Internships, Podcasts and a Shiny New Website

I’m just going to throw it right out there and say that I can’t think of an interesting intro to this month’s update. So, continuing the trend from my last monthly update, here’s a Harry Potter-related picture of the most recent global holiday/occasion.

Valentine's DayHappy Valentine’s <3 Gilderoy. Image via Pottermore.

So festive. Anyway, here’s what’s been happening for me throughout January and the first half of February.

What I’m doing

Freelancing

In all the excitement of putting together a 2015 reading recap in my last post, I forgot to announce that I finally have my very own professional website! Yay! You can find it at www.clairebradshaw.com.au.

It’s full of info about the freelance writing and editing services I offer, as well as the work I’m currently doing and have done in the past. There’s also a link to a little portfolio of my writing, and a handy contact form you can use if you want to work with me. :)

Website

(Side note: I also got some very cute business cards in January. I feel like such a fancy business lady.)

Internships

Ahh, that word: ‘internship’. It comes with all sorts of confusing connotations, especially when you’ve got a head full of worries about making/saving money and being a Real Adult With A Proper Career.

It’s been almost a year since I was flung into the wide open world on my own, and in that time I’ve learned a lot. I’ve learned that I want to – and can, and should – call myself a writer. I’ve learned that working with words is truly what I want to do for the rest of my life. I’ve learned that I have the most wonderful, supportive partner in the world, who’ll encourage me when I’m floundering, and who’ll stick by me even when I’m earning next to nothing.

And I’ve learned that if an opportunity through which you’ll gain valuable experience presents itself, you should be brave and consider it – even if it means going out of your way, or making no money from it.

Late last year, two such opportunities did present themselves, in the form of two different internships. I dove right in without a second thought. It couldn’t hurt to apply, I thought; if I never heard back it was no big deal, and if I did – well, I’d work that out when I came to it.

As it turned out, it did come to it, because I was offered both internship positions. After some consideration, I accepted both of them… And so far, I’m really glad I did.

NSW Writers’ Centre

Until the end of June, I’m a one-day-a-week intern at the wonderful New South Wales Writers’ Centre, which offers an amazing range of courses, resources and services to NSW writers.

I’ve been there for almost a month now, and I’ve completely fallen in love with the place. It’s such an amazing atmosphere to work in. I’m surrounded by lovely people who are as passionate about writing and publishing as I am, all within a vibrant hub brimming with opportunities for emerging professionals and creatives. Working there makes me feel like a real part of the Australian writing community, and it’s a very nice feeling indeed.

There is a slight downside to this internship, though, in that the Writers’ Centre is in Lilyfield, Sydney… and I’m in Newcastle, about 170 kilometres away. This means I’m up at 4:30 every Wednesday morning, jumping on a train at 5:30 and arriving in Sydney by 8:00, then catching a bus that just makes it to the Centre before 9:00… And doing it all again come the end of the day.

I stagger in the door around 8:30–9:00 every Wednesday night, my appreciation for Nate reaching an all-time high every time as he welcomes me with a home-cooked dinner and a glass of wine. (Told you he was amazing.) But despite the vague feeling of dread that accompanies setting my alarm on Tuesday nights, despite the long, long days and the travel-weary state I’m in at the end of them, I’ve enjoyed every day I’ve worked at the Centre so far.

It also helps that it’s situated in a lovely historic building in the beautiful, jacaranda-shaded grounds of Callan Park. Nothing like blooms and a breeze to foster creativity…

NSWWCImage via NSWWC.

white magazine

My second internship takes place every Friday at the lovely white magazine. Apart from the fact that it’s an amazingly beautiful publication, perhaps the best thing about white for me is that it’s local – the office is smack in the middle of Newcastle! It’s an absolute dream to have a (now worldwide) publication based so close to home, let alone to be able to work with them myself.

To call white a wedding magazine would be to do it a disservice, because it’s much more than that. Unlike many other bridal magazines, white focuses not only on the big day, but all the days that come after it. The mag and its online component are full of all the usual beautiful real wedding galleries and styled shoots, but white also makes a point of delving into the love story behind each couple they feature. It makes for really beautiful, meaningful, moving reading alongside all the gorgeous imagery.

As the mag’s mission statement itself says:

We are a catalyst for positive change in the culture of marriage and relationships… We bring together stories of love and life – personal narratives of laughter, romance, oftentimes tragedy, but always hope. We hold marriage up to the light, and use our pages to venture into honest, clever and meaningful conversations about all the unglamorous parts of marital (mis)adventure.”

I’m loving the people and the work at white so far, and I’m looking forward to getting as involved as I can with the upcoming production of their next issue.

White MagazineImage via white mag.

What I’m writing

Writer’s Edit

My latest article for Writer’s Edit, 9 Simple Ways to Sharpen Your Manuscript, pretty much does what it says on the label.  If you’ve finished your manuscript, firstly, I bow down to you, because since NaNoWriMo I’ve added a total of 700 words to mine (BLAH); and secondly… I hate to tell you, but the work’s not over yet.

There’s more to be done before you think about sending out your book, even if you’ve perfected the plot and tidied the writing (and bewitched the mind and ensnared the senses…). I’ve done a stack of research and put together a checklist of nine little things you can do to make your manuscript at least 900 times better.

(While you’re over at Writer’s Edit, have a think about submitting to our third and final Kindling anthology, Kindling Volume III! We’re looking for short fiction, poetry, creative non-fiction and writing advice, and submissions are open ’til March 1st, so get on it.)

Writer's EditImage via Writer’s Edit.

Fiction

I recently spent a lovely Sunday writing all day to finish an entry for the Newcastle Short Story Award. One of my writing goals for this year is to try to get more work out there, whether by submitting to publications or entering competitions (or both). Run by my local Hunter Writers’ Centre, the Newcastle Short Story Award seemed the perfect choice for my first submission of the year.

I’m not sure if my piece will do well (that’s what you get for leaving things to the last minute), but I’m really pleased to have entered, and to be honest, writing the story was a joy.

On the topic of fiction… Remember how I mentioned above that I’ve done basically nothing on my fantasy WIP since NaNoWriMo concluded? Well, I thought it was high time I kicked myself back into gear and really got back into this project.

To that end, the lovely Helen Scheuerer and I have agreed to do a self-imposed NaNoWriMo next month! We’ve dubbed it NaNoWriMarch, and we’re both spending the rest of February plotting and planning and preparing. I’m hoping to go into this one feeling a LOT more ready than I did before November’s NaNoWriMo – stay tuned to see how that goes…

To doThe poor To Do list is getting a workout as March approaches… Image via Kaboompics.

What I’m reading/listening to

Books

I recently signed up to Goodreads, where I’ll be tracking all the books I read this year.

So far this year, I’ve read six books:

  • The Wise Man’s Fear by Patrick Rothfuss
  • Crown of Midnight, Heir of Fire and Queen of Shadows by Sarah J. Maas
  • Burial Rites by Hannah Kent
  • The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins

Patrick Rothfuss’ and Sarah J. Maas’ books have had me fangirling pretty hard. I love fantasy fiction SO much. Burial Rites was great too, my first Australian read of the year; and I read The Girl on the Train in a single day, over two train trips, so that was pretty cool. (Another good thing about my NSWWC internship: five hours of uninterrupted reading time on the train every week.)

At the moment I have multiple books on the go, which is something I rarely do, but THERE’S JUST SO MUCH TO READ AND I WANT IT ALL. I’ve set myself a modest 40 books in the Goodreads 2016 Reading Challenge, but my ‘Want to Read’ list long surpasses that…

Goodreads

Podcasts

How did it take me so long to get into podcasts?!

Nate’s been a fan of them for a long time, but since he mainly listens to sports podcasts, I automatically dismissed them as boring and irrelevant to me. It wasn’t until he showed me the non-sports program he listens to that I became interested, then completely hooked.

The most wondrous thing about podcasts is that they make boring activities WAY less boring! Doing the dishes, cleaning the house, driving 40 minutes to my parents’ house – these are all humdrum activities that I now actually look forward to, because I can listen to podcasts while I do them. (‘Looking forward’ to cleaning the house might be an overstatement, but you get what I mean.)

The coveted title of Claire’s Favourite Podcast has to be split between two shows: Stuff You Should Know, from HowStuffWorks.com, and So You Want To Be A Writer, from the Australian Writers’ Centre.

SYSK is amazing. The hosts, Chuck and Josh, are so easy to listen to – they’re funny and genuine and a little bit daggy, which I love. They cover this ridiculously wide range of topics, from the broad to the obscure, and the way they deliver the show makes for interesting listening, even on the most dull-sounding subjects.

One of the best things about SYSK is their regular scheduling: you know you’ll get a new episode every Wednesday and Friday (Australian time). I’m particularly grateful for the Wednesday eps – they really brighten up the last leg of my long morning commute! Plus, Nate and I listen to episodes together when we can, whenever we have a long drive or want to drift off to sleep listening to something. It’s great.

So You Want To Be A Writer is equally wonderful. Valerie Khoo and Allison Tait are two go-getting Australian writing ladies who I really admire, and the amount of advice, insight and industry info their podcast offers is incredible. Every week they cover news, trending topics and writing tips, as well as conducting an interview with a successful writer.

Just listening to this podcast makes me feel more like a ‘real writer’, and I feel myself learning and absorbing and growing more passionate with every episode. I especially love hearing about established writers’ routines and experiences, both via the interviews and from Allison and Valerie themselves. And, of course, the plethora of writing tips and advice is truly invaluable!

An honourable mention must go to another podcast I subscribe to: Serial, from This American Life. The first season, which covers the infamous Adnan Syed/Hae Min Lee murder case, was such addictive listening that I smashed out the second half all in one day.

The current season isn’t quite as mysterious and gripping – it tells the story of Bowe Bergdahl, a US Army soldier who walked off his base and was held captive for five years by the Taliban – but I still find myself fascinated by it. Military stories definitely aren’t one of my foremost points of interest, but the way this story is delivered has me really invested, always curious about what the next episode will bring.

Podcasts

***

Well, this was a way longer post than I originally anticipated! It’s made me realise that I do have a lot going on at the moment, but also that that’s exactly the way I like it.

Hopefully next month’s update will be centred around the amazing leaps and bounds of progress I’ve made with my book… ‘Hopefully’ is definitely the operative word there. But at the moment I’m feeling motivated and optimistic, and that alone makes me really happy.

What I Read Last Year & What I’ll Read This Year

I would begin this post with ‘Happy New Year’, but:

  1. It’s been 2016 for almost two weeks, and
  2. David Bowie died today, so ‘happy’ isn’t the right word at the moment. :( Rest in peace, Starman.

David Bowie

Ziggy himself would know best that the show must go on, though, so let’s continue with today’s scheduled programming.

As with most of my posts here, this is slightly late, but I wanted to take a look back at all the books I read in 2015. My total count was 33 – a little less than I’d hoped, but hey, that’s what 2016 reading resolutions are for, right?!

So here’s my list (organised alphabetically by author, of course).

Books read in 2015

  • The Handmaid’s Tale – Margaret Atwood
  • Stone Mattress – Margaret Atwood
  • Oryx and Crake – Margaret Atwood
  • The Year of the Flood – Margaret Atwood
  • MaddAddam – Margaret Atwood

MaddAddam

  • Sunset Park – Paul Auster
  • A Fall of Moondust – Arthur C. Clarke
  • Room – Emma Donoghue
  • Pieces of Sky – Trinity Doyle
  • Career of Evil – Robert Galbraith

Pieces of Sky

  • Memoirs of a Geisha – Arthur Golden
  • Tess of the D’Urbervilles – Thomas Hardy
  • Far from the Madding Crowd – Thomas Hardy
  • The Old Man and the Sea – Ernest Hemingway
  • The Queen of the Tearling – Erika Johansen
  • The Invasion of the Tearling – Erika Johansen

Queen of the Tearling

  • On Writing – Stephen King
  • Into the Wild – Jon Krakaeur
  • Into Thin Air – Jon Krakaeur
  • Throne of Glass – Sarah J. Maas
  • The Children Act – Ian McEwan

On Writing

  • The Night Circus – Erin Morgenstern
  • Blind Willow, Sleeping Woman – Haruki Murakami
  • South of the Border, West of the Sun – Haruki Murakami
  • Colourless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage – Haruki Murakami
  • Underground – Haruki Murakami

Blind Willow Sleeping Woman

  • Rowan of Rin – Emily Rodda
  • Rowan and the Travellers – Emily Rodda
  • Rowan and the Keeper of the Crystal – Emily Rodda
  • The Name of the Wind – Patrick Rothfuss
  • Slaughterhouse Five – Kurt Vonnegut

Name of the Wind

Kindling

***

Here’s some stats about my list…

Female authors: 15 (Robert Galbraith, of course, counts as a woman!)
Male authors: 16

Fiction (total): 27
Non-fiction: 4
Mixed anthology: 2

Speculative fiction: 13
‘Regular’ fiction: 12
Short story collections: 2
Crime: 1

As you can see, things were fairly even in terms of author gender and types of fiction, but rather shameful in the ratio of fiction to non-fiction! I am a fiction reader first and foremost, but this year I really want to increase the amount of non-fiction on my list.

I’m also going to make a concerted effort to read more from Australian authors. I was a little sad to realise only two authors on my list were Australian (although both Kindling anthologies are primarily made up of works by Australian writers). It’s so important to support the local industry, and as I become more involved in and passionate about writing and publishing, the more I want to make an effort to do just that.

So more non-fiction, more Australian authors… And what else? Well, I’m finding it a little hard to narrow down the rest of my reading goals for 2016, because there’s SO much more I want to read. More fantasy, more women writers, more YA, more big hitters of literary fiction, more books about writing itself…

In light of all that, you know what? I think I might make the simplest reader’s resolution of all for 2016…

MORE BOOKS.

LibraryArtist’s representation of what my house will look like by the end of 2016. Alllll of the books!

Flash Fiction And A Full-Length Novel (Almost)

Happy December, everybody! If you’re not feeling festive enough yet, here, have a picture of Professor Flitwick decorating a Christmas tree.

Christmas at HogwartsImage credit: http://soulstratum.tumblr.com/post/133631891343

I’m a little late with this post. I’d planned to have it up at the end of November, as I’ve noticed there’s a nice little pattern going of around one blog update per month (emphasis is strongly on ‘little’ there). But alas, it wasn’t to be – you’ll probably see why when you reach the end of the post (*cough* NaNoWriMo *cough*).

Anyway, here’s a bit of an update about what’s been happening in my little writing world. :)

Seizure Online

Last month, I was lucky enough to have a piece of flash fiction published with Seizure, an online writing hub that I absolutely love. Their excellent Flashers project features a new piece of bite-sized fiction every week, each of which is accompanied by a custom illustration. Having been a fan of Flashers ever since I discovered it a couple of years ago, you can imagine how excited I was to hear that my submission had been chosen for publication and illustration! You should have seen the cheesy grin on my face as I opened the email and saw the phrase ‘would like to publish’.

Anyway, my piece is called Up High. Click through to give it a read – it’ll only take a minute or two. And be sure to feast your eyes on the absolutely gorgeous illustration by talented artist Sam Paine. The sea, the sky, the blanket – everything about it perfectly encapsulates the feel of the piece. Huge thanks must go to both Seizure and Sam!

Illustration courtesy of the talented Illustration courtesy of Sam Paine via Seizure Online.

Writer’s Edit

November was a super exciting month for Writer’s Edit: on the 18th we launched our newest anthologyKindling Volume II! I was lucky enough to be involved in the process of producing Kindling II, and I have to say that even just as its humble proofreader, I’m so proud of the final result. It’s such a beautiful book – the pieces within are truly compelling and inspiring, the cover is gorgeous, and Helen, Kyra and the rest of the editorial team did a seriously amazing job putting it together.

KindlingIsn’t she lovely?! That’s Kindling II on the left, accompanied by her equally beautiful sister.
Photo courtesy of Yasmin Scheuerer via Writer’s Edit.

If you want to see what all the fuss is about (trust me, you want to), head over to the Writer’s Edit store, where there’s currently a sale on both volumes of Kindling.

While you’re over at Writer’s Edit, you might catch a glimpse of my latest article: last month, I delved into what it takes to write compelling character backstories in a Complete Guide to Creating Backstory in Speculative Fiction. I was inspired by a world-building workshop I attended at the National Young Writers Festival back in October, where there was some interesting chat about backstory: what it is, why it’s so important in sci-fi and fantasy, how much you should include and which parts you should leave out. I learned a lot myself while writing the article, so hopefully you will too.

Back in October, I also wrote something we like to call the Essential NaNoWriMo Survival Guide: a comprehensive, detailed guide to getting through the madness that is National Novel Writing Month. For those who don’t know, NaNoWriMo is an annual challenge in which writers from all around the world attempt to write 50,000 words in the month of November. (It sounds crazy; that’s because it is.) I really enjoyed writing this article, and the more I looked into NaNoWriMo, the more intrigued I became… And so, a mere few days before November arrived, I decided to undertake the NaNoWriMo challenge myself alongside the wonderful women I work with at Writer’s Edit!

Writer's EditThree of my favourite ladies! L-R: Me, Bernadette, Kyra and Helen at the Kindling II launch.
Photo courtesy of Yasmin Scheuerer via Writer’s Edit.

NaNoWriMo

So yeah, November was pretty crazy…

For the last couple of months, I’d had the vague beginnings of a story idea floating around in my head, but the most I’d done to act on it was to decide it was likely going to be Young Adult fantasy, and to write ~1200 words of random description. So when the idea of doing National Novel Writing Month came along, it seemed like the perfect opportunity to actually make a start. The fact that Helen was also working on YA fantasy definitely encouraged me as well – and so, along with Kyra and Bernadette, we officially became WriMos!

I’ve never written anything longer than a short story before, so to commit to writing an entire novel was a huge deal for me. To commit to writing it in a single month was an even bigger undertaking! But I had the support and comradeship of the Writer’s Edit girls to bolster me, so on the 1st of November I got to work, sketching out as many plans as I could and jumping into the writing process in earnest.

I got off to a good start, and for the first half of November I kicked along on par with the minimum 1667 words per day. Despite the minor setback of spilling an entire mug of tea over my laptop one day, and waiting with bated breath to see whether it would still work after drying out, I was going really well.

NaNoWriMoThe allure of the blank page is made so much stronger by NaNoWriMo! Image credit: Kaboompics.

And then the halfway point hit…

Around the 14th, I most inconveniently developed a ridiculously large and painful blister, smack-bang in the middle of my right palm. Reduced to Jaime Lannister-ing my way around for several days, my momentum slowed considerably. And even when the blister started to heal and I could type two-handed again, I still found myself stuck.

I realised I really hadn’t done enough planning for the sort of story I was trying to write. I needed to take my own advice about doing some serious world-building, for a start; I also needed to develop my characters more, and make some concrete decisions about where the plot was going. All these realisations brought me to a virtual standstill, and I got reallfar behind.

But in my own NaNoWriMo Survival Guide, I’d written about allowing yourself to be flexible, and keeping your own personal goals and circumstances in mind. Taking into account my lack of time to plan, my relatively busy month and my overall desire to simply make a start and commit to a project, I decided to reevaluate my original 50,000-word target. By the time I started playing catch-ups, I’d settled on a much more modest goal of reaching 30,000 words by the end of the month. And I’m pleased to say that by 11pm on the 30th of November, I’d hit 30,056 words!

While this is nowhere near the official NaNoWriMo goal or the length of a completed novel, I’m still excited by my progress. If someone had told me at the start of the year that I’d have written at least 30,000 words of a novel by the end of it, I’d have laughed in their face. But now I know I can do it: I am capable of working on a big, sustained project, and what’s more, I’m now especially motivated to do so. With the awesome start NaNoWriMo has given me, I’m determined to keep plugging away until I have a complete first draft of the novel, hopefully by early next year.

As for the book itself… All I can really tell you is that it’s about a perfumer’s daughter, and that it’s somehow morphed its way into a trilogy in my head. Three books to plan and write? That’s not too ambitious at all, right?

I suppose only time will tell.

Conversation, Conflict, the Cold and the Countryside

Happy Monday, readers and writers and random passers-by! I’ve got a little round-up today of the work I’ve recently had published online, so if you’re in the mood for some writing advice, a virtual trip to the countryside, or a short musing you can read while waiting for the kettle to boil – read on.

Phantasmagoria

I’m so excited to have a small piece featured in Edition Five of Phantasmagoria! A vibrant online space full of fiction, poetry, art, rants and reviews, it’s often described as a ‘living magazine’, which I really like.

My piece falls into an interesting category called ‘From The Brainbox’, which Phantasmagoria itself describes best:

We are all writers here, we know what it is like to have bits of brain lying around our apartments in notepads, on the back of receipts, tucked away in that ‘Memo’ section of our phone, on sticky notes, on limbs. Floating sentences and paragraphs paste their way across a writer’s personal landscape. This is what we want for From The Brainbox. We want raw, unpolished pieces of peoples’ lives. You submit that Word document you opened and poured your heart into about ‘that’ person. You submit that piece of paper with that sentence you thought was kind of okay. You submit tiny portions of yourself and we welcome them with open arms. This is our great experiment – this is our patchwork quilt of modern humanity.

I stumbled across this description while browsing through Phantasmagoria one day and it immediately resonated with me. At the moment, I’m not the sort of writer who has a big, sustained project at which I’m chipping away. I’m more the type with a Notes app full of sentences or fleeting thoughts saved to my phone at random intervals; the type with a handful of half-written pieces saved in Word docs on my computer.

The day before I read about ‘From The Brainbox’, it just so happened that I’d taken down some late-night ramblings in my phone about England and warmth and the weather and the way it affects people. (That sort of thing has been playing on my mind a little lately – I wrote a post about it last month.)

Anyway, I thought I may as well try to turn my ramblings into something I could submit to Phantasmagoria. I ended up with a little piece called ‘Sunflower’ and – lo and behold – it was selected to be featured in Edition Five, which went live today! Head over and check it out – the Phantas team has done a wonderful job of putting together a diverse array of pieces from emerging writers.

phantasmagoria

Lily Magazine

The story of how I came to be involved with Lily Magazine is kind of similar to what I just talked about with Phantasmagoria. Chance and timing are wonderful things sometimes, aren’t they?

You may remember my post from a few months back about my favourite countryside Instagram accounts. Shortly after I posted it, I noticed a submissions call-out from Lily Magazine, a lovely online mag about all the best aspects of country life. While I didn’t have anything like a tree-change story or a personal musing on country life to contribute, I did think that perhaps a variation on my Instagram piece might fit well with the magazine and its audience.

After emailing back and forth for a while with Tina, Lily’s founder and the loveliest lady you can imagine, we agreed that I would develop a little column called ‘Our Favourite Country Instagrammers’, which went live at the start of October! Each month, the column will feature an Instagram account full of gorgeous countryside images, with a few words about who runs the account and what you’ll find on there.

lily magazineImage via Lily Magazine.

Writer’s Edit

I am so enjoying working on regular articles for my beloved Writer’s Edit! My latest pieces are all about how to write conflict and conversation in your fiction.

How To Master Conflict In Young Adult Fiction looks at the important role conflict plays in the YA genre, offering guidance on how to work conflict naturally and effectively into your story.

5 Golden Rules For Writing Authentic Dialogue navigates the often tricky territory of dialogue in fiction, laying down five guidelines to follow when writing speech and conversation for your characters.

I learned quite a lot myself while researching and writing both of these, so do check them out if you’re a YA author in need of a few tips, or if you’re struggling with writing effective dialogue. I hope you find them helpful!

writer's editImage via Kaboompics.

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.

IMG_2333

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.

IMG_2676

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.