Who I Am In The Summer

I think I’ve been romanticising the person I am in summer compared to the one I am in winter.

Over the last few months, as winter has swelled and begun to ebb, I’ve been making grand proclamations (mostly to myself, occasionally to other people) about what I’m going to be like when warmer weather comes. I’m never going to sleep past 7:30am. I’m going to get my business up and running and have heaps of clients. I’m going to write all the time – in cafés, outside in the sun – and get published all the time. I’m going to exercise. I’m never going to be idle and I’m never going to waste a moment.


But hold on a second.

Just who exactly is this wondrous-sounding Summer Claire? This person who gets up at dawn every day without ever sleeping in, who walks and does yoga and eats healthily 100% of the time, who kicks all kinds of personal and professional goals and blazes her trail with no setbacks in sight?

I can tell you now: that Claire has never existed – not last summer, or any before – and I doubt she will when summer comes this year.


Both Nate and my mum often tell me I’m too hard on myself. That I don’t give myself enough credit sometimes (Mum), that it’s sometimes OK to eat chocolate and pizza and sleep after eight (Nate). I agree, begrudgingly, to a certain extent. (After all, what kind of life would it be if you never treated yourself, never rested, never enjoyed a moment of idle time?) However, I also know there are areas in which I could definitely practise more discipline and determination – times where I could set more goals, and work harder to achieve them.

I have had a fair few things going on lately, but if I’m honest with myself, I’ve occasionally been using the season as the basis of an excuse when I’m unmotivated to do certain things. ‘Oh, it’s cold and windy outside – I couldn’t possibly go for a walk.’ ‘It’s just the season that’s getting me down and making me unproductive today.’ ‘Well, it is winter – everyone eats comfort food/stays indoors a lot/slows their progress down a bit at this time of year.’

While these statements are sometimes true, the fact is that if I really want something – if I know the sort of person I want to be and the sort of life I want to lead – then the weather, or the way it makes me feel, should not play a part; not as hindrance nor as help. The goals and lifestyle I aspire towards are objective, concrete. They’re no harder to achieve in winter and no easier to attain in summer.

Having said that, though… I am looking forward to the months ahead.

Late last week, I went for a brisk afternoon walk, for the first time in a long while. It was nice – really nice. The sun was warm and encouraging; the sight of the sea was calming, as it always is. The air hinted at the salty scent of summer from the ocean and the fish and chip shop.

I walked close beside two magpies digging in the ground and paused to watch them (neither paid me any heed – I liked that). I came home and took off my shoes, letting my usually sock-bound feet feel the breeze and the sun-warmed concrete of my balcony. I filled up my new little watering can and gave my new little pot plants a drink. I felt peaceful and warm and content.

If the next few months have more afternoons like those, I definitely won’t be complaining.

When it comes down it, though… Instead of assuming or hoping some magical change will occur with the onset of spring and summer, I’m going to action that change of my own volition. And if the warmer weather helps me do so, all the better.

The magical Summer Claire may not really exist, but I can aspire to be like her all the same.

Inspiration for Writers

I know Mondays are the most popular day of the week to seek out inspiration – we all need that little something to kick us back into the working week, after all. But poor old Tuesday could do with a healthy dose of creative stimulation, as well… So I thought today was as good a day as any for a little inspiration-related post!

First of all, I have a new article over at Writer’s Edit that wordsmiths might find helpful: 6 Simple Ways To Stay Inspired As A Writer. From time to time, we writers all find ourselves lacking that essential spark of motivation and creativity that’s necessary to our craft. So I’ve looked into some sure-fire ways to help yourself stay inspired, with a few motivational author quotes thrown in as well – ‘cause we’re all suckers for those!

Leonard-Bernstein-Quote-InspirationImage courtesy of Writer’s Edit.

While we’re on the topic of Writer’s Edit, I thought I’d also mention a couple of exciting projects we have happening at the moment, which we’d love all writers and readers to check out and take part in!

Sometimes there’s nothing like the promise of seeing your work published online to get you moving with your writing. For writers of fiction and poetry interested in just such an opportunity, Writer’s Edit has recently begun a new monthly initiative: Short Story and Poem of the Month.

Each month, we invite writers and poets to submit their pieces for consideration, choosing an outstanding entry from each category to be featured on the site. Head over to our Submissions page to read the guidelines and submit your work!

Green Chameleon - StockSnap Creative CommonsImage courtesy of Green Chameleon via StockSnap Creative Commons.

Finally, speaking of publishing – we’re also very excited at the moment about our upcoming anthology, Kindling Volume II. Following on from the success of last year’s Kindling collection, the team has put together another amazing book full of inspiring fiction, non-fiction and poetry from emerging writers, as well as some helpful pieces of publishing industry information and advice. I’ve been lucky enough to read the first proof of the manuscript, so you can trust me when I say that you’ll definitely want to get your hands on Kindling II when it’s published later this year!

If all this inspiration has got you feeling particularly generous, you might like to make a contribution to Writer’s Edit to help cover our production costs for Kindling II. If so, you are truly wonderful, and you can head to our Donations page to contribute.

1528479_384792738362491_6599731009287790857_nImage courtesy of Writer’s Edit.

Happy Tuesday, inspiration-seekers – I hope the rest of your week is full of creativity!

The Ultimate Guide To World-Building: Featured Article on Writer’s Edit

A couple of months ago, I started working with the lovely team at Writer’s Edit, a wonderful online literary magazine and small press. If you’re a writer, a reader or an all-round lit-lover, you’ll want to check out this site – it’s an expansive literary hub, containing everything from advice for writers to book reviews to publishing industry news and insights.

Writer’s Edit has also published Kindling, a diverse anthology of short fiction, poetry and non-fiction that’s well worth getting your hands on. Plus, they’re running an awesome competition at the moment, which could have you winning all sorts of prizes like novel-writing software and writerly book packs – and you get a free ebook just for entering. What’s not to love?! (Be quick with that one, though – entries close on Wednesday the 15th.)

Image via Instagram: @writersedit.

Anyway, I’m excited to say that this week sees my first feature article published on Writer’s Edit! ‘The Ultimate Guide to World-Building: How To Write Fantasy, Sci-Fi and Real Life Worlds’ pretty much does what it says on the label. It’s an in-depth look at the creation processes behind great fictional worlds, drawing advice and examples from master world-builders like Tolkien, GRRM and (my hero) J. K.

If you’re a writer looking to invent a new world (or simply create a sense of place using our existing one), it may be worth having a read. Even non-writers who love reading fantasy or sci-fi might enjoy learning what goes on behind the scenes of their favourite made-up universe! So whether you’re a fan of dragons, dystopias or real-world destinations, make a cup of tea and head over to Writer’s Edit for an afternoon read.

LOTRDid someone say ‘afternoon tea’? Painting by the talented Christopher Clark.
Harry PotterMy ultimate fantasy destination: Hogwarts. Image via Pottermore.

Things I Love Lately: Instagram Edition – Countryside Dreaming

Hello, writer’s block, my old friend.

Actually, I’m not sure if what I have can even be called writer’s block. Usually, people suffering from that particular ailment are in the midst of writing something already, and have simply come to a standstill…but lately, I’m rarely in the midst of writing anything, because what I’m having trouble with is getting started.

You might say instead that I’m having something of a crisis of inspiration. Inspiration is the absolute essence of a creative life; it’s no wonder I feel a little lost without it. It’s a bit of a strange time for me.

I want nothing more than to be writing, writing, writing all the time, so to try to get myself started, I’ve resorted to desperately Googling variations of the phrase ‘what to write about when you have nothing to write about’. What I’ve found, mainly, is what I already know: write about what you know, what you’re passionate about, whatever you’re thinking about. Just write.

So to get myself moving, I decided to get meta and start thinking about what I have been thinking about. And one thing in particular came to mind: the fact that I’ve lately become a little bit obsessed with the idea of the countryside.

Ever since Nate and I stayed at a beautiful bed and breakfast in the Upper Hunter Shire town of Scone a couple of months ago, the countryside – especially the Australian countryside – has been playing on my mind. I’ve often found myself daydreaming of perfect pastoral views and early, foggy mornings brightening into clear days; of big, rustic kitchens and crackling fireplaces; of a lifestyle based on simplicity, clarity and the comforts of home.

Little essences of country lifestyle have been jumping out at me everywhere, too: home-baked lavender shortbreads calling my name from café cabinets; Far From The Madding Crowd bumping its way to the top of my to-read list; Women’s Weekly ‘Country Classics’ cookbooks tempting me from bookshop shelves…and, most of all, a curious trend in the bunch of new accounts I’ve started following on Instagram. You guessed it: they all feature scenes of the countryside and the life that comes with it.

So after another long stretch with no blog activity, I’ve finally come up with this post. It’s just a quick look at five of my favourite countryside Instagram accounts – the ones that fill me with dreams and inspiration. (In other words, the ones that get me feeling the way all writers want to feel, all the time.) I do realise that it may be more focussed on images than writing, but hey – it got me blogging again, so I’m not complaining!

Now, after all that ado, read on to transport yourself to some of the most beautiful countryside Australia has to offer. (All images are courtesy of their respective Instagram accounts.)

Tamsin’s Table @tamsinstable

Rolling, sun-dappled hills, wandering farmyard animals, seasonal food on long timber tables…have your eyes misted over in pure dreaminess yet? If so, you’d best snap back to reality and go check out the Insta-feed from Tamsin’s Table! It’s full of all the things that make country life so idyllic: bucolic landscapes, gorgeous interiors and delicious home-cooked treats.

All this beauty comes from a farmhouse in Gippsland, Victoria, run by Tamsin Carvan and her family. But they’re not the only ones who get to enjoy it: picture intimate lunchtime gatherings featuring homegrown produce laid out on handmade furniture, as well as workshops and masterclasses teaching you how to make the most out of what’s in season – that’s what’s on offer at the numerous special events held regularly on the 113-acre farm. Find out more at www.tamsinstable.com.au.

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The Timber and Stone Retreat @thetimberandstoneretreat

If you’re ever in need of a relaxing, rejuvenating getaway, what’s the first thing you think of? A beachside holiday? A big-city shopping trip? Whatever it is, trust me – after you’ve seen this feed, all you’ll want to do is visit a country retreat the little Victorian township of Malmsbury!

Curated by the owners of the picturesque Timber and Stone Retreat, this account paints a portrait of the perfect country escape through beautiful snaps of the house’s interiors, gardens and surrounding property. The feed as a whole has a beautiful aesthetic, with plenty of muted tones and pops of warm colour.

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Country Style Magazine @countrystylemag

This one is pretty self-explanatory! Australian magazine Country Style is the perfect coffee-table tome for lovers of the most picturesque parts of country life. Gorgeous rural scenery, stylish farmhouse interiors and homely, garden-to-plate food – you’ll find it all in both the magazine and its Instagram counterpart. Somebody please stop me from taking out yet another mag subscription…

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Gold Dust Days @golddustdays

Gold Dust Days is a blog run by friends Jesse and Kathy, who both live in the beautiful town of Daylesford in Central Victoria. Their Instagram feed documents the day-to-day imagery that inspires the pair and shows off the loveliness of their hometown.

The main word the ladies use to describe Daylesford is ‘magical’, and I have to agree with them. Everything about their little town seems to be bathed in the golden glow that their blog name suggests. Their photos reflect this as well – there’s plenty of warm, sparkly hues from all the autumn leaves and sunrise/sunset skies!

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Em and the Wild Things @emandthewildthings

I’ve hardly seen a more dreamy Instagram feed than this one. I couldn’t find out much about Emily, who runs the account, but her bio reads: ‘Grass, landscapes, flowers, kidspam, abandoned, the everyday.’ And that’s pretty much what you’ll find here: a series of beautiful vignettes of country and family life.

From what I can gather, Emily’s on Instagram purely for love, not money, business or self-promotion. It seems like she’s just super passionate about capturing and sharing beautiful moments from her rural life in Central NSW – and no wonder, when it’s as pretty as this!





If you have any other lovely Instagram accounts you’d recommend following, leave them in a comment below or tweet me @paperbackbird!

Things I Love Lately: Clouds, Clothes and House of Cards

Fictional politics, winter fashion, quiet getaways and views from the top: here are some of my favourite things from the last few months.

House of Cards

Ahh, Francis J. Underwood…the most intriguing (and occasionally terrifying) TV lead since Walter White. I missed the initial House of Cards hype train when the show first started (as I am rather apt to do), but boy oh boy did I jump on board recently! I quickly became fascinated by the ruthless power couple that is the Underwoods, and now I don’t know what to do until Season Four.

HOUSE OF CARDSImage via hollywood.com

Everything about House of Cards perfectly reflects the smooth, cold, calculating nature of its key characters, from the softly sinister tones of the soundtrack to the carefully crafted aesthetic of the cinematography and set design. The colour palette is gorgeous: muted, neutral and often shadowy, dealing mainly in shades of grey, black, blue and white with the occasional gold highlight. It’s beautiful to look at and listen to; throw in some ultra-sharp political drama and a fourth-wall-breaking Kevin Spacey, and you’ve got some damn addictive viewing.

Image via fusion dot net 2Image via fusiondotnet.wordpress.com
Image via fusion dot netImage via motionvfx.com
Image via motionvfx comImage via fusiondotnet.wordpress.com

Autumn/winter clothes

Now, speaking of colour palettes…I’m about to get all girly on you here and have an OH-MY-GOD-I-LOVE-CLOTHES moment, so be warned. In my opinion, the best thing about cool-weather clothes (besides their ability to hide the evidence of all those hot chocolates and warming pastries you’ve been consuming) is the beautifully rich range of colours to choose from.

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On a recent stocking-up trip to H&M, I bought cardigans and jumpers in shades of mustard, oxblood and byzantium (yellow, maroon and purple, for the less shade-savvy/pretentious reader), and picked up staple navy pieces like spotted blouses and striped long-sleeved tops. I can’t wait to pair them with comfy jeans, scarves and brown lace-up boots for all those hot-chocolate-based outings I’ll soon be going on.

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A couple of months ago, Nathan and I both took a week off work and treated ourselves to a little holiday. Travelling up the coast to beautiful North Haven, we spent a few days camping, eating, wandering and playing aqua golf, before moving along to a little cabin at Manning Point – a favourite holiday destination from both of our childhoods. We indulged in three-course home-cooked breakfasts, napped, read books on the beach, played board games, walked around the sleepy streets, and visited the local bowling club senior-citizen-style for dinner and raffles.

IMG_1904Stunning views from North Brother Lookout near North Haven.
IMG_1919Fish and chips by the river at Manning Point.

I hate to use a holiday buzz-phrase like ‘relax and recharge’, but in truth, that’s exactly what we did. I felt like I came home in a totally different mindset, feeling much more relaxed and at ease with myself and the world at large, and so did Nathan. The rare getaways we take are usually to big cities and are jam-packed with activity, so it was really nice to have a holiday in the true sense of the word.

IMG_1907Early evening strolls around Weeroona Caravan Park, Manning Point.

Sky views from my balcony

We’ve had some crazy weather where I live lately; the NSW East Coast has been absolutely battered by wind in gales and rain in torrents. By chance, Nate and I had actually been away from home during the worst of the storms, and due to flooded roads we couldn’t get back when we’d planned. But when we eventually did make it home at 6:30am the following day, we were greeted by the most magical morning sky I’ve ever seen.

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Apart from being a welcome respite from the moody cloud-cover of the preceding few days, the gorgeous sunrise reminded me of all the beautiful skyscapes I’ve witnessed from my well-situated balcony. I’ve watched angry clouds amass themselves and spit out purple flashes of lightning; admired painting-esque sunset scenes of puffy clouds hovering on a gilded horizon; and marvelled at the perfect pastel gradient of many a clear afternoon sky. My previous post was even written on my balcony under the calming influence of a brand new day’s sunrise.

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Yeah, I’m pretty lucky to live where I do.

On Redundancy.

As I start to write this, it’s a Friday morning in mid-April and I’m awake and dressed before the sun has even properly risen. You might think I’m very industrious, being up nice and early before a day of work; but the fact of the matter is that, as of this lovely autumn morning, I no longer have a job.

It’s a funny feeling, being ‘made redundant’. On the one hand, you’re assured that it’s nothing to do with you or the quality of your work – that it’s simply, and sadly, just not viable for your position to exist anymore. On the other hand, though, there’s no getting around that word: redundant. It means, literally, ‘no longer needed or useful’; and there are few less pleasant feelings than that of being useless.


It’s true that of late I had been feeling a little uneasy with my job. Was this really what I wanted to be doing? Was I making any progress towards my eventual ‘dream career’? But these were just the musings of someone a year and a half into their first ‘real’ job after uni. When it came down to it, I really did like my job, I was good at it, and I never imagined I would lose it so suddenly and in a way so out of my own control.

On the day I was let go, I spent the evening absorbing the shock with mint choc-chip ice cream straight from the tub, occasionally bursting into teen-relationship-breakup-esque fits of tears and lamenting the fact that I was now effectively an unemployed hobo. Since the age of 15, I’ve always had a job! Even though most of that time was spent in retail (and even though there were times I thought I’d rather live on the street than fix another damn self-serve checkout), I was always appreciative of the fact that I had a payslip to rely on at the end of each week. Facing a redundancy in the face of today’s competitive job market, monetary concerns soon become far more pressing than mere feelings of disappointment and self-doubt…


Luckily, I have an extremely supportive partner who is always very good at assuaging my worries, whatever they may be. ‘I actually think this is a really good thing,’ he said to me while I was probably getting snot and tears all over his shirt. ‘It means you can focus on what you really want to do now.’

And when I stopped to think about it, I realised he was completely right. I’m not really one to believe ‘everything happens for a reason’, but I do think that sometimes bad things like this happen at just the right time for us to turn them into good things. I’m treating this as the push I need to work hard on my own business and career opportunities – to focus on achieving the creative lifestyle I’ve been dreaming of.

There are plenty of wonderful things in the world that some people may define as redundant: bookshops, physical photo albums, semicolons. But I know in my heart that those things are not at all useless – and you know what? Neither am I.


DIY Christmas Gifts

Happy third-day-after-Christmas to anybody out there! I hope everyone had a beautiful Christmas week full of festivities, food comas and family time – I know I did.



Looking back on my last post, I realise I haven’t quite lived up to my word. While I did indeed embark on my crafty, Pinterest-y DIY Christmas projects, I did not faithfully document them here as planned. The weeks leading up to Christmas were busy – so busy that come Christmas Eve, I found myself spending eight frantic hours doing last-minute baking, making and gift-basket-assembling, with only enough time to snap a few quick blog photos in between!

That being said, I really did enjoy the few days I spent at home preparing for Christmas, decked out in a cute apron, Ol’ Blue Eyes and The Boob crooning carols in the background.

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Anyway, due to all the Christmas craziness, I’ll only be talking about a few of my homemade gifts here, but I hope they give you some DIY inspiration – even if you don’t put it to use until next Christmas!

So first up: bath salts. They’re about the easiest thing ever to make, so I did two varieties for my and Nathan’s mums: lavender & bergamot and rose, geranium & lavender.


Following this recipe from hellonatural.co, I used a cup of Epsom salts, a cup of sea salt (substituting for kosher salt), half a cup of bi-carb soda, and some essential oils and food colouring to make them look and smell pretty.



I got some cute little glass jars from a two-dollar shop, made labels with some free banner graphics and fonts found online, and tied it all together with coloured twine (also from the two-dollar shop – a true place of wonder for DIY gift-makers).


Lip balms are another cute and simple gift. I found this recipe on overthrowmartha.com and bought a block of beeswax from Bunnings; some Vitamin E capsules from Chemist Warehouse; a little set of lip balm pots from eBay; and a $2 grater and mini saucepan from Kmart. (The latter accessories are highly recommended if you’re going to try this out – the wax will most likely ruin your grater and leave a gross residue on your saucepan!)


Grabbing some coconut oil from my pantry and the essential oils I used for my bath salts, it was then as simple as boiling it all up together and pouring into pots to cool.


Making good use of the pretty stickers at the end of my 2014 Frankie diary, I decorated the lids of the pots, and the lip balms were good to go!


I made lots of other things that I forgot or didn’t have time to photograph – mainly food gifts, including cookies, muffins and little jars of pesto and jam. One that I did manage to record was a very simple rosemary-infused olive oil I made for my grandma.


All it involved was drying some rosemary sprigs in the oven for a couple of hours (which made the kitchen smell AMAZING, by the way), then combining them with some oil over low heat for 5-10 minutes. Strain the mixture into a cute pourer (again, from the two-dollar shop – amazing) and you have another lovely, easy gift.


So even though I didn’t get to document my progress the way I wanted to, my homemade Christmas gifts all turned out wonderfully – and were very much appreciated by their recipients, which, after all, is what it was all about.

Merry belated Christmas and an early Happy New Year!

C x