Hellooo 2017

Well, what a year that’s been.

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Serenity and rose quartz clouds at sunset, Canberra, 30 December 2016

Being a very visual person, a fun thing I’ve liked to do since I discovered it a few years ago is checkout Pantone’s colour of the year. Interestingly, for 2016, for the first time ever, they announced TWO colours for the year: Serenity and Rose Quartz. (Side note: naming paint colours is a job I’ve always coveted.) This colour pairing was supposed to express something about the need for harmony in chaos. And it was very pretty in a sort of a kittens and candy-floss kind of way.

The irony, of course, is that on many levels 2016 was not a kittens-and-candy-floss kind of year and I’m not sure that as a global society we really embraced that whole harmony thing. But, in the spirit of aspiring to Serenity and viewing the world through Rose Quartz-tinted glasses, here is my writing achievements round up for 2016.

Just like 2015, I elected to focus on novel projects. I find that what with working a day job and spending time with my lovable and hilarious family, I have to be a bit strategic about how I spend my writing time. So I didn’t do much on the short story front. Here’s what I did do:

  • Wrote two new short stories (and started another, um, eight or so and had ideas for a few more…)
  • Sold 2! (One old, one new.) Both to markets I’m very happy with.
  • Had 2 published (Pretty Jennie Greenteeth in Strange Little Girls, and Breathing in Aurealis #95)
  • Got Novel Project #4 to just over 107,000 words. I wanted to finish it and didn’t, which is annoying, but I’m almost there. Early feedback on the first chunk has been really encouraging, and I’m reasonably confident of wrapping up the first draft soon.
  • Had some exciting things happen in relation to Novel Project #1, which are still a bit secret. But I’m looking forward to talking more about those in 2017.
  • Got into the 2016 ACT Writers Centre HARDCOPY professional development program, which was affirming and valuable and through which I’ve met a bunch more talented and extraordinarily lovely writers.
  • Was part of the team for Conflux 12 & pulled off a wonderful con.
  • Was appointed to the creative production team for the Noted writers festival for 2017!

So what’s on the to do list for 2017?

  • Finish the damn first draft of NP#4 and get it out to my very patient beta readers.
  • Probably do a bit more work on NP#1
  • Have a little rest from novel projects and write/finish/polish up/send out some short stories
  • Give in to the lure of the long-form story and start planning out NPs #3 and 5
  • Get my bloody passport in order and get myself to  Europe for a bit of research.

And what’s the colour for 2017?

pantone-coy-2017-15-0343-chipA “tangy yellow-green” called Greenery. The comment from Pantone is all about vitality and the desire to rejuvenate.

 

Greenery bursts forth in 2017 to provide us with the hope we collectively yearn for amid a complex social and political landscape. Satisfying our growing desire to rejuvenate, revitalize and unite, Greenery symbolizes the reconnection we seek with nature, one another and a larger purpose.

Leatrice Eiseman, Executive Director of the Pantone Color Institute

I’m a big fan of green and, you know, nature stuff. But the cynical part of me can think of a few other associations for green in today’s “complex social and political landscape”, which are less kittens-and-candy-floss and more poisoned apple. Which is to say, I actually think green is a very fitting choice for 2017.

Wouldn’t it be lovely if 2017 did turn out to be all about rejuvenation and new growth and a renewed focus on environmental sustainability? And shared prosperity is actually pretty good too, so let’s have some of that.

Here’s to 2017. I hope all your good dreams come true, and we kill off a few of the nightmares.

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Running writing

running writing

I am not a sporty person. Never was, never will be. I will not bore you with the humiliations galore I suffered through in PE as a kid. Suffice to say that all the leisure activities I have really enjoyed throughout my life have involved cosiness and curling up somewhere with a cup of tea. However, I recognise that exercise plays an important part in keeping our bodies healthy, so I do make an effort. I ride my bike to my day job most days and in the last year or so, I’ve taken up running. Again, I’m not going to bore you with the details of this. But, for some reason, I’ve found that my attempts at improving my fitness through moderately energetic exercise have had a positive impact on my writing – both my creativity and the way I think about the challenges it poses me.

Getting the creative juices flowing

It is a very tried and tested piece of writing advice: if the Muse is stubbornly avoiding you, get away from your keyboard/notepad/dictaphone/etc. Get out of the house and get moving. Walk or run, either works. I often have great ideas or come up with great solutions to tricky plot problems while I’m running. It’s weird, coz it doesn’t happen so often when I’m on my bike. Perhaps because when I’m on my bike I’m either going to or coming from work, so my brain might be more focussed on work issues. But I run in my spare time, when my brain is almost exclusively consumed with writing stuff; maybe that’s why. But it works for me.

Oh the epiphanies I have experienced.

Never when I have a pen.

This stuff ain’t meant to be easy

A thing running has taught me is that it doesn’t get easy. Which is not to say it doesn’t get easier. But easy? Nope. It’s always hard to drag myself off the couch, to get out there into the winter chill, or the summer heat, or the still-dark, early morning streets. Guess what else doesn’t get easy? Setting aside the time and dragging my arse to the chair in the study to do the story work and pound out the wordage. In both cases I have to battle that sense of exhaustion that comes even before you start – just from contemplating the task ahead. In both cases, though, if I push myself, if I make the effort, I always find I can do the thing.

The importance of stretch goals

This is a really interesting thing running has taught me: Set stretch goals. Then (this is the important bit), don’t just sit there looking at them; give them a go.

Because I’m so unathletic, when I decided to try to get into running, I decided to get into it gradually, alternating intervals of running and walking. Going from running in 90 second stretches to a whole 3 minutes was pretty daunting. Then going from 3 minutes to 5 minutes to 8 minutes… Every time I level up, I always wonder if I can actually do it. But every time I actually can, and every time it feels awesome to have challenged myself and found myself up to it.

And I’ve found this applies to writing goals.

There’s something to be said for applying for something like a residency or a competitive grant or a selection-based professional development course even if you’re not sure you’re ready, because if you get in, someone else clearly thought you were. If you only ever apply for this sort of thing when you know you’re good and ready, you’re not pushing yourself. You might be moving forward one step at a time (and setting one-step-at-a-time goals is also very important), but you’re denying yourself the exhilaration and gratification of taking a flying leap forwards. That sense of achievement you get when you’ve really challenged yourself and risen to it. (Note: when I say “you”, feel free to imagine me giving a stern pep talk to myself.)

Measuring your progress

One thing I learned after I had my first story accepted for publication back in 2011 was that I had just stepped onto the bottom rung of a ladder that just goes up and up and up and up. Every time you climb to the next rung, you look up hoping to see the top, or at least hoping you’ve reached the point where you can poke your head through the thick layer of cloud obscuring your vision of the top. It’s hard to feel like you’re getting anywhere when there always seems to be so far to go.

With my running, I find I’m much less about “Will I ever run a marathon?” (perhaps because I can answer that question straight off: No. Zero interest.) My fantasy goal is more about being able to run for a whole half an hour without stopping for walking breaks, and being able to do it every day without feeling like I’ve broken something. But I also find myself able to stop and look back down the ladder at what I’ve achieved so far. A few months ago I thought running for a whole 3 minutes was a challenge. A few weeks ago I ran for 20 minutes without stopping for a break – probably for the first time since I finished high school.

So there’s my last lesson. Stop and look back down the ladder. Admire the view from where you’re at. Bask in the sunshine of your successes.

Here’s a picture of duckies enjoying running. You’re welcome.

duckies running

 

Reflections on 2014

Happy new year! I hope 2014 was a good year for you, or at least had good bits. And here’s to 2015 being even better.

Here’s what I achieved in 2014:

I made 15 story submissions (which didn’t meet my target of 25, but I have a good excuse for that.)

I sold 5 stories! This beat my previous pattern of selling one per year, so I’m pretty chuffed. Three of them sold to the first place I subbed them to, which I’m also pretty chuffed about. And that’s my excuse for not making my target of 25 submissions. I ran out of stories to submit.

I made my first sale to a pro market.

I also got my first review! (And my second, and my third.)

I got an Honourable Mention for one of the stories I subbed to the Writers of the Future Competition.

I finally got Novel Project #1 into a state to start sending out to agents, and I wrote a synopsis (which I consider equivalent to having gained a new skill).

So what’s on the cards for 2015?

Find an agent for Novel Project #1.

Write (and sell!!) more short stories. I’m going to aim for 15 submissions this year. That’s a bit low, but my trunk is basically empty at the moment, so I’m going to have to write some before I can submit them. I think 15 is probably going to be a stretch.

Let’s aim high: I’d like to finish a first draft of Novel Project #3 or #4, and do substantial work on the other one.

Finish and polish up a few half-written stories and first drafts of novellas I have sitting in the trunk.

And here’s a couple of castle-in-the-air goals:

Win a writing competition.

Make another pro sale.

I’m also going to have a stab at learning another language. I’m going to try French!

Here’s hoping that 2015 will be a good year! I wish you every happiness and success with all your goals in the coming months.

Happy New Year 2015 by franky242, courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net
Happy New Year 2015 by franky242, courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net

 

New writing goal #2

On Wednesday, Fiona McIntosh posted this photo to her Facebook page:

Fiona Macintosh the Tailor's GirlIn case it’s not immediately obvious, it’s a character called Jenny from an Australian TV show, Winners and Losers, reading one of Fiona’s latest books, The Tailor’s Girl. 

Everyone who writes knows about the dream of sitting next to someone on a plane who’s reading your book. Well, I reckon this is a step up.

I now have a new castle-in-the-air writing goal.

 

 

Parsley tongue

So today I went to add “parsley” to the shopping list on my phone, and autocorrect (or “Auto Percy” as it apparently likes to be called – another autocorrect, um, correction) changed it to “parseltongue”.

So now I have another castle-in-the-air writing goal: to one day have one of my made up words enter popular usage to the point where it is added to a mobile phone autocorrect (sorry, Auto Percy) dictionary.

Parsley
Image courtesy of Simon Howden/FreeDigitalPhotos.net