I’m ridiculously excited to reveal the cover of my forthcoming short story collection to the world.
Coralesque and Other Tales to Disturb and Distract is scheduled for worldwide release on 15th April 2021 through IFWG Publishing Australia. The book has been going through the production process over the last few months, and the cover art has just been finalised.
I couldn’t be happier with artist Greg Chapman’s design and execution of the cover, which ties in well with not only the title story, but provides a fitting sense of foreboding for the other tales contained within its dark and weird pages.
Ta da! Here it is:
Isn’t she a ripper? 🙂
I’m also thrilled to have multi-award-winning writer, Steven Paulsen (author of Shadows on the Wall) contribute the introduction to my collection. I was honoured and humbled by Steven’s generous words, and hope I live up to them!
Pre Orders for Coralesque and other Tales to Disturb and Distract will be available early 2021, but here’s a little teaser of what you can expect:
A surfer who becomes horrifyingly one with the sea. A new mother’s devastating search for belonging. A stone gargoyle with a violent history. A fisher boy who discovers the real cost of forbidden love. A farmer whose delight at drought-breaking rain quickly turns to terror. A hedonistic rock star who manifests double trouble. A young girls’ chilling quest for justice. A dirty ex-cop with a dirtier secret. An unscrupulous mayor’s solution to rid her city of the homeless …
These are just some of the characters you’ll meet in Coralesque and Other Tales to Disturb and Distract, a collection of dark offerings comprising short stories alongside a smattering of flash and poetry.
Introduced by multi-award-winning author, Steven Paulsen, Rebecca Fraser’s collection brings together an eclectic mix of new work, along with previously published, award-nominated, and prize-winning fiction, embracing a diversity of styles from gothic to cyberpunk, to contemporary horror, fantasy, dystopia…and every dark cranny in between.
From the harsh terrain of the Outback, to the depths of the Pacific Ocean, the wilds of Tasmania, dystopian futures, enchanted lands, and the familiarity of suburbia, Coralesque and Other Tales to Disturb and Distract takes readers on a journey into unsettling, unforgiving, and unforgettable territory.
For more information, visit IFWG’s Cover Reveal announcement here. You’ll also find details about their other exciting titles due for release in the coming months. This is my second publication with IFWG, and I couldn’t be happier to be part of their ever-expanding international stable of talented authors.
My first release was Curtis Creed and the Lore of the Ocean, a middle grade fantasy adventure that’s garnered wonderful reviews from readers of every age – one for the young, and young at heart.
Thanks for your ongoing interest and support in my work, dear readers. x
Happy writing, happy reading, and happy days. Rebecca 🙂
I’ll admit I’ve been feeling a little down on myself of late. Despite seemingly having all the time in the world due to Stage Four restrictions in Melbourne, I haven’t written any new words for weeks now. Covid and me…let’s just say we’re not creatively compatible!
This month, however, I had three pieces of wonderful genre-related writing news land in my inbox, and it’s been a terrific boost to morale.
My poem ‘Keep Walking’ was accepted for publication in Issue 15 of Midnight Echo (released by AHWA). This issue, due for release in November, is guest-edited by multi-award-winning Lee Murray, and I’m sharing the table of contents with some wonderfully talented dark scribes from Australia and New Zealand.
I also learned I’d been awarded a 2020 Ladies of Horror Fiction Writers Grant. My heartfelt thanks and gratitude to the generous sponsors and donors who have contributed to funding this year’s grants. Thank you for helping to celebrate and elevate women in horror. This was the second year LOHF have been running their international grant program, and they were able to offer ten grants this year, which demonstrates how well received and supported the initiative has been.
And finally, my story ‘Beneath the Cliffs of Darknoon Bay’ was selected to appear in Spawn: Weird Tales About Pregnancy, Birth and Babies. My ambiguously unsettling gothic tale is set in 1836 in the Furneaux Island group at the height of Australia’s sealing industry. It will share pages with an amazing line-up of authors I’ve admired and respected for years. There was much Kermit arm flailing attached to this acceptance! Look out for this anthology next year from IFWG Publishing (Australia). Edited by award-winning Australian author, Deborah Sheldon, it’s going to be quite the read!
I hope you’ve all had some good news come your way recently too, no matter what shape or form it takes. It’s the little rays of light that help chase away shadows. Take care, everyone.
Today, I’m incredibly pleased to welcome Eloise Greene to the Writing and Moonlighting couch as part of my ‘Wellbeing for Writers’ series. Eloise is a practicing Mornington Peninsula-based yoga teacher and student who believes in “celebrating the body through movement”. As the daughter of contemporary and historical fiction author, Lou Greene, Eloise understands the unique physical and physiological benefits yoga can deliver to writers of every discipline, developing routines tailored towards writers’ wellbeing as popular additions to her YouTube channel.
Eloise, welcome! It’s so great to have you on the blog as this week’s special guest. Let’s start off with the fundamentals. The benefits of yoga have been known and studied for centuries, and the correlation between yoga and the arts is widely celebrated. What are some of the benefits yoga can deliver to writers when it comes to their creative practice or productivity?
Hi Rebecca, and thanks for having me. It’s widely known that the ancient art of yoga promotes health and wellbeing, but a great side benefit of practising yoga is its ability to expand and support creativity. Yoga is instrumental for those in any creative field as it allows us to bring about stillness in the mind and focus on the present moment, our breath and our body. It quietens distractions, and from this place of clarity and peace, deeper thinking and inspiration can arise.
To be creative it is beneficial to have free-flowing energy through our bodies and minds. Yoga works to move the prana (the life force energy that pulses through the body along a network of subtle body channels) through our bodies and direct it to specific areas. Writers’ block could potentially be a build-up of this stagnant energy which needs to be released elsewhere and yoga helps us to do this, potentially facilitating creativity and inspiration to flow.
Thanks for those insights, Eloise. I know for myself whenever I have scattered thoughts or a distracted mind, my creativity is hampered. Moments of stillness are vital for unlocking my creative focus and flow. So, what about the benefits of yoga in relation to the physical act of writing itself? I imagine yoga would be wonderful for relieving some of a writer’s biggest physical complaints: back and shoulder pain and soothing tense muscles?
Yes, absolutely! Yoga and its asanas (poses) help to loosen up all the areas of tension and tightness that are especially prevalent in writers who spend much of their time sitting bent over a desk. When the body is unrestricted by pain, it becomes free to create. As we open ourselves up physically, we become receptive to creative inspiration.
Unfortunately, modern life promotes bad posture as the general population spend the majority of their time in chairs (looking at you writers!). Posture is super important if we want to maintain the health and mobility (which supports you for your whole life) of our bodies. It’s amazing how every part of our body is interconnected with connective tissue much like a spider’s web. When one thing is out of balance it can easily affect another part of our body due to the connective tissue which exists between and around almost everything in the body. Yoga can improve your posture as we build strength and flexibility from the asanas.
Most standing and sitting poses develop core strength, since you need your core muscles to support and maintain each pose. With a stronger core, you’re more likely to sit and stand tall. Yoga also helps you to gain body awareness, so you become more conscious of how you are standing and sitting, and which muscles you are using throughout the day. When you stop slouching and stand up straight, you’ll look better and feel more confident and most importantly you’ll feel more positive too! A positive and focused mind is important for creativity.
Yoga can also help deliver more energy to your day. Yoga has eight limbs and the poses (what most of us think of as yoga) is only one of those eight elements. Pranayama (breathing techniques) is an amazing way to re-energise the body and mind. Kapalbhati Breathing, also known as ’Shining Skull’ breath, is one of my favourite yogic breathing techniques that cleanses, charges, and invigorates the frontal region of the brain.
Practice: (rapid breathing with passive inhalations and active exhalations) do 2 or 3 rounds of 20 breaths.
Sit comfortably and close your eyes.
Inhale through both nostrils, expanding the abdomen.
Exhale with a forceful contraction of the abdomen.
Thanks for sharing this fabulous breathing technique, Eloise. Your observations about posture certainly resonate with me. I really need to be more mindful of my posture. I often find myself hunched in my chair, or suffering from a painful build-up of tension in my shoulders and neck. It looks like the benefits of yoga are multifaceted indeed. So, if you were a writer looking for a way to ease into yoga as a complete beginner (or perhaps seeking a path back to practicing yoga), what would you recommend?
First of all, don’t be put off by all the crazy poses you may see on Instagram, or classes that seem unachievable. Something I feel so strongly about and want to promote is that yoga is for everybody and every body (no matter your age, size, colour, flexibility, strength etc.) You should never compare yourself to others in yoga classes because not every body looks, flows or bends in the same way. An excuse I often hear is, “I can’t do yoga because I’m not flexible enough.” But that is the same as saying “I can’t have a shower because I’m too dirty.” We come to yoga to get more flexible, more in tune with our bodies and to celebrate what our bodies can do for us!
Ideally, the best way to start your yoga journey is to go to a real class not a virtual one, but that is quite challenging at present! If you are able to, find a local yoga teacher and see if you like the way they teach and the vibe of the class. Hopefully I will be teaching some in-person classes in and around Mount Martha as soon as lockdown is over, so please keep an eye out on my social media if you would like to come and join in (I hope to create a super supportive and safe environment to practise and grow)! If attending in-person classes isn’t for you another great way to ease into yoga is from the confines of your own home. I have some super quick and easy videos on my own YouTube (Eloise Greene Yoga) that you could try out if you click on this link
There’s even a writer’s yoga video up if you are in need of a little break from your creative endeavours. There are heaps of other videos you can follow on YouTube too.
That’s great to know! I’m a local girl myself, so I’ll certainly be looking forward to your classes! In the meantime, it’s terrific to have your online resources available while we’re all experiencing the impact of COVID-19’s restrictions.
Eloise,I understand there are many different types of yoga. Is there one (or more) that would particularly suit writers and creatives? Or is it more about finding the right fit for your lifestyle/personal preference?
Yes, there are so many different types of yoga to explore. Personally, I practise Vinyasa which is flowy and includes poses synchronised with the breath, and Yin which is floor-based poses that are held for minutes to work into the deep connective tissues, like your fascia, ligaments, joints, and bones. It’s slower and more meditative, giving you space to turn inward and tune into both your mind and the physical sensations of your body.
I think it’s definitely best to find the style which best suits your own needs and personal preferences. Some people may prefer more sweaty, physical practices such as power yoga, Vinyasa, Ashtanga or Bikram. Some people might like a more balanced practice such as Hatha or Iyengar. And some people might enjoy a slower-paced and de-stressing practice like Yin or Restorative yoga.
I think for writers it’s important to focus on poses that work your back, shoulders, and neck as most likely that is where pain can arise from sitting for prolonged periods. A few poses I recommend are:
Seated neck rolls: Inhale gently bring your R ear to R shoulder. Exhale come down through centre. Inhale gently roll your L ear to L shoulder. Then reverse and repeat.
Cat cows: Come to an all fours position with your wrists under your shoulderns and knees under hips. Spread wide through the fingers. As you inhale, lower your belly, lift the chest, look up. As you exhale round your back, chin to chest and push the ground away from you.
Child’s pose: From all fours position sit back on your heels with your knees together. Extend your arms forward with palms down and then melt your body into the ground. You can do this pose with your arms down beside your body. You can also do this pose with your knees separated and your toes touching and breath into the space you create.
Sphinx pose: Lie on your belly and bring your elbows under your shoulders with your forearms on the floor and your palms facing down. Press your forearms into the floor and lift your chest up and forwards, drawing your shoulder blades together and down your spine. Push the tops of your feet, your thighs, pelvis and forearms into the ground whilst lengthening through the spine.
Ah, yes—back, shoulders, and neck! Every writer’s pain points…these poses will be very beneficial! But what about meditation? Is this a natural extension of yoga practice, or would you recommend meditation as a separate ritual…maybe part of a daily writing routine? Can you suggest an easy meditation that can be performed at any time?
Yes, meditation is another of the eight limbs of yoga. In fact, the yoga poses the majority of us know as yoga are practised so people can maintain sitting in meditation for long periods of time. I love adding a short meditation at the end of my yoga asana practice to set my intentions for the day and connect inwards. This is great if you are a writer as it gives you a clear focus. I also like to set aside about 20-30 minutes in the morning to simply sit with myself and be in the present moment.
Here is a super easy meditation technique that can be performed at any time: Come to a comfortable seated position. Maybe place a pillow or folded blanket under your sit bones to help keep you upright. Place your hands on your knees, palms open and receiving. Close down your eyes. Tune into your body, noticing how it feels today. Notice if there’s anything your body is trying to tell you. Notice any places of tension or tightness and give those areas permission to relax. And just observe the breath here. Feeling your chest expand as you inhale and fall as you exhale. Allow your mind to become one with your breath. If your mind wanders, just notice it and bring your attention back to your body, using your breath as an anchor. And continue for as long as you want.
I guess it just goes to show how the simplest changes, habits, and practices can lead to the most profound changes. Eloise, I want to thank you again for your time and expertise. You’re inspired and inspiring! I know many writers will gain much value from your comprehensive answers—I know you’ve certainly sparked my interest in learning more about (and practising) the benefits of yoga.
Just one last question before you leave to spread your beautiful energy elsewhere: What has been your favourite read (so far) for 2020, or what is your next book on your “to be read” pile?
I finished high school last year and never found much motivation or time to read on top of schoolbooks. This year I have found my love for reading again! It’s super hard to just pick one, but I think probably All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr. I’m a bit late to the party to read it but I absolutely loved it and it was so beautifully written. It is one of those books that really touch your heart and one I think I will be thinking about for years to come.
About Eloise Greene
Eloise Greene is a practicing Mornington Peninsula-based yoga teacher and student (Vinyasa/Yin) who believes in celebrating the body through movement, and that yoga is for everybody and every body.
You can follow Eloise’s yoga journey and join her classes on YouTube and Instagram @eloisegreeneyoga or email her at eloisegreeneyoga (at) gmail dot com Eloise welcomes your message and questions, even if it’s just for a chat!
Last week in the ‘Wellbeing for Writers’ series I described writing as a sedentary pursuit. The fact is, writing is also such a solitary pursuit. For many it can be hard to define their creative goals, let alone hone a strategy to achieve them. This week, I’m delighted to welcome Soul Reflection’s Marianne Ellis, Life Coach and Creative Arts Counsellor, to the Writing and Moonlighting couch to share her expertise on cultivating enduring strategies for maintaining focus, making friends with our creativity…and how visualisation can keep our dreams at the forefront of our minds.
Marianne Ellis, Soul Reflection Coaching
Marianne, thanks so much for your time and energy, and welcome to Writing and Moonlighting. Firstly, what are your top tips for those who might be struggling to apply some focus to their writing goals.
I’m so excited to share some tips with fellow creatives…thanks so much for the invitation. I really understand the courage and vulnerability it takes to follow your own creative path and pursue your passion. It can often feel like a lonely journey with many twists and turns….it truly takes a special kind of person to fully step into their creativity and own it. It’s a privilege to offer some words of support and assistance.
Get Support: It’s essential to get support which could be in the form of a friend, Facebook group, or joining a writers’ membership. When we have someone cheering us on and also keeping us accountable it helps to stay on track. The simple act of affirming what you’re going to do out loud, and it be witnessed, is powerful.
What is your motivation? Your Why? What is really behind your goal? Leaving a legacy? To share your story with others to inspire people? Perhaps it’s about how you feel? Your work brings you joy, purpose, and fulfilment. Getting clear on your ‘why’ can really help you stay motivated and focused on what’s really important and the reason you do what you do.
Journal on your ‘why’ to get clear on the bigger picture. When you lose focus, come back to your ‘why’….having it in writing is so helpful when motivation is low.
Dream big! Think outside the box and dream…what do you really want? Feeling excited and motivated will pull you closer to it.
What is it that you would do with your creativity if there were no barriers? Nothing was in your way…no fear, financial worries. Even if it seems out of reach, allow yourself to keep that bigger vision close to you.
Remember that no-one ever achieved their dream by playing it safe. We don’t know what is possible until we try, and often we talk ourselves out of things before even attempting them. When you are thinking of reasons not to do something, challenge yourself to come up with reasons why you should.
Embrace your dreams, know that people who have made their vision come true have dedicated time, effort and commitment into achieving it. What may appear like a pathway to easy success could have been many years in the making. We have to start somewhere and just get clear on your dream and take some small steps forward. You are saying ‘yes’ to yourself and in believing you are getting closer to achieving. Stop overthinking and just do it!
Inspiration: Research and spend some time reflecting on people that inspire you and whose work you love. When you think about the most inspiring people you follow, what qualities do they have? What stands out to you as different? How could you implement those qualities into your life? Make a list of the top ten most inspiring people in your life.
Visualisation: As creatives we need to feel inspired, motivated, and excited by our work. Imagine what you want to create…if it’s a published book then close your eyes and imagine you are at your book launch, holding your book and signing copies.
Bring your vision to life in your mind…bring it to life.
If we can see it in our mind as a reality and feel in the body what our goal will look like if we achieve it….we really embody it. Ask yourself these questions: How will you feel when you achieve it? What are the positives if you achieve your goal?
Try practising visualisation every day to keep that image of your dream at the forefront of your mind. As you practice this you will notice that the vision expands and becomes clearer.
Actions: The only way we get results is by taking action and the easiest way to get started is follow the path of least resistance.
What is the one thing you can get started on right now that you’re feeling a ‘pull towards’?
Start with that and you will gain momentum. Taking small steps is less overwhelming. Yet it’s still progress taking you forward. As long as you’re moving slowly towards your goal then you’re in action and you will achieve results.
Structure: Look at your schedule and get clear on where you are spending your time. Often we can lose chunks of time in the day due to not being organised such as food preparation, housework, running errands for other people.
When you review your week and determine if it’s possible to carve out time where you will be uninterrupted you’ll start to work out a new structure that is more productive.
Prioritise: Determine what is really important and create a list each day of smaller tasks you would like to accomplish that are achievable by breaking down larger projects into small actions. This could mean setting aside a block of time that is solely for creativity and that you will not compromise on unless there is an absolute emergency. Being consistent and committed will achieve results even if the amount of free time you have is only an hour a day.
Wow, Marianne, these are great tips! I especially love the practice of coming back to your “why” when lacking motivation, if the going gets tough, or carving out time to write becomes a challenge It’s such a great leveller to return to the bedrock of what drives your passion.
We all live such fast-paced and stressful lives, it’s easy to get caught up in our own thoughts and lose focus and motivation. Now, with COVID-19 unsettling our lives even further, there seems to be another enemy to steal our focus! Many of my writing friends are reporting ‘brain fog’ is impacting their creativity. Do you have some suggestions to bring back some clarity to creative projects?
Unfortunately, COVID-19 is increasing stress and anxiety, and while many people work from home as creatives, their motivation and focus can be compromised. There can be a sense of ‘what’s the point?’ and deep levels of exhaustion are common. It’s particularly important to practice great self care at this time.
Be your own best friend: What advice would you give your best friend? Often we are inclined to be much gentler, softer on our friends and much harsher on ourselves. Right now if you’re feeling overwhelmed and stressed go gently on yourself. These are unusual circumstances and there is no right or wrong response. Just be kind to yourself and protect your mental health and wellbeing above all else.
Listen to your intuition: Trust yourself and listen to what feedback your body is giving you. If you feel tired, pay attention and rest. Don’t keep pushing if your body and mind are wanting to work…in taking time out you will come back more productive. When we push ourselves, we don’t produce quality work under stress or exhaustion. Ask yourself what is the best thing I can do to honour myself in this moment?
Switch off social media: Set aside time where you are offline so you can be present in the moment and enjoy time at home with no distractions. It may feel like you are always ‘on’ from morning to night if you have your smartphone on. In setting a structure that works for you—such as switching off your phone after 7pm—you can have a clear separation and time out.
Music and movement: Sitting for long periods creates brain fog so remember to move around. Switch on some energising music and move your body. The quickest way to shift your energy is a powerful piece of music. Choose something uplifting that makes you feel amazing.
Environment: If your work space is cluttered and you can’t see your desk anymore this could be causing brain fog. It’s hard to concentrate when things are disorganised so set aside some time to create a beautiful working space.
To create an inspiring environment, perhaps try: Fresh flowers, beautiful essential oil in a burner, placing inspirational quotes in your office, ensuring the temperature is not too hot or cold. Open a window to allow fresh air which we are all lacking at the moment.
Create a vision board: Use old magazines to cut up and create an inspiring vision board. Use a large sheet of paper or card and choose images that represent your dreams for the future. The life that you want to design and create for yourself. Place this in your home office or studio so you can see it while you work to have a visual of something positive that you want for yourself.
Don’t stress: Remember that brain fog is temporary and a normal part of being a creative person. In accepting that it’s part of the creative journey and not resisting or pushing yourself, it will likely pass much faster. The more we struggle and force ourselves to create, the more we push our creativity away.
Make friends with your creativity: Imagine your creativity as part of you that needs nurturing, love and understanding. The more respectful and kinder you are the more you can reconnect to that creative energy again. Remember when we are in flow, we will be really productive, and often make up for time away for being creative.
Nourish your wellbeing: The happier and more relaxed you feel, the more you will create so when you relax, watch Netflix, go for a walk, chat with a friend, etc, you are opening up a space for more peace and joy in your life.
Meditation and gratitude: Mediation and creating a calmer presence will help increase concentration and focus. Often we can find the answers we need in moments of stillness, when our minds are silent.
Try sitting quietly with your eyes closed and tune into your breathing for a really simple starting point. Remember mediation is not an easy process for those with busy minds but stick with it and you will see results. Some great resources on mindfulness can be found here.
Gratitude: Practicing gratitude can give us a positive focus and starting each day with three things you are grateful for can be a fantastic way to begin your day. If you want to go deeper apply the same exercise before bed. Reflecting on your day and the positive moments…they can be small. For example: Nice weather, Beautiful coffee, A chat with a friend.
Follow your own path: The creative path is never a straight line and it’s not for the faint hearted! Celebrate your success…no matter how small. Be your own cheerleader and acknowledge that the work you are doing will always be a roller coaster. That being creative means you set your own rules, you don’t conform, you follow your own path and that alone is something to be proud of.
Thanks, Marianne – so many of your suggestions resonate with me! Particularly taking breaks from social media – I must admit to being a bit of a social media slave at times, and a lot of it is filled with negativity, anger, and delusion. It’s no wonder it’s a creativity-crusher!
Marianne, what about for those whose creativity might have stalled altogether? What are the main killers of creativity, and do you have any exercises to help unlock/unblock creative souls and get writers back to writing?
One of the biggest challenges for creatives can be their own mindset—getting caught up in their own thoughts. This can be in the form of their inner critic affecting their motivation or mindset. This can lead to feelings of frustration, anxiety and depression…it can drain the joy out of what we love to do. If you’re caught up in your thoughts it can be impossible to focus and concentrate.
This may present as:
Perfectionism – Trying to reach impossibly high standards and inability to tolerate mistakes which can hold people back from getting started. Reframe – Allow yourself to make mistakes, remember that mistakes are great learning, give yourself permission to enjoy the process and be kinder to yourself.
Feeling not good enough – Often comparing themselves to other creatives and feeling inferior. Particularly at the start of a creative journey and comparing themselves to someone else’s end game who’s perhaps spent years in a creative profession. We can get caught up in social media and perceived success…which may not be the reality. Reframe – Remember this creative journey is about you, and is as individual as you. When you realise you can design your own life, and it’s only your fulfillment that matters, you let go of comparing yourself. You are good enough right now, you are unique and no one else can do what you can do.
Fear of Rejection – Often as creatives we are putting ourselves in a space of vulnerability. We open our hearts and share with courage. The fear of rejection can be a creative block as we never know how our words will be received. Every time we are rejected it can be a setback that can leave you feeling unmotivated to try again. Reframe – View each rejection a step closer to your goal and celebrate yourself for trying. The more you share of yourself, the easier it will become. Move towards the fear and you will lessen its power.
Fear of Success – It is not uncommon to fear being successful, particularly if you’re an introvert, as many creatives are. We prefer to avoid the spotlight, and whilst we may want to be a successful author, there may be an inner conflict in doing so. There may be fears around being ‘seen and heard’ that create a block as subconsciously we are afraid of the outcome. Reframe – Affirm to yourself that you are always in control, and go at your own pace. Sometimes you may feel very uncomfortable, yet this can be a great opportunity for growth and expansion. The confidence will come from ‘doing’, so the more you step forward the easier it will become. Keep on challenging yourself to be out of your comfort zone and set challenges each week to share your work or speak up.
Fear of judgement – We can’t control what others think of us no matter how hard we want our work to be accepted. Remember you are only in control of your own thoughts and staying focused on what feels right to you and remaining authentic will help you push through resistance that arises. Reframe – Ask yourself does it even matter if people don’t like my work? Are the people that criticize people who you respect? Do they put themselves in positions of vulnerability? It often says more about the person judging you and their own mindset than the work you have created.
Identify your thoughts – Bringing awareness to unhelpful thoughts by journaling on how you’re feeling. Once you understand what is sending you off track you can catch the trail of thought before it takes off in a negative direction.
We can get caught up in stories we tell ourselves that are unhelpful and not true. We can re-frame a negative thought pattern into a positive one.
Attachment to the outcome – When you create with an expectation for the end result, often we feel pressure. Sometimes the best work comes from being totally unattached to the outcome. If you are struggling to write then allow yourself to indulge in writing from the heart. Let go of expectations and let the words flow without there being a reason to write or create with any intention. Often the resistance is actually just getting started, and once we do, things proceed and you regain the flow of creativity.
Get curious – Unlock your creative block by getting curious…sit quietly with a notebook and pen. Close your eyes and ask yourself without judgement what is blocking your creativity? The answer is always within you. Often acknowledging what is going on will shift the block…perhaps it’s an external distraction or stresses that you need to address. What do you need to do so you can move through this block? Ask yourself the questions as you would ask a friend. This will help bring a fresh perspective to your thinking.
Consider collaboration – Working alongside another creative on a project can be a fantastic way to incorporate new ideas and inspire new creative pathways. It also provides fantastic support from someone who will understand what you are feeling.
Do Different….Try something new.
Experimenting with an unfamiliar creative medium can stimulate your creativity. Sometimes we can get stuck in a routine that has become unchallenging and we just need to break it with something new to find a new spark.
These reframing tools are brilliant, Marianne! Mindset truly does help or hinder a creative’s life force. I know many writers reading this will be nodding their heads at your observations of how our mindset presents itself.
As a Life Coach, you’re trained to help people bring out the best in themselves, facilitate change, and support people in making meaningful decisions in their lives. Do you have any advice for writers who might be struggling to strike the right balance between the responsibilities and obligations of their daily life and nurturing their creative souls/finding time to write?
Boundaries: Right now many people are feeling pulled in many directions especially if you have children at home. There has never been a more important time to set clear boundaries with people at home.
Don’t be afraid to say no. We can get sidetracked by tasks that could be done by someone other than yourself. In saying ‘no’ you are both honouring yourself and the other person if you say ‘no’ to something that is not in alignment with what you want to do . Often saying no can inspire the person to find their own solution.
Communicate: Get clear on what you need from people around you, often we can be afraid to ask for help and support. This creates resentment and frustration leading to strained relationships.
Find a compromise. If you are able to get your writing task completed then you can be fully present and able to assist with family roles. People in your family learn from your behaviour. If they see you are much happier when you have had alone time to work on projects they will begin to think twice before disturbing you. Let people know what you’re working on and why it’s important. We can sometimes assume people are not interested when in fact by openly talking to them about your goals they will feel included and part of your support team.
Passion and purpose: There is nothing more inspiring for children to see their parents working towards their dreams and with a passion for life. In putting yourself first you are being a fantastic role model and one that will inspire your children to grow up as passionate creatives.
Communicate clearly and lovingly that you would appreciate their support. This might mean giving you space for uninterrupted time.
Wise words indeed. One of the biggest things I’ve had to work on—both in my personal and professional life, is saying “No.” I still struggle with it, but I’m happy to say I’ve come a long way!
Marianne, as well as being a Life Coach, you’re also a Creative Arts Counsellor… How important is creative writing when used as a therapy for emotional wellbeing, rehabilitation, or self-expression?
Using writing to explore your inner world and express yourself will require you to be in a stream of consciousness which allows you to be in total flow and let your logical brain rest. There is no right or wrong. There is no concern over grammar or punctuation, which may feel counter-intuitive, but writing for therapeutic benefits is about the process and not the outcome.
Unravel your thoughts and feelings: Writing is a powerful tool to better understand yourself, unravel your thoughts, and gain some clarity on what is really going on in your head. Journaling is a daily activity that is a wonderful form of therapy.
Express how you feel: There are so many ways you can explore writing to express how you feel. If you’re angry with someone, write them a letter with the intention that they will never see it. Let the words you really want to say to the person fall out onto the page…don’t hold back. Once you have written the letter, destroy it. It’s the unprocessed emotions we don’t express that impact us negatively.
Reflective Writing: Reflective writing is also very helpful. If there is a situation that has caused you stress or upset you, write about it from a fresh perspective. The harder the situation, the more opportunity for growth and understanding of yourself. Express in writing what the situation taught you and how you can use that knowledge to move forward in a positive way.
Narrative Therapy: If you have a negative experience that is replaying in your head, try writing about it as a story, but change the perspective of how it is written. Write about yourself as if you were the character in the story to lessen the emotional charge. How can you rewrite your story in a positive, powerful way that leaves you feeling inspired by the challenges you have overcome?
Every challenge you have faced in life has taught you valuable lessons and often the hardest times will teach us the most. Try rewriting your story and seeing yourself as the hero not the victim. How has your story allowed you to grow and gain strength from being tested? This can allow you to externalise the original problem and shift your thinking into a more positive thought process.
Share your Writing: There is such power in sharing your words with others, particularly if you read them out loud. Although this may be challenging, it can be a wonderful form of therapy, with the added benefit of your story helping someone. When we are vulnerable and share with others, we give people permission to do the same. In sharing your words you never know the impact you may have on someone else. If you can focus on being of service by sharing with others you can get out of your own way and anxiety around sharing.
And, finally, just for fun! What has been your favourite read (so far) for 2020, or what is your next book on your “to be read” pile?
I have a passion for self-development books, so I am always reading something new.
Dare to Lead by Brene Brown—I wholeheartedly believe that being vulnerable is courageous and it’s where we experience transformation.
Sarah Wilson ‘First We make the Beast Beautiful – I can’t wait to read this one as I have heard it’s an incredibly honest account of living with anxiety.
Marianne, you really have gone above and beyond with your insights and advice today. Thank you for your wisdom, your time, your nurturing energy, and your expertise. I’ve gained so much from our conversation, and I know other creatives will as well.
About Marianne Ellis – Soul Reflection Coaching
Marianne Ellis is a Photographer and Creative Arts Coach. Marianne developed a passion for photography after emigrating from England to Australia in 2004. This led to further studies in art therapy, counselling, life coaching, photography, and other healing modalities. Combining her love of therapeutic photography, creativity and psychology, Marianne promotes self-discovery and healing through creative expression.
Life and Creativity Coaching: As a Life and Creativity Coach through creative-centred life coaching, Marianne supports her clients to find and express their unique voice and truth so they can design and live a life they love. Marianne understands the struggles of the creative pathway and utilises creative tools to help her clients better understand their thoughts, feelings and emotions.
Creative Arts Counselling: Marianne uses art therapy techniques to help clients better understand their inner world. Combining other modalities such as holistic counselling, reiki, mindfulness and meditation to support clients through times of transition and self-discovery.
Therapeutic Photography: Marianne is also devoted to sharing the power of photography as a form of self-expression. Utilising this accessible medium through the lens, she empowers others to promote wellbeing and healing in the world. Mindful photography is a wonderful way to explore your environment, be fully present, ease anxiety, and shift your perspective.
Creativity coaching is currently provided via Zoom.
Project 55: Project 55 is a closed Facebook group that has been running for eight years. It’s a wonderful space for people to connect through images and share their lives. We have seen many friendships form in the group, and it provides a safe supportive space where everyone is welcome. It can be particularly helpful for those that are isolated from people, homebound, or lacking interaction. Feel free to join the group here
Writing is a sedentary pursuit. No matter which way you look at it, the only way to get the job done is to apply the bum glue, sit at your desk, and, well…write. I’m sure we can all relate to how easily that one hour of writing time can rapidly evolve into two, three, or even eight-hour stretches. Before you know it, a large portion of your day—while productive—has been largely desk-locked, except for short breaks to top up your writing fuel coffee.
While I’m a subscriber to the benefits of exercise and movement, I’m no expert on physical fitness…but I know someone who is. I’m thrilled to have Danielle Grant, Accredited Exercise Physiologist, Wellness Coach, and owner of Reach Your Peak Personal Training in Mornington join me on the Writing and Moonlighting couch to weigh in on how writers can optimise their health and fitness, without compromising on their precious writing time.
Danielle Grant, Exercise Physiologist and Wellness Coach
Welcome, Danielle! Thanks so much for your time. To start off, can you clarify how frequently writers, or those with comparable desk jobs, should be up and moving to offset the impact of their oft-stationary lifestyles?
Of course, and thanks for having me. I would encourage everyone to get up and walk around for at least five minutes of every hour. Additionally, in the middle of your day go for a ten-minute walk outside. An easy way to do this is to map out a 1km circuit from your front door and complete it every day.
Another easy way to get in some incidental exercise is whenever your phone rings or you need to make a call, use the time to stand up and walk laps of your house, backyard, or driveway.
Walking is also a great activity if you need thinking time about a character or an aspect of your writing. Maybe a walk and some fresh air could even help cure writers block!
Danielle, you’ve nailed the ‘writing and thinking’ time! Walking is my ‘go to’ un-blocker when it comes to tricky plot points or character motivations. Thanks for these practical tips. Can you also suggest some simple strength exercises that can be incorporated into a writer’s daily lifestyle ?
Absolutely! The following strength exercises can easily be performed at your desk:
Squats to your desk chair can be performed by either sitting down fully and standing up, or by tapping your bottom to the chair before standing up again.
Incline push ups. Place your hands on your desk, shoulder width apart, then step your body back into plank position. Bend your arms to lower your chest towards your desk, then push yourself back up until your arms are straight. Repeat.
Dips. Sit on your chair with your hands at the edges of your thighs, lift your bottom off the chair and lower it down, bending your elbows to ninety degrees, then push back up.
Lunge walk to your toilet breaks or down your hallway.
Back extensions. Lay on your stomach, face down, with your arms extended in front of you. Lift your arms and chest off the ground, then lower back to the floor. This exercise will help counteract the forward flexion you do whilst sitting.
Ideally, you would add some cardiovascular training to this: walking, jogging, cycling, swimming etc, and strength (weight) training is crucial for everyone, especially those aged over forty. If you don’t build or maintain muscle mass, you lose it.
Great tips, Danielle! Besides the convenience of writers being able to perform these exercises in their home, what are the additional benefits of these exercises from a physical health and fitness standpoint?
The benefits of exercise are extensive and impressive. There are the obvious ones: building muscles, strengthening bones, improving cardiovascular health, reducing stress, assisting with weight loss, increasing energy, and improving sleep.
And then there are some of the more surprising and lesser-known benefits. Exercise reduces inflammation in the body, reduces your risk of cancer, diabetes, heart conditions, and stroke. Aerobic exercise spurs the growth of new neurons in the brain (neurogenesis), particularly in the areas of learning and memory, and reducing the risk of dementia and Alzheimer’s.
Exercise is also proven to be an effective treatment for depression and anxiety. During exercise we produce endorphins which promote positive feelings.
That’s so interesting about neurogenesis—I’ve a story idea brewing already! But back to the subject… Danielle, you’ve just mentioned anxiety and depression—I imagine the downstream effects of exercise rolls into other emotional health and wellbeing benefits as well?
I may be a little biased, but I honestly believe people who exercise regularly are generally happier, more positive, and optimistic people. There are so many processes going on physiologically, cellularly, and hormonally when you exercise that benefit everything, right down to your gene expression, and your genes are passed onto generations beyond. When you think about it, it’s perplexing that majority of the population don’t exercise as regularly as they should.
It is surprising, when you put it like that. Especially as the benefits have been expounded for years. I must admit, I’m not as active as I’d like to be, but I do enjoy my daily walks—and more recently tapping into your ‘Winter Warrior’ program—and my health and wellbeing is high priority. Perhaps the catalyst for continuity lies in seeking out a form of exercise you truly enjoy, then taking it to the next level? I also love Pilates, especially for the all over body streeeeeeetch it provides.
Speaking of stretches… Danielle, you’ll often hear writers complaining of a sore neck, shoulders, or back from long stints in the chair. While it’s always recommended to have your workstation ergonomically designed, can you suggest some DIY stretching techniques to help relieve tense muscles?
The biggest issues I witness in people that sit for long periods of time at a computer are postural: Short and tightened chest muscles, rounded shoulders, thoracic spine, and weak back, core, and glute muscles. Try these great stretches to alleviate tension and improve posture.
Doorway Chest Stretch. Bend your elbows at 90 degrees and place your forearms on a door frame, push your chest forward through the open doorway.
Thoracic Stretch. Place a rolled-up towel on the ground. Lay on your back with the towel placed under your shoulder blades. Bend your knees. Bring your arms over head and either lay them on the ground above your head, or place them on your forehead.
Hip Flexor Stretch. Your hip flexors run down the front of your hips. When you are sitting, they’re in a shortened state, so they need to be lengthened. Kneel down, step one leg forward so your front foot is flat on the ground, tuck your bottom under, then push your hips forward.
Neck Stretches. Sit up tall. Take your left ear to your left shoulder and then extend your right arm down towards the floor. Hold. Then turn your nose towards your left shoulder. Hold. Repeat on the other side.
I would also recommend strengthening your core muscles to help support your lower back. Pilates would be great for this.
Thanks, Dan, I’ve tried all your recommended stretches, and they’re brilliant. So, let’s talk routines. In writing life, we often talk about our writing routines, and a writer’s approach to their routine can be as individual and varied as their writing style. Danielle, you’re an expert on routines. When it comes to health and wellness, what are your top tips for carving out a daily routine that will deliver long term dividends?
When I start working with a client, the first thing I get them to do is come up with a vision for their health. I ask them to paint me a picture in words. It’s a BIG picture of their desired physical health in the long term. We then dig deep into why this is important to them. If people don’t have a clear understanding of why their vision is important to them, it won’t happen.
The next step is to set goals. Start with long term goals and then break these down into short weekly goals. To ensure success, it’s important the goals are achievable, so start small. Your weekly goals will become your new routine. The new routine then becomes your new normal. It is just what you do! It’s about making small changes and being consistent.
I’m a big believer in putting pen to paper. Write down your goals, and share them with the closest people around you. I ask my clients to tell me what exercise they are doing, down to the day/time/location/person they’re doing it with, for the entire week. It then needs to be booked into their diary and not cancelled. Treat it like a specialist’s appointment you’ve been waiting six weeks for. The difference between people that exercise and those that don’t is mostly where it sits on their priority list. And the same can then be applied with food.
These tips are really motivating, Danielle—no wonder you’re such an inspirational leader in your field. Now, we’ve talked a lot about physical fitness, but let’s not forget our inner health! What’s your favourite “go to” breakfast for all-day writing fuel?
If you like a sweet breakfast, my choice would be oats. Either warm as porridge or cold as bircher muesli, or a homemade muesli. Make sure to add nuts and seeds for good
healthy fats, protein, vitamins, and nutrients. And use whole traditional oats—none of the pre-packaged quick oats!
For a savoury breakfast, you can’t go past a beautiful omelette (with full eggs, none of that egg white omelette rubbish!) using lots of veggies: spinach, mushrooms, tomatoes, avocado.
Both breakfasts will give you a high level of satiety so you can write all the way through to lunch. They will also break down and release energy into your bloodstream slowly, so you don’t experience blood sugar level lows.
Thank you so much for your time and tips today, Danielle! You’ve provided so much valuable information and advice to help writers add a focus on fitness to their day-to-day routines. One more question before you dash off to your next personal training session:
I know you’re an avid reader yourself, so what’s been your favourite read of 2020 so far?
I’ve just come off a great run of books! Where the Crawdads Sing, American Dirt, The Silent Patient, The Wife and the Widow, The Crooked Branch and currently reading A Rip in Heaven.
I would have to say Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens would be my favourite for 2020. But I’m really loving A Rip in Heaven because it’s based on a true event in author, Jeanine Cummins’ life—absolutely tragic.
Snap! My standout book for 2020 (so far) has been Where the Crawdads Sing too. And I recently finished The Wife and the Widow. I just looked up A Rip in Heaven, and I’ll be adding that to my “to be read” list—it sounds harrowing but fascinating.
A big thanks again to Danielle Grant for her time and expertise, and for participating in my Wellbeing for Writers series. For more information about Danielle, her sought-after wellness coaching, Reach Your Peak personal training, and more resources on health, fitness, wellbeing, and achieving your peak, check out Danielle’s website and follow her social media Instagram @daniellegrant or @reachyourpeak and Facebook @ReachYourPeakpersonalTraining
As an Exercise Physiologist and Wellness Coach, Danielle structures her business on the three powerful pillars of lasting transformation; Mindset, Nutrition and Physical Fitness.
Her leadership, knowledge and expertise along with her charismatic people skills brings sincere loyalty and longevity among clients and trainers alike—many having been with Reach Your Peak 10 years and more.
Danielle’s authenticity will not be compromised with the latest ‘sexy’ exercise and diet crazes. The truth, she says, is that there is no quick fix for lasting change. With many years of experience proving that accountability increases success, Danielle designed the Accountability & Food Diary. She also creates and publishes comprehensive Eating Plans for group programs that include menus and shopping lists.
As a mother of two young children, Danielle understands the juggling act of being a working mum, and loves to help other mums prioritise their health. ‘I love to see people discover how fantastic they can feel with regular exercise and healthy eating – ‘it’s amazing’ she says!
Danielle has a great love for exercising outdoors having completed two Half Ironmans, a marathon, many half marathons, Round the Bays, and walking the Kokoda Track. She also loves hiking, mountain bike riding, and took up surfing at forty years of age.
It’s Lockdown 3.0 here in Greater Melbourne, and as we conclude our first week of Stage 4 restrictions, COVID-19 is once again messing with my creative output. I know I’m not alone. And I know quarantine impacts different people in different ways. I’m grateful that, in spite of the daily escalation of ‘what the actual…?’ 2020 is puking around the world, I’m in reasonably good spirits and rolling with the corona challenges as best I can. Melbourne, we’ve got this ❤
One thing that has changed though, is my focus. I’m spending as much time at my keyboard as in pre-Covid times, but it seems a good chunk of that time I’ll catch myself staring into space for extended periods. I couldn’t even tell you where I go…except it’s nowhere interesting. Longer-length projects have been pushed aside in favour of short-form and experimental pieces—particularly poetry, one of my favourite things to fiddle with. Yet these works have been yielding some interesting results, with some being accepted for publication, and other pieces being collated for Disturbia, a collection of poetry I hope to publish next year.
You can catch my experimental free verse poem The Consciousness of Teddy Bears in the latest issue of Writers Victoria’sThe Victorian Writer magazine. It was inspired by the early days of COVID-19, when we were confined to our homes for the first time. I began jotting down my observations and emotions under the hashtag #coronomausings, and The Consciousness of Teddy Bears was the result. I was thrilled when it was picked up by The Victorian Writer, and even more chuffed when I saw the table of contents I’m sharing—so many amazing writers I admire and respect!
I also had a pitch accepted by Melbourne – City of Literature, and was commissioned as one of the contributing writers for a series of wildlife postcards featuring fauna endemic to Victoria, to be distributed to an international audience. If you know me well, you won’t be surprised to hear my pitch was for the Southern Blue-ringed Octopus (cephalopod fangirl, here). The postcard series is currently in the editing process, and I’m excited to see the complete set of postcards, especially the image that accompanies the poem I wrote for my beloved Blue-ring.
I also submitted a poem to the Frankston Arts Centre’sStories at the End of the Line anthology, which will be a historic book collecting together the writing of numerous local scribes across diverse creative forms, capturing the emotion of our times, as we explore coronavirus through our own unique lens and experience. My piece The Butterfly Effect is a dark little number, so fingers crossed it makes the cut based on the intended audience…. I’ll keep you posted!
In other news, I was interviewed for the 2020 Australian Spec Fic Snapshot, and you can read my answers here. The Australian SF Snapshot Project comes round every few years, and is a great way to keep your finger on the pulse with ‘who’s who in the zoo’ in the Antipodean speculative fiction community, and what everyone’s been working on over the past few years.
It was fun to reflect on the dreams I was chasing in my 2016 Snapshot interview, which you can read here. I did manage to make one major tick off my writerly bucket list between then and now, which was to secure a great publisher for my fantasy novel Curtis Creed and the Lore of the Ocean (thank you IFWG Publishing Australia).
Curtis Creed and the Lore of the Ocean was written for the young and young-at-heart, so if you love a shipload of scary sea monsters with your middle grade adventures, this one’s for thrill-seeking readers of all ages (recommended 10+). Isolation narration for maximum exhilaration! You can grab your copy from all good bookstores, or order in paperback or eBook online here.
Well, that’s all on the writing frontier for now, friends. Stay safe and stay well, and—above all—be kind to yourself and to others. Oh, and if you’re looking for a peak isolation-distraction activity, why not do what I did and organise one of your bookshelves by spine colour. Feel the rainbow! 😊
(Disclaimer: I understand if the sight of this may cause unprecedented anxiety and stress in some. Trust me, my other bookcase is strictly genre/author!)
I’m delighted to have Australian Visual Storyteller, Nicola Tierney, drop by the Writing and Moonlighting couch today for a chat about everything from her new book The Gribble’s Gift to her creative influences, to her miniature fantasy models, and her ability to channel her subconscious to help her stories unfold.
Nicola and I first met back in 2009 when we, along with a dozen other local writers, were recipients of a Regional Arts Development Fund grant from the Gold Coast City Council to undertake a series of workshops mentored by award-winning fantasy author, Louise Cusack. Nicola and I have been following each other’s creative journey for years, and it gives me great pleasure to put Nicola under the spotlight for a few quick questions to learn more about her latest achievement.
Nicola, congratulations on the publication of your first novel,The Gribble’s Gift, a fantasy adventure for the young, and young-at-heart. I understand it’s recently undergone a second print run. It must be very gratifying to read the reviews coming in from readers around the world! What has been your proudest author moment since releasing The Gribble’s Gift?
Thank you, Rebecca, for inviting me along to talk about my book The Gribble’s Gift. It has been almost fourteen years in the making, and there were many times I thought about giving up, but I am so pleased I did not. My proudest moment was when I received the proof copy my book. To actually hold in my hands the culmination of all the tears, hopes, dreams, and hard work over such a long time was heartwarming.
I completely understand, Nicola. There’s no feeling quite like holding your book baby in your hands for the first time! Now, The Gribble’s Gift was a labour of love, years in the making, which I’m sure many writers can relate to. What do you think were the biggest challenges in transitioning your characters and world to the page?
The biggest challenge for me was twofold. One was getting to know my characters. In the beginning I seemed to be able to relate to the Gribbles and Scruffy the dog much better than I could Ebony, the main protagonist. I am not sure when it was that I actually started to understand her. I think it was when my grandmother died, which was quite late in the writing of the book, and I had to go back and redo some sections.
My grandmother Agnes (the cook in the book) was almost 102 when she passed on, and fortunately I’d had the opportunity to travel to the UK and read her the first chapter of my book when she was 99. I found the loss of my grandmother ended up in Ebony’s story. It wasn’t planned, it just happened, but it turned out to be the link I was looking for, without knowing it. I needed to know why Ebony’s parents sent her away to a boarding school for girls with a delicate disposition, rather than keeping her at home. I had no understanding as to why they did. The loss of her grandmother gave me the answer. It was also a way of coping with my grief.
The second challenge was learning how I wrote. In the beginning I didn’t even know if I could write a story. I listened to so many different authors on how they wrote, and I was nothing like them. Then one day I found an author who wrote like me. Up until that point I thought there was something wrong with me, it actually stopped me from writing. But now I know how I write, and there is relief and an ease in my mind in this knowledge.
I allow my subconscious to write for me. I give it questions, and it gives me the answers. It might sound like a simple thing, logical, but I am amazed at what I get back. I do feel as if my conscious mind and my hand are just a tool to be used for the words to be put onto the page. I also ask the universal energy to give me answers to something I might want in my story, and low and behold a thunder storm turns up that pushes me to the ground, a stray dog, frightened by the fireworks exploding in the sky, sits on my lap shaking right down to his paws. Many, many things that are written in the book are there because they have appeared in my life so I can add them to the story, just like adding spice to a stew.
Thanks for those fascinating insights into your writing process, Nicola. I find your world building fascinating too – it’s delightfully complex, which is satisfying for lovers of fantasy. When I enter Tanglemire Forest, the dramatic setting of The Gribble’s Gift, I’m instantly transported to my youth where some of my favourite fantasy worlds such as The Magic Faraway Tree and The Dark Crystal give me a nostalgic wink. What have been some of your greatest influences (if any) when it came to creating Tanglemire Forest?
Ever since I was young, even though I didn’t realise it, I’ve been interested in the minute things that make this world tick. I have also made lots and lots of things, too many things really, which spilt up my energies and concentration, which meant everything took too long or never got finished. So on one hand I love writing about the minute things of this world—the things that cannot be seen with the naked eye, but are there non-the-less—and on the other hand, I love building miniature fantasy worlds. These two things have never left me. One day my dream is to build a world so big I can actually walk around in it, and maybe other people might like to come and join me.
When I was young I devoured the Narnia Stories by C.S. Lewis, The Borrowers stories by Mary Norton, the many stories of Marry Poppins by P.L. Travers, all the way through to Hothouse by Brian W. Aldiss and in-between, and I am still reading every night someone’s creative writings.
On the model making side, Jim Henson was (and still is) a great influence in my life. His creativity was outstanding. Roye England of Pendon Museum (in Oxfordshire, UK) was also a great influence in my life when I was young. His exactness of the work he achieved, his dedication to the models he built was a real inspiration, and I have had the good fortune to see Pendon twice in my life.
All through my life I have absorbed everything that goes on around me, the things I see, hear, smell, feel and sense, and all of it ends up in my miniature fantasy models and my stories in one way or another.
I daresay that being such a sensory and sensitive person underpins all your creative outlets, Nicola. You describe yourself as an Australian Visual Storyteller, which is a great way to define your multifaceted talents as a writer, illustrator, and miniature fantasy model maker. Do you have a preference to what creative medium you work in when it comes to brining Tanglemire Forest to life?
I think I’m torn between the two: writing and building models. I found the more I built, the more stories would trudge through my mind about the characters living within them. But the more I wrote, the more I wanted to build the new things I had just imagined. The idea had always been to build what was in the stories so that the two were combined, so when people visited the models, book in hand, they could physically see what was written in the book right there in front of them (well, as best as it could be shown).
The Gribble’s Gift is a gift in itself when it comes to the myriad details you’ve thought about for your book. From the beautiful illustrations contained in its pages, down to the amazing presentation readers are surprised with upon delivery, through to sourcing an Australian-based printer, you have compromised on nothing. Did these benchmarks always tie in with your vision for your book series?
Yes, it was always very important to me to have an Australian illustrator, printer, and a company near me, who would allow me to sit down over coffee, and actually talk to a person to help get my book published.
I chose Andrew MacIntosh, from Melbourne, as the illustrator of the front cover, and he has done an outstanding job as most people who have purchased the book have never asked what it is about. (And the blurb on the back tells you just a smidgen about the story).
The company here on the Gold Coast, Publicious (Andy McDermont), has done an outstanding job as well, and I have been an exacting customer that no doubt drove him a bit nuts, but Andy listened to everything I had to say and made suggestions where they were needed. He also enabled my book to go out into this world where I would never have been able to get it to by myself.
Also I like (need, I should say) to be in control, and the thought of sending my book off where I didn’t know what was happening to it, was more than I could bare, especially as this was my first book. I have spent so much time, effort, and heartache to get this story to where it is now; I had to have control of it.
That’s wonderful you’ve had such a positive experience with Publicious and your cover illustrator, Nicola. Now, ever since we first met, I’ve admired your philosophy of eco-sustainability, and quiet commitment to nature and the environment, both in your creative work and your professional work in pond making. I know these themes tie heavily with your vision for Tanglemire. What is one piece of advice you’d give to upcoming visual storytellers/model makers in this regard?
Goodness – Advice? Um…well, I think the most important thing would be to trust yourself. DO NOT listen or believe what other people say IF it is negative. Those people are only projecting onto you their inability to see your vision and want to control what you do because they, themselves, have probably never achieved what they wanted to achieve in their life, so they attempt to stop others for achieving their dreams, (this has been my reality). Constructive advice is a different matter.
Most people, I find, do not even think of breaking out of the envelope that our tiny, puny lives (compared with the enormity and complexity of our world, let alone the universe) are modeled into by our upbringing, the media, tradition, our own doubts, fears, the negativity of other people, anything that stops you from being you. I have fought all my life to become who I am. I have fought everyone just to get this book published the way I wanted it to be. I fought even against myself to get what I really wanted. Trust yourself. You know what you want, you just have to get out of your own way, don’t hurt other people in the process, and believe you can do it, no matter what.
That’s such an empowering and thought-provoking response, Nicola. One thing I know about you is you have—despite all obstacles—remained committed to the strength of your vision. I’m proud of you and admire your tenacity and passion. So now that The Gribble’s Gift is out in the hands of readers, when can we expect the next book in the Tanglemire trilogy, The Swanling Child? And—without giving too much away—can you tell us a little bit about what this next instalment is about?
Luckily for me, I started writing snippets of The Swanling Child in 2008, which means I have 18 chapters written, but not polished.
It is difficult for me to say what the story is about because, for the most part, I do not know. In saying that, I do believe all my stories are already written in my subconscious, they are just waiting until I, the conscious part of me, is ready to write them down. What I do know is that little Veeleeta is stolen, kidnapped. (I can tell you I was stunned when that happened! I thought, ‘What have I just done?’ It took two years for her to appear again and she was underwater! I couldn’t believe it. Luckily she didn’t stay there for long but what she saw when she emerged was frightening.)
I also know that seven seeds of the Silver Lunaira trees have to be planted in another part of Tanglemire Forest before they die. Also Ebony, and her cousin Charlie (named after a cat of ours), ends up in the forest, and I know that Veeleeta and the Swanling Child have to stop a war. There is also the uncle of the Swanling Child who has gone a bit mad, but why? I think I have a solution to that, but how to fix everything else together, I do not know yet. It is all like a jigsaw puzzle—another thing I devoured when young, which is now turning out to be very useful! I have little bits of a story that have to be placed in just the right spot to make a complete picture (a novel). I need to find the strands to weave them together. I do at least now how it ends.
Hats off to you, Nicola – you’re the ultimate ‘pantser’, honouring your subconscious! Thanks so much for your time on the couch today. One final question—just for fun—what’s something about you people might be surprised to know?
Crumbs! Um… Well, I’m a private person at times and shut up shop and refuse to say anything, and then other times I will tell you anything you want to know.
When I was very young, living in England, in a time when children were seen and not heard, my mother took me along every time she visited an old lady. Neither of us can remember who she was. To keep me quiet and amused I was given a peg board that was painted green with a stone path through it, and paper walls around three sides. I was then given tiny plastic plants which I would use to spend my time making different miniature garden designs.
What is it that I do today? I earn my bread and butter by doing waterlily ponds (gardening) and I make miniature fantasy houses out of gourds and recycled objects that are covered in flowers and plants.
Who would ever have thought that when I was so young I knew nothing about this world, that this simple game was the start of a journey that would end up on the other side of the world writing stories, building words of fantasy, making my dreams come true?
Nicola, I love that your dreams are coming true, and all your hard work is paying off. I’m reminded of Eleanor Roosevelt’s quote: “The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams.” I’m certain your future projects are going to showcase those dreams as your characters adventure further into Tanglemire Forest…No Ordinary World!
More information about Nicola, and where you can purchase The Gribble’s Gift, and learn more about Tanglemire Forest.
Nicola J. Tierney lives on the Gold Coast, Australia, far away from where she was born in England, 1960. Her two children have flown the nest a long time ago and her long suffering partner, Garry, supports her is ways she thought no man would.
Her interest in the tiny, minute, detailed way this world works was sparked when she was very young and the world thought children should be seen and not hear. She had been given a toy garden to play with to keep her quiet. It is the main reason she builds, miniature fantasy houses out of gourds and recycled objects now. Her aim is to build a world big enough for her, and others, to walk around in.
Her love of fantasy worlds (sparked by devouring the Narnia Chronicles by C. S. Lewis when she was young) have been with her longer than she can remember. Her determination to make her dreams a reality has been a driving force in her life – this is just one of the many things she wants to achieve to bring some magic into people’s lives. These two aspects of her life have calumniated in the publishing of her first illustrated fantasy fiction novel, The Gribble’s Gift.
I love playing around with micro fiction. I’ve been dabbling (and drabbling) in it for years. I enjoy the challenge of telling a story, portraying an emotion, or revealing the briefest snapshot in time, within the tight parameters micro stories demand.
To this end, I was rapt when Writers Victoria announced they’d be running their 30-word Twitter Flash Fiction challenge again this April. The brief is simple: 30 words. 30 prompts. 30 days. Write a micro tale in exactly thirty words, and Tweet it using the hashtag #WVFlashFic20, with a winner chosen every day from the hundreds of entrants.
Micro Fiction is the perfect way to do something creative every day. I’ve found maintaining creative expression especially important for my emotional wellbeing during lockdown.
I’d had a lot of fun with Writers Victoria’s challenge the previous year, even chalking up a win with the prompt word ‘Blunder’
April 16, 2019: BLUNDER
“Behold, the Seven Blunders of the World!”
The students stared at the swirling holographic images: oceans of plastic, extinct animals, parched earth, bee decolonisation, deforestation, pandemic disease, oil spills.
“Class dismissed.” — @BecksMuse
2020’s theme for the daily prompt words was ‘focus’. No wins for me this year, but I did jag three honourable mentions.
If you like short, sharp, quick reads, you’ll find my responses to the Writers Victoria daily 30-word challenges below.
#EYEBALL (Honourable Mention)
“Wanna play marbles?” The new kid said, shaking out his sack.
“Sure,” Lachlan replied, then gasped and recoiled. Amid the cluster of small round glass balls, an eyeball slyly winked.
“Concentrate all your thoughts into a single stream of focus. Here, like this.” The Energy Master closed his eyes and whispered the incantation. The skyscraper collapsed. “Your turn,” he commanded.
“Did you hear about the fire at the campground?” Dad asked.
“No!” I replied, aghast. “What happened?”
“It was really intense. Get it “in-tents”
I groaned. “Not another Dad joke!”
#BLUR (Honourable Mention)
Edrick focused on the parchment, but his words skewed through a blur of tears. His beloved Gilda, guilty of witchcraft. He picked up his quill and signed her death warrant.
‘Hocus-Pocus’ they called themselves. Glam metal, long hair, tight pants and makeup. But when they played, dark magic happened. Their voodoo beat held the crowd in sway—hypnotised, compliant…powerless.
The Three Blind Mice resolved no mouse would ever again suffer tail amputation by the farmer’s wife. They threw her carving knife in the river, then tossed her in too.
I took the pill, my mind grew hazy
I dirty danced with Patrick Swayze
I floated down a purple stream
A spider served me scones with cream…
Peek in mirror, a subtle trace
Where eyes once blue—is that a brownish hue
That stares back at my purloined face?
Now, is that me, or is that you?
Ever had a crisp sandwich? It’s real easy. Two slices o’ bread, butter, handful o’ crisps—plain work best. Smoosh it all together, and crunch! Trust me, it’s the dog’s bollocks.
Little germ in petrie dish,
You seethe and breed. My ardent wish?
My microscope’s zoomtastic lens
Finds a cure to thereby cleanse
Our world of you, and all your friends.
You sold snake oil, never disguising what it was. Trapped in my own myopia, I bought it—a recurring subscription. My heart drank deeply; wondered why it never stopped aching.
Head south, you’ll find Old Goat Road converge with Highway One. Stand at them crossroads on a full moon and you’ll be changed. Not transformed, mind. Transported. You’ve been warned.
A single sharp note from the piano turns Chelsea’s head. She peers down the shadow-filled hall. The piano. Draped in dust and cobwebs—unplayed for some fifty years. Until now.
“Call me Bullseye. Ain’t nobody seen a better shot round these parts.”
“I’ll stick with Bullshit,” his wife retorted. “Lobbing an empty tinny into the bin’s hardly a bankable skill.”
“’Are you sure you want to exist? Click Yes or No.’ What the hell kind of question is that? Evil computer!”
“Here, put on my glasses.”
“Oh, ‘exit’. Phew!”
Hayley keeps her pincushion dolls in her locker. Drawn-on eyes, realistic tufts of hair. Shuddersome.
My peripheral catches her newest addition.
“This one’s named after you, Molly.” Hayley smiles sweetly.
I have the vague notion something isn’t right with Percy. He has become pale and withdrawn since returning from 2020. I may have to adjust the time machine.
It’s my weekend. Too long between. I introduce her to Star Wars.
“Pew pew! I’m Princess Leia!” Gemma’s finger gun shoots a laser beam. It cuts right through my heart.
Memories loop. Their pain-cycles torment the washing machine of my mind, scrubbing raw the hazescape hours before dawn’s pale. I drift on a tide of grief—no anchor, no compass.
#SPOTLIGHT (Honourable Mention)
My only aspiration, despite my opaque lies
Is the chance to prove my worth to you—
Shine brightly in your eyes.
You’re a spotlight in my darkness
—luminance my prize
Cobra, in your basket round,
Hear my tale, it’s quite profound.
This snake charmer has lost her way
In exploiting your hypnotic sway
Abused your rights—
You thought me a Russian doll, peeling away my layers until you reached my centre—face crumpling in wounded surprise to discover my wooden heart didn’t match my vibrant exterior.
‘Marry him, and you’re no son of mine.’ I read the sincerity in my father’s words. I tore up his letter, along with his wedding invitation, and binned them both.
“There y’are,” Melinda patted the car’s bonnet. “Good as new.” As her husband backed out the driveway, she slipped the rivet into her pocket with a murderous grin. Cheating bastard.
My name’s Clarity. It was supposed to be Katie, but Dad said when I was born the clouds fogging his mind parted for the first time since my brother died.
Screwed up again, loser. I punch the mirror, my fist a gavel of self-loathing. The glass shatters and fractures. There, that’s the real me. That distorted face in the shards.
Home is a sliver of light hidden among ancient constellations that glitter like raindrops on a spiderweb. I gather my thoughts. Earth is safe…but I must return to fight.
You say I am hooked
Smoke, snort, hit—
Alienated all with my dysfunction
You say my obsession can be beaten
That I’m just fixated,
We assemble, the others silently begging to be picked. Pathetic, this tradition. Your eyes slide over me again. I’m always in your line of sight, forever out of focus. Good.
I’ve also recently enjoyed facilitating April’s Confinement Assignment, an new and ongoing initiative for members of Peninsula Writers’ Club, devised to keep inspiration and motivation high during self-isolation. Confinement Assignment delivers a daily writing prompt word and challenges members to produce a micro tale of exactly 50 words that incorporates the prompt word. Member response has been rewardingly enthusiastic, and it’s been a pleasure to read everyone’s varied interpretations of the prompt word, and the different ways they’ve chosen to use their 50 words.
Apart from the fun factor, there are many benefits to be gleaned from writing micro fiction:
Writing to a prompt allows you to explore, experiment, and push boundaries with your creativity.
Writing to an exact (and limited) word count hones your editorial skills. You’ll become more adept at cutting out superfluous words, while choosing others carefully. When you only have a specific number of words to tell your tale, every word matters.
To rise to a challenge that doesn’t come with the stress of the other daily challenges we’re all currently experiencing in this time of COVID-19.
To share your work, and enjoy the work of others.
To inspire or motivate productivity and imagination – you never know where your words will take you! Many a story or novel has been inspired by a writing prompt!
There you have it. Micro Fiction! It’s a lot of fun. Give it a go 😊
When the going gets tough, the tough get writing…and reading…and rallying to help in a crisis.
The literary community—especially horror writers—are renowned for their generous spirit (see what I did there?) when it comes to charity anthologies by respected publishers supporting worthwhile causes.
Infected Volume 1 ‘Tales to Read at Home’ and Infected Volume 2 ‘Tales to Read Alone’ were borne from the early onset of the coronavirus pandemic, with Steve Dillon from Things in The Well Publishing putting out a call for topical tales that throw readers into the bone-chilling centre of disease, plague, infection, and quarantine.
I have a story The A.V.M Initiative included in Volume 2, a dark little speculation awarded an Honourable Mention in the AHWA’s 2014 Flash Fiction competition. Infected is the perfect home for it, and I’m stoked it’s rubbing shoulders with some very esteemed company. Here’s a bit of a teaser:
If you’re feeling your reality has crossed paths with horror, why not escape into some fictional horror instead? You’ll be helping a great cause while having a great read!
I hope everyone is keeping safe and well (physically and emotionally) during these challenging and unprecedented times. ‘We’re all in this together’ has been thrown around and hash-tagged so frequently it’s started to feel a little hollow, but it’s true – we really are all in this together. Be kind always, but especially now.
Happy writing, happy reading, and happy days (even these ones)
I was recently interviewed by the lovely Tabatha Wood for ‘Voices From the Well’, a series of author interviews from the good folk at Things in the Well Publishing.
Tabatha asked some great questions. She got me thinking about the first stories I ever penned, why I think “writerly advice” can sometimes be unhelpful, and the reason why you should always check your spam folder regularly.
If you’d like to know my thoughts on these and other cool questions, you can read the full interview here.