Making the most of the spoonfuls of health- Talitha Kalago author of LifeSphere

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From Flickr Creative Commons Angus Veitch/SmokenMirrors

It is a great honour to welcome Talitha Kalago as a guest blogger to Writing Sagas.   Here’s her take on making the most of your health, and the sacrifices she makes to embrace a writing life.

I am chronically ill. So chronically ill, that on a bad week I can’t cook for myself, clean the house or do my own shopping. I take 33+ pills a day and there is no cure—there is barely even a treatment. At the very best, my doctors hope to make me comfortable.

I am 28.

So please understand that when I say ‘I have to make big sacrifices for my writing’, I am not talking about holidays or settling for a cheaper car. My dream is to be able to support myself with my writing. And by support myself I mean ‘buy a house/afford a mortgage and pay my bills’. It’s not a small dream by any stretch of the imagination, but I think it’s a fair one. I don’t want a boat or a holiday apartment, though a veggie patch would be nice.

Wanting to feel like you are paying your own way is a big deal when you can’t even microwave some soup.

A lot of chronic illness sufferers are familiar with ‘spoon theory’, an idea presented by Christine Miserandino (www.butyoudontlooksick.com) which is that healthy people have an unlimited number of spoons each day, but sick people have only a few.  Each task you perform each day, such as getting dressed or doing laundry, uses up a certain number. When you run out of spoons, you can’t do anything else that day—due to pain or exhaustion, depending on your illness.

Having a very limited number of spoons means that every day I have to make difficult choices about how to spend my time.

Do I want to do washing or write? Have a home cooked meal or edit a chapter? Going out with friends often tires me for days at a time, so even one outing a week would mean I never got to write. In order to work on my career, I am only social once a month or so.

However my literary success has been quite impressive, given the circumstances. It started with short stories and poems in anthologies, as most authors’ careers do. Then I signed an 8 book contract with Harlequin under a pen name. In May of 2013 I self published a YA novel and in the first month and a half over 2000 copies have been downloaded.

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I am currently working on both my Harlequin contract and the next book in my YA series. Cheques are coming in slowly and they are still small. However they are coming. And they are paying small things like phone bills.

I have a long way to go before I reach my goals and it will be more difficult for me than most people. However the hope that I can achieve it gets me out of bed each morning. It makes me excited to start the day. And writing brings me joy—it has always brought me joy, even before I had my first story published.

Often, that hope and happiness is much more valuable to me than having clean dishes or clean clothes. Some nights I go to bed hungry because I am too tired to heat something up, but I am still pleased because I managed to write two thousand words that morning.

If you want a creative career you have to make sacrifices, and they will HURT. However if a creative career is right for you, they will be worthwhile. You might go to bed hungry, but you’ll go to bed happy all the same.

Talitha Kalago

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Born in 1985, Talitha Kalago lives on the beautiful Sunshine Coast in Queensland, Australia. She loves reading, video games, documentaries, horror movies and vegetable patches. She lives with an alarming collection of previously abandoned or unwanted animals that include dogs, cats, birds and snakes. She loves aquascaping and dedicates too much time to her numerous aquariums and aquatic invertebrates. You can visit her website here: http://www.traditionalevolution.com/

 Talitha’s first young adult novel Lifesphere Inc: Acquisition tells the story of Eli, a thirteen year old orphan living in an immense garbage tip that rings the city. He sells trash to survive, while on the Topside, citizens live in hedonistic luxury. Eli dreams of obtaining citizenship by becoming a handler; bonded with a bio-organic life form called a meka. On the Topside, handlers are celebrities, pitting their skills in televised meka battles. But new legislation will only allow those with citizenship to become handlers and Eli can’t raise the money to buy a meka before the law is passed. A grifter named Kalex offers Eli a trade: meka of his own, if he competes in an illegal fight to the death.

 You can find it FREE on Amazon (http://www.amazon.com/Lifesphere-INC-Acquisition-ebook/dp/B00CXGD8PS) and Smashwords (https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/318159).

 TJ03

Writing Visually: Writing Sagas 14

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This morning I began working on words to go with some of my collage art and the picture that accompanies this post was inspired by some time spent with one of my friends at the beach with her sons.  

I find this way of working is a good way to keep my creativity agile when I have a lot of things to do, but want to keep writing something.

It works so differently than when I write without an image in front of me.

This link to Visual Writing Visual Editions – is now inspiring me to move my collages into video and to think about text moving in three dimensions.  So much to explore!  Ah well, one step at a time.  I have purchased a cheap video editing program, until I can afford another one- and will test all it’s limits.

I spent some time with Suzie Cray, the new producer for ABC Open from Cairns, and some of my family, working on a video postcard.   I’m in the midst of editing it.

Suzie looked at my script drafts and then worked to help me visually translate the most doable script for the day.  I had one script she loved, but it had a vaste time range and is one I can work on by myself for that reason (it included a sunrise, sunset and a few other things like music around the camp fire.)

We were open to things that happened unscripted – like a bee heading onto a flower, a tourist taking a photograph at the falls, and a rustic mystical sign, Peter’s Organic Farm.

I’m nearly there with it, and will share it when it’s polished.  The most important thing I took away from the day was that I could edit the words from the script, when I showed it.  I cut half my script due to the work of the visuals, and immensely enjoyed the process of editing it down.  Thanks Suzy for travelling all that way to mentor me!

I’m feeling more confident about developing my video work further, and especially gaining more skills in editing before I meet up with Suzy again.

The other exciting announcement is I have a mystery guest blogger, who will be appearing soon!  Awesome.    It’s lovely to have guest bloggers grace the space and I hope to introduce you to more of them in the coming months.

A Sunset Break: Writing Sagas 13

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NQ Sunset, on cane – June Perkins

This week has been so busy that blogging has had to take a back seat.  I’m trying to FINISH things.   Ever had that problem of being a great starter but a slack finisher.  I realise I have really fallen into that danger and it’s time to climb out of it!

I did a creative audit and found that I have about four projects that need only a few final touches, or a send off to publishers, or a final edit or review.  There are another five that are well progressed but needing the final lap.  I can’t believe how much writing and photographing has built up in the last four years.  It seems the country has been a muse.

I plucked up the courage to format something properly and send it to a Literary Agent.  Now I have to keep up the momentum and send the other manuscripts off, before I am too deeply into writing the next one.  I may have to look to send stuff to a few agents, or publishers. I’ll content myself with researching it for a while.

I worked on putting together a community photo book to sell through Blurb, which has had all the material sitting there for months whilst I am busy with other things.

I am very excited to about to begin Story Cartel!    I have been thinking of doing this for a while, and got myself organised and booked in.  I love that I can do it from home.

The other thing this week was that it finished with a beautiful clear sunset.  I have to be on the look out for them now as we have some clear evenings and are surrounded by some amazing spots to photograph.

It’s always good to be out in life, finding things to be inspired by.  Sometimes my heart is a little too busy taking care of my family and my health.  I have an ongoing skin condition psoarsis which likes to flare up every now and then.

It’s always a reminder to me to slow down, and go and drink in those sunsets and show extra love to my beloved ones.

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NQ Sunset – By June Perkins

Preparing the Way, Foundations to Creativity:Saturday Writing Sagas 11

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Clay work of my daughter in progress – June Perkins

Today’s inspiration for writing comes from my artist friend Sally Moroney.  She makes amazing art, baskets, paintings, necklaces – and is a wealth of knowledge in so many things to do with making and exhibiting art.

My daughter and I went to visit her today to find out about an upcoming youth exhibition.

She showed Sally some art, and then started to play around with some clay.

As my daughter constructed her clay dragon, the importance of pre-planning and gaining more practical knowledge became apparent; she found she should have templated both wings through tracing, and used wire reinforcing in the more delicate parts like the long thin tail. She began to ask Sally many questions. Her wings had wire based upon this advice.

Sally let her know, very gently, that the dragon may not make it beyond this first phase, but a second attempt at something like it will have a great chance of success based on the advice from Sally. And if it can dry well, she may be able to bisque fire it(pretty risky) or coat it with glue and paint it.

Whilst Sally was teaching my daughter ways forward with her future clay work and possible fixes for her current piece, I was thinking about how writing without any structure and working organically can work to a certain point. Then some stronger foundations and reinforcement may be needed.  Motifs, research, so many things might be needed to make a work stronger. Without this the way forward may become confused.

I began my first novel, like my daughter, free playing with her clay.  But the novel cracked under the pressure – and went into an electronic draw.  Yet, as I start my second journey I plan, research, map and do things to make the journey of the next one stronger.

I just have a feeling this one is going to work better, because my foundations are stronger.  I have a better sense of my self as a writer and can take all the tips from education, workshops, reading, and current readers and friends and put them into the work.

You might ask why not learn with all the lessons first?  There are so many ways to learn.  One is by embarking on the journey, doing, reflecting and changing.  Another is to have it all spelt out, and follow the formulas and set templates.  I like to do a bit of both.

How about you? Do you like learning by theory, or hands on and then reflecting, adapting  and changing?

By leaving my daughter free to work with the clay, Sally discovered that she likes dragons and likes pushing the boundaries of the clay to delicacy.  She could then guide her according to her wishes.  If Sally began with a set template and formula she wouldn’t have found that out as a facilitator.  I think also my daughter if her clay doesn’t stay together, will now always remember to reinforce it and take those steps needed at the beginning.

Thanks Sally for such an educational day.

I especially enjoyed hearing about one of Sally’s paintings in the Layer’s Exhibition at Mission Beach Community Arts Centre.

Letting the Genie out of the Bottle: Saturday Writing Sagas 10

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Looking for the Genie – June Perkins

So finally I’m commencing a novel.  I want it to be like letting a genie out of a magic bottle.

However, I don’t want to resort to a misuse of magic in all my plot turns; there is still a need for good set ups and lead in and I would like some originality. This is where I can learn a great deal from ‘arm chair critics’, or ‘ readers.’

Lately my whole family, the arm chair critics I know best, have been having trouble with some of the writing on television. We see brilliant concepts in shows like Doctor Who and Once Upon a Time – the season beginnings and finales of both these shows have been extremely well written.

However, the journey to reach these finales this season has had a litany of poor writing. One of the major gripes from my family of armchair critics has been that characters change too quickly,  or are not allowed to retain growth to something different.  They are quickly back to what they began as ‘ good’, ‘evil’.

They just keep playing with us a little too much. Rumplestiltskin, that complex figure, courts darkness but  is ever protective of the ones he loves, until it involves his own fate and then suddenly doesn’t care at all about death – finally courage?? The Evil Queen in Once Upon a Time was on the path to truly changing to a pathway for good due to her love for Henry.  Yet, she went back to being bad at what seemed the drop of a hat, the death of a mother she thought who never loved her who turned out to love her.

We were really starting to believe she could change, but the writers took that away, only to bring back  her potential goodness in a massive hurry in the finale.  Does torture and a stealing of your option for destruction of everyone you hate really create a back flip as quick as that?

The whole fatal flaw thing can simply be overdone. The effect of change, return to status quo, is to make us feel a lack of progression.  To feel that the same scene is replayed over and over again.

Don’t get my children started on Snow White/Mary Margaret and Prince Charming in the modern day!  Mary Margaret the tortured murderess  is difficult to take. In the past well she’s highly admirable for her ability to see the goodness in everyone.  Is it progression for her to want to murder someone or a regression?  Where do you go with a ‘perfect’ character?  Do you have to corrupt her?

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As viewers/readers we want progression, a new path, not just a stuck in the groove plot/broken record character.  So often this season Once Upon a Time sub-plots had this feeling. This is despite the borrowing and transformation of a large number of popular culture stories.  Lately it has even felt like Mulder and Scully have started running around in the plot.

What is left in Once Upon a Time when you remove all the layers of intertextuality? Mind you some of my favourite shows, like Get Smart, Bewitched and I Dream of Jeanie don’t have much progression, but the humour is the broken record, and you can predict the plot every time but have a rollicking time arriving to the same point each time.

In other kinds of television, such as Doctor Who or Once Upon a Time, this does not work as well because they are also trying to excite us with the new, their predictability is the unpredictable – the predictable becomes the twist in the plot.  Yet if it’s there just for the sake of it, without an internal common sense naturally arising from previous events the viewer feels cheated.

The thing is television writers can’t know that the dynamics of their plot will take a certain course in a season.  Viewers will side with certain characters and take on their cause.  They have already set the ball in motion and can’t respond to the viewer’s alliances. The thing is some actors can make an awful character on paper have humanity,  this may be the intention of the writer, but it might be that they believe you will never truly trust them.  They can’t fully predict your response.

Another complaint is that the plot is just too full of surprises, that the magical or scientific, adventure vehicle doesn’t have enough coherency or there are too many coincidences.  Doctor Who did have some amazing connections throughout it’s plot this season, and did seem to do it a whole lot better than Once Upon a Time.   The thread of the Impossible Girl and the curious Doctor who can’t solve her mystery, was clearly there, and understandable in the finale.

By comparison this season Once Upon a Time had so many twists and way too many story lines as to seem contrived too much even for fairytales.  He’s a stranger, looking for his father, no he’s not looking for his father, oh no there is a bigger employer outside it all. As for Doctor Who the jury is still out on the quality of some of the acting.  This season has seen some wooden acting, and a feeling of going through the motions despite the interesting storylines.  Is this the actors or the writing?

Is there enough in the script and the stories?  Are there simply too many things packed into each episode leaving little room for character development?

One show’s writers doing it well are those Person of Interest.  With a small cast of regular characters who progress, but well written regulars and guests the plot and characters seem to be gently but interestingly progressing, even the machine!  This is by far my favourite show from a writing view point, but also from the characters and acting point of view too.

There are just enough twists and turns, the character development is subtle, understated, not like a sea saw that will make you sick!

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Damsel Fly – Creative Commons

I have been down this  novel writing road before, but it was a swift free write journey for one month of Nanowrimo and  ended up at the bottom of an electronic drawer. Not this time.

This time as well as keeping in mind the armchair critics, I have a different approach,  and from an overall treatment of my novel have begun with key motifs free writes (meditations on key symbols of the novel) to thinking about structure and then onto research, google is great for that but also research from people.

Then my journey for writing the novel will begin.  No doubt there will be some going back into the cycle, of reflecting, research, creating and checking the world of the novel makes sense and is consistent.

So from magically imagining a plot out of an empty bottle, armchair critics and google I think this novel writing is going to be quite a ride and despite some annoying writing I will keep watching Doctor Who and Once Upon a Time  hoping for much better writing next season. I am so glad Person of Interest has been renewed for another season.

(c) June Perkins