Astronaut, Oceanographer, Actor, Teacher…Author?

What do you want to be when you grow up?

What? Grow up? Photo: Kids by gemteck1 (CC BY 2.0)
Photo: Kids by gemteck1 (CC BY 2.0)

What? Grow UP?

I’m sure you’ve been asked the question. I know I have. I wanted to be a great many things when I ‘grew up’. And in the end, I became something even better.

♦ Astronaut.
I’d seen a documentary and thought that would be the coolest job in the world. Only thing is, I don’t deal with inertia well. I’ve been on one roller-coaster ride in my life and that was more than enough. A never to be repeated experience, thank you very much. Plus when I started to learn about space at school, it was interesting but it didn’t grab me. It would have been a hard slog learning all the science involved. It just wasn’t my cup of tea. I was and am, much happier letting the stars of Star Wars, Star Trek and Firefly fly me through their imaginary space.

♦ Oceanographer
If you know me for any length of time, you know I’m a tragic Titanic fanatic. Not the 1997 movie. I was crazy about the Titanic long before that. Since the day my brother received a book by Robert Ballard on the Titanic, for his 11th birthday. He wasn’t that interested, but the second I got my hands on that book, I was hooked. At first it was just the ship, then ship wreaks in general, then oceanic plates, marine life, even down to Hydrothermal Vents and black smokers. The underwater world fascinates me. My attention has long since departed from the extraterrestrial and fixed itself firmly in the deep. The Titanic will always be a love of mine, but I will watch any documentary, read any book or article on underwater exploration. For all my interest in that world within a world, I never got the chance to study Oceanography. Life had other plans.

♦ Actor
For some reason people never expect shy, introverted kids to like acting. It’s the life for the extroverts. The attention-seekers. The little show offs. So when I saw my first live play (and a musical to boot – Annie) when I was 13, I never thought to ever be on the stage. The very same year, I was allowed to take drama at school. And loved it. I may have been shy, I may have been teased, I may have been uncomfortable in my own skin…but on stage – I wasn’t me. I was a character breathed to life with costumes and lights. It was magical. And apparently I had enough talent and tanacity to make it through all 4 years of high school drama with straight A’s. I signed up for any musical going and became a member of the amateur theatre company. I never got the leads, but I always got the roles I auditioned for. And once I got a minor lead because with ten days to go the actor pulled out, and the director know I could learn the lines in time, and hit it out of the ball park. Which…cough….I did.  (Actually, come to think of it…that happened three times. I got minor leads because other people pulled out at the last minute. )
The first time my husband saw me, I was on stage. He said I wasn’t the prettiest girl there, but I was the most magnetic. I owned that stage, and he couldn’t take his eyes off me. I love acting. But I haven’t done it in years. Yet again, life took me away from my plans to audition for NIDA, and to have a go at the life of an actor. (Probably, just as well 🙂 )

♦ Teacher
Those that can, do. Those that can’t, teach. That’s what they say. I couldn’t be an Actor, but I could do the next best thing. I could be an English and Drama teacher. That at least, was solid, mostly predicable work. I had plans for it. I had the course picked out, and the university application letters in my hand. I had it all worked out. But again, that little four letter word ‘life’ got in the way. It threw such a huge curve ball, that we ended up moving states, towns, comfort zones, and leaving that particular dream behind.  I could no longer afford the luxury of dreaming about attending university. I needed a job, and it was a case of ‘any job’. Right now.

♦ Admin Officer
And that’s how I started in Admin. Admin was never something I ever dreamed of doing as a kid. I never looked up at the stars imagining that one day I’d work at an office, behind a computer, shuffling papers. But it’s funny how life works out. Since I was in Admin anyway, I did the trade certificates that went with it. So I am a qualified, more than a decade employed, Admin officer. Not an Astronaut, not an Oceanographer, not an actor, not even a teacher. An Admin officer.

Never, never, never in my wildest dreams did I ever think I’d be an Author. Sure I loved reading. Still do. Sure I used to waste time scribbling crappy stories, and pretend interviews with imaginary people on scrap paper and notepads long disappeared. People didn’t write books. Books just magically appeared on the shelves of libraries. Didn’t they?
Then one day I had an idea. I didn’t like how the ending of a show happened, and I complained to my husband.
I said “It should have ended this way.”.
And he said the immortal words. “Well, write it.”
And I did. 8 months later, I had a 102,000 word manuscript and the bug had bitten hard. Nearly nine years after that, I published my first book. I am an Author. For nine years I dreamed I would be, and for 15 months I have been.

It just goes to show. What you think you’re going to be ‘when you grow up’, may never happen. Life has a funny way of putting up road blocks, but at the same time takes you on a journey that leads to places you could never have imagined.


Write What You Know.

Writing on notepad
Photo: Business of Software by Betsy Weber. CC BY 2.0

I was asked if I agree with the old adage ‘write what you know’. I grew up hearing that. It is what was taught through my high school years. It makes sense doesn’t it?
Write what you know.

As I reflected upon it though, I realised that in its purest and most logical form – I don’t agree with it at all. If I only wrote what I knew, then I’d be in very limited supply for story ideas.
I’ve never met a man cursed behind a mirror. (Shattered)
I’ve never lived the life of a Nephilim. (Nova)
Yet I’ve written about these things. Surely that is not writing what I know. I’m not writing things that I’ve experienced, at least not plot wise.

Taken as an elemental truth, then yes I agree with it.
I do know what it’s like to have the drive to help another in their cause, and resort to using skills in areas that bore me to tears, in doing it. (Shattered)
I do know what it’s like to go through a major change in life, thinking I was all alone through it, and finding out in hindsight that I was never alone, after all. (Nova)

I’ve met people and been in situations that tested me and changed me. It may not be the same arc my characters go through, but the experience behind it pulls it through. It’s kind of like acting I suppose. You may have never been in that situation before (don’t tell me Matt Damon has ever been an assassin) but in defining the character in a relatable way, doing research, talking to people who’ve ‘been there’ or ‘been close to there’, and bringing your own unique personality and ‘voice’ you tell the story. You bring to it ‘what you know’.

And ‘what you know’ is always changing. At thirty, you know things you didn’t know in high school and I’m not just talking about exam-passing knowledge either. Even though, along the way you do pick up a heck of a lot more ‘head knowledge’ too. At forty, you’ve gained more life experience and faced different challenges than your thirty-year-old self. And so on up the line of decades.

So in essence, I do agree with the old ‘write what you know’ adage, but not in its most logical and literal translation. It means that I can write a story about someone being in the Army even though I’ve never been there. Research, interviews, and listening to the life stories of others, mixed with the emotional and reactional experience of my own life and situation (what I know) can make for a great story.

So who knows, what I will know for the next book…you know?

The Show Must Go On; Writing 101 Challenge – Day 15

Day 15 – You’re told that an event that’s dear to your heart — an annual fair, festival, or conference — will be cancelled forever (or taken over by an evil organization). Write about it. Hone that voice of yours!

I’m kind of a gypsy when it comes to events. I don’t have one I attend ‘every year’. If I’m interested, I’ll go. If not, I won’t.

Until it comes to theatre. I love live performances. It can be a simple busker strumming his guitar on the street, all the way through to a full on bells and whistles Broadway performance. It doesn’t even have to be a musical. Straight theatre is just as good.

I couldn’t imagining anyone cancelling live theatre, but I suppose it could be possible. If people can ban dancing as a form of hedonism, then the same could also be for theatre. Theatre is a platform for nearly everything under the sun. Every story lived by a human is condensed, transformed, trimmed and performed.

Life with all the boring bits taken out.

Like a breath puffed through an opening hand of glitter; theatre sparkles with truth, isolation, anger, pain, phoenix risings, injustices, politics, laws, evil, good, death, life, hope, growth and hidden things revealed.  You take that away and life becomes robotic. Automatons marching through the motions. Why bother fighting? Why bother dreaming? Why bother living? You may as well lie down and sleep yourself to death.

“It can be done in a movie too, you know. Better and bigger.”

True. However, movies are edited, re-shot, pick ups added, actors re-voiced, and incorrect shots smoothed out. Mistakes are removed. Sure you can watch the bloopers, but it’s not the same as watching a live performance when the tension of failure is paramount, and yet still draws you into the story.Read More »

An Ocean of Songs; Writing 101 Challenge – Day 3

Day 3 – Write about the three most important songs in your life — what do they mean to you?

What at the three most important songs in my life?

I’m not sure.

I have two ‘favourite’ songs, but they’re my favourite because I like to listen to them. I have an ‘our’ song with my husband, does that mean it rates higher on the ‘important’ song list because of the connotation?

I have such an eclectic taste in music. I listen to different music all the time. Sometimes multiple styles in the one day. It depends how I’m feeling or what I’m doing. If it’s housework, I want something with a beat that I can blast from the speakers. If it’s trying to focus I want something without lyrics. If I’m trying to get out of a funk, then I want the lyrics.Read More »