Just prior to Christmas, a writer friend told me it was time for me to write something new. I’d been editing existing manuscripts for so long, things were stale. She challenged me to write 500 words a day from 1st January and she suggested that I write about my transformation over the last 12 months – the Paleo, the weight loss, the belly dancing, the becoming me. Her suggestion was to create a character going through a similar journey. Not to plan the story, just to write. I came up with the working title of ‘Shimmy like a Paleo Goddess’ because both bellydance and Paleo have been an epic part of my transformation.
When someone asks why I write fiction, I usually say because I like making things up. I like being in control of my own story universe, even when the characters start misbehaving. I like the infinite possibility, I like that the story could take any turn and is only fixed in a reality of plausibility rather than based on actual events.
I opened a new Word doc on New Year’s Day and started writing. No character appeared to guide me through the story. The story pouring on the page was mine. I couldn’t hide behind a character anymore. It was time to be real. It was time to tell MY story.
Here is that beginning:
I’m not sure how it began. How it triggered. I wanted a new beginning. I was tired of being stuck, doing the same old, same old, and reaching the same outcomes. I needed a new life. I needed a reinvention but not just another mask, another persona, another way to fit in with the crowd. I needed to find the real me, the one that was being masked and number through chocolate, through busyness, through procrastination, through unworthiness. I needed to coax her out and make her shine. She’d been walked upon and used, and was spending all her time hiding out, soothing herself in comfort food and retail therapy. Hiding out with only her cat and television for company. Burying herself in mindless TV shows. Living vicariously through someone else’s fabricated, televised reality instead of going out there and creating her own. Drowning in clutter. Saying yes to everyone, keeping busy doing voluntary work instead of tending to her own creativity instead of feeding her own soul.
There were slow, gradual movements towards self-love and re-establishing her worthiness. Venturing back out into a social life – but a safe social life amongst couples and friends, where she spent the night with her head focused on trivia, instead of the big picture, the big questions of life, the questions that really count.
Over a few years she learned to shimmy and sway, dancing to a different kind of music, allowing the beat to move through her and find expression in her body and soul. She developed a girl crush on her beautiful, wise and patient teacher – only a goddess could turn her two left feet into a body that moved with grace and rhythm. She also joined a women’s only gym working on her fitness and stamina but each of these activities, while surrounding her with the support and love of a sisterhood, also cushioned her from the harsh reality and risk of getting involved with a man once again.
She was too afraid of hurt, of rejection. Just not ready to go there. Not ready to deal with the complexity of sex and relationships. No one would want her. So she wouldn’t put herself out there. That would only prove her story and provide more evidence for her argument. There’d been too much rejection, too much abandonment, too much hurt for her to ever take a risk again.
She busied herself with volunteer work, making herself important, fulfilling her need to be needed, fulfilling her need to be wanted. She held on tight to this work, convincing herself that no one else could quite do it the same way and taking on more and more work until she barely had time to breathe. It wasn’t just for one organisation. She piled them on, adding several executive titles after her name, convinced that if she didn’t put her hand up (and keep putting her hand up) no one else would.
On the surface everything seemed fine – she was busy, she was social. From the outside it seemed she had a rounded and fulfilled life. A decent day job, friends, social life, a half-arsed writing effort. But deep down she was empty. Craving connection. Craving creativity. But too afraid to risk it all.
When I started bellydancing lessons in January 2011, I had no intention of dancing in public. I was ticking an item off my bucket list, I thought it would be fun and a good way to exercise, and I wanted to expand my circle of friends.
Towards the end of that year another student suggested that I should participate in the end of year school concert. I freaked out. I had a mini meltdown in class. I didn’t want the pressure of performance.
I talked to my teacher, expecting she’d say ‘you don’t have to dance if you don’t want to’, instead she said something I wasn’t expecting. She said, ‘You should dance. You’re ready.’
Ready? I certainly didn’t feel ready.
But I cobbled a costume together and I got up and danced. On stage. In front of real people. It was scary and I had a cold which got worse as the night went on. So bad that by the time my second dance was on, I was out of it on cold and flu tablets and almost missed the cue.
Since then I have danced in every end of year concert. I never feel ready, but I get on stage anyway.
Just like my manuscript never feels quite ready for submission.Sometimes you just have to take that leap of faith, get up on stage and shimmy, and send that manuscript out.
Writing is a lot like bellydancing.
First there’s hours and hours of practice. When talking about writing, we often use analogies — you wouldn’t expect to sit down at the piano and play like a concert pianist straight away, or jump on the tennis court and hit an ace. An author said you need to write a million words before you are competent. Bellydancing is the same. You need to practice your hip drops and shimmies and many other moves before you become adept.
Secondly, you need to learn the craft. I’m very fortunate to have a fantastic teacher, Xaeda, who not only teaches us individual dance steps, she also teaches us about the different rhythms of Arabic dance, and the history of the dance.
For the last 15 years, I’ve been learning the craft of writing. I’ve taken many workshops, read many ‘how to’ books, and I try to incorporate what I’ve learned into my writing. I’ve been a member of Romance Writers of Australia since 2007, and take every opportunity to learn from the wonderful authors and writers within the organisation.
You need to find role models. Watch concerts, your teacher, your fellow students. Copy their moves. You will still find your individual style, just as modeling your writing and behaviour on your author heroes (both published and aspiring) will help you develop your own voice.
A beautiful costume makes all the difference to your dance. Imagery, description, and layering build your story. There is a difference between a makeshift costume and a custom designed costume. Dress your story up, put on the bling. In dance the costume makes all the difference – it’s the shift between practice and class, and performance. You feel different when you’ve got the sparkle on.
When you’re dancing, you need to focus not only on your own moves, but when you’re in dancing in a group, you need an awareness of what everyone is doing around you. But you can only ever have that awareness from your own position on stage. It is impossible to see the dance from the audience’s perspective.
You are just one small (but important) piece of the choreography that adds to the picture as a whole and you must rely on your teacher/choreorapher/bellydance goddess to ensure that all the parts are working together as a whole.
In writing, you can get so caught up in the minutiae, that it becomes impossible to see the big picture and how the story is working as a whole.
Beta readers and critique partners are an important part of the writing process. They can be utilised during the writing on a scene-by-scene or chapter-by-chapter basis. But to get a complete sense of the story and a reader response, the beta readers need the complete manuscript.
Everything is subjective — so while one beta reader may love and relate your story and be able to give constructive criticism, another may find nothing that will resonate. Some readers are just not YOUR reader. You need to pick and choose the feedback that works for you and your story.
10 Things a Writer can learn from Belly-dancing
1. Language is a series of words (dance moves) that can be arranged in endless, beautiful combinations.
2. Find the dancers/writers that move with ease and appoint them as your role models.
3. Everything feels better when it’s dressed in its best – including your manuscript
4. It is impossible to see the big picture when you’re in the middle of your story – find some great critique parners and/or beta readers – they can give you the audience perspective.
5. Bellydancing takes practice, and so does writing. Flex your muscles.
6. Eventually the basic movements will become part of your muscle memory and you will be able to execute them without thinking. The same applies to writing technique. The more you write, the more grammar, style, pacing and your voice will become second nature.
7. Both dance and writing have the power to move the audience. Include emotion to draw your audience into the dance/story.
8. The only way to overcome self-doubt in dance or writing is to put yourself into an open forum. Share your writing when it’s polished, seek feedback, seek performance opportunities. Shimmy like there’s someone watching and write like there’s someone reading.
9. Every dancer and writer has a unique style. Don’t try to be exactly like someone else. Find your own voice and dance your own journey.
10. If you want to dance, then get up and dance, join a class, do a shimmy. Don’t just talk about it. If you want to write, stop talking about it and BICHOK (butt in chair, hands on keyboard). JUST DO IT.
The next Sacred Lotus Hafla/Gala Showcase will be held on Saturday August 1st, 2015 7.30 pm at the Sawtell Golf Club. Come and see us shimmy.
I am an all or nothing girl. Moderation is a concept that I can’t quite grasp. While other people may be able to regulate their sugar consumption to a daily Freddo or row of chocolate, I’d eat the whole bag of Freddos or the whole family block.
Perhaps I could manage to drink only two iced teas (or Cokes) in a day, but that was on a good day.
I was living a life fuelled by sugar, dictated by the energy highs and crashes, with a brain fog of which I had no awareness. This was my usual state of being, my usual state of health, this was my reality – how could anything be wrong?
My doctor declared me pre-diabetic about 13 years ago but somehow I’d managed to shrug off that label and restore my blood sugar back to a normal range. While I was no longer on the precipice of diabetes, I had hypertension controlled by daily medication and my BMI fell into the ‘obese’ range. I hated buying clothes, picking a size and finding it too small. And yet I couldn’t see a way out. I had been trapped by cravings for sugar since I was young and giving up my one vice seemed an insurmountable task, and a ridiculous suggestion. Chocolate provided so much pleasure – everyone was entitle to one vice, surely?
The weight kept creeping up and I found that I was regularly wearing size 18 and one of my favourite LBD’s was a size 20. Not quite a little black dress after all. Observing the effects of a sedentary lifestyle every day at work, I knew I had to take action. For many years I tried everything — bar giving up the sweet stuff — to arrest the weight gain.
I joined Curves. I tried Lite n’ Easy, but I wasn’t fully committed to either and exercise and eating light just gave me an excuse to eat chocolate because the calorie burning should negate the chocolate calories. The sweet stuff was an emotional crutch – it got me through the stressful times, it got me through boredom, and it added to the joy when I was in a celebratory mode.
But I did give up Coca-Cola. On 1st February 2010, I went cold turkey. I was a Coca-Cola addict. It had to go. A couple of weeks of crazy caffeine and sugar withdrawal headaches and things started to look clearer.
And then my relationship fell apart and ended in March 2010. Somehow I stayed resolute throughout the grief, throughout the rebuilding of my life including cleaning up the mess that was left behind, and searching for new accommoodation. I refused to give in to my psychological yearning for a Coke. Even when my new accommodation plans fell through and I had to start the search all over again, I didn’t succumb to the evil black liquid. One day I accidently pressed the wrong button on the vending maching and a Coke popped out and I gave it to a work colleague. The universe was testing my resolve, not giving me an excuse to drink it.
The last time I ditched Coke was in 1998. I was living in Adelaide and working at the Westpac Mortgage Centre which is 3 (?) football fields wide. One of my work tasks was to deliver settlement documentation to the relevant teams, scattered around the centre.The combination of giving up Coke and the distance I walked meant that the weight just fell off me.
I hoped for similar results in 2010 but I quickly substituted Coke with other sugary drinks (ginger beer and then iced tea) and my emotional state resulted in the consumption of copious amounts of chocolate. There was some weight loss, but not a huge amount and the weight soon plateaued.
Last year my author friend and critique partner Juliet Madison encouraged me to try Paleo. Finally in September, I decided to go 80% Paleo. I wasn’t making the effort to squeeze Curves into my schedule. Despite the lack of exercise (apart from bellydancing once a week), my weight started to drop again, through cutting out most processed foods, eating small amounts of protein and lots of vegetables. I gave Lite ‘n Easy the flick and started enjoying cooking fresh food again.
By the time I went on the Bravo Cruise at the end of November, my scales had dipped below 90kgs and I couldn’t remember the last time I’d been at that weight. I was thrilled. I ate well on the cruise but also ensured that I balanced it with physical exertion. No, I didn’t go to the gym (are you kidding?) but I took the stairs whenever I could and I did a lot of deck-walking and I danced my arse off. When I got home, I was proud to see that I was still under 90 kgs.
My motivation was now kicking in and I started following Pete Evans on Facebook. When he announced his Paleo Way Tour was coming to Coffs Harbour, I immediately purchased a ticket.
As we moved into 2015, I set a goal to go back to the gym. Now that that weight was shifting, I figured the results would be faster if I got back into an exercise routine. Plus I wanted to regain my fitness, and reclaim my health.
Midway through January I read an article on Coca-Cola and it hit me. I’d given up Coke almost five years before and not touched it since. I’d had the strength to stick to my commitment despite my emotional turmoil, my (now-recognised) depression and the re-building of my life.
I knew I was strong enough to go all the way and I decided on the 1st February I would give up refined sugar. I began by declaring my intention to friends so that I had other people checking in with me and holding me accountable. I printed out the Don’t Break the Chain chart to keep me on track.
On 1st February, I went cold turkey. I bought a block of Lindt (70%) for emergency use only (I could have a sliver if absolutely desperate). As I was only cutting out refined sugar, I rewarded myself with strawberries and cherries. Thank god it was still cherry season. That saw me through.
There were headaches over the first week but nothing like when I gave up Coca-Cola, as I didn’t have the extra withdrawal from caffeine.
About 17 days in, I ate sushi. Immediately I noticed the sugar rush followed by the crash. As I hadn’t been in that state for over two weeks, the effect of sugar on my system was quite extreme and I decided that sushi was also a no-go.
On the 19th February, I attended Pete Evans’ Paleo Way workshop in Coffs Harbour and learned more about the Paleo lifestyle. As a bonus to the ticket, I would received the Paleo Activation Plan in April, but talking to Pete Evans and Luke Hines that night sealed my committment to stay sugar-free.
I had to change the context of everything. At work, we have vending machines and snack tables laden with processed products to keep us energy-filled and attentive. I renamed these the ‘sugar shops’. I stopped seeing chocolate as chocolate and just saw it as sugar. I redefined my relationship to the supermarket which is made up of 90% products containing sugar.
And then the cravings just disappeared. I noticed they were replaced with thoughts – thoughts like ‘I feel like some chocolate’ but there wasn’t a need for it and I easily dismissed the thought (walking was always a good diversion.)
One day I walked into the food court in the local shopping cemtre and noticed that everything smelled sweet but not in an enticing way. It had become a sickly smell, and one I didn’t want to partake in.
At the ARRC Awards dinner, my dessert sat in front of me untouched. Five weeks in I didn’t want to break the chain. I was lured into Max Brenner, surrounded by chocolate temptations and I remained strong.
Despite being led into temptation, my willpower was stronger than the temptation, and I knew giving in would only kickstart the sugar cravings. I had changed my relationship to sugar. Just like a toxic relationship with another human being, I knew inviting sugar back into my life would be detrimental to my well-being.
In the midst of this, I saw That Sugar Film at the cinema. Entertaining, eye-opening and more justification to stay off sugar.
One of the sugar traps raised in the film was ‘the bliss point’: the optimum amount of sugar to keep an individual coming back for more. Not too sweet, just sweet enough. Cadbury and Coca-Cola Amatil had my bliss point pegged for years. I was hooked on Caramello and iced tea (which had replaced the Coke) but now my bliss point had shifted.
Dear Coca-Cola Amatil and Cadbury,
Thank you for providing my bliss point over and over for many years. Yes, the sweetness answered my craving but only led to more, until I was insatiable. No more! I am responsible for my own bliss point now and it has nothing to do with sugar.
That Sugar Film is now available on DVD. Everyone, every parent, every child should watch it.
On 26th April I started the Paleo Activation Plan. After nearly 3 months of no sugar, I was down to 82 kgs. I was pleased I’d already kicked the sugar and now only had to give up grains (not so hard, I’d already ditched the cereal and didn’t eat much bread) and dairy (oh, I would miss cheese). It wasn’t a difficult shift to lift my 80% Paleo to 100%.
Remaining a social being and sticking to 100% Paleo was difficult. I’m accustomed to saying ‘no’ to alcohol and seeing the subsequent expressions of incredulity that I can enjoy myself without drinking. But often there were no Paleo food options so I did the best I could. As I settled into the Paleo lifestyle, I found my body reacted quickly to the stuff it was no longer used to and no longer wanted. Potato wedges bloated me, white bread could cramp me and/or result in diarrhoea. It was clear that my body approved of my new food choices (revelling in salad and protein) and commented disappovingly when I strayed from the program.
I adapted my favourite foods to Paleo:
- chicken tacos in shells became chicken tacos in lettuce or Paleo tortillas, or a taco bowl with cashew cheese replacing the dairy
- pizza became cauliflower based pizza,
- cauliflower and broccoli rice replaced jasmine rice for stirfries.
I set myself a task of trying a new recipe each week and some of the discoveries delighted me. I did not feel deprived at all and I found the joy in cooking again.
On 1st July, I reached 5 months (150 days) of sugar-free and I will not go back.
Today I have finished the 10 week Paleo Activation Plan (but will continue the Paleo at a little less than 100%)
Today I weigh 70 kgs.
My weight on 1st February was 89 kgs. 19kgs lost in 5 months of sugar-free.
My weight on the commencement of 100% Paleo was 82kgs. 12kgs lost in 10 weeks, a definite acceleration.
I have gone from size 18/20 to size 12 and I have a mountain of ‘never to return to’ clothes to give away.
The weight loss is not the only benefit.
Now that my weight is within a healthy range, my doctor said I can go off the BP medication. I no longer have heartburn.
I’ve switched from sugar-burning to fat-burning mode and the difference in my energy is immense. I don’t have the afternoon post-lunch slump. Instead I have energy to burn and go for a power walk to use some of it. That energy often lasts well into the night. No more getting home and collapsing on the lounge, and falling asleep sitting up at 7pm.
I’m not hungry between meals and I no longer emotionally eat or eat out of boredom.
I sleep better and my mind is clearer. My attitude is positive and I know now that anything is possible with commitment.
Too many benefits not to be immensely grateful so I will thank everyone who had helped me on this journey –
- Juliet (for nagging me until I finally saw the light)
- Janelle & Sam at Curves
- Pete S and my other work colleages for words of encouragement
- Pete Evans, Luke Hines and Nora Gedgaudas for the tools and education
- The Paleo Way tribe for their amazing stories and support
- all my friends who supported me and encouraged me
- anyone who told me I’m an inspiration (mhwahh!)
- and everyone who noticed and commented and encouraged me.
IT IS POSSIBLE and these cheekbones are proof.
I feel their loneliness before they’ve even acknowledged it. It’s camouflaged behind their smile, stinging at the edge of their eyes, but it emanates from them. I watch them with their mates, jovially riding out the heartache as if they’re catching a wave. Life goes on and they must go on with it. Sleep, work, eat, drink, force laught, sleep. Repeat for endless days and nights.
I reach out to their vulnerability. I offer them a friendly smile, a solid shoulder, an antidote to rejection, a feel-good, non-commital time. It could last a night, a week, a month, a year. Each time it runs its own course and they they move on.
I’m the one in the middle, if they only take the chance.
I’m in the middle of their past and their future. I’m their present, if they only live in the moment.
I’m in the middle of their heartbreak and their happiness, if they only open their heart and allow themselves to feel again.
I’m in the middle of pain and healing, if they only acknowledge their wounds.
I’m in the middle of ex and wife, never destined to be the latter.
I’m the one in the middle, never the first, never the last.
I’m the one in the middle, left standing alone.
A writing exercise for Nambucca Valley Writers Group – ‘the one in the middle’.
On Sunday 27th July, I found myself sitting on a raised platform at the Coast Hotel next to Nick Earls, microphone in hand, telling a round of a story of the top of my head. Later, I had to pinch myself, I’d been on stage with a panel of Byron Bay Writers Festival authors. How did I get here? Well, I can blame and thank Angela Meyer for this.
At our meeting of the Nambucca Valley Writers Group the day before, Roby Aiken gave a workshop on reading our work for an audience. This indeed is a handy skill for any author, and I suggested ‘especially when we’re on a panel at the Byron Bay Writers Festival.’
Little did I know that my words were almost prophetic, as I would end up on stage with a panel of writers during their 5 Writers, 5 Towns, 5 Days road trip on their way to Byron Bay. (Photo below by Tim Eddy)
The event was held at The Coast Hotel. Literature in the Pub. This brought back memories of the heyday of the Harold Park Hotel in Sydney with its little back room that held plays, poetry readings, and author events.
Angela Meyer was chair and on that night, she filled in for one of the other writers who was sick. Angela was a local girl and I’ve had the pleasure of knowing her for around ten years. (This was to my detriment/advantage as the evening went on.)
The other writers were Ashley Hayes, Craig Sherbourne, Zacharey Jane and Nick Earls. Each read a short piece from their latest novel and answered questions from Angela and the audience. It is always fascinating to hear other people’s writing processes. As Nick Earls said, ‘Writers find their own perverse methods of producing the novel.’
I could probably tell you some of those perverse methods if I’d taken better notes, but one has stuck as particularly perverse and specific. Craig Sherbourne writes in school exercise books, lying on his stomach on a bullskin rug. (umm, don’t think I’ll try that one.)
There was a cosy group of writers in the audience including members of Coffs Harbour Writers Group along with fans. Then we got to the games bit of the night which required audience participation. I was sitting directly in Angela’s sightline and she asked for volunteers, then added, ‘How about you, Diane?’ Well, as most who know me realise, I do have an issue with saying ‘no’, especially when somebody asks so nicely, but part of me was screaming in terror. It’s a long, long time since I’d done anything on stage that resembled improvisation, and I don’t remember ever being good at it back in my drama days. But I jumped out of my comfort zone and took my place on stage. For her second victim, Angela coaxed her mother onto the stage. Unfortunately I don’t have any photographic evidence of me on stage during the game. You’ll have to take my word for it.
The game was simple, apparently. Each team would tell a story in 30 second rounds based on a genre picked out of a bucket and a topic suggested by the audience. The audience could yell out ‘random’ at any time and we would then choose either a random word or phrase from a bucket or a random prop from a sack, this would then need to be incorporated into the story.
I was on a team with Craig Sherbourne and Zacharey Jane. I chose the genre ‘Horror’ and an extremely helpful audience member yelled out ‘air travel.’ Well, my mind did scream ‘No’ at this and I somehow managed to vocalise it. It was only a week after the Malaysian airlines disaster – way too fresh. So it was suggested we pick another genre. This time we got ‘Literary’. Aargh! Could this game get any worst? My fellow team members suggested I open the story but my mind was already in panic and I shook my head and passed the microphone over.
We ended up with a story about a guy who suffers claustrophobia on a plane, who had overdone his meds, added champagne to the mix. At one point I had to pick a random word and drew out ‘smell’, so of course the obese passenger spilling over the seat next to him on the plane farted. Oh how unliterary! My mind in panic couldn’t turn ‘flatulence’ into a verb to give it a bit more style. I think I ended the story with the protagonist passing out from the mixture of pills and alcohol.
Then it was the other team’s turn. They had the advantage of Nick Earls on their team and I wonder if their suggestions were planted because their genre (chosen randomly) was sci-fi, and the topic proffered by the audience was ‘Volkswagen’. Of course, they won.
But afterwards, still on the stage, I was almost pinching myself. ‘I’m on stage next to Nick Earls.’ It was only later that night, with the events replaying in my head, that my incredulity really took over. I’d been on a Byron Bay Writers Festival panel. I’d stood on stage with a microphone, improvising a story, in front of an audience, and I hadn’t frozen, faltered or fainted.
The next day, all the words I could have, should have, would have said, came to me. The story kept building in my mind taking on Jabba the Hut proportions until the poor hero’s claustrophobia really kicked in. Yep, would have been great on the night but those ideas didn’t emerge until later.
After the audience participation thing, we kicked on, had drinks, talked about writing. I talked to Nick about the previous days workshop and reading work for an audience, and he showed me his secrets of the trade in his marked-up novel. He told me he would have started the literary story with ‘I was having a cup of tea.’
The next weekend at Bryon Bay Writers Festival, I bought Nick’s novel, Analogue Men, and he signed it ‘Good to be on a BBWF panel with you.’ and posed for a photo with Bondage Bear (more of BB’s literary adventures to come)
One day, the real thing – maybe there could be a panel on the reimagining of the fairytale, and I could be up there with Kate Forsyth. I’ll add it to my vision wall.
To read more about #555writers, visit Angela Meyer’s blog, Literary Minded.
There’s magic in the air. The renaissance of the fairytale is no longer once upon a time. It is upon us now.
The cinematic fairytale re-tellings have been piling up over the last few years. Snow White had several outings. Who can forget Charlize Theron’s fabulous costumes in Snow White and the Huntsman, though I was expecting Kristen Stewart to turn into a vampire. (Snow White the vampire – now there’s a mashup?). Julia Roberts was at her comedic best in Mirror Mirror, with quite a lust for the Prince. And we’ve also had Red Riding Hood, Sleeping Beauty, Hansel and Gretel: WitchKillers and Jack the Giant Slayer.
But none has been as magnificent as Malificent. Angela Jolie is stunning in the title role and the reason for her seeking vengeance with Aurora as her victim, is real and justifiable. No spoilers here, but the movie is full of battle and fight scenes, fairy whimsy and fabulous special effects including cheekbones that could cut diamonds. I loved it.
And there are more fairy tale movies to come!
Television is not too far behind with Beauty and the Beast. Grimm, and my favourite Once Upon a Time. I love the twists in Once Upon a Time, how the characters stories intertweave and intersect with each other, how we visit many different lands: The Enchanted Forest, Wonderland, Neverland, Oz, Storybrook and even New York. My favourite character is Rumplestiltskin/Mr Gold and Robert Carlyle’s portrayal of this complex character is fascinating and mesmerising. And for a bit of sexy, Hook definitely fits the bill. Of course, commercial television in Australia is currently teasing me with promises that it will screen, and then ripping it out of the schedule because it’s a holiday weekend. I am hoping that they will also show Once Upon a Time in Wonderland, but I’m not counting on it.
Meanwhile, back in Oz (Australia, not L Frank Baum’s version), the Australian Fairytale Society has incorporated and I have become a founding member. AFTS is holding their inaugural conference in Sydney today and I wish I could be there. But no fairy godmother appeared to wave her magic wand and transport me there. Next year…. You can follow the conference on Twitter via the hashtag #AFTSConf, like their page on Facebook or wait for the unveiling of their website later today.
In books, there is also a fairytale renaissance and my to-be-read pile (both on Kindle and in my house) are growing.
I’m currently reading Kate Forsyth’s The Wild Girl, which is not a fairy tale as such but is about Dortchen Wild and her relationship with Willhelm Grimm.
Bitter Greens – Kate Forsyth (Rapunzel)
The Fairest of them All – Carolyn Turgeon (Rapunzel and Snow White)
Godmother – Carolyn Turgeon (Cinderella)
Mermaid – Carolyn Turgeon (The LIttle Mermaid)
Cinder – Marissa Meyer (sci-fi Cinderella)
Ash – Malinda Lo
Desperately Ever After – Laura Kenyon (Belle, Cinderella, Rapunzel in NY)
But first, I need to finish my own fairy-tale retelling of Cinderella and Snow White, After Ever After. Like Laura’s novel, my story is set in the modern day world, in the kingdoms of Majandis and Cypyrnia. Both princesses are dealing with living in the royal goldfish bowl with endless media speculation of their lives. But there’s a twist. A photo by Robert Mapplethorpe may give you a clue:
What’s a girl to do when she marries Prince Charming only to discover he’d rather sleep with the coachman?
Back to the fun!
For lots more fairy tale news, check out Once Upon a Blog by Gypsy Thornton. She has all the latest fairytale goss!
My critique partner, Alli Sinclair, invited me to take part in the Blog Hop on My Writing Process, and I agreed, while wondering what my writing process is. It has changed from manuscript to manuscript and I can honestly say I’m still discovering my writing process.
So let’s dive in:
What am I working on?
My current work in progress is a contemporary twisted fairy tale After Ever After where we find out what happened to Cinderella after the fairy tale wedding.
Here’s a short teaser:
What’s a girl to do when she marries Prince Charming only to find out he’d rather sleep with the coachman?
How does my work differ from others in the genre?
I wonder if the canon of reimagined fairytales is large enough to be considered a genre. Several authors are using well-known fairytales as the base of their stories but the majority of these are historical or fantasy e.g Gregory Maguire, Kate Forsyth, Carolyn Turgeon.
After Ever After is set firmly in the contemporary world: a world of reality and talk show TV, a world with an insatiable media, a world gripped in an obsession with celebrities, a world polarised on the issue of same sex marriage.This is a world that most readers will find familiar, but it also contains well-loved fairy tale elements, such as Cindy’s fairy godmother (with a modern twist of being addicted to snorting fairy dust)
Why do I write what I do?
It’s not usually a conscious decision. In the case of After Ever After, Cindy chose me to tell her story.
But in general I write stories about contemporary women and their journeys of self-discovery. There always has to be humour and often there will be sub-plot involving a gay theme ( a hangover from my twenties when I was the ‘closet hetrosexual’ in a gay sharehouse in the inner city of Sydney). Romance is not the be-all and end-all in my stories but is generally an element. Self-discovery and self-fulfillment are more important.
How does your writing process work?
I’m still working out my writing process as I have approached various stories differently depending on whether I’ve started with a kernel of an idea, a feeling I wanted to capture or a full-blown concept.
I love the rush of a fast draft, discovering the characters and story as I go, but I’m realising how much restructuring and rewriting is involved in this method.
So today, I will detail how I wrote After Ever After.
Several years ago, a writing association was formed in the region combining representatives of local writers groups. To kick off its existence, the Mid North Coast Writers Association held a short story competition. A friend was the Receiving Officer for the competition and encouraged me to enter. I replied, “I haven’t written a short story in nine years. All my ideas are big. I don’t know how to write a beginning, a middle and an end in 2000 words.”
Something clicked in the back of my mind and I thought, “I wonder what happened to Cinderella after the happily ever after.” The story just poured out – Beyond Happily Ever After – and I won second prize in the competition.
I extended the story to 3000 words for the Women’s Weekly short story competition, adding in a shoe fetish for Cindy and though not successful in the competition, the extended version was published in Wet Ink magazine.
I had so much fun with the characters and I wanted to know what happened next, I kept writing, participating in Nanowrimo. For most of the story, I was pantsing, allowing the characters to direct the storyline.
I wasn’t satisfied with the original ending — it was a compromise between the characters to keep their real lives concealed behind palace doors, but at the first draft stage I could see no way that everyone could have a happy ending. I put the manuscript away and worked on other stories.
And then there was a political scandal — a NSW minister was photographed emerging from a gay sex club and the double life that he’d managed to conceal for over twenty years was exposed.
I knew I needed a public ‘outing’ for my Prince Charming and Cinderella to get their happy endings. But it meant that the last third of my manuscript had to be rewritten. I started by writing the ending I wanted and then filling in scenes in the last third. Scenes came out of order and it took a couple more 50ks in 30days events to get most of the story down.
My rewrite was a lot slower and more painstaking than the first draft. I would often outline a scene before I started so I had the beginning and end points, to stop veering off the track.
Sometimes to get into a character’s head, I would write the scene in first person. This was effective in banishing the formal speech that seemed to pop out of my royals’ mouths. I would then rewrite in third person.
I also procrastinated a hell of a lot. (Procrastination and fighting the self-doubt demons is a huge part of my writing process).
But finally, I’ve reached the end of the major rewrite, and I’m about to send the final ten chapters to my critique partners.
Occasionally when the self-doubt demons have got me down, I go back to my hard copy first draft. The one that is littered with highlighter (a la Margie Lawson) and red scribble everywhere. It reminds me how far I’ve come, and how I can turn first draft crap into gold. And then I continue.
Hmm… perhaps my next story should be about Rumpelstiltskin.
Well, I lassoed two writer friends to continue the Writing Process Blog Hop next Monday. Can’t wait to read about their processes.
Kate Wigseller writes fiction with quirk, grit and humour. A fan of spoken word and beat poetry, she constantly reminds herself that should this novel writing caper fall through, there’s always work doing voiceovers. Although she is an aspiring film and tv writer, most of her works in progress are books and she is currently gearing up to publish her first novel later this year. You can contact her and catch her blogging at http://katewigseller.blogspot.com.au
Sammy Knights is an aspiring romance author who spends her days dreaming of her own little world and nights attempting to recreate that world for others to enjoy. She is also a member of two esteemed organisations in the MRWG and RWA. http://www.bcdmiscellany.blogspot.com.au/