Friday, December 21, 2012

Does it feel a lot like Christmas to you?

Christmas has snuck up on me this year. I've been so busy focusing on other things that the festive season has passed me by entirely. And now here we are, December 21. The boys are on holidays. The Builder is on holidays. Technically, I am on holidays, but with deadlines in mid-January, there's no such thing as a holiday.

Having said that, I am taking a break from blogging. Two weeks. Some may say I began my break about a month ago, so sporadic have been my posts. But this is the start of the official Official Break.

So I'll be back on January 7, all rested up and raring to go. I'm hoping to do more writing-focused posts next year, and to bring back the Q&As with industry experts. Let me know in the comments if there's anything else you'd like to see at the Fibro in 2013.

In the meantime, here's wishing you and yours a happy and peaceful festive season. Look forward to seeing you all at the Fibro next year.

Is it beginning to feel a lot like Christmas to you?

PS: I'll probably pop into Facebook and Twitter over the hols, so come and say hi!

Monday, December 17, 2012

Why, yes, I am a collector

I never thought of myself as a collector. I am not one for groups of objects. I don't have a thing for pigs, or cats, or owls or any of the other things that other people collect to great effect. In my head, I am a Minimalist. I live in a cool, clean house of straight lines and clear surfaces. In reality, this is not the case (hello Lego, Ninjago, Nerf, etc), but I've never actively gone out of my way to add clutter to my home.

This morning, however, I realised that I am a collector. I know this, because I cleaned out my wallet. It wasn't closing anymore. It was bulging, the zipper straining.

I am a collector of receipts. Big ones, small ones, useful ones, useless ones, I have them all. About 45 of them in total this time around.

One day, they're going to be worth a lot of money. I just know it.

Do you, like me, put every receipt you're ever given straight into your wallet, and then carry them around for months? Or are you... sensible?

photo credit: Herr Olsen via photopin cc

Sunday, December 9, 2012

50 Shades of the Pink Fibro

It's been a long time since I've written about pubic hair. Partly because it seems to have been a long time since anyone had any - or so some sections of the media would have us believe - and partly because my days at CLEO are long behind me. But today as I was tweeting lazily with some of my favourite Twitter folk, I happened to ask Mrs Woog at Woogsworld to set me a topic for today's post.

Her response?

There was a time when such a brief would have been part of my daily life. Those were the days in which I was writing everything from scripts for Role Plays for the Bedroom (sealed section), to road-testing faux leather Catwoman outfits complete with cat-o-nine tails and underpants with far too little fabric, to ultimate guides to blow jobs, to (one of my personal faves...) 'Your Vagina: What's normal, What's not', to ... well, you get the idea. My mum was very proud.

At the time, it was fun and silly and we figured it was allowing women to get in touch with the playful side of their sexuality. Or something. Then 50 Shades of Grey came out and every woman I know went to pieces at the things they'd 'learned' from the book, and I wondered where they'd all been for the past 25 years. I'm pretty sure that, between them, CLEO and Cosmo covered off a lot of that territory, though they may have drawn the line at 'Paddle Your Way to Pleasure' or 'Paint Your Room Red: the ultimate guide to BDSM'. Then again, I haven't seen a sealed section in a while, so I could be wrong about that...

Anyhoo. Where was I? Oh yes, pubic hair. When I was doing some preliminary research for an excellent book idea* once, I had the opportunity to discuss the whole Brazilian wax concept with a marketing expert. He said to me, "Ask any woman why she does it and she'll tell you it's 'cleaner' and 'more comfortable'? She'd never admit that it was all about Social Identity, about being part of a group." I tested his theory. He was right. Every woman I asked gave the same response. Even when I said 'But... the pain?', I was assured that 'it got better the more you did it'.

So somewhere along the line, we all became part of the Porn Star social group and the 'Hello boys, how do you like me so far?' approach to pubic beauty became the norm.

Personally, I have no problem with it. Anyone who wishes to take it all off should do so with impunity. Given that denim shorts are now riding somewhere around the ribcage, I can see where a pubic hair might ruin the line, so to speak. Where I do object to it, however, is in the example to young women. And younger girls.

I read somewhere that there are men in the early 20s who've never experienced the joy of fishing a stray pube from their teeth. Because they've never seen a stray pube. Ever. Warning bells begin to ring loudly at this point.

Then, in conversation with my delightful beauty therapist, comes the news that mothers are taking their teenage daughters - under 16 - to salons for Brazilians. Um, seriously. How many pubes do you even have at that age? My delightful beauty therapist will not perform Brazilians on girls that young, but there are, apparently, many that will.

Okay, it's hair, it grows back. I get that. But we are setting precedents, saying that pubic hair is Not Okay. Why is something that, generally speaking, is seen by few people in your life anyway Not Okay? Do I want my boys growing up in a world where pubic hair on woman is Not Okay? Er, no, I'm not okay with that.

Being a journalist, I went looking for a reason for pubic hair. Surely, it's not just there to set up 'Collar and Cuffs' jokes? I needed an expert. There's always an expert. I even managed to find a few for the infamous Hairy Armpits story.

Over at, there's a whole article about how waxing (and particularly shaving, which makes my eyes cross when I consider it within the frame of a Brazilian) creates opportunity for infection (take that 'cleaner'!) and that it provides 'cushioning' from friction (take that 'comfortable'). There are also thoughts on how the pubes trap pheromones, making us sexually attractive to others.  

I still believe that Brazilians are a matter of choice. Whether a woman deafforests her Map of Tassie is entirely her own business. But I also believe that young women need to be aware that it's not the only choice.

In fact, I foresee a future in which those thick, luxuriant bushes of the 1970s make a comeback. If only for the shock factor alone.

*Excellent book idea not entirely abandoned

photo credit: fatboyke (Luc) via photopin cc

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Social media for writers - play to your strengths

I'm not usually one for New Year's Resolutions. I'm of the opinion that setting yourself up for failure in the first five minutes of a new year is a recipe for disaster. But this year I'm going to make one. And it's not one I would have even considered 12 months ago.

I resolve to streamline my social media.

There's no doubt that there's a push for writers to promote themselves online. To create a 'presence', to build a 'profile'. But if you dip your toes in all the options available, you end up with no actual time to write. You're so busy chasing hither and thither, chatting here, pinning there, that what used to be 'procrastination' becomes your job.

This is not always for the best.

I think the key is to find the social media channels that work best for you, and stick with those. I should know. I've tried just about all of them.

When I first began blogging, I jumped headfirst into Twitter because a) it would help to get my blog 'out there' and b) it's a great place for smart alecs like me to have fun. If you like words and you like smarts, Twitter can be like the best party you've ever been to.

After Twitter, however, came Facebook - first a Fibro page, then an Allison Tait page, then, after I decided that two pages was ridiculous, just the Allison Tait page.

Then I was told I really should get on Pinterest. So I did. And it's a lovely place to while away a few hours sorting through soothing pictures of bathrooms. I can see how it works for some blogs as a traffic driver, but I've slowly realised over three years of blogging that I'm not really in this for spikes in traffic. I'm looking for readers, for writers, for community. When my most popular pin became an image of a DIY Christmas Tree created with photo frames, I began to wonder...

I've also tried Instagram. I very much enjoyed taking images of my garden for the #yearinmygarden meme, and I do like the insight into other people's lives that it shows, but I don't really want to share any more of mine than I already do.

Which leaves me, where?

I'm breaking up with Pinterest and Instagram. It was fun while it lasted, but for me, they're not the marrying kind. Pretty but not longterm. It's not them, it's me.

I'm a words girl. I need to play to my strengths.

So, in 2013, you'll find me here on Twitter. And here on Facebook.

But mostly at my desk. Writing.

Which social media channels are your favourites - and why?

Monday, December 3, 2012

What I read when I'm writing

There's something about writing a lot that makes me want to read a lot. Perhaps it's the intensity of burying myself in the quagmire of my own brain for long periods that makes me long for the light relief of diving into someone else's. Perhaps. Possibly it has more to do with general procrastination...

Anyhoo. During the month of November, whilst I was busy writing 45,643 words for NaNoWriMo (my final count... I know, so close...) on my children's novel, I also read the following books:

The Secret Keeper by Kate Morton (loved)

Borderlands by Brian McGilloway (okay)

Standing in Another Man's Grave by Ian Rankin (I love Rebus, and was excited to see him back.)

The Black Box by Michael Connelly (Ditto Harry Bosch.)

A heavy emphasis on crime there. I find that when I'm writing a particular type of book, I tend to read everything but that genre. Using a completely different part of the brain gives the writing muscle a little rest. Or so I convince myself.

I started Gillian Flynn's Gone Girl, but so far it has not grabbed me. Which disappoints me, as it has grabbed so many others. Perhaps it just needs more attention...

What are you reading at the moment? Have you read Gone Girl? Did it grab you?

Thursday, November 29, 2012

I need to Wri more next Mo

I am limping towards the end of NaNoWriMo. The trouble with not being a plotter, is that you need things to happen for other things to happen and sometimes when those things happen you end up in plot quicksand. You know you're probably there for a reason, but you're damned if you can work out why.

You follow?

So I'm at 43,000 words for the month of November. My story, which until now has unfolded from my brain as thought it were there the whole time and I just needed to find it, has hit the quicksand. I have thrown everything at it that I can think of: a little mystery, a fight scene, some humour, an unexpected character. Everything.

And still I sink deeper into the mire.

I think part of the problem is that I'm in entirely new territory, working on a children's book. It's the most fun I've had in... forever... but it's, well, new. The scope is huge, the characters are larger-than-life, the adventure is rollicking (one hopes), and I am following Mr8's advice to 'throw in a battle' at every opportunity.

Me and swords, we're like 'this'. *crosses fingers*

Two days to go. Looks like I'll be Wri more next Mo.

Actually, I'm wondering if I can include this blog post in my NaNoWriMO total. After all, writing about the story's gotta count, right?

Are you doing NaNoWriMo? Are you nearly there... or writing the words The End over and over to get your tally up?

Monday, November 26, 2012

Everyone needs a rostered day off - or not

My boys have hit the wall. With four weeks to go until the end of the school term, and a million tests, concerts, grading days, swimming lessons, parties, activities and other essentials to get through, they're both so tired they can't cope. They can fight though. Oh yes, always enough energy for that.

In an effort to make the mornings more pleasant for all of us, I have decided to give them both a rostered day off. An old-fashioned mental health day. A day at home to hang out with me, loll about on the sofa unmolested by their brother (yes, separate days or we'd all go mad), watch a dvd, read a book, get horribly bored and, hopefully, feel all refreshed for school the next day.

I will work around them. It will be just like the not-so-good old days.

This is the plan, anyway.

I tried to give Mr5 an RDO last week, when I was having to wake him at 7.45am for school, and he was particularly ornery about the house. He thought it was a good idea, until he remembered that he was on compost duty that day.

"I have to go," he said, leaping out of bed. "I've got a job today."

"Er, okay," I said, thinking 'are you nuts?'. "But are you sure?"

"Oh yes," he said. "I'll get a sticker and that will be one more for my chart and then I'll only have eight more to go to finish the plane. Time's running out, Mum!"

I tried to remember a time in my life when the notion of getting a sticker would win out over a day at home in my pyjamas. Couldn't.

I tried not to feel a little put out that he would choose compost over hanging out with me. Couldn't.

So we'll try again tomorrow.

If the compost wins again, all bets are off.

Do you ever give your kids a day off school just because?

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Top 10 tips for writing your best blog

I've got myself a shiny new badge and I'm over at the Just B Blog School today, writing about writing. In particular, my top ten tips for writing your best blog.

Come on over and say hello. I will be the one wearing perfect white socks, a prefect badge and a smug expression.

Blogging is Not Writing... and 9 other tips for writing your best blog.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Letters to Santa, Lego and Life Lessons

Today the boys sat down to write their letters to Santa. I'm trying to get in early this year, in an attempt to ensure that the Great Disaster of 2011, when the letters to Santa were posted so late that Santa had to send us a reply on January 14 explaining that we needed to get in earlier if we expected to hear from him before Christmas, never happens again.

Hmmmph. Santa's minions need to type faster, is all I can say.

Anyhoo, Mr8 produced a neatly spaced, neatly thought out, neatly constructed list, complete with a Dear Santa at the top and a Thank You Very Much at the bottom. Mr5... well, we'll get to that.

Whilst writing his letter, Mr8 let slip that there was a lot of Lego on the list.

"I really like Lego, Mum," he said, busily colouring his Christmas tree. "I'm not sure that anyone likes Lego as much as I do."


"In fact, there aren't too many kids at school who want to talk about Lego with me."

Pause. Colour, colour.

"Or any of the things I'm interested in."

Pause. "Like what?" I ask.

"Like history," he said, looking up, from his Christmas star. "History is my life. And nobody knows what I'm on about."

Dramatics aside (life?), I should explain at this point that Mr8 is one of those males who goes from obsession to obsession with lightning speed. When these obsessions take the form of Ben 10 morphing into Star Wars backflipping into Batman, all is well. When they follow the lines, as they have this year, of Ancient Greeks sliding heavily into Vikings and morphing into Nasty Knights, and, of course, Lego, things get a bit more dicey.

I choose my words with care. "You know, it's as important to learn to talk about the things that other people are interested in as it is to share your own."

Eye roll. "I know. But I really don't care about One Direction or that Gangnam thing, Mum."

"No," I say. "Nonetheless, learning to listen to other people is a skill that will take you far in life."


"Particularly with girls," I throw in. "Which may not matter to you right now, but will be something you'll thank me for later." (I wince inwardly, knowing that I should have stopped at 'far in life'. Edit Allison, edit.)

He froze, gave me that look that said 'too much information, Mum' and dropped his texta. "I'm going to play Lego now," he said, fleeing the room.

Meanwhile, Mr5 was taking advantage of the Life Lesson taking place to put a few extra, secret things on his Santa list. I had taken great care to this point to get him to read each item out to me as he wrote it. Just for practice, you understand.

So Santa, get ready, I'm sending this in early. You're going to need a few extra weeks to decipher it.

Please get back to me before January 14.

Do your kids write letters to Santa? Do you send them nice and early?

Monday, November 19, 2012

The follow-up blog post

It being a Monday and me being short on inspiration in the rain, I thought I'd take the opportunity to provide a few follow-ups. I realise I've raised a few issues over the past month or so, and haven't taken the time to share the outcomes, so here they are:

•You may remember the torturous search for pillows. Well, we finally bought some. And we got it wrong. They are too... lofty (see image). So they are relegated to the spare bed (note to visitors: bring your own pillows) and the search continues. Sigh.

•I am yet to come up with a name for the Dad character in my current novel. He remains Fred.

•My shy friend Allison Dobell reports that reviews are beginning to come through on Goodreads for her book Alice's Wonderland. You can read them here. And here at Amazon.

•Finally, the mouse saga continues. After the construction and shenanigans that ensued on the discovery of Mousies One and Two, The Builder got serious the following night, putting out two mousetraps and some bait. The door to the pantry was wedged shut. All manner of foodstuff was locked down. The hatches were battened.

Then we had to explain to the children what was going on. And why we had to shut all doors, internal and external, that night. And why they couldn't go near the 'poison' near the cat mouse door. Mr8 nodded and went about his business. Mr5 went very quiet. Always a bad sign.

Just before bed, he came to us in tears. "What's wrong?" we asked.

"Mousies have families too," he wailed. "If the mousies don't go home to their families the other mousies will worry."

We exchanged looks over his head. "We're just trying to, er, scare them away," I said.

"Then why are you putting out poison? Poison won't scare them, it will kill them," he said. Lord save me from the logical child.

"Well," said The Builder. "We have to keep them out of the house. They eat all our food and also spread germs. It's them or us."

"Can't we just board up the cat door, then?" said Mr5. "Then they can't get in."

How to explain to a sad little boy that we need them gone? For good. 

"We will just leave it open for one more night so that the other Mousie [still in the housie at this stage] can get out, then it will all be over," said The Builder.

He seemed mollified by this, but went to bed still sad for the 'mousie family', out there waiting for their mousie loved one to come home.

And left me fretting at the notion of a whole CLAN of mousies, out there in the dark, plotting an assault on the pantry. Shudder.

The Builder has cut a piece of ply ready to board up the Mousie Door. The sooner the better I say.

What about you? Any updates you'd like to share - good, bad, covered in fur?

Friday, November 16, 2012

There's a mouse in my house: A situation comedy in at least two parts

Last night we had a 'situation' at our house.


I was in my office, typing, after The Builder had gone to bed. Correction. After I thought The Builder had gone to bed. I heard rustling and rattling and general carrying-on from the kitchen.

My first thought: mouse. Big mouse.

To set the scene, we had discovered that morning a huge pile of mouse poo, some well-chewed almond meal packets and the odd wood shaving (?) in the pantry.

Mouse. Mice. Possibly 27 mice.

We cleaned it up and made our cunning plans for dealing with said mouse/mice that evening.

Fast forward to that evening and we are sitting in the living room when we hear a thud, and then some rustling and rattling and general carrying-on. I dispatched The Builder to find out what was going on. Long seconds passed. Minutes passed. I roused myself from the sofa to go and make sure the mousie hadn't carried him off.

He met me in the hallway, a little white-faced. "It ran right past me - actually through my feet - and out the cat door!" he said. I should mention that we don't have a cat and have been discussing blocking up said cat door since we moved in.

But the mouse was gone. We sat around congratulating ourselves on our superior mouse-scaring skills.

Right up until the point where I was sitting, alone, in my study, in a dark, quiet house, typing. I poked my head out the door. No sign of any mousie. Then again, no sign of The Builder either. Our bedroom door was wide open and he was not tucked up in bed, snoring.

I crept down the hall, pushed the door on the kitchen - and there he was. The Builder I mean. Constructing.

"We've got a situation!" he said, slightly wild-eyed, in his Dad pyjamas. "There were two mice and one is still trapped in the pantry."

When Mousie One had done it's Alcatraz escape run, we'd simply assumed it had been working alone and wedged the pantry doors closed with a six-pack. We were wrong.

I looked around me. "What exactly have you done here?" I asked.

The back door was wide open and he had constructed a barricade, comprising the cushion from the outdoor sofa, a chair, a toy box and the door mat. This corral was to persuade the mouse to run straight out the back door once he let it out of the pantry.

I could not help myself. I began to laugh. Helplessly. Loudly. Doubled over with hysterics. Hooting and guffawing.

He waited til I finished. Then politely explained that I was being no help. I straightened up and prepared to be supportive.

He crept into the kitchen, climbed on the bench with a broom, and proceeded to fling back the doors. Then he bolted to the door, jumped the barricade and we both stood there, awaiting the mouse's next move.

Mousie Two's next move was to stay exactly where it was.

Five minutes later we were all still in position, me still laughing helplessly (albeit silently). He turned to me and politely explained that I was still being no help and I might as well go back to my desk.

I did.

Fifteen minutes later, I was considering sending him a text message to make sure the mouse hadn't eaten him, when he appeared.

"Success?" I asked.

He shook his head. The mouse had bolted for the door, but instead of following the carefully constructed path laid out for it, had slipped through the most miniscule of gaps between the toy box and the mat and was now lost in the dining room.

Cue: helpless giggles. Mine, of course.

He had set up a system to keep the pantry door closed, and had closed the dining room door to keep the mouse from joining us in our beds. A tiny trap was laid. We would deal with it in the morning.

This morning we arose to discover that the outside of the dining room door had been gnawed. Clearly Mousie One had returned to help its friend. Meanwhile, Mousie Two had cleverly avoided the tiny trap and had eaten its way through half a packet of Fizzy Lifesavers (seriously, I was surprised it was not laid out on the counter with chronic burping).

The 'situation' continues.

I guess this is why they call it 'situation comedy'. 

Stay tuned.

Do small, furry animals bring about this level of chaos at your place?

[image: I wish I had a better shot of the barricade, but this was the best I could do, given my hysterical status.]

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Have you done your Christmas shopping?

The year is truly galloping along now. We've reached that point where trying to organise a date to meet with friends becomes a comedy of checking and cross-referencing and text messages back and forth ... until finally you all agree that mid-January looks great.

My 'before Christmas' craziness has begun, with editors and corporate clients all needing their work in the door on Christmas Eve. Why, I'm not sure. It's not like Santa's elves will be popping in over the break to actually do anything with the copy filed. But I'm just as happy to have everything tied up by then, so I smile and nod and work late into the night.

In the meantime, the Christmas shopping is not done. Actually, not even thought about. And I can feel the underlying stress that comes with that. There is nothing I hate more than last-minute Christmas shopping. Elbowing your way through crowds with those crazy elevator-music carols hammering in your brain.

Usually, I have most of the shopping well and truly wrapped up by now. (I know it's only November. The carols start in October, you know!) But this year we were moving house during the big sales and I got caught short.

Unfortunately, the closer it gets to Christmas, the less I feel like stirring myself to shop.

So for now I'll concentrate on texting my friends and meeting my deadlines. Surely Santa will take care of the shopping?

Have you done your Christmas shopping? Or, in fact, anything Christmassy at all?

Monday, November 12, 2012

Naming characters: When Jericho met Ham

I am naming lots of new characters at the moment. This is not as easy as you might think. Like naming lots of new children, only some of them are 40 and grizzled, some of them are nobility, some of them are not, some of them are... you get the idea.

When we named Mr8 we had a boys' name all set - and argued for nine months about the girls' name. When it came to Mr5, we had the girls' name ready to go - and came up with a boys' name on the way to the hospital.

My technique with characters has always been to go with my first instinct. If I have no instinct, I simply name that character Fred until I think of something later. This allows me to continue on with the flow of the story without getting stuck. Names can be a real sticking point.

Unfortunately, with this particular project, I have so many characters that if I named all the un-named ones Fred, I'd have bits of text that went like this:

"Why did you do that?" asked Fred.
"I don't know," said Fred.
"It's not very smart," said Fred.
"It seemed like a good idea at the time," said Fred.

You see my problem. The universal find/replace when I later decide that one Fred is called Dominic and the other is called Horatio will simply not work.

So I'm trying to do it as I go this time. Which is why I currently have a character called Jericho and another called Ham.

I'm thinking that I am going to have a lot of work to do in the second draft.

How did you name your kids? Did you always know? Did you argue? Or did you simply wait until you saw them?

Oh, and what's your Dad's name? I need a good Dad's name.

[image courtesy of Mr8]

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

The secret lives of friends

My shy friend Allison Dobell asked me to let you know that her first book, Alice's Wonderland, is now available at Amazon. She describes it as a sexy, funny romance with lots of laughs. It is filed under 'E' for erotica.

You can find out more about Allison's secret life here.

And you can buy her book here.

Thank you.

Do you like a bit of 'heat' in your books, or do you prefer your authors to 'close the bedroom door' before the wobbly bits come out?

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Words adrift in paper boats

Every once in a while you have one of those weekends that just covers off everything at once. They rattle along at breakneck speed and, before you know it, they're over, leaving just those tantalising memories behind.

On Friday afternoon I travelled to the Big Smoke with my Dad. Due to trackwork (I'm pretty sure those tracks have been rebuilt seven times since our move to Fibrotown), we spent many, many hours together, on bus and train. Hanging out. Eating biscuits. Talking about nothing. If you have to be squashed into a bus seat with someone, make it someone you really love.

After a visit to my accountant (best glossed over) and a quick beer with my brother TICH in his new abode (note to self, buy funky apartment in hip suburb so that I can pretend to be cool just once in my life), I met up with a writer friend. We spent many, many hours together. Hanging out. Eating burgers. Talking about nothing.

Then I went to stay with my dear friend A, who thinks nothing of evicting her children from their beds so that I can sleep in one said bed, surrounded by little boy detritus, at late notice and at the drop of a hat. If you're going to arrive late on the doorstep of a friend's house after several (thousand) beers, make it someone you really love (and who will still love you back).

On Saturday morning, I presented at the NSW Writers Centre on time and surprisingly fresh for my panel at the Emerging Writers Festival. It was a lively discussion and my fellow panelists Alice Grundy and Chris Summers did a stellar job - the upshot of our discussion (Why Pre-Publication Matters) is to be prepared to work just as hard (if not harder) after you receive a publishing contract as you did while writing your novel (or in Chris's case, play).

One thing I love about writers' festivals is the people that you meet there. Like the guy who told me candidly over a break that he'd taken another writer, his friend, out the back of his property and shot live ammunition at him just so that he (the friend) could feel what it was like to be under sniper fire. The same guy showed me the most beautiful writers' notebook that I'd ever seen. Tiny, copperplate  handwriting, all colour-coded and illustrated. It was a work of art. (Note to self, create lovely writers' notebook...) I am hoping that he will find me on Twitter so that we can chat some more. I really want to read his book when it comes out. If it is as beautiful as his notebook, it will be a work of art.

After the working part of the day was over, I met my boys in the city and we went to Sculptures By The Sea. The sculpture in the picture was my favourite. Words adrift, words washed up. Also, I am obsessed with paper boats. What's not to love?

Today was a day of rest. Mostly poking about at home, getting the chores done, shouting at the children. I wrote some words on my NaNoWriMo project and I end the day completely satisfied.

See what I mean. Everything covered.

How was your weekend?

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Quiet please. Writers at work.

It's that time of year again. The first of November marks that day on the calendar when hundreds of thousands of writers around the globe vow that this year will be different. This will be the year when they will 'win'. This will be the year that they will bash out 50,000 words in a month. This will be their year of NaNoWriMo.

This is my third attempt at NaNo. I have never won. I am okay with that. Each time I've done it in the past, I've walked away with about 15,000 words and a good idea. Both of those ideas have become full manuscripts in the fullness of time. One will be published next year. One will (hopefully) be published in the future.

I look at it this way: even if I only finish with 15,000 words, they're 15,000 words that I didn't have on October 31. It is a great starting point, no matter which way you look at it.

This year, I am trying something new. Children's fiction. It's a whole new world for me and will no doubt be a steep learning curve. It's seriously good fun though. So far. Talk to me about in on November 17.

Mr8 is also writing a book (those are his words in the picture - he puts as much effort into those little swords that mark scene breaks as he does into the story). I love that we can sit down together and discuss our work. He knows nothing of NaNoWriMo, or winning or whathaveyou. He just really loves to write.

We could probably all take a leaf out of that book.

Monday, October 29, 2012

I wish you a full life of the everyday

It's not often that I have Big Picture thoughts while I'm slicing mushrooms. Life's too short to stuff a mushroom, or so Shirley Conran would have it, but slicing them... well, that's a different story.

I was concentrating on not chopping off my finger, watching the blade slice through that springy flesh, thinking about the boring Boscaiola sauce I was making. The kitchen window was open and I could feel a light breeze stirring those bits of hair that never quite manage to stay in my ponytail arrangement. Birds were doing what they do best, with a tweet/squawk/chirp orchestra in full swing outside.

The Builder was in the garage, cleaning up the mountain of sawdust he'd created whilst making wooden tomahawks for the school fete. The boys were in another room, bickering over the Wii. Or the sofa. Or something. They could Bicker for Australia at the moment, those two.

Just a Monday evening.

Just the everyday stuff.

The stuff we tend to forget about in our memoirs. The stuff we tend to overlook in our never-ending quest for 'special'.

I think we should take the everyday stuff and hold it tight. This is the living. I know people climb mountains, swim oceans and run marathons to feel alive. But this is it. The living. The everyday stuff that constitutes 98 per cent of our lives.

I have a friend who would give a hell of a lot tonight to be doing something everyday. She would no doubt love to be at home, listening to everyday noises, thinking everyday thoughts. She is the kind of person who understands the joy of contentment. She would be willing to submerge herself in the everyday.

Instead, she is in a hospital bed, fighting an extraordinary battle.

In the dying light of the afternoon, with my mushrooms sliced and my children still bickering, I went out into my garden and took this photo. A beautiful flower bathed in golden sunlight - with a totem tennis pole in the background.

Finding the special in the everyday.

On my friend's behalf, I challenge you to do the same. Yes, children drive us mad. Yes, washing up is boring. Yes, we have too much to do and too little time.

But tomorrow, find the positives. Yes, even in the bickering (a challenge of Mt Everest proportions if ever there were one).

I wish you a full life of the everyday.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Ye Olde School Photo, warts and all

Tis the season of school photos. The boys bought home their snaps yesterday and they have been suitably admired. Mr5, who has been sporting one of those weird childhood blotches on the side of his mouth for six months, is surprisingly blotch-free, but surely they don't airbrush them... surely?

In honour of the occasion, I have dragged out my own third grade photo, taken in Katherine, NT, when I was eight. It is the first school photo in which I am actually smiling, as in previous years I'd been missing one front tooth. The front tooth I knocked out when I was 13 months old and which took SEVEN years to grow back. No wonder my smile is crooked.

Also, I'm wondering when the Prince Valiant do will make a comeback, I really am.

Do you still have your third grade school photo? I'd love to see it. Share it on my Facebook page or write your own blog post and let me know about it in the comments.

Updated: These hardy souls have been silly brave enough to take up my challenge - check out their pics:

Angels Have Red Hair
Adventures of a Subversive Reader 
Shambolic Living 
House Goes Home

Let me know if you join in and I'll add you to the list!

And, seriously, do you think they're PhotoShopping your kids' school photos? Would you want them to?

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

An inconvenient truth about mothers and writing

I had one of those chance conversations today that start small and finish really big. A lovely friend and I were chatting about plants and about pools and about travel, when we got onto the subject of writing. I know that she has writing dreams, so I asked how they were going.

"Not well," she admitted, before confessing that she had trouble finding the time to write. (We have discussed before my thoughts on making time, but stay with me here - I'm branching out, I promise.)

We went through a whole range of variations of how busy life is and how hard it is to find the time to do the things we want. But there was more to it. There's always more to it.

Like many women, many mothers, she's struggling to fit the thing she wants to do in around the things she feels she has to do. The things that other people expect her to do. Writing, particularly when it's not paid, looks like a colossal waste of time to non-writers - particularly to those people who might be working long hours to keep the family afloat financially.

Writing eats up hours. It is the kind of thing that can take you far away from the dirty dishes in the sink and the unmade beds and the general detritus of daily life. Right up until the point where the family comes home and you find yourself rushing around, trying to make up for lost time.

"There is no more sombre enemy of good art than the pram in the hall."

I was surprised to find that this quote was written by a man (Cyril Connolly to be precise).  To me, it is something a female writer might have come up with after the sleepless nights and interrupted thought patterns that accompany the newborn infant. Or perhaps even about the overriding sense of responsibility and selflessness that accompanies being a parent. A mother.

Writing is a selfish task. It is all about you. Most women I know find that particular concept very, very difficult to put into practice once they have children. I know that I have. My freelance writing is one thing - it's my job, it's paid, it helps with family income. But the fiction? Colossal gamble. Hours and hours and hours of my life in pursuit of a dream. Making myself sit down at 10pm at night. Getting up early (okay, once).

I know female authors who can't work in school holidays, no matter where they're at with their latest project. I know female authors who tuck their writing away from their families, hiding it from husbands who don't like the impact it has on family life. Compartmentalising.

Like a cuckoo in the nest, writing is viewed as a voracious beast that has the potential to disrupt familiar routines and interfere with family time.

Babies do not get that you have a deadline and you need them to sleep, right NOW, for at least two hours.

Children do not understand that you are in full flight, on a roll, chasing down the most glorious idea that you've ever had. They want their afternoon snack, right NOW, and it's time for swimming lessons, thanks.

Partners sometimes don't get why you'd want to give up quality tele time with them to get back to your computer and the particular juicy subplot that came to you in the shower.

Houses do not clean themselves.

I understand it. Family units work best when each family member is present. When I'm writing something, I spend a lot of time in my head. I can be reading a bedtime story to my boys while busily devising my own quite different plot point at the same time. After I walk the boys to school, I meander home in the sunshine, deep in my own thoughts. This is not always ideal in a smallish town where people wonder why you look straight through them on the street.

Most female writers I know have learnt to manage without the long stretches of writing time that is the 'ideal' for creating great work. They write in snatches, when they can. They work hard to get the writing done without inconveniencing anyone else.

But they still write.

What am I saying here?

If you're struggling, like my friend, with this notion that your writing is somehow inconvenient, that you should be spending your time doing more worthwhile things, find a way. Do it at a time when it affects no-one at all, be that 5am or midnight or during your lunch hour at work.

If you have stories to write, then write them.

You only get one crack at this life. Don't let dirty dishes and expectations stand between you and your writing dream.

To steal a catchphrase: You're worth it.

Do you find it difficult to fit writing in with family life? Any tips to share?

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Crowd-source post: The Facebook Edition

A little while ago I wrote a post decided by Twitter. It was late. I was full of melted cheese. I couldn't think of a blog topic, so I turned to Twitter.

Today, it was the turn of Facebook to come to my rescue. This is how it began:

"Sitting here, trying to think of a blog topic for today. Suffering from Sunday brain. So I think I'll open up to requests.

Give me a topic people. Anyone? Anyone? Anything?

And here are the responses. And my responses to the responses in order.

Lorna Gordon suggested that John Hughes films were a great topic, confessing that she quotes Pretty in Pink to her husband and they laugh every time. She's right. John Hughes film are a great topic. Personally, I love The Breakfast Club. That thing Ally Sheedy did with her dandruff? That thing Molly Ringwald did with her lipstick? The fact that Judd Nelson managed to remain cool despite clumping about in boots that appeared to be four sizes too big for him? Loved it all.

Jenn M McLeod was trying to describe 'horseshit in a poetic way'. I admit that I can't help in this area, though I had a conversation recently about the, er, verdant nature of cow manure. Not sure I could construct an entire blog post around that one though.

Sandra Reynolds wanted to know about dealing with writer's block. So here's where I admit that I don't really suffer from writer's block. I think it's because I'm usually working on a few things at once, so if I stumble with one project, I just move to the next and wait for the obstacle to disappear. They usually do when you're busy thinking about something else. The only time I ever have a major sticking point is when I'm writing a novel and something really unexpected happens. Like a whole new character strolls across the page. Or my main character goes and does something completely out of character, which requires a bit of rethinking about her whole characters.

But these are problems that would probably would not occur if I planned my stories out more. So we won't talk about that...

Bri King asked: "As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?" For most of my early years, I wanted to be an actress. You can read all about it here. When I was 15 or 16, I decided that I'd like to be a journalist. So I organised to do work experience at the Sydney Morning Herald. One week's work experience was enough to convince me that I didn't want to be a journalist. I didn't realise at that age that you didn't necessarily have to be a news journalist to be a journalist. I thought you had to stick microphones in the faces of bereaved parents and ask dishonest businessmen probing questions to be a journalist. Fortunately for me, I found another route into journalism and ended up in features. But I am still not a movie star. In case you hadn't noticed.

Fi Robinson's son Jay wants to know why all toilets use fluorescent tubes. Well, Jay, if the fluoro lights are blue, it's to make it harder to find a vein (if you need to know more about this, ask your mother). If the fluoro lights are normal fluoro light colour, it's because fluoro lights have a much longer 'life' than incandescent bulbs (this means they last longer between changes) and so are the most efficient form of lighting for public spaces. If you need to know more about this, ask Mr Google.

Allison Rushby would like to know more about my shy friend Allison Dobell, whose first erotic novel Alice's Wonderland will be published on November 6. I can tell you the following:

• She has a cat. Even though part of her is allergic to cats.
• She can be very two-faced.
• She has four children.
• She is tall, but in a short way.

Lisa McLean asked for a letter to my ex. Given that my last 'ex' vacated my life more than 15 years ago, I'm unable to complete this task. Nothing to say except 'thanks for the memories'.

Bill Harper wanted to know what I'd be doing if I had a normal job. Good grief. No idea. Every once in a while I toy with the idea of finding a job with regular hours and a regular pay cheque. The Builder and I discuss it. He says, 'well, what do you want to do?'. I say 'no idea, I like what I do'. He says, 'well, there you go'. And I go back to doing what I do. Which pretty much says it all, I think.

Lisa Heidke had several suggestions, all requiring at least 1000 words each. So I will choose her first:  "Finish this sentence: I'm at a pay phone..."

"I'm at a pay phone. It's 1991 and I am 21 years old. Today. The booth stinks of cigarettes and booze and urine. There's a tattered phone book chained to the wall, most of the pages torn out. The phone in my hand is black and heavy and wet with my tears. I am 21 today and my boyfriend is breaking my heart."

Fact or fiction? You be the judge.

Okay, so that's tonight's crowd-sourced post. Thanks to everyone who participated. The image was taken today at The Old Girl. When in doubt, add lemons

All that's left is to ask you some questions. So:
1. What is your favourite John Hughes film?
2. When was the last time you were at a pay phone?

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

If the shoes fit

Daylight savings has given the boys another lease on life. An extra, other lease on life. Like their little boy energy has stepped up yet another gear into over-overdrive. Every time I turn around, there is a new activity underway.

Ninja rolls and throws on the trampoline. Check.

Tennis on the back lawn (thanks to Totem tennis and half-sized racquets). Check.

Viking rescue boat/raid on small, imaginary village. Check.

Soccer game on modified backyard field. Check.

Rugby passing next to the compost bins. Check.

General rampaging around the house. Check.

And all before 6pm.

Most of these activities seem to require an outfit change. One can simply not kick a soccer ball, for instance, unless one is wearing the correct footwear. And one can simply not put said footwear away immediately after said kick because one is busy slipping into one's Ninja outfit.

The pile of shoes beside the back door is mounting. An untidy mess of laces and wellies, sandals and sneakers.

I should do something about it. But one is too busy being in awe of the energy levels of children.

Right up until the moment when they hit the wall, meltdown, are thrown into bed and crash out as soon as their heads hit the pillow. Only to begin again at the crack of dawn the next day.

Ah yes, daylight savings. Don't you just love it?

Are your kids throwing themselves into the opportunities offered by daylight savings?

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Use your blog to find paid writing work: 5 tips from Problogger panel

Blogging conferences are crazy places. So much energy, so much information, so many bloggers in one place. For me, the pure joy of attending one is simply being with so many people who understand immediately when I start talking about posts and wordpress and pings (okay, I don't even understand pings, but you get what I mean...).

Speaking on a panel with Valerie Khoo and Kerri Sackville was a real privilege for me. Both are professional, sensible women who really know their stuff. When we set out to work out the content for our session - 'How to use your blog to get paid writing opportunities' - we were all on the same page and we were all doing our darnedest to give as much value, as much information, as possible to the people who attended our talk as we could.

For those who couldn't make it to Melbourne this time, I thought I'd summarise our five key points. Some ideas to mull over if you're interested in finding writing work beyond your blog.

1. Be clear on who you want to be. Take some time to work out what kind of writing work you'd like to do and then position your blog to reflect it. Make sure your bio outlines any experience you have, and says that you are a writer and that you're looking for opportunities. If your bio says 'loves drinking tea and eating cupcakes', chances are people will pop by and enjoy a warm read with you. If it says 'writer', people may go looking further for other examples of your work. Sometimes the most difficult part of beginning a writing career is accepting that you are allowed to call yourself a writer.

2. Realise that just starting a blog is not enough. A blog is a great place to highlight your writing skills - but you have to get beyond the blog to sell those skills. Use your blog to build networks to help you find work. Make connections on Twitter. Follow other writers, look for editors and publishers. Ask questions. Put your name and your blog in front of people who might have opportunities for you.

3. Ideas matter. If you read my guest post at Styling You, you'll know that book publishers are looking at blogs, looking for book ideas and people to write them - particularly in the non-fiction area. But you still need to let them know you're there, and your blog must have a 'high concept' - an overarching journey that will drive a reader through several hundred pages of narrative.

Magazine editors, on the whole, are not, however, cruising around looking for nice writing on blogs. What they want is a strong idea, pitched directly to them, in a language and format they can understand. If they like your pitch, they will probably visit your blog to see what you're about (see point one about making sure your blog reflects your 'brand'). Ensure you're presenting a professional 'face'.

4. Be prepared to learn. Look to expanding your craft. Most magazine features, for instance, are not written in first person, they are not subjective and they are not intimate. In other words, they're different from a blog post. It's a great idea to do a course in structuring magazine features if you've never written one before. Ditto, writing press releases and other corporate writing if that's the kind of work you're after. At the very least, consider a proofreading/editing course to ensure that any work you do present is as clean as possible.

5. Paid work takes many guises. In our content-driven information age, there are writing opportunities across a lot of different areas, and they're not always where you expect them to be. With an established profile as a blogger, you might transition to speaking work, for instance, which requires you to have a strong 'point of difference' - a clear identity, clear recurring subjects, a clear 'voice'. Start working out your 'elevator pitch'.

Corporate-style work (press releases, websites, annual reports, newsletters) can come from a range of different sources - most of which will begin within your personal network. Ask your local gym if they need a newsletter. Let the mums at school know you can help small businesses with press releases and websites. A lot of people are looking for writers and don't know where to find them. If you don't tell them you write, they'll never find you.

So there you have it. A snapshot of our session. Obviously there was a whole lot more to it, but I hope this gives you food for thought.

To get you started, why not give me your elevator pitch? What makes your blog different to the next blog? In 25 words or less...

[image: from a strip at the Photobooth at the Problogger networking event...]

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

How do you like me so far?

With my bag all packed for the Problogger Training Event, I thought now was a brilliant time to show you my new headshot. Actually, it's also a great time simply because I got it today and couldn't wait another minute to show you the wonderful work of Sophie Turner at Kisschasey Photography.

Extended Fam. Fibro - meaning Mum and Dad, sisters B and C, brother TICH, and the various other halves and offspring (19 of us in all) - recently submitted to enjoyed a family photo session in honour of A Big Birthday. It was surprisingly painless - even fun, I must admit - and the results were so amazingly lovely that we are all just thrilled.

Before the shoot, I said to Sister B, "She makes people look really good." To which she replied: "Maybe they looked good in the first place, did you think of that? She hasn't met us yet..."

Well, she has met us now and she made us look good. And to make my life even more complete, we even managed to wedge in a little headshot, allowing me to update the one I've been using for years. As I said to my Mum, "I don't want to be one of those writerly types who uses the soft focus pic that's 10 years out of date." To which she replied: "Nobody starts out that way. Let's talk again in 10 years."

So, if I'm still using this one in 10 years, feel free to call me on it.

And yes, I confess to asking for a little bit of 'work' around the eyes. Just so I was happy with the fact that my crowies couldn't be seen from the other side of the room. At least I'm honest, right?

If we meet at Problogger this week, squint a little and I'll look just like this. Promise.

As an addendum to this post, I will point you in the direction of this lovely piece by the extremely well-named Allison Slater Tate. If you are never in family photos, you need to read it. I wish I'd thought of it first.

Read it and book yourselves a family photo shoot. It's worth it.

Have you ever had a professional family photo shoot? How did it turn out?

Disclaimer: This is not a sponsored post. The family photo shoot was fully funded by Fam Fibro. I'm just so pleased by the results (and I'm NEVER pleased with photos of myself as a general rule) that I'm more than willing to spread the word. Visit Kisschasey Photography for examples of Sophie's excellent work.

Monday, October 8, 2012

Writing tips: How to write a better blog

I've got writing on my mind this week. I'm doing one last read-over of the new, revised and fabulous manuscript for my novel. I've been reading Marian Keyes, who always makes my writing heart quicken a little. And I have the new book by Monica McInerney sitting pristine in a Dymocks bag, awaiting my attention - I love a good story.

But I'm also thinking about blogging. This Thursday I fly to Melbourne for the Problogger Training Event, where I'll be speaking on a panel with the awe-inspiring Valerie Khoo and the amazing Kerri Sackville, all about how to use your blog to create paid writing opportunities. I. Cannot. Wait.

While I'm in this writing/blogging frame of mind, however, I thought I'd take the time to put together some writing tips for bloggers. Not what to write, but how to write it. These are things that I've learnt over the (nearly) three years that I've been here at the Fibro, and I hope they'll be of use to you.

Get closer. I've written about this before, but intimacy is the key to good blogging. I'm not talking about revealing every detail of your life (though feel free to do this if you so desire). More to strip back your writing 'voice' to its bare basics. The easiest way to do this, I find, is to try stream-of-consciousness blogging. Write it all down exactly as it first appears in your mind. Every word. Don't try to edit it as you go - you can do that later. Don't try to make it sound 'writerly'. What you're looking for is the essence of you. Blog the way you talk. It's that simple.

Go closer again. The biggest mistake that many bloggers make, from my perspective, is trying to tell the whole story. Nobody needs the whole story. What they need is the one moment that tells the whole story. The angle is important. If you find that your posts are rambling (and, really, short is usually better on a blog), hone in on the best bits. Just tell those.

Think about your audience. While most bloggers say they blog for themselves, the truth is that there is a contract in place in a blog - you write, someone (hopefully) reads. If that weren't the case, you'd be writing in a diary with a combination lock on the front. With that in mind, you need to allow room for those readers. Leave some space in your posts to allow your readers to find the universal heart of what you're writing and to share their experiences.

Proofread your work. I know the temptation is strong to simply put the full stop on that last sentence and hit Publish. But try to resist. Check the spelling. Make sure the last sentence has a full stop. Ensure you have no extraneous words (as I often do) where you've changed your mind halfway through a sentence and haven't quite deleted the earlier version. A good blog is a clean blog. It really does matter.

What do you think is the secret to great blog writing? Which blogs do it best as far as you're concerned? 

PS: You'll find more tips on writing a better blog, from the Problogger himself, here.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

About that Pinterest thing...

Being the late adopter that I am, I have recently joined Pinterest. I know. Only two years behind the Cool Kids who have now moved on to some other new thing that I've never heard of and will probably laugh derisively about when it's explained to me. Like I did with Pinterest.

I confess I still don't really get Pinterest. I think you can tell that merely by looking at the names of some of my 'boards':

•Things I Love But Will Never Do

•People Who Don't Have Red Hair Don't Know What Trouble Is

•Actually Useful If Not All That Pretty

•Food I Would Like To Make One Day

You see what I'm saying here? I think I'm missing the Pinterest vibe.

Having said that, I found myself in there on Friday night gleefully pinning photos of bathrooms. Mostly because Fam Fibro fell prey to a virulent vomiting virus, which took care of most of last week, and I wanted soothing pictures of bathrooms in which people never puke.

I'm not sure if this is the intended purpose of Pinterest, but yes, it did help, thank you for asking.

If you would like to share my images of bathrooms, or in fact those actually useful things, feel free to come on over and say hi. I'm here. I'll be waiting. Gaily pinning pictures of bunting while I wait.

Are you on Pinterest? Can you explain it to me?

[image: from here via Pinterest, of course]

Monday, September 24, 2012

When goats fly

Always one for the big questions, Mr5 unleashed another tonight... adding another special challenge to my parenting pantheon. We had managed to make it unscathed through 'World's Most Dangerous' animals, where the sole subject tonight seemed to be about male elephants looking for female elephants and how they got very aggressive when 'must' came over them.

He turned to me, questions filling his eyes, and came out with "What's a male, Mum?" Given that I was standing by with hurried explanations about 'mating' and 'must' at the ready, I was thrilled with this one, eagerly explaining that it simply meant you were a boy.

No further questions at that time.

He waited until later to really test my game. When I was distracted by the washing up. After an intense discussion about Christmas lists.

"Can goats really fly, Mum?"

It took me a moment, but I was proud of myself for grasping the gist of this relatively quickly.

"You mean reindeer?"

"Yes," he said. "Those. Goats. The ones that take Santa around."

"Well," I said, thinking on my feet and in the suds. "Reindeer would have to fly to get him all over the world, right?"


"I guess. But I can't see how they can really fly. Planes and gliders can fly. Not goats."

"Reindeer," I corrected again, brain churning wildly. Was this going to be the big Santa talk? Already? I was hoping to get one more Christmas in with Mr8 who, being the eldest and the most earnest, still clings to the belief that his parents tell the truth at all times. I hadn't even considered the idea that I'd be dealing with Mr5 first. But then, I shouldn't be surprised. Mr5 is an altogether different cup of tea.

"Well, lots of people believe they can fly," I prevaricated, rattling dishes.

He thought about it a moment. "I can't see it Mum," he said. "People can't fly without planes and gliders, why should goats?"

Why indeed. I forestalled further conversation by hurriedly switching the subject to Power Rangers, but I can see the writing on the wall for Santa and the gang. If not this year, then maybe next.

It's a funny thing, this whole business. I think I get as much out of Santa as the kids do - maybe even more, now that I think about it. There's a magic in it that sums up childhood for me. But there are times when I wonder why we do it - to them and to ourselves. Because at some stage, for all of us, the reindeer become goats and we realise who's really drinking Santa's Christmas beer.

In the meantime, however, Mr5 and I will spend Christmas Eve this year scanning the skies for Santa and his flying goats.

It should be quite a moment.

Does Santa still visit your house?

[Image from here]

Thursday, September 20, 2012

10 things I learnt this week

As the end of the week approaches and I prepare to take myself to the Big Smoke for lunch tomorrow, I thought it a good time to reflect on the lessons learnt this week. It's been a busy week in The Old Girl, with lots of decisions to be made - decisions about paint colours, decisions about shoes, decisions about the 13 pages of edits on my novel.


So here's what I learnt this week:

1. I am terrible at making decisions. When there are too many decisions to be made, I make the decision to go to bed. Unfortunately, this decision cannot be followed by the appropriate action most of the time, so I am left dangling about the place.

2. My children delight me more than I ever expected. They are also a greater source of anxiety than I ever imagined. There's a balance in there somewhere, and sometimes we actually find it. This week the wins were big, and losses niggling and troublesome. But the school holidays are upon us and we're all more than ready for a break.

3.  It is possible to love a pair of red sneakers.

4. The days of the week are named after Norse gods. Thursday, for instance, is Thor's Day. I could also take you through the finer points of the Runic alphabet, but I suspect it takes a great deal of love to weather that particular storm and I will not subject you to it. Suffice to say that Mr8 can write his name in Runic. Which is bound to come in handy one day.

5. Reading the end of a book first is not always a good idea.

6. It is difficult to know exactly when to pull the flannelette sheets off the bed. I nearly peaked last week after one sultry night of 12 degrees Celsius, only to be very happy that I'd been feeling lazy that day when the temp topped out at 3 degrees Celsius the following night. Seriously. Is there a handy guide for this kind of stuff?

7. There are very few rooms that cannot be brightened significantly by the addition of a little bunting.

8. There is a very good chance that I do not need every single one of the 4444 items currently languishing in my email inbox.

9. I tend to overuse the word 'very'. I will take Mark Twain's advice and insert the word 'damn' instead. So point 7 now reads 'There are damn few rooms...' and point 8 reads 'There is a damn good chance...'. I think it makes me sound racier. What do you think?

10. Clearing space in one's head often comes down to clearing space in one's schedule. By saying no to several things this week I was able to stave off the whelm and make some good inroads into my novel edits. I am feeling much relieved. Thank you all for the good advice and support.

I have just one more thing to learn this week, and it's this:

Do you still have flannelette sheets on your bed?

[image: from here]

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

50 Shades of Beige

The living room walls of The Old Girl look like a patchwork quilt. Crazed squares of grey, white with a hint of green, yellow, grey-green, dark beige, light beige, antique white, half white... Yes, The Builder and I are redecorating. Again.

I'm pretty sure that the last time we went through this, I decided, somewhere between choosing the kitchen benchtop and choosing the laundry wall colour, that we were never doing this again. Ever. And yet, here we are, not 12 months later, doing it all again.

This is our third house together and, somehow, the most difficult. The Old Girl is just so terribly old. She's sorted. She knows her style. She's restored to her former glory and it's pretty glorious in a simple, old-school kind of way. There's only one room that needs our help for now. And the pressure of getting it right is getting to me.

The Fibro needed a complete overhaul. Head to toe, top to bottom. When you're changing everything, you just get in there and go for it. It needed bringing into the 21st century and into the 21st century it came, albeit kicking and screaming.

The Old Girl is more your 19th century kind of girl. Genteel. Hitting the right note between that and 'I don't want to live in a museum' is not easy. I wanted to paint the room white. But the white paint chart was more daunting than the coloured paint charts. Who knew there could be so many? And, yes, we considered Hog Bristle, like every other household in the country. But we can't go there. The Fibro was Hog Bristle (half) on the walls and Hog Bristle (quarter) on the timberwork. We can't press repeat.

We'll get there. Of that I have no doubt. In the meantime, the man at the paint shop and I are becoming very friendly. "Are you sick of the sight of me yet?" I asked the other day, popping in for our 11th sample pot.

"Oh, you're not my best customer yet," he said, popping a splodge of yellow into the Haynes Beige (half) he was mixing up for me.

"I'm not?" I said, somewhat put out by this. I thought we had something special.

"Nope," he said, dolloping in some black. "That spot is reserved for the lady who took 25 sample pots to decide on a colour."

We were both silent a moment, me contemplating the horror, him no doubt dreaming of another customer who'd spend over $100 in sample colours (at least I'm only halfway there...).

"What colour did she end up choosing?" I asked.

He laughed. "The second one she took home."

Tonight I sit here and contemplate my patchwork walls as I write this.

We're pretty sure we've chosen a colour.

The first one we considered, only knocked back to half strength.

There's a lesson in here somewhere.

What colour are your living room walls?

[image: from here]

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Sunday drives and new shoes

The Builder and I have decided to resurrect the Sunday drive. Remember when you were a kid and your mum and dad would throw you all in the back of the Mitsubishi Express on a perfectly fine day when you would have been quite happy to hole up in your bedroom and read a book?

You would drive in circles, looking at gardens and wharves and antique shops and all manner of other boring adult things, being told to 'look at the scenery' and 'enjoy the view' when you complained you were getting carsick or your sister/s/brother insisted on playing 'corners' with you when, really, who ever enjoyed that game?

When you finally got home, after hours spent listening to Neil Diamond or, gasp, Phil Collins on the tapedeck, you would all fall out of the car and your parents would swear you'd never do that again because, really, who needed to listen to kids to bicker for hours on end?

Or maybe that was just us.

Anyhoo, today we packed a picnic and drove ourselves down the coast into the endless blue of a beautiful spring sky. We told the boys we would be looking at antiques, but they were mollified by the fact that we also packed their bikes and balls of various shapes and sizes.

When we arrived at our first stop, Mr5 made it clear that for everything 'Mum and Dad' that occurred (eg, looking at antiques), there would need to be a Mr8/Mr5 equivalent. When our first two purchases were a chocolate milk and a second-hand book for each of them, he thought he was on to a winner. Until I pointed out that he now had a glut of 'Mum and Dad' moments to overcome. He dealt with the antiques shopping by standing out the front of the shop, on one leg, rapping about how boring life was when your Mum and Dad looked at antiques. Yo.

When I stopped laughing, I sort of had to agree. I'd have rapped the same thing had rapping been invented when I was five.

Part two of the day was pretty much wall-to-wall Mr8/Mr5 stuff - bikes, balls, beach, icecreams, rockpools, park. Seriously, I need to work harder at the 'Mum and Dad' stuff. Not even a wharf in the mix. Mr5 picked up some little snails from the rockpools for his 'shell collection'. When I pointed out that there were still residents in the shells, he was horrified. "Is that why they were hard to pick up?" he said. "They were holding on."

They were.

We tenderly rehoused them in another little pool, with him fussing over whether they would like their new home. I watched them burrow back into the sand. "I think they're much happier in there than they would have been drying out in your hand," I told him. Perspective.

Later as we walked up the beach, I could feel the sand between my toes. Which would have been lovely and summery, bar the fact that I was wearing shoes at the time. "I think I have holes in the bottom of my Connies," I said to The Builder.

"What a shame," he said. "You'll need to buy new shoes. I bet you're disappointed..."

New sneakers. Now there's a 'Mum' thing. All I have to do now is decide on the colour.

Two questions today: Does your family do Sunday drives? Do you wear Converse sneakers - and if so, which colour?

I'm thrilled to be this week's Decorating Forum featured blogger. If you have any questions about colour (sneakers or otherwise) or any other decorating issues, you should pop in to see Julie-Ann and her lovely community. They really helped me out with my pillow problems.

Friday, September 14, 2012

Fighting the whelm

If someone were to ask me 'RUOK?' today, my answer would probably be 'not really'. I am paralysed by whelm today. My revisions mountain seems too high to climb. Writing is too hard. I am worried about my tired, over-the-school-term-completely children. And my house is a mess.

But I take a deep breath and hang out the washing. Because it's just today.

Tomorrow is Saturday. In Spring. And my crabapple tree is blooming.

I know that RUOK Day was officially yesterday. But I think it should be an everyday kind of thing. So I hope that you are feeling okay. If not, I hope that for you it's just today, too.

We'll start again tomorrow.

Monday, September 10, 2012

The holy trinity of publishing

Today I found myself within the holy trinity of writing/publishing. I was proofreading one book (for my good friend Allison Dobell), working through edits/revisions on a second, and thinking about the writing of another (a corporate project, which finds me bamboozled at times by some quite technical details).

An ending. A middle. A beginning. In reverse order, and requiring some serious head-hopping as I changed my various hats and tacks.

The writing process does not begin and end with the writing. If you're hoping that you can write your beautiful words and then let an editor 'sort the rest', it's probably time to pick up the nearest grammar book.

Writers write. They edit, pruning their sentences, killing their darlings, trying to remember whether that character had green eyes on page 53 or blue. They proofread their own work.... very, very carefully, knowing how distracting it is as a reader to find a typo in a published book.

There are, of course, specialists in all these areas to help along the way, but the book goes out with your name on it. If you're like me, you want to be proud of every word, sentence and, gasp, semi-colon.

When I write, I don't edit. I just bash it out, throwing xxxxx in where I can't think of the words. When I edit, I try to keep track of every stream and string within the story, knowing that if I pull a frayed thread out in chapter three, I'm going to need to see it through in chapter 14 - and every mention along the way.

When I proofread, I look at every word. Every. Single. Word. When I learnt to do this, back in my days as a cadet journalist, I was given a printed version and told to read it from the bottom up, backwards. That way you see the actual words, not the words that you think are there. And I always, always check the large type extra carefully after my Molloy incident.

Three manuscripts. Three approaches.

As Mondays go, it was a pretty good one.

Are you in the process of writing, editing or proofing? How's it going for you?

[Image: Hilda Grahnat]

Friday, September 7, 2012

Why we read blogs... and a winner

I've just spent a good hour going through the 65 entries to the $100 books giveaway. "Tell me why you read blogs," said I, off the top of my head, needing to make the giveaway a game of skill.

I got more than I bargained for.

Here is a small selection of the reasons that people read blogs. I found them illuminating, and hope you do too.

•"I read book blogs because I am a book nerd, I read mummy blogs so I don't feel quite so bad about my own parenting decisions and I read cooking blogs because I have 5 fussy eaters and meal inspiration died sometime ago." - ShelleyRae

•"To laugh and to learn, To peek and to ponder, To read and to writhe, To listen and wonder." - Kelly

•" find crafty crap I can make to fill my house with, because there's nothing on tv, because I should be doing the housework, because they make me laugh or because they make me cry!" - Kel

•"It's the voyerism. The chance to have a 'micro' holiday and live in France, Italy, by the beach, back in London, own a chateau,go hiking in Nepal, travel first class overseas etc, etc, etc." - LissaJane

•"I read blogs to try to figure out why people read blogs. It's truly fascinating to see the interaction on blogs. Some blogs are so specific (eg gardening) and I love to read the Q&As between blogger and bloggee and the exchange of information as well as plants and seedlings. I sometimes wonder why people read my blog too..." - Ambadambra

•"I read some blogs for the brain food. I read some blogs for the 'YES! That has happened to me too!' moments. I read some blogs for the 'YIKES! I hope that never happens to me' moments. I read some blogs to learn about things I don't know about. I read some blogs to learn about things I thought I knew about." - Emily

•"Choosing to read blogs is like creating your own perfect dinner party. I seek out the ones I like the most, where I can feel a connection to the author (even though they don't know me and probably never will!). I love to hear what they have to say, I love to see things from their perspective" - Becthewordsmith

•"I hope it's not that I'm nosey, but I do know I have an absolute fascination for reading about people's lives. I like to know how people think, what they think and why they think that way. My favourite blogs are ones where people just chat about their everyday lives honestly and openly. Though, sometimes it's hard to know whether they're being honest or telling a good yarn!" - NaturallyCarol

•"The blogs I tend to read are unmitigated, written from the heart and bypass any agendas. They are fresh, fast and may at times be furious however when it comes from the heart you can feel that energy." - Pixelrites

•"Each time I read a blog I feel like Alice must have when she fell down the the rabbit hole, immersed in new, unfamiliar worlds and absolutely curious." - Sharni Montgomery

•"I'm JUST starting to read blogs! I'm overawed that I've sat around reading novels for years, whilst there's a whole underworld of blog writing going on that I never even knew existed, until now. I feel like that archaic-behind-the-times-mum that still launders cloth handkerchiefs, makes her children say "Thank-you for having me" after playdates and has no idea of the names of the boys in 'One Direction!'" - colisf

And so on... seriously, thank you all so much for responding from the heart. You have given me so much to think about and reminded me of all I love about blogging. The beauty, the rawness, the people, the connections - the stickybeak factor!

Unfortunately, there can be just one winner and that winner is... drum roll please...

Anecdotal Anna for this lovely little piece of wordcraft:

"oh the possibilities of what you'll see
of what they know
how they say it so.

The connection
the laughs
the traversing of life's different paths.

It is for these reasons
I concede
many blogs I like to read"

Please email me at taitallison7 [at] gmail [dot] com Anna and I'll organise your Booktopia voucher!

Thank you all for joining in my little comp and for visiting the Fibro. I'm always so happy to see you.

[image from here]

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