I gave my friends at Writing.com the opportunity to interview me this week. Here’s the result!
What is your favorite thing to write? Poetry, short stories, novels, etc?
I find poetry easier to write, because you don’t need a plot. I suck at thinking up plots. I enjoy writing short stories, and minimum word counts have never really been an issue for me but even my short stories don’t really have plots. They don’t have beginnings, middles and endings. They’re more like vignettes, just snapshots of a scene. I have written one children’s fantasy novel, which I self-published. It was never intended for sale, just as a gift to my own children. I think if I was one of those people who easily came up with ideas for storylines, my answer would be different, because I feel like I write prose more naturally than I write poetry, but alas, the ideas just aren’t there.
What is your favorite genre to write in?
Um… That’s a good question. I don’t know. I don’t even know what genres I most commonly use. Let me check…
Oh, I like writing m/m short stories. The only other trend that seems to show in my short stories is relationship and emotional. That doesn’t necessarily equate to romance and love though I don’t think. More like, my stories focus heavily on characters rather than plot. Kind of ties in with my previous answer.
I think my poems tend to be either emotional or about nature. I have written more fictional poems than autobiographical ones, and I find that a number of my poems are about difficult relationships, despite my own relationship with my husband being very happy. *shrug*
Do you go back and edit items after you’ve written them? Why or why not?
Editing is a major weakness of mine. I know that my work is better when I edit it, but ugh. I hate editing! One of the reasons I have so many projects on the go at a time is that I get bored easily. I get bored with one project or hobby and I move on to the next. Then, in due course, I come back to the original one. It keeps me motivated. But coming back to a completed poem or short story (or novel) and editing it or rewriting it, I find that boring. So I rarely do it. I strongly believe in the value of editing, and I encourage everyone to do it, but I just dislike it, so while a few of my poems have been edited or rewritten, most of my work (including virtually all my short stories) are effectively first drafts.
What do you do when you need to find inspiration to write?
One of two things:
#1 – I don’t write. It doesn’t bother me to take time away from writing, particularly if I’m taking time away from just poetry or just story writing.
#2 – I use prompts. I mentioned above that I suck at coming up with ideas, so I find prompts incredibly useful. A lot of my poems and short stories have been inspired by prompts.
Oh and #3 – I give myself a deadline. It’s amazing what you can crank out when you’re running out of time! Often if I just start writing, I end up with something reasonably coherent. I mean, it doesn’t always work, but if all else fails…
What goals do you have for your writing, both long and short-term?
I have goals?
Um… In terms of my poetry and short story writing, I think my goals are just to continue improving and write as/when I want to. I don’t really have any deep and meaningful goals, but I always want to get better and improve.
For my blogging, I want to a) record all the significant and a number of the insignificant moments of mine and my children’s lives and b) print them in books. I started blogging in 2001 when I was pregnant with my son, and I have blogged every year since. Sometimes weeks go by between blog posts, sometimes I write multiple posts a day. I also have a massive collection of memorabilia (things like concert or movie tickets, letters and postcards, photos, etc.) from 2001 to now, and I want to print the blog posts in books and add the memorabilia, to make it a sort of tactile scrapbook. I have a whole stack of projects I’m working on though, and so that one has been put on the backburner. In the meantime, I try hard to keep blogging regularly. And in case you’re looking at this blog and thinking ‘Really? Seems pretty sparse to me!’, I’d like to point out that the vast majority of my blog posts are not public. I started using Livejournal in 2001, so that’s where all my entries are stored. I have a public blog here, but my personal entries are mostly at Livejournal and that’s the ‘master copy’ that I’ll use for the project. It will also include all my poems and stories.
Why do you write?
I think I started writing because that’s what teenage girls did. I kept a journal and wrote stupid angsty poems about boys I liked. Then I started writing simple rhyming poems when I was on scout camps, and they were always a hit. Looking back, they were so shit, but I guess people like hearing themselves in poems? Maybe? Anyway, I’d compose poems about hiking trips we’d been on, mentioning every person by name in a different verse, and noting funny or silly things that had happened. It became something that people liked/appreciated about me, and that inspired me to do it more. I always found English to be my easiest subject at school, and that contributed too. When you feel like you’re good at something, you’re inclined to do it more often. So I wrote, because I thought I was good at it, and because people seemed to enjoy reading my efforts.
I would give up writing before I gave up reading. I could never give up reading. But I do find that I miss writing when I take too long a break. The first thing I always miss is blogging, and that tends to manifest as a feeling of guilt that things have happened and I’ve not blogged about them, and therefore they’ll disappear into the mists of time without ever being recorded. Sometimes I’ll think of an idea for a poem, or compose a poem in my head as I’m driving or waiting somewhere, and that’ll get me back into it. Generally though, I start missing the people here, and once I’m back I get sucked into contests and challenges, and that’s what really gets me writing.
So I guess it’s a combination of things. I’m not sure if it’s a passion so much as something I do because I like it, and I like the people I do it with.
What genres do you avoid and why?
I avoided horror for a long time, because I can’t stand horror movies. I just don’t like horror movies. Or any scary movies. And there’s a reason I read romance novels (hint: it’s for the guaranteed happy ending!). But I have written a semi-decent horror short story.
I genuinely don’t understand steampunk, but I also have to admit that I haven’t spent a great deal of time trying to understand it.
Comedy is so incredibly subjective, and that’s pretty risky.
I’ve lately started dipping my toes into romance. You’d think romance would be my go-to genre for my writing, but it’s not. I’ve actually read so many romance novels that I’ve put myself off writing romance. Not because I’m sick of it, but because I’m scared of it. Two things. Firstly, I struggle to come up with a unique idea, because I’ve read so many romance novels that I feel like everything I think of is just a revision of something I’ve read and therefore it’s already been done. Secondly, I feel like I’m not going to measure up. Which is silly. You only get better with practice. So I have started dipping my toes into that genre. I’ve mostly written m/m romance, and that’s probably because I’m reading more of that lately, but hopefully I can break through this ridiculous fear and start writing some decent length pieces in the romance genre. Let’s call it a goal!
Are you a planner, pantser, or somewhere in between?
Oh, definitely a pantser! My standard way of writing a short story for a contest entry is to wait for the last minute, start typing without knowing what my story is going to be about, and then find out as it develops. Yes, that is how I write short stories. I start with some vague concept of a beginning, and write until it feels like it’s finished. The end. Yeah, it’s no wonder my stories don’t have beginnings, middles and endings!
I found doing the prep for NaNoWriMo incredibly valuable, but I think that’s because if you pantsed a novel, you’d end up with a wandering story that went nowhere. But I’ve never actually planned a short story. I never know how they’ll end when I start writing them, and I almost always write the entire thing in one sitting without stopping.
What’s your favorite part of the writing process?
If the writing is flowing easily, I really like that. When I’ve started writing a short story and it’s just basically writing itself. That’s awesome. I don’t tend to get that with poetry, as it is shorter and requires more deliberate thought. Other than that, it’s the satisfaction of reading a completed piece. Actually, it’s not even when you sit back and say ‘Done, and not a bad job if I do say so myself!’, it’s more like when you find something months or years later and re-read it and think ‘Holy shit, did I write that?’ That’s my favourite part. Of course, sometimes you re-read something and think ‘Woah, I can’t believe I thought that was good!’
What’s your favorite thing about writing outside your comfort zone?
Two things – learning and surprise. I shall explain.
I love learning. I’m a lifelong learner. I suspect I get it from my dad. He’s a teacher. He hasn’t always been, because he was a farmer for years, but he’s passionate about education. He definitely believes that all learning is a good thing. I love learning, and in particular, I love to learn new skills. I believe I once coined myself the title of ‘perpetual poetry pupil’. With writing, there’s always something new to learn. If you believe that a successful bestselling author has nothing left to learn about the craft of writing, you’re dead wrong. The most obvious thing is a change in genres. Each genre requires slightly different handling, slightly different skills. I can’t imagine someone thinking that comedy and horror require the same writing skills. Clearly they don’t. And then there’s all the multitude of poetry forms out there (I think if you wrote in a different form every day, you’d never run out!), and all the different forms of prose from micro or flash fiction all the way to novels. They all require different skills. Different points of view, etc. So much to learn. So one of the things I love about stepping out of my writing comfort zone is learning new skills.
The second thing is that sometimes you try something new and surprise yourself with what you create. I love that. My first prose poem, Waiting, won a Quill Award on Writing.com. That totally shocked the hell out of me. And one of my favourite short stories, That horse has bolted, came from a challenge to write something in the Western genre. I liked my attempt (Sophia) at writing something in the history genre too. None of those are my favourites, but I was really pleased with how they turned out, and there’s just something so damn satisfying about surprising yourself like that. Trying something just to accept a challenge and being really pleased with what you produced. It doesn’t always happen, of course. My holiday story, Christmas Rescue, is pretty crap! And I don’t think I’ve ever written a decent haiku or senryu. Actually, most of my form poetry sucks. I think the one I hate the most is The Beautiful Birds in God’s Own which is a kyrielle. That poem is an embarrassment.
Who in your day-to-day life knows you’re a writer? That is, how open are you about this part of yourself?
My husband and kids know, but they don’t read any of my writing. Not unless I make them. My sisters have access to the poems and short stories when I post them on Livejournal, but they rarely comment so I’m not sure if they read them or just skip past the poems and stories. I sometimes print out my short stories for Mum to read. Not the erotica or m/m ones, but the others. She really enjoyed Sophia, I think that’s her favourite of all my work. She even encouraged me to print out a bunch of my short stories and send them to my grandmother (which I did). One Christmas I printed a little book of what I thought were my best poems at that time, but she’s not really into free verse. She likes rhyming poetry. So she was polite and all, but I haven’t redone the gift for her with my more recent poems. If I was going to, I’d probably stick to my rhyming poems, and I’m not sure I have enough of those for even a mini book (I think I’d need a minimum of 40 poems). She’s always supportive of my writing though. Always has been. She just doesn’t understand free verse.
I have one friend in real life who has always known that I write. She writes too, although I don’t know how much she’s written in recent years because she hasn’t been sharing with me. She was the one who encouraged me to write in my teens though. Don’t think I’d be here if it weren’t for her.
I did tell my colleagues at work that I blog. I even gave them the link to this blog. They seemed impressed, but I don’t think any of them looked at it more than that once. One of them says things every now and then like ‘I bet that’s going in your blog!’ But I’m 99% sure none of them actually read it. Actually, it was a girl I worked with that put me on to WordPress in the first place, but she seems to have disappeared from there now herself.
One of my 2018 bucket list items was to share my WordPress blog on my Facebook page. My colleagues had reacted well, so I guess I thought it was time to be brave and share it with everyone else. None of my writing links back to the name I use for work, and I’d never share it on LinkedIn. Last thing I need is a prospective boss reading my erotica. Or my angsty ‘bad relationship’ poems. But yeah, I took the leap as recently as last month and shared the first few posts I’ve done about our UK trip on Facebook. I guess I thought that was a gentle introduction, rather than sharing poems or prose, or a book review, with them all. I’m not sure if any of them actually went and read the posts or not, but I was proud of myself for having the courage to share them. So from now on, when I post something at WordPress that I feel is appropriate to share on Facebook, I’ll share it. We’ll see how it goes.
So yeah, I guess everyone kind of knows now, but that’s a super recent thing. I’m still trying to get my head round it.
What do like to do in your down time? You know, besides writing.
Down time, what’s that? Reading is the easy answer. I read every day. I particularly like to read just before bed, because it helps me to turn my brain off and stop thinking. It’s funny, because my husband used to complain about my reading at night, even though I used my phone and use the ‘black background with white text’ option so that there’s no screen glare and he just goes to sleep. So I went a couple nights without reading…which meant I ended up tossing and turning or just chatting away to him while he tried to sleep. Eventually he gave up and said “Will you just bloody read?!” So he doesn’t complain anymore now that he knows what I’m like when I don’t. I often read at lunchtime too, and I sometimes listen to audio books in the car. I have an hour long commute each way to work, so that’s plenty of time to get into an audio book. Sometimes I’m just in the mood for music, but I find that audio books make the time pass faster.
Otherwise, I’m usually on my computer. I’ve had people (usually colleagues) ask me how I can be on the computer all day at work and then go home and be on the computer again, but it’s different. I’m on Writing.com or WordPress or Livejournal… Sometimes Facebook or Instagram. That’s entirely different to being on the computer at work. And yes, I know I read on a screen too. I’ll end up with square eyes. I have a large gaming laptop, which I bought not for gaming but because it can easily run Photoshop and Blurb’s BookWright software. I have a black leather reclining armchair, and I sit in that with my laptop and potter away. Sometimes I potter while my husband games in his study, sometimes I potter while he watches movies on TV (you have no idea how many movies I’ve ‘sort of’ seen because I’ve been half watching them and half on my computer! ) and sometimes I put the computer away and just watch movies with him. I’m not really a TV person. I like some movies, and I really enjoy cooking shows, but most of the time I’d rather read or be on my computer.
How do you keep yourself focused and motivated?
Hmm… I don’t know if I would call myself focused. I actually have a really short attention span when it comes to tasks and projects, which is why I have so many of them. I flit from one to the other constantly to keep myself interested. But in terms of motivation…
I love lists, and I especially love crossing things off lists, so I do find that making a ‘to do’ list helps. It helps me to be more methodical about getting stuff done so that I can cross it off, and it helps to motivate me.
Also, I find a way to challenge myself. If I know I haven’t done any short stories lately, despite them being on my to do list (yes, this is currently the case), I’m likely to sign up to a short story writing challenge, or commit to entering a short story contest. Deadlines are a big motivation for me. I’m a procrastinator, so without a deadline, I just never get shit done. Most of my short stories are written a couple of hours (or less!) before the deadline of a contest or challenge. I’ve done it with blogging too, like signing up for blogging challenge to get me blogging regularly again.
Is that the kind of thing you meant?
Have you ever walked away from a story, realizing it was never going to become what you’d envisioned?
Yup. I don’t think Christmas Rescue is worth revising. It’s a pretty crap story. To make it better, I’d have to take the character and put him in a different situation entirely. And I don’t actually know anything about the character. It’s written in first person, so I don’t know the character’s name, appearance, anything. So it’s not worth revisiting.
Hoping For Change is a bit different. I wrote the first chapter of a ‘novel’ and then the last chapter, for a writing contest, but I never really had any intention of writing the whole novel. I think, deep down, I was hoping it’d be so good I’d be inspired to complete it, but it’s not.
Hands-Free is another one I won’t bother revising. It’s a lost cause.
Who is currently “wowing” you in the writing world?
Eek! I’m very out of touch with the writing world. When something truly captures my eye, I tend to paste it in to my Livejournal. It’s like pasting something you like into a scrapbook, I guess. That’s how I see it, anyway. I always use a private entry so that I’m not re-sharing someone else’s work on my blog. When I print my blogs (which won’t be available publicly because they’ll contain a whole shitload of private memories), I’ll include these little things that caught my eye. So… These are the things that have most recently found their way to my journal.
The Universe as Primal Scream by Tracy K Smith. It amused me because it’s about kids screaming, and yet it’s written in such a poetic way.
Some Answers You Never Considered by Robert Okaji. I thought this was a very clever poem.
State of the Union by Lorelai Kilmore. Actually, I love a lot of Lorelai’s poems. She has a unique way of looking at the world and sharing that in a poem. You should definitely check out her blog. I’d love to hear what some of you think of her poetry. If you read her stuff, let me know your thoughts.
imaginary dramas by Rowena McGregor. This just spoke to me. Like a moment of truth. How often do we dwell on the stupid, petty things instead of appreciating what we have?
In terms of new published authors I’ve read, I think my greatest new discovery was the Kingmaker Chronicles by Amanda Bouchet. Loved it. Three five star books.
Is this a side career? Or is this a major hobby of yours?
It’s definitely not a side career, considering I make zero money from it. In fact, it costs me money, so if it was a career, it’d be a pretty terrible one.
Writing is just a hobby of mine. I dedicate a lot of time to it because I enjoy it. If I ever stop enjoying it, I’ll stop.
What down and dirty person, joke, book, movie, etc., makes you laugh out loud?
Michael McIntyre. He’s a British standup comedian. I’ve seen him live twice, and both times I laughed until I nearly wet myself. Speaking of British comedians, I love John Cleese. He’s #1. I got the chance to see him live recently and totally fangirled. I like a bit of Jimmy Carr. I definitely like Stephen Fry, he’s brilliant.
I’m usually not that big on American humour. I liked Robin Williams and I like a lot of Jim Carrey stuff (but not all of his stuff). I like some (but not all) of Adam Sandler’s movies too. Like Grown Ups and Pixels, but not really Happy Gilmore or The Waterboy.
Do you believe in the possibility of anything and everything? Known and unknown?
Um, yeah, I kind of do. I consider myself agnostic. I’ve been a Christian, but don’t consider myself one anymore. I don’t really believe in anything anymore, but I’m open minded enough to acknowledge that I might be wrong. I don’t believe in God or gods or goddesses, but I know people who do. I don’t believe in ghosts or spirits, but I know people who do. I don’t believe in aliens and UFOs, but I know people who do. Who is to say that they’re wrong and I’m right? Maybe I’m wrong and they’re right. I just don’t know. I have no proof that there’s no god or ghost or alien, it’s just what I believe. And same goes for them, I guess. So I don’t really believe in anything EXCEPT the possibility of anything and everything.
How much of what you read affects what you write?
Oh, it definitely affects it. When I read historical fiction, I’m more likely to write historical fiction. When I read fantasy novels, I’m more likely to write fantasy fiction. And so on and so forth. Sometimes I have to stop myself and think ‘Is this my work or is this more like fanfiction?’ The Phoenix was definitely one where I thought that.
I don’t read much poetry except on Writing.com, but that works the same way. The more of someone’s poems I read, the more mine started veering toward that same style. When I was in my teens, the only poetry I read was my friend’s, and so I went from poetry that was very similar to my mother’s (simple rhyming poetry) to these sprawling monologues (that’s what we called them in those days) similar to what my friend wrote. I’m very impressionable.
About the only thing I write that doesn’t really change style depending on what I read is my blogging. I actually have my own unique voice when it comes to my blogging, thank goodness.
When not writing, do you enjoy other creative ventures? If so what?
Photography is probably my biggest hobby after reading and writing. I love it, but I don’t devote enough time to it to be really good at it. I love taking nature photos, especially birds or macro (close-up) photos of insects and bugs. And flowers. I also like taking candid (unposed) photos of people. I particularly love capturing people in moments of genuine emotion, like laughing out loud, or gazing adoringly at each other. Or photos of people in their everyday lives, like cooking or working.
I’ve photographed four weddings. Wasn’t paid for any of them, although I did get given a bottle of port from one bride and groom. I enjoyed it, but weddings are stressful times, and it’s hard to know that you have so much responsibility to capture this one special day. If the couple genuinely can’t afford a professional photographer and are going to do without, then I don’t mind stepping up. That’s been the case for three of the weddings I’ve done, and the other one was my husband’s grandfather remarrying and I don’t think they were worried too much about fancy photos. But I know my work isn’t good enough to compare to a professional, and so I would also recommend a professional instead if the couple can afford it.
You can see my photos on Facebook if you want – The Road To Elle.
I really enjoy family history and genealogy. I do the genealogy side of things on Ancestry and love adding new people to the family tree. My family tree currently has 3,456 people in it. Ha ha, I just realised that’s such a cool number. 3456. It’s almost a shame to ruin it by adding another person! I’ve traced ancestors back to the 1400s, which is wicked cool. I’m the only one in my family who does the research, but the others like to get updates on my discoveries every now and then. I’m passionate about recording the stories to go with the people though, and I am trying to interview everyone in my family. It’s funny the things you learn when you interview people (she says, in an interview! ). Sometimes you learn things you didn’t expect to. I know my parents and siblings fairly well, but asking my parents questions about their childhoods was quite fascinating. And even more so with my grandmother. How life has changed.
I like to cook, but it’s not something I experiment with often. I tend to get out my cookbooks when I’m on holiday. Sometimes the things we make become part of our everyday repertoire (like my rice risotto) and sometimes they’re just something different to change things up. My husband also likes to cook. He’s become known in the family for his slow roasted pork belly, and his slow roasted lamb. Both beautiful meals to have when you’ve got a bunch of people to feed.
I enjoy scrapbooking. I started out with traditional scrapbooking and then moved to digital scrapbooking because it’s less messy, takes up less room and costs way less money. But I kind of like traditional scrapbooking better because it’s more tactile. I love being able to incorporate tickets, receipts, postcards, etc. My very favourite thing is having a page where you literally open an envelope and remove a letter, read it, put it back, turn the page. That kind of thing. Interactive pages, I guess. Love those. And I’m a huge fan of handwriting, which you don’t get with digital pages unless you scan your writing (which I’ve done). I love people’s handwriting. Especially little kids. Ooh, or people from several generations back who had handwriting that looked like beautiful calligraphy. *swoon* I don’t do much scrapbooking now, but it’s only because I’ve been distracted with other things. I have several projects that I need to get back to. Still haven’t finished my wedding scrapbook and I’ve been married 15 years.
Last time I wrote about my hobbies, I also included collecting, but is collecting really a hobby? Hmm, the internet says yes.
My oldest collection is bookmarks, which I started collecting when I was 14. My personal favourite is actually not a bookmark at all (although that’s what I use it for) but a ‘solid gold money clip’ that my dad received for going on the Sale of the Century TV game show. I’m not sure it’s solid gold either, but that’s okay. And I really like the leather bookmarks I’ve collected from historical places around the UK.
I have two crockery collections. So when Steve’s grandmother died, we inherited a set of four soup bowls in the J G Meakin Golden Court pattern, and a tureen in a very rare pattern (so rare that I don’t even know its name) by Grindley. We’ve added extensively to the Golden Court setting and now have enough pieces to have a full meal. The Grindley one is rarer, so we only have a few pieces in that.
I also collect figurines. I started with Royal Doulton ladies, then added some that weren’t Royal Doulton, then added some Anne Stokes fantasy figurines… So yeah, I have a bunch of ladies and elves and fairies… They’re not on display at the moment, they’ve been packed away since we moved as I don’t really have anywhere to put them. Might get them out when one of my kids leaves home.
Somehow, I’ve also ended up with an alcohol collection. It started mostly because my husband likes Scotch whisky, and as he started to buy more and more expensive whiskies, the collection started to grow. You don’t drink a $200 bottle of whisky as quickly as you drink a $50 bottle of whisky, right? So he’d have a cheaper bottle for everyday drinking (not that he drinks every day, but you know what I mean) and a more expensive bottle for special occasions. And it kind of grew from there. Altogether we have about 55 bottles of alcohol, and about half of that is whisky. Mostly Scottish, but with a couple from New Zealand and one from Ireland I think.
I don’t drink whisky. Actually, I hardly drink at all. If I do drink, I’ll have a vodka with lemonade, a toffee vodka straight or a small glass of port. But I probably have less than one drink per month. Hence why the collection grows rather than shrinks!
We have 8 bottles of wine. Mostly red. Only one is a particularly nice bottle of wine, and that’s a bottle of Obsidian that we bought on Waiheke Island. One is sparkling feijoa which I bought just because it sounded cool. And it’s made by Lothlorien Wines, which is cool too. I buy most of my alcohol that way – by name or looks, rather than by taste. My mother-in-law can’t understand it, but oh well. If I was a bigger drinker, I’d probably be more inclined to buy the ones I like to drink, but I just like having the cool bottles in my collection. The wine also includes a very cheap, but very cool bottle of Blue Nun 24k Gold Edition dry sparkling wine. It has real gold in it, and comes in a box that looks like a gold bar. I think it cost me less than $10 though, at the supermarket.
I have a couple of bottles of Purple Death, which are some of my favourites in my collection. I actually like Purple Death over vanilla ice cream, but it’s the label that makes it such a wonderful addition. It’s made locally (the vineyard is only about 10 minutes drive from us) and it says:
Marketed under the Saviour Brand (9 of out of 10 people who drink it for the first time exclaim “Je-e-esus Chri-ist!”).
Caution: Keep away from “naked flames” (both old and new).
Bottled by the Mad Scientist – just for fun.‘
I think it tastes a bit like Irish Moss cough medicine. It’s nice over ice cream, but I don’t know many people who can drink it straight.
I’ve got a few bottles of Taylor’s port, because that’s my favourite for drinking. I’ve also got a bottle of Graham’s port which I don’t like (it was a gift). I don’t really like any Australian ports. Too raisin-y. And I have a bottle of Mazuran’s port which is made locally. Steve has promised to buy me a bottle of Mazuran port that was bottled in 1980 for my 40th birthday. Will cost about $200, but how cool is that? Port as old as I am! They have port that dates back to the 1940s. Oh, and I’ve got pink port which I keep in the fridge.
I’ve got toffee vodka (yum!), feijoa vodka and two bottles of Royal Dragon vodka. One of the Royal Dragon vodkas is for drinking, and the other is special. It has a dragon made of glass blown into the bottle, and the vodka has gold flakes in it. Looks amazing. I’ve got a bottle of Smirnoff Gold too, which is cinnamon flavoured with gold flakes, but it’s super sweet, and is more like a liqueur than a vodka. It’s not great actually, it has a weird texture, but it looks nice.
I’ve got Baileys and strawberry Baileys which I only got recently in the fridge. The strawberry Baileys isn’t great, but I can imagine would be nice over ice cream. And in the freezer I have a bottle of Jack Daniels Tennessee Fire. I love the spicy ones. We did have a bottle of Jagermeister Spice (cinnamon and vanilla) too, but I’m not sure if we used it for our boozy fruit mince or not.
So yeah, quite a lot of alcohol. Apart from the wine, most of it can be opened and savoured over a long period of time, which is good. Means we’re not total drunkards.
So yeah, I think that’s all of my hobbies. Reading, writing, photography, family history and genealogy, cooking, scrapbooking and collecting.
Apart from writing, how do spend your free time? Your creativity time? I know you have a LOT of hobbies, but reading doesn’t count cause that’s like breathing.
So, did you really mean to ask what creative projects I work on when I’m not writing or blogging? I love talking about my projects, so hopefully I haven’t just interpreted your question this way because that’s what I want to talk about.
Seriously, if you thought I rambled on about our alcohol collection, just you wait! Originally these were all projects that I just worked on whenever I felt like it, and I’d just move from one to another depending on my motivation. Which is why none of them ever got finished. But I was talking to a colleague at work about them, and she pointed out that I need to finish the ones that are intended for my older relatives, because at the rate I’m going, they’ll never get them. So that’s the reason for the prioritisation of the projects.
My first priority (now that I’ve finished the photo book we gave my sister for her wedding) is a family recipe book. I started it in 2010. Yes, that means it has taken eight years so far. Here’s what I wrote for the front of the recipe book (it explains a lot about the project):
When I had children of my own and they wanted to make stuff in the kitchen I realised that I had heirloom recipes of my own – Mum’s roast chicken gravy and Uncle Philip’s Welsh Rarebit for instance. But all of these special recipes were on bits of paper or scattered through cookbooks in various kitchens. Or worse, in someone’s memory and not written down at all. No single person had all the recipes, and I started thinking that one day those special legacies would be lost. And who would remember that Uncle Glyn’s granddaughter came up with the name for Welfare Soup? Or that the scalloped potatoes recipe came from 20 years of sitting down to Christmas dinner with the same neighbours? Or that Grandma gave Mum the fruitcake recipe after her wedding because it was Dad’s favourite? Someone needed to put all those recipes and all those stories in one place.
I could NEVER have predicted the response I got when I put the word out to family and friends. Poppa Pete pulled out his mother’s old handwritten recipe book and I just about cried. And finding Gran Schroder’s copy of the Edmonds Cookbook – the original 1955 edition – with her comments and notes in it…
I have received recipes from every branch on the family tree and the response from my family and my in-laws made this project so much more rewarding than I ever could have guessed. I hope that they (and you) see this book the way I do – as a true family heirloom and legacy.
I got more than 400 recipes. Some of them date back to WWII and the oldest ones are from Steve’s great-great-grandmother. We found them in his great-grandmother’s handwritten cookbook. Like, that’s just such an amazing family heirloom, don’t you think? Handwritten recipes from your great-grandmother? That was the oldest collection of recipes, but there were also recipe books belonging to my grandmother (deceased), to Steve’s grandmother (deceased) and his grandfather (who was alive at the time), and other recipes that had been handed down. Then from the relatives that were alive, we got recipes from grandparents, uncles, aunts, cousins and second cousins. Half these people I’ve not met or have only met once or twice, and yet they all contributed. Some of the recipes are modern, like Steve’s recipe for slow roasted lamb that was actually a Jamie Oliver recipe originally.
It’s a mammoth project, but people are really keen to get their hands on a copy, so I need to get cracking on it. I’m digitally scrapbooking each recipe, mostly so I can include photos or the handwritten recipes or comments and stories where appropriate. You can see the ones I’ve completed here: Elle’s family recipe pages. I think some people will only want the recipes from their side of the family, whereas others will want all of them. Some aren’t really useable anymore. Who wants to make wartime butter? And ingredients have changed over the years, as have cooking methods. But the majority of the recipes are still worth making.
Okay, that was project #1. You see how this is going to be a massive reply?
After I’ve finished on the family recipe books, I want to work on a series of family history books. I found this awesome site that basically sucks your family tree data out of Ancestry and converts it into books. It does family pages (so it shows the data for the parents and all their kids) and then shows all the photos and relevant documents for that family group. I want to do that, but also include the interviews I’ve done with various family members. I had originally planned to compile all the interviews with some photos and call it ‘Well, as I remember it…’ (because everyone remembers the same events differently), but this new site will make things a lot easier. I’ve used them to make some family tree posters for relatives too, and the quality was awesome, which is important. I want to make a book for me, a book for my husband, and then a book for each of our parents. Potentially I’d also do copies for my kids that have the whole lot in. We’ll see. Money will be the big restriction on this project, as I have to pay for the books to be printed.
After that comes a project near and dear to my heart. My blog books. I’ve been blogging since 2001 when I was pregnant with my son. I don’t blog every day necessarily, but altogether I have 3,632 entries in my Livejournal blog. That’s a lot of entries. Spread over 17 years, that’s 213 per year, which isn’t bad. I also have boxes of memorabilia stashed in my bedroom that correspond to those same 17 years. So what I want to do is print the blog posts (which includes all my poems and short stories) and print them in books. I plan to do one book per year, so currently that’s a total of 17 years. Then I want to put the memorabilia in the books. That’s the tricky part, because I have to work out in advance where the memoriabilia is going to go, so that I can leave a space in the printed book for it. The memorabilia includes letters (which I hope to put in the book in their envelopes where possible), postcards, photos, cards, receipts, tickets, pamphlets, etc. Most of the photos are digital, so they’ll be printed with the blog posts, but there’s a few that aren’t digital for whatever reason, so they’ll be stuck in. I’ve designed the covers for the books, and I’ve transferred all the entries for 2001 to my book software, but still need to work on creating the spaces for the memorabilia. Then rinse and repeat for the other years. I’ll only be able to make one copy of each book that has all the memorabilia in it, and I have two children, so I’m not sure what will happen to the books after I go. Not sure my son is really interested in them, so that might help, but I guess we’ll see. Easy enough to reprint just the blog posts by themselves, but I’m a scrapbooker at heart, so I really want to include the memorabilia.
After that, I should probably finish my wedding scrapbook. I have a sneaking suspicion though that the memorabilia from my wedding scrapbook will end up in my 2003 blog book. We’ll see.
These projects are in no particular order:
I want to handwrite all of my poems into journals. I used to do this in high school, and stopped in 2010 when I found Writing.com. I started backdating them in, but I think I’m only up to 2013 or something, so have heaps still left to do.
I saved a whole bunch of my daughter’s baby clothes and blankets with the intention of making a quilt for her godmother. I’ve never quilted in my life though. I think the bag of old clothes got thrown out when we moved, but I still have the baby blankets. So not sure if this project will go ahead or not.
I have a jumper I started knitting for my son when I was pregnant. He’s 17 now, so chances are it won’t fit him now. Would like to finish it one day. Maybe I can give it to my first grandchild. (Holy crap that makes me feel old!).
Make a photo book of my 2018 UK trip. I did this for my 2014 UK trip and it turned out really well. My mother has already started talking about how she wants to see it, and I haven’t even started it yet!
Hmm, I think that’s all my projects at the moment. So yes, that’s what I work on when I’m not on writing or reading.
When you write, do you prefer silence or noise? If you prefer quiet, how do you achieve this with children? If you prefer noise, what background noise heightens your muse? Does this change depending on what you are writing?
I like to listen to classical music when I write prose, and music with lyrics when I write poetry.
For the classical music, I have a playlist on Youtube that includes some of my favourite classical pieces (I love Tchaikovsky’s 1812), choral music such as some Pavarotti, and movie scores (Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings, Pirates of the Carribean, Star Wars, etc.). So it’s a mixed bag. Some of it is dark, some of it is upbeat, some of it is loud, some of it is quiet… I don’t find it affects my writing, but allows me to stay in the zone and just get the words down on paper.
For poetry, I like to have a range of songs because every now and then a word will just leap out at me and I’ll either use it or it will trigger a series of brain jumps until I get something that will end up in my poem. I’ve even been known to write entire poems based on music videos. Again, it’s a mixed bag of genres and styles. I usually put it on shuffle.
I don’t have much issue with my kids these days because they’re both teenagers now. They’re 17 and 13. My 13 year old is a chatterbox, but she often holes up in her room with Youtube. I can’t concentrate on anything when she’s watching her stupid Youtube videos on the TV in the lounge, so I usually make her turn it off. When they were younger, I either had to time my writing so that I was doing it when they were asleep or busy with other things, or find distractions for them. Distractions never worked well with my daughter because she had a short attention span. So yeah, not much a drama now, thank goodness. Makes life much easier.
You’ve interviewed a few authors for your blog…what has that meant to you? What have you learned so far, and has that contributed in any way to how you read/review or write? Will you be doing more interviews in the future? I ask because I’ve enjoyed your interviews, as well as the experience of being interviewed by you…you tend to bring a lot out of your subjects that most may not know.
I’ve really enjoyed doing the interviews, and I’ll definitely be doing them for as long as people continue volunteering to be interviewed by me. I am thrilled that people enjoy reading them too. Bonus!
As to what I’ve learned:
People are flattered to think themselves worthy of an interview. Even published authors. This was an interesting insight to me, because I’ve been afraid of approaching some of the bigger names in the publishing world, but I should do it. People like talking about themselves. And some of the people who think ‘I’m not worth an interview because I haven’t published anything or I’m not interesting’ end up being the most interesting to interview.
There are no rights or wrongs to writing. It doesn’t matter if your book takes you 20 years or if you never plan on being published, if you’re a planner or a panster, if you edit or you don’t (yes, I’m looking at you there, Norb!), or if you write what you know or write crazy off-the-wall stuff that defies imagination. It doesn’t matter. It doesn’t matter why you write or what you write or how you write. All that matters is that you enjoy it. That’s the underlying truth.
I don’t think it’s changed what or how I read or write, but I do think it has changed how I review. It reminded me that there are real people behind the works I read and review. I knew that for the unpublished work I read on Writing.com, but it’s also true for published work. It’s a good reminder.
Please feel free to ask any additional questions in the comments below.