Pinning Is Writing

Published June 3, 2014 by electricbluegaloo

So, after many years I have finished what I consider to be the first draft of my novel “Isa Ines and the Monkey Man”, although given all the editing I would probably call this 1.1 and hopefully in the next couple of days I will have 1.2 finished.  I have written about 25 000 words of this novel in about 3 weeks, not so bad for a single working mum!

I have managed to get this far with the support and encouragement of friends and under the direct orders of my very favourite author, who insisted that I allocate “sacred time” for writing.  She offered no sympathy for my situation, and insisted that I could make 2 hours a day and one day a week my writing time.  I have been able to manage to almost do this, and voila! here she is!

Wordle: Isa Ines and the Monkey Man

And so this brings me to the point of this post. If I am to spend 6-8 hours at the computer “writing” what counts as writing?  I know trawling through Facebook doesn’t count, but does pinning count?  I’m going to argue yes, it does.

I have been very good at not allowing housework to interfere with my sacred writing time, and have not been on any social media forums at all during my sacred time for writing this first draft. But the funny thing is, even after 14 years I’m not sure I completely know who these characters are.

Lets go back to ye olde Harry Potter.  A brilliant work of fiction, primarily for my part in the fact that I often found myself saying “Yes, that’s exactly what Hermione would do in that situation.”

I L.O.V.E. Hermione, Ron, Mrs Weasly, Snape, etc, and that’s what drags me along for the ride.  I feel such genuine happiness when the twins gloriously set off fireworks etc at Hogwarts, and it’s partly because I knew that’s the kind of thing I knew they would do.

As much as I would love to dive in and write the possibly 3-4 thousand words I think I need to in order to achieve draft 1.2 I think my time today would actually be better spent getting to know my characters.  It is essential that my readers L.O.V.E at least 2 of my characters and at this point I’m not sure that they do.

How do I achieve this?

Well, confession time – I once wrote a love poem to my hot water bottle, ok, guys it was winter and I didn’t own an electric blanket back then.  I think I need to spend a day falling in love with each of the characters.  When I write I will have them do something because that’s what the reader knows they will do, and just by doing what they know they will do this will have to solve the problem that they are facing.

My only problem is that I only have 35-40 thousand words for the whole story, JK had 6 thick books to flesh out these characters in . . . can I do it?  I’m not sure, but if I can I know the story will be better for it.  No the story is already good.  I know my telling of the story will be better for it.

So here are a list of activities that fall loosely under the banner of writing:

  • Writing (obviously!)
  • Pinning – settings, quotes, clothing, any relevant accessories, what the characters look like.  Create a board for each character, setting or event.
  • Drawing/scrapbooking-  the old fashioned way of pinning
  • Writing exercises – what’s in the bag, 24 hours in the life of, hopes and fears,
  • Asking questions – what questions might a reader (or interviewer) ask about the book – Why?  How?  What questions would the characters ask?
  • Reading – books.  Today I asked myself “Who is Alex?”  after some thinking, I realised Alex is Quintana, and a little bit of the dark side of Halt, and Froi. But we have to end up loving him.  I really needed a break from writing recently, I was like, when you smash too much dirt in MineCraft and fall into a cave and can’t get out, and then it turns night and the bloody zombies are trying to chase you.  So I read a book instead (They Came on Viking Ships, Jackie French).  I also like reading blogs by wonderful authors and by other literature lovers.

  • And, for special occasions like today, hanging out the washing –  See advice from the hugely talented Sandy Fussell

 and now I have just wasted an hour and a half of my precious sacred time trying to insert the wordle (it was so simple in the end!).  Have to get back to real writing now, after I hang out the washing.


I feel good . . . duh na na na na

Published April 29, 2014 by electricbluegaloo

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“Great things are not accomplished by those who yield to trends and fads and popular opinion” – Jack Kerouac.

— Book Quotes (@BookQuotesHere) April 29, 2014


I have done the #1k1hr thing and agree with the quote which generally says a writer is miserable writing, not writing and the only agreeable state is “just having written”.  I kept my head down and got it done.  I am taking a quick break now to answer the call of nature, drink coffee and think about how to overcome a big narrative issue while I hang out the washing.

The issue is that the story is being told by the main character to her classmates and teacher who have been mocking her for turning up late to class looking dishevelled.  She has had an adventure in another realm on the way to school and having fallen off a giant bee her dress is torn and she has bruising to the face.  If you have read CS Lewis you will know that time works differently when you pass through doors to other worlds. Therefore it is not a problem that she is only a couple of minutes late having had several months adventures elsewhere.  The problem is . . . why is her face and uniform a mess?  The fall happened about 24 hours into the visit, so I could either erase the reference to it thinking it should be healed but I kind of like it’s reveal and the effect it has on the disbelieving classmates.

If she was to return and begin telling her classmates the story at the END of the story ie tell the whole adventure in one go she should either be wearing her school uniform neat and as it was when she left the house before entering a swirling vortex, or whatever clothes she was wearing when she passed back through the doorway to our world.  And her face should either be as it was BV (Before Vortex) or possibly with a pink scar but no bruising, having healed over a 6-8 weeks.  I am breaking from Narnia Tradition by there being any physical evidence of any adventures had in other worlds.

I think the best option is one I was not expecting which is that she passes back and forth a couple of times, possibly just the twice.  This would however mean that I would have to now write what happened when she got home, having been slightly altered by the experiences in other world, but before the final transformative journey.  The only thing about this is that it would give me an opportunity to explore the “real world” relationship between the girl and her mother which I had hoped to make more subtle.

Anyhoo, lets see what comes of it.  I am determined to wrestle this beast into a first draft but it keeps turning into a bogart. You let it out of the mind closet and you never know what you’ll find. Riddikulus!


All First Drafts are Shit

Published April 29, 2014 by electricbluegaloo

Its easy to get miserable when you’re trying to mine your own brain for treasures.

There’s a place I like to go . . .

I have been writing “The Story” for probably close to 14 years now and it has been through so many incarnations that I can’t believe I am still working on the first draft. And agonising over it. I have to agree with Hemmingway that writing is easy, all you have to do is sit down and bleed. The trouble is I have never been into cutting. Keep strum has always been my motto which I think accounts for a lot of my writer’s block. Also procrastination. I just spent 10 minues checking online South African slang guides for the spelling of “strum/stroom” only to find it doesn’t exist, but I am sure it means to keep quiet about something.

Anyway, back to the purpose of this post. I have decided to treat this writing of “The Story” as a first draft, and my laptop is going to get pretty messy as it gets bled all over.

With my Monday writing sprint team as inspiration (being completed on Tuesday to dramatic and pointless ambulance ride and hospital stay but that’s a whole other story), and the promise from more successful authors that

I just have to bleed my way through the “first draft” stage. I have the upmost confidence in the story and what I want it to be, I just have to build a bridge from here to the sublime.
Ok, back to it now and let’s do this shit!

A Writing Sprint . . .

Published April 14, 2014 by electricbluegaloo

I’ve joined a closed Facebook group called the Monday Writing Sprint and basically I spent the first of my 2 blessed child-free hours laying about in bed, half recovering from a tummy bug, half pinning on Pintrest.  So I had the sense to realise that if I was well enough to pin I was probably well enough to “research” in an upright position. Well between reading Shannon Hale’s advice on writing a graphic novel, reading reviews of and ordering appropriate graphic novels and just a teensy bit of Facebooking I feel that I may have stumbled upon THE ANSWER, and also, simultaneously completely gone down the wrong track.  I have left myself with 4 minutes to write this post but the short and the short of it is that Isa Ines, the story I have been “writing” for 14 years possibly works best as a graphic novel.  Do I read graphic novels?  No.  Well I used to.   I have done in the past and really maybe that’s part of what is influencing my writerly voice.  the problem is that are graphic novels more difficult to get into than picture books?  Maybe but I really think if it works best as a GN maybe I just have to do it, stuff the sales.  in my 54 minutes of research I have also come to the conclusion that GNs maybe discuss the type of theme that I am looking to explore:  eg and this may mean more competition, but also this may be the genre that my intended audience is already reading.

Lots to ponder, or is it just a super great excuse to procrastinate?!?! I will ask Kate Forsyth on 10 May!  Exciting

Excuse lack of editing.  4 minutes of writing!  Yay! Ok, deadlines are flexible.

Catching Fire vs The Desolation of Smaug

Published January 29, 2014 by electricbluegaloo

When it comes to film adaptations there is often a chicken/egg debate over which is superior, but in Catching Fire, the second instalment of the Hunger Games Trilogy,  we see the perfect example of where the book is complimented by the beautifully envisioned film. While there were a couple of scenes that were far more effective on the page (“it begins at 12” and Peeta’s demonstration to the game makers for example) there were others that were made for the big screen (Finnick, Katniss’s demonstration and wedding dress twirl).
Obviously the emphasis on the fashion,  style and glamour of The Capitol in contrast to the dreary drudgery of the outer districts lends itself to an imaginative costume and sets design team but as in the first film and book this aspect cannot be overrated.  It is to Suzanne Collins’ credit that she has created The Hunger Games this way.  I just can’t wait to pour over a photo book of the film.  Either that or repeatedly pressing pause on the DVD to admire as many of the costumes as I can.  In the meantime, I can drool my eyes over this article:–catching-fire-tex-saverio

Particularly if you have read Mocking Jay you will realise that there are flaws in Suzanne Collins’ storytelling (a convenient coma, me thinks) but Panam itself is a very solidly imagined world and in many ways this is the foundation of the entire series.  I am waiting with heightened anticipation for the film of Mocking Jay (perhaps an opportunity to take artistic licence and tidy up the Prim issue), and best of all a Hunger Games marathon.  But wait, the final film is to be one of those 2 part dealies.  Oh well.  The first two have been brilliantly paced so let’s hope the next two live up to this standard.

The Hobbit films (An Unexpected Journey and The Desolation of Smaug) on the other hand are an example of where more is just too much.  To be honest I was pretty much over Middle Earth about 20 minutes before the end of The Return of the King, or 20 minutes into it even.  I know Peter Jackson thinks he’s a hobbit having a human experience but talk about a different interpretation – I totally did not agree with comical relationship between Legolas and Gimli in The Two Towers, and to me the interpretation of Faramir was all wrong.  I have read The Hobbit, and to the chagrin of my Tolkien loving family I pretty much dismissed it as a “boy-book” and went back to trying to be as awesome as Claudia in the Babysitter books.  I was glad that I read The Hobbit because I knew  what the hippy kids were talking about when they referred to their spot in the play ground as “Mirkwood”, and there was something very exciting about having a grand adventure thrust upon one.  But is that any excuse for making the first two Hobbit movies we have seen?  I haven’t read The Silmarillion which is apparently where some of the additional characters, storylines and general backstory comes from, but I totally agree with my now 16 year old cousin who described The Desolation of Smaug as “padded”.  It would have been fine to adapt The Hobbit into one or even 2 films, but three seems a bit excessive (two of the three cousins who saw the movie over Christmas had a power-nap while it was on).  Rather than likening The Desolation of Smaug to Catching Fire, I could have easily compared it to Spielberg’s 2005 War of the Worlds, which I came across on a JAL flight and watched for about 45 minutes before realising I was on the Japanese language channel:  not a lot of dialogue, just a lot of CGI and long sweeping shots of explosions and stuff.

I have to agree with Christopher Tolkien, the son of J.R.R. Tolkien, who made the following statement about the LoTR adaptations in July 2012:

“They gutted the book, making an action movie for 15-25 year olds. And it seems that The Hobbit will be of the same ilk. Tolkien became…devoured by his popularity and absorbed by the absurdity of the time. The gap widened between the beauty, the seriousness of the work, and what it has become is beyond me. This level of marketing reduces to nothing the aesthetic and philosophical significance of this work.”


So in conclusion I reflect on the style and pace of the YA novel that I #amwriting.  It is neither post apocalyptic dystopian or high fantasy, or even a film, so what does this comparison have to do with my semi-autobiographical social realist artfully arranged words?  After languishing in the bottom draw of my writing desk I have pulled out and dusted off the manuscript and am now pondering the pace and the padding.  Fantasy is my genre of choice and series such as Harry Potter, The Ranger’s Apprentice and the Witches of Eilenan highlight how effective a strong back story can be.  However, the balancing act is to consider which darlings will live and which will be reincarnated as eggs in future baskets.  I shall have to nut it out over coffee and just hope that if anyone ever adapts my book to film they’ll do it justice, and maybe even prove that a good book is complimented by turning it into a good film.

A Different Take on A Different Take (Disney’s Frozen)

Published January 21, 2014 by electricbluegaloo

DISCLAIMER:  The derogatory terms used in the following post are used ironically!

Also: Spoiler alert.

You’re kidding me!  Elsa doesn’t have a boyfriend so automatically she’s a lesbian, and I suppose Merida is too.  Come on!  This is beyond ridiculous.  I have watched this movie a couple of times and read some vague reviews about it being Disney’s “queerest movie” but to be honest I just didn’t get what they were talking about.  I mean, I didn’t catch any chick on chick action (maybe that happened when I was taking my three-year old to the toilet).  The only hooking up I saw was Anna, falling for 2 different GUYS!  Or maybe it was some lesbo-sister action.  I just don’t think Disney is that twisted.  It was not till I read this review that it was explained in great enough detail for my tiny brain to recognise – oh, she doesn’t need a man to kiss her and make it better so she’s a dyke.

My six year old daughter told me Frozen was the best movie she’s ever seen and I was delighted to see how much she loved it and connected to it, because I connected very powerfully with it too.  Watching this movie might one day come in very handy when I have to explain to my little girl how it feels for my sister, her aunty, to live with mental illness – bipolar affective disorder.  You see, while everyone else was jumping to conclusions about Elsa’s sexual orientation I was moved by how similar Anna’s experience was to my own – trying to understand the beautiful, powerful and exhilarating highs and dealing with the dangerous and devastating lows.  Loving a sister with bi-polar can be exhausting.

From my own experience I can see so much evidence that Frozen is an allegory for mental illness. Was she cursed or born with it? Connected to emotions and  pretending it doesn’t exist.  Forced to deal with it on her own because nobody really understand what’s going on.  Hoping it will go away.  The big elephant in the room. The eventual incarceration.  This was all too familiar.

I remember being in awe, creatively jealous of the way my sister was capable of building beautiful worlds inside her mind as real as Elsa’s ice castle, but also how frightening she’d be, like the demon snow monster, when we tried to bring her to reason.  She created a havoc in our lives as real as the film’s cursed winter.  There would be times where everyone in her circle would be stuck trying to undo one or other of her catastrophes, sometimes terrifying.  We were undeniably caught in the effects of her curse as surely as the citizens of Arendelle, and always knowing that this was but one face of our loving, creative and wonderful girl.  And always hoping that our love would help heal everything – everything.

Let It Go by Sara Richard

There was nothing in the song “Let it go“that tells me it’s about liking girls but the entire last verse spells out exactly how it was when my sister gave up on holding on to her slip of reality.

My power flurries through the air into the ground
My soul is spiraling in frozen fractals all around
And one thought crystallizes like an icy blast
I’m never going back,
The past is in the past

Let it go, let it go
And I’ll rise like the break of dawn
Let it go, let it go
That perfect girl is gone

Here I stand
In the light of day
Let the storm rage on,
The cold never bothered me anyway

Let’s face it, my sister’s world of fairies and magic was a hell of a lot more interesting than the alternative we had to offer her.  It’s been a long road, but just as with Elsa, my sister seems to have been saved by an act of true love.  Not through sisterly love, but through the birth of her child.  Incredibly she has learned to control her emotions and despite a terrible lack of understanding and support for her condition I am proud to say that my sister has not experienced one of her devastating and catastrophic episodes for nearly 10 years, or even a little one.

Maybe I’m wrong.  Maybe in Frozen 2 Elsa will leave us no room for speculation.  I’d love to see a Disney wedding with two brides (perhaps even an interracial marriage).  But in any case I’d just like you to have a think about what it really means to live with mental illness or to love someone living with mental illness.

There have been some kids and YA novels dealing with or touching on themes of mental illness: Crossing the Line, Saving Francesca, Froi of the Exiles, and one of The Witches of Eilenan series (sorry I can’t remember it off the top of my head).  However, the story which best supports my Frozen assumption is this moving article about the popular craze for artisanal toast.  Whatever the creators of Frozen were trying to do – make a film about sexuality, mental illness, or even a fairy tale about 2 sisters with none of the intense subtext that has been assigned to it, I would certainly say it has been a success, with a couple of catchy tunes to boot.

In Defense of The Hunger Games

Published July 12, 2013 by electricbluegaloo

In my current position I have the privilege to work in all the faculties of my high school. This means at one point I can be introducing a class of year 11 English students to the themes of Love and War, and in the next time lapse I’ll be sitting  in a completely different staffroom and overhear the teachers aghast that the English staff are teaching The Hunger Games now, oh my.

I shouldn’t make out that The Hunger Games is a walk in the park.  Anyone who’s read it knows there are some truly horrific moments, but what I really can’t stand is people making judgements, and particularly those strong negative judgments, about books they’ve never read and fully admit to having no intention of ever reading.

For those who haven’t read The Hunger Games here is a short summary: a teenage girl, grieving the loss of a parent, fights for survival against tyrannical ruler hell-bent on her death. Woops. That’s Snow White I’m thinking of.  President Snow doesn’t even want to eat Katniss’ heart, yet Disney’s Snow White is the movie we happily plonk our 5 year olds in front of (actually mine has never seen it based on the it’s-way-too-freaky-for-my-house policy.)

Perhaps it’s the kids hunting down kids that’s so disturbing, but isn’t that what happened in Lord of the Flies, a novel read by generations of year 9 students . . .

Yes it’s bad, what happens. Not just bad – incredibly and heart-wrenchingly beyond what we imagine humanity to be capable of.  But so are the events in The Book Thief, which is the novel the other year 11 class studied. The Book Thief is a horrific story in ways that The Hunger Games can only dream of.  A line of starving men scrambling for crumbs after they are paraded through town for being the scum of the earth. Two Papas taken away for displeasing the Nazi Party. Fiction verses fictionalised narrative, clever poetic language verses unpretentious and accessible storytelling. I’m enjoying The Book Thief, but I can see why the critics loved it. The language is so disturbingly poetic it reminds me of the scene in that Hannibal Lector film where the unfortunate dinner guest is forced to eat his own brain.  Is it style over substance that makes The Book Thief a more acceptable literary legacy for our future leaders? To come back to the point about critics loving it we have to caress that old pearl (compressed coal, for those of you who’ve read The Hunger Games)- who is the target audience? The average 16-17 year old is not in love with the juxtaposition of a unique personification, or pontification.  And let’s be honest some of the finer points of irony are lost on the teenage brain.  This is sounding like I think The Book Thief is over rated and I am sorry to give that impression.  It’s not overrated, it’s a phenomenal work of art.  However what I mean to say is that the language, the narrative style, of The Hunger Games is no less purposeful and deliberate.  Given that the language is equally valid and the events equally disturbing, I wonder if I will ever hear citizens aghast that the rest of year 11 are studying Marcus Zuzack’s  multi-award winning description of the truly brutal nightmare that was life in Nazi Germany. Not likely.

The Hunger Games will not be everyone’s cup of tea but it is certainly not glorifying the brutality it deals with and in many ways it shows a great deal more respect for the consequences of mortal combat than many of the classics. Did Frodo stop and reflect on all those that felt Sting’s sting?  I seem to remember quite a body count in the Lord of the Rings trilogy, and not a lot of remorse.  Perhaps, Tolkien, himself a war veteran, was not able to come to terms with the human face of his enemy in a way that we who are privileged to have seen war only through a lens may do.  Many years ago, the Australian artist George Gittoes toured with his “Realism of Peace” exhibition and he spoke to my art class about the dimension of reality he was able to achieve with a paintbrush.  This is a truth not always captured with a camera.  And in the same way,  authors such as Melana Marchetta and Suzanne Collins choose to speak their truth through fiction.
Perhaps, rather than standing by while The Hunger Games was dismissed as some gory, shallow teen novel with no greater complexity than a Kristen Stewart facial expression I should have whipped out my copy and read those teachers from a non-English teaching faculty the scene where Katniss sings for Rue or when Peeta describes the first moment he laid eyes on his beloved.
But that’s not what sells papers. That’s not the bit that makes the most interesting sound bites and perhaps that reason more than any other is why The Hunger Games does need to be analysed in school. It’s provocative.  While I can see how the armchair critics could be easily aghast, there’s much food for thought in The Hunger Games.

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