I’m back from Thailand, my life is slowly returning to some semblance of order and I HAVE blogged. Today though, I’m talking about the ‘lost girls’ for whom I write. Because that’s a blog primarily about writing, I’ve left it over at my new ‘strictly writing’ blog, which is here: www.rebbloomer.wordpress.com
Recently, I decided it was time for this old dog to learn some new tricks. In my efforts to do so, I’ve:
Created a new Facebook Author page (which you can like…if you like…right here).
Begun a new blog that’s only about writing (that you can find here…if you’re a word nerd).
Learned to Tweet (which is hilarious fun and highly addictive. Oh yeah, you can find me here).
I’m also learning to format ebooks and have begun work on my new book.
All in all, it feels like my period of stagnant hibernation is over. HELLO SPRING. What have you embarked upon since the change of season?
In between books, in fact, sometimes during books, I write short stories. Writing them keeps me sharp and makes me use my skills. For me, short stories are a chance to really indulge my perfectionism and love of words. The same rules that apply to writing short stories, apply to writing books even to the point that I generally approach each chapter within a book, as though it’s a short story.
Recently my short story, The Water Cure, was published in Epiphmag. Check it out. It’s free and there are plenty of stories to read. Tell me what you think but be warned, my short stories are usually dark, scary and at least a little unnerving.
Will Work For Food
Food is a great motivator for me. While I may not work for food alone, it certainly helps. As it turns out, I will also work for gratitude, adulation and friendship. Sometimes I even work for money. Cake however, will smooth all pathways to productivity.
Having just finished Book Week presentations, I can honestly say, I’ve never before, been so foodily
flattered. At every school I visited, I met cute kids who listened attentively. They asked clever questions as though I might know some answers and they thanked me for my time.
Then they took me to morning tea. Book Week morning teas consist of coffee, cakes, fruit platters and a whole range of wondrous things, which resident authors scarf, in case the food either disappears…or the bell goes.
Following a Book Week morning tea, there were usually more presentations to different classes. By this stage, having grown unaccustomed to such long stretches of continuous speech, my voice became a little hoarse. As if magically attuned, teachers and teacher librarians, heard the initial vocal croak. They quietly sneaked from the room, to return moments later, with cooling glasses of water. Wondrous.
Then they took me to lunch. Bread rolls, more cake, juice, biscuits, fruit, coffee. Again conversation between writers, teachers and librarians, was interspersed with chewing, lip smacking and finger licking.
After lunch there were more in class presentations. I was thrilled when teachers took notes and afterward told me how well what I’d discussed with students, would fit with their upcoming lessons. I was even more chuffed when kids stayed back to have a chat, ask about my books and their own writing.
Then it was home…for afternoon tea.
Of course, this was just the schools. I also visited the YMCA in Browns Plains, where the girls were funny, interested/ing and fed me lamington squares filled with cream.
At Logan City Libraries, I met students from Browns Plains State High. They were part of the school’s writing group. For some reason it makes me inordinately happy to think on teens who willingly spend their time imagining and writing new worlds. These kids filled me with hope, rather than food.
Come to think of it, maybe it’s the hope, rather than the food that’s left me feeling so satisfied. At every one of my Book Week locations, I found myself inspired by my audience. I was awed by the depth of their questions, their eagerness to learn and their determination to dream.
I was humbled by the staff (teachers, librarians, youth workers, counsellors etc)who arrange these events. Their commitment to improving outcomes for kids. Their palpable need to bring words,
understanding and a love of language into people’s lives.
Over the past two weeks, these people, the staff and the students, restored a little of my faith in humanity, so maybe I need to reappraise my remuneration package.
Will work for fulfillment…and food!
Will Botox Flatten The Uncanny Valley?
The ‘uncanny valley’ is a term used in robotics. It refers to the fact that when humans are shown perfectly humanoid features, they feel calm and happy. This indicates that the viewer can relate to the humanoid specimen. The specimen can be understood. Whether the humanoid features are actually human or robotic, doesn’t matter. The same feelings are also elicited, when the viewer sees a robot that is obviously a robot. However, when shown a robot that is ‘almost’ human, the viewer enters the ‘uncanny valley’. In the uncanny valley, viewers experience revulsion, dislike, fear and other iterations of distaste.
Reading this article and then this one, I thought about all the women I’ve seen recently. The ones with their flattened nasolabial folds*, their artificially wide eyes, filled cheeks, tattooed eyebrows and lips. When I meet these women, I have to try not to stare. I’m not revolted, I’m just…disconcerted. I find myself wondering what to say to them, which is strange because I can talk to anyone.
It occurs to me now, that these women, may well be humans who’ve inadvertently entered the ‘uncanny valley’. Consider the face below. Not entirely dissimilar, right? Which one is more expressive?
So here’s the next question: will the current tide of Botox, Restilin, implants and surgery, actually flatten the ‘uncanny valley’? Will we become so used to looking at ‘almost human’ faces on humans, that they’ll no longer worry us when they appear on robots? If so, are we going to replace models, newsreaders and others in visual industries, with robots?
Is this just my writer’s mind making unrealistic leaps, or is it likely? Who knows what dreams/nightmares may come!
*nasolabial folds are the cheek lines that run between nose and the corner of the mouth
21st Century Authors
Well, I did it. I joined the 21st century. I realise that probably happened when my books appeared as ebooks on Amazon. It might also have happened when I started being allowed to submit queries by email. Or, I might have considered myself ‘modern’ the first time I Skyped. But no, today outstripped all my other technological advances. Today I signed a Kindlegraph!
Do What You Love
I’ve heard it said, that if you do what you love, you’ll never work a day in your life. In essence this is true; but when it comes to the particulars of doing what you love, people (especially young people) often run into trouble. The reason for this, is that doing what you love and therefore never working implies two things:
- You must, automatically, naturally, inherently, know what you love.
- Work is a bad/unhappy thing.
Let’s deal with the first problem first. Knowing what you love. It’s easy to identify what you love when you’ve lived a bit; when life has involved more than school and an adolescent boyfriend. When you know yourself choosing a love is easier. But what of the young who’ve had their heads filled with the passionate words of tree-changers and change-your-lifers? How are they to know what they love at eighteen years of age? And will it be an eternal love, or just a short-lived passion? At eighteen, life is still the great unknown. Of all that’s out there, how do you choose what you love?
When asked to determine what they love, or when told to only work at what they love, many young adults fall into a state of terminal indecision which, on occasion, leads to terrible feelings of inadequacy and sometimes depression. Why? Because they’ve yet to identify true loves and real passions. How, they wonder, can I not know what I love? The answer is simple; they just don’t. Generally teens and young adults haven’t done or tried enough to know what they love.
Of late, this has been a hot topic of conversation between myself and my young people. Finally, a solution occurred to me. “You just have to try stuff,” I explained. “Jeez, I didn’t know I hated being a secretary until I tried being one. Sometimes you have to get in and mess around a bit. You have to know what you don’t like in order to home in on what you do like.” That’s the thing, sometimes finding what we love doing, is simply a process of elimination.
Naturally, there are exceptions to this rule. I have a very talented artist friend. Her parents (both of them) were artists and her grandparents, if not artists, were artistic. She’s known all of her life, where her talents lay and I am inordinately jealous of the kind of security that must have given her as she grew and explored the world.
For the rest of us, we just have to figure it out.
Now, about work. Work is not an innately bad concept. It’s just something you have to do sometimes. Sometimes, even what you love, can be hard work. Parents know I’m I’m telling the truth. We love our kids with an abiding passion, but there are days when we’d swap them for ten minutes of quiet and an instant coffee.
For me, writing is this way. I love certain stages of the writing process. In fact, I go so far as to compare the early stages of writing with the act of falling in love (you can read that particular rave here). There are other stages though, that I would happily delegate. The query/submission process is one. The editing is another. I realise these are important processes and I know they make the final product so much better and more valuable, but honestly, there’s nothing fun about it. It’s work; straight-out, flat-out, no-doubt-about-it, hard, grinding work. I live through the work so I can get back to the good bits, to the things I love about my job. I do the work necessary to make the final product perfect; to make it something I can love.
So here’s the lowdown on the whole ‘do what you love’ conundrum.
- You must actively seek what you love. This is generally a process of elimination.
- All work requires that you actually work. If it didn’t, it would be called play.
- Parents: STOP telling your kids to do what they love. Encourage them instead to do something. When they hate doing that something, then encourage them to do something else. This is what I like to call ‘failing forward’. Eventually they’ll stumble upon what they do love then…Viola, the cliche becomes a truth!
In short, I think the cliche should say Find what you love and the work will be fulfilling…
Santa Barbara By Horse
Trail rides generally make me nervous. The horses are usually broken, non-thinkers and the guides know it, even if the riders don’t. At the Circle Bar B Ranch, this is not the case. Riding through the hills behind Santa Barbara, accompanied by only my guide, my family and our horses, I experienced the rare pleasures of a clever trail horse and a thoughtful cowboy. You don’t believe me, do you?
Our trail guide and thoughtful cowboy, Jonathan, didn’t jangle past in his spurs with a loud voice and a bad attitude. Instead he approached us, introduced himself and shook hands with everyone. He made kissy noises to his horse who nuzzled him affectionately. Jonathan then told us all about our own rides as though they were each his children and worthy of special mention. During the ride, he took special care with my daughter, who was extremely nervous. He did little riding activities with her; changing rein hands, standing in her stirrups, riding the horse like a motorbike, deliberately curving him from one track to another, until she felt in charge of her horse. He told her about how good horsemen don’t need to force their horses, they need to work with them, that it takes time for horse and human to get to know each other. He stopped on the trail to pick up a feather and put it in her hatband. Then he asked me if I knew about indigo children and if I didn’t think she might be one (forgive me for stereotyping but, not a topic I’d anticipated from a cowboy). All in all, he was the perfect guide.
As if that wasn’t enough, the views were spectacular. At a height of four thousand feet, the air cools though the sun brightens, and a rider can see clear from the top of a mountain out to the Channel Islands. There was wildlife everywhere, from quails to bobcats to soaring turkey buzzards and curious squirrels.
So, if you’re like me and love a place where you can enjoy some activities alongside your kids, let me recommend a stay at the Circle Bar B Ranch. Kids are so welcome at the Circle Bar B, that the farrier will even put them to work pulling nails from old horse shoes while you have a sleep-in. There are dogs and cats just looking to play with someone, especially kids, and all the staff seem to be enjoying the sweetness of life in the cool hills of Santa Barbara. All in all, whether it’s after a busy work life or a hectic holiday, the Circle Bar B Ranch is a great place to take your shoes off and sit a while. When you’re done, you’ll leave to the sound of people calling, “Y’all come back now, y’ hear?”
I reckon I will.
Agave – Succulent In Every Way
So, it would seem there is life off the Strip. The Strip in Las Vegas I mean, a name which may actually relate more to the fact that people wear little clothing, than to the ‘strip mall’ nature of the place. Whatever, two days ago we ventured into real world Las Vegas, where people have jobs, raise kids and occasionally eat out.
When it comes to eating out, let me recommend Agave. We’ve eaten there twice now, and tonight I read that it’s one of America’s top 25 tequila bars. The food is amazing, everything from the warm corn chips and trio of fresh dips, to the black bean and cheese soup will leave you making pleasured faces and begging to compliment the chef. The prawn ceviche is nothing less than amazing and truly, the margaritas will knock you fair off your chair. If it should happen that the margaritas don’t cheer you right up, ask the hostess to do her Steve Irwin impression. It’s hilarious and fun. I love a restaurant where the staff enjoy themselves and Agave is one of those. At the top of Agave’s drinks list is the Millionaire Margarita. I’ve yet to taste it but the ingredients include platino platinum cuervo, lime juice, grand marnier 150 and instead of a salt rim, your glass will be dipped in silver dust. That’s right, silver dust, platinum tequila and gold grand marnier. Bless me father for I intend on sinning.
Life and food, are better out here and I have to say that Sin City has been well and truly outstripped.
Mount Vernon and the George Washington Mystique
There is little more daunting to the adult traveller, than arriving at a location to find a convoy of bright yellow school buses arrived earlier. The mass of students pouring out of those school buses is likely give anyone reason to pause, and pause we did, while getting some breakfast and mustering our courage.
Mount Vernon, home of George and Martha Washington, was well worth the effort and surviving the masses. I am assured that other people have visited and had the place to themselves, so don’t be dismayed, this could be you. Either way, it won’t make a difference, you’ll love it.
The tour through the mansion was a step back in time and an insight into the mind of a man who was both practical an intellectual. Apparently, George Washington considered himself first and foremost, a farmer. To this end, he organised seven year crop rotations for his fields which ensured a fallow year for each pasture. He composted with very specific ingredients in order to ensure rich soil for his fields as well as his vegetable gardens and he designed a building especially for threshing, a job previously done outdoors and therefore subject to inclement weather. The building was original and unique in construction, a perfect monument to the fact that necessity really is the mother of invention.
In a similar vein, when George decided he wanted to extend his house (which was originally very small), he found the price of the original house stone, rather prohibitive. Rather than breaking the bank or not extending, George used a method of painting broad boards, then adding sand to the wet paint mixture, such that the boards look, even now, just like stone work.
For these reasons, George Washington the farmer, interested me much more than George Washington father of a nation, military strategist and inspiring leader. When combined though, it’s easy to see that there was a time, when nations truly were lead by their best and their brightest. These were not types to need party politics or platforms. They wrote their own speeches, took advice but formed their own opinions and ultimately made their own decisions about where to lead their country. George Washington took up the job of President as though it was a duty and a responsibility not an opportunity for personal gain. As an individual, he stood for something big enough to inspire masses and bring a nation into its own. Not bad for a farm boy, really.
Big tips for your visit:
- Don’t eat at the cafe. While it is clean, it’s also loud, expensive and the food isn’t great. If the weather is fine take a picnic and eat in one of the beautiful gardens or down on the shore of the Potomac. If it’s dismal, take soup and eat in the car, staff will stamp your hand so you can get back in.
- Set aside an entire day. The farm/house tour is informative and the landscape divine, so take your time.
- Take time to see the museum which is located on a subterranean level beneath one of the gardens. It contains a perfect combination of political detail and mementos from household life.
- Consider the boat cruise from DC to the dock at Mt Vernon, approaching by water will give the whole place a different perspective.
- No matter the weather, walk the gardens. The farm is a wonder but the gardens are works of art.
- Don’t be dismayed by the school buses. Those teachers are full of interesting information, I consider them free tour guides!