N is for Nostalgia

I can’t help it. Whenever I’m away travelling, no matter the fun I’m having or the things I’m learning, there’s always a small part of me, even if it’s the tiniest little spark in the deepest depths, that misses home.

As one with nomadic tendencies, it is in my bones to want to keep moving and see new places. I thrive on the new and the unknown, but that isn’t to say I don’t also yearn for the safe and the familiar.

If you’ve read my published article, So, Where are you from? you’ll have some idea of the slight identity crisis I had a few years ago when I realised there was no place I could truly call home. Moving from place to place may seem remarkably exotic, but it definitely has its drawbacks.

That said, when it comes to matters such as these, I think with age often comes a certain clarity. Though I’m unquestionably still a kid at heart and even now long to find the lost boys of Neverland, I also realise as I get older that home isn’t, and never really has been, a place, so much as a people.

When I’m away I miss my family. I miss my close friends. I miss my people.

I sometimes also miss my bed and the garden and my bookshelf and my computer, but it’s not quite the same kind of longing.

Which makes me realise that it doesn’t matter if you only moved into your house a year ago and still can’t figure out the trick to unlocking that damn shed door. Or that there are parts of the garden that you’ve never actually been in. Or that the house smells unfamiliar, or you don’t know how to get to the local post office, or that your own suburb sounds unfamiliar on your tongue.

What matters are the people.

Cliché? Absolutely. But that doesn’t make it any less true.

So, when I say that I miss home when I travel, what I guess I really mean to say is I miss people. I miss the friends and family in my life that together make the walls and ceilings and white picket-fenced garden of my own little country cottage that exists inside my head.

Like any home, I can’t bring it with me on a plane, across seas, over mountains, through countries near and far. And I certainly can’t take it through Customs.

But with each little spark of nostalgia that flickers while I’m away, I have only to remind myself how lucky I am to have such amazing people in my life. People that are only a phone call away and who will be waiting to keep me safe and put those walls back up again when I return.

To my friends. To my family.

To my home.

 

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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~

****

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/

Makeover time!

With the new year just around the corner, what better time to give the blog a bit of a spruce up?

Up until now, I’ve had a photo of a beach from my previous home town, Newcastle Australia, as my blog banner. I chose it to represent my love of travel, my nomadic lifestyle and of course my adopted home country, Australia.

Nobby's Beach, Newcastle NSW Australia

Since that time, however, I’ve had a growing feeling that it no longer reflected the direction the blog was taking. What I first thought might be a platform to vent a few thoughts and share a few stories, has since turned into a forum for readers, writers, book lovers and nerds alike, to share our tales and lay bear our vices, all in the name of becoming better writers, more perceptive readers and to have a bit of a gander about what makes us tick.

While I still consider myself the nomad this blog was partly named for and despite the enormous influence these escapades have on my writing, my travel adventures represent only a small share of the content of this blog.

In conclusion, new banner, new theme – new and improved blog!

My sincere thanks to New York Times and USA Today bestselling author Ilona Andrews, for giving me permission to use her amazing fantasy wallpaper art for my banner. I like to think that from stories comes magic, which is exactly what I see in Ilona’s image.

You’ll also see that my featured posts can now be viewed from the carousel at the top of the page.

Hope you love it as much as I do.

Image by Ilona Andrews

~storytelling nomad~

Christmas Down Under

We like to show Santa a good time Down Under

Hi all!

Today I have the pleasure of guest posting on the lovely Angela Wallace’s blog.

When I started this blog in June, Angela was one of the first to subscribe and support me as I wandered blindly through this blogosphere, so naturally I felt quite honoured when she invited me to appear as a guest on her blog.

If you’ve ever wondered what it’s like to spend Christmas by the beach (or didn’t even know such a thing existed), puzzled over whether we still sing about white Christmases, or wondered how Santa survives in his winter suit under our summer sun, head over to Angela’s blog to find out more about our strange Australian festive ways.

There’s also an excellent 90s rendition of our Australian Jingle Bells, worthy of a look.

~storytellingnomad~

The Novel Challenge

What could be better than spending a month reading AND doing something good for the world, all at the same time?  Not a lot, in my opinion.  Which is why I’ve decided to take part in the Novel Challenge and MS Readathon, to help raise money for Multiple Sclerosis, the most common disease of the central nervous system affecting more than 18,000 Australians.

I’m going to be spending the next 30 days reading my little heart out whilst raising money for a good cause.  Check out all the info by going to the top of this page and clicking on ‘The Novel Challenge’.  There you will find details, a link to my fundraiser page (which, by the way, you should totally click on), and a running record of my reading list as I fry my brain in book loving goodness.

I started the challenge today with Aussie author Marianne de Pierres’ Burn Bright, a wonderfully eery piece of YA Fantasy Fiction.

Daenerys Targaryen in Game of Thrones

I am now onto George R.R. Martin’s A Game of Thrones, which I couldn’t possibly resist after watching the brilliant television adaptation.  So far I am hugely impressed at how alike the show is to the book.  Gotta love that in a small screen adaptation.

Fingers crossed this little challenge will mercilessly reduce the size of my to-be-read pile, as well as making a small difference to those living with MS.

Happy reading readers!

~storytelling nomad~

A Storytelling Utopia: Melbourne Writers Festival 2011

So I mentioned a few posts ago that I had a number of reasons for my recent absence, and today I’m going to share with you one of them.

In Australia there is an ongoing rivalry between the city of Sydney and the city of Melbourne.  Those who live in Sydney claim that they live in the superior city, and those who live in Melbourne claim much the same.  The general consensus, however,  is that Sydney is a financial city, and Melbourne a cultural city.  The Melbourne Writers Festival plays a significant role in this widespread understanding and the number of highly acclaimed national and international guests that attend from year to year, is testament to the festival’s success and the city’s appeal.

This year, I was lucky enough to be selected as a volunteer for the Melbourne Writers Festival.  Woo!  The festival is an annual event that has been running since 1986, and this year joined forces with four other international festivals to form the Word Alliance, now made up of:

  • The Melbourne Writers Festival
  • The Edinburgh International Book Festival
  • The Bookworm International Literary Festival in Beijing
  • The International Literature Festival in Berlin
  • International Festival of Authors in Toronto.

Totally rad.

So what kind of guests are we talking? Pretentious editors? High literature writers? Celebrity journalists?  Well yes, I suspect there are some of those, but the Melbourne Writers Festival is far more than that, and unique in that it observes all kinds of storytelling, not just the award winning, ostentatious kind.  The website elaborates:

Each year, MWF invites novelists, playwrights, poets, screenwriters, journalists, songwriters, bloggers – anyone who’s part of the world of words. We host politicians and artists, policy wonks and pop culture icons, crime writers and high culture theorists. The festival program features an enormous range of literary activity including entertaining discussions, debates, readings, film screenings, interviews, literary banquets, performances, workshops and book launches, as well as a lively schools’ program for primary and secondary students.

Festival Background

Last year they hosted Joss Whedon.  Enough said.

The Golden Ticket

So, as a volunteer I get to make sure people are being orderly, scan their tickets, give directions, have a chat, make sure the guests are comfortable and answer any questions that patrons might have.  My fellow volunteers have so far been awesome, the shifts fun and the patrons very well behaved.  I also get to wear a groovy volunteer shirt.  Win.

The major perk to this gig, however, is my volunteer pass, which gets me into any event over the entire festival.

When I attended my orientation day a few weeks ago, I was astounded at the wide array of events, panels and workshops that were taking place and began to get quite excited at the prospect of attending these events in between my shifts.

One event, the Martin Martini In(k) Concert, merges sounds and image with musician Martin Martini playing in concert whilst four artists illustrate to the tune and inspiration of the music, their images projected onto the walls of the venue.  A totally unique experience, demonstrating that the art of storytelling is far from limited to just words on paper and can be inspired and influenced by anything around you, even sound.

Author Kate Grenville

Today, I attended a session called Why I Read, featuring prominent authors Kate Grenville (pictured left), Tess Gerritsen and Chris Womersley, all discussing the books that they read growing up and the impact it had on their calling as writers.  They also discussed how reading has changed, an echoing theme throughout the festival, and how we can encourage children and teenagers to read more.

Another highlight of the festival is the collection of city walks.  From specialist bookshops to the city’s origins, the guided walks highlight the Melbourne that is inspiration for writers, readers and storytellers.  My favourite of the walks is called Melbourne’s Hidden Dragons, and it takes you on a tour of the stone guardians and silken mascots that are scattered around the city and explores the mythology of the beasts and their presence in storytelling.  Seriously cool right?

One of Melbourne's hidden dragons

And, on Tuesday evening I hope to attend Edinburgh Unbound, described as “Part reading, part gig, part party”.  Basically it is a fusion of Scottish and Australian musicians and storytellers coming together to present an evening of performance, music, film and stories in celebration of the partnership between the Melbourne Writers Festival and the Edinburgh Book Festival in our sister UNESCO City of Literature.

It is heartening to note that the attendants of the festival have so far ranged from toddlers to grannies, with no gaps in between.  I like to think this is a positive indication in light of recent discussions regarding ‘the death of the book’ and even ‘the death of the reader’, which today I was assured were both myths.  Yes, fellow writers, you can rest easy.

Young and old, we are still fascinated by the art of storytelling, whether it be through the traditional or graphic novel, music or art, the written or the spoken word.  How we tell the stories may be changing, evolving even, but the fact that we are still telling them and interested in how others tell them is what’s important and is what will keep the art of storytelling alive for a long time to come.

The festival runs from Thursday 25th August to Sunday 4th September and all the information can be found on the Melbourne Writers Festival website at http://www.mwf.com.au/2011/.

~storytelling nomad~

Living a Life Down Under

Australian Christmas Essentials

A short while ago I posted about my seasonal job working at the snow, which in Australia translates as working mid year in the June-August months, or thereabouts.  I know it’s all very confusing for those of you on the upper side of the Earth, but really it’s all very simple.  We still have the same four seasons, just in reverse.  So as you currently enjoy the warm sunshine and summer holidays, I am sitting here, wrapped in a blanket by the fire.

But what does this mean for Christmas?

At the time of my post, my magnificent blog friend, Angela Wallace, made a most valid request:

You’ll have to explain Christmas to me later, because I’m suddenly starting to feel unbalanced with the idea of hot Christmases and no hot chocolate if December is your summer…

You are not alone, Angela!  Now, as I grew up in the UK until the age of 10, I am more than familiar with a wintery Christmas.  As December approached during my school days in England, we would make Christmas cards decorated with snow flakes, snowmen and open fires.  The Christmas holidays would be spent frolicking outside in the snow, our mittens permanently attached to our fingers, and coming inside at the end of the day with red noses, rosy cheeks and a fatigue that only an entire day of absolute merriment can deliver.  On Christmas Eve we would leave Santa a mug of warm milk and a plate of chocolate biscuits.  Christmas dinner was always a feast of hot food to warm the heart (and the body) – a turkey that had been slow cooking all day, roast potatoes, parsnips and (always to my dismay) brussel sprouts.  I hold fond memories of those English Christmases and am grateful I had the opportunity to experience them as only the Europeans know how.

One winter morning in England a few years ago

An Australian Christmas is a different experience entirely.

When my parents first told my brother and I that we were moving to Australia, I was genuinely excited.  Mum had come back from a recent recon trip with a huge illustrated children’s book of Australia and a sing-along video, amongst other fascinating souvenirs, which succeeded in getting us most enthusiastic about the imminent journey to the land down under.  I honestly don’t remember once contemplating the thought of leaving my friends behind, or having to start afresh at a new school.  I was at an age where I just saw it all as very cool and a bit of an adventure.  The only time I cried was when I realised we had to leave our German Shepherd behind, and a brief moment when I found out I wouldn’t be around to participate in a skipping rope competition I had trained so very hard for.  Despite these two unhappy affairs, I never looked back.

I believe this enormous transition at such an early age truly contributed to how well I have adapted to every move since.  Back then, the internet was still in its very early days, and not yet commercially available.  Flights were expensive and snail mail was precisely as slow it sounds.  In hindsight, I was unreasonably optimistic in light of the circumstances that strongly indicated it would be some time before I saw or heard from my friends or extended family again.  But optimistic I was, and it hasn’t let me down yet.  Ever since, with every move I’ve made, I have always looked forward to what adventure awaits, unafraid of what I might be leaving behind.  I’m a strong believer that where there’s a will, there’s a way, and the technology of today is a testament to that.  Nowadays you need only an internet connection to keep in touch with friends and family across the globe, and although I have made new friends in Aus, I have since been able to reconnect with old ones in the UK.

But I digress.

In light of my optimistic attitude, I was not at all unenthused by the prospect of a Christmas without the traditional snow glazed trees and hot chocolate suppers.  Mum and dad had filled us in, and we were as fascinated by the idea of a hot Christmas as we were hopeful at spotting a koala up a tree along a suburban road, or a kangaroo hopping down the streets of Sydney. (Although this didn’t actually happen quite as we hoped, I can since assure all those non-Aussies out there, that there are plenty of places in Australia where they do exist amongst urban living.  Just the other night I took the dog outside and was greeted by an enormous kangaroo, taller than me and gawking like a deer caught in headlights.  I froze, and after a moment it took off into the night in a few huge bounds, the soft thumping sound of its feet betraying its graceful getaway.)

So what do Aussies do for Christmas?

Well, obviously every family is different, but generally speaking, Christmas Day will involve a BBQ.  It’s usually too hot to have the oven on inside, so a backyard BBQ or a barbie on the beach is the answer.  The beach?  I hear you ask.  Yes, the beach.  Aussies LOVE the beach and most beaches have BBQ’s under a nearby pergola, which on Christmas Day requires an early morning, some organisation and a basic knowledge of kung fu in order to lay claim to one.  Fresh seafood is the cuisine of choice, with prawn platters and smoked salmon followed by our national desert, Pavlova.

The 2008 Santa Claus Pub Crawl crew

A lot of Aussies will just spend the day as they would most summer days, lazing on the beach with a cool beer in hand.  The Christmas parties are never ending, and usually involve some kind of dress up theme and a pub crawl.  For a number of years I participated in a Santa Claus Pub Crawl, which involved dressing up as Mr or Mrs Claus and with a bag of candy in tow, ‘crawling’ the pubs along the Northern Beaches of Sydney, handing out candy canes to children and getting just a little bit more inebriated with each passing pub, and a little more sunburnt with each walk to the next.  I would like to take this opportunity to promote stranger danger, SPF 30+ sunscreen, and to encourage responsible drinking.

As is customary with the summer months, we too hold many summer music festivals, which a lot of people attend over the Christmas period.  Some people travel up north to the Whitsundays for even warmer weather, and some people travel down south to cool down, just a little.  Some people go camping, cruising or hiking.  As our school year ends around November, Christmas time is also a time for many to celebrate the end of their exams, school year or school life.

Whatever the occasion, Australians have this unusual knack of being relaxed, content and eager to forget all their worries and just have a good time.  Cheer and beer.  It’s their thing.  It’s our thing.

So Angela, and all, I hope this has cleared up some of the mystery behind how we manage Christmas in summer.  I do miss the white Christmases of England, but I can’t really complain about Christmas at the beach either.  We have the tinsel, the tree and the carols that come with any Christmas, we just do it a bit differently.

In the meantime, enjoy the summer, those of you all the way up there…yeah you!  I’m not jealous, because the funny thing about seasons is that they come around every year, and as it turns out we’re due for another summer in just a few months.  Now I’m going to get back to my fire and mittens, and despite the cold remain eternally content that I get to call Australia home.

N.B.  I can still rock a skipping rope.

~storytelling nomad~