I set many writing goals in 2012, probably too many. You see life has a way of ensuring that cut-out words don’t stay on the table to be assembled into collage poems, and that laptops are not accessible. When I set my writing goals for the year, I didn’t factor in Qwerty.
Much as the beautiful boy should be my muse, more often than not, he is my writing hindrance or favourite form of procrastination. Why write when Qwerty wants to sprawl himself on your lounge-draped body.
Enough excuses — there was writing,editing and a tiny little blogging in 2012 — just not enough. But there were plenty of photos of Qwerty.
So what else happened in 2012…
On December 22, 2011, I took possession of my new car. I was apprehensive of my first trip to Sydney and Nowra, but once I started, I rediscovered my independence. the car took me to Sydney twice (where I realised I’d lost my Sydney savvy)’ Byron Bay and the Gold Coast. I love my car.
After years of pretending that my birthday did not exist, I decided to celebrate this year with a trip to Sydney, catching up with friends, some I haven’t seen for many years and catching some culture.
I spent a lovely half hour with my former boss, John Bell
lunch with high school friends, including my ‘twin’ Margitta
and then went to the Sydney Opera House to see The School for Wives with Jen.
To finish my Sydney trip, I did a course on digital DYI publishing at NSW Writers Centre which turned on huge marketing lightbulbs in my brain regarding the market for my novel. I no longer write ‘women’s fiction with attitude.’ It is now ‘fiction with attitude’.
I continued working on my writing craft, taking workshops with Cate Kennedy and Shelley Keningsberg, online courses with Margie Lawson, attended Byron Bay Writers Festival, and volunteered at Bellingen Writers Festival, and attended the Romance Writers of Australia conference at the QT Gold Coast. I found new critique partners and a new accountability group.
I bought an ipad, added a bluetooth keyboard and turned it into a lean, mean, editing machine.
I took bellydancing classes religiously and performed in two concerts. I’m still way out of my comfort zone, but at least My shimmy looks good thanks to Tori, who made the main parts of my costume, and Xaeda, my gorgeous teacher.
I went to the gym less religiously and fell out of habit completely by the end of the year. This is on the must do list for 2013 to complement the Lite n Easy meals. I simplified my meals by using Lite n Easy – no more cooking for one, chucking out unbeaten food, realising at 10pm that I’d yet to cook, let alone eat. Dinner has become a timely habit, along with lunch.
Suddenly I had more time to write/edit but I’d do this in binges and then become the Queen of Procrastination for weeks despite having a new online group to report to. Goal setting was easy. And after a while, making excuses became just as easy.
I admired my friends who seemed like writing machines. I envied my friends who didn’t have to deal with day jobs. For much of the year, my day job left me exhausted at thee end of the day and I used that as an excuse not to write. Time evaporated.
I would start the weekend believing I had all the time in the world and suddenly it was Sunday night and almost time to go back to work. Ad much as I tried to lasso time, it eluded me, slipping away, laughing maniacally.
In the last few days, I’ve though about what I didn’t achieve in the last 12 months. I’ve realised that I need more structure. Writing lists is fine — if I remember to look at the list and, more importantly, if I allocate the time to do the work.
So I’ve examined my week. Somehow I’ve managed to extract 18.5 hours to be creative. WTF? Where did that come from? That’s 2 hours x 4 weeknights, 1/2 hour x 1 weeknight and 5 hours on Saturday and Sunday (assuming I’m not fully occupied). 7.30 – 9.30pm each weeknight allows wind-down time and the ability to get to bed at a reasonable time. A 10-12 session and a 3-6 session on weekends allows a small sleep in and my nights free to (shock/horror) go out, catch up on some pre-recorded TV watching or watch a DVD. Plus 2 sessions allows me to work around other possibilities, without sacrificing all of the creative time.
Though my Sagittarian sun, Gemini ascendant, Leo moon are all shuddering at the concept of structure, the time is now. I’m not going to call it time management. I shall call it time capture and see where it takes me in a couple of months. Anyone have any other tips on capturing time?
Bring on 2013.
Hell, with all that allocated writing time, I may even blog more.
One thing that renews and revigours the writing spirit is hanging out with writer colleagues. Since joining Romance Writers of Australia in 2007, I have been fortunate to meet amazing women who are published authors, aspiring authors, role models and friends. Though my befriending of authors is breaking my book budget, as yet another friend has a first sale or a 2nd or 3rd book release, these women are my inspiration and often my lifeline. They understand the ins and outs of the writing process, the exhiliration of when the writing almost writes itself or when a character comes to life on the screen. They understand the disappointment of rejection and buoy me when the writing or editing is not going as it should. Their eyes don’t glaze over when I talk about my characters as if they are real people, or ask to brainstorm another plot point. I know I would not have travelled so far in my writing journey without the friendships I have made through Romance Writers of Australia and the professional development I have gained through the organisation.
On the 8th August, Helene Young visited Coffs Harbour Library on her whirlwind library tour to promote her third novel, Burning Lies. I was excited by Helene’s visit as she is a fellow RWA colleague (we work on the executive committee together) as well as an author I admire. So the visit was marked in my diary for a long time.
There was a good turnout on the night and Liz Keen from ABC interviewed Helene. The ladies from the Book Warehouse were on hand with a beautiful display of Helene’s novels.
After the talk, I went out to dinner with Helene, Jenn J McLeod and Jeannette. It was lovely to talk writing and Helene advised me to ‘embrace the edit’.
The following day, Helene had arranged a library talk at Bellingen Library with Bronwyn Parry and Karly Lane, and though Jenn, Bronwyn and Karly and I are all members of the 4PAN group, I never get to meetings as often as I like. We had a lovely morning tea on a glorious day in Bellingen before the library talk, and guess what we talked about?
With three authors in the hot chair this time, the conversation was lively and the audience asked many questions. The session was recorded to be played on local Bellingen radio, 2BBB. The librarian Sharon had also prepared many interesting questions, but it was the post-session conversation that morphed from cowboys to safety procedures on airlines that had me laughing the most.
But Helene’s visit was over all too soon. I finished the day with a lunch with Bronwyn and Karly before returning to my own writing cave, happy that I’d be seeing most of them again the following week at the Romance Writers of Australia conference on the Gold Coast.
I’m still trying to get my head around everything that’s happened in the last 3.5 weeks. I declared August to be out-of-the-writer-cave, and it lived up to its promise, but for the remainder of the month, and the months to come, I will be crawling back into the writer cave to edit, polish and put my writing where my mouth is. But so much has happened, there will be several blog posts
As usual, for the first weekend of August, I was at the Byron Bay Writers Festival. My first afternoon was free so I wandered around the Arts & Industry estate, eventually ending up back at the SAE campus, where I met these very wet musicians.
I may be getting too set in my ways to share accommodation, but there was quite a lot of debacle about the accommodation arrangements this year. Let me say,6 women in a cabin with only one mirror – not a good combination. Combined with a blackout (blown fuse) on the first night and everyone else went to bed and left me with the job of letting the managers in and out of the cabin to find the source of the problem – fun times. Luckily I had my ipad and Eric Northman to keep me company. Have I mentioned how much I love my ipad? And it goes without saying how much I adore Eric.
Recently, I’ve only been using Twitter for events, and #BBWF12 is definitely tweet worthy, so I tweeted that there was no romance panel at Byron this year but there were romance writers there and posted a photo of myself, Jennifer St George, Lisa Heidke and Haylee Kerans from Harlequin Australia.
The tweet made the BBWF email newsletter and I hope the powers that be at the festival took notice. With all the questions being asked about 50 Shades, a romance panel would have provided answers.Fingers crossed that romance makes it onto the program in 2013. It was great to catch up with Lisa and Jennifer at the Festival, and spend some time with Haylee.
In the Wireless Women panel, there was heated debate over 50 Shades of Grey between Haylee Kerans and Marieke Hardy.
Meanwhile, Elliot Perlman was creating many romantic thoughts (and others) amongst my group of writer friends. After the Saturday sessions, with many of the ladies sighing about Elliot over dinner, I decided I better see what all the fuss was about, and attended an interesting session on Screen Adaptations. Well – I’d obviously attended the wrong sessions the day before.
I purchased Elliot’s book of short stories and lined up for his autograph. And in my author groupie fashion, which seems to be a fixture of the last years, I asked Elliot for a photo. when he asked ‘glasses on or glasses off?’, I replied ‘glasses off, it’s more rockstar’ and he laughed, right before the photo was taken.
I bought more books than I intended this year, so by Saturday, I banned myself from entering the book tent. Like a pokie addict trying to justify but still hold onto the habit, this ban did not stretch to the book signing tent. In a post-BBWF first, I’ve already read one of my 2012 BBWF purchases – My Hundred Lovers by Susan Johnson.
As always, the sculpture competition was fabulous, though I do not agree with the winner. My favourite was The Reader by Marie Francis Boissonneault, and I was not alone. This sculpture won the People’s Choice Award. Shame I don’t have a spare $8000 to take it home with me. But I did take a photo, and then played around with the photo in an app called Visual Poet. This is what I came up with…
Did I mention how much I love my iPad? Oh yes, I will probably devote a blog post to it soon.
I returned home from Byron Bay full of writing mojo, with a bag full of books, and a cold that did not make itself known until the following evening, 10 hours after visiting my doctor. Great timing!
Next post…author Helene Young visits Coffs Harbour.
11 days before Christmas he turned up outside my window. Made quite a commotion so there was no way I could ignore him. I took him in, fed him, cuddled him, shared my bed with him – he stayed four nights, long enough for me to fall in love. And then he disappeared and broke my heart. Like a typical boy.
Okay, so that wasn’t quite the whole story.
When this cute little ginger and white kitten showed up and strolled into my house like he owned the joint, I really wanted to keep him.
I thought he might have been dumped, but I was also concerned that there was a family pining for their cute lost kitten. So I did the ‘right thing’ and took him to the RSPCA to see if he’d been microchipped. There was no microchip but there’d been a phone call about him, and very sadly I said my goodbyes to the little boy who thought he was a parrot and delighted in knocking over the Christmas tree.
The next morning I received a phone call from the lady who’d picked ‘Benny’ up from the RSPCA, asking if I wanted to give him a home. Of course I did and I arranged to pick him up the next evening. I decided I wanted to call him Elvis. I went out to dinner that evening, happy that ‘Elvis’ was going to be coming home to me. But when I got home from dinner, I got another phone call. Little Elvis, along with his brother Bobby had wandered off again — and while Bobby had been found down at the roadside, there had been no sightings of Elvis. I couldn’t believe he’d disappeared again, couldn’t believe they hadn’t ensured he was safe.
So I went and met the neighbours and Elvis’ brother Bobby. A huge cardboard sign about a lost ginger kitten was placed at the start of the road, and I made up leaflets and did a letterbox drop. I sent calls out to the universe to send Elvis back to me in time for Christmas, but he didn’t turn up outside my window and meow as he did that first night.
Two days after Christmas, I had a call on my mobile while I was shopping. A kitten had been found in my road at one o’clock that morning. I was so excited that Elvis may have been found, and when they got out of the car, I realised the kitten in their arms was not my boy, but his brother. I made some quick phone calls to find out if Bobby was missing then took him home and his owners collected him 30 minutes later.
Weeks later, I was still hoping that Elvis would make a comeback. Each afternoon I would drive the extra couple of kilometres down the end of the road, just in case. Then I noticed that my diary looked like the description of Nikki’s diary in my manuscript Diary of the Future, where she can make events happen by writing them in her diary as future entries. I opened my diary and on the next day I wrote ‘Elvis the kitten came back to me.’
But the next day I got another phone call from the lady who’d picked him up from the RSPCA about a ginger 12 week old kitten who needed a home. Would I like to meet him? So I made the phone calls and went to meet him on the Saturday and brought him home with me. He was unnamed for a couple of days while he demonstrated his personality, his pechant for literature, and his habit of lying across keyboards.
It didn’t take long for this little fella to fill the gap that Elvis had created.
Meet Lord Qwerty Byron!
(after a hard day’s work on the computer)
He’s also adapted very quickly to my other constant visitors.
Tina the shi tzu and Qwerty are best mates now, but Lou has his nose out of joint, and yet still chooses to visit.
It’s very nice knowing that I’m coming home to this little fella each day.
So that’s how Lord Qwerty Byron came to live with me.
Considering his predecessor Dorkus had his own blog and Qwerty’s love of the laptop, do you think Lord Qwerty should continue the tradition?
I guess I was supposed to do a review of 2011 on New Year’s Eve. Instead I went out and bought myself a DVD recorder and an iRobot Roomba vacuum cleaner. Both to help me focus more on the words. After that I made myself a scrumptious dinner, watched the 1982 Moving Pictures concert at the Hordern Pavillion, watched an episode of Moonlight to ensure that my new DVD recorder was playing properly (now that was a dose of 2 Alex’s (Smith & O’Loughlin). I considered adding a third Alex to the mix (Alexander Skarsgard, Eric in True Blood) but then switched over and watched Stephen Fry live at the Opera House instead, followed by midnight fireworks and Rage.
2011 was a year of discovery for me. A year where I moved away from the past, away from the previous relationship and started creating the present and the future I want.
It was a year that I focused on my writing development, my fitness, and creating real-life support networks. It was a year that I met new people, people that I think will be in my life for a long time.
It was a year I did an administrative review of my life: became organised, took out health insurance, paid off loans that had originated with the past relationship.
It was a year that I tested the boundaries of my comfort zone, took leaps of faith, felt the fear and did it anyway: travelling for work to unfamiliar towns to deliver training to strangers, stepping into a management role at work, bellydancing on stage.
It was a year where I seized opportunity. Sometimes seizing opportunities had great results such as the interview with Alex Smith from Moving Pictures here, followed by the Moving Pictures concert.
I published a zine of collage poetry Sliced and Diced, which led to me giving a collage poetry workshop to Bellingen Writers Group. Sometimes the results of seizing the opportunity weren’t what I hoped for, but at least I put myself out there, instead of wondering ‘what if’.
It was a year I spent a lot of time in Sydney – enough to whet my cultural appetite, enough to catch up with friends and family, and enough to remind me why I don’t want to live in that mad city rush atmosphere anymore.
It was a year that I fell in love with Melbourne (again) and for one day considered it as a place I could live — and then it turned wet and miserable again.
It was a year that I learned lots about writing craft and editing — and learned to love editing (sometimes). I did in person workshops with Linda Jaivin, M J Hyland, and Everything You Need to Know about Publishing at the NSW Writers Centre. I did online workshops with Margie Lawson, Angela James and others.
It was a year that I felt the joy and despair of the writing life: finalling in the STALI and bombing out in other competitions with the same manuscript. Finding my readers and finding people who are so NOT my readers. Words flowing, words not flowing. Learning not to compare my dirty drafts with others polished, published writing.
It was a year that I discovered that I work best in binges when it comes to collage poetry. My goal had been to create a collage poem a week – however, when I do start playing with cut-out words, I often have 4 or 5 poems on the go. I went on a collage poetry binge after presenting the workshop and created 18. So this year I am going to have a collage poetry weekend once a month, starting today.
Here’s a couple I prepared earlier (during the binge). I LOVE both of these. I think they should be my theme for 2012.
The first one I will call
The second one is called
I also expanded my creative expression by exploring the combination of words on a photo background. First I wrote the text, then I had to take the photos that complemented or juxtaposed the text. All of the photos were taken at the Queen Victoria Markets in Melbourne. The ‘photo essay’ was about body image and the constant battle of weight. This was published in the Nambucca Valley Writers Group anthology Food for Thought. Here’s one sample page:
I’d like to explore combining words with images more in the future. And with this project, I discovered the joy of photography again.
It was a year that I learned that doing the right thing is not always the best thing. Sorry, Elvis.
So that’s 2011 in review: a year of growth in mind and spirit (and thanks to Curves and bellydancing, not in body) and creating just the right amount of independence and support.
My 2012 goals are posted here.
May we all have a wonderful 2012 full of love, friends and fulfillment and lots of words.
In 2006, I published this list of 13 Things to Do before I die (I was participating in a 13 things meme)
So five years later, here’s the progress on a list I’d forgotten about:
1. Be published by a major publishing house – not yet, but since the writing of the list, I’ve had a short story published in Wet Ink magazine.
2. Visit the Grand Canyon – not yet
3. Learn to bellydance – YES!!!
and I even performed in the Hipnotic Bellydance concert with the rest of the Sacred Lotus students.
4. Visit Tasmania – came close this year, but it didn’t happen
5. Publish an anthology of collage poetry - I published a zine of collage poetry this year, and taught a workshop.
6. visit Stonehenge – not yet
7. visit Frida Kahlo’s museum in Mexico – not yet
8. go on an Arts Festival crawl around the world – not yet
9. visit the Hay-on-Why book festival – not yet
10. Have a bidding war over my manuscript – not yet
12. visit the Salvadore Dali Museum – not yet
13. ride the Ghan from Adelaide to Darwin – not yet
So what’s on your bucket list?
The problem with a bucket list is that ‘before I die’ is such a wishy-washy concept. I do not have a (working) crystal ball so I do not know if it’s next year, 5 years time or 50 years time. I have no idea how long I have to achieve these particular goals.
There’s a lot of travel goals on the list and they certainly would need to be paced out over a long period of time, unless I win lotto. And some of them seem to be dependent on the mood I was in at the the time I wrote the list.
There’s a few other things that I did this year that were either on earlier bucket lists or just should have been on my bucket list but were so far removed from my reality that they were never written down.
- Go on a Rod Quantock comedy tour – this was never written down on a list though I’d wanted to particpate since I first heard about his crazy ‘Tram’ or ‘Bus’ tours. In March, I went on the History of the Comedy Festival Walking Tour with 50 other people wearing Groucho Marx masks while Rod led us around with Trevor the rubber chook mounted on the end of a stick. It was a scream watching people’s ‘We are not amused’ reactions to us.
- Buy a new car – I picked up my beautiful new car on Friday with 13ks on the odometer. A serious step up from the 21 year old red beast with the built-in swimming pool.
- Be a VIP at a Moving Pictures concert. Well for that matter, I never thought I’d see the band play again so this was definitely not on a list, but was one of the highlights of 2011.
- Read a piece of my writing at a writers festival.
- see Cold Chisel perform (I’d only ever seen Ian Moss and Jimmy Barnes do their solo thing)
It’s that time of the year again – time to focus on goals and this year I will consciously plan to do something on the bucket list (once I’ve worked out the new one).
My ongoing bucket list is posted here.
Once upon a time, I worked in Sydney. And every day, my train would emerge out of the railway tunnels to Circular Quay station, overlooking the azure of Sydney Harbour. Then I would walk through The Rocks to work – Sydney Theatre Company in 1989, and Bell Shakespeare Company in 1991 & 1992. I loved my glimpse of Sydney Harbour each day – the sun gleaming on the water was a vital start to my work day.
Prior to that, I worked at Luna Park (making doughnuts). You can glimpse Luna Park in these photos under the right hand side of the Harbour Bridge. It was my first job out of high school, during the holidays. So I do have an attachment to the harbour.
Even when I spent 4 weeks in Concord Hospital following a car accident, the staff took pity on me and gave me the Bed with a View, looking out at Sydney Harbour. The little red light at the top of the Harbour Bridge stops blinking in the early hours of morning (maybe 2am). I know, I was awake and I was watching.
On New Years Eve, it seems that all of Sydney gathers around the harbour to get the best view of the fireworks. One year I was privileged to be invited to a rooftop party in The Rocks where we had a superb view of the pyrotechnic display. Another year, when I was young and silly, a friend and I ventured into the streets of The Rocks for New Years Eve and were kissed by strange guys at midnight and accosted by drunks. Not so pleasant. Plus there’s always the nightmare of trying to get home in the early hours of New Years Day.
Last week I went to Sydney to catch up with family and friends and have some down time. I caught up with my ex-flatmate who works at the Sydney Opera House. You can drool over the view from a desk in the above photos. Seriously? People pay millions of dollars for a view like that, and he gets paid to sit at the ‘Desk with a View’. He gave me a tour of the backstage labyrinth of The House, ending with lunch in the green room. Contrary to the popular opinion of people who know my theatre background, I haven’t been past the stage door of the Opera House many times. Once at 7 years old for a poetry recital, and another time to visit a dressing room.
So the tour was fun and made me yearn just a little for my previous life. But not for long. The thought of how much money a week I’d need to pay out in Sydney compared to what I pay now, quickly extinguished any nostalgic longing to return to my former life on a permanant basis. It’s so easy to view the past through nostalgic longing and rose-tinted glasses, and yes, compared to my day job now, it was more glamorous. Sure there were moments of glamour – particularly at opening night parties – but mostly it was hard slog.
Au revoir Sydney – it was fun and I’ll be back to visit again.