The World According to Renee

Views, Reviews, Randoms and More…

Grief

daisy (reduced)
Image by grief.org.au

Grief sucks. It’s a natural response to loss, most often triggered by death of a loved one (person or pet).

I’ve had a project in mind for quite some time. Several years ago, a friend lost her child to cancer and something she said at the time has stuck with me: I just wish people would say something. By keeping silent, she felt people were not validating her loss.

Although she has a lot of friends on and offline, she felt few of them reached out to her to offer condolences. People just don’t know what to say, especially when the loss is too horrible to comprehend.

Since then, I’ve wanted to write a book about dealing with grieving people. There’s tons of information, books, and websites about how to deal with grief, but not about what to say to grieving people. Grief is something that happens to all of us – why is it so hard to find something to say? Obviously, nothing is going to make the grief suddenly go away, but people generally find comfort in others.

To get started on this project, I’ve devised a survey. It’s a series of questions about events that trigger grief and how you felt when people did or didn’t respond. The survey takes around 20 minutes depending on the detail of your answers: I’m ever so grateful for as much detail as possible. There’s no identifying information, unless you’ve already told me the circumstances of the tragedy. Otherwise, I have no idea who wrote what. Individual answers may be included in the book.

If you’d like to participate, please follow the link: https://surveyhero.com/c/8bf2609.

Much love to you, and I am sorry for your loss.

 

 

/

June 21, 2017 Posted by | Thoughts & Reflections | , , , , , | Leave a comment

March

Yikes! Where did March go?

Yes, I’m a little behind in this month’s story. In fact, I only started it today despite thinking about it all last month.

This story started out differently. It was to tell the story of Stepsi and four friends with a twist at the end (I love twists). Instead, it evolved into exploring the relationship between Stepsi and her mother, also with a twist at the end.

Stepsi was originally a young woman around twenty, but she’s now six years old. She sees and communicates with ghosts, and her mother doesn’t believe her. Six is far too old to be making up stories about people who don’t exist. (Personally, I think this means Stepsi is going to grow up to be a writer…)

Stepsi’s name has been in my head for a while. I’m not sure where it came from but the seeds of it probably came from mishearing a word, or possibly from early ads for this season of MKR in which Hazel and Lisa, stepmother and stepdaughter, were referred to as Stepsies. Either way, Stepsi is unique.

Kids’ imaginations often run wild and for some reason, adults tend to quash them. Whether Stepsi is actually seeing ghosts or not, the issue is her mother, who fights to normalise her daughter. In my mind, this “normalisation” is the issue, not the supernatural. What is normal? Why are we quashing imaginations? Who decided that kids need to conform to the rigidity of adult life? What’s wrong with imagination? For that matter, what’s so wrong about talking to the dead?

April 11, 2016 Posted by | Short Stories | , , , | Leave a comment

February 2016

February’s story doesn’t have a title yet. Its working title is the uncreative Valentine’s Day and is essentially a love letter to my sixteen year old self.

February is full of love and retail. Just this morning, I walked past several jewellery stores proclaiming love is best said with diamonds. One 1ct diamond ring was $1799 reduced to $799. Makes me wonder if the ring was originally 2ct and one fell out.

These days, I don’t do anything for Valentine’s Day. I tell my boyfriend every day that I love and appreciate him. Plus I really don’t want an oversized stuffed gorilla holding a heart. Once upon a time, in the days before I’d ever had a boyfriend, Valentine’s Day was important. It showed the world that someone cared about me and I cared about them too. It was a day to celebrate our love with cards and roses and chocolates and a nice kiss. It was a day to say goodbye to being single and revel in the warm, gooey feelings of having a boyfriend.

Valentine’s Day represented everything my sixteen year old self wanted. This short story is an amalgamation of all those teenage thoughts and feelings, the desire to tell my crush I loved him but avoiding the public embarrassment should anyone find out. The boy-crush of this story is also a combination of high school boys I had a crush on, with added extra bits of awesome thrown in. He represents everything I wanted in a teenage boyfriend, along with dreams of our future life together.

Dear 16 year old self,
You’re so cute. Those guys don’t know what they missed. Wait for someone worthy of you.
Love, yourself in 20 years.

February 10, 2016 Posted by | Short Stories | , , , | Leave a comment

January 2016

Sometime last month, I decided I would write a short story each month of 2016 with the intention of self-publishing an e-book at the end of the year. No biggie.

Lately I’ve been feeling creatively unfulfilled. I constantly have things running through my head with no outlet. I’m unproductive. I seem to be doing a lot with nothing to show for it except a clean, well-fed baby and not burning my workplace to the ground (accidentally, of course…).

One night as I was driving home from work, I was listening to the radio and singing along (as I often do). Goo Goo Dolls’ 90s hit ‘Slide’ came on. Even though I’ve sung it a thousand times, one lyric caught my attention and I thought I could do something with it. I did. January’s short story is called Slide and I just finished editing it last week. It’s not the most cheery story, it’s not at all autobiographical, I just liked where that one lyric took me.

Slide is a story about desire and where desire can take us. Although I’ve chosen the dark places desire can lead, it can also be a creative force which drives us to do whatever we want, wherever we want to go and end up in the best possible place for ourselves.

I hope these stories showcase life, love and loss in all their gritty, beautiful glories. Don’t worry, February’s story is a lot cheerier!

February 9, 2016 Posted by | Short Stories | , , , , | Leave a comment

It’s Not Enough

I’ve just found my new favourite book: Story by Robert McKee. I’d like to say I came across this gem while poring over wares in a secondhand book store, with the powdery, sweet smell of old pages caressing my nostrils as I search for literary perfection. Truth is, I bought it from eBay as textbook for my unit next semester. 

I’ve never been so excited to read a textbook. Since Monday, the book has been teasing me, willing me to open it and absorb wisdom. This morning, I relented. I sat in the winter sunshine with a highlighter and let my brain absorb the awe. 

I’ve said many times that you don’t need to be a great writer to be a successful one. Judging by the shit movies that Hollywood churns out year after year, you don’t even have to have an original story. This book argues that the only thing you need is creativity. You don’t have to be a good speller (I disagree), but you do need a story. Not just an observational journey, but a deep understanding or questioning of Truth. That Truth can be anywhere: slice-of-life, fantasy, anthropomorphic animals… This Truth is what drives humans and enriches lives, both of the characters and the audience. 

I’ve discovered I’ve made a novice mistake: relying solely on experience the work of others who inspire me. Instead, I should be learning my craft (which, incidentally, is why I disagree that a good writer can be a bad speller. You can’t be a good builder if you can’t use a hammer). 

This is probably the first of many posts in which lightbulbs flash over my head as I learn to set creativity free instead of keeping it rigid and locked in a cage along with everything I have ever read. 

August 22, 2013 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , | 1 Comment

I want to be a writer

This post was inspired by my friend Devin’s blog. She outlines specific moments in her life leading to the moment she knew she was a writer.

The question every kid gets is, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” My answer depended on how I was feeling that day. Truthfully though, I had no idea. I knew I liked writing and I worked on trying to get better. In the fifth grade, if we finished our work early, we could use the extra time to write a story which would be hung on the back wall for everyone to read. I only had a couple of stories there; I always took too long in finishing my work.

In high school, we had a writer in residence but I’d been sick the day of registration so I missed the opportunity to bask in his wisdom (as it happens, I can’t even remember who it was!) During this time, we got our very first home computer (complete with a whopping 25mb of RAM!). My sister and I had a writing challenge: we’d give each other the first sentence and you’d have to write as much as you can in 15 minutes. Some of those stories were priceless, but are now sadly lost to the mists of time.

As an adult, I told people I wanted to be a writer. I had various stories and ideas saved to the computer but was too shy to let anyone read them.

Then it happened: One day, I was at a seminar and met a copywriter. I’d been doing this for years in various jobs with no idea it was a job of its own! I signed up, did the course and started writing my little heart out. Herein lies the biggest secret: In the course, the first piece of advice was to tell people you’re a copywriter because you never know where it will lead and it’s often your immediate friends and family who give you your first jobs. Whereas I’d always thought “I want to be a writer”, I’d forgotten that I already was. Now, when people say to me “I want to be a writer”, I ask, “How will you know when you are one?” Often, their answer is, “When I’m published”. My reply: “Don’t you need to write something in order to be published? So yes, you’re already a writer!”

Being a published author is a journey, being a writer isn’t. I know people who are great storytellers but not good writers, and I know of successful writers who are rubbish storytellers.

 

July 23, 2013 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , | 1 Comment

This is What I Know

I know I’m not the sharpest tool in the shed. I’m not a complete idiot, although I act like it sometimes. I make stupid mistakes and I don’t work well with numbers.

There are a lot of things that define me. “What do you do?” Well, I do a lot of things. I’m a blogger, a uni student, a retail worker, team leader, writer and avid watcher of film and TV. Somehow, all people see is one aspect.

I also know that when I get a dickhead customer, I feel the need to defend (and define) myself. One customer said to me today, “Are you still selling doughnuts? You were here when I was last here!” Uh, yeah. This is my job, where else would I be? Some hours later, just before close, I gave someone else what he asked for, but yet I’m the stupid one for not giving him the one he meant.

Today was one of those slow days where I get my actual work done very quickly and I spent the rest of the afternoon in “thinking time”. Today, I thought about stars and galaxies and how they came to be. I have a keen interest in the sciences but I’ll never be a scientist- I’ll need some hardcore maths to get there and I stumble over the simplest equations.

I know I’ll never be an acclaimed writer. I’m not creative enough and I don’t write great prose. I know I’ll never be a great singer because I am completely tone deaf and can’t hold a tune.

What do I know? I know I’m good at my job. I know I’m a good student. I know I’m a good writer. I know people will read this post and think I’m feeling down on myself. I know that my job selling doughnuts has no reflection on who I am and what else I do. I know that what people think doesn’t define me. Above all, I know I’m better than that.

July 16, 2013 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Fin

Yes boys and girls, I completed the epic task of 50,000 words in a NaNoWriMo month! (Plus the other essays and assorted writings I was doing during November…) My best day was Saturday, 24 November when I wrote a whopping 11,000 words in a day. It was all because I had taken the weekend off to attend a writer’s retreat on the beautiful Stradbroke Island in Queensland. I’m so glad I did! I met a bunch of awesome people, got very little sleep (thanks to some all-night singing) and absorbed much inspiration via osmosis from the lovely people around me. I will definitely do it again should the opportunity present itself.

I have withdrawn from uni for this semester though. I felt that my being away for 3 weeks in January 2013 (a quarter of the semester) would be of detriment and I wouldn’t be able to dedicate my best effort. So far, it’s been two weeks and I’m a bit lost. I have nothing to do… so I thought it would be a great time to start a new blog about watching an episode of The Simpsons every day until I have seen every episode. Follow the insanity here.

As for my NaNo novel, I really like the work I have done on it and plan to continue with that journey. Firstly, I need to finish it. Then comes the process of editing and eventually, I think I would like to self-publish on a platform such as iTunes and/or Google books etc. Just to be part of the process, ya know?

Thanks to everyone for putting up with me, especially to my boyfriend who basically didn’t see me at all for the last two weeks of November as I spent every waking minute writing or at work. A special thankyou to Bryce Courtenay, who passed away recently. Thankyou for the stories, for your dedication in getting a novel written every year and for sharing so much with us. You’re sadly missed already.

December 8, 2012 Posted by | Thoughts & Reflections | , , , , , | Leave a comment

When Imagination Takes Over

First, allow me to apologise for my recent lack of posts. I notice that my last post was in June! How time flies whether you’re having fun or not…

Secondly, here’s one of the reasons I have been busy this month. Image

Thirdly, I am also currently writing two essays due this Friday. I’m starting to think I’ve bitten off more than I can chew for this month, this week at least.

For the past week, I have spent every waking moment writing. Obviously, I am writing this blog post, but I’ve also been writing 50,000 words for the NaNoWriMo challenge as well as these two essays. (Apologies to my boyfriend, I will be back in reality sometime next week…) I’ve written before about the magic of NaNoWriMo, which never fails to astonish me. When I was a kid, I remember writing a letter to a favourite author asking why she had killed off my favourite character. She actually replied, saying it was something that needed to happen. This has always puzzled me. You’re the author, you get to decide what happens, how could you let this character be killed? As I ventured deeper into the world of writing, I find that sometimes, amazingly, your characters absolutely have a life of their own. In my current NaNoWriMo project, two of my characters did something I wasn’t expecting. Michelle, the wife, kicked her husband James out of the house after surprising him with some midday shenanigans in his office. Four chapters later, he retaliates by picking up a woman in a bar and taking her home. Where did that come from? Based on the successful word count of that chapter (almost 3000 words), I decided that another male character, Ben, also needed to get laid. I’m sure Ben was grateful for the experience.

After an hour or two of letting my brain wander all over the page with NaNo, it’s time to focus on either essay. I don’t mind writing essays but I do find them tedious. For every hour of writing, there’s three hours of research behind it. For the record, one essay is 2000 words about television’s reaction to youth culture by comparing The Monkees with The Simpsons. The other essay is about how radio advanced the discipline of journalism. No, it’s not very exciting but luckily is only a thousand words. Hence my dedication to writing this month, and indeed, taking up almost every available minute of this week in particular. By the end of the month I will have over 53,000 words to show for my effort (not included incidental writings such as emails, this blog post and my shopping list).

A few years ago, I saw an interview with Bryce Courtenay, who said writing is a full time job for him. He sits down to write at 7am and doesn’t finish til at least 5pm, often later. I admire someone who can keep going for that amount of time every day. I usually run out of ideas within an hour or two (but then again I’m a terrible planner, nothing I write started off with a well thought-out plan. Perhaps this is where I’m going wrong?) My 2010 effort at NaNoWriMo went pretty well. As soon as I realised 1667 words a day wasn’t too hard, I managed to scrape together enough to “win” the challenge. Truthfully, the only reason I decided to do it again this year was because I was invited to a writer’s retreat on the beautiful Stradbroke Island and thought I should make an effort to write a novel…

My point for this blog is this: Writing can be as easy or as difficult as you like. What I have learned over the past two weeks is that I can easily clear my mind by pouring out 1667 words which will hopefully come together as a coherent novel (as an aside, I like this effort much better than my 2010 effort, which is probably only suitable for Mills & Boon readers). After clearing the mind, it is free to focus on interesting tidbits in which to base an essay upon. I’ve also learned that if you are falling behind and need more hours in the day to write, the internet will fail you at work and you will end up spending seven hours texting your friend from another store to pass the time.

See you again sometime next week… Assuming I survive this War of Words.

November 20, 2012 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , | Leave a comment

The First 10,000 Words

This post is a Q&A about my project for NaNoWriMo.

Q: Who are the characters?

A: There are three main characters; Amy, Mart and Campbell. Amy is a travel writer in her late 20’s. Mart is her openly gay flatmate. Campbell is the guy Amy has an affair with.

Q: Are the characters based on anyone from real life?

A: Well, yes and no. Amy has experiences similar to my own but right now she’s nothing like anyone I personally know. Campbell has similarities to people I know, and some aspects of his life (mainly career) are things I had to ask people I know in order to research. The idea of Campbell has basis in reality, although the character doesn’t. Mart is an amalgamation of all my gay male friends- they’ll definitely see parts of themselves in Mart (only the good bits though!) Mart is the comic relief, the epitome of the lighter side of life. He’s my favourite character to write.

Q: Where did the idea come from?

A: My friend Katariina told me about NaNoWriMo last year… on Halloween. I promised myself I’d do it this year so I registered early and got things together. I had no idea what I was going to write until about a week before it started. I had a vivid dream involving the basic plot and some scenes. I wrote it all down when I woke up, then formed the synopsis around it. Once November 1 came around, I started writing and it just flowed. The story has elements of my life; for example, I went to Bali last year over Christmas/New Year for a friend’s wedding, but the actual affair bit is pure imagination.

Q: Where do you write?

A: At work during quiet moments or on my laptop at home. I’m constantly emailing copies of the draft to myself so I always have the latest copy nearby. Plus I have a notebook in case anything pops into my head at other times, like when I’m out walking.

Q: What will you do with it once NaNoWriMo is over?

A: No idea! Lots of novels started during NaNoWriMo have been published and have been successful. Water For Elephants by Sara Gruen is just one; they’ve filmed it and the movie will be released next year. While that’s obviously a lovely dream, to be honest I’d just like to finish writing the novel before I decide what I can do with it.

Q: How have you found the process?

A: Easier than I expected, actually. The goal is to write 50,000 words in the month of November. That’s 1667 words a day, or about four A4 pages. I write longer emails than that, so I knew I could do it! So far I’ve missed only two days, but I’d like to get at least some writing done every day. I told everyone I know that I’m doing this, and everyone has been really supportive.

 

November 8, 2010 Posted by | Thoughts & Reflections | , , | Leave a comment