"I am the author of my life."

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Share Your Dreams

Dear You.

Actually, I don’t really want to do the ‘Dear you. Yes, you‘ thing. Let’s try again.

Dear everyone,

Do you have dreams? Not the snoozing kind – I’m talking vision, ambition: a dream. Is there something you wish for before you blow out the candle, that makes you check the sky for shooting stars? What about something you’ve told yourself you’d do, in the countdown before fireworks welcome the new year? Do you have something you want to do?

I do. Plenty, in fact. When I was little, I think I wished for my family to be happier than we were. As I grew older, I learned that that was actually a wish; in other words, relying on hope and something or someone else to do what you can’t. Optimism is a great and powerful thing but sometimes, it can be frustrating. Sometimes things just won’t get done by blowing out a candle, and it’s not as simple as leaving Santa a letter and cookies. Maybe sometimes, we need to channel our optimism into energy to seize the day and achieve what we can what our own hands.

So those dreams of yours – of ours. They may be small and easy, they may be enormous and overwhelming. They may be completed in seconds, days, months, years. Some might be impossible, but are you happy to tell yourself that without trying, not just once, but again and again?

Whatever your dreams are, chase them. Better yet, let’s chase them together.

Usually, our dreams will come with smaller goals to help us achieve them. Quite often, we don’t tick all those goals off, or it takes us longer than it should have. I should know this: I’m a chronic procrastinator. Dare I estimate 8/10 of you reading this probably are too? We will all have many and different reasons for leaving our goals hanging. You know what? That’s okay.

We’re not perfect. We’re not robots either. Trust me, you wouldn’t really be living if you vowed to study for ten hours every day for a year, and actually did it. I tried (okay fine, it was four hours). It’s okay to not meet your goals immediately and efficiently. There’s enough pressure in our lives without us trying to heat ourselves into diamonds.

What’s not okay, is giving up. Staying stagnant.

Unless you’re a remarkable exception, you only live once. We’ve only got so many days to spend doing the things we want to and let me tell you this: there’s a high chance you won’t be able to do every single thing you want to. So let’s make the most of it, shall we?

Some people find that sharing your dreams and goals with others will help. If you’re a procrastinator like me, the simple act of announcing it should move that mountain a little. Tell yourself you’ll do it and these are the steps how. If you’re well into achieving your dreams, good on you! Share them with us, celebrate it! I know there are also some of you out there who are uncertain, afraid or feel under heavy pressure. It might help to share it with someone and get it off your chest. Everyone is welcome to comment on and reach out to others. You might meet people with similar dreams!

One more thing. Although it would obviously be really great if lots of people participated, it doesn’t matter if that’s not the case. Don’t let that discourage you because I’ll promise you this right now: even if this idea doesn’t get off the ground at all, I’ll always be listening. Pinky promise!

So… want to try it? Here’s how it’s going to work:

Comment with your dream/ambition (aka long term goal) and a maximum of 7 short term goals to help you achieve that dream. That’s right, only 7. It’s harder to achieve a dozen small goals so I want you to really condense them. Make them achievable if you can.

Please use the following template in your comments:

  • Name: Whatever you want to be known as. Real names, usernames, anonymous, etc. Anything goes.
  • Website: (optional) So we can get to know you better, if that’s what you want.
  • Dream: Summarise your long-term goal in one or two sentences – e.g. “I will finish a novel in one year.”
  • Goals: Give us a max of 7 smaller goals to help you achieve your dream – e.g. “I will write something creative every day.”

I will add your dream and goals to the main body of this post. Let me know with a comment when you achieve a goal or dream and I’ll strike it out on the list. The longer our list, the better!

Guidelines:

  1. Any dreams or goals can be used. But be realistic. Ask yourself: can I see myself doing this? Will I be able to make myself do it?
  2. Absolutely anyone can post. Don’t be shy!
  3. Your goals don’t have to be measurable – it is perfectly fine to never tick them off because they are ongoing. They can serve as reminders to yourself.
  4. It’s hard to tell when some dreams/goals are truly achieved. They can be lifelong. However, if you begin to feel satisfied and think you’ve really got it, of course we can tick it off! Just say the word.
  5. You can post as many dreams as you like. That said, I urge you to be succinct. Don’t make your dreams too similar.
  6. If you post less than 7 goals in one dream and later think of something you want to add, make a comment and I’ll gladly add it on. But remember, no more than 7!
  7. If you’d like to tell us your story or reason behind your dream, you are most welcome to. Although this won’t be included in the post to be economical with length, your comments will be read.
  8. You’re welcome to chat with other commenters about their goals. I’ve extended the comment thread length to 10 posts. If you want to talk more, I encourage you to exchange info or check out each other’s websites!
  9. Please be kind and respect everyone. You may not criticise anyone for their dreams. The reason is obvious. I don’t want to go from chasing my own dreams to chasing you. With a broom.
  10. I said ‘any’ dreams or goals but obviously, keep it appropriate. Hopefully we all have similar perceptions of ‘appropriate’. PG rated. No swearing.
  11. There are no other rules. That means you are free to pursue your dreams however you like. There is no time limit (you can specify one if you want), no pressure and no punishment if you don’t meet your goals. You’re not making a promise to me or anyone else: just yourself.

Thanks everyone! And remember: chase them.

Christine

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Christine

I want to be the best person I can be.

  1. Always thank the bus driver, even if they probably can’t hear me and especially if I look awkward. Keep it up for at least a week.
  2. Get off my butt and greet Mum or Dad when they come home. Don’t be lazy. Try it for one week.
  3. Take university seriously. I’ll need the knowledge for the rest of my career life. Mum says education is power. Do not fail a single subject throughout the four years of my degree.
  4. Get a dog and raise it well. Let it teach me compassion and loyalty.
  5. Don’t be a bystander.

30/05/2013

You Can’t Hide The Spark

My dream is to be a published children’s author! My 7 goals are:

1. I will write regularly (daily if poss)
2. I will tell myself “I am a writer” (and hope my subconscious gets the message at last)
3. I will stop chasing other dreams that distract me from this goal (like trying to run several businesses at once)
4. I will be kind to myself (this isn’t any easy path)
5. I will sit at my computer for 10 minutes a day (small steps are less likely to scare the pants off me)
6. I will remember to PLAY; after all, the whole point is to have fun!
7. When the going gets tough, I will congratulate myself for being in the arena (rather than watching, frustrated, from the sidelines, which is the most soul-destroying thing ever and something I have perfected for 43 years!)

27/8/2013

✎ Gayle Forman, Melina Marchetta and my blood red hands

I made a volcano with my client yesterday. It was our last session with him and it was a blast – literally. There was a lot of cleaning but also a lot of fun. It also meant that I came out of it with hands the colour of murder.

And it was with those blood red hands that I went to Gayle Forman In Conversation with Melina Marchetta, my first ever author talk.

It was awesome.

I learned so much from listening to these two brilliant authors. They are such nice and funny ladies. It’s clear from the first pages of their works that these two ladies know their craft, their style and their characters. But witnessing these masterminds discussing their passions firsthand? Unmistakeably eye-opening.

It was my first time listening to an author talk about their writing. I was prepared for passion, devotion and empathetic anecdotes. Gayle and Melina delivered – oh boy, did they deliver.

Their speeches were so sincere. These are authors who truly love their characters and can speak of them as if they were friends back home. It felt like they were mentors to the young adults they wrote about; the kind that encourages you, teaches you a lesson when you go astray and loves you unconditionally through all your actions. Their characters are alive.

With their warm humour, Melina and Gayle told us that they had moments where they thought along the lines of “oh, my God, why am I doing this to myself? A sequel? All that blood and sweat all over again? What was I thinking?” It was so funny and honest, and for writers out there: so. true. We’ll all be overwhelmed by our stories at one point and to hear that we’re echoing these authors’ footsteps is remarkably reassuring. There’s nothing more motivating than the knowledge that someone else has gone where you want to go, come back and is ready to do it all over again, kicking, screaming and loving it.

They also taught me that all the above is worth it because of the connection you develop with the characters and their story. Gayle called it an ’emotional breakthrough’, which I just love. My favourite part of the talk was when they talked about how they couldn’t wait to write the next part of the story, being that excited about it. Because even as an amateur – heck, even as a nine year old kid writing about adventures that never ended – I had that same feeling. I’m sure every writer out there knows how it feels. The story is all you can think about; it’s the barnacle of your imagination. When I heard Gayle and Melina talking about these experiences, I suddenly felt immensely glad that I had decided to come. I was sitting in an audience of kin, surrounded by people who loved stories beyond simply reading them in a single moment. I’m amazed the roof didn’t lift up in a beam of holy light above my head.

Above all, listening to Gayle and Melina taught me one very important thing: that they are normal people like the rest of us. Well, it’s not like I expected them to have purple skin, yellow eyes and a crown of horns… buuutttt, you know. These women are success stories: authors. What I had realised was that authors were writers to start with, and still are. It sounds silly; authors, writers, same thing. To many they are synonyms but to me, there is a world of difference. I always say ‘writer’ because ‘author’ traditionally carries the idea that you are published and, well, officially a professional writer. But what about the rest? I keep going back to the idea that a child can be a writer – their imagination outruns all of ours! That’s where my philosophy that anyone can be a writer comes from. It doesn’t matter if you write well, if you write for others or for yourself – you write because words aren’t mere words to you.

I felt this passion from Melina Marchetta and Gayle Forman. These are ordinary writers who found well-deserved success and that’s something that should always be good news for the rest of us. Good news not just because it gives us hope for our own success (after all, getting published isn’t the only success out there!) but because other writers’ success shows us that our love for words and stories is still appreciated. There are people out there who want to read about the worlds we write.

After the talk, these authors generously did book signings. I left this last. Because herein lies the real highlight and mortification of my day.

I had a copy of Just One Day with me. My boyfriend’s actually, that I’d bought him last month. He chose the book himself, which just amazed me because Just One Day had actually been on my reading list. That, and I couldn’t believe he was reading. A romance novel. This man has read nothing but comics for the past five years. Sure, I’d started pushing him to read but to see him actually show interest in a novel? That I’d also had my eye on? Mind-blowing.

And there I was getting him to buy me a zombie survival guide. But that’s a story for another day.

Point is, we played typical and wrote each other a message in the books we’d gotten each other. I can be remarkably cheesy in print. And my handwriting is terrible. My boyfriend, bless him, didn’t tease me. And neither did Gayle, when I gave her the book to sign. She thought it was romantic (coming from an author of romance!) and was honoured that her book was special to us, but really, Gayle, I’m the one humbled. It was such a privilege to meet you and Melina. You’re a great person, an amazing writer and I’m so grateful that you were part of my first author talk. I also hope you didn’t notice my red hands!

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P.S. I just saw a photo on Gayle’s Twitter and I’m momentarily dumbfounded… I think the man sitting behind me during the event was Scott Westerfeld. Wow!

♫ Dirk Ehlert – Burning Rome

I’m incredibly meticulous about my music library. All songs have album artwork, are rated and categorised by genre. My iPod is my baby. In this past year, a new genre has appeared in my music. I call it: epic.

Theatrical music. Trailer scores. That kind of thing.The awesome music.

Maybe it’s because I’m writing a fantasy novel or because I plain love it – I just do. Love it, I mean. In fact, I adore it. I have a particular taste for emotional scores that carry a tone of determination and fight. I find it all so visual and appealing to my senses. Just listening to this amazing music helps me visualise the climatic scenes I’ve got planned… that, at the rate I’m snailing along, may never get written. But every time an ‘epic’ song comes on, the scene starts flooding in and I tell myself “Keep writing. This is what you’re aiming for. This is what it’ll look like. Imagine listening to this when you’re writing the action – live for that moment!”

Burning Rome is one of my newfound favourites. I wish it was longer, with a less-rushed ending, but that’s also the power of these scores. Being able to pack that much cinematic impact into 2 minutes is nothing short of a worthwhile feat. I’ll definitely be checking out more of Dirk Ehlert’s music.

Plug in the headphones, hit play and close your eyes. Maybe you’ll love it the way I do. Enjoy!

Bystanders and Standing By

We’re making a volcano tomorrow – the erupting kind. It’s our client’s last session with us and we decided to target our therapy goals with something fun. We’re sure he’ll love it, the excitable boy we’ve been seeing every week this semester. Being the genius I am, I put myself in charge of preparing everything, so I hit the supermarket after class. Baking soda, vinegar, food colouring. It took a few SOS calls to the all-knowing parental units but I safely distinguished baking soda from baking powder and left with a merry shopping bag of goodies. I even tried my best not to get ripped off. All was well.

I have plenty of buses home. One of them arrived just as I came out. As I was climbing on, I heard a mother and her young son ahead of me; she was telling him off for not listening to her. I recognised her irate and impatient tone. You see many different kinds of families on public transport but strangers like me often subconsciously file them under two broad categories: attentive parents and dismissive parents. It’s a shallow thing to judge and label someone within minutes of sharing the same space; unfortunately, it’s an intrinsic human habit. I was raised to acknowledge that it’s natural to form first impressions as long as I respected that those labels often belong unspoken. The point is, it’s not the first time I’ve encountered edgy mothers. As someone who loves children, I knew it probably wouldn’t be a pleasant ride for me. I got on anyway, admittedly more concerned about not breaking the vinegar bottle with my incurable inelegance.

I sat at the front of the bus. Somewhere at the back, the mother was still berating her son. She was easily the loudest in the quiet vehicle. In these situations, the bystanders are silent. They will be uncomfortable and they will judge and sympathise with the child. But they will not speak up, and even if they did it may not be in their place to be the lecturer, no matter how strongly they disagree with the parenting style. It’s a fine line. Let me be the first to admit that I was a bystander today.

About two minutes down the road, the mother’s voice got louder. So did the child’s; I don’t know if he was crying or protesting. Whatever it was, his mother wanted it to stop. “You’d better shut up before I slap you,” she told him roughly.

In that instant, the atmosphere inside the bus changed. Without thinking, my fingers were curling into an uneasy fist within the pocket of my hoodie. Like the rest of the passengers, I had realised that with those words, we were no longer mere bystanders.

This was no longer about disapproval. It wasn’t about listening to a mother lecture her child. This wasn’t something we could overlook; it’s something that should never be overlooked. The bystanders were cornered between two uncomfortable options: ignore or confront. Both equally nasty in different ways, but it was clear what the ‘right choice’ was.

A man spoke up immediately, before the bystander effect had even settled. He spoke so softly I actually heard the mother’s enraged reply first. All pent-up frustration erupted the moment she was told to calm down. Expletives flew. So did threats. She warned him to “shut his face before she rearranged it”.

Strangely, I think I heard what sounded like a snort from another passenger on the bus. I can’t be sure. I was facing straight ahead like the other passengers, evading the situation as best we could. I was all up in knots over the simple debate of turning my head around to see what was going on; even if I was too timid to say anything I should at least be honest about the undeniable fact that I knew something was going on. I didn’t end up making that decision. In fact, I hesitated because what followed was a loud warning to “turn your head around and stop looking at me or I’ll (insert unpleasant remark)”. I assumed this was either directed at the man who had confronted her, or to nearby passengers that had become involved.

“I’m not in the mood,” she added angrily. “I’ve got two broken ribs and three cracked ones. I’m in a hell of a lot of pain and the last thing I need is (insert more remarks).”

The bus stopped to pick up a new passenger. The driver got out of his seat and walked down the aisle. We all turned our heads to watch. Yes, I turned my head in the end. Yes, I don’t consider it my own decision; it was nothing but a response to an excuse to do so. If the driver hadn’t moved, I probably would have kept staring ahead, clenching my fist. I don’t like to admit it but it’s true.

Anything could have happened. The driver could have requested the mother and son to leave. He could have asked her to quiet down, politely or forcefully. He came back to the front of the bus pointing at a seat behind me. He’d asked the man to move seats, softly explaining, “It’s the best way.” The bus continued down the road. No one spoke, not even the mother and certainly not her son. I got off at my stop two minutes later.

I’m not retelling this story so that anyone can be harshly judged and condemned. The mother may not have carried through with her words; she may not have hit her son. She may never have. Perhaps she is truly in too much pain to be reasonable. She could have her own difficult circumstances. Perhaps she’s not nearly as excusable as I’m trying to remain. I don’t know these things. I don’t know what happened after I got off the bus, or what will happen when the mother and child get home. For five minutes, I was just a bystander.

I know it’s ethically controversial. The ‘right action’ to this scenario is blatantly obvious to those reading this right now. It is never okay to be a bystander when a child – or any person – is threatened with abuse. Stand up and defend them. It’s the ‘right thing to do’. I agree wholeheartedly. On the other hand, it’s easy for readers to say this, to confidently assert that “I would do it if I was there.” I do it too. We want to believe that we would jump right in with modern heroism, to reassure ourselves that our hearts are definitely in the right place. I’m convinced that many, many of us really do. We would not idle and ignore.

But we hesitate. It’s not so simple, so easy, so courageous. We don’t want to judge and we don’t want to be judged. Life’s many paradoxical wonders. We’re bystanders until someone else breaks free. We wait. If no one had spoken up, I want to believe that I wouldn’t have escaped the bus as quickly as I could to let the issue be ‘someone else’s problem’. If I did I’d start losing faith in myself and my values. Chances are, I wouldn’t have dismissed the situation. That’s not me. But at the same time, why can’t I see myself doing what the man did, and confronting the mother? I can be confident I wouldn’t ignore it but I can’t guarantee I would’ve acted? What kind of hypocrisy is that?

Not exactly glorifying, let’s just say that.

The question is: do those two things have to be co-dependent? If you don’t ignore, are you obliged to confront? If you don’t confront, does that mean you ignore? If so, then there was only one Samaritan on that bus; the rest were heartless strangers, including me. That’s the same judgement we mentally pass on to the mother – that she threatened her child and is therefore a terrible mother. If, unfortunately, she is, are we going to assert that she would never ever change? We can’t assume any of that. Not everything is black and white.

And that’s why this post was not made to judge.  A thousand words later, we finally come to what this post is truly about: acknowledging the things we do know.

I want to thank that gentleman who spoke out, who acted without a second of hesitation; who was calm, rational, and never once swore or was impolite despite the way he was treated. You were not a bystander.

I also want to thank the bus driver, who took responsibility of his passengers’ welfare. While some may argue that he had also avoided confrontation by moving the gentleman instead of the mother, he was a symbol of open-mindedness. He compromised and was a pacifist. And when I pressed the stop button – the first interruption since that episode – he cheerfully announced the stop; bus drivers don’t usually do that here. I thanked him on my way out and he thanked me back. He controlled the situation to the best of his abilities.

The final thing I’m certain of, is that I was an unmistakeable bystander. Only one person immediately stood up for that child. Let’s be honest; I have a bag of excuses on hand to ease my discomfort. I’m a teenager and there was a busload of adults with more authority than me. Someone else had already confronted her to no avail. I wouldn’t make any difference. Frankly, I’m happy to use those excuses as a shield for now. For now.

One day, there will be no excuses left for me to use. When I’ve ‘grown up’, I’ll own up to my maturity. That could happen in the next month, the next year – there’s no guarantee. I’m on the cusp right now. That’s how long I will give myself to prepare and ‘train myself’. Then my bystander days will be over.

When this shift happens, I want to know that I will act when I should. I won’t leave it to someone else to spark my courage. Most importantly, I’ll do it on my own terms.

In other words, not because I’m obligated to. Because it’s my instinct to. Like that gentleman.

I’ll remain open-minded, because sometimes that’s all it takes. Just like the bus driver.

Easy to say, isn’t it?

Even so, I truly hope I can pull it off one day. If I don’t, then maybe I chose the wrong career path. Speech pathologists provide a health service to the community; we see the good and the bad and we take it all in stride indiscriminately. I hope that one day – hopefully in the near future – I’ll no longer be a bystander. I hope I’ll be able to stand by the sides of those ordinary people whose values came before their uncertainty. More than that, I hope I can stand by people like that mother, and her young son, because they will always need support over criticism. What’s that famous quote again? Be the change you want to see in the world? Well, I’m not aiming anywhere as high. Let’s just take it one step at a time – as long as we’re moving forward.

After all, this world is far from perfect. Fact is, chances are it will never be. Not even close.

Yet there will be moments. Moments where you help someone carry their pram down the stairs; moments where you try to placate frustrated parents; moments where you walk away shaken with strangely pleasant adrenaline. Moments where, for a few seconds, you’re happy you did the right thing.

♫ Sam Tsui & Kylee – Just Give Me A Reason

Like most of the world, I’m in love with Pink and Nate Ruess’ song. It’s a craze. It’s everywhere – and it deserves the attention. The raw power in Pink’s voice is addictive and echoes with the energetic current often found in her songs. In fact, when I first heard this song and noticed a male singer, I remember wondering if he would be able to keep up with her – he most definitely could!

Artists have made great Pink covers, often by toning it down with their own interpretations. Not many step up to the task of… well, belting it the way she does.

Still, I get excited when I see my favourite youtube artists covering this song (to the point where I’ve developed a reflex reaction to the words ‘just’ and ‘reason’). I’ve been amazed by some brilliant covers in many different styles, though some part of me hoped that someone would step up to the full challenge of the original.

Then I found it. The one.

Sam and Kylee’s version is the one that hits the homerun for me. Several homeruns. They put their feet into Pink’s footsteps. That alone is worthy of respect. The fact that they were absolutely amazing? Pure admiration of their talent, their skill, their harmony. And okay, just a tiny smidgeon of jealousy; not because they sing phenomenally (I can barely sing the Australian national anthem properly), but because it’s a breathtaking experience to do something perfectly.

I actually knew Kylee before the song showed up in my feed. I knew that the songs I had of hers on my ipod were powerful, the ones that always made themselves heard when others got drowned out by the noisy train – and she’d been fourteen. When I saw ‘Kylee’, I wondered if it was the same one. My gut feeling said yes. My brain was momentarily out of action because a) “it’s a small world after all~~” was ricocheting in my mind, and b) I was processing that Sam Tsui + Kylee could only = awesome.

I was right.

I was so impressed with Sam’s versatility. From the slow ballad covers that had brought him to my attention, to upbeat pop remixes, to throwing all his breath into this song, he’s truly earned my respect. And Kylee – she blew me away! Her growth over the past few years shocked me into wide-eyed awe. That girl has stage presence. Together, these two were an absolute spectacle. Their voices blended well and were equally matched despite the challenging song. They went where many didn’t.

Of course, equal credit goes to Kurt, who produced the song and MV. It’s easy to overlook Kurt, with his generosity towards helping other artists produce good music. But he pulls just as much weight as the vocalists in all occasions. For one, he can probably play every single instrument. Secondly, his MVs are shot and put together with simple yet effective artistry. Thirdly, how can you not love that awesome drumming?!

I love the original and this cover equally, in different ways. I hope you guys enjoy them too! Please support the artists who produced these amazing tunes by:

Checking out the original: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OpQFFLBMEPI

Visiting Kurt’s youtube channel.

Checking out other songs by Sam and Kylee.

And buying their track on iTunes!

✎ The Art of War for Writers by James Scott Bell

Many budding writers like to look at writing how-to books. It doesn’t mean we don’t know how to write at all. Rather, we want to see what the experts say; we want to compare, pick up shortcut tips and so on. We want answers mostly because we’re hesitant to accept the reality that there are no concrete answers in writing. It’s part of the learning process. There are hundreds of such guidebooks out there, from For Dummies books to Stephen King’s On Writing. Where do you even start in this giant forest?

Let me tell you about the first tree I sat under, the first book writing I picked up.

The Art of War for Writers by James Scott Bell

The Art of War for Writers

From the blurb:

“Strategies and tactics from the master novelist:
You’ll find tactics and strategies for idea generation and development, character building, plotting, drafting, querying and submitting, dealing with rejection, coping with unrealistic expectations, and much more.

If the title sounds familiar, that’s because James Scott Bell modelled his book after Sun Tzu’s The Art of War, a good read that I also happen to have on my bookshelf. Sun Tzu’s The Art of War is known for its practicality in many everyday life philosophies, not just war. The tactics are popularly applied to business, sports, psychology and more. This is what James Scott Bell’s guide tries to do. For writers.

The Art of War for Writers is not a comprehensive handbook into any particular area of writing – or even writing in general. Any novelist writing any genre for any purpose can pick up this book. The book touches on specific ideas very briefly, usually in less than three pages. You may even find some pieces of advice common knowledge and that is fine, because I’d take that as a sign that you’re on the same page as a professional when it comes to the basics.

So what is it good for?

The same thing as Sun Tzu’s text: strategies. Writing tips. The Art of War for Writers offers 77 tips split under three categories:

  1. Reconnaissance – Getting into the mindset of being a writer
  2. Tactics – Practical ideas and techniques for your writing
  3. Strategies – Advice on publishing, querying and finding agents

Bell’s writing voice is a great teacher. He has wit, honesty and authority. In the way of writing guides, there are many references to other texts. While this may seem like you’re holding a collection of examples from elsewhere, Bell makes it worthwhile by analysing the snippets in relation to the tactic he used it for. It broadened my horizons by giving me glimpses of different genres by different authors in different eras. However, it’s worth noting that the majority of examples come from literary fiction. Writers of fantasy and other genres may feel a little distanced at times, but there is much to be learned if you keep an open mind.

At just over 250 pages, the book is a fairly quick read. I finished it leisurely, taking in a two page tip or two with my meals. That’s the best part: you can flip to any page and start reading. Reread a helpful tip whenever you feel like it. When I needed motivation, I would choose anything from the Tactics and Reconnaissance sections and just read. It gave me something productive to do. Even if I didn’t end up writing (terrible, I know), I’d at least thought about it and was working that creative part of my brain.

The book is also beautifully designed with scarlet emblems on crisp white pages. I admit I love aesthetic things, so the very thought of a simple design won me over. The length of each tip is reasonably short and did a better job keeping me engaged than other guides with longer chapters. That said, you might find yourself craving a little more detail for some sections, like the publishing tips. But like I said, this is not supposed to be a comprehensive guide.

My only note is that Bell focuses strongly on the published life of an author. His stark frankness on marketing and lifestyle is appreciated and valuable, but to those who enjoy writing more leisurely, it might feel like overkill. I’d love to be published one day – it’s an ambition – but I’m happy to take it slow. I’d probably never quit my nonexistent day job as a student/future speech pathologist to write full time, but if I ever make it to the publishers, I’d be more than happy to take Bell’s advice to heart.

In summary, if you’ve been on the writing field for a long time and have done your research, you might find The Art of War for Writers too simple. Like I mentioned, its strength is not in being specific. That doesn’t mean it’s not worth checking out; you can flip through it in your local bookstore and make that decision yourself. This goes for writers who have already decided their genres. But for those just beginning to invest in writing guides, I personally recommend The Art of War for Writers as a good place to start. Not just for its content, but also for the quality of Bell’s expertise; you’ll come across not-so-good guides in your lifetime and the best way to tell is to compare it to a good teacher. James Scott Bell is a good teacher.

That wraps up my first writing book review. I hope someone finds it useful!

munchkinwrites, signing out.

A Fresh Makeover

Welcome back! Come right in and have yourself a cup of hot chocolate:

hot chocolateI owed you that cup from my very first post. The site was young and unknown, and to be honest it was almost created on a whim of boredom. But people have dropped by, said hi, liked posts and even subscribed and I thought, “Wow. I’d better take this seriously.” So I did. If I’m going to do something you can bet I’m aiming to do it well. There’s no point otherwise! Besides, I’m starting to love doing this. I love posting, meeting new people and giving something back.

So without further ado, I deliver not only hot chocolate but some changes to Plotting Bunnies:

BEFORE

I had a very… scheduled vision for Plotting Bunnies. I knew what I wanted to deliver: blogging, writing resources, music and the occasional book review. The schedule went like this:

  • Monday = blog
  • Tuesday = music feature
  • Thursday = writing prompts
  • Saturday = writing resource

Looks good, if I do say so myself.

I blew it on the first day.

Okay, I didn’t completely but I wasn’t really on time. I was usually a day behind on updates because of life’s dramas. I have uni from Monday to Thursday, gym and dates on Friday and a tutoring job on Saturday morning. It was hectic, to say the least. Ironically, I wanted to post at random moments and ended up holding off because it wasn’t ‘timetabled’. Utter fail. The timing probably worked out because Australia is ahead of most of the world, but there really wasn’t a point to the schedule if I couldn’t keep it. It even got mildly stressful and I didn’t want blogging to feel like a chore.

Change, I decided, was just around the corner.

AFTER

And so, change happened.

  1. Design
    The old site theme was the first to go. Originally Plotting Bunnies was designed on Oxygen. Magazine themes took too much clicking and Oxygen didn’t give the post exposure I wanted because the stickies didn’t show excerpts. It was pretty though. I loved the aesthetics and I did spend an hour drawing that amateur header. But sacrifices had to be made. I trawled through WordPress themes, experimenting and eliminating.The result: another magazine theme. I know. Hypocrite – yes. Fate… maybe.

    I like the quirks of this sturdy Morning After theme. It looks more cluttered and busy, that’s for sure; maybe even messy. I think it makes the blog look more cosy somehow. And it’s so much easier to maintain. So for now, farewell, Plotting Bunnies V1. You will be remembered fondly.Old site

  2. Scheduling and content
    Updates will no longer be scheduled to specific days. I will still post weekly. That means writing resources, prompts and music at least once a week; you – and I – just won’t know when. In other words, it’s almost ‘back to normal’. I may deliver at any time, but I will deliver. I will probably post more than once in each category every week, because let’s face it: there’s too much good music out there. Picking just 52 a year to feature is traumatising!I will also be posting more frequently. This is partially because I’ve dropped the idea of summarising my week in Mumbo Monday posts. See, the thing is: I have bad memory. I don’t remember five things about my week and sometimes they’re really not that interesting anyway. On the other hand, there are days when I wanted to dedicate a whole post to one thing. Now, blog posts will be more flexible and traditional. Whatever, whenever is how it will go.
  3. Values
    If there’s something that hasn’t changed, it’s the values. I actually consider Plotting Bunnies more of site than a blog because the latter is a lot more egocentric. I want Plotting Bunnies to be a cyber cubbyhouse with a communal atmosphere, where like-minded people could share thoughts and ideas with kindred spirits. It’s not all about me (I’m shy, believe it or not!). Anyone is more than welcome to comment on posts and share their writing. I promise everyone will be respected.Like I mentioned on my About page, I’m not a writing guru. I’m just a girl with an imagination and what I’d really love to do is help others create their stories. Used one of my random creative prompts? I’m definitely interested in seeing it! You’re doing the 100 themes challenge as well? We can aim for it together! Hit a creative rut? Same here, let’s moan about it together. Just wanted to say hi? Awesome, HULLO! Come chat with me on Twitter too. I’d love to hear your voices and stories so don’t hold back on me :)

I’ll start:

Hi there, my name’s Christine. I like to read, write and daydream. Nice to meet you!

On coming full circle

It’s 2a.m. right now. I rarely stay up this late without an assignment pressing down on my back. I’m still up because there’s only two people home in my small, awkward family of three and I can’t go to bed until the third one comes through the door. It was already late when I checked on my mum three hours ago. She stays out late when she feels under the weather and urging her to come home “right now, please?” usually doesn’t work. So I leave gentle reminders and let her be. She’s an adult; I’m just barely there. But she’s never stayed out this late before.

I’m pretty sure I’ve called her thirty times now. And left a single text message. Just one because she’s nearly English illiterate and I’m illiterate in anything not English. She didn’t pick up or reply for the full hour that I had been calling. I know she doesn’t hear the phone where she usually hangs out but it’s no reason not to hope. That, and it’s amazing how many terrible things you can imagine in those moments of empty static. Optimism isn’t gold-plated armour.

She picked up eventually. No, she doesn’t know how many times I called her; she hasn’t checked. She felt the phone vibrate this one time out of three dozen. Yes, she’s in a bad mood, feeling bored and restless without a reason. Okay, she’s coming home soon.

“Now,” I insist. “Now would be good.”

She speaks in a childish, teasing tone, sounding slightly lost, and that’s how I know she really isn’t upset over anything specific. We make hopeless banter. Come home and I’ll cheer you up. How? Come and find out. I try not to mention that I was teetering on the verge of calling the place to look for her, but some things still slip out. I can’t sleep until everyone is home. I have an assignment to do tomorrow – today – and I can’t get any rest until you’re home right now.

I’m not angry but I’m frustrated. I was scared and I even went down to the garage to see if she was hiding there. I wondered if calling her straight after she finished work would have made all the difference. I should have taken those few minutes. I should have done this, I should have done that. But it’s not my fault and when it boils down to it, it’s not hers either. Life happens, moodswings come and go, and the fearful kid never really grows up.

I wouldn’t call this a depressing or angry vent (it helps though). It’s more of an observation; that it’s scary when the parent becomes human in front of the child. Parents are superheroes, with all the answers to the world. I think that’s why I don’t like growing up; they don’t indulge me in my curiosities anymore and suddenly I’m old enough to be exposed to things that aren’t all innocent rainbows.

So the moral of the story? Please let your loved ones know where you are. It makes it easier for everyone. Don’t take anything for granted. A lot of sleep will be lost.

✎ Writing prompts (Week 3)

1

Write a scene completely in dialogue.

2

She twisted and twirled, spun and snapped – and she danced.

3

“If I could be reborn again, I would…”

4

Pinky promise.

5

Rorschach test: “A psychological test in which a subject’s interpretations of a series of standard inkblots are analyzed as an indication of personality traits, preoccupations, and conflicts.” – thefreedictionary

Week 3

image from Rorschach Test

Renovating!

It’s decided: this young blog is getting a makeover! This current theme requires more maintenance than I signed up for, with my busy uni life. Hopefully this blog will come out even better than before!

I’ll be trialling some changes tonight so if anyone stops by and catches me in the middle of them, check back another time. Thanks for bearing with my whims!

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