Monday, 30 June 2014

the winter garden

A beautiful but freezing garden this morning!  We bought a heap of barerooted trees on the weekend, including this coral bark maple.  Can you see that red may be a theme?  See below for more...
Another hint on the garage door...
And my garden bed heads (the larger ones have made it into my bedroom!).
 A cyclamen from my auntie that's been transplanted into the garden - much happier out of the pot.
 Dripping wet daisies...
And a saturated mandarin!
This is what it all looked like in February 2013 - it's lovely to think that we're getting somewhere!

PS More to see via Instagram.

Friday, 27 June 2014

Links for writers June 2014

Since joining Twitter, I've found another great repository of information for writers.  Opportunities, tips, authors, agents, publishers, book stores, journalists and more.  Who knew?!  Here's a round-up of some of the best links from June 2014:

* The growth of the regional writers festival - I can't wait for this one...

* Cheat sheet from the Emerging Writers Festival Author Development Skills workshop

* Know your marketplace at Writer Unboxed

* Choose health, happiness and creativity: start by taking a deep breath

* The Thawley Prize celebrates modern Australian success.  Entries between 1000-2000 words due 31 October 2014

* The Australian Writers Centre podcasts with Valerie Khoo and Allison Tait.  I've finally been able to listen to these fabulous productions, jam-packed with information.  I'm currently working my way through the back catalogue - make sure you listen with a pen in hand as there are heaps of fantastic tips!

* RTE Guide/Penguin Ireland Short Story Competition 2014 - entries welcome from around the world due 31 July 20

* QWC/Hachette Manuscript Development Program 2014

* Time's list of 30 incorrectly used words that can make you look horrible - best I ever heard was 'I always held him in the highest of steam'...

And if all that writing and reading leaves you craving something a little sweet try this, healthy homemade chocolate recipe.  My step-father found it and it's in hot demand!

Thursday, 26 June 2014

for the love of art

The first time Tom had art in Primary School, he came home with pictures made from Indian Ink.  Over the years, the work that's been brought home has been amazing, largely due to their wonderful art teacher and the untapped access she gives them to the materials in her art room.  It seems the kids are given a general theme and can choose from all manner of items to work with - I've featured Sophie's birds in an earlier post.  Our shelves overflow in particular with Sophie's clay creations - here's Olaf, who came to stay with us yesterday.

This is what she'd like me to tell you about him (by way of dictation!):

My daughter Sophie is inspired by 'Frozen' and she really likes Olaf.  In a bit of the movie, Anna and Kristoff and Sven are walking up the North Mountain to Anna's big sister Elsa's big ice castle.  In another bit, when they go up the hill, they meet Olaf and they start talking, but first Kristoff and Anna are really scared.  They throw Olaf's head to each other.  Also,when they stop throwing Anna finds a carrot and sticks it on Olaf for a nose.

Wednesday, 25 June 2014

capturing moments: the playground

This playground whirligig* has become an unexpected time capsule for photos of Sophie.  First captured in 2009, she's spun herself into the future, growing older, always with a touch of pink.  I posted something similar last year, just with the two pictures on the right.  It seems to be a great technique for comparison, seeing those cute little chubby pre-school cheeks fining down as she gets older, but never losing that cheeky, cheeky grin.  I love having this playground as a marker of her growth - I wonder if she'll still fit inside in twenty years' time?!

Do you have a favourite spot for your family photos?

(*Whirligig is the official name, is it not?!)

Tuesday, 24 June 2014

unplugged at home - family stories

We had a reminder of pioneering life last night when the power was off for two hours.  I was so happy to remember we have a gas cooktop (18 months later it's still a novelty!) and transferred my roast lamb to a casserole pot and lit the flame.  Pretty soon, I had everything cooking with the proverbial and we had a delicious dinner.  I found a stash of tea lights and set them ablaze, then found various stumps of candles and secured them in places around the kitchen and living room.  The place had a very romantic feel, well it would have if it were just Joe and I home!!
After dinner, we sat around coffee table, snuggled on couches and chairs, telling stories.  I told them about the park across the road from our house where I lived until the end of Grade 4.  As the joggers ran past my sister and I, we used to chant 'Knees up, knees up' which I'm sure was the height of encouragement!!  Sophie said that when she has kids, she'll tell them about the day our dog took on a red bellied black snake in our garden.  Tom's story would also feature snakes, more specifically Oliver, the black snake he befriended on a farm where we used to live.  It used to stick his tongue out at him and Tom thought it was being nice…  needless to say, we were horrified when we heard of this friendship and banned Tom from that particular part of the garden!

When's the last time you sat around the 'camp fire' telling stories?!

Monday, 23 June 2014

creative kids at home

Space to create is essential in our household, with this coffee table providing the perfect surface for the smaller ones in the family.  It's ideal for standing at, sitting on or at - a small red chair just visible in the background.  The table came from my mum and step-father's farm - I was horrified to think someone else might buy it at their clearing sale, so I got in first!  It's a beautifully hewn piece of furniture with steel bars going through the slats of wood that form its top - you can just see them poking out beside Sophie's knee and on the left near Jono.  Its exact origins are unknown as far as maker and date of creation, however it's a testament to creativity in itself - very much something that would have been put together from whatever wood was available at the time.
Sophie and Jono in particular spend hours here, drawing and making and sticking and cutting.  Every so often, the creativity gets out of control, resulting in fights over scissors or disagreements over sticky tape.  And while nobody ever wants to clean up, we wouldn't be without the kids' creations - on Friday there were tigers, soon followed by background scenes and other jungle animals.  Such a simple activity requiring the most basic of materials and providing hours of fun.  Creativity doesn't have to be complicated - just a large dose of eye closing from the parents at the time (especially when there are scissors being brandished by over-eager three year olds) and a joint effort to clean up when it's all over. Simple!

Friday, 20 June 2014

writing competition: place

I've entered a Writers Victoria competition for regional members on the topic of 'Place'.  I've only just found out about it and the last call for entries is June 23 2014 at 5pm in case you're interested!  I wrote about a part of Victoria that's very special to me, where the bulk of mum's family live.  Memoir writing - in this case connected to place - isn't something I've done for quite some time.  When we lived in Ireland I started writing about living away from home and I can see now how good it would be for the kids if I put it together for them.  Another project to add to the list!

It's funny, I'd told myself I wouldn't deviate from my manuscript, however now that I've opened up to the world about my writing, the creative floodgates have opened.  It's as though I've found my voice again and it's such a wonderful feeling.  It's meant I've let go of just doing the one thing, realising that any form of writing will help my manuscript - it's about sharpening my writing tools, so to speak, finding something that interests me and writing about it.  Who knows where it may end?!

Thursday, 19 June 2014

winter wanderings and recollections

We had a slow, pre-schooler paced walk around the block this morning, Jono's gumboots ready for splishy splashy puddles and fun.  It was freezing but dry and somewhere he could run off the energy that's built these past few days, home with a cold and no kinder.  He's reached the point where he's well enough to do things, but isn't quite well enough to be with other kids - not very fun when you're a kid who likes to get out and about and play with your friends.
I was reflecting on how different his walks are to those the older two kids enjoyed at the same age.  They lived on farms during those preschool years - even in Ireland, our rental home was in the middle of our landlord's dairy.  The most recent farm we lived on was in country Victoria where Joe used to work.  We'd often go for a wander, checking out lambs in the paddock and feeding the orphaned ones at home as pets.  Tom and Sophie remember Charlie, Emily and Georgie, among others, and the tiny sweet baby who didn't last more than one night.  While our local town does have the odd remaining paddock running a few sheep, it's evident Jono needs a bit more time in the country, picking up the lingo.  Pointing out a lamb one day, he corrected me and said 'It's not a lamb, it's a baby sheep!'  And how could I argue with that?!

Wednesday, 18 June 2014

do you instagram?

I've just discovered the wonderful world of Instagram!  Yes, I'm late to the party, but I'm making up for it, posting new shots along with oldies-but-goodies that you won't have seen here before.  I'm mad about photography - really, it shares equal billing with writing and between the two activities it's a miracle anyone around here gets fed (in fact, what's for dinner?!).  My instagram account is here - please come over and say hello!

How about you?  Do you Instagram?  Any tips and tricks?!

Friday, 13 June 2014

owning who you are...

Last March I came out on this blog as a would-be novelist.  I then told a few of my friends that I was writing, but have mainly kept it to myself.  It seems easier to admit to a new job or area of study than to your creative hopes and dreams, but I knew I needed to take that step.  Yesterday I announced on my personal facebook page that I'm 60,000 words into my first full-length manuscript (yes, I'm aware that my blog post a couple of days ago had a total count of 67,000 but that word terminator is harsh!!).

In the interests of really owning who I am, I've also created myself a Twitter account, started on Instagram and created a writer page on Facebook.  Phew!  Thankfully the reception from my own Facebook page has been overwhelmingly positive.  My brother said he didn't know why I had to officially out myself, he knows I'm a writer anyway!  But there's a difference, isn't there, when you lay your dearest hopes out to the world for them to see.

The website will be next, although it's going to take a longer period of time.  I'm going to have to research domain names, hosts, designs…  big steps ahead, but I'm ready!  If you've gone through this process before, I'd love to hear your advice, tips and any wisdom you may have.  Also, if you can recommend a designer and other experts it would be much appreciated - it always helps to have a personal recommendation.

Hope this week has been kind to you and you've managed to keep warm and dry - although I must say, it's been great to get some rain.  I think we've lived too long with drought to wish the wet stuff would come back again another day - because we know some times it doesn't!

(PS Unrelated pic of detail from beautiful ceramic mural near here)

Tuesday, 10 June 2014

the word terminator...

Since reaching the giddy heights of almost 75,000 words, I've had to come to terms with some big realisations.  Many of them have come about as I've read my latest writing how-to: Roy Peter Clark's 'Help for Writers: 210 Solutions to the problems every writer faces'.  As a result, I've come face to face with the word terminator and had my work cut back to just over 67,000 words.  Before you dwell on the fact I'm nearly 8,000 words down on my total count from last week, I'll fill you in on how I reached this point without dissolving into tears and becoming a nervous wreck….

There's a difference between achieving your overall word count and finishing your first draft.
If you're an established author, you will already know this and be one step ahead of me!  Yes, I was only minutes away from my total word count of 80,000 - but it didn't add up to a finished first draft - there's still too much work to do!

Sometimes you have too much information
It doesn't matter how well it's written - or how long it took to write - if it doesn't fit the story, it just doesn't fit.  I've had to delete a wedding scene because it was too obviously tacked on.  I'm really happy with the wording of the wedding itself, so I've popped it into another file and it might be something I can use in a future project - if not, it was all part of writing process and I just have to accept that.

Become a notetaker and keep writing materials nearby
If you're anything like me, your brain hasn't retained a memory since the birth of your first child - maybe a slight exaggeration, but I can be very forgetful - between the shopping list and the thought I just had about what my character should do next, I need paper near me all the time.  Failing that, I send myself an email and follow it up the next day when I'm writing again.

Find every book ever written about the art of writing - and read them!
Okay, it might be a stretch to read every book, but I'm going to read as many as I can.  I'm nearly half way through Roy Peter Clark's 'Help for Writers' and it's a fantastic resource.  Another recent find has been 'Bird by Bird' - Anne Lamott's outstanding work on writing and life.  These books have helped me so much, especially with questions of what my characters are doing, what scenes should stay or go and how I'm feeling as a fledgling writer.  All fantastic stuff!

What does this all mean for me?
I've had to come to terms with the fact that the end of my first draft is still some way off.  I'm not setting a deadline as I have three children and work from home and only have two mornings per week without all of them in the house...  However much I'd like to say that I'll be finished my first draft by the end of whenever, it's too hard to tether myself to a date just yet - be assured, though, that when it happens, you'll be the first to know!

Where to from here?
Back to the basics - mapping out each chapter on system cards and moving the material around to fit.  This is something I've already done, but things have changed.  I've got to know my characters better and can see the scenes they need to support them and the development of the storyline.  Then it's going to be a matter of building up those chapters and making sure they're just right - and one day, bird by bird* my first draft will be finished…

Still wondering what I'm up to?
Put it this way - when I get to the stage I'm ready to send my work off to an agent or publisher, I want it to be the best piece of writing possible - anything that doesn't make the grade doesn't belong.  It's getting to the pointy end of the project and everything has to be just right.

And now - over to you…
Are you a writer?  What books would you recommend?  How many of your wonderfully crafted words have you farewelled?  And if you have to imagine a word terminator, don't you think Sophie's giant lego girl (above) would be just perfect for the role?!

* The genesis of Anne Lamott's title for her work on writing and life is from a conversation between her father and brother many years ago.  Her brother had an assignment due the next day - something he'd had weeks to do.  He hadn't started yet and had a huge task ahead of him.  When he asked how he was manage to do it, his father told him, 'Bird by bird, son, just take it bird by bird.'

Wednesday, 4 June 2014

the writer's edition: month 14 check-in

The end is nigh!  Little efforts here and there have added up to a total of 70,000 words this month.  I've printed out the manuscript again in its entirety and am doing another run through, making sure everything is where it's meant to be.  I continue to work on this both manually and on the computer - it just suits the way I work, I have to read and edit on paper, then make adjustments to the document as I go along.

I've finally moved past editing Chapter 1 - it's taken so many rewrites to get it to this point and I'm sure I'll be looking at it again, but it's almost there.  The second chapter is the focus of my attentions for now - it has to be just right to keep moving the action forward.  It's satisfying, exciting and nerve-wracking all at the same time.  And something of a feat, considering most of my work is done with small people running around in the background!!

I have to keep reminding myself to just move on - all writers are faced with decisions of 'what comes next' and at some point, they've had to make their choices and stick with them.  Endlessly changing and rearranging means their work would never have been finished.  Once I have a manuscript complete - from start to finish - I will be able to assess then whether it all makes sense.  This is also the point at which I'll bring in my first readers for their opinions too.

And then?  The next project!  There are a few floating around - some have a sentence or more written down already, some are still merely thoughts in my mind - but I just have to pick one and stick to it, starting this whole process again.  It might even be a matter of starting a few of these pieces - maybe even getting a few chapters in - before deciding what comes next.  Another adventure, whichever path I take!

Until next month!

(PS Always something in the centre of the dining table - these chrysanthemums were a big feature over Easter, at the moment there are paper cranes.  And yes, usually sprinklings of dust - I can't be expected to write and do everything!!)