Thursday, December 23, 2010

If you need me...

I'll be right here. With the book. And the wine.

I'm taking a little blogcation. I'll be back in early January, with a special edition of Weekend Rewind. Start thinking now about your Best Blog Post of 2010 to link up on January 8th. It's going to be a cracker.

I plan to call it 2010 in Rewind. Catchy, no?

In the meantime, enjoy your festive break, wherever you are, whatever you do.

Look forward to seeing you back at the Fibro in 2011.

{image: built, painted, styled and photographed by The Builder}

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

O Christmas Tree

We have a Christmas tree in the Fibro. Your basic pine tree, of the species Plasticus Fantasticus. It lies dormant in a box under the bed, awaiting it's annual chance to (literally) shine.

This year, we also have a Christmas tree outside the Fibro. More a bush, really. A dead bush to be precise. It used to be a magnificent Portwine Magnolia shrub. Then the July rains came and it drowned, dropping branches and leaves from the base up in a desperate attempt at life.

Despite our best efforts, it could not be resuscitated. But neither have we worked out what to do with it, or the space it would leave behind if we remove it. So it remains. Twiggy. Lifeless. Starkly beautiful in its own special way, as the spiders weave their magic and decorate the sticks with webs, which glisten in the sunlight and in the rain. Leaves are redundant, really.

These days, however, it stands a little taller, decked out in holiday finery of baubles and glass balls. It is surprising how much pleasure I get out of looking at it. The boys whizz past it on their scooters, barely allowing it a glance. I can see it from my study window, watching the different play of light on the sparkly baubles as the sun progresses overhead.

I wonder if it will still be there next year. Perhaps it will spontaneously burst back into life, new growth speckling its bare limbs. Now that would be a Christmas miracle.

Do you have a real tree or a plastic specimen? Any baubles bedecking your backyard? Or perhaps you prefer a light display?

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Waiting for the Man

The boys and I are finding a new rhythm. School holiday rhythm. Slow mornings building to fever pitch in the afternoons. And underneath it all, an undercurrent of excitement. Christmas is coming.

For me, it's about To Do lists. For Mr3 it's about logistics. Where will Santa park his reindeer (there's no point in being on the roof when the Fibro has no chimney)? How does he fit the world's presents on his sleigh? Can we wait up to see him?

"We don't have to," says Mr6, matter of fact. "Daddy will meet him at the door so he can hand over the presents." Mr6 has always been very keen that a strange old man in a red suit should not be entering the house under cover of darkness. The presents, yes. The man, no.

"Well, I can wait with him," says Mr3, who's desperate to lay eyes on said man.

"I don't think he'll come if you're there," I say.

He thinks.

"I can hide behind Dad. He won't even know I'm there."

He's a wily one, that Mr3. I envisage a long battle on Christmas Eve to get him to close his eyes. And even then, it wouldn't surprise me to find him peeking through the blinds well after midnight. Watching. Waiting. Hoping.

Don't you wish Christmas held that much excitement for you again?


Just as an aside, don't you think rhythm is a weird word? One that I need to check for spelling every single time I write it. Kind of like weird. Which words are weird for you?

Monday, December 20, 2010

Why I'm not getting an iPhone for Christmas

For one brief moment in early December, I considered asking Santa for an iPhone. I floated the idea past The Builder, who recoiled in horror. "We'd never see you," he spluttered, in reference to his many veiled hints over the past year that I may have been spending a wee bit too much time 'checking my email' as he calls it.

I thought about that. And decided he was right.

Since I began this blog in January I have spent more time wed to my computer than ever before. The first six months were the worst. I was, literally, obsessed. Writing, reading, commenting, tweeting, Facebooking... and then starting all over again. I have read hundreds and hundreds of blogs, and thousands and thousands of posts. I have tweeted - one moment, let me check - ah yes, 8231 times. That's right. I've told people what I had for lunch (which is the perception of Twitter for those who don't Tweet) more than 8000 times.

And all this whilst working off a desktop computer. Not even a laptop.

Imagine how ridiculous my statistics would be if I had 24 hour, in my pocket, access to the internet. Instead of watching Mr6 practice his Ninja moves, I could have commented on blogs. Rather than helping Mr3 round the gymnastics obstacle course, I could have Tweeted. Instead of taking a book to children's birthday parties, I could have... yes, well. You get the point.

While my obsession with the joys of blogging has returned to a much more manageable level as my first Blogoversary approaches, it is true that I'm easily distracted. And so I must concur with my husband's recoil, and stick with my seven-year-old hot pink Nokia something-or-other. It doesn't tweet or message or have any form of access. It doesn't even have a camera. Yep, we are talking seriously old skool here. Practically trendy again.

Sometimes it's best to stick with what you know you can handle.

Do you have an iPhone? Does it rule your life? 


Sunday, December 19, 2010

Our secret garden

Fibrotown has a secret garden (not the one pictured, but I just couldn't resist that image, from The Real Flower Girl). A magical place of trees and fairy lights and music. You can get good coffee in the daytime while the kids run amok. In the evening, you can bring your own vino and enjoy live performances while the kids run amok.

Last night, we introduced Misters 6 and 3 to the delights of the Blues while we chatted with friends and sipped our wine under the trees and the stars. Mr3 gave all and sundry a display of his stellar dance moves (keeping the hip minimalism to a minimum). Mr6 attempted to analyse the chords being played by the singer/guitarist. "Do you think that was an A, Mum?" Hmmm. Possibly. Then again, possibly not.

It's wonderful to have a place where entire families can enjoy real music. Space for the kids to get into the groove. Space for the parents to sit back and relax. No pressure. No hokey pokey. No Hot Potato.

Every town should have a secret garden.

Does your town have a secret garden? Or even a non-secret place where families can enjoy a night out? Tell me all!

Friday, December 17, 2010

Weekend Rewind

Well, the weekend is here again. Time to relax, unwind - and Rewind. I'm feeling quite unwound already, so I'll keep it short and sweet. The idea is that you dust off one of the fabulous posts languishing in your archives and bring it out to shine once more The resulting mixed tape of classics is a true treat!

All you have to do to join in is to become a friend of Fibro, link up a lovely old post and then lavish some comment love on some of the other linkyers. Couldn't be easier. Which is what we need for a weekend, right?

Don't forget to visit The King and Eye on Sunday, where you can also air your archives for some cross-hemisphere love - and pop in to visit MaxabellaLoves. You'll be grateful that you did.

Right, everyone sitting comfortably? Ready, set, Linky!

Thursday, December 16, 2010

The Perfect Gift

Christmas is the season of giving - but it's also the season of Giving Fatigue. The streets of Fibrotown are awash with perky people in cute outfits collecting for various charities. If they're not tackling you in the supermarket, they're knocking on the door of the Fibro. I get that they're trying to tap into all the goodwill that's washing around the place, but I can't help but feel that the goodwill grows thin as December motors on. Stressed-out mum + smiley charity worker = not a match made in Heaven.

Even in the darkest moments of Giving Fatigue, however, there are some requests that make an impression. Perhaps it's the politeness of the wording. Or maybe it just strikes a deep, family chord.

When the Australian Red Cross Blood Service got in touch to let me know about their Christmas campaign, the resonance was there. Five years ago, Opa, The Builder's father, lost his battle with cancer and went to what the boys refer to as Opa's Special Garden in the sky. It is there that he rumbles about with a wheelbarrow, creating the thunder, alongside the angels.

Amongst the mementos of his long and interesting life is a framed certificate. Plain white paper, beautiful copper-plate script. A red cross at the top. It is the certificate he was given for donating blood 100 times. A name, a date, plain words  outlining his achievement. But it's poetic. It says a lot about honour, community and general caring. It says a lot about the man.

I love that certificate. I love what it says about Opa.

Giving blood is giving the gift of life. It's also giving a legacy. That's pretty much the perfect gift.

Details of the Australian Red Cross Blood Service's Perfect Gift campaign are here

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

It's a good life

Sometimes, a picture says a thousand words. Even for me.

These are my tomatoes. My tomatoes.

After a shaky start, my Jack and the Tomato Stalk plants are bearing fruit. Lots and lots of red, ripe, juicy fruit. Ambrosia.

I am in awe.

And delighted.

I love gardening. It makes me smile.*

Are you a gardener? How does your garden grow?

*Feel free to remind me of this post next time I'm complaining about the weeds.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Tara Moss is in the Fibro

The first time I interviewed Tara Moss, I wanted to hate her. It was way back in the days when her first novel, Fetish, was on the stands. She was the model who'd started writing. Tall, blonde, gorgeous. With a book. Your basic nightmare.

We met at a cafe in Bondi, she all Bambi limbs and giraffe eye-lashes. Me, hiding behind my stenographer's notepad, wishing myself elsewhere. But she confounded my expectations. First up, she was just really nice. Professional nice, but also personal nice (yes, Virginia, there is a difference). Down to earth, obsessed with blood and gore, and Smart. Really smart. A quote from my ensuing story is on her website:

"Forget all the cliches about international models... Tara Moss has literally rewritten them."

Since Fetish (which was shortlisted for the Ned Kelly Award for Best First Crime Novel), there have been four other books in Tara's phenomenally successful series about Makedde Vanderwall, a tall, blonde, gorgeous model who solves crimes. Add to that, this year, a new character in a new series as The Blood Countess introduces Pandora English.

And now, though seven months pregnant with her first child, Tara has graciously agreed to spend some time in the Fibro for my monthly writer's Q&A. Bless!

Does crime writing require a particular set of writing skills?
Tara Moss: "There is a lot of focus of concise plotting in suspense writing, but I think all good novel writing requires a disciplined plot and much, much more. I begin with character. For me, plot is extremely important, but still secondary to character development and motivation.

"I also value research quite highly. My crime novels take me to dark places and my research can be intense and, at times, disturbing. I believe that authenticity is important in all writing, and hands-on forensic and investigative research is a must for me. Not all writers are interested in hands-on research, of course - like getting their PI credentials or being choked unconscious for a scene - but I do find that my favourite crime writers have a similar dedication to research and experience. I believe it shows in the writing."

Was it the popularity of vampires that led you to The Blood Countess? Do you see vampires staying with us for a while?
TM: "The Blood Countess is the first in a series of novels where the real world and the spirit world or supernatural connect - a paranormal series, if you will, but not really a series about vampires. The title refers to the real life figure of Elizabeth Bathory, a noblewoman from the 1600s. The next novel in the series, The Spider Goddess, comes out next year and draws on Greek mythology. In the world of Pandora English, my new heroine, there are mediums, psychical scientists, vampires, ghosts and mythological monsters of all kinds. And even a touch of satire on precisely the current fads you're talking about...

"I think that somewhere in the human subconscious we crave stories that explore the dark side of the psyche - stories about vampires and villains, monsters and cold-blooded killers. We need to explore our most primal fears in our storytelling. It's what compels me to write about crime, mystery and things that go bump in the night."

You've said you take your research seriously. Does that get easier once you've established a character and a series? How did it feel to start all over again with Pandora?
TM: "It was wonderfully liberating to create new characters and an alternate New York for this series. My novels for the past 12 years have centred on Mak Vanderwall and I felt it was time to branch out and literally create a new world in my writing. I will continue to write crime and to write Mak, but also this new series. Creatively, I think variety and fresh challenge is very important. Research for this new series is totally different, but challenging and fascinating for me."

Writers are constantly told they must blog/tweet/get themselves out there... How do you balance the writing time with all the other things that make up a modern writer's life?
TM: "Novel writing takes priority, along with my TV commitments on CI Network and 13th Street, some of which involves delving into the criminal mind, reading books and interviewing fabulous authors - it's a tough life! I don't spend a lot of time blogging or tweeting, but it's something I enjoy in my downtime. I find that Twitter and Facebook are wonderful mediums to communicate directly with readers and fans. It doesn't take long, and the contact is rewarding."

How different do you think your writing life will be with the new baby?
TM: "Writing is my fulltime job and I will continue working to support my family. It's a bit early to predict how motherhood will change my writing, if it does at all - don't expect new stories about kittens and cupcakes! It might just be time for that spooky children's book I've been dreaming up for years..."

Do you love reading crime fiction? Ever tried writing it?

Monday, December 13, 2010

Fibrotown Fable #4: A tale of two queues

If there's one thing you can count on at Christmas time, it's a queue. Some of them are the good, old-fashioned kind. Some, not so much. I was first introduced to the good, old-fashioned queue when I lived in England for a few years in the 1990s. I arrived in middle England (like Middle Earth, only colder) and got myself a temp job as 'Shirley Switchboard' for a local direct debit company - think the people who run the EFTPOS technology. The first morning, wrapped in my brand new coat, I headed off to the bus stop, to be confronted by a neat line of people arranged across the footpath, nobody speaking.

Unused to this, given that Sydney bus stops tend to resemble flocks of seagulls ready to pounce on the first unsuspecting chip (or bus) that approaches, I loitered around a nearby fence, observing. When the bus arrived, everybody neatly filed on. Woe betide anyone who attempted a sidling sideways entry through the bus doors. I They were given short shrift.

It was a good lesson in queuing. And it comes in handy at this time of year. Today, I stood in two Fibrotown queues. The first, in a well-known 'variety' store, was a hot, frustrating exercise in fraying tempers. Bright lights, cheesy carols, people with at least eight items in the '5 items or less' line. There was a lot of muttering. Some huffing. General shifting from foot to foot. And that was just me.

The second, in the local post office, was quite a different story. I arrived with my arms laden with parcels, head swivelling from side to side, checking out the array of 'last-minute gift items' in the strategically placed dump bins, doing the kind of 'do I need it?' mental calculations designed to drive a last-minute shopper mad. The queue was long, snaking and winding its way through the shelves of Christmas cards and packing tape, like a serpent. Or a boa constrictor, ready to suffocate the unwary.

I took my place and began a little huffing, with, possibly, some muttering and shifting thrown in. The lady in front of me turned and smiled. Cropped grey hair, bright blue eyes, impeccably dressed. She was a chatter, I could tell.

I tried a perfunctory half-smile in return, hoping to avoid discussion of the weather, but she was having none of it. Before I knew it, she'd drawn me into conversation. We quickly covered off the horrors of the season, how many children/grandchildren we each had (she had many more of the latter than I do), the cost of postage, blah, blah, blah. The queue wound slowly forward.

"We're lucky," she said. "We're going to my daughter's for Christmas. If it had been last week, we wouldn't have got there."

Her daughter lives in Young, NSW. They grow cherries. Grew cherries. Before the flood came.

"We only moved out here a few years ago," she confided. "Before we moved, we'd had four years of drought. Not a drop of rain. Now this. Christmas won't be that merry, but at least we'll be together."

It was a sobering moment. Nightly we've been watching the news as town after town went underwater. "How terrible," we say to each other. "Those poor people." Our next thought? Food's going to get more expensive.

She watches it and thinks of her daughter and her former neighbours. People. Farmers who've been doing it tough for years, and are now doing it even tougher.

"Who'd be a farmer?" my friend from the queue remarked as she finally hit the top and headed off to a counter. "Have a Merry Christmas."

"You too," I said, fervently. "Oh, you too."

{image: via}

PS: In my new guise as Fibro The Snowman I'm guest posting today with Lori at RRSAHM. You totally need to see it. If only to see how I look with a carrot nose. For real.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Escaping our Escape to the Country

Given my previously confessed television tastes, it will surprise no-one to learn that I am currently obsessed with a lifestyle program about people buying houses in the country. There are no Trawlermen involved. No Monster Moves. No Smithy from The Bill (RIP). Not even Kevin from Grand Designs. But there are houses, British people and loaded discussions about the size of various kitchens and the importance of an Aga.

The premise, if you've not yet discovered it on Channel 7 Two, is that a family (taking in everything from couples with cats to couples with enormous numbers of children (plus Grandma) to Dads with grown daughters to candidates for Mother & Son) wants to move from a larger town (everything from London to a large village of 10,000 people) to The Country. In the version currently aired here, presenter Catherine Gee enters the fray to find said family four houses which might be suitable to their needs. Technically, said family is then supposed to fall in love with one of said houses and make an offer. Only they never do.

Catherine is unfailingly cheerful in her quest to fulfill the desires of 'My Family', as she calls them. Only once have I seen her calm demeanour slip. And it took an over-bleached blonde with an unflattering tan to do it. Something about putting mirrored tiles all over the dining room of a 17th Century cottage and inserting a full bar didn't agree with Catherine. But even then, only a faint mew of disgust and subtle roll of the eyes gave her away. And only to those of us who knew her well.

Each week, The Builder and I watch the endless parade of properties - invariably called Rose Cottage - and mentally rearrange the furniture, pulling out walls, and replanting gardens. We've discovered we're not 'Beamy' people. Beams usually mean low ceilings and that's not for us. And we're partial to an 'outbuilding', big windows and a 'downstairs cloakroom'.

Seriously, it's like a 10pm Friday night SBS movie for Real E-Stalkers like us. House porn. We're wed to the Fibro, but that doesn't stop us looking. Even at totally unsuitable properties from 2007 on the other side of the world. In fact, that's probably better than looking at totally unsuitable properties available locally - and now.

Why, just months ago I nearly fell for a one-bedroom renovated church. Fortunately, sanity intervened. Well, that and the fact that it wasn't named Rose Cottage.


Friday, December 10, 2010

Weekend Rewind

Can you believe it's the weekend already? This time of year, the weeks roll around so fast. Which is fantastic when you're waiting eagerly for Weekend Rewind, world-famous* vintage post linky.

So, time to produce another fabulous mixed tape of classic posts. All you have to do is become a Friend of Fibro (if you haven't already joined the gang), dust off one of your favourite old posts - you know, the ones that simply didn't get the love that they deserved - and join up. Oh, and don't forget to share the comment love with other linkyers.

That simple. Love your work!

Speaking of simple, don't you love those crafty types who make whipping up a cushion cover and knocking out a Christmas wreath look simple? I do. I love them. I'm very simply not one of them. This week's Fibro post is all about how the craft gene by-passed me all together.

That's it - have a great weekend and don't forget to visit Jen at The King and Eye for some cross-hemisphere linky love. Yes, another opportunity to air your archives. For which we should all be grateful - and go and share the feeling at MaxabellaLoves. So much linky love.

*in the sense that people in the world know about it

Thursday, December 9, 2010

All about books: The Distant Hours

I finished reading Kate Morton's new book The Distant Hours today. I bought it a couple of months ago and then put off reading it, savouring its presence on the To Be Read pile. I am an unabashed fan of Ms Morton's writing, having devoured both The Shifting Fog and The Forgotten Garden. I find her particular combination of storytelling and beautiful prose, overlaid with a whiff of family saga, quite compelling.

The Distant Hours did not disappoint. But now it is over. As with the best stories, I never wanted to leave the world that had been created. This time, however, I'm taking a little something extra with me.

"She says there are stories everywhere and that people who wait for the right one to come along before setting pen to paper end up with very empty pages. That's all writing is, apparently, capturing sights and thoughts on paper."

That quote really resonated with me. It sums up much of what I've said before about 'waiting for the muse'. It reminded me that writing is about capturing what goes on around us. Bringing our own particular spin to the everyday.

It stayed with me as I watched Mr6's Christmas concert tonight. The pinched, anxious face of a child looking for Mum and Dad in the crowd. The wide smile that lights that face as he spots the hands waving wildly in support. The tall blonde sprite wearing the 'Elves Gone Wild' t-shirt, completely deadpan throughout the whole performance. The unabashed joy of the Kindy kids in their Santa hats and Angel halos, beaming as they work through their 'choralography', contrasted with the excruciating group self-consciousness of the sixth-grade class.

Small moments every one of them. Each a family saga in itself.


Wednesday, December 8, 2010

'Twas the work before Christmas

The world is going to end on December 25. It must be. It's the only explanation for why every single thing on my To Do list has that particular deadline.

Everyone wants to 'catch up' before Christmas. Like we will not be here come Boxing Day. Multiple Mum has moved her entire Christmas 'catch up' list to January 2011 and reports great success in lowering stress levels in the Multiple household. We should all try it.

Everyone wants copy in before Christmas. Like we're not all going on holidays for at least a week or two, leaving said copy to languish unread and unloved.

December is always insanely busy. Every year I am surprised. Every year I complain about the work. Every year I forget. Temporary amnesia. The same reason women can cheerfully get pregnant with their second child, knowing what's ahead.

For now, though, I am slogging through it. One foot in front of the other. In time to Jingle Bells.

I can only imagine how Santa must feel. Now there's a man with a looming December 25 deadline.

{image: via squidoo}

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Preschool at the Disco

Scene 1. The car. Mr3, in full pirate regalia, is excitedly counting down the minutes until the preschool disco begins. Mr6, who could not get his pirate belt to sit right and ended up throwing it across the room before we left, is sulking in his booster seat. As we drive, a little voice pipes up from the back: "Mum, don't forget to paint your lips. You must be BEAUTIFUL."

I exchange amused glances with The Builder before reaching into my bag for my lip gloss and obediently 'painting my lips'.

Scene 2. The dance floor. Mr3 and I are dancing. He is a dervish. I am Gulliver on a dance floor full of Lilliputians. Suddenly, he stops. And stops. And stops. I bend down. "Are you tired? Do you want to have a break?" (Please, please, please.) Big blue eyes look up at me. "No Mum, this is still a dance move." He points to his knee, which is wiggling slightly while the rest of him remains immobile. Talk about hip minimalism. "Right," I say. "Carry on."

I foresee a great future for him at the dance parties/raves/whatever of the future.

Scene 3. Home. Little arms around my neck. "Thanks for dancing with me at my disco," says a sleepy Mr3. I tuck him in and kiss him goodnight, thinking back on our shared Nutbush/Macarena/Chicken Dance experience. As we'd left the room where the disco was held, we'd run into a boy of about 12 who shrieked because we'd surprised him sneaking out of a door down the hall. A refugee from a sixth grade formal. "Oh," he said, panicked. "I thought you were my teacher. I'm hiding. She's trying to dance with us!" Like it was the worst torture his mind could conjure up.

A reminder to savour every minute of every dance move. No matter how minimalist.

{image: via}

Monday, December 6, 2010

Rockin' around the Christmas tree

I'm not sure if I have mentioned this before, but my mum has a wicked eye for the whimsical. She has a clock that plays show tunes. She has a tiny violin that fiddles Irish folk tunes. She has a stuffed hound dog that sings Elvis tunes. She has an Elmo dressed in a chicken suit, a plastic gnome that belts out rock tunes, a fat little chef who sings opera.

The kids love it. Mr3 loves it so much that he has begun siphoning off the collection, bringing it home to the Fibro for 'visits' (Mum, Chicken Dance Elmo is coming home real soon). Me, I always been fairly ambivalent about the whole scene.

This year, however, I am a convert. A couple of years ago, Mum bestowed upon Fam Fibro a small green Christmas tree that lights up like the proverbial Christmas tree and sings 'Rockin' around the Christmas tree' extremely loudly. When we got it, I think we smiled politely and put it on the shelf. Last year, it made it to the top of the sideboard and was brought down on request. This year...

This year, that Christmas tree owns Christmas. Mr3 is besotted. He sits it up next to him on the sofa when he watches tele, just in case he feels like pressing the button. He presses the button and all hell breaks loose, with Mr6 shrieking that he can't hear himself think and Mr3 dancing around the living room like nobody's watching. But we are. We're all watching.

Tonight, we decorated the Christmas tree. As we twined the tinsel, hung the tinkling, twinkling lights and debated the correct positioning of each gold bauble, our Rockin' Christmas tree serenaded us. As The Builder and I remembered each of the 'special decorations' we'd bought  ("remember this one? Blue Mountains... the little blue angel, must be Holland...the silver heart that J gave us"), Mr3 pressed 'play' over and over again.

By the time we put up this year's new addition - a pure white ceramic dove wearing a silver crown - we were all belting out the chorus and Mr6 was playing along on his guitar.

Only 19 more days until Christmas. So I should only hear that song about 786 more times. Either that, or the batteries will magically run out in about 24 hours. I'll keep you posted.

Do you have a special family Christmas song? Do you collect 'special' decorations? Do you, perchance, have a novelty singing Christmas tree in your own life?


I'm guest posting with Heath at ColesOnline today - come and share the story of your latest crush. Mine is small, green and crispy. Really.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Too many ideas can be dangerous

I left the muse on the train. A weekend away from the Fibro and my head is whirling with ideas, thoughts and impressions. Usually, this would be a good thing. But I'm struggling to distil it all into a single post. I've talked before about finding the armpits of a story. Today, I think I've turned left at the belly button and ended up somewhere under the right shoulder blade.

Too many ideas can be just as difficult for a writer as too few. When you've got nothing, you have to magic something out of thin air. When you've got a flood, you need to find a rowboat and decide a course of action. It's your voice that helps you swim through, technically popping you up into a life ring just when you need one.

Deciding what to leave out is as important as deciding what to put in. Give three writers the same set of information and chances are they will each come up with a different story. Or should.

At this point, I'm still swimming in fragments. Two 17-year-old boys discussing life, Slash and hair. Whether it's polite or not to insert yourself into another family's crossword-puzzle debate ("no, no, stationary with an 'a'"). The science of managing expectations. The sheer magnitude of realising that I'm okay with not being 25 any more.

Where am I going with this? Precisely my point.

I'm going to leave this post right here and head back to the station to await that muse. With any luck she'll arrive with a clear plan on the morning train. Either that, or a full day of the family-work routine will swiftly bring me back to earth as a one-idea-at-a-time kind of gal.

{image: galeriemontmarte}

Friday, December 3, 2010

Weekend Rewind

It's that time of the week - time to dust off a favourite old post and give it a good airing at the Fibro. Weekend Rewind is all about giving your archives a second chance at comment love, and I'm loving the mixed tape of posts you guys come up with each week. Feel free to grab my button (see how casually I said that?) and share the linky love.

I confess that this week I will be unwinding in the Big Smoke and not back until Sunday, but rest assured I will visit all the linkys then - looking forward to it! In the meantime, get ready, get set, go. Let the world's easiest linky begin (and don't forget that Jen at The King and Eye has a fortnightly linky called Blog Gems that lets you share some cross-hemisphere linky love).

This week, as I'm out of the Fibro, I thought I'd share a little tale about the time I left the Fibro - and ended up examining love toys in a friend's living room. The linky is open all weekend - don't forget to visit a few links and give back a little lovin'!

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Friday on my mind

Fridays used to mean a big night out. Drinks in the city. Catching up with friends. Dancing, laughing, flirting. The end of the week. Time to take a deep breath - and let it all hang out.

Then I had children, and Friday blended into Thursday blended into Monday. In fact, every day was a Tuesday, as The Builder is fond of saying. Particularly as I was working from home, wedging it into whatever hours it would fit, be it Friday, Sunday or sometime in the Never Never.

With Mr6 at school, however, Fridays have reassumed their mantel of importance. No after school activities on Friday. No reading. No guitar practice (actually, not a lot of that at any time, but I'm dealing with that). We walk to town, all of us, and have a milkshake. We come home. We eat leftovers or takeaway or, maybe, even, go out for Chinese. The Builder and I are on the sofa with a glass of wine by 8pm at the latest, in time for a raft of lifestyle programs with which to while away the evening. It's our one total veg night of the week. Veggier, even, than Saturday.

I love Friday nights. There are no interviews to organise, no stories to write. That all waits til Sunday night (I'm a last-minute kind of girl).

This Friday, I'll be reliving my (relative) youth, heading to the Big Smoke to catch up with friends. It will be great fun. But part of me will miss the sofa. The ritual of winding down.

How do you spend your Friday nights?


Don't forget Weekend Rewind, world's easiest linky, here at the Fibro on Saturday and Sunday. Dust off a favourite old post and link up!

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Where do you stand on Christmas cards?

Yesterday I bought two packets of Christmas cards. Lovely, they are. Sweet illustrations, all decked out in silver glitter. Still blank. But I've made the first step.

I'm going to put myself out there and say that I love Christmas cards. I love sending them. I love receiving them. Writing them, I'm not so fond of, but I make time for it every year because it's sometimes the only hand-written note I send all year*. Thank you notes are also hand-written, but not all my friends get one of those every year. All my friends get a Christmas card.

I have one friend who told me that I am never allowed to stop sending cards. Mine is the only proper, actual, hand-written card that she gets. If I stop, the only cards she'll receive are from real estate agents and her bank. One year I toyed with leaving her off the list just to play with her mind, but I resisted. It didn't seem to be in the right spirit, you know?

It's true that I don't always receive cards from people I've sent them to. In fact, many people don't write back. It's also true that I receive cards from people whom I suspect would never have sent me one had I not sent one to them first.

I don't care.

I will continue to write and send my Christmas cards, ignoring the insta-pleasure of the email card, for as long as Australia Post is still around to provide a snail mail service. It's a big part of Christmas for me.

But I will never send a family Christmas letter. Sorry. If you want to know what's going on, you have to actually speak to me. Or read my blog. Which, come to think of it, is one big family Christmas letter.

What about you? Do you send Christmas cards? Do you love them? Hate them? Light your Christmas candles with them? And what's your position on the family Christmas letter?

*It is worth noting that my handwriting is so appalling that it is probably a good thing I only drag it out once a year. There are people all over the country puzzling over my Christmas cards, wondering who the hell they're from.


Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Not quite a sleeping beauty

Three things I have learnt in the past 24 hours:

1. Sleep apnea is not just for 'overweight truck drivers'*

2. It is not possible to have a good night's sleep on a fold-out bed.

3. The only place open in town, any town, at 6.30am is likely to have Golden Arches out the front.

*direct quote from accredited sleep specialist

Mr6 has been for a sleep test. It has been decided that he, the world's skinniest six year old, has very mild sleep apnea. He snores like a truck driver, but this is the only thing he has in common with that profession, despite a recent visit to a truck show. He also grinds his teeth, throws himself about, talks, moans, dreams wildly - and occasionally forgets to breathe. His is the mild version, though, so it's only very occasionally. Much better.

Apparently, the problem is with the size of his tonsils and adenoids (large), in comparison with that of his airways (small). This is hereditary, though being overweight does exacerbate the problem, which is why, according to our sleep specialist, people think it is a disease of larger, sedentary people. It's certainly not something I ever associated with the under-seven brigade.

The specialist thinks he will grow into his tonsils. I suspect that, if this is true, he will end up about 200 cm tall and built like a ... Mack Truck. Which is okay by me (although feeding him may be a problem), though looks highly unlikely at this stage.

The interesting thing about sleep tests is that they put you in a tiny little room, wire you up with about 87 long leads, including five or six stuck to your head with dissolvable glue, stick prongs up your nose and then say 'okay, go to sleep now'. Of course.

Suffice to say, Mr6 had the worst night sleep he has had in, well, ages. And so did his Mum. Oh, yes I did. (You only put guests on a fold-out bed if you really don't want them to stay.) All the way through to 5.30am, when we were evicted (they need to clean the room for the day surgery people) into an unknown town where we had to amuse ourselves for five hours before our next appointment. It is moments like this that McDonald's really comes into its own.

I am writing this post at 3.55pm. This is unlike me. Usually I knock them out at 10.25pm. But I think I'll be asleep by about 4pm today, so I'm getting in early. I go to bed knowing that Mr6 is fine, which is a huge relief. I also go to bed knowing there is a Pillow Top mattress awaiting me. Also a huge relief.

I'll be back, bright-eyed and bushy tailed tomorrow.


(A word about spelling. My instinct was to go with 'apnoea', but research into various Australian sleep associations revealed that they tend to go with the simpler 'apnea' spelling, so I've followed suit.)

Monday, November 29, 2010

Making nice at birthday parties

Remember when you were a kid and your parents took you along to barbecues and parties with other families? You would be expected to make nice with the other kids. Whether you knew them or not. Whether you had anything in common or not. Whether you liked them or not. And, somehow, it all worked out.

Then you grow up and, for the most part, you choose your own friends. Right up until the point when you have children. Suddenly, you're going along to birthday parties and you're expected to make nice with the other adults. Whether you know them or not. Whether you have anything in common or not. Whether you like them or not doesn't even enter the equation.

With both boys in full end-of-year socialising mode, I find myself in this position on a regular basis. Mr3 went to a party at an indoor play centre recently. Not only did I not know the parents but I have my doubts as to whether or not Mr3 actually knew the birthday girl.

"Whose party is it, Mum?"


Pause. "Oh. From my preschool?"

"That's right."


I'm not sure how other parents feel about these occasions, but I feel obliged to pull out my smiley face, and prepare a Charm Offensive. (I should mention that this is only after I discuss the option of taking a book along with The Builder. He never thinks this is a good idea. This is only because he's not the family representative at these occasions.)

On the downside, all that charm can be exhausting. On the plus side, you do learn a lot about the school system in Fibrotown. I'm always particularly excited to meet parents with high-school-age children. They may not be as excited to meet me, particularly after I spend an hour or two peppering them with questions about their child's high school. But, then, one thing I have discovered in my years as a journalist is that people do like to talk to people who are genuinely interested in what they have to say. It also helps to be a good listener.

So I go along, I smile, I ask questions and I listen, while the boys eat themselves silly on cake and run themselves ragged. And somehow, it all works out.

{image: JaimeMancilla/etsy}

Sunday, November 28, 2010

It's not easy being funny

A little while ago, I wrote about words that bring fear to a parent's heart, and introduced to the world the 'Concert Face'. This is an addendum to that post, mostly because I realised that I forgot the one sentence designed to horrify any parent. Or just me. Particularly at the end of a long day. Particularly spoken by a child who probably hasn't stopped talking since dawn. It is this sentence:

"Mum, I've got a joke..."

In other households, this may merely herald the latest in a long line of Knock Knock jokes. In the Fibro, it means that Mr3 has been busily dreaming up punchlines. Make that lack-of-punchlines. To whit, they are not funny. To even more whit, they do not make sense. To the most whit, there is no wit.

An example:

"Mum, I've got a joke!"

Pause. Sigh. Summon enthusiastic face. "Okay, hit me with it."

"O-kay. Ready? What do bulldozers do on the weekend?"

Pause. "I'm not sure, what do bulldozers do on the weekend?"

"THEY GO TO THE SHOPS! AH-HA HA HA! Do you get it?"

Pause. Summon fake laugh. "Tee hee. Not really. Okay, let's get ready to vacuum the floor now."

I try, I really do (though the example above may not capture the essence of that effort), but jokes without punchlines are just not funny. And Mr3 has so many of them. Mr6 went through this phase, so I know it's just a phase and, soon enough, Mr3 will get the point that there needs to be a point to the joke. But in the meantime we are here, in this wasteland of wit, wondering when the main act is coming on.

If only he realised how incredibly funny he is when he doesn't try. Today he asked me, peering deep into my eyes, what those little glasses in my eyes were for. It took me a few minutes to work out he was talking about the iris/pupil arrangement which, if you look closely, does resemble a pair of specs. See - funny.

It's an excellent example of the importance of voice. Jerry Seinfeld was funny when he talked about nothing because he talked about nothing in his own special way. Mr3 manufacturing jokes about bulldozers = not funny. Mr3 sharing his own particular view of the world = funny.

All he needs now is a link between intention and humour and he'll be a headline act.

That, and a punchline or two.


Friday, November 26, 2010

Weekend Rewind

Oh, how I love Saturdays. The birds sing, the cartoons are on, the boys sleep in (kind of) and we don't actually have to go anywhere. Bliss. But best of all, it's time for Weekend Rewind, that mixed tape of classic loveliness that has now been at home in the Fibro for a whole month!

The excitement.

Thanks to Maxabella, you can now grab the exquisite Weekend Rewind button for your sidebar. I'm very grateful to Maxabella. Without her, this would be the most boring blog in the Blogosphere. Now look at me - I have a button!

Of course, you don't need the button to join in. All you have to do is become a Friend of Fibro if you're not already, link up one of your favourite old posts,  and then share some comment love amongst your fellow linkiers. I can't tell you how much I enjoy sifting through your contributions each week. So much fun!

What are you waiting for? Dust off a post, kick back and rewind. The world's easiest linky, open all weekend.

PS: Don't forget, for cross-hemisphere linky love, check out Blog Gems with Jen at The King and Eye. It's another chance to air your archives and meet new bloggers.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Jacaranda blue

It is Jacaranda time in Fibrotown. The town is dotted with delicious swathes of blue-purple flowers, tarting up its streets with all the assurance of a touch of blue eyeshadow on an ABBA covers band. I love Jacaranda trees: huge and stringy when covered in green; beguiling when in flower. They remind me a little of Meryl Streep's portrayal of Julia Child in Julia & Julia - still a little awkward when all decked out in their finery but charismatic nonetheless.

Mr3 is entranced by them. He calls them the 'Boy Trees', liking that his team gets such a spectacular showing. He, much more than Mr6, is very aware of the 'pink is for girls, blue is for boys' rule. I think this is just because he has an older brother, as The Builder and I have never been known to spout that rule. Mr6 was never as fixed in his thoughts at three. Though his teddy bear, Bronte, a definite girl, has always had pink as her favourite colour, while his has always been green.

When I was growing up in Fibrotown (we moved here when I was in fifth grade), we had a massive Jacaranda out the front of our house. It was one of many on our street, creating an avenue effect to lead people out of the town centre and up towards the local showground. In November, our street looked beautiful. Right up until the Jacaranda trees began to interfere with the electricity lines and ended up trimmed into that bizarre reverse mohawk that this seems to entail.

Our Jacaranda survived a lot of years. Its huge roots spread and pushed up the pavement right from our driveway down to the next door's fence. The little ridges created quite an obstacle course for those of us roller-skating down the hill. In December, as the flowers began to fall, our front path became an exercise in risk management as hundreds of flowers formed a beautiful blue-purple carpet across our front lawn. A beautiful, slippery carpet. Add in a dash of summer thunderstorm and a pair of thongs and you pretty much had to skate across the top at break-neck speed, seeking the safety of the gate.

Some years ago, the council cut down our Jacaranda. Termites. They replaced it with a strippy little sapling that sat there for a long time, doing nothing, going nowhere, lucky to survive the attention of bored teenagers wandering the streets on Friday and Saturday night.

Today, I parked my car in the shade of that little tree to visit my Dad (Mum is still in hospital, but doing well - thanks everyone for your good wishes). It's still only about a quarter of the size of the old one, but it's getting there. The flowers are appearing, only this time, they're dropping on the footpath, which is as far as the spread reaches so far.

Here's hoping my boys have fond memories of that tree in years to come.


PS: I'm flogging my blog with Lori at RRSAHM this fine Friday. Why not pop over and discover some fab new blogs?

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

The (tardy) Tooth Fairy

I'm going to have to have a chat with the Tooth Fairy. Who didn't come last night. Again. She will now be known in this house as Tardy Fairy.

As I explained to Mr6 this morning, it's not that she forgot him. Oh no. It's just that our last name is towards the end of the alphabet. Maybe she just didn't get to him yet.

He thought about that for a moment. "But what about Santa? He does the WHOLE WORLD in one night."


"Yes," said I. "But he has eight reindeers and a few elves to help. The Tooth Fairy is small. She has only herself. She probably gets tired. And lost - there may be GPS on a sleigh, but not on her wings."

He thought about that for a moment. "You're probably right. She took a few days to get here last time as well."

Tooth Fairy fail.

I was relating this tale to my Mum and Dad a few hours later. They laughed. "It always took her at least four or five days to get to our house." Funny, I don't remember that. Probably because it was TICH who bore the brunt of Tooth Fairy fatigue.

Anyhoo, I put in a call to the Tardy Fairy. She assures me she'll be there tonight, unless there's a problem with the air currents. We also had a little chat about rates. When she began her tenure at the Fibro, she started out with 20c. Then, a change in Tooth Fairy personnel took the rates up to $2 for the next tooth. Talk about inflation. But we've agreed that $1 a tooth is a fair rate, though she did niggle a little over conditions. She's not happy with the espresso cup in which Mr6 leaves his tooth. She'd prefer a tooth fairy pillow (such as the one pictured by Hannalah on I didn't think I'd cope with having to find the pillow, let alone remember to use it.

I asked Mr6 how many more teeth he thought he had to lose. "Hopefully lots Mum," he answered, cheerfully. "I'm saving for a Lego Death Star." Given they're about $300, he'll need to start stealing other people's teeth to afford it purely on ill-gotten Fairy gains.

Either that, or he's in secret negotiations himself with the Tardy Fairy and I can expect a strike for higher rates any tooth now.

Is the Tooth Fairy on time at your place? What's the going rate?

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Crinkles on the road to happiness

Last night, The Builder and I watched part two of The Happiness Project on the ABC. While the positive psychology is all very nice, what we love most about it is the trip it takes us on. Right through our old stomping ground in The Big Smoke.

It stirs up all kinds of feelings. The fact that our old suburb made it onto some kind of 'top 10 most depressed' list is disconcerting. It always seemed a pretty happy place to us. Maybe because we were happy there. But it's more the trip down memory lane it takes us on.

We keep spotting landmarks, cafes, parks and shops. All 'our' places. Only they're not any more.

Part of me felt sad about that. I still miss it in a way. It's a vibrant, multicultural area with a lot of colour and movement. What I reminded myself last night was that all that colour and movement was beginning to exhaust me. Along with the parking situation. Now that I think about it, the parking situation may well be why our old suburb made the 'most depressed' list.

This morning, I did the school run and came home and ironed the shirt I was wearing. I was going for a walk 'up the street'. I confess that I would not have worried too much about this if I were still living in our old suburb. I would have carried on regardless. But here, somehow, it matters more that I not be caught out in a completely crinkled state.

Part of me found this a little bit sad. It's taken me two years to become someone who cares about this?

Twenty minutes later, though, I was glad I'd made the effort. In the space of one block, I ran into five people I knew. They're not people who would judge me for an unironed shirt, but I was still pleased to be presentable.

I knew a reasonable number of people in my old suburb. But the chances of me running into five of them in one block were small. More likely, it would have been me and 1000 people I'd never seen before. Hence the lack of ironing that occurred in our house.

Five different friendly conversations in one block. I guess this is what they call 'community'. And it's worth the ironing.

{image: Nasoupo/Etsy}

Monday, November 22, 2010

A sweeping saga of excuses

So you may have noticed that I've gone very quiet on the NaNoWriMo front? After a barn-storming 10,000 words in the first week, happily announced, not so much as a peep. The truth is that there's not been that much more to add. In two weeks, I've put on about 5,000 words, which leaves me 35,000 to write this week. Hmmm. Not bloody likely.

I've been thinking about how I feel about this. On one hand, I tend to like to achieve goals, particularly public goals. I thought that by announcing to all and sundry that I'd taken on the NaNoWriMo challenge, I'd be more likely to actually get there. But life got in the way. As it does.

I've got excuses. Wonderful, creative, imaginative excuses. If I'd put as much effort into my word count as I have into my excuses, I'd have written Gone With The Wind by now. A sweeping saga of excuses. But it's not a bad analogy now that I think about it. Because I have come to the conclusion that I can think about it tomorrow.

According to my NaNoWriMo (or NaNoWriMeh as I've begun referring to it) stats, if I continue at my current pace I'll have my 50,000 words done by January 13. I've found that even doing an extra 500 words a day knocks about three days off that estimate. It's a great exercise in visualising the difference that it makes to write every day.

Right now, I have a whole lot of work that needs to be done (see, there's an excuse right there). People are waiting for it. People will pay me for it. At the end of the day, nobody is waiting for my novel. Well, no-one except me. But if I just keep chipping away at it, in the down times, it will happen. I'm okay with that.

In the meantime, I am whipping myself into a frenzy, promising myself a big last week. I'm aiming for 5000 words this week. Not 35,000, true. But respectable. I think I'll start tomorrow.

So NaNo friends, how are you faring? Is that 50,000 in sight?

{image: Kirby McDaniel Movieart

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Getting trucking emotional

One of the things I love about motherhood are the new experiences that it brings to your life. I could talk here about love, laughter and the hilarious things that kids do... Instead, I'd like to talk about trucks.

I've never been what you'd call a 'girly' girl. I love my footy (if not, always, football players). I love my beer (oh yes, it's true). I only wear heels under sufferance. But I've never been a tomboy either. I drive a car because I have to, not because I love the beautiful sound of its V8 engine (or however many Vs my engine has). I don't put up shelves, because I am lucky enough to have The Builder to do that for me. And I've never, in my entire existence, been to a Truck Show.

Until today.

Mothers of boys find themselves doing all kinds of stuff outside the realms of previous experience. Like stopping in the main street to admire a Harley Davidson as it drives away (Mr3 is motorbike-mad - something I'll be trying hard to dissuade in the next 14 years or so). Like going to Light Rail museums. And Air Shows. And all manner of other machinery-related events.

Today's, the i98FM Camp Quality Convoy for Kids, held in a sport and recreation field about 40 minutes up the highway, featured hundreds of trucks. Enormous, gleaming vehicles with deep, loud horns. Lots of horns. When we arrived at the venue, shepherded through the gates by an army of SES volunteers, the convoy was just pulling in and the horns blew solidly for the next hour. Thirty minutes in, Mr6 turned to me and shouted, hands over ears, "We've probably had enough of the horns now Mum, don't you think?"

Probably. But I don't think anyone else was listening. Or could hear him over the horns.

Mr3 was in heaven. Not only was he surrounded by the aforementioned trucks, but we turned a corner and discovered several hundred motorbikes parked in the shadow of the sports centre. Then, oh joy of joys, a police helicopter arrived and, once it was opened up to visitors, he was able to, gasp, sit inside it. Throw in a jumping castle and his life was complete.

For a debut experience, the Truck Show was a good one. I am in awe of anyone who can reverse anything larger than a Range Rover in a straight line. My Dad and I were just talking in hushed tones the other morning about the impressive skill of the man who drives the local supermarket delivery truck and can back it into a narrow delivery dock, in a narrow street with cars parked on both sides of the road. All in under two minutes. Given that I've been known to have four attempts to get out of our driveway, I can only be impressed.

Reverse-parking aside, the sun was shining on row upon row of these behemoths of the road, which had been polished to perfection. The crowd was happy and taking part in something that was fun - and important. To understand that importance, I only had to look at the banners hung across many of the trucks. Memorial banners, featuring bright, young faces. Camp Quality is a charity for children with cancer and their families. These bright, young faces had lost their battles.

I've never, in my entire existence, felt emotional whilst staring at a truck.

Until today.

{image: Ryan's District}

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Weekend Rewind (ta da!)

So, how do you like me so far? After toying with 'oldie but goodie', 'second-chance saturday' and, even, 'play it again Sam' (though this did not make it to the blogsophere), I've settled on Weekend Rewind, and (thanks to Maxabella) have an image to match.

I'm particularly happy with the cassette. The Inner City Hipster (my brother) tells me that cassettes are very cool right now. Perhaps even sohotrightnow. Something to do with the tangible effort required to find a song, which is, apparently, a big hit with the download generation. For this reason, he siphoned off all of my compilation tapes from the 1980s during the latest clear-out of Dad's shed. Choose 1985, anyone? Thru the Roof '83? These and many other classics have now found new, appreciative homes.

None of which has anything to do with the fact that this is the new, improved version of the world's easiest linky. All you have to do is to join Team Fibro if you're not already following, dust off a favourite old post, link it up and then lay some comment love on other posts on the list. The linky will remain open until 9pm Sunday (AEST), hence the weekend bit in the title.

So kick back, unwind and rewind with some classic old posts. Can't wait to see what you have for me.

This week, I'm offering up a post that's all about the delights of the Fibrotown newspaper.

PS: A community service announcement. I was introduced last week to Jen at The King and Eye - she runs the also relatively new Blog Gems, a linky that encourages you to air your archives. Jen is based in Ireland, so we're working some cross-hemisphere classic post love. Her latest linky is up on Sunday. Go visit and share your awesome classics with a whole different section of the blogosphere!

PPS: I'm joining in Maxabella's Grateful Saturday. I'm extremely grateful to Maxabella for making me such a cute image for my linky. 

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Three top tips for would-be freelance writers

I had such a good time with my Q&A with Gillian Martin and Emma Kaufmann, authors of Cocktails at Naptime, last month that I've decided to do it all over again. If there's one thing I love, it's asking questions. This time around, my victim target is my former colleague Valerie Khoo, now director of The Sydney Writers' Centre in Milsons Point.

Valerie and I shared cupboard office space together at CLEO and I've watched in awe as she's gone on to broaden her career from editor to entrepreneur, writing five books and countless articles along the way. I shouldn't be surprised. She's the poster girl for career change, having been an accountant with PricewaterhouseCoopers before finally giving in to her passion for writing - and finding a way to make it work.

Why have I chosen Valerie for this Q&A? Because I'm often asked how to break into freelance writing. And while I'm qualified to offer a few pointers, Valerie has gone out of her way to devise entire, affordable courses based around that very subject. She knows her stuff. You can read more about the centre, its wide range of courses (including magazine writing, travel writing, business writing, screen writing and more) and Valerie, here.

It's about here that I should point out that this is not a sponsored post. No ethics or integrity were injured in the creation of this post. And nothing changed hands either, unless you include *waves* via Twitter. I'm looking for interesting people to talk to about writing, and Valerie is about as interesting as they come. Particularly if you want to do what she's done and jump from your current career into writing.

What do you think are the key attributes of a professional writer across any genre?
Valerie Khoo: "Discipline, discipline, and a little bit more discipline. If you want to make a living from writing, you need to... write! And you need commitment to hone your craft, improve your work and learn from your mistakes. It's not about waiting for inspiration to hit. It's about making yourself put your fingers to the keyboard or pen to paper. Which is not to say that creativity is not important. But I believe that we are all inherently creative beings - but not all of us have the discipline needed to channel that creative energy into a full-time income-producing career."

Why did you set up Sydney Writers' Centre?
VK: "Basically, I created the kind of writers' centre I wished had existed when I was first dipping my toes into the world of writing. When I was transitioning careers from accounting to writing, I was desperate for resources and guidance to help me make it happen. SWC is the dynamic, inspiring place I would have loved to attend.

"We have a huge range of courses, but our most popular courses are creative writing and magazine writing. We offer both of those online so that students can learn from anywhere in the world - as well as in our Harbourside training rooms here at the Centre."

How do you choose your course presenters?
VK: "Our presenters need to talk the talk and walk the walk, so to speak. They have to be currently working in the industry and they need to be dealing with the subject they teach day to day. We're committed to offering courses that are very practical so that students leave with new skills that they can use immediately. Our presenters share their inside knowledge and give students a realistic insight into what they need to do to get published or write with confidence."

Do you think writing for blogs differs from writing for other publications? How?
VK: "I think blogs are wonderful. They offer a creative outlet and an opportunity for your writing to be read by an interested audience. Blogs are similar to other publications in that they need to attract and sustain an audience. But they're different in that you receive instant feedback. That can be very satisfying."

What are your three top tips for would-be freelance writers?
VK: "1. Know your market. You can be the best writer in the whole world but that's a moot point if you don't know how to write for a specific market. You need the ability to analyse a magazine and, from there, be able to work out the tone and style of writing that you need to employ, the angles the magazine would be interested in, and the case studies or interviews you'd need to use. We teach that in our course 'Feature Writing for Magazines and Newspapers', and students constantly tells us how valuable it is. Without it, you can't build a viable career as a freelance writer."

"2. Get over the fear of pitching to editors. This can be debilitating when you are starting out. I always think it's a shame when I see someone who's just too scared to pick up the phone and pitch their story idea to an editor. The reality is that if you've done step 1 (above) and analysed the magazine to ensure that your idea is a good 'fit', then you significantly increase your chances of your article being accepted. I know it can seem daunting, but you have to get over it. The good news is that it gets easier every time you do it!

"3. You can make very good money as a freelance writer. "Some people think that, as a writer, you need to live like an artist starving in a garrett. I don't agree with that. There's nothing romantic about that in my books - not with Sydney property prices the way they are! I think that you can make a very healthy income from your freelance writing if you treat it like a business and make sure you're professional in everything that you do. It can be useful to try to get a mix of higher-paying corporate projects and the editorial projects that feed your soul (but which may not make you rich)."


I'm guest posting today over with Diminishing Lucy, all about the joys (and otherwise) of being a WAHM. Come on over and say hi!

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Another occasion to talk about meme

I get called many things, but stylish does not come up often. This may be due to my abhorrence of shopping, my love of basics, and the fact that I would rather buy clothes for my boys than for myself - it's so much easier, you see. Everything looks good on you when you're three and six.

However, Michele at Bodacious Boomer has thrown the S-word my way, in the form of the Stylish Blogger Award. I don't always respond to such glory, but she also calls me 'kiddo', so how can I resist?

The theory is that I'm supposed to share seven things about me that you don't know. But I came up with seven not too long ago, so I'm hoping that will suffice. Feel free to refresh your memory.

I also have to come up with 15 recently discovered bloggers. Fifteen! I'm good at lists of 10. Any journalist who's ever worked in women's mags can whip out lists of 10 in their sleep: 10 ways to tell if he's really into you, 10 to-die-for party looks, 10 super foods, 10 ways to ask your boss for a raise, 10 new moves that will drive him wild... But I digress.

How about this? I'll start, and see how we go. Without further ado, here are XX fab new(ish) bloggers on my Reader.


Well, now, look at that. Fifteen. It seems I'm expanding my skills-base all the time. Oh, and my definition of stylish? People with their own thing going on. Go say hello! Tell them to start thinking up their own list of 15. Best they start now...
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...