Find your tribe in 2017

Your tribe might be in the suburb where you live, or might be online. Wherever and however you do it, surrounding yourself with people working on similar projects and with similar interests will support and inspire you with your own

This year has started well. It’s only the second week and I’ve already found some great groups that are going to help keep me motivated and positive when my confidence flags. When I hear the voice inside me telling me to give up, you’re no good anyway, why bother, I know I will have places to turn to for inspiration.

If you’re in any way, shape or form interested in yoga, then this 21-day challenge from Wanderlust could be for you. A daily video of about 20 minutes that you follow at home at any time. It starts tonight and is run by Schuyler Grant. My yoga teacher, Jolie Manza, said Schuyler helped her fall in love with yoga in a whole new way when she was living in NYC. That was enough for me and I have signed up! Plus Wanderlust – pretty fun mob.

If you live in Australia then MEGA is worth looking into. Standing for Mums Exercise Group Australia, there are tens of thousands of members over about 13 cities running all sorts of exercise and fitness classes – almost all for free. If you’re in Canberra, join the local MEGA on Facebook. I’m going to keep teaching a free child-friendly yoga class once a week when school goes back. It’s a great way to keep my mind focused on doing yoga and forces me to keep up my practice while I work on how to take my teaching to the next level.

And I’m also determined to try as many local yoga classes as I can. I found out today that my work has yoga on Thursday lunch times. Who knew!? So, I’m definitely feeling there are opportunities out there just waiting for me to find them.

If writing is your thing then you might want to check out Storystorm. storystormFormerly known as Picture Book Idea Month (PiBoIdMo) it has changed its name and broadened its focus. Simply, register on Tara Lazar’s website and commit to coming up with an idea for a story every day. Could be a novel idea, or a picture book or a chapter book. Write it down, then at the end of the month sign the pledge and you’re up for some prizes. And it’s free. Talk about a great way to get inspired! Tara has some fantastic writers sharing stories about their writing life and tips.

Another group that I’ve joined for the third year is the 12 X 12 picture book writing challenge. It’s an online group with mostly North Americans as members and the idea is to write a picture book manuscript every month for 12 months. I haven’t quite managed this the first two years but I’m planning to do better this year. You can still join and, while there is a cost, you get valuable lessons on craft, writing, submissions, voice, research and much more. Mostly through webinars but the forums are great too. Julie Hedlund who runs it is wonderful and is very open about her own struggles with getting published .

I’m also hoping to get along to as many local writing events as I can this year. I went to two fabulous SCBWI events last year, including the national conference which was amazing. SCBWI also helps put children’s writers in touch to form critique groups and I’d love to find a new critique group to join.

I will also plan to make it to the Noted festival which last year was small, low key and a really fabulous way to meet some local authors and buy direct from the creators. Best colouring book ever by Paul Summerfield. My kids are huge fans now. I’ll try to get to some more workshops run by the ACT Writers Centre. They are brilliant at supporting local writers and there are some very talented people around to learn from.

It looks like a great year ahead! I hope it is for you too.


When can you call yourself a writer?

I’ve been reflecting lately about when you can start calling yourself a children’s writer or a creator of anything. When you publish your first book? When someone pays you something for it? When you’re brave enough to say, this is what I do; maybe not full time, but hey, that doesn’t matter.

I’ve been struggling with feeling timid about telling people that I am bringing out a CD of children’s songs. It feels … presumptuous somehow. Like I should have a degree behind me, or at least some incredible expertise in playing an instrument, or an amazing singing voice. But all I have is a fascination with language, rhyme and catchy tunes.

Elizabeth Gilbert has written many things in her wonderful book Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear which have strongly resonated with me. One is about having the courage to ignore the voice within you that tells you you’re being ‘self-indulgent and preposterous to do this crazy thing.’ She says living creatively is ‘living a life that is driven more strongly by curiosity than by fear’. And let’s face it, there’s too much fear around. Fear people will laugh at me, won’t take me seriously, not like my work, and so on.

I know my work is not going to appeal to everyone. Some will think it’s too educational. Some will think it’s not educational enough. But that’s okay. No song or book appeals to everyone.

I could write a lot about how I’m not qualified to bring out a CD like this. But I won’t. When I say, all I have is a fascination with language, rhyme and catchy tunes, that’s not telling the whole story. I’ve been working on becoming a better writer for more than three years. I’ve taken workshops and courses in song writing, creative writing and children’s writing. I’ve gone to writing conferences and paid for manuscript critiques. I’ve joined online forums and critique groups and submitted my work for others’ review. I’ve entered competitions. I’ve attended a conference for Australian teachers of Indonesian to get teachers’ perspectives, I’ve asked for feedback from teachers and musicians. I’ve sung and played music throughout. And I’ve continued to write and revise and write and revise.

And each time I heard the voice inside me saying, there’s no point in doing this, you may as well give up now, I stubbornly persisted.

As Elizabeth Gilbert writes: You do not need anybody’s permission to live a creative life. Life’s so short so just get on with what you want to do and stop worrying about what other people think.

Also, your art doesn’t need to change the world. So true! I certainly didn’t write songs with the aim of more children learning Indonesian or having an appreciation for Indonesian life. I wrote them for me and for my children and because these are the kinds of songs I love.

All this is to say I don’t know what will happen in the future but that I’m extremely proud to have a CD that I’ll be launching next month. And sometimes it’s just about finishing one project so you can move onto the next!

For details of the launch on 28 October 2016, visit the Ubud Writers & Readers Festival.