Monday, December 28, 2009

How to Keep the Momentum Going?

I had a fantastic run with my Christmas stories on Suite101. I'd really only just figured out the SEO 'stuff' and it sure made a difference! Now that Christmas is over, page views have bottomed out. I'm not worried because I believe that's an established pattern but I do feel a bit flat and wondering how to keep the momentum going. The last few stories I wrote before Christmas were very intense as I tried to hone the keywords.

As a feature writer, I'm committed to posting a story a week in my topic which is NZ travel. A lovely visit to Paradise Valley Springs made a recent story. I went with my daughter and grandsons for their Parents-as-First-Teachers end-of-year Christmas picnic. I love all animals but the big cats are especially wonderful. The lion enclosure at Paradise Valley lets you get quite close to these fabulous creatures - we 'oooh' and 'aaah' but they are splendidly indifferent to us!

Another recent story is about the Ngongotaha Trout Hatchery - an interesting place to visit. There's no entry fee to the grounds of the trout hatchery, so for families on holiday it's a great place to stretch the legs, have a picnic and learn something about hatching and releasing trout which is the core business of the hatchery.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

CV Writing and Job Searching

Over the past 18 years or so I must have prepared 100s of CVs. The CV (or resume) and cover letter are the tools that will secure an interview. It's a waste of time sending away anything that looks sloppy - but it's amazing how lightly many people take these so-important documents.

As a general rule I think it's useful to get the CV prepared by someone who has experience in CV writing - you need someone who understands what information needs to be collected and recorded in order to best match the job description. People often want to include everything when what recruitment specialists are looking for is brevity and relevance. Although I'm mostly transitioning away from CV writing, here are a couple of links to Suite101 articles about CV preparation and job searching.

Monday, December 14, 2009

This is a fun card I made for my son's birthday. Made a collage first (hours spent searching through old magazines and cutting out scraps) then had it photocopied onto card. I love the original so much I'm having it framed. Adam loved it too. He's been away living on the other side of the world now for 10 years - such a long time with only a few visits in between. I made his crown with a scrap of wallpaper from his grandmother's bathroom. The fantail was photocopied from one of my own paintings to remind him of home.

All the images are copyright so this is just for my own amusement - not in any way for sale. Acknowledging NZ Resene Habitat magazine, Australian Home & Garden, NZ Home & Garden, Australian Country Looks, Air New Zealand Kia Ora magazine, NZ Her Magazine.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Busily writing for Suite 101

I started writing for Suite101 online magazine a year ago. Through the year I only managed to do the minimum number of articles required (10-12 over three months) but with a bit more time in October and November I posted a few more stories and learnt a lot about search engine optimisation. The Suite101 work has a lot of potential to build a tidy passive income over the next few years.

With Christmas coming, I've posted a few Christmas-related stories and they're doing well. I like the idea of donating a goat to a charity for Christmas. It's easy to get sucked into the Christmas-marketing whirlpool at this time of year, charging off to to buy mass-produced articles because the advertising's been imprinted on our psyche. But buying unique one-off gifts of original art is a cool and special thing to do for someone.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Sustainable Christmas Gifts - Paper, Cards, Junk Mail, Old Books

Over the weekend I had lots of fun using up old Christmas papers and cards to make gift wrap, cards and gift tags. I cut out shapes from old Christmas cards, junk mail and magazines to make a Christmas collage, stuck it all onto a piece of cardboard and had it photocopied in colour and black and white.

I started an altered book called 'Flowers from my Mother's Garden' - so far only one page done but it's a start! My mother's a beautiful person and she's always had a gorgeous garden. Some of those business cards that accumulate were used up to make Christmas gift tags - covered up the business details and stuck pics on the reverse side.

I was in my natural environment being up to my neck in bits of paper and glue and wrote an article about Sustainable Papercraft Christmas Gifts for Suite101.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Romance Writers and Psycho-Drama

On Saturday I made the two-hour trip to Piopio for the October meeting of our romance writers group (pic is Lake Whakamaru where I made a quick stop to take some photos). We met at a cafe called the Fat Pigeon for lunch then moved on to Jenny's home for a most enlightening afternoon. Our guest speaker was a psycho-drama specialist, Ana Namu. Ana demonstrated how we could use psycho-dramatic techniques to explore characterisation. It was a fascinating session. Actually putting oneself physically in the place of your characters, speaking aloud to them and responding likewise seemed to bring those elusive beings out of hiding. A marvellous way to challenge both writer and character to dig a little deeper and find solutions that might not be apparent when quietly thinking in front of the laptop.

The drive to Piopio along State Highway 30 was lovely. Late spring, the countryside glowingly green, old fruit trees with tangled branches growing by the roadside, spectacular views at the top of steep inclines, dips into quiet little valleys. Made me appreciate again how lucky I am to live in such a beautiful country.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Farewell Sir Howard Morrison

While we share the same home town, I never met Sir Howard Morrison, nor any members of his family. Sadly, I have no ear for music, but I certainly feel very sad that Sir Howard has died. I wonder if it's simply to do with getting older oneself, looking backwards along the trail of years.
I don't remember a time in my life when Sir Howard wasn't in it - 'My Old Man's An Allblack' emanating from the white bakelite radio that sat on the kitchen bench in our home in an isolated forestry village; smiling handsomely from the black and white TV set when our family moved into the suburbs; his rendition of 'How Great Thou Art' at a Royal Command Performance (colour TV this time and I can remember exactly where I was at the time); live performances at Rotorua Lakeside and Stadium concerts.
It could be that it's my own aging I grieve for, as much or more than, Sir Howard's death.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Writing romance / Mixed meda art

Drove through beautiful spring countryside up to the little gold-mining town of Waihi over the weekend to meet with other romance writers. As always we enjoyed a delicious lunch and lively conversation about various aspects of writing. Writers in the group are involved in different projects, some writing catalogue and others paranormal, fantasy or single title.
Sandra expanded our knowledge of blogging and shared a particularly good strategy for creating blog topics. Although romance writing hasn't featured largely on my agenda this year I always enjoy our meetings and come away with renewed inspiration. Am now a few pages into a catalogue romance and martialing myself into a new writing routine.
I also brought home the attached mixed media artwork: 'About the Obscure', by Sandra Toornstra, a writer and mixed media artist from Waihi. I ordered the piece from Sandra a few months ago but our paths haven't crossed until now so I was delighted to be able to finally bring my new piece of art home and hang it on my wall.
Another of our members hurried home and set up her own blog. Check out writer Shirley Wine's new blog.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Friday, August 21, 2009

Still Life in Blue

This is a really basic piece of art - acrylic on paper - but I'm going to have it framed because I feel as if I've made a breakthrough. Why? Because for the first time since I began painting four or five years ago, I had a clear awareness of what I had to do to achieve something like the finished piece I had in mind.

A few months back I felt as if I needed to go back to the beginning when I leap-frogged all the sensible advice about making colour charts, doing tonal studies etc. I just wanted to rush in and make pictures - not muck around with basic stuff!

Now, I somehow have an understanding that in order to advance I need to regroup. Since I started painting I've hardly read anything except art books and magazines so I've certainly been searching for knowledge and inspiration, but at the same time trying to avoid the hard yards.

Instead of buying canvases and worrying about wasting money I've been using deskpads, card and bits of board for practise. It's been very freeing and I'm so looking forward to the warmer weather when I can move outside and paint more often than I'm able to during the winter.

Inspirational Art

One of my favourite things is to come home (usually on a Friday evening) with a new pile of library books. We have a wonderful library and there are always new art books and magazines to tempt me, or old favourites to re-read.

I recently discovered an American magazine 'Cloth, Paper, Scissors' which is full of ideas for mixed media artists. Inspired by the work of Kelly Rae Roberts I made the attached art for my daughter, hoping to lift her spirits a little as she had seemed downhearted. I used a map of Europe for my angel's skirt to symbolise my daughter's brave, adventourous spirit in travelling through various parts of the world, and the bellbird (one of our native birds) to symbolise her return home to New Zealand. For some of the text I used excerpts from New Zealand writer, Shonagh Koea's 'Sing to Me, Dreamer', a novel I absolutely love.
My mixed media piece isn't for sale so I hope I'm not contravening any copyright laws. For me, this was a tiptoe into mixed media work, but I loved making this picture and I know I'll be doing more. I'm afraid there's nothing original in my piece but I'm spurred to use my own writing in future. We don't generally give ourselves enough credit for the day-to-day things we achieve - they might not be especially glorious but they're so often done to make others' lives more cheerful and comfortable; I think having a special piece of art to remind us of our unique qualities is a wonderfully uplifting and inspirational idea.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

NZ Affordable Art Show

This piece of my art sold at the NZ Affordable Art Show. I was so excited to be selected for this show and delighted to sell a piece among the many hundreds of great art works exhibited. I love painting the play of light and am currently experimenting with different ways of achieving this. Amongst friends and family I'm known as a bit of a pessimist and cynic, but I don't think I can be at heart, because in my art I prefer to reflect colour and joy than the greyness of sombre thoughts. Some of my art, including sold pieces, can be viewed on my website

Whoever bought my art - thank you. Naku noa (peace be with you).

Hunters, Rogues & Heroes by Connor McKenzie

Few know New Zealand's backcountry and byways, and the hunters who often inhabit them, as well as Connor McKenzie. Throughout his 50-plus years of hunting high-jinks, misadventures and 'success stories', he has amassed all sorts of yarns - always worth the telling, usually hard-case and, sometimes, even true. McKenzie has been NZ Outdoor Magazine's most popular author for some years and this collection of yarns is told in his legendary laconic style. Published in New Zealand by Raupo, a division of Penguin. Available at all good bookstores (NZ).

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Suite101 Articles - Visiting Napier & Hawke's Bay

We had a weekend break away in Napier a couple of weeks ago. It had been many years since I'd visited. What a lovely place! Very colourful and vibrant with gorgeous architecture, not only the Art Deco buildings, but there are also lovely old villas in the city and perched high on the surrounding hills.

Some of the highlights were the Art Gallery and Museum, the Hawke's Bay Farmers Market and the National Aquarium. I also loved it that the city is so close to the sea. Must be lovely if you work in town and can just wander over the street for lunch on the beach. I know I'll be visiting again and won't leave it so long next time!

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Art Selected for Affordable Art Show

I was amazed to learn that I had had three pieces of my art selected for the NZ Affordable Art Show beginning with a gala evening on 30th July and ending Sunday 2nd August. The show is at the TSB arena in Wellington. Work was selected from websites, DVD or by personal delivery.

I won't be going to the show but will be waiting with interest to see whether any of my work sells. There are are likely to be more than 2000 pieces up for sale so competition will be stiff. Whether I sell anything or not, it's so exciting to be among those artists selected for this show.

'Hunters, Rogues & Heroes' by Connor McKenzie

It's ages since I posted anything! Don't know where the last few months went to. Red's (Connor McKenzie) latest book has just been released by Penguin and he's busy being interviewed for both print and radio media. I know I'm biased but I think 'Hunters, Rogues and Heroes' is a great book. It's a collection of stories that has been published in NZ Outdoor over the past few years. I wonder how many people pick up that, although Red's stories are printed in an outdoor book and targeted at hunters, his stories are really about people, not hunting. He's acknowledged as NZ Outdoor's favourite author.

Monday, May 25, 2009

48 Hours of Furious Film-Making: Over

Well, we didn't make the final cut. We put something quite unique together but it seems the judges were going for jokey rather than thoughtful and quirky.

Our film 'Out of the Storm' presented fantastic camera work, precise editing, an original soundtrack and two promising young actors. We know we produced a quality product and WE ROCK!!

Sandra Toornstra Art

I fell in love with one of the mixed media artworks displayed recently on Sandra Toornstra's Dreamswork page. I contacted Sandra immediately with regards to purchase and soon it will be mine!

The moodiness of Sandra's figure work really appeals to me. This particular piece will be included in her Waihi exhibition over Queen's Birthday weekend. Not too long after that, it'll be hanging on my wall - which wall, I wonder? Deciding where to hang it could take a long, enjoyable time ...

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Another fantastic meeting of romance writers yesterday. This time we met in the Waikato in New Zealand's rural heartland. Writer Gracie O'Neil gave a great presentation about critiquing. Lots of questions were asked and I'm sure we all went away newly inspired.

Our chapter of New Zealand Romance Writers is spread out across a large area so the journey to meetings can be quite lengthy - for some, a five-six hour round trip. For me anyway, the effort is always worthwhile and I return home encouraged, rejuvenated and with another layer added to my store of writerly knowledge.
The final cut of our short film was submitted on time. The first heats have been screened and we're waiting to see whether we step up to the next level. The genre we received was 'Nature Run Amok'. We took a serious approach to it rather than the comedic delivery we thought other teams might go for. Random elements that had to be included were a character called Alex Puddle who is an exaggerator, a rock, and this line of dialogue: "It doesn't fit". The MovieTime Productions team stayed up all night of Friday 8 May (first time I've stayed up all night since I don't know when - I think I've only achieved it once in my entire life) to write the screenplay.Only the producer and editor saw the final cut before it was submitted but the whole team was treated to a showing after the heats. Our local Basement Theatre kindly let us use their venue. Not specifically, but especially, because we're all first-timers at film-making we think we did a great job. The filming took place at Hells Gate, Andrew's camera work is fantastic, the music by local band Harvest is awesome, Carla's final edit is precise and the two young actors were naturals. On Tuesday 26 May at 10:00am we'll know whether we've gone up to the next level. WATCH THIS SPACE!

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

48 Hours of Furious Film-Making!

Where did April go?!

We're now shooting towards the May 8 beginning of the 48-hour Furious Film Making Competition. From 7:00pm May 8 to 7:00pm May 10 a small team led by MovieTime's Layla Robinson will be furiously making a short film. The genres have been posted and if you have a look you'll see they're endless! We won't know until 7:00pm Friday night what our genre will be so it's going to be a fast, furious and challenging weekend indeed! My involvement will mainly be with the screenplay which we have to complete Friday night - an all night session coming up.

Also fast and furious is whitewater rafting. Check out my latest Suite101 story about four whitewater rafting adventures in the Central Plateau.

Romance Writing? I haven't done very much of this at all and I need to get my act together to meet my 23 May deadline of having first chapter of my WIP completed. I thought my life would be slowing down about now, but it's definitely speeding up - hope my brain can keep up with the pace!

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Romance Writing

A lovely day yesterday with seven of us getting together for our monthly Waikato/BOP Romance Writers meeting. It's always so inspiring to spend time with other writers - always something new to learn. One of our members, Helen, has an extensive background in fashion design and she talked about fashion through the ages - fascinating for all of us, but especially for those working on historical fiction. Who used to wear what in the 'olden days'? What were garments actually called? What fabrics were available?

Now I must knuckle down and write something . . .

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Writing a Screenplay!

My friend Layla from MovieTime has entered the 48 hour Furious Film-making competition and has invited me to be one of the writers on her screenplay team. Never written a play or screenplay so this is very exciting! It's totally serious stuff. We have to put together a short film (1 - 7 minutes) beginning Friday night May 8 and ending Sunday night May 10. Don't know the genre until Friday night. I've been researching writing for screen and finding it fascinating - it will have to be very succinct - hopefully we don't get animation or musicals!

Watched a DVD last night called Far North with Sean Bean, one of my favourite actors. I love movies about the frozen north but this one didn't deliver. Fabulous cinematography - the scenery is absolutely stunning. The end was gruesome and disturbing and would have been fine if it had brought storyline and characterisation together but it fell way short. Read my review of Far North on Suite101 (I might have been a bit harsh!). Special personal rant: Michelle Yeoh's beautiful youthful complexion after supposedly spending all her supposedly middle-aged life exposed to the elements of the polar climate.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

New Articles on Suite101

Have posted a few new articles on Suite101, most recently New Zealand: Country of Colour and Light and one on New Zealand Travel. I love writing about New Zealand. It's interesting that my most viewed Suite101 articles are one on the Monet exhibition in Wellington and another on my friend Janet Keen, who is a mosaic artist in Rotorua.
We have a fabulous day here today, Easter Friday - a wonderful time to be taking some photographs for other stories.

Made some progress on my new romance - I can say that I've got past the beginning!

So far I haven't sold any art from my exhibition at a local cafe - but have had some good comments. I'm not at all disheartened - it's been a very useful learning experience for me and has encouraged me to think about how to display and sell my work in future.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Another glorious day here in Rotorua New Zealand. We're well and truly on autumn's margin and the sky is a marvellous cerulean against foliage just beginning to turn golden. This is always a beautiful time of year. Had coffee with friends at the cafe where my art's on show. The artwork looked great and the cafe owner said people especially liked the tree series I call 'Backlit'. I hung this splatter picture of fantails in the cafe today.
I'd love it if this weather could go on forever but my friend Layla has a DVD store (read my article about MovieTime) and she'll be delighted when winter really kicks in. She can't wait until people want to do nothing but settle in for the night with a movie or three. Added a few lines to my new romance novel so I've gone a bit beyond the 'begin something new' commitment I made a week ago!

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Literacy Learning

Had another amazing day today. As part of my long-term plan of going into retirement years with workstreams that are rewarding and interesting, I've been taking part in some adult tutoring programmes. I'm currently enrolled with Literacy Aotearoa and working towards a National Certificate in Adult Literacy Education. Separate from this but related to adult literacy, today I attended the first of a two-day workshop about literacy in the workplace. A really energising day. Very clear and focused facilitating.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Busy day today. Continuing to build up articles for Suite101 - currently writing something about Tirau - the corrugated iron capital of New Zealand. The photo is of the corrugated iron poppies on the cafe where Sarah and I met for a coffee a couple of weeks back to talk about our new roles as co-convenors of the Waikato/BOP NZ Romance Writers group.
No painting done today but managed to fulfil the commitment to begin a new romance novel - just a handful of lines but it's a start! My hero and heroine have names but I can't 'see' them yet. She owns a boutique and he owns the building . . . what might happen to them over the next few months?

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Art Exhibition

This afternoon my daughter Angie came to help me hang paintings at Essence Cafe in Ngongotaha. Actually, Angie did most of the work, she being younger and more nimble than I. I stuck price tags on the wall and quivered inside. I guess everyone feels the same when they put their work out for public display. I needed a few more pieces but have very little to work with at the moment and not much time to get anything else done - it will be an interesting week for this learning artist - luckily I'll be too busy working to have much time to angst.

I'm totally new to blogging so be patient with me! Had a fabulous day today. Met up with other romance writers - the first meeting I've managed to get to in several months. The drive from Rotorua to Te Awamutu was made in sunshine all the way. Beautiful countryside and a good friend for company. At the meeting we made commitments to support each other through pieces of significant writing. Inspired by the afternoon, when I returned home I searched back through work begun and abandoned over the last 12 months. I know there's something in there I can expand and I feel a heightened sense of commitment and enthusiasm because of the time shared with other writers.

Tomorrow I look forward to an exciting, nerve-wracking day as I hang paintings for my first solo exhibition. It's just a small show in a cafe but it's released my closet drama queen! I feel as if I'm being hung out to dry along with my art - I can only wait and see.


All material on Art and Writing is owned by Lyn Rasmussen. Permission to republish in print or online must be granted by Lyn Rasmussen in writing.