Friday, August 31, 2012

RWA 'Diamonds are Forever' Conference: Part 1

The Romance Writer's of Australia annual conference (themed 'Diamonds are Forever') was held at the funky QT hotel in Surfers Paradise, Queensland.  The decor was funky, the staff uniforms were funky - the valet met me at the door wearing boardshorts and a stripy red jacket!!

On both Friday and Saturday mornings, a small but enthusiastic group met at 6:30am to start our day with a walk along the beach.  The weather was very kind to us, and the sunrises were spectacular.

Friday was a full day optional workshop with screenwriter and thriller writer Alexandra Sokoloff, Screenwriting Tips for Authors.  I had the 'honour' of being MC for the day (in front of 150 people!) which was quite nerve-wracking.  Apart from that though, the day was excellent. 

Alex talked about how movies follow a certain structure - eg in a 2hr movie, there is a climactic scene approx every 30 minutes - and how you can use that structure in novel writing.  As far as I know, her ebook and blog go through everything she did in the workshop. 

A movie can be divided into 8 sequences:

  • Act I, Sequence 1
  • Act I, Sequence2
  • Act II: Part 1, Sequence 3
  • Act II: Part 1, Sequence 4 (Midpoint)
  • Act II: Part 2, Sequence 5
  • Act II: Part 2, Sequence 6 (Black Moment)
  • Act III, Sequence 7
  • Act III, Sequence 8 (Final battle)

We discussed the structure of many movies in various genres (lots of chick flicks!) and analysed which were the important scenes and how they were done.

Some notes I jotted down from the day:

  • Often climaxes involve crowd scenes to make it seem more climactic
  • A setpiece is a big climactic scene where you have to build a big set or a scene that isn't going to be cut because they're the 'money' scenes.  Also the scenes you see in the trailer.
  • Every love scene - kiss, interrupted kiss, sex scene etc - must be a climax / set piece.
  • Use index cards to brainstorm scenes.  Set up 40-60 index cards - write down the scenes you know.  Start arranging them to fit the structure.
  • Opening image needs to set things up visually.  Where they are, genre, tone, world.  Themes / symbolism.
  • The 'Plan' can and probably does change along the way.  The initial plan requires the least amount of effort for the hero/ine.  Plan changes at midpoint at act II climax because plan goes wrong.
  • "The Dance" - we need to see the hero & heroine working together in some way to show they're perfect for each other.  Makes the reader want / hope for hero & heroine to get together.
  • Hero/ine knows what they want, but not what they need.  The reader can see what they need.  After the black moment, the hero/ine realises what they need.  And that what they wanted isn't right for them.
  • If there is a mentor in the story, the mentor has to disappear / die at the act II:Pt 2 climax so that the hero/ine can grow and become their own person.  (Dumbledore anyone?!)
  • Act II: Part 1 is the genre fill-in / world-builing - eg Harry Potter - the classes, Quidditch matches etc; Mystery - police procedure; Caper - gathering the team, training
I've already bought a new corkboard and big post it notes so I can use Alex's methods to do a structural edit on my WIP!

Friday night was the Cocktail Party with a Diamonds are Forever / 1950s theme.  Lots of Marilyn Monroes, a couple of Elvises, lots of Pink Ladies and Sandies, and many glamorous frocks.  My personal favourite was Radar and Margaret from MASH.

I didn't get any photos on the night, but this was one of most of our face-to-face writer's group taken by fellow RWA member, Elle Fynllay. 

Stay tuned for the rest of the conference in Part 2 :)

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Gold Coast: Sea World and Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary

** WARNING - Photo heavy post **

We had a couple of days together as a family on the Gold Coast before I headed off to my RWA writer's conference.  We stayed at a lovely apartment in Broadbeach - it was such a hardship to wake up to this view every morning!  I'd wake up early, make my cup of tea and take it out on the balcony - and just sit and reflect until the others woke up.

On the first day, we headed off to Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary.  I remember (or at least have seen photos of) going there as a kid myself!  There were lots of cute and cuddly Australian animals to pat or look at. 

And some not so cuddly ones as well :)  There are lots of photos of snakes on my camera - but I refuse to look at them, let alone put them on my blog!  Needless to say, I found other things to look at while the boys looked at snakes!  (Lizards are fine - the legs make all the difference!)

Billy and I also went on a High Ropes course while at Currumbin.  He found it extremely challenging due to needing a fair bit of upper body strength and having to stretch up to hold on to a lot of it, but he got through it!  (And luckily there is no photographic evidence of me in the lovely supplied overalls!)

We played Putt Putt golf that evening - this was a really fun place with 3 themed courses.  We played on the Jungle Run and the Fun Run.  I think Tiger Woods is safe - none of us are in danger of becoming professional golfers any time soon :)

The next day, we went to Sea World.

Where we watched Little Penguins being fed,

 The spectacular dolphin show,

and an impressive Jet Ski show,

Played on the coolest ever adventure playground in Castaway Bay (the best thing about it was that it was big enough for adults, so I got to play too!)

got wet on the Battle Boats and Flume ride

Met some new friends

And awwwed over the polar bears and penguins :)

After those two exhausting days, we went our separate ways.  We moved hotels, I went to my conference and Pete & Billy did things like Dracula's Haunted House, Ripley's Believe it or not, and the Waxwork Museum (including the dungeon of horrors!)

We stopped overnight at Coffs Harbour on the way home where Billy still thought it was warm enough for a swim!

It was a nice break away.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

I'm back...

It's been a busy few weeks - hence the lack of blog posts.

We were away for about 1.5 weeks at the Gold Coast - part holiday, part writing conference for me.  More to come in future posts. 

We got home last Wednesday - which left 2 days to plan and organise a birthday party for Billy on the Saturday.  Yes, the boy turned double digits finally!!

It was a Minecraft themed party.  (I know, total shock, right?!)

Minecraft presents..

Minecraft cake..

Minecraft games.. (Pin the Pickaxe on Steve and a Creeper Pinata)

(Even the non-Minecraft gifts were well received anyway!!)
So it's taken a few days to recover, and begin to catch up on reality after being away.  I think I'm finally starting to make some headway on my to-do list!!

Monday, August 06, 2012

Brain Pop

We finally bought a tablet last week (an Android, not an i-thingy).  In part so that we can learn how to program apps for the tablet, but it's getting a bit of a workout with other things too.

One app that's proven a hit is the Brain Pop app.  Every day it has a new featured movie - a short educational animation about whatever is the topic of the day.  You can then choose to complete a short quiz based on what you've watched.  The quizzes are multiple choice - some are comprehension based, language based, reasoning etc.

So far, the topics Billy has watched include Mars, bacteria, bullying and constellations.  All in bite-sized snippets of learning.

Friday, August 03, 2012

Homeschooling Monthly Memories - July 2012

Where is the year going?  July was half school holidays - which were very busy - and now we're struggling to get back into the flow.

Cubs 'Curriculum':

Made a thaumatrope

  • They also did campfire songs and had to perform group skits one night.

Intentional Learning:

Creative Arts

  • Rehearsals started for Peter Pan (Billy is playing Curly, a Lost Boy).  Rehearsals are the highlight of his week!
  • Billy made up a parody song and music video.
  • We went to see a local youth production of Blabbermouth (based on the book by Morris Gleitzman).  It was wonderfully done!

  • Australian history
    • We met up with friends and toured historic Maitland Gaol
    • We continued our reading of Thomas Appleby - Convict Boy by Jackie French

  •  We watched a documentary on the history of London and the Olympic Games, done by the wonderful Tony Robinson - London Games Unearthed


Murderous Maths - Awesome Arithmetricks

  • We're working through the Murderous Maths book 'Awesome Arithmetricks' as our maths 'spine'
  • Topics covered included simplifying equations and adding positive & negative numbers
  • We played a cool board / card game from the book reinforcing adding positive and negative numbers together.

  •  Billy set up a stall to sell fairy floss & popcorn - he had to set prices, gather the float, take the money, give change etc.  It wasn't a busy stall given we live in a fairly quiet street but he enjoyed it.


  • We went back to the rockpools we'd found last month, but the tide was in and the surf was up.  So we did some beach scavenging for shells and sea sponges, rock identification etc (and watched the surfers)

  • Games of scrabble (even the cat joined in!)


  • Billy took part in a week long martial arts 'camp' - 2 hours of various martial arts each morning.  His highlight was the board breaking.  They totalled 1000 push ups and 1000 sit ups by the end of the camp!

As well as the usual:
  • martial arts, circus, archery and AFL
  • time spent hanging out with friends and family