Friday, August 31, 2012

Giveaway: Win $100 worth of books

In the past few weeks I have been discussing several different terms for blogging with my sisters. Slogging comes to mind. Flogging comes to mind. Even plain old logging, on those days when you can't see the wood for the trees.

But one of the main reasons that I blog is the fabulous people that I've met through blogging. In particular, the ones who pop in here on a regular basis to say hello, let me know what they're thinking, tell me I need to get over myself, and, on occasion, laugh at my feeble jokes.

It's taken nearly three years, but there are now more than 1000 fabulous folk who've signed up via the Google network to drop into the Fibro regularly. I thought it was a landmark worth celebrating, so I've decided to run a giveaway, just to say thank you.

To win a $100 gift voucher to spend at Booktopia, one of my favourite online booksellers, all you have to do is to leave a comment below.

To make this a game of skill, for that is what it must be, tell me why you read blogs. Or, why you don't read many if that's the case.

Most creative answer, as judged by me, will win. Those who share the love on Facebook or Twitter will be granted extra points for, um, creativity (though, of course, I can never be bought by such things... cough...).

You have until 12 midnight (AEST) next Thursday (6 September) to enter, and winner will be announced here at the Fibro next Friday (7 September).

$100 just to spend on books. Any books. All for you.

Thank you.

[image: from here]

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Weeping at weddings: it's universal

On Saturday I went to one of the loveliest weddings I've been to in ages. Admittedly, weddings are few and far between for me these days, with most of my friends cruising past the 'decade' marker and some approaching their China wedding celebrations. (China? Seriously? Not even an amethyst or something?)

So, imagine if you will, late afternoon light filtering through the trees to cast a golden glow. Garlands fluttering in the (admittedly chilly) breeze. Big fat balloons dancing on their tethers. Handmade bits of fabulousness hanging out of trees. Confetti in lolly bags. The bride in cowboy boots, the groom in spectacular sneakers.

And everyone crying.

The bride trying to keep her mascara in place. The groom choking on his vows. The best man splashing salt all over his Man In Black ensemble. The friends weeping, the family weeping, eyes welling up all over the joint.

We were all so happy, you see. The wettest wedding I've ever seen.

My propensity to cry at weddings, any wedding, whether I know the couple or not, is legendary. I don't wail like Maxabella, but my eyes hurt with the blinking. Since I've had kids, it's true, I cry at pretty much anything. Particularly children singing or giving speeches or generally doing anything that requires them to be earnest and innocent and young and... oh dear, I'm weeping at my keyboard just thinking about it.

It makes school assemblies quite entertaining for everyone else, let me tell you.

I wondered if the whole weeping at weddings thing was universal. So I ran a little survey on Facebook and Twitter. And,  yes, at least 80 per cent* of us are blubbering away from the moment the wedding march begins.

One Facebook friend, a photographer, admits that she cries even when she's only at the wedding on a professional basis - to the point where one Father of the Bride had to offer her a tissue during the speeches. I love that commitment to the job!

Others were frank about saving their tears for funerals, and I get that. I cry at them, too. I guess my emotions leak out of my eyes whether happy or sad. But then, I also cry in movies. I couldn't watch Beaches these days. Or Steel Magnolias. I was incoherent in both of them way back in my late teens. Imagine how I'd be these days, based on my school assembly performances. Doesn't bear thinking about.

There are no weddings in my future that I can see. Sadly. I'll have to save my wedding weeping for the television version. Though I have to admit that a TV wedding hasn't really captured my imagination since Scott and Charlene's big day on Neighbours. Which was a while ago. I'm not going to think about exactly how long ago.

That would really make me cry.

*please do not check my maths - I put together a guesstimate based on the comments I received. there is nothing scientific about my surveys. and it's a well-known fact that statistics will say whatever you want them to say. ask anyone.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Are book publishers looking at your blog?

We all blog for different reasons, and for some it's about turning their blog into a book deal (others manage this simply by happy coincidence). But are publishers really looking online for book inspiration?

I knew a lot of people were wondering, so I asked six publishers whether they're reading blogs with an eye to a book deal. I found the results really interesting and I'm sure you will too.

Pop over to visit the gorgeous Nikki at Styling You, where I'm guest-posting. Would love to hear your thoughts!

Friday, August 24, 2012

My garden of writing

I've spent some time this week rummaging about through this blog looking for things. It's like burrowing to the bottom of the toybox to find the missing Connect 4 piece. Or excavating the bottom of Mr8's cupboard to find his Ninja belt after he's 'cleaned up' his room.

In the course of said rummaging, I have discovered that there are certain themes emerging in my work after nearly three years of writing this blog. The slanket gets a good workout. I am very fond of Obi-Wan Kenobi. And I have an absolute obsession with gardening/writing metaphors.

To the point where I really need to get over myself.

In an attempt to do so, I have rounded up three of the better ones, put a fence around them, and put them in their own little patch. Specifically here. My garden of writing. (With only the slightest hint of fertiliser...)

If you ever need a gardening/writing metaphor, I encourage you to pick one.

Wa-a-ay back in the beginning, there were pumpkins.

The editing process can be brutal - but it beats death by 1000 cuts in writing.

And a hint of things to come: Small pleasures

I have also likened writing to weight loss, waiting, and washing.

But, seriously, how beautiful is this image of the first magnolia in my garden? Look at it there, backlit, unfurling, like the first few pages of a brand-new novel, when the idea is fresh and golden and the writing is... okay... I'll stop now.

What's your favourite metaphor for writing?

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

You're only as fast as your slowest team member

Since our move to The Old Girl, the boys and I have been walking to school every morning. Or rather, it began with us all walking, but now they ride their bikes while I run along behind, carrying Mr5's bag like a Sherpa (because he can't seem to ride with his eyes open and balance a bag at the same time), shouting 'don't forget to check the driveways' at regular intervals.

The first time we ventured out onto the streets, after months (and years in some cases) of practising at the showground, on bike paths and in the driveways, they were both very cautious. Mr5 wouldn't leave my side. Mr8 put on some Big Brother Bravado and ventured ahead, but he was quick to stop when I shouted and would actually stop at every driveway, look right and left, and then ride on.

Now, they waiting at the end of the drive by the time I lock the back door. By the time I get to the end of the drive, they are down at the first corner - where they must wait until I arrive, puffing, to escort them across the street.

As soon as they hit footpath again, they're off, 'check the driveways' ringing in their ears, a quick glance sufficing as they sail past each house front. They are at the next corner, waiting patiently, by the time I get past the first property.

And so we do this dance all the way to school. Race off at 100 miles an hour. Stop, wait for mum. Race off at 100 miles an hour. Stop, wait for mum.

"You must be getting to school much quicker now that they're riding," said The Builder to me over dinner one night.

We all looked at each other.

"We can only go as fast as Mum," said Mr8.

We all looked at each other.

"Which is fast enough," said Mr5, patting my hand.

I wonder if Tenzing Norgay had this problem.

At least he didn't have driveways to contend with on Mt Everest.

[image: from here]

Monday, August 20, 2012

Tips for writing features #11: Riding the waves

If there's one thing I've never really managed to master with the whole freelance writing gig, it's the waves. The work comes in waves. It's either drought or tsunami. Similarly, the income comes in waves - drought or tsunami (okay, perhaps more drought or trickle, but we can only think positive, right?).

Mastering the ebb and flow of the work is a true skill, and one that I'm still working on. When I'm, er, between jobs, I fret and pace and worry and send out 1000 pitches. When the work all comes in at once, as it invariably does, I fret and pace and worry and scramble and try to remember to send out a few pitches so that I don't find myself in this mess again - and then I don't. And so the cycle begins again.

In an ideal world, I would be channeling the Muse (remember her?) once a week in regular, planned sessions and sending out a couple of pitches on a regular, planned basis. That way the work would flow steadily, always present, never too much, never too little.

I don't actually know any freelancers who manage this, but if you do, please contact me. We should be friends.

So what's my tip here? Beyond doing your best to follow that aforementioned calm, steady, regular, planned approach, my only tip would be to try to enjoy the downtime when you do actually get it. Go to a movie. Have lunch with friends.

I should mention that I never do this. I'm too busy fretting and pacing and worrying and sending out 1000 pitches to take the breathing space when it comes.

But you should definitely do as I say, not as I do.

Do you do freelance writing work? Are you better at riding the waves than I am? Please share any tips in the comments!

[image from here]

Friday, August 17, 2012

Catching up

This weekend I'm off to hang out with my Big Chill friends. The people I met when I first moved to Sydney at 17. With whom I made some of my biggest and best mistakes, and had some of my finest moments.

They lived with me through the various outfit/style changes that represented me trying to work out where I fit in in The Big Smoke, picked me up when I fell on my face (both metaphorically and literally), and laughed and laughed and laughed with me at so many, many things.

I haven't seen them in years.

I can't wait to see them again.

Have you got Big Chill friends? How long since you've seen them?

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Men's Toilet Time - and other things I learnt this week

Despite The Builder's loving suggestion this evening, I have decided not to dedicate this blog post to the subject of Men's Toilet Time. Partly because I learnt more about it this evening than I probably ever wanted to know. And partly because I am going to work on removing all that knowledge from my brain forthwith.

Instead, I shall revert to that old faithful, and share with you all the things that I have learnt over the past week or so.

1. Men's Toilet Time is a long and involved subject. It involves considerations that I would never have ... considered. And I for one am glad that I choose to do my reading elsewhere.

2. Five year old boys are the most deliciously maddening creatures ever invented. Even more so than four year old boys, which is saying something. How can one small person be so utterly, utterly revolting one minute and so incredibly delightful the next? It must be exhausting.

3. Dolores Umbridge is possibly one of J.K. Rowling's best characters. My lip curls into a sneer every time I read her name. Mr8 is intoxicated with Harry Number Five and cannot believe how big he is for managing to be halfway through such an enormous tome. Really, it's all about size, isn't it?

4. Women are their own worst enemies when it comes to selling themselves. Of course you can do it. You are already doing it, it's just called something else. Men do not have these doubts (clearly they use all that Toilet Time for positive affirmations).

5. The Spice Girls are very hard to explain to anyone who has never seen them before.

6. It is possible to feel unbelievably happy for someone you've never met. I was beyond thrilled for Anna Meares when she won her gold medal. Hers touched me like no-one else's.

7. People are amazingly generous with the time, knowledge and expertise if you ask them the right way. Really.

8. I need to drink more water. It is possible that I need to sign up for a two-hourly reminder. I must remember to ask Maxabella for a recommendation.

9. I am finally at the point where I can see through the weeds to the trees with my new garden. I was out there watering it this evening, breathing deeply as the scent of the salvias rose on the mist from the hose, and I thought how blessed I am.

10. It occurs to me that with one husband and two boys in my home, I am in for many, many years of Men's Toilet Time ahead. Sob.

What did you learn this week?

[image: signfail/]

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Motherhood. It does your head in.

I was given this beautiful statue at the baby shower I was lucky to have before Mr8 was born (no shower for Mr5 - funny how that happens...). When I got her, she was whole.

This week, she had a run-in with a soccer ball.

Pretty much sums it up, don't you think?

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

How do you give your mind a holiday?

Reading Kerri Sackville's post today made me realise just how tired I am. You know how you know you're tired but you just try to forget it and drink too many coffees and forge ahead? I'm there. Mine is not so much a physical tiredness - I'm actually getting more sleep right now than I have for ages, with my insomnia finally deciding that it was done playing with me for a while - but mental exhaustion.

I am so tired of thinking.

My head is full of thoughts all the time. From the moment I wake up to the last ten seconds before I finally fall asleep mid 'I really must xxxx tomorrow'. I am thinking about the boys, The Builder, the house, the bills, the weeding (I'm looking at the image on this post and thinking about the fact that I have more gardening to do...), the fact that I didn't buy the curtain rings yet despite many, many notes to self.

I am thinking about the edits on my novel and having trouble keeping ideas for the next one at bay. I am trying out some new things work-wise and they require a whole lot of extra thought. I have two feature articles on the go, plus some work for regular corporate clients that needs to be monitored.

I am thinking about the fact that I still have not unpacked the 'desk' box in my study - which means that the filing system is not happening. I am thinking that it is ridiculous that I do not have time to unpack the desk box.

I am thinking about what to have for dinner tonight, and tomorrow night and every night ad nauseam.

I am thinking about what time I will need to get up on Friday morning to make a 10.30 appointment in the Big Smoke. I am thinking about my flights to the ProBlogger Event in October. I am thinking about whether or not I have remembered to book accommodation for said event.

I am thinking about Mr8's school work and Mr5's reading. I am thinking that I haven't remembered to subscribe to the Reading Eggs website (have you seen it? It's great for kids!). I am thinking that I haven't bought a birthday present for Mr5's friend or a wedding present for the two (!) weddings I'm attending in the next three weeks.

I am thinking that if I don't get off the internet soon I will be late to pick the boys up from school...

Always, always thinking.

I'm not sure a holiday helps with this kind of tiredness. As they say, 'wherever you go, there you are'. Maybe I should try meditation, or yoga, or some other short break from my brain.

Any suggestions? What strategies do you have in place for giving your mind a rest?

Monday, August 6, 2012

There's a reason they're called classics

I just finished reading Anna Funder's novel All That I Am. It's a wonderful book, worthy of all the prizes its won, but readable. That's important to me. Sometimes I read prize-winning literature, or classics, because I feel I should, not because I particularly enjoy it. Wonderful writing does not always equal wonderful story, or so it seems to me. And while I am enthralled by wonderful writing, it is a wonderful story that keeps me up at night, turning pages.

On the weekend, The Builder and I took a trip to Sydney to go to the theatre. It's a bit of an event these days. I bought the tickets for his birthday a while ago, and then there was the accommodation to the be sorted, the boys to be sorted (thanks Gran and Pops!) and the logistics of getting to a matinee after Saturday morning soccer to be sorted. But we got there.

We went to see Death of a Salesman at Belvoir Street Theatre. I chose it because it a) fitted the schedule and b) I'd heard of it but never read it or seen it. It was written in 1949 by American playwright Arthur Miller. It won the Pulitzer Prize. With such classics there's always the worry that it might be dated. And if a theatre company chooses to 'update' them... well, that can be even worse.

I need not have worried. There's a reason it's a classic. Yes, some of the references and language were very '60 years ago', but the themes remain perfectly relevant today. So many big ideas played out within such smallness. 

Classics can be page-turners.

What was the last 'classic' you read or saw?

Friday, August 3, 2012

The sheer hard graft of writing (again)

Yesterday I received the editor's notes on my first novel. Thirteen pages full of suggestions and ideas and ... stuff.

I read it through once, heart in my mouth. Every suggestion, idea and... stuff... requires me to delve back down into that place from which writing comes and bring forth... more. Better. The best I can do. Even though I thought that I'd already given my best. I need my Bestest Best now.

I got these notes three hours after I had sat down with the first draft of my second novel and gone through it with a fine-tooth comb. All I could see was the work I had to do. So. Much. Work. But it goes on the back-burner now while I focus on the first one.

I am learning so much with this process. I know that I have written before about the fact that your first draft is not your book. But now I know just how much it changes. You can't hide from an editor. Things that in your heart of hearts you know are not developed enough will not be 'overlooked'. They see straight through to the book it could be. And they make you do the work to get it there.

I will not pretend this is not agonising. Because it is. The editor's note that I wanted to receive would have said this: "Dear Allison, we think your book is absolutely perfect the way it is, do not change a word." In some Parallel Universe, Parallel Allison is receiving just that note. She is Parallel Thrilled.

Here though, I'm all wound up and thinking hard, gnashing my teeth and weeping a little inside. It's all about details. More and more and more details. Building the best book that I can. The sheer, hard graft of writing.

And I will take all the lessons I'm learning to the second draft of my second book. Hopefully getting better each time, making the process that bit easier each time. Because I want there to be more times.

And one day, maybe I'll get that Parallel  Editor's Note. (A girl can dream, right?)

[Image from here]

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Do your children like to write?

Today I'm over at Planning With Kids, the fabulous home of uber blogger Nicole Avery, writing about writing with children. The post is all about the things I do in my little writing club at the boys' school, and features the first-ever public mention of Bethany, The Saddest Girl In The World. You won't want to miss it. Bethany is going to be famous one day.

You can read the post here.

Do your children like to write? Are you as amazed as I am at some of the magical things their little minds manage to produce?

photo credit: slightly everything via photo pin cc
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