Journey of a pencil wielding, grammar-free child

"The mathematically-minded matriarch of the family unexpectedly pulled through with arguably the finest piece of writerly wisdom I have ever received."

Today I’m guest posting over at the wonderful Dodging Commas as part of a new series of guest posts with the theme Inspired to Write.  Blogger, writer and Dodging Commas hostess, Stef, explains:

Writers love talking about inspiration. We like to moan when we aren’t inspired and we like to boast when that sudden rush of inspiration has just jolted our minds into action. Inspiration can come from many sources – we can be inspired by places, images, words, actions, music, current events … and we can be inspired by people.

I have approached the writers behind some of my favourite blogs to contribute to Dodging Commas on the theme Inspired to Write. This is an opportunity to showcase a favourite author, express gratitude to a teacher, or dote upon a friend or family member. Above all, it is a celebration of the people who started us on our creative journeys, the people who keep us going, and the people who inspire us to follow our passion.

For me personally, it was a gratifying opportunity to explore the fundamental supporters of my creative dreams, as well as the literary peers who have shaped and influenced the kind of writer I strive to be.

For any creative undertaking, there will always exist those people who cease to question when it is you will be getting a ‘real job’, or who glaze over in the eyes when you try to explain your character arc or story synopsis. It’s not an easy job, supporting a slightly nutty, pencil-in-her-hair creative introvert, so those who do so are well deserving of the recognition.

To read my post and other literary, grammar and writing-related posts, head over to Dodging Commas this instant!

…Or at your earliest convenience.

Journey of a pencil wielding, grammar-free child

When Stef first asked if I’d like to write a guest post on who inspires me to write, I grinned and swayed like a giddy school girl. An opportunity to gasbag about the people in my life who have influenced the writer I am today? Oh, the joy!

Then I began to panic. How was I to contain a life-long accumulation of inspirational words, thoughts, ideas and people into an appropriately sized blog post?

[continue reading]

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U is for Undeserving

Perspective

I confess, I sometimes feel undeserving of the opportunities I have in life.

What have I done to deserve these amazing experiences, to have family and friends who support my aspirations, who encourage me to reach for the stars and stand by me until I do?

The answer is probably nothing, and yet still I travel and I write and I live a life, financially modest, yes, but rich in experiences.

Whenever I travel, it becomes even more apparent. In Europe especially, I notice a particular despondency in response to the current economic crisis. My friends in Italy tell me how, despite qualifications and experience, they are lucky to find work in a bar or undertaking straightforward office work, an attitude reflected across much of the continent.

Homeless people riddle the cities whilst disabled people walk up and down the trains, handing out cards explaining their situation and their need for money. A discernible gloom has settled across many faces, and it is frightening to think that my own country is by no means unsusceptible to these same difficulties. In fact, I fear we are already seeing the first signs of them.

It remains said, however, that despite terrorist attacks and a global recession, despite choosing to pursue a profession that earns little (and still no) money, and despite prolonging the life of a student in a desire to continue learning, I have still been fortunate enough to travel, to experience new cultures, to meet new people, to be rendered speechless by Scottish castles, to have enjoyed grilled cheese in a Polish night market, and most of all, to be in a position to make these choices, all under the certainty that on my return home I will have a roof over my head and food on the table.

Travel is so often remembered for its highs, for the broadening of minds, and the appreciation of the new, that it is easy to cast aside and forget the less cheerful observations of human life. We are, many of us, so far removed from being that monumentally disadvantaged, that is difficult to know how to react or deal with it. As such, we ignore it, and remain silently grateful for what we have.

With the Kony 2012 campaign underway, it has precipitated a worldwide reaction to the brutality taking place in not-so-far away countries. Whilst this is by no means a new phenomenon, nor the only case of its kind, I can’t help but ask, why them? Why me? Why are some children born into a life of suffering, and others into a life of opportunity? It just doesn’t seem fair that the course of a life is decided before it has even started.

With or without Kony 2012, these are some of the questions that often travel home with me amidst the photographs and the souvenirs and the wonderful experiences.

I think it is important to live the life we were granted, to make the most of our opportunities, and to live without guilt of our happiness. That said, I think it is equally important to remember those less fortunate; not to be grateful for what we have or to feel better about our own lives, but to be reminded that the difference between our successes and another’s failures, sometimes comes down to little more than the country we were born in.

The wonderful memories of my travels will always bring me joy, but it is the observations of those less fortunate that serve as a reminder of how far we, as a human race, still have to go before all have the opportunity to enjoy the simple things in life.

What I hope to take from my travel experiences is the understanding that whilst I am in so many ways underserving of my circumstances, I am nonetheless in a position of power to change the course of humanity and guide it towards a world where all people live equally and suffering as we know it, ceases to exist.

T is for Transport

Me and my travel buddy, Hayley, going slightly crazy after transport misfortunes.

It has been mentioned before on this blog that I have a tendency to avoid public transport due to my uncanny ability to attract the strangest, craziest, creepiest strangers in human sight.

I once had a crazy Italian man shout at me from the back of the bus before stumbling towards me and, much to my protests, stroke my hair with much enthusiasm before the bus driver intervened.

Another time I had a lady on the train ask me to watch over her little girl while she went to the bathroom, only to emerge an hour later, high as a kite.

I even once had a woman throw all my bags and suitcases into the aisle of a train in a fit of rage, for no apparent reason.

Like I said, Katy and transport are not the best of friends.

Unfortunately, public transport is an unavoidable part of travel and whilst not always pleasant, it is sure to provide excellent fodder for stories.

The first of my travel woes began on the very first leg of the trip when I discovered that the sound to my entertainment system, that same system I was relying on to get me through the 14 hour flight with its many new release and classic movies, was, naturally, broken. After two hours of many different air hostesses trying to fix it, and a few hints from me that an upgrade to business class wouldn’t go astray, it was concluded that the system was not repairable and I was instead compensated with three remarkably droll finance magazines to help pass the time.

Still on the high that comes with the start of a journey, I was unperturbed by the news and instead decided to rest my head while I could.

My optimism soon waned, and after a few hours I turned on the screen and watched the moving pictures in silence. I then came up with the grand idea that perhaps I could watch something with English subtitles. Sadly, the English movies only came with foreign subtitles. The foreign movies on the other hand…

Der ganz große Traum

I ended up watching a brilliant German film by the name of Der Ganz Grosse Traum, or in English The Really Big Dream.  Based on a true story, it is a film about the man who introduced soccer to Germany and the trials he faced in that endeavour. A highly engaging story with some brilliant acting, I feel in hindsight I should be thankful to the faulty entertainment system simply for its part in leading me to this movie.

I was later unimpressed, as you could imagine, when the same issue presented itself on the second 9 hour flight. Thankfully, the plane was empty enough for me to move to a four seater, where I was able to stretch out to my heart’s content.

Other notable transport stories included: being interrogated at British Customs and nearly not being let into the country by a scary customs officer because I didn’t know the postcode of the address I was staying at; being on a train in Berlin as it ran over someone on the train tracks (which I spoke more about here); evading train controllers in Germany after discovering we had the wrong tickets; being patted down in a private booth at security in Abu Dhabi; and fearing death with every cough, sneeze and sniffle heard on every plane, train and bus after watching Contagion.

View of the alps from the plane.

But it wasn’t all bad. The four hour train trip from London to Edinburgh was particularly pleasant, so much so that I almost wish it had been longer just for the chance to enjoy more of the beautiful scenery and the joys of being seated in a ‘silent carriage’. The short, one hour train trip from Ferrara to Venice was also enjoyable after we forked out a few extra Euros to sit in First Class. And let’s not forget the fantastic views that come with flying several thousand feet in the sky.

Whilst their were some dramas, there was a discernible lack of ‘crazies’, which was a welcome change. I don’t think I’ll be making best buddies with public transport any time soon, but I can be thankful at least that I survived without anyone stroking my hair or throwing my suitcases around in a rage.

Do you have any memorable transport experience to put you off travel forever? Do you, like me, attract the ‘crazies’?

Meanwhile, if you’d like to read some more crazy stories, Aussie writer, Kaitlyn, over at Transports of Delight has been documenting her latest encounters with weirdos on public transport. Check it out!

R is for Rye

With its cobbled streets, castle, and wonderfully preserved medieval, Tudor and Georgian houses, this ancient town situated in the south east of England just so happens to be where I grew up as a little girl, as did my father before me.

Once surrounded almost completely by water, the town dates back to before the Norman Conquest of 1066, and is known historically for being an important member of the Cinque Ports confederation, its role in providing ships for the King in times of war, as well as its involvement with the smuggling trade during the 18th and 19th Centuries, achieved through vaulted cellars, secret tunnels and passageways, many of which still exist today.

The Mermaid Inn

The Mermaid Inn, one of the oldest inns in England, has played host to Charlie Chaplin, Pierce Brosnan, Andy Garcia, Johnny Depp and none other than Her Royal Majesty, Queen Elizabeth and her mother.

Rye itself has produced a number of well known names, most notably being Sir Paul McCartney. I’m also proud to say that it has been a place of inspiration for a number of writers, including Henry James, Conrad Aiken, Joseph Conrad and H. G. Wells.

Bestowed with unseasonably mild temperatures and a few somewhat rare cloudless days, my Auntie and Uncle took my well-timed visit as an opportunity to accompany me around the town to strangely familiar, yet foreign places.

Little things stirred the memory of my childhood self – doorways, a clock tower, cobbled streets, the smell of fish and chips – but it was more the overall ambiance and character of this small historic town that set me reminiscing.

Rye Church and Graveyard

With a population of just over 4000, the town of Rye is about as quaint and as ‘English’ as it gets. Tiny doorways and black beams across white walls line the cobbled streets, whilst behind the medieval church a sun speckled graveyard sits rather beautifully as little red-breasted robins sing happily in the overhead tree branches.

The smell of hot coffee and freshly baked pastries pour out of charming little coffee houses, each furnished with mismatched lounge chairs, the walls lined with bookshelves and antiques.

I can’t help but find magic in the names of places: Lamb Cottage, Mermaid Street, The Mint, Wish Ward, Oak Corner, Watchbell Street. They all sound like names from a children’s fantasy story. Other places have names rooted in history; The Apothecary coffee shop was named after its former use as an Apothecary. Meanwhile, the smell of meat pies oozes from a little shop tucked away down a narrow street, its cast iron sign swinging from the roof identifying it as Simon the Pieman. 

Simon the Pieman

I think every town should have a Simon the Pieman.

As you get closer to the water, anchors, antique shops and the smell of the sea are prevalent. I see pottery in shop windows that look much like the Rye pottery we brought over to Australia with us almost two decades ago, and wonder at the lasting trade of some professions.

Meanwhile, the warm and welcoming inns provide hearty meals of roast beef, oven roasted potatoes covered in hot gravy for a late lunch.

Needless to say, I took many photos on this part of the trip and delighted my parents on my return as they scrutinised pictures of a place they once called home, much changed but also very much the same.

Even if I had not spent the first few years of my life there, I’m convinced I’d love it all the same.  It has character and charm, but it also has history. The idea of smugglers silently rowing by veil of night into hidden passageways beneath the town is a thrilling thought. Not only that, but the fact that my father recognised buildings, streets and places he used to walk by and play in as a child, is testament to the wonderfully preserved nature of this ancient town.

Yep, there is definitely something special about Rye.

Antique shop in Rye

Gravestones bow with the weight of their age

The House with Two Front Doors

Cobbled stones

Sunset down Watchbell Street

Typical houses of Rye

Old Anchor by the water

We're a funny lot, us English folk

Church Graveyard

Cobbled street overlooking Rye rooftops

Q is for Questions

So far A-P has been all about me. Now I want to hear from you!

Because polls and surveys are so much fun, why not have a go and fill out this one, just for kicks? I’m not doing any research or collecting personal data (all answers are anonymous), I’m just interested in hearing about you and your experiences with travel. Some questions are just for fun, and others I’m generally interested in hearing your thoughts on.

I’ll post the results on the Storytelling Nomad Facebook Page in the coming weeks, as well as some of the more creative answers, if you feel like getting inventive.

Silly answers welcome, but keep it clean, children.

Take the Storytelling Nomad Q is for Questions Online Survey now! (Fear not! This link will not bite or infect your computer. It will, however, open a new page)

O is for Old Friends

Italian High School reunion

One of the best parts of travelling is catching up with old friends that have either dispersed themselves sparingly (and at times inconveniently) across all corners of the globe, or who have stayed exactly where you first found them, patiently awaiting your return.

In Italy I was able to meet up with my old Italian school friends. It had been about 3 years since I’d seen most of them. In Edinburgh I stayed with my beautiful High School friend Beatrice, also from Italy, who I hadn’t seen in 5 years. In Berlin I stayed with the loveliest German girl you’ll ever meet, Nathalie, who I met whilst she was studying in Australia a couple of years ago. And Simon in Hamburg, the funniest German guy you’ll ever meet, who I first met about a year ago in Australia whilst he was studying at university here with my brother.

5 year reunion with Beatrice

They are the type of friends you can spend years apart from, but as soon as you meet again you pick up just exactly where you left off, having a laugh and chatting away as if it were only yesterday that you last saw each other.

To me, these are the best kind of friends, and all of them have played their own part in wonderful memories of travel and friendship.

But, while all special, none of these reunions quite compare to the one I had in London.

I moved to Australia from England close to 17 years ago now. I was 10 years old at the time, and never really considered the possibility that I may not see any of my friends again, or at least for a good long while. Even at that young age I was a traveller at heart, and I looked only to the new horizions that awaited me, waving goodbye to my friends with not a worry in the world.

Of course, this was at a time when Facebook was not yet a twinkle in Mark Zuckerberg’s eye. If you wanted to keep in contact, you wrote letters of the snail mail kind. I wrote loads of letters, taking special care that my handwriting was neat and pretty-looking. I bought postcards too. And gifts.

What I’m terrible at, is sending letters. Sending postcards. Sending gifts. In my defence, I was 10 and totally engaged in immersing myself and fitting in to a new country, school and culture. But nonetheless, with unsent letters comes lost friendships, and by the time I was old enough to really put any thought to getting back in contact, I wasn’t sure how, and was even less sure that I would be remembered if I tried.

Then came social networking.

After finding and reminiscing with a few friends here and there from my childhood, there was one in particular who I never forgot over the years. She had been my best friend right up to the day I left England.

We caught up as best as you can through online means and filled each other in on the most significant bits and pieces of the last 17 years. But when I knew I’d be stopping in England for a week this year, we decided it was time to catch up properly.

When I first saw Naomi standing outside the London pub waiting for me, it was all totally surreal. I still remembered her as the 10 year old with glasses, my perfect nerdy friend who would play gladiator with me in the playground and refer to everything as ‘twee’ and ‘beardy’, which we later puzzled over with no definite conclusion as to why.

I still saw her as that sweet little 10 year old, but also as the much taller, more beautiful adult version.

We caught up, we chatted, we laughed. We spoke of school days and scandals, exchanged memories and took a time machine all the way back to the early 90s. The most amazing thing, however, was the following discovery:

  • Naomi is an actress.
  • She studied at acting school and now performs at the Leicester Square theatre with her stand-up comedy group Improbabble.
  • Her best friend in England is a writer and a linguist.
  • She also does some transcription work for a bit of extra cash to support her creative endeavours.

Okay, before you ask what this has to do with the price of eggs, let me tell you a bit about me.

  • My best friend in Australia, Mel, is an actress.
  • She studied at acting school and now performs on stage, film and in theatres.
  • I am a writer and a linguist
  • Sometimes I do transcription work for a bit of extra cash to support my creative endeavours.

We obviously took our separation quite hard all those years ago, because we have subconciously replaced ourselves with in-country counterparts! Not only that, but we now also both support our low-income creative lifestyles with the same non-related professions. I find it totally fascinating, and it makes me wonder at the sort of people we are each drawn to, even at a young age. Do all our grown up friends mirror our childhood ones? Perhaps despite how much we may grow up or ‘change’, we still seek to surround ourselves with people of the same qualities.

We ended up talking for several hours and were so busy catching up that we even forgot to get a photo of the occasion. But no matter. It was an amazing reunion with my best friend of old, and we said goodbye promising not to leave it another 17 years before the next one.

And Naomi, if you’re reading this, thank you for staying the same beautiful friend I remember from my childhood. I’m convinced that had we grown up together, we’d still be best friends today.

Until next time, old friend.

Naomi and I at 8 years old

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.

 

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~

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~

Pick me! Pick me!

Dearest Readers,

Have I ever told you what a good looking bunch you are? No, really. A fine collection of fetching individuals. And the intellect, oh! the intellect! Never before have I witnessed such collective brilliance. One can only marvel.

Are you buttered up yet?

The thing is, I need your help. Yesterday I entered a short story competition on Facebook. A 420 character short story competition. Yes, you heard me; characters, not words. To give you an idea, 420 characters looks like this:

you are awesome you are awesome you are awesome you are awesome you are awesome you are awesome you are awesome you are awesome you are awesome you are awesome you are awesome you are awesome you are awesome you are awesome you are awesome you are awesome you are awesome you are awesome you are awesome you are awesome you are awesome you are awesome you are awesome you are awesome you are awesome you are awesome you

Positively microscopic, no?

In any case, this is less a competition of merit and more a popularity contest. You see, it is judged by how many ‘likes’ readers give each entry. I know, look at me go, whoring myself out to the masses. I’m cheap. Nasty even. And yet, I’d really like to win anyway.

You’ve seen the story before, albeit a somewhat *longer* version, of my 100 words of revenge. I confess, it’s not the finest piece of literature you’ll ever read (especially after cutting it down to fit the character limit), but surely it’s gotta beat the entry below mine detailing a park bench. A park bench, I tell you!

And yet, that entry is still beating mine. Sob!

All you have to do to rectify this tragedy is head to this page:

https://www.facebook.com/thewritinglab/posts/215836788471997

and click the ‘like’ button on my story, which at this stage is the second to last entry (before bench boy). You don’t have to ‘like’ the Facebook page or sign up to any garbage.  In fact you don’t even have to like my story, but I’d appreciate it if you clicked the ‘like’ button anyway, because I love you…and karma…and rainbows…and stuff. RAINBOWS.

In return, I bestow upon you my everlasting gratitude and send forth much cyber karma to use at your earliest convenience.

Your faithful servant/blogger/master,

Katy

~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~

Top 10 Writing Distractions

We all have them.  Those little blighters who woo us away from the actual work, tricking us into thinking it needs to be done, like, now. Here are my top 10, in no particular order because let’s face it, procrastination has no standards.

  1. Food
    Argument: Because I need to eat to LIVE!  Right? I think that’s a pretty good argument, don’t you?
    Reality: Getting up for chocolate, or to open the fridge door and stare for five minutes only to find that it is still stocked with the same products that were there 20 minutes ago when you last looked and decided there was nothing in there you want, is not the same as eating your three meals a day so that you can, you know, live. Get in, do what you need to do, then back away. Also, if you are like me and convinced that chocolate is a plausible energy booster, keep it by your computer so that you don’t “need” to get up for it.
  2. Housework
    Argument: Because a clean house is a clean mind.
    Reality: The wardrobe that has needed cleaning out since 1982 can wait another day while you write your damn novel.
  3. Reading
    Argument: Because Stephen King said that “If you don’t have time to read, you don’t have the time (or the tools) to write.”
    Reality: Reading is so very important to writing, but if you spend absolutely ALL your time reading then you won’t have any time to use all those new skills and words in your own writing. Balance your time between the two.
  4. Staring at Walls
    Argument: Because I can.
    Reality: They’re not going anywhere, look at them later.
  5. Sleeping
    Argument: Because I can’t write with my eyes closed…and I’m tired! And dreams make great fodder for stories.
    Reality: You slept the required seven hours last night and another nanna nap is just not necessary. Yes, bed looks so good right now and it’s cold and rainy outside, but hey, you can sleep when you’re a hundred and eighty and after you’ve published your 50th bestseller.
  6. DVDs
    Argument: Because eight day Buffy & Angel marathons are totally legitimate methods of studying the fantasy genre and excellent examples of brilliant writing (thanks Joss Whedon).
    Reality: Moderation is the key. Get creative inspiration and watch an episode (or four) but then get back to business.
  7. Blogging
    Argument: Because I’m totally honing my writing skills and getting constructive feedback from a wider audience.
    Reality: While you’re blogging about writing you’re novel, you’re not actually writing your novel. Do what you need to do, but don’t forget about the bigger picture.
  8. Social Media
    Argument: Because I have to connect with my readers and get my name out there.
    Reality: Twitter and Facebook and Google+ are your frenemies. They will help you get your name out there and act all nice to your face, but just when you least expect it, BAM! Those good intentions of yours to spend a mere half hour replying to tweets and promoting your blog, all of a sudden turn into the Black Hole of Evil Time-Sucking Badness. Before you know it five hours have gone by and you come to your senses only to find that you’ve been watching ninja cats and talking unicorns called Charlie on YouTube for an unspecified amount of time. How did you even get there? The Black hole of Evil Time-Sucking Badness has ways, and social media is its minion. Don’t be a sucker.
  9. Exercise
    Argument: Because keeping healthy and fit is important.
    Reality: Thinking about exercise, buying gym clothes and talking about exercise are not the same as actually doing exercise. Or so I’m told. 30 minutes a day is all it takes. Do it, then get back to the writing.
  10. Time
    Argument: He’s my arch nemesis and purposefully made it so there aren’t enough hours in the day to do everything just to spite me.
    Reality: Time is an asshole. He always has and always will be an asshole. When you have two hours to finish an assignment, he thinks it’s funny to go at the speed of light just to keep you on your toes. When you’re at work with nothing to do he slows down so the minutes drag by and you end up death staring the clock. He ain’t gonna change, so your only choice is to work with what you have seeing as the bastard is not gonna budge.
What are your biggest distractions and time wasters?
~storytelling nomad~

10,000 hits! Milestones & Head Explosions

Kodak Moment - 10,000 hits

BEWARE: Ego on the loose. Proceed with caution.

Last week I reached the 10,000 hits mark on storytelling nomad, which I felt was occasion enough for a kodak moment and a mild case of head swelling (see below for evidence of head explosion).

September was actually a bit special as far as months go with milestones hitting me left, right and centre.

In particular, I had a strong suspicion that I was being stalked by the number 100 after receiving my 100th subscriber, my 100th Twitter follower and WordPress very kindly exclaiming “Sensational!” at my 100th post.  Add to that my 100 words on revenge and I was just about ready to take out a restraining order on my three digit stalker (who I actually kinda like).

Once again, thank you all for the love.  You may have reduced me to a head-exploding-with-fireworks crazy happy person, but as long as there continues to be no complaints, I shall keep on keeping on.

Look what you have reduced me to dear readers! (this picture is not to scale)

~storytelling nomad~

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~

9/11: Breaking free of terror

Ten years on and with 9/11 once more upon us, it is sad to think that this day will forever evoke feelings of such sorrow and unbridled hatred.  The suffering of those involved and affected by the events on that day is utterly unimaginable to me, and I cannot even begin to comprehend the pain they bear, nor the torment faced by those who lost their life to such a tragedy.

Without giving too much time to those responsible, I think it is true to say that I have never really understood such rampant hatred.  I cannot assume motives or grounds for such an operation to be executed, but can only profess my belief that no wrongdoing in this world deserves punishment by such evil.  ‘An eye for an eye’ is never something I have attributed much conviction to, and although I do not consider myself a religious person, I still do not believe that anyone on this Earth has the right to play God and pass the judgement of death on anyone.

At the time, Australia seemed so far removed from what was happening in the US, at least to me anyway.  I watched with disbelief as the events unfolded on TV that day, but couldn’t seem to make sense of what was really happening.  I went to school as usual, and watched as a number of classmates feared for family or friends that lived in the states.  In between classes we would turn on the TV to watch the impact of the planes over and over again as the world began to grasp the severity of the situation.

The following month I had been set to make my very first solo trip overseas.  I had signed up for a three month student exchange program in Italy, and had thought of nothing else since the beginning of the year.  A new suitcase had been bought, a pile of things to take with me piled messily on the floor, and emails with my soon to be host-sister, Sara, had been exchanged.

When my parents started talking about pulling me out of the program, that was when first I felt the events of 9/11 truly influence my life as it was.

I was angry and confused.  How could such hatred ripple so far across the globe to affect my enthusiastic plans to travel a world I had been so excited about exploring?  What had I ever done to these people to warrant such an intrusion on my life?

It was then, I think, that I first began to truly fathom the weight of terrorism, the fear it evoked and the changes it could awaken.

In the end, I was permitted, with much trepidation on my parents’ behalf, to go forward with my student exchange.  They decided that it was in fact probably the safest time to travel, with so much surveillance and the number of safety measures that were then being taken when travelling.  I advocated that such acts of terrorism should not force us to stop living the life we had intended for ourselves, for then they had all but triumphed in crippling us with terror.

When I arrived at Singapore airport, I watched with a speechless curiosity as small troops with large guns patrolled the airport solemnly.

The armed troops may have since receded, the fear numbed, and the memory faded, but the events of 9/11 still resonate loudly in the extra security measures when travelling, the sorrow of those who suffered loss, and in the date that will for many years to come remain a reminder of an innocence we all lost that day.

Despite it all, however, I remain hopeful that time will heal the hurt caused, little by little.   One year ago today, I watched a very close friend of mine take her wedding vows in a church filled with loved ones.  Together we shared a wonderfully happy day and rejoiced in their love, happiness and a bright future.  Together we created a memory that now has me looking back on this date with joy.

We cannot forever dwell in the misery of our past if we are to ever find joy in the pleasures of the future.  Whilst we must grieve those lost and honour them their suffering, whilst we must remain heedful of those who continue to sanction war, death and hatred on the world, I think it is important to remind ourselves not to seize on the hate from which such a tragedy first arose.  Hate and prejudice will not recover loved ones, nor change the past.  Nor will it bring peace to the future.

Before I relieve you all of this rant of mine, I implore you all to read Pico Iyer’s short travel story, The Khareef, which can be found in his book Sun After Dark.  In this spectacular account, Iyer travels to Oman, the birthplace of Osama bin Laden, just six weeks before the attacks on the two towers.  I found it an extraordinarily moving account of a journey to a place so far removed from anything we know, and yet chilling in its mysterious allure.  Most importantly, however, it shines a small light on a group of people affected by the events of that day; those that we often spare little thought for.  The ending is spectacular and Iyer is a truly magnificent writer.

Joss Whedon once said, “War is not just the business of death, it is the anithises of life.”  Here’s to hoping that despite the tragedy we relive today, we nonetheless fight to break free of terror and war, and continue to strive for peace and happiness for all.

What 9/11 now means to me: My dear friend Ruth and her husband Tim on their wedding day - September 11th 2010

~storytelling nomad~

Lessons Learned

There is more treasure in books than in all the pirate’s loot on Treasure Island. -Walt Disney

With the 30 Day Book Challenge now done and dusted, I find myself missing the daily mission of scouring my bookshelves and digging deep into the recesses of my mind in a hunt to find the appropriate book for each task.  It was a literary treasure hunt for my book-lover mind, and I took great pleasure in reliving my reading history and rediscovering what books mean to me and the influence they’ve had on my life.

Throughout the challenge I contentedly reacquainted myself with some old favourites, relived memorable childhood reading moments, and crooned over some literary heartthrobs.  I confessed some secrets, pledged my eternal allegiance to a certain author, and had many an inner battle in futile attempts to choose ‘favourites’.

Frankly, I found the whole challenge a wonderful exercise and am happy to see so many of you taking the challenge too.

Before I leave you to it, however, I thought I might share with you the top three things I’ve learned about myself and my reading habits from this literary pilgrimage.

  • I read a lot of fantasy.  I mean, a lot.  I can’t remember the first fantasy book I read, but I do remember my reluctance due to having always associated fantasy with sci fi, which I was not at all interested in.  Even after having read a few fantasy novels, all of which I surprised myself in thoroughly enjoying, I recall it taking me a while to actually start looking forward to starting a new one or seeking out more.  For some time I had this unfounded suspicion that something resembling Star Trek was going to sneak its way into my impressionable reading mind, and put me off reading forever.  I’m still not a fan of Star Trek or sci fi, but I now know the differences between the speculative fiction sub genres, and can proudly profess my love of fantasy without fearing pointy-eared men and beam-me-up-scotty’s scaring me away.
  • My memory is as poor as I suspected.  I anticipated the challenge would be difficult for this reason, and truly it was.  I’m certain I’ve forgotten a great deal of the books I have read and am positive that many of them could have been used over the course of the 30 Day Book Challenge.  I have learned my lesson though.  As they say, ‘Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me.’  As far as I’m aware, my memory isn’t going to improve any with age, so I’ve set myself an undertaking.  From 2011, I have started a reading list, documenting all the books I have read since the start of the year.  I am particularly interested to see how many it totals up to by December 31st, but mostly content to know that I will have something to refer to in the future.
  • I have a potentially unhealthy obsession with a certain author who has consumed the last several months of my reading life.  I mentioned her or her books in seven out of the thirty posts, have referred to her as She-God, Perfection, Wonderful, and Writing God, and suspect that many of you now believe me to be a Robin Hobb stalker.  I’m sorry about that and deny all such claims.  I am, however, seeking help for this matter and hereafter vow not to mention her name again for some time unless it is profoundly necessary* or unless a substantial Hobb-free interlude has passed.  *Profound necessity could refer to: Author contact; Financial ruin due to Hobb book purchases; Discovering the Farseer characters are real; Collapsing bookshelves due to TMHS (To Many Hobbs Syndrome).

So there it is.  My lessons learned in a nutshell.  Thanks to all of you who commented and participated in the challenge with me.  I’m looking forward to *one day* getting to all the books you’ve recommended, and eagerly anticipate the posts of those of you who are now taking part in the 30 Day Book Challenge.

Happy reading fellow bloggers.

~storytelling nomad~

Humour, flirting, and education at the coffee table

30 Day Book Challenge – Day 30

Favorite coffee table book

Well here we are.  The final day of the 30 Day Book Challenge.  Who would have thought we’d make it this far?  I certainly had my doubts.  There were good times, bad times, an extended deadline, and a few unexpected intermissions, but 30 books and 57 days later we reached the finish line.  Woo!

I’m mildly disappointed that Day 30 has to end with my ‘favourite coffee table book’, seeing as I don’t actually own a coffee table.  I would’ve liked to end with a BANG! Like, the most expensive book you ever bought.  Or the best book EVER created in the entire universe!  But alas, what am I if I cannot improvise in the face of a challenge?

So let’s see.  If I had a coffee table, what book would I like to live permanently upon it?  I’m going to go with the Lonely Planet Italian Phrasebook.  I purchased this book when I was 16 before heading to Italy for the very first time.  It was truly invaluable, but also highly entertaining.

My friends, English and Italian alike, would always find great pleasure in reading certain sections of this book, particularly that relating to dating, romance and sex.  Subtitles such as “Breaking the Ice”, “Classic Rejections”, “Making Love” and “Afterwards”, may give you some idea as to the sort of ‘phrases’ they included for a traveller’s convenience.

The best included:

‘Do you come here often?’ – Vieni spesso qui?

‘You’re not my type.’ – Non sei il mio tipo.

‘You turn me on.’ – Mi ecciti.

‘Was it good for you?’ – Ti è piacuto?

‘Faster!’ – Più veloce!

I can only imagine being in the sort of situations that require these phrases and asking the other person to “just hold on a moment while I consult my phrasebook.  Ah yes, Più veloce!”

Ha.

In any case, I think it would keep people interested and entertained when they come over for coffee.  Don’t you?

~storytelling nomad~

Potential Energy (via The Bailey Daily)

Enjoying this blog.  The post on how to get yourself writing by lying to yourself is also worth checking out.

Potential Energy “You have a lot of potential.” Anyone ever said that to you?  A lot of my high school teachers told me this.  At the time, it kind of sounded ok, I mean, compared to what other people were saying about me.  Then I got older.  Not all at once, but rather slowly.  And I started to realize that this wasn’t a very helpful comment. I tried to define the comment.  That’s what older people do.  They like to define things, to draw a nice, little mental b … Read More

via The Bailey Daily

 

~storytelling nomad~

Your friendly Friday kick up the backside

Well I certainly needed this kick up the backside today.  Take heed fellow would-be-writers!

Would you have any words of advice for the would-be-writers out there?

Start today. Write. Finish what you start. Submit what you finish. Repeat. Don’t get caught up in the ‘someday I’m going to do that’ trap. Don’t blog and tell yourself that it puts you on the road to being a published fiction writer. It just makes you a blogger. Get your stories down on paper now. Don’t wait. The stories that you can and would write today are irreplaceable. The story you will write at 15 can’t wait until you are 30. It won’t be the same story. It will be gone. Don’t write a lot of stuff in other people’s worlds. You are not a cookie press pushing out dough into a pre-set shape. You’re a writer. If you don’t write your own characters and worlds now, today, no one ever will.

If you don’t write them now, your characters will shrivel up and die, unknown, unread, unmourned, and it will be ALL YOUR FAULT!

(Isn’t guilt a wonderful motivator?)

Robin Hobb in an interview at Grinding to Valhalla

~stoytelling nomad~

Feeding my book addiction

My last post had me mentioning (again) Robin Hobb, so I thought I’d follow it with a quick update on where I’m up to in the world of Hobb and other reading exploits.

I’ve been a bit behind on my reading lately, and seem to be progressing far slower than usual, so I’m only up to book two of The Tawny Man Trilogy: The Golden Fool.  Loving it of course.  But I’m quite keen to finish this trilogy, not only so that I can read more Hobb, but also because I have a number of other attractive books that continue to stare at me from their place on the bookshelf, alone and unread and tempting me with their alluring covers and seductive stories.  They include:

Daenerys Targaryen in Game of Thrones - I love her!

A Game of Thrones by George R. R. Martin– I am SO very excited to start reading this series because I recently watched the new HBO television adaptation of it and thought it was AMAZING! Apparently the author also played the part of executive producer in the making of the show, which gives me high hopes that the novels will be just as spectacular if not better.

On Writing by Stephen King – I have been hearing about this book literally everywhere I go.  I started reading it at work one day and already understand the hype.  Looking forward to reading the rest.

Burn Bright by Marianne de Pierres– I recently heard Marianne speak at the Supanova Fantasy/Sci Fi Convention in Sydney.  I was inspired to read her books and was lucky enough to meet her at the book stall and have her sign this one.  I have heard nothing but good things about this Australian writer, so can’t wait to check it out.

Friday's Child by Ian Kennedy Williams

Friday’s Child by Ian Kennedy Williams – The author of this collection of short stories is a fellow member of my writers’ group, and a talented writer at that.  Yesterday I went to hear Ian at a National Book Council meeting here in Launceston, where he discussed where the ideas for some of his stories came from and some of the places that have inspired stories he has written.  Having already read one of his short stories in the writers group, and finding his presentation yesterday fascinating, I decided it was time to stock up on some more of his work, starting with Friday’s Child.  After hearing him read some excerpts, I already know I’m going to like it.

La Bella Lingua by Dianne HalesGifted to me on my birthday by my best friend Priscilla.  It’s been a while since I read a travel story and I’m having severe withdrawals.

I’m not out of work!..I’m a Writer! by Wayne E. Pollard – I was lucky enough to be sent this by the author when I mentioned his outstanding blog in my post about The dangers of ebook world domination.  Thanks Wayne!  Meanwhile, his blog Bo’s Cafe Life has some highly entertaining comics relating to all things writer-ly.

An example of the entertainment found over at Bo's Cafe Life

And yet, despite this excellent line up of books yet to be read, I continue to find excuses to keep buying more books to pile up in sweet anticipation.  Today alone I ordered another three from the Book Depository, which by the way is where I buy all but my home grown Aussie books these days.  Free delivery anyone?  And super cheap new books too.  Book lover heaven I tell you.

Okay, I think it’s time to scoot.  I do, after all, have a KAZILLION books to read and so little time.

~storytelling nomad~