Wednesday, May 14, 2014

If You Really Want To

This week, my sister Sophie turned thirteen. Amongst all the excitement about it being her birthday and about the fact that she is now a teenager, one of the things that she excited her most was the fact that she was now old enough to have her own Youtube channel. Sophie wants to be a vlogger as well as a blogger. With all the practice she’s had a making other videos (such as her ‘Show and Tell’ feature on her blog), she’s got all the skills to make the videos. But to me, who’s so camera shy that I won’t even listen to my own recorded voice, this idea sounds crazy. Who would willingly sit in front of a camera and talk to the world? It’s far easier to hide behind the written word.

But Sophie really wants to be a vlogger, and the fact that she has to sit in front of a camera and talk doesn’t seem to worry her. Nothing is going to stop her from having that shiny new Youtube channel she’s been dreaming about for weeks. I can understand that. For a long time I wanted to start a writing blog and talk about characters and plots and writers block and share the things I learnt about the craft of writing. But, for a long time, I held myself back, because after all, who would want to listen to me? It’s not like I’m the most experienced writer in the world and there are so many other writing blogs out there. Who would notice one more?

I’m sure there are a lot of vloggers out there too. Youtube is filled with so many different kinds of channels, from musicians, to Youtube shows, vloggers and those who make videos for businesses. Sophie could easily have said, ‘what’s the point of making that Youtube channel I want when there are so many others out there?’ But she didn’t. She went ahead and started her channel because she really wants it. And after all, what’s to stop her? The only thing that would stop her is herself, just like I was the only thing stopping myself from having a writing blog.

If you really want to do something, then the fact that there are lots of others doing the exact same thing shouldn’t stop you. Sophie has her Youtube channel now, despite the fact that there are other vloggers, and I finally made that writing blog I wanted, even though lots of other people have them. If there’s one thing I’m learning, it’s that, if you really want to do something, then you’ll find a way to do it, no matter what. No one can really stop you, except yourself.

Do you have a vlog channel? Have you ever wanted to start one? Or are you camera shy like me? What’s one thing you’ve always wanted to do? 

Monday, May 5, 2014

Camp NaNoWriMo, a Blog, and a Dog

I don’t know about you, but to me, April means Camp NaNoWriMo. I’m never one to let a NaNoWriMo event pass me by. Come April 1st and I was in my virtual Camp Cabin, chatting with my fellow writers and frantically typing away. Camp NaNoWriMo is always a month filled with frenzied writing, bursts of inspiration and unexpected challenges and this April was no exception.

My first challenge came in the form of RSI (Repetitive Stress Injury) in one of my hands, which reduced me to typing with one hand. Of course, being the stubborn writer I am, I refused to admit defeat and strapped my hand up in a wrist brace, bought an ergonomic keyboard, and soldiered on. While it made writing tough for a while, I wasn’t about to let it bring my Camp to an end early.

The next distraction came in the form of a brand new blog, this time about writing. For a long time I’ve wanted to start a blog about writing, but it wasn’t until this April that I actually got around to starting one. And so, Gossiping with Dragons was born. Of course, I started it in one of the busiest months of the whole year, but after all, that is what Camp NaNoWriMo is all about, the challenge.

Finally, we adopted a puppy from the animal shelter. A dog is another thing I've always wanted. So, just after Easter, right at the end of Camp when I needed to be catching up with the word count I got behind on during Easter, I was playing with a six month old puppy with a big nose and masses of curiosity. Nora is a bitzer, a bit of this and a bit of that, all combined to make a puppy that is a bundle of energy and endearingly friendly.

At the end of April, after all the challenges and distractions, what have I got? I have a Camp NaNoWriMo win, a brand new novel (in the form of a terrible first draft), a dog, and a new writing blog. To me, that equals a successful month.

How was your April? Like to come and visit my new blog? Did you take part in Camp NaNoWriMo? Anyone else got a dog with a nose like a vacuum cleaner? Any tips for avoiding RSI?

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Embassy: Strange Worlds and Long Journeys

My two favourite genres of books are fantasy and sci-fi, so when I got the chance to read the recently released science-fiction novel Embassy by S. Alex Martin, I couldn’t pass it up. I had the very great honour of critiquing his first chapter a couple of times when he was editing the book, so I was especially excited to read the rest of it to find out how the story ended.

Back Cover:
THIS IS A JOURNEY. Arman Lance wants nothing more than to join the Embassy Program and fly across the galaxy. He wants to find Ladia Purnell, a girl who visited his planet years earlier. They had fallen in love, but their time together was short. Arman has become determined to find her again -- to the point of obsession. He believes his happiness, and future, depends on it. Arman expected people in the Embassy to think he'd follow his father's footsteps. He also expected to slip into a simple routine, a path that would take him straight to Ladia. But he never expected anyone to stop him, especially not the ever-smiling adrenaline junkie Glacia Haverns, who decides it's her job to show Arman there's more to life than chasing desperate dreams.

I love the amount of world building that went into this book. Each planet is distinct from the others, with different climates, landscapes and customs. The descriptions of the scenery are vivid and really brought these places to life in my mind and created a fitting backdrop for Arman's story to play out in. One of my favourite parts of the world the story is set in is the game Hologis, which reminds me of a futuristic game of knock-out paintball played with massive groups of people.

Hands down though, the characters are the very best part of the book. My favourite character was Glacia, who is an avid Hologis player, and a lively girl who is determined to make Arman enjoy life. The other characters were also really likable for the most part. I would have loved to have gotten to know the other young recruits in the Embassy program a little better, but I hear there's to be a sequel, so maybe we will see them again there.

There are a few things in the book that I didn’t like so much, such as the population control system, where parents are killed when their grandchildren are born. However that may just be my personal taste, and it certainly didn’t take away from my enjoyment of the book.

Overall, I liked this book, and I especially appreciated the descriptions and the explanations of the sci-fi world that really helped to bring it alive. I definitely want to read Embassy again in the future. If you’re looking for a sci-fi book about space, journeys and the enjoyment of life, you should definitely check out Embassy by S. Alex Martin.

Connect with S. Alex Martin
Twitter: S. Alex Martin

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Building Fences with Brothers

With four sisters and two brothers, I usually spend a lot of time with my sisters rather than with my brothers. There are just so many more opportunities to do things with my sisters, from watching Jane Austen movies together to dedicating whole days to art projects. Spending time with my brothers is far rarer, usually confined to watching a superhero movie together in the evening, or taking the occasional trip to the beach on a warm day.

Sometimes however, I get the chance to do something unusual with my brothers. My older brother Callum has been building a fence. It involves big sheets of metal, steel posts, large amounts of concrete, power tools and no little amount of fun. I very much wanted to help, but sadly assumed that no self-respecting fence builder would want a younger sister hanging round attempting to help...

Read the rest of the post here: Building Fences with Brothers

Sunday, January 19, 2014

In Fear of Interviews and Interviewing

This week I interviewed one of my friends for an article I’m writing. I love writing articles, putting the words together in the right order and polishing it until it flows perfectly. But I’m terrified of interviewing people. The very thought of asking someone a bunch of nosy questions fills me with fear and dread. What if I do it wrong? What if I forget to bring my notebook? What if I can’t use any of the material in my article? Or worse, what if I have to redo the whole interview? Going through all that again would be a nightmare!

For a whole week before the interview I write and rewrite all the questions, right up to the very day. Should I write the bare questions? Or should I try to write them in such a way that I can read them straight into the conversation? I decide to record the interview with my phone so that I can listen to it later. But then I worry about whether it has enough memory to record a whole interview and whether it’s going to pick up the voices well enough. This preparing for the interview is hard work.

The day arrives. I’ve got the name of the café where I’m meeting my friend. I check my bag about fifty million times. Am I sure my pen’s going to work? I’ve got ten of them, just to be sure. Phone? Check. Notebook? Check. I make sure I leave the house extra early. What if I’m not able to find the cafe and end up being late? That would be terrible! Instead I turn up at the café a whole quarter of an hour early and have to sit in the hot sun outside, waiting. Well, better safe than sorry, isn’t that right?

In my head I rehearse how to start the interview. It needs to be just right. My friend arrives just as I get it worked out. We go into the café together. I don’t think I’ll have coffee. I’ve got enough to think about without trying to have a drink at the same time. What if I spill it all over my phone or notebook and mess everything up? It’s time to begin the interview, time to pull out that perfect start I prepared. Help! I’ve forgotten it completely. I stutter the first question out. What a great way to begin.

A street performer plays the guitar right outside the café. Cars drive past every few minutes or so. What if they block out the sound of our voices on the recording? Every few minutes or so I inch the phone closer and closer to my friend, hoping she doesn’t notice. My sweaty hands slip on the pen and dampen my notebook pages.  And then, finally, it’s all over. I sit back, turn the phone off and take deep breaths of relief. I’ve done it! I can stop worrying. Until the next interview at any rate…

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

The Fun of Blogging with Family

Most of my family have blogs. My mum writes on several blogs. My three younger sisters all have their own blogs. Even my older sister Felicity, who lives a long way away, has a blog. But, in all the time we’ve been blogging, we’ve only ever written on our own, personal blogs, except for the occasional guest post on each other’s blogs. Until now.

This year we’ve started a new blog, Mother, Daughters, Sisters, where all us Elvis girls will be blogging together about our lives and the things that interest us. The blog has been going for about a week so far, and already it’s been amazing fun. This past week has been all about introducing ourselves, and it’s interesting to see how each person has introduced themselves in a different way, from Sophie who interviewed herself, to Felicity who wrote a heartfelt post on why she is different and it doesn’t matter.

Yesterday it was my turn to introduce myself on the blog. Somehow I find introductions very difficult to write. How does one manage to write an introduction that tells people about you and at the same time make you sound like an interesting person? Well, I don’t know if I managed to write an interesting post, but my attempt involves Jane Austen’s heroines including a previously unknown one...

There are lots of great things about blogging with my family. There are lots of people to share the posting with. It doesn’t matter if no one reads the blog (though of course we would love it if people did), because we’re sharing our posts with each other. It’s a way to keep connected with Felicity, who lives on the other side of the country. And most importantly, we’re all sharing a passion for writing in a personal way that connects us, no matter how far away we are.

Have you ever shared a blog with friends or family? Would you ever consider being part of a shared blog? What do you think is the best part about blogging with other people?

Friday, October 11, 2013

Interviews and Unschooling

Image by popturfdotcom here

Yesterday, Mum and I made a movie together. We settled down in the living room and set up out tripod, a dining room chair with a pile of out-of-date encyclopedias sitting on. I sat in one of the big armchairs. Mum set up the camera on the 'tripod'. Today Mum would be interviewing me about being unschooled and about studying at university.

I glanced at the list of questions I had sitting in my lap. We discussed what I was going to say. Was this a good idea? It felt a lot like public speaking, which scares me. I'd much rather sing to a crowd than speak to them. Taking a deep breath, I waited for Mum to start filming. The little red light appeared on the camera. I smiled at my non-existent audience and began to speak.

Once I got going, it wasn't too scary after all. Every so often we stopped the camera, discussed what I was going to say in the next segment. Mum took a rest from holding onto the camera.And then we carried on. I talked for what seemed to be ages before we finally got through all the questions and finished filming.

Then Mum took the video to her room, downloaded it onto her computer and started editing it into something acceptable for other people to see. As I passed her room occasionally, I caught snatches of my own voice, babbling on about one thing or another, and winced. There is nothing so humbling as hearing your own voice. It didn't take long for Mum to have the movie finished though.

"Do you want to see it?" Mum asked me.

I shook my head at once. "No thanks. I don't like listening to myself talk."

But even though I didn't watch it, other family members told me that it was good. It seemed that me sitting in front of a camera and attempting to talk about my experiences unschooling and now studying at university had ended up with a fairly good video. Already we're thinking about the next movie. Now that I've been interviewed once, I wouldn't mind too much doing it again. My brothers and sisters might have a turn too. Who knows what we might come up with next?

If you're interested in hearing what it was like to be unschooled, and what it's like to study university over the internet, then please check out my interview. You can find it here: Imogen Talks about Unschooling and University