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Posts tagged ‘reading’

First Monday Mentoring February – writers, what is your special word for 2020?

It’s the first Monday of February, when you can ask me questions and discuss any aspect of writing that concerns you.

It’s also when many of us make – and sadly break – our resolutions for the New Year. We aim to be healthier, give up bad habits, and be more productive. These resolutions are soon broken, not because they are unworthy goals, but because they aim for perfection, not a natural place for humans to be.

We can still work toward our goals but they probably should be built into everyday life, rather than pressuring us to do everything at once. Several years ago I started eating more sensibly, and am reaping the benefits. Had I started during the holiday season, I’d have far less chance of making the changes stick.

On Facebook recently, someone posted what I think is a far more creative approach to the New Year. Rather than making resolutions, you choose a word to inspire you through the coming year.

This makes sense to me. But like many of you following this blog, I work with words. So far, I’ve published over five million words in books alone, plus movie scripts, short stories, novellas and articles.

How on earth to choose just one?

There are writing-related words – brainwave, inspiration, dedication, productivity, imagination, success, creativity.

Scary words – procrastination, deadlines, endurance, not really the encouragement I’m seeking.

After much searching, I finally settled on a word to sum up my hopes and plans for 2020.

*drum roll, please*

The word is ENRICHMENT.

As a volunteer guide at Canberra’s National Zoo and Aquarium for over ten years, I was very familiar with this word. When visitors commented on how happy and energetic the animals were, enrichment was the reason.

Everyone from zoo keepers to volunteers contributed materials or helped make toys for the animals. Toys were usually food-related such as screw-top bottles or egg cartons filled with seeds and treats. Each item was tailored to the animal’s needs and skills, designed to challenge and entertain while eventually rewarding the animal’s efforts.

In summer, frozen treats were on offer, such as “bloodsicles” for the big cats, and frozen fish for the massive European brown bears. One year, the owners brought in a load of snow from the Snowy Mountains, and heaped it around the enclosures. Seeing a 400kg European brown bear cautiously check out a scary pile of snow was fun for animals and zoo visitors alike.

I can see enrichment working well for writers. We’re prone to boredom if we don’t have enough variety in our work or the going gets tough. Rewards help us stay motivated. New journals and stationery are favourites, as is chocolate. Streaming TV shows or movies, taking research trips and giving ourselves reading time can enrich our writing lives, providing new information from which we can draw our stories.

Right now, in the searing heat of our Aussie summer, a pile of snow delivered to my backyard has plenty of appeal.

What word would you like to adopt for 2020? Share them with us in the comments below. I moderate posts to avoid spam, but if you want your comment to appear right away, click on the “sign me up” box at right to subscribe. I don’t share your details with anyone.

Happy New Year and may your words flow in 2020,

Valerie

http://www.valerieparv.com

on Twitter @ValerieParv and Facebook

Sat 14 March 2020, 10am-4pm AEDT

Getting Back the Joy of Writing

Agent Linda Tate and Valerie Parv AM

Literary agent Linda Tate and author Valerie Parv AM show how to

recover your lost enthusiasm, even find pleasure in pitching your work

Venue – Harry Hartog books Australian National University

 153-11 University Avenue Acton ACT 2601

Book now at http://tinyurl.com/ug3vvq5

 

 

 

 

 

First Monday Mentoring for August – as a writer, what kind of role model are you?

A meme that’s been around since the cave days – i.e. before Facebook – says if you can’t be a good example, you’ll have to be a horrible warning. Like it or not, we are all role models, but especially as writers and custodians of our society’s stories.

This week I served as the first Writer-in-Residence at Young Library and I found myself talking about the role models who influenced me as a writer. The first, of course, were my parents.

Valerie at Young NSW Library July 2015. Photo by Maree Myhill, used with permission.

Valerie at Young NSW Library July 2015. Photo by Maree Myhill, used with permission.

Few of us think of our parents as role models. Mostly we think they were the worst people ever to have children. It takes many years before we can admit they have a few virtues. And whether they were role models or horrible warnings is seldom clear. Usually we come to accept – particularly if we’re parents ourselves – that they did the best they could.

Mine gave me the means to become a writer. First, they introduced me to the library before I was even school age. Borrowing books, reading them, being read to were a natural part of our family life. As I began to create my own stories, again very early, I was never told it was “bad” or “a waste of time” to make things up. My father was dead set against lying, yet he was untroubled as long as it was clear I knew the difference between lies and stories.

This aspect resonated with the audience at Young Library. Many people came up to me between talks and said they would pass this information on to their children or grandchildren. Most who had a creative child in the family, had seen that child told to do something more “useful” or to go outside and play. Good advice in its way, unless you have the writing gene.

My father taught me to think before speaking, a habit still with me decades on. And by extension, that thinking itself was a skill worth mastering. How many of us get impatient with ourselves for daydreaming? Yet daydreaming is a vital precursor to writing, and while working on a story or novel.

I encourage new writers not to go with the first idea jumping into their heads, but to explore more story possibilities, and then still more, until they arrive at something excitingly original. You can’t do that without spending time staring out a window.

Member of the Order of Australia medal

Member of the Order of Australia medal

If you’ve visited my website, you know that in this year’s Queen’s Birthday Honours List, I was made a Member of the Order of Australia (AM). While overwhelmed by that recognition, I was delighted that the citation referenced my work as a mentor to emerging writers.

Mostly done through the Valerie Parv Award, run by Romance Writers of Australia, mentoring is about the most satisfying work I do. I’ve just finished reading the finalists for 2015, to choose my new “minion” – what previous entrants dubbed themselves long before the movies. I mentor the minion while they hold the award. The VPA has existed in its present format since the year 2000. http://valerieparv.com/award.html

It’s a joy to see each minion blossom throughout their year. One former minion, best-selling author, Kelly Hunter, said she was pleased I hadn’t tried to change her voice. My job, surely, is to help them make the most of their voices and considerable talent.

Writers are also role models through story. What kind of morals and ethics do you share via your characters and plots? I aim to make the good guys noble. This doesn’t mean perfect, but at least striving to be better than they are.

My villains do bad things, but I give them reasons (motivation) for their evil, so they’re understandable, rather than simply evil for my convenience.

As a writer, what kind of role model are you? Do you describe yourself as hard working, or “lucky.” Luck may come in when submitting work to a publisher or agent, in that you may have just what they’re looking for at that time.

Inborn talent also needs luck, to win the genetic lottery. But do scientists or mathematicians call themselves lucky when their talent leads them to some great discovery? Not in my experience.

Likewise, luck seldom comes into play in writing. You may be born with the talent but without commitment, application and hard work, the talent stays hidden, like unmined gold.

What kind of role model are you and the characters in your stories? Share your thoughts in the comment box below. It’s moderated to avoid spam, but you can have your post appear right away by clicking on “sign me up” at right. I don’t share your details with anyone.

Valerie

http://www.valerieparv.com
on Twitter @ValerieParv and Facebook
Check out Valerie’s online course, Free the Writer In You
At http://www.valerieparv.com/course.html

Books in my head, inside a writer’s brain

Many years ago a dear friend, Pat Kerry, gave me a poem she’d written called Books in My Head. The last lines have stayed with me because they’re so true –  “books in my head will never get read/ unless I get up and write them.” She was talking about those dreamy times straight after waking, when our heads are full of thoughts and ideas.  Unless we get up and write them down somewhere, these precious words are likely to vanish forever. All we’ll remember is that we had a great idea, but not what it was.  Whether you record your ideas on a laptop, tablet, cellphone or a notebook kept by the bedside – and I recommend you keep something handy for this purpose – doesn’t matter as long as you capture your thoughts. You can edit and develop them later. The main thing is to get them down somewhere.  Our brains aren’t wired to make memories out of the thoughts we have in the time between sleep and waking. That’s when the slower brainwave cycles called alpha and theta waves occur and we’re most likely to have great insights and inspirations. Frustrating when you think it’s also when we’re least able to remember them.

There’s another way of looking at the lines from the poem, too. It’s that wanting to write a book, intending to write one and talking about your wonderful ideas to your friends won’t produce one page of words  unless you actually “get up and write them.” It’s probably why so many people dream of writing a book but the majority never actually do. Writing is hard work. And news flash, it doesn’t get easier with practice. As I’ve found writing 25 nonfiction books and over 50 romance novels, you get better at  putting words down in a readable order and seeing where the work can be improved. But every book is a first book. As one would-be writer asked me, “How do you know when you sit down to write, that you can do it?” The answer is, you don’t. You write to find out IF you can do it this time, with these characters, telling this story. When I sat down to write this first blog, I had no idea how it was going to turn out. All writing is a voyage of discovery. That’s the fun part. And it’s the part which keeps me writing even when the going gets tough. We writers are very lucky, we get paid for doing the very thing that got us into trouble as kids, making things up. Like my next book. And this blog. It’s no coincidence that I chose to write my first post about what’s going on in a writer’s brain. My two great loves are human psychology – what makes us tick, and how we turn books in our heads into worlds for readers to come play in. Whether you’re a reader or a writer or both, I hope you’ll come play here again soon.

Valerie

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