Formation, Beyonce, and Some Lit-Crit-Lite ;)

Consider this context for next Friday’s post 😀 But also, I do just love the song and the video clip. There’s a lot going on here, and I’ve actually used this several times as a class resource – and if you’re feeling SUPER KEEN, since there’s a weekend coming up and all and you might find yourself with some FREE TIME (whoa no way what even is that?!), I’ve included the worksheet I use for classes below 😀 😀 hehe.

And… Formation Analysis Activities!

In Which A Stranger Makes Me Cry

Sometimes, you just really needed to hear it.

My kids are 5 and 2 right now, and they are both clever little beans, and super active. My son particularly is a little perpetual motion machine, and always has been.* So for the last two years, they’ve been doing swimming lessons as yet-another-way-to-try-to-expend-their-energy-and-keep-them-sufficiently-occupied. Y’all know my schedule tends to be packed so tight I can a) barely breathe and b) never afford catastrophes because they throw MY CAREFUL BALANCE OUT…

…but this is not, actually, a story of something that went wrong. The schedule comment is merely to contextualise, and to note that by the time I hit 6pm on the weekday whereon they have their lesson, I’m frequently a little frazzed. The actual lesson itself is fine (once I get over the almost-requisite being-5-minute-late part), but since I get in the water with the 2-yr-old, it means three swimmer-clad bodies to deal with at 6:30pm when we are all tired, in a crowded public change room where we often have to queue for the kids to use the open showers (though at least this means they don’t need a bath at home, and serves as their weekly hair-wash if I don’t get to it at any other point in the week 😀 😀 #MultiTaskingFTW), and then, because my kids are slooooooooooooooooow and everything is a biiiiiiiiig deeeeeeeeaaaaaaaaal when you are 5 and smart and tired, we usually have to queue for a cubicle so I can also strip off and change while they change, and look, it’s not a problem because we’ve been doing it for 2 years and have our routine down to a fine art (requisite tears x 2 + 2 x optional bonus rounds of tears included**), and it works, and I wouldn’t not do it because they both LOVE swimming (baby especially, who’s been swimming since 14 weeks*** o.O) and they need to learn to swim (this is such a compulsory Australian skill that most primary schools include a course of swimming in their sports curriculum each year), but it’s… a juggle. You know. I don’t mind it, it’s definitely not horrible, but it’s not the most relaxing 25 minutes of my weekly life.

So this week, I was going through all these motions as usual, had queued for a cubicle, and was just ducking in, and another mother came up to me.

I’ll admit, my heart sank a little, because the last time this happened it was a mother very politely and with much embarrassment on her part informing me that my son had been pushing her son into the pool >.<

But this lovely woman, looking – let’s admit – not a whole lot less frazzled than I, leans in close, and goes:

I just wanted to say, I think you do an amazing job.

I blinked, stunned, managed to beam and thank her appropriately, locked myself in my cubicle, put the baby on the fold-down table and instructed my son to set up under it, as usual, and promptly burst into tears.

I hadn’t been feeling especially frazzled this week, not compared to some weeks. And I hadn’t had a bad day at work, and I wasn’t feeling like I was teetering on the edge of sanity like I sometimes am. But I had managed to accidentally hurt Mr 5’s arm as I directed him out of the showering area, and the general frustrations of trying to wash, dry and dress two baby octopuses with Strong Opinions and Independences of their own in a crowded space on a tight schedule is always… well. You know. It is what it is.

And so even though I hadn’t been going, ‘Man, I could really use some encouragement right now’, apparently I still needed it, and it really hit home, and I am so, so grateful to this woman.

The take-home point is this: Modern Western consumer culture particularly sets us up to be in competition with each other – as men, as women, as non-binaries, as teens, as adults, in the workplace, in comparing homes, in our hobbies, in our social media. People who are united, gracious and forgiving of each other, always striving to encourage and lift each other up – these are not the kind of people who are susceptible to advertising, propaganda, consumerist values that drive corporate business. It’s not in the best interest of the people who currently run our society for us to encourage each other.

But we need it. Oh, how we need it. For the sake of our self esteem, our sanity – and, simply, our humanity.

So do something rebellious with your life: Become an encourager.

I bet you’ll be amazing at it <3 <3 <3

 

 

* Like, always. He nearly cracked one of my ribs in utero o.O

** One from Mr 5 at some point because he wasn’t listening to what he was supposed to be doing and got hurt (slipped on the wet floor, bumped his head, got soap in his eyes, take your pick), one from the baby when I wash her hair, and optionally up to another one round each while actually in the change cubicle because Tired and Wet and Getting Changed Is Hard).

*** Initially as a) something to do while Mr then-3 began lessons and b) as a bonding activity with my sister, who was also on maternity leave at the same time 🙂

Practising In Public, Or, I Have A Book Coming Out in May :3

Years ago, I read an article that prompted somewhat of an epiphany. This is not, in and of itself, a noteworthy event, as this is something that happens with rather astounding regularity in my life. I guess when you read a lot, and when you read widely, this kind of thing is also just called ‘Learning More Stuff’. Yay learning! Yay stuff!

But anyway, this particular article (which I’m sure I linked to at the time but can’t for the life of me find on the blog at present*) was about a distinguishing factor between writing and a lot of other art-forms: namely that in many art-forms, practising in public is not only permissible, it’s actively encouraged. Painting pictures? You don’t have to be a painterly genius for the school to let you exhibit your work. Learning an instrument? Recitals are generally actively required, whether you sound like you’re strangling a cat with tomato sauce or not. Writing? …Yeah, probably just better put that notebook down and not show anyone your writing until you’re *good*, okay, honey? There’s a lovely sane writer person. *pat pat*.

The article, and subsequently I, took umbrage with this notion. Why NOT practise in public? Look at The Martian, for example. It’s arguable but also pretty intuitively obvious that the book only ever became as great as it did because the author took a risk and practised in public, garnering assistance and feedback along the way that made the book what it was.

Look. I don’t want to get too hung up on this idea; I just wanted to note that you know what, writers? Sometimes it’s okay for us to share stuff with The Reading Public that we know has flaws.*****

Segue. In 2010, I wrote a book. It was a book-of-the-heart, the first book I wrote straight through without blood, sweat or tears, and it was magical, and elating, and glorious. It was a book, actually, for my sister, not because the plot mirrors her life or anything (and even less so now than in that first draft) but because, at the time, it felt important that I could give her the gift of happy escapism for a while–and it dovetailed nicely with a fragment of an idea I’d had rolling around in my head for a while.

Segue. It’s 2017. This book has gone through about 7 drafts, at least 4 of those with relatively major changes, though it’s not like it was ever gutted and torn up for parts like some of my other novels. The resultant story is still largely the same shape as the original, just better. More book shaped, less like a whimsical object from my head.

Segue. It’s still 2017, and I have an emotional collapse on Twitter at a bunch of my writing friends. The Twinny One immediately gets onto Skype; she understands what the problem is in a way that’s hard for me to articulate on Twitter, and also in a way that’s hard to articulate on Twitter, she knows the solution. It’s the goalpost, she says.

See, seven years is Quite A Long Time to work on a book, really. Especially when your goal is to make some kind of living out of this. And over those years, numerous times, people have told me (kindly, for my own sanity’s sake) to put Sanctuary down, to shelve it, to walk away.

I don’t walk away from books. I’m terminally incapable. So being told to abandon this one is heart-wrenching, and I’m scared I’ll never finish it, and I’m scared I’ll be forced by time or people or circumstance to abandon it, and secretly I’m just plain old scared that I’ll never be good enough to edit a book to The End. Editing, y’all, is HARD, HARD WORK. Taking this story, this image, this idea that you have in your head and translating it into something that not only makes sense but is just as compelling for others as it is for you? HARD.

But for the first time, Liana puts it in words that seep into my head. It’s not that I’ve changed as a writer in those seven years, though it’s also that, and I most certainly have, in leaps and glorious bounds (though some days I still stumble and crawl). It’s not, as I heard this to mean, that I could do better, that I could write better than this, that I need to be constantly revisiting Sanctuary to update it with the new skills I’ve learned.

It’s the opposite. It’s not that I’ve changed as a writer so much as that I keep moving the goalpost. Of course the book will never be DONE if I keep applying new criteria to it; no book I ever write will be done if I work like that.

There are still some flaws in this book. I know they’re there, but fixing them would mean gutting the book and starting over, and I don’t have it in me to do that yet. Maybe one day I would, but I’m faced with a choice: I can let the book go, or I can hold onto it for another seven years, picking and prodding and angsting and hoping to someday get it ‘right’. I need to let it go. But letting go doesn’t have to mean shelving it. It can also just mean at last, finally, calling it done.

Practising in public, you see.

So here it is: my glorious piece of imperfection, a tiny part of my soul carved into words and made flesh of its own. I’m calling it done, I’m writing The End, and I’m turning it over to you, my wonderful, wonderful reader. I hope you’ll love it. But if you don’t, that’s okay; I’m practising in public, and I’ve done what I needed to do. Finally, I’m letting this glorious beast go.

A teal book cover with light exploding from the centre of it. Shadowed butterflies fly out and up from the light, and the title, Where Shadows Rise, overlays the image in a serif font with decorative curly elements. It's pretty. Very, very pretty.
Where Shadows Rise
Sanctuary Book 1
Coming May 24, 2017
Amazon | B&N | Kobo | iBooks | and more 🙂
(print and ebook)
(yay)
(isn’t the cover *astounding*?)


The fairies have a secret they’re just dying to protect…

Emma knows breaking the rules can get you into trouble; it nearly got her sister killed. That’s why Emma’s stuck in backwater Nowra, Australia, under temporary witness protection with no friends—and no life.

So when Emma has to break the rules to retrieve the runaway family dog, she decides the fairy she sees is clearly a guilt-induced hallucination. Problem is, hallucinations don’t usually send you invites to Fairyland—and shadows don’t usually chase you home.

It would be easy to ignore the invite.
It would be sensible to avoid the shadows.

But when Emma’s only new friend is snatched by the shadows in the middle of the night, Emma knows she has a decision to make: stick to the rules and leave her friend and dog to die, or risk her own life to save them.

CHAPTER ONE

THE DOORBELL RANG. That doesn’t sound exciting in and of itself, but let me assure you: it was the most heart-pounding thing to happen all week. It was my birthday, I was home alone, and because of the stupid witness protection business, I’d been stuck in the house all summer. I hadn’t even been allowed out to see friends, because we’d arrived in town at the end of last year with only three school weeks to go—so I didn’t have any friends.

Well. I had friends, but they were back in Melbourne, and I wasn’t allowed to contact them for fear someone would track down our new location. Lucky me.

Anyway, it was my birthday, I was alone because Mum and Dad had gone to do something regarding birthday surprises and Anna had inexplicably chosen to go with them, and the doorbell had just rung. I stared at the closed door, heart pounding, while our chocolate Labrador, Veve, tried to chew it down. Was I going to open it?

Of course I was going to open it. The chances of it being a mobster were slim to none; for starters, a mobster wouldn’t have rung the bell.

 

A teal book cover with light exploding from the centre of it. Shadowed butterflies fly out and up from the light, and the title, Where Shadows Rise, overlays the image in a serif font with decorative curly elements. It's pretty. Very, very pretty.
Where Shadows Rise
Sanctuary Book 1
Coming May 24, 2017
Amazon | B&N | Kobo | iBooks | and more 🙂

 

* Granted it is 10pm on Sunday night and I just spent 10.5 hours of my day marking things and my brain is leaking somehow out my ears and it’s goo, all goo, everything is goooooooo.**

** The number of times I mistyped ‘good’ for ‘goo’ just then is shameful. And probably indicative of my Tired. And possibly indicative of my subconscious’s determination to be optimistic? Sure, let’s run with that.***

*** Better than running with scissors.****

**** Imma get back to the main article in a second, I SWEAR. Any second now. Aaaaaany second…….

***** Of course, just as the right to voice your opinion does not include the right to be taken seriously, so too practising in public does not shield you from having substandard work received as such. I don’t advise this course of action unless you have a thick skin, or aim to develop one.

I’m Never Allowed To Make Mistakes (Also, A Free Short Story)

Darkness & Good button with red text on a white background, with shadowed, dark grey leaves in the background. The leaves have red ribs and stems. Link goes to http://darknessandgood.blogspot.com. I was trying to think of a story for the Darkness & Good blog the other day, because it’s my turn to post this week, and me and short story ideas are kind of hit and miss sometimes (AH HA HA ALL THE TIME HA HA SOMETIMES HA), and first of all, I ACTUALLY THOUGHT OF A STORY RIGHT WHEN I NEEDED ONE AMEN HALLELUJAH, and second of all, in doing so I had a bit of a revelation about myself. The story starts with the protagonist making a stupid mistake that they really should have known better than to make, and it puts their life in danger. Usually in my stories what happens next is sudden, inescapable DEATH.

But this time, I realised that that’s how the story would usually go, and it made me realise something else: I’m really not good at giving myself permission to make mistakes. Like, really not good. I’m better than I used to be, and I know enough now to recognise when I’m beating myself up over something I shouldn’t be and to take steps to stop that, but yeah. I still have this subconscious expectation that I really should be superwoman. Making mistakes when I didn’t know what was going on or what was happening? Yeah, okay, that sucks, but it happens. Making mistakes when I really should have known better? That is pretty much unforgiveable.

Except, it shouldn’t be. I’m human. I’m not *actually* any better than anyone else, and I’ve spent a lot of time trying to retrain damaging perfectionist tendencies. I’m learning where the boundaries are between ‘good enough’ and ‘killing myself with perfect’, and I’m getting better at realising innately what my mum taught me while I was first married and studying at uni: I only have 100% of myself to give, and the more things I spread that between, the less I have to devote to each thing. I can’t expect to achieve 100% in fifty-million things, because that’s fifty-million-hundred percent, and ain’t nobody got time for that.

But. My fiction, apparently, still keeps telling me otherwise. I still keep writing stories where stupid mistakes cost people their lives, out of this perverse and totally subconscious belief that I’m not allowed to make stupid mistakes, that I’m better than that, that doing so is a failing on my part.

So this time, I let the protagonist win. This time, she got hit by a mistake, and came back up swinging, learned from her mistake and triumphed in the end. Because let’s face it, that’s what I do in life. You make a mistake, and you’re allowed to beat yourself for a minute or two, but then you have to figure out what you did wrong, what you’re going to fix the situation, and how to avoid making the same mistake again. Sometimes that actually means remembering to not over-commit yourself, or making sure you protect your sleep so you’re not walking about like the zombified dead–shockingly enough, sleep deprivation is not conducive to avoiding mistakes!!!!!!

If you’re interested, you can read my short story over on the Darkness & Good blog right here. But either way, leave a comment and let me know: Do you get frustrated when you make mistakes too? How do you cope with residual perfectionism, if so?