Saturday, February 28, 2009

Can you get blogger's block...?

Can you get blogger's block? I don't subscribe to writer's block at all. Sometimes I'm stuck on a story and it can take a while to decide how the story should proceed or what the best solution is to a problem. Sometimes I'm just not in the mood or other aspects of my life are taking precedence. Sometimes the creative juices run low and need a top up. But I can't help thinking that applying the term 'writer's block' is like the kiss of death, a self fulfilling prophesy, or opening a big bad can of fat nasty worms. Writer's block has that whiff of being potentially fatal. Something that might be insurmountable, unconquerable, life-long. Once it gets in your head, like a parasite, it never wants to leave. It sets up shop, messes with your head, and gets comfy. Before you know it its wearing lounge pants, a smoking jacket, putting its feet up on your ottoman and choosing the tv channels. I say, never, ever invite this creep in. Some years back I decided to be a non-subscriber to writer's block and I am happy to report this has worked very well so far. I have my good writing patches and my bad. Some things take longer than others to work through like a particularly gnarly knot. But I am confident that, while the mojo might leave the building, or even pack its bags and have a little holiday, sometimes even offshore, it always comes back. We belong together, my mojo and I. I would never ever say those WB words in its presence and it respects me for that. So even though I have got a thousand thoughts in my head at the moment and not one thing will step aside to let the other out the door and onto the blog page I guess I answered my own question. No you can't get bloggers block. And i've just written the blog post to prove it :)

Stay tuned for future outings of those thousand thoughts in upcoming blog posts!

Monday, February 23, 2009

My form-completion gene is defective...

Okay, so I ignored the universe. Brazen tart that I am, my application for Creative New Zealand contestable funding is now in the post. I succumbed and submitted a sample of the planned work after all (after checking in with a Creative New Zealand contact who kindly got back to me very quickly but said no a sample of the WIP was what they really wanted). I rejigged a few things because I think I had ticked a few wrong boxes yesterday, but I'm not sure, because I have come to the realisation that forms bring out the worst in me. I have had three children. I have sat many exams and passed. I can drive. I can use a mobile phone and a computer. But I cannot fill in a form. Any kind of form - it doesn't matter. Put one in front of me and my mind empties. I become certain that every question is a trick question. I become certain that half the instructions are missing. I become certain i will make a mistake and it may result in death or dismemberment. My form-completion-gene must be defective (also known as G-I-don't-know syndrome). I am hoping for a cure. Maybe gene therapy or a stem cell transplant. At the moment all I can do is medicate myself with an oral application of the only treatment available - chocolate (a bit like when chocolate is the treatment for dementors - form filling is the same thing essentially, sucking the happiness out of you).

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Why are there men in white coats at my door?...

Do you ever have days when you think the universe is trying to tell you something? In my case, today, I think its screaming with a megaphone on full. It occured to me late last week that the next funding round at Creative New Zealand closes at the end of this week. I still dream of getting funding and of course one must have a ticket to win the prize. I'd been stalling a little because they said no to my last project but recently I've been cogitating on this hot new story thats been cartwheeling through the back empty spaces of my mind. The main fly in the ointment was that i didn't really have a ten page sample of the story to submit along with my application. Not one i was happy with anyway. But its a hot story! Okay this was probably when the universe was whispering to me. Then on the weekend I thought maybe I can supply a sample of my last completed work as a demonstration of my writing. Of course a sample of the work itself would be best but its not ready yet and you have to have your ticket....So today I've been having a go at filling in the online forms which you then have to save, print out and forward by post. Somehow having the forms online has not streamlined the process for me at all. If there are ways to edit the forms I haven't found them. Anyways, I did my best to fill the forms in, dutifully saved them, then began to print them out. But, um, when I tried to print out the budget section I got pages with only one line on them coming out and then subsequent pages were missing most of the info i'd input on the budget table sections. T'was very confusing. So I wasted some paper and in the end reverted to updating the budget from the last time I applied which took up one sheet and still looked pretty spiffy. The universe was getting kind of audible. Then I fixed up my CV, my one page project outline, and the alternate ten page writing sample which on its own clocked in at 12 sheets of paper (from the 2 + 2 = 5 school of mathematics). Then I pressed 'print'. I have now run out of paper half way through and the screams from the universe are pinning my ears to the sides of my head. Resistance is futile. Why am I doing this? Why are there men in white coats at my front door...

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

The kitten is mental...(updated)

I would just like to say the kitten is mental. Our new baby is like a slippery, fully inflated but unsecured balloon. She gets comfy, snoozes and then POW she's off like a rubber rocket, whizzing around and EVERYTHING is a potential toy. Our last cat had been a stray and while very beautiful and elegant, as a kitten was timid, nervous and neurotic. Uneous by comparison is full-on, unrestrained, nuts. Its fun to watch and i have to say its hard not to write a picture book based around her. I totally get why cats force people to write picture books about them. They are the embodiment of an entertaining plot. However, as so many people have gone before me, I will try to resist (but I can't promise I will be successful!).

BTW the dog is no longer compelled to eat the kitten but feels obliged to give chase whenever possible. The Cat/Dog book says not to let this happen but Uneous just eggs the poor dog on and he's stupid enough to fall in with her cunning plans. Suffice to say Robbie gets a lot more exercise than he used to and like a greyhound at the races never catches his quarry. In an interesting plot twist, Robbie upended Uneous's food bowl this morning. Apparently food trumps all as both stood quietly side by side hoovering up as many kitten biccies as they could manage.

As regular readers will know last year had more than its fair share of disappointments but so far 2009 is doing its best to be a year of surprises. I don't mind surprises as long as they are not nasty ones. I've had the surprise of sitting down and writing 5 new short stories in quick succession after a short story drought of more than a year (maybe more than 2). I had the very pleasant surprise of having The Were-Nana picked for broadcast on the radio. I was surprised to find The Were-Nana turning up on the shelves of Australian libraries. And i think one of my new short stories might have been accepted for publication - fingers crossed. Colour me pleased.

Squeeeeee - another surprise! An enormous thank you to the Storytime team at Radio New Zealand. A CD with the broadcast reading of my book has just arrived in the post. Yaay!! I love it.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Nose to the grindstone...

Read first at Beattie's Book Blog on tuesday, Scholastic NZ have appointed a new Publishing Manager, Diana Spencer, who will take up the post mid-March. I am very happy they have found someone. I hope I get a chance to meet her soon.

I was thrilled it was going to be on but I didn't wake up in time to hear my story, The Were-Nana being read on radio New Zealand's Storytime last Sunday (21st wedding anniversary the night before) but I am hopeful of getting an audio copy for my very own. I know folk who listened to the sunday Storytime religiously when they were growing up but it just wasn't something our family did (although we were surrounded by books). I hope it is still a habit across households throughout New Zealand :)

It is hard work moving forward with my two WIP at the moment. I have got a bit out of touch with my YA and need to get to grips with it again, and I have come to the realisation that the voice for my other story is all wrong. It is a good thing to figure out the problem (because i knew i had one) but I can see I'm going to have to sweat quite a bit over the solution. Time to put my nose to the grindstone i think.

Sunday, February 15, 2009


I am shamelessly pinching this meme from because as she says, its rather snazzy, and because I've always wanted to have a go at one of these:-

1.make a list of things you can see without standing up
-the kitten curled up asleep on my dad's old rocking chair
-my luscious front garden
-a big old mess of papers (including assorted writing, reading and stuff I have no clue what to do with
-chocolate because you should always have some on hand in case the apocalypse arrives

2.what were you like when you were five
-short, cute, itchy with excema, wheezy with asthma, spoiled

3.what colour is your bedroom?
-its painted a colour called Donkey

4.what was the last thing you bought?
-picnic ingrediants for my wedding anniversary

5.what are you listening to right now?

6.what song are you currently listening to a lot?
-Single Ladies by Beyonce

7.if you could have any super power what would it be?
-teletransportation with the ability to take anything anything animate(family) or inanimate(luggage) with me that i am touching at the time

8.what was the last reality tv show you watched?
-Project Runway - i like anything where I can observe people in the throes of the creative process

9.what is your most challenging goal right now?
-finishing my current WIP. Being patient.

10.if you could have a house, totally paid for, fully furnished, anywhere in the world, where would you want it to be?
-Manhatten, New York

11.favourite vacation spot?
-On board a cruise ship

12.what is your favourite children's book?
-at the moment its a toss up between Dear Greenpeace by Simon James and The Library Lion by Michelle Knudsen and Kevin Hawkes. one thing you can't resist no matter how bad it is for you?
-I'm so bad I have two things - chocolate and champagne

14.if you could meet anyone - dead or alive - who would it be?
-Jane Austen, and Jesus (I'm not terribly religious but he was really good in Jesus Christ Superstar)

15.if you could have any job in the world, what would it be?
-I actually like my current job but i'd like more money, book sales through the roof, and some international travel thrown in thanks

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Awash with nostalgia...

I got in touch with my old primary school yesterday and told them what I was up to these days and would they be interested in a visit. I half expected to never hear back as has happened on other occasions when I have reached out the hand of writerly friendship. But I had a very friendly e-mail back within the hour saying my e-mail had been forwarded to the Principal who got in touch not long after to say yes they were interested. I am excited at the prospect of going back to my old school. I know, apart from the buildings, everything else will be different but my primary years were good ones. I have lots of happy memories - friendships, crushes, some very cool teachers, some of whom introduced me to some excellent books which I still re-read now, and thousands of little events which stay in my mind and may turn up in stories here and there - the sensible school shoes I hated, embarrassing moments, tricks we played, responsibilities we took on. How full of shiny potential we were back then. And now there's a new bunch of kids full of their own bright possibilities. Will any of them want to be writers? Its a thrilling thought. I don't remember ever being visited by an author through out my school years. Authors were distant and unreal and it took me a long time to get up the guts to say that was what i wanted to be, first to myself and then to the world at large. But I remember being transfixed listening to radio broadcasts of Greek myths and legends at school and being excited by having a new book to read - The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, The Moon in the Cloud, Little House on the Prairie. So here's my chance to say that anyone can grow up to be a writer and an author, someone from a community, a school just like this. Or anything else they want to be for that matter. In the meantime I'll be dragging out some old school photos and going all nostalgic, wondering what my classmates are up to now. Its school reunion year this year at Mangere Central primary - I may just have to go!

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Shiny new things...

A big package arrived in the post for me today. Sadly not a suitcase full of money which i regularly wish for on fallen eyelashes. Nope, today i got my first posting from the University of Canterbury for the Image and Narrative paper I am taking towards a Diploma in Children's literature. I felt smarter straightaway and then I opened the package. Memories of my extramural Bachelor of arts degree (in English) came flooding back. Assignment cover sheets, barcoded stickers and instruction sheets along with the shiny fat study guides all crisp and inviting. On the second page was my very first assignment. I am excited and nervous - what have i done? I will keep you posted on whether it was a good idea or not.

In an even more exciting development, my picture book, The Were-Nana, is to be read on Radio NZ's storytime this Sunday (Feb 15) morning. This has never happened to any of my stories before (although my article on cheerleading was put on CD by Learning Media and the anthology Dare and Double Dare including my story Rush has been recorded for the blind). In a surprising twist I only learnt about it third hand, via a friend who heard it from another friend who heard it mentioned on the radio whilst in her car. I would have thought there might be some official notification. Thank you Jill and Stina. Even google hasn't alerted me on this one even though there it is mentioned on the National radio website. I am fascinated by the prospect of someone other than me reading my story aloud (although I know schoolteachers and librarians are already doing it but this seems to take it one step further). I am full of happy and excited thoughts at the prospect and feel a bit honoured that it is happening to a story of mine.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Wot a weekend...

Wot a weekend! It was a public holiday on Friday in New Zealand to celebrate Waitangi Day - 6 February was the date in 1840 The Treaty of Waitangi was signed between representatives of the Queen of England and Maori Chiefs agreeing to share the country (feel free to correct my interpretation - its a long time since i got up close and personal with the nuts and bolts of the document): kinda the birth of the nation really although the journey between then and now has sometimes travelled a bumpy road. Whatever the road has been like, celebrations in 2009 seemed happy ones and the long weekend was a stunner.

My eldest now has her learner's licence and her first driving lesson under her belt. This is weirding me out a little. Not because my daughter can get in the drivers seat and other drivers beware but more because my child is now legitimately considered old enough to drive. Crikey where's my zimmer frame. It was bad enough that my youngest is no longer at primary school. Folks, I may need a period of adjustment.

Other things were happening on the weekend. My parents are on the move to a new house after 25 years in the current one. I grew up in the one before where they are now. Another era comes to a close. 2009 seems to be a year for this. My siblings and I have been rallying around to help them box their possessions, get rid of twenty five years of accumulated junk and shift pesky things like pot plants.

Also went to a book launch yesterday for Jill Marshall's new women's fiction 'As it is on Telly' (Penguin). I enjoyed her last adult fiction 'The Two Miss Parsons' (Penguin 2008) and hope to clear the reading decks for this one soon. In the midst of a recession it was uplifting to celebrate the birth of a new book and hear that Jill is signed up for 2 more. All is not lost - publishers are still publishing! The launch was fun, I got to don my crazy new heels (that any witch-pirate would be proud to wear) and participate in a tv quiz which our team won. While some people are concerned about the number of hours we watch tv i have had many positive things come out of my viewing hours - story ideas, quiz wins (including a spot prize of a bottle of bubbles for knowing A Close Shave's Sean the sheep) and the introduction I use in my author visit talks. I seem to have quite a good mind for trivia which is probably not a bad thing when you are a writer, although I apologise if I've ever bored you to death with a conversation riddled with an endless supply of seemingly useless information.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Fritter, fritter, fritter...

All children now at school. I'm still not sure I believe my youngest is now eleven and at intermediate school. I'll probably still be in denial when he's in the workforce, and married with children of his own. Of course now I am ALONE in an EMPTY house all my old bad procrastinating diversionary tactics have sprung back up like they were never gone. I have already frittered away too much time today. I have tweaked a few short stories and that is about it.

I am currently also musing on the future of books and their fusing with technology. After so many years of loving books to bits and being desperate to hold ones with my own name on the cover in my hands I really struggle with the idea that what i write in future may only exist in an electronic form. I'm not ready! And like my view about the speed with which my children are growing up, I am in denial. Don't people realise that a book doesn't need a power source. It can be read anywhere (okay, except underwater and probably a few other places as well like an unlit cave or something) but you don't have to have a wall socket or batteries or anything like that. There are no exhaust fumes or unhealthy emissions or waste products from reading a book (okay there will be some from the reader especially if they're eating and/or drinking at the same time). Please world, don't move past books made of ink and paper. For a start, would Cornelia Funke's Inkheart be possible as Electronheart? - i don't think so. There's magic in books and an electronic version can't completely replicate that.

Monday, February 2, 2009

Rats - just about no excuses left to not do actual work...

The relationship between kitten and dog is still frosty (or nippy might be a better term). Kitten needs a bit of fattening i think to have a better chance against the sherman tank that is our westie. Hmmm. In the meantime, I am getting on with writing the first few chapters of a new story of which i submitted only the outline to a publisher last Friday. Is going well apart from having to do actual work. Here is a sample:-

“No Mum, I really don’t need you to take me to school.”
“But it’s your first day, Thomas. You won’t know anybody.”
I wanted to say, and that’s the way I like it, but I didn’t. It would only upset her.
“I’m okay walking Mum. It’ll save you petrol.”
“True,” Mum agreed, looking round as if she’d lost something.
I knew that would work. People say it all the time but cars can’t actually run on the smell of an oily rag.
“I wish I could have got the shoes,” Mum said, pulling my polo shirt down at the back as if it would make it longer. Our new neighbour Mrs Robert’s son Keith (now at University) had been a lot shorter than me.
“I don’t mind wearing my sandals Mum.”
“It’s nearly winter…”
“I can last till next term.” I wanted her to stop fussing. Sure I was going to get hassled about having roman sandals on. I had at the school before the last one. If that was my biggest problem I could handle it.
“I could walk with you?”

Still have one more child to go back to school. She starts tomorrow at 10.30, the following day at the normal time of 8.30 and then Friday's a holiday. I will not be sympathetic to any complaints about the hardship of school life. It will be fab to have the house to myself again (apart from the warring cat and dog). There is a lot of writing work to do and luckily no external distractions as of yet beyond the usual domestic chores and family raising (although i am working on a plan for the 21st wedding anniversary coming up on February 14th - something original, romantic and totally fun - I have a lot of work to do :)).