Posted in Tips for Young Writers

Making Mistakes

I wanted this post to be about pushing yourself out of your comfort zone and maybe even taking a risk. I was so excited about the work I had done for the dPICTUS unpublished picturebook showcase, that I wanted to share that with you and talk about how taking a risk can be incredibly empowering. And then, I discovered that I’d submitted my book dummy with a typo.

Submitting work, as a writer, with typos or grammatical errors is a bit like turning up for an interview as a hairdresser with a hideously bad haircut. Or going for a job as an accountant and disclosing that you hadn’t filed your tax statement for ten years. Basically, if you want to be ‘hired’ to write, you want to show you can write. And, in a highly competitive industry, where everything else is equal, that typo can be your downfall.

So I did what any other self-respecting adult would do, I berated myself, did some panic googling, berated myself some more and then I cried. And then, I took a deep breath, got perspective and reminded myself that even mistakes are blessings (note, I didn’t start with silver-linings and perspective. I had to implode and become emotional mush first).

If you’re currently beating yourself up over a mistake (and if you’re not right now, let’s face it, you will make a mistake eventually) let me offer you some positivity.

Very Few Mistakes are Fatal

True, we’re starting with a big one but sometimes you really need to latch on to something. All mistakes are where there’s an unwanted consequence of our actions, but for the most part these consequences do not result in death and permanent injury. Thank God.

If you have made a mistake that has resulted in death or something equally significant and final, then that can be very hard to reconcile, precisely because there seems to be no way to come back from them. For most mistakes though, although they might seem horrendous at the time (and have you laying awake and midnight saying, “why? Why?”), chances are there will be other opportunities or at least a way to make amends.

Mistakes are Learning Opportunities

Don’t shoot the messenger. It might seem trite, but it’s true. It’s true of even our biggest mistakes. In my case I learnt to read my work out loud a final time before hitting the send button. Did I need time to pass before I could be open to this lesson. Hell yeah! But once I settled down, I could take the lesson on. Now, if you keep making the same mistake and not paying attention to the lesson, that’s just being stupid.

It is Your Fault – Let that Empower You

Why did I send my work off with a typo? I was tired – I’d been working solidly on it for for two weeks. I was complacent – I thought I’d read through it enough. I was impatient – it wasn’t due in until the next day but I couldn’t wait. These may be reasons, but they’re not excuses. What I should have done is waited until the next day and looked at it with fresh eyes before sending it off. It was within my power to do that, but I didn’t.

That might not sound very positive but it is, because I can do things differently next time. It’s no one else’s fault but mine, and I alone have full control over my actions and behaviours. I don’t need to repeat my mistakes, because I recognise what I did wrong and I can change that in the future. I might sound like Dr. Phil Lite but that doesn’t make it less true.

All human beings make mistakes. Me, you, our parents, teachers, politicians and religious leaders. None of us are immune. Once you’ve stopped beating yourself up or crying (both of which are fine and natural) try and remember that there is a positive spin to making mistakes. That you aren’t alone. And that you can do better next time.

Posted in Blog

11 Years

I once read that one of the most important career related decisions a woman can make is who she chooses as a partner – someone who values her career as much as his or her own and is willing to do things to support it, or someone who sees their career as most important and can only take what they need to sustain it, not give what their partner needs. What this comes down to is mutual respect. Seeing each other as equal partners where, when one person succeeds, they both succeed.

11 years ago today I made one of the best decisions of my life and married my husband. We’d been together for four years before that and, to be honest, if he had’t proposed when he did we wouldn’t be where we are today. But he did, and here we are.

We’ve weathered our fair share of storms. We are incompatible in every way but the important ones. We’ve embarked on the journey of parenting and eight years in have managed to produce two beautiful little boys without killing each other (or them. Some days it’s a close run thing though). He lifts me up, makes me laugh, holds me when I cry, forgives my weaknesses, leads when he must and follows when he must. Apart, we are still whole but together we are so, so much more than the sum of our parts.

Truly and as trite as it sounds, everyday I love him more.

Allot 2007 171

Posted in Tips for Young Writers

Don’t Look Away

I want you to look at this picture:

serena

Maybe you’ve seen it before, maybe this is the first time. Maybe you’re apathetic about it, maybe it brings out strong emotions in you. Maybe you think it’s offensive, maybe you think it’s fine.  You don’t have to share these thoughts and feelings. I have my own thoughts on the cartoon which I’m happy to share in the comments, but they aren’t the point this post.

I want you to look at this cartoon because when something is controversial, as this was last week, we’re often told not to look. By looking, discussing, researching, people warn us that we’re ‘giving air’ to unsavoury thoughts and ideas. But as writers we must look. Especially when something is controversial. Especially when something engenders strong emotion. Because we are in the business of human emotion and action and thought. We are in the business of distilling real life and its components into something that readers can take meaning and understanding from.

A while ago I read a blog discussing Veronica Roth’s books. I wish I could find the blog post now, but I can’t. If I do find it, I will provide a link because it was an interesting discussion and also because it would be hypocritical of me not to. The crux of the discussion was that Carve the Mark was racist. Having not read the book, I don’t have an opinion on whether it is racist or not however, I took issue with a line in the blog post which said (I’m paraphrasing), “…if you haven’t read the book, don’t go out and buy it. Take the word of those offended by it that it is racist…”

No.

We must not do this. Not as people, not as citizens, and not as writers. It is true, just because you don’t find something offensive doesn’t mean it’s not but it’s equally true that just because you find something offensive, doesn’t mean it is. It’s a circular argument.

The ‘take our word for it’ approach to the truth is dangerous. It champions dominant voices and it fosters inequality and lack of mutual understanding. In short, it closes minds and no writer, regardless of your experience or ambition, should have a closed mind. You can’t understand life and people, and represent those understandings, if you refuse to look things in the face and form your own opinions.

There’s a danger in our technologically-connected world of becoming part of a hive-mind. Of only having access to ideas that are deemed acceptable and of only sharing thoughts that are within the dominant ideology. But as writers, we ought to resist this. We have a privileged position of being able to represent the essence of the world for our readers, of being able to discuss and raise questions about important ideas. And to do our jobs properly, we need to think for ourselves. After you’ve looked into something, you may form the same opinion as everyone else – but it will be an opinion formed you’ve formed yourself and therein lies the difference.

Everyone has an opinion

Posted in Blog, Book Reviews

Wuthering Heights

I’ve just finished reading Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte. If you’re wondering how I could just have finished reading Wuthering Heights this week when I had just finished reading The Mouse and His Child last week, then all I can say is, it’s all down to a voracious appetite and a determined disregard for house-work.

I hadn’t read Wuthering Heights before. It’s another book-fair find for me. But of course I’d heard of it because, well, most people have. I always thought it was a love story between Heathcliff and Catherine but it’s really more a story of obsession, hatred and revenge. If it is about love, it’s a very twisted kind of love. And it seems that people either fall into two camps; strong but cruel and selfish or kind but weak and selfish.

All that said, I enjoyed the read. Possibly you’ll be forced to read it in English but if not, I’d still recommend finding a copy and giving it a read for your own pleasure.

wuthering heights

 

Have you read Wuthering Heights? If goodreads is anything to go by, it’s one you either love or hate. What do you think?

Everyone has an opinion

 

Posted in Blog, Book Reviews

The Mouse and His Child

I’ve just finished reading The Mouse and His Child by Russell Hoban. When I was little I watched the animated movie many times. There’s a scene in the cartoon where a rat beats an old wind-up donkey to death and, unsurprisingly,  it always stayed with me. I saw the book at a book-fair and picked it up for $2, for old times sake really.

mousechilddonkey

It was a brilliant book. While I recognised a lot of scenes from the movie (including the scene with the donkey) there was so much more to it. Even knowing how it would end, I couldn’t stop reading about the toy mice’s journey from the toy-store to the cruel word and their quest to become self-winding and autonomous.

And I would never have picked it up if not for the book-fair and a bit of childhood nostalgia.

We tend to be attracted to what’s shiny and new but old stories have so much to offer. The Mouse and His Child was first published in 1967 but it’s themes are timeless. The writing style of older books is very different to modern style, often with much more description and author intrusion, but they’re often beautiful and poetic because of an author’s artistic license.

If you get a chance, keep an eye out for The Mouse and His Child and in the mean time blow the dust off some older stories for a chance of pace.

mousechild

Posted in Tips for Young Writers

Why Can’t You Write Something Happy?

I’m quite an emotional person. And I tend to empathise strongly with others. Which means that watching the news, viewing certain movies and reading certain books can be a draining experience. I’ve always struggled with war-movies and, since having children, anything in which a child gets hurt sends me over the edge. And yet, my husband often asks me, why can’t you write something happy?

  • Because Happy is Boring

Go on. Name a story that’s happy all the time? Even with Disneyfication I bet you can’t. Cinderella – reduced to slavery by her step-family. The Little Mermaid – misunderstood by her father and forced to do a deal with (essentially) the devil. Toy Story – overcome by jealousy, Woody attempts to murder Buzz.

Without conflict there is no story and conflict is not a happy thing. Don’t get me wrong, there are levels of conflict. Not all stories begin with rape, murder and theft. But for the characters in a story, all conflict is difficult and emotional.

  • Because We are not Always Happy

Depressed is an overused word. I have a depression and anxiety disorder and there is a clear difference between when I am depressed (an unshakable sense of unhappiness that persists regardless of what’s happening in my life) and when I’m sad (a feeling which is quite often a response to what’s happening around me ie. a death in the family). Often when people say they’re depressed they mean they’re sad – and that is normal and natural and perfectly fine.

We want to be happy all the time and we want the people we love to be happy all the time, but constant happiness is unattainable. For us and our characters. Sometimes the characters I write are unhappy, sometimes they’re hurt and sometimes they hurt others. For fiction to work, whether it’s contemporary realism, Sci-Fi or Fantasy, there has to be a reflection of real life and, in real life, sometimes we cry. And sometimes we ugly-cry.

uglycry

  • Because There Will be a Happy Ending

Let’s go back to war-movies. I think the last one I watched was Saving Private Ryan and I wept. If I remember correctly, it was the most graphically real depiction of war to be found in a movie at that time. Of course, now, war-movies are incredibly graphic and incredibly violent every time and I can’t watch them. Because war is real. I know that what I’m watching on the screen is actually happening somewhere and I’m old enough to know that war has no easy fix. There is, often, no happy ending.

But for the most part, in a novel, there is a happy ending. The whole point of reading a book is to see the protagonist try and fail and try and succeed. Unless you read and write tragedies, you’re guaranteed a good outcome. There may be losses along the way (have you read Little Women? It’s a classic for a reason. Have a box of tissues handy) but ultimately, the protagonist will succeed. And, not only will they succeed, they will be strong for having gone through the conflict.

shakespeare

 

 

So, my darling husband, if you should read this, know – this is why I can’t write a happy story. And, why I don’t read happy stories. Because the joy is in the conflict, in relating to the character’s world and in experiencing success with them at the end.

 

So, what about you? Do you write happy stories?

Everyone has an opinion

Posted in Blog

Multi-tasking or Not

If there’s radio silence on this blog, chances are I’m busy with something else. I’m not good at multi-tasking. This is disappointing because ‘people’ are always saying how women can multi-task and men can’t. Maybe that’s true in your family, but in my house my husband can have multiple things going and not miss a beat, while any more than two different thoughts at a time leaves me flustered.

I’m not flexible either, despite making this claim in every job interview I’ve ever had. I need time to process. It’s not that I can’t change or even that I don’t want to change, it’s that I need to get my head around it first. It’s a very deliberate process for me, moving on from plan A to plan B. Sometimes all I need is a couple of deep breaths and I’m on board, sometimes it’ll take me a day or so.

juggling

Here’s the thing though, not being able to multi-task well has never been a huge impediment in my life. Often, the people I know who are multi-tasking all the time seem to be so busy chasing different balls, they miss the individual nuances of each ball. You may not get things done as quickly taking one step at a time, but you will get to appreciate each step you take and fully as you can. And that’s worth it to me.

 

Everyone has an opinion

Posted in Blog

I Love Kid’s TV

I love television aimed at kids and teens.

The Next Step

Miraculous Ladybug

Little Lunch (an awesome Aussie show)

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (I loved it in the 80s, I love it now. I had a crush on Raphael in the 80s, I have a crush on him now).

The list goes on. The problem is, I’m 34. That’s right, I’m a grown woman in her thirties with two kids hoping that Adrien and Marinette will get together (Australian free-to-air TV can be a bit behind, so if you know something I don’t, keep it to yourself).

While my friends are binging Game of Thrones and the Walking Dead, I’m giggling over Mickey’s jokes like a six-year-old.

So what’s the deal?

Some of the appeal for me is that watching shows for a younger audience keeps me up to date with what kids and teens are interested in, and that’s good for my business (writing for young people). Some of it is that it’s nice to enjoy things with my kids. And some of it is that shows for kids and teenagers tend to be optimistic and clever. Kids have a finely tuned bullshit meter, so their shows tend to be spot-on. Kids are also idealistic, so their shows tend towards an open, optimistic view of the world and I have to say, the older I get, the more I need that view in my life.

 

What about you? What TV do you watch that people would say is too young (or too old) for you?

Everyone has an opinion

 

Posted in Blog

Belum – Not Yet

In Indonesian ‘belum’ means not yet. There’s three different words for no, ‘tidak’, ‘bukan’ and ‘belum.

Sudah ke Indonesia?

Have you been to Indonesia?

Belum?

Not yet.

You wouldn’t say no (tidak) because that means you’ll never go. And I love that idea because it leaves that door open. It’s hopeful. It’s full of possibility.

So:

Have you been published?

Not yet.