Tuesday, 23 September 2014

on the desk: tools for the final edit

I have another day's editing ahead of me.  For the past few weeks, I have enlisted the help of a childminder on Tuesdays so I can work uninterrupted for a good chunk of time.  It's the final edit stage so I really need to make sure everything is just right and more!  Essential tools for this stage - apart from the pure gold that is time to concentrate - are freshly brewed cups of tea and my pencil case, holder of the precious memory stick where I obsessively back up my work.  Without either of these items, there would be no book!

What do you always have on your desk?  Are you a stickler for looseleaf tea as well?!

Monday, 22 September 2014

the weekend: blue skies, worms and so much more!

Spring put on its finest this weekend with the most glorious weather you can imagine.  I filled the memory card on my camera twice over, just in our garden alone.  Whether it was my cup of tea catching the light just so, or the green canopy of our ash trees against the blue of the sky as I read my book on the trampoline*, the days were ripe with photographic opportunities.  We met with friends, shared a loved ones birthday (crabapple snapped on the way there) and planted strawberries to enjoy drippingly fresh from the earth.  It's hard to imagine a more perfect time of year.
Jono hunted for worms, his favourite past-time.  He has worked out the best place to find them is under the bricks that border one of our garden beds.  He moves from end to end, tipping them upside-down and collecting little wrigglers as he goes.  Jono is very proud of his efforts and tells me he is a superhero to collect so many worms!  They end up being re-housed in other parts of the garden, but have a little play with him in the meantime.
The last word must go to Marbles, lover of sunshine and straw.  He had a wonderful time soaking it all in and posing for the camera, hidden away from the kids and the dog for a spot of R&R.  Nine years old and still playful as a kitten, could it get any better than this?

I hope you've had a lovely weekend too, no matter where in the world you live!

And remember - there's just today left to enter the Stanley Competition - if you haven't already, hop on over for your chance to win a fabulous and unique children's book!

* I've always wanted a hammock in the garden, to no avail.  I have discovered, though, that the trampoline is even better - you can lie down and read a book in pure comfort - just watch out for the bouncing children and you will be fine!

Friday, 19 September 2014

this is home: reality

Home is where textas, toilet rolls and glue sticks decorate the coffee table instead of attractively styled vignettes.  Lego and soft toys litter the floor, mismatched chairs sit side by side and children's pictures multiply into uncontrollable yet beautiful piles of paper all around.
Home is where children race home from school and disappear into their favourite books, warmed by the late afternoon sun.  School uniform discarded, afternoon tea devoured, flicking through pages surrounded by loved ones nearby who are doing just the same.
Home is where the light gets in and shines upon our dreams.  Where just over two years ago a bare patch of earth was transformed into the chaos and clutter it is today - in reality not always neat and clean but a haven for our family to grow and gather together as the years go by.

What is your favourite thing about home?

PS There are only a few more days left to enter the Stanley competition - please hop on over and enter before it's too late!!

Thursday, 18 September 2014

kids on kids: 5 art tips

Inspired by my post on 5 editing insights, Sophie was keen to share her top 5 art tips for kids.  Whether applied to art at school or home, this is a great spin on the usual tips for kids which are often written by adults.  Instead, we are gifted with an insider's point of view, a kid on kids if you like.

These simple tips should help instil all the confidence required for a happy future in art:

1. Art takes time

2. Don't rush with your art

3. Always make sure you're doing it the right way

4. Help your friends when they're stuck on something

5. Art makes people feel nice

Wednesday, 17 September 2014

must read: my salinger year

Imagine slipping through a portal during the late 1990s into a New York without computers where office assistants rely on typewriters and dictaphones to correspond with the world?  And so begins My Salinger Year.  When Joanna Rakoff landed a job at the literary agency representing JD Salinger, she didn't expect to find an organisation relying on formulas of the past to move them into the future.  She is charged with answering Salinger's swag of fan mail, adhering to his wishes that nothing is to be passed on to him.  Instead, Rakoff used a form letter (devised in the 1960s) until she could no longer bear it and started answering the letters herself.

I heard Rakoff interviewed on So you want to be a writer, the Australian Writers' Centre's weekly podcast and I'm delighted to report that she writes as well as she talks.  Rakoff's fast-paced prose takes us through this period of her life, makes us cringe when introduced to her dodgy boyfriend Don and excites us when thinking of living with the city of New York as our backyard.  I absolutely loved jumping headfirst into Rakoff's world and enjoyed the sheer escapism of a life I can't even begin to imagine.  Beg, borrow or…  come across a copy one way or another, this is a must read for 2014!

PS I won a copy of this book through the AWC but I was in no way obliged to write about it - believe me, it wouldn't even have made it on to the blog if I didn't enjoy it, let alone the high praise it garnered to make it on my must read list!

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!