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READ WRITE INSPIRE. Welcome to my Words, a place devoted to making Reading and Writing for children more Inspired.

Monday, 31 October 2011

C'est la vie

Drinking to victory
no matter how big or small.
Celebrating Pink October
There have been a few comings and goings in my life of late. Swings and round abouts, ups and downs. Call them what you will. My little peanut of a brain prefers not to linger too long upon these quandaries of existence. But a couple of weekends ago, as I was running for the lives of others in the Pink Triathlon against Breast Cancer, the very sobering thought that I could be running for my own, tinged my spirits from the usual vibrant fuchsia to an uncertain dusky rose.

Not one to share dilemmas openly or even ask for help in times of need, I went about getting a biopsy in an almost stealth like manner. Such cunning can, unfortunately, not be maintained for long when the questionable growth is situated in prime time position on your snout. Oh well. Luckily I don't harbour great quantities of vanity either but after the cut and slice, I did wonder why these things never appear on your feet or in some other inconspicuous body crevice.

Animosity is a great thing. I was able to go to workshops the day after with the same attitude of nonchalance I used to feel when walking the rain swept streets of London.  The other attendees were too polite and too involved with our combined cause to question my humble appearance.

However, bandages only conceal the superficial wound. I waited for the results with rising distress. It felt as though someone was singing my nerves with a hot little wielding iron like the one he used to cauterise my wound. I could almost smell my own fear like I could my own skin burning. His statements kept rising up in the fog of my anxiety; we should be able to save you, there are various levels of bad, don't wait too much longer, skin graph, lose half your nose...... How on earth was this supposed to be reassuring? I don't have time for this, I thought. I'm a busy mother for goodness sake. Wasn't he aware of all that entailed? I'd lost a close friend to a melanoma a few years ago. She left behind two young daughters. She was only 39 and I think of her daily.I wasn't about to forsake child and family for such an inconvenience. How rude??

But in the end....I didn't have too. I got the all clear. I'm going to be fine...for the time being. But I'm not just fine thanks to the results of the biopsy. I'm fine because throughout this short brush with another of life's uncertainties, I encountered some truly wonderful support, from some beautiful women who in spite of having concerns and tribulations of their own, still found room in their hearts to offer me solace and understanding.

As a writer, inspiration is often found in the most unassuming of places. To find it in the compassion of others is a truly fortunate discovery.

Monday, 24 October 2011

Pink Perfection

OK, so it's not the Gold Coast Marathon, Ironwomen or even the Half Ironman Triathlon, but for many the annual Gold Coast Pink Triathlon marks a significant challenge and worthy hurdle to clear. This all female event is hosted nation wide and encourages participants to compete in an effort to raise money for research towards Breast Cancer.

It's my second year in the running and I'm pleased that I managed to not only beat my time previously, but also come 4th in my age group. A noteworthy achievement for a serious non-sporty type.

But apart from the challenge and fun derived from participating, I swim, bike and run essentially so that future generations don't have to endure the experiences with Breast Cancer that many other female members of my family had to. If I can help achieve that in this smallest of ways, then I consider my self a real winner.

Check out more pics of the event on my Visual Stuff page.

For those wondering about my training strategy, let me just say;  for the other 364 days of the year, I type.

Thursday, 13 October 2011

Success ~ Who needs it?

What defines success for you?

Have you succeeded when you get five sets of green traffic lights in a row?
Is success not burning the evening meal or even managing to dish up an evening meal?
Have you personally won, when you've gained second place in a writing competition?
Have you reached your pinnacle after landing the world's most awesome publishing contract, with promises of untold riches and glory?
Does the glow of success spread across your dial when a six year old student cries out, "I remember you. You're that author who spoke to us."?
Sadly, at times, I feel it's become an over exploited ideal, often inflated beyond the notion of simply achieving something you set out to attain. Fame, fortune and notoriety are often the measure of success these days in lieu of personal best, self satisfaction and humble adoration from you immediate peers. But it's a label we still all wish that, at some stage in our lives, we can apply to ourselves.

So what are the steps to success?

According to the illustrious and much admired, Maggie Beer, some of the main points to remember are as follows. They are equally as relevant no matter what path you are trying to succeed in be it personal, creative artist, parent or friend.

1. Search for what it is that's going to connect your mind and your heart

Sue Whiting, children's author and editor at Walker Books, declares that success comes from being true to you heart. Her belief is to write what is truly important to you, and not to succumb to the vagaries of market trends and mimicking others. She feels that versatility (in writing especially) can be a good thing, albeit a bit of a marketing nightmare from a publisher's point of view. But if you can find what connects your mind and with your heart, in other words, find your own unique voice, then success will follow.

2. Persistence

The old adage of practice makes perfect has and always will apply if we truly want to attain better than average. Unless you are born possessing unsurpassed skill in your chosen area, you will need to enhance whatever inherent talent you have. Practise you craft regularly be it writing, tuba playing or ironing without creases. Persistence is helped by thinking laterally too. But, like anything else, you can learn to be a lateral thinker.

3. Accept constructive criticism

Easier said than done but if you can recognise the fact that you can always do better, then you quite possibly will.

4. Believe in yourself

Straight forward enough notion but how to achieve this...by not being diluted by common opinion. Remember you can't please all the people all the time. Believing in your own abilities comes from confidence, which comes from timing and circumstance.

5. Never forget family and friends

Be kind, generous and grateful to those you meet on your way up for you may need them to help slow your fall should you slip down.

6. Learn to endure & never lose your sense of humour.

One of my many personal credos is to always look on the bright side of life. It's just, well, brighter over there. Plus you'll be able to spot the opportunities better. Harnessing those opportunities can lead to untold of success.

And finally,
"Ad Astra Per Aspera"
Success does not always come easily. Sometimes if you don't work hard, you will never succeed. Robin Williams once said that his over night fame took 20 years to attain. Many a burgeoning writer will share a similar tale. But by working through the adversities, wading through the mud, you will eventually reach your star of success. 


Monday, 3 October 2011

Getting Serious About Humour

I love humour. I love laughing at myself almost as much as I love laughing at others (if only because it seems less rude to do so) I also love writing with humour. But what are the critical elements which cause us to chuckle, which render us unable to suppress a snort or too, which leave us aching in the belly with laughter? What constitutes humour? And how do we find it for the stories we write?

At the recent CYA Conference in Brisbane, talented YA author and all round funny guy, Michael Gerard Bauer led us through an amusing little seminar exploring the ways in which to make people laugh.

There are basically two ways:

- Visual Humour - as with using your face to get a baby to smile
- With your Words - as writers, we do not have the visual back up that a stand up comic might use, therefore we need to use our words to deliver the punch(line). So...

* What is the common ingredient in humour?

- The Unexpected = Surprises. That is the punchline of a joke, the Boo that makes the baby laugh.
- The Extraordinary - told in an Unexpected way.

* Where do you find humour?

- Everywhere is the holistic answer.
- Comedy is often found in Tragedy
- In real life events
- From the mouth of babes (or children in general)

Peter Ustinov stated: Comedy is a funny way of being serious.

Indeed humour can be the shock absorber of life. At this point of the session, Michael invited audience members to recall and share a tragic / comic moment in their life.

For me this occurred about a decade ago. My husband had just been wheeled into ICU in Townsville General Hospital after a mammoth craniotomy. I was invited to join the crammed circle of nurses, doctors, and specialists around his bed to encourage his recovery. As they juggled clipboards, performed neurological obs, and adjusted various tubes leading in and out of my husband, I struggled to maintain a non wobbly lip and brave face. Five hours of waiting had all but frayed every nerve ending beyond repair, or so it felt. We all wondered at the possible outcomes this sort of operation could result in; brain damage, impairment of some kind.

He lay propped up on a meringue mountain of pillows. His head was heavily bandaged with most of his remaining hair sprouting from the top, and his eyes were bruised puffy slits. He looked like a pavlova gone horribly wrong. I couldn't speak a word. The bedside crowd of professionals muttered encouragingly, "Come on mate. Wake up. Your wife is here."

A puffy eye split open. In a groggy but voluble voice, my husband exclaimed, "That's not my wife. I married a blonde."
(see my profile pic for clarification)

Clip boards were dropped, sharp intakes of breath were heard, looks of alarm flooded the faces of the bedside crowd. I laughed out loud. And quickly reassured the professionals. At least they hadn't damaged his sense of humour.

For me, being able to find the humour in tough times like those, was a way of not only coping with them but sharing bleak and not always good news with others in a non threatening, hopeful way.

'When you can laugh at something supposedly larger and more overwhelming than yourself, then you cannot and will not be over come by it.'

* What makes something funny?

- Surprise (as long as it's pleasant and non threatening.
- Unexpected events (which must involve some incongruity or contrast)

Michael waving his Ringo around in a surprising, unexpected and exaggerated way.
Read his Ishmael series for full peg explanation.

 * How do you inject a dose of humour into your writing?

- Use Exaggeration. Create surprising situations in your storyline in outlandish, over the top ways.

- Base the incident on real life happenings. Truth is often stranger than fiction and often funnier too.

- Create Characters with surprising, unusual and exaggerated qualities.Readers need to be able to sympathise with characters in humour. Therefore characters need a distinct and surprising way of looking at the world.

- Have characters contrast and clash with other characters or world at large to allow the readers to emphasis.

- Use secondary characters to expand on comedy.

- Deliberately set up your audience. Then sabotage their expectation with Surprise. Give readers something entirely different from that which they think they are reading towards. Don't forget, you can manipulate the audience.

- Using surprising language; words, images, similes, metaphors.

 Michael's Top Tip for infusing Humour into your writing

* Use the Extraordinary in Unexpected, Surprising and Exaggerated ways. 

For me, life is naturally humourous. I like to look on the bright side, because it often makes me laugh or at least feel better about the dull bits. Funny doesn't always coincide with good, but funny is good. Try adding it to your writing and brighten someones day.

Nothing to do with craniotomies but something to a have giggle at.