I’m worlds apart from the kick-butt heroine that explodes off the page in my Heart Hunters novel, The Blood She Betrayed. Shahkara is a fugitive princess on a mission to save her people. I’m a run-of-the-mill author hoping to notch up a couple of thousand words by lunch-time.
Yes, she wields a sword and her goals are more epic than mine, but there’s a lot that our heroes and heroines can teach us about our Author Journey. After all, we both fight our demons, just different types. If my goal is to become a successful author, what can I learn from my heroines, Shahkara, Carla and Tash?
- You need a concrete goal. Wielding a sword for no reason (translation: just thinking about your writing) doesn’t cut it. Both heroines and authors need tangible goals, and to be answerable to those goals. If we don’t learn to master our lives, someone else will master us – and they won’t be mastering us to write books!
- There’s going to be conflict. The more demanding the quest (and the more wicked the villains), the better the story. It won’t feel like that as sweat slicks our brows as we slay that demon (translation: receive yet another rejection letter) but the tougher the journey, the more satisfying the ending. Suck it up and accept that your quest is pebbled with pitfalls. Savour the bumps and bruises. That’s what makes your journey distinct.
- Practise, practise, practise. You won’t beat the demons until you can wield a sword competently (translation: Glue your bum to that chair and write daily). The greatest demon we face is our own lack of self-esteem – we need to fight daily against this fellow. To quote Henry Ford, Whether you think you can or think you can’t, you’re right!
- Re-evaluate your weaknesses. Every character has flaws, but these can often be their greatest strengths as well. Shahkara hates her half-demon self, but those razor-sharp talons eventually save the world – but only once she accepts them as part of her. I’m an emotional person and, for a long time, that hampered my goals, but I’m learning to channel those fears and doubts into my writing. Now, all my weaknesses are strengths – and even if they aren’t, I don’t let them get in the way of my goals. I don’t care if I have to walk 10,000 miles more than any other writer, I’ll keep walking because this is my journey.
- Know the layout of the land. Shahkara enlists the help of human Max to navigate the foreign streets of Brisbane. Likewise, I connect with people and information critical to my career map. I read books. I attend conferences. I’m a member of the QWC. I learn from others who have more knowledge than me. I no longer waste time making stupid mistakes like sending a manuscript to the wrong publisher or sending it off before it’s cooked.
- Make strong allies. Allies share important information and help you win your battles. Most importantly, they’re there when the chips are down and you need a friendly shoulder to cry on. Demons are never as powerful when we face them together – and don’t forget the power of social media. I treasure some of the friendships I’ve made on Facebook and Twitter and they often bring a smile to my face after a tough day.
- Prepare to be transformed. Who doesn’t love the transformation scene? Whether it’s the apprentice becoming the mage (or warrior) in an epic fantasy or the misfit becoming the sexy chick in a feel-good flick, the transformation is core to our journey. We can’t change our lives until we change things in our lives. To become a successful author, you need to think and act like one. Change your thoughts and habits. It’s comfortable to watch sitcoms or chat on the phone, but a professional author writes the next chapter of her book first.
- Accept the black moments. No one drowns because they fall in water, but because they fail to get out. When you hit rock bottom physically and emotionally, there’s nowhere else to go but wallow or push upwards. Like our plots, everything becomes harder and darker in the real world as we inch closer to success. By accepting and fighting through our black moments, and refusing to give up, we reach our goals. Knowing about other author’s incredible journeys always inspires me when the chips are down.
- There’s no treasure until you slay the demons. Don’t let fear immobilise your actions. You have to slay the demons so you may as well get out there and do it now, then you can come back and enjoy the post-battle party. In the writing world, our demons vary from editors and critics; friends and bystanders (those who judge but know nothing about us or our industry); and, this is worth repeating, our own inner demon of fear. We will face tough times but we just have to get out there and get the work done. At least, at the end of the day, we have friends and rewards in place to help cheer our spirits until we reach our next goal.
- Have a theme song. Or multiple theme songs. Every hero has one. I have a music playlist that peps me up when I’m feeling down. I have another playlist for my book – songs that draw me back into my storybook world (soft themes for romance, dramatic chords for battles). Every writer is special. We all deserve at least one theme song – and if that helps us achieve our writing dreams more swiftly, with a smile on our face, all the better!
The flame whispered to life within my hands. Leaping from matchstick to wick, it sealed my fate for 2016. Not that I have a witch’s powers (and not that I want them, except to zap the odd workmate into a walrus or fade the aches from my Grandma’s bones), but there is a kind of magic within us and it can be found through the art of ritual.
Chilean-born author Isabel Allende inspired me 15 years ago when she described to Sharon Krum in Qantas The Australian Way how she locked herself in her writer’s cottage on January 8 each year and summoned her muses with the aid of candles, incense and meditation.
Such a ritual fast-tracks two early objectives for a writer – setting a fixed date to launch their writing for the year and creating a moment in time where they can tap into their creative powers. This is no easy task in our fast-paced society of digital deadlines and “omnipressive” internet. It’s hard to find a time or a place to be still. Few of us have the luxury of a writer’s cottage, or a quiet place to write, but we can make a promise with ourselves – setting a time where we light our creativity and mentally shut out the noise of the world. Making that promise is possibly the greatest gift that we can give ourselves as writers.
There are no shortcuts in any game, especially publishing, but when we dedicate real time to our art, our work grows in depth and intensity until it becomes something we’re proud of and hopefully something we’re able to share with others. The only way you can fail is to never start.
I now understand Australian author Kim Wilkins’ words that getting published is exciting but nothing makes a writer happier than actually writing. If we are courageous enough to put aside that time, we will find happiness. Every day.
Have you been writing in 2014? What were your writing goals on January 1 and have you achieved them (as the end of the year rushes towards us)? Wouldn’t it be nice to finish the year with a completed manuscript in one hand and a chocolate thickshake in the other?
Creative Dragons principal Cherie Curtis has had a busy year in 2014, since the successful launch of her debut novel The Blood She Betrayed (under the pen-name of Cheryse Durrant) in late 2013. This book was shortlisted in the national ARRA (spec fic/fantasy category) awards and has since seen a second print run. As well as working on the next two books in the Heart Hunter series, and being contracted to write a children’s picture book for Creative Regions by November 2014, Mrs Curtis has been sharing her love of writing with others and conducting workshops for both children and adults, at various locations across Queensland including Roma, Toowoomba and Bundaberg.
Cherie’s top tips for getting that all-important story or novel written in 2014:
Be Schedule Smart: Allocate a set amount of time to your WIP (work-in-progress) every day or every week (or even once a month, if that’s the only time you can afford) – and then stick to that schedule (Yucky yuk!)
Reward yourself: Once you’ve done your hour of writing for the day (or the week), reward yourself (that could be reading a book, eating a chocolate bar or hanging with friends).
Find a writing buddy: Share your goals with a writing friend. Keep them on track and they’ll keep you on track. Make sure you check in with your writing buddy at least once a week, to find out how you’re going – and to brainstorm ideas to get that page written if things haven’t been going the way you planned.
Above all, stay excited! Writing is part of who you are. It doesn’t matter how long it takes to run the marathon. The important thing is that you make it to that finish line – eventually. Have fun writing and write what’s inside your heart and mind.
What’s your writing goal for 2014? How are you going? Share with us on this page – and maybe you even have some tips to share with your fellow writers.
Bundabergians wrinkled in style when they gathered at BRAG (our local regional arts gallery) on Wednesday night to discover how multimedia developer & artist Neil Jenkins created an online-based installation that paid homage to Madeleine L’Engle’s 1962 children’s sci fi classic, A Wrinkle in Time.
The gallery was transformed into a cosy lounge room and the fascinating Mr Jenkins told how he was inspired by early computers at a young age, which has ultimately led to a lifetime working with them, in both commercial and art spheres. Mr Jenkins’ installation is on display in BRAG’s The Vault and features text from the novel, captured against a dark and stormy background.
I first read A Wrinkle in Time when I was a young 12-year-old and, although I had forgotten the characters, I’d never forgotten this book’s magic, including Mrs Whosit’s endearing voice and the many concepts (at the top of the list: Tesseract wormholes and the fascinating new dimension of time) it embedded in my mind.
LEFT: Here I am with artist Neil Jenkins and my old friend Kallee Buchanan (right) on the night. I wore a witch’s hat to pay tribute to one of the book’s characters, Mrs Which (Yes, that’s how her name is spelt!).
A Wrinkle in Time was the first of the Literary Notions series, spearheaded by exhibitions officer Trudie Leigo, which brings together some of Australia’s premiere contemporary installation artists, inspired by literature. In conjunction with the series, Bundy residents are able to read the associated work of literature that inspired each artist’s installation.
Upcoming Literary Notions events include:
- March 5: The Day of the Triffids with Alison McDonald
- May 14: Long Long Way with Fintan Magee
- June 25: When The Rain Stops Falling with Hossein Valamanesh
- August 20: Confessions of Zeno with William Kentridge
- October 20: All Kinds of Fur (Brothers Grimm) with Simone Eisler
For more information or to get involved, visit the Bundaberg Regional Arts Gallery (BRAG).
Cherie Curtis (aka Cheryse Durrant) will present five free writing workshops at the Carinbundi Children’s Crush Day at the Central Qld University from 9am until 3pm on Sat, Oct 19.
Children can choose from one or all of the below workshops
Bookings can be made by visiting this website.
Free Children’s Workshops: Carinbundi Children’s Crush Day
1. Brainstorming and the Story Box – recommended age group Years 4-7
Story ideas jump up and down inside our head like popcorn in a hot saucepan, but how do we choose which ones to use for our story and how do we gather them together before we start to write. Workshop includes Clear away the Cobwebs brainstorming and utilising the story box.
2. The Tasty Story Recipe – recommended age group Years 5-7
Stories must have a beginning, middle and an end but what are the secrets to creating structure to a story so people want to start reading at the start, stay interested and are satisfied with the ending.
3. Discovering Our Senses – recommended age group Years 4-7
See, hear, feel, touch and taste. All these ingredients are important in creating a believable story world. Tutor Cherie Curtis takes children on a journey to rediscover their senses – and how to include them in their stories.
4. Creating Story Magic – recommended age group Years 5-7
Tutor Cherie Curtis provides you with a bag of plot tricks that can help you write your story from beginning to end. This hands-on workshop will focus on writing the first scene of a short story.
5. Cast Me Under Your Spell – recommended age group Years 6-7
Your choice of words help bring your storyworld to life. This advanced class reveals vital storywriting tips including how to show not tell, and how to choose active words and sentences.
Because Creative Dragons is a business and not a community group, we are unable to continue holding our classes and workshops at the Bundaberg Library.
From Term 4, 2013, weekly children’s and teen classes will be postponed until I can find a safe and suitable after-school venue. I will post and email parents when I have found a venue. Most likely, this will not be until 2014.
In the meantime, I will let you know of any free classes or workshops that I am conducting in the Bundaberg region and I hope a solution presents itself in the new year. Please accept my apologies as I thoroughly enjoy teaching the children – their enthusiasm and creativity brings great joy to my weeks.
In the meantime, for any primary school students who can’t wait until 2014, I will be teaching five free writing workshops at the Carinbundi Children’s Crush Day at the Central Qld University from 9am until 3pm on Sat, Oct 19.
My workshops are capped at 12 students so please book a ticket asap if your child is interested.
Bookings can be made at this website and do check out the other fabulous workshops happening at the university on the day.
Thank you for your support. I deeply appreciate it.
Creative Dragons writing classes will resume at the end of July, after the school’s Term 2 classes had to be cancelled when tutor Cherie Curtis broke her kneecap.
“Malador the Dragon is laughing at me because I broke one leg last year and came back this year and broke the knee on the other leg,” Mrs Curtis said. “I don’t mind people saying Break a Leg when they’re wishing me luck, but from now on, I’m hoping it to remain metaphorical!”
Children of all ages are looking forward to the resumption of Creative Dragon classes from July 24 and Malador even has some exciting news for students. “In Term 3, we are offering classes on both Wednesday and Thursday, since some students have extra-curricular clashes on the Thursday,” Mrs Curtis said. Parents and students can now choose from Wednesday or Thursday afternoon lessons at the Bundaberg Regional Library.
The dates for Term 3 and Term 4 are:
Term 3 Wednesday Classes:
Wednesday July 24 and 31, followed by a one-week break.
Wednesday, August 14, 21 and 28.
Term 3 Thursday Classes:
Thursday, July 25. Thursday, August 1, followed by a one-week break
Thursday, August 15, 22 and 29.
Term 4 Wednesday Classes:
Wed, October 23 and 30. Wednesday, November 6, followed by a one-week break
Wednesday, Nov 20 and 27
Term 4 Thursday Classes:
Thursday, October 24 and 31 (Halloween – Epic!)
Thursday, November 7, followed by a one-week break
Thursday, November 21 and 28.
To book your preferred day, email Mrs Curtis on cherie (at) creativedragons (dot) com (dot) au as soon as possible. New students will need to gain their parent’s permission and complete a student registration form. Please email Mrs Curtis for any further information.
It’s been a tough year for the Bundaberg region, being hit by tornado-type winds and the region’s biggest floods in recorded history.
Fortunately, Creative Dragons writing classes have returned to the Bundaberg Regional Library in the city and children will soon be able to use both experience and imagination to create masterpieces in 2013.
Dates for Term 2 are Thursday, May 2, 9, 16 and 23 and Thurs, June 6. There will be no classes on May 30 due to the Bundaberg Show Holiday. Two classes will run on Thursday afternoons: The first from 3.45pm until 4.40pm and the second from 4.45pm until 5.40pm.
Classes will be conducted by Young Adult fantasy author and long-time journalist Cherie Curtis (that’s her pictured with SpongeBob SquarePants above – SpongeBob’s the one with the YELLOW HEAD). Classes are not limited to SpongeBob SquarePants. Timelords, daleks, dragons and ordinary school children are also invited to enrol.
Email: cherie (at) creativedragons (dot) com (dot) au
Waking before the crack of dawn to squeeze in an early morning writing class before school every Monday resulted in a special reward for seven dedicated Walkervale students in late November.
Kids Get Published members (aka the Walkervale Writers) were delighted to meet and participate in an advanced “Show, Not Tell” workshop with local author Cherie Curtis (aka Cheryse Durrant) at the school’s Innovation Centre on November 19.
“Group coordinators Lee Peno and Alexandra Irwin told me these seven children had been extremely dedicated to their writing all year and never missed a class. This workshop was to reward them for their efforts – and I was delighted to discover they were not only talented but extremely polite,” Cherie said.
During the workshop, students discovered the major differences between showing and telling, and how to improve their writing using a set of 12 important tips. They also brainstormed on the whiteboard to turn a boring “telling” scene into a vibrant piece of “showing”.
This is not the first time the Walkervale Writers have been treated to a workshop by a professional writer in 2012. Author/illustrator Dr Cameron Stelzer visited students earlier this year. The stories they wrote from this visit were later printed in the school’s souvenir Write Night Collection of Stories book.
Walkervale Writers presented Cherie with a copy of their story book and a box of chocolates at the end of the workshop. “It was lovely meeting these talented students and I’m looking forward to hearing updates on their writing in the future,” Cherie said.