On life in September:
This month started with massive applause when both of my girls having their turn on Otago Polyfest 2019 stage. My eldest and her school were first up in the programme on opening night. I’m a little glad that she’s in the middle row because she has a habit of doing odd things on stage – last year she hit herself in the face with her poi and scowled at it like it was the poi’s fault, this year she peered through the line in front of her looking for her family in the audience (hilarious, but a little distracting!). Hopefully she gets over this ‘cute’ stuff by next year; she’ll be too big to get away with it. Meanwhile Little Miss had a lunchtime performance on the Thursday (Polyfest has grown so much that it now lasts almost a week with performances starting in the morning and finishing late into the evening, and is livestreamed!). My girl had her first trip on a bus and I accompanied the class of 22 and their amazing teachers to help with costumes (my teaching experience still comes in handy now and then!). Oh my word, they were a world of cute with their little skirts and headbands. Besides how can children aged two to four on stage before a crowd in the hundreds not steal hearts and create laughs? From the gorgeous little lady with her late timing to the world’s cutest stage-runners, little waves when parents were spotted in the crowd to a re-run of one song when one little girl missed her turn to start them off, it was all super adorable (especially when a couple of littilies fell asleep on the bus on the way home! Check both my girls and their teams out here... CLICK IMAGE TO WATCH
Scroll through at the bottom (or watch every team!) - Big Miss’s performance from 0:2:20, Little Miss from 3:22:00. Enjoy!
Half the birthdays in the Larkins house fall in September (I’m in December and my youngest is in January), so we’ve been partying. Big Miss turned SEVEN early in the month and we hosted a family dinner to celebrate. You’d think when I say ‘family’ that there might be ten or fifteen, but we’ve grown over the years with partners and children so we number well over 25 when we’re all together. When we built the house we thought we’d created something pretty roomy, but our open lounge/dining/kitchen area bulges with that number, especially when a good proportion of the guests are small, loud, and on the move. Still, it astounds me how quickly the youngest members of the family are growing – the smallest will be one next month, and the eldest, my husband’s sister’s gorgeous daughter, will be fifteen! It’s insane! And they’re all so different in their talents, tastes, and personalities – I can hardly keep up! Next came Mr L’s birthday later in the month, the last of his thirties (he says don’t remind him). Next year is going to be spectacularly huge in milestones for my extended family with three fifth birthdays, a sweet sixteenth, a 30th, a 40th, a 60th, and a couple of 65ths in the mix. For an introvert, 2020’s going to be a definite social challenge, but making a fuss over all these wonderful people will be awesome!
As I write today, I glance out the window and see many, many lambs! We’ve been in our farmhouse for nearly five years, and I’m only just now really beginning to re-tune into knowing what I’m looking at. Ten years in town screwed my farm barometer when it comes to sheep and lambs that are fine compared to those who need help, those weeks off lambing and those with a couple of days to go, hours-old lambs and days-old, but it’s all coming back now. I know too when I can sort something easily myself, or when I need to call the big guns for backup. We’ve had a little lamb that struggles to get about, so I’ve been out on the hunt for Leo(nardo Dilambrio) morning and night, in wind and driving rain to make sure he’s alright. His mother’s getting crafty though, moving him to increasingly clever hiding spots, so clever that we often hear her calling out because she’s forgotten where she’s left him! Unfortunately, he’s one of those lambs with a question mark hanging above him. There’s a good chance he won’t make it, but we’re doing all we can to give him a chance.
Aaaand, cruise ship season looms imminent on the horizon here in Dunedin – the first is due on October the 1st, and with it will come my slight obsession looking across to Port Otago for visiting ships. I’ve already been through the schedule and noted each expected arrival in my diary, mostly so I can plan my very rare trips to town on days when we don’t have ships in. We’re expecting another record year – more ships and passengers than ever before. While it’s great for the city’s economy, it can be taxing on locals with slower trips to town (on top of the major road works that we’ve had for several years now working on widening the peninsula road, which are taxing in themselves, you’ve got to allow around forty minutes travel time each way), tourists stopped in random and sometimes dangerous spots to get that perfect photo, a crowed city centre, and the swelling of numbers at our most beautiful spots. Dunedin, and the Otago Peninsula (on which I live), is known for particularly stunning scenery and relatively close proximity to several colonies of wild (and in many cases endangered) animals. We’ve also got Larnach Castle, incredible beaches, cute and quirky little shops and galleries tucked about the place, and history galore. Oh, and the attraction that I’m just quietly pretty stoked about, Dunedin is a UNESCO City of Literature! If you’d like to know more about the awesome little city I live in, check us out on Wikipedia here:
or even better, on the Dunedin City website:
On writing in September...
I’ll be blunt and admit that I haven’t reached the goals I set for myself, well, not all of them. Sickness and all the extra activities the kids have had on haven’t helped, but the major contributor is PROCRASTINATION. Unfortunately, the supreme ability to procrastinate has been passed down to me. A family member, whom shan’t be identified but contributed to my DNA, continues to provide unintentional expert tuition on the subtle art, and I’ve learned the tricks of the trade well, for better or worse. Procrastination, too, is a commonly identified trait in writers, and unfortunately, I haven’t bucked the stereotype. This month, the main source of procrastination has come in the form of nearing the end of re-planning a novel I’ve drafted several times and haven’t yet found the right formula for combined with bursts of enthusiasm for sewing and crocheting. Nearing the end of planning means I actually have to sit down and write the book again (with concentrated effort to get it written in as short a time as possible so the story stays fresh), and overcome the fact that several efforts so far just weren’t right. So what’s the chance that I get it right this time? Previous efforts say small. The gift of a massive container of fabric from my aunt proves a tempting distraction, especially with my little niece’s birthday coming up – I plan to make her some dresses using said fabric. So, the sewing is for a good cause, but it gives valid reason to put the writing off – see the dilemma? This is the time when I need to visit my Pinterest board, words that motivate me, for a kick in the pants! Phrases that remind me to just blimmin’ get started might help, that you don’t succeed if you don’t do the work, unrelenting pursuit of goals being the path to success, and having control over attitude and effort will be good places to start! I’m determined to get under way, so I consider myself on the path…
I may not have written much, so to speak, but I have been plotting for the win! The fact that I’m not happy with any of my previous drafts leads me back to plot – that it’s not strong enough, and my tendency to ‘pants’ it (wing it, go off on a tangent) part way through are at the heart, I think. With this in mind I’ve been scouring pins on my Write: Plot Development board (Pinterest), in search of a plot formula that actually works for me. I’ve given several a go in the past that have been about three-quarters useful, but I haven’t hit the magic ONE yet. I’m all excited when I find something that feels good, but the actual sitting down and making my ideas fit the plot formula can be incredibly difficult. I usually get lost around three-quarters of the way through – the beginning is relatively easy, getting into the change is ok, but finding a way through to the climax and then what happens after gets all gritty. Until I actually know what really happens, I find it hard to plan for it. This time, however, with my subtle changes to a circular diagram I found, which I now call my ‘Plot Clock,’ I hope I’m closer to getting there. I’ve all but finished a plot outline and have started transferring these events to my manuscript document. When that’s done, I can go and fill in ideas, then get writing! Over past attempts I’ve collected a multitude of ideas on my Pinterest story board, and have decided a name change is in order from ‘Sounds of Home,’ to ‘The Weight of Expectation.’ Whether it’ll be named either is still up for mental debate, however, visiting this board helps me feel keen to get started. It helps me fall into the world with the characters, and with any luck, it’ll drive me forward. For anyone interested, I’m planning future posts on how I use my Pinterest account as an essential part of my author platform, stay tuned!
So, to sum up this month, it’s been a muddly puddle of family life and procrastination. There have been exciting moments, small wins, and a bit of grind through the writing process, but I doubt it really comes easily for anyone, no matter how much they claim it does. Perhaps on the tenth or twentieth novel??? (feel free to drop a comment if you’ve found the sweet spot!).
I’m hoping spring will give me the motivation I need, and perhaps a tidy of my writing room. I’ll keep you posted!
Until then, happy writing and reading!
Welcome to my first and long-time-coming blog post!
Many of you will have read my news page on my website, which has been my hub for sharing about what’s been happening in my personal and writing worlds for over a year now.
You’ll have also seen that back in May I mentioned a new project. Well, this is it, my blog, and it’s taken quite some time to build enough courage to get on with it. I’ve decided to move my news on over to my blog too as it’s getting a bit long-running. Hopefully here you’ll be able to find what you want more efficiently, and I’ll be able to do more with each post. I’d love to hear your thoughts on this change: whether you prefer it this way or if you’d rather I went back to the news page, and what you’d like me to post on (Any burning questions? Something you’d like my take on? Please let me know!). I’m all about helping fellow writers get started on their path to writing, and sharing my journey to help others, so let’s do this together!
August has been rather a mucky month all round in my world. Bugs and illness have gone around in a revolving cycle, and I’ve been involved in preparation for both girls’ upcoming stage performances.
My eldest is will turn seven at the beginning of September (how fast did that time go?!), and her school has been busy preparing for this term’s big events: Stars On Stage (performing arts through dance held at Dunedin’s Regent Theatre), and Polyfest 2019 (Maori and Pacifica cultural performances from Otago’s early-childhood, primary, and secondary schools). My big girl likes to get involved, and it seems these challenges are transforming her focus and self-awareness. The theme for their school’s Stars On Stage performance is ‘Everyday Superheroes,’ focusing on positive self-talk, and how our actions toward others make our world a better place. Having been lucky enough to catch a few rehearsals, I have to admit to a few tears of pride in hearing their own voices throughout the soundtrack. It can be a daunting experience for young children – performing on a real theatre stage before a real audience that sells out so fast you’ve got to have your game face on when buying tickets! My mother took on the challenging task of making costumes for the two junior classes – rainbow tutus for the girls (the boys get to wear awesome undies over their leggings), and superhero capes for all. Now she’s a particular woman, my mother. She takes care with each and every item, is neat, measures each time, double and triple checks, and has gone to great lengths to make sure each child has the perfect costume. I offered to help, and she accepted, and somehow our two methods (her careful and individual way, and my ‘how can I do multiple layers at once?’ try not to give Mum a heart attack with my more freeform approach) somehow blended together and we got it done! I can tell you, three hours in the kitchen spray-gluing twenty-odd red hearts onto the same number of yellow capes can test one’s husband’s patience (as well as quite giddy!), and cutting hundreds strips of tutu netting whilst bent over on the lounge floor is rather hard on the bod! The best part of the whole thing by far, though, was seeing our small, country school up there smashing it on stage like pros and overcoming a week of difficult challenges and events to fulfil their goal. My big girl was buzzing afterward, and I was filled with masses of parental pride, not just for her, or for her class or school, but for all the children participating. They all did themselves and their schools proud.
So that’s Stars on Stage down, and just Polyfest to go early in September. I’ll tell you how that goes next month. Both of my girls are in on this – Miss Seven will perform with her school at the week-long festival opening, and Miss Four will perform with her kindergarten later in the week. Boy this parenting gig can be busy at times, daunting too, but ever so rewarding!
On the writing front, I’m gritting my teeth and pushing on. I’d hoped to have my second novel well on the way to publication by this time this year. It turns out novels can be more like unborn children – they’ll pick the date and time their born, not me – and my ‘unborn’ novel has proven to be just as stubborn and overdue as my first! It’s been through two complete scrap-and-start-again re-writes to this date, with something plain wrong in the theme and plot. So, I’ve forced myself to sit down and ‘pants’ (write off-the-cuff) less and plot more. I’ve gone right down to the bones and tried to dig out the deeper issues to explore. This means into the tried and true writer zone of fear: using personal experience deeply to tell a meaningful, important story. In this novel, I’m exposing traits I myself have had to lay bare and overcome. It’s astounding how the simple act of writing about something that happened to you (even years ago) can drag those raw and sometimes ugly feelings writing to the surface again. Those feelings can make just the thought of sitting down to get started feel impossible, and I’ve had to dig deep just to open my laptop some mornings (cue procrastination!). What happens in my novel isn’t a direct recount of my experience, in fact, it’s quite altered, but I’ve used enough elements to make me relate very closely to my protagonist’s plight. My hope is that by using personal experience in this book, I can accomplish three things: 1, I can delve deeper into my own thinking and healing and let go of the past some more; 2, that the experience I bring to the story shines through and enhances the protagonist’s journey; and 3 (perhaps the most important), that people out there experiencing anxiety, depression, and other mental illnesses, especially those like me that didn’t initially recognise mental illness within themselves, gain some insight and/empowerment to change the course of their own journey. It’s scary, demanding, and sometimes exhausting, but it feels necessary; I’m compelled to write this story both for myself, and more importantly, for those in need of encouragement and help to seek help for and overcome similar challenges. I’ve had to put impatience aside. That’s what both my first novel, and this one, are teaching me: writing takes patience, whether you’re naturally inclined or not. It’ll come right in time, and rushing it will result in a story that is less than what it’s destined to be. So, I’m going to plod on. I’ve got plot enhancements to make and research to do, but I feel I’m on the right track now, so here’s hoping I’ll have something new for you sooner rather than later!
Finally, I’ll share this realisation: my experiences as a parent and writer are forcing me to grow within myself. I’m no longer the shut-down victim of experience, incapable of making positive change for myself person that I used to be. I’ve changed, my circumstances have changed, and my thinking has changed. I can control some things and not others, and stressing about it doesn’t actually help. I can stand up for myself and no longer need to worry about how the choice that is best for me impacts those outside of my family. I can say no, that doesn’t serve me, and be done with it!
I hope that by sharing my experiences and thoughts, other people out there, writers or not, can find some familiarity, comfort, humour, healing, learning, or inspiration useful to their own lives. If you have questions or (respectful) comments, please feel free to share!
Until next month,
Hi, I'm Emily,