It has been a seriously big year.

In some ways, I feel like I’ve achieved nothing – no new books, no awards or collaborations, fewer events and sales – but in other ways it has been a fantastic year.

The Otago Peninsula in Dunedin ❤

After moving to Dunedin (new city, new job, new people, new house, and a relationship that’s become temporarily long-distance) I felt an internal shift. It was so beautiful, so relaxed, and has a much smaller population. In this new environment, I felt a new perspective. I utterly relaxed, in stark comparison to the last few years. While this was great and all, it was a MASSIVE shift, and I ended up taking some counselling sessions. It pretty much felt like mental/emotional bootcamp at the time, but I have come out with a new sense of self; of groundedness.

I have rarely felt grounded or centered in myself, bar a few times that have mostly been when painting or tramping. It’s been refreshing to feel so strong in myself, less concerned about others’ opinions and the “right” way of doing things.

With this in mind, I made some decisions about my creative work, including taking on full-time hours at the day-job in 2019. I hope that by taking the pressure of making money away from my creative work I can be more authentic (currently anything I make is a tug-o’-war between what I really want to make and what I think people want to buy).

Hamilton Zinefest May 2017 (photo credit: Bryce Galloway)

I also decided that I want to stay small. I remember seeing a thread on Twitter (or was it Facebook?) about this, and it has been echoing in the caverns of my brain ever since. I’m not just “okay” with being small, I actually want to stay that way. For my work, and for Blue Mushroom Books. I’m shifting my fantasy series from perfect-bound paperbacks to hand-bound chapbooks, and I’m taking everything down a gear. I’m about sharing creative voices, an appreciation of beauty, and enjoying life in the process. 

It feels so incredibly good.

So next year is about making work that is truly true to me, giving Blue Mushroom Books its voice, being more hands-on with my work (hand bound chapbooks, zines, junk journals, and mixed media illustration). In my personal life, my big project is our new garden, and continuing to lean in to myself.

2019 is going to be wonderful ❤

(With all that said, it’s not like I haven’t done anything. I’ve started making handmade journals (which is such a deliciously creative process), kicked off a happy mail swap group, and attended the Hamilton Zinefest, NZ Book Festival, & Christchurch Wham Bam Author Jam events. Earlier this year, I taught a picture book writing class at Studio One Toi Tū (with one of my students going on to set up her publishing company, Blue Goat Books), visited over a dozen schools to talk about authorly things, and got mentions in both the Waikato Times & the Otago Daily Times.)

Ranting & Rambling

Handmade journal goodness

Junk Journals

Some time ago, I had this idea to make a handbound special edition of some of my books – especially What Stars Are Made Of – and I was referred to Book Art Studio’s Dyed and Gone to Heaven workshop.

Well. It was not what I expected, and it revealed a love for scrappy bookmaking that had been hiding goodness-knows-where.

Last year, I made little handmade notebooks (that will be up in my Etsy shop by this weekend – promise!) and a couple of weeks ago I finally made the finishing touches on the journal I’d made at the workshop. I then made my own junk journal (named because they’re journals made from ‘junk’) to document my move to Dunedin, and then made one to sell.

Video: A flip-through of my personal junk journal.

The one for sale is called Humanis Corporis, which is Latin for ‘the human body’ and was inspired by some cool old images of the human body that I found online. I’ve tea- / coffee-dyed, and used some interesting old book pages from reference books, children’s books etc. There are also some sheet music pages, wallpaper, and plenty of decorative elements. It’s filled with pockets and tuck spots, and there’s lots of space for journalling.

You can view it on Etsy here – note that the price doesn’t reflect the quality, I’m just pricing low to start with as I slowly build my shop. I’m also taking custom orders, so if you like my style but not this theme, let me know and we can work something out.

A sampler of the pages #1

A sampler of the pages #2

Cross stitch hand-sewn binding.

Auckland Summer Zinefest 2018

Events

As some of you know, I’ve struggled for some time to find cohesion in all the things that I do / make. It was reassuring to have a stall at the Auckland Zinefest with my books, zines, DIY Kits, AND Blue Mushroom Books, and feel like they all fitted together somehow. Yay!

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I also got some wonderful feedback. One customer had bought my #blog zine last year and had been inspired to start her own blog. My Where Do Ideas Come From? zine sold out, including one purchase from a primary school teacher who is going to share it with her class. And I met a couple who fell in love with Ramble On, got excited about zine-making, then had a wonderful conversation with me about creativity, self-expression, and mental health.

I didn’t buy much myself this time – two mini zines from Jamie Sands, and a zombie mushroom pin from IZS Comics.

So, onwards and upwards. There’ll be more news soon about what I’m planning as I continue to carve my own path, so do keep an eye on my blog.

Happy Monday!

Social Media and Comparison-itis

Mindfulness & Mental Health

Last week I saw a post in one of the Facebook groups I belong to. One of my fellow members has a son who has decided to look into to how much screen-time adults have, on the belief that adults are on their phones more than children are.

Well. I do believe he was right. For pretty much as far back as I can remember, I’ve been dealing with anxiety, partly about perfectionism, and partly social comparison. Over the past year or so I have noticed that the social comparison part of this has gotten worse. I am finding it harder to see other people’s success or talent and be excited about it, like I used to. Now, it feels like competition. And I’m usually the loser.

I really, really don’t like this feeling. It was wonderful to see someone do something awesome and feel inspired, or just respond to their work as a reader/viewer. This space of judgement sucks.

Last time I was in this place, I worked on my self-acceptance, and this feeling went away. While I am trying the same approach this time, I’ve discovered that I need to work harder to get the same results.

So back to the experiment. We were asked to download a tracker app onto our phones (I’m on Android so got QualityTime) which shows our usage. The first day I had SIX HOURS of screen time. Imagine what I could have got done in the time that I was checking in on my phone? My average for the week so far (Sat – Thurs, so 6 days) is 4h 15m, with social media taking up about 2h of that time.

Now, there is definitely value in social media. I have made some beautiful connections and very real friendships. It helps build my presence as an author / artist, and also helps sell my books. I can help other creatives out by sharing their work, too.

But do I really need to be on there for two hours a day? I don’t think so. Do I need to be researching, or checking emails, or getting advice from <insert expert here>, or whatever it is I’m doing for another two hours? Definitely not.

I feel that this has something to do with the feelings of comparison-itis. If I am scrolling through other people’s highlights for so much time in a day, and reading or listening to other people’s advice (people who I deem are higher up the food chain), then maybe it’s only natural that this feeds into my social comparison.

Phase one of the experiment ends today, when we will send our stats in and get back suggestions to reduce our usage. I look forward to sharing my reduced usage time with you, and letting you know how I am feeling next week!