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

Keep doing what’s honest to you

Ranting & Rambling

Lately I’ve gotten into the habit of watching the news in the morning, and the other day there was an interview with Bic Runga (you can watch the interview here). She had been nominated for the Silver Scroll, alongside four other women songwriters, and Bic was asked about her twenty year career. How did she stay relevant? How did she keep coming up with new ideas?

I loved how down to earth she was, but what I found inspiring and motivational is how she described her approach to song writing. She says, “I guess you have to keep doing what’s honest to you; that’s all you can do.”

When I first started writing (so for The Caretaker of Imagination and Lucy’s Story) I had three rules that I had to meet before I was ready to publish. One of them was that the story had to be true to me. I think I lost that a little with Beyond the End of the World, which is perhaps why I’m not as proud of that story as I am of my others, but I’m regaining that now.

Now, I’m focusing very much on what’s true to me; what’s honest to me. In Bic’s words, that’s all I can do, but I think that’s also what I should do. Because what’s the point otherwise?f

It has been refreshing this year to start cutting out voices that are telling me what to do, telling me how to be a success, and telling me that there’s a right and a wrong way to do this whole indie thing. And the more I follow my own nose, the more I am rewarded.

Which is all to say that there’s more than one way to make a buck as an indie, and more than one way to carve a niche. Perhaps my niche is something that doesn’t really exist anywhere else – I mean who else publishes colouring books, anthologies, collaborative non-fiction, AND children’s books?? – but I can chisel away at it until it becomes something special.

Reflections on Hidden Figures – Are you your biggest obstacle?

Depression & Anxiety, Ranting & Rambling, Thoughts & Ramblings

I finally watched Hidden Figures the other night (yeah I know, about ten years after everybody else). For those of you who don’t know the story, it follows the careers of three Black American women in the 1960s who work for NASA, and play key roles in the ‘space race’ (below are the photos of the women that these characters were based on).

Obviously, they face some pretty big external obstacles. Not only do they have to deal with segregation laws, but they also have to work within a society where being a woman means you’re seen as less capable than a man.

But they find ways around problems, challenge the rules, and take initiative to prove their own worth. They take action, and if one of them falls into passive-complaining-mode, the other women help them out of it.

Watching this, as a brown-skinned woman in the 21st century, I felt that in some ways I couldn’t relate. Although I have certainly experienced social racism (and sexism), and I’m still learning that I can be a woman AND be strong, neither my sex nor my race have actually held me back from any opportunity.

My culture isn’t limited to my sex or the colour of my skin – in fact, these are some of the things I least identify with. I am a member of many groups; I have many identities. Were there prejudices there?

The more I thought about it, the more the realisation grew that the biggest obstacle I face is my own self-worth – or rather, my lack thereof. Sure, there are stigmas – I’m a self-published author, which means I get looked down on by some traditional publishing folk; I make colouring books, so I’m not a real artist; I’m a middle-class ‘privileged’ person with mental health issues (the question ‘what do you have to be depressed about?’ springs to mind here); I’m young (in author years) so I can’t be a good writer yet; I write children’s books, which aren’t real books, obviously; I’m not rich and famous, ergo I’m not successful; I don’t have a Fine Arts or Creative Writing degree, so what do I know? #rantover

But stigmas aren’t obstacles. Literally none of the above actually prevent me from doing what I want to do – the only actual obstacle is me believing that they do.

How about that for a reality check?

I don’t think that anything will change overnight for me, but it’s about ten steps forward in my efforts to shift my mindset and build my self-worth.