Saturday, August 27, 2011

Happy birthday 9 year old!

Happy Birthday 9 year old!

You're smart & clever, and crack us up with your jokes and puns.  You may not be the most athletic kid on the block, but you make up for it in grit and determination.  Our life would not be the same without you.

Here's a snapshot of your life at the moment.

Current obsession:  Minecraft, esp playing it online with your little posse of online friends, making videos of it, custom maps etc.

Other interests:  Photography, Dragons martial arts (currently orange belt), AFL (Under 10s), Cubs, Drama, writing stories and archery

Favourite food:  Chicken schnitzel, followed closely by pizza

Current ambition:  To become a games designer, move to Switzerland and work on Minecraft.

Currently reading:  Deltora Quest series

Happy birthday Billy!

Monday, August 22, 2011

Codes and Signals

Billy's cub group have been working on their Codes & Signals badge (among other things) this term. 

They learnt about semaphore (as you can see!), braille, morse code and the phonetic alphabet.  They had to send and decode a message using semaphore, morse code and another code. 

Thursday, August 18, 2011

RWA Conference 2011 - craft

I'm not sure if these notes will make any sense to anyone other than me, but its helped me to revisit them.

Bob Mayer - Write it Forward (formerly Warrior Writer Workshop)

Bob's workshop wasn't craft oriented as such, rather about getting to know ourselves as an author and setting goals for our career.

His "Warrior Writer" steps (very briefly):

What do you want to achieve with your writing?  Why?  Where will sustained change occur?

Understand your own character.  What is change and how do you accomplish it?  How do you build the courage to change?

Communicate your change to the world.  Take command of your change.  Complete the Circle of Success and change.

A few points I jotted down that stood out to me.

* Ask yourself - "I'll do anything to achieve my writing goal, except don't ask me to do...?"
* Focus on what makes you angry or inspired in your workshop - its probably something you need to work on or address
* Record the one thing that motivates you most as a writer
* Can you communicate the "Shiver"?
* Idea is not story.  The idea can't change in what you're writing, but the story can.
* Every scene needs conflict - character vs character.  No scene - no conflict. External & internal conflict.
* How your organise your daily life is how you will organise your book.
* SOP - Defined tasks, written.  Stops you reinventing the wheel.
* Use daily, weekly, monthly checklists to keep you on track.
* A body language course is useful
* Conflict is rooted in different POV
* Change = Moment of Enlightenment -> Make a decision -> Implement -> Sustained Action
* The stages of change (same as grief) - denial, anger, bargaining, depression, acceptance
* The bottom line on 'feeling like a fraud' is to internalize more of your accomplishments.  List them.  You are real.
* Expand your comfort zone by venturing into your courage zone.  (I love this!)

Susan Wiggs - Plotting from the Inside Out

Susan's workshop was about creating a plot without really plotting.

* Character-driven plot - intertwined character / plot
* Take a walk.  Minimise distractions.  Walking rhythm sparks creativity.
* Where is your "white space"?  Your space where you can be alone to think.
* Makes a to-do list before yoga / walking and before bed to help empty her mind.
* Think of an emotion.  Feel it.  Focus on the emotions you are feeling, then combine that with an image.
* Be patient.  Stories come in their own time.
* Create a music playlist for your book.  Have variety.  Different characters will have different songs.
* Make a collage with magazine pictures.  Don't analyse what you are selecting - just feel.  Don't rush it - this is part of building your structure.
* Create a sociogram - write characters name in the middle of your page with spokes out to all the people in their life.
* Create a chart with all of your character names in the book to make sure you don't have character names beginning with the same letter.
* Create a vision of "her world" in words and/or pictures.  Time of year, era, environment.  The more vivid you make the world, the more engaged readers will be.
* Process can take 2-4 weeks.  Be careful it doesn't cross into procrastination though!!!
* Use movie credits, newspapers, articles etc to find names
* Take the character to a point of decision in her life.
* Do freewriting.  1st person, present tense.  Let your character talk to you.  What's on her mind?  What problems does she have?  External & internal.  Keep it to less than 500 words.
* Read self-help books to find an arc of growth for the character.
* Give a reward at the end - the epilogue - the warm fuzzy at the end.
* Can be effective to mirror the opening in the ending.
* When writing a series, create charts / spreadsheets etc to keep track of details about characters - year of birth, births, deaths, marriage, physical characteristics etc
* Susan writes longhand, uses Dragon voice recognition to transcribe.  She keeps her manuscript in the freezer when she leaves the house in case it burns down :)
* Use "Hero with a thousand faces" to describe the hero's journey  12 steps - create events for each step.  Gives you a plot outline.

Julia Hunter - Body Language

* 99% of how we communicate is body language
* How to read body language
  - Read in clusters - some gestures are normal for people, not indicative of anything
  - Does the body language agree with what's being said?
  - Read gestures in context
* Self-touching - nerves
* Body slumping - defeated
* "Steepling" with hands - I'm the boss
* Arms crossed - women - closed off, protecting herself; men - in control, arrogant
* People don't like being pointed at when lecturing
* Palms down - taking authority
* Palms open - believable, trust me
* Mirroring - builds rapport, makes you feel accepted.  We don't subconsciously mirror people we don't like or don't know.
* Move into people's space to force them to open their body language
* - micro facial expressions

Raymond Floro - Staging a Fight Scene

* Think unconventionally for improvised weapons - pens, sock filled with coins, magazine with coins along edge rolled up
* Killing is power / control
* Rape is not sexual but power
* 21ft rule (Tueller's Rule) - the average person with a knife can get to and cut a person before they have time to pull and fire a gun
* Weapons are a great equaliser for size difference
* Pressure points don't work if the person is drugged or heavily intoxicated
* If a major artery is severed (femoral, carotid), lose 1/L of blood/minute.  Loss of 1L - unconscious, 3 L death
* Go for knees / shins to put people down, not chest or head
* Knockout points - anything on bottom half of face (ie nose down) eg jaw, chin etc

Joan Kilby - Writing the Emotional Rollercoaster

* Go deep
eg Level 1 - external conflict.  Heroine loves old buildings and wants the heritage of the old church maintained.  Hero wants to develop it.
Level 2 - Personal investment for character with family connection to church.
Level 3 - Deep internal conflict.  Church is a symbol of the heroine's marriage and love for her dead husband - all women in her family married there.  Its a symbol of their marriage - she can't move on in life.

* Flipside of happiness is fear and vulnerability.  What makes your character happy / what does he want?  Flip it around - what is he afraid of?
* Watch Dr Brene Brown on - lecture on vulnerability
* Show hero's vulnerability but also show his determination to overcome (otherwise he looks like a wimp).  He must be proactive.
* Give your characters a life - use personal objects significant to them to evoke emotion (eg a stuffed toy that the hero gave the heroine as teenagers that she's kept all these years)
* Emotional plotting
  - What are your characters thinking & feeling going into a scene
  - How will this change by the end of the scene?
  - What issues arise that will affect their emotions?
  - Start positive, end negative and vice versa
  - Move the story forward emotionally

* Motivation - Reaction Units
   - Motivation - "I'm pregnant and you're the father."
   - Reaction
       - Feeling - Rafe reeled.
       - Action - He stumbled into the credenza, toppling a pot plant and spilling the dirt.
       - Speech - "You're... what?"
* Beginning a story with a highly-charged emotional scene rarely works because until we get to know the characters, we don't care what happens to them.
* Strong characters push each other's buttons, forcing them to grow.
* Deep down though, they must be soul mates - what need do they fulfil in each other?
* Start slow and build the emotion.
* Don't shy away from strong emotion.
* Margie Lawson - backloading

Lisa Heidke - Sense & Sanity: Living with the First Draft

* Plan your day.
* Watch movies & TV shows that are similar to your genre to recharge / freshen your imagination
* Don't strive for perfection - even if you can only write for fiften minutes, or 500 words, its better than nothing
* Focus on your ultimate goal - the sense of achievement when you've finished your first draft.  A lot of people talk about writing a book.  Few do.  You can be one who actually does.
* Have a writing space to call your own
* Have a set writing time each day / week.
* BALANCE everything in your life - including your writing.  What would my "ideal" day look like?  How would I feel?
* Lightbulb moment - I need ME time as well as writing time.  They shouldn't be the same - I need the me time to recharge / read without guilt
* Set small goals so you don't get overwhelmed
* Hold yourself accountable.
* Stephen King's "On writing" is very motivational when in a slump

RWA Conference 2011 - glitz, glamour and goodies

On Friday night, we got all frocked up for the Roaring Twenties themed cocktail party.  Lots of flapper dresses and gansters, a Charlie Chaplin, and I even saw Minnie & Mickey Mouse, and Popeye and Olive Oyl!  It was a fun night - I pity the staff having to clean up the feathers that were left lying around though :)

Saturday night was the Awards dinner night - again everyone glammed up and headed to the ballroom for dinner and speeches.  It was a bit like the Academy Awards :)

It wasn't all glitz and glamour though - during Sunday we also raised money in collaboration with the Melbourne Fire Brigade for the Otis Foundation - retreats in country Victoria for women suffering from breast cancer.  We held silent auctions and a raffle, and altogether raised over $10,000.  Harlequin then donated another $5,000 for a wonderful total!  I don't think anyone was unmoved who heard the speech by a breast cancer sufferer currently using the services of the Otis Foundation.

Oh, and the goodies!  We were warned to leave room in the suitcase for goodies to take home - I didn't realise how much it would be!  I ended up with about a dozen free books (plus a couple that I bought), plus the free chocolates, bookmarks etc etc.  Fun!

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

RWA Conference 2011 - epiphanies and decisions

I'm back from 3 wonderful days of workshops, panels and socialising at the Romance Writers of Australia 20th Conference in Melbourne.  (Plus an extra day of meetings since I'm now on the executive committee.)

What can I say??!!  It was everything I expected and more.  It was exhausting and exhilerating at the same time.  It was also very noisy when 350 women were together - especially when alcohol was involved :)

It will take me some time to even start to process all of the craft information I learnt, but the immediate benefit for me was the motivation.  It's really sunk in that I need to get serious about this - if I want to get published (and I do - I'm now coveting a blue First Sale ribbon!), I need to start treating it like a job, not a hobby.  I need to write regularly, not wait until I'm in the mood. 

I AM A WRITER (I've practiced saying that thanks to Lisa Heidke's workshop).  If I'm not treating it seriously, why should anyone else?  I need to protect my writing time.

Bob Mayer's full day 'Write it Forward' workshop on the Friday was full of gems.  In fact, it was my first epiphany of the weekend.  He showed a clip of the Johnny Cash movie Walk the Line where Cash is being  auditioned and the agent questions his committment to the song he's singing.  The thing that struck me was the section where the agent essentially said - if you were hit by a bus and you only had time to sing one song, would this be the one you would choose? 

Bob drew the analogy - are you committed to this book?  Is this your passion?  If you only could write one book, would this be it?  You can read more on Bob's take of it here.  Lightbulb moment for me.  No, its not.  I'm trying to write a category romance, and I'm more interested in the relationship between the heroine and her estranged mother.  I much prefer women's fiction for its exploration of family and relationships, as well as a romance. 

So that was easy... But then I couldn't decide whether I should finish the category just for the sake of finishing something, or write what I want to write.  So after lots of soul-searching and sleepless nights (although that was largely the result of the amount of caffeine I was drinking!), I've decided to go back to the women's fiction I started writing 12 months ago.  In actual fact, I think I might even be able to use the character from the sweet in the women's fiction, so best of both worlds :)

The other thing that sticks in my mind was the number of presenters saying it wasn't so much talent that was the important thing - it was perserverance and grit.  Bob Mayer spoke about how grit was the difference between failure and success in many areas of life, I think it was Melanie Milburne (who won the Romantic Book of the Year, Short Sweet category) said that she wasn't so much talented as persistant, and Jane Porter in her closing address spoke about how she wrote, submitted and was rejected for seventeen years before she sold her first book.

I'll probably have far more to say on the conference as I start to catch up on sleep and wrap my head around everything that was said. 

If you went to the conference, was there a 'main thing' you took out of it?

Monday, August 08, 2011

3 more sleeps..

3 more sleeps until we travel to Melbourne for the Romance Writers of Australia 20th Anniversary conference.  4 more sleeps until the conference kicks off. 

To say I'm excited would be an understatement :)

Thursday, August 04, 2011

Ugandan Fundraiser

Last week one of our teenage homeschoolers in the area organised a fundraising day to support Ugandan orphans.

It was a lovely day - the weather decided to co-operate so it could go ahead.

There were stalls selling food (our banana muffins and Anzac biscuits sold out early!), books, clothes, toys and offering fingernail painting:

Activities like running races, egg-and-spoon and 3-legged races:

And a raffle with lots of prizes:

All up over $400 was raised, as well as clothes and goods donated to send over.  Well done Taylah, you should be very proud of yourself!

Wednesday, August 03, 2011

My muse is a contrary beastie..

I had written virtually no new words at all during July.  I procrastinated by rearranging, writing a blurb / synopsis, but would freeze when it came to doing anything on the story itself.

So yesterday morning I gave in and decided I'd put this story aside and go onto something else.  Well, what do you know?  That was obviously all the beastie was waiting for - since then I've written over 2000 words - long hand - on my current work.  The one I was about to abandon.

*sigh*   Looks like I have to use reverse psychology on her...

Monday, August 01, 2011

Out of my comfort zone

Doing the form of martial arts that I'm doing is pushing me so far out of my comfort zone, its not even in the same universe :)

When I did karate before (way before), we focused mainly on 'kata' (patterns) and kicking, punching etc.  We didn't do a lot of contact stuff and when we did, it was mostly light contact sparring.  I should've realised that something called Defendo Close Quarters Combat would be different lol.  Especially with the motto "KISS - Keep it simple and savage"!

I've never been in a fight.  I don't have brothers.  My sister and I were far more effective with words than fists :)  So its quite confronting to be placed in situations where you have to fight and be savage - where hair pulling, eye gouging and nose hooks are perfectly valid techniques (no eye gouging in training though!)

At training on Saturday, we were doing a technique where one person had to lay down, and three - get that, three - people lay across them - one across the head, one across the stomach, one across the legs.  The person underneath had to then fight their way free.  Unlike a real fight though, the people laying on top weren't trying to fight back in this instance.

I was training with three lovely young men, but my sensei reckoned they were being too soft on me.  So he put me in the middle of the room, put three high level belts on me (including one big, solid guy) and made everyone stop to watch.

My first reaction was panic.  I felt like I couldn't move - was being crushed, couldn't breathe.  They were too big for me to push - I had to use elbows, grabs etc to get them off me.  It was quite scary until the adrenaline kicked in and as Sensei put it - I unleased my inner mongrel :)  Boy was I exhausted afterwards though - it was probably only 30 seconds - it felt like 10 minutes.

Apart from the physical, its also mentally out of my comfort zone.  I'm a perfectionist.  I hate doing anything in public that I haven't practiced umpteen times by myself until I know I can do it.  I hate looking inadequate and think people will laugh at me.  Unfortunately this leads me to sitting on the sidelines a lot, watching.  People will invite me to do something - even as simple as playing a game of pool - and I turn it down, meanwhile thinking "Oooh that looks like fun.  But I can't do it, people would laugh at me.  Maybe if they ask me again, I might try it.  Or maybe not.  Oh damn, they're stopping."  *sigh*

Sensei Bill also made me demonstrate another leg sweep technique in the middle that we'd just learnt.  I sucked at it.  I get left & right confused when I'm under pressure.  I pretty much stuffed it completely up.

But guess what - no-one laughed at me.  They were all wonderfully supportive and encouraging. So its quite good for me (I think!) to be forced into demonstrating something in the middle and not knowing what I'm doing, getting it wrong.  

This could be the start of a more confident me...  (maybe)