You’ll Never Guess What Happened in November

November 2017 might now be history, but a lot happened, the least of which was acquiring new blogging and marketing techniques, including how to write click-baity blog titles, like “You’ll Never Guess What Happened in November”.

But to clear the air, let me start with what I DIDN’T do in November.

I didn’t memorise November’s poem for #MyEpicPoeticOdyssey. ‘The Author to Her Book’ was both longer than the previous months’ poems and written in Seventeenth Century English. I chose that poem in honour of NaNoWriMo, November’s international novel-writing event.

I didn’t do NaNoWriMo: I did NaNoReWriMo instead. I wrote (unwrote and rewrote) way more than 50,000 words, but I can’t prove it, so I didn’t bother verifying on 30 November. No NaNo badge for me. Bummer.

More importantly though, I didn’t finish my rewrite of The Temple of Lost Time as I’d hoped. I got tangled in a plot snag towards the end so I still have another 20% to go. Wish me luck!

I also didn’t blog here because I was (or rather wasn’t) doing all of the above. (I did blog here though.)

So if I wasn’t blogging here or verifying or finishing or memorising, what did I do?

I retired. Retired!

I know, right?!

After much soul-searching and hand-wringing, I closed the chapter on a 12-year career at a wonderful school. For most of that time, I was a school counsellor, a job that was both rewarding and challenging.

The school allowed me to establish a healthy balance by taking on all kinds of creative asides that utilised my writing skills.

  • I created a comprehensive life skills curriculum for six grades. It addressed the standard social-emotional wellbeing and resilience, but for the higher grades I incorporated real-world skills, things the kids will need when they graduate, like money smarts, relationship wisdom, media savvy, personal safety, and knowledge to battle stigma against mental illness. I wove in skills for clear, logical thinking so students could recognise and refute fallacies and fake news.
  • When the college took on 1:1 learning with iPads, I spearheaded a digital wellbeing education program for secondary students and their parents. To do it, I first had to overcome my own technophobia and ignorance by developing tech skills and embracing the digital life. It was life changing, and I am so glad I did it. I built and started e-Quipped, a digital parenting website and its accompanying Facebook page.
  • I wrote magazine and webzine articles featuring the school’s forward thinking in digital education.
  • I ran a personal development program for fifth and seventh grade girls. It was a huge joy and honour to stomp on society’s negative preconceptions and fears about women’s bodies and instead present them as God-created things of wonder and mystery, beauty and strength.
  • I was an invited author guest in the Junior School’s Book Week festivities and senior English classes when the students were working on short stories. I also got to mentor budding authors in the Challenge-Based Learning program and through my initiative, Inklings, a co-curricular writing group. I cherished all of these writerly opportunities.

In the final 18 months of my employment, I reduced my counselling hours to fill a void in the Marketing & Communications office while the college recruited a new M&C manager. After about 15 weeks, they finally found Agnese, a whiz-woman and all-round wonderful person. The things Ags taught me will be so valuable in my freelance career:

  • Branding – from font to front office
  • SEO (Search Engine Optimisation)
  • copywriting – “Think benefits, not features.”
  • managing social media
  • slick email campaigns
  • creating grabby headlines
  • salvaging poor photographs with Photoshop
  • the value of good photography
  • where to find fantastic high-res stock images
  • how to modify images so they look classy (one font only (…maybe two))

When she hired Leonie, graphic designer extraordinaire, to rebrand, I learned about colours, fonts, paper quality and choosing the right style of photograph. Watching a pro work with Photoshop and other Adobe tools is like watching a magic show. I also got to work with teaching colleagues Roz, a talented photographer, and Ming, creator of award-winning videos. I rubbed shoulders with talent and greatness on a daily basis.

I got to work on all kinds of publications: monthly newsletters, email campaigns, website content, heaps of brochures, media releases, a prospectus, and two beautiful yearbooks—my pride and joy. In the midst of writing gazillions of words for the college, I co-created and published two books!

I’m so grateful to be entering my new writing career well equipped. I can thank my school (Leighton, June, Fiona and Paul) and Agnese for giving me both experience and confidence.

Chapter Next

I am thrilled to take on the role of coordinator of the Sunshine Coast sub-branch of SCBWI-Queensland (Society for Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators). I’m looking forward to serving and collaborating with the kidlit creators in my region. I’ve already met so many talented and vibrant creatives!

December’s work is finishing my rewrite of The Temple of Lost Time with my ASA (Australian Society of Authors) mentor Catherine Bateson. I’ll write about that wonderful experience in January. Again, I’ve learned so much.

Once I put ToLT to bed, I’ll open my notebook of ideas and start to play. I have been stockpiling stories and business ideas for such a time as this. It’s my time to create.

Let’s ride!

Over to You

Do you have any advice for me as I transition to full-time writing? Please leave me a message in the comments!


Image Credits

Photo by michele spinnato on Unsplash, modified by Ali

Photo by FORREST CAVALE on Unsplash

A Poem About Writing


It’s November and #MyEpicPoeticOdyssey continues as I memorise a poem about writing to celebrate NaNoWriMo – National Novel Writing Month, the event that sends the world into a foaming frenzy of literary creation and masterpiece making. Rather than launching a new novel project, I’m doing #NaNoReWriMo, during which I slay mutant plot bunnies and bushwhack my way to a sleek new version.


When I started my poetic quest a few months ago, it was all about making time for poetry in my life while also laying claim to a few choice poetical side effects, namely the mental exercise of memorisation and the writerly benefit of studying the economy of poetry.

Memorisation has been hugely enjoyable, but even more fun has been the monthly search for a new poem: digging through piles of poetry, reading and savouring until one calls my name. “Pick me! Pick me!”

The Author to Her Book

AnnebradstreetThe poem about writing I’ve chosen for November is ‘The Author to Her Book’, by Anne Bradstreet. I’d never heard of this lady before, but it turns out she has quite a pedigree! She was the first poet published in the New World. Not America’s first woman poet —its first poet (period).

And if that’s not cool enough, it turns out Puritan Anne moonlighted as a badass feminist. The collection that was America’s first published poetry, The Tenth Muse  Lately Sprung Up in America, contains a stinging prologue to her critics. Check out her sarcasm as she poo-poos the notion of ‘proper women’s work’:

I am obnoxious to each carping tongue

Who says my hand a needle better fits.

A poet’s pen all scorn I should thus wrong;

For such despite they cast on female wits,

If what I do prove well, it wont advance-

They’ll say it was stolen, or else it was by chance.

Go Anne! It must have been tough back in the day for smart women. And our Anne was smart, equipped to write about history, politics, theology and medicine. She had a library of over 9,000 books that were eventually lost in a house fire, one tragedy among many in her life.

800px-The_Tenth_Muse_by_Anne_BradstreetThough sickly (suffering smallpox and tuberculosis), she was the mother of eight children and appears to have enjoyed a happy marriage until her death at age 60.

So this NaNo November as I wrestle through my umpteenth rewrite of my current manuscript, I’m going to memorise Anne’s poem. It  captures the writer’s angst I know all too well,  of work that doesn’t measure up to the impossible inner standard. She composed this poem after her first collection was supposedly “snatcht”, spirited away and published by a (male) friend.


THOU ill-form’d offspring of my feeble brain, 

Who after birth did’st by my side remain, 

Till snatcht from thence by friends, less wise than true 

Who thee abroad, expos’d to publick view, 

Made thee in raggs, halting to th’ press to trudge, 

Where errors were not lessened (all may judg). 

At thy return my blushing was not small, 

My rambling brat (in print) should mother call, 

I cast thee by as one unfit for light, 

Thy Visage was so irksome in my sight; 

Yet being mine own, at length affection would 

Thy blemishes amend, of so I could: 

I wash’d thy face, but more defects I saw, 

And rubbing off a spot, still made a flaw. 

I stretcht thy joynts to make thee even feet, 

Yet still thou run’st more hobling then is meet; 

In better dress to trim thee was my mind, 

But nought save home-spun Cloth, i’th’ house I find. 

In this array, ‘mongst Vulgars mayst thou roam, 

In Criticks hands, beware thou dost not come; 

And take thy way where yet thou art not known, 

If for thy Father askt, say, thou hadst none: 

And for thy Mother, she alas is poor, 

Which caus’d her thus to send thee out of door. 


This will be a challenging poem to memorise with its Seventeenth Century English. Wish me luck!

To all the #WriMo-ers and especially to my fellow #ReWriMo-ers, may the Muse be with you! See you at the finish line!



Photo by Florian Klauer on Unsplash

Image of Anne and her Title Page,  both Public Domain

November is Global Frenzied Writing Month


Something strange happens on planet Earth in November. A literary fever of plague proportions infects the world’s bookworm population. It’s a writing pandemic I’m dubbing Global Frenzied Writing Fever.

Around the world, otherwise normal people will develop the dreaded Writing Rash. You can easily spot the afflicted. The fever is marked by glazed stares, strange mutterings, and ecstatic scribbling on any surface (cocktail napkins, ticket stubs, their offspring’s skin) –and by the toxic fumes rising from their abused keyboards.

Identifying the Frenzied Writing Bug

Here are the symptoms:

  • A nagging sense that there’s a novel inside you waiting to be released. (This is usually accompanied by abdominal pain and protrusions in the shape of a hardback book).
  • Itchy fingers that can only be soothed by typing or writing action
  • Bizarre names and character details percolating in your brain when you should be doing other things (paying attention to the traffic, listening to your boss, finishing assignments)
  • Hyperventilation at the sight of book stores or your favourite author’s image
  • A blinding wave of jealousy at the news of a local 14-year-old getting a publishing contract for his epic Sci-Fi thriller (that started as a middle school science project). This symptom is usually followed by a wave of bleary-eyed hope. (If the pipsqueak can do it…)
  • An inexplicable urge to purchase expensive stationery, particularly premium notebooks and a very nice pen
  • A sudden dissatisfaction with your current computing equipment, which is almost always cured by heeding the overwhelming urge to install Scrivener software
  • Hoarding of index cards, post-it notes, and packs of chocolate-covered peanuts
  • Starry-eyed daydreams of 5-star reviews on Amazon, literary prize speeches, and publishing glory

Quick! Act Now!

Inoculate yourself now while there’s still time! Join a gym in November and set unrealistic weight loss goals. Take up macramé/Highland dancing/fencing. Do something now before the fever hits.

If the bug has already bitten…

If the symptoms listed above have already set in, you might as well harness their power for good. Clear your desk, crack your knuckles, and sacrifice a calendar month to an international writing event.


National Novel Writing Month is the granddaddy of them all. Since 1999, aspiring novelists around the world have set themselves the lofty challenge of banging out a 50,000 word novel in a calendar month. It’s quite a challenge to hit a word count of 1600+ words a day for 30 days straight.

If the prospect of penning a whole novel does your head in, you can still join the frenzy in November with these other activities.


Picture Book Idea Month may seem more achievable, but don’t be among those who mistakenly believe creating short kids’ books is easier than writing a novel. The economy of words and ideas, the interplay of images–the sheer elegance of picture books makes them an art form all their own.

 Spend November brainstorming fun ideas. PiBoIdMo aims to generate an idea a day for a picture book. At the end of November, you’ll have a notebook full of ideas to develop or reject in 2015. There may be a winner or two in the mix!


How about a blog post a day for a whole month? Some prolific people do this already, so how hard could it be? Try 30 days of quality blog posts and find out. Like the other events, the community aspect is half the fun. Sign up, post, link, read–make new friends and find new followers.

 Why, oh why, November?

Every year, I struggle with this question. The answer comes from Chris Baty himself, the founder of the event, who picked November “to more fully take advantage of the miserable weather” in San Francisco.

In Australia, November is a shocker for anyone (like me!) who has anything to do with schools. Assessments, deadline stress, graduation… Erg! Even in the US, November has its challenges, especially this year. The Thanksgiving long weekend falls on the last few days of the month, right when Nanowrimo-ers should be hammering toward the finish line, head down, arms reaching for The End. Not the best posture for enjoying a weekend of family togetherness.

Blogger Emily Winstrom suggested a few non-November options on The Write Practice blog. Here are two of them:

There you go. November is as good a month as any to write. Why not join the frenzy?

Over to You!

Share your favourite writing event in the comments.

Creative Commons Image by Amy Palko