Friday, 25 July 2014

recent reading, viewing and books on the go… july 2014

It's been a Nashville and Girls fest this month.  I loved Connie Britton in Friday Night Lights (not to mention Coach Taylor mmmmmmmmm) and she's just as wonderful in this new-to-me series.  It's a brilliant story revolving around Britton, an older singer, having to stake her claim against an up-and-coming juggernaut in the form of Hayden Panettiere - great soundtrack, fabulous cast, love it!  Season two of Girls is darker than the first, but fantastic all the same. Lena Dunham is amazing - this series has further extended her acting abilities even though at times it makes for gruesome watching (cotton bud anyone?!).  On an aside, I googled Adam Driver, her on-off love interest in the show, and found he's in an upcoming movie with Connie Britton - wow!  Watch out for This is where I leave you, it looks as though it's going to be amazing!
Reading-wise, I'm almost beat by the glut of books on my bedside table.  This is just a small selection, so be another catch up soon!  The From-Aways by CJ Hauser features two new arrivals in a coastal Maine town, trying to find their place in an established fishing village.  Old meets new with not always successful results.  How Lucky You Are, Kristyn Kusek Lewis focusses around Waverly and her friends Kate and Amy.  I'm still reading this, lugging it around the house with me for whenever I get a quiet moment.  A lovely novel about friendship, a fabulous debut.  I must also give a shout out to Claire Brown who designed the beautiful cover - it's just gorgeous - see the detail in the spine alone.  Funnily enough I've been too busy to read Busy yet, but I'm looking forward to getting some tips!

I think I'll have to lie low on the reserves for a while or I'll never get through these books!

What have you been reading lately?  Do you have a glut like me, all of them equally enticing, or are you facing a book drought?

Thursday, 24 July 2014

Links for writers July 2014

Have you ever wanted to turn your blog into a book?
Blog to book via Blurb and Melbourne Writers Festival is one such opportunity and it's my pick for this month's writing opportunities.  Three bloggers will be chosen to produce a Blurb book based on text and images from their blog during MWF.  Other prizes include tickets to two industry seminars and $500 worth of hard copies of their books.  Entry is open to bloggers across Australia and closes on Wednesday 13 August 2014.  Details here.

Looking to pitch?
Open Pitches is a new place to find opportunities for writers and editors.  Current pitches include Overland and Griffith Review.

Lane Cove Literary Award
Categories include short story, memoir and poetry.  Open to Australian residents over the age of 16.  Entries here by 27 August 2014.

Why you write - putting it into words
What's the overwhelming urge that gets you writing?  What are you working on now?  If you haven't done the meme Why I write yet, here's your chance.  Current on blogs throughout Australia and the world, this party has explored the creative urges of writers big and small.  Link to mine here.  When you've written yours, please let me know as I'd love to read it.  Then leave your link at Maxabella and Always Josefa so other people can find it too.

What opportunities have you found lately?  
Have you been able to participate?  
Or are you like me, trying to concentrate on one project alone currently, with no time left to spare?!

Wednesday, 23 July 2014

creative habits uncovered

As a creator, what gets your juices flowing?  Huffington Post recently ran an article on habits of extremely creative people*.  Referring to Stanford University research, it said a person could increase their creativity by 60% by going for a walk - impressive stuff!  The article then cited ten well-known creatives and their techniques for reengaging creativity.  Steve Jobs held walking meetings; Toni Morrison watched the sun come up in silence.  Bill Gates held an annual think week and retreated from the world - including his family - to read through papers in silence.

Some things are more achievable than others
It made me think of how I reconnect with my own creativity.  Often, I have ideas about my manuscript when I'm in the shower!  It's probably one of the only moments of the day I can think uninterrupted for a second or two.  I often think I need to get a waterproof pen so I can write down my thoughts - funnily enough, in HuffPost's comment section, someone said their best ideas came to them in the bath.  They used bath crayons to record them - now there's an idea!

Travelling by car
As a passenger, I always need pen and paper with me.  There's something about staring out the window that really gets my thoughts flowing.  Being the driver is more complicated and I often have to rely on memory which isn't always successful.  Walking alone is a great way to solve a problem or think through the next steps of a scene.  Walking as I do, though, usually with a child or three and a dog, is not always successful.

Reading is a huge prompt for ideas
I can be reading anything and think of a question needing answering in my manuscript, whether it's related or not.  A line about the weather can make me think about what the characters had for dinner last night, or what colour is someone's hair.  A picture in a magazine can be a prompt to remind me to use more description in a scene.  I read at night with my tablet next to me and email myself notes to follow up in the morning.  Not a very relaxing way to read, I'll admit, but necessary all the same.

What gets your creative ideas flowing?  Do you record your thoughts during this time or do you rely on memory alone?

* Thanks to my dad who emailed me the article.  He found it via and I traced it back to its original source xox.

Tuesday, 22 July 2014

writing milestones: celebrating achievements

Do you believe in celebrating your achievements?  I do.

Last night I achieved my goal of 80,000 words on my manuscript.  I set myself the target in March 2013, originally aiming to reach it 12 months later.  The deadline flew out the window.  As far as SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, Time-Oriented) goals, the achievable factor was limited by actual hours in the day vs life in general.  I've said it before, but my writing occurs in pockets of time (right now, after breakfast, one child out the door to school and the next due to leave in an hour).

In terms of whether my manuscript will ever actually get published, who knows?  It's certainly my aim.  If I don't succeed this time, then maybe the next one will do better.  I just know that I have to take a minute to whoop about a bit and say, I did it!  I have actually achieved what I set out to do.  When the first draft is scrubbed and polished and I'm happy to call it completely finished, I've promised my family we'll go out for dinner.  Celebrations don't have to be limited to the end product, especially when you don't know what form that end product will take.

Celebrate the steps, both big and small.  Enjoy your successes, no matter what form they take.

Monday, 21 July 2014

weekending - the garden

The winter garden continues to impress - a beautiful pink camellia (variety unknown as it was a plant orphan in the nursery) has finally opened.  I've been watching it for the past few weeks, half wondering whether it was dead as nothing was happening.  I was delighted, then, to catch sight of this stunning bloom a couple of days ago.  Our hellebores are doing really well as plants, green and leafy and no shortage of water this season, however this is only the first flower I've seen - perhaps there are more to come.  These photos were the result of a dash late Saturday afternoon, that beautiful blue sky behind the desert ash had me running out the door.

Writing-wise, I'm up over 37,000 words now which is the first time ever.  I've been fairly close, then edited madly and had to work my way up again from 60,000.  The first 50 pages are now heavily edited and it's time for the rest.

How was the weekend?  Did you have sunshine where you were?

Friday, 18 July 2014

The big details - photography

I love close up photos, whether they're of people, plants or objects.  Their revelation of details - a child's smile or the knit of their warm winter hat.  This white chair, once my younger sister's (thank you Auntie Kate, Soph loves it!) - its wicker crisscrossed and zigzagged, a different pattern for each section.  A wine barrel, thin lines running down the wood, a small dark stain on the diagonal.  I first blogged about my love of the photographic close up in 2012, saying its almost best to check people's preferences as two of my previous employers' views on this subject varied widely: my newspaper boss said close ups were more intimate, whereas another one thought this style chopped off the top of your head, a mistake.

What do you prefer?  Are you a fan of the close up?

Thursday, 17 July 2014

why I write

I was recently tagged by Jodi Gibson as part of the writing meme featured on Maxabella and Always Josefa.  I've mixed up the original order of questions because for me, the most important one is...

Why do I write?
I can't imagine doing anything else - and believe me, as someone whose always wanted to be a writer, I have: grant writing, communications and marketing, journalist, graphic design, photographer, accounts and office administration, handcrafter, ice cream shop attendant, cleaner, farm worker, nanny, baker and more.

My huge love of reading was the springboard for my early writing career, most notably 'An Orphaned Duckling', self-published in late 1983 (when I was nearly 10!).  Mum says I taught myself to read when I was quite young, but my older sister says she played a large part in it herself - thanks A!

Wherever I've been, I've always written.  In my late teens and twenties I had wanderlust and travelled, always with a pen and pad by my side.  I've journalled and written fiction and poetry and have the proverbial bottom drawer filled with projects from over the years.

This is the ideal stage to pursue my writing career, a short window of time before my youngest child starts school in 18 months.  At that point, I'll be looking at going back to work part- or full-time, so it's now or never!

What am I working on?
I'm 75,000 words into my first full-length manuscript.  It's a fictional piece about first time parents, one of whom is working away from home.  I'm currently editing and working towards the end of my first draft.

I started this piece when we were living overseas - my husband is Irish and that's where we commenced married life.  In early 2013, I committed towards completing this unfinished project.  The progress I've made since then (over 60,000 words) has been achieved in slots of stolen time - after breakfast, cooking dinner, the odd quiet moment when everybody else is out of the house.

How does my writing differ from others in its genre?
My writing reflects the sum of my life experiences.  I've lived in 33 different houses in three countries (Australia, Scotland and Ireland) in cities, out in the bush and in small country towns.  I've had many jobs, as listed above, and met heaps of people along the way.

In my married life, we've survived mainly on one income, taking over ten years to finally live in our own house.  Earlier on, Joe and I juggled my part-time with his full-time work so we could care for the kids between us (attempts at daycare were unsuccessful - great facilities but the kids just wanted to be at home).  Most recently, I've worked from home.

Put this all together and it feeds the way I write, from being empathetic and able to develop a budget in my grant writing or giving voice to the male protagonist in my manuscript, from my time spent working in the country.

How does my writing process work?
I veer from being highly organised - developing system cards to break down each chapter - to writing on the fly.  My editing is split between the computer and the printed page.  Both methods are effective, but the latter means I can sit anywhere and read out loud.  It's amazing how many errors I've found this way, from syntax to flow.

On the blog, I either use my photos as a starting point (my love of photography is equal to that of writing) or talk about recent experiences, books I've read etc.  I have three lively, creative and beautiful children who provide a great deal of inspiration.  There's also our garden which we started from scratch (bar a few larger trees) when we built our house - photographing it changing through the seasons is a real love/obsession of mine.

I'm always having ideas and if I'm not physically writing, my mind is working away by itself.  I'll be driving along in the car and think of what comes next in my manuscript and have to mentally store it away until I get home.  Sometimes this is more effective than others, but eventually the thoughts return!

Here are some links to other posts for further thoughts on writing:

As I see it: the truth about writing

The word terminator

Working differently

Developing character: writing insight

Filtering the narrative voice (in pictures)

Now, it's over to you!  If you read my blog and you'd like to join in, please leave a comment and I'll add your link to this post.