CHOP CHAT COOK – Videos with writing advice and chia pudding recipes!

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As the world spins ever deeper into COVID 19 madness (have you got enough toilet paper?) and lockdowns, grab a cup of tea and some chia seeds and have a look at these videos.

Recently my friend, screenwriter and producer Joanne Tindale, invited me to be on her fab cooking and chat show – CHOP CHAT COOK

What fun!! We made chocolate chia pudding and a coconut blueberry chia pudding, as well as talking about lots of different aspects of the writing life. We had a great time making (and eating) the puddings and we cover lots of different hints and tips for people pursuing a career as a writer.

1.

Income Streams in the Gig Economy or Many Fingers Many Pies : )

As every creative artist trying to make a living knows – you can’t put all your eggs in one basket. In this episode I talk about all the different ways I generate an income from writing and writing related activities.

2.

The Healing Power of Story

Over the past few months I’ve been travelling to regional centres across my home state of Queensland running creative writing workshops for Forgotten Australians – people who suffered abuse in institutions and out of home care in their childhoods. I talk with Joanne about why and how this came about and my firm belief in the transformative power of getting your stories out of your head and onto the page – and changing them!

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3.

Career Paths to Writing – or how to build your career as a writer.

In this episode we talk about how to build your writing CV and begin to establish yourself as a professional author. Including my 10 POINT PLAN for publishing success.

And just to put a smile on your face- while I’m on a Youtube binge – here’s KC and the Sunshine Band. Get Down Tonight! 

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Come on, get up and dance – shake away the COVID 19 blues!

Stay healthy and strong and write your way through lockdown : )

Lots of love,

Edwina xxx

ANECDOTE vs. STORY What’s the Difference?

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When I first started writing I got a few rejections saying my pieces were anecdotes and not stories. After I’d dried my tears, I began to wonder what the difference was?

What is it that makes a story a story, and an anecdote something you tell your friends but don’t get published?

MEANING.

An ANECDOTE is an incident from our lives that we tell our mates down at the pub or over a cup of tea. This tale may have many of the elements of a story – setting, characters and action – but usually that’s it.

For example –

When people notice the scar running from my forehead down along my left temple beside my eye, I tell them an anecdote about how, when I was fourteen, I was searching for organisms out on the rocks at Deadman’s Beach (true!) during my school biology camp on Stradbroke Island.

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A huge wave came hurtling towards us and I braced myself by facing into the barnacle covered rocks, gripping on for dear life. The wave crashed over me and my classmates, and smashed my face into the rocks, dragging me as it fled back out to sea, grating my face against the barnacles. Adrenaline pumping, I scrambled to my feet and leapt  over the rocks, racing to shore where my poor teacher was greeted with a bloody mess like Sissy Spacek at the end of Carrie.

I was almost helicoptered back to Brisbane, but the local island doctor was used to shark bites and stitched my face back together again – sixty stitches in all. I wasn’t a pretty sight. Once I got back home my friend took some photos and we entered me in a Dolly Magazine Covergirl Competition. We thought we were pretty funny. Needless to say, I didn’t win 🙂

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As you can see, this anecdote has plenty of action and drama and even a happy ending. But it’s not a story. WHY?

Because it only tells what happened. An anecdote doesn’t reflect on the events and dig deeper to find meaning.

STORIES on the other hand are how humans make sense of the world and what happens to us. They delve deep into the emotional heart of what that incident meant to us and how we were changed as a result. A story creates MEANING from the meaningless.

For example –

What if I told you this accident happened only a couple of months after the death of my young father? What if I told you that when the wave hit something inside me hoped that it would tear me away and take me to where my father was. What if I wrote about how, as the doctor stitched my face back together again, he sang the Death March. What if I wrote about how my best friend tenderly helped me wash the blood out of my hair that night as I sat in a cold bath. What if I told you that I lay awake for hours in my bunk, trying to convince myself that my father’s death had been a bad dream I’d had while knocked out, that he would be waiting for me on the other side of the ferry?

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Then we’d have a story.  A story I haven’t written yet, but just might.

“Dig deeper,” I tell the memoirists I edit and teach. Don’t be afraid. Go deeper and find the true heart of your story. Turn that anecdote into something that touches people.

Have you got an anecdote or two you could dig deeper into to create meaning? Search hard enough and everything that happens has another layer of story reflecting human experience.

That’s what we writers do, we write to make sense of the world.

Want to learn more? Come along to my next retreat in the mountains with a special focus on memoir writing. Great for beginners too, and anyone needing to reboot their writing mojo!

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Let me know how you go!

Lots of love

Edwina

Thing 1 and Thing 2 Short Story Method

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Got a great story but it’s just not selling? Or you’ve got a great idea but the story just isn’t working somehow? Need a way to think about short stories so you can generate ideas quickly? Well, here’s my THING 1 and THING 2 STORY METHOD.

You can use this for larger pieces of writing too but it works best for short things.

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Thing 1

THING 1

Think of an incident or a turning point in your own life, or the life of someone else you know, or someone you just made up 🙂 This could be anything from a traffic accident to the birth of a child to discovering you have cancer. ANYTHING! Remember it only has to be a thing.

In my story “Mrs Sunshine” I thought of a family breaking down, a young mother on the verge of leaving her partner and children – that was my incident.

For my story “Last Days on the 15th Floor” in Bjelke Blues – it was the last few days of ex-Premier Joh Bjelke-Petersen’s rule when it is rumoured that he locked himself in his office and refused to leave.

In “Something No One Else Can See” my Thing 1 was the climbing number of suicides among farmers here in Australia.

Thought of something you could try? Good!

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THING 2

Thing 2 is important. Thing 2 is what gives your story another layer of meaning and depth. Thing 2 can be anything, any – thing at all 🙂 Somehow whatever you choose your brain will find a way to link it to the themes in your story. Thing 2 will help to amplify the hidden truths in your story without you even having to try that hard.

For “Mrs Sunshine” – Thing 2 was a Sunshine Family set of dolls I was given for Christmas as a child and came to mean a whole lot more than just toys. Mrs Sunshine became a symbol for the impossibly perfect ideal of motherhood.

In “Last Days on the 15th Floor” – Thing 2 was Joh’s Vietnamese cleaner whose father had been governor of her hometown. Her perspective gave the story a whole new understanding.

In “Something No One Else Can See” – two sisters coping with the loss of their mother, building fairy houses and believing in magic, helped to bring lightness to what could have been a very dark tale.

So, what is your Thing 2? Nothing immediately coming to mind? Look around you and pick an object. Any object. Put that into your story and see if the magic of imagination doesn’t somehow build that simple object into a meaningful part of your narrative.

Flick open a book and stab at a word. That could just be the key to adding another layer to your story. Have a close look at some short stories – can you find the Thing 1 and Thing 2?

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But why stop there just because Dr Seuss did? Chuck in a Thing 3 if you feel like it!

THING 3 – an abstract noun  like LOVE or HATE or REVENGE or FAITH or REGRET or FORGIVENESS.

Put your incident, your character or object and the noun together and what have you got?

A STORY – that’s what!

This post is making me go all Dr Seuss so I’d better stop now 🙂

I hope you get lots of great stories from Thing1 and Thing 2 (and 3).

Let me know how you go, and if you discover any THINGS in stories you read.

GOOD LUCK!

Oh, and only a few places still left in my next retreat – RELAX AND WRITE IN THE MOUNTAINS – March 27 – 29 2020 in Highfields near Toowoomba. See here for all the details.

Places are strictly limited to 15 so don’t miss out!

HAPPY WRITING!

Lots of love

Edwina xx

 

 

 

EARLY BIRD PRICES CLOSE THIS WEEK!

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Just a quick reminder that early bird prices for my upcoming retreat in the mountains west of Brisbane close soon.

This special retreat for women is a great introduction if you’re a new writer wanting to test the waters. This retreat has a memoir/life writing focus but is also suitable for those writing fiction.

Come and Relax and Write in the Mountains. Renew your love of writing and life and make new writing buddies to share the adventure.

A whole weekend of writing, yoga, food and fun in a peaceful location.

Join our community of kind, creative women.

Stay in comfortable, rustic accomodation with plenty of space and quiet writing nooks and time to write.

Time for you at last!

RETREAT INCLUDES

4 Writing workshops

2 Yoga sessions

All meals and accomodation included.

ALL FOR ONLY $360! If you miss the cut off date-  $400.

Pay your $200 deposit now to secure your place.

Editorial feedback and massages also available at extra cost.

HURRY! BOOK NOW! Returning retreaters have nabbed lots of spots. Only 5 places still available. 

Numbers are capped to make sure everyone gets the attention they deserve.

Contact me for more details.

Hope you can come! We always have a wonderful time 🙂

Lots of love

Edwina

 

UPCOMING EVENTS 2020! REGIONAL TOUR OF QUEENSLAND- YIPPEE!

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I’m super excited to announce that through February and March (with more planned for later in the year) I’ll be travelling around my home state of Queensland running workshops for people who suffered abuse in institutional care, as part of my work at Lotus Place. This wonderful project is organised and funded by the Truth, Healing and Reconciliation Taskforce and Micah Projects. If you identify with having been abused in institutional care you are most welcome to attend. Please just ring Lotus Place first to get in touch and confirm your attendance. I’d love to help you get those stories out of your head and onto the page.

While I’m on tour I’ll also be holding some Bjelke Blues events – all free and open to everyone. So do come along and say hi.

While I’m in Cairns I’ll also be running a Life Writing Workshop in partnership with Cairns Tropical Writers and QWC is hosting a Memoir workshop in Esk. So if you live out woop-woop (as we like to say here) please come along and get writing!

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THE HEALING POWER OF STORY WORKSHOP.

MONDAY FEBRUARY 3rd 10 am – 3:30 pm at Bundaberg Regional Library

This is a Lotus Place/ Micah Project – strictly only for participants who have experienced abuse in an institutional setting, out of home care included. It is free for participants and funded by the Truth, Healing and Reconciliation Taskforce and Micah Projects.

People wanting to come along should ring Lotus Place on 3347 8500 to check eligibility.

Bjelke Blues AUTHOR TALK

TUESDAY February 4th 10 – 11 am

Bundaberg Regional Library

ALL WELCOME! FREE! But book your spot here

TOWNSVILLE

Bjelke Blues AUTHOR TALK

SUNDAY February 9th 10:30 – 11:30 am

MARY WHO Bookstore. 414 Flinders St, Townsville QLD 4810

FREE but please phone MARY WHO to book  (07) 4771 3824

THE HEALING POWER OF STORY WORKSHOP.

MONDAY FEBRUARY 10th 10 am – 3:30 pm at Lotus Place NQ, 382 Sturt Street, Townsville Q 4810

This is a Lotus Place/ Micah Project – strictly only for participants who have experienced abuse in an institutional setting, out of home care included. It is free for participants and funded by the Truth, Healing and Reconciliation Taskforce and Micah Projects.

People wanting to come along, please contact Lotus Place NQ on 4724 2559 or email lotusnq@micahprojects.org.au to check eligibility.

CAIRNS

Bjelke Blues PANEL DISCUSSION

Wednesday February 12th 10am -11 am Cairns Central Library

With local contributors Christine Howes, Chris Morris and Bill Wilkie.

Hosted by the Cairns Tropical Writers Festival. FREE BUT BOOK HERE

THE HEALING POWER OF STORY WORKSHOP.

THURSDAY FEBRUARY 13th. 10 am – 3:30 pm at Cairns Central Library

This is a Lotus Place/ Micah Project – strictly only for participants who have experienced abuse in an institutional setting, out of home care included. It is free for participants and funded by the Truth, Healing and Reconciliation Taskforce and Micah Projects.

People wanting to come along, please contact Lotus Place NQ on 4724 2559 or email lotusnq@micahprojects.org.au to check eligibility.

LIFE WRITING WORKSHOP

SATURDAY FEBRUARY 15th. 10 am – 12:30 pm at Stratford Library, Cairns

Come along and explore your creativity with this half day workshop guaranteed to get you writing!

$35 or $30 for QWC or Tropical Writers members.

See here for more info and to book 

ESK

MEMOIR WORKSHOP ESK:

February 22 2020-  9:30am – 12:30pm: Esk Library

FREE! Proudly brought to you by the QLD WRITERS CENTRE

SEE HERE TO BOOK   

Esk Library PHONE 07 5424 4080

BOOK YOUR SPOT NOW!

MACKAY

THE HEALING POWER OF STORY WORKSHOP.

MONDAY MARCH 9th: 10 am – 3:30 pm at Jubilee Community Centre, Gordon Street, Mackay  

This is a Lotus Place/ Micah Project – strictly only for participants who have experienced abuse in an institutional setting, out of home care included. It is free for participants and funded by the Truth, Healing and Reconciliation Taskforce and Micah Projects.

People wanting to come along, please contact Lotus Place NQ on 4724 2559 or email lotusnq@micahprojects.org.au to check eligibility.

ROCKHAMPTION

THE HEALING POWER OF STORY WORKSHOP.

WEDNESDAY MARCH 9th: 10 am – 3:30 pm at ??

DETAILS FOR THIS WORKSHOP ARE YET TO BE CONFIRMED  

This is a Lotus Place/ Micah Project – strictly only for participants who have experienced abuse in an institutional setting, out of home care included. It is free for participants and funded by the Truth, Healing and Reconciliation Taskforce and Micah Projects.

People wanting to come along, please contact Lotus Place NQ on 4724 2559 or email lotusnq@micahprojects.org.au to check eligibility.

ADDITIONAL HEALING POWER OF STORY WORKSHOPS ARE PLANNED FOR LATER IN THE YEAR in BRISBANE TOOWOOMBA, GYMPIE AND GOLD COAST.

BOONAH

BUILDING YOUR CAREER AS A WRITER WORKSHOP

SUNDAY 3 MAY 9am – 12:30 as part of the Boonah Writers Festival

Register for the Boonah Writer’s festivalto join the fun weekend of writing and hobnobbing with writers 🙂

And so on… I’ll keep you posted!

5 WAYS TO BUILD NARRATIVE DRIVE IN MEMOIR

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John Gardner once said, “Structure is the primary concern of the writer.” The more I write and edit other people’s writing, the more I agree with him. It’s not the story itself but how the writer chooses to arrange story elements that keeps the reader turning pages.32533._SY475_

This is easier when writing fiction than when dealing with the real-life constraints of memoir, but here are a few ideas to help you keep your memoir readers up at night in a page turning frenzy.

Before we start there are a couple of issues you need to consider. First of all

  1. What are you writing?

If you’re intention is to record your entire life history then you’re writing an autobiography, not a memoir. What’s the difference? A memoir is a focused selection of life events around a particular theme or time in your life.

  1. Who is your audience?

Are you writing just for family and friends, or people who shared these experiences with you? If so, then you can really write whatever you like and they’ll still read it.

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However, if you believe your story has a wider appeal, that you have a story of interest to the general reading public then you’re going to have to work a whole lot harder at building narrative drive to hook them in and keep them reading right till the end. If you’re not a famous sports star or a glamorous movie queen, then selling your memoir to a publisher is going to be tricky. You need to make sure you have a compelling narrative that grabs them right from the start. But how?

Reading by Lamplight by James Whistler

Reading by Lamplight by James Whistler

5 WAYS TO BUILD NARRATIVE DRIVE IN MEMOIR

  1. Write down all your key plot points.

An easy way of thinking about this is to call them Heart Clutching Moments as Elizabeth Sims does in her Writers Digest Article

Think of the moments in your memoir that have most emotional impact – the parts where your hand goes to your heart. Key emotional turning points – remember to include some happy moments as well as those of drama or trauma. Write down a list of as many of these as you can think of.  Put big circles around the most important and a star next to the most emotional, most moving, heartbreaking moment. That is your climax.fullsizeoutput_5b2

  1. Find your central quest or question?

Delve deep into what your story is really about. Ask yourself, “What is this story about?” Then again, “What is this story really about?” Ask yourself those two questions seven times. Famous non-fiction writing teacher Robin Hemley developed this method for finding the heart of your story.heart with eye

Once you have your answer then formulate a question or quest. In memoir it might be something like this “Will Mary ever find the daughter she gave up for adoption in 1965?” or “Will innocent Bob survive his time in jail?” Or “Will Sarah find a cure for her mysterious illness and be well again?”

You get the idea. What is your central question?

  1. Find your Hope and Fear around this question.

In order to keep the reader highly engaged in your story, every scene and chapter needs to move them between hoping that YES – your central quest/ion will have a happy ending (that’s your hope) and NO! – the very worst will happen (that’s your fear).

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For example

HOPE: Mary will find her adopted daughter who will want to see her and they will lovingly reunite.

FEAR: Mary won’t ever be able to find her daughter no matter how hard she tries or how close she gets. OR Mary will find her daughter who won’t want to have anything to do with her.

HOPE: Bob will study and be freed from his wrongful imprisonment and go on to be a lawyer advocating for those still in jail.

FEAR: Bob will be brutalised in jail. All his appeals will fail, and he will die, sad and alone, in the electric chair.

Oh dear – poor Bob!

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What is your Hope and Fear?

  1. What is your HOOK?

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Your hook is what sets up your question and the connected hope and fear right at the start of your memoir. Look at your list of Heart Clutching Moments and find one which will be best to draw your reader into your story. It doesn’t have to be what chronologically happened first. The power of writing is that you get to play around with the order of events to create most suspense and impact. It doesn’t have to be the whole event, just a snippet of it. Then once you’ve set up your question and what is at stake you can go back and fill in the background.

For example

Mary gives birth to a precious baby girl and gets to hold her, but only for a few minutes. Then she is spirited away and a weeping Mary signs away her rights as mother.

Bob is eating his last meal on death row, the priest beside him giving comfort. He starts down the long hallway in chains.

  1. Arrange your key plot points

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Look at that HCM list and arrange them after your hook. You can list them chronologically but make sure there is movement between your hope and fear in each one. Build to your most impactful moment as your climax. And make sure that you have some kind of satisfying conclusion – even if it’s sad.

For example

Mary gives birth etc

Mary at the graveside of her husband who she never told about her secret child – now she is free to look for her.

Mary tells her son about her search. Son says, “She won’t want to see you.”

Mary finds old papers and begins search.

Mary finds orphanage but records were lost.

Mary finds alternate clues – her daughter has been searching for her

Mary gets sick – she may die before she finds her daughter – search intensifies.

Mary finds an address – in the same state!

Mary’s son kicks up stink – why are you doing this? It’s too stressful! You’re sick!

Mary makes a tentative phone call – gets her daughter’s husband

Mary’s illness worsens.

Mary’s daughter arrives on her doorstep and they reunite tearfully and joyfully.

Mary’s son reacts badly.

Mary’s daughter is a doctor and heals Mary and all family is happy and harmonious!

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Now real life isn’t usually so orderly, nor does it have neat closed off endings, but for the purpose of your memoir you’re going to have to find a satisfying point to stop where the main quest or question has been resolved.

These exercises can be done after you’ve already completed a draft or even better, before you start the big job of writing it. If you can write to a structure that is already moving between hope and fear, then your job is halfway done.

Of course all of this is applicable to fiction writing as well – just easier to do because you can invent events and keep that movement between hope and fear with a flick of your pen.

GOOD LUCK!

writing on retreat!

If you’d like to learn more about memoir writing or just make a start on telling some of your life stories, then my next retreat in Highfields west of Brisbane is now open for enrolments. Come and join a like-minded group of women and get writing! See here for all the details.

What is your memoir’s central question? What is the hope and fear? Need help working it out? Ask away!

Lots of love

Edwina xx

 

5 FREE Presents to Give Yourself this Christmas!

Merry Xmas

Happy Christmas to you all! Yes tis the season to be merry and give thanks for the craziness this year has been. Amid all the frenzied buying and giving that accompanies the festive season, I thought it would be a good idea to treat ourselves to some things all writers really need.

So here you are – 5 Gifts to give yourself – all of them you can get for FREE!

Presents

1. A BOOK! – Writers love to read and it’s important that we all support each other by buying and borrowing books to help keep the publishing and bookselling industry alive and thriving. Besides what’s better to do than to laze a day away tucked up with a good read? My favourite books by Australian authors this year have been Melissa Lucashenko‘s Too Much Lip, Trent Dalton‘s Boy Swallows Universe, Favel Parrett’s There is Still Love, Amanda O’ Callaghan’s This Taste for Silence and I’m very keen to get my hands on Amanda Neihaus‘s The Breeding Season. I also really learnt a lot from Joanna Penn‘s book Business for Authors. How to Be an Author Entrepreneur.  Joanna has a number of practical guides on building a writing career worth checking out. Always good to invest in books about the craft and business of writing as well as feeding our creative side with quality works of fiction. And some just for fun too. Oh, and of course if you’re into social history – Bjelke Blues is a cracking good read 🙂  Need it to be free – LIBRARY! Best place I know to walk in feeling poor and come out feeling very rich indeed with armfuls of books, movies and other treasures.

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2. AN EXPERIENCE – Any experience that makes your heart sing will do the trick. Dance with a friend and twirl your skirts. Sing some Xmas carols along with Bing. Go for a swim somewhere beautiful in nature, or a long walk in a snowy forest if you’re somewhere cold. Roll on the floor. Move your body. Visit the city and stare at all the lights till your eyes go funny. Laugh – catch up with old friends and have a giggle. Watch a funny movie and let yourself go. Sit by a river or with your back against a tree. Lie in the sun and feel the earth moving beneath you. Go outside at night somewhere away from city lights and look up at the stars – the very best Xmas decorations. Treat yourself to your favourite food – it’s Xmas – if we can’t feast a little then, when can we? Let go, have fun. Be silly!

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3. TIME TO WRITE – Escape the festive madness, find somewhere quiet and write something just for fun, because it’s what we love to do. Play around with words. Stake a claim on a period of time each day which is just yours for whatever creative play you’d like to do. Remember we write because it gives us pleasure. Take the pressure off and just muck around on the page. Remember why you started this crazy writing adventure in the first place. It’s not all about publication (though of course that’s very nice) but about the fun of entering that creative zone and losing time because we’re so wrapped up in the story we’re creating.

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Dorothea Lange: Dyanna lying on her back in the grass circa 1961

4. PERMISSION TO DO NOTHING! – Yes, I mean it. Absolutely nothing. Stare into space. Stay in bed. Forget the housework. Forget the deadlines. Send the children, partner etc elsewhere at least for a few hours – then do NOTHING! This is trickier than it sounds. But staying still, watching clouds, listening to the sounds around you, you’ll start to really slow down. And don’t we all need that? Soon enough we’ll be running around like headless chickens again, but if at all possible make this Doing of Nothing a part of every week. Remember Sunday? It used to be a day when all work stopped. Everyone, all at the same time, slowed down and did very little. I miss it. This doing of nothing is something I’m really trying to embrace for the year ahead. It’s where dreams and story ideas come from.

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5. LOVE – or at least some Sincere Affection! Be your own best friend, your own affectionate partner. Treat yourself with loving kindness. Speak to yourself gently and with encouragement. This writing gig is hard. You need a healthy sense of self-worth to cope with the inevitable rejections we face on the road to success. When you catch yourself speaking harshly to yourself, just ask, “Would I talk to my best friend like that? What would I say instead?” and tell yourself that. Loving yourself doesn’t mean you’re “up yourself” as we say here in Australia, it just means you want yourself to be happy and free from fear and harm. From that start we can learn to love the world!

I hope you found something on the list that feels possible and made you smile.

Here’s a little Xmas gift from me to you, also for free – my Xmas short story  “Mrs Sunshine”. It was first published in Best Australian Short Stories 2014 (Black Inc). I hope you enjoy it.

And if you’d really like to treat yourself this Christmas then book into my next Relax and Write Retreat – March 27 – 29 2020 among the big trees and birds north of Toowoomba.

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Happy Christmas from my backyard to yours. Have a wonderful holiday season. I hope it’s filled with joy and love.

Lots of love

Edwina xx