Cover Reveal- Christmas Australis

Hi Friends,

Today is a fun day in my writing life. Earlier this year, I was hanging out with the always welcoming, often hilarious #6amAusWriters. Someone mentioned they were writing a Christmas story. And the lovely V.E Patton said. “We should put together an anthology of Christmas stories, linked to the different Australian context of Christmas.”

The most random of ideas, that has now come together in a book!

Next month you can purchase “Christmas Australis”: an anthology of Christmas themed stories and novella’s.

The story will feature a sci-fi story by me called Secret Santas.

It has been wonderful getting to know the other writers in this anthology, to learn something about the self-publishing business (believe me, it is so much more than just write and press click!), and to get a chance to publish a story that I haven’t been able to get out of my head since I entered an earlier version in Furious Fiction last year.

So, without further ado, here is the cover of “Christmas Australis”

Fun hey! Got such a kick from seeing my name on the front 🙂 I hope you enjoy reading our stories.

You can Pre-order the book through Amazon here. It is available in E-book form.

Amie Kaufman at the Melbourne Writer’s Festival

Just because you’re a skilled author, doesn’t mean you always understand how you do what you do.  And just because you understand what you do, doesn’t mean you’re always good at explaining it.  Amie Kaufman, however, is a triple threat in this regard.  She is a terrific writer of some of my favourite reads this year, she has a thoughtful understanding of how she does what she does and she is an amazing communicator.  So when I was searching through the Melbourne Writer’s Festival program and saw that they were hosting an “Ask Me Anything” session with her, it went straight into my diary.

It was a wonderful hour.  Expertly hosted by Adele Walsh, the session was so full of gold that my pen could barely keep up. I thought I should publish some of Amie’s key points so others can share in a few nuggets of Amie-goodness.

Voice

How you get that elusive voice in your novel?  I hear this question all the time at Author Q and A and the answer is usually “It can’t be taught”.  But Amie took a different tact.  She talked about how voice is how you can pick up books with two very different characters speaking and still know the same author. She said you can tell lots about a person by how they tell a story, that two people can come into a room and describe that room in a completely different way depending on their background, profession, and experience. Thinking hard about how a character sees the world and how that therefore affects what they see, what they notice, and how they speak. If you include those aspects in the POV, then the voice will shine through.

Synopsis

My friend KD Kells tweeted her question beforehand about writing synopsis.  After confirming the difference between a query or blurb and a synopsis, Amie talked about how while a Synopsis is supposed to be detailed and factual, that you should choose your verbs carefully.  No story sounds interesting when all your told is what happened when. So while sticking to facts, try to still give some flavour to your synopsis so it doesn’t sound too dull.  She recommended Susan Dennard’s blog for information how to write it, and based on the cool structure KD found there, I think I might need to take a look for my own #PitchWars Synopsis.

When you are stuck in a reading or a writing slump

When it comes to a writing slump, Amie says she doesn’t think it’s very understanding and kind to say there is no such things as writers block.  Just because you don’t get it, doesn’t mean you need to disparage those who do!  She said when she is stuck and discouraged in her work, she finds reading makes her feel more inadequate.  But watching art in a different medium, such as a ballet performance or seeing a musical clip on YouTube makes her excited about art in general, and acts as inspiration to hit the keyboard again. This makes so much sense, and I’m glad to hear that I’m perfectly justified watching so many pastry-chef videos on Instagram (though Amie also spends twelve minutes a day of social media, so ahh, maybe not!). 

She also recommended going back in your manuscript to the last time it felt easy.  Sometimes the reason you are stuck might be because the plot has gone off track.  If you go back to where you know it was working, then you can work out what went wrong.

In terms of a reading slump, Amie recommends getting hold of a romance or a thriller.  These genre’s are wired to be page turning so start with them and then you will be out of your slump and ready to read.

Flashbacks

Amie was asked about Flashbacks; since they are often looked down on, when should you include them? She explained that flashbacks tend to slow the pace, which is why they often frustrate people.  Amie suggested working out when in your manuscript the reader might like to take a breath and include any necessary flash-backs at that point so that it is both a break and helpful information. Brilliant!

Productivity

Amie is productive.  Since she was first published in 2013, she has written and co/written eleven novels and has another eight under contract.  As well as the afore mentioned slump techniques and software that won’t allow her on Social Media for long, she treats writing like a job, clocking in at the office at the start of the day and clocking out at the end. Her writing is what provides for her family, so she treats it as such.

Kissing (and other experiential scenes)

I tweeted my question at the start of the day, and though I was a little embarrassed to publically ask questions about kissing scenes, I really wanted to know! I enjoy writing them, but I never know exactly what to include. Amie’s YA books always have terrific romance and particularly well-done kissing scenes. I wanted to know how to write kissing scenes that felt fresh, and individual to the characters involved.

Amie said with kissing scenes, and actions scenes as well, experiential data is always good.  Knowing what it feels like, means being able to add in specific details that add to the authenticity.  She told a hilarious story of a friend who got her husband to put her in a head-lock for research purposes, just as someone walked past their front window.

Similar to the question of voice, she said it is important to think about the character.  Is this their first kiss? Or just their first kiss with this person.  What are they likely to notice, or comment on.  If you can get into the mind of your character, that will help your kissing or action scene.

Finally, think hard about pacing on a kissing scene.  You want to be able to slow it down for the kiss, but have the pace speed up on either side.

It was a wonderful session. Adele mentioned that Amie is incredibly generous with her time, knowledge, and connections with the YA writing community in Melbourne.  Amie replied writing wasn’t a competition, because people aren’t just going to read one book.  Getting people reading is good for the whole community and so building others up is good for everyone. Her generous attitude is something else we can learn from her.

What writers have you found helpful in sharing their craft? Did you attend any sessions of the Melbourne Writers Festival?

And if you want more Amie wisdom, I recommend listening to Ep 276 of So You Want to Be A Writer Podcast where Amie gives a fabulous interview with Allison Tait.  Or if you are interested in Amie chatting about writing in collaboration with other authors, there are a couple of terrific Eps of the Garrett Podcast where she is interviewed with her Co-author Jay Kristoff.

Update on my Writing Year

Photo by Madison Inouye on Pexels.com

So, we have hit August, and I thought it might be a good time to update how my writing life has been going.  This is for all the lovely people I see IRL who ask me ‘how’s the book going?’ as well as those who are writers themselves and hear me natter away on Twitter about “Christmas story” and “Third Drafts” and “Nano 18 edits”. 

The Librex

In October last year I was feeling a little stuck.  I was in the process of working on the second draft of my novel The Librex.  While I loved it, there were some aspects that made me wonder if it would be a difficult sell as a debut.  I also knew I needed some sort of incentive to get it done.

My friend KD Kells was about to do the AWC Write your Novel On-line class. With less than a week until sign-ups closed I took the plunge and joined her.  It seemed the perfect way to get the next draft of the Librex done, while also up-skilling and having an opportunity to work out if this novel was worth investing in.

It was wonderful! I learnt so much about writing from the feedback and the tutor, I met a great group of critique partners, and everyone seemed to enjoy and believe in my book.  I got my second draft finished by the end of March and as of last week have taken on the class feedback and finished draft three!

So now what? I’ve sent this next draft of the Librex out to a few people for some more feedback, to see if the changes I’ve made between drafts have solved the issues my class-mates found in the story.  Then my plan is to enter PitchWars.  PitchWars is a mentoring competition where writers enter their completed manuscripts for the right to be mentored by an industry professional, to get that manuscript up to scratch.  Then Literary agents can read their submissions and if they like it, offer to represent the author and their book. (If you want a book published by one of the big publishing houses in America, you generally need an agent to make that happen)

I am nervous about this next step, and am tempted to second guess myself and my beloved book.  But I know, if my nerves had their way, I would never submit my novels anywhere! Pitch Wars is a great incentive to get my book up to scratch, and whatever happens, I will have submitted my manuscript for the first time and that’s a pretty cool milestone.

AJ

AJ is my NanoWriMo Novel for 2018.  It has been mostly on the backburner with occasional tweaking.  Because I am me, instead of being an easier, more straightforward novel than The Librex, of course instead it’s a complex secondary world, dual POV, trilogy monster!  I have had two writing friends look at it, who have given me some great feedback as to what isn’t working (namely- most of it!)  But that hasn’t dampened my excitement and I’m looking forward to getting the start up to scratch for critiquing on my upcoming Writing Retreat.

Savey & Mason

My Fantasy Romance isn’t quite shelved, but I’ve put it aside for the moment.  I wrote it as part of my Fantasy Novel writing course with CS Pacat, and while the characters are super dear to me, I know it needs a tonne of work, and I’d lost my faith in it.  But when I had the immense pleasure of meeting CS Pacat face-to-face this year, she remembered the characters! So that gives me hope that there might be some merit of dusting it off in the future and giving it another try.

Christmas Anthology

Part way through the year, the wonderful Emily Wrayburn suggested we start at #6amAusWriters hashtag on Twitter as a way of gathering early morning Australian writers, and motivating each other to write.  A gang emerged and it’s been a wonderful incentive not to hit snooze! One of us was writing a Christmas story, and then V.E. Patton suggested we do a #6amAusWriters Christmas anthology. 

Random but fun, hey!

It’s happening and I’m contributing.  This will be a great chance to dip my toe into the self-publishing world, and I have a Christmas Sci-Fi story that won’t leave me alone (I’ve entered two versions of it into Furious Fiction already).  So now I can expand it out and see what happens.  The plan is to get it published in time for Christmas.  Can’t wait to finish mine and see everyone else’s stories come together.

Furious Fiction

I’ve continued to enter the AWC Furious Fiction competition each month, making it 19 out of 19 since it began last year.  It has been one of the highlights of the year, a great chance to get my creative brain pushing out new stories (which let’s face it, is my favourite part of writing). I haven’t been short-listed since June last year, but that matters less and less to me with each month.  The enjoyment I get from the process, and the constant chance to improve is reward enough.

Writer in Motion

I won’t spend any time on WiM as I’ve done a whole blog series about it, but if you are interested in seeing my process of bringing a short story from first draft to edited polish- see here for the first post.

My New Years Writing Treats, an update.

At the start of the year I decided rather than having writing resolutions, I would give myself permission to get writing treats over the year.  My aim was to attend three writing events, to buy more new books, and to go on a writing retreat.

So how is that going? Rather spectacularly!

I’m averaging around a writing event a month! As well as some more formal writing events (YA Day, Emerging Writers YA Day, and KidLit Vic), I’ve also been to several book launches and catch ups with writer friends.  It has been wonderful to move out of the haze of early babyhood and be once again immersed in the world and people again. 

As for the other two aims, I am already at twenty-two new books read this year. And a group of Sci-Fi Fantasy friends and I are all set to go away on a writing retreat at the end of September.  We’ll give each other time to write, but also do some critiquing and world building chats and I can’t wait!

It’s so affirming to prioritise things that are good for my writing career, and I’m grateful for a husband and Grandparents/Aunts/Uncles who are committed to making that possible.

Thanks folks for listening to my ramble-ly post.  It has been a fun writing year, and while the steps ahead are huge and a little scary, I’m excited to have so many people in my life cheering me on.  So thank you!

Writer in Motion- Final reflections

Over the last month, I’ve been taking part in the #WriterInMotion initiative. I wrote a short story, and I shared the revision process. There was my first draft, my self-edited draft , my critique partner draft, and my final draft, which was edited by a professional.

To end off this project, we’ve been asked by our fearless leaders KJ Harrowick and Jeni Chappelle to write a reflection post over the experience. So here it is, the things I have learnt or gained from doing the Writer In Motion project.

The importance of ‘demystifying the editing process

This project grew out of a discussion of how different a first draft is from a polished, edited one, and wouldn’t it be good if more writers showed their process. That was something that really excited me. I spent far too many years putting manuscripts away for months on end, because they weren’t good enough. I compared my work to the words found in publish books and of course I came up wanting. I’d no idea the work which was involved in between draft 1 and the book on the shelf. And though in time I came to understand how much of writing is polishing and re-writing, I now have a deeper understanding of that reality, thanks to this unique opportunity to stop and reflect at every step. I really believe in Writer In Motion. If the writing process is demystified, then hopefully less writers will grow discouraged and quit.

That I can write short stories

I love writing Short Stories. Every month I enter the Australian Writers Centre Furious Fiction competition. I love crafting fun reveals, or creating worlds that are contained in a tiny story. But after entering 18 stories and only being short-listed for one, it was easy to grow discouraged. Almost without realising it, I’d begun to assume short stories weren’t my thing. One unexpected bonus of this process is getting positive feedback on my story. It’s made me realise it’s worth the effort of continuing to improve, and maybe taking my own short story writing a little more seriously.

That I should never skip the ‘critiquing’ stage

You often hear about writers who send in their manuscripts to agents or editors without anyone else having a look. I have had the helpful (and sometimes painful) oportunity to have my novel critiqued, and I know how crucial it can be. They pick up mistakes that should be obvious, but that I am blind too because I made them. And with my particular style of weird fantasy and Sci-Fi, it is so important to make sure that everything makes sense to a reader.

So why is it I don’t do the same with my short-stories? I previously haven’t shared my short stories with others before sending them into Furious Fiction. Sometimes that has been because I am working to a tight deadline, but often it is just because I am too scared. It’s strange how I am more embarrassed to show my story to my writing friends than I am putting a shonky draft into a competition.

No longer. Writer in Motion has reminded me how important it is for other people to look over my work. And this month of Furious Fiction, I made sure I finished in time, so my friends could do a quick read through before I sent it in. And it was better story for it.

That Editors are worth their weight in gold!

I’ve known in theory the difference an editor can make to your work. I’ve even had a little taste of it, having Cathie Tasker of the Australian Writers Centre give feedback on my novel in their Write Your Novel Course. But having Maria Tureaud work through my story showed me the value of a professional editor. After my CP feedback I was pretty pleased with my story. But Maria had the ability to look under the skin of my story and see what was going on underneath. It was so useful. I hope I will get a chance to work with an editor in the future.

Friends

When Writer in Motion started, Jeni set up a Twitter chat so we could all communicate about our stories. But of course we ended up talking about much more than that. We shared pictures of our kids and pets. We shared our struggles and worries. And we learnt from each other. I got to quiz more experienced writing people on how to fix my wonky novel ending and how to go about querying agents. They are an amazing, talented group of writers (go here and read their stories and gush along with me). But they’re also lovely, generous people. I learnt so much from this experience. But the biggest thing I got out of it was a new group of wonderful writing friends.

So what’s next?

So what is next for the Writer In Motion crew? There are lots of whispers going on about what we might do with our stories or this project. Many of the critiquing groups are continuing to help each other with other writing. Several people are now saving up for professional edits on their novels, having seen what an impact an editor can have.

And as for me? Even my editor thought there was room for more of Hannah’s story. So while I am on tight deadlines with other things, I do think there might be room in my plans in the next little while for a novella about poor Hannah and her gloves.

But my more immediate challenge? What will I blog about next?

Any suggestions?

WiM Week 2 (Part 2) From Prompt to First Draft or Finding the Weird

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So, I am taking part in #WriterInMotion (Read about it here), showing the drafting process of a short story from rough draft to professionally edited polish.  By Saturday I will self-edit my story and post it up here, but I also thought it might be worth showing how I went about getting from prompt to the my first draft of my WiM story (which you can read here)

So, before I decided to do #WriterInMotion, I was feeling quite a bit of FOMO as various twitter people were taking part and it sounded like a wonderful exercise.  But it was already a week in and it seemed too late.  Until I realised I had over 55 hours to get it done.

Long time readers of this blog will know that I am a #SuperFan of the Australian Writers Centre Furious Fiction competition (you can find out all about it here).  So for the last seventeen months, I have been writing a 500 word short story based on criteria circulated at the start of the weekend.  It might be a word you need to use, or a first sentence, or an item that must be visible in the story.  Twice it has been a photo prompt.  So I had plenty of experience of writing quickly and decided to I sign up. But now I had to find the weird.

You see, one thing I’d realised over seventeen short stories is that I like weird. I am a speculative fiction writer, and I like taking everyday things and turning them strange.  The picture for our prompt was beautiful and evocative.  What weird could I find in that broken boat?

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It leant itself to something spooky.  I wondered if my protagonist could sense something evil or malevolent about the boat? Somewhere the idea struck that maybe there was something in that spot that aged things.  But then that quickly flipped to a protagonist who aged everything she touched with her fingers and that was what happened to the boat.  She would need to wear gloves to protect the world.  But then wouldn’t the gloves themselves age? She would need so many!

And as I thought about the practicality of endlessly ageing gloves, I was there. I’d found my weird.

After that I just started writing.  Hannah became Hannah because that’s what Davison yelled out to her across the street. Davison was always the boys name.

I wrote little bits and pieces but it wasn’t really a story yet, I had a scene in town and Hannah and Davison at the boat and the image of Hannah saving the preemie baby, but I couldn’t work out what went in the middle.

So I opened a new document and started again.  This is my technique when I get stuck.  Something about the fresh start helps it all to come together.  And after I wrote a new version of the trip from town I realised what I needed in the middle.  A family dinner.  An easy way to show how Hannah’s gift affected those around her and an opportunity for tension and characterisation.

I probably spent a day and a half thinking about the story, an hour or so on my thrown away version, and an hour on the first draft.  I did a quick proof read for spelling (I couldn’t resist), but other than that I posted about fifteen minutes after I finished it.

So that’s how I went from a writing prompt to a first draft.  I have really enjoyed hearing how others wrote their stories, and you can find links to the other participants here.

And for my other fellow writers, and Furious Fiction friends, I’d love to hear from you. How do you go from a prompt/criteria or idea, to the first draft of a story?

 

Writer in Motion- Week 1

 

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Does this sound familiar to you?

You sit down and you begin to write a short story or a novel.  The words are flowing and you’re excited about the little world growing under your finger-tips. You put it aside and  pick up a book.  It’s good. In fact it’s excellent.  The characters sing, the story compels you forward onto the next page, and every word is where it should be.  Then you turn back to your first draft.  How did you ever think it was good? It is a pile of steaming garbage and you never want to look at it again. You just can’t write. Nothing you do will ever be as good as the published book in your hand.

It sounds familiar to me, because for many years it was the story of my writing life. I believed the lie that good writers are born and not made. I believed that a bad first draft meant a bad book.  I was easily discouraged, both by quality writing that I read, and by my own writing weaknesses

But over time I began to realise just how much of writing is in rewriting and editing.  How different a first draft can be from the finished document.  That by the time a book hits the shelf it has been heavily edited by the writer, it’s usually been critiqued by other writing friends, and then a professional editor has done their work.

But often writers when they start out don’t realise the steps involved in getting books as good as we see them on the shelf.

It is this kind of experience that lead to the creation of a new writing initiative I have become involved in called Writer-in-Motion.  The idea is over the month of June, writers will put on their blog a short story at different levels of completion.  First the unedited first draft (gulp). Then a self-edited version. A version edited by CPs (critique partners). And finally a professional editor will give their own thoughts to the piece. This means writers can have a glimpse at how writing changes as it is edited, and the writers involved will see the different ways other writers go about editing their work.

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The short story will grow out of the following photo prompt:

912f54_82356d34e17f4e6f96d25ef718d00abc_mv2_d_3756_4695_s_4_2(Isn’t it gorgeous!)

So, on Sunday Australian time, I’ll be posting my Short story. My unedited pile of steaming rubbish first draft.

And hopefully my humiliation will help others to see that writers are made, not born.

 

Here is the official blog for the initiative:

Writer in Motion Blog

And here is you can find a list of editors and writers involved.

 

 

The tale of Daddy’s Secret Toilet

male and female signage on wall

Photo by Tim Mossholder on Pexels.com

Once upon a time there was a Daddy who lived in a two bedroom unit with three kids and a wife.  And though it was squishy, it was home and he loved it. But there was one aspect of his living arrangement which was less than optimal. He shared a toilet with the rest of his house. With toilet training twins who were still learning to lift the seat. With a wife who was petrified of waking kids in that tiny apartment, so had a habit in the night of letting it mellow.

So when baby number four was on the way, and it was time to move to a bigger house, he had a modest goal.  Not too far from work, space for a trampoline.  And a secret toilet of his very own.

It worked so well for the first six months in the house.  Mummy was sympathetic, and the cry would often be heard, “No, that’s Daddy’s secret toilet.” But after Miss Three joined the toilet training crew and there was a baby on the scene Mummy decided she too deserved the best toilet in the house. Which was Daddy’s secret toilet.  At least until the mouse plague of ’18 when Mum spotted a black blur there in the middle of the night. Then it was back to the ‘Kids toilet’ for her.

Meanwhile, two little boys were growing up.  Growing up and admiring their big, tall Daddy.  Mummy would catch them in the adjacent bathroom. “What are you doing?” “Using Daddy’s secret toilet.”  They loved him so much, of course they wanted to be just like him, to lift the seat (mostly) that he too lifted.

And then when Summer hit, tragedy struck. The fly wire in the Kids toilet got a hole in it, and throughout the night it filled with all manner of moths.  Now Miss Three refused to use it. “I don’t want to go to the Bug toilet, I want to go to Daddy’s secret toilet.”

And once again, Daddy was sharing his toilet with the whole family.

Well almost.

You see, summer ended, and the moths went away. And the toilet known as the Bug toilet, now contained neither bugs, nor young children who occasionally missed the seat or forgot to flush.

And now that toilet is all mine. Mummy’s toilet.

But don’t tell anyone.  It’s a secret.

A Letter to Myself for When I Receive Feedback

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Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Dear Belinda,

First of all- hugs. Good on you for putting yourself out there, for taking your hard work and risking it out there in the world. It’s a big deal and I’m proud of you. But those hugs aren’t just congratulatory ones. I know you’re hurting. And I’m sorry. Know that the tears and the disappointment will happen, and will keep happening. But also know it will pass.

I think one of the hardest things is the shock. You should be prepared for it, you’ve been receiving feedback for years now, and you know what it’s like. You know how much you have improved, and how helpful it is to find out what’s wrong and how to fix it. That a second set of eyes is crucial for making your work the best it can be. Maybe that is why it feels so strange every time. Because you know all these things, but for a day or two, you turn back into that Year Seven girl, crying because your English Teacher wrote “good grief!” on your melodramatic prose.

It isn’t that you thought it was perfect.  It isn’t even that you now think you’re no good. You’ve been doing this long enough to know that the writers who succeed aren’t the ones who have the most talent, they are the ones who keep improving and never give up.

Really it is about the time. You’ve worked hard and you’ve climbed the mountain and got so far. And then you realise that you have only reached a small peak on the side, and the rest of the mountain towers before you, just as high and difficult as before. You’ve given up sleep and TV and all kinds of things to get this as good as you could, and now there is more sacrifice, more climbing to go.

And all you want to do is throw the story in the bin and pick up another one. As if the problem is the mountain you chose and not the reality that getting better requires patience.

So I’m hear to remind you it’s okay. This is a marathon and not a sprint. And you aren’t in this for fame or money or because you are being forced. You made this choice. You decided that the story, that this sacrifice was worth it. That the view from the heights is worth the pain of the climb. And deep down you know it is, despite your tears.

So Belinda, I will allow you to wallow for a day or two, but no more. Work on other things. Why don’t you write a blog post? Expressing your feelings always makes you feel better.

And then in two days pick that feedback up again. It’ll be like reading something new. All those positive comments will shine out, instead of fading to the background. The things that didn’t work will become possibilities. And you’ll see it.  That new peak to climb. It isn’t that much further to go. And how much better will the view be?

Think what this story you love could become. You owe it to yourself to find out. You’ve got this.

Love Belinda

In Defence of the Socialising on Social Media

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Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Did you know it is only four months until MasterChef Australia?  I know, because I have been counting it down.  Is it because I miss George, Gary and Matt? Sort of.  Or because my life is presently bereft of parfaits, journeys and food-dreams?  Maybe a little.  But the real reason that May can’t get here fast enough is because of a Facebook group.

Last year, two friends decided that out of respect for their Facebook friends, they would start a group to discuss Masterchef, so their friend’s feeds wouldn’t be clogged with in-jokes and fennel fronds.  The title of the group would be regularly changed over the season to reflect incidents in the show (at the end of the season we voted “I just Khanhn’t Even” as our favourite name). And so our little group was born.  My husband thought it was hilarious that I spent more time looking at my phone than at the television, but the banter was half the fun.  We fan-girled over Samira’s bread making skills, and joked about Ben’s ocka lines.  We laughed at the pretension, all the while being brought to tears as the contestants left the competition.  We had our own virtual mystery-box competition (turns out Snow-eggs aren’t that difficult, who knew?). In our Grand-final thread we easily surpassed one thousand comments.

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My Strawberry Snow Eggs with tuille shell, strawberry granita, and ginger fool.

May and June of 2018 would not go down as the best two months of my life.  At it’s peak, I calculated I had 7 different appointments for my kids in the one week.  Sickness cycled round our family, finding it’s regular resting place on me.  A good friend had moved interstate, another was in the midst of new studies, while another planned a wedding.  It was a lonely time, but not a time where the loneliness could be fix by just going out and being social.  I didn’t have the health; mental or otherwise, to do much more than survive.  But my little Masterchef Crew and our Facebook group made that time bearable.

Social Media gets a bad rap.  With Instagram influencers, Twitter-trolls, cyber bullies and our information being sold to corporations, it is understandable.  And there is something beautiful about communicating away from a keyboard. One of the highlights of the year was a good interstate friend deciding it was time to resurrect the phone conversation.  We talked for over an hour and I could have talked for two more. And I know I need to get my head out of my phone and into the world more often than I do.

But Social Media connections can get a bad rap for being fake.  And yet I have some very real, very wonderful friendships that have grown over the internet.

Many years ago I met a friend through blogging, who introduced me to an online support group.  A group who all were going through the same struggles, and who needed a safe place to vent, cry, and enjoy our own macabre little jokes (#TeamShrubberyForever).  I wasn’t going to meet those women in person, they all lived half a world away.  But they were there for me, and my friendships with them are not fake or inferior because we are yet to met in person.

Fiction writing is a lonely pursuit for an extrovert.  Yet I have friends on almost every continent who I interact with daily, as we spur each other on through the writing game. I remember loving Uni, because it was moving from the small circles of high school, into a wider sphere where there were people who really got me.  I found my tribe.  And the internet is an even bigger world to find your tribe. If you look in the right places you are sure to find those who share your love of crocheting or anime.

Or who love yelling together at the television set “Just put it in the Blast-Chiller!”

The reality for some friends is that socialising face-to-face is a challenge all the time.  It could be because of chronic illness or social anxiety.  For them, social media is where the real friendship happens.  And it is rude to imply that because those friendships are connected by a keyboard, and not a coffee-table, that they are somehow not real.

2019 should (hopefully) be a very different year for me.  I am looking forward to a year where I can come up to breath.  Where I can go to things, and meet people, and hang out.

But I am also looking forward to May.  Because there is a new world of foodie-fun awaiting me, and I can’t wait to watch it with my friends.

 

 

New Years Writing Treats

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Photo by john paul tyrone fernandez on Pexels.com

Resolutions get a bad wrap, for obvious reasons.  January seems like the time to reach for the skies, and when March comes you’ve fallen flat on your face.  But they can work, and I seem to be the kind of person who thrives with specific targets.  In light of that I have a few writing goals that I have set for the year, like finally polishing up my first novel, or entering some writing competitions.

But that is not what this post is about.  As I said, I tend to find resolutions suit me.  But there is one thing that I find a huge struggle.

Doing things for me.

It is probably a female thing, and definitely a mother thing.  I click on an interesting literature festival, or I see a book on writing that would be helpful to buy.  And then I think “I’ll get it another time.” or “It’s tricky to find someone to watch the kids on a Saturday.” or “It’s too much money.”  Constantly saying no to myself because I’m not quite sure I deserve it.

So, I declare 2019 as the year of giving myself some writing treats!

Here are my resolutions:

I will attend three face-to-face writing events.

Unlike 95% of the writing world, I am a big E extravert. I love meeting people, I love seeing people, and I love talking to people.  However, with a few (awesome!) exceptions, most of my writing friends are on-line.  I want to change that.  I want to start going to events and networking and getting to know people.

At the moment I am down to go to KidLit Victoria in May.  I am still not sure of the practicalities of the Writers Victoria YA day with a not yet weaned 14 month old. I am also looking at the AWC Story Doctor course in November in Melbourne. So that is three good possibilities without breaking a sweet.

I will have some sort of writing retreat.

Every year my husband and I talk about it.  Me going away for a few days to write.  He is happy for it, and I know I will love every minute. But it never happens.  I don’t plan it, because I feel guilty or unsure, and then we hit the end of the year and it is far too busy to fit it in.  Not this year.

This year I will go away for at least two nights to get some writing done.  I will plan ahead, booking in a couple of days so I can’t back-out due to Mother-Guilt.    I will write, my kids will survive, and I will be a better writer and mother for the time away.

I will Buy and Read more New Books

Okay, so I cheating a bit, because this one started last year.  I knew in theory that I should be reading more new books.  But it takes so much more time and concentration and bother than picking up a Harry Potter again and reading it for the hundredth time.  Time and concentration I could be spending on my family, or even on my writing.

But I realised something last year.  My best writing tended to follow on after I had just finished reading an excellent new book.  The quality of the book, the excitement of the story inspired me on and I was a better writer because of it.  So I started buying books. I am a naturally tight individual who isn’t great at spending money on myself. But a book cost less than a fancy meal out, and was much more satisfying.  And I was supporting other authors in the process.

And when my money-spending guilt was on overdrive, I went to the local library.  There are plenty of great books that I haven’t read, sitting on the shelf waiting for me to reserve them.  And when I reserve them, it barely takes a minute to go into the Library and find all the books I want already there, waiting for me to pick them up.  Win-Win

I will Keep Writing for Fun

My favourite aspect of writing is the first draft.  The heady excitement of new characters popping into being as my fingers tap. Plot twists and turns that I didn’t see coming. The fun of creating a budding relationship, building the tension and sprinkling in the romance as grows.

But the problem with loving first drafts is you end up with too many projects, with none of them ready. And many of my goals for the year involve getting some of those project polished up to be ready for submission.

But writing is allowed to be a hobby as well as a job.  So I will give myself permission to indulge in the occasional new, shinny project.  My five year old has been keen for me to write a space-based story for him, and the plot and characters for this children’s story have been bubbling away for months.  One of my treats for this year will be writing that story, something new and different and as much for my own amusement as for any future publishing merit.

So those are my New Years gifts to myself.

And I’d love to hear other writer’s fun plans for the year ahead.

Belinda