Tuesday, May 29, 2012

And the winner is...

I know you've all been waiting with bated (get it) breath for me to announce the winner of the 'fishing' competition. It was a tough decision with some splendid tall tales, but in the end I couldn't go past Amanda's Japanese fishing story.

Particularly with NinjaBread Men on offer...

However, I know that she already has a copy of Career Mums, so I'm going to give her a job too. Amanda will choose (and, no, I haven't discussed this with her at all, so I'm nervously awaiting an outcome) one other fabulous fishing tale and that person will receive the book.

Over to you Amanda. Please announce your decision in the comments section and I will update the post later with all the appropriate fanfare.

Thanks to everyone for taking part!

Addendum: Congratulations Happylan - Amanda has chosen you as the winner of Career Mums (see comment below). Please email me your mailing address and I'll send it out to you asap.

Monday, May 28, 2012

Can you make a living as a freelance writer?

Every once in a while, I get a random email from a member of Team Fibro, asking questions about freelancing. How to get started. How to pitch. How to handle rejection. Most of these end up fuelling a blog post, mostly because the answers can be long and involved - and I figure if one person is wondering, then maybe others are as well.

Last week, I got a doozy from the lovely Kelly Exeter, a regular commenter here at the Fibro: "Dear Al, Can you make a living as a freelance writer? How?" (there was more, but that's the gist).

Short answer: Yes. But it's not for everyone.

Long answer: Oh, my, but it's a long answer. Settle in. I'll run you through it point by point.

1. People who make a living from freelance writing work really, really hard.

2. Everyone's idea of 'making a living' is different. The income stream from freelancing ebbs and flows. You can have good months and bad months. Months where several invoices get paid at once. Months where no invoices are paid. For this reason, freelance writers need to be able to budget. It is also a very good idea not to give up the 'day job' until you're established... which can take some time.

3. Diversification is the key. Look for ways to work across the internet, print media, corporate work, books - wherever you can. I can't stress the importance of this enough.

4. People who make a living from freelance writing are ... hustlers. Constantly pitching, constantly thinking of ideas, constantly talking to people. If I pitch a story and it's successful, I get to work on that story straight away - and send out three or four new ideas at the same time. Sometimes it all goes pear-shaped and I get too much work all at once - but this is balanced out by the times when I'm sitting around wondering where my next job is coming from.

5. Balance longterm projects with short-term projects. Longer feature articles can take a long time to pull together. Books takes months. I try to have a few longer-term projects on the go at any time - even if they're not paid projects (think book proposals and sample chapters) - and infill with jobs that have short deadlines and turnarounds.

6. Look after your relationships. Freelancing requires a certain amount of salesmanship. You're selling yourself, and you need to keep in touch with your 'customer base' (to use the kind of jargon that I would immediately edit out of any story I was writing). Remind people you're around, send through great, targeted ideas. You can't sit around waiting to be discovered.

7. Always do your best work. Even if you're writing a deadly boring information story, with no discernible fun or creativity, try to make it your own. Give it life where you can. Editors always remember your last story.

8. Value your work. A very wise writer I know once said this to me: "A fair rate for a job is the rate at which you're willing to do it." This varies from writer to writer, but has become more and more of a minefield as the internet opens up. There are sites out there who will pay you $5, $10, $20 for a 500-word story. If you're happy to take that on the basis that you can write 10 such stories a day for them, then that's a fair rate for you. Only you can decide what your time is worth.

9. Writing for free can be valuable. Can. In the old days, when I started out in journalism, working for free was one way that cadets, interns and editorial assistants began to build their byline. It is still a valid route - publishing credits are not easy to come by and building a portfolio can be difficult. But if you're going to give away your words, make sure you choose wisely where they go. Writing for free for 'exposure' is only worthwhile if the 'exposure' you're getting is from a credible source.
10. At the end of the day, freelance writing is a job. Yes, I get to do it in my slanket and slippers, but if I don't produce the work, the pay soon dries up. Freelance writers who make a living are disciplined (even if they may spend a little bit too much time on the internet). Deadlines are deadlines and, in this line of work, deadlines are constant. It's like having homework to do every single day of your life. (And sometimes it's like you're doing nothing but algebra and physics.) See point 1.

So there you have it. My two-bob's (or 10 points') worth. I hope that answers your question Kelly.

And now I must fly. Deadline, you see.

[image: dendrea via photo pin cc]

Thursday, May 24, 2012

10-9-8-7-6-5... Launching a brand-new ebook!

I've been working on a secret project. And now it's no secret anymore. I am proud and pleased and thrilled and [insert all manner of adjectives] to announce the launch of a brand-new anthology. An ebook anthology. An anthology of pieces by 32 Australian parenting bloggers.

Seriously. The excitement!

Things They Didn't Tell You About Parenting ($4.99, buy it here) came from a late-night idea, some late-night emails, and many more late nights of writing and editing and Skyping and pleading and cajoling. It came from a desire to help one Australian mum help 12 orphaned Indonesian girls to enjoy a better life, and to help many others to acquire an education. All proceeds from the book go to Foundation18, established by humanitarian Cate Bolt, whose passion and drive and sheer bloodymindedness are second to none.

One thing about Cate is that she makes you think. She's all over injustice and getting involved and making a difference. She's not averse to making people uncomfortable about their own comfortable lives, if it helps her to help others.

She made me think about what I could do.

It's easy to have an idea. Not so easy to bring it to fruition. "An ebook would be good," I thought.

Next thought: "I have no idea how to make an ebook."

Fortunately, I knew someone who did. So I called Tracy and Mal at Ebooks Need Editors and, just like that, the ball was rolling. It picked up momentum as soon as we approached our wonderful, talented bloggers - every email we sent out ("Er, we're thinking of doing this... will you write something for us?") was met with a resounding YES. And soon the pieces came flooding in.

Mrs Woog wrote about raising an individual.

Naomi from Seven Cherubs wrote about how she's not the parent she thought she would be.

Kerri Sackville wrote about the crushing responsibility of being a mother.

Eden wrote about the best and worst day of her life.

Maxabella wrote about Smacking (because she does love a good argument).

Chantelle from FatMumSlim wrote about the anxiety that comes with overwhelming love.

Carol Duncan wrote about handling the stiff questions.

Lori from Random Ramblings of a Stay at Home Mum wrote about unexpectedly becoming a single parent.

An Idle Dad drew clever lines between conversations about colic and conversations about potholes. 

Jo McComiskey from Beautiful South created a cover image to sum it all up.

And that's just a sample. Some of the pieces made us laugh. Some of them made us want to cry. And some of them gave us those goosebumps you get when the writing creeps under your skin.

Some are voices that you will know. Some will be new. And when the inimitable Wendy Harmer added her voice to our mix, writing the foreword for our book... well, picture me dancing around my study.

I am so proud to be part of this wonderful anthology. I am so proud of the wonderful team of editors and bloggers who banded together to write a terrific book and raise money for Foundation 18.

Just... proud.

You can learn more about Things They Didn't Tell About Parenting and buy it here for $4.99. Please do!

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Gone fishing... and a giveaway

I'm taking a little break, to get in some, er, fishing time. And I am - fishing, that is. I'm throwing out lures, choosing the right bait, keeping lines in the water, hoping to hook... something.

All will be revealed in Friday's post.

In the meantime, tell me your best (and worst) fishing story. I have a copy of Career Mums (that's it, on the right) and a set of fabulous Ninjabread Men cutters for the best anecdote.*

*Game of skill. Winner chosen by me. Entries close 7pm (AEST) Sunday May 27, with winner announced Monday May 28. Would be great if you followed me here or on Facebook. Thank you.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Instagram envy

There are times when I wish my blog wasn't so ... wordy. When I could pop up an image (taken by myself and looking spectacular, of course) and that would be it. That picture would say at least 1000 words and I could take the rest of the week off.

But if there's one thing I've learnt in my several thousand years' working in magazines, it's this: I am visually challenged. I have no idea. I couldn't find a decent pic if I fell over its Instagram glory on my way to the bathroom. And I sure as heck can't take them.

Which is not to say that I don't appreciate one. I love blogs like FatMumSlim, Beautiful South, A Beach Cottage, Oh, Hello Friend, A Cup of Jo, and, oh, many, many others. That list doesn't even get into the interiors porn blogs, or the wedding porn blogs...

You know what they say, you always admire what you don't have. Which makes me a person full of Instagram envy.

Beautiful images make such a difference to a blog. Which blogs do you love for their images?

Thursday, May 17, 2012

What did you want to be when you grew up?

So a former student of Geelong Grammar is suing the school because they did not 'support her' enough in maths to get the mark she needed to do law at university. The only surprise about this is that somebody didn't think of it before now. Seriously, I wasn't supported enough in maths by the local high school to get a waitressing job. My general ineptitude at maths should not be brought into consideration here. Not at all. Where do I sign up for the class action?

Lots of people would like to do law at university. Lord knows why. Everyone I know who did it spent years and years working 50 million hours a week and wearing pantihose. Yes, many of them are now worth squillions... but at what cost?

Personally, I wanted to be an actress. I was ready. Starring roles in local theatre productions had prepared me for worldwide fame. And then BMX Bandits came out, and I realised that Nicole Kidman probably had the 'frizzy-haired redhead' roles sewn up for the foreseeable future.

I wuz robbed, I tell you.

Almost as badly as my blogging mate Kerri Sackville, whose early acting work can be seen here. Apparently she was up for Nicole's role in BMX Bandits. She only lost by a hair, methinks.

Perhaps Kerri would like to join my class action against the producers of BMX Bandits, who clearly did not 'support us' enough to get us the role?

The Builder always knew he wanted to be a builder. And a builder he became. I don't know too many people like him. For most there's a gap between what they wanted to be when they were growing up and where they ended up as adults.

So what about you? What did you want to be when you were growing up? And where did you end up?

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

The Hoarder's Apprentice

Mr5 has gone to bed tonight clutching a pair of grey shorts to his heart. These shorts, size 2, are apparently his favourites. He loves them. He told me so.

The fact that said shorts have been languishing in the bottom of his cupboard, sight unseen, for months, if not years, is beside the point. He loves them.

This afternoon I told him that I was going to start cleaning out his wardrobe. The fact that our move from the Fibro is a matter of weeks away has really hit me in the past few days. I look around me at the inordinate amount of stuff that we seem to have and wonder how in Heaven's name it's going to go from point A to point B. The Builder pointed out that its down to us to pack it up to ensure its safe and timely travels.

I was kind of depressed for a while after that.

But not as sad as Mr5 who, it has to be said, has inherited the family hoarding gene with a vengeance. This is the boy who collected the foil wrappers from chocolate bars for many months, storing them carefully for the day that he would make Mr8 a shiny cloak from them. True story. When the wrappers inexplicably disappeared during a clean-up one day (I swear I have no idea what happened to them Officer), he was inconsolable.

I cleaned out his stuffed toy basket one morning, while he was at school. Into the charity bag went the pristine stuffed animals he never looks at. Never. The bag went into the back of the car... where I promptly forgot about it and drove around with it in the boot for a week. Imagine my horror when I came out to the car one morning to drive the boys to school, only to discover Mr5 in the boot clutching a stuffed sheep to his breast.

"Mum, how did Sheepie get out here?" he asked, blue eyes wide with horror. "He must be lonely!"

By evening, Sheepie (who had not had a name until that day) was snuggled up with Mr5 in bed. Two weeks later, Sheepie is under the bed, lying amongst the dust bunnies, forgotten. (Note to self: smuggle Sheepie out in the morning and kick him straight to the kerb.)

So when I told Mr5 about the clean out, and how I was only going to throw out things he'd outgrown, he moaned and sighed and threw himself about in true ham fashion before striking a dramatic pose and laying down the law. "Okay," he said. "But we have to keep my favourite shorts. I love them."

And which might they be? "You know the ones that are a little bit grey and they've got like that stripe along the bottom?"

Er, no. But anything for a quiet life. The first pair of grey shorts I came across were taken to him for inspection. He peered at them closely. "Yes, I think that's them," he said, taking them from me and marching back into his room to tuck them in under the blanket.

And so he sleeps tonight, with his Duckie and his shorts on the pillow beside him. I have no doubt that those shorts will soon join Sheepie under the bed, but for now he loves them.

And he won the battle to keep them. His grandfather will be so proud.

[image: my dust bunnies are not this cute, spincollective.co.uk]

Monday, May 14, 2012

In search of storage

The Builder and I have a new obsession. Storage. We are moving from a house with two built-ins, ample kitchen cupboards, a linen press, a massive pantry, and a laundry full of 'spare' cupboards to a house with... well, not much.

We are on the lookout for storage solutions. Wardrobes, bookshelves, witty little boxes and anything with 'extra storage' built into it. Ebay is getting a workout. The boys have been dragged to through antiques and vintage shops til we can't stand the whinging and whining anymore.

This week we had a score. Two beautiful navy steamer trunks. Great condition. Original shipping dockets still in place.

Thank you Facebook.

Does your house have enough storage? Any tips for us?

Friday, May 11, 2012

One of those mornings

This morning, as Mr8 and I were having our daily fight about putting on his uniform and finding his shoes, the phone rang. It was 8.15am. The lunches were half made. The teeth were unbrushed. My pyjamas were still firmly in place.

"Hello?" I said, out of breath from wrestling over a teddy bear and in no mood for chatting.

"Er, hello, it's Mr B from the school. We're ready to go on our excursion and we were just wondering if Joseph was on his way."

"Oh, but, er..." I spluttered. "The note said 9.30am."

"Oh no," he said, cheerfully. "That's 9.30 in [another town]. We really need to leave now to make it in time."


"We'll be there in five minutes," I said, slamming down the phone and hitting the panic button.

Three minutes later, Mr8 was in the car, uniform on, hair brushed, teeth clean, lunch in place, bag packed. Mr5 sat beside him, half a uniform on, hair unbrushed, teeth uncleaned, lunch on the kitchen bench, no bag. I'd managed to put on a pair of tracksuit pants, and thongs, a t-shirt and sunglasses. We screeched out of the drive, screeched up the road, screeched to a halt two minutes later.

He made it.

At which point, Mr5 and I looked at each other, then slowly turned the car around to drive home and finish getting dressed.

Not a great way to start the day. But now that I know Mr8 can get ready in five minutes, our mornings are going to be very different.

Have you had one of those mornings lately?

[image: LisaStorms]

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Avoiding the cracks

Mr5 and I enjoyed a leisurely walk home today, at the cigarette-end of the afternoon, as the sun dipped and the traffic stream swelled with workers desperate to get home. We strolled along, me on foot, him on his scooter, little legs pumping as he showed off his prowess.

"Look Mum! I can stop!"


Somewhere around the abandoned petrol station, where the concrete is smooth and expansive, I decided I'd have a go. He handed over the wheels reluctantly. I bent almost double to grip the handlebars, one foot taking up almost the entire deck of the scooter. You don't realise how low to the ground kids actually are until you attempt this kind of thing...

One push and I was off.

All went well. To begin with. He ran along beside me, cheering. A second push, and I hit the footpath. A third push and I... hit a crack and almost went over the handlebars on my head.

"Whoops*!" I said.

"Mum," he said, racing over the pat my arm. "You have to avoid the cracks. If they go up and down, they're okay but when they go side-to-side, you can't just ride into them like that."

I handed back the scooter, laughing. He proceeded to lecture me, in minute detail, about the various methods of tackling cracks in the footpath. (I think he's spent too much time with his Dad...) Apparently, one should slow down as one approaches, allowing one to dip in and out of the crack without actually colliding with the crack. Or some such.

As he settled back on the scooter and we went on our merry way, he looked up at me from under his straight blonde fringe and smiled. "It was a good try, Mum," he said. "A bit more practice and you'll be as good as me."

He zoomed off. A minute later, he zoomed back, riding rings around me.

"Actually," he said. "I think it would help if you were a bit smaller."

*May or may not be edited for G rating

Sunday, May 6, 2012

How (not) to name your blog

When I started this blog, I knew nothing about blogging. Which is probably a good thing. It stopped me overthinking the whole thing, which would have put off the process by about... two years. I just sort of decided to start one day and by the next I'd begun.

Naming the blog was easy. I gave no thought to niche or SEO or any of the other things that a person is supposed to think about when they name a blog. I didn't do a worldwide Google search to find out if there were other Pink Fibro blogs. It didn't even occur to me that most of the world would have no idea what a fibro even is.

I had moved from the Big Smoke to a pink fibro and I wrote about ... life. No brainer.

All of which is well and good should a person remain in their pink fibro for the rest of the life in question.

You can see where this is going, right?

The Fibro has a For Sale sign out the front. Actually, correct that, the Fibro has a For Sale sign with a giant red SOLD sticker slapped across it out the front. In six or so weeks, give or take 1000 or so anxiety attacks and stressful moments, Fam Fibro will pack itself up and take itself off to new premises (I only wish it were as easy to do that as it is to write it...).

A yellow weatherboard. A geriatric one. Henceforth known as The Old Girl. We met her unexpectedly, we fell in love and the rest is history.

The first thing that everyone says to me when I say 'guess what? we're moving!' is not 'yippee, good for you, how exciting!'... no, it's 'but what will you do about the blog name?'.

My response: 'nothing'. In hindsight, I should probably have called my blog Allison Tait's Blog and been done with it. But, seriously, where's the romance in that?

The Builder and I have lived in several homes together. Homes on which we've lavished inordinate amounts of tender love and care. Each time we've moved on, we've taken a souvenir. A house number from one. A gate from another. Every single potted plant we've ever watered.

When I asked him what we'd take as a souvenir from the Fibro, he laughed. "We'll take the blog, of course." No brainer.

So, here's my thinking. The Fibro has no boundaries. It has no walls. Its spiritual home will remain here on the worldwide web. See, when I write it like that it makes perfect sense, right?

Anyway, I hope that you'll stick along for the ride and enjoy the next chapter with us. Because, really, Life In A Yellow Weatherboard just doesn't have the same ring to it at all.

How did you name your blog? Have you ever had cause to question or second-guess your choice?

Friday, May 4, 2012

In praise of the singlet

When I was a kid, I hated singlets. Hated. Singlets. Particularly the long-sleeved variety known as 'spencers'. Even the word makes my flesh crawl.

Now that I am a parent, however, I am the Queen of Singlets. You might even call me the Mad Queen of Singlets, so obsessed am I with ensuring that my boys are wearing one at all times.

If it's cold, they give you that handy little extra layer. If it's warm, they will wick away sweat or provide a handy extra layer should you wish to remove your shirt and - voila! There you are - cool, comfortable and not walking around topless*.

My love of singlets began when I was pregnant. They were the only safely unisex thing I could buy, so I bought them by the container-load. Seriously, I had so many singlets that neither Maxabella nor Multiple Mum had to purchase a single one, sized 0000 to 2, for years. They were just so... cute. And white. And fresh. And innocent.

Seriously, is anything sweeter than a baby in a nappy and a clean white singlet? No. Thought not.

Anyway, I am ridiculed for my singlet obsession. My children are the only children in the extended family still wearing one every day. Now they come in multiple colours (even a classic navy Wife Beater or two) and patterns, but I still love the classic white the best. But never, ever long-sleeved.

The boys don't seem to mind. Yet. Every once in a while, when he's feeling rebellious, Mr8 throws the words 'well, I'm not even wearing a singlet' at me. And I laugh. 'You'll be so-o-orry,' I throw back at him, secretly pleased that I've managed to create such a benign point of revolution.

Mostly though, they're happy in their singlets. In fact, if you popped into the Fibro after school any day in summer, you'd probably find them in singlets and undies... and nothing else.

Hmmm. Perhaps it's time to take the focus off singlets and address the issue of pants. Before I run into real problems.

Is yours a singlet household?

This post was inspired by Maxabella, who took the time to throw slings and arrows at my singlets in her post yesterday.

*Note to male population, no-one really wants to see your pecs or your tatts or your beer gut, so please put it/them away.

[image: where else but Bonds?]

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Build or crumble? The Voice

Given that our usual viewing fodder stretches to Grand Designs and Monster Moves, The Builder and I have been somewhat surprised at the level of our interest in The Voice. I thought we'd lose interest after the blind auditions, but the Battle Rounds are drawing us in.

There's a certain pattern in the battles, I've noticed. Generally, one of the competitors is an old-stager, someone who's been round the traps, learnt the techniques, done the training. The other is a raw newbie. Someone who's been keen, but never followed through. In most instances, the rawness wins. Not the polish, the training, the technique, the traps. The raw.

The training and experience seems to put a ceiling on the Voice. If you've had all that, and you still haven't cracked it, what more can be done with you? The conversation between Keith Urban and Megan Washington about the two 'pub rockers' summed it up. One would need to be constructed. The other deconstructed. Interestingly, Keith went against the trend and chose to 'crumble' rather than 'build' with his choice. In almost every other battle, the 'build' has won.

A writer's voice can be trained. Techniques can be learnt. Polish can be acquired. But at what cost? I know that when I started blogging I had to take a step back, deconstruct a little, crumble. Years of professional writing had put a particular veneer on my writing. It didn't work in this environment. Maybe my vulnerability didn't show through? (Hi Seal!).

It has helped my fiction writing immensely. When I read fiction I wrote five or so years ago, I can see the writing. When I read things I write now - well, let's just say that, to use another word thrown around a lot on The Voice (Hi Joel!), I believe the voice wins.

I'm glad that, so far, The Voice doesn't look as though it will simply come down to a 'belt-off' between the biggest voices. The biggest voices have never really interested me that much. The Dolly Parton of 'I will always love you' has always done more for me than Whitney's vocal gymnastics.

But that's not to say that training and technique don't make a difference. I can't wait to see what a few weeks of polish and performance do to some of those raw voices. Rawness will capture our attention, but it's consistency that holds it.

Here's to next week's battles.

Have you been watching The Voice? Your thoughts? Do you think about technique when you write?

[image: a small gift for Keith, this wrecking ball necklace is from mrd74/etsy]

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