The Phoenix and the Owl

The phoenix huffs. He turns this way and that, glaring at the mirror. “I am not beautiful” he says.

The owl sighs. “You are beautiful, very beautiful. Look at your shining feathers and long lashes.”

“My feathers are dull. Why must these colours be these colours? What are these sinews and tendons? Why must they bulge so large?”

“But that is your strength! Your wings beat with power! You can soar above all others; they lie jealously in your wake! How do you not see what they see? What I see?” The owl looks mournfully at her phoenix, he is so beautiful and yet so sad. “You are strong and you are beautiful.”

“I only see that I am strong. Strong is good, strong is desirable, but why must strong be me?”

The phoenix longs for his fire. It is so far away.

“Maybe next time I will be beautiful. But must I wait?”

The owl sleeps. She hunts. She watches from afar with pleading, accusing eyes.

The phoenix stops flying. His wings, once so glorious, wither and fold. He is no longer strong but he is still sad.

“I am not beautiful.”

The owl contemplates. It is not a death, but it will be the same. The night is all she will have to protect her.

The owl lights the tinder, they stare into the flame. She walks away. She will not watch, but will not leave on wings either.

****

The phoenix rises from the ashes. She is beautiful.



By Danielle Jones

Not a starving artist.

I am 30 years old and I am nowhere near accomplished in my goals as a writer. Or as a sewist for that matter. Or in any other freely creative aspect of my life. And I am completely okay with that.

When I was about 18 or 19 years old I made a decision. I had finished school with poor marks and zero direction due to the truest of teenage distractions (boys and booze). I had toyed with many career paths. I was jobless, had no money and limited support, and just wanted to make a steady income. Deep down I knew that I wanted to be a writer, but I wasn’t going to burden people who couldn’t afford it with the task of propping up my dreams. So I had to shelve them. I had to get a job. I didn’t just have to get a job, but I also needed a career. Something that could eventually keep my head above water so much that I could maybe afford to write as well. Something that would carry me through being crap at my craft, then mediocre, then maybe one day good. Something that could carry me through submissions and rejections. And maybe even through a book deal or a writing contract that paid me money, but never enough to live off. Something to fall back on. Something to keep me from mounds of debt.

So I got a job at the local BigW and enrolled in a uni entry course. I fumbled my way into a social science degree: interesting enough to keep me engaged, but with enough majors available that might actually guide me to a job. I majored in Human Resources. I got a plum job in a graduate program for the state government in Sydney. I bounced around for a few years through gruelling, dull, busy-work and being tasked with managing trumped up projects. I had relationships and heartbreak. I moved house many times, got home sick for Newcastle and went running back there to a job I didn’t really want, giving up lots of money in the process. I dealt with trauma, death and ill health. I suffered.

Then I interviewed for a job doing what I was finally good at, at a place I could find meaning. I now work for a disability service provider, in HR, doing work I genuinely enjoy. I’ve done it for long enough to be confident in the advice I give.  I won’t for a second suggest that I have “made it” in this career. I could learn to do this well for the rest of my life. But I can now finally say that I am in a place where my career is not penetrating my every waking moment.

So, I am writing again.

When I was young and quite stupid in all other aspects of my life, I made a decision that the starving artist path was too hard. It was a very difficult decision to make but I take no shame in it and I don’t regret it. It was a choice that gave me power to now write with freedom and to not become disenchanted when my craft isn’t good enough to put food on the table. My creativity will never have that burden now.

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Nanowrimo and Ikea

I’m attempting Nanowrimo. Six days in and I’ve written about 2000 words so I’m not exactly on track. My ex is here trying to write a 1500 word essay that’s due tomorrow night though so we are trying to motivate each other. I’ve so far modified my Ikea Raskog trolley into a reading/writing station (see pic below), made tea, stuffed around looking for something to add to the top of the Raskog to make it a mini standing desk, and started writing this post. The procrastination is real.

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A gift for writers

To begin, an update from my goals after Newcastle Writers Festival. My updates from my last post are in bold black, my updates today are in bold teale:

  • Join a writers group. Not there yet.
  • Write and submit an entry for Grieve Writing Competition. Done! A very personal one. Will post here eventually regardless of outcome 🙂
  • Write a short story “The Lawyer’s Wallet”. Not done yet.
  • Complete Camp NaNoWriMo for April. Have so far committed to 50,000 words, but may revise to 40,000. Happening now! Revised to 20,000 words due to chaos in my personal life and a desire to be realistic. Very much okay with that choice. The motivation is strong and I’m making progress! Done. I got nowhere near my revised target of 20,000, instead completing about 2800. I’m still super excited and proud of myself. My life was CHAOS that month, including moving house amid a massive storm that shut down my home city for days, and yet I am still finally, finally making progress😀
  • Start participating in ABC Open’s 500 Words writing challenge. In progress, I have drafted and am sitting on an entry for the latest topic of “Grandparents”. Plan to revise and submit by Thursday. Done! So pleased to take this little step!
  • Look into, and potentially start participating in, Friday Fictioneers. Not done yet

I must report that I was quite sad to not be at Sydney Writers Festival a couple of weeks ago. I simply couldn’t afford to be there, either financially or in regards to time and energy. I moved home, had ALOT of car expenses and wore myself into the ground in my day job. Sad, but ok with it. There is always next year!

What I really want to post about today is a gift I put together for a fellow writer friend. I decided, given our similarly busy lives, that we both needed a Writer’s Emergency Kit. And that’s right, I loved the gift so much I made myself one too!

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I picked up this awesome little first aid box from Kmart for $12. Perfect emergency kit container. Reminds me a bit of a med pack in a zombie game.

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Open view

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This insert lifts out. I included a basic notebook and some good pens in here.

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This is the inside, with all the bits I included and plenty of room to add more.

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The full contents!

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Rory’s Story Cubes. These were actually part of a gift I received a while from the person I made this gift for, so her box didn’t include these.

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The dice are covered in random little symbols for story ideas, writers block activities and for games with friends. I love them!

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This was the first thing I found when Googling ideas for a writer kit. These cards originated off a Kickstarter campaign and are excellent for getting unstuck with your writing.

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You draw randomly from the deck for the card on the left. The card on the right is a more detailed partner card you can refer to if you need further inspiration on the drawn card.

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Reverse sides

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Here is the main instruction card. The reverse, and a second card, reveal more ideas for things you can do with the cards.

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The other bits and pieces: a stress ball, post its, a timer for 20 minute writing bursts and a USB stick with a printable writer’s journal PDF I found on Etsy!

My friend really liked the gift and so did I, since I made one for myself too! I also printed a Novel Writing Handbook I found on Etsy and gave it to her in a folder, as well as on the stick. I’ve already added other bits and pieces to my own kit from my existing stash and I think this will be very handy for all future writing sessions.

Links to where to buy:

First aid box

Writer Emergency Pack cards

Rory’s Story Cubes

Novel Writing Handbook

Camp NaNoWriMo and other happenings

Firstly, a look back at the goals that came from the Newcastle Writer’s Festival, and an update on where I am at with them:

  • Join a writers group. Not there yet.
  • Write and submit an entry for Grieve Writing Competition. Done! A very personal one. Will post here eventually regardless of outcome🙂
  • Write a short story “The Lawyer’s Wallet”. Not done yet.
  • Complete Camp NaNoWriMo for April. Have so far committed to 50,000 words, but may revise to 40,000. Happening now! Revised to 20,000 words due to chaos in my personal life and a desire to be realistic. Very much okay with that choice. The motivation is strong and I’m making progress!
  • Start participating in ABC Open’s 500 Words writing challenge. In progress, I have drafted and am sitting on an entry for the latest topic of “Grandparents”. Plan to revise and submit by Thursday.
  • Look into, and potentially start participating in, Friday Fictioneers. Not done yet

I am very happy with my progress on these goals so far, especially Camp NaNoWriMo! A friend and I are both just running with it, writing down words no matter how crap they may be. And it’s working! I am writing more than I have in years. It feels so good.

Feelings about my story at this point in time:

  • NOT happy with the layout of the story. Feels disjointed on perspective, jumping from past to present too much. But it is what is working in my head at the moment so I’m running with it. Will fix later. Much later.
  • AM happy with the characters,  they already have strengths and weaknesses that I like and don’t like in all the right places. Does that make sense? I guess what I am trying to say is that they are well rounded to me, good and flawed in realistic ways, and that makes me happy.
  • AM happy with the slowly developing main story arc. Believe it or not, my main story hasn’t fully formed in my head. The outcomes and meanings have, but not the vehicle to get there. But with this project it is coming together and I’m excited. Even if it is opening up LOADS more research that needs to be done *sigh*

I have written this post without my usual editing vigour and am just going to post it straight away, because I am feeling very crazy right about now and just letting things happen as they happen. Good times!

My hyperactivity may or may not be a result of Cadbury bunny consumption

My hyperactivity may or may not be a result of Cadbury bunny consumption

Newcastle Writers Festival 2015

The Newcastle Writers Festival was yet again fantastic! I finished up feeling inspired, motivated and more confident.

First up was Strength in Numbers: What can a writing group do for you? It was really good. I never really considered joining a group, and I think some of the reason is the dreadful groups I got stuck in at uni. But this sounds much different. And importantly, I think I would enjoy critiquing other people just as much as having my work critiqued. It’s something to consider. I am definitely going to look into the Lake Macquarie division of the Fellowship of Australian Writers.

I then wandered over to The Press Book House for Idea Bombing Newcastle. That was pretty good. I had an amazing coffee (never thought of rapadura in coffee….SO good), and listened to some local magazine and zine writers who had some really amazing insights.

Then there was the opening night event The Book that Changed Me. It was really, really good. Michael Robotham moved me to tears twice! First with his Lord of the Rings story, secondly with his literary father story. It was a really moving and inspiring segment all round. I went down straight away and bough one of Michael Robotham’s books. I’d heard of him but never read him but he spoke so beautifully that I now just like him a whole bunch. I don’t read crime very often but I do enjoy it, so I’m hoping to love his work🙂

On the drive home that night I was thinking about something completely unrelated to writing when something sort of *clunked* in my brain. Suddenly a HUGE problem with my not-yet-beyond-concept novel was solved, which I am thinking may cure my writers block. AND a whole new character was formed which really helps develop my main character. Yay!

Saturday morning I was in town bright and early for a fresh new haircut. Then it was off to Keys to the Kingdom which was great. I’d never even heard of Garth Nix but went immediately down to the book shop to get one of his books. The works sound really interesting and I enjoyed his way of thinking.

Next was Beyond the Crime Scene which was great. Both authors write fiction based on real events. I enjoy both fiction crime, and true crime, and it sounds like they sit somewhere in the middle. I ended up buying a Wendy James book too.

By this time my friend Belynda had caught up with me and we went and got some lunch. We had a long conversation about our story ideas and awesome authors, then we were off to Going it Alone which was a session about self publishing. I already am quite familiar with the options from following Catherine Caffeinated, but it was really good to see it in practice for three different fiction writers. Their stories each brought different complexities and I added Francesca Suter’s book “Returned” to my Goodreads “to read” list (I had exhausted my book budget by this time so will have to get the Kindle book later). They also mentioned NaNoWriMo, which I have been considering, and someone brought up Camp NaNoWriMo, which I had never heard of.

Then came the turning point for me. We went along to The WIP Session. I had registered to read some of my novel to the group (the only two complete paragraphs I’ve written). I was very close to chickening out, and Jacquie who was running it said it was fine for me to just listen and to see how I went. While we were waiting for the session to start, Belynda had a read and told me it was really good and that I should read it. Then my name was called and I just jumped up before I could talk myself out of it. I was SO nervous. I present to people ALL the time for my work and am a very confident public speaker, but for this my voice was shaking and my hands were a bit too. But I did it, got claps, and even a little “oooh” at the end because there is a little bit of a twist. It felt SO good that I signed up for Camp NaNoWriMo that very night. Thanks for the support Belynda! I wish I had had time to stay and chat to other writers at the session but I had to get to a birthday party. Next time!

On Sunday I had to forgo the first session because I was at Raid My Wardrobe snapping up bargains. But then I was back on deck. I somehow stuffed up and was planning to attend Through the Eyes of a Child without realising I needed a ticket. But I just jumped across the hall to take in Readings from ABC Open 500 Words Project instead. It was really good! I now think I’ll start submitting.

Then I went in to a session called This Writing Life which looked at the lifestyles and work situations of three authors. Always worth a listen.

Finally I went to The Next Level: How to take your writing from hobby to publication. It was really good. I particularly enjoyed listening to Aiden Walsh’s tips for discipline and just “getting it done”. I also really liked hearing about Maree Gallop’s creative process.

I had such a fantastic time!

These are the things I have taken away to look further into:

  • Join a writers group.
  • Write and submit an entry for Grieve Writing Competition.
  • Write a short story “The Lawyer’s Wallet”.
  • Complete Camp NaNoWriMo for April. Have so far committed to 50,000 words, but may revise to 40,000.
  • Start participating in ABC Open’s 500 Words writing challenge.
  • Look into, and potentially start participating in, Friday Fictioneers.

I think I have moved past my funk🙂

Urgghghh

I think I am having a quarter life crisis.

Yes, that sounds dramatic. No, I don’t care.

At least, by my calculations, having a quarter life crisis at 29 means I should live to 116 years old. Yay me.

I just want to write my book. But now that I finally have some time to do it, my brain has jammed and I am unsure I will ever unjam it.

I can’t even blame my day job. My work is challenging and rewarding but I rarely bring it home in my hands or in my head so it’s hardly the problem.

I’m compensating by rewatching Dawson’s Creek. It isn’t helping. Dawson, who is whiny, obnoxious, and definitely NOT my favorite character (marry me Pacey!), has unfortunately got his shit together more than I do. He can at least put together a script. Even if his latest is, as Jen puts it, “fluff”, he is able to at least conjure, craft and complete a whole story. Whilst wallowing over Joey for goodness sake!

Lately, I can’t even muster up a cursory list of character traits.

I can sort of blame other aspects of my personal life, aspects which I don’t wish to discuss here. But in my youth these personal crisis would be reason to write. Writing would help me escape.

But for now I am stuck in my head. Stuck in wallowing, thinking and feeling as though I will never be the writer I want to be.

Urgghghh….

…at least I have Pacey