Cat Sheely

Writer and opinionated reader


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Conflux 10, NaNoWriMo, Life and Me

A little distance is often a good thing.  I attended Conflux 10 in Canberra on the October long weekend.  This is the fifth time I have attended the conference and each time I’ve come away happy, tired an9837-Conflux-10-Logod a little overwhelmed by the friendships I’ve begun and being included in the network of wonderful writers – both well-know published authors and those, like me, just learning the craft. Added to all this, I was joined by two writer friends from the Eurobodalla Writers and we shared a wondrous weekend, cementing friendship, laughing and learning.

On Friday I attended an all-day workshop run by Russell Kirkpatrick and Nicole Murphy on writing opening chapters that catch the reader, summaries of novels and letters to publishers to catch their attention.  All very important skills and a great workshop.  That night we dressed up and attended the Hogwarts’ Pyjama party and, along with some fun games and laughs, had far too much sugar just before bed.  Saturday consisted of an interview with Margo Lanagan, the launch of several books including Simon Petrie‘s ‘Difficult Second Album’ and a horror short story competition suitably won by Shauna O’Meara.  Her story of a WWI pet rat on a battlefield was both charming and horrible.  Margo Lanagan came in a close second with a Halloween story.  After that we attended the Mad Hatter’s Tea Party with music, food, talking, a bit of dancing and, not least, the dressing up.  My friend Marisol Dunham won the price for best costume and thoroughly deserved it.  The best cosplay group was Tim Napper, his gorgeous wife and son, dressed in Deep Space 9 uniforms.  Very, very nice.  Sunday, a few more book launches including Donna Maree Hanson‘s ‘Shatterwing’ and Gillian Polack’s ‘Lang (dot) doc’.  Then the ‘Around the World in 80 Minutes’ banquet to finish off the day.

Highlights included a kaffeklatch with Isobelle Carmody and a beer meeting with Kaaron Warren.  Learned so much including that writers are normal people with some weird brains that I totally relate to.  I just hope I can someday become 1/10th as good as these ladies.

At the same time as all of this is going on, I’m completing a Certificate IV in Training and Assessment.  Thoroughly enjoying the course facilitated at Wisdom Learning by a fantastic teacher in Erin Riley.  Lots of work involved and I’m doing it so that next year I can facilitate a Diploma Course in Project Management for Wisdom.

Prior to all this there was a wonderful week of babysitting my grandson Elliott and a visit to his cousin Ashlyn in Newcastle.  It certainly tested our resources but we did have fun with the grandkids.  They grow up so fast it’s hard to keep up.

The Tuesday after the return from Conflux the evening chapter of the Eurobodalla Writers met and we decided on our story for National November Writers Month – each of us doing a chapter.  The planning went very well and we are hoping to get it together in a book for our families.

I’ve finally got some time to get back to some knitting and writing and the weather is warming up so regular swims in the pool are a definite benefit of being home.  I can now take a deep breath before the onslaught of the Christmas silly season.  It’s silly because we end up running about like silly people to Canberra, Newcastle and even Sydney.  And then the family comes to us for a few days – which I love.  So I’m also looking forward to it even as I know by January I will be well and truly over it.

I didn’t quite get to all the New Year resolutions I made this year but I got to the most important ones – get fit, keep up with the grandchildren, learn some more about writing and writing itself.  I finished my novel but now am in editing mode and it’s going slowly.  However, it is going so that’s good.

I’m a contented Cat, YAY!

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Lifelong Learning

If there is one thing I love is finding out new information whether it be scientific, humanitarian, political or just fun.  Thus research for my stories is quite a bit of the fun of writing. But currently I’m doing a Cert IV in Training and Assessment.  It’s one of those things that I need to do if I’m going to provide training in Project Management. Yes, I’m officially going to undertake training with a ????????????delightful organisation called Wisdom Learning.  And boy, am I learning.  Not so much an issue of content but how to go about training in the current environment, how to assess that training and, as from this week, how to design proper training programs.

I thought it would be a slog but it’s fun.  And BTW, my mother is currently rolling around in her grave in frustration. She’s muttering ‘I wish you’d realised you were a good student when you were 10′ over and over again.  My response to my beloved but long departed mother is that the schooling in Australia when I was 10 was abysmal. The teacher, OK the Nun, stood in the front of the class and talked, scratched on the blackboard and talked some more, THEN, had the hide to give you a mountain of homework.  Like I was going to do that! And of course, there was the ruler… and my hand still bares the scars, as do the back of my knees from the cane end of the feather duster.  All of this was in primary school.

allgirlsclassbigLuckily, high school was better.  I had some great teachers.  Mrs Stanger (in yellow in the link) taught History and English and she was brilliant… she was a storyteller and that was utterly compelling.  And I did really well in her class: I even did my homework for her.

After school I went to business college and learned shorthand and typing.  The latter has been a beneficial lifelong skill – roughly 100 words per minute when I’m copy typing.  Shorthand went by the wayside very quickly. I tended to persuade my bosses that sitting in front of them taking shorthand was wasting their time and mine,  a dictaphone was a better option – we could both work and get more done.  Phew!  I never could read all my squiggles back anyway, and relied on short-term memory for some of it.

Two years into the workforce and I’d had enough.  I joined the Woman’s Royal Australian Navy (WRAN) and became a Medic.  I topped the class because I loved what I was doing.  Got promoted veryCatharina age 19 - Version 2 quickly and ended up a Petty Officer after just over 4 years.  Then I had the hide to get married and I had to leave the Navy.  The marriage ban was lifted some years before but there was absolutely no guarantee you would be posted with you partner.  It was bad enough that he would be away sailing the 7 seas, but being in another city when he was in Australia didn’t appeal, so I left.

When you leave the services they do provide additional training so I refreshed my shorthand and added bookkeeping.  Again, dropped the first but bookkeeping has been another lifelong skills that  stood me in good stead in my working and private life.  Got great marks because I loved it.

We ended up in Canberra 6 months after the wedding when hubby paid off from the Navy.  Yes, of course I married a sailor. What else would you expect?

I finally got into the Australian Public Service, after building a house and having two kids when hubby also left the Service, and found I hated the low-level I was working at i.e. lousy pay with heaps of responsibility (my boss had me and three other staff, I had 24 secretaries and 12 people in the typing pool to look after as a Typist Controller – and all the other bosses to deal with when their secretaries/PA’s were sick, did the wrong thing, were unhappy etc – shitty job). So it was suggested I go to uni.  And then of course there was the delightful Mr Whitlam who had made uni free.  So I went. And I did well.  And yes, I loved it.

After my undergrad, I managed two post-grads and an advanced diploma among other things like OHS, law and IT courses.

project-management2And now, after nearly 25 years of being a Project Manager and Director, I get to go back to learn how to train people.

Both in my Psych Degree, various Train-the-Trainer courses and this Cert IV, it is very clear that people have to invest in their learning to get anything out of it.  Well, DUH! I guess I learned that all by myself over the years.  If you like/love what you are learning it’s easy… even when it’s hard (like assignments and research and writing papers on boring stuff).

But knowing this and then being able to develop training that people want to do, have an interest in, get something out of… that’s now my challenge.

I will say that my current trainer, Erin Riley, is one of the most dynamic and motivating people I’ve ever had the pleasure to be educated by.  I’m taking lots of notes and if I can come halfway to being like her, then I might just make a success of it.

Guess by now it’s clear that I also love a challenge.  Fingers crossed I can meet this one and haven’t bitten off more than I can chew.  OK, probably have but I will just chow down and keep chewing till I get it.

Truth is, I hope I can keep learning new stuff until the day my number is up.  And then I might still learn something… what, if anything, comes after.

Cool huh.

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Retirement and Timelines

timthumb.phpThis week I will celebrate the 2nd anniversary of my retirement. Well, almost retirement I suppose.  I’ve done a few small jobs to keep my hand in and, of course, the writing. But there is an interesting thing happening with me in terms of the work vs retirement mindset. I’m really beginning to hate, with a  passion, deadlines – even ones I’ve set for myself.

I’ve always been one to be early or on time for whatever I’m doing; appointments, work deadlines, submission deadlines and so on. Always. Yet over the last few months I’ve found myself turning away from deadlines. I’m beginning to feel they are an infringement of my newly found freedom. I don’t set alarm clocks and make all necessary appointments (doctor, dentist, coffee with friends) for a decent hour i.e. 10am or later.

So.Am I getting lazy? Becoming an old fart? Or is it just that I’ve finally settled into retirement and there is an adjustment I still have to make? For example, I still want to finish my book, send it in to a few publishers in case it’s any good, and see what happens. I still need to finish short stories for various anthologies I’ve set myself a goal to submit to. And yet, I’m  avoiding doing anything to achieve these self-identified tasks.

I think a lot about doing all this stuff I’ve set for myself. But hey, were did my motivation go?  Come BAAAACK!Layout 1

Yes, I’ve visited my family often, and managed to get every virus the grandkids have picked up. And Yes, hubby and I have done some travelling. But I’ve had days where I’ve sat and knitted or cross-stitched rather than sit at the computer.

I think it’s a reaction to over 40 years of the “MUSTS”; must get a better job, must get a promotion, must to well and prove myself, must get another degree, must get another qualification, must… must… must….

Now it’s all about my own wants, and I have got a definite aversion to the ‘must do [whatever]‘.

Is it freedom? Is it just a short term thing and I will get my motivation back? Is it ‘old fart’ syndrome? Who knows, but I wish it would stop.

Yep, I hear you. Only I can make it stop. You’re absolutely right. But send me some good vibes so my mojo returns.

 


It’s Done! And more as well.

So I’ve blogged about procrastination and wanting to finish my novel.  Well… I did it!  It’s finished.  77, 984 words.

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OK, the writing is finished.  Now comes the editing.  And believe it or not, I’ve already started that.  I think I mentioned I went to a great workshop with Ian McHugh on editing and I’m trying really hard to follow the guidelines.  Read and fix structure, then check characters and only then worry about the line edits.  So I’m reading from scratch.

But I keep wanting to pick up line edits and stuff.  It’s taking quite a bit of concentration and putting data into a spreadsheet as I do it, to ensure I’m sticking to the plan.  After all, this is the first book I’ve edited and it’s much more complex than a short story.  For one, there are many more characters and for another, it takes place in multiple locations.  Have I got all the elements I need? Are all the story elements covered and resolved? Is it logical in terms of the storyline?

So far, after 2 chapters, it’s OK but that, I think, is the easy bit.  It will take a bit of work before I can go on to making sure the characters are as rounded as they need to be and have their own voices.  Actually, that latter bit worries me but maybe I’m OK.  We’ll see.

On top of that I’ve been searching for a topic/theme/storyline for the next CSfG anthology ‘Never, Never Land’.  I don’t think I’m much good at Mad Max stuff and apocalyptic themes are a bit overdone for me.  So, horror, scifi, fantasy or what?  No answers for that here but I think I might have something that I can work with.  Finger’s crossed.

All in all, I’ve found my mojo again after months of … what? Thinking?  Wondering?  Worrying? Well I decided to stop the latter, keep wonder at my core and use it for good and stop thinking and write.  Seems to have worked for me.


Writing but not Blogging

So.  It’s been a while… again.  I have been reading and writing.  Just not writing about reading and writing.  Mainly because I haven’t had anything very interesting to say.  I don’t blog just for the sake of blogging.  I prefer to have an idea, an opinion or a happening I want to share.

Oh yes, I’ve been a busy girl.  Haven’t we all.  It’s been about family and that’s very satisfying.  But I don’t feel I need to air my family good times online.  Those are personal times and I love them.  And I am very cautious about what I actually send out into the great big permanent world of the internet.

What I have been doing is reading a lot of other people’s blogs on writing and spending time with local writers doing ‘stuff’.  I’m trying to improve my writing to a point where I believe I can let it out into the world and be proud of it.  Yes, I’ve been fortunate to have several stories published.  But today I would probably write them more tightly were I to do them again.

I’ve also been working on a novel since NaNoWriMo last November.  I’m working on the final chapters and it’s getting hard to wrap it all up.  I’ve been to courses including Ian McHugh’s ‘Polishing Your Turd’.  And that is actually what’s next for me.  Taking my creation and whipping it into shape.  A bit of a daunting prospect.  I’ve read that some writers actually enjoy that bit most… just not me.  As Ian said, I will have to ‘put on the overalls’ and begin the hard work.

And what have I learned over the past four months?  That I’ve still got a long way to go but that I’m determined to go there.  its_a_long_way_to_go____by_moonshadowgirl

Oh, I’ve equivocated.  The old ‘I don’t need to write, I’ve proved myself in other ways’ thoughts, or ‘I’m retired, I don’t need to push myself,’ or ‘I’ll never be as good as [fill in popular author] so why try.’  But then the mood hits and I have to sit at the computer and create a story; good, bad or indifferent.  I’ve been doing that most of my life, if not on computer than in notebooks while sitting waiting for someone or something, at coffee shops, in airport lounges.  I realise, looking back, I’ve always written and I feel happy when I do.  And therefore I MUST finish this book.

And I have also realised it’s not that I want anyone to say how wonderful it is, or it could be a best seller (a highly unlikely scenario).  I want to create something and finish it as best I can.  And if others like it, it’s a bonus.  And this has been the most important realisation, that I NEED to write, and write for me.

I do have two people to thank for all this ‘realising’.  The first is my dear friend M.A. Dunham, Marisol to me.  We met at the evening meeting of our local writing group the Eurobodalla Fellowship of Australian Writers (EFAW).  We’ve become fast friends and she’s a delightful and very talented writer.  She’s been chivvying me and we’ve spent days writing together.  And then there is Ian McHugh.  Beside being a delightful friend he’s a wonderful teacher.  He makes difficult issues like editing your own stuff seem a simple process of knuckling down and going through a process.  Of course, that’s what it is, but until he laid it out clearly, I really don’t think I had any idea of how to go about it.

And then there is the crew at CSfG.  How can you not be inspired by ‘Writers of the Future’ winners like Ian and Shauna O’Meara, and all the other wonderful published authors that make up the group.

So, to finish where I started.  I’ve not been blogging but I’ve been busy with family and writing.  And maybe, sometime this year, I will have a novel to put out there.  Fingers crossed.

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A Fight with Procrastination

So.  In November I managed just over 60,000 words for NaNoWriMo.  I was proud of myself.  I knew that another 30,000 words would finish the novel.  Then came December, Christmas, New Year and family.  All good reasons not to get on with it.  But early January, that was over and done with.  By the end of January, the novel would be finished.  But no.   Not even remotely done.

200px-%22Mino_Monkey_Dark%22_concept_artI’ve been reading in all sorts of places about the ‘dark monkey’ of procrastination.  The devil of procrastination. I know I’m doing it.  I get another 1 or 2k words done and it’s over with for a week.  My characters are doing their own thing too, going off in directions I hadn’t planned on.  May I add I think they’ve got it right.  But knowing I’m procrastinating and doing something about it is very, very hard.  My good friend and writing buddy Marison Dunham has been helping.  She comes over, I get work done.  She’s a bright spark in my writing day.  But she leaves and I go right back to the ‘I’ll get into it tomorrow’ phase.

Argh!little_devil_by_davidj8580-d5rv2gn

Yes, I know.  Discipline.  Something I’ve always had trouble with.  You see, I know the ending… sort of. Or do I?  As I said, my characters are doing strange things.  Am I afraid of them? Of what they want me to write?  I think the answer is yes.  Also I think I’m afraid to finish this because it might be rubbish. I’m not really sure anyone would want to read it.  But then, is that why I write? For others? If I’m honest, the answer to that is maybe.

I guess I want it all done and over with … now.  Not tomorrow, next month but now.  I can’t seem to wait to go through the process of actually finishing it. Or is that just another excuse?

Doldrums.  No wind and the writing boat is floating in a sea of insecurity.

Thanks for listening.  Now it’s out there.  Guess I’ll have to do something about it.

PS: Anyone got a whip?


CHRISTMAS GREETINGS …in all shapes and formats

satcChristmas

This year has been more interesting than usual in terms of the Christmas Card.  In the past I used to send out up to 60 cards each Christmas to friends and family.  It was always a chore but one worth doing.  And in return we usually got almost as many cards with wonderful greetings.

But things have changed. Now I send out maybe 25 cards that go to older family and very close friends because I add a ‘Christmas Letter’ that gives a potted history of what the family has been up to for the past year.  This has become quite the thing to do as I normally get about 7 or 8 of these in return.  I love hearing about our friends and their families and sometimes they include interesting photo’s as well.  Our older relatives tend to hand write their letter on the Christmas Cards.  I wonder how many of us actually write anything more than a quick greeting anymore?  Not many I’m guessing.

And then there are the 15 or so emails that include a short message and our Christmas Letter. A few of these go overseas and they are much quicker and more sure than the now expensive snail mail version.  Finally there are the few that are animated eCards and animated videos (JibJab etc).  I have to blame my daughter for getting me into JibJab as she was the first to send one to friends and family several years back. They are fun to make and fun to receive (but hard to put up with the other Cards and letters).

This year has been surprising in that one of my older friends has sent me an animated Christmas Card. It reminds me that no matter what age, there is always the possibility of mental flexibility to remain up-t0-date with technology.  I hope I’m that cool at 80+.

So like everything else, the Christmas Greeting is changing fast, becoming technologically sophisticated and yet still it means that we are thinking of our relatives and friends and wish them well for the festive season and for the coming year.

As an aside, isn’t it funny that here in Australia we still often send Christmas Cards that show a winter scene when Australian Christmas cards abound.  Anyway, as I started out with an Aussie picture, so -

 I wish you a Merry Christmas and a Prosperous 2014

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