Friday, December 30, 2011

Sharing 'Little Dorrit'

Four people sit, staring enraptured at a TV screen. On it, actors and actresses play out the stories of their characters. As a certain character comes on, they are greeted with smiles or groans. Every so often someone explains a minor detail to one of the others. This is me, Charlotte, Mum and Dad, watching 'Little Dorrit'.

Ever since I received the 'Little Dorrit' mini series for my birthday, I have loved it. The actors caught me from the first few moments, and the story sucked me in and held me. I enjoyed the series so much, that I wanted to share it with someone. And who better than Mum and Dad?

Mum was enthusiastic about it, having started the actual book. But before she would watch the mini series, she wanted to finish reading the book. So we set ourselves a challenge. Read the book, and finish it this holidays.

Charlotte charged through the book, finishing way ahead of the rest of us. Mum finished next, persevering longer than me. Me? I just finished the book yesterday, after putting it off and reading around it with great skill.

Only a few nights ago we sat down to start watching the mini series. Mum, Charlotte and I knew the story almost off by heart by then. Dad however knew nothing about it. But he quickly picked up on it, and hardly needed any explanation from us.

When we finished watching on the first night, Charlotte and I waited anxiously to see what Mum and Dad had thought of it? Would Mum be bothered by the fact that it wasn't exactly like the book? Would Dad not like the characters? Had they enjoyed it as much as we had?

Yes, they had enjoyed it. 'Little Dorrit' was a great success. Everyone watching it had found a character they liked. Everyone had something to say. Watching the mini series again was great fun for me, but what was even better was that I was sharing it with others, who loved it too.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Dead Ereaders and Kindles

A few months ago I broke my ereader. The button for turning the pages gave up between page turns. I had worn it out through copious reading. Which meant that I was stuck, halfway through a book.

This meant that I had to go back to reading paper books. While I loved paper books, I missed the library of classic books I had had. After all, paperback books must be bought, while classic ebooks are free.

Christmas came, and I was still borrowing free ereaders to read on, or reading on my computer if I wanted to read ebooks at all. I managed, but really missed my poor, dead ereader.

Opening one of my presents on Christmas Day, I was surprised and delighted to find myself staring at a brown box with the word 'Kindle' on it. My very own Kindle! At once I knew I was going to love this present. After all, Mum
loves her Kindle, and it is such a pleasure to use. Plus, as I soon discovered, it has two sets of page turning buttons, I assume in case you break one set through heavy reading.

Because Kindles don't come with covers, I made my own out of felt and silver beads. It turned out better than I thought it would.

I love using my new Kindle. The buttons are so nice to work, and I navigate the menu so easily. I love it even better than my dead ereader.

Right now I am working my way through 'Little Dorrit'. The percentage counter on the bottom of the screen is perfect or keeping track of where you are in the book. In 'Little Dorrit' the meter doesn't move very fast.

I love my new Kindle, and I look forwards to using it for a long time to come. Hopefully I won't break this one through my dedicated reading.

Monday, December 26, 2011

5 Pages of Criticism

Earlier this year I happened to stumble across a writing blog, Go Teen Writers. And while I explored this new blog, I noticed a writing competition that had just started. Every two weeks or so a new writing prompt would be posted, and the competitors had to write 100 words after that phrase.

It interested me, and I joined in a few times, though not consistently. I wasn't disciplined enough for that. But I did well enough, and even placed a couple of times. But for the most part, I never really though about the contest. It was just another way to practice my writing.

In the meantime I kept writing for myself too. Mainly I worked on my novels, though I attempted short stories too. Normally I don't show my writing to anyone, but I decided to show one of my stories to Mum.

I was filled with pride in my work when I handed my laptop to Mum. Mum read through my writing, then gently told me that it was good, but not a short story. She suggested several ways I could change it and make it better, more what I wanted.

I was crushed, and put on my best 'I'm upset but pretending not to be' face, mumbled something about thinking about it, and promptly decided not to even attempt short story writing again.

But I did, and with much better success than before, thanks to Mum's suggestions which I finally made myself use.

A few days ago an email dropped into my inbox from the Go Teen Writer's blogger, Stephanie Morril informing me that I had won a 5 page critique due to my having joined in with the competitions and having placed.

I told Mum and Charlotte at once. Charlotte screwed up her nose when she heard what my prize was.
"Who wants five pages of criticism?" she asked in scorn.

I attempted to explain what a critique was, but she still maintained that she wouldn't like 5 pages of criticism.

Mum considered this, then asked, "How do you think you'll be able to take this criticism? You didn't like it when I made suggestions."

I have no idea how I'll feel about the suggestions made on my writing. Will I get all uptight and defensive again? Or will I listen to the suggestions and act upon them? I sincerely hope I'll manage the latter, but, knowing me, I'll probably do the former!

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Feeling Like Christmas

Around the house it's feeling like Christmas. The Christmas tree twinkles from it's corner, presents from friends and extended family strewn about it's trunk. Christmas decorations hang from the windows. Cats sit around the kitchen, their noses quivering as they try not to jump up and investigate the wonderful scents of food.

The air is filled with mouthwatering smells. Chicken and turkey smells mixed with the tang of lemon and the luscious smell of chocolate. Christmas dinner is in the making. Cinnamon scented candles give off a spicy scent that tickles the nose.

Christmas music floats through the house. Beautiful voices, delicate music and bells charm our ears. Hissing and bubbling, rustling and clinking noises come from the kitchen as Dad continues to cook.

In a few short hours we'll be placing our gifts under the tree. They'll spread out over the floor in a sea of wrapping paper and curling ribbon. Then, filled to overflowing with excitement and anticipation, we'll hurry to bed and hope that morning comes soon.

Merry Christmas Everyone!

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Appreciating Power

Down our street stood many knobbly power poles. They poked up out of the ground, covered in peeling layers, hideous red-brown paint, and resembling nothing so much as old fingers.

It never occurred that anything would be done about our old poles. But, checking the post one day, we found a slip of paper informing us that the power would be turned off while the power poles were replaced.

At 8:30 the fridge's buzz ceased. Sophie flicked at the light switch. The power was gone. We sighed, and settled down for a day without power.

Sitting by windows, squinting in the dim light of an overcast day, I soon grew tired of our powerless situation. No light. And no internet! How could I check blogs, moderate comments, write emails?

While we amused ourselves without electricity, a great operation was taking place down the road. Three work teams were yanking poles out of the ground, drilling new holes, and putting in the new poles. Well, some of the men were.

Three men worked one cherry picker, seeing to one of the poles. Two men with road signs stood at either end of the roadwork zone. The rest of the men...sat around in a perpetual tea break. Occasionally the tea group would break up, each man picking up his chair and walking along the side of the road. A few metres on, they would reform the circle and continue their break.

As the day grew darker and longer, we all wished heartily for the power to come back on. But alas, there was still another hour to go.

My eyes followed the clock. 3:05. 3:10. 3:15. Beep, beep, beep. The washing machine buzzed back into life. We were free! At once we set the kettle going for coffee, opened out netbooks, and resumed normal, electricity filled lives.

I never realised how much we really do rely on power for everything. I knew we would miss the cooking appliances but until we had no power, I never knew how much I rely on power for everything else. Now we have power again, and I hope that we shan't lose it again for a long, long time.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Real Tree, Fake Tree

My cousin emailed me a couple of day ago with the news that, for the first time ever, her family had a real Christmas tree. This was a strange thought for me, as our story has been quite different.

For years and years we used to have a real pine tree for our Christmas tree. Dad would set off, two weeks before Christmas with an empty van and one son in search of the perfect tree. Many hours and several tree farms later they returned, always with a beautiful tree shedding it's needles in the back.

Then the stand was nailed onto the tree and the boys and Dad carried it in through the door, covering the carpet with more shed needles.

The real tree filled the house with the smell of pine. Every day the floor needed cleaning, but the real tree was so perfect for us that we never minded the extra work it caused.

But then, two years ago, disaster happened. The van returned without a tree of any kind. The tree farms had no trees for us.

What to do? Dad had checked everywhere for a tree. Were we doomed to a treeless Christmas?

No, it wasn't that bad. We were only reduced to a fake tree. Mum and Dad bought one at once and we girls started to put it up. I was ready to hate that tree. How could a fake tree compare to a real tree? There was no possible way.

But I couldn't hate it for long. The tree hardly shed any needles. It went up so much easier than the real tree. It even looked real. The only thing missing was the smell. And, though it was fake, it was a tree.

This year I don't mind the fake tree. It can't help not being real. And it does it's best to be a real tree. Plus there is space for all our many ornaments.

I love real trees. I love the smell and the mess. But the fake tree is tidier, more perfect, and can be used year after year. It's not real, but it is still a tree. And I don't hate it. I think I might even love our tree.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Turning Books into Films

I have a lot of favourite books. They're the one's I've read over and over again until I've memorised whole passages and can imagine every character and scene in my head in full colour and motion.

Now if there's one thing I like almost as much as reading my favourite books, it's watching them on DVD. I'm always excited to hear of a favourite story being turned into a film, and am eager to watch the film and see how it compares to the book.

I was extremely excited when I heard that The Lightning Thief had been turned into a film. In fact I even went to see it in the cinema, which is rare for me. But although it was a great film, and has been added to our collection, it wasn't satisfying to me.

This made me think. What makes a good movie adaptation of a film? Why do some adaptations work better than others?

For me, the best adaptations are the ones that stick fairly true to the story and have good actors who fit the parts. The BBC mini series of Pride and Prejudice is my favourite film version of the book, simply because it is so much like the original story, and so much like I imagine it in my head. Little Dorrit and The Lord of the Rings are more examples of good adaptations by my standards.

Where Percy Jackson and the Lightning Thief failed for me was that is was so different. So much had been changed, altered. All the things I loved most about the book and had hoped to see in the movie were missing. It was too different. And it was disappointing for those reasons.

I don't say that films loosely based books are bad. Taken as films, they're good. They just don't work as film versions of books for me.

What makes a good film adaptation for you? What are your favourite adaptations of books?

Monday, December 12, 2011

Charles Dickens and I

I have never been a full fan of Charles Dickens. I've waded through pages and pages of Oliver Twist, getting properly lost and confused in the many clever plot twists and sub plots. That was my very first introduction to Charles Dickens, and I can't say I liked him very much. He was too difficult to follow, too clever to understand. He was someone a professor might read and enjoy, not a young girl like me.

I abandoned Dickens, leaving his books languishing on the bookshelves gathering dust and turned my mind to easier, lighter books which required less effort to read. And I forgot all about him.

Then, Mum started to read Bleak House to Charlotte and me. Sitting on the sofa with nothing to distract me from the words falling from Mum's lips, I was sucked into the world of Bleak House. The many, varied characters and their enthralling actions held me captive. The vivid descriptions, spanning pages and pages, brought the world to life.

Our daily readings battered at my former idea of Dickens. Maybe he wasn't so hard to read. Maybe I just wasn't trying hard enough to understand and enjoy his books. Maybe I should try again, give him one last chance.

Before I even touched a book however, I received an unexpectedly nice birthday present. The BBC's Little Dorrit mini series.

After hearing this series praises sung, I was eager to start watching it. And it did not disappoint. The end of every episode left me begging for and craving more. I hardly wanted to stop watching to go to bed each night.

The moment we finished the mini series, I wanted to read the book. Surely, to make a series that good you had to have an amazing book to start with.

And so I picked up Little Dorrit. I fully expected it to be quite different from the series. After all, adaptations are nearly always drastically different from their source books.

Imagine my surprise when the book and the movie stuck close together. I read whole speeches and remembered them from the mini series. Whole scenes, almost perfectly recreated, waved at me from the mini series. And the characters! In my head they went through every action, spoke every speech, and showed every emotion in full colour while I was reading, almost exactly like I had seen them in the mini series.

Little Dorrit amazed me at every turn. Thanks to the movie I understand the book so much better. And, thanks to the book, I understand the movie much better.

Charles Dickens and I may have got off on the wrong foot. We may not have had such a happy relationship up to now. But, thanks to the BBC and Little Dorrit, I may finally be finding the love of Charles Dickens that every good reader should know.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Through a Writer's Eyes

I've lived in the same area for almost the whole of my life. I've always been surrounded by the same scenery, seen the same people, and done basically the same things. I'm so familiar with my area that I hardly need to look out the car window to know what we're passing. Car trips get a little boring with not much in the way of inspiration. Well, they did.

Because we are a family of writers, there is nothing we like to study as much as writing (well, Shakespeare's plays might just beat it). So when Mum borrowed a book called Word Painting, we were hooked at once.

Unlike most writing books I have read, this one challenged us to think about how we describe things. It pushed me to think of new ways to describe the world around me. And at once, a new hobby appeared: Description.

If I am sitting in the car, absolutely silent, you can bet I'm thinking about writing. How can I weave that Hummer Stretch Limo into my next post? And doesn't it look like a hearse? I bet you could fit three people in there. Most economical. How to describe those tree branches reaching up to the sky like old bony fingers?

We drive along the same few country roads over and over again, nearly every single day. But there is never a boring drive. I'm looking at the world through a writer's eyes. The world can never be boring again.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

To Follow or Not To Follow?

I have so many questions about blogging that I haven't yet worked out, even after almost a year of blogging. But the question I wonder about most is: How do you know when to follow a blog?

Most of the blogs I follow are family blogs and blogs of my friendliest followers, generally other Catholic homeschoolers like myself. But I read so many more blogs than these.

When I want to read a blog, I subscribe to a feed, or bookmark the page. That way I always know when there's a new post. Following would make this so much easier. But then, do I actually like these blogs enough to follow them and make myself known?

I am always so pleased to open my blogger dashboard and see a new follower. There's something about having a person like my writing enough to publicly announce it. Should I follow other people and spread the joy? But then, I can't decide when I should follow.

How do you know when to follow a blog? Is it when you first decide you like this blog? Or is it when you've been reading it for a while? Is it when you're regularly commenting? Got any advice for me? I'd love to hear from you!

Monday, December 5, 2011

Handmade with Love

As Christmas draws closer, we're pulling out the family traditions, dusting off the Christmas music, and have finally swung into proper advent mode.

One of our greatest traditions is to handmake decorations for the house and tree. Over the years we've accumulated these treasures. Our advent wreath is made of salt dough, and has been used for 12 years. Our nativity scene is made of felt and cornflake boxes. This year, our Christmas craft is tree decorations made of felt.

We girls all sat down today, with a pile of felt, a neat bundle of threads, and several pattern pieces. All beautiful and orderly. It didn't last long. Soon snippets of felt littered the table, beads and thread covered everything. And in the middle of all this mess we four girls sat, needle in our hands, creating the first craft of advent.
Gemma-Rose chose to make a felt bell, despite not knowing any of the stitches needed. With my help, she soon learnt though, and flew through her work, her needle more sure than mine as she sewed her pieces together.

Sophie wanted to make a bird. Despite knowing how to sew quite well, she insisted on thinking her bird wasn't any good, and left the table as soon as it was done, though she'd sewn her brid beautifully, and without my help.
Charlotte chose the hardest project: a beaded, tasseled hanging ornament. Her needle never stopped moving. Every time I looked over, she'd taken her felt to a higher level of beauty.
My own project isn't finished yet. It's not even original. I decided on the spur of the moment to make a bird like Sophie. Only, when it was finished, I didn't really want to stop. I wanted to make a whole string of them. So far I've made two out of five.

Though there are many nice Christmas ornaments in the shops, which take less trouble to buy than to make, I believe that homemade things are still the best. So many of my memories are bound up in our handmade decorations. Each one is an old friend, used year after year, never thrown out or forgotten. Yes, the factories may make fine decorations, but they'll never beat a felt ornament made with love.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Crazy Runner

I crack one sleepy eye open and glance blearily at my bedside clock. 6:10. Too early to be awake yet. I snuggle further under the blankets. Mm, it’s nice in here.

In the bottom bunk, Charlotte humps around, sounding like there’s a baby whale tangled in the blankets. The mattress squeaks and groans as she sits up, then her feet hit the floor.

My eye snaps shut. I know what comes next. Maybe, just maybe she’ll forget about me if I’m asleep. I know she’s watching me. Is she fooled?

“Imogen? Do you want to go for a run?”

Apparently she’s not fooled. My eye inches open again. If I grumble and moan, maybe she’ll let me off. This bed’s too nice to leave now. I need another half an hour at least to really appreciate it.

“Can I take the bed with me?” I ask. Hey, that wasn’t what I meant to say. I don’t really want to get up and exercise. I want to stay here.

My feet thump to the floor. In my head I’m still in my nice warm bed, even though the rest of me is getting into my running gear. Is it possible to tie shoelaces with your eyes shut?

The moment I step outside the door, I snap out of bed and back into reality.

“It’s freezing out here!” I’m shivering already and we haven’t even left the doorstep yet. By the time we reach the soccer field I can’t wait to get running. I should have brought my bed, or even a quilt. Anything to keep me warm. Can you run in a quilt? I’m sure I could find a way.

“Hey, you’re running faster than normal,” Charlotte complains. She huffs and puffs like a little steam train.

“That’s because I’m cold.” I don’t slow down. She can keep up or get left behind. It’s her fault I’m out here in the cold.

Halfway through the second lap Charlotte slows to a walk. Bother, I was just getting used to running. Couldn’t she keep going for just a little longer?

“Go on,” she tells me. “Keep running.”

That’s all I need. I’m off again. My feet hit the ground, thud, thud, thud, pounding out a steady rhythm. My lungs heave in huge breaths of fresh, cold air. Hey, this isn’t as bad as I thought it was. Was that really another lap? I don’t want to walk yet.

A black and white collie attempts to tackle me as I run past, dragging its owner through the grass. In the middle of the field a boxing lesson starts. More crazy people like me.

It’s still cold out here, but I’m nice and warm. I’m not tired at all. I could run for hours and hours…

Maybe not. Suddenly exhaustion catches up with me and claims a piggy back. All I want now is a drink and a rest. Mmm, breakfast sounds good too.

I reach the end of the lap. Charlotte hands me my water bottle and we start back to the house. We grin at each other. A whole day ahead of us and the run is done. See that wasn’t so bad. I might even like this idea. Until tomorrow that is…

Sunday, November 27, 2011

The Challenge Completed

The NaNoWriMo official word count goal is 50'000 words. When I started NaNo, I thought this sounded like a great deal of words. More than I could handle almost. But as the days of NaNo passed, and I ripped through the word count, it suddenly didn't seem like much of a challenge.

My first novel, The Portal ended at about 51'800, written in ten days. I'd finished first of anyone in my house. What was I going to do now? I couldn't go back to normality yet. Not while everyone else was still novelling away. And so it was that my next challenge was born.

50'000 words wasn't enough of a challenge. I set my sights higher. Twice as high to be exact. My new goal was 100'000 words. Stupid? Yes.

I started The DARE Squad as my second half of the word count. The days slipped passed, and the word count rose, not as fast as for The Portal but fast enough for me. I was well on track for a huge win, even with a day off for my birthday.

Today, after a huge push over this weekend, I have finally finished my huge, crazy goal. 100'127 words now sit on my computer. Two novels await editing. And me? I want a rest for a day or so. I want time to rest my eyes, and my wrists. Then I'm ready to jump into the editing process. My next goal? Edit 100'000 words. It might take more than a month though.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Princess of the Palace

I always dreamed of a beautiful bedroom, all pink and pretty, a bedroom fit for a princess. I wanted a room of my very own, a room I could put pictures up in without worrying what the landlords thought of holes in the walls. But it seemed a hopeless case. After living my whole life in rented houses there didn't seem much possibility of getting a room like that.

That was before we bought our own house. Suddenly everything was possible. Though I didn't get a room to myself, I did get a nice room. All our furniture had been painted before the move in matching green and pink.

We furnished the room, and never thought about how it looked again. But slowly, surely we gathered new things in it. Pictures appeared on our walls. A pink butterfly wall hanging was acquired on our beach holiday. Computers and printers moved around the room.

Only a few days ago we moved everything round again. Printers, tables and ornaments switched places. After our hard work, Charlotte and I stood back and looked at our room. And we gasped. How beautiful our room was. Everything had a place it fitted in. Everything matched.

It was then I realised, I had my pink room, my room fit for a princess. I had my pictures, my beautiful furniture. I didn't have a room to myself, but it didn't matter. I couldn't imagine living without Charlotte in the same room.

We're princesses of our little palace. And a palace it's going to stay.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Carrie Helps the DARE Squad

My cousin Carrie and I both like writing and drawing. And we both enjoy discussing our latest projects over the email. We share chapters of our stories, pictures of our characters, and writing complaints.

When I told Carrie about my newest NaNoWriMo story The DARE Squad, she was delighted with it. I told her all about it, and even sent her a picture I'd drawn of the four main characters. Imagine my surprise and delight when she sent me back a picture she'd drawn of them.
The DARE Squad as drawn by Carrie

Then I asked her the same question I asked you readers in my post 'The DARE Squad'. I challenged her to come up with a meaning for the acronym DARE. She responded at once with some interesting, and occasionally funny answers.

They are:The Dangerous Accident Response Establishment
The Defense Against Radical Exploits
The Department of Accidentally Removed Elements
The Death Administration for Rapid Eradication
The Detective Academy for Rookie Education
The Department of Abnormally Rotund Elephants
Jo and Emma, two of the DARE Squad members

So far, none of these quite fit the bill, though they have got me thinking. Especially the elephant one!

I'd like to set you the same challenge. Can you find an acronym for the word 'DARE' that will suit a teen spy group? I'd love to see your ideas.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Happy Birthday Twin!

Today I have a guest blogger, writing especially for my birthday. My Mum! I hope you enjoy her wonderfully written blog post.

We have two sorts of children in our family. Those that look like my husband, Andy and those who look like me. We have ‘your’ children and ‘my’ children.

When Imogen was born 17 years ago, we suspected she was one of ‘my’ children. And as she grew, she became more and more like me. Our suspicions were confirmed.

People think we look alike. Can you believe people even muddle us up?

We go to a party and a friend bumps into me. “Oh Sue, I thought you were down the other end of the room…. That must have been Imogen.”

We visit the supermarket and we’re at the check-out. The operator looks from me to Imogen and back again. “Are you two related? You look so alike.”

I post some photos of Imogen on Facebook and someone writes: “Sue, she has GOT to be yours… she looks just like you! :)”

We’re walking down the street and someone shouts, “You’re twins!”

Yes, we are twins.

I can’t imagine why anyone would say Imogen looks like me, her ageing mother. But I am not objecting. I think Imogen is beautiful. I don’t mind being compared to her at all.

I ask Imogen, “How do feel when people say you look like me? How do you like being compared with your 50 year old mother?”

Imogen is very gracious. “I love it, Mum! I think you’re beautiful.”

It is Imogen’s birthday on Sunday. My daughter is turning 17. But I am wondering: does Imogen look 50 like her twin mother? Or… does her mother look 17?

Imogen and I have great fun pondering such silly questions…. We always have fun, my twin and me. We are kindred spirits.

What would I do without my kindred spirit twin? We write stories, we talk about anything and everything, we drink coffee, we eat enormous gooey cakes, we read great books, we blog, we sew, we exercise, we shop, we work, we learn, we cook, we laugh, we laugh a lot… All these things we do together. I love my kindred spirit twin. I love her very much.

Happy Birthday ‘my’ Imogen!

Do you think we look alike? Can you tell we are mother and daughter?

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Blogging Ghosts

It's morning tea time. Time to do the blogging rounds. I check my blog feeds, read new posts, and jump out of the blogosphere leaving no trace behind. No, not even one comment. I'm the blogging ghost.

It's not that I don't like what people have written. It's not that I haven't anything to say. It's merely that I don't bother to take the time to write a few short lines in the comment box. I prefer to stay anonymous.

I wonder how many people like that read my blog. I wonder how many people dance through the blogosphere, silent and unseen. Probably many more than stop and say hello.

I love it when people stop on my blog and leave a comment. Even when it's just one line, it still makes my day to read it. And if it makes my day, it'll make other people's days too. There's no reason for my ghosting, other than laziness. Taking a few moments to write a comment doesn't take much effort. But, if the other person is like me, they'll enjoy receiving the comment.

I'm going to make an effort now. I'm making a resolution. No more blogging ghosting for me. I'm going to become a comment, am already trying now. I'm going to try and make someone's day a little bit brighter, one comment at a time.

Do you ghost through the blogosphere like me? Or are you more social? Do comments make your day, or aren't you bothered?

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

NaNo Art

Being in a drawing mood today, I opened my sketch book, grabbed a pencil and prepared to draw. What could I draw today? What is big in my life at the moment? The answer was obvious. NaNoWriMo. Yes, I'd draw a piece of NaNo art. But what?

The first thing that occurred to me was that I could write 'NaNoWriMo' down. Maybe that would be a good starting point. And so, with many millions of guidelines, I began. The picture grew and grew, turning into less of a picture, and more poster style.

Bold colours jumped out of the pencil box. Blue and brown, the colours of NaNo, filled the background. Bright yellows and oranges coloured the words. Under my fingertips, the page came to life.

So, this is my first attempt at NaNo art. What do you think of it? Could you see it as a poster advertising NaNo? Because I can.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

The DARE Squad

Click on the picture to enlarge it.

After finishing my NaNoWriMo novel so early, I found myself wondering what to do next? No one else in my family had finished theirs yet. I was one on my own. Well, it wouldn't be any fun to go back to normal while everyone else was enjoying themselves. And so, I planned and began my new novel 'The DARE Squad'.

I first began to think about it when I idly looked at the dare machine on the young writer's program site. After writing many of the dares down, I suddenly had a brain wave. What if I wrote a book about a group of teen secret agents? What if they had to stop an evil villain from taking over time itself? And thus my story started.

To take a break from writing, giving my poor sore wrists a rest, I drew my four main characters: Marco, Chaz, Jo, and Emma. I thought I'd share them with you today.

Chaz is the eldest in the DARE Squad. He's an athlete, with a mischievous sense on humour and a love of wacky hair dyes.

Marco is their travelling brains. He's almost never separated from his beloved macbook. He's never seen without a hoodie either. Though quiet looking, he can be as naughty as Chaz at times.

Johanna, or Jo, is the beauty. She's a natural actress. She also loves to paint her nails. Woe betide the man or mission who smudges one of them. She and Chaz don't always get on.

Emma is the shy one. Normally she huddles away with her hair over her face. But when a mission calls, she shows her lion heart and turns in a new, more confident person.

So, that's what I'm working on now. What do you think of my story and characters? Do you have any suggestions? And also, the 'DARE' in DARE squad is hopefully going to be an acronym. Any suggestions as to what it can mean?

Thursday, November 10, 2011

To Write a Novel

I've always struggled with writing. Not the actual putting words on paper, but having the dedication to finish something, accepting bad work, that kind of thing. Even when I set myself a deadline, I've usually ignored it. That's why I've only ever finished one first draft.
When I joined NaNoWriMo I wondered whether I was crazy. I couldn't write 50' 000 words in a month. Everyone said it's a ridiculous goal. Even with a whole day to write in, I doubted I could do it.

Then NaNoWriMo started. With no plan, hardly any characters, I put fingers to keys and started to write. And I never looked back.

Because we count writing as school work, NaNoWriMo is virtually all we do in a day. With five people in the house doing NaNoWriMo we eat, sleep, and talk writing. It's so easy to write when you know everyone else is doing the same thing.

After every writing session we've shared word counts, plot problems and helped each other out of sticky holes. We;ve been encouraging each other. It's almost like having a personal support team.

With all this help, it's no wonder I shot ahead with my writing goal. I planned to have my story finish about 50' 000 words. And today I'm proud to say I've done it. After 10 days, I have a finished first draft of almost 52' 000 words.

Now, if you're doing NaNoWriMo and are still struggling along, I hope I'm not making you feel bad. Certainly I'm not trying to. I'm cheering everyone on. I've only finished this fast because I've had all day to write, and awesome people to talk my story over with.

I wish you all a finished draft, or 50' 000 words, or the completion of whatever goal you've set yourself by the end of November. I'm cheering for you all!

Now, off to think about another novel...Plus school work!

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

My Third Brother

When I was five, my third brother was born. I already had two brothers, both older than me. But my third brother wasn't to live with us long. Thomas died the day after he was born.

I don't remember Thomas at all. I don't remember going to the hospital to see him. I don't remember the funeral. I don't remember everyone being so sad. I don't even remember getting a new pink dress for his funeral. I have no memories of him at all.

Despite not remembering him, he is still very special to us. We have a box of his things, a little dress with spots of his blood on it, his ear muff, photos from the hospital. We have his teddy bear collection, steadily growing each year. And we have his birthday.

Thomas's birthday is always the same. Every year we give him a candle, a bunch of flowers for the house, one for his grave, and teddy bear. Mum's room is full of these bears, each with their own name.

We always have a white cake. We always go and visit him in the cemetery. After all, how can you have a proper birthday without the birthday boy? Every year we take a photo with all the children standing behind his headstone. We always have a picnic sitting on the grass afterwards. It's family tradition.

Happy Birthday Thomas!

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Knitting a Wedding

Charlotte and I debated over wedding present to give for a long time. Nothing normal would do for us. This was our first wedding in the family. The present had to be special to match. Which meant that we'd have to make it ourselves.

Out came the knitting books, the needles, the wool. We consulted patterns, surreptiously bought new wool and beads, and knitted like mad. No one else knew of our project. We never spoke of it. But every spare moment, we'd grab our needles and knit, knit, knit.

As the deadline drew closer and closer, I started to panic. Still so much to do. How would we ever finish in time? But we wouldn't give up. Not after so many weeks of solid knitting. We battled on.

Mum came into the secret only a couple of days before the wedding. She contributed a gold box and a reel of gold ribbon. But the present wasn't done yet! I went into overdrive, knitting faster than ever, finishing the final piece on the way to the wedding practice the day before the big event.
Wedding morning dawned, and Charlotte sewed the last pieces together. We put the present in the box, and wrapped it in gold ribbon. Done! And only just in time.

It wasn't until the reception that we actually gave the present. Felicity took our large gold box and attempted to undo the ribbon. Then she handed it to Graham to undo the ribbon. Uh oh, I'd done it up too tight. Stepping forwards I released the tight knot and stepped back again.

Felicity lifted off the lid, moved aside the tissue paper and...
"Oh they're lovely." She lifted out, piece by piece, a woollen replica of the wedding party. The professional photographer snapped photo after photo. Everyone oohed and aahed as they identified themselves.
Next time there's a wedding, I want to make another special present. But the things I've learnt from this? Always start months ahead, and never give up.

Friday, November 4, 2011

NaNoWriMo (Didn't) Eat My Hobbies

The Dawnbringer Dragon. My way of relaxing after a NaNo stint.

When I first thought about NaNoWriMo, I wondered how I'd ever get anything else done in November. Writing 50' 000 words takes a lot of time. Would I still have time to read, and do craft? Would I be able to continue blogging? Most of what I heard told me I couldn't.

Then I started NaNo. After pounding away at my computer keyboard for hours. I suddenly realised I didn't want to write any more that day. I wanted to do something else. And so I left my writing, which was well over the required word count, and amused myself by reading. And blogging.

Over the past three or four days, I've come to realise that NaNo hasn't eaten all my other activities. I'm still reading and drawing, doing craft and blogging. I want to do these things because I need a break from writing. NaNo, while time consuming and busy, is teaching me to enjoy my hobbies and free time more, because I need it more.

NaNo hasn't eaten my life. Thanks to a flexible homeschooling schedule, I can write during school time. Thanks to that, I have a million, billion words written. And I still have time to do the things I love. Far from doing less in November, I feel I'm doing more.

Has NaNoWriMo eaten your life? Or do you, like me, find yourself doing more, just to rest from all that frenzied writing?

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

And So NaNoWriMo Begins

Yes, today is the very first day of NaNoWriMo, at least for us in Australia. Excitement fills our house as five people sit down to create masterpieces. Five people? Yes, today two more Elvises joined the ranks of NaNoers. Sophie and Gemma-Rose have made a sudden decision to join the Young Writers Program and do their own NaNoWriMo.
We're lucky that, as so many of us are doing NaNo, we're allowed to do it for school work. So in a morning's work, I've completed so much more writing than I ever would have done without it being classed as school work. I even have time to write a blog post!

Everyone's heads are filled with story plots. Round the lunch table we discussed Mum's story plot. Gemma-Rose is planning her mermaid story. Sophie chats enthusiastically about her girl's day at school. (Why is it that homeschool children like to write about school?). Charlotte pours out her ideas for her explosive fairy. And me? I've got no idea where my story is going yet. But, despite not knowing that, I have a story anyway.

There's something magical about sitting down to a new writing project, with only the barest idea as to what it's about. I was so scared that I would waste time working out how to start the story, that I mentally wrote my first line several days ago. But I shouldn't have worried. the story I don't know about is coming out my fingertips. All I have to do is put them onto the keys.

Yesterday, I was so impatient for NaNoWriMo to start, that I resorted to making a NaNoWriMo notebook to write all my crazy story notes in. I can see it filling up with things to remember. Names, occupations, hobbies, things I have to work in.

Now that NaNo is here, I'm so happy and full of ideas. and best of all, I've found that writing is good for headaches. So, to all those doing NaNoWriMo this year, I wish you easy writing and a massive word count. Now, back to my story!

For those people like me who are crazy enough to try NaNoWriMo, how are you going? Are your word counts sky-rocketing like mine? Or are you pulling out your hair as you try to make the words come?

For those not doing NaNoWriMo, what are you doing while we're all attempting this ridiculous goal? What do you think of those who are trying NaNo?

Monday, October 31, 2011

Lessons Learned From Weddings

I'd never been to a wedding before. The only one I'd been invited to, was during a camp, which made it impossible for me to go. So I had absolutely no idea what they were like, though I liked to try and imagine it.

So my sister Felicity's wedding was a completely new experience for me. Planning a wedding when both the bride and groom are a whole country away, is not easy, but somehow we managed it. And along the way, I learnt several very important lessons.

Weddings are hard work. It's easy enough to work this one out when you're faced with baking, wedding favours, music, a church and priest, dresses and other important details to sort out. After an eight hour shift in the kitchen baking the wedding cupcakes, I never wanted to hear the word 'wedding' (or 'brownie') again.
Groomsmen and bridesmaids do not like to get dressed. By the time we left the house on the wedding morning, the groomsmen had only just managed to get into their suits, and the bridesmaids were still frizzling their hair as they attempted to curl it.
It's hard to sing in a fitted dress. Charlotte and I were two of the five bridesmaid, but I was also greatly involved in the music. A lot of elaborate arrangements were implemented so that I could be down by the organ at the appropriate times. But the church was beautiful to sing in, even if the dress wasn't.
Never wear new shoes to the reception. After the wedding and lunch, it was time for the reception with it's speeches and toast, and beautiful food. But my swollen feet in their new shoes were blistered, so I removed my shoes for comfort's sake. It seemed to start a new trend for, first the bride, then Mum, then Callum's girlfriend removed their shoes.
Weddings seem better when they're over. At the time the wedding seemed like a lot of work. Everything was moving too fast to really be noticed. But, at the end of the day, it's so much easier to see the beautiful parts of the wedding.
I'm glad the wedding is over now, despite how exciting it was. It may sound strange to say this, but I'm looking forwards to normal life and school work. Though how normal life will be with NaNoWriMo starting tomorrow, I don't know.
Have you ever been to a wedding? Have you ever helped organise one? What do you think of weddings?

Mum has also written a post on the wedding, for those dedicated wedding fans

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Miss Elvis

I have always been fascinated by the formality of names in Jane Austen's books. After reading The Jane Austen Guide to Good Manners, Charlotte and I had some very good conversations about why Jane Bennett was called 'Miss Bennett' while her sisters were only 'Miss So-and-so'.

The natural conclusion of this, was our working out our own titles according to the rules of Regency England.
"I'm Miss Charlotte, and you're Miss Imogen," Charlotte said.

"Which makes Felicity 'Miss Elvis'," I decided. "Someday I'm going to be Miss Elvis."

"Yes, but Felicity has to get married first."

Yesterday, Felicity did get married in our little local church. All her friends were there. After weeks of frenzied preparation and miss-communications, the big day had finally come. Charlotte and I wore our beautiful Regency style bridesmaid dresses. The two smaller girl flitted around like puffy clouds. Camera clicked and flashed, capturing the day Felicity stopped being an Elvis.

So, after years of waiting, I am Miss Elvis now. It sounds so grand. I feel ready to bring out the long Regency dresses, tie up my hair, and travel back in time so I can enjoy being Miss Elvis to the full. One day I'll pass on the title of 'Miss Elvis', but for now I'll make the most of it.

"Hello, I'm Imogen Elvis, but you can call me Miss Elvis."

Tuesday, October 25, 2011


We filed onto the field for the last soccer game of the season. Shaking hands with our opponents, we prepared to have fun. Our main thought was that we weren't last on the table. Not like last season. No, this season we'd done well.

The whistle blew.

At once the ball flew through the air. A moment later it landed in the net. Wow, our first goal of the night! Where on earth had that come from?
The ball hit the net again, then again. I lost count of the goals scored. Had the other team got more than I remembered? Were some of our goals disallowed? I wasn't sure. All I knew was that finally, after a whole season of average playing, we'd suddenly stopped being six individuals, and become one team, working together and outplaying the opposition at every move. It felt amazing.

The whistle blew. The game was over.

"What was the score?" we all asked the referee.

Our eyes nearly dropped out of our heads when we heard. Where had this game come from? What magic fairy had waved their wand and made us good players?

"Could all the players please make their way to the trophy table."

Trophy table? That sounded exciting. And it was. One by one, the members of each team were called to the table and presented with a trophy, runners up, then us, the B division comp winners!

My trophy now sits on my shelf, along side a couple of other trophies I've gathered. I'll never have enough trophies for a proper cabinet, but I don't care. Just being good enough to win even one trophy is more than enough for me.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Impossible or Possible?

Wandering around the blogosphere a few weeks ago, I stumbled upon several posts about NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month). Many writers whose blogs I read, have signed up and are eagerly awaiting the start of November to begin this month long challenge.

I thought it sounded impossible. Write a 50' 000 word novel in a month or less? How on earth was anyone supposed to do that? I dismissed the idea as silly, and promptly forgot about it.

But November was creeping closer, and more and more people were preparing for NaNoWriMo. Everyone seemed to be doing it. Everyone seemed very excited about doing it. Intrigued, I paid a quick visit to the official site and had a look round.

Wow! Suddenly I was interested in NaNoWriMo. What a goal! Spend a month writing, and have a book at the end of it. It might be worth giving it a go.

The clincher for me, was when Mum bought No Plot? No Problem! by Chris Baty, one of the founders of NaNoWriMo. I devoured the book in an afternoon. Now I knew I wanted to take part in this years NaNoWriMo. But I still didn't sign up. Would I have time to write that much? What if I didn't? What if I failed? What if I wrote complete rubbish?

When Charlotte came out and said she wanted to do NaNoWriMo, I knew I'd just have to do it now. I'd risk all those fears and go for the goal. No way was she going to beat me!

We signed up together, with the full approval of Mum. Much to our surprise, she was also considering doing NaNoWriMo. We're rather hoping she does. Just think, three writers in the same family, all striving for the same goal.

With the start of NaNoWriMo in ten days, I'm suddenly very enthusiastic about this challenge. I'm going to make that goal, and I'm going to write a book. And most of all, I'm going to enjoy this impossible sounding challenge.

Are you taking part in NaNoWriMo this year? Have you taken part in other years? Do you have any tips for me? Do you think I'm crazy to even consider attempting this?