When being a writer is no longer fiction

20170905_140449Spring is here – in theory. And August is finally over. Its my least favourite month of the year. Now that September has arrived, the weather might still scream winter but there are strong signs of new beginnings.

Post-bookshop, I’m finally getting back on my feet. I’m still in debt, but not as severe, and I’ve almost caught up with mortgage arrears.

There is a mountain of books on my dining room table, which I really need to clear. Now that I’ve mastered the set up of a basic eCommerce site, I am selling the leftover books at discounted prices. Shipping is set for Australia, but if you send me an enquiry I can give a quote for overseas shipping (note: it won’t be cheap).

If you were wondering – yes, that is a photo of me. For those that know me offline, you’d know how much I hate photos of myself. So this is a very rare photo. But this week I had to bite the bullet, do a quick read up on ‘how to take selfies for the middle-aged & ugly’, and then just do it! Because I had an opinion piece accepted by Al Jazeera, and they insisted on a bio photo. So the choice was to run and hide (like I usually do when the word ‘photo’ is mentioned), or to just do it. This time, I made the choice not to hide.

Talking about being published, I’ve had a piece published on the Indigenous X site. It’s about ongoing administration issues with government funding for First Peoples in Australia. This article was updated and republished¬†on Independent Australia as¬†Not ‚ÄėClosing the Gap‚Äô: Nigel Scullion and Indigenous Funding Failure¬†.

Seems like I’ve become an accidental journo. Later this month I have a reporting assignment at the Australian Indigenous Doctors Association’s conference. In addition to being a great Indigenous-led organisation, its their 20th year, so I am really looking forward to their conference.

The conference reporting I am doing is in collaboration with Croakey news services. The first conference I reported on was for First Peoples Disability Network in June. I wrote two pieces on that event, including a conference wrap up, as well as tweeting and live video interviews.

I’ve had some consultancy and freelance writing work post-bookshop, but its not resulting in enough income to support a household. So I’ve started applying for jobs. I’ve had a couple of interviews, but not landed a job as yet. Looks like I need to keep promoting my consultancy services.

I recently started managing the newsletter, blog/website¬†¬†and twitter account (@FNAWN_) for First Nations Australia Writers Network. FNAWN is a great organisation, and I’m pleased to be contributing to their growth.

And time for the really exciting news Рlast week I discovered that I had made the long-list for the 2017 Richell Prize! This was such an unexpected surprise. I entered the first three chapters of my work-in-progress, Where The Fruit Falls. The prize includes mentoring, to help shape a draft into a manuscript that is hopefully publishable.

The Richell Prize is presented by Hachette Australia, in memory of Matt Richell who passed away suddenly in 2014. Partners in this prize include The Guardian and Emerging Writers Festival.¬†The short-list will be announced early October, and the prize winner in November. I’m not expecting to make it to the next stage, but that won’t stop me from feeling very pleased to have got this far.

And it gives me renewed inspiration to finish this manuscript. Its been put on hold for far too long, due to sorry business, family responsibilities, financial crises and, in general, the ups and downs of now being a member of the sandwich generation.

Anyway – onwards and upwards. And, now that spring is in the air, perhaps I can even dare to dream of getting back on a motorbike…….

Support me to keep writing
If you like what you read on this site, please consider supporting me to keep on writing. There’s a PayPal button on this page (see top right-hand corner. Or drop-down box on some hand-held devices)

Or buy some leftover stock from my ex-bookshop – all heavily discounted.

And I am also on Patreon

You can also find me on
twitter @1KarenWyld

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I have patrons for my writing!

The last couple of weeks I’ve been peeking through the growing pile of debts, at my computer screen – reading arts grants, job pages, and other sources of potential income. And, as usual, spending too much time procrastinating on Twitter.

As is often the case for me, it was on Twitter that a potential solution was found. A means of managing the practicalities of living AND pursue my long-time dreams of writing. Another artist I follow on Twitter, Alysha Herrmann, was promoting her page on somethings called Patreon. What is this……

Curious, I did some research: starting with a read of the official blurb on the Patreon site. Ah, another crowdfunding platform. This one is aimed at linking arts patrons/supporters with creators. So they can do what they do best – create! There is a choice of per project, similar to other crowdfunding platforms, or monthly contributions, which sounded a bit different.

I’ve read a lot about crowdfunding, but have not gone there before. Some sites and projects are great, some not so. So I did some more looking into Patreon. I searched for reviews exposing the darkside of Patreon. Scam or not? And other than people saying how hard it is to attract patrons, supporters¬†or backers, I didn’t find anything too worrying.

Having self-published my debut novel, I know it takes nerves of steel¬†to promote yourself as an indie. But I’ve also learnt a fair few social media skills along the way. Why not give it a whirl? Nothing to loose, and perhaps something to gain.

First up, the platform is really easy to use. Very similar in usability to Google+ or Yammer. Setting up a creator profile takes about the same amount of time and skills as designing a WordPress blog. My newbie tip: have at least basic skills or find someone to help you.

The most time consuming part is what to say. So do some thinking about your goals, rewards, creator needs, and capabilities before you start. It will make it easier. Look at accounts by artists/writers/designers similar to you – what are they wanting, what are they offering, what tone do they use?

Patreon recommends using videos to attract sponsors, but that’s not my thing. I have a morbid dislike of putting my image and voice out there. Many introvert creators are the same.¬†So I had to make sure my written words could do a good job of promoting me. Luckily, I’m a writer so could manage this without too much stress.

Setting up the financial side of a creator account was fairly easy for me as I already had a PayPal account, and had my financial details nearby. I’ve been selling my book online for three years, so the USA tax forms weren’t daunting. It was great that they have the form ready to fill in electronically. Many other US-based platforms don’t give users as much help and information.

Links to commence promoting my page was not too difficult for me, again because of my experience as an indie author. I already have a fairly strong author platform (i.e. social media presence) so it was fairly simple to link these accounts.

Coming up with goals, rewards, background, intended use of funds etc wasn’t too daunting for me, as I’ve years of experience working in project management, grants writing, research and policy. All I needed was to downplay the corporate speak, don’t overshare, and write a clear plan for potential backers. I’ll go back and tweak these sections, once I get the hang of crowdfunding.

So I set up my creator account, wrote embarrassing things about myself, invented some rewards, and clicked the launch button. Simply by posting on Twitter,¬†I had three patrons within the hour, and reached six by the next morning. For a newbie, and having peeked at other accounts, I think that’s a promising start. I still have to do a proper launch, but its a good start.

And something that surprised me – although very grateful to my first patrons, I didn’t suffer from my normal feelings of not being worthy, guilt of taking other peoples’money or other forms of self-doubt. This is an important milestone for me. And a massive step to overcoming my dislike of¬†being too visible –¬†as well as¬†my fear of success.

If interested, my Patreon site is here. I just used my real name to make it easier for people to search for me, as I read that Patreon’s search engine is one of its weaker points.

Feedback is welcomed. I see typos every time I look at the page. So its still a work-in-progress. I won’t mind if you point out more typos.

Would you like to support me to develop my career as a writer, but the thought of monthly payments put you off? You still can. Simply use the PayPal button on here (ie WordPress blog) > over there in the right-hand sidebar (not visible on mobile devices). I also have a PayPal button on my Wyld Words bookshop website, for people who’ve expressed an interest in helping me keep another local bookshop from closing. ¬†I love book lovers ¬† ūüôā

Okay – time for me to get back to being a bookseller / writer.

Inked

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Freshly Inked – let the healing process begin! (Friday 13th 2015)

Last week I got inked for the first time. The process reminded me of the arduous and painful road to publishing.¬†Just like publishing my first novel, getting a tattoo had been on my wish list for many decades. It’s not something I rushed into. And it’s not something that didn’t require a lot of plotting, research, preparation and courage.

Firstly, I did a lot of on-line research into the pros and cons of being inked. Then I checked out styles of tattoos Рthere are many different types. I found watercolour tattoos appealing. Then I had to find an tattoo-artist specialising in this type of tattoo. This process was similar to all the hours I had spent researching the pros and cons of the different publishing pathways. Then, I chose self-publishing. Or, as we like to say in the biz Рindie publishing.

Once I had located a tattooist with a strong portfolio in watercolour tattoos, and an arts background, the next step was dreaming up the design. Like a book, a tattoo tells a story. I have many stories I want told, so I needed to be specific; choose just one. There is nothing worse than a plot that is too complex or all over the place. I wanted to be inked with an autobiography. So I chose a raven to depict my Celtic/Anglo heritage, and a snake for my Aboriginal Australian background. This way, I also honour those that have gone before me. The snake, an earth creature, is grounding. It’s also representative of creation, life force and death. There is no life without death, no happiness without sorrow. I don’t see that many snakes around any more, but I’m always seeing Little Ravens on the side of country roads. Especially when I am tired, as if reminding me to be more conscious of where I am going. The bird is air energy, freedom and the arcane. The splash of colour is a magic spark; its inspiration and creativity, possibilities and playfulness. With a few stars thrown in, just for fun. All together, this image represents elements of me.

Conveying the picture from my imagination, and the story behind it, to the tattoo-artist was similar to the process of commissioning a cover for my first novel. I wanted to be clear, so as not to waste anyone’s time with too many drafts, whilst also not supplying an over abundance of information – to allow the artists’ own creativity to flow. I think this approach worked, because both my cover and tattoo needed only minor tweaks to the initial drafts. I think this came down to being clear on what I wanted, trusting the artists and being able to communicate changes in a constructive manner.

Design down, and research done (from horror stories to recovery tips), I should have been confident. Instead, I woke up full of doubt on the morning of getting the tattoo. What the hell was I thinking? A middle-age woman getting a tattoo? Was buying a motorbike and solo-travelling overseas not enough to quell the mid-life craziness? Did I really have to tick everything on my to-do list? To silence my inner nag, I packed a nana bag to take to the tattoo shop – water, e-reader, travel pillow, android phone and back up battery, Rescue Remedy and an emergency Protein Bomb. Walking in with my calico bag full of ‘what ifs’, when everyone else went in baggage free, I felt a bit silly. However the water, phone and Rescue Remedy did come in handy.¬†Just like all the prep I did to ensure my manuscript was the best I could write at that point in time, and was ready for the pre-publishing process.

When I got to the studio, I read and signed the legal form. I made sure everything was explained to me, and threw in a couple of foolish questions. Knowing that the only foolish question is the one you didn’t ask. Big breath – it was time to break skin.

I won’t lie or act tough. That first cut was the deepest. Being on the bridge of my foot, it hurt. Nothing I couldn’t handle, though. What’s a flesh wound after birthing kids…walking on fire…operations…etc etc. More than anything, the pain was annoying. Except when it was over my ankle bone, or hit a nerve in my foot. That was particularly painful. Anyway, I had my phone for distraction. I micro-blogged the process for a while, via the twitter handle #TweetATattoo. Sure, there weren’t many people following, but it took my mind off the pain – sort of. There were a few people on Twitter who were curious about getting a tattoo of their own, people my age, so were interested in hearing how I went. This was similar to the pre-publishing stage. There is a very vibrant and supportive network of writers on social media. It was through a few on-line groups, meeting like-minded people on Google and Twitter, that I gained the confidence and information needed to self-publish. I could not have got through the pain of publishing, or getting a tattoo, without a few people willing to be my cheer squad. And now that I’ve published, I pass my hard-earned tips on to others.

Towards the end of getting inked, a friend from work popped in. Micro-blogging ceased (sorry everyone), and laughter began. Laughter is one of nature’s best pain killers. Even though I was getting a bit tired of the process, and the dull pain, having someone familiar to talk to made those last minutes fly. I was also appreciative to have a second opinion when the tattooist asked if it looked done. Just before I chose the final draft for the cover of my novel, from a choice of three diverse concepts, I asked friends and co-workers for their opinions. I ended up going with the one I liked at first sight, but felt confident it was the right one because of other people’s input. I shared the drafts of my tattoos too, and got some feedback that led to the final design being much more than what I had envisioned.

It’s now the end of day three, and so far the healing process has been easy. The swelling is hardly noticeable, and there is no redness, seeping or soreness. I have been taking care of it, though. Which might be contributing to the healing. Unlike publishing. After the pain of formatting and uploading a manuscript to on-line distributors (Indies will know that pain I speak of), the real work started. Marketing. Trying not to feel despondent when sales were just a trickle. Waiting for the first review.

As with my writing, this tattoo is still fresh. It might look good now, but I’ve still the scabbing and itching stage to get through. It’s all part of living with ink. I can prepare, lessen risks, but I can’t totally control the process. Once the first cut has occurred, and the ink is dried, a tattoo is forever. As is a novel. Once inked, you can never again have clean skin, or a blank page. No regrets – my story has been set free from my imagination.

 

I was inked by the talented and sure-handed Jess Hannigan Рcheck out her website Little Miss Jess Tattoos   I highly recommend Jess, especially if you are interested in watercolour tattoos. She is based in South Australia, but I believe she occasionally attends tattoo conventions in other states.

 

 

 

Opening the jar of wishes

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LillyPilly Tree, decorated by author (Dec 2014)

You know that saying…..the one about cups. Well, it’s always bothered me. My cup is neither half full, or half empty. I’ve suspected for a while that my cup is just about right. Opening the Wishes Jar reinforced this belief.

On New Years Eve 2013, a group of us put wishes in a jar; scribbled lists on scraps of paper. Some wrote resolutions; aspects about themselves that they really wanted to change. Others wrote wishes; things that they would like to do, have or achieve. We wrote these lists in secret, and promised to keep them sealed in a jar until the next New Years Eve, where we would share what we had written. As we had shared a number of New Years together, there was no doubt that we wouldn’t be doing it once again, in twelve months time.

When the calendar came to an end, I had forgotten what I had written. So I had no idea if I was ‘on track’. A couple of days ago, we gathered on New Years Eve for a barbeque and drinks. Eventually the hostess brought out the jar, and we all randomly selected a piece of paper to read out. I was very nervous, even reluctant, to let someone read mine out. Especially before I even had a chance to read it privately. However, I went along with the group norms. And was surprised at what the 12-months-ago-me had set as goals. As someone who never even attempts to write an annual list of resolutions, I was surprised at the outcomes. So what where these wishes?

1. Ride a Motorbike:¬†I think at the time I generally did mean to ride, not own. And I did ride a motorbike. Late one January night, I jumped on the back of a motorbike near Kep, in southern Cambodia. The region’s electricity had just gone off, leaving me in the dark and far from town. A stranger, who I had been having a beer with, offered to take me back to my motel. Being the safest option, and most appealing, I jumped on. First he showed me his amazing shack, with a three-walled bedroom that was open to the sea, facing a pier that fishermen tied up to every morning. I had a great time, riding through the dark, feeling at ease on the back of a bike.

Later in the year, I jumped on the back of a scooter in Bali, Indonesia. It was the best way to get to and from the closing party at the Ubud Writers Festival. In my purse I had a newly acquired International Drivers Licence, hoping to hire a scooter when I was in Bali. Which I didn’t end up doing, as the streets were extremely hectic; I’m not that silly.

When I wrote wish number one, I think I was just wanting to jump on the back of a bike. However, by the end of the year I owned a brand new V-Star Cruiser. Crazy, I know. Now, 6 weeks later and a few instances of wobbling, I’m really loving being back on a bike.

Verdict: Well and truly Achieved

2. See Uluru:¬†Originally I had hoped to see the sunrise over Uluru on the day of my 5oth birthday, in January. Instead, in July I joined friends on a road-trip to see Uluru for another Karen’s birthday. Just being there was amazing. Being there due to the generosity of others was more than amazing. (People answered a plea to buy my book, so I could afford to go on the trip after my job had disappeared).

Verdict: Achieved

3. Publish my Second Book:¬†The Procrastination Bird made a huge nest in my writing room, and invited all its friends to move in throughout 2014. Well, not really. Having hit about 75,000 words into the draft, I realised that the point of view was all wrong. Not only faced with¬†the need to¬†change first person to third person omni, the chronological order was also out. Making these changes is like wallowing in a pit of lumpy custard. It’s just so hard to get out off. And sticky. I’m sure I’ll eventually get out, and book number two will be published late this year.

Verdict: In Progress

4. Go Overseas: Not sure why I put this one on the list. I had only ever been overseas once (Independent Samoa), and had no plans to leave Australia again. Well, about 2 weeks after putting that piece of paper in the Wishes Jar, I found myself overseas. passing through Malaysia, Cambodia and Vietnam. And not for a holiday. My younger brother passed away whilst travelling. I accompanied my parents to Cambodia to deal with the various authorities, as they had never been overseas before and they are getting on in years. One day I might write in-depth about that particular journey. Not yet, though. The rawness of those memories still need to fade a bit more.

In September, I found myself overseas yet again. Not really planned, but part of my new philosophy of living life to the fullest. I’ve seen enough people I care about leave earth too soon, too suddenly. Being faced with mortality is the kick I needed to stop wasting my allotted time. I also wanted to jump back on the saddle, and not let the Cambodian experience put me off travelling. So off to Indonesia I went, to volunteer at the Ubud Writers & Readers Festival in Bali. It was a truly wonderful experience, and I can’t wait until the 2015 Festival. I’m also planning to go to Myanmar (Burma) in March, alone, having discovered that travelling solo is very rewarding.

Verdict: Achieved with Mixed Feelings

5. Take a Sunday Mystery Drive:¬†Mystery Drives is something I used to do with a particular friend. Over the years, we are still friends but our lives aren’t the same any more. We didn’t do any Sunday Drives in 2014, despite promising each other that we must do it soon. However, I still participate in mystery drives, on my own. Now that I have a motorbike, mystery drives are not just confined to Sundays.

Verdict: Ongoing

6. Say ‘YES’ to Opportunity:¬†There are way too many instances where I have said ‘yes’ to share here. Many times in 2014 I have taken a different path, tried something new, grabbed life by the horn, and successfully silenced my inner introvert. Turning 50, as well as grief and loss, is the perfect incentive to saying yes to opportunity.

In Ubud I crossed paths with Jenny, an expert in the Art of Yes. An older woman than myself, Jenny has spent a large part of her life travelling the world, saying yes to adventure along the way. Despite being in her company for such a short time, I learnt not only the importance of saying yes, but how practising this fine art can lead one to the Fountain of Youth.

Verdict: Perfecting

7. Meet New People:¬†Perhaps a year ago I meant that I would like to widen my friendship group. Not sure if that happened, but I think that I’ve taken steps to do so. I have tried to be a bit more outgoing in social settings, instead of hiding behind my mobile phone. At the end of 2014, I made myself go to every single network/industry seasonal event I was invited to. It was scary (especially the state Writers Centre drinks, where I didn’t know anyone), but I enjoyed getting out a bit more, and listening to people.

I made more connections in the on-line world, networking and sharing with people on Twitter and Google+. Some of these kind people inspired me to write, sent messages of support during the dark moments, and wrote very touching reviews of my first book. So I don’t care what anyone says: real communities can be found via social media.

Verdict: Just Getting Started ūüôā

All up, as my list was read out on New Years Eve, I was pleasantly surprised at all the wishes that had come true. And for those that hadn’t, or were not yet completed, I am confident that they will eventuate in due course.

Everyone else, plus a few extra people, wrote new lists, and placed them in the Wishes Jar until the next New Years Day. I didn’t. I don’t really know why. I just didn’t feel it was the right thing for me to do. Perhaps I’m now happy to accept whatever comes my way. Maybe I’ve got enough to work on at the moment. I wonder if I’m scared at jinxing things, or finding out that what I put in the jar is not really what I want.

More likely, it’s because my cup is just right at the moment. Despite some steep downs amongst the ups of 2014 (some of which I have shared in previous posts, and some that I won’t share publicly), I’m doing more than okay. I’m content with my just-right, half-way cup.

 

Wishing everyone Happy New Year. May 2015 fill your cup with good health, laughter, love and peace!

Don’t Eat the Bugs: Things Learnt While Riding A Motorcylce

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Watching the sunset at Gulls Rock, Port Willunga. Dec 2014

Recently I got back on a motorbike. Despite not riding for a few decades, I was leathered-up and down the road about fifteen minutes after my new bike rolled off the truck. It was relatively easy getting back on. Some things you just never forget. It was a bit like….well…..riding a bike.

A few weeks on, memories have returned from the time when a motorbike was my main source of transport. Being older, and perhaps a tad wiser, I’ve got a new perspective to riding.¬†In case any readers are planning on implementing their own¬†mid-life crisis on two-wheels, here are some of my lessons from the road:

Everyone wobbles at the beginning –¬†the 50-year-old version of me is not the same as that girl of 20 who taught herself to ride on a compact 100cc,¬†before moving up to a lightweight Kawasaki 250cc. My new 250cc Yamaha V-Star cruiser is a bit heavier than the bikes of my past; and so am I. The current version of me has the muscle strength, eyesight and reaction time of an overweight, middle-aged woman who has birthed four babies.

So of course there has been some wobbling. It’s not pretty, but its part of the learning (or re-learning) process. I plan on taking things easy, not be in a rush, and take the bends with care; until I’m more capable and confident.

Be prepared and gear-up ¬†–¬†unlike the younger me who had not yet realised that I was mortal, I have learnt the importance of being prepared. That’s not to say that I can’t be spontaneous, it just means that I need to be a bit more cautious. Investing in the right gear, and making sure I use it, is essential. Thinking before I act is also a good idea. No one is immortal.

It doesn’t matter what others think of you –¬†when I’m riding, I feel strong, happy and free. That’s probably not how other people see me. I’ve noticed the odd sour-faced look from women of my age. And I don’t care. Let them think what they will. I’ve found just enough courage to put aside restricting notions of body-image, femininity and ageing, and doing something that makes me feel alive. My life – my choice.

It’s not all laughing behind my back, though. In the first week of getting the bike, I got up the nerve to take the highway to the next town. With the road all to myself, I opened¬†up the throttle to 80kms/hour for the first time. Wind in my face, I remembered why I love riding. Then I saw a biker approaching on a Harley. He gave me the nod. He knew what I was feeling. I smiled to myself, and nodded back.

Keep Your Mouth Shut –¬†like bugs between the teeth, some words leave a bad taste. Its fun to ride with your visor up, but you risk a mouthful of insects. So its visor up and mouth shut. Much like life, really. It’s okay to be wide-eyed, see what’s happening around you, but it’s another matter to speak in a judgemental manner about what you think you’ve observed. I’ve noticed lately that the oddest statements sometimes come out of my mouth. I’m beginning to sound like a bitter¬†old lady. I’m aware that its important to think first, judge less, and use the power of words well – I just need to work on that some more.

Feel the fear: do it anyway –¬†I’d be lying if I didn’t say that the idea of getting back on a bike didn’t scare me. After ordering it, I thought ‘what the hell was I thinking?’ Fear is good. It keeps us from doing dumb things, protects us from harm. Letting fear rule your life is not good though. It’s important to try new things. It’s good for personal growth.

I’ve done a few new, and scary, things this year. I walked across the Cambodian border into Vietnam, alone, with barely any money in my pocket and no idea where I was headed. I went to a Rodriguez concert on my own. I went to Indonesia for the first time, travelling alone once again, to volunteer at the Ubud Writers Festival. I drove all the way to the centre of Australia, to see Uluru; sleeping in my car along the way. I approached some bookshops about stocking my novel. I attended a couple of corporate/networking Xmas functions alone, and forced myself to meet new people. And I bought a motorbike. All of these things were scary, especially for an introvert. These events, and others, all turned out to be enjoyable experiences.

Don’t get too cocky – my¬†life is on a bit of a roll at the moment. That’s not to say that I haven’t had challenges and bumps in the road this year. I used to be scared when things were going well; wondering when the rollercoaster would plummet again.¬†It always did. However, now I have a bit more resources (financial and emotionally) to deal with whatever comes my way.

I need to make sure I don’t get too cocky, though. I need to keep an eye out for hazards on the road. Even the smallest bump can be disastrous when riding a bike. When we get too cocky, mistakes happen.

Enjoy every moment – last weekend,¬†the odometer clicked over ¬†the first 100 kms. I was on a country road, travelling back to the coast after visiting a few nearby country towns. I¬†watched open fields and rows of vines flash by, observing the occasional bird ahead of me. It was at about that moment that I had an epiphany. It was just me and the road, sans the protective metal coating of a car and distraction of a car radio. Instead of feeling insecure, I felt one with my environment, and really alive. Yeh, that’s cheesy. It’s a great feeling, though.

I might still wobble in life, especially when learning new things, but I’m making the most of what time I have. I’ve learnt that you never know when your last moment is due. If I could only remember to keep my mouth shut, so I don’t get bugs between my teeth, then I’d be content with how life is progressing. And maybe I should stop procrastinating, so I can finish my second book. Another day, perhaps. For now, the open road is calling.

What a Ridiculous Book!

karenwyld_whenrosacamehome_web_finalIts simply ridiculous how I can string thousand upon thousand of words together to create a story, but ask me what my book is about and I instantly become incoherent. It’s nearly a year since I released my first novel, When Rosa Came Home,¬†and I still haven’t mastered the Elevator Pitch. As an indie author, its crucial that I learn how to effectively promote my work – even when put on the spot.

Some of you may have already deduced that I love Dangerous and Difficult Books. The type of books that challenges the reader, in both style and matter. They say that writers should write books that they themselves would like to read. Unfortunately, my novel is neither dangerous or difficult. In fact it’s quite ridiculous. Truly, it’s a ridiculous little book, if I do say so myself. In fact I have said that many times. Even to people ‘in the biz’. Probably not an effective marketing pitch. Such a jagged response; more escalator than elevator.

When asked “what’s your book about”, having the author laugh and call it ridiculous is probably a tad off-putting. I know I’ve already put potential readers off buying my book, and industry professionals from bothering to crack open their complimentary copy. Is it just nerves? Lack of confidence or a off-shoot of introversion? Or another¬†bane of the self-effacing creative? Yes, a little. However, after pondering my (lack of) sales pitch further, I realised that my book is indeed ridiculous. And I’m proud to call it so.

For in addition to Dangerous and Difficult Books, I remembered my love of Ridiculous Books. Like many adults, I have fond memories of reading the works of those most skilled in the ridiculous. And as a parent I shared with my offspring the wonders of the likes of Lewis Carroll, Dr Seuss, Lemony Snicket and Roald Dahl. Stories that were absurdly entertaining, delightfully whimsical, and profoundly meaningful. They were ridiculous stories, written by authors brave enough to be truly creative. And still they explored real life issues, in language suitable for all ages, without becoming moralistic.

Having written my novel during yet another difficult time in my life, I purposely created a story that steered away from violence, sex, and dark sides of humanity. Instead, influenced by both the playfulness of the above mentioned authors, as well as the rich prose of other favourites from my past, I had indeed created a book that I would like to read. A delightfully ridiculous book. From the works of the writers of my adolescence (such as DH Lawrence, Toni Morrison, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Vladimir Naborokov, Francine Prose and Gustave Flaubert), I had developed a healthy reverence for prose. An appreciation of rich descriptions of place, measured character development, complex relationships, and a story that unfolds at a leisurely pace. More than that, I discovered both the power and beauty of words. As a person with dyslexia, discovering the world of literature, after a painfully faltering start to reading, is indescribable.

Anyway, I digress…..back to my ridiculous book.¬†So nearly one year after publication, I have realised that my novel is a ridiculous little book. And I couldn’t be happier. Its set in a nice-enough place, with nice-enough people. However, through the use of wonderful words (delicious verbs, adjectives and….yes Mr Stephen King….adverbs), transformations are possible. Almost magically (well, more a dash of magic realism as opposed to magic) the setting blossoms. (Yes, I said blossoms. Read the book, and you will agree that it’s an apt description.) And more importantly, the cracks of a family, who had shattered into the mundane, are mended. And the adrift lives of the secondary characters are anchored to kin and place. Even villains and foes are treated kindly.

It’s all very nice, really. Who doesn’t like a happy ending? Children’s stories have them, as well as generous scatterings of magic and absurdity. So why can’t we? ¬†And, like¬†my favourite children’s stories, as well as in the tradition of folk-tales globally, my story touches on a few topical issues. However it is done so lightly that most readers won’t even notice the hint of Dangerous amongst the Difficult. Sneaky, heh.

It would appear that I am not the only one who yearns for children’s tales (sans fairies and mythical creatures) for adults. Without my knowing, a reader entered When Rosa Came Home¬†into a literary competition. As its been short-listed for a People’s Choice Award in the 2015 South Australian Readers and Writers Festival, it would appear that ridiculous little books do have a valid place on the bookshelf.

Just knowing that other readers connect to my story gives me warm-fuzzies. Perhaps others also yearn for alternatives to commercially popular books. Maybe they are also seeking less action and suspense; more description of place; lots of lovely words, including adverbs (it’s not a dirty word, really). Could it be time for Ridiculous Books? I hope so.

 

And for my next trick…..

Despite the rain, work and family commitments, I’ve clocked just over 30 kms on my new toy. I should really be sharing how many words I’ve 2014-Yamaha-VStar-250awritten this month, as I did intend to participate in NaNoWriMo. Instead, I’ve been participating in life – with no regrets.

As some of you may recall, I’ve had a bit of a year. A few unexpected circumstances that pushed me close to the edge, testing my mettle as they say. And other moments where I’ve willingly jumped off a cliff or two. Jumping isn’t a bad thing. It can lead to all sorts of adventures and new opportunities, as well as a means of self-development.

Two jumps that I took this year, which have led me to taking my most recent decision, involved travel. The first was a much needed road-trip to the centre of Australia. Made possible by the kindness of others. On that trip, I remembered how much I loved being on the road. The wind, the sense of freedom. When I returned home, I promised myself not to wait so long between trips. Taking the responsible-but-quirky option, I began to research vintage caravans. I spent many hours happily day-dreaming about locating a rare pre-70’s bondwood, doing it up and going on jaunts. I would be a writer-in-transit, working on my novels in various caravan parks around Australia.

And then an adventure further afield distracted me. Out of the blue, I was contacted about volunteering at the 2014 Ubud Writers & Readers Festival. In Bali. A place I had said I wasn’t interested in seeing. In fact, earlier this year I had declared my overseas travelling days over – despite only leaving Australian shores twice. Never say never. Trading in my frequent flyer points, I jumped off a big cliff. And had a fantastic time. In Ubud, I met a few women, my age or older, who inspired me. They were following their creative dreams, saying yes to whatever adventure came their way, and living life to the fullest. Having left Australia whispering ‘I can do this’, I returned knowing that I can indeed do anything. The only limits are those I set myself.

What tends to happen in my life, especially lately, is that opportunities come out of the blue. It’s up to me to see them as opportunities, and to say yes. So when I got a call from a broker about re-mortgaging my house, I said ‘show me what you’ve got’. He did, and I negotiated for more, than said yes. My intention was to pay of my credit card and do some home repairs. Maybe even finally build a deck out the back. Instead, I got a bike.

Not a safe vintage caravan. Or even a retro push-bike. I brought a motorbike. It’s not really a rash decision. Its something I have been planning to do for over 25¬†years. As a young parent, when I reluctantly sold my two motorbikes of my early 20’s, I promised myself that I would get back on a bike when I turned 50. That date came – and went. Life had other plans for me. Or so I had thought. Last week, taking control of my life once more, I went shopping. Three days ago, I eagerly stood by the window, curtain drawn, waiting for a delivery. Ten minutes after the truck left, I was leathered-up and down the road. Scared, looking stupid, but still down the road – on my sparkling, brand new motorbike.

Being back on a bike is scary. Its heavier than the bikes of the past. And with more oomph. I’m older, less supple, heavier and no longer have 20/20 vision. However, age brings a certain wisdom. So I’m more cautious and patient than the 20-something me. For starters, I now take the need to wear protective gear serious. I know that I’m not immortal and I plan on having many more adventures. So, over the last three days, I’ve taken it easy. Re-learnt how to take corners without wobbling. Practised operating throttle, clutch, gears, two brakes, and indicators (in the right sequence). Slowly getting my groove back – I mean balance.

After work today, I clocked up my first 30 kms. And sometime before that, I relaxed, and began to once more feel one with the machine (yes that’s cheesy, but if you’ve ever ridden a motorbike, you’ll know what that feeling is like). I also accepted fear as a friend. Fear is good. It keeps us alert. Reminds us that we are alive – and intend to stay that way.

I have many more kilometres, and hours, before I’ve properly mastered riding. It’s foolish to think that I can just wipe away over two decades of not riding. However, I’ve made progress with achieving yet another milestone. And I’m not stopping. The road is calling. There are many more adventures to undertake. I have remembered how to say yes to life. Yes to me.

 

Getting back in the saddle, ready for the next adventure

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Bags packed, looking forward to home. Ho Chi Minh City/Saigon, January 2014

Its been nearly a month since I last wrote a blog post. And a whirlwind month at that. So what have I been up to?

As you may recall, my position had been de-funded in early July. I was facing an uncertain future, as well as getting ready to wave my friends good-bye as they headed off on a long-awaited adventure from the coast of South Australia to Uluru, Northern Territory. It was scary not knowing if I would be able to meet essential financial commitments, such as housing costs, or how long it would take to find another job. So I went into squirrel-mode, and gave up on the trip-of-a-lifetime.

Until I took a moment to reflect. I’d been in a similar position. I’d been in many scary positions, actually. And I got through them all. Putting aside fear, I instead became open to opportunities. A few hours later, an opportunity came my way – so I grabbed it with both hands.

An unexpected shipment of my books arrived, as an apology for messing up a recent order. I quickly put it out there that I was selling my novel at a reduced price, and that the money would go towards a trip to Uluru. In a short time, I had the petrol money. Thanks to very generous friends and colleagues. Accepting such generosity was an added lesson, as I’m shocking at allowing people to help me.

So I had that adventure (see previous posts, if you are interested in my reflections from that trip). Being supported by the good people who helped me raise the funds, and camping with good company every evening of the trip, made it even more special. Finally seeing Uluru, a place I had planned on celebrating my 50th a few months early, was truly amazing….beyond words.

Anyway, fast forward a couple of weeks. The support continued. Thanks to the people-orientated focus in my workplace, I was given a few weeks extension, and encouraged to apply for some internal positions. I was able to transition from one job to the next, without the dreaded period of unemployment. For this, I owe gratitude to my CEO, who has the rare courage to lead from the heart.

I was reminded to count my blessings today, after I made a flippant comment. And just those couple of words of wisdom, said in passing, made me stop and think. In just the past few weeks, I have a lot to be thankful for. And I have many people to thank (or ‘bless’). Looking forward, there are many more reasons to be grateful.

A couple of days ago, I got an unexpected email. My application to be a volunteer at the Ubud Writers & Readers Festival in Indonesia had been successful. Honestly, I’d forgotten I had even applied. Go to Bali? Whatever was I thinking? My days of travelling overseas were well and truly over. It’s not as I had done much overseas travelling really – once in 2009, and one this year. That last one had left a few scars, though.

Again, regular readers will know what I’m referring to. For those who don’t, briefly – in January I made an unexpected trip overseas, to support my parents with a loss. Dealing with grief and loss is never easy, especially when it involves someone so young. On top of the indescribable sadness of loosing my youngest brother, navigating the arising complexities within Cambodia, a developing country that is still recovering from a very dark time in its history, was traumatic to say the least.

Seven months later, I was still adamant that any future travel would be domestic only. I had also left behind a national position that had involved extensive interstate travel, to my new job which was state-based. At first, being able to hide in my cave felt good. However, the freedom and lightness I had felt on my journey to Northern Territory in July had left me with a strong urge to have many more adventures. And with my financial future stable, thanks to the new job, I had begun to save for a vintage caravan to renovate. A safe but quirky mode of travelling. I was looking forward to decorating a van and hitting the road on week-ends. A caravan was also a safe alternative to my dream of getting back on a motorbike, once my children had all reached adulthood and I had turned 50. (That dream has been put on hold)

Then came that email, and a chance to travel to Indonesia. Fear crept in. Excuses started piling up. So I put the question on Facebook: Do I go to Bali – on my own?¬†Strong messages of support came in, from the many wonderful people I know. Still, I was unsure. Then a message (a red flag) arrived that made me change my mind instantly. No, it’s not safe on your own.¬†

Really? Hang on a minute…….I can do this. I went through hell and back, in Cambodia just a few months ago. Afterwards, I walked across the border into Vietnam, in an area where it’s recommended not to do so alone. I had no transport from that point, no currency, no idea where I was going. Just a strong desire to leave Cambodia that day, and make my way home to Australia. A few scary events occurred as a result of my decision, but I coped. Throughout my life, I’ve done a lot more courageous/stupid things. You know what? It feels good. It’s¬†good to take risks, to get out of my comfort zone. I’m not ready for grey-nomading, moving at a slow pace along the highway of life. Its time I got back on the saddle, and travel overseas – for a new experience.

Again, timing was perfect. A nice collection of frequent flyer points meant that I got a virtually free return-flight from Adelaide to Denpasar, Indonesia. Once there, I’m very capable of living cheaply, and simply. As a volunteer, I get meals when I’m rostered on. Someone steered me in the direction of a website that advertises home-stays and other cheap accommodation. I have my mind set on renting a little house on a mountain, instead of staying in a hotel. A place to soak up the views and sounds, do some writing – in between enjoying all that the festival and local community has to offer.

So I’ve responded to Ubud W&R Festival, taking up the offered volunteer role in the first aid team (I’m sure it will just be hangovers and paper-cuts to deal with – won’t it?). My leave¬†from work has been sorted,¬†and flights are booked. I’ve got to book accommodation before it becomes scarce in Ubud, and sort out all the little things that are involved with travelling. I also have to do a few urgent maintenance tasks on my home, before I leave. Where is a pen….list time!

Anyway, in a couple of weeks I’m off on another adventure. One that I hope to share with you, via this blog and twitter. This little black duck (an introverted, 50-something woman) is heading to Indonesia for the first time. Funnily enough, I’ve been joking that this might be my Eat, Pray, Love moment (I’m sure you’ve heard about the book and film), but I’m hoping for something else – perhaps Drink, Write, Laugh? Anyway, the place I am going is where that book/film ended on a happy-ever-after. Whilst it might be nice, I’m not really looking at ‘discovering myself’ or finding a perfect partner.

I’m just looking for adventure. And making sure I continue to face all my fears. I never want to believe that I’m too old to do take risks. Life is full of uncertainties and I’m going to continue to count my blessings, get right back on any horse that bucks me off, and continue to say yes to adventure.

PS In future blog posts, if you read about me riding a scooter in¬†Indonesia – don’t tell my parents – or my offspring ūüôā

In Good Company

163 I often get invited to participate in blog-hops and author interviews, but I generally let these opportunities slip by. Usually because I feel as if I don’t have time, or have nothing to contribute. Being an introverted, self-effacing author is not conducive to promoting my work. So I have been making more of an effort to say ‘yes’ to every opportunity, and even seek some.

Over the past few weeks I’ve participated in a number of such opportunities, and its been more fun than I expected. And, as an added bonus, I have connected with other writers and learnt more about non-commercial genre writing. Perhaps I’ve also caught the attention of readers, and encouraged¬†people to consider reading my work.

This week-end, I was interviewed by David McDonald, as part of the Australian Spec Fic Snapshot 2014 series. I confess, I had not heard of Snapshot previously, even though it has been running since 2005. To be invited to participate alongside emerging and well known writers of speculative fiction was a great opportunity. How could I possible say no? The timeframe was tight, as I was a last-minute addition, plus I was in a sooky-la-la mood (tail end of a minor cold), but I just slipped in before the series finished today. I’m not yet comfortable with interviews, so I tend to waffle on. If you are interested, read my interview here. Take the time to read the other interviews, too. They spread across fifteen reviewers’ blogs, but there will soon be a central link to all of the interviews.

Also this week, I participated in Zoe Brook’s¬†¬†second Magic Realism blog-hop. Like last year, I had a great time. Although I only got one post done this year, as opposed to the four I did in 2013. In this year’s post, I share my confusion about what is and isn’t magic realism. In fact, I am probably more conflicted than the first time I ever wrote about magic realism, with my sense of surety that it was the voice of peoples that have survived oppression, and still have strong connections to age-old cultures. Some of my co-blog hoppers were just as confused, while others were confident that their work was magic realism. I don’t always agree with the way that magic realism in literature is defined, but its great being involved in group discussions with other writers that have similar tastes, and learning more about genres.

A few weeks ago, I jumped on board the 2014 Deadly Bloggers Blog Carnival, which was inspired by NAIDOC Week and Australia Blak History Month. My post, which was prompted by a situation that happened when I was on a recent¬†road-trip through outback Australia, attracted a fair bit of attention. Readers were very open and honest about what they might have done in the same situation. Fear stops us from doing what is probably the ‘right thing’. However, xenophobia has too much of an influence on the way we react to others in need.

Well, that wraps up the recent opportunities to promote my work. I wonder what the next few weeks will bring?

Fractures in the Sky – Lines in the Dirt

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There is a moment where night becomes day. An exact moment when the sky fractures. A nanosecond where the line between light and darkness is distinguishable from each other.

There is a moment when, rushing along the highway, green horizons give way to vibrant desert-scape, only to change back again. Crossing that unseen line, a gentle jolt can be felt, as you move into a new vegetation zone.

These are not special moments. Such transitions happen everyday. Over and over, all day long. There is no magic involved. The real magic is accepting that such moments exist. Only then will you see the line.

Or so the old lady told me.

I suppose we were looking for lines, the old lady and me. Nanosecond fractures in time. I thought I was learning about literature, exploring genres, revisiting favourite authors and dissecting loved books with a writer’s mind. She told me I thought too much. That I would learn more about writing by getting out into nature, not reading. Instead, I needed to find how to walk the world two-ways. Being able to see transitions would help me be a better writer.

The old lady liked riddles.

I wanted to understand magic realism from a writer’s point of view. It seems that more and more authors are now labelling their work as magic realism. Is it, though? More often than not, I would say no. I could name many other labels that would be more suitable – easily picked from the every growing branches and twigs of genres. Though ask me to describe what¬†magic realism is, and I’m more comfortable with telling you what it isn’t.

To navigate through the ever-changing world of literature, I needed a guide. That old lady seemed as good as any. Or so she told me.

So off we ventured. Not into more books, or searching the net. We really did venture. Out on the open road. I drove. There is something about being on the road. Worries are quickly left behind. The road ahead is unknown. The first transition was that blissful moment of freedom. It was then that the birds appeared. Like attracts like.

Somewhere along the road, I began to think about writing. Specifically, the manuscript that I had not touched for a very long time. What I was calling my ‘next book.’ It is not unusual for me to think about my works-in-progress whilst driving. I spend over two hours every day on the road, driving to and from the day job. Often I will use that time to ‘work’ on my book – fix plot problems, come up with new characters, write the most perfect sentences (all of which I forget by the time I find a pen).

This time I had eleven days of driving. Plenty of time for thinking. Eventually, my thoughts got around to genre. Or labels. Being able to comfortably categorise your writing has become such a big deal. Without labels, marketing books becomes even harder, especially for indie authors. As if it’s not hard enough!

As a reader, I really enjoy magic realism. Not the newer works, which I believe rarely fit this genre, but works by the likes of Isabel Allende, Gabriel García Márquez, Toni Morrison, Ben Okri and Laura Esquivel.

Perhaps I have been spoilt. Perhaps I am being inflexible (again). Regardless, I can’t shake off the view that many works labelled as magic realism appear to be something else. Am I the only one who can see the emperor’s new clothes? What’s wrong with proudly accepting a novel for what it is? Why try to cram it into¬†a label that just doesn’t fit?

Then again, does it matter? Its been over a year since I posted my views on¬†magic realism,¬†and its distinct differences from genres such as fantasy. Instead, I argued for recognition of magic realism literature as a politically charged voice for the oppressed. Since then I’ve shaken my head on numerous occasions, as I watched what appeared to be increasing appropriation of that voice, whilst wanting to let go of my own rigid definition of magic realism.

Out on the road, I knew it didn’t really matter what others said or did. What mattered was finding my own voice. And most of all, putting to paper all the books that I had written in my head. Enough with the distractions.

With my first book, I flirted with magic realism. And I too hinted at that label when marketing. Yes, I’m a hypocrite. However, its okay to experiment, and to genre hop. Writers do it all the time. Even the man often called the father of magic realism, Gabriel Garcia Marquez (may he rest in peace), did not confine himself to writing in only one genre. So my first book was a chance for me to play genre-fusion, to find my own voice.

This next book, this one I will feel comfortable with calling magic realism. And this is where I’ve hit a wall. Why it sits, unfinished. I’m quick with stating ‘that’s not magic realism’, but until I know what magic realism is, I can’t finish writing this book.

How do I find the right way to write magic realism. It can’t be taught. It needs to be felt. The old lady was right. I had to remember how to walk two-ways. Not learn to do it, but remember and do it. How I do¬†that is not today’s story. That old lady was right, though. The answer was out in nature, not in the comfort of my home.

So that was the next moment. I crossed another line. It felt great. I also meant a massive re-write. It meant ravaging 70,000+ words. Chopping and changing to fit my new vision. It meant getting home, and sitting down at a computer, ready to do the hard work. It means trying to keep alive what I rediscovered on the road, as I walked the earth barefoot, and not be dragged back into the world of concrete.

The next steps are taken alone, without the company of the old woman. She is far away, left out on the road that leads from the sea to the desert. In my mind I can see her flying high, covering vast distances over changing landscapes. She has shown me how to fly, to feel free. Now it’s time to write. This time I will hold the night and day closer together, as I pick apart and re-stitch my novel-in-waiting.

 

MAGIC REALISM BLOGHOP 2014
This post is part of the Magic Realism Blog Hop. Over twenty writers/bloggers are taking part over three days (6th – 8th August 2014).
Click on the link below to read more of these Magic Realism post. More posts will be added to the list over the next three days.

 

Earthed

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Day three of my road-trip to Uluru has been a break from driving. Pulled into Coober Pedy last night, for a two night stopover. Now I’m doing another late night backseat blog post on my android phone. This time the additional challenge is Jack Daniels – I’ve had a few bourbons to chase away the chill, so apologies for typos.

I visited a few underground museums today, as well as other sights. I’ve been to Coober Pedy a few times on work trips, but it was nice to see the sights with friends today.

After visiting a few tourist sites, I dropped them off for some noodling (i.e. to go through dirt mounds, looking for opals). Meanwhile, I visited the underground bookstore. Lots of shops are built underground here, and half of the 3,500 residents live underground.

As a rockhound, I find this town fasinating. However, I’m not comfortable with opals. Its weird, I know. There is something not quite right with how humans have destroyed this land in search of colourful rocks. All around me are mounds of displaced earth. Opals are so pretty, but…

Australia produces 95% of the world’s opals, and where I am accounts for most of that. Opals are alluring, pretty and sometimes valuable. Its easy to get the fever; wanting to find that vein that will make all your dreams come true.

Coober Pedy, the town, turns a hundred next year. The name of the town comes from the Aboriginal phrase ‘kupi peti’, meaning ‘white man in a hole’. How quick it must have been from amusement of seeing Europeans digging around for colourful rocks to feeling the gut wrenching impact of the destruction of their land. I can’t even imagine how that would feel for the traditional owners, who have lived here for tens of thousands of years. Which is why I don’t feel comfortable possessing opals.

Eons before First Nations People walked this land, and even before mega fauna existed, this area lay under an ancient ocean. 120 million+ years ago this area was an inland sea, not the water-scarce desert it now is. In this ocean lived massive aquatic dinosaurs. I saw some of their fossils today. Sort of puts things into perspective when you see signs of life that old.

Well, the day has come to an end. Tomorrow night I will make camp over the border, in Northern Territory. Before I turn in, I should explain the photo – it has nothing to do with Coober Pedy. I took this photo yesterday, at the Lake Hart look-out. This colourful van was pulling out as I got in, and I couldn’t resist the picture opportunity. Firstly, from envy. He’s set up looks more comfy than my backseat bed. And secondly, because this is the type of quirkiness I love about travelling through outback Australia. I’ve since found out that he is a travelling iconic artist/musician. Google ‘Chookman on Tour’ to find out more.

Now, bedtime for me as another day on the road awaits me tomorrow.

PS I don’t think that was too bad for writing under the influence. Maybe a re-read in the morning will prove me wrong. At least I’ve warmed up!

Fly Away

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Day two of my road-trip North, and I’m now about 1,000kms from home. Today I flew down the road, riding high winds. My friends’ campervans struggled with the wind. While they plodded along, I raced ahead. I even had time to stop a few times on the side of the road, to soak in the beauty of the country.

Today I travelled through the lands of the Nukunu, Ngadjuri, Banggarla, Andyamathanha, Kuyani, Arabana and Kokatha peoples. (Apologies if I have misspelt these First Nations – limited technology doesn’t allow for proper research in-transit).

I wasn’t alone, flying on the wind. From out my window I spied many birds. Mainly ravens and small birds of prey. I also saw a huge Wedgetail Eagle take off.

Earlier, another Wedgetail swooped down, close to the passenger window, and travelled by my side for a while. I welcomed her company, smiling broadly. The Wedgetail eagle is my totem, and has visited me many times before. To have this one travel beside me is a special sign. I was reassured. I know I’m travelling in the right direction  I still don’t know where I’m going, but I have plenty of time to work that out.

Right now, I’m cosy in my backseat ‘bed’, at Coober Pedy (the ‘outback’ of South Australia). It is still windy outside and I can feel it nudging the car. As I drift off to sleep, I will dream of soaring with eagle. One can travel far with those wings.

The Adventure Begins

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A quick blog post, written from the backseat of my car.

If you’ve read previous posts, you may remember that I had to pull out of a much-anticipated holiday with friends, due to job uncertainty. Well, in the past week, I did lose my job. However, I put out into the universe – if there was a way for me to go, then so be it. And so it was. In a week, I sold enough copies of my novel to cover the petrol costs. This was all due to supportive friends, co-workers and people I have met online. Their generousity has been amazing, and I’m feeling very loved. So, I am now on an adventure.

Day one of my road-trip has been good. A bit of a late start, but made it to Port Augusta just after sunset.

Before heading out, I dropped by my local beach to watch the waves. And hours later, I’m 380kms west, at Port Augusta (South Australia).

Today I travelled through the traditional lands of the Kaurna, Narungga, Ngadjuri and Nukunu peoples. Its NAIDOC Week, so a good time to acknowledge the achievements of Aboriginal people from these regions. And to reflect on the strong cultures that have survived, despite the negative impact of colonisation.

It was too windy tonight to bother with putting up the tent. Instead, I have made a cosy nest on the backseat of my car. Thank goodness I have a roomy car (Dodge Avenger), and not a tiny hatchback. I’m sure my friends are more comfortable in their campervans, but I’m happy in my nest.

Tomorrow we head north. Not sure where we will be tomorrow night, as we are have no concrete plans. Other than our final destination – Uluru, Northern Territory.

And now, its bedtime. A bit earlier than what this little night owl is used to. I wonder if that wind will lull me to sleep?

The Zen of Road-trips

Uluru, Northern Territory (image from Australian Travel and Tourism Network)

A lot has happened since last week. I’m still on that cliff, wondering whether I will fly or flop. The way ahead remains unclear, but staying in limbo¬†is no longer an option.

Firstly, I have lost my job. I’ve been on eggshells for so long, hoping the program I worked for would not be another victim of the current slash & burn budget. Getting the news yesterday was more of a relief than a shock. At least I no longer have to wait – doing that crazy flip-flop between optimism and pessimism. And despite facing unemployment, with no prospects on the horizon, I chose optimism.

Before I heard the news, I had already made up my mind to hit the road. As you may recall, last week I was preparing to wave good-bye to my friends, as they headed for Northern Territory. On the joint 5oth birthday celebration trip that I was supposed to be on, but had pulled out of due to job insecurity and lack of savings. Well, choosing optimism, I decided that I would find a way to join them.

And a way presented itself the very next day. An unexpected parcel arrived, full of freshly printed copies of my novel. So, I asked friends and co-workers if they would like to buy one, so that I could buy petrol for the trip. And buy they did. I have been feeling very loved, and overwhelmed, by people’s generosity. Within a few days, I had the money I needed for petrol. Any additional funds will go towards other travel-related expenses.

I’m doing this trip on the cheap: camping in a tent, or sleeping on the back seat of my car on cold night. And it gets very cold at night in the bush. It is Winter, after all. My friends have hired camper vans, so I can use their stoves. Otherwise, I’m planning on being fairly self-sufficient. I’m not even bothered that I will be driving on my own, as I can use the time to think about where I’m going in life. Or plot out my next novel. Better yet, I’ll pump up the music and sing my heart out as I travel through some amazing parts of Australia.

The trip from south of Adelaide to Uluru (our destination) is approximately 3,300 kms. Lucky I love to drive! Other than seeing the sun rise over Uluru (the world’s biggest rock), we have no other plans. We know there will be many nights sitting around camp fires and days spent meandering north. No doubt we will find some interesting sights and adventures on the way. Perhaps even some new friends.

Would you like to join me? Well, keep an eye out for blog posts, and updates via Twitter and Facebook. I plan on taking lots of photos on the road, and write as often as I can (internet connection may make blogging a bit challenging). I hope you will enjoy my updates, as I travel by convoy into the heart of Australia. I might also share some historical stories, from places I visit. And I’m going to be dropping into country bookshops, seeing if they are interested in stocking my novel, and doing a review of each shop. Perhaps I will even make time to work on my current manuscript. Its been a bit neglected. However, as parts of this book is set in the outback, I’m sure I can find inspiration whilst I am on this trip.

So, I’m going on a road-trip. An epic road-trip. Such adventures are not just for the young or grey nomads. Nor are they just cheap family holidays. Middle-aged road trippers can have just as much fun, and the journey can be memorable. I’ve had many a great road-trip. Australia is ideal for wandering. You can see so much more when travelling by road, and there is the option of stopping whenever you feel like it, or changing destinations. And there is the opportunity for thinking time, as you watch the road unwind in front of you, or gaze into a camp fire at night. Sitting under star-lit heavens, witnessing the awesomeness of nature, catching a glimpse of wildlife – these are moments that can transform us. Journeys can help us reconnect to nature, and reconnect to ourselves.

At this moment, not knowing what the future holds for me, I’m in need of such reconnection. I’m in need of hitting the road, being open to possibilities, and seeing where I end up. Maybe I’ll even see you on the road? If so, do¬†wave back…its an Aussie tradition.