Friday, May 22, 2009

Stress Plus!

I heard that a review of my book, The Risky Way Home, is included in the latest "Christian Woman" magazine, and decided to visit our city Christian book store when I went to take my daughter down to her art class on Wednesday. I dropped the boys off at my parents' house too. Mum was out with friends and I knew Dad would appreciate it if Logan was around to help him look after Blake. At last I was able to go to Koorong bookshop. Emma is getting baptised on Sunday morning (which will soon be the subject of another blog) and I wanted to pick up a few presents for her, too.

Unfortunately they didn't have the magazine, and were all sold out of the lovely jewellery that Emma likes. I browsed for quite awhile and chose a couple of lovely books for her. Then at 5.15 I knew it was time to go and get her, as her art class finishes at 5.45. I thought I was leaving in plenty of time but didn't allow for peak hour traffic. It was getting dark and the traffic was bumper to bumper! I came across every red light and sometimes had to wait for two or three changes before I could move. When I could move I could only crawl. Time was ticking away on my watch and I knew I'd be pushing it to make it back on time. That wouldn't be good, as Emma would have to sit around wondering what had happened to me and the boys would be waiting to find out what had happened too. I hate to think that people are worrying about me and felt my stress levels rising. I started to pray that somehow I'd be back just a little late to get Emma. Eventually it looked as if that wouldn't happen so I changed it to ask that nobody would be stressed about when I'd turn up.

At last I got to Emma's art lesson and found that almost every other mother was just arriving, and running up the driveway too. And Emma told me that Eileen, the teacher, had just remarked, "Everyone is running late tonight." It surprises me that a prayer can be answered but not the way I expect.

It turned out that Logan had got a bit worried but he managed a smile when we got there. Logan is a bit of a stress-head, as I've been in the past and tend to still be when I don't stop to reflect.

The moral of this story: Don't underestimate peak hour traffic. What may take a leisurely half hour at 2.15 may take far, far longer at 5.15. And of course, when it comes to answered prayer, just relax when you've prayed, knowing that you've done all you can and expect the unexpected.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

The things people do for a bit of money!

We bit off more than we could chew last week!

Several weeks ago I found in our letter box a flyer looking for people to drop catalogues into letter boxes to earn good $$$$$$$ in their own district. It sounded like something that might be good for us so I logged onto their website and left my details. I imagined strolling leisurely for a few hours, enjoying the fresh air and being paid for it. In due time, a lady phoned offering a catalogue route that includes our street. The last person who did it had just hurt her back. It seems there is a pretty fast turn-over of deliverers and now I know why.

My daughter and I went to this lady's house on Monday evening and found a Mount Everest of catalogues waiting for us. It included 9 different types, including thick catalogues from Cheap as Chips and other emporiums as well as vouchers from Dominos that needed to be folded. Our job was to take them home, prepare individual rolls comprised of each of the 9 which we were to rubber band, and then have them all delivered by Wednesday at midnight. Then we were to return on Friday night and repeat the whole thing, finishing the next delivery by Sunday night. "You'll get $100 from this," she told us. Then she gave us a map of our section, which seemed to include a third of Mt Barker spanning several kilometres! I had misgivings on the spot but Emma and I lugged them into the car and they filled the whole back seat to the roof.

So that night, Logan, Emma and I were standing around the table preparing the rolls which took absolutely hours! Rubber bands were snapping, the couch was getting piled, our fingers were inky and hard to bend. And my husband was telling me, "If you'd put this much time into promoting and selling your books, it'd be great." And I said, "We haven't even started delivering yet."

Next morning we got up early, crammed bags full of catalogues into the car boot and back seat and got going. I'd drop Logan off at one cul-de-sac and Emma at another, and Blake would go with whoever he chose. I'd do another section and drive back around to pick the others up. After the first couple of streets, the kids were still saying, "This isn't too bad," but I knew it wouldn't take long for the novelty to wear off. After a few hours and several steep hills it had turned to, "My feet hurt!" and "This is a rip-off" That last comment came when we figured out that after splitting the money four ways, we'd each get only $25 for all our hard work! We went home for a quick lunch break and then got back onto the job in the afternoon.

We traipsed through very flash new sub-divisions with multi-storey homes. These were the steepest and hardest, as these people pay for the magnificent views on their lovely blocks of land. Then there were the older, poorer areas where the letter-boxes were rusty and many of the houses in need of repair jobs. This area has a gipsyish sort of charm of its own. So many homes have old, faded couches out on their porches and whimsical wind-chimes and decorations hanging from their eaves and rusting old car bodies and horse floats in their overgrown yards. I found it interesting to think that every week, people from all sections of Mt Barker rub shoulders in the shopping centre. It brought home what a varied demographic area we live in. We just didn't want to do it twice every week for a measly $25 each. Especially when we reminded each other that this would fill each and every week-end, rain and shine, as well as mid-week. Only one of us had a wow of a time and that was Blake. I think even he would soon get sick and tired of it.

So it wasn't a difficult decision to chalk this up to experience and give in our notice already. The lady didn't sound surprised. When a job keeps 4 people (or rather 3, as Blake wasn't all that much help), working flat-out for far more than 10 hours for only $100 when normal award wages for one person is around $18/hour, getting calluses on our fingers and blisters on our feet, it needs to be re-thought. Especially as it actually ended up guzzling a fair bit of petrol in the car. It turns out that lots of short, spasmodic drives in one area is as costly as a long, steady drive down to the city. Andrew worked out that at that rate, we were being paid less than 1cent/catalogue roll.

Anyway, good has come out of it. The kids are aware that there are better jobs out there than delivering catalogues, I am keen to put just as much times into writing ventures for better pay, and whenever we find our rolls of catalogues from now on (for someone has taken over from us already), we spare a thought for the poor delivery people.

Monday, May 11, 2009

A little, miracle word

Here's an excerpt from a book on creating writing that I was reading by Elizabeth George. I've read several books on the craft of writing over the years and when I come across some good, wise advice I like to jot it down. I think what she says here is particularly useful because most people fall into this trap. We can't help it. So often we're taught to do it at Primary School.

"Sometimes a writer just starting out thinks that she needs to be especially creative with her tag lines, believing that the repetition of 'said' lacks snap and personality. Actually, 'said' is a little miracle word that no-one should abandon. When a writer uses 'said' in a tag line, the reader's eye skips right over it. The brain takes in the name of the speaker, while the accompanying verb - providing it's the word 'said', simply gets discarded. To a large extent so do 'asked', 'answered' and 'replied.'
But that isn't the case with all those fancier tag lines (snarl, moan, snap, hiss, wail, whine, whimper, shout, groan, sneer, growl, etc.) These call attention to themselves. You must use them with the realisation that they will leap out at the reader. When the writing is really doing its job, the reader will be aware that someone is shouting, snarling, thundering, moaning and groaning. The scene will build up to it so the writer doesn't have to use obvious words to indicate the manner in which the speaker is speaking."

This is so true. It's part of the best advice I've received over the years, which is that simplicity adds strength, and complexity and wordiness often weakens. When I mentioned this to a group of Primary School teachers once when I was talking about editing your own work, they were very surprised but they could see the wisdom behind it. "We always give students extra ticks for being descriptive and the longer the word, the better."

I've also learned to steer of adverbs in most cases. Those are the frilly words that describe a verb. Some writer once mentioned that they sound so great and descriptive but are an author's downfall. Words such as sadly, angrily, happily, merrily and furiously all should get the flick.

"The mouse scurried hastily behind the clock." Of course he did! Do you need to mention it? That's implicit in the word "scurried." "The mouse scurried behind the clock," will suffice.
Same with, "Grandpa chuckled indulgently at his grandchildren." It's good to come across advice that helps us to relax and be less complex rather than more.