December 27, 2013

2013 in numbers

In the spirit of Freia Lockhart, here's a summary of my year:

Novels published: 1
Sleep-ins past 9am: 1
Dinners out without Little Ms Marmalade: 3
Books read: 76*
Hokey-pokeys sung: 98
Hours spent blending, mashing and otherwise soggifying foodstuffs to render them suitable for consumption by toothless members of the family: 105**
Raspberries blown on a cute, round tummy: 256***
Nappies changed: 2190****

The fact that I've struggled to come up with two points that don't directly relate to being a mum pretty much sums up 2013 for me. Hopefully this time next year my roundup will include, at least a word count of a work in progress, if not a finished manuscript.

Happy new year, everyone. May 2014 bring us all good things (and a double dissolution election for Australia).





* Does not include board books or the number would be far more impressive! For the record, my YA favourites this year have been, in no particular order: Wildlife by Fiona Wood, Me and Earl and the Dying Girl by Jesse Andrews, After Iris by Natasha Farrant, Life in Outer Space by Melissa Keil and A Corner of White by Jaclyn Moriarty.
** That would be Ms M, Mr Fantapants and I still have our teeth.
*** Ms M again.
**** I initially put down what seemed like a random high number (1280) but then I realised that - Ms M being a rather, ahem, regular girl - I could actually estimate this pretty accurately. The true estimate shocks even me.

December 18, 2013

Rant: YA has a history. Read it.

Jennifer Hubbard's recentish post on the history of YA novels reminded me how much it gets my goat when people carry on as if YA didn't exist before the 1990s (at the earliest - in many cases people seem to think Twilight was the first book ever written aimed at young people). I should add that the people I'm referring to are not readers, who I can forgive for thinking that YA began when they cracked the spine on the first YA novel they ever read, but librarians, booksellers, people who host writing panels, reviewers and even YA authors themselves.

I began reading what we now think of as YA when I was about 8. (I had an older sister and a dedicated children's library whose staff didn't bat an eyelid if you read 'above your age', unlike our school librarian who kept trying to force me to read Milly Molly Mandy.) It started with light, romantic books that epitomised the image of teenagerdom I already had in my mind via Gidget movies, The Brady Bunch, and other assorted American series from the 50s/60s that were still being repeated on Aussie TV in the early 80s. I distinctly remember reading Beverly Cleary's Fifteen and Sister of the Bride and imagining going on my first 'date', which I thought would probably be with a nice, cleancut boy from our neighbourhood. From there I moved onto more contemporary fare, scouring the library shelves for books by Paula Danziger, Betsy Byars, Paul Zindel and, of course, Judy Blume. (Interestingly - to me and no one else, I suspect - I didn't read these authors' middle grade novels until I was older and had run out of books with teenaged protagonists to read.)

Now, when I see one of the books that made such an impression on my young self at an op shop or garage sale, I snatch it up greedily. My bookshelf includes well-worn paperback copies of The Cat Ate My Gymsuit, I'll Get There. It Better be Worth the Trip and Pardon Me, You're Stepping on my Eyeball, all of which stand up well to rereading three decades later and up to four decades after they were written (attested to by the fact that many of them have been republished since the YA boom).

As well as the books mentioned above, YA 'classics' I love and heartily recommend include:
  • The Pigman by Paul Zindel, which taught me that weird can be wonderful. (Actually, that's true of all of Zindel's books.)
  • Forever by Judy Blume, written in response to her daughter's plea for a book about teenagers who have sex and don't die, a la Love Story. (Not only that, in Blume's world they use contraception and even orgasm, which may have raised my hopes about teenage sex but was also a better education than they offered at school back in the dark ages). This isn't my favourite Judy Blume novel, but each time I read it I think it's still groundbreaking.
  • The Summer of the Swans by Betsy Byars (have tissues handy)
  • The Pistachio Prescription by Paula Danziger
  • The Alfred G. Graebner Memorial High School Handbook of Rules and Regulations by Ellen Conford (actually, pretty much anything by Ellen Conford)
  • It's OK If You Don't Love Me by Norma Klein (anyone who thinks 'new adult' is new should read this and pull their head in)
Yes, YA's come a long way in terms of recognition, particularly in the last decade or so, but let's not forget where we came from.

The writing hasn't dated, even if the cover art has

November 21, 2013

Stereo Stories at the Big West Fest


As part of the huge program for this year's Big West Festival, kicking off tomorrow, Mobile Radio will be broadcasting live from various locations and events.

As well as live event coverage, MR will feature work by various local sound makers and writers, including a selection of Stereo Stories by westies. Listen out for my contribution on The Ramones' 'Beat on the Brat' during Braybrook's Big Day Out, 2-4pm this Sunday.

Tune in to 99.9FM or stream it on mobileradio.org.au.

November 19, 2013

PND and me

A year ago this week I was in my first week of solo daytime parenting. Mr Fantapants would leave for work early in the morning and I'd pray that five-week-old Ms Marmalade wouldn't wake up for a couple more hours, and that she'd sleep again at some point through the day, and that I could maybe have a shower at  some point, or at least get out of my PJs. Only a few days into being a full-time mum, I was flailing; exhausted and mystified by the wailing little eating-machine that barely slept. If she dozed off in my arms I was so relieved that I'd sit pinned to the couch, staying as still as possible, twitching only those muscles required to flick through my blog feed on the ipad.

One of the (now sadly defunct) parenting-focused blogs I'd started following late in my pregnancy had a post to mark Postnatal Depression Awareness Week. I read the blogger's experience of PND with a pang, more of resignation than recognition. Throughout my pregnancy I'd been aware that, as someone who had experienced depression and anxiety off and on (mainly off, thankfully) since adolescence, my chances of experiencing PND were greater than the average one-in-ten statistic. But I'd also been determined not to become part of that statistic. So determined that I flicked through to the next blog post, telling myself that my tears were just those of an exhausted new mum.

A week later a heatwave struck Melbourne. Ms Marmalade and I were still glued to the couch all day every day, moving only to change nappies or preform essential ablutions. We were yet to get air conditioning installed and the small pedestal fan barely even moved the dense, humid air around the room. Our clammy skin stuck together with sweat and tears, as we took it in turns to wail or made a miserable chorus together. In a brief moment of clarity, I thought back to that blog post and knew that it was time to face the fact that whatever I had was way beyond the baby blues.

Remembering the blogger's advice, I called PANDA. Half an hour later I'd not only received some counselling over the phone but they had also called the maternal child health nurse at my local council, and put me in touch with my GP. The best part of all was when the counsellor asked if I'd like someone to call me again the next day to see how things were going. It was like I'd crawled out of the desert and someone was waiting for me with a small but icy-cold glass of water.

While the council was unable to help me beyond offering a sympathetic ear, my GP sprung into action as soon as I told her I wasn't coping. Within three days Ms Marmalade and I were admitted to a mother-baby unit for some much-needed sleep (on both our parts) and time to figure out what was going on and how it might be improved. I can't say the week we spent in the MBU was fun, but we emerged from it in far better spirits.

Of course, my PND wasn't cured in a week. I (reluctantly, at first) went on antidepressants for the first time in my life and also spent time talking with a psychologist. But by the time Ms Marmalade was 12 weeks old, my outlook on life was very different: not necessarily rosy, but definitely tinged with pink around the edges. Counsellors from PANDA continued to call me regularly until the day I realised with happy surprise that I had nothing to tell them. The counsellor bid me a very optimistic farewell and invited me to call back any time I needed to.

Since being diagnosed, I've been surprised how much of a taboo topic PND still is. Some people (especially women) look shocked when I tell them about my experience, as if it is a shameful admission of failure as a mother, others have been grateful to find someone with whom they can talk openly about their not-so-maternal (or paternal) feelings. I'm sharing my story here in the hope that it might reach out to a new parent the way that blog post did to me. If you're not sure whether what you're feeling is normal, and especially if you fear it's not, take the first step and call PANDA or your GP. I promise you that life on the other side of PND is worth it, for you and for your family.

November 10, 2013

Stereo Stories

Well, Supernanny has moved on to the next family in need and tomorrow it's back to me and Ms Marmalade. While I've enjoyed going into the office a couple of times and hanging out with my fabulous and lovely colleagues, and being able to catch trams and sit somewhere other than the front seats of the bus and having lunch with friends at cafes that do not supply highchairs, I'm really looking forward to getting back to being a mum. (Remind me of that on Wednesday afternoon, which is about when I expect the novelty to have worn off.)

I didn't quite make my goal of posting every weekday while I was on parental leave, but I did post more frequently than I've ever managed to before and while they were not the most riveting or well-written posts this blog has ever seen, I do have a sense of satisfaction that I managed to write something after such a long break from writing. I also posted a little extract from Finding Freia on Stereo Stories, an ace blog about music and memories.

November 6, 2013

Pinterest: an author's new best friend

I've been using Pinterest for about a year now and I lovelovelove it.

For years I've tried to organise and save useful links in a format that would actually be useful, but all the tools I tried (browser bookmarks, Evernote, saved posts in my feed reader) ended in the same result: when I finally needed to refer back to one of these links I couldn't find it. Now, Pinterest is my all-in-one solution. I have boards for sewing projects I'll get around to one day, household hints (is there anything bicarb can't do?!), chook-keeping and, if course, writing tips.

And if you love peering into other people's lives as much as I do, Pinterest is perfect for stalking lurking inquiring minds. As well as following people you know or finding those who share your penchant for garish 70s wallpaper, you can browse what random strangers have pinned and get a sense of the sort of person they are, like a character sketch. The downside of this is that everyone on Pinterest can do the same to you, which I don't mind in general (I'm not so interesting that anyone would be shocked by anything I pin, although they might be surprised to see an entire board devoted to exercise and other healthy pursuits since clicking the Pin It button is as close as I come to actually doing these things), but am a bit more shy when it comes to stuff I'm writing or planning to write. Enter private Pinterest boards.

Private boards were introduced a little while ago. You can now lock boards you've created so that only you can see them and, if you ask me, they are a  writer's best friend after Scrivener. I use private boards for:
  • character development - a collage of my main characters' style, favourite music, memories,  dreams and nightmares
  • setting development - a visual reference for certain settings and composite building/city/neighbourhood maker
  • plot development - quirky or interesting images that might inspire scenes or subplots.
And, of course, if you're doing all this pinning to support your writing practice it's not procrastinating, it's research. Yep, research.

November 4, 2013

Do over

I went to the movies today for the first time in over a year! I felt guilty enough about skipping out to a movie on a weekday so I didn't want to see anything that Mr Fantapants would be envious of, which was a good excuse to see About Time. It wasn't life changing but it was jolly nice and very sweet and a little bit sad, and all the other things you expect from a Richard Curtis romcom (coincidentally all the reasons Mr F won't watch it).

The movie's premise is that the protagonist can travel back in his own lifetime to do things differently until he gets them right, which, naturally, got me thinking about things I would do over if I had the chance, like:
  • the Very Mean thing I did in Year 6 that still makes me blush with shame when I think about it
  • telling my Year 9 religious education teacher that Jesus wanted me for a sunbeam
  • letting an apprentice hairdresser loose on my head with a razor
  • not making sure my name was removed from the last lease I held with my ex
  • waiting until my 30s to start taking my writing seriously
  • turning down an epidural during childbirth.
But when I thought about it more closely I realised that, while I might not think fondly about them, these things are part of my sum. The memory of that Very Mean thing reminds me to try to be kinder, ditto not being more sensitive about my teacher's beliefs. Being taken to the tenancy tribunal taught me not to leave important things up to flaky guys who can't even pay their rent on time. I started writing when I finally felt I had something worth sharing. It was all worth it except for turning down that epidural. That'd be a do over.

Speaking of movies, I can't wait to see this...

November 1, 2013

'Worthy' books and reading snobbery

In the past few weeks, two articles about reading have frequent appearances in my blog feeds, Facebook newsfeed and Twitter feed: Neil Gaiman's lecture on Why our future depends on libraries, reading and daydreaming and reports about this research proving that Reading Literary Fiction Improves Theory of Mind (the full study is only available to subscribers but the New York Times ran a more easily digestible article).

Both Gaiman and the academic researchers (Emanuele Castano and David Comer Kidd) make the point that reading fiction increases empathy. "You get to feel things, visit places and worlds you would never otherwise know. You learn that everyone else out there is a me, as well. You're being someone else, and when you return to your own world, you're going to be slightly changed," said Gaiman of reading prose fiction.

The researchers agree, but, their research results indicate, only if this fiction is literary. Research participants given popular fiction, non-fiction or nothing to read did not perform as highly in their quantative test of empathy (which included tasks such as 'reading' a person's emotional state from a photograph of their eyes). The Times sums up the reasons for the results thusly: "literary fiction often leaves more to the imagination, encouraging readers to make inferences about characters and be sensitive to emotional nuance and complexity." To drive the divide between 'high' and 'low' fiction home, the NYT article continues, "popular fiction readers made as many mistakes as people who read nothing." Subtext: reading novels that are not 'literary' is as 'bad' as not reading at all.

What the what?? [pause to take a few deep, calming breaths]

I am a reader and, when I have to be, a smart one at that. I studied 3 Unit English for my HSC. I completed a Communications degree. I read many, many worthy books, both because I was being graded on my responses to them and because I thought it made me sound smarter at parties. I can't tell you much about those novels now though, because I read them for the sake of having read them, not because I enjoyed them. I used them for essays, exams and literary chat-up opportunities and then promptly forgot pretty much every detail except the elements that made me detest them most. (See: Fanny Price's delicate constitution in Mansfield Park, Daisy's endless whining in The Great Gatsby. Far from making me more empathetic, these characters made me burn with a rage that left me incapable of caring about their personal struggles.)

I can't argue with the researchers' findings. I'm sure the study was conducted in a controlled and ethical manner and quantative results are more objectively analysed than qualitative ones. But, as someone who supports Gaiman's position that there is no bad reading for children, I fear that the findings of this study will be used as a reason (excuse) to stuff school reading lists full of 'worthy' tomes that 'improve the mind' rather than more accessible popular fiction that readers may actually enjoy.

A few years ago I was on a panel discussing YA and reading. One of the other authors on the panel was particularly (and very humourously) disparaging of the popularity of sparkly vampires, well-built werewolves and the girls who loved them. I'm no fan of paranormal romance, but the laughter and enthusiastic nodding of many of the adults in the audience (and the audience was 98% adult; young people don't come to these events unless they're diehard fans of someone on the panel) got my hackles up and I found myself doing something I never thought I would: defending Twilight. Well, not Twilight specifcially, since I struggled to finish it, but Twilight fans' right to enjoy what they read and to read what they enjoy.

It seems ridiculous to me that we spend almost as much time debating what young people read as we do despairing that they don't read more. Surely, as Gaiman says, the first step to making enthusiastic readers is to give them books they are more likely to enjoy than trudge through as an exercise in self-betterment (or better still, let them choose books for themselves).

In fact, I'd go one further and say there's no bad reading for anyone, not just young readers. I have been a far more satisfied and prolific reader since I stopped caring what other people think of my book choices and just read what I like (mainly YA with some chick lit and popular contemporary fiction thrown in, and a small smattering of contemporary literary fiction if it's recommended by readers whose opinions I really trust). There are far too many books I want to read to waste precious reading time on the ones I should.

Whether it's Anna Karenina, Anne of Green Gables or the next instalment of Ana Steele, my response to both articles is the same: read what you enjoy and stuff what other people think.

(And here's yet another article on the subject, from today's Age: Does reading fiction make you a better, less self-absorbed person?)

October 30, 2013

Naming rights

There are some people who know what they will name their child before they even get pregnant (or even before they meet the person they have a child with). In high school, one of my friends had already chosen names for up to 10 children. The first would be Knife. At the time I thought this was wondrously creative - naming conventions be damned, and all that - but when it came time to choose a name for our own baby I was all together more conservative.

Having been convinced that I didn't want children, I'd never made a shortlist of baby names, and Mr Fantapants hadn't given it much thought either. Convinced from the start I was having a girl, I didn't bother with boy names at first, preferring instead to get to a shortlist by shooting down Mr F's more outlandish suggestions. (Tiger would brand our child a Richmond supporter in AFL-mad Melbourne; Cathol sounded like a brand of petrol; Spitfire was just plain ridiculous.) In the end, we were tossing up between Max (a great name but so popular in recent years - would he be one of five Maxes in his class?) and Digby (which I liked in theory but was concerned about a real live person having to live with). Given our indecision (even while I was in labour we still couldn't commit), it's surprising how easily we arrived at a girl's name.

In the opening minutes of our very first 'what will we name it?' (Mr F was very keen on the baby's sex being a surprise so 'it' was it for 9 months, something that filled me with maternal guilt whenever I referred to 'it'), Mr F suggested Marmalade for a girl. 'It's such a lovely word,' he said, plus we are both fans of Marmalade Atkins. I agreed in theory, but couldn't commit in practice.
'I like Phoebe,' I said. 'After Holden Caulfield's little sister.'
'I like it too,' said Mr F. 'Phoebe Marmalade has a good ring to it.'

That was it. For the next 8 months I regularly denounced Mr F's suggestions for boys' names (William Butler Yeats, Thelonious, Sherman -after the tank, natch, Wolfgang) but, whenever we discussed the possibility of having a girl, Phoebe Marmalade sounded pretty perfect. And it still does.



October 29, 2013

Finding Freia visits the Bookish Manicurist

Of all the cool things people have done in response to reading Finding Freia Lockhart, this is probably as cool as it can possibly get:
Yes? Yes!

Visit the Bookish Manicurist for more literary nail inspiration.

October 28, 2013

Back when music mattered

I woke up (well, logged on) to the news of Lou Reed's death, and, like many judging from the outpouring of grief and links to Youtube on Twitter, was reminded of listening to his music in my mid-teens. Just hearing the opening bars of 'Walk on the Wild Side' takes me instantly back to a summer holiday spent housesitting for a friend with extraordinarily trusting parents, do-da-do-do-da-da-doing along to 'Walk on the Wild Side' while dancing at a distance from the stereo lest the needle skipped.

Back then, music mattered to me even more than books did. Songs reached out as if they were written just for me. They could make me cry, cheer me up after another crappy shift at the supermarket, make me hopeful that tomorrow would be better. My folders and school diary were covered in scrawled lyrics that captured my mood from moment to moment. Morrissey featured heavily. He knew my pain.

These days I don't listen to that much music (well, not that much aimed at a post-preschool audience) and when I do I rarely feel an emotional reaction beyond 'that's quite nice' or 'that's just noise'. I guess I have a lot more going on in my life now than I did when I spent so many hours sitting alone in my bedroom with only my boombox for company, but it's more than that. I no longer turn to music to find comfort. I don't need to know that someone else out there feels exactly like I do, or need a catchy chorus to lift my mood, But for sad times I'll always have Morrissey.

October 25, 2013

In case of fire

I'm a sucker for those 'what the contents of your bag say about you' posts, but since my current 'handbag' is a nappy bag with my wallet and sunnies stowed in the back pocket I thought I'd move to the less mundane topic of what I'd save if my house was on fire.

Back when we had Big Orange Cat, Mr Fantapants and I had a recurring conversation about who I'd save first if there was a fire: BOC or Mr F? My answer never changed; I'd save BOC first because I could pick him up and run out of the house. That this was something that would be physically impossible for me to do with Mr F didn't stop him being slightly shirty about my choice. Flash forward to a catless house and the conversation is redundant - we'd both save Ms Marmalade first (that said, I can see Mr F attempting to hoik me over his shoulder in a fireman's carry at the same time; my physical limitations remain).

Assuming that my loved ones were safe, here's what else I'd grab, in order of preciousness:
  • us as cats - for my 24th birthday, Mr F drew a portrait of us as cats. He is a handsome ginger and I have a spectacular snow leopard-esque tail. I am still flattered that he gave me such a beautiful tail.
  • Barbara Hanrahan print - I've loved Barbara Hanrahan's art and her writing since high school, so this is one of those I-never-thought-I'd-actually-own-one items. It was purchased on a whim while I was working at an art on paper fair, but I'm so glad I spent a month's pay on it because it makes me happy every time I look at it.
  • charm bracelet - originally my mum's when she was a teenager, she passed this bracelet down to me when I was 16. Among the charms are a champagne bucket on ice, a handsome bear, a skull and a statue of Aphrodite, given to me by Mr F to mark our first trip to London. Destined to be a family heirloom.
  • first edition Wombles - my love of the Wombles extended so far as to give myself Bungo as an unofficial middle name when I was 10. Another heirloom for Ms M.

Yep, that's all I need.

October 24, 2013

Things that freak me out

[Hat tip to Fat Mum Slim for topic inspiration.]
  1. Gastropods - snails, slugs and any other invertebrates that sploodge along on their slimy tums. (Sadly this extends to earthworms who I know are benign and really very useful but still make me reel in fright if I accidentally come across one while digging in the vegie patch.) My molluscophobia dates back to fifth grade, when I trod on a slug in the dark on my way to a midnight fridge raid at a friend's house. I can still feel it squooshing between my toes...
  2. Medical procedures on TV - I don't care whether it's real surgery or Grey's Anatomy, I do not want to see anyone's insides.
  3. People who can dislocate their joints at will - please don't.
  4. The sucky-thing they use at the dentist - I always feel as though it's going to attach itself to my tongue, like an out-of-control vacuum cleaner...or a Dr Who special effect.
  5. Going fast - I'm not a fan of autobahns, high-speed freeways, bungyjumps or rollercoasters. I know some people get a thrill from it. They are kerazy.
  6. Wobbly teeth - seeing young friends wobbling their loose teeth with their tongues or - horror of horrors, trying to extract them with their fingers, string or other home-dentistry instruments - makes my stomach churn.
  7. Driving - I don't drive so people are surprised when they learn that I got my license at 19, on my first attempt. Even as a learner I was a nervous driver; now, it gives me panic attacks.
  8. People who don't like animals - I understand being a dog person or a cat person or even a reptile person, but if you tell me you don't-like-animals-fullstop I will back away slowly and then run as fast as I can.


October 23, 2013

What she read: Great Aussie YA

One of the (many) great things about Ms Marmalade starting to sleep through the night at 8 months is that I was finally awake enough to be able to read more than two pages of a book before falling asleep. Sometimes I even manage whole chapters!

Over the past few months I've been catching up on my to-read list, starting with some somewhat recent Aussie releases. As I've disclaimed many times before, book reviews are an artform at which I suck, but here are some books I really loved and an attempt to explain why. (Btw, books are listed in the order I read them, not by how much I liked them; links are to Goodreads.)

Wildlife by Fiona Wood - great characters; duel narration; straight-talk about love, sex and the murkiness between them.

Girl Defective by Simmone Howell - gritty, funny and real; breathtaking turns of phrase; a love interest I could fall for.

New Guinea Moon by Kate Constable - transported me to PNG on the cusp of Independence; beautiful, thoughtful writing.

Only Ever Always by Penni Russon - parallel worlds; duel narration; still a bit spooked.

October 22, 2013

Surprise!

Until now, I've made a conscious effort not to blog about baby stuff because, frankly, there are a lot of talented people out there who are all over this parenting thing and I don't want to bore readers who can't relate to the baby maelstrom (i.e. most of the people who read my books). But if I'm going to write a post every day for the next few weeks I'll have to break that rule, especially today.

A year ago today, at 8.28pm, after a 36-hour labour, Ms Marmalade was born and our lives changed irrevocably. Some of the changes I expected - lack of sleep, overflowing laundry baskets, days when I didn't make it out of my PJs - but others were a complete surprise to me.

Surprise #1 - sometimes there is NOTHING you can do to soothe a crying baby
You can sing, shush, swaddle and sway all you like but there are days (and nights and mornings and afternoons) when she's just going to wail like a banshee till she's exhausted. On these days noise-cancelling headphones come in handy.

Surprise #2 - babies are not grateful
They don't care that you've only had 3 hours sleep, that this is the fourth poonami nappy you've changed this morning, that breastfeeding while you have mastitis is agony. They do not say thank you or blow you kisses or even smile (unless they happen to fart at the same time). In fact, for the first month they can't even make eye contact, so they appear to be looking straight through you. This can be disheartening.

Surprise #3 - it IS possible to need a nappy change Every. Single. Hour.
Poo, it happens. A lot. Which leads us to...

Surprise #4 - baby poo doesn't stink
Not until they start eating solids, anyway.

Surprise #5 - some babies don't like to sleep
'Wow, she really fights it, doesn't she?' The sleep school nurse sounded admiring of Ms M's ongoing refusal to close her eyes after an hour of rocking, patting and shushing. I felt a bit better that the experts were having no more success getting her to sleep than I was. Ms M is now a champion night sleeper but it took 8 months and two visits to sleep school to get her there.

Surprise #6 - you will never be on time again
No matter how carefully I plan our outings, we are late. Whether there's a nappy blowout just as we're leaving the house, or we get to the bus stop and realise we've forgotten Ms M's water bottle/blanky/emergency snacks, or she decides that today is the day she's going to have a two-hour nap when I've timed our departure around the assumption that she'll be up within an hour like she is every day when we have nothing planned, there is always something that will guarantee we don't make it anywhere on time.

Surprise #7 - getting there is half the fun
For Ms M, the journey is definitely as important as the destination. A walk to the bus stop involves multiple stops to greet dogs, watch big kids ride their bikes, examine any flowers at pram level, watch baby magpies being taught to dig for worms by their mums. Everything is new to her, and most of it is fascinating. Unfortunately this only adds to Surprise #6.

Surprise #8 - you will not only sing, you'll like it
I come from a tone deaf family. I mouthed the words when we had to sing in Music class. I was not a joiner-in in singalongs. So I really didn't expect that I would not only find myself singing The Wheels on the Bus at our local library's Rhyme Time, but that I'd enjoy belting it out and doing the actions, too. The best bit  is that Ms M doesn't realise yet how out of tune I am - as long as I hokey pokey with enthusiasm she's happy.

Surprise #9 - it gets better all the time
I know I'm saying this on a sentimental day and that we haven't reached the terrible twos yet, but right now every day brings new skills, new words and new things to smile about.

From this
to this
to this, in just 12 months!

October 21, 2013

Spare time, what's that?

I had a little operation last month. It went well and I feel fine now, thankyouforasking, but the one thing the surgeons told me I Absolutely Really Truly Cannot Do while I'm recuperating is lift anything heavier than 4 kilos. Not-so-little-anymore Ms Marmalade weighs 10 kilos (closer to 11 after a big meal), which has put the kibosh on me getting her in and out of her cot, into her highchair or onto the change table, so for the next month or so we have a nanny coming every day to look after Ms M. Mr Fantapants and Supernanny tag team in the morning and afternoon so that all of Ms M's lifting needs are met. Supernanny spends the day singing and dancing and lifting Ms M and I do my work-work and other baby-related chores like cooking and laundry.

Aside from the fact that I am very sad not to be able to take care of Ms M myself, it really is a very good arrangement. Except that it's left me with something I haven't had for the past year: spare time. And since I've spent the last year longing for a little window in each day that was not spent being a big Mack truck or a little teapot or doing the hokey pokey or trying to make pureed vegetables 'fun', I really feel that I must make the most of it.

I considered doing my own little Nanowrimo but I fear that would be setting myself up for failure, so instead I'm going to commit to writing a post on this blog every day until Supernanny unfurls her parrot-head umbrella and flies into the distance. Or every weekday, at least. Yes.

July 19, 2013

Baby steps

I knew it had been a long time between posts but I didn't realise it was almost half a year! Half a year since I wrote ANYTHING non-work related. (I returned to my job-job in March, working pretty much whenever I can grab a few minutes.)

I'd feel guilty about it but the truth is that I haven't had the time or energy to write since Little Ms Marmalade joined us. But I think that might be changing. And I think it's definitely related to the fact that LMM started sleeping for more than three hours at a stretch through the night. (Seriously, the effect of getting at least 6 hours' sleep every night cannot be underestimated.)

But now that the urge to write is returning I'm faced with a different dilemma: what to write. I began  a new novel over a year ago, while I was in Adelaide on my May Gibbs Children's Literature Foundation fellowship, so of course the part of my brain that is terrified of starting things from scratch is saying, 'Go on, get back to that.' But the part of my brain that knows I'll have about 30 minutes a day to write (if LMM has two decent-length naps and I get my job-job work done first) is shaking its head and telling me I'm setting myself up for failure.

Of course, I know I could find more time in my day if I really wanted to. I hear about it from other authors regularly: those who get up at 5am so they can get a couple of hours' writing in before the kids wake up and/or they go to their full-time job/uni; those who eschew slumping in front of the telly with a glass of wine in the evening for time at their laptops; those who are disciplined enough to take that half hour and make every second count. But that's not me. Not at the moment, anyway. So I'm starting small, with this post.

February 1, 2013

Freia Lockhart's Summer of Awful - launch and giveaway

Freia Lockhart's Summer of Awful hits bookstores today! For me, it's been a looong time coming - I started writing the book way back in 2011 and finished the final draft in late April last year, followed by months of editing and proofreading (and a baby in the middle of all that), but finally it's out in the big wide world, itching to be read.

To celebrate, I'm doing a giveaway on Goodreads: three copies to Australian and NZ readers, drawn at random by Goodreads at the end of the month.

There's also a launch in Melbourne hosted by my favourite independent bookstore, The Younger Sun, at 2pm on Sunday 17 February. Come by and raise a glass and a peanut-buttery brownie to FLSoA!