Little Sister – A Halloween story

Yes I’m a day late, but happy Halloween to you all. I hope you battled monsters and ate lollies in awesome costumes. (If not, there’s always tonight.)

Here is my Halloween story, Little Sister, which was published by Tiny Owl Workshop on napkins and distributed around cafes this week. There’s lots of other stories to collect as well, so get on to the Tiny Owl Workshop website and find out where you can get a spooky story with your latte. Enjoy!

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Puppies are terrible writing buddies

Actually, over the last 7 weeks since we’ve had a furball at home, I’ve started to realise why so many writers have a cat instead of a dog.

Mostly because cats don’t care what you’re doing unless you’re feeding them. Which works well for the solitude and long bouts of thinky time.

It’s different with dogs.

Henry is in his ‘terrible two’ stage, so he’s understandably crazy. But I find my writing time at the moment is broken in to 5-10 minute fragments and I’m usually distracted by one of the following scenarios:

  • Henry has weed somewhere in the house
  • Henry has pooped somewhere in the house
  • Henry has disappeared from sight and is therefore, weeing or pooping somewhere in the house
  • Henry is barking and jumping on me like a mad thing
  • Henry is eating a shoe, book or handbag.

The only time I’ve been able to keep him in the study with me is when I’ve put him back in his crate where he promptly got bored and fell asleep.

I feel like I’m gaining an understanding of how new mothers feel when they’re trying to raise a young thing and get on with their life. It’s a total nightmare, but (99% of the time) I’d never consider giving Henry up.

The main pup-baby difference so far as I can tell is:

Negative: He can sprint waaaaaaay faster than me (and is occasionally impossible to catch without bribery), whereas human babies can’t move without you carrying them from room to room.

Positive: Human babies eventually learn to understand what you’re saying, but Henry will never understand when I’m swearing at him, especially if I keep my happy-face on.

New stories! Halloweenies! Puppies! Exclamation marks!

The last two months have been non-stop madness. Mostly because I travelled through the UK and Europe, cramming in more countries than my sanity could handle, before returning straight to my bat cave in Brisbane to finish editing my latest YA manuscript.

And amongst the madness, I received some exciting news to share:

What’s next? Well, I’m searching through old notes and playing with ideas to start a few new stories.

In the meantime, I’m also training our new Border Collie puppy, Henry. (Because sometimes I like to cram so much in to the space of 8 weeks to see exactly where my breaking point is. I have a feeling it could be toilet training this furball.)

Henry the Border Collie

Henry the Border Collie

Looking for a free read?

You can read my children’s short story, Neptune’s Postman, from the Celapene Press website for free.

Short stories and adventure

I’ve written before about how much Roald Dahl was part of my childhood, but I think it’s only recently that I’m realising how much his work has influenced who I am now – as a person and a writer.

There was one particular (and miserable) time as a child that I had a rash that no one could really explain. It had spread everywhere from my scalp to the soles of my feet, and it made me want to tear off my skin and curl up in a ball sobbing all at the same time.

I remember being naked in front of a group of strangers (doctors, obviously) for the first time. I was about ten years old and mortified. I felt like a science experiment, especially when the verdict was not far from ‘maybe it’s an allergy to something’.

During my recovery, I was loaded up on Roald Dahl books and my love for his stories grew. The Twits and The Witches were favourites of mine, but not long after that his short stories became a sort of magic to me. Their darkness and the hint of the unsaid always drew me closer.

So recently when I was trapped on a flight home (I’m quite cagey on planes), I chose to spend most of the time listening to the Roald Dahl short story collection, Kiss, Kiss. I remembered The Landlady who had a peculiar taste for taxidermy, the vicar in Georgy Porgy who is terrified of being close to a woman, and the wife in William and Mary who seizes her chance for revenge on her controlling husband.

In part, I love Roald Dahl’s work because I’ve have always been fascinated by the truth. When is the appropriate time for it and when it’s best to lie. After all, hiding the truth leads to secrets and secrets lead people to do the most extraordinary things. So now that I’m home and editing my current favourite manuscript (all writers have favourites), I’m not really surprised that it is about secrets and lies and morality.

I’ve always been fascinated by the things that people aren’t supposed to think or do, and how it can play out. But I’m also in love with the sheer joy and mischief that Roald Dahl’s writing brought to my life. 

These thoughts were what inspired me to write a blog post about why I love writing short stories for the Queensland Writers Centre. Something I will dive back in to after this current manuscript is polished and sent on it’s way.

If you want to know all of my short story secrets, then you’re in luck! I’m teaching a Short Story Workout for 14-19 year olds for the Queensland Writers Centre on 28 July. If you’re keen to come along, make sure you book as soon as possible by heading to their website. I’d love to see you there!

2013 SOYA Written Word shortlist

I’m so thrilled to be a finalist in this year’s Spirit of Youth Awards Written Word category.

I’ve had my head down for most of the year, developing my arts teaching business and going through a lot of upheaval in day job land, so I had entered in hope of receiving some encouragement for my writing.

Before I entered, I asked other writers about ‘being ready’ and ‘being good enough’ to submit for certain competitions and grants. We came to the conclusion that no one ever feels that confident and the best way to discover if you’re ready is to submit.

So, I’m glad I submitted to SOYA. (Despite looking through the other entries and deciding I didn’t have a chance.)  And being shortlisted has made me realise that I’m a harsh judge when it comes to my own writing.

It’s an honour to be listed alongside such talented and experienced writers and I’m enjoying reading their work on a rainy Friday afternoon.

Luckily, I have plenty of distraction from the rest of the judging process. I’ve started editing a YA manuscript that I love, I’m preparing for my first in-class show with my junior drama class and after that I’m heading for a few weeks of adventure in the UK and Europe.

You can read through my portfolio or view the other finalists on the SOYA website.

Mr Guzwick’s Lolly Store

Nicky and Alex Preston were perfectly identical. They both had big, green eyes that bulged from their sockets. They both sprouted frizzy and unkempt fire engine red hair, had the same front teeth that overlapped, right across left, and a generous smattering of freckles. They also had a crisp ten dollar note to spend on their favourite treats at Mr. Guzwick’s Lolly Store.

As they stood in the store, the sickly sweet smell of sugar wafted towards them. There were towers of boxed jellybeans. Tubs of soft jellies lined the walls. The fountain spewed with milk chocolate, huge swirled lollipops dangles from every display in the hop, and a large yellow sign on the counter read, Taste test. The twins knew what taste test meant – free food.

‘Good Afternoon,’ beamed Mr. Guzwick seeing the twins, their greedy eyes still fixed on the sign. He was a frail old man and had owned the store for fifty-six years. He had exactly ten strands of hair on his head; Alex had counted them the week before.

‘Would you like to taste my new gum?’

Mr. Guzwick held out two gum squares in electric orange wrapping with ‘The Ultimate Chew’ written on them.

‘It’s extra chewy gum, guaranteed to last an hour more than usual.’ Mr. Guzwick smiled at their burning curiosity. ‘Try it.’

Both twins unwrapped the gum and chucked the small orange squares into their mouths.

The gum exploded with a sweet orange flavour as soon as it hit their tongues and they began to chew and mould the gum in their mouths. Soon after, the gum began to crackle. They opened their mouths to amplify the sound of the popping gum. The gum certainly had been the chewiest gum they had ever experienced. It had begun to swell in their mouths to the size of a large gobstopper. So that’s how it would last so long.

Nicky and Alex had been chewing for ten minutes before their mouths grew numb. Their faces pained with effort. Alex’s jaw began to click in and out of place with every chew. Nicky’s eyes began to water with the amount of pressure on her jaw. The gum squares had swollen even more to take up the whole of their mouths. They could barely shut their mouths. Their jaw muscles went on strike and their faces were red with exhaustion. That was the end of it.

Mr. Guzwick produced a small metal bucket for the twins and they let the great slimy orange globs tumble from their tongues. Nicky and Alex looked up at Mr. Guzwick from the metal bucket, eyes brimming with disappointment. He gave them a sympathetic smile. ‘Cheer up now, there’s plenty of other goodies here!’

To ease their distress, the twins bought two bags of oober goober jellies, twenty packets of sherbet, one large tin of jellybeans, six lollipops and seventeen and a half sticks of red liquorice. No gum. Nicky and Alex presented their money and peculiar toothless grins and left for home.

Mr. Guzwick retired to his backroom and shut the door. Success glistened in his eyes as he looked at the glob of Nicky and Alex’s gum. One, two, three. Three perfect, white children’s teeth jutted out from the gum.

He pulled out the three specimens with tweezers and opened a small tub of superglue. Mr. Guzwick removed the retainer of scattered false teeth from his mouth, leaving only the two front incisors intact. Using the superglue he began to fix the children’s teeth to the gaps in his retainer in accordance to size.

***

Author’s note: This was the first story I wrote for university when I was still figuring out how this story thing actually worked. In previous posts I’ve talked about my love for Roald Dahl’s work and how I borrowed his voice when I was beginning to write. Well, this is the story I was talking about and do you know what? I still have a soft spot for Mr. Guzwick.

Launching big story

All of my new projects begin as secrets.

There is something magical about working alone while the ghost of an idea develops into something greater. Writers often talk about their books as their babies, and I suppose I have always felt that way as well. That in the early stages I need to protect my idea, feed it and help it grow without having too many outside opinions confusing me or tearing me away from what I believe it will become.

And so I have to tell you that I have been nurturing a secret project for a few months now. One that has meant that I had to put my writing projects aside and devote all my spare time to it. (Even on my birthday. I kid you not!)

So, I’m very proud to launch my secret project, big story, today.

Big story is an independent story school. Starting from January 2013, I’ll be running after-school drama and creative writing classes for primary and high schoolers on Brisbane’s north side.

I have taught both drama and writing before, so big story has been a long time coming. (If you’d like to know how I got in to acting and writing in the first place, you can see that on my first big story blog post.)

I’m so excited to work with young storytellers again, especially as the teacher and owner of big story.

Big story is about learning the craft like a professional but having a whole lot of fun and helping young artists meet up as well. (Read: no cheesy-cheese pantomimes but also no nasty pressure!)

Do you know a young actor or writer in Brisbane?

Tell them to join the big story facebook page (our online home) and keep in touch.

Big story peeps who are keen for a school holiday project, can also sign up for a free copy of my 50 Story Starters workbook. That’s 50 possible story ideas, people! Enough to keep any storyteller out of trouble until classes start next year.

So my secret’s out and I’m looking forward to my drama and writing classes next year. But in the meantime I have lesson plans to write and a neglected YA manuscript to tend to.