morning, river, sunshine

you choose my european adventure!

 I wasn't planning to mirror post entries, but this one is sort of a big deal (for me), so I thought y'all might like to see, or be part of it. :)


2011 is the year of living dangerously. Of daring to be different. Of trying new things. Of uncertainty and change.

It is also the year I am relinquishing control. I talked about welcoming 2011 <a href="http://notesona.wordpress.com/2011/01/02/eleven-easy-ways-to-welcome-2011/">here</a>, and 'setting a goal that scares you' was on that list. Well, I've decided. You may remember me mentioning that I'm going on exchange to Europe from August 2011-February 2012. (Unsurprising really if you do, because it's something I like to not-so-casually throw into all conversations. ;))

And here it is. This year I will let YOU choose my European Adventure! Plan my Eurotrip! Be my travel guide! My guiding star! My beacon in a time of darkness! It'll be like R.L Stine's choose your own adventure Goosebumps books, only without the weird, gross, scary ending!

(Wait, what?)

THE IDEA

Is there any place in Europe you dream about seeing? That you've been to and loved to the core of your being? That you saw on a travel show, a travel guide, a post card and you've been itching to plant your feet in? Had a meal at a restaurant that changed your day, your life even? A museum you fell in love with, a bridge you get a kick out of crossing, a statue you'd like to kiss (haha or a person, you know, if that's your thing)?

Tell me what it is, and I'll go there. I'll go there for both of us.

I did the maths and I'm there for about 24 weeks. If I visit a different place every two weeks (do-able), that gives you twelve locations to play with. At least. If there's a few in London, for example, I can expand the list because I can hit up more than one thing in one weekend.

THE SPECIFICS

Twelve cities/towns/countries. Twenty four weeks. One girl. You map out her life.

I'll be studying in Maastricht in the Netherlands, so you may want to use there as a starting point.

I will be posting photos and blogging the adventures (or should I say PLOGGING) as soon as I've crossed a place off.

THE RULES

There are no rules. Ok there are two rules. One: Stick to the European Continent. Two: Don't choose something like 'Get high in Amsterdam'. This probably makes me the biggest dag ever, but I don't do drugs. ;)

AREN'T I FREAKING OUT?

Yes. A lot. This makes me nervous and supertremendouslyexcited all at once. It's the feeling I get when I'm standing on a super high diving tower and I don't want to jump but my friends are waiting and have already done it and I do it and it is ALWAYS worth the terror.

As Alex Day, (infamous/hilarious reader of twilight, muso and entertainer extraordinaire) once said to me (on youtube):
<blockquote>'One of the things I think about when I'm trying to psych myself up into doing something really scary is: I could just not do this thing. I used to be really nervous about like kissing girls. Because you know how you build it up to this one big moment and you're like I've gotta kiss this girl now and if I don't it'll be really bad and I'll be really disappointed and whatever. But really, there's not just that one moment, you've got like all day or all night or you know a weekend...So you can just pick and think, ultimately I don't have to do this right now. And that makes me feel better about doing it.</blockquote>
Somewhere within that excited British ramble is something I've since remembered whenever I find myself in a situation where I'm pushing boundaries. However little it might seem to someone else, changing your life is a big deal. Moving out of your comfort zone can be terrifying. I used to be paralysed by fear growing up, until my teenage years when I walked on fire and things started to change. (A story for another day). I'm still a nervous person, and I am infamous for my stress attacks, but I am trying to get better. A year or two ago setting myself a challenge like this would have SCARED ME SENSELESS. I'm still scared, but it's a good kind of fear, the kind that gets you moving and motivated, you know?

Was that an attempt to briefly ressurrect 'Quote that Friday' from its silent grave? Yes. Also a plug for Alex Day. You should follow the<a title="Alex Day Bungee Jumps" href="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KhMpQv5BPEg" target="_blank"> link to the video</a> if you're interested- it's him explaining his philosophy right before bungee jumping. A little bit hilarious, a little bit profound.

So GET IN ON IT! I don't mean for that to sound aggressive, rather enthusiastic. Sometimes it's hard to tell in capslock.
morning, river, sunshine

Dear LJ, it's not you, it's me.

 A tiny confession. I've been blogging on wordpress for two months. Not telling anyone about it has been strangely liberating because I don't expect anyone to read it.  Turns out I love wordpress so much, I don't think I'll be returning to blogging here. If you're interested in following me the site is http://notesona.wordpress.com/.

I'll keep this account live so I can still keep in touch with you all. Thanks for being so much fun to get to know! May 2011 be YOUR year! 

,
morning, river, sunshine

Teaser Tuesday

 Keeping up with this sudden spurt of posts- here's a quick teaser from WHEELBARROW WARS. It features the heroine Indie's first skirmish in the war.  Incidentally, this is the first piece of writing in five years that has come out automatically in the past tense.  Sometimes I really don't feel in control. ;) 


“Coo-oo-oo-per!” There wasn’t time for more. My teeth smashed against each other as we veered around the street corner, and I had a terrible vision of my teeth falling, a fountain of clicking white stones, onto the pavement. “St-o-o-o-o-op!”

But he didn’t stop, not when Jem brought Sofija screaming round the bend, and the two dickheads decided to race down to the docks. Ok, I’ll admit it was unfair for me to call them dickheads when I felt like my stomach was being pulled through the air and I was loving it. Fingers gripped to the sides of the wheelbarrow. A smile set into my cheeks. My hair whipping my cheeks. There was a gush of something welling up inside me and I didn’t know what it was, but I knew I had been waiting a long time for it to arrive.

Cooper’s head start and long limbs made him unstoppable. We were at the docks, high-fiving and throwing sticks into the river before Jem made an appearance. Sofija struggled out of the wheelbarrow, dishevelled but pleased.

“That was awesome! Push me back Jem?”

Jem’s hands were on his knees, he couldn’t get the air into his lungs. Cooper slapped him on the back. “All right mate?” Jem struggled to straighten himself, then he punched Cooper’s shoulder. “Right then,” Cooper continued, rubbing his hands together. “Who’s up for round two?”

Cooper tried to race back to the main street, but without Jem he was dancing by himself. We returned to find Camille braiding small plaits in her hair and Ethan sitting on the curb with his phone, complaining about the lack of reception. Once Jem was within earshot, he was having none of their behaviour.

“You, me,” he said pointing at Ethan’s eyes with two fingers, and then his own. “Coop. It’s on.”

“What makes you think we want to be pushed around like luggage? How old are those things anyway?” Camille interjected.

“Fine,” Jem shrugged. He had been getting progressively annoyed with Camille all day. I knew because irritation was the easiest expression to place on Jem. It wasn’t just that he didn’t have his smile flashing. I had seen this look whenever I messed up the till or forgot to clear a table for customers. Sofija, who had been unusually silent, stood next to Camille.

“If Camille’s not in, I’m not in,” she declared, gripping the other girl’s hand.

Jesus. It was like they were going into battle.

“Come on Cam,” Cooper said in his most wheedling tone.

Camille unfolded her arms and she loosened her indifference for a moment. “It’ll be fun.”

“Yeah, it’s like flying,” I added.

I could tell I had tipped the scales.

“No,” she said with a snap, taking Sofija’s hand again.

In the end, Ethan (typically) agreed to be wheeled by Jem, while I (no choice) was to be pushed around by Cooper. Jem decided we would play a wheelbarrow version of Spotlight. He detached a tiny torch from his key-chain, and gave it to the girls. We were given thirty seconds to hide, wheelbarrows in tow. The first team to make it up to the lookout and down to the docks without getting flashed by torchlight, won.

“Kill if it means we win,” Cooper whispered to me as the girls start counting down from thirty.

It was the first rule of the Wheelbarrow Wars, and Cooper still swears he never thought I’d obey it. I only wound up killing a possum, I promise. It’s not like I got any joy from it. But we won, and the look of crushed defeat on Jem’s face gave me great joy indeed.


Hope you liked it! Now to dash off to uni! 
morning, river, sunshine

Music Monday

 I went on a downloading frenzy in the last couple of weeks, and as a consequence there are a few songs that I cannot stop playing on repeat. 

Crave You, Flight Facilities.

Mostly because it tells the story of my life. Jokes. I don't crave.  But this song is seriously addictive. It is simultaneously "Let's chill in a lounge bar and drink Long Islands" and "I'm totally dancing around my room to this in my PJs."

</lj-embed></lj-embed>
Catatonic, Hans ZImmer (Sherlock Holmes Soundtrack)

Oh Hans. Why are you so talented? Lion King, Inception, Sherlock Holmes... I've been listening to the soundtrack from the Sherlock Holmes movie as a side-effect of being haunted by Sherlock, the TV series. And by haunted I mean I've had dreams about it. It's that good. So good that now I can't decide whether I like Downey Jr or Benedict Cumberbatch better as Sherlock. Actually who am I kidding? Cumberbatch wins hands down on the basis of his name alone.



Katy Perry, Teenage Dream
Instant feel good, instant summer. Can't help but love it still! 



PS Now that I have figured out how to embed videos, I'm never going to stop. ;) What music are you liking at the moment? I love checking out new stuff! 
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morning, river, sunshine

Inspiration Sunday

 Despite being crushed by study (for real, I think I am shorter) I am quietly happy because I'm working on a new WIP and I don't feel like I'm extracting blood every time I write it. And I'm managing to even like the characters as much as I liked the protags in WAITING ON THE WORLD. I won't go into the excruciating details of why I abandoned another WIP but instead I'd like to share the things that get my writerly juices flowing for this new one. Oh and it even has a title: WHEELBARROW WARS. (Why yes, I do have a deep and secret love for the letter 'W', apparently). 

tea
Tea.


War.


Piano.

River  

Hawkesbury River.

Wheelbarrows.

Wheelbarrows.

I probs won't be NaNo-ing this because a.) I've already started (Is that against the rules? Not sure) and b.) November is for exams, then finding a higher paying job.  But I am going to keep writing, like right now, for instance. Hope you like the music vids, and if you liked the piano one, totally check out more Yann Tiersen.  The guy is a genius. 
 
morning, river, sunshine

Book Review: The Guernsey Literary Potato Peel Society



"From Dawsey Adams, Guernsey, Channel Islands, to Juliet

Miss Juliet Ashton
81 Oakley St
Chelsea
London SW3

12th January 1946

Dear Miss Ashton, 

My name is Dawsey Adams, and I live on my farm in St Martin's Parish, Guernsey. I know if you because I have an old book that once belonged to you- The Selected Essays of Elia, by an author whose name in real life was Charles Lamb.  Your name and address were written inside the front cover.
I will speak plain- I love Charles Lamb.  My own book says Selected, so I wondered if that meant he had written other things to choose from? These are the pieces I want to read, and though the Germans are gone now, there aren't any bookshops left in Guernsey."


And so begins a correspondence between Juliet and the members of the Guernsey Literary Potato Peel Society.  How did a book club receive such an august name? What makes a painfully shy man adore Charles Lamb, a fisherman read Shakespeare, and a valet impersonating his master read The Letters of Seneca: Translated from Latin in One Volume, with Appendix over and over and over again?  As Juliet gets to know just how the society came together (it involved a pig that should have been dead) and just what the society meant for its members, we get drawn into a story that is a love letter to reading. To friendship. To rebuilding after occupation.

I think this is one of those books that the least you know about, the better. But I will say that I fell in love with it, and I would recommend it whole-heartedly to anyone and everyone.  My only advice would be to read it somewhere where you can laugh and cry and sigh and grin without anyone staring. Juliet is wickedly funny but the stories she uncovers are heart-wrenchingly sad, as much as they entertain and inspire.  The characters who make up the society are quirky, and are the kinds of people you wish you'd met.  The entire novel is written through letters, and made me feel so sad that today the art of lettering is dying a slow death, alone in a ditch somewhere. I mean, the only thing I receive in the mail are catalogues (more things I can't afford) or things from uni (why haven't you returned your library books) or notes from work (things about tax I still don't really understand). By the end of the book, I was incredibly grateful for so many things in my life- and most of all, grateful for reading- grateful that I can enjoy it so much, and I can share that joy with others.

If you see this book in a shop, pick it up, take it home. Treat it well because it will nestle into that piece of your soul where all good books go. :)

So all that cheesiness aside (I can't help it sometimes)... I owe you lovely LJ people an apology for being AWOL for so long. I don't really have a reason, other than I fell out of a habit I didn't really want to fall out of. So sorry, I will make a concerted effort to be around, because I love love love reading and seeing what's going on with you all!   
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The Art of Gloating

Wow, SO many historic things have happened since my last post! That painful Lampard goal! (Yes, that's right FIFA I said goal.) Australia gets booted out at the group stage! (Though that's probably more tragic than historic). And on the same day- Australia gets its first (unelected) female PM! That's all I can really think of at the moment, but still, a long time has passed- sorry about that- I'm pretty shocking at keeping posts up, though I try to keep up with commenting. :)

My writing process has been terrible as of late. I've attempted to start the next chapter several times, and each time I feel like I'm squeezing and contorting the characters to fit into pigeon holes I've created for them, only they just won't fit. I don't know if that's because I want the characters to do the wrong things, or because I've just got the wrong characters. Let me tell you, it's a pretty depressing place to be. Well, it was, until I discovered a secret. Yes, that's right, the art of gloating.

Let me start from the beginning (a very good place to start). Back in the day, a few weeks ago, when I was cramming hectically for my exams, I was at a study group. This guy there- let's call him John (seeing as he has no idea I'm writing this, I feel I should protect his privacy) was telling us about this crazy whacky life he had led. He used to be a courier, which involved bicycling through the city to deliver packages. Couriering is a dangerous job. One of John's fellow couriers was cycling so fast that he ran into a jay-walking pedestrian, and the pedestrian was flattened and killed instantly. Needless to say, we got even less studying done after he told us that story. Someone made the comment that John had led quite an interesting life, and John said flippantly, "Yes, I've started writing three novels. I haven't finished any, but one day, I will!"

Everyone was extremely impressed. Me? I sat in a corner, secretly gloating. Because I have finished writing one novel. There are parts of it that make me cringe, there are plot holes, some characters need cleaning up, some darlings desperately need to be murdered, but here's the thing- it's completed, and that is a tremendous achievement in itself, considering at times, I never thought I'd get there. (For the record, John is extremely bright and I am certain he will complete a fantastic novel).

I have extremely high expectations for myself. It's a good thing when it drives you to do better. It's a paraylsing, crippling thing when it stops you from enjoying what you have achieved because it doesn't match up to your expectations. I think I need to learn to gloat a little, and not to pull apart everything that I write. I recently went through and re-read every single review I received for Waiting on the World and it reminded me that while I have a long way to go before I produce anything I think should be published, I can write things that people enjoy, something that can reach another person. That's why I write in the first place. And I think I need to lower my expectations, just a little. I started to write this WIP with the intention of getting it published, eventually. But I think this ambition is stomping out my ability to write properly. I find myself thinking about how to write characters that will have mass appeal, worrying about other books that might be similar to mine, deleting phrases that don't seem particularly original or bright. (I've come to hate the backspace key). That's not the way I should be tackling this WIP. You need to write for yourself first because if you're not enjoying writing something, who is going to enjoy reading it? You need to write from the heart. And when I write a novel I love enough to see it in hard copy around the world, I'll know. It doesn't have to be this WIP.

So at the end of all this self-analysis, what I'm trying to say is- if you're feeling disheartened or craptastic re: your writing- make a list of all the things you have done well, which you can be proud of. Take a little time to gloat about it. ;)
morning, river, sunshine

Shout Out to Kat Zhang

katzhang, one of the lovely writers at Let the Words Flow ran a fantastic "contest" this week. All you had to do was submit 15, 000 words of your WIP. The prize? Kat treats your WIP to her NIFTY editorial skills. I say NIFTY excitedly in CAPS, because I was lucky enough to be the winner!!!

Thank you so much Kat for taking the time to read through my baby. You highlighted problem points in exactly the areas I was unsure about, and even better, weaknesses that hadn't occurred to me at all. And your suggestions were great too, I can see how to put them to work. The biggest thing I learnt was that just because you think you might understand something about writing in theory (e.g. start with action!) doesn't mean it will always come across in practice. Which is why you have to be merciless with your baby at all times! (Hm, potential future blog topic I'm thinking...)

Oh, and I should say, in an exciting twist- Kat critiqued 5000 words for everyone who submitted, in the space of three days. Such a herculean effort! I'm so grateful to have gained so much from Kat's feedback- and I'm sure everyone else will be too :)

Also, Kat's inspired me to pay it forward with the writing love. So as soon as I'm done with this hectic exam period (this time next week I'm free baby) I'll be running my own mini-"contest". Keep your eyes peeled and in the mean time, have a FIFA-tastic weekend! (Yes, World Cup season excites me greatly).
morning, river, sunshine

Why writers are lawyers in disguise

I had a conversation recently, where my friend, bless her, yelled in my ear, "LAWYERS AREN'T MANIPULATIVE? YOU'RE TELLING ME LAWYERS ARE NEVER MANIPULATIVE IN A COURT ROOM? LAWYERS ARE THE SNEAKIEST PEOPLE AROUND!"

I took instant exception to this.  (A tiny confession: I am a law student). But I can see one of the reasons why lawyers have such a slippery rep. Law is about construing the words of a case or statute in the best way to suit your client. Often that means playing with words to wind up with a result that just feels 'unfair'. 

For example, according to statute, murder can occur when a person kills someone with an intent to cause grievous bodily harm.  As a defence lawyer, you hone in on the word 'grievous.' You argue that your client intended to cause slight harm to the victim only, not grievous harm. He intended only to slap the victim in the face, not to punch him and fracture his skull.  You prove an intent to slap only, and your client could be acquitted of murder.  

I'll admit there are days when I want to throw my law textbooks into a lake and run away screaming 'NO MORE, NO MORE!' But what I do like about law is the opportunity to play with words and layers of meaning.  If you write novels, plays, poetry- I can guarantee that you would enjoy that aspect of law too. (This is why I have a theory that there are hundreds of law students are writing novels by night!)

And in many ways, writing a novel is like building a case for a client.  When you write from a particular character's perspective, you are advocating their point of view to the exception of all others. They have a distinctive way of seeing the world, opinions about how the world works and the people in it.  That advocacy will colour how you write, the tone you use, and make you choose certain words over others.  Advocacy is what makes a reader barrack for the protagonist, even when the protagonist is being unfair, selfish, or has made the wrong decision.  Let me give you an example from the first chapter of (shameless self-plug) WAITING ON THE WORLD.

Noel, the main character, describes Emily, her former best friend, sitting in the principal's office after they've been caught in a fist-fight.

"Emily sits so straight it's as if an electric volt has flashed through her.  She stares vacantly ahead.  I wonder if this is how she'll look before she dies- quietly furious because she couldn't manipulate events in her favour."

Let me try writing that description from the perspective of another character in the novel- Kendall.  Kendall admires Emily to a fault, so much so that Emily easily manipulates her. 

"Emily sits so straight it's as if she is on a throne before her subjects.  She stares coolly ahead.  I wonder if this how she always looks before the principal- impatient that he is wasting her time."


From Noel's perspective Emily appears to be stubborn and controlling.  You can start to see why Noel would dislike her, and why Noel wants to give Emily a dose of her own medicine.  Kendall, on the other hand, glorifies Emily- she sees Emily as regal, perfect even.  The reader can understand why Kendall goes on to be Emily's minion!

If you're having trouble with description or voice, think about advocacy.  Think about what your character's opinions are, what they think about their fellow cast members, what their goals are, if they feel they've been mistreated.  When you write, advocate that perspective.  Hammer it home so hard that the reader has no choice but to believe them.
morning, river, sunshine

Book Review: He Died With A Felafel In His Hand

If this title didn't have you at 'Felafel,' I challenge you to read the following and NOT laugh. 

"He died with a felafel in his hand. We found him on a bean bag with his chin resting on the top button of a favourite flannelette shirt.  He'd worn the shirt when we'd interviewed him for the empty room a week or so before.  We were having one of those bad runs, where you seem to interview about thirty people every day and they were all total zipper heads.  We really took this guy in desperation.  He wasn't A-list, didn't have a microwave or anything like that, and now both he and the felafel roll were cold.  Our first dead housemate.  At least we got some bond off him." 


If you have ever lived in a share house you should read this book. If you have ever lived with someone who you do not love unconditionally, you should read this book. If you have ever dropped a piece of cake on the dirty floor, picked it up and eaten it because of the 'ten second rule,' you should read this book. 

It's dirty. It's scungy.  It'll make you wriggle in your seat, and half the time it's because you're laughing, the other half it's because what you read is just so freaking nasty.  The author, John Birmingham lived with eighty nine people back in the day, and he's on a mission to tell you all about it.  The entire book reads like you're over at John's place for dinner, and he's horrifying you with all the the insane stuff he's done. And I mean insane- the dead dude on the bean bag is just the beginning.  The best part is that you've met the people he's lived with.  The touchy gay guy who relates every comment you make to a dig about his sexuality, the nutty law student who looks like they're going to kill you when you ask to borrow their notes, the obsessed girl embarrassing herself over the scummy guy who will never look twice at her ... They're all there, and terribly, you can laugh at them all. 

If you want a book that will actually make you LOL, as they say, FELAFEL will do it out of sheer attrition.  Even if you're grossed out, eventually you're going to have to crack a smile. It's the only way to deal with a story about finding a huge pubic hair in the bathroom, nailing it to the door and claiming it as your own. 

Yeah told you it was scungy. 


 felafel
 
 

In other news, i.e. back to me- writing the WIP is going at negative speed, though I have done about 2000 words since the last post.  I guess I'm happy that it's back in my consciousness, haha, and I'm thinking about it even if I'm not working on it.  At the moment I am more depressed by the fact that it is Saturday night, it is raining, I'm at home and I cannot even muster the enthusiasm to work on my crummy law essay. I am going to regret this when I get back from work tomorrow. I am going to be flipping out from stress. And yet, here I am, procrastinating, as per usual. Woe is me. Haha

Also- although I am nowhere near naming my WIP, when I do, I want it to be as rad as "He Died With A Felafel In His Hand." Not only is that a brilliant opening line that captures your attention and encapsulates the tone of the entire book, but it's a title you can't walk past. It's true, I tried to walk past it at the second hand book stall, and I couldn't.  The title just made the money fly out of my wallet.  My WIP TITLE MUST HAVE THE SAME PULL.  Or else. 

Enjoy your weekends everybody. I might abandon law as a lost cause and get into some Neil Gaiman- I nicked AMERICAN GODS off my friend because apparently Gaiman is quite the awesome?