The benefits of writing at different times of day

Painting attributed to Valentin de Boulogne: ‘Saint Paul Writing His Epistles’

Painting attributed to Valentin de Boulogne: ‘Saint Paul Writing His Epistles’

Earlier this week we talked about devotions to help you start and finish the day well, so that you can be more creative. Today is all about what time of day you spend creating, whether that means writing or painting or sketching or crocheting.

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Quick quiz: What instrument would play the soundtrack of your story?

Headphones on soundtrack score. Image source: Rain Dance

Image source: Rain Dance

I made a quiz using ProProfs!

A great story needs a great soundtrack, and a great soundtrack sings with the voice of one heroic instrument telling the story. What instrument will play the soundtrack for your story?

Go here to take the quiz: https://www.proprofs.com/quiz-school/story.php?title=mta4njgwnw==4txq

Then let me know in the comments what result you got! 🙂

This post and the quiz were written by TJ Withers-Ryan, (C) 2015. Reblogging or sharing of the quiz as long as you credit me as author.

Book review: Devotions that start and finish my day

My life verse, decorated by me using old wrapping paper (I recycle!). Was stuck up on my wall at the office - now it's stuck on our wall at home, right next to the front door. Last thing I see when I'm heading out? God's reminder.

My life verse, decorated by me using old wrapping paper (I recycle!). Was stuck up on my wall at the office – now it’s stuck on our wall at home, right next to the front door. Last thing I see when I’m heading out? God’s reminder.

As you know, my faith is a big part of who I am. But what do I do when I am faced with a spiritual drought?

The Bible is filled with amazing stories, inspiring messages … but I don’t find it easy to read it every day. (I do read a bit of it every day, but that’s because of discipline, not because the book of Amos fills with me great joy.) But we still need to be filled with God’s truth, so where can we go to find that inspiration?

Devotional books – books filled with a Bible verse for each day followed by an observation on that verse or a practical application for it – have always been useful to me during those dry stretches.

Today I thought I’d review some of the devotionals that I’ve worked through over the past three years – especially since a bunch of them are on sale this week!

Each of these books were helpful, but definitely in different ways and for different seasons. I’ve never found a ‘one-spiritual-thought-fits-all’ devotional. I hope you see some in the list that might help you grow closer to God.

My NIV Couples' Devotional Bible and my favourite coffee mug

My NIV Couples’ Devotional Bible and my favourite coffee mug

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The joys of May the 4th

May the 4th be with you. Image source: Something from Chelsea, Michigan

Image source: Something Chelsea, Michigan

I like May in Australia because it’s autumn so the weather is cool but not freezing yet; three of my favourite people have their birthdays this month; and IT’S STAR WARS MONTH.

But I feel like this post should be more than just “May the 4th be with you”. Because depending on where you live, you may not be reading this on May the 4th anyway.

So as the resident Grammar Lover, it is my happy duty to add some educational information to today’s post.

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Australian shortlists for best children’s books released

CBCA logo

If you haven’t worked it out yet, I love children’s and YA books. So last week was a lot of fun, because the assorted Australian shortlists for the best children’s and YA books of the year came out, and I got to browse through endless pages of children’s books, daydreaming about which I would like to read, making my own shortlist from the shortlist, and then writing myself a monthly ‘book budget’ to make sure I didn’t buy the lot of them in one big splurge.

Such self-control!

Below are the links to the various shortlists, longlists, and notable book lists, and then I’ve given you my ultimate shortlist of books – the books from the award shortlists that I look forward to devouring (eventually) like a happy little bookworm. 🙂

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Today’s writing exercise: Eavesdropping

Image source: Lynette Noni via Meme Generator

Image source: Lynette Noni via Meme Generator

The editing business is on hiatus while I’m working so much – but never fear, the writing continues! Today’s writing exercise for you is the eavesdropping exercise, which will help you write infinitely more realistic and believable dialogue.

I first did this exercise in uni under the tutelage of Grace Dugan, author of The Silver Road, and I really enjoyed it. (I think you will, too, or I wouldn’t be writing this whole thing about it.)

At Starbucks, or sitting near the group study rooms at the library, you can hear so much you never expected to – things that are so hilarious or shocking or sweet that you have to include them in your story.

“The great advantage of being a writer is that you can spy on people. You’re there, listening to every word, but part of you is observing. Everything is useful to a writer, you see—every scrap, even the longest and most boring of luncheon parties.” Graham Greene

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An ode to Terry Pratchett and the only gift a writer ever needs

Terry Pratchett.  Image source: Robin Matthews, Camera Press, via Daily Mail UK

Terry Pratchett.
Image source: Robin Matthews, Camera Press, via Daily Mail UK

One of my favourite authors of all time, prolific and gifted fantasy satire author Terry Pratchett, passed away last week. It hit me suddenly; I realised I had missed my chance. I wished I could have written to him before he moved on, to thank him for how he changed my writing, my life.

“You are a wonderful writer. Your books live in two and a half whole shelves of my largest bookcase because I enjoy rereading them so much. Thank you for your clever characters who made me think about the world differently. Thank you for your involving plots and your hilarious sense of humour, which gave me another world to live in on grey days.”

I know I’m just one fangirl of many. He’s such a famous author that I know he must get stacks of fan mail every day, from emails to postcards (“Terry, here I am at the edge of the Disc!”). By the time he died at 66 years old, he’d written 70 novels, including the 40-novel Discworld series that I loved so much.

But I still wish that I’d been able to express my gratitude to him in some small way – for me, not for him.

That day I made sure I didn’t miss out on other opportunities. I wrote two letters to authors at the publishing house where I work, whose novels are currently being copy-edited (an arduous process in which you question every word choice). I’d read the first or second drafts of their manuscripts in preparation for promoting their work and loved – simply loved – the writing and the characters. I’m not a crier, but I cried over the happy ending of one of them, sitting there at my desk in the marketing office.

So I wrote and told them, “I loved your book. It moved me greatly and I feel inspired to go out and do something about it. Your theme is one I’ve seen in real life and it thrilled me to see someone put it into words so accurately and with such real emotion.”

And I learned a big lesson.

Your encouragement is the best gift you can give a fellow writer.

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Reading aloud to your pets will help your kid learn to read faster

Binyam Gebremeskel, 9, reading aloud to Lucy, a toy poodle. Lucy seems very happy to hear about “Ricky Ricotta's Mighty Robot” at the Charles E. Beatley Jr. Central Library. (The Alexandria library offers the Paws to Read program.) Source: Katherine Frey/The Washington Post

Binyam Gebremeskel, 9, reading aloud to Lucy, a toy poodle. Lucy seems very happy to hear about “Ricky Ricotta’s Mighty Robot” at the Charles E. Beatley Jr. Central Library. (The Alexandria library offers the Paws to Read program.)
Source: Katherine Frey/The Washington Post

According to Books+Publishing today (from a report in Government News),  Lake Macquarie City Library in regional NSW is signing up for more bark than bite.

The BaRK literacy program (Building Reading Confidence for Kids) is all about reading books to dogs. The Library has asked pet owners and dogs in their region to come along for this incredibly successful eight-week program.

It’s all about improving reading skills and confidence for children with reading difficulties or speech impediments, by having them read aloud to a trained therapy dog. It works so well that they need more dogs for all the kids who have signed up!

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Why we should get to play jigsaw puzzles at work

Image source: WHSmith 1000 Piece Jigsaw: ‘Hidden Tigers’ by Steve Read

Image source: WHSmith 1000 Piece Jigsaw: ‘Hidden Tigers’ by Steve Read

So where I work, we share a building with a biology research lab. It sounds cool but I never get to see them apart from a shared “hello” in the hallways. But the best part is that the path to the stockroom takes me near enough to see their staff room… which is filled with jigsaw puzzles!

Every morning tea, lunch, and afternoon tea, you can spy them all in there, sitting or standing around a massive boardroom table covered in the latest masterpiece.

Tigers in the jungle.

Castles on the moors.

Uluru at sunset.

I swear I saw a Harry Potter puzzle once.

This is how they incubate their ideas, and I think it’s genius.

“Well, it sounds like we’ve hit a wall. Let’s take a break and come back after morning tea. To the puzzle room!”

But let me tell you, the puzzles have more benefits than just having a nice little break from work.

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Open letter to the doubting writer

I wrote this email to a client last month and they said it had to be shared, so here is an edited version of that note. I hope it encourages you as it did them.

 

60 Once upon a time on typewriter - bigstock_story_2226743_2 from Tamika Christy

Image source: Tamika Christy

 

Dear doubting writer,

No worries, don’t stress. Panic is a normal part of the writing (and a vital part of the editing) process; no doubt you know that already.

I wouldn’t have quoted on your book if I didn’t see in it the potential to be a truly worthy book. I’m not saying the book is perfect; that’s why editing is a good idea. But you’ve already got my vote of confidence.

There’s no one with a gun to your head to get this book out ASAP. No matter when it arrives, people will be thrilled ecstatically to read it.

But you know what, even if you look at your book and think “eh, it’s still not perfect”, I was reading another book today and came across this quote:

“the woods would be very silent
if no birds sang there
except those that sang best”
– Henry van Dyke

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