A Year in Review

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In the past week it has turned eerily quiet on the blogosphere. With Christmas, New Years and Holidays around the figurative corner I’m guessing you’re all enjoying a bit of good cheer, spending time with family, friends and loved ones, and taking a well-deserved break.

I’m not far behind you.

But before I wrap things up for 2011, I feel an end-of-year blog round up is warranted; 2011 was, after all, my maiden voyage as a blogger.

Storytelling Nomad began on the 20th May. I had seen a couple of friends on Facebook with blogs and thought ‘hey, I can do that. I have something to say’, and so with little more knowledge of blogging than that, my online journey began.

7 months, 119 posts, 1 blog revamp, 194 followers, 1,583 comments, 16,218 hits, 3 published articles, 1 guest post, 1 short story featured in an ebook (more about this soon) and many new friends later, here we are.

I don’t think I can truly articulate how valuable this blog has been to my creative practice. Apart from being a great place to share my thoughts and be involved in this wonderful online writing community, it has most significantly boosted the confidence I have in my own writing, which has in turned encouraged me to work harder at improving my craft.

Each and every one of your comments, feedback, ‘likes’, shares and subscriptions have played a part in this. A very, very large part. For that I thank you.

The highlights of my year included:

  • Joining my very first writers’ group.
  • Receiving my first piece of fan art (thanks Joakim)!
  • Participating in and winning my very first NaNoWriMo.
  • Having my story “The Dragon and the Moon” featured in a collection of short stories released over Christmas to raise money for Unicef (Again, more about this in another post).
  • Working at the Melbourne Writers’ Festival.
  • Coming third in my state raising money for Multiple Sclerosis through the MS Readathon/Novel Challenge.
  • Having my Heroes and Heroines article published in LipMag and All that is Wrong with the World.
  • Seeing my article So, where are you from published in Biscuit Magazine.
  • Being invited by author Angela Wallace to guest post on her blog.
  • Graduating from my Graduate Diploma in Professional Writing, surrounded by beautiful friends and family.

It was a year of firsts.

As for 2012, I have just been accepted into the Masters of Creative Writing program at the University of Tasmania, where I hope to further improve my writing and complete a large work of polished fiction under the teaching prowess of Vogel award winning author Rohan Wilson. I cannot wait!

In the meantime, I will be spending the next week not only making merry and eating far too much holiday food, but packing my suitcase.

You see, a nomad wouldn’t be a nomad without a noteworthy trip to end the year with. On Dec 30th I leave Sydney for a month in Europe, where I will have the pleasure of visiting my little brother in Hamburg, Germany who I haven’t seen since he left Australia over a year ago. Other items on the itinerary include a weekend in Krakow, Poland, checking out the town and visiting Auschwitz, which I can only imagine will be a life-changing and emotional journey into the horrors of WWII. Then, a week in London, England where a particular highlight will be meeting up with my childhood best friend, who I haven’t seen since leaving England over 16 years ago.  A quick trip to Edinburgh, Scotland will see me catching up with a school friend from Italy who I haven’t seen in many years and a new Scottish friend I met at the Melbourne Writers Festival this year. The trip finishes in in the beautiful Northern town of Ferrara, Italy where I will visit my host families from past student exchanges before departing from Milan at the end of January. All this I get to share with one of my best friends, Hayley.

My upcoming European vacation

I’m going to need a holiday to recover from my holiday I’m sure.

With all these adventures planned, I predict an absence of posts in January, however, I will be active on Twitter, @katyhulme, when internet access is available.

With all that said, I leave you with my ‘Year in Review’ and again thank you kindly for your support and encouragement in 2011. I look forward to sharing my writing journey with you again in 2012.

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to you all.

Stay tuned for more about “The Dragon and the Moon” and the Ebook for charity.

~storytelling nomad~

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A Year in Review

In 2011…

I eliminated negative influences/people. Forgive me for quoting Oprah Winfrey, but she wasn’t wrong when she said “Surround yourself with people who are going to lift you higher”.

I reduced my (already pathetically low) intake of alcohol to zero. For no other reason than it feels amazing.

I stopped making excuses for not writing.

I lost my inhibitions.

I enhanced my editing skills through my Professional Book Editing, Proofreading & Publishing course. My inner nerd knows no bounds.

I started a novel.

I created my blog, Storytelling Nomad.

I loved and lost.

I was embarrassed by sharing my work and thoughts with the world.

I was frustrated by universally incorrect grammar, spelling and punctuation.

I felt crazy when I read messages of hate from those opposed to equality for all.

I regret not entering the Blogosphere sooner.

I needed more time for reading. There just aren’t enough hours in the day.

I missed my friends and family that live across oceans and in faraway lands.

I went to places far and near, including Melbourne for the Melbourne Writers Festival, Sydney for Supanova Pop Culture Expo, and Gunnedah where I shot my first gun. Watch out!

I relaxed when on November 27th, I knew I was going to finish NaNoWriMo with 50,000 words.

I would use a magic wand to bring Hogwarts to life.

I felt gratitude when you all ‘liked’ my entry in the Facebook Short Story competition. I’m coming 10th by the way, still time to vote!

Time flew when I met James Marsters (Spike from Buffy) at Supanova.

I want to repeat this year. It had its ups and downs but for the most part it was extraordinary.

I should have done more exercise. I am terribly unmotivated.

I don’t know why I never joined a writers group before.

I felt most alive when I was creating new worlds, new characters and new stories to share with the world.

The best gift I received was an email from my favourite author Robin Hobb, with invaluable writing advice.

Physically, the biggest difference since last December is slightly shorter hair.

Psychologically, the biggest difference since last December is the focus on my writing.

Emotionally, the biggest difference since last December is my contentment and pride in all I have achieved this year.

Environmentally, the biggest difference since last December is I exchanged the sandy shores of Newcastle for idyllic Tasmania.

Socially, the biggest difference since last December is I have a whole new group of online writer friends.

My biggest ‘win’ was NaNoWriMo. Or maybe it was having an article published. No, wait. Having my short story published. No, wait! Receiving the email from Robin Hobb. Or, being accepted into my Masters course. And, graduating from my Writing course. And, and, and…!

I want more books. Gimme gimme!

The best thing I did for someone else was read as many books as I could in a month to raise money for Multiple Sclerosis.

The best thing someone did for me was sketch me a picture based on my short story.

The best thing I did for myself was believe in myself.

The one thing I learned this year is I am the master of my own destiny. I will only receive of life what I put into it.

I am most grateful for my friends and family and their unwavering support.

I look forward to 2012 being different by writing more stories and becoming a better writer.

Questions taken from Lynn Scheurel at http://secretsofhersuccess.com/articles/your-year-in-review-questions/

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Post NaNo Reflection

My spasmodic writing spells and stats

Although it is only a week since NaNoWriMo ended, it feels like an eternity ago that I typed “THE END” to my 50,000 word novel.

My first attempt at anything of the sort, I feel rather proud that I completed the challenge. After starting a day late, spending the majority of the month below ‘the line’, and being conscious of the fact that most of what I was writing was, well, rubbish, I nonetheless pulled through and stuck it out til the end. I even finished a day early. Who would’ve thought?

So, the month began with me, no plot, and a blank page. I wanted to write a fantasy novel, epic in nature, with the typical premise of chosen one, kingdom in peril, battle of evil. I had a pretty interesting character and some good world building going on, but 35,000 words in I realised something.

I was bored.

Now, I may not be a bestselling author or an acclaimed literary critic, but it doesn’t take a genius to know that if the writer is bored, that’s not a good sign. If I can’t find it interesting, then how the hell is anybody else supposed to?

At this point I was still falling way behind the daily word limit goal and my motivation was wavering. I knew I had to do something drastic to get on track in order to reach my 50,000 word goal or I would find myself curled in a ball of despair come November 30th, never daring to try write a novel again.

What did I do? I started writing another story.

It came to me one moment, and the next I had all these ideas, a plot and before I knew it I’d written 7,000 words. I had been struggling to churn out the daily 1,667 words until that point, and here I was, 7,000 words in a day!

I abandoned the original story and continued with the new one until I fondly greeted that 50,000th word. Granted, I ended up with one unfinished story and one 15,000 word short story rather than one 50,000 word novella, but I like to think the point was that I finished.

This is what 50,000 words looks like...

I signed up for NaNo with one expectation: To write 50,000 words in a month. I wanted to prove to myself that I could be disciplined enough to write regularly over a longer period of time, and to break down my fear that it doesn’t have to be perfect the first time round.  I told myself that if one good idea, paragraph, character or sentence came out of it, then I would be happy. As it turns out, in that I was successful.

There are also a few things I learned over the month of November:

  1. I like to write in chunks. I’d rather write big chunks over a shorter period of time, than little snippets over a longer period of time. Over the entire month I actually only wrote 18 out of the 30 days.
  2. The NaNo forums are truly wonderful. I didn’t think in this little part of the world called Tasmania, that anyone would be participating in my area. As it turns out, there was a group of Northern Tasmanians keen to get their write on, and we ended up meeting each Friday to vent our NaNo stresses and challenge each other in word wars.
  3. I like graphs. Seeing that little blue line inch a little further every day was unbelievably motivating.
  4. I am incapable of writing a *good* novel in a month. NaNoWriMo may produce some stellar stuff for some, but for me it was 90% word mush. There were a few good lines in there, paragraphs even, but mostly it was just stream of consciousness writing. Even though I quite love the short story that came out of it, I feel it would be less work to start over again than to go back and edit it into something worthwhile.
  5. I would do it again. What a sense of achievement it was to reach that finish line, to receive my winners certificate and to be completely immersed for 30 days in a large creative project. Although it may not have produced any particularly wonderful writing for me, it was still an amazing opportunity to push myself to write every day with the support of all those other wrimos out there.

Congrats to everyone out there who participated in NaNo this year. Even if you didn’t reach the big five oh, I think you’re all winners. If the month of November saw you writing something, then you’re ahead of those who have not yet found the courage to write anything.

I leave you with the wise words of Chris Cleave, who was kind enough to give us Wrimos a mid-month pep talk:

It doesn’t matter what genre you write in. All literature is transformative. To make people laugh; to tell a light-hearted romantic story; to let intelligent readers forget their troubles for an hour in the absence of the politicians and the money men who make our lives hell – these are some of the hardest feats to accomplish as a writer, and some of the most serious political acts you can perform. You don’t have to be a Serious Writer to be a serious writer. I once read a beautiful paragraph about teenage vampires – teenage vampires, for goodness’ sake – that moved me more than all of Hemingway. You don’t need to be trying to change the world in order to change someone’s world. What you need is to be seriously committed to your work.

A fellow local Wrimo and I decided to print our 'manuscripts' in celebration of completing the challenge. A tangible memento.

~storytelling nomad~

NaNoWriMo Update: Day 10

So it’s Day 10 of the NaNoWriMo challenge and I feel it as good a time as any to provide an update on my progress.

With a rocky start and a healthy handful of every day life issues going on, I have pleasantly surprised myself with my perseverance.  I’m the first to admit that when things start getting too hard or I see myself falling behind, I have an unflattering tendency to stand down and look to something else to succeed at.

Strangely this has not been the case, despite being behind in my word count since day one.  I can only attribute this to the following:

  1. Seeing other WriMo’s and their word counts soar have motivated me to keep up with the masses and tell myself that I can do it too.
  2. I took some advice before NaNoWriMo started, which was to tell as many people as possible that I was participating and would end the month with 50,000 words. It has made me vulnerable to the expectations of others, and so if I fail, I won’t be the only one who’s disappointed.
  3. My own expectations.  With life taking a bit of a tumble at the moment, that feeling of achieving something amazing for myself and following through with such a huge undertaking, is definitely something I know is worth working for.

So yes, I am behind, but I feel like I’m still winning.

The actual writing? It’s not brilliant, but it’s not awful either.  Okay, so there are some pretty awful bits, and a lot of it is more stream-of-consciousness writing, but it’s moving forward nonetheless.

Now it’s time for some NaNoWriMo fun facts!

Wordcount: 10,019
Words Remaining: 39,981
Days Remaining: 21
Words Per Day To Finish On Time: 1,904 (eek!)

Name of Protagonist: Arrow
Other Characters’ Names: Old Man Cracker, Eliad the Dragon, Prince Xander, Manacor, Dual, Lani
Places of Interest: The Kingdom of Dragarthion, Winter Hollow, The Forest of Whispers
Magic: The Mace (Defined by the abilities of Manipulation, Alteration, Communication & Evocation) once ran strong through the royal blood line, with each new generation of royals being trained as Wielders of the Mace to protect their kingdom and help it prosper.  But with the slow extinction of dragons along with infidelity within the monarchy, the Mace has become weak within the royal bloodline and a bastardised strain of it now runs through the common folk, untamed and undisciplined.  A true, full strength Wielder of the Mace has not been seen in many generations.
Animals: Are rare and seen as a symbol of wealth and power. Mace Wielders once had the power to communicate with all animals.

The Story So Far:
When Arrow loses her parents in a horrifying accident, she is appointed to serve as a maid in the castle with the other orphans of the city. When one day the prince’s cat, Manacor, talks to her, Arrow fears she has some skill for the Mace, and maneuvers to wait on the prince during his training sessions in the hope that she might uncover what her ability might mean.  Meanwhile, a threat grows in the South, and the truce that the royals once made with the Dragons of Dragarthion is threatened by corruption.

Extract: The Forest of Whispers
Once upon a time the trees whispered to each other. They cared more than they’d like us to know about the troubles of man. Sway they would, to encourage the voices of mortals to wander close with the breeze, passing from leaf to leaf, speaking softly until the words faded to a just a sigh. They loved especially to hear stories of friendship, tales of courage, and words of love, for in those words was a nourishment that brought colour to their leaves and strength to their branches. They fed off man’s desires and grew tall with their dreams.

Then came a time of great darkness, when whispers of love, courage and merriment became scarce. The trees shook desperately, yearning for the breeze to bear the pleasant tales of old, but instead the gentle winds brought them only grim tidings. Stories of war and death delivered a coldness that made their branches brittle and their leaves withered. They drooped heavily with the sadness that overcame them and the leaves fell from their limbs, forlorn and heartbroken.

Over the years they ceased whispering to one another, all hope lost at ever hearing again the happy voices of men. It is of common belief that in that time of darkness the trees lost their voices and their lives with the happiness of mortals.

***

How are you guys keeping motivated? And how are my fellow first timers finding the NaNo experience?

~storytelling nomad~

A shaky start to 30 days and 30 nights of literary abandon

I got this dammit!

I have been waiting in high anticipation to embark on my very first NaNoWriMo, counting down the days until November 1st and jotting down potential ideas for my pantster approach to the 50,000 words in 30 days challenge.  The excitement was building, as were the nerves, and the thought of ending the month of November with 50,000 words was electrifying.

Of course it was bound to happen. You know that thing, where life falls apart right before something really important.

Rude.

As it turned out, November 1st came and passed sadly by as I wallowed in my sorrows and indulged in a mental health day involving lots of chocolate and reading and sleeping (and staring at walls), and not one word of writing goodness. Sigh.

So there I was this morning, November 2nd, 207 unread emails in my inbox, a suitcase to unpack and already behind on my daily wordcount.

But life goes on, and all that jazz, so today I read and responded to all those emails and soldiered through my first 1,712 words. JOY! My suitcase remains unpacked, but it’s at the very least placed neatly in the corner of my room. Who needs clean clothes to write anyway?

I realise I’m still behind, and obviously when such is the case it’s obligatory to procrastinate a great deal and instead write insignificant rambles on your blog rather than get on with the actual work, but hey, what can ya do?

So forwards and onwards with the task at hand. My fellow NaNo writing buddies have provided much inspiration with their impressive word counts so far; Stef at Dodging Commas has already reached 9,200 words. She is clearly a crazy person, but good to have around for motivational purposes.

How’s everyone else going after day 1?

My username is storytellingnomad, for the rest of you WriMos out there looking for writing buddies.  In the meantime, happy writing!

N.B. I pinched the accompanying image from a fellow blogger some weeks ago now but can’t for the life of me remember who it was. I sincerely thank you for the laughs though.

~storytelling nomad~