jhamby

Writing course wishlist

Writing course wishlist

I have $20 to spend on a writing course. Woohoo! 

How? I filled out the Australian Writers’ Centre survey and they gave it to me. For free. It was quick and easy to do. I love this team of industry professionals, they are so generous and welcoming!

So the question is: 

Which one??? 

Click on the course name to be directed to the website and a full description. 
Advanced Fiction Writing

I’ve done the creative writing stage 1 course, this is supposed to be the next step. I’m hesitating, because I like to jump steps and some of the other courses on this list grab me more. But I’m also not sure this is a step I can afford to jump?!

Write your novel program

This is a six month program, which means it’s really exxy overall, but great value on a monthly basis. I’m not sure which novel to use it on – the current first draft or the shiny new idea or even the 15 year idea that I keep shelving? But I’m really tempted to try it. 

Editing Essentials

I want my novel to be the best it can be before I submit it to agents or publishers. That means not submitting my first draft. I need to know how to edit. Full stop. 

Kate Forsyth’s History, Mystery and Magic course

I want to write a novel like this one day and I want to sit a course led by Kate Forsyth. So this would be amazing! Full details are not yet available, tear. So I’ll have to wait.

What course would you take? Have you taken any of them before? 

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Helvellyn and Aira Force 

Helvellyn and Aira Force 

The Lakes are a beautiful place. Enchanting and absorbing. It’s the kind of place where you turn a corner and expect to find a faery ring.

On the final night of my visit I dreamt of dragons (and no, I was too busy travelling I hadn’t caught up on Game of Thrones then … I have now!).

My husband and I climbed Helvellyn. We had good shoes and water and a couple of snack bars. But apparently we should have had a map and a compass. My husband also should have had something more waterproof than a poncho and I should have had gloves. In other words, we should have known better.

But we survived! We conquered Helvellyn! The views were amazing!


We weren’t the only #BadHikers. There were plenty of people around. People running up it in tiny shorts. People with dogs: big and small, trekking through the sleet. People with kids that were noticeably quieter on the way down, half frozen, and needing an extra hand to catch them when they tripped. They all beat us down!

It was incredible. I had forgotten how exhilarating it is to reach the top of a mountain. It’s been a while since I’ve hiked.  I’ve been up Ben Nevis before and through mountains in Switzerland and Australia. I’ve skiied back in Aus, but not recently.

But this climb was brilliant, because it had been so long, because it was with my husband who had a great sense of humour in his Disneyland poncho and Superman tshirt, because the views were amazing.

It is very humbling getting to the top and feeling the sleet hit hard across your face. Your fingers are frozen. It’s a different weather system up the top of a mountain. I’d forgotten. I hope I don’t forget again. Gloves really are essential!


Wandering around Aira Force was a stroll in comparison. A beautiful forest stroll accompanied by the sound of the river bubbling along beside us and the gush of the cascades. It was crucial to wear good shoes, as it got pretty slippy in places, but it is suitable for all ages and dogs. 

All in all, both are highly recommended, just for very different things. What is your favourite part of the Lakes?

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Haddon Hall: for Jane Eyre and Princess Bride fans

Haddon Hall: for Jane Eyre and Princess Bride fans

Haddon hall is gorgeous and full of real and cinematic history.

There is no rope or prescribed route. Minimal crowds. You meander your way through as you please.

An oakpanelled room had an open fire and a musician playing twice during the day. A classical guitarist strummed to our visit, but I think they change it up regularly. It cost no extra. You could walk in and walk out as the music suited you.

The garden held a small wedding while we visited… and you could see why. It was so beautifully kept and in keeping with the stony backdrop of the Hall.

It’s a Medieval hall that used to be separate buildings, a hall, a chapel, the kitchens, but over time as the technology improved and the risk of fire reduced, they were connected. Tapestries depicting the senses decorate the walls. The main hall has a slightly raised dais at one end, and a manacle to chain you to the wall at the other end. Time was that refusing to drink was a punishable crime against the spirit of conviviality.

The royals seem to enjoy visiting the hall, they have graffitied the wall above one of the fireplaces. It is covered with glass or something to protect it.

So what kind of literary fan are you? If you were to visit Haddon Hall would you see Mr Rochester’s Thornfield or Prince Humperdinck’s castle?

I adore both. Jane Eyre for its intensity and richness of character. Princess Bride for its comedic value- and one of the best sword fighting scenes ever. I’ve read the books, I’ve watched the films.

Even so, I don’t always like Mr Rochester, I think he’s a bit of a git. As for The Princess Bride, it is soooo corny. The side of my cheek is sore from biting it by the end.

Here are some of my favourite quotes from each:

Jane Eyre

“Do you think I am an automaton?–a machine without feelings? and can bear to have my morsel of bread snatched from my lips, and my drop of living water dashed from my cup? Do you think, because I am poor, obscure, plain, and little, I am soulless and heartless? You think wrong!–I have as much soul as you,–and full as much heart! And if God had gifted me with some beauty and much wealth, I should have made it as hard for you to leave me, as it is now for me to leave you. I am not talking to you now through the medium of custom, conventionalities, nor even of mortal flesh;–it is my spirit that addresses your spirit; just as if both had passed through the grave, and we stood at God’s feet, equal,–as we are!”

“I would always rather be happy than dignified.”

The Princess Bride

“Hello! My name is Inigo Montoya, you killed my father, prepare to die!”

“As you wish!”

“They’re kissing again. Do we have to read the kissing parts?”

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Chatsworth house or Lyme park?

Chatsworth house or Lyme park?

If you’re a Pride and Prejudice fan (guilty! Though Persuasion is my favourite Austen) then you’ll likely be familiar with this question. Which makes for a better Pemberley?

Luckily you don’t have to answer it because you can visit both in person like my husband and I did. Or watch either as Pemberley.

In the 1995 BBC TV series, Lyme Park is used as Pemberley, in the famous lake scene semi-recreated here by my handsome hubby.


In the Kiera Knightley version, Chatsworth house features. For Austen fans, Chatsworth house has the added benefit of being visited by Elizabeth Bennet in her tour of Derbyshire with her aunt and uncle.

Both houses and grounds are truly stunning, but with very different histories.

Lyme Park, house and garden was famously home to the Legh family. The house was built in the late 16th century, but Thomas Legh directed substantial renovations to the property in the Regency era. The tour of the house centres on the life of Thomas Legh, an adventurer who traveled through Egypt and wrote about his experiences. On returning home, he became an entrepreneur. The library is also home to the Lyme missal, a 15th century prayer book, touted as the most important printed book the National Trust’s collection.

I loved Lyme Park because we saw a magnificent herd of deer grazing. They also had a second hand bookstore in the basement. There was a lego tour and an opportunity to dress up for families, which was very sweet. My husband and I walked on though. We’ve done P&P dress up before 🙂 I’ll save that for another post. Lyme Park was also less busy than Chatsworth to my delight and relaxation.

Pro tips:

1) Ask the staff lots of questions, they know heaps of history!

2) Wander up to the deer park for a gander.

Chatsworth house was the 16th century home to Bess of Hardwick, the second most important woman in Elizabethan England. The house is still occupied by the Cavendish line (of her second husband). Her fourth and final husband, the Earl of Shrewsbury, was tasked with being custodian of Mary Queen of Scots who was kept prisoner at Chatsworth house for a time.

I loved Chatsworth house because it had vast landscaped gardens you could amble through and lose the crowds that gathered in the house. The maze was magnificent and challenging. The house and family have a strong connection with fashion throughout history and there is currently an exhibition throughout the entire house celebrating this relationship. In the chapel, the family wedding dresses, christening gowns and mourning clothes were displayed – it was a deeply moving tribute to life and death through fashion.

Pro tips:

1) We did the garden first thing in the morning, and the house later in the day. The queue for the house was crazy long first thing.

2) Visit nearby Bakewell and The Bakewell Tart Shop (in the footsteps of Patrick Stewart and Ian McKellan). The Bakewell tart is delicious.

I can’t choose a favourite between them. Can you?

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10 London Favourites

10 London Favourites

My time in London is coming to an end after 18 months of incredible experiences. Here are just a few, not strictly in order except for number ten… that one is definitely last:

  1. West End – All the theatre. All the musicals. All of it. I’ve absolutely loved it!
  2. The Globe – because, duh. My favourite was Imogen, an adaptation of Shakespeare’s Cymbeline. So many abs! The cast were all such fit dancers. It was an incredible performance.
  3. National Theatre – Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night is a longstanding favourite of mine and they did it so very well.
  4. The extra large Foyles, second-hand bookstores on Charing-Cross Road, the Piccadilly Waterstones. The smell of books!
  5. Secret Cinema – Moulin Rouge – my God! I have never seen anything like it. Secret Cinema’s immersive experience surpassed all expectations. You’re not just seeing and hearing. You get to live and breathe it. You get woven into and swept up and away in the magic of that world. It was incredible!
  6. Walking across London Bridge and looking across the Thames at Tower Bridge. So pretty.
  7. Brockwell Park – I will always be a home girl and the park next door will always hold a special place in my heart. Brockwell has the good fortune of having a very beautiful walled garden in the middle, and it’s own resident swans and grey heron.
  8. The Eurostar to Paris. My first time in Disneyland Paris! Woohoo! So glad we waited till Disney bought Star Wars. Now I have my own ewok. He is named Yoric and is super cuddly.
  9. All the quirky yoga and fitness studios: Battersea yoga (in a yurt), Hotpod yoga (in a large indoor tent), Fierce Grace, Hit and Yoga, Embody Wellness, 1Rebel, Basefit, Light Centre, GymClass and more…
  10. The Northern Line – a London favourite? Really? I know, I know – but I think it’s been the making of me. The cause of so much angst and anxiety. It’s made me stronger. Never again in my life will I be so close to twenty sweaty strangers all glaring at each other and jostling for air.

Want to know any more about any of the above – let me know 🙂

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I want to fight like a girl

I want to fight like a girl

Like Celaena Sardothien in Sarah J Maas’ Throne of Glass series. 


Like Alanna or Keladry of Tamora Pierce’s many novels set in Tortall. 


Like in Girls of the Wild’s, the Korean manhwa webtoon series written by Hun and illustrated by Zhena (Kim Hye-jin). 


Like Sailor-moon. Like Mulan. Like Boudicca. Like Diana of the Hunt. Like Supergirl, Wonderwoman, Black Widow, Captain Marvel and all the other comic book warrior women.  

Like Emily Blunt’s character Rita in Edge of Tomorrow. Check out this awesome blog about her workout. 


I get this amazing sense of energy, freedom and strength after seeing films or reading about these women. Or even when seeing fighters or dancers on stage!

I want to fight like a girl. I want to train like a girl. I want to be strong, fit and persistent, like a girl. 

Do you get your workout motivation from characters and actors too? 

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Falconry – A day in the Cotswolds

Falconry – A day in the Cotswolds

A few months back, I read Catherine Gaskin’s A Falcon for a Queen. It must have set a spark. 

When I saw the Cotswold’s Falconry Centre on Google maps, I kept clicking through till I found a Flying Start for Two and signed my husband and I up. He’s an adventurous sort and an easy accomplice to many a scheme. 

It was one of the best and most memorable experiences we’ve shared. If you get the chance, I highly recommend you meet some of these glorious birds. It was an honour and privilege to hold and fly them. 

We first met a peregrine falcon: small, with a distinctive beak and nostrils. It was such a thrill to have such an elegant creature perched on my arm. 


Next was a common buzzard, Ivy, that we later took on a training flight. A length of rope was attached to her leg. We held food out to her in a gloved hand and she would fly from a post to your arm to eat the food. 


We held Thumper, a large European Eagle Owl. He was lighter than he looked, puffed up by so many fluffy feathers. While I was holding her, an eagle in the flying display just over the fence made a spectacular dive that whistled through the air. Both the owl and I jumped, wide-eyed. 


Saus was an eagle, he and his friend Lulu liked to sun themselves whenever the clouds parted. 


The main flight we had was with Kaiser, a stunningly beautiful owl. She would fly in low to the ground and swoop up onto your arm at the last minute. She was very blind at short distances and couldn’t see your hand in front of her face, so you had to stand still for her. 


We stayed around afterwards for the final flying show of the day when the vultures were let out. They were incredible. Large and majestic. I loved how they squabbled with each other for food or the best place in the sun. 

It was fascinating to learn so much about all these birds, their feathers, their sight, their preferred methods of flying and hunting. It was touching to see the interaction between them and their handlers. They were well cared for and each had personalities of their own. 

One of the biggest takeaways though, was the endangered nature of some of these birds, especially the vultures. Poaching, baiting and other human practices have had a devastating effect on some of these species. Read more about it here

Do you want to see a bird of prey fly? 

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The Paper House by Anna Spargo-Ryan

The Paper House by Anna Spargo-Ryan

Highly recommended. Find it here

When I finished this book, I wrapped my arms around my husband and cried a little. 

While I was reading it, I would often set it aside and curl myself up on his lap for a hug. 

A third of the way through, I had to set it aside for a few months until I felt stronger. This isn’t a book to be read over breakfast or lunch. It hurts too much. 

This is a book that sweeps you away in the stream of its beautiful prose. It portrays grief and anxiety with grace and sensitivity. It is raw and unflinching. It opened wounds and stitched them back together again with a fragile hope. 

It is a vivid and heartbreaking masterpiece. 

Have you read The Paper House? What did it make you think and feel? 

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London Film and Comic Con and YALC

London Film and Comic Con and YALC

I made it! My first comic con and literature convention. It was awesome! I loved it 🙂

My friend has a Back To The Future poster that was signed by almost all the stars. Tom Wilson who plays Biff was there and completed the set, except for Crispin Glover, who he reckons he is unlikely to get.  He also got photos with Tom and Christopher Lloyd! 

I was more interested in the talks. We saw the two of them chat about BTTF and their favourite actors. We also saw Alan Tudyk. He’s a favourite of mine from Firefly, Dollhouse, Rogue One and all his voice over work. Incredible talents. They were all so kind as well!

Other stars there on the day included Benedict Cumberbatch, buried under hundreds of fans; Natalie Dormer, looking absolutely stunning; Allison Hannigan, couldn’t get near her! So my inner fan girl was just melting into a puddle on the floor. Peter Mayhew was in the house, I like that Wookiee. 

The costumes were incredible. There was not as much cosplay as I expected, but there were some really brilliant outfits. My favourites were a lego batman in his bathrobe with a lobster on a plate, Kaylee from Firefly in her frilly pink dress and the Stark family complete with Ned’s severed head. 

At the Young Adult Literature Convention, there was V E Schwab, Holly Bourne and Emily Lockhart amongst others. I wandered around adding more and more books to my Goodreads Want To Read list. I feel like I’m spending so much time catching up on reading that I’m a little behind. There are not enough hours in the day. 

Interesting to see how social media is changing the industry. There were a number of stalls for book boxes. I’ve seen a lot of these on Instagram. They are so creative, often filled with knick knacks as well as new reads. I plan to subscribe to a one when I get back to Sydney. Suggestions?  Most likely a YA one …

Have you ever been to a comic con or a literature convention? What was your favourite experience?

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Where I Write

Where I Write

The Australian Writers’ Centre Newsletter is one of the few I receive that I regularly read. They don’t send it too often. The format is predictable and the quality is high. I almost always get a giggle out of it. It has fun quizzes. It tells me stuff I want to know.

It also takes submissions for Where I Write photos and descriptions. Gah! Some of the views are so beautiful! The massive macs people have; colourful corkboards and whiteboards; inspiring quote cards and towering bookshelves; standing desks, old wooden desks, desks covered in notes and tea.

I’m glad I’m coming back home to Australia soon. I can get myself a desk again, stick it in front of a wall with no view, like Stephen King describes in On Writing, and just sit down and write. Or at least that’s the theory.

One bedroom living in London with my husband, and an open living area that, as often as not, sleeps my brother-in-law on a blow up mattress (also a writer, so we get to talk tech sometimes which is fun :)) – is not conducive to a desk or space or quiet or anything of the sort – even when said husband and brother-in-law are super supportive. And yet.

When kids come, and we’re planning on them, I’ll probably look back on these years, like I currently look back on my university years, and wonder: what on earth did I do with all that free time? Wasted?!

Netflix and catching up on reading? London living? We are out and about most nights and weekends. There is always something to do and see. Back in uni? I can’t remember… was I hungover? Chasing boys? Sleeping? I think mostly I was sleeping. I slept a lot at uni.

So for now, most of my reading and writing is done:

On the tube or bus, on my iphone, using the scrivener app, often stood and hoping no one is reading over my shoulder.

Sometimes I will write on the lounge, or at the dining table, on the beanbag, sat on the staircase, sat in the bath beneath the skylight. But most of my words are written on public transport. There you have it. This is #WhereIWrite.

 

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