Thursday, September 27, 2012

Offline October - clarifications

I meant to add this to the post yesterday.  To clear up any confusion, you're allowed 1 hr each day on the internet. 

Excluded from that hour is anything work related - so for me, I'm excluding time spent on the internet for my web design work, survey sites (I do some online surveys for extra income), and ebay sales.  All of which produce some income for me.  I just have to make sure I don't cheat!

I'm still to clarify whether writing blog posts offline counts towards the time :)

Given that I can quite easily spend several hours each day on Facebook and forums I'm on, it's certainly going to be tough.  I'm already seeing which sites / threads I value most and which are just habit.  I know I can do it - I spend less time than one hour checking my email etc while I'm away because I'm paying for the data!  Some days I don't even check it while I'm on holidays. 

It really is just habit.  I need a break - I get on the computer.  It will be about finding other things to do instead of mindlessly jumping on here.  It will mean having a plan when I do get on, not mindlessly surfing.

Wish me luck :)

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Offline October

I'm seriously considering joining in Offline October.  It's been started by 2 writer friends as a way of gaining back time wasted on the internet, a way to reclaim your creativity and time. 

It's not just for writers - "It’s for anyone who believes the internet is dominating too much of their time and they’d like to either have a break or get it under control."

I've been trying to cut down on the internet lately - and have been achieving a lot more - and have been 'in training' this week seeing how I'd go with only 1 hr internet / day.  It's tough.  It requires the breaking of a lot of habits. I tend to use the computer as a bit of a decompressor, a way to relax.

I really think I need to do this. Check it out and see if you'd also like to join in.

Thursday, September 06, 2012

RWA 'Diamonds are Forever' Conference: Part 3

As most people were checking out of their hotel rooms on the Sunday morning, there was no official walking party to the beach.  So I went on my own and had a lovely time picking up shells, taking photos etc.

Sunday started bright and early with the announcement of the Group Grants award (our face-to-face writer's group was lucky enough to be awarded a grant to go towards paying for a workshop on self-publishing later in the year). 

We then heard from Harlequin Australia and had a lively panel session - 'Speed-dating with Aussie Publisher's where publishers and agents from Harper Collins/ Avon, Curtis Brown Australia, Momentum, Harlequin and Simon & Schuster tried to 'sell' themselves as to why they would be good to submit to. 

After morning tea, we broke into our first session of the day.  I had 'The Joys and Challenges of Romatic Attraction' by couples therapist Dr John Barletta.  It was quite an amusing talk, with lots of good information.

After lunch, I attended 'Why TV can be a writer's best friend' with Amanda Ashby and Sara Hantz.  Boy, these ladies watch some TV - I don't know how they ever find time to write!  (Actually I think it was Amanda who admitted she writes in the ad breaks!!)

  • Television teaches us how to use action, emotion and characterisation.
  • Show not tell to heighten emotion.  ie Let the reader see for themselves.  It's more believable than just telling people something.  It's why the news uses 'live coverage' even when there isn't anything to see.
  • To make every action count, you need to follow it up with a reaction.  It improves both your character arc and your pacing.
  • Take the time to highlight the emotional fallout.
  • Look at what your characters are doing, not what they're saying.  Character is revealed through action.
  • Backstory makes a character feel more real and where motivation for their actions comes from.

That was followed by 'The hidden strength of secondary characters' with Erin Grace.

  • We should know our secondary character's life story and personal quirks, even though it doesn't all have to be revealed to the reader.
  • Having a secondary character reveal facts, hints and secrets about the hero/ine can be more effective & credible than narrative.
  • A secondary character adds layers to the main characters.  They may also act as a mirror to the mains.
  • They can be used to cause conflict, deliver vital plot information
  • A secondary character MUST move the story forward - otherwise drop them.
  • Consider the length of your book - the more secondary characters, the longer it needs to be so that they're not cardboard cutouts.  Also the more secondaries, the more complex the plot may be.
  • Secondary character doesn't need to have a character arc - it's not their story.

We finished up with another speed-dating session - this time with Alex Adsett, Random House and Penguin.

The next conference was launched in spectacular fashion - now everyone is looking forward to Fremantle in 2013!

So that was it.  An exhausting yet motivational and knowledge-filled 3 days.  3 days of lots and lots of chatting, hugging, the occasional squeal and eating!

See you all next year!

RWA 'Diamonds are Forever' Conference: Part 2

Saturday morning saw the official start of the conference. The approx 350 delegates gathered for the welcome, and the First Sales presentation.  This is where all of the delegates who have made their first sale since their last conference get presented with their blue First Sale ribbon.  This year we had over 30 new published authors - I'm so happy for them all, especially my friends who received theirs.  One day I'll be up there!!!

Eloisa James gave an emotional keynote address and I don't think there were many dry eyes in the house!  This was followed by a presentation by Joanne Grant from Harlequin, and a panel discussion 'Beyond the Big Six' discussing the smaller publishers and self-publishing.

After morning tea (the food was all very yummy!), we split up and headed off to our chosen breakout sessions.

First up I had "Relentless Conflict - You owe it to your characters" with Helene Young.  We discussed the GMC (goal, motivation and conflict) of the characters in Avatar.  I haven't actually seen the movie so was a bit lost at times but still got a lot out of it.

  • Use what the character desires most and fears most to strengthen their conflict.  Put it into the GMC grid. Can you make the motivation more memorable? Can you realign them so that they conflict more with each other?
  • Make sure your reader stays invested in your characters because they want that conflict resolved.
After lunch, I had "Engaging your reader" with Anne Gracie.  Notes from that session:

  • Look at the 1st 5 pages of your 'keeper' books.  How does the writer make you engage with the character?
  • First scene needs to show heroine is like - if she's witty, make the first scene witty etc
  • You need to create reader engagement on an intellectual, psychological, emotional, structural and technical level.  Anne went through examples of each of these.

I then attended the "Love in the face of danger - Romantic Suspense Panel".  I don't write romantic suspense at this stage, but I do enjoy reading it.

  • The stronger the villian, the stronger the hero/ine has to be to overcome them.  So if your villian is too weak, the hero doesn't look great overcoming them.
  • Put as much work into the villian as the hero/ine.
  • Every crime twist has to make it harder for the relationship.

After afternoon tea (more food!), we reconvened for a panel discussion "New York, New Directions" and had our Annual General Meeting.

Saturday night was the Awards Dinner.  The meal was delicious, everyone was glammed up, and we had a lovely night.  Congrats to everyone who received an award (once again, especially to my RWA friends!)

Some of our writer's group.

This was the 'other' dessert.

This was my dessert - very rich but very delicious!

Tuesday, September 04, 2012

Homeschooling Monthly Memories - August 2012

We were away for almost 2 weeks during August, but still managed to pack in lots of learning.

Cubs 'Curriculum':
  • Billy wasn't at Cubs much in July due to us being away and clashes with Peter Pan rehearsals.  When he was there, they worked on codes and Promise & Law activities.

Intentional Learning:

Creative Arts

  • Rehearsals are well underway for Peter Pan (Billy is playing Curly, a Lost Boy) with it ramping up to several rehearsals each week. 
  • He's made a green screen using cardboard and has been playing around with green-screening special effects and other video techniques using video editing software.
  • He's been watching a youTube series called Film Riot  to learn more video editing & filming techniques.
  • We visited both the Archibald Prize exhibition and the Walkley Press Photography Award Exhibition.

Archibald Prize exhibition

Walkley Press Photography exhibition

  • Australian history

    • We continued our reading of Thomas Appleby - Convict Boy by Jackie French
    • We watched the BHP Sound and Light show at Newcastle Museum showing how steel-making used to happen in the area
      The BHP Sound & Light show

  • He watched a Brain Pop movie on the bombing of Nagasaki and Hiroshima and we discussed it.


Murderous Maths - Awesome Arithmetricks

  • We're working through the Murderous Maths book 'Awesome Arithmetricks' as our maths 'spine'
  • Topics covered included subtraction with borrowing.
  • He's been testing his addition skills using a MathEd tablet app game.

Science & Technology

  • We visited the hands-on Science section at Newcastle Museum.
  • He's watched BrainPop movies about bacteria, atoms, gravity and the phases of the moon
  • He's worked with RPG Game Maker and video editing software & green-screening techniques
  • We visited Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary and Sea World.
One of many native Australian animals at the Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary

Little Penguin feeding at Sea World

  • Storywriting
  • Discussion of synonyms
  • BrainPop movie about the book Frankenstein, Mary Shelly and the Romanticism era

  • Billy did a High Ropes challenge course on the Gold Coast

As well as the usual:
  • martial arts, circus, archery and AFL (AFL has now finished for the year)
  • time spent hanging out with friends and family