Wimmera: A Book Review

This Australian debut novel by Mark Brandi is certainly worth picking up and spending an afternoon reading and so think a lot of others as it has a list of longlisted, shortlisted and highly commended rankings in some prestigious awards in the UK, USA and Australia and won the Crime Writers Association Debut Dagger Award.

This coming of age novel is set in a small Australian town and focusses on the friendship of two friends Ben and Fab. There were a number of themes running through the book – that of the foreigner not being accepted , school bullying, teenage suicide, the development of sexual ideation, domestic violence, and when a stranger comes to town the undercurrent of something deeper and darker. This author is skilled at showing – not telling leaving us in little doubt without having to be given specific details.

The language in the book may upset some due to number of profanities but to me it was the vernacular of teenage boys and much of the language was that of my youth. My question would be that it seemed to be the language of Australia in the sixties and seventies rather than the eighties when it was set. I know that I can certainly remember that special room where we ate Sunday lunch or when visitors came over.

The descriptions also put the reader in place.

” They were at the beginning of a narrow trail that twisted and disappeared into the dark scrub.

Fab had never been up this path before, but he knew the land well. He knew the smell of the rich volcanic earth and the sigh of wind through the trees.

He knew the steep slope of the hills, the brush of the long weeds on his legs, and the sharp grass seeds scratching in his socks.

It was the land of winter, of hunting, of his father.”

As the boys age so too do their voices. Their lives are portrayed so clearly that you feel you are living it with them. Innocent boys being ruined by evil men. You can’t help but flow with the tension as it builds and gives you a whole range of emotions.

Would I recommend this book: Yes I most definitely would.If you liked Jane Harper’s The Dry and also Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird I have no doubt that you would also enjoy this novel.

Posted in Book reviews | Tagged , , | 5 Comments

Week in Review: Week 5

FOTD Blossom

Continuing on with the camera saga. It was completed last week. That I thought would be the end of it until Roger came home Monday with a broken windscreen. The camera was connected to a mirror which fitted over the rear vision mirror but as it was tinted blue and we have tinted windows in this car and his eyesight is probably fading he was struggling to now see anything out of it. In his attempt to remove it he pulled the original mirror from its support. In his effort to replace the mirror (and he did tell me he used a hammer) the windscreen was broken. This turned the whole episode into a very expensive camera that couldn’t be used but we did get a new windscreen. I guess that is a plus.

It hasn’t been Roger’s week. At his specialist appointment on Tuesday we found that the treatment is no longer working and his blood results are again going in the wrong direction. This came as a real shock to me and although he had been warning me all along that it wouldn’t last long he too thought he would get at least a year. It brought the finality to the fore and although we have more options available we know that none will give any long term results. The good news is that the doctor will arrange with a specialist in Cairns to give Roger treatment at the end of April so we can go on the roadtrip that I am still in the process of planning.

We have had a heat wave here. I’m glad they told me as otherwise I wouldn’t have known. Two days it was hot but no more than I expect in summer which this year I have felt to be particularly mild. On one of these hot days I decided to clean the walls of the pool (a nice job for a hot day) and got in with my scrubbing brush. I was idly looking around when I saw something that I hoped was a bit of a palm frond but at worst could be a snake poking out from the skimmer box. I went and had a closer look and sure enough

snake in pool skimmer box

To me it was brown and therefore could be a brown snake (highly venomous) so I would need a snake catcher to remove it from the garden. I went in and posted a picture to Fast Snake Identification – a brilliant site on Facebook for identifying Australian snakes. They get back to you within minutes. My snake was instead a yellow faced whip snake capable of a moderately venemous bite. We helped him out with the pool net and let him loose in the garden. I guess he was just hot also. I did get back in to clean but I kept the dogs out of the pool area for the next few hours.

This week I have done a lot of paperwork. Prepared my spoonerisms talk, done the agenda for Toastmasters, got together a lot of what the lawyer requested in regards to my Mum. I tell you – it has taught me that I have to get my act together. If my Mum had not been as organised as she was or had been like me totally disorganised I hate to think how difficult it would have been to get her affairs in order. It has been hard enough as it is. When I have finished I am definitely making a start on my own. In some ways I did as I have finally answered a lot of emails. Were you a good letter writer? Are you better at answering your emails than you were at writing letters or the same. I had great hopes but discovered that I was not better at writing email responses than I was writing letters.

All up I feel my goals are on track apart from my blogging. This week I have struggled to visit as many as I would have liked. I also struggled with a post for Wednesday and finally published it on Thursday. I have added a new goal to my list – get ahead with blog posts. So far I have written each on the day it was published. Apart from Week in Review it would be good to have them done a little in advance particularly if we are going to do our road trip which will see me for some days without internet access. Do you write yours on the day or do you also leave them until the last minute?

My PPAC submission this week comes from the beachside town of Sunshine Beach. It gave me quite a start when a quick glance up an alleyway showed me the silhouette of a man taking a dive from the roof.

statue at Sunshine Beach Qld

A longer, more studied look showed me the stays that were suspending him in position Naturally it made me walk up the alleyway for a closer look. There weren’t any shop entrances in the alley so it appeared that this was someone’s idea of brightening an otherwise dreary space. I wondered how many people saw it. I know no-one else in my group happened upon it. Looking up underneath he definitely is other worldy.

How was your week? Have you kept working towards your goals? Have a good week.

Posted in daily events, Floral Friday, photo challenges, Weekend Coffee Share | Tagged , , , , , | 21 Comments

Creative Block

FOTD Bougainvillea

This post should have come out yesterday but my head refused to deliver. I had not one creative thought to be found. Indeed I had no thought at all. Where could I get my inspiration from. I half heartedly looked at subjects that might interest me on the web – but none created that little spark that set my fingers flying across the keyboard. I read some poetry and some daily thoughts but again – nothing. Wednesday’s post would have to wait.

Today I again sat and stared at my blank sheet feeling no more inspired than I did yesterday. I determined that I would just post my Flower of the Day for Cee’s FOTD challenge. A Bougainvillea. My favourites are the red and normally the purples do little for me but this one has a vibrancy about it that I enjoy.

Suddenly, from nowhere, came a germ of an idea as a response to Carrot Ranch’s 99 word prompt. So tiny it needed nurturing. A murder story no less written in the vernacular of the 1949 Californian Gold Rush days. Agatha Christie was going to eat her heart out.

I wish (but that was the last challenge). Perhaps I was being too ambitious. No. That creative block was back in full swing until I again thought Agatha Christie and how she may have overcome it (and really I doubt that she ever had writers block so this is pure literary fabrication.)

Striking Gold

Agatha C clutched the keys to 1849 Lode Street in one hand and some documents in the other. “Finally it’s mine. Time for pay dirt,” she muttered, throwing the keys and contract onto the bench. She smiled as she unfolded the other document carefully. The removalists would bring the necessary tools.

Later she paced exactly eighteen steps from the back gate and forty nine steps from the easterly fence and started digging, hitting metal within minutes. “I’ve struck gold” she thought. Opening the metal box she pored through the manuscripts she’d written twenty years before. This time they’d sell.

Posted in Carrot Ranch, flash fiction, photography, Writing | Tagged , , , | 22 Comments

The Porcelain House: A Book Review

I met Angie Oakley as our husbands play golf together and we discovered we had quite a bit in common. We both blogged on WordPress and we both enjoyed writing. Angie had published The Porcelain House some time ago but as she says “in an amateurish way.” It wasn’t available to read at this time. Recently, after some editing and fine tuning, she has published it and it is available both as a hard copy or on Amazon Kindle and there is nothing amateurish about this edition.

I purchased a copy on Kindle and then Angie gave me a paperback as a present. I didn’t know anything else about the book when I read it so I made some assumptions from the cover. I assumed with the photos of family on the cover, I presumed this was a memoir of a family member. In the first part of the book there was nothing to dispel this allusion and I spent time trying to pick out who Angie was in the narrative, but, I started to question whether it was indeed fiction by the second half. I could have saved myself much querying had I simply gone to Angie’s site or indeed rung her up. For me though it served to demonstrate that we read fiction and memoir very differently and we do need to know what we are reading before we start. You won’t have this as an issue as you now know it is a novel.

Having said that, I would have enjoyed this novel irregardless of whether it was fact or fiction. The story started in an England at war (1943) with a Mother and two daughters (Pauline and Doreen) waiting for the two sons that were both coming home on leave. The description of the setting let the reader know just how much this was an occasion the women were looking forward to and how much effort had gone into giving them a special homecoming. The disappointment was palpable when one son had his leave cancelled. The set place at the table did not go to waste as the other son brought home an Australian airman and this was the beginnings of a romance between Bill Howard and Doreen.

The characters were well drawn and I’m certain that Doreen and Pauline and their mother were based on actual family members they were so real. The mother was certainly a force to be reckoned with and controlled the two girls lives to their detriment, particularly Doreen’s. The romance started that night went as many war romances did but a series of events, manipulated by Mum, Pauline and Tom (their brother and Bill’s friend) plus wartime led to tragedy for many family members.

The novel is set in both England and rural Australia following the life of one of the next generation Jack. The differences between the two countries are apparent from the different ways of life described. I became very invested in the characters – a single father and his young son – and the novel held me in a tight grip to the end where an unexpected twist led to its conclusion, leaving me wanting to know what happened next. This is the subject of Angie’s next book Treading Water.

I have been a little vague regarding the details of the story because I believe there is nothing worse than not having to read a book because a review has said it all.

Would I recommend this book – Yes I definitely would, particularly if you enjoy family dramas, romance, novels where you become invested in the characters, want to get a feel for the differences between England and Australia and enjoy quests to find where you belong.

Posted in Book reviews, fiction | Tagged , | 13 Comments

Week in Review: Week 4

FOTD

Week 4 and I’m starting to feel like my old self. The passion has returned. Roger has found that he can have treatment in Cairns which will give us up to six – eight weeks that we can be away. A good time for a house sitter. the big decision then was do we combine it with my conference. We sat and discussed it over coffee on Thursday and decided that it would be better weather wise to go in April. It meant that I will go to the conference by myself and somehow Roger will have to manage the dogs alone, something he finds difficult. We were just about to leave when someone we knew but hadn’t seen for ages came along. She’d looked after the dogs in the past and when Roger asked if she could have them for a night she was thrilled. That means he can come with me and explore Hervey Bay whilst the conference is on and then we can have our holiday in middle of April. A plan is in place and now just to thrash out the details.

During the week I have got on my high horse but am trying hard not to get into altercations. I firmly believe we are each entitled to do what we want until it starts to affect others. I don’t believe in personal rights taking precedence over what is good for the community as a whole. If they did then drunks would be allowed to drive. When it comes to vaccination against COVID I have no issue with people who choose not to vaccinate ( apart from the risk they can be incubators for a new virus strain, put health care workers and the hospital system under huge pressures and risk of collapse, it puts the vulnerable at risk and harms our economy) and I do believe that with every choice you make there is a cost which we have to accept.

In Queensland we have a mask mandate for indoors. It makes sense apart it would seem to those that haven’t been vaccinated. A violation of their human rights. The Nuremburg code was thrown at me. I have to admit I had never taken much notice of the Nuremburg code so I did some research and came to the conclusion that the person who threw it at me also didn’t know what the Nuremburg Code stated. I wonder why her human rights take precedence over the right of mine and others. Two people left that meeting because they couldn’t afford to take the risk of being in close proximity with unmasked people. I too should have left as I have a husband who is severely immuncompromised due to his cancer treatment.

I do try hard to understand the reasoning of those that refuse vaccination and I don’t want to get into battles with people. I wish however that they would also listen to other points of view instead of being on the offensive before any word is spoken. It makes it so difficult to have a conversation that will end in a decision that will keep everybody happy.

Enough of that. We have purchased an old car – a second car. We had got rid of our second car when Roger became ill as we weren’t using it and it sat in the garage. Now he is on maintenance treatment and feeling more like his normal self our need for a second car has increased. What I hadn’t expected was that at my age I would be out there working on the car. Roger has always been able to do anything and has. He hates spending money when he can do it himself. Unfortunately his brain is still a bit fogged and I am required. Thus we have replaced a broken glass in my old iphone and this week we installed a reversing camera in our new old car. Have you found that no instructions are given with things you buy anymore? Drives me mad. It took us hours and eventually we had the car back together only to discover that the picture showing was upside down. We had to pull the whole thing to pieces again in order to place the camera in the other direction. This could have so easily been prevented had they said there is a top and a bottom to the camera. Anyway, we did it and it is all working well but there are no beeps. Will I find next week sound sensors have arrived and I’ll have to help install them?

I had my booster yesterday with no side effects followed with a lovely lunch at the Boathouse with a couple of girlfriends. The week couldn’t have ended on a nicer note.

I’m still working on my Toastmaster goals – am doing an educational on the 10th about Spoonerisms which I have to prepare. I have gone a long way to making my life easier as Vice President Education as I did an educational on goal setting and managed to get three months worth of meetings planned. The two educationals will also see me finish the evaluation section of motivational planning which requires two speeches and an evaluation of an evaluation I give.

My blogging goals have also been met this week. Wednesday almost didn’t happen because I was uptight about the mask business but I managed it in the evening just before Wednesday finished for me. I finished the book of a fellow blogger which will be this Mondays book review. I’ve also enjoyed getting around and catching up on some of your posts. It is the community that makes blogging so enjoyable.

My PPAC (photographing Public Art a challenge from Marsha) this week was found at Eumundi – a town in the Noosa Hinterland. This statue, placed down hill of the rememberance park, is a thank you to all the soldiers that have died in wars. The artist, Meg Geer, wrote thank you for the innocence we possess because yours was stripped by unspeakable horrors. Thank you for the freedoms we enjoy that you were forced to fight for. Thank you for sacrificing your peaceful hearts to violence so that we may live in peace. Thank you With our deepest and most heartfelt gratitude This is for you.

I wish, I hope the world has peace, that we are not divided by our life choices and our major world powers sort out a peaceful solution to the crisis that appears imminent.

This week the Carrot Ranch prompt for a 99 word story is ““the wish I made.” Whose wish is it and how does it fit into the story? What kind of wish? Go where the prompt leads!”

Wish list

“Have you got any last wishes?”

“No. Do you have any wishes?”

“Oodles. I wish we could be at peace. I wish the government would lead, not follow. I wish you weren’t sick. I wish we could travel overseas again. I wish we could travel in Australia. I wish……I’ve got lots of wishes. Come on. You must have something you wish for.”

“ Nope. You know something if you live your life wishing for things and you don’t do those things then you are going to die with regrets. Me, I’m going to die fulfilled and happy.”

Posted in Carrot Ranch, Cees Flower of the Day, daily events, flash fiction, musings, opinion | Tagged , , , | 33 Comments

Wordless Wednesday – Some times it is good to keep your mouth shut.

Today I wrote one draft email followed by another, then another, and another. Numerous more. When someone doesn’t listen to understand how you feel but instead takes it very personally it is impossible to communicate without spiralling into a conflict. I don’t want to be a Russia, nor do I want to be a Ukraine. I just want what is best for the majority because I care. Eventually I decided. Don’t write anything. Make it a wordless Wednesday. Tomorrow is another day.

Posted in musings, opinion, Wordless Wednesday | Tagged , , | 9 Comments

Publishing Your Blog the Easy Way

Okay, so it’s only a blog but you know the time and the effort you put into it and you don’t want to lose the body of work held within your sites’ pages. Perhaps you have been travelling and your travel photos along with commentary are held here. Perhaps you have recorded the skies on a Friday for a number of years and just want to be able to sit and marvel at the differences in those cloud patterns. For most of you it is probably not a book that you want to sell to the public but one for yourself or perhaps a present for a friend. If this is the case then there is a really easy way to do just that. Pixxibook.

Pixxibook makes it easy. All you have to do is specify your blog name and then which blog posts from …..to with whatever tag or ones to exclude and pixxibook does the rest. It does mean you can’t format it yourself and move post c to in front of post a but it does create a lovely book. All that is left then is to choose the colour of the book and what you want on the front cover and spine. Pay your money and in a short time your book will be delivered to your door. Mine have always come sooner than the time they have given me for delivery.

I learnt a lot with the first one I published. It was posts I had made in 2013 excluding all the skywatch, memoir, flash fiction and my petmoir series. I realised from the preview that I needed to do a little work myself. In those early days I linked many sites that were doing a similar item or challenge to mine and some of these took up a page in the pixxibook. I went through and removed them all. I also looked at my titles which I had also acknowledged the challenge and removed as many as I saw. I missed a couple from both the first and second book.

Another small problem was formatting. It is essential that each photograph in a gallery is captioned and avoid using the gallery caption. It will appear as an orphan in the book. For poetry the formatting may pose a real problem as for this poem below. The only way to get around this that I can think of is to photograph the poem and put it in as a photo. The formatting you can’t control so where on your blog you might have photo with words under it followed by another photograph the print version may be all paragraphs together and the photos separate to it. These means you need to caption your photos as they will not necessarily be together with the text.

Pixxibook of Egypt – second book published

The second book was a travel book – my trip to Egypt. Again I discovered some pitfalls. As I was doing many challenges at the time it was natural that some of these featured photographs from Egypt that I wanted in the book. They were however not in the chronological order that we had visited various sites so it made it a little jumbled for my liking.

In the future I will think carefully about all posts before I make them if it is going into a chronological book. I did however find out another way around this in the third book I made. I changed the date of publishing. This was a little time consuming but worth it.

By the third book I’d worked out the errors and worked out ways to overcome them (apart from one). This book was a little different. My brother and I did it jointly – him from Switzerland and me from Australia. Due to the lockdowns, the inability to enter Australia and my mother’s age we were finding that she was losing her place in the world and who was in her world so we decided that we would write her a book that explained who everyone was, what their relationship to her was and be full of photographs of her interacting with these people. We were going to give it to her for Christmas but luckily I sensed I should give it to her earlier. I gave it to her two weeks before she died and she got so much joy out of it I am so glad that I did. Had I waited until Christmas she wouldn’t have had that pleasure.

the third book published

The only error in this book that I have come across was the images on the front cover. The feature picture is my aunt and uncle rather than my mother. I’m sure there is a way around this. I could have easily changed it to a single picture which I could choose but I did like the collage and let it go. I didn’t feel as I had the time to play around moving posts (I’d already done that). This one I also removed the blog’s title and just had the book title on the front as well as on the spine.

We used a private blog site to create this book making it limited to public but not available to search engines when we were ready to hand it over to pixxibooks. I returned it to private after they had finished with it. They were great. I returned it to private too early and the publisher emailed me and told me that as soon as he had finished he would let me know. He did in a very short time frame. We initially posted the chapters as we finished them but it meant I had to change the date of publication to get the order we wanted so we eventually kept them all as drafts and then posted in the order we wanted them. We created title page and chapter page. The copyright page is prepared by pixxibooks.

I have found pixxibooks to be an ideal way to publish my blog posts both for myself and as a gift. Apart from the small traps I have found in the early books I feel I have now perfected the technique and my fourth book – Friday skies will soon be published once I can decrease it to 300 pages. I’m glad I have found a way of preserving my blog posts with minimal effort. Is it expensive? That of course is relative to your own circumstances and although I don’t think it super cheap I also don’t see it as expensive. Compared to other photo books I have created of trips this was by far the easiest, gave more flexibility with photos and text and the end product is a quality book that I am proud of.

Have you tried pixxibooks? Have you come across any other issues that can be corrected before submission? Have you found another blog publisher? Would love to hear about your experiences.

Posted in irenewaters, opinion, photography, road to being published, Writing | Tagged , , , | 14 Comments

Week in Review: Week 3

Flower of the Day Taken on iphone 8

Three weeks gone into the New Year already and it seems as though years end is almost visible. Time is flying and I realised that I needed to look at organising the trip in March. Unfortunately the timing of the conference does not fit well with Roger’s treatment and travelling in February is not really an option. It is the worst month for heat and storms. If we wait until the conference and then have time we will only get a couple of weeks before we have to return for treatment. A big dilemma as we need to have three – four weeks to get where we would like to go and the same amount of time to have a dog sitter come to the house. My goal for next week – have a plan in place.

I am well on the way to achieving my toastmaster goals. It is the goal after that which will be difficult. I have to do a High Performance Leadership project. This means you have to have a vision, form a team, set goals, and carry your vision to fruition. The types of projects that fit this requirement are organise a conference, start a new club, and perhaps a membership building exercise. My goal for this is to have a plan in place as to what I can do by end February.

My Blogging Goals – so far I have kept to these with Sat being a week in review, Wednesday a random thought. Mondays have a variety of topics with writing /photography being the focus of the one for next Monday. I was going to avoid challenges but I find myself unable to resist but I will limit it to the three posts I am committed to post each week. As I get more time this might change but I want to give my husband a full two days where we can do whatever he wants and two days where I can spend visiting other bloggers.

I now have an additional goal. The photography tutor has had to retire his position and I have volunteered to fill his shoes. The way we operate is that we have a field location one week and then attend U3A to show our best 10 photos from the previous weeks shoot. We learn more from seeing others photos and working out why we like it and then trying to add that element to our own photography so I don’t really have to know anything. My goal is however to learn the rules (of course made to be broken) and give some kind of educational following our photo viewing. We can then try to implement this in one photo we show from the next photoshoot. This will take some research on my part but I hope to learn from it as well. I hope also to utilise the various talents in the existing group and have them each take a session.

My week apart from goals has been uneventful. I am slowly trying to reorganise my house as my mothers bits and pieces came here. I need to go through every file and determine what to keep and what no longer needs to be kept. There are lots of finishing off things to do as well and that is taking a bit of time. Another goal is that I am going to get back to reading. I found over the last couple of years that I didn’t have the concentration needed to read and I struggled with most books I picked up. I feel much calmer this year and I think that I will again enjoy losing myself in another world and the book I am reading (and will be reviewed next) is allowing me to do just that.

Two challenges that I am going to join in today for the first time are RDP Friday I don’t know what the letters stand for but we are given the word Skookum to use in whatever way we want. This was a word that I had never heard of and discover that it is la Chinook Jargon word that historically was used in the Pacific Northwest. No wonder I’d never heard of it. According to wikipedia it means “strong”, “greatest”, “powerful”, “ultimate”, or “brave.” I am going to display this with photography although you can write a story, a poem, graphic piece or any creative way you like. I am going to also combine it with Marsha’s challenge Photographing Public Art or as you will see written PPAC

These skookum sculptures were found in a rainforest near Maleny, making wonderful use of the natural surrounds to enhance these works of art. One I think shows anxiety or fear rather than skookum. Another show love which can engender skookum or possibly possession whilst the third I think is definitely skookum. What do you think?

Posted in Cees Flower of the Day, daily events, photo challenges, photography | Tagged , , | 18 Comments

Know Your Name : Know Your Brand

Coca Cola is immediately recognisable

As we all know, Name and its associated branding is crucial to the success of the company. This is whether we are multinational corporations, a local business or a writer or blogger. Our brand is important. Not only do we have to know our name and our brand we want the world/ our market to know our brand. We all know Hallmark – the card you give when you care enough to give a card produced by a corporation. Seriously.  Look at Coca Cola – we all know that iconic red and white can. The Golden Arches of Macdonalds, the apple with a bite or should I say byte taken out for Apple just to name a couple.

I know as a Toastmaster branding is important for Toastmasters International. The logo has to be exactly the right size, the correct colours and used only in the appropriate places. The first time I sat and listened to a speech on this topic I have to admit I thought toastmasters was going over the top. As I heard more speeches on the topic and as Area Director in 2019 I received a lot of communications on the subject and I started to understand just how important it is to be recognisable to your market and to not have the professional image of the brand sullied in anyway. Any misuse would reflect poorly on that brand. In the Toastmasters brand they are wanting to portray consistency, communication, leadership and above all self-development.

It takes two however to make a brand. The company who is presenting the brand and the receiver, the potential customer. How do they feel when they come across your brand? Do they have a positive experience or a negative one from what they read, see, touch and experience? The experience you give is crucial to the person receiving on how they view that brand. I experienced a brand recently that brought these points home to me.

I entrusted White Lady Funerals with the funeral for my mother (and they did a great job). I chose them for exactly the reasons I think their brand is aiming to portray. Those living in Australia and New Zealand will know White Lady Funerals and recognise their distinctive uniform.

Distinctive uniform of White Lady Funerals

Their uniform is a large part of their corporate branding. I am guessing but I believe the dignified white suit signifies peace and compassion. The burgundy hat is iconic of the brand and denotes respect. The style of hat, similar to a cowboy hat makes you think these women are strong at a time when you are vulnerable. The uniform, the shoes, stockings suit, gloves and hat make you think these are professional people yet soft and caring. They are capable of getting the job done. They are women so they have a woman’s understanding. All of these reasons were why I chose them.

I had not realised at the time that they were only in Australia, NZ and Singapore as their parent company is a multinational one and White Lady Funerals brings in their parent company big dividends. Due to my use of them I learnt something that we should all be aware of when we come to brand naming – how will that brand name be experienced by our market and those potential markets? If White Lady’s wanted to spread their wings further and perhaps get a foothold in the USA would they have the same result? I received an email from a friend in the USA shortly after the funeral. He said. “I was so relieved to understand why the White Ladys are so named. From their uniform rather than from any racist connotation.” I wondered how many others thought of them as the Ku Klux Clan of funerals. An image far from the truth and certainly one they wouldn’t want associated with them. Sadly, it showed me the difference in culture and sensitivities between Australia and the USA.

It made me think and hence it is my thought for this week – think carefully before creating your brand name, the ramifications could be immense.

FOTD It should have been a white rose – another Symbol of White Lady Funerals but this is the closest I have to a white rose

Posted in irenewaters, musings, opinion, photography | Tagged , , , , | 4 Comments

Passion and Creativity

Marie du Val d’Ognes painted 1801 by Marie Denise Villers

Have you worked out what leads your creative spirit? Do you have to work at being creative or does it just happen? I am sure it is different for everyone and I’d love to know how your creations happen.

This portrait, held by the Metropolitan Museum of Art, was painted just after the French Revolution in a brief period when women were allowed to exhibit in the Salon. Women around this time were creative but confined to flowers and the like. I can only imagine the passion that must have been under the surface of women who wanted to paint other subjects when passion for women was confined to finding a suitable husband and looking after him. Perhaps this is what Villers is trying to convey with this portrait.

I have been struggling with creativity since I received a cancer diagnosis, followed soon after with my husband’s diagnosis. Where I used to write everyday it became difficult for me to write at all. It was as though any creativity had been sucked from me. Where I used to come up with stories for the prompts with minimal thought, I now couldn’t come up with anything.

The same happened with Toastmasters and impromptu speaking. I have always had trouble with being given a topic and being expected to give a speech on it immediately but I had reached a point where I could do it and do it reasonably well. Corresponding with my loss of writing ability was my inability to think on my feet and come up with a speech. My creativity had gone.

It was clear to me that three things had shifted. I could no longer find the humour in anything. I wrote about the importance of humour here. Secondly I had always let things swirl around in my head. Not consciously thinking of them but ready to recognise a thought that would fit. This meant that by the time I came to put story to paper it was already formulated in my head and it didn’t take a lot of time to put it to paper. Now I had other thoughts swirling through my head there was no room left to manage stories I might want to write. More importantly perhaps, I had lost my passion.

I turned from writing and speaking to photography. I’d always taken a lot of photographs but now I was attempting to take photos as an art form rather than just aim and click. Another creative pursuit which somehow seemed easier than writing and speaking. I had the passion – in fact I immersed myself so deeply that I stopped living life. It gave me something that could drown out reality. It gave me an addiction – but I’ll leave that for another post.

One of my New Year goals was to complete level 4 in the Engaging Humour Pathway of Toastmasters. It was time to start and I have known since November that January would be my first speech in it. I remember looking at it briefly and just as quickly put it the side. I would do one of the elective speeches instead. In January I started preparing but found that there were no electives I could do in the time frame so it had to be “Give two impromptu speeches from the list provided.” The list had around 18 speeches. I was supposed to find personal stories that I could adapt to fit several of them and be prepared for whatever was thrown at me. Some topics were outside my experience and interest e.g. Your company is about to merge and you explain why this is a good thing to your employees. There were so many of this type I just came up with a total blank and because I was blank on them I was blank on all of them. the speech was also supposed to be humorous.

Two weeks before I sent the list to the person who would choose my topics. She rang me and told me to narrow it down to 12 scenarios and add some context to the bland scenario given. I tried. I took it to 12 but the context (creative thinking in its own right) alluded me on most of them. Eventually 3 days before I sent her the topics, minus context in most cases, and told her I would just wing it.

I was so nervous I felt like pulling a sickie – but that is not my nature. I contemplated letting go of my goals and just leaving Toastmasters. On the day of the two speeches I managed to pull together a few stories, a couple of speeches and a few nothings. I am goal oriented deadline driven so something had to happen. I hoped I would get topics that the speeches would fit into and not be given the totally unprepared scenarios.

My Toastmasters club is a hybrid club, meaning that we meet both online and in person. At the meeting I watched the guests roll in – several from the USA, one from Canada, and numerous from different parts of Australia. If I’d been nervous before (and I was) now I was terrified.

The time came and I received a topic that I had prepared. The prepared went first. It was starting a new job as a clinical nurse specialist in intensive care responsible for staff education. This was a topic I knew because in an earlier life this was exactly what I was. I knew my qualifications and I knew what was important. Not creative just something I knew. I started with a joke As you have just heard I have been employed as CNS responsible for education, that is, My job is to talk to you, and your job is to listen to it. If you finish first, please let me know. Humour was smattered throughout and personal stories were easy.

The next speech was totally unprepared. I had thought being a comedy club a eulogy for a friend would not be picked but I also thought if it was, all I had to do was bring to mind a dear friend, tell the funny stories and it would be fine. Again I started with some humour. I’d love to say it is a pleasure to have been asked to give a eulogy for Graham but to be perfectly honest it’d be a much bigger pleasure if he was standing here beside me. From that point it was quite easy.

I wondered if it would be obvious that one was prepared and one wasn’t and from the evaluation it didn’t appear that it was noticed. The sense of relief that this was over was huge. It wouldn’t have mattered how long I’d had to prepare these I wouldn’t have been any more prepared than I was but the satisfaction at completing this goal and the boost to my self-confidence was immense. It gave me the fourth ingredient to my particular needs in order to be creative. I have to know my subject whether it be by personal knowledge or research.

Now I know my creative needs are 1) be able to see the humour in situations 2) have some brain space, 3) passion and 4) know my subject. Do you know what your creative needs are? I’d love you to tell me.

Marigold. Known as “the herb of the sun”, Marigolds symbolize passion and creativity. FOTD

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