On allowing creative play even though I’m a ‘grown up’


As you will all know by now, I have recently established a new publishing company called Blue Mushroom Books (if you visit the About page you can read about why I started it etc.). Initially, this was to separate my fiction and non-fiction (i.e. personal writing and commercial writing), but it has also afforded me significant creative freedom.

I feel that as long as I allocate time and energy to growing Blue Mushroom Books in alignment with its primary goal (i.e. sharing the awesomeness that is New Zealand), I am ‘allowed’ to do things with my personal creative practice that are just for fun.

Creative letter making with washi tape, scrapbooking memory cards, and found art.

This year, prompted by fellow creative Catherine Mede, I have begun making flip books and sending letters. I bought some fun children’s puzzles and a Harry Potter snitch 3D model, as well as an old 35mm film point-and-shoot camera to eventually take over my 365project photos. And I picked up my ukulele again! It’s been awesome to give myself permission to do these things – just for fun.

‘Cause Harry Potter.

It also means some changes on this blog. It’ll be less writing focused (though to be fair I’m not sure how writing focused it was in the first place!) and more about whatever creative stuff I’m doing, reading, watching, or possibly a reflection. I certainly haven’t given up on fiction, so you’ll still hear about my books as they happen, but it will be more about my version of ‘the creative life’ than anything else.

I’m not sure how my newsletter will fit into all of this, or whether I’ll ever really get my YouTube channel off the ground, but for now I am enjoying the freedom – and learning – of play.

Change or failure? A pep talk to myself

Thoughts & Ramblings

Changing direction can feel like failure. You know, we’re taught to stick to things and not give up, to persist, to be consistent. Giving up is like admitting that the challenge has beaten you; that you’re not made of strong enough stuff.

So if I change my mind – if I stop persisting and give up to try something else – does that mean I’m not made of strong enough stuff? Is it the same as giving up?

This reaction emerged when I sat down to write this blog post. Goodness knows how many times I’ve blogged about changes. Why can’t I just stick something out?

I’ve realised that the sweet spot between my skills and my passions is creative non-fiction (including, perhaps, working with other authors as a publisher). This is quite a move from children’s fantasy fiction, and involves a change of audience as well.

So is this just me following a shiny new idea because fiction has ‘beaten’ me? Is this just giving up in a blue mushroom disguise?

I hope not.

I only started writing about five years ago. I hadn’t written a word of fiction before that since intermediate school, so I pretty much dived in head first, and everything I’ve published has been in that five year window.

So how on earth could I have expected to know what I wanted from the start? I couldn’t. Of course there were going to be changes! I was writing stories that were personal and creative, playing with zines, testing collaborations – in a word, experimenting.

And what’s the whole point of an experiment? That you don’t know what the outcome will be. It might be to find out if something is true, or to discover something new. After five years of experimenting, I am closer to something that will work for me.

Of course, the experimenting isn’t going to stop. It’s a bit like editing. First, you check the story as a whole – does it make sense? Is it exciting and engaging? Then you get into finer and finer details. At the moment, I’m refining rather than all-out experimenting.

This isn’t me throwing in the towel. It’s evaluating the outcomes of my experiments to create a business that is fulfilling, rewarding, within my skill set (but still challenging), and revolves around something I am incredibly passionate about: the beauty and wonder of our natural world.

And it’s not to say I won’t ever publish fiction again. I have The Train To Nowhere still in the works, and I’m sure there’ll be some more chapter books in my future, too – you can’t get rid of me that easily!

I am not going to see myself as a failure because I am open to change. In the words of Walt Disney: “Progress is impossible without change.” I am a work in progress, and I am proud of my work.

Go forth & experiment.

A new direction: Focusing on Non-Fiction

Blue Mushroom Books, News, News & updates

I’m starting a new publishing company called Blue Mushroom Books. Everything is still a work in progress right now, but this is the story behind the move:

For love or money?

Some time ago, my writer friend and official encourager J. C. Hartย put me in the direction of a book titled For Love or Money by Susan Kay Quinn. There seemed to a be a divide in the indie publishing space – either you wrote for the love of it (and made little or no money) or you wrote to trend, made lots of money, and were considered a sellout.

We all know that life is never that black and white, but Quinn’s book not only built a bridge between the two, it showed that really there was only one side to it. Quinn talked about an author’s ‘wheelhouse’, that is the strengths of an author; what is easy for them to do well. She said to take the skills in our wheelhouse and see what successful genre it may match (disclaimer: I read this aaaages ago, so I might not be 100% accurate, but this is the gist of it anyway).

From then to now

I’ve been thinking about my wheelhouse ever since. I’ve published a fairly wide range of books, and it’s been fun experimenting. Looking back, my mindset has shifted significantly. At first, I was in it to be a children’s author. I love reading children’s novels, so that’s what I wanted to write. I held children’s authors in high esteem. But I also tried wordless picture books, non fiction, zines, anthologies, and colouring books.

I loved writing those books, but I think I’ve got them ‘out of my system’, so to speak. Like, I’ve said what I needed to say. Now I’m just forcing myself to write more – and that’s not good for anyone. I enjoyed the colouring book art, but it wasn’t challenging enough to keep me interested long-term. The zines were also fun, and I intend to keep making them, but I only really played the publisher role so I wasn’t involved enough.

Crafternoon Tea, March 2017

My author wheelhouse

What I’ve realised is that my wheelhouse is semi-collaborative non-fiction. I just have so much fun with it! It’s fun discovering new things, it’s fun publishing other people’s work, it’s fun illustrating, it’s even fun formatting (except when it’s not, then it’s extremely frustrating).

I’m focusing on New Zealand. New Zealand is a fascinating place. We have a ridiculous number of native / endemic plants, animals, and fungi, and some places that are still largely untouched by humans. I’m learning about the weirdness of nature, and I get to share my fascination and excitement with other New Zealanders. I get to draw on the expertise of people who know more than me – people who may not otherwise be published – and describe the wonders that make New Zealand worth celebrating.

The extinct huia bird.

Blue Mushroom Books

I had a couple of options before this name was chosen. First was White Pine Press, inspired by the kahikatea (which interestingly, isn’t actually a pine) but that was taken. I then tried Pohutukawa Press, since the pohutukawa feels like a sign that I am home. That was taken, too. Recently, I’d heard about these blue mushrooms (entoloma hochstetteri) which are native to New Zealand, but also found in India (for those of you who don’t know, I am an Indian-born New Zealander). It seemed like a good fit.

And it wasn’t taken! I registered the domain straight away, and over the next week started building the logo and the book topics. I’d done Ramble On, and I will also be including I Am A Writer / I Am An Artist in the Blue Mushroom Books catalogue, as they are based in New Zealand.

Following on from these I’ll be writing about our plants, insects, fungi, sea and river creatures, slugs & snails, and a whole raft of other things. The leatherback turtle book will also be published with Blue Mushroom Books, as well as a picture book about our native carnivorous plant, drosera arcturii. I don’t know whether I’ll branch out to publishing other people’s work.

Obviously I’m only just starting out, but I’d appreciate if you could follow me on Instagram and Facebook where I’ll be posting interesting stuff about New Zealand’s natural world.

In the studio: Painting progress, book non-progress & Patreon

News, Uncategorized

It’s been a little while since I last posted, and I feel this is a transformational phase for me.

In my experience, these are uncomfortable and upsetting, but I end up in a much better place. We’ll see.

Right now, I am making very good progress on my painting work – but unfortunately the venue I had booked has been canceled as the owner is moving to Thailand. So. I have listed a few places and started my enquiries. What I’m looking for most is a venue that resonates with the themes of my paintings.

And speaking of paintings, here is the first finished piece (click to enlarge, and please respect copyright laws).

The stars burn bright for me

The stars burn bright for me

I’ve got a couple others in progress as well, but I’ve not been so productive in the writing arena. I’m not sure why I’m procrastinating right now, but I have booked in with my life coach to discuss this with her. In the meantime, I’m going to keep on keeping on as well as I can. Send motivation my way, please!

And speaking of motivation, one of the reasons I have opened a Patreon account is to keep me accountable to you lovely people. For those who aren’t familiar with Patreon, it’s a way that fans can support artists through a monthly donation. There’s rewards for each level of payment (I think I came up with some pretty awesome ones!) and if you change your mind you can cancel at any time. I’d appreciate you taking a look and seeing if this is an option for you.

It took me a while to accept the idea of accepting money for ‘nothing’, but in my last life coaching session Inger helped me to see my work as service, not selfishness. It was much easier than I thought it would be, and helped me recognise that even though I am doing what I love, I am also inspiring others and giving back to the community. If you’d like to support me in this work, Patreon is an option.

Right, time to get some food in my belly and get back into painting!

Got something to say? Leave a comment, flick me an email, or catch up on social media x

Personal Growth: Getting used to the new you

Thoughts & Ramblings

If you’ve been following my posts at all (whether on here or a social network) you’ll know that I’ve made some leaps and bounds in personal growth. I’m more confident in myself and my abilities, I try new things, and I believe I am – and can continue to be – successful.

The last few weeks have been particularly fantastic. Kicking off with the NZ Book Festival where I met some inspiring people, then the New Lynn, Mt Eden & Hospital markets, where I sold a grand total of 31(!) books. On Friday I met with two shops interested in my work, one of whom has ordered a stack of colouring books, and finally the Colour Your Own Adventure exhibition for ArtWeek Auckland.

On top of that, I attended a brilliant seminar on independent publishing from the perspective of the art & design world which left me enthused to start some zines (Wikipedia: “a small circulation self-published work of original or appropriated texts and images usually reproduced via photocopier.”) I’ve decided that this is a better format for me to express my writing journey and learnings than a traditional book, though I may make the zines available for purchase digitally as well.

And just in case that wasn’t enough, the wonder of a person that is Jacqui Be approached me with the idea of an author seminar on mindset and marketing, which I immediately said yes to, and is full steam ahead now. I’m chuffed to be working with Jacqui and so looking forward to sharing my personal mindset shift with other writers (Facebook link: Action Authors).

BUT. The last few weeks I have also felt frustrated, angry, depressed, anxious and upset. I realised yesterday that this is just a side-effect of the personal growth. I am not the person I was five years ago; I’m not even the person I was this time last year! I’m a whole new person now, more true to myself than I ever have been, but I’m finding it hard to adjust and put the ‘new me’ out into the world.

I know it will settle, and I’ll be stable for a while until the next round of personal growth kicks in, but right now I’m struggling to shedย my old skin and let the new one shine. I’ll hang in there, and in the meantime, count my blessings ๐Ÿ™‚