Are we there yet?

Loving the WFH

I think most of us have been saying this for oooohhhh, two years now? It feels silly to be writing about something which most of the world has been forced to experience, but it does feel good to say, ‘Yep, I’m over it – over it a long time ago.’

However I’m also very grateful because unlike many unlucky people these past few years, I have reasonable health, a job, a home, and my family and friends are (mostly) okay.

But that’s not to say we haven’t had deep sadness and a lot of stress this year. As in my previous post earlier this year, Dad fell on Christmas Day last year, hurt his neck, went into hospital and sadly didn’t come out. He died on March 3rd, coincidentally his mother’s birthday, of complications following the fall. He (and we) had a bad experience with the rehabilitation place he was sent to, as he was supposedly well enough to leave the medical hospital.

Dad may have turned 95 while in hospital – an age most people are lucky to reach – but it was heart-wrenching to watch a loved one who spent most of his life in good health and mind deteriorate (to the point of becoming malnutritioned) because the staff who were meant to be looking after him were not doing their job properly and our visits were restricted due to Covid. He had been deteriorating slowly over the past year, we know that, but he was put in the wrong place and should have had an easier ending.

At least we were able to visit him. But our faith in our health system (or that rehab place in particular) was severely shaken. Complaints were made and the Coroners Court is investigating.

Vale Dad – you lived a long and amazing life and will be very much missed by your large family and the hundreds of friends and colleagues you made over the years.

We also recently lost my Aunt and Great-Aunt. While it’s inevitable that your elders will pass away, it leaves a hole in your family and these ladies will be greatly missed too. Vale Patti and Mim.

My TreeProject seedlings went off to their property for planting

I am at least feeling better about my writing, which provided solace and escape this year compared to the last, when I’d put myself under too much pressure to finish things. This year I wrote for myself and enjoyed it. I entered a few competitions and residencies without success but that was okay, at least I’d done it. Plus I came up with a project that a number of writer friends agreed to take part in – it’s still being pitched and there’s no telling whether it will get picked up, but again, I’m glad I put myself out there as it’s a passion project for me, very green-themed!

Also putting myself out there, I took the leap and changed jobs after ten years with the one company… I was sorry to leave and it took much consideration but sometimes change needs to happen otherwise we stagnate. I highly recommend not stressing about so much change in a short period – just do what feels right at the time and ride it out!

On the same lines, I surprised myself by enrolling last week in a course – Certificate IV in Home Sustainability Assessment! It’s all online and involves learning how to assess an existing home or building plans for environmental efficiency. It’s something I can do while continuing my writing and my present job (administration & policy writing for a disability support company). Hopefully with less time to procrastinate, I’ll get more done! I’m excited to turn my interest in sustainability into something that will help people live more environmentally friendly lives and save money while they’re doing it.

Golden Beach, near Sale

Meanwhile the cats have loved having me work from home and are not-so-secretly enjoying their time as our only animals. We are slowly considering more chickens and adopting another dog when a suitable (cat & chook friendly) one becomes available. We finally managed to get away on a weekend break recently, after many Covid-delays, only to Sale in Gippsland, 2 hours’ drive away, but wow, how that break makes a difference after Melbourne’s record-breaking lockdown (over 260 days in total). I can’t even recall the date it ended – dates are a blur now. It’s fascinating how time has both stretched and shrunk for so many of us, worldwide.

So it’s into the New Year we go. Like many of us, I’m cautious about what that will bring but can only hope that change and sensible thinking is part of it (please, if you think you can’t do anything at your level to help the environment, look more closely, there’s hundreds of tiny things you can do – if we all think this way and lobby our governments and giant companies, we CAN make a difference!).

Apart from that, I wish health and happiness and stability for every one of us 😊

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Same old? Or new beginnings…

Embracing my partly-silver hair with a new headshot

Well, I’ve somehow survived Christmas & New Year, although it does feel a little like déjà vu.

It did feel like things might be an improvement on last year (anything would be, we all agree!) but my poor father has been back in hospital after a fall on Christmas morning. He is not really recovering and it’s a tough ask at 95. But our family is strong and supportive and I feel so thankful for that 😊

We even lost our last little chicken, Paloma, who at nine was getting on but had still been producing eggs over the last four or five months. She had somehow outlived all the bigger chickens (I think around twelve in total!) despite bullying and two dog attacks. I’m surprised at how much I miss going out to see her several times a day but I’m glad she’s at rest.

The cats are still with us, enjoying near retirement 🙂

I have been up and down in my feelings for writing, but I’ve been re-working two manuscripts with a fresh eye after leaving them alone for a while (or sulking – take your pick!). Whatever my feelings, it is good to go back to something after a period. I had been hoping last year might have been my time to get a contract with an Australian publisher but not to be.

This has led me, due to turning fifty last year (my hair going silver to mark the moment) to wondering if I should keep slogging it out. I have to admit to being so stressed while trying to complete a manuscript in time to enter a competition last year that I almost lost my enjoyment for writing. But there was a LOT going on at the time, around mid-year, personally, professionally and –  huh – world-wide. So I try to keep things in perspective and remember that no matter how long it may take (and, well, that my dreams may not be fulfilled) the writing community is where I belong and I am buoyed by the amazing friendships I have made and the brilliant releases which keep coming out.

RIP Paloma

And I have an exciting new idea which I’ve passed by a couple of those beautiful author friends and I feel a grain of hope yet again.

I’ve just finished planting seeds for my annual TreeProject volunteer work, too, so let’s take that as a sign of regrowth. Hopefully in six months’ time I’ll be sending off the little seedlings to be planted back on a property for revegetation, and maybe sending off finished manuscripts. Stay tuned… it’s onwards and upwards!🦚

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Upside down Elvis

Upside down Elvis – RIP beautiful boy 🙂

The problem with not posting for so long is that so much can happen between posts… and then you don’t know where to start!

Also I am mildly amused that my previous blog was titled Endless Possibilities. That’s how it felt but it wasn’t to happen this time. That manuscript Ella was rejected by a number of publishers as being too adult for the present YA market in Australia (and it’s too Aussie to be marketed overseas). It’s also too YA to be sold as adult in its present form, so that’s no go either. Back to the bottom drawer for now… 

But meanwhile, that news paled in comparison to the devastating bushfires that raged across so many parts of Australia from around June 2019 and didn’t go out entirely  until about April in Victoria. The impact on our environment is catastrophic – it’s believed over 1 billion animals have been incinerated… And I’m still unsure that our governments (Federal and State) and our society are prepared to act and change in time to help prevent this happening again. Although there does at last seem to be a lot more support for Aboriginal methods of traditional burning to stop the insane wildfires which were creating their own weather patterns. We can only hope there are enough changes put in place, in time.

Meanwhile my father had became quite ill over Christmas – at nearly 94 this isn’t unexpected but he has done pretty well for many years and it was a shock to have him in hospital for a good six or seven weeks post-Christmas. He was stuck in a small room with no view and very little energy to read or do much more than watch a little TV or manage a few minutes of a crossword. We visited as much as we could but it was very tough on him and Mum.

Then just before Christmas our beautiful little whippet cross Elvis broke the fibia bone in a hind leg, just from twisting to bark at another dog while out walking. A few weeks later he broke the larger tibia in the same leg from just tripping over a rock. Osteoporosis – common in rescue dogs, due to poor nutrition as youngsters. He was 14 and not coping in the heat, and we didn’t want to put him through amputation at that age, only to break another bone…

I still can’t think about his beautiful, funny little face without smiling. How he’d wormed his way into our hearts and took over our king-sized bed, thumping down against us with his tough little body, using those big eyes and long nose to stare wistfully when he wanted something, or to nudge a cat out of the way when feeling daring (he was rightly nervous of the cats). And always so incredibly happy to see us, that whip of a tail beating our legs and the wall. Six months later and we haven’t yet adopted another dog. One day. Just not yet.


Cats 2020

Izzie (at back) & Hermie are a great comfort to us 🙂

And meanwhile there’s been the great pandemic. Dad went into hospital not long after Elvis passed, then Covid-19 hit not long after Dad got out of hospital. I’ve been lucky to keep my job, after some nervous moments and going down to one day a week working from home, slowly returning to normal hours but partially from home, and now working entirely from home. It’s been… interesting! As a natural introvert, to be honest, I’ve been relieved by the lack of pressure to visit people or to attend events. I’ve even managed to get some writing done!

But the societal impact is the worst – the effects of isolation on the elderly and homeless, the people in nursing homes without their visitors and activities, people losing their jobs, the awful rise of domestic violence and drug & alcohol abuse with families stuck behind closed doors and under even more pressure… And the environmental impact frightens me, with the rise in takeaway food and coffees (the only way most cafes & restaurants can survive, I get that) and masks and gloves ending up in waterways. Humans really are a walking disaster.

I suspect that footage of animals taking over deserted city parks and roads is treated by most people as cute social media entertainment, not as a dire warning for our species…

And then… Black Lives Matters. People have been crying out for years – centuries – of the injustice and violence enacted against people of colour, and I cannot believe the constant pushback by white people (I am white) who insist it’s ‘all in the past’… Well, you don’t need me to tell you that slavery, servitude, constant oppression, racism and refusal to recognise all those things will make people feel awful about themselves, and angry about their treatment to boot. Stop telling POC to ‘get over it’, stop the casual racism and stop asking POC to explain – read books, watch documentaries and learn history from POC authors and filmakers and their allies. I learn more every day. For Aussies, the book Dark Emu by Bruce Pascoe is a great place to start 🙂

But lovely things can happen in the middle of awfulness. In January, on that terrible weekend we had to make the decision about Elvis, I got a message from a friend out of the blue. She’d won a manuscript assessment in the amazing Authors for Fireys bushfire fundraiser and bless her, not having a manuscript herself, asked me if I’d like it. I was blown away and said yes but due to circumstances, could I delay, as the only m/s I had was a middlegrade all about dogs… and I told her what was about to happen.

Of course she agreed to pass on the message to the author, and sympathised, and then I slept for two hours with Elvis on the bed, unable to deal with anything else. But that was the highlight of this year so far – just a really generous act by a friend who knows how tough the publishing industry is (she’s an editor herself) and who wanted to stretch her donation further.

When I touched base with the author who’d donated the assessment, it was a dream match. Hayley Lawrence loves dogs and had at the time an elderly big boy of her own. She’s an experienced YA author with one great novel out (Inside the Tiger) and another due in September, Ruby Tuesday. And she has five young daughters, so lots of experience in reading middlegrade and now writing some herself. She did an amazing job of assessing and editing my first 10,000 words, plus she asked for the synopsis, blurb and tagline, plus our promised one-hour Zoom session somehow turned into four hours! We talked as much about dogs and kids as we did writing, the wonderful Aussie YA community, and the perils and joys of publishing and pitching.

Thank you my friend Luna for your amazing gift which came out of nowhere at a time where I felt like the world was ending (it was certainly burning). And thank you Hayley for being so generous with your time and expertise and being so warm and friendly – you were exactly the same via Zoom as you were on paper!

Even though the fires didn’t burn near our home, the helplessness was awful. Donating money doesn’t feel like doing anything, but we did that (by the time Authors for Fireys came along, I’d run out of money to donate). I felt unable to leave Elvis to do any volunteering, and then Mum & Dad needed our help. In the end, I did what I’ve done in the past and grew seedlings for TreeProject. Six months later these are almost ready to plant – once we get the paperwork to deliver them, because Victoria has gone back into Stage 4 lockdown for Covid and restrictions are tougher than ever.


TreeProject acacia (wattle) seedlings almost ready for planting

This has been one great long babbling post and you’ve done well if you’ve stuck with it til now. I know I’m in a much better position than so many others but also like many, the mental health is taking a battering.

But writing-wise, I’m happy to say I finished my draft of the middle-grade doggy manuscript in time to submit it to a competition and for a residential fellowship. Even if nothing comes of it, it gave me a date to work towards and the satisfaction of finishing. And I love my characters! Writing about dogs made me very happy. Hopefully one day Amelia’s K9 Club may make it into bookshops (you see? Endless possibilities strikes again!)

Until then, my husband and I and the cats miss our canine friends but will keep battling through the pandemic, sharing caring duties for Mum & Dad with my sister and having family Zoom sessions to try to boost their spirits. We all hope for a better second half for 2020 for everyone 🙂


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Endless possibilities

The studio

Eleanor Dark’s studio, my writing spot for the two weeks

A bit of an update on my latest YA manuscript, Ella, which won me a writing residence at Varuna this year. I wrote about winning this in September last year but forgot to say how it actually went.

I chose to go in the first two weeks of May, just as the weather started to get cooler. I hadn’t visited the Blue Mountains (east of Sydney) before, and the little town of Katoomba and the gorgeous surrounds were everything I’d heard of, and more. It’s a beautiful little old town set high in the mountains overlooking the stunning Valley and Cascade Falls. You can feel the history of the place reaching far back to the first inhabitants.

I got asked a lot what the residency involved, so here’s a quick rundown: two weeks of writing, eating, sleeping, walking, reading and talking writing! Yep, heaven for writers, basically. Included in the residency was an hour’s meeting with writing consultant, Dr Carol Major.  She interrogated me very gently but piercingly about what my manuscript was about, and what I wanted to convey with it. I blurted out that it’s “about the environment”, which was not what I’d expected to say – it’s an older YA book set on a farm with a practical, hard-working & hard-living farm girl. In that time, Carol gave me much to think about, and a couple of writing exercises to do. When I returned to my writing studio, there was a skink (a tiny lizard) sunning itself on the worn stone doorstep, which I took as a symbol that I was on the right path.

Five writers at a time stay in the old house, with all food provided and the lovely — coming in the evenings to prepare a beautiful cooked dinner each night. No housework, shopping, cooking or cleaning! Let alone a two week break from our paid jobs and/or family routines! Yes, you can see why people line up to apply for this residency 🙂

Writing hours are kept from 9am-6pm so as not to disturb anyone at work, but of course you could pre-arrange to meet someone for lunch or a walk. There was also a lot of chat in the kitchen when making a cuppa or sandwich. We would then all meet in the large library for pre-dinner chat about the day’s work then sit down for dinner around 7pm. Have you ever heard of anything so civilised? And we did talk and talk about writing, reading, writers’ festivals, the publishing industry and so much more. There was a good combination of people of all ages and publishing experience and writing backgrounds, so there was a lot to learn. And yep, a fair bit of gossip that shall remain buried under the ‘what’s said at Varuna, stays at Varuna’ law. It helps that I’m incredibly forgetful, of course 😉

The Three Sisters

The Three Sisters (Meehni, Wimlah and Gunnedoo) look out across the stunning Kedumba (Jamison) Valley

In answer to the second most asked question, yes, I did do a lot of writing but mostly editing – I removed around 5000 words and worked on re-structuring the story. I can’t tell you how wonderful it was to be immersed in a creative work for a whole two weeks – I thought I wouldn’t be able to make the most of, but it was the right time to work on this manuscript, and certainly the right surroundings. The Blue Mountains is one of the most stunning natural environments in the world (including the valley where they found the magnificent Wollemi pine), and despite the heavy loads of tourists and horribly commercial chairlift rides, the spirit of the places remains.


Local cockatoos kept me entertained while writing

Since my stay, I’ve been able to finish the manuscript (FINALLY got that structure into place after a lot of hard work!) and send it to my lovely agent, Sally Bird. Happily she liked it, and after I made a few changes, she sent it out into the great big publishing world last week. I have to say that despite getting over ten rejections for my previous (and now shelved) manuscript last year, this is still one of my favourite times when the possibilities seem endless and there’s hope that at least one publisher will take an interest in my book. All it takes is that one person at the right time.

So here’s hoping that my next post will have some positive news, but who knows? Meanwhile I have a very lovely middle-grade children’s book to work on, which I’d love to get out into the world before my younger relatives are too old to read it!

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Facing Up is Five!

It’s October 2019, which means my YA novel Facing Up is having a birthday! It’s reached the grand old age of five, and I thought that was worthy of a blog post 🙂

Facing Up was the second manuscript I started, but the first one I finished. It’s not polished writing and I look back at all the things I could change, but I’m quite proud of it. The characters still resonate in my head and it was alright for a first effort!

Here’s the blurb:

“Metal crunched, screamed as the force sent bodies in all directions. Instant stink of burnt rubber, glimpse of an arm flying up.

Only the signpost slamming into the side window stopped Carly’s momentum. Glass crunched. Then there was nothing.” 

Since the car accident, Carly hasn’t changed that much. She’s still yelling at her family, rebelling, alienating most people. Only now she has reasons to be angry.

The guy she liked is heading to jail for causing the accident. His mate was killed. Carly’s best friend Suzie is now wheelchair-bound. And a complete stranger is dead.

Life sucks, and Carly’s coping the only way she can.

If she can’t pull herself together, everything will fall apart. But what can you do when your face is half full of tiny glass pieces?

The anniversary has made me think a lot about the past five years. Have I achieved much since then? Well, I didn’t sell huge numbers of books, that’s for sure – but I only have a handful of paperbacks left out of the print run of 100 I did back then. The eBook isn’t on the bestseller list on Amazon, either, but then those lists can be read in various ways, depending on how far down the category rabbit-hole you travel!

I’ve wondered in the past if I made a mistake self-publishing Facing Up when I did. But no, it’s been part of my learning curve. In earlier drafts it was rejected by a number of publishers and agents. Once I’d had a manuscript assessment, re-written a lot of it and had several people read it, self-publishing (or indie publishing) was taking off and when a friend asked if I’d considered it (Amanda Hocking’s Trylle series was making waves at the time via Amazon) I investigated and thought why not?

So I’ll never really know if the revamped version would have been accepted, but I do know that I wasn’t great at pitching and I hadn’t done any workshops or talked to many other authors, traditionally- or self-published. I did all that AFTER I self-published – rookie mistake! But I did increase my social media as part of promoting the book, and in this way I met many wonderful people, learnt all sorts of marketing tips, and started getting out in real life more often, attending launches and workshops.

And along the way, I wrote and read and wrote some more, got short-listed in a short-story competition, found an agent and won a writing residency fellowship at Varuna – so I guess Facing Up was my calling card into the Aussie YA writing world.

I now have many friends and contacts, a much better idea of how publishing works and feel more equipped to get my writing out there and into readers’ hands.

I’m hoping to do another blog soon about my writing residency and further news, but until then, happy reading and writing to all the readers and writers out there 😊


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A work in progress (or two)

Bookstack LoveOzYA challenge

Day 7 in the latest #LoveOzYA challenge on Instagram

Hmm, the blog posts are getting further and further apart. But I am still here, still writing, and mostly present on Bookstagram, my happy place of books, authors, readers and bloggers. It’s not a coincidence that many of the accounts I follow post gorgeous and/or funny photos of their animals alongside gorgeous photos of book recommendations, events or just life. A nice place to be, most of the time!

Anyway, there’s now just six weeks (arrgghh!) until I take up my residential fellowship at Varuna in the stunning Blue Mountains outside Sydney. My manuscript Ella, which got me the fellowship, has gone out to two beta readers so far and initial reports are good. Phew! It’s definitely a work in progress, one where I know what I want to achieve and feel that I am on the right track. I am happy with the idea that it will take lots of revising and drafting to get it to publishable stage, and that two weeks of intensive work at Varuna should help with this.

Elvie and Hermie on bed

More animals? I think they’re glad they’re fictional

Meanwhile I’m using the time to work at two lighter, younger manuscripts, one of which is YA (young adult) and the other more MG (middle grade). I am having fun with both (strangely, they both involve lots of animals again – there are a few in Ella as well) and I think I have finally forced myself to come up with plots that may not be perfect but they will lead me into finishing a first draft in a lot less time than my first three manuscripts (ie: maybe even under a year – WOW!).

My wonderful friend and very successful author Alison Evans told me recently about this lovely lady Rachael Stephen, who talks about a thing called the Plot Embryo. As Rachael says herself, she didn’t come up with the idea, but she sure knows how to use it, manipulate it and give extremely helpful advice to authors struggling with plotting and just generally getting that damn manuscript finished. Added bonuses – her Scottish accent, no-nonsense attitude, lots of swearing and bloopers 😀

Oh – my YA manuscript Inside Out is on hold for now after going out to ten publishers and aaaaaaalmost hooking one. So close! But yes, it’s not quite ready for publication in our very small Aussie YA world and it’s harder to push a debut author unless they already have a name for themselves, so I’m concentrating on taking Ella to Varuna to continue our battle (she’s my toughest character yet).

YA Day 2019

YA Day, Melbourne, Feb 2019

So the long road to being published (traditionally) continues between lots of reading, author events, bookclub, workshops and fun writing sessions with friends (eh, so, the last one involved much coffee, laughs, advice and very little writing, but it was worth it!) 🙂

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Happy New Year and all that

Spoilt pets

The animals have had a slow year too

It’s been a slow year on the blogging front, but I’m happy to say I’m doing a lot more work on my manuscripts instead, so that evens things out in my opinion. While I don’t have any solid news about the manuscript which went out to publishers this year, one of them has shown interest in working with me in the future, so that is a happy dance right there!

Also I am pleased with the progress I’m making on Ella, the manuscript I’ll be working on during the Varuna residency next year, where I’m booked for two weeks at the start of May. So it’s been a good writing year all up 🙂

A few books read

A few books read

I’ve managed to read 119 books so far this year, according to Goodreads… I set the bar low at 90, it seems. A few were audio books (which take me forever to listen to but are great when cooking or doing my stretches) and a number were middle-grade, which don’t take long. The majority were YA by Australian authors, and adult fiction or crime fiction by mostly female authors – I seem to gravitate that way. I used to be reluctant to read too much, thinking it would interfere with my writing, but now I’m back to my childhood reading habits of picking up another book as soon as I’ve finished one, or alternating between two books. And it feels like a good influence on my writing style and ability – finally, it’s all soaking in!

Other than that, dropping back to part-time work has helped my health and energy, even if the budget has had to shrink a bit. I’d rather be working on my writing and spending time with my animals and great people rather than spending money on the latest technology fad or an overseas holiday or fancy wardrobe.

I’ve started with TreeProject again, and have planted most of the seeds already to grow indigenous seedlings for a farm out in Gippsland (a region east of Melbourne). Hopefully I’ll be able to provide the farmer with over 300 young trees, shrubs and grasses to help re-vegetate his property in autumn next year.

Adani protest 2018

The Adani protest outside Flinders Street Station in the heart of Melbourne.

On that environmental note, I marched in the Climate Change rally in Melbourne on December 2nd. Thousands of people of all backgrounds, ages and politics turned out in four cities to march against the building of the gigantic Adani coalmine in Queensland. This is a mining company with a poor history of environmental and human rights in its own country – if they build this mine, it will severely affect not only the area around it, but also the endangered Great Barrier Reef.

Anyway, I digress, but you can see what has been worrying me and millions of others this year. It seems that the health of our environment is slipping through our fingers, along with hundreds of species of precious, unique flora and fauna, while our politicians play power games of who can last the longest in the top job (1-2 years seems to be the going rate).

Okay, I’d better get off my ranting soap box and get back to my writing! I wish everyone safe holidays and a very Happy New Year – take care and enjoy your reading and writing or whatever else keeps you creative and well 🙂

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Some exciting news! I’ve won a Varuna Residential Fellowship for 2019 🙂

This is an amazing opportunity for Australian writers – basically it’s a writing retreat in Katoomba, in the beautiful, mystical Blue Mountains just west of Sydney.  It’s two weeks given over to writing, reading, thinking and talking to other writers, all in an amazing old mansion called ‘Varuna’.

Imagine that! No cooking or cleaning or work or any mundane thing that provides a writer with their usual procrastination tactics 😉

Varuna, the mansion and the property around it, was donated to the writers of Australia by Mick Dark in memory of his parents, Eleanor and Dr Eric Dark. Both his parents were extraordinary people – writers and environmentalists with a strong sense of social justice. Fellowships are given for manuscripts which are judged blind, on fifty pages and a 200 word synopsis (I can tell you the synopsis was the hardest part of the two!)

I’ll be working on a manuscript that’s still YA but on the older side, with a strong female main character, set in country Victoria this time:

When Ella’s cousin drowns, their small town is divided about the odd circumstances. A year on, trespassers on their farm trigger events that unearth family secrets.

Ella is a farm girl who takes no prisoners – in fact, I’ve just realised that she reminds me of a modern-day Norah from the classic Billabong series by Mary Grant Bruce – a girl who’s grown up on horseback, knows how to use a gun, lives and breathes animals and the environment around her… I love writing her and her physicality. And this book will have a strong environmental lean as well.

Anyway, that’s my exciting news for the week – hopefully I’ll be able to get up to NSW in autumn next year. My lovely husband will meanwhile be keeping the home fires burning, looking after our menagerie. Missing them all will be the hardest part, I feel 🙂

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Spiderwebs of contacts

1524467769058I used to hate the idea of networking – to me, it was just another buzzword, and involved people having drinks, swapping business cards and earnestly talking at each other about their work, without really connecting personally.

In my early writing years I didn’t understand how this could possibly help me. Isn’t writing all about working on your own, getting the thoughts out of your head and onto the page? Hopefully in a form that actually communicates those thoughts to other people.

So I spent too many years not going to events or launches or workshops. Strangely, that was despite the fact that I’d spent several years studying Professional Writing and Editing part-time, and enjoyed learning from other students as well as the lecturers. I just couldn’t seem to force myself to attend things during the time when I might have been relaxing or, well, actually writing.

But then a few years ago I took the dive into various forms of social media, mainly to promote my YA book – Twitter, a Facebook writer page, Tumblr, this blog, and then Instagram. Slowly and awkwardly I made friends with other writers and YA readers in the ether, even joining in a competition for ‘first chapters’ and a Twitter chat for YA fans. Then I ventured out into the world of book launches and a few events, and started meeting some of those people in real life.

Networking involves social contact with strangers, talking and making sense, and probably trying to juggle a glass of wine and a cupcake covering in a disturbing amount of squishy icing, all without looking like someone just out of a hundred days of isolation.

That pretty much sums up an author’s life – and says loads about why not all of us are fabulous networkers. However, the good thing about getting together at events is sharing stuff with people who quite likely enjoy the same stuff.

Social media is the stepping stone for this. I can’t count the number of times I’ve tentatively approached someone who looks familiar, because they have their photo on Twitter/Insta/Facebook, and we’ve exchanged handles and then proper names if necessary.  I now always introduce myself as “Carolyn Gilpin – carolynswriting” and 95% of the time get the response “of course, yes, we follow each other!”

Being quite shy, I used to have my book cover as my profile pic, until a lovely author (Sarah Epstein) suggested I change to a photo of myself, to make it easier for people to recognise me. I finally felt confident enough to do so, and it’s been nice.

I have found that despite my shyness, clumsiness and ability to embarrass myself with amazing ease (*note to self – make sure your phone’s camera flash is turned OFF when taking photos of authors while sitting in the front row at a bookshop talk), I CAN get out there and make contacts and even friends.


Two lovely authors I’ve met via social media then in real life – Eliza Henry-Jones and Emily Gale at the launch of Eliza’s YA book P is for Pearl in March this year.

This has led to great exchanges of book recommendations, writing tips, publishing tips, all sorts of handy information and juicy gossip, and in some cases friendships which I hope will last forever.

It sometimes leads to people searching out your writing, and even to those tiny, sometimes unrecognisable connections which may end up with you chatting to your future publisher/editor/agent 🙂

Now in my head I see spiderwebs of connections with people dotted here and there, all connected in different ways to various people.

Hopefully these people aren’t all injecting an anaesthetic venom into their contacts/prey then sucking the life-juice out of them! (Okay, there might be a few like that, but I digress)

Ha ha, no, hopefully these people are having a nice chat about shared likes and learning new things, making new connections. So next weekend I’ll be heading to a free event at a local library with four Aussie YA authors, one of whom I’m already friends with, because we met via Instagram, then introduced ourselves at a book launch, and now we catch up at events and for coffee and chats about writing and life in general. How good is that?  🙂


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It’s all about you… or me… or us

sky can litter coca cola

Photo by Skitterphoto on

Australia’s in the middle of a campaign right now to cut out single-use plastic bags, straws, bottles, etc. And it’s making me think about human behaviour.

How often do you ignore something wrong, something as simple as a discarded can lying in the gutter? Simply because you didn’t drop it there, or you didn’t have time to pick it up and find a rubbish bin, or you didn’t want to get your hands dirty. Fair enough.

It happens. We all feel that way at times.

But what would happen if you took a different view? If I took a different view? What if we all think from the ‘I’ point of view. First person, in writing terms. As in, “What can I do to help? What can I do to make it better?”

I know this can be turned on its head and people could just say ‘But I didn’t do that, so why should I have to clean up the mess.’ Or from the perpetrators’ point of view: ‘I can’t be stuffed walking two metres to the bin, I’ll drop my rubbish here.’

It’s too easy to go down that path, and we’ve all been there. But it would be nice to think that we, as humans who are apparently meant to be the superior beings, could collectively say, ‘I will do it. I will put my rubbish in the bin. I will help. I will pick up that bottle and put it in recycling. I will decide not to buy a plastic bottle of water today – instead, I’ll remember to take my reusable water bottle, to save money and the impact of packaging.’

Do you see what I mean? If we all decide personally to do something positive, every day, it could create a massive impact. Start simple, work your way up. Pick up that rubbish; don’t buy the takeaway food in all its throwaway packaging; help your neighbours move something; tell the people down the street that their poor dog barks for hours on end when they’re out; call the police if you hear a disturbance next door; ask authorities to investigate if you think something terribly wrong is happening to that child.

Okay, the last couple are dramatic examples and I don’t wish for anyone to have to face things like that. But they do happen, and often they keep happening because people nearby prefer to stay out of it: “It’s not my problem. Not my fault.”

Well, it may not be MY fault, but I can be part of the change, by doing something good every day.

ground group growth hands

Photo by Pixabay on

YOU can be part of  the change, by doing something good every day.

WE can be part of the change, by doing something good every day.

Collectively, we’d all end up much better off. And really, most of it’s not that hard 🙂

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