Dear Santa…

As I was driving through town the other day, something shiny caught my eye. No, it wasn’t the sun, nor was it the reflection of my wintery moon tan in the rear view mirror. On closer inspection, it turned out to be tinsel.

“Tinsel!” I thought to myself. “Can it be that time of year again already? Surely not.”

Then I heard the sweet serenading sound of carols emitting from shop windows and knew it to be true:

Christmas had arrived.

After a few moments contemplating how on earth this had happened – after all, surely it hadn’t been a whole 12 months since last Christmas? – and a few moments more humming along to John Lennon’s Happy Xmas, my thoughts finally wandered to Christmas presents.

This time last year I posted a list of 10 Christmas Presents for Book Lovers, for the simple pleasure of imagining what I would buy for myself and my book-loving partners in crime, had I the means to do so. This year I’m once again trying to save my pennies for more nomadic adventures, but if you’re in need of gift-giving ideas, from library kits to book ends to book-related jewellery, or, like me, simply enjoy imagining what your Christmas list would look like if you owned a money tree, check out the post for some fun suggestions.

Meanwhile, I’ve since come across a mandatory addition to the list. If there’s one thing you buy this Christmas, may I suggest (read: demand) you head over to Spineless Classics and feast your eyes on the awesomeness.

Imagine your favourite book, every word, mounted on your wall as art.

EVERY. WORD.

Take a look:

Pride and Prejudice from Spineless Classics

Is it not the coolest thing ever? They have a wonderful selection of children’s, adventure, historical, religious, romantic and great classics to choose from. Even more exciting, however, is today’s release of their latest design.

Drum roll please…

Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone from Spineless Classics

That’s right. You can now admire the entire text of the first Harry Potter book in a single 700 x 1000mm sheet. And if you’re feeling guilty about spending the money, feel better knowing that 100% of the commissions they pay to the publishers is going to J.K. Rowling’s children’s charity.

This year I’ve told Santa to bypass my house and have an early night (the chimney is still under construction, you see). But had I sent him a letter, it would have included a Spineless Classic on the list.

How about you? Any book-related goodies you’d like to see in your stocking this year?

EDIT 05.12.12 

A new edition to the list could not be denied a place in this post. Introducing The Hobbit:

The Hobbit from Spineless Classics

The Hobbit from Spineless Classics

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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/

10 Christmas Presents for Book Lovers

With just over a week til Christmas, it’s usually about this time of year that I avoid the shops and opt to steer clear of the filled to capacity car parks, long snaking queues, and inevitable widespread Christmas rush.

Whilst online shopping has been a godsend in this regard, this year I am, like many, electing to make Christmas more about people and less about presents.

Despite that, I can’t help but satisfy my inner shopaholic by compiling mental lists of the many things I would love to give and be given, were I and my loved ones in the fortunate position of being ridiculously wealthy.

I’m not gonna lie; Villas in Italy and year long vacations are pretty high on the list. But for all the extravagances money could buy, sometimes it’s the simple things that make me happiest.

With that in mind and not forgetting, of course, my (and presumably also your) reading, writing and book-loving obsessions, I put together a list of ten things that I think many book lovers might appreciate.

Even if you can’t afford it this Christmas, it’s nice to just make believe, right?

Ahem. In no particular order:

  1. Bookends
    No serious book lover can resist a good pair of bookends to keep those books standing tall. Check out this website for 13 Brilliant Bookends.

    Dragon Bookends

  2. Personal library kit
    Okay, so who hasn’t lent a book to someone only to wonder 6 months later who borrowed it and whether it was returned? A Personal Library Kitis the answer! Channel your inner librarian.

    Personal Library Kit from KnockKnock

  3. Bookshelves
    From functional to fashionable to the down right funky. Why not make your own upside down bookshelf? Or check out 15 very cool bookshelves here.

    DIY Upside down bookshelf

  4. Bookmarks
    I’m not averse to the odd folding of corners and using dog ears to mark my place in a book (I know, I know), but there will always be a place in the world for bookmarks and there are some quite creative ones out there. Great stocking fillers too. My favourite is this DIY bookmark:

    Make your own bookmark

  5. Furniture
    Furniture? But of course! From book stools to reading chairs to lazy lounges. We want to be comfortable and fashionable while we’re cooing over our favourite reads, don’t we?

    Book lover stool

  6. Boardgames
    There are some literary specific games out there to challenge your book lover friends with. Just to get you started there is the It was a dark and stormy night board game, the Scrabble Book Lovers Edition and the Scrabble Library Classic.

    Scrabble Library Classic

  7. Books Planter
    Have a green thumb on top of your book addiction? Want to make your garden as good looking as your bookshelf? How about a Book Planter?

    Books Planter

  8. Personalised book
    Sometimes there is nothing better than a hand made gift, personalised to the recipient. I’ve found Apple iPhotoan amazing tool for creating soft and hardcover books with pictures and text.

    Make your own book with Apple iPhoto

  9. Ereader
    They’re not going away any time soon. Kindle, Nook, Kobo. Pick one. They’ll love it. You’ll love it.

    Kindle Touch

  10. Books
    And last, but definitely not least. What would a book lover want more for Christmas than more books? Vintage classics, rare editions, new releases, best sellers, hard cover special editions and the most treasured; those that you make yourself.
    I can’t go past the Book Depository  for their super cheap prices and free delivery worldwide.

    "Books are the quietest and most constant of friends; they are the most accessible and wisest of counselors, and the most patient of teachers." ~Charles W. Eliot

    10.1.    Jewellery
    Okay, so this list has a 10.1 entry, because I only today stumbled across these cool little charms for book lovers and realised there’s probably a whole world of book-related bling out there. Like the Jane Austen charm bracelet and this book necklace made of vinyl records:

    Vinyl Record Book Necklace

Any other cool book-related gifts you’ve been dreaming about? 

~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~

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~