Goals and the Year Ahead

Considering I am not sure I achieved all my set goals from last year, I’m not sure about the wisdom of making new ones, but it wouldn’t be a new blogging year if I didn’t try to make some reading goals. Secretly I’ll also employ last year’s goals as well because they were actually very useful.

 

AWW Challenge

I plan to meet and exceed my goal of 25 Aussie Women books. I want to make a large chunk of my reading this year from Aussie women, but I think this is a great starting point.

More focus on Aussie writers

This is tied into the AWW Challenge, but it also applies to the men as well. I want to explore more local talent. We have a whole Australian Author section at work and while I have certainly read a lot more over the past few years, there are so many more books to discover.

Top Ten Tuesday

I love doing TTT but I always forget about it. I may need to plan ahead, and even if I don’t do them all it is a great challenge. Some of the topics really make you think and it’s great to challenge yourself to try to meet the criteria.

Book Bingo

While I normally love creating a new bingo card each year, this year I am reusing last year’s card. The main reason is I loved the categories and would love to explore them all again. Since I’m limiting myself to two challenges this year in the hope I can focus on them and give them proper attention, I want to try and fill the whole card, not just get one line. I have been quite close before so it will be exciting to see how long it takes.

5th Blogiversary

The thing about starting a blog in January is that the anniversaries come around very quickly when the new year begins. I’m not sure what I’m going to do just yet but I’m sure I will think of something a bit special. Maybe reflective, who knows. The whole thing seems sort of surreal really, where has the time gone.

So those are the goals, what I wish to achieve with my blogging this year. There are other, less concrete goals as well that I want to work on, but I think this is a great starting point. When I look at it in list form it doesn’t seem like a lot but at the same time seems very busy. But I’m hoping it won’t be. I also want to bring back some features I’ve used in the past but they are less regimented and just as I remember to do them. Things like showing off good things I find at book sales and from the library. It’s an occupational hazard working in a library, you keep bringing home books even when you have 15 already sitting on your shelves you got the day before. It does, however, stop me buying books. In theory.

What I am hoping for is that this year shouldn’t be nearly as chaotic as the last couple of years. No moving, no loss of internet, no uni, no dramas that get in the way and make things incredibly complicated. There is a holiday later in the year, but I’m hoping I will be on top of all my reading goals to have it interrupted for a little while. But that seems a very long way away right now as I sit safely in January. I will save any real worry for November.

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10 Years of NaNoWrimo

It’s the night before NaNo (Oh my god it’s the night before NaNo!), and I thought since this will be my tenth year participating I would honour the occasion by looking back at my previous NaNo years. I first heard about the National Novel Writing Month in 2008 from a friend at Uni and made the last minute decision on 31st October to sign up and participate. I remember being so worried about not reaching the 50k goal my first story had 4000 words just on a lady vacuuming her house. I have since learnt my lesson and trusted my story will stretch without the inane fillers.

I have been lucky enough to reach the 50k goal each year, mainly I think because I couldn’t stand it if I didn’t. I’ve had a few years where I have been well behind, well behind, and had marathon word count days to catch up. In 2013 I had to write 12 800 words on the final day to make my goal. It was probably the most stressed I have ever been for NaNo. I finished at 11:56pm, uploaded and verified with minutes to spare. I had been counting down the clock for the final 24 hours and had 15k to write in that time. It didn’t help either that that particular year was tough because while I’d loved my story idea, after the halfway point it was like pulling teeth.

I also finished with 45 minutes to spare in 2015. That wasn’t a tough year story-wise, I quite enjoyed it. The main rule to remember is as long as you get 50k by the 30th, it doesn’t matter when you hit each word count goal. In 2014 I didn’t get 25k until the 22nd and yet by the 30th I had my 50k. I’ve also started one week in on numerous occasions when I was still at uni, sometimes even two weeks in. The delightful year was when I had to do the two side by side and was trying to do NaNo and assignments alongside one another. Fun times.

My best and the most favourite year was in 2012 where I smashed the 50k and wrote almost 60 000 words, exceeding the daily word count every single day. I went back and worked on this story again last year, adding another 25k whilst writing a short story collection alongside it. I plan to do the same again this year, it’s definitely the story I want to finish and refine out of all I’ve written.

There is a wonderful thrill about doing NaNo. I love the prospect of diving into a fresh new story, discovering where it will go and realising more often than not how unprepared you actually are. And knowing you are doing it alongside millions of people around the world is a great comfort. There’s a resource right there for guidance and support, people who know what it is like.

My favourite thing on the website is the personal stats. Not only do you get the usual per day ones once the event starts, you also get the Expected Finish Date, which in the past has often said mid March the following year when I’ve been quite behind. I also love the new one which tells you the Total Word Count of all your NaNo pieces. It makes you feel rather proud when it tells you you’ve written over 465 000 words.

Ten Years of Genres

I have written many types of stories for NaNo, I’ve liked writing all of them, but some I pulled off better than others.

2008: Mainstream Fiction
2009: Satirical
2010: Romance
2011: Historical/Family Saga
2012: Mainstream Fiction
2013: Historical
2014: New Adult
2015: Fantasy
2016: Short Stories
2017: Mainstream Fiction

I couldn’t really say which one I liked better in terms of genre. Fantasy was fun, but historical was as well. And Mainstream is easy because there’s technically less you have to research when it’s all right in front of you and not 80 years ago or locked in your imagination.

 

Advice

I can’t go on about being part of NaNo for ten years without leaving you with advice for first-timers.

  1. Quantity over quality

Resist the urge to edit. It will be hard, I know the pain of wanting to get a scene/paragraph/sentence just right, but this is not the time. There’s a strong chance the entire page and the three before it will be scrapped in the second draft, so don’t waste valuable time critiquing what you have. Just get it on the page; the time to edit is December 1st.

  1. Use the Forums

They are a brilliant resource for inspiration, challenges, distractions, or self-promotion. I have used the forums numerous times over the year for title ideas, shout outs for personal word count goals, or just for some fun games to relax. You can talk through problems or discuss non-Nano things as well. There’s groups for other people in your area too so you can have some nearby support, and there’s always someone willing to help.

  1. WriteOrDie is a gift from the writing gods

It is your friend, your saviour, and a god among writing programs. My love for this online resource knows no bounds. It has helped me through every single one of my stories. It helps you push through the urge to stop and think by punishing you if you pause to long. It also makes me think on my feet and actually makes ideas flow much better.

  1. Reward your achievements

They don’t have to be big. Have a chocolate for hitting the daily word count. Hit a personal goal? Reward yourself. Motivate yourself to keep going; it will be amazing how much you can get done when you add up the little goals you’ve set during the day or the week.

  1. Listen to all the advice out there.

There are always tips and tricks for doing NaNo. The NanoWriMo Twitter is always offering advice and doing writing challenges to help the word counters rise. There are professional and published authors out there who still do NaNo, they have advice as well on how to keep going when it seems like you’re at a loss.

  1. Don’t Worry if You Don’t Reach 50k

And last of all: don’t worry. If you don’t hit 50k, that’s fine. You still tried. And maybe next year you’ll get closer. Remember that whatever you ended up with is more than what you had in October, and it’s a start onto something amazing. Be proud of what you are doing. Not everyone is trying to write a novel in 30 days.

Good luck to everyone who is participating in NaNo, whether you are seasoned or diving in for the first time.

Happy Australia Day + Giveaway!

Australia DayThe celebration of Australia Day is upon us; a time for relaxation, enjoying the sunshine and to hopefully scoff as many lammies as possible without getting judgement from those around us. To be honest, I am a little over the sunshine. We’ve had scorching heat here the past few weeks, the plants are dying, the grass is dying, and while I know I will upset a few people who had beach plans today, I’m enjoying the overcast morning right now. I had all these ideas in my head about what to post about this year but none of them felt right. In the end, I’ve decided to go all out and offer up this post in three parts: a poem, a shout out, and a giveaway.

The Poem

I want to share with you one of my favourite poems about Australia. It’s one that makes me feel all warm inside and one that I think will bring out the Aussie pride in all of us (in the good, non-violent, non-racist way). I first heard of this poem in 2006 when I caught a segment on Sunrise celebrating the 10th anniversary. I hunted down the poem immediately and printed a copy to put up on my desk. It’s been 11 years and it remains in its place, there for all to see alongside my favourite Jack Prelutsky poem.

The poem is by Rupert McCall as is called Green and Gold Malaria. Those more read in poetry or are a bit older than me may remember it. It was published in 1996 and is a quirky poem that celebrates Aussie pride and the great things about our nation and culture. As much as I like to think it is just a poem, some part of me gets emotional reading it and while it is a bit out of date it still makes me warm and fuzzy inside.

Green and Gold Malaria
by Rupert McCall

The day would soon arrive when I could not ignore the rash.
I was obviously ill and so I called on Doctor Nash.
This standard consultation would adjudicate my fate.
I walked into his surgery and gave it to him straight:
`Doc, I wonder if you might explain this allergy of mine,
I get these pins and needles running up and down my spine.
From there, across my body, I will suddenly extend –
My neck will feel a shiver and the hairs will stand on end.
And then there is the symptom that only a man can fear –
A choking in the throat, and the crying of a tear.’
Well, the Doctor scratched his melon with a rather worried look.
His furrowed brow suggested that the news to come was crook.
`What is it Doc?’ I motioned. `Have I got a rare disease?
I’m man enough to cop it sweet, so give it to me, please.’
`I’m not too sure,’ he answered, in a puzzled kind of way.
`You’ve got some kind of fever, but it’s hard for me to say.
When is it that you feel this most peculiar condition?’
I thought for just a moment, then I gave him my position:
`I get it when I’m standing in an Anzac Day parade,
And I get it when the anthem of our native land is played,
And I get it when Meninga makes a Kiwi-crunching run,
And when Border grits his teeth to score a really gutsy ton.
I got it back in ’91 when Farr-Jones held the Cup,
And I got it when Japan was stormed by Better Loosen Up.
I get it when Banjo takes me down the Snowy River,
And Matilda sends me waltzing with a billy-boiling shiver.
It hit me hard when Sydney was awarded the Games,
And I get it when I see our farmers fighting for their names.
It flattened me when Bertrand raised the boxing kangaroo,
And when Perkins smashed the record, well, the rashes were true blue.
So tell me, Doc,’ I questioned. `Am I really gonna die?’
He broke into a smile before he looked me in the eye.
As he fumbled with his stethoscope and pushed it out of reach,
He wiped away a tear and then he gave me this stirring speech:
`From the beaches here in Queensland to the sweeping shores of Broome,
On the Harbour banks of Sydney where the waratah’s in bloom.
From Uluru at sunset to the Mighty Tasman Sea,
In the Adelaide cathedrals, at the roaring MCG.
From the Great Australian Blight up to the Gulf of Carpentaria,
The medical profession call it “green and gold malaria”.
But forget about the text books, son, the truth I shouldn’t hide.
The rash that you’ve contracted here is “good old Aussie pride”.
I’m afraid that you were born with it and one thing is for sure –
You’ll die with it, young man, because there isn’t and cure.’

The Shoutout

I know this post is already long with the poem, but as a little extra bonus this year I’m also sharing some of my favourite Aussie book bloggers. In past years there has been an Aussie Blog Hop to unite the Aussie blogging world and to celebrate each other, and while this isn’t the case this year, I still wanted to share with you some of my favourite Aussie bloggers right now to spread the love. If you have a favourite Aussie blogger let me know in the comments, I follow so many blogs but I can always follow more!

The Loony Literate

I found Emily when I sent out a call a few years ago for new blogs to follow and Emily shot up her hand. Since then I have been an avid follower on all the platforms and I love getting her posts in my inbox and following her on Twitter and Instagram.

Reasons to follow Emily:

  • Her blog posts are fun and informative; she posts reviews, discussions, and has variety in what she writes about
  • Her bookstagram is mind blowingly amazing and she includes pictures in her reviews so there’s that to enjoy as well
  • Her blog design is gorgeous
  • Her cats are adorable
  • She is writing a retelling of Alice in Wonderland and judging by the snippets she shares on Twitter, it is amazing and I want to read it right now
  • Is the @AusYABlog mod which is also awesome

Twitter | Instagram | Website

The Never Ending Book Shelf

I’ll admit, I may be 101% biased about this because Jess is my best friend, however, I also am objective enough to realise that she is also an amazing blogger. Jess started her blog around the same time I did and in that time she has done some amazing things because of it.

Reasons to follow Jess:

  • She reads widely and covers a lot of genres in her reviews
  • Her reviews are thorough, thoughtful, a balance of emotion and reasoning about what worked and what didn’t
  • She has great blog features and keeps coming up with new and wonderful ideas to celebrate books and share things book related
  • Her passion about books is incredible and her support of Aussie authors knows no bounds.
  • Her bookstagram pictures are also beautiful and very stylish and creative

Twitter | Instagram | Website

Paper Fury

I can’t recall exactly how I found Cait, but I’d say it was probably through a YA Twitter chat of some kind, or in the replies to another person I follow on Twitter. Either way, very good decision.

Reasons to follow Cait:

  • Her reviews and posts are so creative, she writes mini reviews, themed reviews, and has posts about writing and reading and all kinds of cool things
  • I like the layout of her reviews as well, it’s different than what I’m used to but it totally works
  • Her Bookstagram is incredible
  • She has a writing meme called Beautiful People which is so cool where writers can interview their own characters

Twitter | Instagram | Website

I could go on but I won’t, check out my sidebar which has more great blogs. I may need to do a whole post about this because there are some great blogs out there and if I keep going I’ll never stop.

The Giveaway

At last, the end is near. I will make this short and sweet. I am giving ONE lucky person the chance to win a book of their choice by some of my favourite Aussie authors.

aus-giveaway

To enter: Leave a comment on this blog about something Australian you love – your favourite author, favourite blogger, favourite past time, food, tv show, anything!

This is open to Australian residents only.

Entries close 11:59pm 2nd February, 2017

 

 

 

 

2017 Goals

Review policyA new year means time for new yearly goals. I have only a few this year, some will be more easily achieved than others I have no doubt, but I am going to try my best. These are, of course, on top of other goals I have pledged to achieve this year like finishing my numerous reading challenges and trying to absorb every new awesome books that will come out this year that I will probably not get to read until next year or the year after. But it’s a starting point.

 

Read more books from my own shelf

I definitely keep accumulating books faster than I am reading them so I am making an effort to source form my own shelves more frequently. I started last year but this year I am stepping it up another notch.

Finish half finished series

I am partway through so many series, four at least off the top of my head. I am aiming to finish those and stop leaving characters and moments hanging unread.

Read books by authors with the surname starting with E, Q, X, and Z

I realised last year while looking through my review list I hadn’t read anything by authors with those surname letters. I plan to fix that this year and finish my alphabet collection.

Reread Harry Potter

Because why not, really. I didn’t actually get to complete my reread last year, but I am going to go back to book one work my way through happily and uninterrupted.

Finish reading all the requests I didn’t get to last year

Overwhelmed with shame and guilt I am about not having read these yet, but I am going to work through them one by one and get it done! Sorry, every one!

Start using new blog features I’ve developed

They really aren’t anything special but I have a couple of little features I am going to start including with books and reviews. I’ve had the little logos done for months but never gotten around to implementing them yet.

Don’t stress so much about blogging

Sigh. Let’s only hope. I have already embraced the idea that I don’t need to review everything I read, now I need to stop looking at when I last posted and just focusing on posting something. Always better than nothing at all. Never give up, never surrender and all that.

So that’s the plan. I’m looking forward to a great year of blogging and reading, and judging how past years have turned out blog wise, I know how this year will go, but I am going to keep on doing it any way because I love it. As per usual, thank you all for coming on this ride with me, it’s always a blast. May 2017 be marvellous on all fronts and you read something spectacular!

So long, farewell, auf Wiedersehen, 2016!

NYEThis has been a particularly tough year. I’ve had a few family dramas taking up a lot of my time, I’ve been working a lot, and a couple of months ago I moved house and have been without internet since which has just been delightful and made blogging an almost nonexistent activity.

But aside from that! On the positivity train, I discovered so many amazing books and authors, and went to so many wonderful events. I discovered a range of amazing Aussie authors, specifically a lot of fantastic women writers. I fell in love with authors like Sarah Ayoub and Megan Jacobson, not to mention Fleur Ferris and Shivaun Plozza.

I had a wonderful year in terms of book events, meeting again some favourite authors like Garth Nix, Melina Marchetta, and Ryan O’Neill. I met David Levithan for the first time which was awesome and made me remember how much I love his books. I also got to meet Rainbow Rowell, Alice Pung, Kirsty Eager, and a range of fantastic new authors I am looking forward to falling in love with through their works.

I was a bit bad this year, abandoning my second hand hauls for a lot of retail book buying, though in my defence I was very thrifty, getting the best prices. Either way my bank balance is not that happy with me. I am hoping to be a bit more conservative next year and maybe make use of the fact I work in a library and should borrow before I buy like I used to do. Not that I don’t enjoy seeing my shelves lined with gorgeous books 😀

In terms of challenges I did surprisingly well all things considered. I met my 80 book goal on Goodreads and I exceeded my Australian Women’s Writer’s Challenge for books read. Reviewing I just missed out, but I still think I did very well. My Book Bingo was also a success, I made a winning line, and I filled up the majority of my card. I’m really excited about making up my 2017 card; in addition to a new Goodreads goal and AWW up my sleeve I will certainly have a lot of diversity and variety in my reading.

One thing I noticed about 2016 is that another year has now been and gone before I get a copy of The Book of Dust in my hand, the book by Philip Pullman that I’ve been hanging on for since it was first announced. The late 2016 estimate clearly was wrong, I was waiting got an 11th hour announcement but none came. Pullman tweeted mid-December saying the new date is now late 2017. So I will no doubt see you this time next year with an update one way or another.

While that didn’t eventuate I did celebrate the 90th anniversary of Winnie the Pooh on the blog. Blocking out October to bring you all things Pooh and Milne (at the time of posting three posts short but on their way, see internet issues for explanation). Next year is the big one, bigger probably than my HDM of 2015. 2017 marks the 20th anniversary of the first publication of Harry Potter. Even as I type those words it freaks me out. 20 years! How on earth? But with seven books and eight movies, and so much additional material it’s clear to see how it could span such a space of time and feel like it wasn’t that long ago we first fell into the wizarding world. Still, it makes me feel very old and makes me realise just how young I was when I picked up that first book.

So that they year that was, the plans ahead, and a bunch of rambles in the middle. That about does it for me this year I think. I’m not going to make promises about posting more, trying to balance life and blogging. I am instead going to do my best, read what I choose and share what I love. I am not going to let guilt of blogging dictate me and I am going to try and remember why I wanted to start this blog in the first place. That’s my mini plan at any rate.

I wish everyone a very happy new year, whether you are braving a big city celebration or a night in with friends, family, or just the dog. Don’t fret if all you have to celebrate New Year’s is a book, a wine, and a dog at your feet. I celebrated on my own last year like that but it was fine because I just had to remind myself that it’s not drinking alone if the dog is home.

Have a happy new year and read something spectacular!

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