Thursday, December 30, 2010

Bring It On

A dear friend has given me, albeit in a roundabout manner, a huge opportunity.  A chance to spend some time with a professional writing coach, to have my writing read and critiqued by someone who gets paid to do this for a living.

This is not to say that I do not value the support and critique by you, my nearest and dearest, friends of friends, new friends and perfect strangers.  It's just that thus far, it has been all praise and little criticism.

I am not so deluded to believe that this means that you all think I am the world's best writer and they should just hand me the Nobel Award in Literature right now.  I am quite sure you would all have some pretty scathing advice should I actually press you.  I would actually welcome this, for if I cannot accept criticism from friends then I probably don't belong in this field.

But for now I am excited at the opportunity that lies just over the horizon. 

A writing coach. Bring it on!

Monday, December 27, 2010

The Christmas Story

On Christmas Eve I sat down with the Blonde Bombshell (3 and a half years) and read her the story of Christmas.  I explained that Mary and Joseph were having a baby (she understood that) but that the baby was actually the son of God, not Joseph (a small wrinkling of her forehead but no comment).

I explained that they had to travel a long way on a donkey because there were no cars ("no cars?") and when they got to Bethlehem there was no room at the inn ("it's like a hotel") so they had to stay in the stable with the animals, which she though was great ("I like cows, Mummy").

I told her that when Baby Jesus was born, although he was only a little baby, everyone knew he was very special and people came from all over to see him.  We looked at pictures of the shepherds and the wise men, and all the angels flying in the sky ("are they are white fairies, Mummy?").

It was easy to establish that Christmas was really a celebration about the birth of a baby called Jesus.  The Bombshell is all about birthdays, she tries to have one at least every month.  It was difficult though to segue our conversation, which had been going well up that point, into Santa and his reindeer.

"So is Santa Baby Jesus' friend too?"


I didn't want to cheapen the Christmas story with a lie, but I could not figure out how to explain how Santa with all his jollyness and modern day festive bling fit into the picture.  Was he a modern day Wise Man bringing gifts to modern day children? What did they teach me in school about St Nicholas? Think, Shannon, think!

In the end I kissed the top of her head and said "that's right, we are all Jesus' friends".  Good save Mum.

Then before bed we got some carrots out for the reindeer and a chocolate or two for Santa.  Then it was time for the advent calendar - a felt one with a little nativity character each day. Being the 24th, the final character was Baby Jesus in his manger.

"Look Mum, it's the Baby Jesus!  The Baby Jesus is beeeyoootiful.  The angel says the baby is back and all the other children come to see the baby.  The angels are Baby Jesus' friends".

I couldn't have said it better myself.

Merry Christmas everyone.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

All Quiet on the Western Front

And so they have finished for the year.  Tools have been laid down, the skip emptied. The scaffolding has come partly down and removed offsite. The remaining tarp blows lonely in the breeze.  The builders have gone back to their own families for Christmas.

I have been quite used to having them around, an endless parade of men in short shorts and big boots.

Now the temporary clean-up can start.  I started with the dead bird in the carport, though I hope that had nothing to do with the builders.  I can blame them for the empty drink bottles and cans dotted through my rose garden and the occasional cigarette butt under the scaffolding (it says No Smoking On Site guys!).  I think it's cute that I keep finding bits of Gladwrap along with the Red Rooster litter, someone must bring his lunch from home. 

I collected a Bunnings store worth of nails and screws and other bits of functional metal, and dumped them in a box next to the broken bags of cement, spilling into little piles on my verandah.  Although it's not really my verandah at the moment.  Nothing here is ours until everything is finished, and the last piece of scaffolding has been removed, the last sign packed away. 

I want the weather to cool so I can begin to sweep away 6 weeks worth of sawdust and brick dust.  That's all it's been - 6 short weeks and a new house has sprung up where once there was nothing.  I have floors and external walls, a new roof, windows, the skeleton of the plumbing and electrics and what looks likes hundreds of dirty little sheep shoved in between the timbers of the roof (apparently it's insulation).



So to my friendly builders, thanks for building us a house!  Merry Christmas and I will see you in the New Year.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Novel Inside - Every Single One of Us Novel Inside*

I do a lot of reading about writing.  And I do a lot of writing about living. 

But it is not deep, thought-provoking National Geographic living.  It's living-lite. 

When I start writing, I usually know how I want it to finish.  When you write about living-lite, you can usually sum it up in less than 500 words.

The thing is, I think I have a novel in me.  The other thing is, I don't know how it will end.

So do I start the novel and just see where it goes.  Or do I succomb to the natural born planner and researcher in me, and have a detailed plot and ending before I even start?

These aren't rhetorical questions.  I really want to know!

I read an article today by Delia Falconer in Australian Author** which was about writing your first novel.  She said that 'no experience is freer or more private than writing a first novel'.  This is because your first novel you write for yourself.  If you are lucky enough to write any subsequent novels, you now write for an audience.

So if I am going to do this, I should write entirely for myself, assume that no one else will ever read it, and luxuriate in the utter self-absorption and self-pleasure (yes, yes get your mind out of the gutter) it will bring.

Funnily enough, in the same edition of the magazine there was an article for new writers by Helen Barnes entitled 'Don't Quit Your Day Job'.   She offers the following sage advice:
'Find something else to do.  That's the only advice I can offer with any sincerity.  Writing is boring, hard and thankless.  It makes you paranoid, ungrateful and snippy to your loved ones'.

Well that's fortunate because I'm sure I am already those things.  Gosh if writing is going to make me merely snippy rather than the raging madwoman I already am, then surely that's an improvement. 

Maybe the key here is venting verbally in a private manner, rather than losing it at the 3YO Blonde Bombshell in a public place

Anyway, novelists/writers/readers out there, please send your advice. I really want to know.

*Apologies to INXS for this rather lame joke
**Australian Author, Vol 42, Number 3, December 2010, the official magazine of the Australian Society of Authors (of which I am a proud new member!)

Monday, December 20, 2010

Every Cloud has a Silver Lining

In March this year, Perth suffered a horrendous hail storm, the costliest natural disaster in Perth's history.  We came off relatively well considering we were in the eye of it - damaged car, blinds and awnings, leaking roofs in two rooms, flooding to one room, damage to our pot belly and a plastic tub full of baby toys!

But it could have been so much worse.  The room that flooded - our living room - had been completely emptied due to a kitchen reno that was planned for two days hence.  So what could have been the nightmare of flooded rugs and couches and toys and TVs, instead was just me with a mop and bucket cleaning the empty tiled floor.

(Don't get me wrong, there was a lot of freaking out and swearing at the time.  But it could have been so much worse.)

The roller shutter that my hubby bought and had installed - that I hated because they're so ugly - was damaged in the storm, but it protected the glass windows and prevented damage to our spare room (and all the precious bottles of wine that were stored under the window).

Every cloud has a silver lining.

On the weekend the glaziers installed the wrong windows in my new upstairs bathroom.  Obviously they think we are complete exhibitionists and clear glass in our massive bathroom window is the way to go.  But less than 24 hours later there was an unseasonal and massive downpour, and those ridiculously see-through windows protected the new bathroom from flooding.

Ever the optimist, trying to see the positive in bad situations is good for the complexion. Right?

So it is with this in mind, that I ponder the good in today's misfortune.

A cracked tile, a misguided tarp, a pile of bad luck and this morning we wake up to a flooded lounge room.  Water flowing through the ceiling and wall vents, down the wall and pooling on our mantle piece.  The TV, PS3 and Foxtel box I could care less about (sorry Foxtel) but my beloved Grandma's antique clock was sitting in a puddle of dirty water and the wood has already begun to warp.  And that makes me incredibly sad.  That clock was a special gift from my Grandma before she passed away, a gift that my Grandad gave her.  I regard it as one of my most precious possessions.

So I am yet to discover the silver lining in this small cloud.

However, I can say that my 11 month old has already discovered her silver lining in this disaster.   The only safe and dry place for the TV was in her bedroom, and when she discovered the enormous screen on her dresser, it was pretty clear that she thought all her Christmas' had come at once.

Friday, December 17, 2010

How Much is Too Much?

Writers out there, answer me this.  How much is too much information?

Do you share with your loved ones and supporters every time you submit an article, think up a story idea, or enter a competition?  Do you let them give you encouragement and support each and every time?  Do you let them build up your (and their) expectations?  What if everything comes to nothing? 

Is it better to share the rare piece of good news or is it better to share the regular disappointment of rejections?

If  indeed it does end up being the regular disappointment of rejections, should I perhaps be looking at another line of work?

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

The Sweet Sweet Taste of Child-Free Canapes

Tonight I went to a networking function. 

Not to a playgroup or mothers' group function.  But an actual grown-up function, with grown-up conversation, and the youngest person in the room would have been in their late 20s.

There were prawns in chilli and lime dipping sauce, little tarts with goats cheese and onion, pastry cones with salmon and dill.  I was in heaven.

There were no vegemite scrolls or juice boxes.  No neat cubes of fruit and no cupcakes with sprinkles.

I put on a pair of high heels and a fancy necklace.  I took the nappies and baby wipes out of my handbag.

I shook hands rather than shaking my head.

I mingled and chatted with a number of very interesting people.  Sure, we talked about children briefly, but it was not our main focus.  We talked about work!  Granted, for me that was a pretty short conversation considering I have not 'worked' for well over a year, but I had plenty to say about what I wanted to do next year. 

Each new person I spoke with renewed my excitement about my journey.  With each encouraging word I felt more energized about my decision to become a writer. 

And when I came home, I kicked off my heels and put the nappies and wipes back in my handbag, then went to kiss my girls goodnight, both soundly asleep in their beds.

With a Little Help From My Friends

Hello my 11 special friends.  Followers. Supporters.

I wanted to write and acknowledge you all, and the rest of you who may not necessarily have become a 'follower', but still read my blog and make comments or send me supportive emails.

Or perhaps you just read my blog every now and then and think nice thoughts.  Like: 'that really is a pretty background'...

I am so incredibly chuffed when someone sends me a comment, that someone cares enough to read this blog in the first place, and then takes the time to let me know they enjoyed it. 

All comments are emailed to me, as well as appearing on this blog, and I still save each and every email in a special folder because I get so excited to think that perhaps, just perhaps, I can make a go of this writing gig.

I hope that when I have a dozen books in print, syndicated columns in every national paper and magazine and a lecture theatre named after me, I still get excited when someone writes a positive comment.

So to you all out there, thank you.  I hope you continue to enjoy the show...

Monday, December 13, 2010

How I Became the Grinch who Stole Christmas

Yesterday I made a grand sociological observation about the social conditioning of our young. 

Previously I had thought that pre-schoolers behaved badly because it was in their nature, and they were simply learning to push boundaries and determine how they can influence the world around them.

What crap.

Preschoolers, or more specifically my pre-schooler (the three and a half year old blond bombshell), behaves badly because - get this - she learned it from me!

In front of a room full of people (my wonderful in-laws, bless them) I embodied that which I despise - a petulant, whining, argumentative three year old.  I stooped to her level.  I forgot I was an adult, and for a moment, actually believed I would win the war of wits with the following exchange:

Her: 'Be quiet Mummy'.

Me: 'No, you be quiet'.

Ok, writing this I realise that it doesn't look all that unreasonable.  But if you could hear the tone of voice I used, you would have thought you were overhearing a screaming match between a bunch of whiny siblings. 

And then to top it off, as I frogmarched her to her room - I told her that I would call Santa and tell him not to bring any presents this year.  I actually told her that Mummy's have a direct line to Santa.

Where does this stuff come from?

Sometimes I am so ashamed of what I say I find myself cringing in the next room, shaking my head in disbelief. 

And then, a matter of days later I find myself shaking my head in disbelief yet again, as my pre-schooler repeats the same offensive offering to her sister or father or aunty.  I am creating a monster.

I know parents often say that they wish their kids had a mute button, but I think in this household, it is me who needs one.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Everybody Needs Good Neighbours

Because my washing line is currently in a passionate relationship with a two storey scaffolding, and has recently given birth to a family of spiders, I have had to seek drying accommodations elsewhere.

Luckily I have a fabulous neighbour who told me that I could let myself into her back garden any time of day or night and use her fabulously generous washing line.

So the other day, after collecting my towels, and staring over the fence with more than a little concern at the monstrosity that is my new additions upstairs, I let myself through her side gate when I heard a voice from the other side of the fence.

'Who's that then?', asked a friendly but cautious male voice.

'It's Shannon from Number 14', I told him.

There was a bit of a pause, then he said 'Oh, the big house on the corner.  The building site'.

Yep, that's us.

The thing is, although we have lived here for more than 5 years, we have never met the people who live only two doors down.  So we made our introductions over the fence.

While my initial (and very brief) reaction was annoyance at being held up while lugging around a washing basket filled to the brim with towels and pegs and few pilfered tomatoes, my over-riding response was reassurance that people do actually still care about their community. 

This man was making sure that my neighbour wasn't getting broken into, and after being convinced I wasn't a burglar (he hadn't seen the tomatoes) he then wanted to spend time to get to know me.  Afterall, we are neighbours.

I am proud to live in a neighbourhood where people watch out for each other. 
I am not proud that it took me five years to realise this.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Women are from OCD-land, men are just delusional

Will someone explain to me why, when I leave the house with my baby I need to take a huge bag containing nappies, wipes, a spare dummy, tissues, spare clothes, a container of crackers and a toy but when my husband leaves the house with the baby, as he has just done, he just takes the baby?

Why is he so confident that nothing will go wrong?  Why is he so presumptuous to think she won't do one of her 6 daily poos while they are at the shop?  What does he plan on settling her with when she starts screaming in hunger because it has been at least 15 minutes since she last ate?  Will he just use her own sleeve to wipe her nose when it starts to run?  Give her a Mars Bar to chew on when she cries?

I'm not sure what I am more upset about.  The blatant cockiness that he doesn't need any of the accoutrements and doohickeys that I pack religiously in the event of baby melt-down.  Or the fact that absolutely nothing will go wrong for him anyway.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Acceptance Speech

Good evening.  I am here to humbly accept the award for most prolific writer.  When I first started this blogging gig, I sometimes worried I would not have enough to write about.  However, we then started doing some major renovations, and those worries disappeared.

So I would like to thank my builders for continually giving me material to write about.  It's as though they are implicitly supporting my quest to be a writer.

I mean, why else would they disconnect the power to my bore and reticulation so that my garden died in the summer heat.  Why else would they take almost a fortnight to fix it, so that by the time they reconnected the power, the pump had rusted and seized so that it doesn't work anymore anyway.

Unless they were providing their support to my burgeoning writing career, why else would they disconnect the power to my kitchen and laundry in the process of reconnecting the bore and retic.

Surely coming home to no fridge, washing machine, kettle or toaster was simply their way to provide yet another opportunity for me to sit down and hone my writing skills (in this case a letter of complaint - because all writing is good practice). 

So in closing, I would again like to acknowledge my builders for their tireless, behind the scenes support.

Keep up the good work guys.
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