the right personality for that kid, isn’t it? Ah, can’t be bothered to check. Sometimes I like having the internet right THERE and not using it to find out things like that. This way, I can just make shit up. ANYWAY, this hair mask (sorry, ‘masque’, clearly the Sebastian people are feeling all French as well as feeling like spelling perfctly good words however the hell they want to) is like the Secret Garden: it transforms my hair into a running, shouting, jumping boy! Okay, this whole analogy isn’t working. Let’s move on.

Chanel No.19.

A present from my lovely parents for Christmas and utterly divine. Tania Sanchez describes it as ‘Haughty and immune to sweetness… this extraordinary perfume appeals to any woman who has wished to know what it is to be heartless. [It] keeps you in the boardroom, in three-inch stilettos and a pencil skirt.’ (That’s from Perfumes: The A-Z Guide, by Luca Turin and Tania Sanchez, an inspiring, hilarious, poetic encyclopaedia of perfume, by the way.) I want to be heartless! I want a boardroom! I love this scent. It’s sort of sharp and green and musky, makes me feel all elegant and 70s and high-waisted-trouser-suity-ambitious, and whenever I wear it, Fox whispers ‘you break that glass ceiling, girl’ as I walk past. Inspired by the divine sighsandwhispers, here are some Chanel No.19 ads from the 70s. Love the straplines.

And lastly, vodka with ice cubes and cucumber slices.

Sometimes I go through a whiskey phase, sometimes I like beer, red wine is good (but tres drying for the skin), I usually get along quite well with champagne. But I always, always love vodka. Try it neat or, if you’re feeling wussy, with soda, and a slice of cucumber. It works. Trust me.

On… sighsandwhispers

Most blogs – both mine and other people’s – are a deeply enjoyable waste of time (DEWOT).

This isn’t derogatory: I’m a big fan of DEWOTs. When I’m DEWOTting – whether it’s blogsurfing or online shopping, or real world shopping or people-watching, or whatever – the front half of my brain goes ‘ooo looky shiny things!’ and the back half of my brain is free to wander around my subconscious and digest ideas and come up with solutions to my current projects. I find frequent DEWOTing essential to the writing process: I write in intense bursts, then go and look at something on the internet or stare out the window for awhile or kiss the baby or whatever, so the back of my brain can digest what I’ve just done and what I need to change or do next. As an old creative director of mine once said: “Just think about it deeply, then forget it… then an idea will jump up in your face.”*

I don’t often go to other author / writing blogs much in my online DEWOTting. I can’t sort out what to do with a character when I’m reading about another author’s issues with his characters, or whatever. It’s just distracting, too much noise. So instead, I go to fashion or interior design or restaurant blogs, or to a couple of random little blogs that are just doing their own thang in the most awesome way, like that person at a party who’s dancing alone in the corner and having the best time out of everyone.

Like sighsandwhispers.

Its raison d’etre is posting advertorials and fashion editorials from old fashion magazines. Most of them from the 70s, but sometimes they’re from other decades too. This women is passionate about her retro magazines – in fact, the word ‘retro’ is demeaning and gimmicky. It’s more like she’s unearthing little gems from the past. She’s a fashion/media historian. I actually love sighsandwhispers so much that it’s one of the very few blogs that I subscribe to by email and open every day, rather than just skim on Flipboard**. Here are some of my favourite posts.

Apparently these were the sexiest men of 1979. Godammnit, I love me some Burt.

When this one arrived I smacked the desk, I was laughing so hard.

Is it just me, or is the mo-and-chest-hair combination DEEPLY sexually alluring? Just me? Just… okay then. (Cough.)

“What would you little maniacs like to do first?” I would like you to CONDITION YOUR GODDAMN HAIR KELLY. JEEZ.

*Okay, this was Don Draper. But you get my point.

**By the way, Flipboard has utterly transformed my blogtime, as rather than have to remember a blog or use stupid Google reader or whatever or bother to go to the site and scroll and click and blah blah blah, I can just flip back and forth, on my iPad, as though the blog were a magazine. SO much easier and more enjoyable. Best App ever. Now, Flipboard limits the number of sites you can read on it, which is annoying at first but actually brilliant as it helps you streamline. I regularly discard blogs when they start boring me or if they get the wrong its/it’s too often, or if they’re not updating often enough to keep me interested… (The irony! From she who updates like once a fortnight… What can I say? I’m a Flippocrite. BOOM! Thank you! I’m here all week! Try the veal!) Anyway. My current favourites are: Something Navy, LeFashion, Habitually Chic, Chapman Interiors, Cup of Joe, My Baby Sleep Guide, IntoTheGloss and of course SighsAndWhispers. And the websites I have on Flipboard and also read like a magazine, just in case you’re wondering, are Fashionista, Refinery29, WhoWhatWear, The Hollywood Reporter, and New York Magazine. And a couple of others I am almost sure I’m going to discard today as they’re boring me. If anyone has any suggestions for blogs and sites I might like, by the way, bring it on. Ooo, and if you like all of those sites, get The Collection app from the NYTimes, too, just because it’s awesome. Hmm. Okay. That is all. Longest asterisked point ever.

On… The Heavy

The Heavy – How You Like Me Now?

This is the song I listen to when I’m doing my Pram Powerwalk. (Yes, I am a cliché.)

I love it. I march and scowl-pout and do an angry duck-neck thing.

Sometimes I stop and do some angry thrusts at nothing in particular.

This is an improvement on singing 50 Cent’s ‘I’m a P.I.M.P.’.

Apparently, a new mother shouting ‘You fuckin’ with me, you fuckin’ with a P.I.M.P.’ as she cruises the streets is frowned upon by society. Man, people are so uptight.

On… happiness

I don’t believe in New Years Resolutions. I mean, I know they EXIST, I just don’t bother with them. If I ever feel like I should do something or change something about my life, I usually just shut the hell up and try to do it.

But I do like thinking about happiness. I’m an annoyingly happy person. I wasn’t always, of course (being a single twentysomething working in advertising and living in a shareflat in London would try the happiness powers of the Dalai goddamn Lama), but now that I am, I sort of want everyone else to be happy too. (Wow, that sounds retarded, huh? Pretend I said it with an ironic eyeroll and a flick of an imaginary cigarette, okay? And pretend I snarled a little bit. Yeah. Just like that.)

Anyway, I read this piece on happiness on Habitually Chic, who got it from Sophie Elgort, who probably got it from someone else. And I’ve thought about it ever since – just about every single point resonated with me (though obviously my bullshitometer went off at terms like ‘flow experiences’ and ‘practice spirituality’). So, rather than resolutions, I vote we all just try to be happier. Or, we could just try to drink more. Whatever works.

12 Things Happy People Do Differently
Studies conducted by positivity psychologist Sonja Lyubomirsky point to 12 things happy people do differently to increase their levels of happiness. These are things that we can start doing today to feel the effects of more happiness in our lives. (Check out her book The How of Happiness.)

1. Express gratitude. – When you appreciate what you have, what you have appreciates in value. Kinda cool right? So basically, being grateful for the goodness that is already evident in your life will bring you a deeper sense of happiness. And that’s without having to go out and buy anything. It makes sense. We’re gonna have a hard time ever being happy if we aren’t thankful for what we already have.

2. Cultivate optimism.
– Winners have the ability to manufacture their own optimism. No matter what the situation, the successful diva is the chick who will always find a way to put an optimistic spin on it. She knows failure only as an opportunity to grow and learn a new lesson from life. People who think optimistically see the world as a place packed with endless opportunities, especially in trying times.

3. Avoid over-thinking and social comparison. – Comparing yourself to someone else can be poisonous. If we’re somehow ‘better’ than the person that we’re comparing ourselves to, it gives us an unhealthy sense of superiority. Our ego inflates – KABOOM – our inner Kanye West comes out! If we’re ‘worse’ than the person that we’re comparing ourselves to, we usually discredit the hard work that we’ve done and dismiss all the progress that we’ve made. What I’ve found is that the majority of the time this type of social comparison doesn’t stem from a healthy place. If you feel called to compare yourself to something, compare yourself to an earlier version of yourself.

4. Practice acts of kindness. – Performing an act of kindness releases serotonin in your brain. (Serotonin is a substance that has TREMENDOUS health benefits, including making us feel more blissful.) Selflessly helping someone is a super powerful way to feel good inside. What’s even cooler about this kindness kick is that not only will you feel better, but so will people watching the act of kindness. How extraordinary is that? Bystanders will be blessed with a release of serotonin just by watching what’s going on. A side note is that the job of most anti-depressants is to release more serotonin. Move over Pfizer, kindness is kicking ass and taking names.

5. Nurture social relationships. – The happiest people on the planet are the ones who have deep, meaningful relationships. Did you know studies show that people’s mortality rates are DOUBLED when they’re lonely? WHOA! There’s a warm fuzzy feeling that comes from having an active circle of good friends who you can share your experiences with. We feel connected and a part of something more meaningful than our lonesome existence.

6. Develop strategies for coping. – How you respond to the ‘craptastic’ moments is what shapes your character. Sometimes crap happens – it’s inevitable. Forrest Gump knows the deal. It can be hard to come up with creative solutions in the moment when manure is making its way up toward the fan. It helps to have healthy strategies for coping pre-rehearsed, on-call, and in your arsenal at your disposal.

7. Learn to forgive. – Harboring feelings of hatred is horrible for your well-being. You see, your mind doesn’t know the difference between past and present emotion. When you ‘hate’ someone, and you’re continuously thinking about it, those negative emotions are eating away at your immune system. You put yourself in a state of suckerism (technical term) and it stays with you throughout your day.

8. Increase flow experiences. – Flow is a state in which it feels like time stands still. It’s when you’re so focused on what you’re doing that you become one with the task. Action and awareness are merged. You’re not hungry, sleepy, or emotional. You’re just completely engaged in the activity that you’re doing. Nothing is distracting you or competing for your focus.

9. Savor life’s joys. – Deep happiness cannot exist without slowing down to enjoy the joy. It’s easy in a world of wild stimuli and omnipresent movement to forget to embrace life’s enjoyable experiences. When we neglect to appreciate, we rob the moment of its magic. It’s the simple things in life that can be the most rewarding if we remember to fully experience them.

10. Commit to your goals. – Being wholeheartedly dedicated to doing something comes fully-equipped with an ineffable force. Magical things start happening when we commit ourselves to doing whatever it takes to get somewhere. When you’re fully committed to doing something, you have no choice but to do that thing. Counter-intuitively, having no option – where you can’t change your mind – subconsciously makes humans happier because they know part of their purpose.

11. Practice spirituality. – When we practice spirituality or religion, we recognize that life is bigger than us. We surrender the silly idea that we are the mightiest thing ever. It enables us to connect to the source of all creation and embrace a connectedness with everything that exists. Some of the most accomplished people I know feel that they’re here doing work they’re “called to do.”

12. Take care of your body. – Taking care of your body is crucial to being the happiest person you can be. If you don’t have your physical energy in good shape, then your mental energy (your focus), your emotional energy (your feelings), and your spiritual energy (your purpose) will all be negatively affected. Did you know that studies conducted on people who were clinically depressed showed that consistent exercise raises happiness levels just as much as Zoloft? Not only that, but here’s the double whammy… Six months later, the people who participated in exercise were less likely to relapse because they had a higher sense of self-accomplishment and self-worth.

PS Happy New Year!

On… pregnancy obsessions

Fact: Life milestones cluster.

First, everyone you know turns 21 and all you seem to do is go to 21st birthday parties every damn weekend. Then everyone moves into grubby-floored shared apartments with friends, and all you do is go to housewarming parties where someone ends up sleeping in the bathtub. Then everyone moves in with their significant other and you go to a lot of dinner parties (and eat either roast chicken or lasagne). Then everyone breaks up with said significant other, and decides they hate their career, and you all go out to bars in hope of widening the social gene pool and drinking away the worries about how much you hate your career. Then everyone gets engaged and married, all at once, so all of a sudden you spend every second of your life travelling to, shopping for and recovering from weddings.

And then everyone gets knocked up. And that’s where I am right now. It’s baby baby baby, plop plop plop. Everyone I know is clearly getting laid. A LOT. And high five to all of you for that. (You smutty little filthmongers.)

Now, some women waft through pregnancy, looking amazing and feeling fantastic, barely noticing any difference in their day to day lives. Others are slayed by nausea, exhaustion, and general aches and pains, and wake every morning wondering what fresh hell will arrive that day. I was firmly in the latter camp. And these are the items that helped me survive. So if you’re knocked up, or know someone who is, enjoy. If you’re not in this place at all, then this post will really bore you. But then again, my bourgeois analysis of the concerns of 20- to 30-something yuppies like moi was probably highly tedious too, and you clicked away on like, line three. So never mind.


If you’re plagued by nausea / vomiting / acid reflux / heartburn, nothing will taste very good for the entire nine months. On the plus side, you can impress your friends by burping like a trucker. And nothing says ‘mother’ like someone leaning over a toilet bowl for the sixteenth time that day, screaming ‘THIS IS BULLSHIT’ in between mouthfuls of [insert foodstuff here].

Super Lemons are a Japanese lemon-flavoured candy that are so sour they make you wince and drool and swear. They also may stop you feeling godawful for an hour or so. Apparently extra saliva helps create enzymes that relieve nausea. We ate a lot of these in Hong Kong when I was a kid (though we were not, I hasten to add, knocked up). And we liked another candy called, I think, Toxic Waste. No confirmation if Toxic Waste is good for pregnancy or not. You can usually find Super Lemon in Japanese food shops, or try Amazon or Ebay.

Next, Pink Lady Apples, cold from the fridge and sliced into 1cm rounds, also helped my nausea. I don’t know why; I’m not a nutritionist. Warning: chew them VERY well. If they come back up, apple skin will slice the shit out of your throat.

Ditto cucumber. Sliced thin, on buttered toast, with cracked pepper. If you are great with child and feel meh, try it.

For the last trimester, heartburn can be a real bitch. Sometimes it gets so bad you’ll throw up. At least, I did. Eating almonds will keep you going without feeling sick. Something to do with the alkaline/acid levels of your stomach, or some shit like that. (I’m not a doctor, either.) Man, I ate a lot of almonds. I also ate a steak sandwich cooked in butter every day for breakfast, as it was the only meal that was guaranteed not to give me heartburn. God, that was awesome. I’d love a steak sandwich right now. Let’s put a photo of a steak sandwich in, just for fun.


Of course, you can take drugs for nausea and heartburn… I tried Vitamin B6, Omeprazole, Zantac, Motilium, Gaviscon, and a bunch of other things. Tums were the most calming and the yummiest. Sometimes I’d fall asleep, sitting up (lying down makes heartburn a lot worse), with a Tums dissolving in my mouth. A few hours later, I’d wake up with heartburn again, pop another Tums, and drift back to sleep. I’d wake up with coloured spittle dried around the outside of my lips. Which means I was also probably drooling. Did I mention pregnancy was sexy? No? That’s good. Because I would have been lying.

I have a thumping great girl crush on this woman. Tara Lee. I did her pregnancy DVD every single morning from week 12 onwards, even when walking or sitting for longer than a few minutes was no longer an option (pesky back and hip problems). She’s sort of gentle and calm and kind, and so pretty, and she has a nice voice, and um, oh, she has really great hair, and oh no, am I gushing? I feel like I’m gushing… The yoga moves are very easy, and really stretch out all the muscles that are working hard to carry that 30 pounds of babygut around. All in all, it was a lovely way to start the day. By week 37, I could recite the entire thing, word-for-word, with Tara’s calm-but-wise-inflexions, including lines like ‘feel like you are doing an internal dance with your baby’, WITHOUT IRONY. More worryingly, so could Fox.

You can’t sleep on your back during pregnancy for a number of boring-but-scary reasons. This pregnancy pillow is comfy as hell and doubles as a nursing pillow once your baby arrives. My sister asked if it was from Pacha in Ibiza, and I replied ‘no, Peter Jones in Chelsea’. That kind of highlights the different stages of life we’re at right now.

Support belt. It’s ridiculous, it’s unattractive, and it’s silly. But it really helps with aches and strains you might have if you are large of bump. No, of course this photo isn’t of moi.

Lastly, a reminder of why you are enduring the hell of pregnancy in the first place. Because babies are awesome.

Errol Fletcher Barry. This morning.