August Blogging Hiatus

Hi lovely people, how are you?  Whether you’re at work, uni, or enjoying a day off like me, I hope you’re having a fantastic Friday.  I’ve decided to take August off from blogging and go on my first hiatus!  There are two main reasons why I feel this is the right time to take a break:

1.

I’ve been posting to my blog once a week since 2011 and never gone on hiatus!  Of course, over the years a lot has changed about why I blog and what I want from life.  Yet I haven’t stopped to consider how my blog should change to reflect my personal changes.  Sometimes I feel like I blog out of a sense of obligation and perfectionism, without really enjoying it anymore.  So I would like to think about ways I could do things differently to bring some fun back into it.

2.

Entries to the State Library of Queensland Young Writers Award close at the end of August and I’d like to dedicate some time to writing a short story to submit.  It’s been a while since I’ve thought about creative writing besides the novel I’m planning, so putting that project on the back burner for a month will give me a chance to pursue a short-term idea!

If you’re reading this, thank you for being supportive of my blog and for sharing your love of books with me.  At this stage, I hope to be back in the second week of September, when my family and I return from a few days’ holiday to Hamilton Island.  I hope you have a great month. ❤  

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Dropping Out of Uni + Exciting Magazine Job!

Deep down, I always knew that postgrad study didn’t support my dreams.  So at the last minute, I withdrew from my course and decided to be a professional writer.  Woo!

Before long, my first exciting opportunity came knocking.  Our Daily Rant Mag welcomed me aboard as a regular contributor and I published my first opinion article with them last week.  I wrote about Kim Kardashian’s nude selfie and International Women’s Day.  You can read my article and follow Our Daily Rant Mag on Facebook for updates in your feed.

It’s weird writing in a different style for a magazine.  I want to make the most of the opportunity to grow as a writer.  Now that I don’t have uni to motivate me to write, I’m getting my friends to hold me accountable for the work I produce each week.  My bestie has a great sense of humour, so I’m testing out my jokes on her.  Most are super lame, but I’m learning.

I’ve got some super-secret awesome stuff coming up, so watch this space!  I want to share my experience with you, and support your writing in any way I can.  Let me know where I can read your work, follow you, and encourage you to reach your writing goals.  I want to get behind anyone trying to do their own thang in a busy online world.  I can’t wait to see what this year will bring!

My 2016 New Years Resolutions

This year, instead of the usual plans for self-improvement – i.e. do more squats and eat more greens – my resolutions apply the life lessons I learned in 2015. Each one is a promise to care for my mental health and stay close to the things I value.   

1. I will invest in the right people

I recently had to cut a lot of negative people out of my life. Fostering friendships with people who didn’t care about me was damaging my mental health. When those toxic relationships fell apart, I found support from a handful of old friends. The experience taught me to only invest in people who care about me as much as I care about them.  I’m so grateful to them for grounding me during the tough times.  From now on, I will only invest in kind and positive people.

2. I will fit university around my passions

Uni is supposed to get me closer to my dreams, but so far I’m too busy to work on the projects I’m passionate about. As long as I enjoy the journey, I’m in no rush to get to the destination. I will make my university timetable work for me instead of putting my passions on hold to get good grades. If that means studying part time, so be it!

3. I will put my hand up for opportunities

If jobs, internships, or competitions pop up I will go for them with guns blazing. Now with a degree behind me I can confidently apply for any and all opportunities I see, no matter how intimidating they look. You gotta be in it to win it.

4. I will be aware and responsive to my emotional habits

Although you aren’t always in control of your feelings, you are in control of your actions. Sometimes I let small things ruin my day by indulging in irrational thoughts and sabotaging myself by moping. I often chose not to prevent a bad mood swing even if I see it coming. In 2016, I want to be more aware and responsive to my emotional habits by stopping my own destructive mind games. Depending on the scenario I might try finding positive outlets through art or going for a drive, or talking to a friend instead of letting the feelings eat away at my insides.

5. I will be loving in my platonic relationships

Poet Lora Mathis gorgeously articulates the importance of embracing platonic intimacy – that is, showing love and vulnerability to your friends through actions such as hugs and holding hands. Although emotionality is typically seen as weak – or reserved for romantic relationships – I think my strength lies in offering kindness to the people I care about. I don’t want to withhold how much I love my friends. I will take every opportunity to be loving in my platonic relationships.

6. I will take care of myself

I will try to avoid toxic situations, settings, and relationships and instead seek out positive ones. Moving house is my latest act of taking care of myself because I left a toxic setting to create my own positive future. I will spend time with people who make me feel safe and confident, and invest in a lifestyle that gives me time to cook good meals and relax.  After not taking proper care of myself in 2015, I realise I have to be just as kind to myself as to others.

I hope that each of these resolutions takes me a step closer to my goal of finding health and happiness in 2016.  What are your New Years resolutions?  I would love to hear what life lessons you learned from 2015 and how you plan to make 2016 a great one!

Graduating from University!

Exciting news!  I graduated on Monday night with a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Creative and Professional Writing.  The experience made me reminisce on high school.  High school valedictory was a proud moment shared with best friends.  Sadly, graduating from university was nothing like that.  

Screen Shot 2015-12-10 at 2.55.55 pmFinishing is surreal.  The semester fizzled out so gradually that I’ve been in holiday mode for over a month now.  University doesn’t offer you the emotional build up and transition that high school does.  Being handed your glorified-toiletpaper degree by an ancient academic is no substitute for crying on the shoulder of your favourite teacher.  The only time I felt any sense of finality and excitement was when the concert organist played Chariots of Fire.  That smidge of sentimentality hit me hard as I sat among strangers with a mortarboard-induced headache.  I smiled to see my family waving wildly from the front row.

Graduation got me feeling existential.  I’ve changed beyond recognition since leaving high school.  I lost the baby fat riding my cheeks, grew out my pixie cut, and discovered that Kmart is not the only vendor of fashion.  I learned to drink and swear, bought a car, wore platform heels, had my life broken and rebuilt numerous times.  I’m painfully aware that I am the sum of everything I have ever experienced and everyone I have ever known.  I’m not all I hoped to be, but I can embrace what I am.  For one, the worst people I’ve met are no longer in my life.  And the best people I’ve met are closer to me than ever – a small but supportive safety net of friends.  Having this is possibly my proudest achievement.

I wish graduation had been an experience more worthy of nostalgia like finishing high school.  But at least I know now what I want.  I have another year of postgrad studies planned and a goal at the end of it.  Six months ago I was at my lowest point.  I can confidently say that this is my highest.  I can only go up from here.

My Writing Retreat + Internet Detox

When the going gets tough, the tough get going…  Sooner or later though, even the tough need to take a break before they burn out.  After a hard semester full of unexpected life challenges, I really needed a break.  I decided to refresh myself with a writing retreat and internet detox.

Screen Shot 2015-11-14 at 9.38.56 amI escaped to my grandma’s little unit at Caloundra with some books and a stockpile of snack food.  There’s something about sea air that is cleansing and relaxing, and I indulged in midday naps and long beach walks.  I could just feel the breeze blowing away all the cobwebs in my brain.

I’ve heard someone say that you’re most authentically you when you’re alone, probably because there are no inhibitions or external influences weighing on you.  For that reason, I’m glad I snatched some alone time.  I love to surround myself with beautiful friends, but getting a short break from conflicts and dynamics and pressures made me feel a bit better grounded.  I now have more strength to deal with that stuff.

I committed to trying to finish my novel for NaNoWriMo, so I had some pretty ambitious goals I wanted to achieve.  However, reaching those goals became stressful and exhausting.  I decided that since the whole point of a retreat was to feel refreshed, I wasn’t going to wear myself out.  So I started writing early in the morning, but then put everything down at lunch time to spend the rest of the day reading and relaxing.  I could have done more work, but the balance left me feeling much more fulfilled.

Screen Shot 2015-11-14 at 9.38.37 amDetoxing from the internet for three days is surprisingly easy.  When I didn’t have good ol’ Facebook and YouTube to help me procrastinate my good writing hours away, I found it much easier to get work done.  Then when work was finished for the day, I turned to a book instead of a laptop.  I enjoyed getting lost in Vernon God Little much more than getting lost in the backlogs of Tumblr.  The one thing I did notice though was that I missed sharing with people.  Dozens of times during my stay I saw something that made me think of someone I care about.  Normally, I would use the internet to share that thing with them instantly.  Getting away by yourself is fab, but any longer than three days and I wouldn’t have been able to resist sending messages to my friends.

Get this, first day back and I have a dentist’s appointment.  What a rude return to the real world!  I hope that as we get closer to holiday season you can get a break and take some time to look after yourself.  Writers, don’t forget you can add me as a Writing Buddy on NaNoWriMo!

QUT Creative Writing Gala & Meeting Susan Johnson!

Friday night was a super special occasion. The annual QUT Creative Writing Gala is an exclusive do held at Avid Reader Bookshop and Cafe in West End. At first I felt pretty out of place – I arrived early and found myself teeter-tottering in high heels near a group of my ultra-suave tutors and lecturers. Finally, the venue filled with other final year undergrads and postgrad students. Never before was there a bunch of kookier or more awesome people in one place.

The Avid Reader venue is ideally suited for book events. We walk through the bookshop out onto a terrace set up with a mic for our guest speakers and an open bar. We were well-fed all evening with trays of finger foods.

The gala is the night that the winners of the QUT Undergrad and Postgrad Writing Prizes are announced. My friend Katerina Gibson’s short story, ‘Nesting’, was shortlisted for the undergrad prize. When her name was called as the winner, the crowd exploded with applause. As well as $1000 in prize money, her work is soon to be published in Kill Your Darlings literary journal. This is a big break for an emerging writer, and I am so glad she’s receiving this recognition.

The final highlight of the night was getting to meet author, Susan Johnson. I read her novel, My Hundred Lovers, earlier this year. It came at a perfect time of my life to challenge me to think and feel deeply about myself. I’ve been desperate to meet her, but I narrowly missed out twice since she’s been busy with the launch of her new novel, The Landing. When I saw Susan among the crowd, my heart fluttered before I second-guessed myself. The only picture I’d seen of her was a photo on her book’s back cover. It doesn’t prepare you at all for actually standing face to face with her. Her eyes and smile hold an intensity that a posed author pic can’t capture.

You might relate to the feeling of wanting one of your favourite celebrities to really notice you. I keep forgetting that writers aren’t like most celebrities. Instead of experiencing constant harassment from screaming fans, writers have quiet and isolated existences, struggling alone at a laptop or note pad and even forgetting sometimes that there’s a bigger context beyond. I was humbled by the gratefulness and sincerity with which Susan Johnson greeted me. I didn’t have the words to express how much My Hundred Lovers means to me, but I was glad to have at last met her.

So there you have it. Watch out for Katerina Gibson’s story in Kill Your Darlings in the near future! And if you haven’t already, please seek out Susan Johnson’s books and treat yourself to her confronting but beautiful writing. Don’t forget to add me as your Writing Buddy for National Novel Writing Month!