A Novel Idea

2011 is the year I will land a generous contract for my first novel. It is the year I will complete my Masters. On a personal level, it is the year I will marry the love of my life.

These are my goals for this year. What are yours?

On New Year’s Eve 2009, I was in Paris. The goals I made then did not anticipate the upheavel and the opportunity that 2010 would bring. This time last year, I did not realize I would be writing and studying full time after abandoning a successful but unsatisfying corporate career.

We cannot know what lies ahead, but we can know what lies in our hearts and act accordingly.

My biggest lesson from 2010 was to trust in love. Sometimes your own steam will only take you partway up the mountain. A supportive life partner, who values your dreams as much as their own, can provide the encouragement that inspires you to find the last skerrick of determination you need to approach the summit.

Look at the relationships in your life. Are some in need of repair? Are some better left in the past?

If your art is your life, the people closest to you need to support your path.

Write well. Write often.

V.

(C) Copyright of the author. 2011.

Season’s Greetings fellow bloggers, writers and inhabitants of this wonderful world. Here is a gift for you to do with as you please.

This picture stopped me in my tracks as I browsed through the local bookshop today. I hope it sparks a story for you.On the cover of Guy Bourdin’s ‘In Between’ photography book.

I’ll be posting a new inspirational piece each month.

Write well. Write often.

V.

(C) Copyright of the author. 2010.

Forget Santa. Oprah is coming to town.

My home town, Sydney, is rife with Oprah anticipation. Today’s paper has three separate articles on the subject in the same section. True friends were revealed and frenemies created in the tussle over the lottery tickets to be part of the studio audience. Tourism industry livelihoods are teetering on the success of cross promotions after a tough year of trading.

The doyenne of daytime television is due to land here next week. Her production crews have already arrived. Three shows will be filmed, airing in January.

Are Australians mad to be spending millions of tax-payer dollars on a media junket?

I must admit, I’m excited. I didn’t scramble over tickets to see her (but that is more indicative of being distracted with essays than of some deep coolness on my part). I don’t watch her show everyday. I just think she’s a good role model for women in business.

I credit her with reviving book clubs amongst ordinary people (anyone who can read, should).

I am agog with her ability to influence people’s tastes and purchases. Thank goodness her agenda seems genuinely positive.

How do you feel about Oprah?

Image courtesy of Oprah.com

I subscribed to her O Magazine when it was first launched – mainly out of curiousity. I still have some bookmarks with inspired quotes (no not of the Chicken Soup variety, more the classic literature and great minds type).

For example, one O Magazine bookmark bears this quote:

‘I have never known any distress that an hour’s reading did not relieve.’

– Montesquieu

Eventually I grew tired with the product placements and let the subscription lapse.

My Oprah viewing consists of author interviews or book club specials that interest me.

Oprah’s paid visit has caused much controversy here. A lot of people view it as a waste of money (how ’bout spending the cash on improving our health care or education? they say). A few people are actually enraged by the idea.

I’ve watched our tourist campaigns come and go. They’ve cost small fortunes and launched modelling or acting careers for their stars (or leveraged existing careers).

I’m very proud of our country, particularly of our culture and breathtaking landscapes. I’m happy to share this with others, especially when it preserves those wonders with much needed tourist dollars.

How much do you know about Australia?

Forget sex sells. Oprah sells.

http://www.oprah.com/oprahshow/What-You-Need-to-Know-About-Oprahs-Australian-Adventure

Travel well. Travel often.

V.

(C) Copyright of the author. 2010.

Unless you are lucky enough to write in a state of peace and quiet, cocooned from the noises of city life in a far away beach or mountain retreat, you probably take some time to switch gears into writing mode. Music – of a specific variety – helps invite the Muse into your mind.

I want to share some pieces that I have found particularly inspiring.

Music has a number of functions for the writer:

1. Music stimulates your synapses.

2. Music sets the mood: for the writer to create and for certain stories to emerge.

3. Music can give you access to a character’s perspective (and their ‘voice’) quickly.

4. Music delivered through good quality headphones can block out external noise.

Have you found other uses for music in your writing life?

The Muse Calliope by Augustin Pajou, National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC. Surely she’s a sucker for a symphony.

Here is a glimpse of the play lists I use for each function above:

‘Get the brain working’ play list:

– Jane Rutter’s ‘Apasionada: Spanish and Exotic Pieces for Flute’ (I’m listening to it as I write this).

– Handel’s Largos

– Brahms’ Symphony No.4

If classical just won’t cut it, try jolting your brain with Daft Punk’s ‘Around the World/ Harder Better Faster Stronger’ from Alive 2007.

‘Doing my writing thing’ play list:

I find music with lyrics almost impossibly distracting. I start singing instead of writing. While I have been inspired by the words of a song before, I tend to listen to instrumental music if I’m actually writing.

Classical! I hear you say – that has no words. 

Have you considered movie sound tracks? A lot of them include mood pieces which are perfect for writing along to.

Some of my favourites:

– Hans Zimmer and Lisa Gerrard’s ‘Gladiator’ sound track

– James Horner’s ‘Braveheart’ sound track

– Randy Edelman’s ‘Tomb of the Dragon Emperor’ soundtrack (I kid you not) 

Character play list:

How well do you know your own characters? If they had control of your stereo or mp3 player, what would be pumping out?

At the danger of appearing nutty, here’s what one of my characters loves to listen to. Can you guess their kind from their musical choices?

– Good Charlotte’s ‘Misery’

– Santanna and Dido’s ‘Feels like Fire’

– Missy Higgin’s ‘Steer’

Do you have a set of songs or artists that you write by?

Write well. Write often.

V.

(C) Copyright of the author. 2010.



I have a lot to be thankful for. I have my health, I am much happier now that I’m writing full time in a bid to become an author, and wealth, well, that will come.

I’ve been thinking a lot lately of how good my run of teachers has been in life. In particular, I am grateful for the supervision of my senior high school English teacher. She made me feel special and she encouraged my love of literature.

I recently came across the card she gave me after I had just received the results of my final year.

The outside front cover is a reproduction of Renoir’s ‘A Young Girl’. On the inside, in a script that I had come to love reading (her essay comments were copious), is written:

Congratulations on your triumph …

All your talent, determination and spirit have been rewarded…

I feel it has been a privilege to teach you over the past three years. I know your journey in life will take you many places, and it makes me very happy to know our paths have crossed.

Picture: ‘A Young Girl’ by Pierre Auguste Renoir

I thanked her at the time, but that was the thanks of the young and inexperienced. I knew I was lucky to have her, but it was not until many years later that I realised how significant she had been in fostering my confidence.

I have thought of her often.

I have entertained contacting her – to send her a note of thanks – but something has stopped me.

I felt I had to wait until I was an undisputed, well-known, raving success.

Would she want to hear from someone who had not yet ‘made it’?

Well, I hope so, because I’ve decided to write her. But first I have to track her down!

Are there people who have helped you on your journey? Do they know how grateful you are for their kindness?

Write well. Write often.

V.

(C) Copyright of the author. 2010.

This morning I woke fired up. Well that’s not strictly true, I woke up slowly (having enjoyed a lovely glass or two of red with my partner last night). But once cognition kicked in, I felt marvellous. Why? Because today is a day of writing for me.

I’m studying and writing my first novel this year. Last week saw the final essay of the semester submitted, so I’m a free woman.

I may not be earning an income right now, but I’m learning my trade.

After the rounds of breakfast, bathing, news and email the day was clear.

A lot of published authors caution ‘Don’t give up your day job’, and while I am cautious in some respects, I knew this advice didn’t fit me. In my early posts I talked about trying to string sentences together in the wee hours before and after a demanding day of work. It was driving me nuts. Like someone only letting you eat one M&M a day. I want a bulging handful – if not the whole packet!

So I’m sitting at my computer this morning with a mission. My novel draft is resting till next week. This week I have decided to write one short story every day and then submit them all to competitions or for publication.

Working away and then BRRR, BRRR, BRRR as my phone almost vibrates off the shelf. I’ve blogged before about my strict no interruptions policy. But it’s my Dad. I’m always going to take his call. It must be urgent – he knows the policy. I just saw him a couple of days ago so he couldn’t be missing me already surely?

Everything OK?

Yes, just wanted to talk to my darling.

Thanks Dad, but I’m just in the middle of writing…

That’s good dear … [tells me about painting the house, mangoes are in season, but does not pick up on the not so subtle nod towards THE NO INTERRUPTIONS UNLESS IT’S URGENT & IMPORTANT POLICY]

…Dad – can I call you later, I’m midstream on my writing. This is my work day remember.

On that darling. I was thinking. Maybe you should get a part-time job.

Dad- 

Just part-time-

We’ve discussed this. The whole point of me quitting my job was so I could finally write my novel.

Yes, but a job would get you out and about…

(I back out of the conversation – We’ll discuss this later – tell him I love him – which I of course do – but I’m irritated)

Whenever I find myself less than angelic towards either of my parents I always feel quite guilty. They love me and have supported me and almost always been 100% behind what I wanted to be or do.

I felt irritated that my perfect writing mind had been jolted into a reminder of how hard things are financially. I felt irritated that six months into this escapade it sounds like my father is losing his nerve with respect to his daughter’s ability to eventually turn a profit from her new career.

I know he is only ever well intentioned towards me.

I don’t think anyone but other writers can understand how dark and desperate some moments are in that pre-published stage.

I stomp on the little voice that whispers doubts.

I turn up the volume on anything that makes me feel a little closer to my goal.

I have to.

There is only one thing worse than failing and that is not daring in the first place.

How do you cope with the good intentioned opinions of others?

Excuse me – I have a short story to create…

Write well. Write often.

V.

(C) Copyright of the author. 2010.

I went to a funeral today. Way to make you not want to keep reading. I avoid pain and sadness too. Sadly the beautiful lady who is lost to us except in memory, could not.

I have been crying on and off since she departed on Sunday. And there were many closer to her than I was.

She was a gentle woman who never had a cross word with anyone (yes they do exist). She helped so many people in her life – materially and immaterially.

Just a few months ago she sent me her delicious chilli con carne (having heard that my grandmother was visiting me later that day). She was at home, ravaged by breast cancer, yet still thinking of others.

We thought she would get better. We were wrong.

She loved God, People, Poetry, Stained Glass and Life.

We love her still.

Requiem

by Robert Louis Stevenson

Under the wide and starry sky,
Dig the grave and let me lie.
Glad did I live and gladly die,
And I laid me down with a will.

This be the verse you grave for me:
Here he lies where he longed to be;
Home is the sailor, home from the sea,
And the hunter home from the hill.

Available at: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:UN_Glass.jpg