March: Everyday creative challenge 

A new month means a new challenge and this time I’m giving you an excuse to buy snappy new stationery. 

Every time I teach, I see at least one student stressing themselves out over a writing exercise. I might have asked everyone to write a paragraph that brings their story setting to life. 

I never force anyone to share their work. But there is always that student who wants to get the exercise so right that their face scrunches up and they scratch their arm and look around in despair as they see everyone else writing away.

Sometimes we put so much pressure on ourselves that we suck the fun out of our art. (What if I try this thing and I’m terrible? What if I’m the only one who can’t do this exercise? What will everyone think when they realise I’m hopeless at this?)

From my experience between adult and youth writing classes, I have to say we definitely get worse with age.

Pressure, perfection, the inner critic – however you want to phrase it, it’s just our fears getting in the way of our art. And while that feeling won’t disappear, you can train that response to sit in the back seat.

How? By starting a journal.

March challenge: This month I’m asking you to free-write for 10 minutes a day. Use your phone as a timer and write anything that comes in to your head without stopping until the time is up.

This exercise feels weird at first. Sometimes you’ll write that the exercise is ridiculous, or jot down your dreams from the night before, detail a recent argument or problem or you might even begin brainstorming new ideas.

Once you’ve been free-writing for a few days, I think you’ll find it calming and you may even notice that it frees up your mind to daydream and create. It’s meditation with your favourite notepads and pens.

If you’ve ever wanted to write, this is a great start to a regular creative practice and could help you find your next project.

Good luck!

Robyn Stacey: Cloud Land and youth writing competition

Last Friday I taught short story writing to some super talented Brisbane State High School students as part of their experience at the Museum of Brisbane’s Robyn Stacey: Cloud Land exhibition.

Using the artwork to inspire us, we worked through developing the structure, characters and setting needed to write our own short stories. My favourite part of teaching writing is seeing people open up and share their creativity and to listen to the range of stories they create from the same exhibition.


Robyn Stacey: Cloud Land exhibition, Room 1817 Sofitel Jade

To me, so many of the artworks are full of displacement and yearning. They are those fragile little moments when you collect yourself before heading back out in to the world. Perfect for that moment in time (or is it moment of truth?) that short stories capture so well.

I can’t tell you what stories the students saw in the artwork because the Museum of Brisbane is also running a short story competition for 12-18 year olds based on Robyn Stacey’s artwork.

If you’re a young writer make sure you get to the museum and start writing. I’ve pitched in a few short story writing tips on the website but you need to get writing – entries close on 13 March.

Here’s what I would do before submitting:

  1. Stay true to the artwork. If there’s stimulus or a theme to a competition, then the readers (ahem…and judging panel) want to easily connect the dots between the artwork and the story.
  2. Write a full first draft before editing. It’s impossible to edit something you haven’t written yet.
  3. Ask a trusted writing buddy for feedback. Ask them what they liked and what they found odd or confusing to help you edit.
  4. Submit early. Technology can get the hiccups when a ton of writers are trying to submit their entries on the same website and at the same time. Save yourself the stress and get in earlier.

Good luck!

February: everyday creative challenge

It’s February, friends, so that means:

  1. There’s a heap of snarky articles about how you were always destined to fail your New Year goals
  2. Valentine’s Day is coming (which will inspire just as many snarky articles).

People love to hate New Year’s goals and Valentine’s Day.

What if you make some bold goal for 2016 and you don’t lose weight or get published or win the promotion? What if another Valentine’s Day rolls around and you’re still single? Or it highlights how many problems you have in your current relationship? Isn’t it all commercial rubbish anyway to sell diet shakes and chocolates and productivity apps?

I don’t think so. Sure it’s some strange ritual humans made up, but I like it. I like believing I can upgrade my life every year. And I’ve enjoyed just as many Valentine’s days single and hanging out with friends as I have creating last-minute homemade cards for my boyfriend.

I don’t believe you’ve failed your goals this year. You’ve lived through one month out of twelve, which means you’ve got another eleven months to do whatever you want.

Were you going to write a novel this year? Quit smoking? Run 10km? Renovate the house? Make new friends? I have great news – there’s still time.

And as for love, I’ve got a creative proposition for you. At the beginning of every month, I’ll be blogging a monthly creativity challenge. I’m calling it Everyday Creative.

It won’t be exhausting, in fact, it’s designed for people in full-time jobs, study or looking after tiny, needy whipper-snappers. If you’ve always wanted to be creative (honestly, you already are), need a creative top-up or are looking for your creative mojo then Everyday Creative can help.

Ready? (I’m assuming you said yes.)

Here’s your Everyday Creative challenge for February 2016 (it comes in two parts).

1. Pick one creative thing you love.

Valentine’s is coming, so I mean really love and enjoy! Here’s some suggestions: cooking and baking, re-decorating your bedroom, building your TV cabinet from scratch, making up ridiculous stories with your niece, reading a different genre book, taking photos of your outfits everyday and try to look different each time, journal writing, gardening, plan dates with your partner that cost no money at all. You get the idea. Remember, being creative means using your imagination to make something a reality. Don’t overthink it!

2. Do that creative thing four times in February.

This will help you get in to a routine. Maybe once a week, you’ll bake a new cake or visit a different museum or take photos of your cat. It doesn’t matter! Just do it four times this month.

The February challenge is to bring you closer to what you love (high fives for Aphrodite) and to do it as much as you can.

Feeling brave? Share in the comments what you’re creative hobby will be this month.

Life gets in the way (that’s OK)

I know a lot of artists who hate the idea that life gets in the way of their art. But I have to be honest with you. That whole life thing that’s tearing up your perfectly planned writing time and goals… that’s OK with me.

I’m not saying I don’t get frustrated. There is some sort of energy right now – possibly the end of the year, when I’m trying to look back and make sense of the last twelve months – when I’m hoping it all meant something in the grand scheme of things.

And when I talk about the grand scheme of things, I’m usually talking about the three to four things I wanted from the year.

But if your whole life is angled at shutting yourself away form the world so you can write, I think you’re doing it wrong. I won’t necessarily say it to you but I’m thinking it.

I’m currently trying to convince some younger folk that this writing journey includes time for boring things like earning money or mending relationships or just being boring-old-lost and trying different things to find what’s meaningful and exciting.

Focusing on something other than writing doesn’t mean you’ve given up, it means you’re alive. It’s giving you more experience to write about. I  mean, how can you write about the world you live in if you don’t engage with it? It’s not sexy but it’s true.

So maybe this Christmas and New Year you can give yourself a break. Do morning pages for a week and write absolute dribble or fill the well by visiting museums, colouring-in, watching new movies and reading new books.

Get out in to the world and take a break. Remember why you love stories. Rediscover what sets your heart on fire. Have some damn fun. That’s what being an artist is all about.

Short story workshops – Goondiwindi & Brisbane

Winter seems to be short story season for me,

This week I’ll be heading out to Goondiwindi to teach a short story workshop on behalf of the State Library of Queensland Young Writers Award and the Queensland Writers Centre. It’s free! So if you are based nearby, please book in and I’ll help you become submission-ready for the big comp!

If you’re not sure if you should submit or not for the Young Writers Award, all I’m going to say is be brave and send a story in. This competition is a real career boost – trust me.

In July, I’ll also be teaching my Short Story Workout for the Queensland Writers Centre youth program in Brisbane. This is a full-day workshop, so you’ll definitely have leaky-brain by the time we hit 4.30pm. Last year we had some amazing young writers meet up and work on their stories, so if you’re keen you can book your place now. I’d love to see you there.

In the meantime, you can read my post for the Queensland Writers Centre on editing your short stories.

Fictional blood and fun times

I think I’m a nice person, but show me a TV show where someone gets killed in the first five minutes and I’m hooked.

Alfred Hitchcock photo with bird on cigar

Image: from

Murder mysteries are an obsession passed down from my mum, who educated me through English TV shows and movies about Miss Marple, Poirot, and – hell yes – Murder She Wrote. (Did you hear there’s a Murder She Wrote game? I hope it has the theme music.) And of course, there was not just Hitchcock’s films but Alfred Hitchcock Presents.

Later in Primary School I chowed down battered copies of Nancy Drew and Trixie Belden books. (Which, honestly, is only the tiniest insight to how 50s and 60s my childhood culture upbringing was.)

Then to fossicking for my own crime books through a series called Point Crime, with titles written by various authors but all with horrific – and captivatingly creative – murders. (Someone got suffocated/buried in their own concrete driveway before it had set. Come on!)

Even now, if I’m having a particularly rough week, I’m probably watching my Wire in the Blood box set rather than Monty Python.

And yes, I realize how weird that is.

But it’s not the violence that interests me, it’s the psychology behind it. How someone like me or you can be driven to murder. What are the circumstances that make it a reasonable act? What could drive someone to hate another person so much that they could torture them? And how often the crime is committed by family or someone the victim loves.

So I’ve settled on a new book to write, and if you haven’t already guessed the theme let’s just say that I’m going to have some fictional blood on my hands over the next few months. I might even figure out why a kinda nice person like me becomes so obsessed with reading and watching murder mysteries.

When I have some inspirational pics for you, I’ll post them on the blog.

Wish me luck. As always, with every new story idea, I’m crazy excited about this one!

Christmas and creativity

December is my favourite time of year. It’s all Christmas baking (and yeah, eating), non-stop catch-ups with friends and driving past decorated houses that would make Clark Griswold proud. But what I love just as much is that sense of winding down and hope for a fresh, new year.

I spent most of today looking over old footage and photos of our growing puppy, Henry, as well as photos from our UK/Europe trip and I loved every second of it. I make a point of looking back at what I’ve done through the year (especially what I’ve enjoyed) before the New Year resolution fever grips me. If you’ve never done it, give it a go. Especially if you’re a writer. Jotting down your 2013 highlights and achievements is a great reminder of all the fun stuff that bubbled up from your hard work.

For me, December is about embracing fun and creativity. It’s for ‘filling the well’ before we get too serious and ambitious on 1 January. So get crafty with your Christmas wrapping, go to a Christmas concert, bake something ambitious, catch up with a group of friends and talk absolute nonsense, make a tower out of your to-be-read book pile, or (and I really want to do this again soon) go to the movies and see two films back-to-back. The next few weeks are for living it up and relaxing!

While it may not sound relaxing to everyone, I’m also looking forward to developing two new YA projects this Christmas. They’re both in their infancy – all random, scrappy notes with plot holes and fat question marks – and if this morning is anything to go by, this photo could sum up my Christmas/New Year (complete with snoozing pup).


So that’s me signing off for 2013. I hope you have a fun and happy Christmas and a wonderful New Year!