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Winner!

Recently I entered the first chapter of my WIP into a competition being run by a publisher. Last week they sent me an email with the results and, even before I’d opened it, I knew what it would say. The first few words came up in the teaser in my inbox. “Dear Wendy, thank you for entering…” Then my brain auto-filled the rest. “…unfortunately, your submission was not chosen as one of the winning chapters.” I’ve had enough gentle let-downs now to know the drill. And, it’s all part of being a writer.

But I was wrong! This wasn’t an email letting me know that I hadn’t been selected. This was an email letting me know that I had WON!

I had to read it twice just to make sure. Then I jumped around the house a bit. Then I ran outside to tell my kids. Then we went and bought celebratory sparkling apple juice to have in wine glasses at dinner (I don’t drink). And I printed out the email to show my husband, who read it when he got home from work and his mouth did this:

Yep, we are not shy about embracing our feelings in this family.

The truth is, we can’t always win. But when we do, and especially when it’s as a result of our own hard work, it really is an awesome feeling.

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Spring Has Sprung

Spring has sprung,

The grass is riz,

I wonder where the flowers is

Here in Australia we’ve finally, officially, stepped back into Spring. As far as the calendar is concerned, anyway. As far as my garden is concerned, it’s been spring for a couple of weeks with flowers blooming and buds bursting all over the place.

Whatever the time frame, there’s something about the change of weather that makes everything seem easier. Sometimes I wonder if that’s one of the reasons we struggle to grapple with the enormity that is climate change – essentially we’re being told that it’s going to be warmer from now on and part of us goes, “Yes!” We can’t help it.

And even if it’s not exactly warm right now (after all, it takes time for the thermometer to catch up), Spring always feels hopeful to me. Things are literally waking up for the first time in months and growing again. Every sunny day is scented with fresh cut grass and flowers. Birds are nesting and the first fluffy babies are running after their parents.

True, it does mean that searing heat, destructive bush fires, water-restrictions and magpie-swooping-season are just around the corner (if you’ve never been swooped by a magpie, try to imagine being dive bombed by a small aircraft…with a knife attached to the pointy end). But for now, all there is is the promise of a new, brighter, season.

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Illustrations for dPICTUS unpublished picture book showcase.

Sorry, I’ve been AWOL, but I have a good excuse. I’ve been putting together a dummy for my picture book, Salty, about a salt-water crocodile who escapes from his cage and gobbles up the children he finds in the zoo – only to discover they taste disgusting.

I do have an interest in art but have been nervous about illustrating my work, mainly because the general advice is for authors not to illustrate their work if they want a publisher to take it on. But I heard about the dPictus unpublished picturebook show-case and the opportunity to submit my work was too good to miss.

A dummy picture book is mostly made up of sketches, with the final text, but includes two to three final artworks.

Here are mine:

It’s feeding time at the zoo, but Salty’s not impressed. He grumps and humphs and snaps his jaws until Giraffe cranes her neck over the wall.
“What is the matter with you?”
He finds two toothsome looking toddlers at the lions’ cage.

The images are linocut prints and coloured with water-colour pencils. I’m so happy with how they turned out, but what do you think?

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School Holidays

They’re here again. The school holidays. Two weeks of freedom from early wake-ups (theoretically of course. My kids are still up at 6, but we could stay in our jammies all day if we wanted), lunch box packing, treks to school and treks home again. Of course, B1 has started the holidays by throwing up all over the floor, but that’s pretty manageable.

Going from 13 years of school to four years of university to a teaching career, to SAHM has meant I’ve never had to work the nine to fives, 6 weeks annual leave, of an adult, so spending school holidays with my kids is awesome. And I love hanging out with the kids, going to movies (we have to go see Toy Story 4 – even though I felt they’d pretty much wrapped things up with number 3 and it could ruin everything), going to the park and having pancakes for brekky.

So, long live the school holidays. What would we do without them.

Just take it easy
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Tears and Tantrums

On a Monday my youngest usually gets a stomach ache. Is his stomach really aching? I think so. Is he sick? This, I’m not so sure on. He could be but he’s not running a temperature. He could be getting sick. Or he could just be anxious about going back to school for another week. Whatever it is, his tummy hurts and he doesn’t want to go.

But he has to go.

Cue the tears.

There’s nothing quite like leaving you crying child in the care of others to make you feel like a monster. What’s more, even if you assuage your guilt by reminding yourself the he is A. Not actually sick B. Safe in the care of highly trained professionals and C. Probably stopped crying within thirty seconds of you turning the corner, a general feeling of unease settles on you for the rest of the day. Because, in effect, you’ve gone against every natural instinct you’ve got and are not there to defend and protect your distressed child.

Parenting. The gift that just keeps giving.

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Long Weekend!

Today we in most (but not all) of Australia get a day off for the Queen’s Birthday. It’s not the Queen’s actual birthday but who cares? It’s a day off. A long weekend. A Monday that feels like a Sunday.

My favourite thing about the long weekend is that I get the kids and husband home for an extra day. It honestly doesn’t matter what we end up doing, I just like that we do it together.

So, where ever you are in the world, I hope you’re having a wonderful day.

I definitely am!

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It’s Hard to Say Goodbye

I couldn’t post Monday. I thought about it, but the only thing on my mind was that I would be putting my cat down on Tuesday, and I couldn’t bring myself to write about it. It felt like a betrayal.

But now it’s Wednesday.

And although cats are, as a rule, pretty quiet and sleepy, the house seems that bit more quiet without her.

And though it’s annoying when a cat pesters you for it’s lunch, now I miss her little mew.

And though she couldn’t care less when I scratched behind her ear, now I don’t have her to tolerate my affection.

And now I’m crying.

I miss you Blacky. You were a good cat. I know things are much, much better for you now and I wouldn’t have had you sick and unhappy any longer for anything.

We love you.

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KidLitVic 2019

I have been all over the place for the last couple of weeks, doing chores, finding out why our cat is pooing in inappropriate places and getting ready for KidLitVic2019. Luckily for you, this post is about that conference and not about the cat’s new toilet habits.

This is the fourth year that I’ve been to KidLitVic and it never fails to leave me energised, enthusiastic and wiser. This year, as with last year, it was held in the beautiful Melbourne Town Hall. There’s something so inspiring about a building that is both old and beautiful. There were a number of different panels, manuscript assessments from publishers, master classes run by publishers and, for the first time, up close and personal groups (which I didn’t do this year, but might if they’re available next year).

The best part of the conference, for me, is meeting other writers and for this reason alone I would encourage you to attend a writing conference. Meeting other people who are on the same journey as you, each at various stages of that journey, is exhilarating. Meeting people who know what you are talking about when you mention your manuscript, your hook, your saggy middle or anti-climax-of-a-climax is a relief.

It’s not an exaggeration to say that the writing community is one of the most open, friendly and welcoming communities I have ever come across. I have yet to meet a writer (or publisher for that matter) who wasn’t warm, enthusiastic and generous with their time and knowledge. What’s more, being surrounded by that makes it easy to be generous with your own time and knowledge.

Conferences can be expensive but they’re worth saving for. If you really don’t have the money to put towards something like a conference (and let’s face it, it’s not just the conference but travel, food and sometimes accommodation you have to factor in), then consider being a volunteer. While you will be working, you will still be able to listen in on panel discussions and mingle with other writers and publishers through out the day.

Writing itself is a solo occupation for most of us, but being a writer doesn’t have to be and conferences are definitely a great place to reconnect with your writing community.

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Election Love and Hate

On Saturday Australia held it’s federal elections. If you’re not Australian you might not be familiar with how this works. Voting is compulsory – if you are 18 or older you are expected to enroll to vote (most people do) and if you are enrolled to vote you are required to attend the voting place, have your name checked off the list, and post your voting papers into the appropriate cardboard box (we have a bicameral system, so we vote for members of a lower and upper house). If, in between having your name checked off and putting the sheets of paper into the box, you also want to step into a private booth and vote, you can do that. You don’t have to. But, while you’re there, why not.

Voting is anonymous. Voting is also based on preference rather than first-past-the-post. Therefore, you don’t just vote for who you most want to win, you also say who your second, third, fourth (and so on) choice would be, if you first choice doesn’t get enough votes.

Indonesia is the worlds biggest democracy. America is, perhaps, the most famous, but personally (and with obvious bias) I think Australia is the best.

That said, I was a lot more excited about voting when I was in my 20s. Now, I’m much more disillusioned, not just by the politicians who speak in rhetoric and tell lies and half-truths, but also by the vitriol and recriminations that appear around election time. The idea that, if someone doesn’t vote the way you would vote they must be an idiot, is offensive to me. My parents, for example, are intelligent, well read and engaged people. So am I. We didn’t vote the same way. That doesn’t make either of us less intelligent. It makes us human.

My husband and I hardly ever vote the same way. So far, we’ve avoided a divorce.

I think the thing I like least is the labeling. All political parties have numerous policies on numerous issues. Some of those policies even conflict (they think we don’t notice). Unless you are a rusted on supporter of a party, it’s unlikely that you won’t have to weigh up priorities and make compromises when you vote. But, when we label people Left or Right, liberal (small ‘l’ liberal) or conservative, or anything else, we ignore this.

I think labeling works well for objects. I don’t think it works well for people. People are like tomatoes. Are they a fruit? A vegetable? Both?

All that said, being able to vote – a right and a duty that people died for me to have – fills me with pride. And, with each election, I am refilled with hope that the people elected will take all Australia’s people towards a brighter future. It remains to be seen, of course.

If all else fails – we’ll have another crack at it in four years.