Friday, November 27, 2009
Some of you might know from reading KYLIE'S WORLD on my website that I'm a volunteer firefighter with the NSW Rural Fire Service. It's far removed from plunking your butt in a chair and typing at the keyboard, and that's part of the reason why I joined up - it gets me out from behind the desk and doing something physical. I'm helping out my friends and others in my community/wider community and I'm challenging myself with new skills (not to mention feeding the imagination with a wider range of experiences!!!).
We train two Sunday mornings a month. My Captain has introduced me to the driver's seat of the big red fire truck. Why? We're a small unit - only 6 active members all up and usually there's only one licensed driver on the crew when we get called out. If anything happens to him out on the fire-front (he sprains an ankle or is injured) the crew will have a back-up driver who can get them out of there if need be.
During one particular training session, we headed out to a section of bush that had recently been burnt out by a major fire and where the fire trails were "easy" to drive. Think Fire Truck Orientation 101, not Advanced All-Terrain Course assessment course. I've driven a manual car, a farm ute, a forklift, a tractor, a farm-bike and quad-runner, but getting behind the wheel of a bloody big truck was something I've never done.
I learn several things pretty quickly...
a) the truck is wide, heavy and has 7 gears
b) there's no center mirror in a fire truck - you drive (or reverse) using the side mirrors only (I now have sooo much respect for heavy vehicle drivers)
c) the steering wheel is almost horizontal as opposed to vertical
d) you need a wide turning circle or you run into things or cut corners when you shouldn't (lucky I only snapped a few branches off a tree rather than a building)
e) it takes a lot to get use to the angles and capabilities a vehicle that size can negotiate without tipping or rolling over (no, I didn't manage that, thank goodness)
f) the pneumatic seat is sooo cool (I want one in my car!)
g) being the short-legged person I am, always move the seat back after you finish driving (or risk injuring your licensed driver as he tries to get back in the command seat and you find yourself having to use your new learned skills sooner than expected).
Apparently I passed my first driving lesson (and no, my Captain wasn't injured at the end of it, I remembered to adjust the seat just before I swapped sides :-P).
I conquered my first challenge, gained some confidence, and am looking forward to the next stint behind the wheel of the big red fire truck!
Photo: Our big red fire truck - practising the laying down of foam to protect the truck.
Friday, November 20, 2009
Here in Australia it's term 4 - the last in the school year before our annual Christmas/Summer holidays. Ask any teacher and they'll tell you term 4 is notoriously busy. Children's report cards to write, annual school report to complete, program assessments, testing and assessment of the class, preparation for the end of year presentation night, swimming school with students, filling out record cards for student files, farewell dinners for departing students (primary & secondary), professional development courses to attend, normal classroom programming and preparation of lessons, Kindergarten orientation programs, Christmas craft...the list keeps getting added to every year.
For me, the avalanche of administrative paperwork and events really hotted up this week (much like the weather). There are only so many hours in the day and I find (regrettably and frustratingly) that my writing routine suffers this time of year as I juggle to complete everything before the end of term.
Not much I can do about it - that's a part of leading a dual life as a teacher and writer. I squeeze in what writing I can (sometimes it's only 30mins), counting down the days until break-up. I savour/relish/anticipate the chance to spend full days at the keyboard, totally focused on my other passion, completing the next WIP, editing and polishing, burying myself in another world with characters sometimes as real as those outside the four walls of my house.
This year it's going to be a really special countdown. I'm taking a whole year off from teaching in 2010. Yep. 12 months, 52 weeks, 365 days off.
How is this possible? It's called the Deferred Teachers Salary Scheme - you sign up and for four years you put away some of your pay to live off in the 5th year of the scheme. You can use the year as a sabbatical or to travel, work in a job outside the public education system, anything you want.
For a whole year I'm concentrating on my other passion, my other life. Writing. Pursuing and developing my other career. Becoming a published author.
Roll on 2010.
Can you feel how excited I am?
Saturday, November 14, 2009
Coming up on the RWAustralia contest calendar is the EMERALD Award for unpublished writers.
Why would you enter this competition over others? It's designed to mirror the submission process. The first round involves entering the first 18pgs of your manuscript. If your entry makes it to the second round then you have to submit a full manuscript. Three finalists from both sections then go on to the final judge for placings, usually an editor from a major publishing house.
It's also a dual competition - you can enter the category section or single title section (or both - some have done this). And you can enter multiple entries in each! :-)
So, what makes it really special? Your work is scored and judged by romance readers in the initial two rounds - not a writer in sight - they're your potential readership market.
The benefits? There are several.
The competition is specialized - a category section and single title section. While the genres may differ, you're competing against others who write the same length manuscript.
You're also learning the discipline of the craft; you're training yourself to meet deadlines while honing and practising your skills while learning how to cope with praise, criticism and rejection; there's the multiple judges feedback (invaluable when you compare that entry fee of $38.50/entry to an appraisal service).
If you final, you bypass the slush-pile/query process & your work gets in front of an editor; you add to your writing resume and that looks good in a query letter to prospective agents or editors when you submit.
Have I convinced you to enter yet? I hope so, it's certainly worth it. You can find the entry forms at www.romanceaustralia.com/emerald.html (NOTE: you do need to be a member of Romance Writers of Australia to enter.)
Entries close Novermber 27th 2009, so get your manuscript in - what have you got to lose? But, more importantly, think of all you can gain!
Thursday, November 12, 2009
~Herbert Bayard Swope~
A good one as a precursor of my next entry - RWA EMERALD Award.
Write the story of your heart, polish it based on the consensus feedback you get from contests but not just because Judge A said "this" and Judge B said "that" an Judge C said "something different".
The quote says it all - you can't please everybody - and if you try, you'll wreck a good story.
Friday, November 6, 2009
I hope you've been looking at the keepers on your shelf with new eyes, analysing what makes them tick. Besides revisiting some great books it's a great exercise in analysing what works, what makes them so riveting.
The last couple of keepers come from Sydney Croft (a new author on my "to keep" shelf) and Lyndsay Sands.
Faith Black has been beaten, drugged and imprisoned, but none of that scared her. No, what frightened her to the core was the man confined with her. Chained to an improvised medieval rack and bare form the waist up, he lay on his back, arms over his head, his incredible chest marred by bruises and a deep laceration that extended from his left pec to his right hip.
He might have been rendered immobile, but he was in no way helpless.
His weapon, far more dangerous than the telekinesis-to her, at least-was his overpowering sexuality, a force that tugged her toward him, made her burn with need despite their grave situation.
The opening sentence in SEDUCED BY THE STORM by Sydney Croft pulls me immediately into the book. A woman in a horrible situation, suffering, possibly helpless, definitely in danger.
How’s she going to get out of it? Wait a minute, she’s not worried about the danger she’s in, but the man chained to the rack opposite her? Is he the enemy? Hmm, she’s attracted to him. He’s trouble but not the sort I was expecting. What is it about him that makes her ignore a life threatening situation?
Gotta read on.
It was a high-pitched scream that woke Elvi. Piercing and full of terror, it ripped her from her sleep and had her moving before she was quite awake. She started up abruptly only to curse and drop back down when her head slammed into the wooden lid of the coffin. (THE ACCIDENTAL VAMPIRE by Lyndsay Sands)
Screaming victim – seen it, read it, it’s been done before in countless books. Someone responding to the victim – yep, also been done before. Head slamming into a coffin lid to rescue the victim – say what? Didn’t that grab you? Simple but effective twist on a ho-hum situation.
So, what makes an attention grabbing beginning?
• Creating lots of questions in the readers mind that need to be answered.
• Try using dialogue to open your scene– it’s active and immediately draws the reader in
• Sentence structure – short and sharp, use of alliteration etc. (I’m no grammar guru but you can see from some of the examples what to look for when analysing your own work)
• Empathy with the character – make the reader be able to recognise or relate to them in some way
• Take a familiar situation and give it a twist
My advice - get your own keepers off the shelf, read the opening paragraphs and analyse the tools they’ve used to hook the reader. Then try out those tools with your own writing.
Give it a go and reel in those readers hook, line and sinker!
Wednesday, November 4, 2009
So true...and isn't the journey more satisfying because of it?