All posts filed under: The Blog

I’m dreaming of a light Christmas

This Christmas, instead of running around like a turkey with an aversion to stuffing, I’m going to be channelling my inner John Farnham. I’m going to “take the pressure down”. In my household, with two small kids and two working parents, we’re pretty busy most of the time. At Christmas we’re even busier, with Christmas parties, preschool graduations and no end of end-of-year gatherings. That is part of what makes this the most wonderful time of the year. It’s spending time with people we love, celebrating our achievements and remembering how much we have to be thankful for. Of course, there’s also gift giving and feasting on holiday foods, as well as the cultural or religious traditions your family adheres to. But if all these events are going to make it onto the calendar, and if I’m going to make it to January with any calm left, then something will have to give this year. I’ve decided I can’t do it all, and I don’t have to. Our family is doing a Secret Santa for the …

Creative writing: It’s all in my mind, and it’s glorious!

I’m mid-way through a creative writing course. On the surface it’s all about creating characters, getting to know what they know, and imagining situations in which they might have things happen to them. In reality it’s about me paying money to give myself permission to skive off to the home office for several hours a week and, in the words of author Matt Nable, “make s@%t up.” And, may I say, it’s wonderful! I’ve never been particularly interested in creative writing up to now. My study, my practice and my work has been grounded in reality. My go to sources of material have been facts and real events ever since I first fell in love with the feature articles in the Good Weekend as a teenager.  I thought creative writing was for ‘other people’. I hated it in high school. I excelled at English essays, but flunked at tasks involving imagined situations. As part of this course, I’m learning that writing and thinking creatively is just a skill to be taught and learnt like any other. I reckon there are two main …

Writing as Salvation | Byron Writers Festival 2016

The smell of menthol wafts from the sodden woodchips lying in the muddy grass. You can’t escape the wet, it’s coming up through the soles of boots, and down from the heavens. If the punters at a writers festival needed another reason to stay indoors and read books, the weather at this year’s Byron Writers Festival would’ve been a good one. Thumbs up then, to the record number of attendees at the event, adorned with raincoats and gumboots, scarves and beanies, braving the latter stages of a mighty low-pressure system hovering just off the coast. I spent a lot of the festival in volunteer mode, fundraising for the Indigenous Literacy Foundation, rattling the can and handing out brochures. It was my virgin volunteer experience, and I absolutely loved it! You should’ve seen me, smiling away, wedging myself into people’s conversations with the utmost charm and enthusiasm. The foundation has been the official charity of the festival for the past three years, and it was heartening to see so many people keen to donate their leftover …

Everybody Needs Good Neighbours

Neighbours. You can’t really choose them, but you can choose your neighbourhood. You can try to surround yourself with like-minded people, with those who share your same values or mowing habits, but in the end it’s still a bit of a lottery. Where we live can affect so many things besides which corner store we frequent, or where our kids go to school.  It can determine our level of community interaction, who our children play with and how many lemons we don’t need to buy. It can even shape our notions of hospitality and how we welcome others into our world. The house our family lived in for 7 years was down the end of a road, in a part of town where none of our friends lived, and hardly anyone dropped by unannounced.  The only surprise visitors we had were our parents. If people were coming over, I had invited them. I rarely worried about keeping the bathroom clean or having an emergency supply of biscuits in case someone wanted a cup of tea. …

Girl Vs Internet Logins

In the battle between saving the forests and saving my sanity, there can only be one winner. At last count I have about 25 online accounts of varying kinds. Each has their own web address, client number, username, password, secret question, mother’s shoe size, wizard’s spell to be chanted at midnight under a full moon. In an effort to save trees and, while they’re at it, shift responsibility, companies are constantly pushing us to access everything online. Sounds good in theory, everything at your fingertips. In reality, you’re in password hell. As I see it, you have only two options. You could use the one password for all your accounts, or use a different one each time and write them down somewhere useful, but not so useful that a robber or cyber-hacker can find them. Either way, you’re screwed. Here’s a rundown of the companies I’m in online relationships with: bank other bank insurance company Centrelink Medicare superannuation fund other superannuation fund electricity company digital newspaper subscription motor registry domain name provider email host other email host …

Soundtrack To a Road Trip

Since I’ve moved towns, my summer road trips have become down right familiar. They take me back to where I grew up, along a road I’ve travelled a hundred times before. Each year we optimistically pile our kids, Christmas presents, pet, beach gear, party outfits and active wear into the car and set off for our little 3-hour journey down the Pacific Highway. I’m not getting to many festivals these days, or going off on spontaneous camping weekends with my mates, so this annual drive is one of my only chances to feel the carefree vibes of taking to the road, air-con in my hair and porta-cot jammed in behind my seat. This time, we had so much gear we decided to take two cars, and on the return trip I get the kids while Tim has the dog. Luckily, I also get the CD stacker. Since we’re constantly trying to educate our 4.5 year old how to appreciate modern rock music, and since kids are such good learners, he now complains whenever we play …

Camping with kids. Why do I even bother?

I’ve just recovered from our family’s most recent 36-hour, self-inflicted sanity test. Sometimes it’s called camping. I’m seriously thinking about re-popularising the literal description of this hobby, where it shall once again be known as ‘making camp’. Unless you have as many holidays as a private-school teacher, your trip will probably be so short that you will actually spend more time planning your trip, packing for it, and erecting the blasted tent than you will spend enjoying the company of your family or your see-through polyester abode. And if you have kids, that ratio goes off the scale. Plus, don’t forget that if you, like me, decide to pack up your tent in the middle of a lightning and rain storm then you need to factor in an extra day or two to unpack, dry, clean out and re-pack all of your belongings once you come home. ‘Un-making camp’, you could say. Now, if you’re one of those childless, van-owning free spirits who just grabs a book and a tray of sausages and sets off …

An Ode To Moving House

The pitfalls of renting are many and varied. From not having the long-term stability of living in one place year after year, to constantly being at the whim of landlords’ decisions to increase rents, to not being able to hang your mirror in a spot where you can actually see your head and your body at the same time. There are some upsides, like not being responsible for plumbing repairs or tree removal, but that about covers it. Aside from property, most other assets actually depreciate over time. That new car you just bought will be worth half what you paid for it in just 2 years, your office photocopier worth a little less with each tax return. Yet year after year, renters find themselves paying more each week for what is essentially an older, more worn out version of the building where they eat, sleep and do laundry. As sure as the sun rises, renters know one day they will have to move out. Unable to renew our 12-month lease, we had been put …

Young Minds, Old News

Noah Rosenberg, Marc Fennell, Erik Jensen. These guys are the smooth forehead on the fresh face of journalism in the digital age. Not yet creased by wrinkles, leaning forward in their chairs, they chatter like excited schoolboys as they discuss how they’re writing their own rules and forging ahead in the post-print era. With newsrooms short on time and traditional media outlets cutting budgets, these three storytellers have found ways to report what they think is important in ways that consumers think are engaging. Rosenberg, Fennell and Jensen were among the speakers at the recent Byron Bay Writers Festival examining the tension between old media formats like newspaper and radio, and the new platforms of social media, websites and podcasting. Can they all co-exist? Should they? In the bright, Byron Bay morning light, New York City resident, Noah Rosenberg, is in conversation with Jacqui Park, Chief Executive of the Walkley Foundation. Rosenberg is the founder of Narrative.ly, a website dedicated to telling human stories, mostly in the shape of long-form articles, but also video and …

Back In My Good Books: A Story About Discovering Irish Authors In Cyberspace

I have previously written about my sense of malaise at not being able to remember what I was supposed to look up online, and about being underwhelmed by the web when I use my phone instead of my computer. I was annoyed with myself that my web surfing had been reduced to quick scrolls with a finger instead of delving down rabbit holes of wonder, and I was always being distracted by what was coming at me via email and various social media channels. My fault entirely, but still hard to get over. To overcome this, I have been consciously trying to go directly to webpages which I love, or blogs which make me happy, to see what’s happening there. That way I get to see stuff I am choosing to see, rather than the stuff choosing to see me (I’m looking at you, facebook). Recently I found this post on one of my favourite sites, Meet Me At Mikes, and it took my eye because of the reference to a podcast with the children’s …