All posts by Natalie

Too late?

I studied astronomy at Uni. It was only a single semester subject, and it was more of an overview rather than getting too deep into the physics side of things, but I got a distinction for it.  Something that really strikes you when you learn about other planets, as well as your own, is how incredibly unlikely it is that you’ll get the neat  balance on a planet that lets life not only survive, but thrive.

Yeah, I know, given only advanced life can contemplate such things, statistically those who do so must exist on those lucky few planets, so there is nothing special about me thinking about this. The point I want to focus on is the incredible BALANCE the planet must have.

I am worried that we have irreparably stuffed up that balance. In Australia it is autumn (fall) at the moment. In fact, we are into our second month of autumn. On Wednesday it was 36°C and we had bushfires. Yes, I had our bags packed and the pet pack out ready to grab the cat and go. We are normally all complaining about the cold about now. Until Saturday we had not had any significant rain this year. THIS YEAR!!!! I don’t live in a desert. Not yet anyway.

I hear many people say that this is all part of a natural cycle, but the thing people seem to be missing is that all the historical natural cycles (and we can track them back a very long way) were gradual. What is happening now is happening at a rate we have never seen on the planet before. The best scientists have no real idea what will happen next.

What does this have to do with writing? Not much. I’ve been putting the above fears into my writing for the last ten years, and I don’t think that’s made a scrap of difference. I think I need to change tack. If I’m going down, I’m going down swinging, because I think it is important that none of us ever think it is too late to make a difference.

Follow your passion

Many times I have read and heard people say that if you follow your passion you will be successful. Most of the people who say such things are already successful, and that’s why they are in a position to say it so that we can hear them, which does skew the dataset somewhat. Those who follow their passion but get nowhere don’t get that many opportunities to be quoted.

But the truth of that statement is not what I’m here to talk about. For many of us, identifying what our passion is can be really difficult. For me you would think it would be a no-brainer; writing. But the truth is I’m not passionate about writing. I’m passionate about imagining and communicating stories. Writing is simply the medium through which I do that.

On Friday night I attended a quiz night. We played true or false and the topic was animals, or for those of us with science degrees, zoology. In a room of over 100 people I won. I didn’t study for it, I just naturally absorb information about animals because I’m passionate about them, so it sticks. On Friday night it won me two bottles of wine and three points for our table. I’d call that a success.

If I could come up with a way to marry animals and storytelling I would be a pretty happy camper. I can’t help but think those who tell us to follow our passion are onto something, because success can be defined in so many different ways. Even if you aren’t a big financial success, if you are doing something you are passionate about then that must bring you a lot of joy and satisfaction.

Something to ponder methinks.

Chopstick wisdom

The other day I was washing some chopsticks in the sink, and while rinsing them I accidentally dropped them down the drain. I think if I had been trying to do it I wouldn’t have managed to get them lined up so perfectly. When I realised to where they had magically disappeared, I couldn’t help but laugh.

But this left the dilemma of how to get them out. I knew that if worse came to worse I could unscrew the pipes and pull them out, but it would be messy and require probably more strength than I have. So I got creative. I grabbed another chopstick and globbed on a nicely worked (and therefore warm and sticky) piece of blu-tack.

It only took three attempts to get the first chopstick out, but the second one proved far more difficult. I brought out the hairdryer in an effort to dry the down-the-drain chopstick so it would be more likely to stick, but even this had only limited success. The chopstick would come part way up, but as soon as I started to pull the blu-tack through the drain opening the stick would drop like a stone.

It was a bit frustrating and I wanted to give up, but I realised there was a good lesson in life here. I could give up and live with a chopstick in my drain, catching all the goop, and no doubt eventually blocking the drain, or I could persist and maybe succeed. I did persist and only two more attempts later I managed to snag the chopstick and pull it out.

The thing is, you never know which time you will pull the chopstick up and it will hold long enough for you to get it out. The only thing you can be sure of is that if you stop trying to pull it out, it will stay there. If I keep sending out my writing, it will get picked up some time. If it stays on my computer and never sees the light of day, it will never get out into the big wide world.

So, I’ll keep sending out my stories. I’ve pulled out a few chopsticks before, so I’m confident I can do it again if I just keep trying.

Humour

Humour is such a personal thing.  Sometimes I worry that my idea of what is funny is quite different to other people’s. In fact, sometimes I say stuff on Twitter that I’m pretty sure people don’t even realise is intended as a joke. They think I’m serious, as well as a bit stupid. That’s my sense of humour.

This is what probably gets in the way when I try to sell my humorous stories. I guess editors don’t realise they are meant to be funny, or worse, they do realise but the story just isn’t funny (to them). Logic tells me to pull the plug on writing funny stories, but they just keep slipping out, like SBD’s you can’t hold back.

I’ve just penned another, and I’ve sent it out, but I can almost picture the eye-roll as the editor reads it. I really should stop subjecting all of us to dealing with them. Having said that, I have sold a few my-version-of-funny stories, however I’ve never been complemented on any of them.

Perhaps I should clear a special place in my bottom drawer for my humorous writing? Or, better yet, maybe I should try to publish them under a different name. It would have to be a silly name… silly but accidentally clever. Sounds like a project for this week.

Are reviews king?

Reviews have recently been the subject of much discussion in the creative space, prompted by Amazon’s new rule that all reviews given for books (movies, music etc.) that were not purchased will be deleted. This has a huge impact for authors starting out, who often give away their first novel to generate a readership and get reviews. I also know that a lot of respected reviewers regularly get free books sent to them, even by the big publishing houses. I assume these reviews, too, will be deleted.

Which got me thinking about reviews. The truth is I rarely read them. If I like the premise of a story, I’ll read the book. If I don’t like the premise, I won’t. This was driven home to me when I was in the book tent at Adelaide Writers’ week this year, ready to buy my ‘donation’ book for the free event. Having stupidly waited until later in the week, all the books I was interested in had sold out. So I was forced to look at the books that were left to find something I liked.

I came across a set of books which had really interesting covers (yes, I do judge) and the titles sounded like they could be spec fiction, or at least genre of some sort. I turned the books over to read the blurb on the back and all I found was reviews. The inside few pages also revealed nothing of what the story was about, just more reviews. A bunch of people had liked these books, but I could not find anything to tell me what any of them were about. Needless to say, none of them came home with me.

I’m sure people who write reviews are as mindful of people judging the reviewer, as what they are of presenting a review which will help someone to make up their mind about if they should buy the book. This means hyperbole and passion can sometimes go a little too far. I’m a big believer in ‘if you can’t say anything nice, then don’t say anything at all’ because often if a reviewer hated a book it’s because they were not the target audience.

I guess with so many books out there it is hard to choose which ones to read. If you have a choice between a 4.5-star and a 1-star reviewed book, you will probably go for the 4.5-star. For me, however, if I like the story of the 1-star novel, I’ll give it a go. With my love of run-on sentences and sometimes questionable grammar, let’s hope my readers feel the same!

Adelaide Writers’ Week 2018

Adelaide Writers Week

For the first time in over 10 years I did not take time off from work for Adelaide writers’ week. Yes, even when I was living in Melbourne, I used to come over for it. In fairness, I’m quite part time at the moment, so I wouldn’t have to miss many days anyway.

Don’t get me wrong, it was really interesting on the days when I did go, and I still think it is a great event. Earlier in the week, when the weather was nice, it was lovely to sit on the grass and listen to writers talking about writing. Then the temperature went over 33°C which is about when my patience starts to run low, and I stopped enjoying it.

I know I’m not in a particularly good place with my writing at the moment, but silly things started to annoy me; the way people took ownership of chairs and carried them around with them to wherever they wanted to go. People asked questions, which were actually just verbose statements turned into questions by saying ‘don’t you agree’ at the end, as if we were all there to hear them talk. I even had someone carry their chair and sit immediately in front of me (sitting on the ground), she then turned to look at me as if I had done something wrong? WTF?

Maybe the truth is that I am not so much in a bad place with my writing, but with my fellow human beings (please BYO coffee cup). Either way, I decided to skip the last two days, which actually had the people I was most interested in listening to. Besides the forecast of 35°C days, I decided it would be better for everyone if I just stayed at home and listened to the pod casts when they come out instead.

Photo blog

This week I’ve not managed a lot of writing, so I thought I’d give you a blast from the past instead of authorial words of wisdom. About ten years ago I won a balloon ride at a work Christmas function. Although I was a little bit terrified, I did it, and it was AMAZING.

Here are some photos to prove it.

Balloon Ride Prep
Getting ready – still a bit worried I won’t go through with it.
All aboard! This is just before we got in the basket.
All aboard! This is just before we got in the basket.
Dawn from balloon
Sunrise from I don’t know how many thousand feet.
Too high to worry.
Too high to worry.
Balloons at dawn
Drifting over Melbourne
Back on safe ground
Back on Terra Firma

One day of ‘normal’

I finished editing my YA novella on Thursday, so I decided to give myself Friday ‘off’. I went for a walk, did my washing and then read for a bit. That took me to 11am. I went out and took a lot of photos of different insects on the sedum in my garden (they love it), then I checked emails and paid bills. That took me to midday. Then I was lost.

It felt wrong to not even be thinking about a story. As much as I may only be spending a couple of hours at the computer (on the days I’m not working), I realise how much writing  infiltrates the rest of my day. It’s as if a little part of my brain is always dedicated to working out a writing problem. And when it doesn’t have such a task set, it feels empty, which in turn makes me feel anxious.

As much as I sometimes bang on about chucking it all in, I really don’t think that is an option for me. I don’t think it is an option for any writers. So I’ve started my next project; another YA novel, but I think this one is going to go a bit dark. I have returned to the day job after all.

P.S. Here are some of the visitors to the sedum…

Something-dart butterfly.
Something-dart butterfly.
Honey Bee
Honey Bee
Native Bees - these guys are fast!!!
Native Bees – these guys are fast!!!

Inspiration

For various different reasons I’ve struggled to get to the computer this week. I was also unable to do my regular morning walks, which left the creative juices a bit bottled up.

So I visited Cleland Conservation Park to get some animal inspiration, and I think it was just what I needed.

Tawny Frogmouth - not an owl but looks just as wise.
Tawny Frogmouth – not an owl but looks just as wise.

 

Mother and Joey – Kangaroo Island kangaroos
Mother and Joey – Kangaroo Island kangaroos

 

Wombat - the colour is a bit off because he was under red lights.
Wombat – the colour is a bit off because he was under red lights.

 

Echidna – One of only two species of monotremes (egg-laying mammals) on earth.
Echidna – One of only two species of monotremes (egg-laying mammals) on earth.