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.

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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.
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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!

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