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Monday, November 07, 2016

Rhinoceros poems and strange things writers do

I always love hearing from readers, but some requests are more unusual than others. I received this letter from Germany on Friday.

They also enclosed copies of verses they’ve received from Doris Lessing and Patrick Modiano, both writers I particularly admire (as well as the minor detail of being Nobel prize winners). Obviously this has been going for some time, as Doris Lessing died three years ago – and equally obviously, I could not have said No even if I’d wanted to!

I wrote a little verse, and then remembered that I had a picture of giving a baby rhinoceros a mud bath on a Behind the Scenes tour of the Australia Zoo, the day of the Return to Nim’s Island premiere. So I wrote another verse about the baby rhino, and am now trying to decide which one to send.

Now I have to choose one to send off with this bonus photo – which one would you vote for? Let me know in the comments below. 

I presume they knew me through these rather lovely editions of Nim's Island and Raven's Mountain. 

 Nim's Island - How Do You Hide an Island?
Nim's Island - How do you hide an Island?
Raven's Mountain

Friday, October 21, 2016

My Top 5 First Draft Tips

With NaNoWriMo creeping steadily closer, I thought I’d give my top 5 tips on pushing through your first draft.  Sometimes I need to remind myself of my own rules, so even if you’re not signing up for an official challenge, these still might help in getting that all important first draft downloaded from your head to paper or screen.

Tapping for the inner critic, CYA masterclass
1)    Send your inner critic on holiday. The meanie voice – my editor’s technical term – is not helpful in a first draft. In fact, it’s extremely detrimental. (I use EFT for this, but you can use any self talk that works for you.) And don’t worry, it will come back when you’re editing.
If the critic creeps back and points out that what you’ve just spent the last three days writing is complete garbage, tell it you don’t care. Every bit of garbage you write is teaching you more about your story. Even if you throw out every word in subsequent drafts, your first draft will have done its job.
2)    Take quick breaks from the screen – stand up and stretch every half hour, walk around a bit. Go for a walk outdoors every day, without a mobile phone. Meditate, do your yoga or tai chi. Your draft will be better if you’re physically and mentally healthy.
3)    While you’re writing, close email, turn off social media notifications and put your phone on Do Not Disturb. Each distraction might only seem momentary, but if it jolts you out of your own world, it takes much more than that out of your writing time. You need to be able to relax into your story to let it flow.
Early draft of Dragonfly Song -when Aissa was Aisha
4)    Don’t stop just because you’re stuck in one spot. If you find you’ve got a character without a name, call it Joe* or Jane* or just plain X or *. The name is likely to be much more obvious when you’ve written more of the story.
If a whole scene is stalling you, just skip it.  Put in a chapter marking and whatever thoughts you have, even if it’s just ‘Linking Scene or Passage of time??’
The brighter side is – if you have a scene that is exceptionally clear in your head or demands to be written because it is in line with your own mood at the moment – just do it. If it’s that clear, it’s probably a pivotal point in the book. Writing it may help clarify all the steps towards it.
5)    If you’re halfway through and decide that it really should be written in the first person instead of the third, or the past tense instead of the present, just go ahead and try. If it feels right, you can change the beginning when you redraft later. If it doesn’t you can revert to the person and tense that you started with.

So – to sum up:
Remember that this first draft is for fun, exploration, and the wastepaper basket.
A new first draft, 2 years later
Keep moving forward, no matter what.
Have faith that you will find the best way to tell this story; even if it takes more drafts and experiments than you hoped, each step and misstep will take
you closer to that best.

Friday, October 07, 2016

Blending traditions - pumpkin pie for AFL grand final

Part of being a migrant is developing your own rituals, blended from your country of origin and your new home. That holds true even for privileged migrants like me – privileged in the sense of an easy transition between two similar countries speaking the same language.

So last weekend, a long weekend in Victoria to celebrate the AFL grand final, which happens to be the weekend before Canadian Thanksgiving, my family celebrated our own version. The only rule everyone insisted on was that there had to be pumpkin pie. And of course I used the recipe my mother wrote out for me in the handmade recipe book she gave me when I got married.

The picture I posted on Facebook got so much reaction from my Australian friends that I agreed to post the recipe. I think it was originally adapted from Better Homes & Gardens.

My mother's Pumpkin Pie

1 shortcrust pie shell – 9” or 22 cm

1 ½ c cooked smoothly mashed pumpkin
¾ c sugar
¼ tsp salt
1 tsp ginger
½ tsp nutmeg
½ tsp cloves
1 ¼ tsp cinnamon
3 slightly beaten eggs
1 ¾ c milk

Combine pumpkin, sugar & spices. Add eggs & milk and mix thoroughly. Pour into pie shell. Bake for 5 minutes  in hot oven – 400’ F or 200 ‘ C, 180’ for fan forced
Lower heat to 325’F or 165 C for 50 minutes.
Pie is done when knife inserted at centre comes out clean.

Serve warm or room temperature.