Category Archives: Dare To Do Different

The virgin smokes a cigar: The afterglow from 100 days of creativity

Read this article and more in Weve

Last year Paul showed me an article in the local suburban paper. It was an interview with Emma Rogan talking about the 100 days project – a small creative exercise, once a day for 100 days. I wanted to give it a try so I decided to write a short story (about 100 words) each day incorporating a randomly selected word from Afterliff: A new dictionary of things there should be words for. To seal the deal and to make sure I didn’t chicken out part-way through, I published my stories on my blog for all to see.

I’m the kinda gal who enjoys challenges. I’ve bungy-jumped in Queenstown, eaten haggis and presented in front of 500+ people.

Bungy-jumping is the scariest thing ever. Standing on a teeny tiny platform high above a rapidly flowing river, watching a teeny tiny inflatable boat waiting to haul you in, listening to an instructor telling you he’ll count you down but won’t push you, and at least 100 people watching stupid dicks like me pay to jump off a bridge. THAT is absolutely terrifying.

So terrifying that the instructor counted me down twice and I still didn’t jump. I took sadistic pleasure in knowing he couldn’t push me. Hah! I hyperventilated, I visualised myself celebrating at the end like they tell you to do when you try something for the first time, and still I didn’t jump.

And then after I’d got all that out of my system (not because the instructor told me if I didn’t jump soon he was going to untie my legs and I’d have to walk back across the bridge where everyone could see me), I jumped. I screamed. I survived (I’ve got it on video if you don’t believe me).

I’m not afraid of challenges; but stepping over that point of no return, feeling the fear, imagining all the things that could go so horribly wrong, trying not to cry? THAT is bloody scary.

Stepping over the point of no return with this project was no exception. I fretted about putting it on my blog in such a public space. I fretted about writing stories that other people would think were lame. I fretted about whether I could stick it out for 100 days. Do you know how long that is? Do you? I fretted about everything. But in the end my enthusiasm triumphed over my fear. I started. I continued to fret for 100 days. I was anxious about every story. I had an adrenaline rush with every story.

I hated each word and I loved every word. I am in awe of novelists. If I had known just how hard it is to tell an engaging story that captures the reader’s interest I would never have started.

Knowing the basic mechanics helped. Sort of. A beginning, middle and end provided a structure to help the story flow; while I desperately tried to convey atmosphere, use witty repartee and build intricate worlds. It may have been possible under different conditions but I couldn’t do it. in a way that satisfied me, within a 24 hour turnaround. Alas, I settled for capturing a brief moment in a character’s life.

The word for Day 1 was mastrils (pl.n alarming or unconventional pets such as ferrets or anacondas). It took, oh about, 23 hours to get this story written and thanks to Entertainment Tonight and the eccentricities of Hollywood celebrities it came together in a piece inspired by Paris Hilton.

Just another manic monkey
“That stupid *bleeep* monkey just bit me!” Clarice screamed. 

“Clarice’s cute collection of mastrils has accompanied her on the red carpet many times. But just how dangerous are Clarice’s exotic pets? Our reporter Juan Rodriguez is at the hospital now. Juan what can you tell us?”

“Kelly, Clarice was rushed to hospital earlier today after her monkey, Princess, supposedly went crazy and bit her on the leg. Doctors are treating Clarice for suspected rabies but it’ll be at least ten days before we know for certain if Clarice is in the clear. Meanwhile, celebrity pet therapist, Fleur Thiel has spoken to Princess and says Princess is adamant she doesn’t have the rabies virus.”

Writing stories about Hollywood celebs was not something I could have predicted I would write about, but funnily enough none of the stories were. They all delightfully surprised me. The scenes I rehearsed in my head never quite worked out the same on paper. In my head I imagined sweeping cinematic movie trailers, while on paper they morphed into Secret Santa.

The most powerful artifact in all of accounting
I pull a piece of paper out of the hat and look at the name written on it. Curtis. I smile with relief.

This is my first Christmas at Grey Chapman Chartered Accountants and I was worried I’d get one of the partners who I don’t really know very well. Curtis is a big Lord of the Rings fan so it should be easy enough to find a Secret Santa gift for him.

At lunch time I pop out to the $2 shop to see what I can find and voilà, there it is. The One Ring, soon to be re-labeled as The Eakring* – the Greatest of all the Rings of Power and the most Powerful Artifact in all of Accounting. Perfect.

*A token of undying thrift.

Using random words from Afterliff: the new dictionary of things there should be words for, caused more than a few stunned mullet moments. I oscillated between using the word to set the plot or using the word in a small part of the storyline. I think some of my best stories were stories that just happened to contain the word of the day.

Invasion of the body snatchers
Troesel, Thelina and Turnich have been assigned a three week reconnaissance mission. After advising the three Alphabeasts of the importance of remaining undetected, the Dolphbot lets them choose their Earthling hosts.

Two weeks later: There have been several reports of unusual communications between John Key, Winston Peters and Kim Dotcom.  It is alleged that the three have been secretly meeting to discuss a new future together. When questioned, all three vehemently deny such allegations. David Cunliffe remains ab lench*, as usual.

Three weeks later: The Alphabeast Commander awards Turnich the highest honour for his successful invasion of David Cunliffe’s body.

*Not up for anything much, really: The opposite of ‘gung-ho’. 

Death by a thousand cuts
So many words have been taken from us. Removed from human consciousness and lost forever. The number of blank spaces in printed material is growing day by day and soon we will witness the slow death of our conversations.

I stand at the big hulking machine and wait for it to spit out the next word that I must erase. I am being punished for my insolence but I have not been broken, yet. Tomorrow I will give my daughter a birthday present she alone will remember. I will give her the word ‘wyre piddle*’ and she will keep it alive within her.

*A small child with its shoes on the wrong feet.

About two dozen people unsubscribed from my blog within the first week of 100 Days of Creativity. I fretted. Were my stories that bad? Should I only post ‘library stuff’? What if others left? And then about two dozen people subscribed to my blog within the second week of the project. They weren’t ‘library types’, they were ‘writer types’.

I fretted again. By Day 30, I was over it. Whatever you do, whatever happens people will judge you. Yes, it worried me.  But it didn’t stop me because there were others who silently supported my effort, or commented on stories that resonated with them, or like Steph and Sabine generously suggested plot ideas during a creative slump.

It’s moments like these
The inside was just as Bine imagined most high school reunions to look like. Awkward. ‘Bine, is that you? It’s so great to see you!’ Bine smiled and gave Tessa a hug. Steph gave Bine an odd look and unsuccessfully tried to catch her eye as the two began talking like they were the best of friends, not her and Steph. 

During a pause in the conversation, Bine had a rackwallace* moment. She turned to Steph with a look of horror. This wasn’t Tessa, this was Charlotte. The Charlotte who pushed her into the diving pool where she floundered before being rescued by the lifeguard. ‘Gotta go’ said Bine, dragging Steph with her. 

*The awful realisation that the person you’ve been talking to all this time is not who you thought they were.

Fact checking and background research for a story of just 100 words might seem like overkill but I did want to make sure I had the story straight, if at all possible. And the things you learn!

True love
Recoiling in disgust when you realise you’ve drunk from an eccup* could be rendered obsolete by scientists who are confident that people will soon be able to replace lost teeth by growing new ones,’ says the TV health reporter. 

Eeeeww! Sounds like a mad scientist

‘…Tests have shown the technique to work in mice, where new teeth took weeks to grow. “We’re confident it will work in humans,” said Professor Deekay…’

experiment gone wrong. Even though I’m looking forward to growing old with you Duncan, I’d rather have you gummy than watch you grow new teeth,’ said Rachael to her husband who didn’t hear a word she said.

*The mug that nobody uses because Grandad once kept his false teeth in it.

Despite all the angst, grumbling and frustration I am ecstatic with the stories I wrote. I didn’t think I could come up with a new story every single day for 100 days. I didn’t think I had 100 stories in me.

There were lots of stories that could have been better and one I didn’t like at all (but oddly enough others did). I don’t think I’m very good at creative writing but I know I’m better than I was. Plus, I’ve got a lot of raw material to work with now.

“Taking a new step,uttering a new word,is what people fear most.” Fyodor Dostoevsky

Here’s An Idea. Continuing Education in An Hour. What Do You Think?

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In 2012 LIANZA conducted a Career Survey in which some respondents indicated there were not enough continuing education opportunities available (p.64). There was also a strong preference (64.02%, p. 69) for Continuing Professional Development to be undertaken during work time rather than after hours.

I agree that there is a limited range of professional development opportunities that are directly relevant to my job in a New Zealand library and affordable in both time and money.

Here’s my idea: I develop a series of self-paced online courses that only take 60 minutes to complete and provide participants with a one page blueprint to use within their workplace.

The content would be based on your suggestions but ideally would focus on learning real world NZ library skills such as ‘questions to ask when someone wants help with their ereader’, project management and readers advisory.

The courses would be self-paced so you can enrol at any time and only take 60 minutes meaning you could complete them in between desk shifts. There is no need to hire staff to cover while others are learning and you can apply your learning the same day you receive it. You would come away with a one-page blueprint to enable you to easily apply your learning to your job.

What do you think?

I’ll let you know if there is interest in developing this idea further, who knows, maybe I’ll start a kickstarter campaign to get it off the ground.

Homage to Rangiora

Reblogged from Heroes Mingle:

Read this article and more in Weve

In October 2012 I moved from Auckland to Rangiora to work for Waimakariri Libraries. Waimakariri is the second fastest growing region in New Zealand – a community brimming with rejuvenation and opportunity. With more than 1200 people visiting Waimakariri Libraries each day my role was to lead and manage strategic projects that will open doors for enquiring minds. My primary focus was on two projects: the rebuild of the Kaiapoi Library after the Canterbury earthquakes, and the implementation and delivery of RFID self-service kiosks.

In March I returned to Auckland for personal reasons and I’ve written this article to pay homage to the many Rangiora Library customers I was fortunate enough to meet and come to know. The connection community members have with the library is personal and unique and it is important that we as librarians take the time to listen and strengthen those connections.

This article tells the stories of Rangiora Library through the eyes of two such customers – Jon Read and Tony Barnett.

Jon Read

Jon Read

Free to Indulge
Jon Read plans liveable built environments for the rapidly growing Waimakariri District in a temporary portable office next door to Rangiora Library. Sometimes for a change of scenery he’ll bring his work into the library, claiming a table for a couple of hours to do research or seek inspiration.

With a background in parks and recreation Jon has worked as a park ranger, developed cycling and walking tracks and been involved in the development of reserves such as the Brooklands Lagoon and New Brighton dunes in Christchurch. He’s been working for the Waimakariri District Council for seven years and lives on a lifestyle block near Oxford with his partner Sharon and two children Shae (13) and Devon (11).

As I talk with Jon about his life and how the library fits into it he confesses that he has succumbed to the occasional book binge. Every now and then he will take home an armful of books that look interesting and sometimes do nothing more than skim a couple of chapters or flick through the pages before bringing them back with the intention of reading them later.

It is his frequent use of the library for a variety of purposes that has made it easy for Jon to indulge in what would otherwise be an expensive habit.

It turns out the library and I also support Jon in another ‘otherwise expensive habit – foreign movies and tv series. When I issued Jon the Borgen dvd about a year ago, I asked if he’d seen the recent Wallander series with Kenneth Branagh and if so what he thought of it. We discussed the differences between tv series made in Scandinavia compared to those made in American or Britain, and how long it might be before the next series of The Killing is available in New Zealand. Jon’s watched most of the library’s Scandinavian dvds and nearly every week he’ll flick through our entire dvd collection looking for new ones. He wishes there was an easier way to find out what’s new since he last looked.

As fate would have it, I am also a fan of Scandinavian crime and have a dvd collection at home that I share with Jon so he doesn’t have to wait until they become available in New Zealand, and then the library.

Jon’s son Devon developed an interest in reading through the Summer Reading Programme in Oxford Library a couple of years ago and Jon will often look for the latest Andy Griffiths’ book or Diary of a Wimpy Kid for him. Devon is in a digital class at school where all coursework is completed on a laptop. Devon loves it, but Jon is concerned about how he will keep up without broadband at home (no connection available). A slow dial-up connection doesn’t make it easy to look for Andy Griffiths’ email address or Facebook page so you can ask him when his next book will be out.

Jon tends to favour socio-political biographies over fiction and is also curious about landscaping, architecture, design and self-help topics. He likes the variety and diversity available at the library and he never knows what he’ll discover next.

Jon’s thankful the library gives him the freedom to indulge.

Tony Barnett

Tony Barnett

A life-long love of learning and languages
I first met Tony Barnett when he asked if he could use the library’s computers during my first week at Rangiora Library. The computers can be booked for thirty minutes each day and although some customers habitually linger longer than they should, Tony respects the opportunity to check his email and rarely outstays his allotted time.

 Every day for the last fifteen years Tony has visited either Kaiapoi or Rangiora Library.

He prefers Rangiora Library, as it is closer, but spent a few years visiting Kaiapoi when the noise from the children’s area and the unfriendliness of staff pushed him away. Thankfully in the last three years the situation has improved and he’s back at Rangiora waiting for the library to open each day. Whenever I see Tony we exchange greetings and share a brief conversation. But it wasn’t until I asked him if I could write a story about him that I realised Tony was a man of many talents.

Born in Christchurch during the war Tony’s family lived in a number of places in the Canterbury region and in Wellington, moving whenever his father began a new teaching position. Tony’s mother supplemented the family income teaching singing to local children and both professions have had an impact in Tony’s life. Tony began singing solo at the Town Hall from the age of six and has the gift of being able to read music and intuitively understand how the parts come together. Today he continues his love of music by playing the organ during Christmas church services.

It also seemed natural for Tony to continue in his father’s footsteps into a life of academia. In fact you might say Tony is the embodiment of life-long learning. Tony taught in primary and secondary schools for fourteen years including three stints in England.

He has a BA in French, MA in English, an Engineering degree and has completed ¾ of a Chemistry degree.

This is his 15th year as a student with Christchurch Polytechnic, most recently completing a Diploma in Information Technology in 2006 and he is currently enrolled in the Polytechnic’s Computing 4 Free Excel course. Tony is also a fluent reader in French, Spanish, German and Italian and continues to regularly attend Italian classes in Christchurch to maintain his fluency.

We talked at length about the difference in studying towards a chemistry degree versus an arts degree, the impact of a teacher’s gender on their approach to teaching and whether qualifications are still an important indicator for employers.

Through Tony’s love and expertise in languages I learnt the term patronymics. A patronym or patronymics is the component of a personal name derived from one’s father. For example, many English names include the patronym ‘son’ as in Johnson (son of John), whereas the Irish and Scots use the prefix ‘Mc’ or ‘Mac’ as in McDonald (son of Donald). Barnett, Tony’s surname, includes the Hebrew patronym ‘Bar’ (son of Nett). This led to a discussion on the Scandinavian influence of many English place names and the Danelaw. I found these stories fascinating as it prompted me to compare it with my knowledge of whakapapa and the origins of Maori place names and personal names.

You might expect Tony to be a regular borrower, using the library to extend his studies and pursue his interests, but Tony isn’t even a member of the library.

He doesn’t borrow books because his caravan doesn’t have adequate lighting for sustained periods of reading. Instead he reads in the library.

You might also expect that with his knowledge of computing that Tony would have a computer at home and would have no need to use the computers in the library. Tony does have a computer but it isn’t connected to the internet because he is concerned about viruses. So he uses the library’s computer to access his email and search for information.

The library is Tony’s home away from home; a place to read the newspaper, check email, and be amongst people.

The Philosophy of Love

Reblogged from Heroes Mingle:

From Collections to Connections:
A Sentimental Approach to the Future of Libraries

Begin Here.

Image: “thecreepycatacomb.blogspot.com” by Krysthopher Woods https://www.flickr.com/photos/krysthopher_woods/5700473956/ CC BY-NC 2.0

Read this article and more in Weve

Step Willingingly Into The Unknown

Image Source: “n215_w1150” by Biodiversity Heritage Library https://www.flickr.com/photos/biodivlibrary/6927550308/ CC BY 2.0

Image Source: “n215_w1150” by Biodiversity Heritage Library https://www.flickr.com/photos/biodivlibrary/6927550308/ CC BY 2.0

100/100 Days of Creativity: Last Call

The Dafanlons are a servant race of elephant-like creatures with short snouts and delicate folds of skin on their heads, which they use to detect sound. They are employed by the Vugane, a race of intelligent molluscs, to monitor all communication in the Dius galaxy and beyond.

Yesterday the Dafanlons detected a message from a far-off species on a dying planet called Earth. It read: memel and was the last communication before Earth went dark. The Vugane were not surprised. They had intercepted similar communications from at least sixty thousand species that no longer existed and had learnt the value of listening long ago.

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For 100 consecutive days I will write and post a short story (about 100 words) incorporating a randomly selected word from Afterliff: A new dictionary of things there should be words for.

The last word:
memel v.
To continue vaguely agreeing with someone you stopped listening to ages ago.

\o/

 

99/100 Days of Creativity: Relax A Little

World Shotput Champion, Val Adams forgot everything she had been told in the last half hour, and broke all protocol to give the Queen a warm and friendly hug. Much to everyone’s surprise the Queen gave a delicate leoh and unexpectedly began to sob causing much consternation from officials and Royal minders alike.

The Queen abruptly dismissed all officials and guests to retire to her living room with Val for a nice long chat over a cup of tea where the Queen revealed that Val was the first person to hug her in over 20 years.

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For 100 consecutive days I will write and post a short story (about 100 words) incorporating a randomly selected word from Afterliff: A new dictionary of things there should be words for.

Today’s word:
leoh n.
A little gasp from being hugged too tightly.

Tomorrow’s word:
memel v.
To continue vaguely agreeing with someone you stopped listening to ages ago.