I’m (so not) A Morning Person

I am really, really, REALLY not a morning person. My tutor group/roll call/whatever you call it when you just get together for 15 mins to make announcements and mark the roll at the beginning of the school day students when I first started teaching knew that it was their job to watch me wake up in the mornings: tutor group was 8:50 – 9:10, and as the clock ticked over to 9, BING, all of a sudden I became human and functional. Ask me tough questions before 9am, and you’ll get puzzled confusion 9/10. I’m better at mornings now that two young kids have deprived me of sleep for collectively seven years of my life, but yeah, still not a morning person. Not at all. Not even kind of sort of remotely. Early mornings fill me with either rage or tears or both.

Last year, I had co-curricular duties at school from 7:30-8:30am every Wednesday. I’m sure I don’t need to tell you how stupendously horrifying this situation was for me πŸ˜€ And to top it off, this was my co-curricular partner*:

* Who, let it be said, was a Really Nice Person, so I’ll forgive them πŸ˜‰ πŸ˜€

Let me know in the comments – are you an early bird or a night owl, and how do you cope with being made to do the opposite??

When My Subconscious Hates Me, It Throws Me Spiders

cuteTrue story. I woke up from a nap this afternoon stressed and tensed and icky, because although the nap itself had been good and useful, the last however-long-we-dream-for-before-we-wake-up had been plagued by nightmares. Not the sensible kind, but the awful, uneasy, terrifying kind that your subconscious dishes up to you when it’s really freaking out. Oh, there were a few run-of-the-mill nightmares in there too, about realising I was late for work, or that it was a day later than I thought it was and I’d already survived the first day back at work and was stressing for no reason, which made me stress more. But on the whole, subconscious terrors, which in Amy-land means one thing, and one thing only: spiders.

In waking life, I’m not the biggest fangirl of spiders, but I’m also not really afraid of them. Wary, yes. Afraid, no. And if they’re Known Persons — i.e. I can identify the species and know they’re not venomous — then we can happily coexist. Or at least, I’ll make the effort to relocate them to the backyard. Unless they’re on the baby’s play mat. Then, sorry spider, but SQUISH. It’s not you, it’s me.

But when I’m stressed, SPIDERS. Masses and masses of them. The more stressed I am, the more spiders there are. The worst ones (if spiders make you ick, don’t read this next bit) take place in an old abandoned greenhouse or similar, where the walls and roofs are cobwebbed over and you can’t move without some sort of spider getting under foot, on your arms, on your legs, on your shoulders, down your back, in your hair, ON YOUR FACE….. *sobs*

So anyway. Nightmares. I had them. I go back to work tomorrow for the first time since April, and unlike Baby 1 (who is now nearly 4, what the even) where I had postnatal depression, this stint of mat leave has been AMAZING. I don’t want to go back to work. I don’t want the baby to go to daycare. It’s going to be fine, and it’s all entirely necessary, but that’s logic me. Emotive me, on the other hand…. And so my subconscious is handing me spiders.

Someone, please send the Raid. Insomnia is bad enough, without spider nightmare plaguing the sleep I /do/ get. πŸ˜›

<3
A

Stop! Hold everything!

Just officially noting that blogging is temporarily on hold due to the following:

Small People Mum & Bub 20150601_082230

Happy upcoming solstice, end of financial year, and whatever else there is to celebrate. I’ll be back at some point, although we are also moving house in 6 weeks, so life is rather chaotic. In the meantime, be good, have fun, and go read all the free stories up on the Darkness & Good site πŸ˜‰ Rah *\o/*

Behold, MacDeath!

From classes last week, introducing students to the plot of Macbeth. Clearly I should give up my day job & become a cartooning genius O:)

Edited to Add: I have no idea why the images keep coming out sideways. They are fine when I import them, but then when I stick them in the post they go sideways and I can’t rotate them. Grrrr. Sorry. <3

photo 1

photo 2

 

photo 3

Be An Inky Awards Judge!

In recognition of the fact that there are potentially a decent handful of teens who occasionally peruse this blog, if you are Australian an aged 12 – 20, and have time to read 20 books in 3 months, you should totally consider applying to be an Inky Awards judge this year! The judging period begins in May, applications to be a judge are open now, and you can find all the details on how to apply right here.

Happy reading! :o)

Things I Really Need To Bake

Blame it on pregnancy cravings, or the fact that I’ve been too sick to do much cooking in the last 5 months, or a stress-induced desire for comfort food, or the search for procrastination, or anything else you like, but the fact of the matter is the last few weeks have been one giant, continuing saga of OHMYGOSH THIS THING I MUST BAKE.

Obviously, the whole being-sick-and-exhausted-because-growing-new-minion thing has put a damper on my abilities to actually DO any of this cooking, and the list of things I desire to make is growing to such proportions that I’m going to start forgetting things if I don’t write them down soon. Which, on the one hand, so what, but on the other: LIST-MAKING EXCUSE FOR THE WIN!! I love me a good list after all. And because I’m a) a sharing-and-caring kind of person, and b) am attempting to post more regularly on The Blog, you get to share the list too. Ha.

If you do end up making anything off the list, I’d love to know how it goes πŸ™‚ But without further ado:

Amy’s List Of Things I Really Need To Bake

1) A really good Laos curry. Or Thai, at a pinch. But it has to be GOOD. After visiting Laos/Thailand with school in 2013, I’ve fallen in love with good, proper, authentic southeast Asian cooking, but my tolerance for mediocrity in this food genre is low, and finding the good stuff near where I live seems nigh impossible. So: I need to learn to cook it myself.

2) Good spring rolls. Ditto the above.

3) Sweet potato and feta frittata, which I used to make all the time and is the best lunch snack ever, but which I literally have not made in yeeeeears.

4) Cream potato bake, which is in the same category as (3) but is also, like, the ultimate comfort food. (I mean c’mon, it’s potatoes, cream and cheese with a bit of spice. How is this NOT the ultimate comfort food?)

5) Chocolate peppermint creams, because Mint Slices are my favourite biscuits* in the whole entire world, so a homemade version? OM NOM NOM.

* Cookies, for those from America πŸ˜‰

6) Blood orange oil brownies, because Liana Brooks kept mentioning them on twitter πŸ˜›

7) Scones, preferably of the pumpkin or cheese variety. Maybe these ones from Smitten Kitchen (which, yes, American terminology says biscuits :P).

8) Jam doughnuts, preferably these ones.

9) Homemade ice cream. Any variety, I’m not too fussed. The only thing holding me off here is a present lack of freezer space.

10) Bread rolls, or scrolls, or a pull-apart, or all of the above. Just, fresh, homemade, devourable bread.

And in addition to all that, at some point this week or next I need to do a practice cake. Little sister’s birthday is coming up and she has requested a pear and white chocolate mud cake, for which recipes apparently don’t exist πŸ˜› Which is fine, I like making up my own just fine, but given it’s a Big Birthday I do need to do a test run first. In terrible news, it will also necessitate making a batch of salted caramel buttercream, which OH NOES WORLD IS ENDING, clearly, because you guys? The caramel recipe I use seriously tastes like the inside of Fantales lollies, for those of you who’ve ever eaten such things. It is glorious; truly, truly glorious.

So. That’s my to-bake list. If I can summon up some energy at some point, I’ll make said items and post pictures and recipes and trivia when I do. But for now, I’m going to go find something quick and easy to eat for lunch, before my blood sugar levels drop to zero πŸ˜› πŸ˜€

~Amy

Okay, I’m Back.

Although those of you who’ve been reading for any length of time know that my version of ‘back’ is always a little sporadic and unpredictable at the best of times: let’s face it: I’m not great at regular blogging. That’s going to apply doubly this year, because – and although this has hit social media, I’m pretty sure I haven’t posted here – Minion #2 is due at the end of May, and in true Minion style this one’s been keeping me pukingly sick pretty much the entire flopping time. RAH.

Also, for those who care about such things, SmallBoy will be three and a bit when SmallGirl arrives; yes, this minion is female. Woot.

Right. On to more writingish things. I know it’s a month past time when people usually do their annual recaps and set their new goals for the year, but a) better late than never, b) I am ALWAYS late (despite my best intentions), and c) I actually had to wait for a few pieces of writing-related data to filter back in after Christmas/New Year before figuring out what I was doing this year.

2014

2014 was a chaotic year in many regards for my family, but writing-wise, it was the year of #FGU, more properly known as From The Ground Up. This is my non-fic book on worldbuilding for writers that will be coming out some time in the second half of this year – I’m working on edits at the moment, rah.

It was also the year wherein I co-opted the Twinny One,* Liana Brooks, into starting the Darkness&Good blog with me, whereon we post short, totally unedited stories somewhere between once a week and once a month, although we got better with that towards the end of the year πŸ˜›

Finally, 2014 was notable for me because Liana and I officially started using our self-pub imprint, Inkprint Press. Hurrah! Under this label in 2014, I launched my short story collection Cherry Blossom and Other Stories, my book of (church) plays Where Your Treasure Is, and the print edition of The 33 Worst Mistakes Writers Make About Dogs. Much excitement indeed.

Some quick overall stats:

  • Words edited: about 266,000
  • Words written: about 90,000
  • Words rewritten from scratch: about 8,000

Which means, I think, that if I was really rigorous about counting up every single word I wrote this year, I probably just cracked the 100k mark. Which is actually way better than I would have expected – I feel like 2014 was a pretty slow year for writing, but it turns out it was significantly better than 2012 or 2013! So that’s cool.

* She’s totally my twin. Just separated by the Pacific Ocean, about three years, and totally different sets of genetics. But, y’know. TWIN.Β 

2015

Where to from here, that’s the question. Now that I have all my data points, it looks like this year is going to be another ‘light’ year for writing. I had postnatal depression after SmallBoy and although I think I’m in a better place mentally with SmallGirl than I was at this point with SmallBoy, I absolutely can’t guarantee that I won’t get it again – and as anyone who’s experienced any kind of depression knows, it kind of puts a damper on creativity. On top of that, I have FGU due in and a much fuller workload this year than I’ve had before. So I have to plan for multiple small achievements, rather than any large ones this year.

Things I really plan to do:

  • Get FGU done and in on time so it can release on schedule in the second half of the year. My first book launch with a real publisher, you guys! So much excite.
  • Write enough short stories to stick to my once-a-fortnight schedule at Darkness&Good. I have the first quarter of the year scheduled already, so I need another 15 stories to make this happen.

Things I’d really, really LIKE to get done:

  • Liana has an awesome choose-your-own-adventure sfr novella ready to be published under our Inkprint Press umbrella – once I’ve done the editing.
  • Marked, my tiger novella from fifty million years ago, is in advanced editing stages. I’d love to pick this up again and finish it off so it too can be released.
  • I have a choose-your-own-adventure sfr novella of my own that’s about half done; top of the list for completion and eventual release.
  • Aphelion, another sfr novella (although NOT choose-your-own-adventure) is also half written, and even has a pretty cover ready to go.
  • Finally, Liana and I are tossing around the idea of a Darkness&Good 2014 anthology. There’s at least 45k of fiction there, the length of a decent novella or a short novel, and it’d be fun to do a print edition to sit on my shelf – after editing the stories first, of course πŸ˜‰

So. Nothing long and novelly, unfortunately, but if I can manage it Inkprint Press will see a decent number of new releases this year, so you’ll be well stocked on things to read – and hopefully, for the first time ever, you’ll get to read something of mine longer than a short story! πŸ˜‰

I think that’s all from me for now. What about you guys? What are you up to in 2015?

 

~Amy

Are We Self-Censoring Our Way To Dystopia?

So, this is a lesson I conducted for my seniors literally just now, and it was awesome and thinky and I wanted to share πŸ™‚ We are studying the novel Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury, and in that context we are looking at the idea of censorship. You don’t have to have read the novel to get the below; the first video gives a nice summary of the high points, though the presenter speaks very fast, so I recommend doing what I did with the class and watching it twice if you’re not familiar with the novel.

Essentially the point is this: In the novel, books are banned, to the point where firemen no longer put out fires, they start them – for the sole and exclusive purpose of burning books, and sometimes the houses wherein they are contained, and sometimes the people who refuse to leave them to burn alone. Instead of books, people ‘connect’ via wall-sized screens, spending their days watching glorified soaps – alone or with others, it doesn’t really seem to make much of a difference. Much is made, in the novel, of the fact that the government enforces this regime for its own benefit – but the line that slips by at the time, only to stick in your mind and later bring everything into startling clarity, is this:

β€œIt didn’t come from the Government down. There was no dictum, no declaration, no censorship, to start with, no! Technology, mass exploitation, and minority pressure carried the trick, thank God.”

The censorship started with the people. They literally censored themselves stupid. And I wonder – and many other wonder… Are we doing the same thing right now?

You Kids Are So 2014.

Watch The Truman Show with my year 9 class this week, and for the most part, we had a blast. There were the fairly predicable groans of ‘We don’t understand what’s going on!’ for the first half, but I just keep reminding them to wait and see, and to trust the story. When the Big Reveal came, they were all like OHMYGOSHTHATISSOCOOLWAITWUT?!?!?! and it was fairly awesome. I have to say, though, that my absolute FAVOURITE moment of the whole experience was the bell ringing about 10 seconds before he crashes into the sky. Those of you that have seen it will know that that’s a pretty nail-biting, edge-of-your-seat kind of moment, and when I did the maths and figured out that’s when the bell would ring, I was like MOST. EPIC. THING. EVER.

Seriously. It was awesome. I mean, come on: how often do you get an entire roomful of teenagers BEGGING to be allowed to stay back at lunch? Bwa ha ha ha ha.

However, once we’d finished the film the following day, I was struck with a depressing realisation: MAN those kids are 21st century babies.

For those of you that haven’t seen the film, know that it ends rather openly. Does he get the girl? We don’t know. Does he go on to be happy? We don’t know. What takes his place? We don’t know. There’s a whole bunch of ‘don’t know’, and WOW o.O half the class could seriously not cope. They literally spent five minutes whinging about how it didn’t tie anything up, and asking if there was a sequel, and just generally carrying on in a way that made me want to bang my head against the wall.

YOU GUYS, I told them. There isn’t SUPPOSED to be a closed, definitive ending! The open ending allows you to use your imagination, and creates a sense of hope, and opportunities, and the freedom that he’s been searching for, and it’s THEMATIC AND IT WORKS.

They were less than impressed by this, at which point I gave up and started imitating a squawking baby bird. Argh, argh, argh! Feed me! Give me the answers! Don’t make me THINK!

They were amused, but I think I adequately conveyed my point. At least they were able to concede that the open ending serves a purpose. *sigh*

The Pros and Cons of Being An English Teacher

An ex-student asked me about the pros and cons of being an English teacher, as they are considering it as a career path. Basically, this:

Pro: books and DVDs are tax deductible.
Con: You will never have enough time to read/watch them all.
Pro: HOLIDAYS.
Con: Term time.
Pro: HOLIDAYS.
Con: MARKING. Death. Destruction. DIE, MARKING, DIE.
Pro: Feeling like you make a difference.
Con: Feeling like you’re bashing your head against a brick wall.
(The last two occur together surprisingly often.)
Pro: Spending all day with awesome people.
Con: Spending all day with teenaged people.
Pro: Lots of emotional highs.
Con: Lots of emotional lows.
Pro: People who will celebrate your successes.
Con: People you can never reveal your failures to until well after the fact. If you’re having a crappy day, suck it up, sunshine, because you have to put on a happy face anyway.
Pro: You are in almost complete control of your work, almost 100% of the time.
Con: When you have a crappy day, it’s probably your fault, but you’ll never be able to figure out how.
Pro: Period 1.
Con: Period 6.
Pro: Autonomy.
Con: The persistent and lingering sensation that you don’t actually know what you’re doing and the only reason no one’s caught you yet is because you’re twice the age of anyone else in your classroom.
Pro: Constant brain stimulation and learning new things.
Con: Little brain left over for anything else.
Pro: Lots of socialisation.
Con: Little need/desire to socialise outside of school.
Pro: Good preparation for parenthood.
Con: Makes parenthood feel eternal.
Pro: Constant captive audience to perform to.
Con: The days you don’t want to perform.
Pro: Planning good lessons is great stimulation in terms of not just learning content, but problem solving.
Con: The days you have no brain left for problem solving and have to do it anyway (i.e. half of them).
Pro: You can put as much or as little effort into the job as you like.
Con: The workload LITERALLY never stops until you learn to say NO.
And to end:
Partner’s Top Pro: Holidays, especially for holiday care reasons when there are kids on the scene.
Partner’s Top Con: Marking.
Really, if you took away the marking, English teaching could be an ideal job. Alas. Alack. Poor Yorrick. *sigh*.
Any other teachers out there? What would you add to the list of pros and cons?