Tomorrow night is the pre-Halloween launch of ‘Baby Teeth – Bite-sized Tales of Terror.’ My first published short story, ‘Dad’s Wisdom,’ is in this anthology!
Baby Teeth is an odd concept. Inspired by the creepy things that kids say, these horror stories are raising funds for children’s literacy in New Zealand, via Duffy Books in Homes. What a great way for writers to raise funds for children! When I heard about the charity aspect, I wanted to be involved. Two years ago, I organized a project to help children’s literacy in Fiji, so this was a cause close to my heart.
Before submitting, I read some of these stories and was so creeped out that I nearly decided not to submit! Some of the Baby Teeth authors have been doing horror for years and do it very well! However a story about a little boy having fun with a monster caught my eye. It was creepy but really funny. Voila! I had my inspiration. Thank you Paul Mannering for showing me that horror can be hilarious!
Mine is a quirky, humorous tale about a boy who finds a dragon under his bed and goes to Dad for advice – with unexpected results! I’ll be reading ‘Dad’s Wisdom’ tomorrow night. Paul Mannering will be reading the tale that inspired me to write about creepy things kids do to raise money for kids’ literacy.
New Zealand press have been intrigued about this odd collection of stories helping kiwi kids so I was able to place four articles in these newspapers. The Dominion Post (national NZ newspaper) ran this feature today The Wellingtonian ran this article. The Hutt News ran this story. Cook Strait News published the article below .
We try balancing writing and family, but sometimes life just happens! Our family has been extremely busy in the last few weeks. We had a TV crew filming my husband (see my last post about KurtX on New Zealand’s Got Talent) a massive plumbing leak, and lots of kids’ activities. With four kids, we’re always busy. Among all that, I had set myself some writing goals that challenged and extended me.
With a week’s notice, TV said they were coming to film KurtX at home! I decided to do a little spring clean (can you hear my family rolling their eyes?) Then two days before the TV crew arrived, a pipe burst! Yep, a plumbing leak! TV were coming with soggy, stinking carpet, 5 holes in the wet wall downstairs and two more in the ceiling.
When the TV crew turned up, there were 4 large industrial fans running and an enormous dehumidifier humming away in the background. One of the fans was in our #HarmonicaHero’s sound studio. Of course we had to turn them off to film, but the carpet was still emitting a pungent aroma, reminiscent of wet dog! Luckily it was only television, not smellavison, so we avoided the soggy areas and the holes in the wall, and kept smiling.
My kids, especially the two youngest, thought the fans were a blast. Here’s a video of them having a ball – at the expense of the poor plumbing, battered walls, and sad carpet! My kids showed me that whatever mess life throws us, we should still have fun. I learned from their sense of hilarity and adventure. Aren’t kids great?
Note for Health and Safety Officers: By the time the kids were allowed downstairs by the fans, the TV cameras were long gone and the carpet was nearly dry!
What has this to do with balancing writing and family? Despite TV, leaks and mad, slapdash family life, I’ve had a productive time, writing-wise. For me, the best way of balancing writing and family, no matter what is going on, is to:
take time to exercise, preferably in fresh air (in windy Wellington the air is always fresh!)
spend time with my kids and husband
see a friend occasionally (often to exercise)
do something writing-related most days
have a day off from writing occasionally
set writing goals to focus me.
Setting goals for writing helps me in balancing writing and family life. My goals need to be challenging enough to keep me motivated, but not unachievable. In one of my former lives, I was a performance measurement consultant for a large IT business, so my old habit of utilising SMART goals, is automatic. SMART goals are:
So what goals have I achieved since last blogging? And why haven’t I blogged for so long? Whathave I been doing?
Firstly, when I set up my blog, I decided not to commit to blogging weekly. I didn’t want my blog to take away my precious writing time. So I’ll blog when I have something cool to share.
I’ve sent out my writing newsletter, Write On!, each week. (Sign up in the blue and yellow box if you’d like to receive it.)
Completed revising a novel and submitted it.
Completed three short stories.
Finished a children’s picture book and submitted it.
Done some more work on my paranormal romance novel (sizzle, sizzle)
Plotted an adventure chapter book for 8-12 year-old children.
But I haven’t blogged. Although I’ve written about 6 blog posts in my head. I had a brilliant post planned about a porcupine we saw attacking a bunch of meerkats at the zoo. We caught the prickly dude on camera. But when we searched for the video, someone had deleted it. So that blog post wont eventuate! (Sigh!)
The key to balancing writing and family is ensuring you write often. I have a friend who has a half-hour commute on a ferry across Auckland harbour each morning and evening. That’s his writing time. He uses it EVERYday. That’s the only time he gets. The rest of his life is for work and his wife & kids.
I was speaking to another writer recently who said she only has a two hour block every Sunday and can’t find any other time. I wrote my first novel by becoming a time-thief, stealing minutes everywhere. So I encouraged her to find a small ten-minute slot each day to churn out a few words.
“Ten minutes?” Her face lit up. “I can do that, even if it’s during my lunch hour, or on the bus.”
So soggy carpets aside, one of the best ways of balancing writing and family is to make sure we write! A novel grows a word at a time. If there are no words, there is no novel. How do we carve time out from our lives to write?
Set manageable goals with time-frames.
Monitor your progress.
Do something small every day. Or five days a week. Or every Saturday. Squeeze it in when you can.
Creative activity makes us feel great. Doing a little in regular bursts sustains that feeling!
Start with EASY goals.
If you don’t achieve them, don’t beat yourself up, they’re there to motivate you, not weigh you down!
Count your successes! I keep an excel sheet of all my milestones and writing activity, so I can see what I’ve done!
Celebrate milestones with your friends and family! Keeping them involved in your successes motivates them to encourage you to write.
Soggy carpets, TV crews, kids leaping in fans, and family commitments non-withstanding, I hope you find some time to write and to enjoy life with those you love most.
Author-illustrator Ruth Paul taught a children’s picture book workshop at The Children’s Bookshop in Wellington last weekend. I was excited to attend because she’s one of my youngest daughter’s favourite authors and is an inspiring speaker
Ruth entertained over 25 participants with advice about writing, illustrating and publishing picture books in New Zealand and for the international market. Here are some of her tips:
Immerse yourself in current picture books and notice the latest styles, language, themes and content.
Ruth said the biggest rule is: There are NO rules! Someone will have broken all of these rules and been successful! Having said that, Ruth mentioned several ‘NO’s when writing picture books:
NO author intrusion
The images need to do the talking and often tell a second story. If we don’t obey the above rules, the text is not tight enough to sustain children’s interest or doesn’t give the illustrator enough freedom to insert their own sub-story into the pictures.
To rhyme or not to rhyme? Non-rhyming picture books are much easier to write, and to translate for foreign markets. If you insist on rhyming, Ruth gave some great guidelines to follow:
Rhyme needs a strong, consistent structure
Don’t let the rhyme dictate the story
The rhyme must be the servant of the story, a musical tool which enhances the story
Use vocabulary that empowers parents as they read to their children
Only break out of the rhythm if has been established well.
Your nonsense MUST make sense.
I’m not an illustrator, so I can’t wear that hat, but it was interesting to note that Ruth encouraged tight text from writers and loose initial illustrations from artists.
Ruth’s workshop was jam-packed with information, personal anecdotes, and practical advice about how to go about creating a children’s picture book. Both authors and illustrators attended and we had a lot of fun. She gave us homework to hone our editing and story-tightening skills, and handouts that will help us enhance our next picture books. Thumbs up for Ruth Paul – she’s dynamic, vivacious and motivating. I hope those of you that live in Wellington have a chance to attend one of her classes (see below).
Ruth has been writing and illustrating picture books for ten years. Her stories are lively and full of fun. My kids LOVE them. Check out Ruth’s website here.
Thanks to John & Ruth McIntyre of The Children’s Bookshop for creating this opportunity to learn.The writers and artists that attended enjoyed Ruth Paul’s workshop immensely and learned a lot. John and Ruth play a huge role in mentoring local talent. If you’d like to attend their next children’s picture book workshop with Ruth Paul on 13 October 2013, please email email@example.com
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The New Zealand National Science Fiction and Fantasy Convention – Au Contraire – took place in Wellington 12-14 July with 200 Sci-fi and fantasy buffs attending. Although I’m not in this photo of the new and old SpecFicNZ committee, my claim to fame is that I took it!
It was amazing to meet many of the NZ authors that I had only seen online. And to meet those who organised the contests that I recently won! Au Contraire was an amazing event, full of education, fun, and frivolity! There were book launches, panels with well-known writers giving us their versions of reality, plenty of opportunities for mingling and 200 people to talk to! If you know me well, you’ll be laughing – 200 people to talk to? I was in my element!
What were my highlights?
Meeting Grace Bridges, the President of SpecFicNZ and owner of Splashdown Books, who gave me a fantastic critique as part of my SpecFicNZ Going Global 1st place prize.
Going out to dinner with the Guest of Honour, Jennifer Fallon, who discussed her new self-publishing ventures with me for three hours – yes 180 minutes! And every minute was great! A fun and informative class on psychology of our friends and family, um, I mean characters, taken by the hilarious team Beaulagh Pragg and Darian Smith.
A flash fiction workshop by Guest of Honour Phillip Mann. Believe it or not, I never spoke once. I’d signed up late and was only there as an observer! So observe I did, and heard some great flash pieces from NZ authors.
Meeting Phoenix Writer’s Group members whom I had emailed many times – Alicia Ponder, Lorraine Williams, Rob Campbell, and Lynette Howell.
To cap off the weekend, the Sir Julius Vogel Awards were presented to the best writers in many categories and genres. See the winners here. It was great to make so many meaningful connections with writers. Au Contraire has given me many new writing opportunities – some which I’ll mention soon! Watch this space!