Home again, home again

I’ve been home from my ten days in Hawai’i for about three weeks now. It makes me think of Dido’s Sand in my Shoes; “Two weeks away feels like the whole world should have changed, but I’m home now, and things still look the same.”

There’s that feeling that you’ve changed somehow, or things should have changed and haven’t. Basically, I’ve been struggling. I haven’t adjusted to the time change and I haven’t adjusted back into life. I’m either sleeping too much or not enough and eating too much or not enough. There doesn’t seem to be an inbetween. Everything seems to bore me, I have no motivation and, simple things like putting petrol in my car cause me anxiety.

I have a lot of plans for October: an Austen meeting today, an online group read which will lead into creating a podcast and a course which will lead into creating my own course. I want to find the energy to do these things as well as get back to writing. Next week I start working with a nutritionist to check the fuel going in is sufficient and starting today I give up my afternoon naps which have been the only thing getting me through. Wish me luck.

Impostor Syndrome

I’m really good at helping people develop a vague idea into an actionable idea*. It’s a weird talent.

Case in point: Ataria was lamenting the lack of information about Māori Goddesses, after some discussion we’re now organising an anthology. (Check out about it here) It’s unusual that someone follows through, let alone that they ask me to be participate. I’m so honoured to be involved in bringing this project to light.

But this is where my impostor syndrome rears it’s ugly head. I don’t know enough. I’m not “Māori” enough (as if there were such a thing). I don’t have the authority to speak (write) in this space.

Impostor syndrome is that little voice that asks “are you sure?” when you’re on the edge of doing something great, when you’re pushing your boundaries. Or sometimes it’s the everyday fear that people will find out you’re a fraud – you might look like you know what you’re doing but you’re really just making it up. (Who among us really believes they’re an adult?)

I want to be involved. I want to write this thing that feels like it might be really important. But I also would like to not feel sick to my stomach. Don’t get me wrong, I’m going to write it, and I’ll probably still feel sick the whole time, perhaps even after I’m finished.

I was a teenager in the 90’s; I follow the great philosopher Lucas.

Ataria seems to have been placed in my life to push me forward. She asked me to talk about self publishing to Awa Wahine, a women’s writing group she runs. I joked that I could talk about impostor syndrome too as I was struggling with that.

Last weekend I spoke about Self Publishing and Self Doubt – because the repetition of “self” sounds nice ok? I’m still a writer. – It went so well that I got asked to speak about it again this coming weekend.

Somehow being open and honest about my impostor syndrome is doing the opposite of what it wants. It wants me to be quiet, to be small but I’m talking about it loudly and shining a light.

It won’t ever go away completely. Some days it’ll be almost unbearable but I’ll still crawl towards my keyboard and write something. Because that’s what I do, I’m a writer.

* I’d like to figure out how to get paid to do this

Our Way of Life

In classic my family fashion we were late to the mosque for the two minutes of silence, the roads were blocked, there were no parks. We pulled over, on to yellow lines, and my mother leapt from the car as the two minutes started.

I stayed in the car, listening to the static from the radio, the birdsong outside, and cried quietly. My mother joined me when the two minutes finished and we listened in silence to our national anthem. As we drove away Welcome Home by Dave Dobbyn played.

It was a “wake up call” and an “insult to our way of life” my mother said as we drove home. But shortly after she told me about a man she visits who complained about his “brown” carers. She hadn’t called out his casual racism, if this can even be labelled casual.

It’s uncomfortable, but we get to choose “our way of life”. Choose.

Yoga by the Sea

I’ve never been fit but I have been flexible, at one point I was training to do the splits and I was pretty close. Then my back threw out, then it did it again, and again. The last four years I’ve done very little physical activity, terrified that my back would collapse again.

My chiropractor (David) suggested I try the Yoga Collective out in Paremata. They do things differently to other yoga studios; it’s about listening to your body, using props, taking things slow. It accessible for beginners or people with an injury. There’s even a free week to see if it suits you.

It doesn’t hurt that the location is beautiful. In the evenings it’s lit by (fake) candlelight. There’s herbal tea, a salt lamp and essential oils. All around beautiful.

I love yoga but I’m used to it hurting, to pushing myself. The most difficult part of this style is trying to calm your mind, and that’s something that I need. Even going to sleep I listen to something because I can’t take the quiet.

Initially I wanted to gain back some flexibility but now I’m hoping for some peace (as scary as that is).

Get your free week and check it out

Update (January 2019): my chiropractor is pleased with my progress, I only need to see him once every two months. My back only twinges if I’m doing something I know I shouldn’t.

A nomination, an interview and, a trip

A lot has been going on lately.

Beautiful Abomination got shortlisted for Best Novella in the Sir Julius Vogel awards.

cocktails with Austen

I’m preparing for my speech at the Jane Austen Society of New Zealand in Wellington this weekend while planning for my trip to the UK to give the same speech in London.

I did an interview for Ben Bulben Books, the publishers of Cocktails with Miss AustenWhile I’m in London I’ll get to meet my publisher Caroline who is bringing copies of the book to sell at my talk.

I intend to visit Chawton and Bath as well as London, spend sometime with a cousin, see The Mousetrap (the longest running play on the West End) and Harry Potter and The Cursed Child.

Book nerd

Last week I spoke at a conference for English teachers, one book nerd to a classroom of others. Luckily I had a small audience, though ten people who assess speeches felt like plenty.

I talked about different ways that I enjoy literature:

  • movies (the obvious one)
  • web series (the more accessible and experimental video format)
  • fanfiction (reading or writing)
  • audio books (I find some books are even better in this format)

The purpose was to get them thinking about different ways their students could engage. I talked about the Austen society and confessed that, apart from Austen, I don’t read classics as I find them boring. I only read, watch, and talk about books that I love.

It seems revolutionary to me that teachers are putting their students at the centre of learning. They want to speak with students in a way they understand. One of the amazing things said again, and again, was that they wished they didn’t have to assess, that learning should not be based on preparing students for exams. I agree, learning enriches all parts of life and it should be about preparing for life long learning.

I’m a book nerd. I always will be. And I am so appreciative of all my teachers who helped instill my love of literature and learning.

Lexicon 2017


noun, plural lexica [lek-si-kuh], lexicons.
  1. a wordbook or dictionary, especially of Greek, Latin, or Hebrew.
  2. the vocabulary of a particular language, field, social class, person,etc.
  3. inventory or record:
    unparalleled in the lexicon of human relations.
  4. Linguistics.
    • a) the total inventory of morphemes in a given language.
    • b) the inventory of base morphemes plus their combinations with derivational morphemes.

Though I’m not technically a SpecFic writer I somehow ended up at a SpecFic convention over Queens Birthday weekend. I spent most of my time anti-socially reading Nights End, the final in Richard Parry’s Night’s Champion series*, as it was released on Friday (you can read my review here).

The venue for Lexicon could not have been more perfect. The Suncourt Hotel was very accommodating (they let people bring rats!), could house most of the attendees and the bar/restaurant was right next to the convention rooms…not that anyone decided to forgo a talk for a coffee or beer at all. Also Taupo is ridiculously beautiful. I’m glad I had a day before the convention to enjoy it.

I managed to sunbathe on the second day of winter and even get a little writing done.

Other attendees read a lot more widely than I do so I got super excited when books or authors I was familiar with were mentioned. During the Crossing Genres panel I realised I know none of the rules of genre. During the Book Covers talk I realised I probably draw more attention to myself when I don’t want attention (my pretty, pretty book cover was mentioned – more on this later). During Publicity for Authors I realised at some point I’m going to pay someone to do marketing for me rather than do it myself.

During the Out of the Background panel Cassie Hart talked about how stage of life can influence your writing. How motherhood and pregnant women kept turning up in her writing. I recently realised that, although I lack a genre, themes appear in my writing. A central female character dealing with loss, trying to be independent at a transition point in their life.

There was a lovely community feeling; speakers were also attendees and therefore very approachable. Highlights of the weekend include; the multi-coloured “con hair” of many participants (and my jealousy of said hair), a very bad microphone which speakers had to get intimate with to be heard, but most of all, above all things was Seanan McGuire.

I hadn’t heard of Guest of Honour Seanan McGuire before this and even if I never read anything she’s published I’m a fan. She can speak eloquently on almost any topic, she’s generous, kind, funny, intelligent, widely read and multi talented.

I drove home with the co-chairs of the convention asking them what they’ll do differently when they never do it again and dreaming about how much I’d love an Austen convention just like it.

*The second in the series, Nights Fall, was shortlisted for an SJV. Richard was also shortlisted for best new talent.

A little Austen in your everyday life

I am wondering whether I need a tag line:

A little Austen in your everyday life

because, whether intentionally or not, she keeps popping up in my writing. People tell me it vaguely resembles hers, I borrow characters, concepts, plot lines. Being so immersed in Austen it makes sense that she would appear; she’s been a huge influence in my life.

If you read Alison’s the Sensible One then read Beautiful Abomination you may be asking “where’s the Austen?” There is one big intentional Austen reference, though there may be others even I didn’t pick up on.

At the end of Mansfield Park when Edmund finally breaks it off with Mary Crawford he realizes he’d never been in love with her, who she really was, but with the person he’d wanted her to be. He tells Fanny he would rather have all the pain of parting from Mary than the pain of knowing that she didn’t exist, so he could still hold on to a small part of her. There is something so beautiful, so vulnerable in this.

Who among us hasn’t been misled, or misled themselves, on the character of a partner or friend?


The plague

Imagine 19 people in a 5 bedroom home for a long weekend. Imagine these people are related. Now imagine these people one-by-one succumb to the plague. Sounds like a great story right? Not so much if you live it.

This was my Easter holiday weekend.

My thoughts while voiding my guts ranged from “Huh, I ate carrot” to “I’m never going to eat gluten or diary again, why me?” to “Wow, there’s a lot in there.”

The plague hit at a rate of two per day (with a days delay for travelling – hitting two more once they reached their destination). Thankfully each case only lasted 24 hours and it skipped the pregnant lady (that’s right, soon there’ll be 20 of us).

Another unexpected present of this trip – black socks that now have orange bottoms thanks to the liberal amount of bleach used throughout the weekend (in the hopes of stemming the plague).

We survived and next time we holiday together (oh don’t worry, it’s already planned) we’ve opted for seperate motel rooms to make quarantine easier.