Saturday, February 26, 2011

Smiles at the Crack of Dawn

The people at Perth Airport at 6.30 in the morning are a fairly cheerful lot.

The lady who did my bag check took me aside for a chat about the pains of leaving children behind after she saw I was a bit teary.  Her children were a lot older than my 13 month old and 3 3/4 year old when she first left them, but she felt the same tugs on her heart strings leaving them behind.  Her advice as I rolled away was to enjoy myself and try not to think so much.

The people waiting in the queue for coffee were also surprisingly upbeat.

'Who ordered a large tea?'

'That's me,' said a bloke obviously destined for the mines of far north Western Australia.

'Do you want two tea bags?'

'Sure, the more the merrier,' he replied.

'A large coffee? Did you want a double shot?'

'I'd love a double shot but I don't think I paid for it,' said a fellow in a business suit.

The woman behind the counter just smiled at him and poured the extra shot.

'Ahhh a real coffee drinker, thankyou,' he told her with a genuine smile.

Next to me is a family not unlike my own.  A baby is squawking in a pram while her older sister, probably three, is playing with a musical tea pot, stuffing her face with muffin while her tired looking Mum sings Happy Birthday every time the tea pot sings.

I am obviously sitting at Perth Airport, awaiting my flight to Sydney for my four day, child-free holiday. I am tired and nervous, a bit guilty and increasingly excited as all the airport sounds (the rumble of planes, voice-overs, the coffee machine, muted conversations, crying babies) gradually bring home to me the realisation that I am going on a jet-plane, flying across the continent, and will be far far away.

I have brought my new toy with me, my teeny tiny MacBook Air, my writing contest prize.  This is the first time I have used it.  As soon as I opened it a message asking if I wanted to join the Qantas wireless network greeted me, thereby relegating my initial blog topic (how on earth do you join a wireless network?) to the rubbish bin.

Across from me is a mum with a new baby, perhaps 6 months old. She saw me smiling at her baby and even though she returned the smile, I can tell she thinks I am an impostor. No one looking at me - alone, childless, carry-on baggage only, typing on a supercool laptop, would ever think I have two little girls at home, that I am a Mum with her heart being torn out.

But that is me, and despite any claim of this blog that I want to be anything else, or anything more, I realise there is nothing more.  I am me. I am writing, I am exploring, I am visiting my friends, loving my family, looking forward to the future.

And I need to pee.  But that's me too.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Machiavellian Bastards

Yesterday I attended my second writing workshop by John Harman.  You may remember my conclusion from his previous workshop, which was that writers are both mad people and thieves.

Well, now I have extended that to included the proposition that writers are also promiscuous Machiavellian bastards who can defy the laws of physics.  Cool hey.

He told us:

Figure out the worst thing possible you can do to your hero, and do it.
Show them you are a bastard as an author.  You're meant to be.  You are God.
You have become Machiavellian.

John was explaining the concept of chiasmus, the Greek word for cross, where the story reverses on itself.  Such as 'what matters is not the men in my life, but the life in my men' or 'You do not live to eat, you eat to live'. He told us that we must constantly be looking for ways to reverse the story and, if possible, torture our protagonist by putting them in situations that would put them under complete and utter duress. 

His complaint about first time writers was that we are all too nice to our heros, and very rarely want to hurt them.  Imagine how lame 'Romeo and Juliet' would have been had Shakespeare decided to let them live happily ever after.  Why is this story one of the greatest of all time?  Chiasmus.  The story starts with our protagonists alive but apart, and finishes with them dead but together.  Neat.

Then we were told:

Writers are promiscuous.  We are writing one story but we keep thinking about another.

Finally he concluded:

Writers are not subject to the laws of gravity.  If you are an architect you must start with the foundations or your building will fall down.  A writer can start anywhere: the middle, beginning or end.

I think the key though, is that writers need to actually start.  I do, anyway. This is my typical modus operandi, after all I am a researcher by training.  I like to gather a lot of information and do a lot of background work (in this case a bookcase full of writing courses) that fill my time and make me look very busy, but I still haven't actually done anything.

In August when we have our next National Census I plan on putting the word 'writer' in the box where it asks me my occupation.  I would like to be able to justify that claim by at least having written and submitted one article. 

And if it is accepted, even better.  Six months, one article. How hard can it be?

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

McDonalds Here I Come

Here is a list of very good reasons why I shouldn't have given up my day job and decided to become a writer#.

*At the time of the last national census, the average annual income for a writer in Australia was just over $20,000.

*That average included writers such as Bryce Courtenay, so if you take out his multi-million dollar earnings, the medium annual income for writers in Australia was just under $5,000.

*The average first novel takes between 2 and 5 years to write.

*A print run for a literary novel in Australia is between 1,000 and 3,000 copies.

*For a new author, even if you were lucky enough to find someone who wanted to publish your book, the print run would be at the lower end of the scale, say 1,500 books.

*A literary novel sells for between $21 and $33. Let's be generous and say you sell yours for $25.

*Authors usually get about 10% of the sale price, and chances are you have to pay your agent 15% of that (how else would you have managed to find someone to publish your book?).

*So,that is 10% of $25 times 1,500 books, minus 15%. 


Even if you manage to sell every copy.

For a novel that probably took you five years to write.

Let's put that in perspective.

Say you have two children and you want to do some normal kid stuff with them, let's say Playgroup and an annual Zoo membership for a few years, some carseats and a half decent pram: $2,000.  Might have to sell some more books.

Say you manage to toilet train your two children by the age of three.  The cost of disposable nappies: approximately $5,000.  Might have to sell a kidney.

You send your two kids to daycare, two days a week so you can stay home and write the aforementioned novel.  The cost of just one year of daycare: $16,000.  Might have to sell your soul to the devil.

#Thanks to the Sydney Writers Centre for providing these stats during the last module of my online Creative Writing Course.  You have completely scared the pants off me and I think I will go and find a job at McDonalds.

Friday, February 11, 2011

To Three or Not to Three?

I only ever wanted two girls.

It was something I had assumed, known and believed for most of my adult life, and probably for years beforehand.  Two children, two daughters.

Of course, my Mum will tell you that I went through a phase in high school when I told her I wanted multiple babies to multiple fathers of all different colours.  I'm sure she was absolutely horrified, though she probably just smiled and nodded at the time.

I imagine she would have been quite relieved when I met - and married - my husband, almost exactly 11 years ago. (Side note - what lovely gemstone can I expect for 11 years of marriage?  Am I up to diamonds yet?)

The reason I assumed I would have two daughters is because, simply put, our family does not do boys.  My Grandma had two daughters and each of them had two daughters.  I have two daughters and my sister had a daughter. 

And then she had a boy. 

This was weird because I had also assumed that she would have two daughters.  A nephew did not feature in my grand plans.  Luckily, plans are made to be changed because it is fabulous having a little man in the family.

So what does that have to do with me?

Well, I am very confused at the moment, because I have my two beautiful girls, two of the most precious gifts I have ever received, but I think I want more. I am not sure if I am done.

While other Mums in my Mothers' Group are giving away the baby clothes and donating all the baby toys to charity with cheerful abandon, I am washing all my baby clothes and storing them away according to size and season (yes, I am more than a little bit anal).

It could be because Miss Curly Mop is still at that beautiful age where she is all innocence and light.  She is just starting to walk, and is vulnerable and brave.  The Blonde Bombshell has started Kindy, she is growing up and moving away.  Curly Mop does not yet talk... and does not yet talk back.

Perhaps it is just a trick of the light, this wanting more.  That window of sanity after the night time feeds of a new baby but before the tantrums of toddlerhood.  Maybe I will feel differently when Miss Curly Mop approaches 18 months, and I am sticking rolled up ToysRUs catalogues in my ears so I cannot hear the whining and arguments.

How do you know?  How do you know whether you should take that next step and try for a third baby?

Having a third baby changes everything.  You need a bigger car.  A bigger kitchen table.  And 99% of family passes in this world are for two adults and two children.  What if you have three kids?  Do you just leave one of them in the car?

Some people say I should just be happy with what I have, especially since I have what I always wanted.  Some say I shouldn't tempt fate.
Some say you can never regret having children and having three means there is just more love in your family.
What do you say? 

How do you know?

Thursday, February 10, 2011

I Can't Think of a Witty Title for this Post

Back in October when I started this blogging venture it was recommended to us newbys that we read Problogger, a book by a couple of fellows who have managed to make a truck load of cash from their very successful blogs.  Perhaps that's why the book is called Problogger: Secrets for Blogging Your Way to a Six-Figure Income.

I never had any serious intention of trying to make money from this blog but I thought it would be an interesting read because surely anyone who make a killing from their blog must have a killer blog.

The thing is, it takes four chapters before the authors even mention content.  Surely people have to read your blog - a lot - before they would even consider clicking on an ad or buying one of your products.

The statistics they spit out are phenomenal:  a new blog is created every second and there are already tens of millions of blogs in existence.  That's a whole lot of self indulgence.  What do these tens of millions of blogger write about?  Debating the merits of of guinea pigs?  Detailing word for word the offensively funny things a man says in his sleep?*

More importantly perhaps, is the question: who reads this stuff?

In my case, it's predominantly friends and family and I love you for it.  But one of the clever little gadgets that comes with Blogspot is a stats thingamajiggy and it tells me where my readers come from.  Not in so much detail that I will be fronting up to your door with a dozen cupcakes, but it tells me which country you all live in. 

No big surprise that the majority of my audience live in Australia (onya mates) and a smattering from the US, but I was a little surprised to see that I had visits from people in Malaysia, Germany, Russia, New Zealand, Mexico, Ireland and Slovenia, France and Canada.

Of course they could have accidentally stumbled upon me after hitting the 'next blog' button at the top of the screen.  Try it (after you finish reading me, that is), you will get a completely random blog.  Probably they have to come to me via a link from one of my blog friends. 

But to all of you, thank you wherever you are for reading my blog.  Let me know what you like to read.  Of course if you want me to make inane, funny and offensive comments about random things while I am sleeping you will have to head over to the other blog.

On the other hand, he has 12,000 followers, a few more than me, so maybe he is onto something. 

*Both of these blogs actually exist.  Guinea Pigs. Sleep-talking man.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Thieves and Mad People

Today I attended the 'Writing Dramatic Dialogue' class run by author John Harman through UWA Extension.  It was a fun and enlightening day and yet another mental exercise I can use to limber up my writing muscles.    

John started by telling us:

'You sit in a room by yourself, making up words for people who don't exist.
It's madness.  They can put you away for that.  You either get paid or put away.'

Towards the end of the day he admitted:

'Writers are allowed to steal anything. If it is nailed down, get a crowbar.
There is no copyright on lines of dialogue or ideas.  You can steal anything.'

No wonder no one's Mum wants them to be a writer when they grow up - it's nothing to do with hanging on the fringe of dubious society or the non-existent paycheques.  Writers wind up being thieving mad people.  Personally, I cannot wait.

In that spirit I will share a quote from the young fellow sitting next to me in class.  We were discussing what types of books we liked to read and someone mentioned the classic 'The Lord of the Rings': the epic struggles, imaginative worlds, classic mythology.  He snorted and said 'It's a book about walking'.

In the stunned silence that followed he felt the need to clarify. 'Everyone walks everywhere.  All the time, they just walk from one place to the next'.

So there you go kids, the next time you have a lit assignment on the Lord of the Rings, just say 'it's a book about walking'. 

Furthermore, in the spirit of accentuating the positive I want to share my warm fuzzies (remember them?).  Throughout the class we had the opportunity to read out some of our written exercises, and after lunch I decided to step up and read my work.  The result - spontaneous applause.  The first of the day.  If I had been alone I would have done a little dance.  When John came up to me later and told he that he thought my piece was really good, it was the icing on the cake.  

So on that positive note I bid you all good night.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Adrian Mole was Right!

Those of you who were children in the 80s will undoubtedly remember The Diary of Adrian Mole. Long before there were the students of Hogwarts and Wimpy Kids, there was a British dork with plenty of zits and much to complain about.

For some reason, one of his gripes was about washing up fried egg with only cold water.  I never got it.  I never understood his problem. Until yesterday.  And ever since then his voice has been in my head.  Fried eggs and cold water.  Fried eggs and cold water.

Yesterday I had decided I would make a batch of mini quiches for playgroup.  Attempting to be vaguely healthy I abstained from the delicious flakey puff pastry and instead went quiche commando.  The Blonde Bombshell and I carefully painted each of the tiny muffin holes with oil (I thought it would be more fun for her than watching me use the spray oil) then we added tiny portions of peas and corn, topped it up with egg before adding cheese.

They smelled and looked fabulous and for a while I thought I had hit a home run.  Kids would eat them, and mums would be grateful that it wasn't full of sugar and chocolate.  Ha ha ha ha ha.

The time came to take them out of their teeny tiny holes, but it soon became clear that they were actually teeny tiny quiche coffins.  They were stuck.  Not just a little stuck.  NASA sticking the space shuttle together stuck.  One year old with their head between the cot rails stuck.  Small kitten in a pipe stuck.

I ended up with a bowl of quiche tops (a bit like muffin tops but not half as much fun) with the crusty remnants of my good idea lining not 12 but 24 mini holes.  I filled the tray with water and took my quiche tops to playgroup, where they sat forlornly on the table.  Occasionally a child would come and peer into the bowl before walking away with a confused expression. 

Back to Adrian Mole and his fried egg and cold water conundrum.  Well I had fried egg with hot water, scouring pads, elbow grease and half a bottle of Morning Fresh.  And 24 hours.  It has literally taken me 24 hours to scrub out all the baked on stupidity.  I had to force myself to stop and clean one hole each time I walked past the sink.  I did considered throwing the whole thing in the bin.

So Adrian Mole, wherever you are.  I get it now.  You simply cannot wash fried egg with cold water.  Now get out of my head.

Friday, February 4, 2011

You Have to Accentuate the Positive

Yesterday marked the Blonde Bombshell's first day at Kindy, a momentous milestone by any measure. Small children with huge hats and giant backpacks are pretty cute, and since I allowed her to chose her own Kindy outfit I had to let her go in her 100% colour coordinated outfit regardless of any personal concern I had about there perhaps being too much teal in one small space. 

The thing bugging me though is not the t-shirt she chose with 'gorgeous' emblazoned across it but the form we had to fill out in preparation for an upcoming parent-teacher meeting.

Some of the questions included:

How much TV does your child watch?
Ah, how many hours in a day again?

How does your child deal with frustration?
She will tell you.  "I'm just very fwustrated with you right now, Mummy"

How does your child interact with other children?
What, ones she likes or ones she doesn't... very different answers.

How does your child deal with discipline at home?
She responds very well to threats.

And the one that caused me most trouble:
What are your child's strengths and positive attributes?

I got to this question, pen poised and thought 'easy'.  But then I stopped.  My mind drew a blank.  I love her so much and think she is so amazing but I couldn't think of a specific strength.  If the question had been 'what are your child's weaknesses' I would have been able to fill the page without thinking: petulant, argumentative, lazy, domestic blindness and deafness, sulky, whingey...

So I called a family conference with the Bombshell's daddy and Young Aunty who was staying over.

'What are the Bombshell's strengths?' I asked.

Everyone opened their mouths and promptly closed them again.  The room was silent.

Eventually Young Aunty said 'she's awesome!'

'I can't write that, it's not a quality'.

So we brainstormed.  We threw words out and decided if they were appropriate.

'Is she independent?... well, no because she's always saying she can't do things'
'Is she considerate?... well no, because she seems to make more noise when the baby is sleeping'.

It got really depressing. The Bombshell is one of the most fantastic, beautiful little girls you might meet, so why were we having so much trouble?  It's like husbands.  And houses.  We can easily come up with a list of things we would like to change, or need fixing.  But what about the things we love and appreciate.  When is the last time you said 'I just want to say thank you for always putting the toilet seat down.  In 10 years of marriage I have never once needed to ask you to put the seat down.'

Why is harder to find the positive than the negative.  Are we afraid of being seen as boastful or showing off?  Why is there such a culture of complaint and self-deprecation?

'Generous', I said, knowing that I had finally opened the floodgates.  'She will give you the only pink Smartie even though pink is her absolute favourite colour in the whole world. She will give it to you because she loves you and wants to share her favourite things with you.'

Quick to learn.

The list went on. We ran out of space.

She's awesome.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Will My Children Thank Me?

For almost four years now I have been writing stories about my experiences being a Mum and sending them across the globe to family and friends.  More recently I have begun posting these, and other episodes to this blog, for the reading pleasure of anyone and everyone who stop by on their virtual wanderings.

I have had some pretty good feedback and I get a lot of joy from my ramblings, but I suppose the real question is: will my kids thank me for splashing their young lives across the globe?

Things are so different from when I was a child, all those 30 odd years ago.  If my parents wanted to share news with people they would have to handwrite a letter and print an entire film of photos hoping for at least one good one to include in the envelope.  This would then need to be posted the old fashioned way, with a stamp and a red letterbox. 

If they really felt the need to humiliate me with an embarrassing story or show people a picture of me with my finger up my nose or my nappy falling down, it would have taken considerable effort on their part to do this on any large scale.  My point being, my embarrassment would have been localised and contained.

These days, it takes 10 seconds to take 10 decent pictures on a digital camera, and another 10 seconds to upload it to the net and share it with 10 million people on Facebook.   No two week wait for the film to be processed. It's instant and irreversible.  And if you want to share a funny story of the time your baby had a massive corn-fuelled poo that exploded all over the cot, it's easy done, with minimal effort and maximum audience.

In the 'olden days', parents needed to wait until their child's 18th or 21st birthday party to bring out the embarrassing pictures, the kid in his jocks playing the air guitar, the ubiquitous kids in the bath photo, the little boy covered in make-up and jewellery courtesy of his older sister.  These days, as soon as a child takes their first breath there are photos all over the internet.  I know, because I am guilty of this myself.

Technology has changed the way kids grow up.  Nothing is private anymore.  Sure, I can give my girls funny little nicknames rather than using their real names, but it's kind of obvious who I am talking about.  So what happens when my girls are 13 or 16 or 30 and they discover this ancient blog, or their boyfriend does, or their boss (or their mother-in-law).  What will they think?  Will they be grateful that they can experience the joys of their own childhood again, and read firsthand what it was like for me - their Mum - to watch them as they grew from babies to children to (eventually) women?  Or will they hate me for sharing too much, for not giving them a choice about whether or not they wanted to be made public property.
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...