Inner Critic

I recently posted a plea for help to the Women Writers, Women’s Books writing group on Facebook. I had completed the ground work for a new YA novel idea. After I’d put all the pieces together I realised that I really, really liked my idea. I liked the themes I was coming up with, I liked all the feels it evoked in me just from the bare bones planning I had done. Then, I became paralysed. My inner critic reared it’s grotesque head, black oil oozing from sphincters all over it’s massive, suffocating form, its overwhelming voice boomed through me, convincing me that I, me personally, could never do justice to this story.
The response from my group was exactly what I needed. There were the usual words of encouragement, the “I know how you feel,” camaraderie, but there were two awesome and completely different youtube videos offered up to me.
The first was the hilarious song Die Vampire Die from the musical [title of show], yes that’s actually what it’s called. This song had me in stitches and is going into my writing playlist. My playlist usually consists of 100% instrumental pieces that have never had lyrics associated with them, but I’m going to through this in the mix to be played at random intervals as a little “note to self” reminder.
The second clip was a TED talk  (I do love my TED talks so I’m not sure how I missed this one). The talk is by Elizabeth Gilbert, author of Eat, Pray, Love, on the impossible things we expect from artists and geniuses.
Both of these clips are completely different but they had the combined effect of making me feel better about myself and my work and inspired to continue trying.

Tell the negative COMMITTEE that meets inside your head to sit down and shut up!

The power of words

As writers, we make a career out of words. We understand that a combination of certain words can transport our readers from their lounge room to a habitat on Mars. The right words can make us feel the emotions our characters are feeling. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve escaped into a novel feeling nothing. Putting that book down, especially mid-chapter, I discover I’m angry or sad or anxious, whatever the main character in that novel was feeling when I stopped reading. We all know it, words have power, which is why we need to take care when we choose our words.
I recently came across this graphic from Upworthy
Upwrothy graphic
It struck a deep cord within me, both on a personal level and as an author. Growing up I had friends and family members with certain conditions, one of my dearest friends had Downs Syndrome. It is obvious to realise how I grew up with a serious distaste for the word “retarded”. As a psychology student, I came to dislike the way we bandy around words like “insane”, “crazy” and “psycho”. Finally, at thirteen, I read about Helen Keller and developed a deep loathing for the derogatory use of the “dumb”.
Most (decent) people strive for the politest form of speech. When we find out a certain word has negative connotations, we try to avoid using it. The types of words we use, help us tell the world what type of person we are, where we fit into societies jigsaw puzzle.
Using words to create a character
This graphic, and the resulting train of thought lead me to think more about the “voice” of a character, and how important it is to get that voice right.
If you have a character that is an uneducated, rude, offensive jerk, they aren’t going to care about being politically correct or avoid using foul or offensive language. These people would use words from the above graphics “Not That!” column with impunity.
“What are you, a god damn retard?”
If your character is compassionate, kind-hearted, and gentle, they may avoid calling someone “moody”. In fact, you may want to read “None violent communication” by Marshall Rosenberg, to improve your understanding further.
“Perhaps he’s having a difficult day and it’s making him lash out at others.”
I repeat, words have power. When you begin to create a character, when you think about their job, their hair colour and personality, pay particular attention to what comes of their mouth. If you write in first person, make sure you retain that voice throughout the novel. Use words they would use. Sentence structure is also important. They speak in short, snappy phrases, or long-winded, that sort of thing.
It never hurts to rewrite a sentence a dozen times until you nail that voice. Little things matter. Do they say “yes”, “yep”, or “yeah”, maybe they say “ah ha” or simply raise their eyebrows and nod.

35th IBBY International Congress

35th IBBY international Congress

Auckland will host the 35th IBBY International Congress in August 2015. The IBBY congress explores the excitement and challenges of literature and literacy education in a rapidly changing world.

35th IBBY International Congress


Calls for Presentations will be available from 1 May 2015 and will close on 30 September 2015.

Key dates


1 September 2015 –  31 March 2016


1 April –  30 June 2016


from 1 July 2016


1 May 2015


30 September 2015


31 January 2016

Storylines Festival of New Zealand Children’s Writers and Illustrators

Storylines Festival of New Zealand Children’s Writers and Illustrators 

22-30 August 2015

“The [annual Storylines Festival] concept was adopted adopted in 1993 by the Children’s Book Foundation… now the Storylines Children’s Literature Charitable Trust, and has been developed through subsequent annual festivals.

The first Festival of New Zealand Children’s Writers and Illustrators was held in Auckland. Nearly 11,000 visitors came to the first free Family Day at the Auckland War Memorial Museum to hear their favourite authors read stories and to enjoy the illustrators’ painted mural and the Kids’ Lit Quiz. The Storylines Bus took authors to meet many more thousands of children in schools around the Auckland region.

The Storylines Festival includes free Family Days, principally targeted at families with children from age 3 to 12, across New Zealand’s major city’s with seminars for students, workshops for kids and story tours in Auckland and Northland. The festival is so popular that most events are booked out well in advance.

You can find out more about the festival at their website.

Notable Books Awards 2015

Storylines Notable Books are selected by an expert panel from the Storylines community as books that are worthy of being recognised as ‘Notable’ in each year. The panel includes librarians, authors, teachers, teacher educators and academics; several members have served as judges for the New Zealand Post Children’s Book Award (and under its previous sponsor AIM) and the LIANZA Book Awards.”

Writing with a disability – an open letter.

Eleven years ago I was diagnosed with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS), it’s a disease with almost as many names as it has symptoms (recently reclassified as SEID). About a year ago they added Fibromyalgia to my list and six months ago I was diagnosed with Osteoarthritis and a labral tear in my right hip that can’t be surgically repaired due to the arthritis. As I write this, I’m waiting to hear back from my doctor about the results of more tests and the possibility of at least one more new chronic condition to add to the growing collection. That is the reality of my life.

Why am I writing about this?

This isn’t a pity part or sympathy gathering post, it’s also not a “tell me your secret cure” one (please don’t). I’m writing this post to share information, to share my experience, my life, my challenges and my unique perspective.

I’ve recently become part of a few support groups for people with chronic illness and disabilities and I’m learning a lot from them. Learning to be more gentle with myself. Learning that what I do is enough. What I have to say is of value, even if it’s just a few words. I’m also learning that sharing my story helps others who have similar difficulties in their own lives.

What’s my issue?

I haven’t been able to do much writing for some time now because of various symptoms of my various conditions along with, well, life. I’d like to change that in a way that relieves me of pressure but fulfils my unique and introverted need to sometimes be heard and seen. I have more symptoms then I care to write in a blog post I actually expect other people to read. The worst, as far as I’m concerned, are the symptoms that affect my cognitive functions. This is a a list of the daily cognitive symptoms I deal with:

•Fibro/brain fog


•Difficultculty concentrating

•Categorising and word retrieval

•Memory lapses


•Difficulty processing information

•Inability to focus (brain and eyes)

I get these symptoms in various combinations and intensity levels depending on what else is going on in my life, how much I’m pushing myself, how much stress is floating around and countless other reasons. It’s unpredictable and frustrating beyond belief. Did you know that you can become so exhausted that you not only want to cry, but actually want to vomit? Now you do.

There are days like yesterday and today where I feel like I could write for hours on end, the ideas flow, I can put multiple words together to form sentences, and as an added bonus, they make sense. Basically I feel like a normal person. These days are few. Strings of these days in a row, are even more infrequent, and so, when I get them I revel in them. I get excited and I get as much done as I possibly can. Unfortunately this in itself can cause days, weeks or months of backlash *sigh*.

There are days when I can feel just fine but as soon as I try to read something, have a conversation with someone or start planning a story, my brain begins to feel like thick stew with added syrup. I can’t brain. I can’t word.

So why don’t I just stop, do something else?

Because I can’t. I could no sooner stop coming up with story ideas or character outlines then I could stop breathing and still survive. I’ve been scribbling on bits of paper, stray pieces of wood, various body parts, anything that would come to hand, from the time I could hold a pencil. I don’t say they are good ideas or characters, my poems were tragic teenage drivel, but I was always compelled to write them down and play with them in a way I’ve never felt compelled to do anything else.

The reality is that I do have multiple hobbies, and many of them I can’t do any more due to their own list of symptom complications. While I’ve been sad to give many of these up, I’ve always been able to shrug it off and accept it, writing is not one of those hobbies it turns out.

Where to from here?

I intend to keep writing, in dribs and drabs if I have to. I also intend on continuing to post some of this writing, here and maybe, just maybe, I can get one of my stories published again, that would be nice. As I continue to discover new resources, create new tools that help me and uncover other tricks and treasures that make this process easier I’ll share them as best I can.

That’s honestly all I have to say today. I want to reconnect with this blog, with myself and my writing process. These illnesses get in the way of me forming a writing habit due to their unpredictability but I will endeavour to keep going, to find a way forward. For now, I’m tired and hungry, and my house is filling with the delectable scent of slow cooked lamb shanks and my mouth is watering more with every passing second.

Pitch mad

Think you can pitch your compleated manuscript in 140 characters or less? That’s the premise of #pitmad a quarterly event that starts again on Thursday 4th June. For those of us in the Southern hemisphere, that’s tomorrow. I’m not sure if that means we get a jump on other authors or we’ll be lost in the mix when the North comes online, I’d hedge my bets and this is how:


  1. Prepare several versions of your pitch (twitter won’t let you pitch the exact same tweet within the hour)
  2. Schedule your pitches using something like Buffer or HootSuite or another app you like. Twice per hour, per manuscript is ample. If you’re in the SH, make sure you time your tweets to line up with NH timezones too.
  3. INCLUDE THE HASHTAG #pitmad (if you don’t do this, you might as well pack up and go home because nobody will see it)
  4. Add a category hashtag –#YA, #MG, #A, #NA, #PB and #NF (do this and you are more likely to be seen by relevant publishers).
  5. If an agent or publisher favorites your tweet, go and find out their submission preferences and get to work ASAP to send them what they ask for.

Do not:

  1. Don’t tweet agents and publishers directly unless they tweet you first.
  2. Don’tfavorite friends tweets, leave it for the agents. You can retweet them though. 

Hashtags and their meanings:

#YA = Young Adult

#MG = Middle Grade

#A = Adult

#NA = New Adult

#PB = Picture Book

#CB = Chapter Book

#SFF = Science Fiction and Fantasy

#CF = Christian Fiction

#CR = Contemporary Romance

#PR = Paranormal Romance

#R = Romance

#LF = Literary Fiction

#HF = Historical Fiction

#WF = Woman’s Fiction

#Mem = Memoir

#NF = Non-fiction


For more information, visit Diana Urban, Carly Watters article

GoodReads Best Books of 2014

With 3,317,504 votes cast by readers, this list is sure to have a few undiscovered delights. Many of my own favorites of 2014 are well represented including the Science Fiction winner, The Martian, written by Andy Weir, tells the story of astronaut Mark Watney, one of the first people to walk on Mars and certain he he’ll be the first to die there as well. I listened to the audio version of this book and couldn’t get enough of it.

One of my other favs, Ancillary Sword, by Ann Leckie came in 12th place.

A bit surprised that Robin Hobb’s Fool’s Assassin only came in at 14th place in the Fantasy list. I love Robin Hobb, well, except her Soldier Son books, just couldn’t get into those. Looks like I should get my hands on The Book of Life by Deborah Harkness though, over 51,000 votes it should be amazing.

You can view the full list of books here on GoodReads.

The Martian   Ancillary sword  Fools Assassin  The Book of Life

Ever wanted to write for children? Joy Cowley shares her top tips

Over the years, I’ve seen literally thousands of stories for children written by aspiring writers. While many showed promise, most had the same weakness: the authors didn’t know their audience. The stories had been written for a range of subjective reasons: the authors had values messages they wanted children to read; the authors liked a certain kind of story when they were young; stories with a popular theme were considered to have good market potential; it was easier to publish stories for children than writing for adults.I’ve tried as gently as possible to deal with these misconceptions in personal correspondence, and now, through the New Zealand Book Council, would like to offer experience that might be helpful to people who genuinely want to write for young people… Source: Booknotes Unbound

An Image is Worth . . . A LOT – The Fictorians

Ever wondered if it was ok to use an image you found on Google for your blog? I like to use images for writing prompts and I’ve posted a few here in the past as image prompts, I’m now wondering how ethical that was. Give this article a read and judge for yourself.

Source: An Image is Worth . . . A LOT – The Fictorians

Auckland Writers Festival 2015

Auckland Writers Festival 2015 begins tomorrow, 13th May, till 17 May at the Aotea Centre. Headlining this year will be the reclusive contemporary writer, Haruki Murakami. Murakami’ is a Japanese author who’s works have been translated into 50 languages and garnered several awards including the 2006 World Fantasy Award (best novel) for Kafka on the Shore. In 2007 he received an honorary doctorate of Letters from the University of Liège,[48], another from Princeton University in June 2008,[49] and in 2014, one from Tufts University[50].

Joining Murakami will be David Walliams of Little Britain and QI fame and Dav Pilkey (Captain Underpants) will also appear the Festival, but the celebrity lineup doesn’t stop there, fare from it.

“They join a heady line-up of novelists, poets, thinkers, scientists, historians, playwrights and children’s literary stars including: one of the world’s most influential medical writers Atul Gawande who will talk about his most recent work Being Mortal: Medicine and What Happens in the End; the Festival’s 2015 Honoured New Zealand writer C.K. Stead; Helen Macdonald, winner of the Costa Book of the Year Award 2014 with her stunning Memoir  H is for Hawk; actor, writer, broadcaster, director, producer and musician Alan Cumming; UK poet laureate Carol Ann Duffy; internationally-acclaimed NZ singer/songwriter Hollie Fullbrook (aka TINY RUINS); journalist and media critic for The New Yorker Ken Auletta whose books include Googled: The End of the World as We Know It; multi-award-winning New Zealand poet and art historian Gregory O’Brien; much-loved Australian food writer Stephanie Alexander;  globally renowned Kiwi visual artist and writer Grahame Sydney; Australian National Living Treasure Tim Winton; British investigative journalist Nick Davies, responsible for uncovering the News of the World phone hacking affair; New Zealand’s favourite satirical writer Steve Braunias;  multi-award winning novelist David Mitchell (Cloud Atlas, The Bone Clocks);  Booker Prize winning novelist and poet Ben Okri; England’s insatiable scientist Philip Ball who has written on just about everything – from how music works to his most recent book: Serving the Reich: The Struggle for the Soul of Physics Under Hitler; Australia’s biggest-selling non-fiction writer Peter FitzSimons; critically acclaimed novelist Helen Garner whose most recent novel is The House of Grief; The Good Women of China writer Xinran who will talk about her latest work Buy Me The Sky;  multi-award winning New Zealand novelist Witi Ihimaeraglobally-celebrated British author of Alex Rider fame, Anthony Horowitz; New Zealand playwright Fiona Samuel and New York’s most irresistible literary critic Daniel Mendelsohn.”

– lions and tigers and bears, oh my!

Full program available here.

Tickets can still be purchased at Ticketmaster

Learn to write with William S Burroughs

I’ve been thinking a lot recently about finding interviews from famous authors on writing and storing them in one, easily accessible place. Well, this week the wonderful Cory Doctorow posted an article on Boing Boing that included the youtube recordings of a series of lectures on creative writing (or reading) delivered by William S Burroughs.

In 1979, William S Burroughs delivered a series of lectures on creative writing (though he insisted that he was teaching creativereading — that is, analyzing the writing process by reading, because everyone can be taught to read, but only some will be able to write) at Naropa University. Three of these lectures, running to over four hours, are up on Youtube, covering writing exercises, Brion Gysin, Aleister Crowley, science fiction, General Semantics, and cut-ups. These are excellent listening, and are licensed Creative Commons Attribution-NonDerivs-NonCommerical (as is the rest of the Naropa collection.)

You can read the rest of the article and listen to the recordings, here.

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