Monday, January 31, 2011

How (not) to clean out the pantry

ANPNF343ZH3E Some people like to Spring Clean. Others (crazy people) clean the house from top to bottom every single week. I'm a Start of Year clean-out kind of girl. Dump a whole lot of stuff, and then spend the rest of the year re-filling the cupboards.

I remember having regular conversations with a Feng Shui expert for several CLEO features (it was the late 90s), who advocated taking the 'seven things for seven days' approach to bettering your life. Her theory was that if you threw out seven things a day for seven days, you would clear enough space in your home to free your chi... or was it your chakras. Something.

As with most things in life, I tend to take the 'binge' approach to this theory. I throw out 49 things in one day and then rest on my laurels for the rest of the year.

Recently, I approached the pantry. With caution. Pantries are a running joke in my family, mostly because my parents have never met a Use By date they couldn't beat. I used to laugh a lot at the contents of their pantry, complete with three-year-old tin of beetroot. I'm not laughing any more.

In cleaning out the pantry recently, I discovered not only the requisite three-year-old tin of beetroot (which I'm thinking my Dad put in there just to befuddle me), but nine bottles of vinegar. Nine. To be sure, there was Cider vinegar, Brown vinegar, Malt vinegar, White vinegar, Rice vinegar, White Wine vinegar (times two), and Red Wine vinegar (times two). But seriously? Should we ever be facing a siege, Fam Fibro will be in an excellent position to pickle...

We are also well-equipped with baked beans (13 - count them - tins), flour (three kilograms), and several tins of Bundaberg Rum fudge. Yep, all the food groups covered there.

A quick survey on Twitter helped me draw the conclusion that I am not alone with my lone, faded beetroot tin (though there was a late charge by the Tinned Bamboo Shoot brigade) - but that nine bottles of vinegar probably qualifies me for some kind of hall of fame. Well, I've always wanted to be an award-winner ("You like me, you like me!").

The truly sad part of this tale, however, I have saved for the end. That tin of beetroot? Still there. I couldn't bear to throw it out. You just never know... and those tinned things never really go off, do they?

Mum and Dad, I understand now.

'Fess up: do you have that tin of beetroot? Or some other random tin that you bought years ago and still resides at the back of the pantry? Or, like me, do you buy strange things - like vinegar - in bulk? Share the Hall of Fame with me - it's lonely in here.


Sunday, January 30, 2011

The tide goes out on the school holidays

The last day of the school holidays. A day for polishing school shoes, ironing uniforms, unearthing school hats. A subdued kind of day.

At least, it should have been.

Yes, the school shoes are polished, the uniforms are ironed, the hat is, um, somewhere. But The Builder also decided that the last day of the school holidays was the perfect day to go out and buy an inflatable boat. A rubber duckie, so to speak. Which he duly did. Along with oars, a pump and four life jackets.

We took the SS Fibro out to that place near the beach that I call The Creek and Sister B calls The Lagoon (summing up the differences in our world views in one easy step). Our plans were momentarily thwarted when we realised that the tide was out. So far out as to leave about 20 centimetres of water in which to launch our mighty vessel. And that was in the deep water.

"Guess we won't be needing these," said The Builder, tossing our bright yellow safety vests back into the car.

And so we spent the waning hours of the summer break dragging the boys up and down the creek in a bright blue inflatable boat. Actually, we spent about 20 minutes doing that and then The Builder and I lazed in the shallows as they dragged themselves up and down the creek, recruiting another young swimmer to help with the task when they got tired.

Mr4 showed great talent for throwing himself and his oar off the back of the boat. We may need to work on this before we find deeper water. Mr7 showed great talent for 'supervising' - "I'm the Captain - you push." He is destined for great things.

At one point, The Builder and I found ourselves alone in the boat, lazily drifting downstream a few centimetres, staring up at a wide, blue sky. "This floating thing is very relaxing," I said.

"Yes," he answered. "Just imagine how good it will be when the water is above our knees."

We are already planning our next boating adventure. Mr7 thinks New Zealand would be nice at this time of year. Mr4 just wants to wear his life jacket. The Builder foresees many lazy, after-work outings now that the tourists have all gone home.

I'm happy to be making memories.

{image: Ninja-Ai/}

Friday, January 28, 2011

Weekend Rewind

What a week it's been - Australia Day and a blogoversary all rolled into one. Not only that, but the last week of the school holidays is all but done and February is on the horizon... Not that I'm excited about school going back. No way. Not me. Okay, just a little...

Now, however, the dust is settling and it's time to turn our attention to pressing matters. Like the Weekend Rewind, the linky that gives you the chance to dust off an old post for some new comment love. And don't we love it!

In keeping with recent weeks, I'm going with a prompt and, given that we've had January and February, we are up to March. The only song I can think of with 'march' in the title is 'The Ants Go Marching (one by one, hurrah, hurrah), so now that I've shared that particular ear worm with you, I'll just get on with it.

All you have to do to join the mixed tape that is Weekend Rewind is to link up a vintage post (preferably from March last year (or 2009, or 2008) if you have one, but any other old post of your choice if you don't) and then go comment on some of the other treasures being offered up. Please try to do at least two to share the comment love around.

This week, in honour of my Writing Course Giveaway, I'm submitting a writing post for your delectation. All about how writing is just like doing the laundry. No, really.

Can't wait to see what you've got for me this week!

As always, I'm linking up to Maxabella's Saturday Grateful and, on Sunday, will be hopping over to Blog Gems at The King and Eye, to air some more of my ever-expanding archives.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Win a writing course at the Fibro!

Well, here we are. January 27. The Fibro's blogoversary. Twelve months of fun, frivolity and making new friends. Not to mention some fearsomely hard graft.

To celebrate this milestone, I'm extremely (and I do mean extremely) excited to be having my first ever (and perhaps only) giveaway. And what a giveaway.

You may remember my interview a few months ago with Valerie Khoo from the Sydney Writers Centre (and my former deskmate from CLEO)? (If not, pop over here and refresh your memory - she offers three fabulous tips for would-be freelance writers). She had such a good time in the Fibro, that the Sydney Writers Centre has donated an amazing prize to celebrate the Fibro's blogoversary.

Deep breath.

One lucky winner will receive a 5-week Online Course at the Sydney Writers' Centre. Let me just repeat that. One lucky winner will receive a 5-week Online Course at the Sydney Writers' Centre. He or she will be able to choose from EITHER Magazine Writing Stage One OR Creative Writing Stage One. Each course is valued at $395. The winner may also, if he or she chooses, come back to the Fibro to guest post about their experience once they've done the course.

Features or Fiction? You get to choose. And because they're online, you can do your course from anywhere. The Sydney Writers' Centre takes great care to choose presenters who are well-respected and active in their fields (for example, new features writing presenter is veteran editor/publisher Marina Go).

The excitement!

This is a brilliant opportunity for anyone hoping to join the ranks of freelance writers, or get that headstart on the novel they've always wanted to write. Or even just to hone your writing skills to take your blog to the next level.

All you have to do to enter is to follow the Fibro if we're not already friends, and then leave a comment on this post telling me WHICH course you'd like to do and WHY it should be you who wins. Think of it as a pitch (visit this guest post at The Red Dress Club for some tips on pitching) - keep it short and very sweet, and be sure to visit the links above to get a full idea of each course so that you can give it your best shot. 

The winner will be chosen by Valerie Khoo and the team at the Sydney Writers' Centre from a shortlist chosen by me. I'm looking for angle, originality and voice. Competition closes Friday 4 February, with the winner announced in the Fibro's Monday 7th February post. Be sure to check back to see if it's you!

This contest is now closed. Thanks to everyone who entered!

The fine print:
*competition closes at 11.59pm, Friday 4 February
*winner announced on Monday 7 February (and contacted by email if you've left me one)
*course must be booked in by June 30, 2011.
*only one entry per person.
*sorry, family members cannot apply. :-)

PS: Feel free to grab the button and spread the word!

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Advance Australian Blogs

Every once in a while, Maxabella from Maxabella Loves runs a post she calls Blogalicious. Little blogs that she loves. It's a lovely idea. Which is why I'm going to steal be inspired by it.

In honour of the fact that January 26 is Australia Day, I hereby present my nominations for this year's Australia Day Honours List. Little Aussie blogs that can - and do. Of course, the biggest problem with a list like this is limiting it. I'd put in every Australian blog if I could, but that wouldn't make for a succinct blog post. So I've chosen five old favourites, and five that are new (or newish) to me. All are flying the flag for Aussie blogs. All are blogalicious.

So Now What?
Life and Other Crises
Not Drowning, Mothering
Ah, The Possibilities
Diminishing Lucy

Keep Cate Busy
Big Words Blog
Life On Planet Baby
Life In The Country
The Byron Life

So, tell me, who would you put on your Australia Day Honours List for Blogging? Give me your top five and let's hand out a few OAMB awards.

{image: Caroline's Cake Company}

Monday, January 24, 2011

Growing up

At seven, Mr7 is a boy. No longer can I pretend he is little. Despite the fact that I can look into his face and still see the chubby-cheeked toddler who loved The Wiggles. Now he is all arms, legs and oversized front teeth; Harry Potter, Star Wars, bakugans and Ninjas.

Which is not to say that he does not continue to surprise and enchant me.

Today was not a good day in the Fibro. It was an end-of-school-holidays, irritable, itchy, scratchy kind of day. An icky, sticky, humid kind of day. The kind of day that had us all climbing the walls and shouting at each other.

In an effort to calm things down, we went for a walk. He didn't want to come. He stood on the front verandah, humphing, right up until the point where Mr4 and I turned out of the driveway and went out of sight behind next door's peach tree.

"Waaaaiiiittt!" came the shriek from behind me.

We waited at the corner. He ambled over, then refused to go further, standing on the corner, humphing, watching us walk away, right up until the point where we were about to cross the next street.

"Waaaaaiiiitttt!" came the shriek from behind me.

We waited at the corner. He ambled over... and so on.

Once we actually gathered some momentum, the walk went well and we were all in a much better frame of mind on the way home. We passed a crepe myrtle tree.

"How many kinds of blossoms are there, Mum?" he asked, always one for a difficult question.


A gentle breeze blew, lifting the clothes that were stuck to us (along with our spirits), cooling the sweat on our skin, sending crepe myrtle blossoms billowing to the earth.

"Look Mum," said Mr7, dancing with joy as white petals landed on his arms. "A flower shower."

And that's why I will never really put him out with the recycling, despite my darkest, direst threats.

{image: via}

Sunday, January 23, 2011

12 things I've learned in my first year of blogging

It's hard to believe, but it's nearly a year to the day that I nervously pressed publish on my first Fibro post. Since that day, I've pushed that button 267 times and will celebrate my first Blogoversary on January 27 (Thursday). Hang some streamers people, this is huge! The good news is that I've decided to give, not receive, on the big day, so make sure you pop by for your chance to unwrap the gift. It's a good 'un, I promise.

In the meantime, I thought I'd kick off the Fibrofest celebrations with a handy list of things I've learned in my first year of blogging. A 12-step program, if you like.

1. The first post is the hardest.
There's nothing quite like writing 500 heart-felt words and dispatching them into cyberspace for the first time... The silence echoed around here for quite a while.

2. Blogging is addictive.
As my family will testify, blogging takes on a life of its own - and can eat into your own life.  Hence, I didn't get an iPhone for Christmas. Handle with care.

3. Posting every day is not as easy as it sounds.
Blogging experts will tell you that you must post frequently and consistently in order to find an audience. What they don't mention is that posting every day and not writing about what you had for dinner can sometimes be very difficult. I think it's a matter of finding your own rhythm and posting to it.

4. Blogging is not writing.
I won't go over this again, given my 700 word essay on the subject. But it's really not.

5. She who has the most followers may not have the most friends.
In my early days of blogging, I used to frequent blog hops regularly. Until I realised that a lot of the people on blog hops were only blogging on blog hops and it seemed that the number of faces in their follower box was more important than the content on their page. Blog hops can be enormous fun, but now I choose them carefully, going to three regularly (Flog Yo Blog Friday, Maxabella's Grateful, Blog Gems) and running my own (Weekend Rewind - if you can't beat them, join them). Why these? The people involved in them are actively engaged and I've met some fab bloggers through each of them.

6. There's lots of good advice out there - you just have to ask.
One thing I love about blogging is how damn helpful other bloggers are. So many people have answered my dumb questions along the way that I can't name them all, but I appreciate every one. If you're on Twitter, #blogchat (Monday, 11am AEDST) is a fantastic place to learn lots of good stuff - there's a lot of technical babble some weeks, but there's also access to a lot of people who know a lot of stuff. It's worth popping in to see what they're talking about.

7. Even if you build it, they won't come unless you tell them it's there.
Building a blog takes a lot of time and energy. Probably about twice as much as you think. And the importance of networking (commenting on other blogs), Twitter and Facebook cannot be underestimated. Not only will these things help bring people to your blog, but they'll help you discover other blogs and bloggers. Which is more than half the fun.

8. Good bloggers have good balance.
Refer to point two. About halfway through the first 12 months, I realised that it was probably time to let go a bit. When your children are tugging at your skirt, telling you that you spend too much time on the computer, it's time to let go (note to The Builder: it never really got to this point, it's just poetic license...). It was at this point that I finally got the hang of scheduling my blog posts. Don't ask me why these things take me so long to learn... they just do.

9. Don't get too personal.
I'm not sure if it's my journalistic background, but while the Fibro is a personal blog, I try not to get too personal. No pics, no names. I guess if I had to put my feelings into words, I'd say that this blog is a story about our lives, not the story of our lives. Every blogger is different and that's why every blog is different. But a little bit of distance works for me.

10. What's your price?
At some point nearly every blogger will be approached by a PR company or sent a press release or asked by a friend to 'mention' their product. Which means that every blogger needs to have some idea of why they've started their blog and what they will do when this occasion arises. Whether you want to be the next and make your fortune, or whether you want to place an 'ad-free zone' badge on your sidebar is totally up to you. But it's a good idea to think about it.

11. Pretty is as pretty does.
Anyone who visited the Fibro in its earliest days may have recollections of my first blog header, which consisted of a photo of our roofline, fully showcasing the Pink in the Pink Fibro. Fortunately, my sister B  came to my aid and fancied me up a bit to the point you see now. But I have hankerings for a makeover, so watch this space. Basically, the best blogs are gorgeous, inviting, well-laid out places to be. I'd like to renovate the Fibro to that level.

12. Lists of 12 are hard to come up with!
When I first started out, every single post I wrote was the same - 400-600 words, pic, comments. Effective enough, but boring. Once I started researching this blogging business, however, I realised the importance of mixing up post types. I'll never be one for a Wordless Wednesday image only post (only because I have no photography skills), but I do my best to keep things interesting. No matter how you format it though, the key is to focus on producing the best content you can.

What do you think? Anything you'd like to add? I'm more than happy to extend my list...

{image: via}

Friday, January 21, 2011

Weekend Rewind

Can it be the weekend already? My, doesn't time fly when you drag the kids off to a week of intensive swimming lessons. (Note: if there were a sarcasm font, I would be using it right there.)

So, for some fun. First of all, I'd like to point out that not too many people sing songs about February. I thought I'd keep the theme of my themes going by introducing this week's Mixed Tape Rewind theme as February with a song - but there are slim pickings, folks. We can choose from:

'February brings the rain' (Julie London)
'February stars' (Foo Fighters)
'One February Friday' (Frankie Goes to Hollywood)
'Xmas in February' (Lou Reed)

I'd sing them for you, but I know none of them. So, without further ado, let's get on with the linky. The Rewind is, of course, the classic post linky - an opportunity to dust off an old post for some new comment love. This week, please drag out a masterpiece from February last year, if you can, or, if you can't, find me one with some LOVE in it. The highlight of February is Valentine's Day, so that's near enough.

To play along, simply follow the Fibro if we're not already acquainted, pop your post in the linky and then visit a couple of other links for some commenting magic. To get you started, I give you this post about the night that FebFast finally hit home.

Look forward to checking out all your posts!

And don't forget the other highlights of weekend linky love: Jen at The King and Eye features Blog Gems, another great excuse to air your archives, and Maxabella Loves has a whole lot of Grateful going on.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Fibro Five-Oh: Lisa Heidke

Today's Writer Q&A is wearing a new, eye-catching name. Did you notice? I'm not sure if I'm going to keep it, but I have a case of the Thursday blahs and a girl has to entertain herself somehow.


This, the latest in my series of writerly conversations, features Lisa Heidke, the fab Australian author whose new book Claudia's Big Break is on the top of my To Be Read pile, despite the fact that I've already read it three times. And yet, I still don't know how it ends.

To explain (and disclaim), Lisa is one of my crit partners, and I first read the manuscript for Claudia's Big Break around five years ago. The Romance Writers of Australia's online manager had put us together in a virtual writing group and we were sharing 'this is what I'm working on' snippets. In fact, Lisa was already writing What Kate Did Next (published as novel number two), and had a kernel of an idea for Lucy Springer Gets Even, her breakthrough novel. Claudia's journey to publishing nirvana took a little bit longer... but I'll let Lisa explain (I do allow her to get a word in occasionally).

Claudia was the first full-length novel you wrote, but the third published. What are the three main things you've learned between writing The End that first time, and publication of this book?
Lisa Heidke: 1. I thought it would get easier. I was wrong. There are no short cuts! Writing takes commitment, patience and discipline.

2. I didn't realise there would be so many drafts...endless writing, rewriting, deleting and fussing. Before I was published, I assume a manuscript needed two or three drafts, maximum. And maybe the manuscripts of other authors do, but Claudia's Big Break went through at least 15 drafts, five of them major.

3. I have also learnt that with the completion of each manuscript I doubt I have another 85,000-word story to tell. I find it incredibly daunting. So far I have managed to come up with ideas, but not all of them are winners.

Is there anything about being a professional author that has surprised you?
LH: "Yes! As an author, you  have to get out from behind your computer and generate publicity and interest in your books. I thought that once I'd handed over my manuscript to the publisher, my job would be done. But it's not. The onus is very much on the author to have their own website, create an online presence, and put yourself forward for speaking engagements... Now a lot of my time is eaten up trying to maintain an author profile."

Your books are known for their humour - is it hard to write funny?
LH: "I don't set out to write funny. I don't write puns or jokes. It's more observational and situational humour rather than laugh-out-loud funny. The characters I create lend themselves to drama and hysteria. I write about ordinary women who are thrown out of their comfort zone and I can find humour in that. But I try not to push it. I'm not out to make every page a giggle."

Do you think that 'chick lit' has moved beyond shoes and chardonnay to encompass deeper ideas?
LH: "Definitely! Chick lit is now such a broad term, encompassing mum lit, hen lit, lady lit, farm lit, lad lit... I don't mind how readers classify my books as long as they enjoy them. I am not trying to change the world, but I do write about real issues such as infidelity, divorce, teen sex, eating disorders and I think those topics have emotional depth. However, I don't mind the odd shoe reference being thrown in if it suits the plot line."

What's the one thing you do every time you sit down to write?
LH: "I make sure that the desk is tidy. I also make sure that I've tidied the house, put the dishwasher on, etc etc... delaying tactics, I know. Recently, I've taken to lighting a candle to signify the start of a writing session and that makes me happy."

Claudia's Big Break (Allen & Unwin) is out now. You can find out more about Lisa, her books, and her procrastinating habits (she's almost as good at it as I am) at

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Why a Nintendo DS is a Good Thing

Mr7 received a Nintendo DS Lite for his birthday. I was worried, I confess, that he would become addicted (screen addiction being a family trait). I was right to be worried. We have set up rules and boundaries and so far he is sticking to them well... but, oh my, how he loves it!

The best thing that can be said about the DS is its unassailable position as the best bargaining chip ever.

Most of our conversations now go like this:

Me: If you don't [insert chore or arduous activity of choice] right now, I will put that DS in a high cupboard for [insert one/two/three days]


Chore/arduous activity is completed.

Alternatively, it might go like this:

Me: "If you don't STOP doing [insert incredibly irritating seven-year-old behaviour] right now, I will put that DS in a high cupboard for [insert forever].

Him: [mutter, mutter] Okay.

Said irritating behaviour stops.

I'm not proud. But it works. I've searched for seven years for a child-wrangling tool this effective. The only downside is that there doesn't seem to be a credible DS-alternative for Mr4. Just three more years to wait.

{image: SkippyDogDesigns/etsy}

I'm guest posting today over at Cupcakes, Frocks and Pink with the gorgeous Mrs Kypo. Pop over and visit as I rediscover an old love...

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

The word of the year

In 2010, 'shovel-ready' was deemed by the esteemed persons who put together the Macquarie Dictionary to be the word of the previous year. Yes, it was soooo 2009, but it was, according to editor Susan Butler, topical and visually graphic in structure. Those are the criteria required to get a guernsey in our national dictionary. It was on the tips of everyone's tongues, it looked good - and it was raring to go.

This year's field holds some worthy contenders. Brand slut in the fashion category. Koala ears (defined as 'patches of pubic hair protruding from a swimming costume or underwear) also in fashion. Astroturf marketing (defined along the lines of marketing that looks as though it's word-of-mouth but is run by a behind-the-scenes professional marketer) in the communications area. Sandbagging, not in the area of flood management as you might expect, but in the Politics category, and meaning an attempt to secure an electorate against a feared swing in the vote by making election promises targeted at that electorate.

You can read the entire list - and vote - here, and it's worth the time to see just how far our language has evolved in 365 short days. Koala ears. Nothing more to say really...

Here in the Fibro, the language is also jumping ahead in leaps and bounds. If 2009's word of the year was 'bokkens' (full story here), then the strong contender to take out the award this year is - drumroll please - fablious (pron. fab-lee-us). Usage: 'Mum, you look FABlious.' Origin: Mr4 (who else?).

It's really taken off in these parts (that is, within the walls of the Fibro). Everything and everyone is fablious. So much classier than the overused 'fabulous'.

I'm betting it will really catch on.

What's the word of the year at your house?


Monday, January 17, 2011

Are we losing the gentle art of browsing?

Last week, I took the boys to the local library for a meeting of Mr7's Summer Reading Club. As they sat down together and made mobiles from a paper plate, some tin foil, a stencil and someone else's endless patience, I took to the grown-up section for some serious browsing. It's been ages since I did this. Mostly I'm in there with two boys, one of whom wants me to read Spot books and the other who wants to drag me through the 'big kids' section in search of Encyclopedia Brown books. Not a scenario that makes for comfortable browsing.

This day, however, I had free rein to wander each shelf, muttering under my breath (as I do every time) that it would all be so much easier if it were divided into 'crime', 'romance', 'Australian authors', 'etcetera', as the bookshops are. I picked out nine books. Five of whom were written by authors whom I knew and loved. Four were not. Chosen simply because I liked the cover. Or the blurb on the back.

This got me thinking about online shopping, which is, I confess, my usual method of buying books. As with most things internet, there's no browsing. You have to know what you want to find anything. Think about it - it's difficult to waft around any shop online, as you would in a real-life retail space. You know you want a wrap dress, and that's what you look for. You probably even know you want a Leona Edmiston wrap dress. And yes, online shops deliver them in your size, all in a row. But there's no room for your eye to be caught by the pretty top in the corner. Or the belt and earrings at the register.

Impulse purchases are the bane of many a person's credit card existence, so I guess I should be happy that temptation is taken away. But I do think we miss out when we can't browse.

A story in last weekend's Good Weekend magazine asked the question 'Can the book survive?'. The upshot of the story, by Nikki Barrowclough, was that e-books, with their instant, efficient, easy to carry appeal, are the way of the future, but that they will not, in the opinion of most people interviewed, replace printed books entirely.

The more time I spend online, the more my Luddite aversion to e-books fades. I love my printed books, and will always buy them, but for someone like me who reads voraciously, there is a lot to be said for cheaper books and being able to carry around more than one without lifelong back problems.

As a writer, on the other hand, nothing beats the thrill and satisfaction of holding a book, a real life book, with your own name on it. Emailing one to your friends will not, I suspect, feel the same.

But back to browsing. One thing my library experience reinforced was the willingness to try new things when they're put in front of you (and yes, I concur, that's easier when they're free). When you search for something online, you get taken directly there - that's the joy of it. But in arriving at your destination in one fell swoop, you miss finding the B roads - those lazy, winding detours that can present stunning scenery and unexpected country pubs.

So it is with buying books. How many wonderful authors and stories might you miss out on because you took the information super-highway?

What do you think? Do you find you browse for books online, or search for specific things? Does it matter?

{image: via}

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Droplets of inspiration

"What are you going to write about today?" asked The Builder, as we enjoyed the dying embers of the afternoon on the front porch.

I thought. "Not sure," I answered. There's so much going on in the world, so many words have been written, what can I possibly add? But if I don't write about the big stuff, what do I write about?

"I'm going to water the garden," I continued. He nodded, sagely. Watering the garden is what I do to escape. When Mr7 was a screaming, yelling, wet bundle of misery at the end of his first long, long days as a newborn, I'd hand him over to The Builder the minute he walked in the door (I confess to waiting on the front steps on more than one occasion) and fleeing to the back garden of our little Sydney house to water.

There is something about giving the plants a drink while my mind drifts in circles that brings calmness and clarity. I like to watch the sunlight create rainbows in the water spray. I like to watch the plants stand taller as the droplets hit their leaves. I like the scent of the wet earth. I like the peace of talking to living things that don't talk back.

It's as close as I get to meditation.

I turned off the tap, tried (and failed) to re-roll the hose, and came back inside.

"I'm going to write about watering the garden," I announced.

Do you have a 'go to' activity for thinking (and escape)?

{image: craftypagandesign/etsy}

Friday, January 14, 2011

Weekend Rewind

Do you remember that song by Pilot called 'January'? It went something like this: "January, sick and tired, you've been hanging on me, you make me sad with your eyes, you're telling me lies..." and then there was some kind of wailing.

That's kind of how I'm feeling about January right now. Enough already.

But we're halfway there and, better still, it's time for Weekend Rewind. To mix it up and make it interesting (as we cool music-types like to say), I'm giving the old mixed tape a theme this week. It's - you guessed it - January. So check your archives and wheel out a post from January - this year, last year, 2009, I don't mind.

Here at the world's easiest linky we like to keep things simple, so the rules are as follows: follow the Fibro if you're not already a friend, choose a favourite vintage post, link it up for some comment love, and then go visit a few other linkyers, just to share the love. Weekend Rewind is your opportunity to get some new comment love for an old post - be sure to pick a few links and return the favour.

Okay, ready, steady, Rewind.

PS: Don't forget to visit Jen at The King and Eye on Sunday - she runs an awesome archive linky called Blog Gems that allows you to get some cross-hemisphere love for your posts. And, as always, Grateful to Maxabella for her Saturday love-in. She's tops, you know, and I don't even say that because we share a gene pool.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

My Little Pink Book

Today my credit card bill came in. That, combined with a chance conversation on Twitter last night, reminded me that I have never shared with my Pink Fibro friends the fact that I once wrote a Very Pink Book about how to pay off credit card debt. That's it pictured. Pink, no?

The book came out in 2009 and is still available (at a heavily discounted price, as it happens) at Booktopia.

The brief from my wonderful editor at John Wiley was to provide practical information in an entertaining, readable way. Not an easy brief when you're talking about interest rates, minimum repayments and creeping debt. But, you know, a girl does her best.

So there you have it. A little bit of insight into how I spend my hours when I'm not here chatting to you guys (which could also be viewed as a shameless plug, I guess). And, yes, I'd rather be here chatting to you guys.

But it is a fetching shade of pink.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

The Devil's in the details

When I was a hapless cadet journalist, back in the day, I learned two major things: how to get to the publisher's office rain, hail and snow after being sent on countless errands by the Editor-In-Chief, and that if I was to succeed in journalism I need to get two things right: names and phone numbers.

I had cause to remember this vital piece of advice this week when I received an email from my Jedi Writer friend (you may remember her from this post, where I was trying on some Obi-Wan robes). "Oh My God," she wrote. "I've been trying to contact you and realised only today that I had your number wrong."

It transpired that she has been sending me text messages for the last few months, none of which I have received. Instead, they have been going to a poor woman named Rose, who must have been very confused (but not confused enough to text back that the Youngling had the wrong number). Finally, the Youngling tried to call me. And got Rose. Who'd never heard of me.

The Youngling took my number down with great care when I emailed back.

I learned my own lesson about this the hard way. I was working for a well-known women's mag and had interviewed the two Funny Men of Radio du jour: Tony Martin and Mick Molloy. I had been nervous about the interview because they were smart and humorous and known to run rings around interviewers. All went well. Right up until the point where the article was printed.

The headline: Martin & Malloy. In 54 point type.

I was not responsible for putting the headline on. In fact, the name was spelt correctly throughout the text. But I'd seen that headline before it went to print. All the sub-editors had seen it. The editors had seen it. But because it was in such big, black, bold type, none of us had really looked at it.

Mick Molloy did not miss the fact that his name was incorrectly spelt. In 54 point type. With my byline on it. And used it as fodder for a particularly humorous radio segment at my expense - it seemed to go on for an hour, but was probably three minutes or less. I only know it was humorous because other people were laughing. I was sobbing into my keyboard at that point.

Do I take particular care over the spelling of names? Oh yes I do.

Which is not to say that I didn't have a recent near-miss. I spelt the name correctly, yes. But failed to check whether the person about whom my interviewee was speaking was male or female. Unisex name, oh yes it was. Female? Oh no he wasn't.

Fortunately, that particular disaster was averted in a second draft. But it reinforced the importance of the details. And made me take a long hard look at my Obi-Wan robes. Methinks they should go to the back of the wardrobe for a while...

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Blame it on the rain

Rain, rain, go away.

We've had enough.


Donate here to help those affected by the terrible flooding across Queensland. Pretty please.

{image (don't you love it??): groundwork/etsy}

Monday, January 10, 2011

Why blogging is not writing

When I started this blog, on a dare, nearly 12 months ago, I thought blogging was just writing on the internet. If you read my first post (it's here, if you haven't had the pleasure), you can see my approach in all its glory. It's like a truncated magazine story. Written, at the time, for no-one (except my ever-supportive family, of course).

I confess it took me a while to work out that blogging and writing are two different things. Not completely different. Blogging does, by its very nature, incorporate writing. But there is so much more to it. Six months in, when I caved and took part in my first meme, I talked about the fact that they were one aspect of blogging that confused me. To quote myself:

"So I did what I always do when confused, which was to ignore the situation in the hopes that no-one would notice. I figured I’d just keep on doing my thing on my blog, sending it out into The Great Wherever (TGW) and that would be that.

But the thing with blogging – the great thing about blogging – is that it’s not just about sending your thoughts into TGW because – and this comes as a surprise to a newbie – TGW writes back! What with all the popping into other people’s blogs that you do, and all the popping into yours that others do, you become, well, neighbours. And neighbours interact. Just like in the good old days when one, gasp, actually spoke to the people next door, so it is with blogs.

So I can’t be confused and ignoring people any more. They’ll think I’m snobby and stop asking me to barbecues."

The Great Wherever writes back. It not only writes back, it invites you into the lives of people on a daily basis. You are essentially reading their diaries - some more personal than others, some more honest than others, some more touching than others, and some that make you laugh out loud. You hear their voices in everything they write. And they comment on everything you write.

When you write something for a magazine or newspaper, you might receive a 'good job' from your editor, and then never hear anything of the story again. When you write something for TGW, you know immediately how it's been received. If you've hit the nail on the head, the comments will flood in. If you write a dud, there will be a resounding silence (to whit: this post). 

No other form of writing is this immediate. So connected. Or, in so many ways, so satisfying.

Tonight, one member of my particular corner of The Great Wherever is hurting badly. My thoughts are with her and her family. That's the thing with blogging. Yes, it's about the writing. But it's also about the people.

Who knew The Great Wherever could feel so small?

Sunday, January 9, 2011

The road less travelled

I was all fired up to begin the new year with a zesty post full of vim and vigour. But a funny thing happened on the way to this post. I got all relaxed. Seriously.

Last week, Fam Fibro took off for an unexpected, unplanned (heavens, hold the presses) summer break with friends. To the Snowy Mountains. Yes, in summer. I've written a lot of articles over the years in my other guise as a finance writer about how the best budget family holidays are had when you go against the flow. To the coast in winter. To the mountains when the weather is warm. I'd never before followed my own advice (on this and a legion of other finance subjects). But, you know what? I recommend it.

The weather is cooler. The roads are clearer. Accommodation is plentiful and reasonably priced. The hills are alive - with wildlife, wildflowers and an occasional burst of song. We took Mr4 and Mr7* on a 4km hike up Australia's highest mountain and discovered that Mr4 forgets his weary legs and unhappy self when singing a song as he walks. (All together now: Oh The Grand old Duke of York...)

We arrived back home yesterday. Shattered. Our relaxing break had exhausted us so much that there was no movement in the Fibro, from anyone, until after 9am. The Builder and I are tired. We discussed this over breakfast. And came to the conclusion that this is what relaxation feels like.

We nearly didn't recognise it.

*Some housekeeping matters: to keep things simple, and because their birthdays are around this time, all children get new names. Mr6 is now the lofty Mr7; Mr3 takes a big step to Big Boy status and becomes Mr4. I'm going to miss Misters 6 and 3. They were such fun. But I'm sure the new guys will also keep me on my toes.

Friday, January 7, 2011

Weekend Rewind (I'm b-a-ack!)

So who knew that two weeks could fly by so fast? It's been a big fortnight in the Fibro - Christmas, New Year, a birthday, a wedding anniversary... we do like to pack it all in to the end of the year. It's big, but then we all get a whole year to recover from the excitement, so it works out.

But the blogcation is over and it's business as usual at the Fibro. To kick off the New Year, we begin with what I hope will be the biggest and best Weekend Rewind to date. As promised, it's time to dust off your best post of 2010. It doesn't need to be your most popular. It's the one that you like best. Your favourite post. The one that made your heart sing. Dust them off, link them up and let's give them the comment love they deserve.

To get you started, I'm sharing my first ever Fibrotown Fable. Romeo and Juliet (Part I). I thought about this post long before I wrote it and I still think about it today. Hoping you will too.

Can't wait to see what you've got for me this week!

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