Aug 282015

Over the past few years, I've had a troubled relationship with my notebook.

It's the double-handling. Writing by hand necessarily entails typing it all up; and I never have enough time to keep up with it; and it seems inefficient. So I've been chasing my tail, trying to set up computer-based systems to replace my notebook. Scrivener for writing and organising my drafts. 2Do (lately; there's been a string of them) for tasks and reminders. Google Calendar for appointments. Drafts for taking notes on my phone; Simplenote and Notational Velocity for keeping my non-manuscript writing notes available everywhere; Dropbox and Sync and the list goes on.

FullSizeRender (22)The one thing I could never replicate on a computer was the feel of pen on paper, the slowness of it, the frustrating cramp in my wrist and fingers as my hand struggles to keep up with my thoughts and forces a precision of expression. For me, writing by hand is vital for brainstorming — and since my drafts are highly organic, and I brainstorm all the way through, it doesn't matter how many electronic capturing systems I set up. Sooner or later, within days, often only hours, I'm back to jotting down my thoughts in a notebook.

Then, at the start of the month, quite by accident, I stumbled upon the instagram #bulletjournalchallenge feed, and I quickly fell down the rabbit hole of all the pretty. (Seriously, have you seen what some people do with their notebooks? Have you seen how awesome handwriting can be, and how some geniuses use and play with white space and text orientation and combine sketchwork with organisation?

And damnit, I wanted the pretty.

today's border

today's border

So I decided, since I couldn't jettison the notebook, to embrace its presence a little more. Not to be my everything, the way the Bullet Journal method encouraged, because the endless writing and re-writing and migrating of tasks made me baulk. But to incorporate some prettiness: leave some white space on the page; add some drawings or sketches here or there; add some scrapbooking elements, or some colour.

sketching in the margins (and more) - I tend to do these ahead of time, usually when I'm waiting &c.

sketching in the margins (and more) – I tend to do these ahead of time, usually when I'm waiting &c., and then the content flows around it. The feather has since been further filled in with various zentangle patterns.

I discovered a love of washi tape as a quick way to add decoration (I am still stupidly pressed for time, after all).

I discovered a love of washi tape as a quick way to add decoration (I am still stupidly pressed for time, after all).

I found the handwriting freed my mind from all its internal nagging; and the permission to sketch and scribble was meditative, which I've been sorely missing in my life for some time now.

IMG_5031And within a week it happened: I went from noting down my days on paper, to actively planning them that way. My cloud task-list languished, while my notebook — which didn't need firing up, or to bleat and beep and buzz at me — was filled with completed tasks. More and more, I've adopted the whole of the Bullet Journal approach, including a monthly, weekly and daily layout. The monthly and weekly layouts seem more about summarising and tracking than they are about planning ahead, but I find the zooming in/out at a page-flip extremely helpful for planning each day. And all that migrating and re-writing of tasks I was fearing? Isn't really happening, because instead I'm actually getting my tasks done.

I think this article on the pitfalls of the electronic to-do list goes some way towards explaining why I'm preferring the paper approach of late, and why it's working. I still have a Trello account to track big-scale projects, which would otherwise span years/multiple notebooks; but that's really only for projects with no discernable start and end dates (like writing on-spec manuscripts).

Anyone else find pen on paper indispensable? I'd love to hear why! Or have you managed to make the jump to the cloud without looking back?

Jul 262015

the good

Squawk has graduated away from Duplo and on to "little Lego" or "big girl Lego", as she calls it. Or, as I call it, the proper stuff.

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I mean, Duplo is surprisingly versatile for its size, and I'm sure you've all seen my attempts at robots and towers and dinosaur cars over the past year. I think my all-time favourite was her Dad's rendition of the village of Briskwater, with red blocks for hearts, a puppy standing in for the hunter's mule, and the part of the little dead girl being played by a zookeeper:

Squawk and her dad (mostly her dad) built a Lego version of the village of Briskwater!

A photo posted by Deborah Kalin (@deborahkalin) on


But let's be real: now that I have the proper stuff, my life is officially 700% more awesome.

the bad, with a silver lining

Squawk brought home a case of conjunctivitis/sinusitis this week, which she of course passed on to me (and then re-caught back from me, because naturally), so the both of us have mostly been feeling sorry for ourselves. The (sarcastically) awesome consequence of having a child is no sick leave, so we spent the week being very gentle with each other, walking slowly to minimise the aches in my head and because I couldn't get enough oxygen at any given moment. The (actually) awesome consequence of having returned to work is sick leave, however, with built-in childcare, so I did get to spend a couple of days (sadly non-consecutive) passed out on the couch.

I chose to spend it binge-watching episodes of Fringe, and I'm now halfway through the third season. I love the characters (Olivia Dunham in particular is fabulous, and ahead of her time in many respects, and I particularly love the way she was almost never (in fact never?) damselled during the first two seasons), but pretty much the entire first season and for much of the second, I couldn't for one moment forget The X-Files, the influence of which showed through all too readily. Although I will say one thing about X-Files which drove me crazy was the handling of the conspiracy aspect, which quickly became a desperate race between the viewers wanting to know more and the writers not quite having decided what lay at the base of it all and so simply loading on more and more and more mystery and confusion and I for one lost any and all confidence that the writers knew what they were doing, or even what they wanted to do. Fringe doesn't fall into that trap, thankfully,1 and now that it's hit its stride and departed from the influences that gave it birth, I'm loving it more and more.

the obligatory reminder

Three copies of Cherry Crow Children are currently up for grabs in a Goodreads giveaway

  1. ironically enough, given "Fringe" is created by J.J. Abrams, who, in "Lost", is famous for making that exact same mistake []
Jul 242015

I'm not entirely sure how I missed the news (I blame the recent haze of plague infecting my household), but I have only today realised that Cherry Crow Children is listed as a Goodreads giveaway!

There are three copies available, and the giveaway is open until 7 August: so go forth and enter, and let the world know it exists!


Cherry Crow Children

Jul 172015

The weeks flick-flick-flick by, and I need to journal, somewhere, somehow, even if only in fragments, even if only sporadically and devastatingly incompletely, what's been occupying my attention.

Like as not, it will mostly be stories or music that caught at my thoughts, but we'll see, I suppose.

This past few months, I've been reading the Twelve Planet stories. (I did not read my collection. My word-scoured brain does not yet admit that it exists. My cover is present because 11 doesn't tile well.) I hadn't gotten around to starting any of the collections before selling mine; and at that point I was too scared to read them, for fear of the extra draft-throttling pressure I knew I'd put on my own writing. But with the release of Cherry Crow Children into the wilds came freedom, to rest and to consume, and consume I have.

At last I am in the precise know regarding everyone's horror surrounding sugared almonds and that Kaaron Warren story. Also, I think Lisa Hannett and Angela Slatter came up with the best use of a ute ever. My heart has never cheered so hard as it did on finishing Kirstyn McDermott's "The Home For Broken Dolls", and reading Nightsiders now, in the face of Abbott and co's selfish intergenerational theft, is terrifying.

Taking in these stories and collections in the one dazed and desperate session has been like staggering out of sun-scorched wastes into an oasis. I have drunk down each story, greedy for more, and I have emerged on the other side with new, stricter, more nuanced standards by which to judge narratives. It's awesome.


Sometimes, not very often, but sometimes when the winds blow right, the summer heat is kind, and the rain trickles down just so, a woman is born of a jacaranda tree.

Having finished the Twelve Planets, I moved on to the rest of the overwhelming/comfortingly large bookshelf I use as a to-read stack, and picked out Angela Slatter's The Girl With No Hands. Quoted above is the opening paragraph of "The Jacaranda Wife", my absolute favourite line so far, and one of those lines that automatically makes my bones sigh as I sink into a story.


I came across Glitch via a genre-shaming write-up in the local paper. The story centres on a police officer in a small Australian town where six people have just crawled out of their graves. The whole season is currently available on iView; I logged on to watch the first episode and promptly mainlined all six episodes over two sleep-deprived nights.

Jun 212015
new boots

I noticed my walk the other day.

It used to be a no-nonsense, purposeful stride — but sometime over the past (how many?) years, it's degenerated. I could attribute some of it to motherhood: walking with an infant, and now a toddler, is hardly an exercise in speed. And there's been the social isolation of being a stay-at-home mum, of which I've still not entirely clawed my way free (because sleep deprivation, and busy) despite no longer doing the staying at home half. Some of it has to be due to my mental health, which, safe to say, is not currently at peak performance.

But that can't explain it all, can it? Because you guys, when did I get so very shrivelled up and shrunken in on myself?

I noticed it when I was stepping out of the bathroom at work. The place is like grand central station, and navigating its entrance and exit is an exercise in not getting smacked in the face by a swinging door or elbowed in the boob by someone leaping out of the way of said door. And as I was leaving the bathroom, I heard footsteps, so I hesitated where I stood until their owner stepped into view, to avoid a blind corner collision. So far, so normal. But when she appeared, I gave her a tight smile, and then I ducked my head down and to the side and scarpered past her. Like vermin dashing for the safety of darkness.

The realisation pulled me up mid-step. And to combat the self-loathing that washed over me as a consequence, I walked the rest of the way back to my desk with my head high and my shoulders ramrod straight and imagining I actually had the street-fighting cred to punch and stomp a villain to a bloody pulp should the need arise…

It was awesome. I've been making a conscious effort to walk less apologetically ever since, and it remains awesome.

So yesterday I stomped on out and bought new boots, boots to match (and maintain) my butt-thumpin' mood. On sale at half price, because taking names doesn't mean you must also be fiscally irresponsible.

new boots

They are helping me out something fierce. Plus they're super comfy, because apparently the Spanish really know how to make shoes.

 Posted by at 9:43 pm

the art of austen mengler

 the wages of salt  Comments Off on the art of austen mengler
Jun 152015


Came across this printed on a business card today: turns out @RattusAsh stumbled upon it at Swancon and picked it up because he liked the artwork.

This particular piece is called Survivor Slayer, by Austen Mengler, and he is exactly how I picture the theriomorphs from "The Wages of Salt". (Except I never pictured the gas mask, but now I'm asking myself why the hell not?)

Mengler's website features a host of wonderfully horrific creatures, although I think my favourite (apart from the beastie above, because how did Mengler get inside my head so perfectly?) would have to be Robin:


 Posted by at 8:24 pm  Tagged with: