Ilana Fox's Blog

April 7, 2014

SUNLOUNGER 2 SHORT STORY COMPETITION!


Would you like to see your story published alongside some of the hottest names in women’s fiction? (including me, obvs – my story is called WE FOUND LOVE and it’s set in Havana!)


Last year’s winner Holly Martin made it to #5 in the UK Kindle Charts with her debut novel The Guestbook! Now it’s your turn to shine!


WORD COUNT: Between 1,000 and 3,000 words

DEADLINE: May 7th 2014

SETTING: Somewhere summery outside the UK

EMAIL: sunloungerstories@gmail.com for full entry details


(We know this is an ULTRA quick turnaround but you can do it – start your mini masterpiece TODAY!)

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Published on April 07, 2014 14:33 • 3 views

March 24, 2014

Me Havana nice time in Cuba


I’m very excited to announced that I’ve contributed a short story to SUNLOUNGER 2, which follows hot on the heels of Belinda Jones’ best-selling SUNLOUNGER anthology from last summer.


WE FOUND LOVE is set in the future (and part imaginary!) city of New Havana in 2075. I love Havana: I can’t get enough of the colours and the history of the buildings, the spirit and sense of fun in the people who live there, and the beautiful weather. Cuba also has a very different political system to ours, yet despite this the city was my first choice for my displaced Londoners to end up – I can’t think of anywhere nicer (apart from maybe Buenos Aires!) to start a life again.


This is the first sci-fi story I’ve ever written (I thought I’d try something different) and I LOVED writing it. I want to live in my version of the world in 2075.


Sneak peek of WE FOUND LOVE: London, England, February 14 2014: It was a grey, stormy day when the first explosion erupted. At first there was only silence: a stunned pause where everyone drew in a sharp, bitter gasp. Those in their offices raced to their windows to watch a ribbon of thick black smoke twist into the sky. Others – tourists who’d been battling the rain as they’d walked along Oxford St, and Londoners who’d been looking for last-minute Valentine’s Day presents – stood still and allowed themselves to make eye contact with strangers. Had there really been a bang? Or had they imagined it? Could they have done?


More news about SUNLOUNGER 2 coming soon!

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Published on March 24, 2014 05:06 • 2 views

March 9, 2014

If there’s one thing South London is really, really good at, it’s art. It may have something to do with Camberwell Art College pulsing out plenty of talent, but sometimes it feels as though you can’t move for art students pounding the pavements. They’re easy to spot – they’re the ones who next season’s catwalk shows are based on, the ones who you do a double take at because you can’t quite work out if the bird nest in their hair – featuring an actual, taxidermied chick – is ‘arty’ or marks them as a bit crazy. Often I wonder if it’s both.


But while Camberwell and Peckham feature the cooler-than-thou kidz, my beloved East Dulwich has it’s own version of artistic dressing. People from other London boroughs may think it’s just middle-aged, middle-class laziness, but I reckon there is art in dressing head-to-toe in a combination of Boden, Fat Face, and Mint Velvet. For if art is all about causing an emotional reaction (and that’s my take on it), then the standard East Dulwich uniform certainly provokes it in me.


Not a day goes past when I don’t play ‘fashion bingo’ on Lordship Lane. Chance of rain? Then I award myself 50 points for spotting someone in Hunter wellington boots (mud from the woods optional). A bit of sun peeping out from the everlasting clouds of this winter? Then the sunglasses come out – and the East Dulwich yummy mummies make like Victoria Beckham as they drag their mini Harper-likes across the pavement. They’re less sunglasses and more horse blinkers – if you’re not dressed like one of the tribe then you may as well not exist.


And while I may sound a bit fed up of the East Dulwich uniform, I’m certainly not exempt from it. Many a time I’ve hopped on the Overground to Shoreditch dressed in my East Dulwich clothes only to been looked at oddly by my friends. “Why are you wearing UGGs and yoga pants?” they ask me in horror. “What has happened to you?”


The thing is, I don’t quite know how to reply. The longer I live here (and the older I get) the more I transition from Camberwell cool to Dulwich dull, and it happens so seamlessly that I don’t even realise it’s happening. Thank God for the art students who sneer at me like I used to do to my elders. But what they don’t know – and what I do – is that sensible dressing – so apt in our pretend little village – happens to us all in the end.


An edited version of this column appeared in Absolutely Dulwich and Absolutely South East magazines, March 2013

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Published on March 09, 2014 05:26 • 2 views

February 9, 2014

Valentine’s Day comes but once a year, and while many of us are planning romantic surprises for our loved ones, I’ve been stuck in a funk and have been questioning my love affair with south London. Maybe it’s the weather, or maybe it’s that my flat was broken into on New Year’s Eve, but I’ve been dreaming of lands afar – ones with crystal clear waters, brilliantly sunny skies, and people who smile and say hullo rather than looking straight through you. It’s not too much to ask for, is it?


The problem with daydreaming about travelling the world is that it’s just that – a fantasy. Faced with the unavoidable responsibilities of attention-seeking cats, a flat, a career and a life, I’m stuck in London … and while I can’t travel the world I can certainly broaden my horizons and leave SE22. I can do it; I can be brave.


Thus began my exploration of south London in more detail. This year I’ve so far eaten my own weight in food at Brixton Village, have gorged myself at Angels & Gypsies in Camberwell and have had a lovely time at Donde Tapas in Honor Oak. I’m also planning to go dancing at the Rivoli very soon – not least because I need to exercise off all these additional calories – and I’m very excited that the Streatham Ice Rink has reopened.


But as we all know, south London is more than just food. We have brilliant pubs (I recently discovered the Mayflower in Bermondsey) excellent museums (I always see something new at the Horniman – and the walrus is back!), and of course, we have plenty of outside space (my new favourite spot is the secret view of St Paul’s in Nunhead Cemetary).


“I’m really proud of you,” a friend said to me the other day, when I told her what I’d been up to. I felt vaguely ashamed of myself, rather like I’ve been a hermit who refused to leave her little village – but I was also happy that I’ve discovered more cool places to hang out. “Are you going to cross the river and go to north London next?” she continued. I stared at her in shock. Me? Leave my beloved south London? Sometimes I feel as though my friends don’t know me at all.


An edited version of this column appeared in Absolutely Dulwich and Absolutely South East magazines February 2013

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Published on February 09, 2014 04:17 • 2 views

January 9, 2014

Like most of the population, I set myself resolutions at the start of the year – but unlike many others, I’m one of those unbearably smug people who does everything they resolved to do. In 2012 I stopped smoking and gave up wheat and potatoes, and in 2013 I started rifle shooting competitively, lost that final half a stone (women! It is possible!), took up Pilates and gave up gluten. If you hear a squeaking that’s me polishing my halo. (I hate me too).


But the problem with doing everything you set out to achieve is that it means finding new stuff to do gets harder and harder. I want to be able to relax more (and have more massages with the amazing Stephen Nock who does Ayurvedic treatments on Crebor St – look him up!), but I also want to set up my own tech start-up, finally finish the novel I’ve been working on – and then I also want to write another. There is no rest for the wickedly ambitious.


I was sharing my resolutions with a friend when she told me I’ve been doing it wrong. “You’re meant to give up things that are bad for you – not increase your workload,” she said. I thought about it for a moment. “I could finally give up processed sugar?” I said doubtfully and she sighed at me. Apparently I’m not spiritual enough and my resolutions do little to enrich my soul.


So after some deep thought, my resolution is to stop forming meaningless – but extremely fun – ‘friendships’ with good-looking bad boys. I am to treat men not as my playthings but as my equals, and I’m going to try to have an actual, normal, healthy, functioning relationship with them. Or, apparently, I am to try to do this with just one.


“And to make sure you carry out this resolution, you’re going to write about this in your column,” my friend continued. “I want all the landlords of the pubs in East Dulwich to keep an eye on you and make sure you keep to this.” I nodded and said I‘d write about it – which I have! Thanks for reading! – but the moment I waved goodbye to my mate I realised there were two additional resolutions I’d try to keep to: I’m going to learn to say no to bossy friends and to start drinking in Crystal Palace again. 2014 is going to be a whole lot of fun.


An edited version of this column appeared in Absolutely Dulwich and Absolutely South East magazines, January 2013

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Published on January 09, 2014 07:16 • 9 views

December 9, 2013

For the first eleven months of the year I’d consider myself to be fairly responsible. Despite dressing age-inappropriately I pay my bills on time, I donate old clothes to the refugee centre at the bottom of Barry Road, and I take in my neighbours’ endless packages when they’re at work. But come December – and the onset of party season – I down tools (erm, my trusty laptop) and transform into someone who could give Miley Cyrus a run for her money: I become Dulwich Party Girl.


For most of my 20s I lived in Clapham Junction – a land where young professionals mingle with Australians, rugby players and end up wasted in Infernos. Party season wasn’t just for Christmas, it was for every day, and my flatmates and I used to regularly host bashes that ensured we weren’t going to get the deposit on our rented flats back: floors were ruined, red wine ended up on the ceiling, and on one memorable occasion a boy took acid and hung – naked – from a kitchen cupboard while squeaking ‘I am a bat!’


But since entering my 30s and retiring to East Dulwich, parties have taken on a more somber tone: instead of bowls of crisps the food is homemade (the meat from William Rose, everything else from Franklins), we only drink white wine so as not to accidentally ruin the cream carpets, and the party ends well before 12am as the babysitters’ rates double after then. I love my friends and these parties, but I can’t help wondering when this change happened – when did we decide to stop mixing our drinks because we want to be able to go walking in Sydenham Woods the following day?


And that’s why I love December – because we’re forced to party like we used to and all responsibility goes out the window. It’s a bit like falling in lust – when you can’t concentrate because the hot boy you fancy just sent you a text – only it’s kind of better than that. Because for the whole of December it’s practically the law to wear tight, glittery dresses and more make-up than a Strictly Come Dancing contestant. It’s mandatory that we drink too much and flirt wildly … and above all else it’s not party season if we don’t sob at least one saccharine Christmas advert on TV.


Because that’s what Christmas is all about right? Let’s eat, drink – and party like we used to. Happy Christmas, neighbours!


An edited version of this column appeared in Absolutely Dulwich and Absolutely South East magazines, December 2013

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Published on December 09, 2013 07:07 • 5 views

November 22, 2013

Because I’ve worked very hard all year and haven’t had a vacation yet, I’m making my 2013 an eleven-month year. It’s nearly December and it’s time to relax!


But what an amazing year I’ve had – I’ve loved it. And because 2013 is the year of the listicle, here’s my 2013 (well, the first 11 months of it) in numbers. It’s been great.


90,000

This year I rewrote 90,000 new words of my fourth novel in three months (no mean feat – but I have to do another draft in January. I’m actually quite excited about making my manuscript even better. I am possibly a masochist) (data from Scrivener)

9000

This year I decluttered my life from negative people and my home from stuff I no longer wanted. I could have sold my unwanted clothes on eBay, but instead I took them to my local refugee centre. When I totted up the price of all the clothes I no longer wore, I estimate I gave away approximately £9000 worth of stuff. It sounds a lot, but in terms of Wildfox tees and J Brand jeans it really isn’t (but it was six bin bags of gear).

1000

I decided this year I wasn’t going to waste my dosh on clothes like I always have (when you’ve worked for high street retailers it’s easy to slide into a shopping habit). I set myself a budget of £1000 for the year – and to be honest, I don’t even think I reached it. This was the year that I embraced the clothes I already had and tried hard not to waste money. Do I really need another pair of cowboy boots? No I do not.

983

I drove 983 miles! In London terms that’s not bad! (and I’ve only driven out of London once this year) (data from my car!)

668

Number of litres of water drunk (approximately). That’s kind of a lot. And that’s just water!

447

I listened to 477 Pearl Jam songs this year – all in the autumn (Sirens is one of my favourite songs of the year). (data from my Last.fm, correct at time of writing)

334

Every day this year (so far!) I’ve thought about how lucky I am and how much I love my life – even though things can sometimes suck (headaches, begone). I am so grateful for my family, my friends, my careers, my everything. I’m a happy girl right now.

156

I estimate that I’ve eaten 156 chickens this year. I’m trying hard not to think about this one.

120

I placed 120 orders on Amazon this year; I can’t bear to think about how much I’ve spent on books. I suspect my book-purchasing habits may be one of the main reasons the book industry hasn’t completely collapsed on itself. (data from my Amazon order history)

49

This year I started practicing Pilates properly and I’ve so far been to 49 lessons! I’m quite good at it now, obviously. (I also tried my hand at ballet but when I found out I wasn’t meant to go to lessons in a tutu I lost interest) Next year sees the start of Circus School – I want to learn how to become an acrobat!

27

I had 27 magical, fun, amazing adventures this year where I did stuff that made my heart sing. Good times.

12

This year I lost 12 pounds of weight because I decided to stop a) stop eating shit and eat clean, and b) try not to carb-binge when I have a hangover. And I lost 12 pounds! Nobody has noticed, or else everyone just thinks I’m ill and doesn’t want to mention it. I am not ill! I’m really healthy! (apart from the cold I have right now…)

8

2013 has been the year of the girlfriend for me. I couldn’t have got through this year without my hardcore amazing girlfriends: Julie, Holly, Lindsey, Hannah, Ronnie, Alyssa, Jenna, Naomi. I am so, so lucky to have these women watching my back and propping me up when I need it. They are my mirror and I love them.

7

I’ve drunk seven bottles of champagne this year. By myself. And I don’t really drink…

6

This year I started taking rifle shooting seriously (it was one of my resolutions – I was inspired by the 2012 Olympics!) and I’ve been to the rifle range six times this year. I also passed all the necessary tests and am now a full member of the British Sporting Rifle Club. This is kind of a big deal to me. In 2014 I want to get better and to start competing.

5

I won five new clients in the second half of 2013! I said goodbye to one old client in the spring, but then I started working with five new ones: the UK’s biggest national newspaper group, a video magazine, a content agency, and a news/politics early-stage start-up. They’re all brilliant – I love working with them all and I’m grateful that business is booming (and I’m looking forward to working with a new client in 2014 – but I can’t talk about that yet!).

4

I was approached by the editor of ABSOLUTELY SOUTH-EAST and ABSOLUTELY DULWICH in the summer – she wondered if I’d like to write monthly column for them about living in East Dulwich. Would I?! I’ve so far had four columns published – thanks Alex! – and am now famous in my local Sainsbury’s.  (And also thanks to my PR Gaby who hooked us up – you’re the bomb!)

3

I’ve had three brilliant fun flings. You know who you are, boys; thanks! xx


And I’ve been thanked in the front of three books this year. I did a bit of a cry each time – my friends are amazingly talented.

2

The number of times I’ve been really hurt by other people. Not great, but there are always downs when there are also ups. Sometimes you’ve just got to think ‘fuck them’.

1

I’ve always wanted to have my own company (and not just a consulting business and a career as an author – why have two parallel careers when you can have three?) so I’ve started a business plan and got myself an awesome tech co-founder for the software company I want to get off the ground next year. It’s currently a fetus. I’m very excited about it (drop me an email if you’d like to find out more about it!).


Published one short story, A ROAD TRIP TO REMEMBER, in SUNLOUNGER (Notting Hill Press).


Nearly touched Justin Hawkins at a Darkness gig (but I restrained myself). I’ve touched him before (his arm! Nine years ago?) and it was like magic – hundreds of golden stars shot from my fingers and rainbows surrounded us.


Gained one mental-ass stalker. Please leave me alone.

0

Number of cigarettes smoked. Number of potatoes eaten. Number of slices of bread eaten. Number of car crashes. Number of vet visits – NONE! (hurray!).


Number of regrets.

I can’t wait for 2014 – it’s going to be terrific x

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Published on November 22, 2013 06:38 • 22 views

November 9, 2013

Living in East Dulwich has its plus points: I love the parks, I love the community in which I live, and I mostly love the people. But the downside of living here is that non-residents imagine I live up to the Dulwich stereotype: I am expected to indulge in ridiculous middle-class problems, such as getting into a state if my vegetables are not grown on a co-op allotment within three miles of my postcode.


Sometimes, especially when I walk down Lordship Lane and have to dodge a million pushchairs filled with ginger children (why are all babies in East Dulwich ginger?), I feel like a bit of a fraud for not looking like the ‘typical’ Dulwich resident. It’s not reverse-snobbery in any way – citizens, please feel free to indulge in your finger-painting-with-vegetable-juice-therapy without any judgment from me – but I do get glared at for looking more Hoxton than Boden catalogue.


And while I detain from living up to stereotypical behaviour, one thing I do take part in is twice-weekly Pilates lessons with two other people. It’s may not be yoga – which I’ve never been able to take seriously – but it is a rather ‘East Dulwich’ thing to do. We stretch and we bend … and I feel virtuous. I am East Dulwich too.


After a recent lesson, three of us were walking down Underhill Road with our Pilates balls in our arms (those big beach ball things – you know the ones) when we were stopped by a stranger. “Girls, I love those balls!” he said to us. “Check out what you can do with them!”


The man whipped his phone out and immediately started to show us a video. We expected to see some side plank-style exercises – instead we came face to face with a video of a couple engaged in some energetic sex against a big rubber ball.


“This is how you do Pilates,” the man said. We looked at each other and laughed, and as we went on our merry way I wondered if I’ve got the East Dulwich stereotype completely wrong. What if behind the Bugaboos and organic footwear everyone in Dulwich is a raging swinger and after all these years I’ve been missing out? If nothing else, it would explain all the ginger toddlers.


An edited version of this column appeared in Absolutely Dulwich and Absolutely South East magazines, November 2013


PS – I am not anti-ginger. My mate Thomas Knights did an amazing exhibition called RED HOT in December. If you missed it, you can still check out some of the pics on his site.

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Published on November 09, 2013 06:56 • 7 views

October 14, 2013

“Erm, Ilana – that’s not an overweight mouse: it’s a rat,” a friend said to me last week after I’d begged him to come and rid me of a rogue rodent. It had been running around my flat for hours, and now I finally had help – a boy who was not scared and was willing to get rid of it for me – I was at a loss as to what to do next. “Do you want me to just catch it or kill it?” he asked. It wasn’t a question I was sure how to answer.


You see, I’ve always been of the opinion that if you’re not going to eat an animal then you shouldn’t kill it – but at the same time the rat had given me a pig of a day, which had started at 4am when I’d discovered it running around my bedroom. My two cats are hopeless hunters (they are middle-class, precocious, East Dulwich cats who think all food comes in expensive-looking pouches), and it was obvious nobody was awake enough to come and rescue me. So I did what any girl would do: I turned up on my boyfriend’s Shoreditch doorstep at 6.30am and fell into his bed.


Hours later I returned to my flat and hoped that in my absence that my cats’ feline instincts would have kicked in – and would thus absolve me of having to deal with the matter. My heart sank when I couldn’t find any trace of the rodent … and it then sped up again when I opened my bedroom door and the rat ran straight at me. I screamed and then sent SOS texts to everyone I know who lives in Dulwich. I am blessed to have so many friends who live just down the road from me.


“Kill it,” I replied wearily. “Kill it now.” My friend lifted up a full-length mirror, slid it down the back of the radiator … and guillotined the rat to death in one swift move. As he pulled out the dead rat with some BBQ tongs I felt a pang that I’d gone against my personal ethics – I definitely wasn’t going to make rat pie for dinner – but then I realised that if I hadn’t taken a hit out on the rat that it would have gone straight from my flat and into someone else’s. People of East Dulwich, you’re welcome.


An edited version of this column appeared in Absolutely Dulwich magazine, October 2013

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Published on October 14, 2013 09:59 • 4 views

“Erm, Ilana – that’s not an overweight mouse: it’s a rat,” a friend said to me last week after I’d begged him to come and rid me of a rogue rodent. It had been running around my flat for hours, and now I finally had help – a boy who was not scared and was willing to get rid of it for me – I was at a loss as to what to do next. “Do you want me to just catch it or kill it?” he asked. It wasn’t a question I was sure how to answer.


You see, I’ve always been of the opinion that if you’re not going to eat an animal then you shouldn’t kill it – but at the same time the rat had given me a pig of a day, which had started at 4am when I’d discovered it running around my bedroom. My two cats are hopeless hunters (they are middle-class, precocious, East Dulwich cats who think all food comes in expensive-looking pouches), and it was obvious nobody was awake enough to come and rescue me. So I did what any girl would do: I turned up on my boyfriend’s Shoreditch doorstep at 6.30am and fell into his bed.


Hours later I returned to my flat and hoped that in my absence that my cats’ feline instincts would have kicked in – and would thus absolve me of having to deal with the matter. My heart sank when I couldn’t find any trace of the rodent … and it then sped up again when I opened my bedroom door and the rat ran straight at me. I screamed and then sent SOS texts to everyone I know who lives in Dulwich. I am blessed to have so many friends who live just down the road from me.


“Kill it,” I replied wearily. “Kill it now.” My friend lifted up a full-length mirror, slid it down the back of the radiator … and guillotined the rat to death in one swift move. As he pulled out the dead rat with some BBQ tongs I felt a pang that I’d gone against my personal ethics – I definitely wasn’t going to make rat pie for dinner – but then I realised that if I hadn’t taken a hit out on the rat that it would have gone straight from my flat and into someone else’s. People of East Dulwich, you’re welcome.


An edited version of this column appeared in Absolutely Dulwich magazine, October 2013

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Published on October 14, 2013 09:59 • 20 views