How to survive your day job

If you’re a writer and you’re anything like me, the title of this post would have served as click-bait. However, I’ll admit straight off the bat, the title is not my own. It’s a title that caught my attention and introduced me to Sarah Werner’s Write Now podcast. If you don’t know it, get on it! It’s a weekly podcast for any writer looking for the courage and inspiration to write every day.

In this episode in particular, Sarah tells of how many writers express to her their desire to quit their day job so they can write every day. I know I’m guilty! She goes on to talk about expectations versus reality and dreams versus fantasy. There’s no need for me to explain her ideas here as I’m sure you’ll have a listen for yourself.

What I will mention is how Sarah encourages her listeners not to overlook the good in their day jobs. It’s so easy to be blinded by the negatives: getting up and out of the house early every morning, being on the clock, having someone tell you how you should be spending your time. I know that as a writer I resent the time I have to spend working for someone else–and that’s despite enjoying my job!

Instead, we should be trying to focus on the positives. After all, we have to put food on the table; there’s really no point to letting all the negativity fester like poison intent on making us bitter and depressed. 

So, despite the fact I’m still aiming to one day write full time, right now I’m focussing on the skills I’m developing as a result of working in my day job that might help me when I’m living the dream. For me, it’s the relationships I’m developing with potential readers, dealing with clients, the public speaking (ugh!), running workshops, getting an inside peek into the world of booksellers–and these are just the few things I can consciously identify. 

If you’re having trouble listing anything good about your job, you may want to have a listen to Sarah’s episode on how to survive your day job. She has some great advice, including the affirmation that despite your day job and every other aspect of your life …

YOU ARE A WRITER.

 

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A new genre, a new adventure

I love learning new things! After finding myself with more creative energy these last few months, my muse has taken me in an entirely new direction. I’ve ventured from the world of contemporary romance to … wait for it … the magical land of children’s picture books!

It feels like I’m the new kid in school. I’m having to learn a new set of [writing] rules, understand how the new “teacher” likes to do things [SCBWI vs RWA] and make new [kid’s author] friends. It’s exciting and daunting and fascinating all at once, and I’m thoroughly enjoying the ride.

With a background as a teacher librarian and now working in the children’s book industry, I always thought I’d like to try my hand at writing for children. I did not, however, expect it to happen so soon. But when the muse calls, you follow.

And so I find myself working on a series of picture books that aim to encourage young girls to be ambitious and work hard to achieve their dreams. I’m super excited about the concept! Given the recent success of Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls by Elena Favilli and Francesca Cavallo (a copy of which I’m STILL trying to get my hands on as everywhere is sold out!), there’s definitely a market this series would appeal to.

Lastly, I’d like to announce (and those of you that know me well won’t be surprised) that I hope to publish my children’s work under my own name, Libby Iriks. My use of Monique Hall as my pseudonym is a whole different story, but wanting to publish under my own name essentially means I’m having to establish myself from scratch in the world of writing.

I’m going to continue to blog here, but I have created a new site under my own name where I intend to write about my favourite picture books. If you have an interest in children’s literature or you are a parent or grandparent or teacher (or know someone who is), I’d love for you to visit me over at True Blue Librarian or at my Facebook Page, Libby Iriks.

As always, thanks for your support and thanks for reading!

Time to get over myself. Just write!

When I sat down to write this blog entry, it was going to have a different title. I started listing all the reasons why it’s been nine months since my last post, why I failed to cling on to the enthusiastic optimism I found at last year’s RWA conference and why I have not achieved even a tiny portion of the goals I set for myself.

And then I hit the delete key because I’m sick of listening to my own excuses, so why on earth would I want to bore you with them all. We all have shit going on and I need to get over myself. We both know it.

But, I will say that I’ve made a conscious decision: it’s time to make my writing a priority. It’s time to stop saying yes to things that will jeopardise the precious little writing time I do have. It’s time to put myself first. 

Step one has been to create a list of writing-related tasks I want to achieve … sometime soon. I’m not going to set myself up for failure by being too strict on myself. Some of these tasks I can knock off fairly quickly, in fact, there’s already one item I can cross off the list. Others will take a little longer to complete and that’s okay. I will, however, give myself an absolute deadline to complete everything on my list by the end of the year.

Step two has involved making a promise to myself. I will spend 1-2 hours every day working towards completing these tasks. The beauty of this step is that, although all the tasks on my list are linked to writing, they are all quite varied. While one task is maintaining this blog, another is writing book recommendations, I have two courses I’m partway through completing and I also want to set up a small business. If today I don’t feel motivated to work on one task, I’ll move on to the one that most appeals to me at the time. Gradually, I’ll be able to domino my tasks (to borrow an analogy from the Barefoot Investor!). 

Step three involves outlining a timeline for my new writing project (which I’ll share with you in my next post). As writers, it’s so easy to get excited about what we’re working on that we just want to jump in feet first and get that manuscript out into the world. Yet, deep down we know it’s in everyone’s best interest if we start just by dipping a toe in first. Bucketloads of patience is what a writer needs!

Only time will tell if the above approach is going to help me achieve a balance between work, life and writing. I hope you’ll keep your fingers crossed for me. And your toes if you think it will help! 😉 

A writer’s dreams—and how life gets in the way

Stamford Grand, Glenelg, SA

Stamford Grand, Glenelg, SA

It’s the first day of the RWAus Conference 2016. I chose not to participate in today’s workshop, which means I find myself a lady of leisure. It doesn’t happen too often, I can tell you. As it’s been a while between posts, I thought there would be no better time to put my fingers to the keyboard and fill everyone in on the latest leg of my writing journey.

Or perhaps stagnation is a better term?

Shortly after last year’s conference, I had a change of career. Not only that, I switched from part time work to full time. Juggling the new day job hours with family commitments, combined with learning the ropes of a new industry, has not been conducive to much creativity. And hell, why not throw in a move to a newly built house.

I’ve had to come to terms with the fact that, sometimes, life gets in the way of our dreams. And that’s okay—it has to be—because if I let myself believe that it’s not, the guilt I’d feel for not writing would eat away at me. And if I chose to squeeze in writing time, I’d be putting myself under enough stress to send myself bonkers.

This doesn’t mean I’ve given up on my dreams—far from it. I’ve just given myself a reprieve; told myself it’s okay that other things are taking a priority right now because it means I’m getting closer to the day when my writing will be the priority. I’m doing what works for me (and my sanity) right now.

sunstone-cover_150616_014256In saying that, I have managed some writing in the past twelve months. I wrote a short story, Breaking Free, for the RWA Little Gems competition, which won second place and will appear in the Sunstone Anthology (purchase link to come). It’s set in the Santa Ynez Mountains, California, on a winery estate and tells the story of Rachael, an Aussie girl intent on avoiding a relationship, and Nick, an arrogant Italian who knows how to get her attention… Stay tuned for photos! I’ll get my hands on some copies in the next day or two.

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Image courtesy of Monique Mulligan

I managed to submit to Serenity Press’ Writing the Dream anthology. My piece, Ultimate Dreaming, was accepted. In it, I share my ultimate writing dream and my struggles to achieve it. I’ll be keeping some pretty fabulous company with twenty-three other authors including Anna Jacobs, Juliet Marillier, Natasha Lester and Jenn J McLeod. From emerging to established writers, we all share our writing journeys and our top five tips for writers. It will be released in November, and if you pre-order from the Serenity Press website, you’ll receive a matching writer’s notebook.

I also attempted to write a submission for Serenity Press’ next romance anthology, A Bouquet of Love. Sadly, I didn’t make the deadline. Our house move inconveniently got in the way. But hey, the five thousand words I wrote are not wasted. I’ll eventually pull them out again, finish the story and find a way to send it out into the world.

And so, as I sit in a little café in Adelaide, I look forward to the next few days of the RWAus “Ain’t Love Grand” Conference. Surrounded by like-minded, passionate women (and some men), it’s hard not to feel motivated and inspired. So bring on the next twelve months—may it be full of productivity and creativity for all writers.

Little Gems 2016

I’m so excited to announce that my short story BREAKING FREE has won 2nd place in the RWA Little Gems contest!

Romance Writers of Australia

The results are in!  The stories have been entered, judged and ranked.

Congratulations to our Little Gems 2016 placegetters!

1st – Victoria Steele – Treasure and Trust

2nd – Monique Hall – Breaking Free

3rd – Cat Whelan – For Love Of A Pug

In addition to the placegetters, the following top-scoring stories will also be invited to participate in the Little Gems Sunstone anthology for 2016:

Heidi Catherine – The Sunstone Heart

Suzanne Cass – Solar Flare

Melanie Coles – The Heart Of Stone

Fiona Greene – Follow Your Dreams

Emily Hussey – In the Cards

Jillian Jones – An Enticing Proposition

Emmeline Lock – Say The Words

Fiona Marsden – The Sunstone Inheritance

Fiona Marsden – The Sunstone Bride

Michelle Skidmore – Lights Will Guide You Home

Camille Taylor – The Healing Gift

And we have fabulous cover art! The winner of the 2016 Sunstone Cover…

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A HEALING HAND

a healing hand

In just seven short days I’ll be able to tick another author achievement off the list — A Healing Hand is being released as a single title and I’ll have my name on the front cover!

After ten years away, ALYSSA MARTIN is back in town. She’s had to give up everything she has worked so hard to achieve and is doing her best to forget the reason it was necessary to do so. When she runs into Dean, her friend’s older brother, she knows it’s best to steer clear. But Dean has other ideas.

DEAN DANIELS has played the field for years and seeing the girl he once admired from afar has stirred up a lot of emotions he’s not quite sure how to deal with. But, when Alyssa reveals a shocking secret, he’s determined to make her see he’s not the man he once was. Will he manage to find a place in her heart?

A HEALING HAND can be pre-ordered as a single title (publication set for Valentine’s Day 2016) and was originally published as part of the Rocky Romance anthology.

ORDER A PRINT COPY of A Healing Hand

ORDER A DIGITAL COPY (Amazon Australia) of A Healing Hand

ORDER A DIGITAL COPY (Amazon US) of A Healing Hand

 

EXCERPT

She straightened before turning to head back up the beach and ran straight into a brick wall. Or at least, that’s what it felt like. She was suddenly lying on her back in the sand, looking up at the wispy white clouds in the pale morning sky and feeling more than a little dazed.

A dark silhouette moved into Alyssa’s field of vision and she blinked, trying to make out what on earth had knocked her off her feet.

“Sorry, beautiful. Here, let me help you.”

The deep masculine voice soothed Alyssa’s pounding head, and overlooking the inappropriate endearment, she accepted the proffered hand.

She was hauled to her feet as if she weighed nothing, which only resulted in the need to steady herself as her head spun. She extended one hand for balance and put the other to her brow. Maybe another run wasn’t such a good idea. Perhaps she should just head home.

“You okay, sweetheart?” There was that voice again.

“Mmm? Yeah, I’ll be fine.”

Obviously not trusting her judgement, the brick wall, which Alyssa had by now realised was another jogger, took her hand in his sturdy one and began brushing the sand from her lycra-covered backside.

“What the hell?” Alyssa turned and scooted a few steps away, yanking her hand from his grasp. “What on earth do you think you’re doing?”

“Only trying to help, gorgeous. Thought it was the least I could do after sweeping you off your feet.”

Oh yeah, this guy was all charisma.

 

 

Publication: A dream come true!

Photo courtesy of Neil Mulligan

Photo courtesy of Neil Mulligan

I’ve done it! I am now a published author — it still feels surreal to say it (or even type it!) — but being able to call myself an author is something I’ve dreamed of since I was a little girl and was devouring books at an astonishing rate. Now it is official and the experience has been so…energising!

Two weeks ago, Rocky Romance was launched, an anthology published by Serenity Press that includes the work of six WA authors — Monique Mulligan, Teena Raffa, Louisa Loder, Karen Weaver, Mike Murphy and myself. We signed 100 copies prior to the launch which made the whole “being published” thing very real all of a sudden!

I thought I was going to be most excited to see my name in print, but it was seeing my story come alive on the page, the words I had written to create something new, that was most exhilarating and I don’t see it getting old anytime soon.

The Rockingham Writers Centre Book Fair brought many readers, from near and far, to our launch and Rocky Romance was officially the best-seller over the course of the weekend. It was exciting to see our book in the hands of readers, particularly those I didn’t know. The thought of strangers reading my work, although nerve-wracking, was empowering and humbling at the same time.

My novelette, A Healing Hand, is the story of two old friends who run into each other (quite literally!) — he’s a cheesy flirt and she’s hiding something, but they soon discover they need each other more than they ever thought possible. I am immensely proud of this story. Not only does it showcase the beautiful Rockingham foreshore, but it covers a topic close to my heart and is intended to inspire hope. Readers have told me it made them laugh and cry (and there’s a few steamy moments thrown in too 😉 ). I am so happy with this feedback. I would think it would be every writer’s dream to evoke such feeling in his/her readers.

Along with publication comes another rite of passage — reviews! For those who may not be aware, reviews on Amazon and Goodreads can help an author greatly by boosting book sales. Here is our first review of Rocky Romance.

To everyone who has given encouragement and support during my “Journey to Publication”, a massive thank you. But keep it coming because the ride is far from over. My next goal is to see my name on the front cover of a book. Get the smelling salts out when that happens, people!

To purchase your physical copy of Rocky Romance, visit www.serenitypress.org. For your digital copy visit Amazon.com.au (Australian residents) or Amazon.com (US).