Follow the Leader

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Last week I attended a three-day leadership conference in Sydney, hosted by McKinsey & Company. I was nominated by one of the General Managers at work, and they paid for my travel and accommodation. It was 300+ people from all over Australia and from a variety of companies all coming together to learn how to be better leaders.

I’ve struggled with the idea of feeling like a leader. Ever since high-school I’ve been in positions of leadership, both at work and in the community. I tell myself stories about why; I was the only choice, no one else would do it, whoever made the decision didn’t know I wasn’t qualified.

I want to stop telling myself those stories. I want to believe I deserve these roles. At the closing of the conference participants were asked to talk about what they would be taking home. I stood up and said I need to re-frame my idea of ‘leader’. I have often had people in my life for whom I acted as an advocate. I have had people in my life who were willing to do what I suggested. I’ve had people who followed me, and I feel a responsibility to those people. This is a big part of what makes me a leader – taking due care of the people who are following me, relying on me, trusting me to take care of them. I use my strength, my skills, my energy to help others.

My mother has had numerous positions of leadership throughout her life and I think she feels much the same as I do. I’m proud of her, she has set an excellent example of leadership and community service. The roles she’s had have made me more comfortable accepting the roles I’ve been given.

Sometimes I wish I could give up my ‘day job’ and make money off my creative stuff, but there are parts of it that energise my other pursuits. I learn new skills, I develop new networks, I earn a living so that when my writing, or performance, don’t make any money I’m not resentful or stressed out.

The biggest lessons I took from the conference were about leading myself. They were things I can do to be a better leader, but also a better person. So I’m now going to try to focus on three things:

  • Eat that frog (stop putting off the hard stuff)
  • Be present (do one thing at a time)
  • Be kind (to myself first and to others)

It feels wanky using my blog to talk about this stuff, probably because I’m still not 100% comfortable, but as one of the participants said to me afterwards : ‘You are a natural leader. It’s time to take the next step.’

‘Sophie’s Path’ e-book now available

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I’m equal parts excited and nervous to announce I’ve released my first self-published novel, Sophie’s Path: A Choose Your Own Romance Adventure.

It’s available at all good e-book stores, including Amazon and iTunes, use this link to access your preferred: https://www.books2read.com/Sophies-Path

“Sophie Faithful works as a Sales Rep in a big company. She lives in inner Melbourne and she likes her life, but there’s something missing.

You need to help her choose what to do. Whether to go on a date with her colleague Jude, or to get back in touch with her ex, James, or whether to strike up a conversation with that guy in the cafe, Freddie.

This Choose Your Own Romance Adventure has 14 endings. Some are sexy and fun, others have serious consequences.”

Sophie's Path Cover Image

This is my first release. I’m proud to say that my novel is now ready for you!

Please feel free to leave five-star reviews, tell all of your friends, and let me know what you think.

Image Reveal

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A short progress update: we are still negotiating with venues and deciding dates, but we have a cover image reveal for you.

Promo Image

This image will feature in the Fringe guide, on the website and on all of our promo materials.

Fleur and Alexandra are Out of This World will be appearing at the Melbourne Fringe Festival in September 2018. More details to follow!

Performance Artist

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This is one of the poems from my recent NaPoWriMo experiment. I hope you enjoy it.

 
Performance Artist

I’m shy
I don’t want to talk to people
they seem so much more legitimate than me

I’m uncomfortable
my legs don’t sit nicely when I cross them
because of my massive thighs

I ate luke-warm, oily Bolognese
scoffed it down before heading
into this room full of arty types

The book I brought to write in is massive
it takes up too much room
it’s not spiral bound

but it does have a shiny pink metallic cover
and was a present from my Kris Kringle at work
colour and writing, my two obvious features

I’ve only got four business cards with me
which seems like an oversight now
I have hundreds at home, where they’re of no use

Take a deep breath. It will be fine.
Stick out your hand and introduce yourself.

NaPoWrimo – Winning

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This is a short post to say I finished NaPoWriMo with thirty new poems. Congratulations to me and anyone else who decided to do the challenge.

Some are pretty good, others are a bit wobbly. I only had to catch up one. I went through the poems I had handwritten to put them onto the computer, I discovered I’d skipped a day somehow. Possibly there’s a poem hiding in a notebook or on a scrap of paper somewhere, but I haven’t found it yet.

I may post a couple of the poems here in the coming months, and I may put some into the next edition poetry chapbook. If you’re interested in buying one of the current chapbooks, for $1 (plus postage), let me know.

I’ve started to make the puppets for our new show, working on the cover image, venue selection and registration. We should have that all in place for the end of May. Well, not the puppets, they’ll take a bit longer.

I have a new idea for a story, it might be a novel or it might be a novella. It’s based on a character from another story. It’s set in the 80s so that will involve some fun/weird research. Once I get into the swing of it I hope the words will flow easier, right now they’re still a trickle.

Over half way to May!

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This is just a brief update post on what’s happening in April. Things have been progressing well in my world. So far I have completed my poem each day (not today but shhh) as part of NaPoWriMo and making good progress on the show for the Melbourne Fringe Festival.

Firstly, the poetry. I’ve been writing everyday, which has been great. I’ve been hand-writing my poems, and then transcribing them onto the computer for posterity and editing (of which I have done little). So far most of the poems have been on the ranty end of the spectrum. There are one or two with potential to become something more polished. I wouldn’t show the raw poems to anyone, but as a way of getting some stuff out of my brain it’s been very effective.

I try not to judge the quality of my first drafts, but it’s a challenge to stay away from that judgemental thinking.

Last Sunday I attended a workshop run by one of the writing groups I’m a member of, the Melbourne Romance Writers Guild. We had well known author and all around champion human C. S. Pacat to talk about world building. It doesn’t sound much like romance at first but creating a sense of authenticity to the setting is important in any book, especially in fantasy or sci-fi.

The part of the workshop which really stood out to me was the idea of the creative phase versus the skeptic phase. The creative phase is when you write down every idea that comes to you. You ascribe no value to it. The skeptic phase is when you then go back and evaluate whether the ideas will ‘work’, if they’re practical, or derivative etc. Pacat said that these two types if thinking inhibit each other and doing them at the same time will not produce good results.

I’m very good at critiquing ideas as soon as they come to me, which is not very useful creatively. I’m sure it’s a skill, like any other, to allow yourself to ‘go mad’ in the first phase, and really hone in in the second phase. I aim to improve this skill set in future.

Secondly, Melbourne Fringe Festival registrations are now open. This means we’re de-prioritising script development to focus on venue selection and application submissions. I’ve also bought a bunch of materials to start making puppets, which is for later, but I’m excited to get started on them.

Alex and I attended a ‘venue speed dating’ event yesterday run by the Melbourne Fringe Festival. Artists and venues were brought together to meet. We spoke to a number of great potential venues, several of which I would not have otherwise approached.

It’s still all very up in the air and I can’t tell you anything more. Watch this space for an image reveal in a few weeks – Fleur and Alexandra are Out of this World and they’re coming to a theatre near you.

Things are chugging along happily for me, I hope things are coming along for you too.

NaPoWriMo 2018

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I did NaPoWriMo two years ago. In the last few months I’ve had loads of compliments for my poetry chapbook, My Body. No Apology, so I’d like to produce some more poems and make a follow up chapbook.

Much of the raw material from NaPoWriMo last time was not so great. I guess it’s all first drafts and they don’t always work out anyway, but surely one or two will be useful.

I’m not very good at having a daily practice; I get distracted with the band and other projects. I do write faithfully every week, particularly on my days that I don’t work.

I’m just coming out of a particularly busy period at work, preparing for our yearly external evaluation. As a result of doing some extra work, and being part time, I will have eleven days off, including the Easter long weekend, so I’m going to write. In addition to my poem a day, I’ll be finishing some additions to my manuscript from last November.

The manuscript will go into a Box Set with a number of romance authors. It will be released as a collection of short novels/novellas, and we’ll be self-publishing them at the end of the year. More on that as it gets closer.

During that time off work, I’ve rented a little cottage in country Victoria for a few days of walks by the lake, coffee, and catching up on my reading pile. Bliss!

I’m constantly inspired by the productivity of other writers and artists and I know once this stressful period in my day job is over my energy for creation will be back in full swing.

Is anyone else planning to spend April doing a poem each day? Let’s be writing buddies.

Metamorphosis

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When I was fifteen
I built a website
a fan page to a band
I filled it with my poems
I used words over and over
blood death bones hate
Repetition with no subtlety
stuff to make
a Gothic novelist cringe
obsessed with bodily functions and decay
with the cold and the dark

the website still stands and
though I know the password
it can’t be changed
my teenaged rage is encased forever
in the graveyard of the internet

each passing hour, week, year
each word that comes from me
I learn, I change

I won’t awake one morning
from troubling dreams
 to find myself changed
into a monstrous vermin
but perhaps my transformation
will produce some art of worth
from my rotting flesh prison

Too busy? Me?

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I read an interesting article on the saying no to the Cult of Busyness yesterday. It advocates doing only one thing at a time, and I can’t say I’m completely on board with that, but I do think that our society undervalues down-time.

I’m particularly bad at this, juggling a few competing priorities; social contact, work, creative activities, outings and rest time. I have a bunch of projects on the go, including a couple of writing projects, two music projects, and one theatre project. I like to get as much value as I can out of my time, but last night as I lay in bed not sleeping I felt oppressed by the sheer number of balls I was trying to keep in the air. It doesn’t help that my day job is particularly busy at the moment either.

I will be able to take a bit over a week off around Easter, partly because I am working a bit more in the lead up to our big assessment. I’ve arranged to go to a little cottage near Lake Eildon for four days, just on my own. I plan to go for walks, get coffee, eat out, write in my journal, read a nice book, and possibly get some ‘proper’ writing done.

I will never be able to do one thing at a time, that’s not my style. I think I operate well when I can give things time to stew in the back of my mind while I’m doing something else. I can get better at scheduling in times for resting, and exercising.

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Here is a photo of one of my favourite bands, a local Melbourne crew called Destrends, who I saw yesterday at the Sydney Road Street Party. Apologies for the quality of the photo, they kept moving (and I didn’t get the drummer, sorry Nathan). I’m glad I went, but after a really intense Saturday I didn’t have the energy to hang around and soak up the atmosphere.

Once work is less busy, I’ll be heading to some Melbourne International Comedy Festival shows, and getting stuck into a week off! While I’m doing that I’ll practice saying no to (some) things.

Baby Steps vs. Leaps of Faith

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I’m not going to talk about the fact that today is Valetine’s Day and I am not seeing anyone.

I’ve recently started attending a Meet-Up group called Abundant Artists. The purpose is to get together with other local artists, predominantly working in visual art, but there are some performers too, and discuss what you’re struggling with and what you’re working toawrds. We talked about the ways in which we sabotage ourselves, procrastination is one of my big ones, and the things we fear.

So I’ve been thinking about the next steps for my writing. I could keep going with baby steps, learning about creative writing through various short courses and workshops and producing manuscripts, or I could take a leap of faith and dip my toe into self-publishing.

My leap of faith is to engage a professional editor to look over my Choose Your Own Adventure Novel. I think this is a good book to test out self-publishing with; it has a lot of nostaglic appeal to 90’s kids, and it’s probably a bit weird for a big publisher.

It’s expensive to have a manuscript professionally edited, but it’s an investment in my future career. If the experience is positive, and the feedback constructive, then I’ll look into having other manuscripts edited for self-publishing.

I’ve also entered by manuscript ‘My Mother’s Secret’ into the Kill Your Darlings Unpublished Manuscript Award. I entered last year and was not shortlisted, but this is a new story and a new year, so I’m hopeful!

Finally, I created a poetry chapbook – a small collection of my work – which I’m going to take to The Sticky Institute. Sticky specialises in zines, so it’s the right place to test out the market for angry feminist poetry.

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Poetry chapbook pic from my Instagram

I would like to thank everyone who has told me it’s worth investing time and money into my art/writing. Without you I would never get through those days when it all seems pointless. With you I have the confidence and resilience to keep on keeping on! Whether it’s one small step forward at a time or one giant leap into the unknown, I know you’ll all be there to catch me.

PS: I’m still accepting donations towards my Get Hairy February campaign.