Hello 2015………. Goals and Resolutions Oh My!

I am planning at some point to post an actual review of my reading in 2014 but my last post went in its own little direction so the 2014 reading post will have to wait. For me this is the end of my first official week of 2015 as the days before I head back to work for the New Year exist out of time in a strange way, not really part of the year before or the year ahead, so the reality of New Year only hits when I swipe into my office.

2015 is going pretty well so far, still managed to get sucked into working some really long days at work, so that’s started already. And this is probably only going to get harder to control, as due to funding issues, I am working for two different projects/supervisors with the ability to time manage entirely being placed at my feet. I don’t mind the work so much but it is the fact that by the time I make it home I am so exhausted I can’t do much more than dinner, shower, and if I’m lucky read. And this leaves a lot of pressure on weekends to get all the external non-work stuff done.

Ok, anyways let us get back on topic as to what this post is meant to be discussing. Namely my creative and cultural goals/resolutions for 2015.

I really enjoy setting goals/resolutions every year. I try to follow the SMART goal setting system (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Timely). I have six goal fields, or areas of life, that are important to me. For each field I have an overall aim of what I want out of this field for my life and a set of things I would like to achieve in the coming year. I also write out what I need to do to make this happen. As you can imagine I do end up with a rather lengthy document but I do love headings and dotpoints.

I’ve been doing the particular system (with refinements) I have for a few years now and I think it really helps me to go into the New Year with some perspective on what I want out of all the aspects of my life. And when I reviewed 2014’s master list I was pleasantly surprised by how many of the points I had chipped away at over the year and also how most of the points were still relevant. I still have a long way to go before I achieve all that I set out to do (but then my experience tells me that this is true for everyone I know) but I like having a written record of what I thought of as important and what I did or didn’t do to achieve in any given year.

For 2015 I have included a blanket aim to try and be more consistent with how I work towards things. As I tend to make this awesome document at the beginning of the year and then subconsciously achieve the things on the list, rather than review them regularly and so actively work on the things I should/need to do but am avoiding. And also new things come up throughout the year that I want to work towards, which I would like to incorporate into my goals, but as there is only a finite amount of time, I’d like to be able to make more conscious decisions to put things on hold or change my direction on certain fronts.

The two  goal fields relevant to this little corner of the internet are ‘Culture Goal’ and ‘Creative Goal’.

The ‘Culture Goal‘ came from a reflection I made several years ago about the person I had wanted to be as a teenager, and the experiences I wanted that person to have, compared to what I felt I had become (one day I will write about the wasteland that was a large chunk of the middle of my 20’s). And though my teenage daydreams were both unrealistic, and a bit pretentious, I did feel that some of the things that I most enjoyed doing had fallen by the wayside (for a number of reasons). So I created this goal field to spur me into, excuse the bogan terminology, ‘gaining some culture’ and not just passively but in a participatory and reflective manner (ok so some of this goal is still pretentious, and also very white middle class).

So applying the SMART principles for 2015 my ‘Culture Goal’ is the following:

Reading

  • Read 55 books/25,000 pages
    • Write a paragraph blurb on all the books I read in Goodreads.
  • Start making videos for youtube again – 1 per month
    • Comment on other booktubers channels regularly
  • Write 12 book reviews (a friend of mine run a review website and I have been promising to write some reviews for an embarrassing amount of time).
  • Read 5 non-fiction books/ 5 modern classics/ 5 graphic novels/ 5 novels in translation
  • Do 12 things off the Book Riot Read Harder List
  • Reduce TBR
  • Read and vote in the 2015 Hugo awards
  • Continue as a short story reviewer – review 52 stories in 2015 (this is for a sci fi and fantasy fiction magazine and has been lots of fun so far).

Concerts/Festivals

  • Melbourne Theatre Company and Melbourne Symphony Orchestra subscriptions
  • See a new to me Shakespeare performed live.
  • See at least one National Theatre live at Nova
  • Attend Melbourne White Night Festival
  • See something at the following festivals – Melbourne International Film Festival, Melbourne International Comedy Festival, Melbourne Writers Festival
  • Continue fortnightly movie tradition (we have a local independent cinema two blocks from my Melbourne apartment)
  • Go to a concert/art exhibition/play every quarter (not included in the above)
  • Write a sentence blurb on each of these experiences at least in my journal, if not on my blog.

The ‘Creative Goal‘ is all about my creative self expression and also trying to gain some solid skills in some of the crafts that I enjoy (again another area of life in which consistency is difficult to achieve, and it is very telling in both my writing and creative endeavors).

So applying the SMART principles for 2015 my ‘Creative Goal’ is the following:

Visual Art Projects

  • Complete Dr Who Scarf/Blanket
  • Complete William Morris Cross-Stitch (without having a breakdown)
  • Start mushroom cross-stitch
  • Submit entry to Linden PostCard show

Writing

  • Finish a draft of ‘the current novel’ (100,000 words (of which I have 65,000))
    • Workshop as long piece in March
  • Complete Camp Nano and Nanowrimo 2015
  • Write and publish 12 short pieces of fanfiction
  • Redraft short story (working title the Mistress and the Maid) and send out for possible publication
  • Complete story for my writing group anthology
  • Write serious chunks of five new (short) stories (or at least play with some new story ideas).
  • Be a fully present and unflappable member of my writing group
    • Make sure to read and review well all pieces submitted
    • Turn up to as many meetings as possible
    • Workshop twice in 2015

General Creative-ness

  • Schedule weekly craft and writing times
    • Organise work schedule
    • Organise writers den
    • Organise crafting supplies
    • Stay on top of hoarding tendencies
  • Blog Monthly on creative blog and Green Eyed Gal Reads
  • Keep personal journal on my creative process (and life generally).

Realistically I will not achieve all of these things, but then on the flip side I will do things that I haven’t even heard of, or thought about, but this is sort of how I would like my 2015 to shape up.

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Goodbye 2014

It’s Sunday afternoon in my little corner of the world. It is for me traditionally a moment in my week in which I am filled with an overwhelming sense of frustration to the point of tears. For it is the point at which I have to put down whatever fun things I have been playing with on the weekend and begin to get ready for the week ahead. And it always seems to coincide with a moment in which I am filled with the urge to create, and also the realization that the list of incredible things that I was going to get through this weekend are not going to happen. Now wise heads would probably indicate that I should manage my time better, something I fully recognize but as yet have not been able to implement a plan for this to occur. Perhaps 2015 shall be the year in which I figure out how to achieve this.

For the moment I just wanted to use this window into my emotional state as a jumping off point to talk about how this Sunday I am actually feeling pretty chilled even though it is actually the end of not just a weekend but also my Christmas/New Years break. And it is not because I did all the things on my list or anything like that, it’s just…. I am really not sure what it is, it just is.

Some of the reason I am chilled out might be that I have been reflecting on 2014 and what I wanted to say about it. And mostly I have come back with positive things. I did not achieve all of the things that I would have liked to and some things that started out strong, like my youtube channel and my plans for this blog, fell by the wayside throughout the year. However, when I pulled out my New Years Goals/Resolutions for 2014 and made notes on what I achieved there were a lot of green yesses, a lot of orange sort-ofs and not nearly as much red No’s as I had expected (Yes I color coded my responses – it is pretty and helpful and you should try it sometime). And when I wrote down some of the other things I achieved but hadn’t included in my list (Completing Nanowrimo, first fanfic, my accidental side trip to the UK) it made 2014 a pretty incredible year really.

The less tangible things that made 2014 a good year are that with every year I am so much more comfortable in my own skin, not to say I am always happy with every aspect, but I just like feeling at home with who I am, mistakes and all. And I like being able to step more boldly into new experiences, good and bad, because of this.

And I am so grateful for so many things in my life right now. 2014 had a few brand new experiences that can be filed under the crappy/horrid/scary/wtf pile and rather than drag me down they just gave me a new level of appreciation of how lucky I am. I am lucky for the people in my life, those who have been around forever and those who just came into my life, I am lucky for the experiences I gained (travel, culture, emotional, physical) and I am grateful to be me, right here, right now.

So thanks 2014! You were pretty awesome. And to everyone (though most of that everyone will never read this blog) who was in my 2014. Thanks!

We Need New Names by NoViolet Bulawayo #Diversiverse 2014

Or Brie is (very, very) late to the party yet again.

Awhile ago (read months ago) I posted that I would be participating in Diversiverse 2014 (See bottom of the post for Diversiverse details) by reading We Need New Names by NoViolet Bulawayo.

And I did, read it that is, well before I needed to, but I failed at the last hurdle and haven’t yet written my review. And my excuse for not writing my review is the usual writing reviews make me stressed and when I get stressed I avoid and I procrastinate and then I miss deadlines. Nevertheless what follows shall be my attempt to write a coherent review and completing things, if not on time then at least completing things.

We Need New Names by NoViolet Bulawayo

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Blurb:

We Need New Names tells the story of Darling and her friends Stina, Chipo, Godknows, Sbho and Bastard. They all used to have proper houses, with real rooms and furniture, but now they all live in a shanty called Paradise. They spend their days stealing guavas, playing games and wondering how to get the baby out of young Chipo’s stomach. They dream of escaping to other paradises – America, Dubai, Europe. But if they do escape, will these new lands bring everything they wish for? Man Booker Prize

Review:

The blurb for this book is a little bit of a misdirect (as many blurbs are) as the story really focuses on Darling and for the second half of the novel, once Darling has moved to the US, we really only catch glimpses of her childhood friends. As I became quite attached to all of Darling’s friends I was a little sad that their stories became so fragmentary in the second half of the novel but this is more my preference for the tying up of loose ends rather than something lacking from the actual novel.

There is a distinct shift from the large character cast, and a more coherent detailed story, in the first half We Need New Names to the more fragmentary scenes and the disconnected and isolated Darling in the second half. And this shift in the narrowed narrative focus of Darling’s experience as child and then teenager is placed into a broader context of a displaced migrant experience through the secondary narrative within the novel. I found the secondary narrative frustrating and distracting in the first half of the novel when I just wanted to learn more of Darling and her friends but its occurrence in the second half of the novel helped tie together the whole novel and contribute to the feeling of disconnection and loss which the reader is left with at the end. And though overall I enjoyed the reading experience with We need new names I would not say it was a particularly happy feeling I was left with when I think of where the novel took the characters in the end.

All the details on Diversiverse 2014 (and perhaps a bookmark to add it to your calendar for 2015 or even just your general reading goals for 2015).

“For those who have not heard about #Diversiverse before, it’s a very simple challenge.  For those of you who have participated in the past, it’s even easier this year.  The criteria are as follows:

  • Read and review one book
  • Written by a person of color
  • During the last two weeks of September (September 14th – 27th) “

Diversiverse is the brainchild of Aarti from Booklust .

A more diverse universe – #Diversiverse 2014

Hello Blogland! Yes I know it has been awhile and I did kind of leave things a bit half-finished around here…. real life and all that sort of thing you know!

However, I am here and gamely attempting to climb back on the horse of ‘content production, creativity and organisation’ which I was plodding along on earlier this year. I thought I would start with something small and work from there.

And that something small is announcing that I am going to participate in Diversverse 2014

I first read about Diversverse on Andi from Estella’s Revenge Blog.

And followed the links to Aarti from Booklust who is the force behind this great idea.

For those who have not heard about #Diversiverse before, it’s a very simple challenge.  For those of you who have participated in the past, it’s even easier this year.  The criteria are as follows:

  • Read and review one book
  • Written by a person of color
  • During the last two weeks of September (September 14th – 27th) 

My plan is to finish reading We need new names by NoViolet Bulawayo

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Which I picked up in one of my trips into Book Grocer a few months ago. I read a few chapters just before I went away but didn’t take it with me overseas, a decision that I regretted a few times while I was away as I found myself thinking about the book and itching to pick it up again.

Blurb:

We Need New Names tells the story of Darling and her friends Stina, Chipo, Godknows, Sbho and Bastard. They all used to have proper houses, with real rooms and furniture, but now they all live in a shanty called Paradise. They spend their days stealing guavas, playing games and wondering how to get the baby out of young Chipo’s stomach. They dream of escaping to other paradises – America, Dubai, Europe. But if they do escape, will these new lands bring everything they wish for? Man Booker Prize

As I am trying to be more aware of my thought process (and also to take on more realistic challenges) here is my little two cents of why I am doing Diversiverse the way I am. I know that this is probably a book that many people will have already read or heard of so that in reading and reviewing this book I wont be bringing an unknown book to the Diversiverse community. However, even if my contribution to this challenge is not breaking new ground I really believe that participation even on a small scale is important. I haven’t read Aarti’s blog in depth (yet!) but just reading the post about Diversiverse made me want to participate. Yes books are a large part of the media I consume and I want that media to reflect the diversity of the world I live in. Some of that is a reflection of what I want from my reading experience and some of that is what I want my choices as a reader to say to the world.

 

Burial Rites by Hannah Kent: Buddy Read with Literary Diversions (Chapters 1- 3)

For April Lianne from Literary Diversions (http://literarydiversions.wordpress.com/) and I are Buddy Reading ‘Burial Rites’ by Hannah Kent.

Our Plan is to post our responses to the book in the form of letters on our blogs. This is the first installment focusing on Chapters 1-3.

******* Spolier Warning ********

There aren’t any particularly huge spoilers in this post but I am not trying to avoid them.

 

Dear Lianne,

Hello! I am finally getting started on these buddyread letters for Burial Rites by Hannah Kent. Real life does have tendency to get in the way of lots of fun things when it puts its mind to it! And Real Life seems to be swallowing April faster than I can keep pace, and definitely faster than I can keep reading.

I am at the beginning of Chapter Four and, oh, this book is already so beautiful. It is heading into winter in my part of the world and I am at home on the farm for the Easter break, the wind is up and the sky is grey and seems to go on forever. And this endless expanse of sky is the impression of Northern Iceland 1829, the setting of Burial Rites, which I have taken away from description of place in the first few chapters. Thankfully the layers of dirt, the dung fires and the lugging of buckets of water from the mountain stream which are part of daily life at Jøn Jønsson’s family croft are not part of daily life for me. I was at a writing panel recently on research and ideas and one of the authors complained about people always painting people of the past as dirty/having questionable personal hygiene, sorry but from the early descriptions of the characters in Burial Rites I am still definitely icked out by the level of dirt, and also, just quietly, by wearing the clothes another person has died in.

For all the times I had seen Burial Rites mentioned, or glimpsed one of its pretty cover(s), in the last few months I have so far remained mostly unaware of the story line (spoiler free zone successfully maintained) so before I started all I really knew was that the book was about a woman (the last woman?) condemned to death for murder (in the past, in some part of Scandinavia (Details are not my forte)) and sent to serve out the time until her execution in a small farming community. At the beginning of Chapter Four this outer sketch is pretty much all we have found out about the story, Agnes, the condemned murderess, has been transferred from a storeroom where she has been imprisoned for several months to the croft of Jøn Jønsson. The characters of Jøn Jønsson’s family, Jøn, his wife and daughters, of Agnes, of Tóti, the priest assigned as Agnes’s confessor, are slowly being revealed to us. And through Agnes we are slowly glimpsing some of the character of her co-condemned and those murdered, and those glimpses are tantalising. Agnes’s voice is compelling and quickly drew sympathy from me, understandable her attention is drawn in to focus on herself and her fate. She is ‘determined to close (herself) to the world, to tighten (her) heart and hold on to what has not yet been stolen from (her)’(p.29) as those who have condemned her she tells us do not know her. Yes I like to sympathise with the underdog but I am also absorbed by the perspectives of Tóti and Margrét, Jøn’s wife, their individual voices are strong and give us small glimpses of the social, political and religious currents in which the story is set. I was completely creeped out by the character of Blöndal after the scene at the Croft with Jøn and Margrét’s daughters but I will try not to let that completely colour my judgement of him for the rest of the book.

The novel switches between points of view within chapters and at the beginning of each chapter there are letters relating to the events surrounding the crime and fate of Agnes and her co-condemned. It is in one of these letters that we learn that Agnes ‘..was confirmed in 1809, at which age she was written as having ‘an excellent intellect, and strong knowledge and understanding of Christianity’.’(p.33). And in another the rather nausea inducing knowledge that the ‘…broader axe from Copenhagen’ (p.85) ordered for the execution cost a significant deal more than expected. I am really hoping that this book does not break my heart by the time that excellent intellect and that broader axe meet.

Well that is all my rambling for today. How are you enjoying the novel so far? What are your early impressions of the landscape, the characters and the language? I must remember to bookmark my favourite quotes for the next letter as there were some quotes I loved in the first few chapters which I could not find again while I was writing this.

Happy Easter and Happy Reading,

Brie

 

February 2014 Culture Consumed

Hot on the heels of my January 2014 Culture Consumed (only one month late) is February and thus I am at least caught up on the surface of things 🙂

One of my favourite podcasts, Galactic Suburbia, has a section in each episode called Culture Consumed where the three hosts discuss what they have been reading, watching or other form of relevant cultural activity between episodes. I really like the idea of a wrap up of cultural experiences so plan to do one each month for my blog.

Below is my February reading and watching-ness (and now with added Cultural participatoriness).

Books

5. Gameboard of the Gods by Richelle Mead

  • Finish Date: 01/02/2014
  • Paper or Ebook: Paper (ARC)
  • Publisher: Razorbill
  • Release Date: 27/09/2012
  • Pages: 448
  • Goodreads Stars: 3 stars (I love Mead’s YA series but am not as in love with her adult series apparently).

6. It Felt Like A Kiss by Sarra Manning

  • Finish Date: 06/02/2014
  • Paper or Ebook: Ebook
  • Publisher: Corgi
  • Release Date: 29/01/2014
  • Pages: 480
  • Goodreads Stars: 4 Stars

7. Throne of Glass by Sarah J. Maas

  • Finish Date: 14/02/2014
  • Paper or Ebook: Ebook
  • Publisher: Bloomsbury USA Childrens
  • Release Date: 2012
  • Pages: 432
  • Goodreads Stars: 1 Star (Best left undiscussed though note to self to check genre of book before reading to avoid nasty surprises)

8. Grave Sight by Charlaine Harris

  • Finish Date: 24/02/2014
  • Paper or Ebook: Paper
  • Publisher: Gollancz
  • Release Date: 04/10/2005
  • Pages: 232
  • Goodreads Stars: 5 stars (Rereading just equals more love)

January Reading Total = 1413 pages (11%)

February Reading Total =1442 pages (11%)

2014 Reading Total =  2855 pages (22%)

Movies/TV

4. Philomena

  • Date Watched: 06/02/2014
  • Book Adaption:  Yes (Haven’t read it and probably wont as the subject matter makes me mad!)
  • Stars: 4 (The portrayal of the two main characters and the fact that neither were sugar coated made this film)

5. Coriolanus (NT Live)

  • Date Watched: 22/02/2014
  • Book Adaption: It’s Shakespeare’s play performed as a play and filmed (I haven’t read or studied it or even known its name)
  • Stars: 4 (For a play described as one of the more difficult to understand and get into this adaption was excellent – though I know there is stuff I missed or didn’t understand I still enjoyed it and stayed with the play the entire way).

6. Gravity

  • Date Watched: 25/02/2014
  • Book Adaption: No (finally!)
  • Stars: 5 (Yeah this film was watchable, emotional and visually stunning)

Miscellaneous

2. Miranda Hart

  • Date Attended: 10/02/2014
  • OMG such fun! Miranda on stage in standup was just as good as her tv series. (Which is a relief as I talked people into coming with me).

3. MTC Private Lives by Noel Coward

  • Date Attended: 20/02/2014
  • I’d forgotten how much I love the witty use of language Noel Coward employs and how much I love a romantic relationship drama, all out brawls included.
  • The sets were amazing and the use of modern pop songs really suited this play and made you realise that the story could have been set now.

4. White Night

  • Date Attended: 22/02/2014 (yep same day as Coriolanus)
  • Not really sure what to say about this but that I really enjoyed it. It was interesting to find myself immersed in art installations and not worrying about having the right artistic response or expecting to be kicked out as an imposter. I just enjoyed the different experiences.

5. One entire draft of a short story completed and work shopped. And I still like the story post workshop so that’s got to be a good sign!

6. Return to pottery class.

When I sat down to write this I was worried that I hadn’t achieved much this month but in fact it is the complete opposite.

Note: I’m continuing the numbering from the beginning of January for each set of events.

January 2014 Culture Consumed

One of my favourite podcasts, Galactic Suburbia, has a section in each episode called Culture Consumed where the three hosts discuss what they have been reading, watching or other form of relevant cultural activity between episodes. I really like the idea of a wrap up of cultural experiences so plan to do one each month for my blog (and much prefer the title of culture consumed than wrap-up). Sadly there was no Galactic Suburbia episode for January but there is for February and you should totally go listen.

Below is my January reading and watching-ness.

Books

1. Casual Vacancy by JK Rowling

  • Finish Date: 07/01/2014
  • Paper or Ebook: Paper
  • Publisher: Little Brown and Company
  • Release Date: 27/09/2012
  • Pages: 505 (364 read in 2014)
  • Goodreads Stars: 3 stars (apparently I’m uncharitable :-p).

2. A Handful of Dust by Evelyn Waugh

  • Finish Date: 14/01/2014
  • Paper or Ebook: Paper
  • Publisher: Penguin
  • Release Date: 1934
  • Pages: 221
  • Goodreads Stars: 4 Stars

3. Walking Shadows by Narelle Harris

  • Finish Date: 19/01/2014
  • Paper or Ebook: Paper
  • Publisher: Clan Destine Press
  • Release Date: June 2012
  • Pages: 327
  • Goodreads Stars: 4 stars

4. Divergent by Veronica Roth

  • Finish Date: 26/01/2014
  • Paper or Ebook: Ebook
  • Publisher: Katherine Tegen Books
  • Release Date: 03/05/2011
  • Pages: 501
  • Goodreads Stars: 3 stars (I had worldbuilding issues despite the rollicking story)

In Addition (Short Stories)

1. Singing my sister down by Margo Lanagan

  • Finish Date: 11/01/2014
  • Paper or Ebook: Paper
  • Publisher: Allen and Unwin
  • Release Date: 2004
  • Pages: 14
  • Goodreads Stars: 5 stars

January Reading Total = 1413 pages (11%)

Movies/TV

1. The Book Thief

  • Date Watched: 09/01/2014
  • Book Adaption:  Yes (I read the book in December 2013)
  • Stars: 3.5 (I preferred the book but it was still a solid film)

2. The Railway Man

  • Date Watched: 23/01/2014
  • Book Adaption: Yes (I have not read this)
  • Stars: 4 (Gripping emotional true life story).

3. The Closer Season 1

  • Date Watched: Some time in January
  • Genre: Police Procedural/Crime Drama
  • Date released: 2005
  • Stars: 5 (Love this series so much)

Miscellaneous

1. Doctor Who Symphonic Spectacular

  • Date Attended: 31/01/2014 (Just scraped in for January).
  • Peter Davidson as MC and super weird/funny/awesome prerecorded video from Tom Baker are Doctor Who awesomeness.