Today is exactly one month before Christmas. As always at
this time of year I’m taking a break from Pieces of String but I will return in
2020 and, if you follow me on Instagram, I’m sure I’ll still be adding things
there (probably in the sporadic way I do now).
I want to take this time to wish you a safe and love-filled
end to the year, whatever your faith and wherever you are in the world. So many
wonderful things have happened during 2019, but I also feel it’s been a year of
conflict, many of them conflicts about how people feel we should act now, for
the future of our world and species. I’m hoping that next year we are all able
to find more common ground, peace and co-operation.
I hope Pieces of String has helped in some small way to
encourage you with your writing. An art like ours truly helps people make sense
of the crazy world we live in, as well as giving us a voice, and it’s worth pursuing
even if it’s only for our own wellbeing.
If you are Christian, I wish you a very happy and safe Christmas. If not, I wish you a very happy and safe end to your year. Thank you to everyone who has joined me here at Pieces of String. There will be a couple more posts this week but otherwise, see you in 2020.
I’m a big fan of flash fiction. I love writing the stories for Two-Sentence Tuesday (if you’d like to contribute your own two-sentence story, contact me) and I recently took part in the NYC Midnight flash fiction challenge. I had never done a writing challenge before, but I saw an ad for the NYC challenge on Instagram and thought, “Why not give it a go?”
The NYC challenge is broken into four rounds, with each
entrant guaranteed to participate in the first two. Entrants are divided into
groups and at a specified time (midnight US time) and date you’re sent a genre,
location and object that you must include in your 1000-word story, then you
have 48 hours to write and submit that story. The top fifteen stories in each
group are awarded points – 15 points for first, 1 point for fifteenth. After
the first two rounds, the top five entrants for each group move on to round
three, while the others are finished for the competition.
I didn’t move on to round three but I did make it into the
top fifteen for my group in both rounds, which I was so excited about (and genuinely
not expecting). The real prize from participating was the detailed feedback on
my writing from three different judges. Although it’s unlikely that I would
return to those stories, they highlighted strengths and weaknesses that I see
time and again in my longer work.
I don’t know a lot about NYC Midnight, but they seem to
offer a variety of competitions throughout the year. I would definitely give it
another go, and if you’ve been thinking about entering more competitions, I
would recommend looking out for one of theirs.
After all, there’s nothing like a tight deadline to get
those creative juices flowing.
I’ve been feeling low lately. Really low. Being low the way I feel at the moment is different to how I feel when my anti-depressants need altering. It’s a low based on real things, real events and fears and sadness, as opposed to the chemicals in my brain being out of kilter which can be completely unaffected by external things. It’s not great but I know it will pass.
The other difference between, I guess, situational lowness (not a word, but stay with me) and chemical lowness (I know, I’m asking a lot here but I can’t think of another way to describe it) is that external things can give you a real lift. One of those happened to me this morning.
I was heading back to my car at the supermarket and I had to wait for a lady to close her door. I noticed she had a little doll attached to her purse and complemented her on it. Turns out it was based on Japanese anime and she had lived in Japan for ten years. I told her we were visiting Japan next year and she gave me her card in case I wanted to ask any questions.
That sort of generosity and kindness can change your day. She didn’t have to do that. In fact, she didn’t have to say anything. She could have just said, “thanks” and gone on her way. But she went out of her way to be kind.
Oo, the Christmas countdown has begun. In my part of the word the birds are singing, the flowers are blooming, the days are heating up and it’s beginning to feel a lot like Christmas (of course, depending on who you are it could also be feeling a lot like Hanukkah).
Christmas is, without doubt, my favourite time of year. Everything is prettier, the sun shines brighter and the kids are off school for six whole weeks! Everyone and everything feels just that little bit happier around Christmas time and, right now, that’s a feeling that I grabbing with both hands.
I have recently discovered something about myself. I am a
comma-ophile. Yes, I did just make that word up but you get the gist. I am
someone who loves commas. Judging by the work I’m editing now, I have never found
a sentence that wouldn’t benefit from a comma…or two.
I’m going to talk about grammar and punctuation more on
Wednesday but suffice to say that even though I (apparently) can’t get enough
of the humble comma, Word and the general rules of the English language aren’t
with me on this which means I’m spending a lot of time deleting my little
Who knew that a tiny flick on the page could cause so much trouble?
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.
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.
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:
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?