First ‘Publication’!

After a pretty rough few months, I was thrilled to receive my first acceptance email last week. It’s just a very short piece on a non-paying book review website but it’s a start!

http://www.kids-bookreview.com/2013/11/kbr-short-story-yellow-brick-road.html

The story is called Yellow Brick Road and will feature in November on the Kid’s Book Review website.

http://www.kids-bookreview.com/

Kids’ Book Review is a 100% voluntary children’s literature and book review site that supports and features authors, illustrators and publishers Australia-wide and internationally. It is run by a small team of women who have decades of experience in the children’s book industry, with roles such as author, publisher, editor, bookseller, blogger, book designer and typesetter, speech pathologist, librarian, early childhood educator, mother and book lover.

We cover news, reviews, interviews, articles, guest posts, events, specialist literacy articles and much more, attracting readers from all over the world including teachers, librarians, industry professionals, and of course – parents and kids.

It’s the story of Mindy, Dorothy’s little sister, and her own experience on the Yellow Brick Road. It was workshopped on Facebook after I asked for ideas for the site prompt: YELLOW. So I can’t really claim all the credit. I have some very creative, and weird, friends!

Here are their responses on fb:

Me: Right, I need to write a 500 word kid’s short story for a competition. The prompt is ‘YELLOW’ and my mind is blank. Any ideas?

  • maybe about a little girl who’s life has just turned yellow
  • As a mum, I see kids and yellow in the same sentence and I think diarrhoea
  • i think she just means yellow… any maybe it can be about her not wanting to be yellow but coming to accept it, only to realise that she could wash it off at any time (or maybe not realising… last scene can be just as it starts to rain and the yellow starts to wash away)
  • I think the yellow should come from a girl staring into a sunflower and being lost in the colour yellow
  • Shark infested custard!
  • Yellow coward turning it around and being bright?
  • Needs a submarine!
  • she embraces the light of the sun and sees the world anew through an intensified spectrum of colours.
  • Personification – the dirty yellow shoes (the shoes are walking around trying new things to get rid of the brown dirt! Tries stepping in water… Becomes stinky n cranky, rolling in yellow flowers smelling lovely n pretty, but still brown 😕etc.. Then finally finds a yellow paint tin n jumps in it, splashing it EVERYWHERE… smears it all over himself!!! One happy little fella!!) then the owner comes home….
  • There once was a race of custard people who lived on a custard planet…..
  • The yellow flower that wanted to be pink
  • could it be someone other than Dorothy following the ‘yellow’ brick road!!!!!!
  • and what about every time she sees a yellow flower, something good happens to her journey …..like it becomes a sign of good luck …
Alice laying it out to Dorothy.

Alice laying it out to Dorothy.

I’ve sent out several other stories – mostly flash fiction (1000 words or under) but also one short story (2500 words). Fingers crossed that one, or more, of them is just as successful. Onwards and upwards!

It’s rather harrowing, sending out stories that you’ve quite often spent many hours poring over. Sometimes the story just seems to flow but at other times, you have to work incredibly hard to get those words down on the paper.

I’ve always been shy about sharing my work with people, either my writing or my art, but for the next 12 months I’m going to force myself to share everything I do. I can bear it if I know there’s an end date. If I detest it and decide to never share a single thing again then so be it, but I’m not allowing myself to make that choice until the end of 2014.

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Trees Please

Find the original here: www.permaculturevisions.com/beauty-of-a-tree/#commentsThis is a fantastic permaculture website & very inspirational to just potter around in.  Doing a Permaculture Course is high on my to-do list.Trees are so incredibly underestimated, a bit like bees really. They’re lovely, we know they’re important but perhaps we don’t quite appreciate that we’ll be totally sunk if they all disappear.  If you’re reading this make a promise to yourself, and the planet, to plant at least one tree this week.  I will if you will.
 Give me a land of boughs in leaf,
A land of trees that stand;
Where trees are fallen there is grief;
I love no leafless land.
– A.E. Housman
This is one the trees in my backyard. The original tree was slowly strangled by a fig until both the host tree & the parasite eventually died. Rather inefficient but they thrived together for quite a few years. Though it’s dead, this tree is a haven for birds, flying foxes, possums and seasonal vines. At the moment it’s covered in tiny fruiting Chinese Gooseberries, which is what this sulphur-crested cockatoo spent the afternoon feasting on.

Reasons to love trees, according to my students:

  1. They provide shade
  2. They provide homes for wildlife
  3. They provide oxygen
  4. They’re beautiful
  5. Those that flower attract pollinators
  6. They’re turned into books

I think our future is in good hands.

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Art & Craft: creating the Perfect Cover.

Even though I’m still working on the first draft of my MG novel, being a visual person I wanted to create a cover for the book. I pictured this cover printed out, pinned on the motivational board above my desk, urging me on (along with pots of Earl Grey) to get this draft written.

In a perfect world, I see my novel being published the traditional way, which means I get buckley’s chance of having any input into the cover (buckley’s = no chance for the non-Aussies amongst you). That’s fine, as this is just to inspire me – to see my name in print (kinda), to see the cover so that on those grim days, when motivation eludes me, I’m inspired to get that chapter written.

To that end, I decided to forgo my usual play around with photoshop & actually invest in a cover. That’s right, I mean pay somebody to do it for me. Being unwilling (and unable) to invest too much cash I wandered across to fiverr.com.

http://fiverr.com/

I did a search for ebook cover artists, found one that had some great samples up and engaged their services. Now, for those who have never visited fiverr, there are all sorts of options attached to these ‘transactions. A basic cover cost me five dollars, incorporating several different elements/images costs an additional five dollars and so on. I went for the basic, no frills, five dollar option.

My wish list for the artist went like this:

  1. It’s an MG novel – aimed at primary school students.
  2. It’s an environmental-themed story.
  3. The main protagonists are an 11 year old girl and a boy around the same age.
  4. The title & my name.

This is what I got:

Firstly, this doesn’t scream MG to me. Secondly, my name is larger than the title? What’s with that? Thirdly, pink? Where’s the environmental connection? Fourthly, no.

This is a nice cover (besides the disproportionate title/author name thing) but it’s not for my book.

It was a good thing in the end though, as it motivated me to get off my behind and create my own image. That way, I don’t have to worry about copyright or anything of that ilk, and I can use the image as much or as little as I like. So, being a teacher, I got out my crafting materials & went crazy!

Seeing my book has an environmental theme (and I’m a Sustainability Teacher), instead of buying anything I didn’t already have, I went the recycling route with my collage:

The ‘base’ is a page from a sketch pad I bought at a second-hand shop.

The sky/background is made up of the inside of envelopes.

The tree trunk is an old cereal box.

The leaves & flowers are made up of remnants left over from a previous crafting session.

The girl (Lyssa) is drawn on an old scrap of computer paper.

Finished product with title, my name & a brief blurb added with photoshop.
I know the finished product needs work, but I can take my time with that as it’s all done on my computer. Having the original picture on my pinboard inspires me more than just picturing it in my mind ever could.
Moral of the story? Best five dollars I ever spent!
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Writing Inspiration

As I work on my novel, there is lots of advice I try to keep in mind, as well as many quotes that inspire me & keep my fingers tap-tap-tapping away. None works quite so well as this though:

 


My current goal is to write one chapter per day – around 1000 words for an MG novel – come hell or high water. Some days those chapters flow like a raging torrent while other days it’s more akin to a leaky faucet. A couple of days I’ve written nothing only to have a sudden ‘unblocking’ where I’ll write several chapters in one sitting.

The ‘rules’ I’ve been following for the last week:

  1. Write every day. When in doubt refer to above picture (my desktop background).
  2. As above, aim for one chapter per day. Each chapter to be roughly 1000 words.
  3. Do not use the evil Backspace button. No editing. Add in footnotes if needed & keep going.
  4. Do not re-read before beginning the day’s chapter. Refer to glossary instead as needed.
  5. Update glossary at the end of each day’s writing session.
  6. Don’t forget to refer to rule one.

It’s now day eight and I’m about to begin work on chapter eight. I haven’t rigidly kept to this formula but thus far it seems to work pretty well and suit my pace. Perhaps this Work in Progress will, one day, be a little more than just the letters W, I and P. Fingers crossed.

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Just what is MG and YA?

I’ve rediscovered an old love of mine lately, namely creative writing. I loved writing at school and spent hours as a child creating amazingly intricate and complicated tales both in my head and on paper; interweaving them with reality and fantasy. Unfortunately I kept nothing from those years, ruthlessly stripping keepsakes and belongings as I moved around, attempting to streamline life. I realise now as I approach 40 that while having a dearth of ‘stuff’ can be a blessing, there are some things that really are worth holding on to. But it has an advantage in that I’m starting with a clean palette – a born-again writer!

I’m currently over 50,000 words deep in a Young Adult (YA) fantasy novel with a mate. It began as a ‘can we do it’ project really. She lives in Guam so we see each other rarely and neither of us is particularly good at correspondence (though we’re lucky enough to have one of those friendships that just picks up where we left off, even if it was years ago). She’s spent the last two years researching, learning about and actually doing some writing. She’s been a great inspiration to me and to prove it, that ‘little project’ of writing a chapter then emailing it to the other (rinse & repeat) is over halfway to being an actual novel. Is it any good? Possibly, possibly not. But it doesn’t really matter. It’s set the wheels in motion and for that it will always be one of the best things I’ve ever written.

My next big project will be a novel incorporating my two great loves; children and the environment. It will be aimed at Middle Grade (MG) and will focus on two children on a quest to save the forests…set in a fantasy world. The idea is for it to be fun but also have a message. Next month, October 1st, is my start date & my aim is to write the entire rough draft in one month. A big ask as I’ll still be working on the YA project (and, oh yeah, that whole dissertation thing) but I’m pumped. I will do it!

Here’s a bit of information about YA/MG . It can be confusing working out audience levels, genres and book lengths. Luckily there are some great websites out there for help. This information was taken from:

http://www.dummies.com/how-to/content/writing-young-adult-fiction-for-dummies-cheat-shee.html

Young Adult Fiction Categories and Age Ranges

The two categories of young adult literature — young adult (YA or “teen fiction”) and middle grade (“MG fiction”) — are split into several age ranges to help book buyers and readers judge the age-appropriateness of the content and the writing. The shift from tween to teen begins around age 12, and standard age ranges reflect that

Middle Grade (MG)

25,000 to 45,000 words

  • Ages 9 to 12
  • Older elementary into middle school, grades 4 through 7
  • Ages 10 to 14
  • Middle school into early high school, grades 5 through 9; these kids may be reading older MG and younger YAs
Young Adult   (YA)

40,000 to 60,000 words

  • Ages 12 and up
  • Older middle school into high school, grades 7 through 12
  • Ages 14 and up
  • High school, grades 9 and up; generally understood to cap at age 17
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Creating a better world…

To all the Global Warming Skeptics out there……does it really matter?  Is there a downside to taking care of our planet??

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Holidays are here at last!

I finally managed to submit my research proposal and my ethics application so now all I have to do is lay back and enjoy a few (well-earned) weeks of holidays.  The best part of working in education while studying is that uni & work holidays coincide…..so I don’t have to feel guilty about endless procrastination for the time being!

All going well I’ll begin my research project next term.  As soon as I work out just how that will happen of course.  It’s so easy to sound confident, as well as feel confident, when referring to some future event; quite another to maintain that confidence as the deadline inches closer and closer….

BUT that doesn’t matter right now.  For the moment it’s all about endless pots of tea, lots of healthy food, working my way through a towering pile of books (read purely for pleasure – take that research!) & some tentative socialising with seldom-seen friends.  Oh & red wine.  Always red wine.

A trip to the school garden has been on the agenda for the past week but I haven’t gotten there yet.  I haven’t gotten around to visiting my community garden plot either.  Another downside of studying this particular topic seems to be that I now associate gardening with work; something to be avoided on holidays.  That’s not quite the view I want to encourage so tomorrow I’m definitely going to visit both, even if just to prune back the passionfruit & pick some herbs.  I WILL NOT let work and study negatively influence my favourite past-time.  Well along with reading, drinking wine, draining the teapot and daydreaming. But it’s up there with the others.  It’s garden or bust!

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Academic Writing

Writing and writing academically are two different kettles of fish it seems.  I’m no Shakespeare but I’ve always enjoyed writing and can produce a general piece of writing that makes some sort of sense….or so I’ve always thought.  Sitting down to write a rationale and literature review for my research project is making me rethink this basic belief however.

My writing comes from my head and my heart which isn’t what is desired (primarily) in the world of research.  They want evidence that you’ve reviewed relevant literature; sure, they want you to critically review what you’ve read but everything you write needs to be based on something else.  It really is a knack.  It’s a knack, I’m beginning to believe, that is beyond my grasp.

After I get this thing written I’ll post some examples that illustrate my points….and my struggles.  Until it’s submitted though I’ll continue to wage warfare with my keyboard and re-read every sentence twenty times while inserting non-stop references and quotations.  Earl Grey Tea is all that’s keeping me sane at this stage.

Tea. Earl Grey. Hot.
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Sustainability as a Career

I’m starting this blog to try and keep myself interested in and passionate about the things in life that matter to me; well, some of those things anyway. Well, in fact, mainly just ONE of those things.

I’m currently going through a change in my life in regards to my career; following my heart and attempting to create a little niche for myself where going to work each day becomes a joyful extension of my passions in life rather than a resentful deviation from what really interests me.
I see too many people who either hate what they do for a living (not occasionally but every single day) or are neutral about it and treat it as ‘time out’ from where their true interests lay.  Now it goes without saying (though I’ll say it all the same) that the former is worse than the latter, but I’m attempting the third option – loving what I do for a living.

I’m a teacher  that loves educating, learning from, listening to, talking with students but hates the traditional ‘classroom’ setting.  And I won’t even mention the traditional education system as it currently operates as this isn’t a place I particularly want to do any ranting in.  I’ve taught in the traditional classroom in Australia, both in urban & remote communities, I’ve spent 12 months teaching English in the public school system in South Korea, a Summer of Summer Camps out on the steppes of Mongolia (literally on the sides of mountains surrounded by yaks) and 12 months in a private language school in China.  I’ve been able to combine my love of teaching with my love of travel and it’s been a joy, but as I get older I crave for something more. Perhaps I want a less transient life? 

I’ve been working part-time the last couple of years as a Garden/Sustainability Teacher alongside the more traditional classroom teacher role and it’s become clear to me that THAT is what I want to do full-time with my life; become a Sustainability educator.  Not necessarily limited to a school setting but definitely working within the realms of education.  I’ve had the honour of setting up 2 school ‘Kitchen gardens’ and now that I’ve had a taste of it I want more, more, more!

So this year I’m undertaking a Master of Sustainability Education while working 2 days a week as a Sustainability teacher.  It struck me today that loving doing something can often be negatively influenced by studying it.  No matter how much I love the subject I’ve fallen into the attitude that it’s study therefore I’ve lost a lot of my enthusiasm.  Hence this blog to remind me just why I’m studying in the first place and why I’m studying the particular subject of sustainability.

Because I LOVE it!!!

So I’m planning to fill this blog up with photos, links, quotes, facts, poetry and lots of plans, schemes, beauty and silliness.  It’s a quest to remind myself what a beautiful precious planet we live on and how we can make sure that it lives on as well.

cropped-west-mv_16_1.jpg

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