Monday, November 30, 2015

Tiny Tales from Sydney: The Grounds

Alexandria NSW 2015, Australia
The first day in Sydney, we were up and ready at 8am and I couldn't wait to bolt out the door. I had one place and one place only in mind for breakfast that morning: The Grounds of Alexandria. I discovered their cafe via instagram (generally where I find most hip and happening eateries) and despite getting lost on our way there, that extra mile was worth it. Breakfast isn't the sole draw card. True, I had one of the most decadent chai lattes ever which, despite the $6 price, was worth every cent. My avocado toast was far from ordinary, as the heirloom tomatoes, pomegranate, za'tar and garden mint and micro herbs elevated the simple dish. But what is most appealing about the Grounds is the grounds. It's such a beautiful and meticulously kept space. There's a petting farm with resident pig 'Kevin Bacon', pots aplenty and a florist with the most stunning blooms (I was very snap happy in there). At the weekend, there are also food stalls, selling such things as lemonade and fresh berries. I was a little disappointed to miss out on the produce, having visited on Monday, but overall, it didn't deter from the wonderful morning.

The Grounds is a landmark spot in Sydney, and I'm glad I made the trip. My morning there definitely lived up to the hype.

Thursday, November 26, 2015

Having my Work Published in Kindling Anthology Vol. II

I've been keeping quiet for quite some time about a 'lil something something that has been in the works, but I am now so happy to post that I am a published author! That's something I honestly thought I would never write. It still feels surreal to know that my work is in a physical bound book which is currently sitting on my book shelf among some of my most treasured titles.

The story behind my non-fiction piece titled 'Eat, Memory' being published is something I feel particularly compelled to share. Last year, while contemplating which English unit to take for the second semester, I discovered a creative writing unit about autobiographical writing. Having never taken a creative writing unit previously, just the thought of having to share my work frightened me. What was even scarier was the fact that this unit required the sharing of very private and emotional information, as the main project was to write a 3000 word autobiographical piece. Unlike other units I had completed, in which I was only too happy to thrust an essay on anyone willing to read it, I felt nervous about unearthing raw feelings from my past, for fear that no one would be interested in the story I had to tell. However, I decided that pushing myself into doing something I wasn't familiar with could only result in a positive experience. And that unit turned out being my favourite of the seven I have completed for my degree thus far.

Every week, each student would get the chance to workshop their piece by reading it out and receiving comments from peers. I distinctly remember reading mine aloud, my shaky voice failing to hide how utterly terrified I felt. But the feedback I received was not scathing. Nobody hated my story. It was far from perfect, sure, but it was certainly not a failure. I got a certain thrill after that class, and couldn't wait to make all the improvements that were suggested while still making sure that the piece was a clear expression of myself.

Aside from the fact that this class gave me a boost of confidence and necessary tools to help me improve my writing, I was also amazed by the stories I read by my peers. Everyone in the room had a unique one to tell, and ever since, I've been fascinated by the histories of strangers on the street, customers at work and the everyday people I come into contact with.

There are so many stories to be told, so much talent yet to be discovered. Writer's Edit Press is one publisher that is helping grant exposure to emerging writers. Upon seeing a call out by the press asking for writers to submit their work, I thought about my autobiography piece which had been sitting in my documents folder for about 6 months. Once again, my nervousness resurfaced. I thought that my submission would come to nothing. But I eventually realised that I'd rather give my work a chance than no chance at all.

A few months after I submitted, I was informed that I had been short listed. Weeks of editing with my editor followed, and I felt that my piece eventuated to be even better than what it was when I submitted it as a final assignment.

Another couple of months passed and then, I was informed that my piece would be published in the anthology along with over 30 talented writers from around Australia and abroad. I didn't have to think twice about accepting an invitation to attend the launch evening in Sydney, which was a week ago. I met a number of very interesting women in the publishing business, as well as fonder of Writer's Edit Press, Helen Scheuerer. I am so glad I attended, as it made the whole experience all the more real, and I felt proud to have contributed to a press so passionate about helping emerging writers.

So, to sum up this rather long winded post: If I took anything away from this, it's that you should never be afraid to do something that may seem challenging or scary. What's more, it always pays to try and get your work out there. Having dabbled in freelance work, I have had my fair share of rejections. But this shouldn't discourage you to at least try. With every rejection, you become determined to improve. With every acceptance, you become all the more inspired to keep doing what you love. I may have never set out to be a creative writer, but for the time being, I will continue to find enjoyment in writing for pleasure. And if I do wish to get anything else published, I will know to never be afraid to just go for it.

Kindling Anthology Vol. II can be bought via the Writer's Edit website or on Amazon
If you wish to get your work published, keep an eye out on Writer's Edit as they will be publishing Vol. III next year.

Thursday, November 5, 2015

Beyond the Comfort Zone: Attending a Stranger Danger Dinner

Imagine walking into a restaurant with no idea who your dinner guests will be for the next three hours. Once, the very thought of it would have made me squirm. But now, having last night attended such a dinner, I can confidently say that it was one of the best things I have ever done.

A new initiative has taken my city by storm this year. An unknown Perthian 'stranger' created Stranger Danger Dinners which, simply put, sees eight strangers and potential friends dine at a local restaurant for three hours. The motive behind it? To get people to step outside of their comfort zone and to acknowledge the existence and amazing qualities of people who you would otherwise pass by on the street. 

When I received my invitation to attend a dinner, I was elated and up for trying something new. As the day of the dinner drew nearer, however, I became increasingly nervous. By the time I stepped foot into the restaurant, my hands were shaking. The easy thing would have been to bail. But if I had acted on that split second of doubt, I would have missed out on an evening full of laughter, relaxed vibes and general frivolity.  

I had the pleasure of dining with a number of different people. There was an architect, a travel agent and member of the education board, to name just a few. The conversation flowed so easily (with the aid of a few alcoholic beverages), and when it quelled, the conversation cards put us right back on track. The cards ranged from general questions, such as 'What's your favourite TV show' to the more obscure, such as 'Would you rather wear lettuce undies or squid socks?'. A personal favourite of mine required all guests to state their Burlesque stage name based upon the colour of their underwear and what they ate for lunch. Mine wasn't half bad, being Pink Fruit Salad, whereas others, such as Black Curry, had us crying of laughter.

Jokes were said, favourite albums and films were shared and enlightening conversations were had. Accompanied by delectable Eastern Mediterranean inspired vegetarian dishes, the night flew by and was over in no time at all, without a single glance at a phone screen (well, asides from one attempt to introduce a guest to Tinder).

Thinking back, I don't know why I was so unnecessarily nervous to begin with. It goes to show that you have everything to gain by stepping out of your comfort zone; whether that be a new group of friends or simply a boost in self-confidence. At a dinner such as this, I had nothing to lose. Thankfully, my experience was anything but negative. At the end of the night, my dinner guests and I parted ways, not knowing if or when we would meet again. But just that one dinner gave me a spring in my step and memories to cherish. 

So I encourage you, whoever you may be: don't feel scared to go beyond the comfort zone. Strike up a conversation with a stranger, they're not as scary as you may think. You may be inspired by their story; you may even make a new friend.

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