It’s been just over two years since I began blogging at the suggestion of a wonderful author who was kind enough to share her experience, time and advice. (And she’s just as generous now.) To celebrate this little anniversary I’ve updated my blog picture. Many thanks to Helen of HelzKat Designs for my previous design and now I have to thank my hubby for the new creation. (I knew I kept him around for a reason.) ;) What do you think? :)
Last month’s newspaper column was quite the success. Many a comment has made its way back to me regarding this phenomenon. I’m sure it’s because the subject resonates with many parents and not because it’s yet another sign of my misspent childhood.
My kids are impervious to the cold weather, and from what I’ve seen, they’re not the only ones. While I’m shivering my way to my youngest’s classroom, kids sans jumpers, long pants and even socks surround us.
I admit that at their age I never felt the cold either. I was too busy running around, getting into mischief, and much to my mother’s disgust, stripping off my warm clothes because I was too hot and putting on a completely different outfit when I’d cooled down again. According to her, I changed outfits at least five times a day. Now that I’m the one doing the washing and ironing, I get how annoying that must have been.
It’s not only the cold encouraging this epidemic of bare limbs and questionable sanity in winter. In my oldest child’s case, putting warmth before how cool one looks (pun intended) just isn’t on. It seems they’d rather freeze than appear in public wearing the wrong outfit, whatever that might be. Now that I think of it, I believed that as a teen too. I guess this ‘not feeling the cold’ business isn’t global warming or being too busy to notice. Apparently, it’s hereditary!
My hometown played host to a group of extremely talented authors and artists in our biennial Curtis Coast Literary Carnivale last month. Unfortunately, I could only attend one of the workshops on offer but what a fantastic workshop it was. :)
Mr James Roy is a Young Adult and Children’s author. He also has a cheeky, satirical sense of humour interspersed with a wealth of knowledge, all of which he generously shared. While I’m inclined to write New Adult stories, (college-aged characters) this workshop discussing the obstacles faced by teens and their respective ‘coming of age’ stories certainly provided a solid platform for my endeavours.
As Mr Roy and many of us can attest, the teenage years are some of our hardest. Everything is new. Our bodies change. (Never when we want them to and definitely not how we want them to.) We experience intense emotions. (Having four seasons in one day weatherwise is nothing on how quickly a teenager’s mood can change.) We wrestle with our naivety, (which we admit to only on pain of death and ultimate humiliation.) And above all, we struggle to find out who we are and understand where we belong. (Something many adults, myself included, are still striving to achieve.) I would certainly never volunteer to relive my teens unless there was something very substantial on offer in order to endure the horror. And when we come out the other side, then we have to learn how to be adults. That’s not all it’s cracked up to be either.
Mr Roy took us through various exercises on character building. We have to know our characters completely – who they are, what they want, what they need, their flaws, their strengths, their hopes and dreams – anything that makes us understand why and how they act and react to the situations we as authors impose upon them. Regardless of the age your character is, or their gender for that matter, you must be able to step inside your character’s head, feel what they feel and react the way they would react. Mr Roy proved he was adept at this skill simply by reading one of his short stories to the group from his book – ‘Town’. (Review to follow.) As he read, his voice, his stance and even his mannerisms changed. I’m not sure he was aware of this, but I found it fascinating. He became each character. The more he read, the more I wanted him to continue. And because of the way he brought his story to life, I had to buy that book. :)
I think this was the most valuable lesson I learned in his workshop. When I am reading my dialogue aloud, I’m not aware of any changes of character within myself, but by making a conscious effort to do so, I know this will improve my writing and breathe life into my stories. I will also need to ensure I practice that dialogue within the confines of my home or at least to a very selective audience (the cat wants no part of this) and not as I’m out walking or waiting to pick up the kids from school. Can you imagine the looks I’d get whilst sitting in the car having animated conversations with myself? Hmm, it may be too late for the last one.
And now the review - ‘Town’ is a collection of thirteen linked short stories regarding the teens of a fictional Australian town for which Mr Roy won several awards. These stories will take you through countless emotions, even the ones you buried deep within you with the vow never to let them surface again. One story involved the start of the school year, something a few of us looked forward to, while embracing the idea of meeting someone new with interesting results. Adults are the enemy and even doing the right thing can land you into trouble without knowing why. The stories explore love, hate, despair, tragedy, cunning, confusion, acceptance, confidence, accountability, responsibility and the kind of decision-making that could alter their lives forever. And believe me, they do.
One story in particular that resonated with me was about a teen on the verge of womanhood, who accepts a date with an older boy. Instead of going to a party as he stated, he takes her out to a secluded area to meet with a few of his mates. She’s the only girl there and the moment I realised where he was taking her, the adult (or perhaps the mum in me) told her she was making a huge mistake. She needed to tell him to take her home. She should have made him stop the car. Then she could have run back to town, to safety. Of course, the character didn’t listen to me. She realised too late the danger her decision beheld. The scary part is, in my naivety at the same age, how easily I might have made the same choice the character did. What’s scarier is the knowledge my kids will soon face those same choices. Hopefully they won’t be as naive as I was, which is why that particular story will be the first one my oldest child reads.
You can find out more about Mr Roy here.
I’ve another novel to add to my reading list so here’s a shout out to a lovely lady on her debut novel ‘Spirit of Love’ by J L Addicoat. And here’s the blurb:
“Old buildings have an eerie haunting feeling, and the 17th Century Manor house in the Cornish countryside Julia intends to restore, is no exception. Originally her dead husband’s dream, she feels it’s up to her to complete it in his memory. When she arrives, she realizes it’ll take more than a quick clean to put the dilapidated old Manor to rights.
While exploring the house, she feels as someone, or something, is watching her. Darting shadows and movements, seen from the corner of her eyes, seem to confirm sinister happenings at the Manor in the past. The discovery of an old diary hidden in a chest of drawers and the story it tells, lead Julia in a different direction than she originally thought she would be taking”.
You can find out more about Ms Addicoat here.
Speaking of reviews, I’ve mentioned previously that I placed in Romance Writers of Australia Little Gems ‘Moonstone’ Anthology and here is my very first review. :) It may be short and sweet but it certainly gave me a reason to smile.
Now to address the over-achieving - my notes are coming along for the new novella. The time line and chapter breakdown are complete so I know where this story is going and how it will end. There are no guarantees though what could happen on the way there. Sometimes these characters like to make ... suggestions. I also conducted my first research interview, which was a success thanks to the very generous nature of the interviewees who answered my questions and then raised a few more points to help round out one of my characters. :) And I’ve started on the novel rewrite – but let’s just say I’m tearing it to shreds rather than reconstructing at this stage. On the plus side, I’m far too busy for housework. ;)
Happy reading everyone. :)