Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Finding Your Blogging Voice

I really struggled with blogging at first. I felt really awkward and worried that readers would be negatively judging my writing ability.

My confidence in my writing grew through academic writing that I do for university. As I've mentioned, I'm working towards a BA in English Literature, so I write a lot of essays for my course. I find academic writing a bit easier in a way. It's formal in tone and you can't inject your own opinions into it. It's nice to sit back and hide behind the learned persona. A person could read my essays and have no clue about me at all, which is kind of the point. But writing in that way feels safer. You're not vulnerable. I receive good marks for my essays and my lecturers always comment on my clear and fluent writing style. Having that sort of feedback on my writing itself has been a huge confidence booster.

Blogging, on the other hand, is the opposite of academic writing. It's highly personal and you are putting yourself way out there. Anyone who reads this can know all sorts of things about me that I've put into the narrative. It's also more informal in style, more conversational. I feel that the way I write here is fairly representative of the way I talk: full of contractions, colloquialisms, and slang.

Having the positive feedback from an unbiased source (my uni lecturers) has given me the confidence to write in other ways too, including here on the blog. I think it's taken me a long time to be confident in my writing and putting it out there for the world to read, but I'm feeling much better about it now.

The other thing that's helped me is reading. I've always read a lot, and I'll read pretty much anything but the biggest tip I can give is to read authors whose writing styles you want to emulate. If you want to learn a fast-paced, aggressive, informal style, read Stephen King. If you want a more refined, contemporary, literary style, read some contemporary literature: I recently read Burial Rites by Hannah Kent and really enjoyed her writing (and the story). If you want to write something set in Victorian times, read Mary Shelley. Or better yet, read all of them and use each author's strengths to develop your own style.

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

My Favourite Holiday Memory

As an Australian who has lived in Australia most of her life, I almost missed the best holiday experience of my life. Except, luckily, there was that brief interlude where I lived in America for about a year and a half. And in that brief period I got to experience the most wonderful holiday experience of my life; one I had never experienced before, and am yet to experience again. In fact, I don't think I'll ever get lucky enough for things to work out the way they did that day.

My holiday experiences in America were all wonderful and movie-perfect. Holidays fell in the correct seasons, I experienced Thanksgiving, a real Halloween, and a Fourth of July complete with fireworks in the street next to our wooden house (thanks guys). But really, none compare to what occurred on my Birthday Eve.

Are birthdays holidays? They should be!

I had never seen snow before in my life, but I'd always wanted to. It was definitely something on my bucket list. I wanted to see soft flakes falling, I wanted to build a snowman, I wanted to see everything covered in a cold blanket of white.

At the time of November 22, 2010, we lived just north of Seattle. I'd been cautioned that although it does snow in Seattle, it doesn't necessarily happen every year, and sometimes it's nothing more than just a flurry in the air that doesn't stick. But I was certain it would happen for me.

November 22nd is the day before my birthday: my birthday eve, if you will. I had been carefully checking the weather forecast every day like a girl possessed. I saw 'snow showers' being forecast, then changing, then forecast again, then going away again. It was driving me crazy. But, on that day, I saw it: the first white flakes swirling in the air. I saw the light dusting of powder settle on the hood of the car, on the pavement.

The flurry begins.

"It's snowing!" I was so excited I could hardly even stand it. Again, I was warned. The temperatures hadn't dropped below freeing yet, and it was far too early for real snow. Those might be flakes you see on the car and on the pavement, but they won't stick. You watch: the ground is too warm. The snow will melt before it can build up.

I was disappointed. We went to the store, we came home and did a few things. I caught glances out the window now and then, and I even went outside a few times to see the scattering of flakes and to attempt to catch a snowflake on my tongue (and failed miserably).

It was dark by late afternoon, so we had dinner and I put Felix, at that time a baby, to bed. We sat around and relaxed. We watched a movie. A few hours passed.

My sister-in-law Marissa had been outside for some reason or another, and that's when I saw what had happened.

The entire street, the neighbourhood, the world, had turned into a winter wonderland! Thick white snow covered everything in sight. The street had disappeared, and the snow kept falling, illuminated by the yellow glow of the street lights. Real snow! Real snow for me, the night before my birthday!

I wasted no time in throwing on the warmest clothes I had (jeans, boots and a borrowed ski jacket) and I ran gleefully out into the snow. I didn't care that it was 10pm and the neighbours were sleeping. I ran up and down that street. I made footprints in the snow. I gathered snow into snowballs and felt the icy pricks of pain extend through my bare fingers. I threw myself on the ground and made a snow angel. I watched the occasional car slowly make its way up our street in the darkness, the headlights making the snow shine. I played out in the snow until I physically couldn't stand the cold any longer, and I finally headed inside.

The next day I woke up a year older and to a beautiful landscape of snow glittering in the sunshine. I can't remember how long the snow stuck around for, and we did have several snow showers that melted away that winter, but I'll never forget the time it snowed just for me.

The Perfect Organisation

I know I write a lot about cystic fibrosis (obviously it features quite heavily in my life) but I've been thinking a lot recently about my career. You know, the one that doesn't exist. That career will hopefully exist at some point in the future, once I get that pesky degree out the way and both the kids are in school.

In considering what kind of career I'd like to have, I've been taking my interests into account. Besides my family, my first love is English. Which explains why I'm studying a BA in English Literature. I enjoy writing and reading, and if I could one day be paid to write I'd be living the dream. Humanitarianism is also something important to me. If I could combine the two, I could happily do that for the rest of my life.

I'm participating in NaBloPoMo this month, and the first prompt asks participants to imagine an amazing brand or organisation they'd love to work with. Well, here's mine.

Imagine an organisation that sends writers to Australian offshore detention centres. Writers who could interview the asylum seekers and refugees seeking Australian protection, who could get to know these people, these families, who could understand where they've come from and where they are currently. Writers who could give these people a voice. Writers who could tell their stories.

Imagine all of these stories in a collection: a website, or even a book. Australian politics have been grossly over interested in asylum seekers and refugees in Australia, and to their detriment. The government has decided to take a hard line when it comes to desperate people seeking refuge. I don't understand it, and the only thing that keeps me going is knowing there are a lot of fellow Australians who don't agree with the government's stance.

Asylum seekers are not the enemy. They are people just like you and me, with educations, families, jobs, skills, hopes and dreams for the future. They are running away from desperate circumstances and the Australian government feels it is right to throw them into detention indefinitely instead of extending a helping hand. We are wealthy with rich resources: more than enough to go around.

I think telling their stories is incredibly important. These people are treated like dirt, like a plague threatening the Australian way of life. Nameless, faceless, the enemy. Let's give them names and faces. Let's show people that we are the same. Let's bring them into the light and welcome them with open arms. Maybe this will change the current fear and hatred they face. Maybe it will convince people to be kinder, to fight for change, and to help asylum seekers.

That is my perfect organisation: writing to enact change and to give a voice to the voiceless.
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