Tuesday, 16 September 2014

5 editing insights

It's been a couple of months since I considered my first draft ready to edit.  I thought I would have finished by now and be ready to submit, but my self-imposed deadline has moved.  Here's why:

1. Editing can't be rushed
There's no point speed-reading my work if I miss out on errors.  I need to apply a careful filter to my writing which requires full concentration.  It meant that when I was knocked out by a horror winter lurgy, I didn't go near my editing - I knew it would affect my deadline, but there was no reason to compromise the quality of my work for the sake of speed.

2. Takes longer than you think
Hand-in-hand with the above insight, I have been blown away by the slow pace of the editing process. My work flow goes a little something like this - write, edit, read on screen, edit, print out, edit, upload changes on screen, edit, reprint, edit, read on screen, edit…  Tedious, yes, but utterly worth it!

3. Best done on screen and paper
No matter how closely I look at the screen, errors slip past.  They're best picked up on paper - double instances of words, extra spaces in sentences where I have deleted sections and not re-formatted properly, poorly worded sentences that need to be edited and rearranged.  Use a combination of your best tools (ie pen and keyboard) and you won't go wrong!

4. Is helped by reading out loud
Those clunky-looking sentences I saw on screen?  Once I read them out loud, I found out where they needed to be fixed.  This has been one of my best discoveries - once I get to the point of calling the manuscript finished, I will go through this process again, just to be sure...

5. Requires another set of eyes
Someone else will see what you've missed - find a literate friend or loved one and let them do their stuff.  Reward them with chocolate or something equally satisfying.

What insights have you discovered during the editing process, whether it be on your blog, creative or business writing?  

Is there anything you would like to share?

Monday, 15 September 2014

using pea straw mulch to create new garden beds

How do you start new garden beds on a budget when you can't afford to buy top soil and all the trimmings?!  Pea straw mulch!  We have a large block in an Australian country town, almost quarter of an acre (just under 1000sq.m depending on what language you speak!) - there is a lot of garden and we're keen to not just have a large expanse of grass.  We have seen areas of lawn choked under black plastic, but it can be a slow process and neither of us could be described as being particularly patient.  We decided to cut out the middle man (ie plastic) and create immediate beds using a thick layer of newspaper covered by an even thicker layer of pea straw.
Our first bed created this way (above) and has worked a treat.  The plants were all dug directly into the lawn, then we laid out our newspaper and pea straw.  A few months down the track, the straw has settled in well and has compressed down neatly into its new home.  We have had very few weeds.  They only tend to show through where the newspaper has disintegrated and it's a simple matter of topping it up again.  The soil on our site is rather patchy in quality, but we can see a huge improvement in this area since its been mulched in this way.  It's now much easier to dig and there are a plethora of worms any time the soil is lifted out of place - a delight to see!
This weekend we turned our attentions to a new area in the back garden (to be photographed) and along our front boundary (above), an area that was previously planted out but had become a bit weedy.  We have bulbs coming up and it's been hard to keep it neatly whipper-snipped for fear of deheading our daffodils, jonquils, hyacinths and more.  A few hours' work on Saturday afternoon was all it took to transform this sad area to looking like a much loved, much mulched garden bed.  We watered the straw down as we went along, helping it to pack down and hold into place and only stopped work when we ran out of newspaper lining - a job to be continued.

At around $6 per bale of pea straw and whatever newspapers you can beg, borrow or steal, this makes a cost effective and quick way to create new garden beds.  Have you done anything similar?  Have you any tips and tricks I can add to this post?!

Ps It also makes a great bed for our cat Marbles to enjoy the sun!

Friday, 12 September 2014

Stanley and the Hot Air Balloon Giveaway!

Stanley and the Hot Air Balloon is a children's book written by Kate Bruning, a visual feast of crocheted creatures and magical, miniature worlds.  The Greedy for Colour blogger and Simply Crochet pattern creator - who just happens to be my younger sister - has been crafting and creating ever since she was a little girl (not all that long ago really, because that would make us really, really old!).  Stanley is a small rabbit whose love of adventure sees him escape in a hot air balloon at nap time.
Kate is a brilliant writer and in Stanley, she has combined her skill for words with her prodigious creative talents.  Each page is illustrated by real-life images of Stanley, his mother and the world in which they live.  All the sets* have been put together and photographed by Kate, a combination of crochet, painting, paper craft and more.  The actual text on the page is a glorious kaleidoscope of colours and fonts, helping to guide young readers with expression and excitement in their reading.  Kate has also included her patterns in the book so you can make your own Stanley and his hot air balloon.
Kate is always making something and loves nothing better than giving her wonderful creations as presents.  Our house is filled with beautiful, thoughtful custom-made gifts from a beautiful painting of a field of poppies (made for me during my community project last year) to Jono's favourite companion, his crocheted rabbit Bernard, Stanley's older and larger cousin.  In Tom's bookshelves is a stunning embroidered piece marking the occasion of his birth, pillowcases on our bed a wedding present many moons ago, while Sophie sleeps under a divine quilt handcrafted by her Auntie Kate.
I asked the kids to share their thoughts of Stanley with you, an endorsement from children who are picky readers and know quality when they see it, even when it is made by someone who they love and adore - or love in a door, as Auntie Kate would say:

Tom - It's creative and it isn't like any other books I've seen.  It's been great having an auntie being an author.  My school librarians can't wait to get a copy of the book (which we will donate next week).  Auntie Kate, you are the best!

Sophie - It sounds awesome and I like the way she put in extra details. I also like how she made words look different . The best bit is a funny bit……where the mum says no words not a peep! On the first page before it starts it has a picture of Stanley in the hospital when he was a baby!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!  AUNTIE KATE IS COOL!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Jonathon- Jono says he likes the moons and stars!  Also he likes the baby's in the nursery.  But he loves the whole book because it makes him feel good!

I'm delighted to offer you the chance to win a copy of Stanley!  
All you have to do is tell me - in 25 words or less - about your favourite childhood book and the title of the book you are reading now.  
This giveaway is worldwide and entries close Monday 22 September 2014.

PS If you miss out on the giveaway, Stanley is available here.

* Behind the scenes post of making Stanley blogged here.

Thursday, 11 September 2014

made with love: the snowman and his faithful companion

Today my daughter Sophie (nearly 8yo) would like to tell you the story of latest ceramic creation...
The snowman has a cute pet dog.  Also the snowman has a little hat.  I also made a sleigh for the snowman to sit in.For the arms I used two twigs.  In my art at school I love to make new things with clay!  Once I even made Olaf from the movie Frozen.  Another time I made a little girl at the beach waiting for the ice cream van!

What's everyone been making at your house?!

Wednesday, 10 September 2014

this is home: reflections of our lives

Our home represents a visual collage of family, friends and ourselves.  In every vista another piece of our collective personalities is revealed - the abundant creativity of my sister in the image above, with a small sliver of her book, Stanley and the Hot Air Balloon showing beside a vintage edition of Alice's Adventures in Wonderland.  There's a gorgeous thrifted tea tray I found in an op shop showing my love of the hunt when it comes to all things pre-loved and adored; underneath a test glaze tile that belonged to my godmother from her ceramic days, a piece of art in itself.
Beside my bed, a magic pudding of books, endless and immensely satisfying.  A beautiful ceramic vase made by Joe when he was still potting - one of my most treasured possessions with its deep blue glaze reminiscent of the wild seas on the west coast of Ireland.  Our bed head was originally in the garden, one of two singles that is now pushed together and used as one.  They were lovely outside, but even better in my room - the two smaller ends are still under the apricot tree, but who knows, they may make their way inside eventually!
The second-hand glass cabinet came by way of a former workplace, sold when it became surplus to requirements - what a find!  It's so heavy that we have attached it to the wall with plasterboard anchors, not wanting to lose a child underneath or break the precious glass inside!  The beautiful painting on the right, out of view in the first image, is one of mum's and another favourite, its pinks and blues perfect against the white backdrop.  The orange bubble light was snapped up at a clearing sale on a farm out of town - let's not talk about the vintage mantelpiece that went for $20 to another bidder.  I would have fought for it had I been able to get it back to town!

What parts of your personality are revealed through the collage in your home?

Tuesday, 9 September 2014

the spring garden - coming back to life

Warmer weather and rain have brought the garden rushing back to life.  Every day there's something new to look at - leaves where yesterday there were sticks, blossom where there were buds.  It's an amazing and exciting time of year, particularly so with sections of garden that were lawn and are now filled with thriving plants.
This is one such area - you can see the delineation in the picture below, where the pea straw meets the grass.  We reclaimed this patch from lawn by putting the plants directly in the ground, then covering the grass with old newspaper and mulching with the straw.  It's been a very effective method and improved the soil - not to mention that every time we dig, there are worms galore - a delight to see!
This old bench is rickety and not very comfortable, but a lovely place to sit with the kids and chat quietly, enjoying the warmth of the sun.  Alternatively it makes a great springboard (see below) for those eager to take a leap! 
This beautiful gate came to us via my mum and step-father's farm.  I overestimated its height and it won't suit the original purpose I had intended.  It's been down the back of the garden and I wondering what to use it for instead.  Yesterday I had the bright idea of moving it closer to the house - it makes a beautiful garden ornament and hides a small portion of our rather pedestrian Colorbond fence.  We then planted a camellia japonica in the foreground which will look fantastic as it grows and matures.

How does your season grow?  Are you like me, forever changing and developing your garden?  Have you started a garden from scratch - do you have any tips and tricks to share?!

Monday, 8 September 2014

the writer's edition: month 17 check-in

How do you like to settle in with a good book - lying in bed or on the couch?  Sitting outside
with the sun shining on your back or at a cafe, with a plate of delicious food at your reach?  
And so begins my process of editing as I would read.  With my manuscript in hand, I've been trying to replicate regular reading conditions.  It's less formal than sitting at a desk, but instructive all the same.  The pages may be A4 and unbound, but this process makes it feel almost like a real book.  The critical reader appears and it's easy to distance myself from the work, as though it's someone else's rather than my own.

This more relaxed process means I've been able to work with the kids rioting around me (inside or out), which isn't always easy to do!  I was also able to bundle up my manuscript and take it with me to a nearby town yesterday while Tom went to a birthday party.  I drove around until I found an open cafe (no mean feat on a Sunday afternoon) and sat by the window with a view of the lake.  I edited as I ate an early meal all by myself - indulgent, bliss and very productive!

 Do you work on the go?  Where's your favourite place to get things done?

PS  Textas are highly recommended for editing on the couch - have you ever tried to write with a pen half tilted upside-down?!