The Bees Behind the Book

 

Autan

‘You could come and see my bees if you like. I’d be happy to show you around the hives.’

The beekeeper was standing at my local market stall, his pyramids of honey for sale around him. We’d been talking for about a minute and a half when he made his offer, one I think he actually regretted the moment it came out of his mouth. But all I could think was it’s a sign!

When I begin research on a book, I look for signs. Signs that I’m going the right way. Signs that the universe/muse/creative spirit (whatever you like to call it) is onboard with what I’m doing and will support the direction my work is going.

I’d previously been researching coffee for my third foodie fiction novel, but although I was really intellectually interested in the history of coffee, particularly, I knew I didn’t have enough fire in the belly to sustain it over the course of a couple of years to get a whole novel out. So I let it go and started looking for something else, and everywhere I went I saw bees. I started reading about them in books and online and watching loads of YouTube videos on bee handling. And then I met the beekeeper and he offered to take me to his hives, which was so random that I knew I was definitely on the right path.

I took the beekeeper’s number but later thought, hmm, as nice as that offer was, maybe I shouldn’t actually be heading out into the bush with a complete stranger!

But the universe wasn’t done with me yet. I continued my research and went to the Ginger Factory’s Super Bee Show here on the Sunshine Coast. Gayle Currie, head beekeeper, conducted the show and her knowledge and enthusiasm was addictive. We got talking over a number of weeks and then she too invited me to see her bees.

What I learned while researching and writing this book is that there is no ‘one’ way to handle and keep bees. Beekeepers all do things differently (much like horse people or dog people do, I suppose). And there’s a huge range of humane, ethical and holistic ways to do this (or not). Something I loved so much about Gayle was her very obvious and real love for her bees, her exceptional reverence and respect for them, and her very ‘feminine’ way of handling them. Those values and details carried through to Maria, my main character, who treats her bees as family.

Until I started researching bees, I didn’t even realise that we had an array of native bees in Australia. I always thought bees were great, but I had no idea just how outstanding they are and how much humans depend on them and how much we need to be urgently acting to save them right now. I do hope my book inspires others to love bees, just as I fell in love with them when researching.

___________________

This post is currently featured as a guest post on ‘Love That Book’, a blog by Melissa Sargent.

Pic credit “Autan” from Flickr.

 

Filling the Well in 2016

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Hungry unicorn

To keep myself accountable to my unicorn for providing her with input from which to draw inspiration for new work, this year, I am keeping a list of everything I’m feeding her. She’s a hungry magical being–an insatiable appetite for creativity–and does tend to get stroppy if I neglect her.

I’m excited about what’s on there already, and looking forward to seeing this grow. If you have any awesome events you know of in the Sunshine Coast, Brisbane or southeast Queensland area, I’m keen to hear them. 🙂

So far, I have:

Books Read (completed, or at least half way, not including the hundreds I read to my toddler). Don’t be alarmed by the brevity of this list. As I’ve said many times, I’m a very slow reader.

  • Hester & Harriet, by Hilary Spiers
  • Fall of the Beasts (Spirit Animals), Immortal Guardians, by Eliot Schaefer
  • Diamond Spirit, by Karen Wood

Theatre Productions/Music

  • Australia Day (Noosa Arts Theatre), February
  • 2016 Season of One Act Plays (BATS, Buderim), April
  • Educating Rita (The Events Centre), April

Speakers

  • Elizabeth Gilbert, February

Workshops/Courses

  • Cheesemaking, Brisbane, March

Travel (research, inspiration)

  • Melbourne, April
  • Writing Retreat, June
  • Burdekin Writers Festival, July
  • Bundaberg Writers Festival, October
  • Tuscany, September

Movies

  • Under the Tuscan Sun

Creative Tuesdays and Feeding My Unicorn

Wait, did I just say “feeding my unicorn”? Yep. It’s a thing.

And now, too, is my self-appointed weekly exercise I’ve called Creative Tuesdays. In short, I have challenged myself to crete something new, something I’ve never done before, once a week on a Tuesday. Why Tuesday? Simply because it fits in with my childcare and writing schedule.

One of the fundamental premises of The Artist’s Way is taking yourself on a weekly artist’s date. But if you’ve got tiny people in your life (babies and toddlers, that is, not fairies, though I say yay for you if you have fairies), it’s really difficult to get out of the house on schedule. But as I am a creative being in a creative job, I need to feed my unicorn. And the in-home Creative Tuesday is the only way I feel I can do that right now.

But do it I must! Because I don’t want to drain the well or there’ll be nothing left to creative yummy books to read. And I love that and want to keep doing that.

So, here are my first two efforts for Creative Tuesdays.

Week 2: Relish! The kitchen was a freaking disaster but I declare the relish a triumph. Yummo!
Week 2: Relish! The kitchen was a freaking disaster but I declare the relish a triumph. Yummo!
Week 1: Christmas ornaments made from recycled wood and wire from our farm
Week 1: Christmas ornaments made from recycled wood and wire from our farm

Want to join me? I’d love to hear from you 🙂

What if following your dreams causes pain?

This was an excellent question posed by a reader of my Dream time article in Sunday Life magazine last weekend.

images-3Opal from Twitter asked said, “I know someone who is so angry they can’t get £ for their passion. Bankrupt over it & dragged his kids all over the country chasing the dream for 20 years. When dreams hurt, I say stop!”

This comment had me thinking for a long time and I decided there was so much in it that I would need to write a whole post on it to reply.

So firstly, I have to say that of course I don’t know anything about the specifics of the person Opal is talking about so I am not making any comment there. And I also have to say, straight up, that if you have small children then your first priority, always, is their welfare, no arguments about it. So if your actions are hurting your children then yes, stop right now.

However, I feel there is always a way to nurture your dreams. Okay, you might not be able to pack up and head to New York or to live in an ashram. But you still have choices. And sometimes, especially when we have human responsibilities (like parenting, taking care of elderly parents and, in my case, a lifelong commitment to more than a dozen animals) that might slow the pace of our actions, but you can still chip away at your dreams one tiny drop in the vast ocean at a time.

I’d also like to suggest that this is closely related to another comment from a reader, this time from Owla on Twitter who asked, “Can we all earn from our passion thou? What about the crazy X factor ppl who want to be popstars?”

Great question. Obviously not every contestant on a talent show is going to win. This doesn’t mean they’re not meant to have a career in music or as a singer. Those careers take many forms and those dreams evolve over the years as we get to know ourselves. Putting yourself out there in a forum like that can be a really powerful life changing experience for many people, despite the fact that they may not make it past the first round. And that could even be the fact that they realise that particular career path is not for them. They may go home with an epiphany of another road to take, such as music for children, composing, leading a church choir, whatever.

I think the real key to all of this is to look for signs that you’re on the right path. If I look back over the twelve years I was writing seriously, and NOT making any money from my work, there were STILL signs that I was on the right path. Little moments here and there, little cracks in the chaos that shone through and said, there! Keep going! For me, if I am constantly banging my head on a wall until it bleeds and there are NO signs that the universe is supporting those attempts, then I need to bail on that pathway. (Again, it doesn’t mean the whole idea is wrong for me, just that chosen expression.)

A very simple example: When I start a new book, I ‘listen’ for the story that wants to be told. And I follow it for a while with research. And while I’m following that trail, I wait for signs that is the way to go. With my third foodie fiction novel (following the first book centred around tea and the second around chocolate), I was very interested in coffee for quite a while and did a lot of research. I was intellectually fascinated about the world trade and export and growing of coffee, the history of it in Australia, and all the cultural associations. But I had no fire for it. I didn’t have the passion in my belly that I would need to sustain it for years.

So I dropped it. Just like that. It doesn’t mean I shouldn’t be writing another novel. It means that story wasn’t the right one at that time.

Then I found my next subject and I began to see signs everywhere. I saw movies, pictures, events. I met a local primary producer who invited me (quite spontaneously, since we’d only been talking for a few minutes) to go to his place to see what he did. I looked on ebay for something totally unrelated and the first image that popped up with to do with my book. And I felt the fire–the heat in my belly that would sustain this book for its lifetime.

Opal and Owla, I hope some of this rambling is coming together for you as to my response to your excellent comments. We need to be wise to our journeys, to know the difference between struggle and pain, to watch for guidance to the next step forward that supports us and our loved ones.

Snoopy Dancing: Why I Write

The Tea Chest is just days away from hitting the bookshelves. So today, I’d like to stop and look at what’s brought me to this moment. I’d like to talk about joy.

joy-235x300You see, joy is the reason I write. At a fundamental level, I am happiest when I write and I am a cranky banshee bear when I don’t. (Just ask my husband–I’m tremendous fun to be around when I’ve got writers block.) Writing makes me happy. But here’s the thing. My writing can make the person who reads it happy too. Isn’t that neat? What a great job!

I feel incredibly blessed to have had my book published after spending twelve years writing ten books (five fiction and five non-fiction), with The Tea Chest being the lucky latest. There were some pretty rough patches in that time, with so many heartbreaking near misses. There was at least one time that I came a bunny’s whisker to giving up writing. Like, for good. But as soon as I read a new great story, I felt joy, I felt inspired, I felt renewed, and back to the keyboard I went.

The world’s a tough place out there. Have you noticed? I feel like every day, with more and more technology brining the outside world into our inner world at a rapid-fire rate (often, and unfortunately, without our deliberate intention), we have to work harder and harder to say, hang on a minute, there’s joy out there too. On a bigger level, I want to shout out to the world that I choose something different. I choose kindness, I choose joy, I choose nurturing.

Stories bring us hope, new beginnings and new endings, alternative ways of working through problems, creative answers and a chance to imagine a new life. They let us take risks in our heart and mind, to test them out, before we have to take them in real life. This is why I write. And what an honour it is to be given at the vehicle of a publishing contract, to be able to do that.

So as I work my way through the publication and publicity of my first book, each new step a huge learning adventure, I will ground that intention into everything I do and every book I write from here on. And, yeah, when I see The Tea Chest on the shelves for the first time, I’ll definitely be breaking out a little Snoopy dance.

Elizabeth Gilbert: “Most in Show”

I just smiled and smiled when I read this today. The ever-inspirational, Elizabeth Gilbert, posted this on her Facebook site and I, like others in her comment thread, just had to share it on my blog. There’s not much I can say to add to this, other than, yeah, sister, right on. (And as an author who’d written ten manuscripts before cracking a publishing contract, I can attest to the value of ‘most in show’.) Enjoy 🙂

1536741_573424569406329_240531612_nI found this photo the other day at my mom’s house, and I burst out laughing.

This is me in 1980, ten years old, showing off everything I had made that year for our local 4-H fair. (That’s an agricultural fair, for those of you who aren’t so familiar with 4-H.)

I had a dream that year. I wanted to win BEST IN SHOW in the Home Goods department. I’d been coveting that giant purple ribbon for years, and wanted to make it mine.

My plan was to enter as many items as I could in every single category (cooking, canning, baking, gardening, sewing, industrial arts) in the hopes that at least one thing would be BEST.

I worked all summer at this. I drove my mother crazy. I cooked, I canned, I baked, I picked (and pickled) beans and beets and cucumbers, I made a teddy bear (!), I built a coat-hanger, I made a automobile first aid kit, I did needlepoint, I was out of control. (By the way — thanks, mom. Because of course I didn’t really know how to do any of this, so she spent the summer helping me as I hijacked her kitchen, her sewing machine, her craft table, her garden…)

After all that, I didn’t win BEST IN SHOW. Another kid did, for a dessert that he had made. I don’t even want to talk about it. I’m sure he was a very nice kid and the desert was probably fine — but seriously, it killed me. I was a sobbing mess.

But then some sympathetic judge must have put it together and noticed that — out of the 300 exhibitions in the Home Show that year — about 175 of them had been made by the same girl. Somebody must have been like, “Oh my god, that poor pathetic child.” Because later in the day, I was given a special award — a giant ribbon upon which some kind soul had written: “MOST IN SHOW”.

Which soothed my sad heart and made me very proud, though today in makes me laugh my ass off because: MOST IN SHOW? That it the best turn of phrase ever. “You, little girl, are not the best at any of this stuff…or even the second best…or the third best…but, by god, you are the MOST.”

But you know what? I’ve always been MOST IN SHOW. I wasn’t the best writing student in any class I ever took, but I was the MOST — I was the one who tried hardest. I think I finally got published because I was MOST IN SHOW — because I spent years writing and writing and writing and writing and sending out those stories to publishers and getting rejected and rejected and rejected, and sending out more and more and more stories until I finally wore them down and they published one at last.

I’m not the best at anything, you guys. Not the smartest, not the most talented, not the prettiest, not the strongest, not the best traveler, not the best journalist, not the best public speaker, not the best with foreign languages, not the best novelist, not the wisest, not the best meditator, not the best yogi, not the anything-est. But by god, I show up with a truckload of effort and participation and preparation, and I give to life the absolute MOST I’ve got. In every category I can.

The uniquely talented guy with the fancier dessert still usually wins the big prize, but you know what? I still wear them down (the great judges of life, that is) and they still have make up special ribbons for me all the time.

Because I just won’t go away.

Persistence forever!

MOST LOVE,

LG

Elizabeth Gilbert will be in Brisbane on 5 March at the Brisbane Powerhouse, talking about creativity and inspiration. You can find more information from the Brisbane Writers Festival program.