How do I say this…

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I’ve been trying to figure out how to write about this for a while. How much to say, what I want the world to know – my friends and family have already heard about it

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On January 27 of this year I was hit by a car while riding my bike. The driver failed to stop at at give way sign at a T-intersection. I will probably be fine in time, but at the moment I feel shitty and I’ve only been out of hospital for a day.

As far as physical injuries go, I have a broken leg. It could have been a lot worse but I’ve had two sets of surgery on it. I was admitted to a rehab hospital to help with recovery, but I really wanted to get home so I could start getting back to a semblance of normality.

I’m off work for the next while, the doctors gave me three months, but I hope it won’t take that long. I’ve been able to keep in touch with work mainly to make sure they can find stuff that I was working on. I’ll have to sort out a proper return to work plan with the doctors and physios etc. depending on how things progress. 

I haven’t been able to do much writing since the incident. It feels like I should be making the most of my time, but it’s hard to write when you’re in pain and just want to sleep. It’s tough because I’m bored and restless but also tired, resentful and sore. 

So, my life is kind of on hold for a while. I can’t walk on the left leg for another four weeks, and who knows how long after that it will take to get back to full strength. I’ll just have to take things slowly for the next few months.

Auckland Writers’ Festival

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awf I’m a subscriber of an online literary magazine, Kill You Darlings. They’ve been around since 2009 and I admit I don’t read as many articles as I probably should.

What I do pay attention to are the excellent competitions. One I recently entered was to win tickets to the Auckland Writers Festival 12-17 May 2020.

I recently found out I’d won! Two tickets to the festival, three nights accommodation, and a voucher for airfares! It is a surreal experience to win something that cool.

I immediately went to the webiste only to discover the program won’t be released until March! First world problem, I know, but I wanted to go through and choose my sessions and swoon over the gorgeous people I’ll meet or hear or see.

The added bonus is that one of my very best friends lives in New Zealand and I will joining me at the festival.

It’s looking like my travel for the year will be largely to attend writing conferences. I’m also planning to attend the Romance Writers of Australia annual conference, this year to be held in Fremantle. I’ve never been to Western Australia before, so I hope to spend a week or two taking in the different sights and landscapes of our beautiful west coast.

I had a nice, if short, break away from the day job, and have been somewhat less productive than I had hoped to be with my writing, but with this announcement I have something to work towards and be inspired by.

The period of Christmas and New Years has been hard and weird for many Australians. Although I haven’t been seriously affected by the bushfires ravaging our country I’ve all been dealing with the terrible air quality and constant blanket of smoke along with many other city dwellers. I have no mechanism to deal with the enormity of the lost of life, both human and animal and insect and plant, and the scope of the recovery phase that will be coming. I find myself overwhelmed by the whole thing and just watch comedy shows on Netflix and hide my head in the sand.

I hope you’re all doing what you need to do to take care of yourselves out there. I’ll keep you updated with my adventure across the Tasman.

Welcome to the Roaring 20s

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Let’s start with the age old question of how did it get to 2020? I must not have been looking. Far out!

In the first entry of each new year I like to post a list of my goals for the coming year. You can read the review I wrote of the last year and its goals here.

I achieved a lot in 2019, and I have probably not taken enough time to appropriately pause and appreciate it, however I plan to keep up the hard work in 2020.

My 2020 Goals!

  • Finish revising and submit My Mother’s Secret to publishers
  • Finish manuscript from NaNoWriMo 2019
  • NaPoWriMo 2020 (April)
  • NaNoWriMo 2020 (November)
  • Redraft Janine’s story (working title)
  • Put on a third Melbourne Fringe Festival show (October)
  • Keep up the blog
  • Wasted Monday performances
  • Paint mural (in my house)

I’m sure there are other things on the list I want to do, I’m planning to do a bit of travelling, possibly to Perth, WA, for the RWA conference in August, but I haven’t completely committed to that.

I will continue to decidate quite a lot of time to running the Life Models’ Society, and we have a number of projects we want to get done in 2020, but they don’t go on my list.

If I don’t get any pick-ups from publishers, you can be sure I’ll self-publish My Mother’s Secret some time later next year. I’ll be sure to keep you in the loop on that.

I hope you all have a great new year; a good start to a new decade. How weird it feels to be entering the twenties!

Reflections on 2019

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Firstly, this is my 301st blog post! Wow! I completely missed the fact I’d hit three hundred when I published the last one. My first post here was 7 November 2011. It seems like a lifetime ago, although eight years is a pretty long time too.

I’ve done a lot of stuff in that time, completed NaNoWriMo eight times, self-published two books, co-written, co-produced and co-starred in two Melbourne Fringe Festival shows, left and started several jobs, become a life model and become heavily involved in running the Life Models’ Society.

My life is very different to what it was in 2011 when I started. We’re also approaching the end of another decade which has its own weird feelings associated with it.

As is my tradition, I take some time at the end of each year to reflect on the goals I set myself at the start of the year. I like to look at the things I’ve achieved the things I haven’t as a record of the evolution of my life over time.

Last year I published the following goals for 2019:

  • Publish ‘Discovery of the Franklins’
  • NaNoWriMo 2019
  • Finish manuscript from NaNoWriMo 2018
  • NaPoWriMo 2019
  • Sitcom
  • Top Secret Project
  • Wasted Monday performances
  • Blogging
  • Life Models’ Society Exhibition
  • Life Models’ Society 30th anniversary

Maybe/if I have time:

  • Self-publish one of my other manuscripts
  • Finish/rework shorts story/novella

I have achieved several of these goals, I published my second novel, I completed NaNoWriMoand NaPoWriMo, I project managed a successful art competition and exhibition for the LMS and helped to organise a lot of events for the LMS thirtieth anniversary year. And I’ve kept up this blog.

A couple of these goals weren’t achieved. I went back to my NaNoWriMo manuscript from 2018 but haven’t completed it. I don’t know whether it has what’s necessary to be an interesting book. I may come back to it later but for the moment it’s on the back burner.

For my collaboration stuff, the sitcom and top secret projects were worked on at the start of the year, but have fallen away in the later part of the year. Wasted Monday has gained and lost a drummer this year and with it some motivation. Lu and I are still keen so hopefully next year will be a good one for us.

A couple of things I’ve done this year were not on the list: I finished a first draft of a manuscript that was not a NaNoWriMo project, I also submitted a manuscript to my editor with the aim of self-publishing my third novel next year. The editor has encouraged me to submit to publishers (once I’ve made the required changes) so that’s an exciting opportunity too. And I travelled to Morroco and Spain in October.

This is, of course, not counting any of the stuff I’ve done for my day job. The day job has been a pretty intense year, in a number of ways. We’ve had a couple of restructures, and a lot of changes in the teams. I look forward to a more settled year next year, but who knows, maybe there is more change to come.

Do you have an annual goal setting ritual? Do you believe in New Years’ resolutions? Next year is shaping up to be a pretty busy year for me, I’ll give you the full run down of goals in the New Years’ post. I hope you all have a safe, fun and restful holiday period and I’ll see you back here next year.

End of year schedule madness

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We’ve entered the realm of Christmas parties and end-of-year celebrations. I had my work party last Wednesday – good chicken, disappointing dessert, my poetry group end-of-year do today and my writing group Christmas party tomorrow!

As we’ve done in the past, the poetry group visited the Ian Potter Centre at the National Gallery of Victoria to view the works in the hope of inspiring something poetic.

I spent some time sitting in front of these three works by Petrina Hicks: Fertile (2010), Into the abyss (2011), and Melo malo (2019).

Then I stood looking at this work, Force (1950-54), by Roger Kemp.

Finally I sat with this impressive sculpture, Hippolyta and the Amazons defeating Theseus (1933), by Jean Broome-Norton.

I wrote the bones of three ekphastic poems today. It’s more poetry than I’ve written in a long time, since I’ve been mainly working on prose. I hope to post some of the poems here on this blog once I get them polished up.

All the artists at the Ian Potter Centre are Australian, and all the works I viewed were in the free collection part of the gallery.

I can highly recommend hanging out in galleries with notebooks and writing whatever comes to mind. Take yourself on a date, or go with friends. You never know what might come of it.

Winning and Procrastination

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Yesterday, November 28, 2019 I won NaNoWriMo for the eighth time. I’m proud of myself, but having done it before it doesn’t feel like such a big deal anymore. I’m ready to take a bit of a break from my story, but I have two more days of November to try to get some words down.

I won’t give away too much, but the story is a paranormal thriller with a romance subplot. Once it’s done it should be a stand-alone novel; about 80k words I expect.

I frequently feel I put off starting work on creative projects; on the days I don’t have to go in to my day job, I don’t start my NaNoWriMo words until well into the afternoon. I’m very good at distracting myself by watching Netflix, or shows on the various other streaming platforms (there are so many now!). I try to procrastinate productively, by doing other jobs on my list, but it doesn’t remove the feeling I’m wasting time. Perhaps one day, when I’m a grown up, I won’t do it anymore.

Now NaNoWriMo is done can get back to planning to release a new book early next year, and I have already started writing a show for the Melbourne Fringe Festival next year.

I can’t wind down just yet, I still have an exhibition opening for the Life Models’ Society Inaugural Art Competition on December 17 before I can start slacking off. I hope to see some of you there.

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A poem can start with anything
But seldom leads to any
Cause worth exploring
Don’t think about it
Everything is worth writing about
For yourself, or for someone else
Get the idea down, fix it later
However, you must remember
I can’t be the one to fix it
Joust wordily with your thoughts
Kill procrastination and fear
Let your mind speak directly
Move your fingers in the dance
Not concerned with the product
Only being in the moment
Pause and look out the window
Quiet night, sunset, thin scattered clouds
Right now is all there is
Some philosophies have
Theories about what comes afterwards
Utopias or torture chambers filled with
Violence and punishment but
Who was ever inspired by that?
Xenogamy of ideas, steal from everyone
You can do this! Just write
Zeal and persistence are all that’s needed.

Lead up to NaNoWriMo

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Hello dear readers!

This is just a short update post. I haven’t posted for a while, I’m going to blame this largely on going on an overseas trip (I’ll probably write more about that later). I have just come back home to Melbourne and I now realise I have a week to come up with a concept for NaNoWriMo 2019.

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This is me in Morocco.

I started doing NaNoWriMo in 2012 and have managed to complete it each year since then. Even last year while travelling in Japan, I got my words done. I have a certain stubbornness which makes short marathon type challenges particularly appealing.

This year I’m planning to do another choose your own adventure story. I have no characters yet, no plot and no endings, so this should be fun (for certain definitions of fun).

I haven’t really written much lately. I read over the work I did for last year’s NaNo, but I wasn’t particularly inspired to write more for that story. I suspect it will need a concerted effort, and not while travelling.

Let’s hope the passion for writing is reignited with this new CYOA project. And if is doesn’t, I can always start something else.

 

Building Stories

Online dating is full of weird, awkward questions, especially in the initial contact phase, when you don’t really know anything about the other person. Doubly so before you meet and all you have is text.

So, this is a (slightly condensed) transcript of a conservation I had today:

Him: Is it hard to invent new characters?

Me: I don’t find it hard to make up characters – they’re usually combinations of people I know.

Him: Is it difficult to find inspiration for your characters? Do you end up observing people in a social setting to see what makes them tick? Without invading their privacy, I guess that you could listen in a little to their conversations to get inspiration?

Me: No – I usually find the characters pretty easy to come up with. You can steal inspiration from anywhere.

It might sound creepy, but I have sat in cafes listening to other people’s conversations, also on public transport, in airports, at theatre shows and watching bands. Admittedly the band scenario is harder given the increased background noise. I’ve looked at people out in the world and made up back stories for them.

I’m sure other writers have done the same. There are variations of the same meme going around online writing groups:

Never piss off a writer, they will put you in their book and kill you.

In my books, because I tend to write romance, I’ll make you the shitty ex. The antagonist or the side character who gets in the way of the protagonist’s goal. If you’re very lucky, I’ll make you the false love interest.

I’ve been working on a few manuscripts. I’m planning to release a book next year, it’s with a couple of people to read and I’ll have it edited in a month or so. I’ve finished a first draft of a book I’ve been working on for about a year; it will be need a significant amount of editing but is over 100,000 words. I’ve also started revising the manuscript I started for NaNoWriMo last year. I’m not sure it’s worth much chop at this stage, but it might be a good story once it’s finished and I’ve had a chance to fiddle with it.

I know most writers have had conversations with people who aren’t writers. They try to understand the process but they don’t really get it. And I know we’ve all had the conversation about what out search history looks like. Mine is quite worrying and I don’t even write thrillers.

Online dating is likely to always start with questions about what I write, dreading the judgement of telling people I write romance. Hoping that they won’t be like all the others who equate romance with Mills and Boon, as though they’re somehow unworthy, or require less work to create.

Given the number of book sales I’ve had, it still feels a bit weird to call myself an author, but I’m getting more comfortable with it. I’m putting in the years of work it takes to become an overnight success. Even if it never happens for me, I think I’ll be okay.

How I got triggered at work

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Content warning: diet/food, health, anxiety, depression

It’s 9am Wednesday, 21 August, 2019. I’m at a professional development session run by someone who is supposed to be teaching me how to be better at doing my day job. I walk into the session and the special guest is a nutritionist.

I work in Quality and Compliance in the Community Services Sector, so I’m a bit perplexed as to how a nutritionist is going to help me do my job, but I’ve paid good money for the session (technically work paid, but the point stands) and I give it the benefit of the doubt.

We start out with a story about her health journey. Her child was sick with asthma, she was feeling crappy and run down, and conventional medicine wasn’t helping so she started looking into diet and (scene missing) cut to now; she’s a qualified nutritionist and both she and her son are magically cured, all through the power of diet. I’m starting to see a small red flag that she’s selling ‘woo‘ but, again, I let it slide.

She goes on to talk about blood sugar regulation, the role of insulin and glucogen in the normal cycle. Fine, this is accepted scientific fact as far as I’m aware. She moves on to dysfunctional blood sugar regulation, where the peaks are too big so the body releases way too much insulin, and then the blood sugar drops way too low and the glucogen isn’t enough so adrenalin gets thrown in to give us emergency energy. So far this is still in the realm of real science.

She goes on to start talking about the difference between food and ‘non-food’ or ‘negative food’ –  the stuff that is nutrient poor like refined grains – and how we’re all afraid of fats. She talks about how food can control hormone regulation and inflammation in the body, about gut health. Okay, still with her. 

People start asking questions and sharing experiences and I think we’re all still on board.  And then someone makes a comment that there’s was a link between autism and diet [insert sound of record scratching]. I look around and no one else seems to have registered that this is a really out there thing to say. So I do nothing.

She starts to talk about how in more traditional/nomadic cultures the people are more robust, how chronic illness doesn’t exist, how if we look at our ancestors, as recently as pre World War II, they don’t have chronic illnesses and dietary intolerances. About how the big food companies are producing convenience foods which are completely lacking in any value as foods.

And I start to realise the small red flag from before has become quite a big red flag while I wasn’t watching. I don’t think my brain had totally processed this at the time, but I was really uncomfortable with the content. I had disengages, and started self-soothing behaviours like checking my phone.

We all go to a break for coffee and I make a comment that I am almost constantly hungry and I suspect it’s because of my medication and someone in the group says, ‘maybe if you change your diet you don’t need the medication.’ This is the point where I lose my shit. 

This person doesn’t know this, but I take antidepressants to control my depression and anxiety. I’ve been on and off them since my late teens and I struggle with the idea that I need them, largely because of how our society portrays mental illness. I respond to this person, who I’m sure was just being flippant, that I think it’s dangerous to start telling people they can go off their medication, and that shaming someone for having to take medication is completely inappropriate and then I have to go and have a cry in the toilets.

I try to pull myself together and come back to the group and someone else asks if I’m okay. I say no and that’s it; I’m in full meltdown.

As I’m writing this now I can see more clearly the chain of events that led to the trigger of the full meltdown. I don’t believe for one moment that chronic illnesses or autism or anything else didn’t exist in traditional cultures or in the past. Back in the time when infant mortality was significantly higher, and death in general seemed to be more pervasive I think people with chronic illnesses, digestive troubles, autism and a myriad of other things just died. They weren’t there to record their struggles because they were fucking dead.

I am also sure that the confidence of the speaker, and the apparent belief of the people around me made me feel like I was the odd one out; that I was the crazy one in a room full of sane people.

I’m not one to suggest that our modern diets are perfect, nor that McDonalds and frankenfoods and transfats and GMOs are good for us. But I felt like I’d somehow joined a cult and I was the only one to think there was something funky going on. I didn’t know how to get out and I freaked.

It took me a good twenty minutes of weeping quietly in a cafe to calm myself down. I know that my trauma and my experiences contributed to the way I reacted. I understand that going from fine to blubbering mess is not an ideal way to deal with conflict but I honestly thought I was losing my mind.

I’m questioning whether I can trust this particular training provider in future. I wonder if I can feel safe to attend this sort of professional development in future. I certainly wouldn’t have turned up if I’d known the pseudoscientific scare-mongering I was going to be exposed to. Not to mention the last session had a similar, if much smaller scale, response where I came out of it feeling really defeated and overwhelmed by how much I was doing wrong.

I spoke to my sister and to a friend who is in the extremely scientific/rational camp over the course of the day and I realise now that this nutritionist was in the Pete Evans Activated Almond category of science [read: not science]. I should have known when she said that she had to go to America to find the type of nutrition course she wanted.

Sometimes I forget I live in a bubble, especially when something like this happens. Sometimes I worry about the sort of narratives people are susceptible to. And sometimes I cry at work.