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

Instagram @meanderingwyld

Lot 2: son of a basket

 

This second item in my Silent Auction of Stories is hand-made. By me. And it has a story.

First, what is it:

This basket has been made with natural and dyed raffia, using a pierce-and-sew method. It features two side-handles. It’s a fairly large basket, being 16 cm high with a diameter of 34 cm.

Its story:

Did you know that baskets are actually just stories in another form? Each one holds stories. And you can feel these when you pick them up. They have within them the story of their creator, and how they were feeling at the time they made the basket. And the stories of the land they were made on, and the conversations overheard as each layer of the basket was created. So no wonder I, a storyteller, weave baskets.

This basket is a replica of another basket I made. Both were made early in my weaving phase. I prefer the original but this son of that basket is okay. And has an interesting tale.

In 2007 I was selected to be part of a Womad artist in residence program, facilitated by Sandy Elverd. It involved a group of textile artist from around the world, working with the Tjanpi Desert Weavers.

There were about 20 women, and we worked solidly for about five days to create an installation that was a feature of Womadelaide 2007. We created a life-sized desert camp scene – fireside, utensils, people, camp dogs and fauna all made from grasses, wool and other fibre. The basket and fibre-bushfoods on my home page were made as part of that installation. That basket has it own story – but that would be too much of a digression.

Working with the Tjanpi Weavers on that installation was an amazing experience. I learnt some new weaving techniques from some of the most prominent Aboriginal weavers in Australia. And time spent in a weaving circle is full of laughter, cultural learnings, and lots of sharing of stories.

I’d recently started the Southern Weavers Group, as part of my role as a community development officer. This project provided a regular social activity for local elders, as well as a means to talk about health, diet and lifestyle (due to funding through an arts and health program). Younger women also participated in some of the activities, such as weaving camps. It developed into a social enterprise, which is still in existence, as the elders are paid to teach weaving in schools and community events. These sessions involve raising non-Indigenous people’s awareness through sharing of stories.

I used a train-the-trainer approach, by accompanying one or more members of the group to workshops and conferences, so we could learn both business and weaving techniques from other First Peoples around Australia. Some of the women had learnt sedge-grass weaving from their elders, as children, so the program was both a re-learning their own cultural weaving and learning new techniques from other regions.

One day, while making grass-sculptures and baskets with the Tjanpi Weavers, I felt a bit guilty that I was there and not any of the elders from the Southern Weavers group. So I asked if I could invite a few, and the next day Aunty Rose came with me. Aunty is now gone, but I still remember spending that day with her and the Tjanpi weavers. That is one of the stories that are within the baskets we made.

As an artist in resident, we were provided with weekend passes to Womad, where we ran weaving workshops for attendees. I’d never been able to afford to go before, and had always been curious, so this was a little bit exciting. Until – guilt set in again.

The arts-patron that had funded the Tjanpi Weavers project at Womad popped in to check on our progress. Speaking with her, I mentioned the group I’d started and how good it would be if they could go to Womad and see this installation. So she gave me a few day passes for them.

Grateful, I gifted her with a basket. It was the original of the one pictured above. But much better. I loved that basket, but it felt right to give it away.

A few days later, I escorted a group of local elders to Womad. There wasn’t enough tickets for everyone so, as usual, I let them choose who got to go. A younger woman, who is a talented artist, missed out. She, like me, had never been able to afford Womad tickets, so she was a little bit disappointed. But it worked out ok, as all the elders got tired quickly and chose to go home. So I rang her and arranged to meet outside the gates, to give her the wrist-band that I’d asked one of the elders for. We had to take it off very carefully, to not damage it or her wrist. (shhh don’t tell Womad).

In the meantime, the group of guest artists were preparing to leave the installation tent and go see a performance. It was a singer and choir from their Country. Ahead of me a young girl was struggling to push an elder in an old wheelchair with flat tires. I jumped in and gave her a hand. Once we got to the stage, the sun was setting. The performance was amazing. And I felt privileged to have watched it in the presence of elders who were related to the performers.

As soon as it finished, I got a text to say that my friend was nearly at the gate. So I walked out to find her. Sitting under a huge fig tree was an old man. He beckoned me, so I went over there. He told me, proudly, that his son was going to perform inside the gate. He couldn’t afford a ticket, so he’d sat outside, hoping to hear the performance. The performance I’d just witnessed. I told him that his son had just been on stage. I noticed his look of disappointment at not hearing his son sing.

So I told him the story of his son’s performance. How beautiful his voice was, and the choir backing him up. I told him some of the names of the elders I’d watched the performance with, and he said they were related. I told him how some of the elders had been crying with pride. And as I told him this story, he had tears running down his cheek.

I then saw my friend, and said good-bye to him. As I walked back inside the magical space of Womad, I was a bit emotional. Firstly, because I just had an emotional interaction. And secondly, I was damn angry. Pissed off at the exclusiveness of Womad. Annoyed that even when Aboriginal people are included on the stage, we are still excluded from the audience because of those damn overpriced tickets. And deeply sad that this proud father did not get to see his son perform, in front of his kinsfolk.

Anyway, I digress once more. Later, missing the original large orange basket that I had gifted, I made this replica. Which is why it is a son of a basket. This basket might not have been at Womad, but it has been infused with the joys, creativity, sadness, and connectivity of my experiences of participating in the 2007 Womad Tjanpi Desert Weavers program.

Let the silent auction begin!

A refresher on how this will work:

  • If interested in the item, you can send me your confidential bid via twitter DM (@1KarenWyld) or by using the¬†contact form¬†on this website.
  • Remember to factor in packaging and postage when you are bidding.
  • Once at least one bid has hit the reserve level, I‚Äôll close the auction and contact the highest buyer.
  • Bidding is restricted to people residing in Australia only, due to delivery costs.

If you aren’t interested in owning the item, but you did like its story, then feel free to contribute to more stories. There is a PayPal pay now button in the upper right-hand of this page. Or you can use my PayPal payme account.

Also see Lot 1: The Maiden

Lot 1: The Maiden

This is the first item in my Silent Auction of Stories. If this item could only be explained in three words, those words would be: hope, strength and resilience.

Item description:

Rose-coloured glass with gilded designs. The handled-jug is 25 cm tall. It features what could probably be called a wood nymph. She is leaning against a tree, playing a wind instrument. The six glasses are 14 cm tall, and are decorated in gold ferns. The set is in perfect condition.

Its Story:

This set was given to me in 1985. I was 21 years old, moving into my fourth accommodation after leaving the family home. It felt more like my first real home since moving out. Which could have partly been because I was in the nesting stage of my first pregnancy. Almost all of my income was going into rent, but to have a place of my own felt good. Who needs fancy furniture? Or food? Luckily, I vomited throughout that whole pregnancy, so I didn’t really feel like eating anyway.

I digress. So I had just moved into this old shack on a cliff, overlooking the sea. Surrounded by nothing either side of me, with the sea out the front, I could easily ignore the other houses some distance behind me. The place was haunted, but that is another digression.

My sister’s friend gave me this jug and glasses as a house-warming present. She’d found it in an antique shop – she’s always had an eye for pre-loved treasure. It was my very first house-warming present, so it was indeed treasure. I put it in a place of honour, and admired not only the lovely pink glass and fancy gold design, but the woman on it. She symbolised me, a young woman – free, single, and alone. Well, as much as one could be with a baby on the way.

Once that baby arrived, I was still young and single. But not alone. In addition to my daughter, my sister’s friend moved in. She had the second bedroom, whilst I had the bedroom over looking the ocean. Our lifestyles were a little bit in conflict – I had a baby who wouldn’t settle, and the housemate had parties and boyfriends. And parties there were. An isolated house on a cliff is soon filled with young people, and bands, and more people.

Luckily, I had a baby who didn’t like sleeping. She did like people. And playing with the musical instruments whenever a band came over to practice, with an audience in tow. Oh my! How did we survive!

And how did this lovely jug and glasses survive that? I had it tucked away safely. Which was a good thing, as my daughter was walking by the time she turned 10 months. And climbing on chairs, up onto shelves, or out the door by the time she was 11 months.

By the time she’d turned 2 years old, we’d moved to the country. Where it was quieter. In an old farmhouse, in the middle of a vineyard. My rent would be reduced every row of vines I tied, which was a bonus. But working in a vineyard with a stubborn toddler is near impossible. We lived there for a while, but had to move out when someone broke in and stole my rent money and lots of belongings.

This nymph jug of course didn’t get stolen. It has lived in twelve other houses with me. I moved often not because I wanted to, but because that is what the rental market was/is like. Which is why I really don’t want to lose my house; the one I built and am paying off.

This glass set survived parties, an adventurous toddler and many house moves. It’s also survived a house fire, two boisterous boys, and numerous cats. It some how didn’t get targeted by my abusive ex-husband, who had a thing for hunting down items that meant something to me and making me watch as he destroyed it. Which is how I developed a non-blinking poker-face. But I digress again.

I’m no longer The Maiden. I am fast approaching my Hag stage – and have the grey hairs to prove it. I have loved, treasured and protected this jug and glasses set, but its time for this gilded wood nymph to find a home without me.

Like me, she is strong and resilient. I hope someone likes her enough to bid on her. And will treasure her as much as I have.

***

Let the silent auction begin!

A refresher on how this will work:

  • If interested in the item, you can send me your confidential bid via twitter DM (@1KarenWyld) or by using the¬†contact form¬†on this website.
  • Remember to factor in packaging and postage when you are bidding.
  • Once at least one bid has hit the reserve level, I‚Äôll close the auction and contact the highest buyer.
  • Bidding is restricted to people residing in Australia only, due to delivery costs.

If you aren’t interested in owning the item, but you did like its story, then feel free to contribute to more stories. There is a PayPal pay now button in the upper right-hand of this page. Or you can use my PayPal payme account.

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.

Such as it was…..

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Here is another snippet of what I’m currently editing. Its some years past the previous piece I shared. Its from a work-in-progress, which will hopefully become my second novel, called Where The Fruit Falls. Its a rough draft, but I hope you enjoy the read.

As the last plutonium-loaded cloud settled over the red sands in the south-west, many miles away three strangers emerged from a sister-desert; seeking rest from a road seldom travelled. Even though they had entered town cloaked in dawn’s light, news of their arrival had spread before the last rooster finished crowing. This flurry of curiosity was not because it was unusual on the gibber plains for people to suddenly emerge from out of nowhere; others have arrived in such a manner. Nor was it unusual to see strangers, even though the town was in the middle of nowhere; as the train, in passing, often spewed out adventurers, government officials, wayfarers, those of a missionary-bend, and other lost souls. And it was not the shock of seeing a young woman unaccompanied by a man; for strong, independent women were a familiar sight in the desert terrain. No, the inquisitive stares behind curtains and the gossip that raced at the speed of wild-fire was fuelled by the peculiar guise of the two girls that walked alongside the woman. For even in this era of fast-tracked social change, it was still unheard of for one of her kind, for the woman’s bloodline was unmistakable, to be travelling unaccompanied with a white girl.
And such a pretty little girl, a precious rose – many would add to their recounting of the tale. Obviously cared for, loved dearly, despite the marks of a long trek clinging to her clothes – others would remark to their neighbours later that day. Such flawless, milky skin – sighed many behind sun-withered hands. And what eyes, they pronounced, like precious opals – they all pronounced. Even though, in all reality, her eyes were more akin to a less precious but equally enchanting gemstone: malachite.
Once they could tear their attention from this child, they took in the other girl; reluctantly at first. They openly appraised this child, and not with kindness in their eyes or truth in their hearts. This other one, wearing the trials of the road so well, brazenly strode into town; or so they thought. With the steadied gaze of a sun-browned cameleer from days long gone, this girl kept her bright blue eyes focused on the road, ignoring the crescendo of disapproval. Clearly she hasn’t been taught her place in the world Рsome muttered. She needs to be knocked down a peg or two Рgrumbled others. Such arrogance, but what can we expect from the likes of them Рverbalised a few. Giving them the vote will ruin this country, mark my words Рothers predicted.

That last comment drifted down the street, carried by the wind, towards the town’s edge, where it floated over the unseen boundary and fluttered around a gathering of makeshift homes. Those still trying to catch a few moments more of sleep tried to shoo the words away with the flick of a hand, not at all concerned about being bitten in exposed places. Others took a broom to the nonsensical declaration, sweeping the air until that unwanted opinion was encouraged to move on. As smiles of redemption began to brighten sun-toughened faces, they soon realised that there was now an unpleasant smell in the air. One by one, the fringe dwellers gathered outside, trying to locate the source of such a rank odour. An old man caught the eye of another, and then another, and another, Until soon they were walking away from the town, carrying only the essentials. They hadn’t needed a second whiff, for they had smelt this unpleasant odour many times before. Younger kin, refusing to follow, instead walked closer to the main part of town, allowing curiosity to be their guide.
Standing unseen, in the shadows cast by the rising sun, they saw the town-dwellers staring at a trio of travellers. The new spectators were also taken aback by what they saw, even if their comments were vastly different than those already dying in the dust or floating off on the air. For rather than seeing what was different, they had immediately noticed the similarities. Eventually, everyone began to see. It’s something in the bone structure, some thought Рsuch high cheeks. No, it was the way they both moved, the way they hold themselves, certain aura. They could see that those girls had shared secrets, for they speak in a clandestine language only known by twins. Those young ones were the mirror images of polar opposites.
Never before had the townsfolk seen such non-identical twins; one white and the other brown. Only the fringe dwellers could see the truth of the matter, even though it was so very obvious: both girls were in fact black.

While all this was unfolding, the woman kept moving, oblivious and quite accustomed to the astonished stares and whispers of strangers. As she walked down the main street, such as it was, the woman took no notice of fingers clasping at almost-closed curtains, nor did she acknowledge the slack-jawed affliction that her progenies left in their wake. Steadfastly she walked up to the veranda of the general store, such as it was, dropped her bags and shook the red dirt from her skirt. Leaving the uncanny twins sitting on a pile of road-worn bags, she walked into the store, with her head held high enough for trouble to find her.
A short time later, the three of them turned a rusty key in a dusty lock, entered a pre-loved shack and set to turning it into a home; such as it was.

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.

 

 

 

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The Interview
‘Do you understand what I want you to do?’
Not hearing a reply, I looked up, catching his eye for the first time. He didn’t even blink. Well, I assumed he wasn’t blinking. Hard to tell with those dark glasses he was wearing. I saw the corner of his mouth twitch, and quickly dropped my gaze.
Getting back to business, I asked ‘Its okay if you use a bit of force. You know, to get the job done.’
This time it was more than a twitch. He smiled.
I moved nervously in the chair, ‘Perhaps I said that wrong. I meant you can be forceful, but not in a physical way.’
‘Look lady, let’s just get this over with. I’ll take the job.’
‘Great, I’m sure we can work together just fine.’
‘I hadn’t finished talking.’
I grimaced, this wasn’t going the way I had expected.
He continued, ‘I’ll do it on one condition.’
‘Anything is fine with me, really.’
He leant forward, finally removing his glasses, revealing eyes I could easily become lost in. I felt my face reddening, and diverted my attention back to the folder on the desk.
‘Anything’, I murmured. ‘You are the expert, after all.’
‘Okay,¬†I’ll take the job, on the condition that we do this my way. I call the shots. You do exactly what I say.’

I nodded, imagining what he might ask of me. Perhaps this arrangement will be more enjoyable than what I had imagined. Then I blushed. My imagination could get a bit out of hand, sometimes.
He got out of the chair, ‘Let’s get moving.’
‘Now? I thought perhaps next Wednesday, Tuesday at the earliest.’
Crossing his arms, he said firmly, ‘Whatever I say, remember? Where do you do it?’
I stammered, ‘In the next room. It’s a bit of a mess in there. I really think we should wait a few days.’
He raised an eyebrow. That’s all it took. One raised eyebrow. Showing him to the next room, we got straight down to business.
I fired up the computer, then¬†exclaimed, ‘I forgot the coffee. I can’t start without a coffee.’
‘I’ll make it, you sit. If it helps you to write, then coffee it is. That’s what you hired me for – to make sure you write. So start writing.’

Perhaps I should have hired a muse?
I stared out the window. Was that the same bird I saw in that tree three hours ago? Why was it sitting on the same branch? I felt as if time had ceased to move. I couldn’t even hear the clock ticking. That ancient timepiece that drove me mad most days. Now its silence was driving me mad. What was the time, anyway? Surely there is no sense in sitting in front of this damn computer when stupid words refused to jump from my imagination and onto this maddening blank screen.
‘Are you talking to yourself again.’
Turning around, I saw him. Grimacing, I reflected on how quick it had taken for me to despise him.
He put a mug of coffee on the desk, next to the keyboard. Then a plate of fruit, cut into small pieces.
‘Oh,’ I groaned. ‘Fruit again.’
‘Yes, its good for you.’
‘Can’t I just have one biscuit? To go with the coffee.’
He shook his head, ‘Fruit is better. And later, you will go for a walk.’
‘Do I have to?’
‘You can’t sit in front of that monitor all day long. A healthy body sustains a creative mind. Now eat your fruit, and get back to work.’

I picked up a piece of rockmelon, then put it back, ‘I can’t.’
‘Yes you can, it’s just rockmelon. Nothing scary. Anyway, I thought its one of your favourites.’
‘I don’t mean the fruit,’ I said, briefly wondering how he knew that I liked rockmelon. ‘I mean writing. I can’t. Nothing is happening. I’ve got the worse case of writer’s block.’
‘Pft.’
‘Did you just pft me?’
He nodded, ‘Writer’s block is a load of rubbish. There is no such thing. You just have to try a bit harder.’
‘What!’¬†I looked up, ‘Try harder?’
There was that arms-folded thing again. He really was infuriating.
I turned back to the screen, ‘I should have hired a muse instead. That’s what I really need.’
‘No, you need me. Stop the excuses, and write,’ he said, as he left the room.

There’s more important things in life than fiction
‘What are you doing?’
I closed the browser quickly, ‘Nothing, just some research.’
‘Try again.’
I sighed, ‘It was twitter.’
‘You won’t get that manuscript done if you waste time on social media.’
‘Its not a waste of time,’ I said, turning to face him. ‘I need to keep up with current affairs. Especially when there is so much bad stuff happening out there. I’ve been thinking…..’
He crossed his arms, and raised an eyebrow.
‘Stop that! You don’t even know what I was going to say.’ I turned away, to avoid his stern appearance, ‘I think I should put this draft aside for a while, maybe write some non-fiction. I can’t just sit back and say nothing. I’m a writer, I can use my skills to voice what needs to be said. I can’t do that with fiction.’

‘Nonsense. All this tweeting isn’t making a difference. You are just procrastinating. Use fiction, that is the strongest voice you have. Channel your rage, use your wisdom and experience for good. Embed that in your fiction. Writers have always shone a light on reality, on current events or unjust pasts. Get off the internet, and write.’
I shook my head, ‘I can’t disconnect. I have to build my writer’s platform, create a following. And then there is marketing. My first book isn’t just going to sell itself. No way can I turn off the internet.’
‘You’re wasting time. You need to be more strategic, find a balance. Write first, spends as much time as you can writing; then go on-line. Use your time wisely.’

First draft
Walking into the study, I jumped. I hadn’t at first noticed him, sitting in the corner, in my big green, plush chair. He had some papers in his hands. Slowly, it dawned on me.
‘I didn’t give you permission to read that!’
‘This isn’t too bad. Needs a bit more work, but not bad at all.’
‘Really?’
Nodding, he put the paper aside, ‘Its good. Strong characters, good pace. You’ve really nailed scene-setting too. I could almost see the places you were describing. However, most of all, I like the plot. You’re a very capable storytelling. Very imaginative, indeed.’
I blushed, already forgiving him for reading the manuscript without my consent.
‘Let’s get back to work,’ I said, as I¬†sat at the computer.

Getting the job done
‘Its done,’ I said, hearing him enter the room.
He placed a cup of coffee on the desk, accompanied by two chocolate biscuits, ‘I knew you were close to finishing. So thought you could do with a treat.’
‘Biscuits? At a time like this? No, this moment deserves a real celebration.’
I walked to the kitchen, grabbed a bottle of bubbly from the fridge, and opened the cupboard. Stretching, I tried to reach the flutes.
‘Here, let me help.”
I moved aside, and watched as he took out two glasses, and handed them to me. Taking the bottle, he expertly popped the cork. I held out the glasses, and watched as he gently poured. He put the bottle on the counter, and reached for a glass.
Tapping his glass against mine, he remarked, ‘Congratulations. Book number two is done. And, if you don’t mind me saying, its good. Much better than your first.’
I smiled, and took a sip. So many thoughts were racing through my mind. I was elated at having finished the book, but sad too. I sipped my drink, lost in these conflicting thoughts.

Finally, I looked at him, ‘I suppose this is the end, then. Of our working relationship.’
He smiled, ‘I suppose it is.’
‘What will you do now?’
‘Oh, I have a few options. The one most interesting me at the moment is a job being a muse for a writer I know.’
‘A muse? I thought you didn’t do that sort of work.’
‘Not usually, but there is this really promising writer and she’s needing one. I reckon her and I could work together. In fact, I think I could happily spend the rest of my life being her muse.’
I looked away, hiding my eyes. I didn’t know what to feel first. Jealousy? That he could be someone else’s inspiration, and not mine. Sadness? After all this time, what we had been through, I couldn’t imagine writing another word without him. I felt his hand on my chin, gently urging me to look at him. Obediently, I glanced up. Annoyed that he could command me as he did. Me, Ms Stubbornly Independent. Still, I felt compelled to look at him.

‘What do you say?’
‘About what?’
‘You and me working together some more.’
I furrowed my eyebrows. Had I missed something?
He smiled, ‘Are you still looking to hire a muse?’
I returned his smile, ‘Only if I can find the right person for the job.’
‘Okay then, when do we start?’
‘Start?’
‘Your next book, of course.’
‘Ah, of course. In a while. First, I must find the inspiration. I think I will take this bottle, wander out into the garden and see if I can come up with an idea.’
I took a few steps, and then turned back towards him. He looked totally confused. Finally, he was no longer the one in charge.
Laughing, I said, ‘Aren’t you coming too, my muse?’
‘You lead, I’ll follow – my writer.’

 

weave a story / pen a dream

Traces of stories linger in the most unexpected places 
Stories are everywhere. I re-discovered this when I became a weaver of baskets. I say ‘re-discover’ because as a child I already knew this. Living in an old stone house, surrounded by farm lands and dilapidated sheds, my imagination was given plenty of space to run free. If I stopped for just a moment, I could hear whispers of story in the rustling of grasses, and smell tales as they floated towards the hills, on autumn winds. For hours on end I would sit and listen to furred, feathered and scaled friends, to the secrets they were willing to share. I could sense the yarns of long-ago people, their voices trapped within the stones of those old buildings that I called home. And when not outside exploring, I would sit with my Great-grandfather – listening to his wild tales of a life well-lived.

And then I forgot how to listen – I grew up.

Weaving Yarns
Thankfully, life has both cycles and circles. When an Aboriginal elder showed me how to weave, I started remembering. First I remembered that I had tried weaving before, as a child. For a brief time my mother made cane baskets, and I gave it a try. Weaving stiff cane never really appealed to me, so that phase didn’t last long. Decades later, when I was shown how to make baskets out of sedge grass, the way that Aboriginal people in southern coastal and riverine regions had been doing it for tens of thousands of years, I discovered a new talent. I was a natural at weaving fibres. Later I was shown other styles of fibre work, by Aboriginal weavers from around Australia, and even some methods used by nearby Island nations. One that really appealed to me is the method used in Australia’s central deserts, using short tufts of sun-hardened grasses called¬†tjanpi;¬†an aromatic grass found growing on the side of rock formations.

Each one I made had a story to tell
I soon discovered that baskets have excellent memory recall. They remember where their fibre comes from, the country where the sedges were harvested. Tjanpi remembers the  big trip to the city, when they left behind the desert winds that once made them dance. Baskets remember the laughter and conversations that snaked around the weaving circle, or the thoughts of the lone weaver as she/he sat in quiet contemplation. I know my baskets remember because when I hold them they whisper to me: what they have seen, where they have been, what they have heard.

Like stories, each person’s baskets are unique. Everyone has their own style and preferences for patterns and materials. The way someone holds the basket as it’s being made, and the tension of their stitches, are unique to that person. Amongst Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander weavers, there are also distinct regional variations of styles, materials and methods. It’s possible to see a basket and know where it has been made, and sometimes even by whom.

The making of baskets is not that much different from writing. For both baskets and books have a way of asserting their own direction, subtly leading the creator. And they have much to teach; if you let go and allow the true story to emerge, the finished product is often better than what you had originally envisioned.

A basket starts with choosing the material; and there are plenty of natural and synthetic fibres to choose from, in all shades and textures. During the weaving process there may be call to change the pattern, use different stitches or add new materials and colour. A novel is the same, the storyteller makes some initial decisions – genre, point-of-view, protagonist – and perhaps an outline of plot. However, any or all of these may change at any time in the construction of the story. And that is okay.

Having spent years exhibiting and selling my weaving, over the past year I had no time for new baskets. The few I have kept sit in odd places around my home. Some have a functional use, others sit and gather dust. Occasionally my eye will catch one, or I will pick one up, and instantly I remember where I collected the fibres from, where I was when I wove it and even how I was feeling. My baskets let me recall fond memories and good company. However, as much as I like to weave, time had to be found so I could pursue stories of a different kind.

Weaving my Dream
I know it’s a clich√©, but as I child I knew that I would eventually become a writer. Learning to read and write wasn’t easy, though. First I had to learn how to harness dyslexia. When those chicken-talon scratchings on the blackboard finally transformed into letters, then words and sentences, my need for books became insatiable. Before too long I had outgrown children’s’ books and was devouring literature from all around the globe; my favourites being long-dead authors from Russia and England, and newer works from India and South America. With an ingrained love of story, of course I had a dream of becoming a storyteller myself.

It took me decades to realise that dream. I sort of got off-track, wandering out into the harsh Desert of Reality. Somehow I found my way back. On the eve of my half-century, I published my first novel, When Rosa Came Home, and I had realised a dream.

The formula to achieving this dream was fairly simple but needed a few drops of blood sweat and tears for the magic to happen. The secret of dreams is that they need to be backed with reality to come true. Like weaving, to write you need to have learnt some basic skills. And be willing to work for long hours to perfect those skills; to do the same thing over and over until your fingers hurt, then finally form callouses.  You need to learn how it has always been done, before stepping outside the square and creating something new. Finding your own voice is important, but only after you have developed a deep respect for traditions.

It starts with just one piece
Like a basket, for me a story starts with one thread. With When Rosa Came Home it was a single image: a flash of an aged hand reaching into a drawer and pulling out a flat wooden box. I took that one thread and slowly added others, stitching word on word, adding more and more, until over time I had a complete story.

This process, from image to published, took almost two years. At the same time I was working on two other manuscripts and a number of short stories. In the last year, I had also set up this blog and started delving into social media (forming my ‘writer’s platform’). Most importantly, I was also dealing with the fickle whims of life.

Life gave me so much lemons in 2012 that I was able to make a jug full of lemonade. The first lemon was suddenly finding myself under-employed and desperately trying to make ends met – the biggest focus was to keep the roof over my family’s heads. While taking any work I could, I cut back on expenses. This meant simplifying my life: baking bread, not going out, reducing car usage, recycling and recalling the cost-cutting domestic arts from my childhood on the farm. Being forced to become a recluse opened up a window of opportunity, allowing me to follow a long-held dream: writing. I had time. And what better way to have a holiday from reality then creating characters and stories?

So I wrote. And reality hit back. There was even darker months: I lost all of my cherished, aged pets; had white-goods and computers call it quits; and said final farewells to people I admired.  Some of these people were my age, others younger. I wrote harder Рseeing that black bird of mortality sitting on a tree nearby.

Come, let’s escape together
During this time I was mostly working on a ‘serious’ story, which uses magic realism to explore some of Australia’s darker post-colonisation history. For light relief, from life and that story (Where the Fruit Falls), I would work on¬†When Rosa Came Home.¬†I never envisioned publishing what was originally a novella; it was meant to be just for me. Mid-2013 I realised that it was a pretty good bad story, and that other people might find enjoyment in it. So I started preparing it for release, so that others may escape to the world I had created.

Life took some more positive turns, as well. I had a full-time job, and was getting back on track financially. Maintaining a writing schedule became a challenge, not only because I had less time but because my new job involved frequent interstate travel. Writing in motel rooms soon became a necessity, and was sometimes easier than writing at home; especially with some of those amazing motel-balcony views.

With¬†When Rosa Came Home¬†I wanted to create a setting and story that was reminiscent of simplier times. And I wanted to push back the ‘experts’ that advise new writers to be scarce with words, recommending instead that we rush from action scene to action scene. I detest this dumbing down of literature, this scarcity of words and lack of rhythm. So I revisited the books that I had cherished in younger years. Instead I took the advice of authors from another era; those respected storytellers who weren’t afraid to show emotion and inner turmoil, or explore the complexities of human relationships; who bravely used strings of adverbs and adjectives. These books were complicated yet simple, poetic and rich in description of place. They were the anti-thesis of the new wave of ‘Hollywood blockbuster’ writing styles. They were storytelling at its best.

I know not everyone will be attracted to the style of writing I have used, nor the story I have told. That is okay, its good for us all to have diverse tastes. I enjoyed writing with rhythm, exploring the beauty of language and images.

And within those pages I have also explored some topical themes. There are faint traces of exploring gender roles, the changing composition of family, land rights, marriage equality and striving for your dreams. However, I have done this in such a normalised, simplistic manner that most readers will not even notice. Even though I have created a whimsical story, in an almost magical setting, there is always room for reality: for story must reflect life.

Weaving a story
Those years of weaving have come in handy, as it helped me to understand the flow of a story. having developed an artist’s eye, always on the look out for new materials and fibres to weave with, I am now able to see potential in what is around me; collect pieces that can be added to my stories. Collecting fibre in unexpected places, often walking in new environments, has honed my ability to feel place. While working with the fibre, allowing the basket to guide what shape it will become, has allowed me time to reflect: to ponder life, the universe and everything. Reflection is a writer’s best friend. As is patience.

One must be very patient to be a weaver of both fibres and words. Over the past few years I have steadily and painstakingly added layer upon layer, word to word, slowly creating a story – my first novel. Sometimes it felt as if it had a life of its own, and led me down unexpected sub-plot paths. That’s okay – I really like where it has taken me. And I hope you do too. For, unlike my unsold baskets, this story will not be left to gather dust. When Rosa Came Home¬†has been sent out into the world, to be shared (and hopefully enjoyed) by many more people than just its creator.

Now, a weaver of stories cannot sit in contemplation for too long Рnot when there are more characters begging to be woven into a story. Its back to the keyboard for me, back to a story that is both dark and hopeful: Where the Fruit Falls. I will untangle this story, add some new threads, and have it ready later this year.

May 2014 be your year for chasing and catching dreams!

Where to buy When Rosa Came Home:

Paperback at:-  Lulu   CreateSpace   Amazon and their affiliated book-sellers

E-book at:-   Barnes & Noble (Nook)   Smashwords    Amazon     Inktera    Diesel
(soon to be on Apple, Sony and Kobo)

Are we there yet?

karenwyld_whenrosacamehome_web_final

If Self-publishing is a Journey…..then today I’m feeling a bit car-sick.
I must toughen up, I have a long drive before I reach my destination.

Do you remember those family road-trips of old Рthe ones where, in between fighting with siblings and feeling a bit car-sick, you pestered your parents every 10 minutes with a whiny Are we there yet? 

Perhaps your more recent memories is from the point-of-view of those in the front seat, as you try to block out all that noise behind you. If you’re lucky, then the thought of car-trips brings up all those memorable get-aways with friends: trips to music festivals, camping adventures, holiday houses by the sea or long-haul journeys interstate.

Today, I’m feeling as if I’m in the driver’s seat, trying to keep an eye on the road while being distracted by all the squabbles and complaints coming from the back-seat.

A part of me would like to be a kid. I want to moan ‘Aren’t we there yet’, before succumbing to a tantrum. Ideally, I would like to be in a car full of friends, windows down, music up – as we escape the day-to-day life.

I shouldn’t complain, not really. At least I have a ‘ice cream’ to keep my temper in check – in the form of the very stunning front cover that you see before you.

‘Front cover?’ you ask. Oh, I forgot to tell you – I wrote a book! And I published it. I called it¬†When Rosa Came Home.

Almost at my destination…..

After approximately two years of blood, sweat and tears, my first novel has been sent out into the world. To begin with, its available now on Amazon as an e-book (check out my author profile). And after I conquer a few more challenges, it will be available from a range of distributors, including print versions.

Tonight, after a very long Monday (tired from doing writer-publisher stuff all weekend) I should be doing more formatting. I should be learning yet more skills. Nah. Not going to happen. Right now, this very minute, I’m feeling a bit over this rocky journey.

Where you’ve been is just as important

Perhaps I need to take a look in the rear view mirror, and acknowledge all the great places I have been lately. I wrote a book. Quite a good book, I think. When Rosa Came Home has engaging characters, interesting plot and is well-edited. Did I mention that the e-book version is available right now on Amazon?

This year, I also started a writer’s blog. Something I swore I would never ever do. And I got on Google+, Twitter and Facebook (author page). Only last year, I hardly knew anything about social media. There were some other types of social media that I tried out, but I think these four have long-term potential.

Mastering widgets, plug-ins, SEOs and do-dahs meant some pretty crazy driving, with lots of sharp curves, but I got back on the straight okay. Now I’ve set up author pages on Goodreads and¬†Amazon, with more to come. I’m pretty sure that with a good map, I’ll get where I’m going. Its a weird feeling, being able to say the word ‘author’ when referring to myself. It will take a bit of getting used too.

What is also taking a while to master is book formatting to a professional standard I am happy with. Over the past few days, this has resulted in a few blown tires and overheated radiators. And I’m sure there will be more problems on the road. When that happens, I’ll pull over to the side of the road, breathe deeply, take in the scenery and then fix what I need to get back on the road.

I had a few really enjoyable side-trips, spending time with other writers (on-line) and learning from those that have travelled this road before me. More recently, I had a quick stop-over at the ¬†proofreader’s place (You Can’t Handle The Proof) and the cover designer¬†Scarlett Rugers¬†Designs¬†(original artwork by Natalia Moroz). Although I don’t have much money to spare, I thought my first novel deserved a nice suit and clean underwear before I sent it out into the world.

Aren’t we there yet!

Even with nice scenery flashing past my window, and all the good people I’ve met, this journey has been really exhausting. As many of you would know, it’s not easy doing a full-day at work, a long commute (2 hours a day for me), and then hours and hours of blogging, writing and editing. My job is nationally based, so I also spend a lot of time flying and staying in motels all around Australia. And somewhere in there, I need to find the time for friends, family, housework, health & well-being….and sleep. No wonder I’m exhausted. I should pull this car over before I fall asleep at the wheel.

Just for a moment, as I really need to keep on moving. Once I have my novel up on all the distributor sites I have researched and selected, and the print version is looking a bit more professional, then I need to put my foot on the accelerator ¬†– its time to start promoting my novel. I did mention the novel, didn’t I? Its available now.

I can’t get too much done this week. I have my last work trip for the year. And then its the holiday season. I suppose I should think about making a gift list? Maybe even plan a menu and put up some decorations? Clean the house a bit? Living with a writer can’t be much fun!

Once the madness of food and present buying is done, everyone has been fed and the tinsel is swept up, I’ll have more time. Then I can hit the road again, and head off to my destination – becoming a ¬†real writer.

Are you on the road to being a writer as well?

This year, I have appreciated support of others. Especially the ideas and hints from other writers and bloggers, such as the good folks at Indies Unlimited. I’ve even enjoyed the crazy antics of the G+ group I like to hang out in (Literary Agents Hate Kittens).

Are you planning on being a writer, too? There is plenty of room on the road. If I get to the destination first, I’ll get the margaritas ready, put the deck chairs out in the sand, and wait for you all. If you get lost, I will send you a map. Company is always appreciated.

Please excuse me if I don’t sit and watch the sunset for too long, as I have to hit the road again – there are another three manuscripts waiting for me. Soon it will back to writing and editing for me. Then a new publishing and marketing cycle to get through. Perhaps this journey doesn’t have an end? That’s okay with me because, despite the ups and downs, it’s a pretty good road to be on.

Check out where I am now!

Well, its been quite a journey, but now I can say that I am a published author. And I won’t stop there; I have so many tales I want to share.

To keep up to date on my first novel, and future works, come back and visit my blog occasionally. I will update the Page titled ‘Books’ when¬†When Rosa Came Home¬†is available via other distributors. Once I have time, I’ll also start being active on my Goodreads author profile.

In the meantime, have a look at my author profile on Amazon. You can even have a look inside When Rosa Came Home, or order a sample for your e-reader (or PC, if you download a e-book program). Perhaps you would like to buy an e-book version right now? At the price of a coffee, it won’t hit your pocket too hard.

Addendum –
When Rosa Came Home is now available as a e-book on Smashwords, Barnes & Noble, Diesel, Inktera and Amazon. (Soon on Apple, Sony and Kobo)
Its also just been released in print format on Lulu, Createspace  and Amazon.

Can’t stay and chat any more, I must be going. Until we meet again, here is the ‘blurb’ for¬†When Rosa Came Home:

When Rosa Came Home – a novel by Karen Wyld

When they open the door for their wayward daughter, Rosa’s parents are not prepared for who else turns up at the Ambrosio family vineyard.

….the spirit of a poet, nurses who crochet magical rugs, a beautiful bearded lady, elephants from the dreamscape, a m√©decin sans medicine and his dancing python, a jealous stable-hand, acrobatic pirates of the dark web, a sleeping beauty with a secret or two, and a young girl who longs for a new sister….

Angelita Ambrosio narrates the stories of her secret sister‚Äôs time on the road, and yearns for adventures of her own. Amid precious tales, graciously shared by Rosa’s eclectic friends, a fractured family is reunited.

Not everyone is pleased to see Rosa return – peril lurks in dark places. Fear not: with a sprinkling of cosmic dust, a cloud of sawdust and a touch of magic, a new dawn will bloom – now that Rosa has come home.

Karen Wyld lives by the sea in South Australia and, from there, she can see the world. She has created a captivating first novel. Borrowing elements of literary fantasy, magic realism and vintage storytelling, this contemporary novel is unashamedly whimsical, allegorical, frivolous and thought-provoking.

The Ocean in my Head

Queensland; summer of 2011

I haven’t turned on my computer for 9 days. Nor have I listened to music, watched a show or picked up any print media. I’ve been too focused on the sounds of the ocean to even notice the absence of those everyday sources of distraction. Have I been on a relaxing beach-side holiday? No, the ocean is all in my head.

This ocean materialised 11 days ago. However, I had been feeling a bit run down days before I noticed the ocean’s presence. At first it was nothing, just a minor headache. Then a few days later – bam – I found myself at the mercy of the ocean’s whims. Not that I knew then it was an interior ocean that I was dealing with, not at first. I thought the origin of the constant sounds in my ears was the ocean down the road. After a while, I realised that the sound of waves was actually in my head, not outside. In addition to the waves of brain pain, that is when I knew I was dealing with an ocean in my head.

Like many writers, I don’t need movies, books or computers to pass the time. Instead, I just switch on my imagination and out pours stories, images, dialogue, happy-ever-afters. And like most writers, any spare time is spent coming up with stories or trying to untangle messy plots in my works-in-progress. Unfortunately, the ocean in my head didn’t allow such simple pleasures. As soon as I let my mind roam, it would tumble me under crashing waves of pain, tossing me on the rocky ocean floor.

On day 4, I went to see a doctor. I live in an area where getting an appointment is not always easy, so I went to the after hours clinic that specialises in prescriptions and sick certificates. Having hardly settled in the chair, I was handed a prescription and a certificate, and sent on my way. With a puzzled look, I left. Not because he also gave me a referral for some tests, but because he didn’t do an examination. Didn’t even approach me. How can a healer heal if they don’t touch the patient?

Back at home, I soon discovered that if I lay very still and try to silence¬†my mind, then the waves would soften, allowing me to float in the ocean. And, for fleeting moments, I could emerge from the ocean and sit on the shore. That wasn’t easy to do or maintain; so if it became too tiring, then popping some tablets and/or sleep brought moments of calm.

On day 6, I went to the hospital. After 8 hours of being prodded, jabbed and scanned, I met the doctor who could not/would not speak to patients. He handed me an envelope addressed to ‘Doctor’, said I could go and went to walk away. I asked him what the envelope contained and he replied that a doctor could explain it to me. When I opened the letter, he insisted that I wouldn’t understand it. I did; it simply said that they didn’t know what was causing the headache. As I sat outside waiting for a friend to pick me up, watching the tail-end of a thunder-storm, I wondered why would someone want to be a doctor if they couldn’t/wouldn’t speak to people; just as I had wondered about the doctor who didn’t use his healing power of touch.

A few days later, I decided that I couldn’t just lie around waiting for the ocean in my head to go away. I had to get back to work; to ensure an ongoing income. And I wanted to get back to writing. Having wasted so much time procrastinating lately, mucking around on social media instead of actually writing, I had finally found the cure: not being able to write.

A plan was needed. The idea was to build a boat so that I could sail across that ocean, from island to island: work, family, writing, domestic chores, friends. Easier said than done. It took a few more days of riding that ocean to be strong enough. And a couple of occasions where I didn’t want to close my eyes and go to sleep, afraid that I would drown in the ocean if I didn’t stay alert. Fear is often the hardest obstacle to overcome when putting a plan in place or setting out.

Day 11 is now coming to an end, and I feel that I have made some progress. Sleeping less each day, I have finally managed to build a rickety ship. And I managed to sail to a couple of islets today. Including turning on my computer and writing this blog post. It’s not much, but its progress. I also checked my social media accounts, which I have been neglecting since the brain pain descended; not only because of light sensitivity, but because I might do something silly in my hazy state (like posting something negative on G+ or ‘unfollow’ people because all that¬†twitting hurts my head).

The next journey will be outside, into the sunshine again. As the ocean sounds have started to diminish, I’m confident that I can manage the sun’s light tomorrow. And then later this week, its back to work: both the day-job and the passion-job (writing).

Why am I sharing this not-so-happy details of my personal life? Well, not to get sympathy or hints on dealing with persistent headaches. It’s because I am a writer, and I must write what I know. For the past 2 weeks, this is what I have known; this ocean in my head. Also, to become more accountable to myself: no more procrastination. I will write, I will edit, I will publish. No more excuses, no more delays. I am grateful that my headache appears to be flowing away; many others are not so fortunate as I am; and for that, I shouldn’t squander my time or talents any longer.¬†I can’t afford to wait any longer to realise my dreams; not when the thundering sounds and crashing waves of oceans can pick me up and dump me on shores far from those dreams.

That’s not a weed!

Desert Flower, Cravens Peak (Aust); Royal Geographical Society of Queensland’s website

Welcome to my Garden of Words

Do you remember the gardens of yesterday?
I remember fondly those gardens where children were let free to explore, to feed an insatiable imagination until called home for dinner. Gardens full of rich experiences for all the senses: touch, smell, sight, taste and sound. Like many children before me, those gardens have shaped me, nurtured my wild spirit. Allowed me to become a creative being, with a deep respect for nature.

Search most neighbourhoods and you will find that those types of gardens are now rare. The tangled gardens of our childhood have been replaced with minimalistic ‘outdoor rooms’. Lush, overgrown lawns have been replaced with roll-out grass or even fake lawn. Garden beds are more likely to contain dyed wood-chips, with a strategically placed lone-plant. Trees to climb or pick fruit from have mostly disappeared, and in their place are easy-care shrubs. Garden paths are no longer bare-feet friendly, having been replaced with concrete or pebbles. These domestic changes match modern tastes and lifestyles, designed for the shrinking backyard of the time-poor and horticulturally-challenged. Very few people have the time or the inclination to care for a tangled garden any more.

Where have the tangled stories gone?
Long ago, when on the cusp of adolescence, I must confess that I preferred my reading material to be like a tangled garden: full of lush prose, with liberal lashings of adjectives and adverbs. I sometimes even had a tendency to wander off the path and into the nearby forest. Putting aside children’s books at an early age, I devoured the likes of Poe, DH Lawrence and an assortment of Russian authors. As an adult, I moved away from tales of tormented love and long inner-discourses, and entered my southern phase; enjoying literature from southern Europe and South America.

What both these stages in my evolving taste in literature had in common were strong story-lines, rich descriptions, exploration of the protagonists’ inner thoughts, and a poetic use of words. These writers were often tellers of story in the traditional sense. They knew that words were not just there to link one action scene to the next action scene. Their words held magic, each and every long stream of letters had a purpose. The action was secondary in this realm of storytelling. Instead, these writers created a place between white pages where the characters and their deep desires ruled.

Admittedly, when I try to revisit my love for many of these writers and their works, I find that I no longer have the patience to decipher such descriptive works, or an interest in knowing every thought, feeling and secret passion of the protagonist. Like most readers, my reading habits and taste have changed. We have become accustomed to quick grabs of news and information, through increased use of internet and many forms of social media. This has undoubtedly changed the way we read, and what we read. With the rise in popularity of e-books, the average book seems to have shrunk to a size more traditionally known as the novella.

I can’t get no satisfaction in these gardens of concrete¬†
Lately, many books have left me with a rising twinge of disappointment. In both print and e-format, books have changed; the way people write seems to have changed dramatically. How to¬†blogs and books are full of advice for emerging writers, such as: cut out adjectives and adverbs; use just enough words to move the action along; don’t be overly descriptive. In short, how to be frugal with words.

In addition, writers are being encouraged to use basic words. To shun the fancy dinner set,¬†and instead use the every-day crockery. There is good sense in this, but we need to be careful that we don’t move so far in the opposite direction that we no longer challenge readers; let’s not dumb down the reading experience. Complicated, or poetic, prose can serve a valuable purpose. It is the doorway between the physical world and the author-created world within the pages of a book; it transports readers to rarely trodden realms and makes them more receptive to storytelling.

A recent article I read on Indies Unlimited, by Jo at Inknbeans Press, offered some really valuable advice on writing (Credit Steve Revare, author of¬†Raw).¬†While I agree with this type of advice (and I highly recommend you read that post), and I do try to incorporate such techniques in my writing, I can’t help feeling that we are at risk of loosing something precious.

Too many times I read a recently published book and feel like the author is rushing me. Although I am pleased that the use of excessive descriptions have all but disappeared (you know the type: those large chunks that we all skim over), I feel that too many books have become overly heavy on Action. I find these action-packed books so unsatisfying. There seems to be no attempt to lure me into a created world, into the lives of the characters. And when I close most books, no longer do I feel like I have said¬†farewell¬†to treasured friends, no longer do I feel the need to find a quiet place to reflect on the story they have shared with me. There are no lingering thoughts or what ifs, as all ends have been nicely tied up. Reading has become less of a memorable love affair and more of a¬†wham, bam, thank you ma’am experience.

Nurture the garden of your dreams
All is not lost. If it’s heritage vegetables or the aroma of herbs of yesteryear that you crave, and you just can’t find them in the modern shopping centres, then the solution is to grow your own. The same goes for stories. I miss the storytelling of old, and have a growing dissatisfaction with the quickie-stories of today. The solution is simple: I should write the type of books that I would like to read.

I am not so much of a fool to think that this is easier said than done. Just as with gardening, I have to learn a few tricks of the trade if I want a flourishing garden. I need to learn by trial and error; some of my seeds may not sprout, and fragile seedlings may shrivel and die. I may produce some fine-looking fruits, only to discover that they are bitter on the tongue. However, if I persevere, eventually I will be harvesting the flowers and fruits of my garden, and sharing them with others.

Presenting the produce from your garden
The more I write, and the more rules that I master, the more I notice that I am breaking those very same rules. For example, whilst it’s important to trim the fat in the editing stage, I don’t want to cut off so much that my work resembles a tasteless diet-friendly product. I prefer dishing up a healthy, whole-foods story; full of flavour, minus the nasty additives. I quite like adjectives and adverbs, thank you very much, and will add more than a dash to the pot. And while I will show some responsibility, and take in to account the tastes of potential readers, I will unashamedly sprinkle my work with pretty coloured, poetic prose.

The joy of blue ribbons at the fair
Recently I stumbled across a compliment from a fellow writer on Google+. He was conversing with a newly met writer, and suggesting that she circle me. Chaunce Stanton’s introduction was “You may consider adding Karen Wyld. She has a great sense of humor but also conveys strong rich/poetic/sense-experience tendencies….”
(Chaunce Stanton is the author of the newly released¬†Blank Slate House Boarding House for Creatives¬†and the 2012 release¬†Luano’s Luckiest Day).

Whilst Chaunce’s words still make me blush, and I’m not sure how many people I know in ‘real’ life would agree that I even possess a sense of humour, I do feel a connection with his description of my writing style.

How does your garden grow?
Having cut my reader’s teeth on rich poetic works of great writers, of course I will lean towards producing similar works. Even if it means that I am swimming against the tide. If I can close another writer’s book feeling as if novel-writing is becoming a pale ghost of its former self, then perhaps others are feeling a similar desire for more.

As a writer, and a reader, I want my novels to be a garden-of-the-senses. Maybe I no longer need one quite as tangled as those gardens of my youth, but neither do I want an overly manicured modern garden. I would like something in-between. Rich in prose, characters and story but not overly descriptive or action-packed. Just like I yearn for the aromas of the flowers of my past, rather than the fragrance-free ones of today, I long for the return of The Storytellers.

Now, if you will excuse me, I have a garden to tend to. With just a little more sun, water and earth, I will soon have my first published novel to share with you all; harvested tenderly from my not-so-tangled garden of words.

Going Psychic on your Characters

The Crystal Ball (1931), Jacques-Henri Lartigue (1894‚Äď1931).

What do writers and fortune-tellers have in common?

To begin with, they both pull stories out of thin air, using mysterious means.

They may get a snippet of a scene, a glimpse of a shadowy image, a sense of something, a disconnected feeling. They watch people. Hearing what is not being said, and taking cues from almost undetectable movements.

They take these small, random pieces of information, the ones that most people over-look, and they fit them together one at a time; until a story emerges. They then think: where might this end up?

For now, I’ll bypass the discussion on the ethics and pitfalls of seeking fame and fortune through such shady means, and….. ¬†What? Oh no, I meant the writer. I suppose you could say the same about the fortune-teller.

People-watchers have a flair for seeing things that others may not notice. This is a good skill to have for a writer. Which is why you will often see writers sitting in a park, at the mall, out for a walk or planted in a cafe. Usually with pen in hand, laptop at the ready, scribbling on a serviette, or some other means of capturing thoughts. Its part of the writing process. For at those moments we are discovering more about the nature of humans, finding inspiration for our characters and catching germs of ideas for future plots. And what better way to observe others incognito than become a fortune-teller.

So this past week-end I dusted off the tarot deck, packed up the signage, dug out the crystal ball and set up an old, wobbly card table at the annual Mind Body and Psychic expo in Adelaide. In the hope of finding some inspiration for my stalled-writing (and having a some fun). And I wasn’t disappointed.

Now I am not going to tell any secrets. After all, there is a code of ethics among psychics, even if writers can sometimes be lacking in such morals. However, I will share what I took away from this weekend’s experiences, that on reflection can be applied to writing.

To begin with, I learnt that although I still have what it takes, I am not looking at going back in to ‘the business’. I don’t need a crystal ball to tell me that my destiny is to be a writer; and its about time I stopped with the procrastination, excuses and distractions.

I also learnt that:

It’s not all about me
Setting up shop with the sole intent of collecting material for my novels and short stories would be wrong. Instead, I had to focus on each person and give them the experience they were seeking. And that meant not talking about myself, in any form. While I can tap into the experiences that I have had in my own life, if it helps me to feel empathy for another or provides a clue on how to get through a difficult time, it’s still not ok for me to talk about those experiences. They didn’t sit in that chair to hear me rattle on about myself; they have their own needs.

So how does this apply to writing? While it might be appropriate to talk about parts of my life within blog posts, the same cannot be said for novels. While a writer can use the feelings, images and thoughts of past experiences when developing a story, they still need to maintain a certain objectivity. The needs of whoever will read my books comes first, before my need to tell a story. And that story needs to be something new, not an exact replica of my life (unless I ever pen a memoir). Characters may possess certain aspects of the writer, or people the writer may meet in their travels, but they still need to be their own selves;  independent of their creator.

Everyone wants something
It’s probably a yearning for something that drives people to seek out a fortune-teller. It could be simply to have your own intuitive findings reaffirmed, or a need to be the focus of someone’s attention for just a moment in time. Everyone wants something: to be heard, to feel loved, to be in the dream job, to have money. I might not be able to give them what they really want, but who am I to shatter dreams?

Each and every character in a story wants something, and it’s up to us to figure out just what that is. Then, we need to shift time and space to make that happen or, alternatively, put a few obstacles in their way. Either way moves the story along, helps the characters to grow. However, make sure that some of them get some of their dreams, or readers may feel let down. After all, if a fictional character can’t overcome barriers to reach their goals, then what hope do us mere mortals have?

When to use / not use a cliché
Over those two days, I caught myself using a clich√© or two. And, to begin with, I did my best to avoid them all. However, I soon realised that a clich√© or two can have a place when talking to others. They are a common language, a strong remedy that is both explanatory and comforting. The people in front of me didn’t cringe when I used one; only my writer-self did. She’s always self-editing, even without a keyboard or pen in sight.

So that got me thinking: is it ok to use the odd clich√© in writing? I think so. Used sparingly, and at just the right moment, a clich√© can add to the story, and bring a sense of normality into the story or dialogue; which is comforting for the reader. The trick is to be stern with yourself, to ensure it is used only when needed, and that you don’t slip into bad habits or lazy writing.

Avoiding stereotypes
Talking of bad habits: the stereotype is a nasty little one. I had to be really tough on myself about this. Unconsciously, we all typecast others, the second that we lay eyes on strangers we are sizing them up, stamping them with a label and putting them in boxes, with a ribbon on top. We may fool ourselves and say that its our intuition talking, that gut-feeling we all know. No, not always.

In writing, stereotypes can be found in abundance. Often its lazy writing. Sometimes its bigotry, ignorance and downright offensive. Mostly, it’s caused by relying too much on our own ‘goggles’ (i.e. world-views, beliefs, values, class or positions of power & privilege). And not stepping beyond of our comfort zones, to imagine the world/situation from others’ points of views. However, while its important that we include characters of different genders, demographics, ethnicity, culture and ages, we need to write respectfully, with sensitivity, knowledge and understanding.

Make or Break
Even if faced with similar challenges in life, not everyone deals with these situations in the same way. And not everyone comes through the other end in a similar fashion. As uniquely different beings, humans are far too complex to be homogeneous in their journeys through life. Shared backgrounds, education and cultures may create some similarities in coping, but not enough to allow an observer to guess how people will cope when a big load of trouble and grief comes along. You just never know what will make someone (i.e. cause growth, change) or break someone.

So when writing character’s responses to the situations you put them through, don’t fall for an average response. That’s not only boring for the reader but is often lazy writing. There are many ways to challenge a character, so don’t pick the average or over-used. And don’t go breaking too many characters; humans are far stronger than what you may think.

Be prepared to be surprised
This is perhaps a flow on from the previous two points. Over the weekend, with all the stories I heard at that expo, sometimes I was surprised. In a good way. For no matter how much a person is thrown during a lifetime, a short span, or a moment in time, both the amount that people can bear and their responses are often surprising. I am sure you have heard true life tales of kindness emerging from horrible situations. Instead of succumbing to a free-for-all, in dark times great lights do shine brightly.

Let your characters surprise you. Don’t make them do what you want each and every time. Relax, listen to them for a while. You may be amazed to find out what they want, how they feel, how they react, where they will lead you to. Let them each have their moment to shine.

Making Mistakes isn’t such a bad thing
No matter what others may share with you, or the difficult path you see them on, you can’t solve their problems for them, and nor should you try. You can give some well-placed clues or solicited advice, but you can’t make people’s decisions for them. Everyone needs to make their own mistakes. Its good, that is how humans learn.

Don’t lecture your characters (or the reader). Don’t hold their hands, or wrap them in cotton wool. Let your characters make mistakes. Big ones. And watch them grow.

Delve beyond the smoke and mirrors
Everyone lies sometimes; even to themselves. This can be in what they say, or it can be by hiding a part of themselves. That’s ok, we can only share what we are comfortable with sharing; even with ourselves. Some people sat in that chair opposite me, and said that they were open, that they wanted to see the future. However, people rarely expose all of themselves, their secrets. And rarely do people really want to see the truth, the bare story of their lives yet-to-be. They instead want a version of the future, in sugar-coated chunks.

In your writing there is no need to share everything, at least not upfront. Let your characters have some secrets. Let them tell untruths to each other, to themselves. As the story unfolds so will the truth. Slowly reposition the mirrors, don’t make them look at their reflection too soon; don’t rush your characters towards a forced acceptance of themselves. And let the smoke be blown away in wavy wisps, a bit at a time as the story unravels. Leave some mystery to the end; or even beyond.

Let the fat lady sing
Some may be reluctant to get up and leave, wanting more, needing to find out everything that lays ahead of them. So gently, with tact, you need to move them along. You can’t force it, but they need to go. To make room for the next person to take a seat. The session has ended, its done. The expo has come to an end. Its time for them to go back to their everyday lives; perhaps quickly forgetting what they have just heard and seen.

With a story you can’t force the ending. Neither can you stop it happening. When its done, it’s over. Save, print/upload: done. It may not be the ending you imagined but its done. Write The Ending. Let go, breathe. And then move on to the next story, the next set of characters.

Tricks of the Trade –¬†We all have our tricks, the ones that help us to write. Some are eccentric or even superstitious, some are self-tested and others are borrowed from ‘the experts’. Even though spending 2 days reading the tarot for strangers may seem somewhat odd, it worked for me – this time. Next time I need help with my writing, I am sure I can come up with a new method; perhaps even odder. After all, I am a writer.

What do you do to find inspiration? How do you learn more about the craft of writing?
Please leave a comment.

A little something about the photo

Title: Crystal Ball (detail), 1931
Artist: Jacques-Henri Lartigue (1894 – 1931)
Photo description: Gelatin silver print, toned; 23.7 x 30 cm.
The Cleveland Museum of Art, John L. Severance Fund 2007.149

Downloaded on 3 June 2013 from http://www.cleveland.com/arts/index.ssf/2013/05/cleveland_museum_of_art_exhibi_2.html
Born in France on 13 June 1894, Jacques Henri-Lartigue was a photographer and painter whose work included photographs of fashionable Parisian women. The model in the Crystal Ball was Renee Perle. Renee, a Romanian Jewish woman, moved to Paris where she found fame as one of Lartique’s muses.
 

Transforming Skin: Writer as Alchemist

Fool_s_Tarot_by_greenfroggies

I’ve spent enough time playing the Fool

Some writers, often those new to the game, like to share their beginning story. They will take any opportunity they can to speak of how long they have been dreaming of becoming a writer; and how they wrote their first story, crayon in hand, when they could barely walk or talk.

Well, I am not going to speak of that: the dreams of the child, or that time I was first praised for conjuring up a story. I’m not even going to talk of the learning difficulty that delayed my entry to the magical world of words; or how I tamed that beast, only to end up being grateful for what it had taught me.

Instead I will talk of my Fool’s Journey. Very similar to the Hero/Heroine’s Journey. Actually, they are probably one and the same.

Only a fool would dare follow the path of the writer; to sit at a computer, creating stories about heroes and heroines.

I didn’t know it at the time, but I took my first step on that journey a few weeks in to the final year of formal schooling. It started on the day I walked out of high school: literally. I just got up from my desk mid class, walked into the principal’s office and told him I was leaving. At first he tried to talk me out of it, telling me that I mustn’t even think of not finishing and going on to university. If not for my own sake, then for others. [He wore a black-frock, guilt was the weapon of choice]

I told him that I would rather live in the real world, and get my education at the school of life. [Many many years later I did go to uni, and still value life-learning over conformity-by-institution] Finally, knowing he was getting no-where, the principal asked what I intended to do with my life.

I simply replied that I was off to collect some experiences, and after that I would sit down and write.

Even at that young age, I firmly believed that before I could pick up a pen [We are talking pre-computer era here; yes I am that old], I needed to learn the basics of being a writer. And the biggest lessons weren’t punctuation, sentence structure, dialogue, point of view, tenses, beginning-middle-end. There was plenty of time for that, later. [I don’t think the Lists of the Top # of Blah for Writers existed in those days; if they did, I would probably have ignored them as well] I knew that the best preparation for being a writer was to live a little, and grow up a lot.

For how can a person write if they have not lived life to its fullest?

A writer needs to have felt the pains of love and loss; witnessed first-hand creation and death; accumulated treasured memories; given everything away; ridden the roller-coaster until they puked. I knew that I needed to do this, and more. That I should take the time to live and watch. To people-watch; see my Self; to inhale the beauty of a sunrise; feel butterflies on my cheek; pull straw from my hair; be retrospective; be forward thinking; delve into the light; sense the darkness of humanity.

I knew school wasn’t going to help me find what I was seeking.

And all these experiences, and more, I desperately needed if I was to become a writer. So I walked out of that classroom, crossed the school yard; and started on my Fool’s Journey.

Rather than put you to sleep with what I have done these past few years [Ok, decades], where I went or what I learnt, instead I will explain the holy madness of the Fool’s Journey. It is perhaps best captured in the Tarot, that pack of cards that uses symbology to explain the many archetypes that we might encounter in the big scary world, or express within ourselves; and the situations we may or may not find ourselves within.

The Fool of the pack is the seeker, a vagabond who carries only a few worldly goods. With his little dog nipping at his heels, he bravely/foolishly steps off the cliff: into oblivion. Where he eventually finds a path, or more, to travel; to seek to his heart’s desire.

If ever a young hopeful was to sit at my feet, asking for the key to being a successful writer, I wouldn’t hesitate to say: Go jump off a cliff.

Many of you will be familiar with the Hero/Heroine’s Journey, a formula for stories that has been used for many centuries, even before the written word. From the Iliad to Star Wars, Wizard of Oz to Lord of the Rings, or Conan the Barbarian to The Princess Bride, the Hero/Heroine’s Journey is a much used formula.

The protagonist starts out as the fool, only to end up the hero/heroine.

Roughly, it goes like this: Hearing the call for adventure, the young woman/man leaves the ordinary world and takes off along a familiar path. He/She soon meets a friend, a teacher or acquires some sort of supernatural aid. Then they leave the known behind, and step on to a new, dangerous path. At this point, they may need to confront something/someone to get past the guardian/s and step over the threshold. Then comes the long middle-part of the story: full of challenges, temptations, and ‘what the hell am I doing here’ moments. Until they all fall into the abyss; which can take many forms. Going through the whole woe is me, how will I ever get through this, death-of-previous-self, they finally have a revelation. Then comes the rebirth, the transformation; and a shimmer of hope is restored.

And at this point, we know that we are getting close to the end of the story, the big finale.

Having escaped from the belly of the whale, our hero/heroine (for by now they have earned that cherished title) might have to do some sort of atonement for their past sins/foolish ways. Then they go through a final initiation, get the girl/boy/dragon’s egg/key to the universe/whatever that they were tasked with getting. And perhaps even be gifted a little something extra for their troubles. They then cross the final barrier/mean-guy/pits of hell/ogre and return home; a very much changed and all-grown-up man/woman. Once back in ¬†the ordinary world, the whole village claps and kills the fattened beast of choice. Whatever family members are still alive shed some tears. And the childhood sweetheart either plants a big one on them, or the new love they found on the way does. End of story.

Ok, so the average writer doesn’t have to fight dragons or what not, but they do need to go on a journey of their own.

Having gone on a Journey, confronted some personal demons, been tossed around by life a bit, the Fool is now ready to become a writer. And why not write a Hero/Heroine’s journey? The world can never have too many of those. As they say, write what you know. By now, if your life has been anything remotely like mine, you probably know both the Fool’s and the Hero/Heroine’s path like the back of your hand.

So what has the Alchemist got to do with this?

Glad you asked. Even after all this, if the Hero/Heroine is not done with questioning – and still has an overwhelming urge to venture, expose, dream, examine, create or predict – then the next journey is that of the Alchemist; where another transformation awaits.

The Alchemist is not only found in children’s tales. You may have heard of the 9 stages of ego development, or similar models. The Alchemist persona sits at the top of personal development. Not everyone needs, wants or will become the Alchemist.

Its nothing special, not really. Just a different way of thinking.

Looking back, when I walked out of school, neither that principal or my parents had any hope of persuading me to stay. As I was already well and truly in the Individualist stage, and stubborn as any mule that ever lived. It was this streak that lead me blindly into many places and situations; some not so fun, but all a source of learning. Finally accepting the pros and cons of being an Individualist, I made a conscious decision to change; and stepped into learning the ropes of the Strategist. This is where I sit now, and its an ok place to be. Well, maybe not to anyone who has the misfortune of being my manager/boss.

To be the writer I yearn to be, I need to find that hidden door, or perhaps the key. And step out along the next path. As an Alchemist (or Magician of the Tarot), I could write of the paradoxes of being. I could see with clarity the complex interplay of my characters’ thoughts, feelings, perceptions, wants, and balance these with action and effect. I could create people, and place them in situations to explore and explain both the frailties and greatness of humanity. I could find the literature equivalent of the Elixir of Life, or perhaps even the Philosopher’s Stone.

I could write as if I were an Eagle: flying over the landscape, viewing the characters and their struggles; being both part of the story and removed from it. 

Perhaps this is just tiredness speaking, the dangers of late night writing. Or perhaps my Fool has once again surfaced; ready and eager to take me on yet another journey.

Its ok, I have become quite good at jumping off cliffs.

If you would like to read the rest of the Skin series, see these previous posts:  
 
1. Shedding Skin: Writer as Creator –¬†¬†https://karenwyld.wordpress.com/2013/02/05/243/
2. Exposing Skin: Writer as Exhibitionist –¬†¬†https://karenwyld.wordpress.com/2013/04/07/exposing-skin-writer-as-exhibitionist/
3. Reclaiming Skin: Writer as Artist –¬†https://karenwyld.wordpress.com/2013/04/17/reclaiming-skin-writer-as-artist/
4. Transforming Skin: Writer as Alchemist
5. Honouring Skin: The Writer Identified (coming soon)

Artwork downloaded from Deviantart 15 May 2013 –¬†http://greenfroggies.deviantart.com/art/Fool-s-Tarot-16303180?offset=20#¬† downloaded 15/5

Reclaiming Skin: Writer as Artist

Selkie_Bride_Returns_Home_by_82percentevil

Selkie Bride Returns Home – sourced from Deviantart

Feeling dried out? Dig out that skin, slip it on and jump right in.

Each and every person has the ability to be creative. How people use their creative energy is an individual choice. The mediums of expression are endless: paint, sew, act a part, sing, cook, take pictures, dance, weave, plant a garden, play, write, make sculptures.

We create for many reasons: to express what we feel about the world around us, to discover ourselves, to let go of negativity, to let in light. While the excuses for why we don’t spend more time on artistic activities are just as diverse, the biggest obstacle is not giving yourself permission to create.

When I think of the creative self, I am reminded of the selkie. There are stories, found in many places around the world, that use different languages to tell the same tale, share the same message. The selkie tale is one of these stories; crossing cultural and geographical boundaries.

If you haven’t heard this tale before, briefly it goes like this:
A lonely fisher comes across a naked woman, who he realises is a selkie: a seal-like being that occasionally takes the form of a human, simply by peeling off their skin. He creeps up and grabs her discarded sealskin. When she protests, he uses moon-eyes to convince her to stay with him. Out of pity, she agrees. A decision she comes to regret. Stuck on land, she soon misses the ocean and starts to dry out, and becomes visibly unwell. Occasionally she begs him for her skin, promising to return to him after a much-needed swim. He always refuses, unwilling to budge. She eventually gives birth to a son, and she becomes tied to the world of humans.

Then comes that moment, when she realises that she can no longer bear being dried out. She hunts for her stolen skin, not even bothering to beg the man for its return. Some tales have the child showing her where the skin is, others have her spying on her husband, while in another version a storm uncovers the buried sealskin. There are many variations to how she finds her skin but its a certainty that she once again puts on her skin and returns to the water. At this point in the story she is often described as being torn between the love of her child and her need to go home, back to where she truly belongs; or there is the version where she dives right in, without a second glance at the shore. With or without regrets, she returns to the water: home.

Now the above is a very stark telling of a beautiful tale but, for the purpose of this post’s topic, it serves its purpose. What has this story to do with creativity, you may be asking. Well, water is often used as the symbol for emotions, higher thought and the unconscious mind; and creativity relies on these.

If creativity is the element of water, then the artist, as a creative being, is the selkie. The artist is born with a skin that can be taken off and put back on at whim;they reside mainly in the water but need the occasional timeout to sun themselves on a rocky island or hidden cove; they are often torn between the need to swim in the ocean of creativity or care for those they love (and other responsibilities); and they need to be careful that they don’t dry out too much, too often.

All well and good, but in reality there is little time to spend on our creative pursuits, such as writing. Not when there are so many people needing our attention: partners, children, parents, fur-kids, friends, and more. And don’t forget all those responsibilities that we carry (like day jobs), and the many little (and not so little) obstacles and mishaps; all stopping us from writing. And don’t get me started on writer’s block, or technological breakdowns, or non-understanding people, or lack of sales, or rejection slips, or the many other things that writers have to deal with. All of these things are real, they’re not excuses, they are legitimate reasons why we can’t write today, or yesterday, and maybe even tomorrow. Or are they?

Here is the key to this fairytale: the fisherman has not stolen our skins. Nor did we willing hand our skin over to another, even if for a noble cause such as love and responsibilities  No, we carelessly discarded them. Took them off and left them under some rock, under the pile of ironing, in the back of the wardrobe, in the bottom drawer of our desk, some dark corner of our house.

So, if you find yourself drying out, feeling not quite yourself, just go and get that discarded skin. Tch tch, there is no time for excuses, every other thing and person can wait. You won’t be gone long. Go on, dust that skin off, patch it up if you have to, and put it on. See, it still fits! Now don’t look back – just dive right in. Splash around in that water of creativity, do a belly flop if you feel like it, dive right down in to its depths. Doesn’t that feel better?

Image downloaded from Deviantart 10/4/2013 –  http://82percentevil.deviantart.com/art/Selkie-Bride-Returns-Home-62916762

Other posts in this series:

Shedding Skin: Writer as Creator –
 https://karenwyld.wordpress.com/2013/02/05/243/
Exposing Skin: Writer as Exhibitionist –
 https://karenwyld.wordpress.com/2013/04/07/exposing-skin-writer-as-exhibitionist/