Monday, October 13, 2014

Mma Has Passed Away

Mma passed way last week. We buried her this past Saturday. We held the funeral service at home in Phokeng; attended by hundreds of mourners including former students in a career spanning 43 years, her friends, neighbours, former colleagues, members of her professional associations and relatives.
Mma & my younger bro on her 75th birthday this April

Her passing was unexpected for me, because even though she was sick for a long time, she didn't seem to have gotten worse and I thought we would manage her chronic conditions for many more years.

She  had a lot of energy the weeks before  her passing.  Then suddenly she was very poorly and  I called medical emergency people, but she was gone by the time they arrived. 

Emotionally, I'm not dealing with it yet. It was easier for me to focus on the practical aspects of the loss because then I have something to do and I spent the past week working with my siblings to plan and project manage the funeral service, with a number of smaller events inbetween (church services, memorial service etc). Now that that's done, I'm working on the next step. It's probably going to involve a lot of writing, though there will be other things too.

Tuesday, June 03, 2014

Fitting It All Into A Day: My Writing Process

It's been a while since I posted here and I hope that this post you will give you insight into what I've been up to in terms of writing, the factors that affect my writing day and how I try to fit it all into my day, with varying degrees of success.

What am I working on/ writing

One of my biggest challenges is that my head is never quiet, even when I’m not writing or blogging. There is always a story or character trying to say something to me and I’d probably go crazy if I didn’t regularly do a brain dump.  So while I haven’t been blogging for long while, I’ve been doing a lot of writing this year. The material I've been working on includes:

Client work: This ranged from web content to brochures to articles published in magazines and blogs under a client’s name. I’ve scaled this down drastically though, so I can write more books.

Children’s stories: Two stories are done and proof-read and have covers. I just need to get off my tushie to work on publishing them on Amazon as planned. Another story has been critiqued by trusted readers and edited but doesn’t have a cover.   There’s also a series of 10 children’s stories based on a single character, started in March 2014. I should start researching the themes in the stories to ensure accuracy of fictional events. I also have a number of folktales retold for children in second draft.

A novella (romance)  and a short story submitted to a publisher under a pen name. Waiting to hear from them.

An ebook on growing your own food in South Africa (proposed as ebook series of 3). Manuscript due to publisher in September as per publisher request.

Blog posts – Blogging was the orphan child who suffered while I lived and worked, though I did manage to write quite a lot for my gardening blog, come up with the ebook idea, pitch it to a publisher and write up more than half the manuscript.

Poetry for personal use. This is a new development startedin the past couple of months. In May I wrote a poem for Baby’s 16th birthday, another for Mother’s Day and third for a close friend commemorating Macaroon Day.  My friend didn’t know it was Macaroon Day until I said so and she’s still not sure why she should care about the day. Tomorrow is Old Maid's Day and I suppose I am one and I have friends who are, though obviously I wouldn't have used that phrase. So there could be a poem in me to commemorate the day:)

How does my work/writing differ from others in its genre?

I try to make my readers feel that one of my characters is sitting next to them, telling them about even their lives or in the case of non-fiction I’m explaining how the stuff works. The flow of words, the cadence of it should reflect this.

When I write for clients though, I strive to make sure my “voice” is completely absent. I listen to hours of audio interviews when I first land a client I’m writing for, so that I can get a feel of them not just in the content I’m communicating but also in the turn of phrases they are prone to use.  It’s hard in the beginning and I usually prefer to interview them by email too so their personality comes through their written words unfiltered by me.

Why do I write what I do?

I write children’s stories and folktales because I want to share stories that had an impact on me as a child and to write stories children I love can identify with;  IT business because there’s a big geek in me who loves thinking about cables and widgets and the business of selling them and using them to create interesting things and the laws that govern that whole process; marketing, promotion and publicity because I’ve worked in those fields and many people want to know how it works and I love sharing what I know; gardening because I’m passionate about growing our food and love sharing what I’m learning;  poetry because sometimes I have something to say to a specific person. Sometimes though, I write because the client asked and it’s money in the bank for me.

How does my writing process work?

My writing has to fit in with whatever home-related tasks I have to do throughout the day. For example, yesterday’s priorities involved caring for Mma who has health issues, updating my cozi app to plan for winter, June and the coming week (writing goals for the month, projects that need to be done around the house this June, life admin, ordering our monthly meds, making a monthly grocery list and ordering meat animals from local farmers – a lamb at R500/$47 and pig at R600/$57 to last us through Spring).

I also had to pick the day’s harvest, water the garden, prepare our lunch and dinner and deal with three different guests who came to come visit Mma.

My writing priorities for the day were writing this blog, finding three poems to send to an organisation that asked me, sending my ebook “How to get quoted in the media” to a friend for a thesis research, updating a client’s social media, taking photos of the garden and writing  about one vegetable for the ebook manuscript and transcribing and translating a short client audio.

As to the nitty-gritty of my writing process, client work is easy: I get a brief outlining a topic, slant and word count, potential sources and the publication the client is placing it with. I then draft interview questions and send them to the sources also asking for interview date and time and to find out if they prefer email or telephonic  interviews.  After the interview I write the piece, rewrite it until I’m happy with it, send it to the client for approval, edit again and polish until it’s ready for publication.

For my personal projects, whether fiction or non-fiction, I evaluate the ideas dumped onto my board to see if they have merit and free- write those that look “shiny” to me. That gives me the bare bones of my stories.  From there I do online research, which may also include cutting photos of people, places and buildings to support various themes in the work,  then look for interview sources to get more information to shape my stories, settings or characters.

I then rewrite the piece, this time the writing rooted in information and referring to my notes, photos/clips and articles quite a bit. This is where I consciously choose a method to communicate information in the piece (to narrate or quote, for example) and verify whether what the character says or does is plausible.

This process is repeated over and over until the draft manuscript is done.  Sometimes I put the story away for hours/days/weeks, even months, before I start cutting it to meet word count requirements and rewriting until the piece feels polished.

Afterwards, I send it to trusted readers for their input. For longer non-fiction works, I’ve been known call friends saying “I hate it. It sucks. I’m a horrible writer!” Then sanity prevails and I use readers’ input to polish it, edit and proof-read the piece again before sending it where it’s supposed to go for publication.
So. That’s the overall process, though it’s truncated for shorter or more predictable pieces.

This post is part of the My Writing Process blog hop. I was tagged by Corinne Rodrigues, a Mumbai-based blogger, writer, motivator who says she is journeying happily through midlife. Corinne blogs here and on Write Tribe and From 7Eight.

For this hop, I'm tagging three people and their posts will go live on Monday 9th June. Please visit them next week, get to know them and you'll see why I like them so much:)

Sandile Nene, a young writer and blogger who has taught me a thing or two without realising it:

Sandile Nene, better known as Sandy is a 21 year old South African based freelance writer and blogger.

He is the founder of SA's first and biggest blogging community Web For Love (currently being renovated). Sandy blogs at On Point With Sandy and works as a social media manager and content creator.

Pamela Moeng, one of my closest friends and a writer. 

Pamela Moeng has worked as a feature writer for a small weekly newspaper, a Public Relations Manager in a cultural centre, an editor for two educational publishers and she currently works in communications.

Her published works include a romance novella entitled The Business of Love published by Nollybooks, educational books including English in Our Lives teachers guides grades 7, 8 and 9 and Let’s Use English teachers guide grade 8 for Heinemann, and Learning Arts and Culture Can Be Fun learners and teachers guides grade 5 for Nasou via Afrika.

She published six supplementary readers through Cambridge University Press, including both fiction and non-fiction.

She has edited the Oxford University Press publication Starting Your Own Business in South Africa 11th Edition, contributing the chapter on women in business. She contributed poems to Wo(ban).
Pamela blogs about writing here.

Ann, a new friend and blogger who has an interesting story to tell:

Passing the Deals in Kentucky

Ann is a mom of three, a wife, a nurse, a blogger; freelance writer, a tea lover, and she loves her Mac computer! Since 2008, she has learned that coupons can help her and her family through tough economic times.

By having a well-stocked and organized stockpile, she was able to continue to further her career. She worked full-time and attended college part-time, then times got tough so she had to give up her job to continue through school.

She then continued through college all while living off the stockpile that she had from coupons, and had help from others. Even since then she has come to believe that old saying: "the early bird gets the worm".

Ann says she believes there is truth in that statement, especially when it comes to hunting down the deals before the supplies run out. And being an avid couponer, she's always looking for that next "best" deal!

Her goal is to help others do the same. She want to pass along the deals not only to Kentuckians, but to everyone and she shares her insight on her blog Passing Deals in Kentucky

Thursday, March 13, 2014

J Is For Job Losses In Phokeng

Central Phokeng, around 5kms from where I live
One of the reasons I'm such a strong advocate for running your own business is that no one can retrench you.

A client can fire you. A long term contract that provides the backbone of your business can expire.But hopefully, if such a thing happens, you made sure you have other clients who can take up the slack and you know where to go look for more work to replace the client you lost.

Monday, March 10, 2014

J Is For Juggling Roles

The weekend was rough. We had electricity problems and were unconnected for more than 24 hours. It was not a loadshedding issue ( loadhshedding was not implemented in my area anyway). It was just a technical problem that was complicated by a techie who told the utility company that everything was fine on their end when they did in fact have a problem and it was affecting us.

So I had to back-and-forth with the utility for a while to get proper help. Meanwhile, our house  just felt dark and dank. We have a gas stove, lamps, heaters etc, so we could do the basics. But it's shocking how the lack of power affected our morale.

I also had to throw away perishables we didn't eat immediately. I was not going to risk our health eating food that could be off. I'm contacting our home insurance company today to see if I can claim money for that. We'll see.

Meanwhile, let's talk about juggling. As small business owners, we juggle many roles in any given day. You are the company's CEO, marketing manager, receptionist, social media person, spokesperson, probably even cleaner. 

Thursday, March 06, 2014

I is for Ideal Working Conditions

Night flowers I'm planning to watch unfold
Sometimes you have to work hours or in locations that are less than your ideal, and your work has to fit around your life issues.Today is one of those days for me.

In general, I do better, am happier when I have a routine. I know, I know. Dull, isn't it?

But I've come to terms with the fact that I write/work better when there is no drama except the kind that is in my head; when I wake up each day and do the same thing over and over again.

For me, ideal working conditions are when I'm home with all my familiar working tools around me. I could work in my office, in my bedroom or even in the garden, but whereever I am, I should be comfortable/feel at home there. Unfortunately, ideal working conditions are not always possible.

Right now I'm writing this post sitting next to a clinic bed, where Mma is lying down attached to an antibiotics drip for treatment. We will go home after the treatment, but meanwhile, I have a couple of hours to kill while I wait for the medical professionals to  do their thing.Focussing on the work helps me to not go impatient while I wait. It also helps to focus my mind on intellectual issues, rather than my day to day challenges. It also helps me feel productive.

And when I get home and I've settled Mma, I'm going to make myself a big mug of tea, go sit in my garden, watch my night flowers unfold and just take a deep breath.

P.S. She's OK. There were just a few minor issues -what was initially diagnosed as dermatitis  was actually a fungal infection over the body. Apparently people who have diabetes have a tendency to get it,  and  the treatment, meds and creams will take care of it.

What are your  ideal working conditions?

Tuesday, March 04, 2014

I Is For Insurance/Income Protector

One of the issues we need to consider as business owners is how to bring in money when we are sick and incapacitated in some way.

In South Africa, many employers provide insurance that allows you to be paid your salary/a portion of it while you're on medical leave. We also have an unemployment fund, from which one can claim during the time that they are incapacitated.

However, as small business owners, we don't have the luxury of an employer ensuring that you have benefits that include your medical aid (what we call health insurance) or your income protector, which makes out a regular payment to you for the duration of your illness.

We also have to consider how to ensure that we have a decent income if we become disabled, even if we manage to find a new way of working after a life-changing illness.

This is something that you need to do for yourself. The big question is, have you? If you were sick for two months or more, is your income going to be affected? Before you run off, this is not a sponsored post and I'm not trying to sell you anything:-)

It's just that several things have gotten me thinking about the issue:

Sunday, March 02, 2014

A Wet Lazy Sunday

I'm  having one of those slow, wet, lazy Sundays that you wish could go on forever. It's midday as I write this post, and I'm sitting on my bed with pillows balancing my back, a laptop in front of me and curtains wide open so I can watch the slow gentle rain outside.

I had a massive cook-out yesterday, preparing various dishes to freeze for days when I don't want to cook. The house is clean and tidy, the garden planted up and soaking up the rain water and this morning I quickly baked some scones.

It's lovely... this feeling that nothing is urgent or stressful today... that I can sit here and write to my heart's content and there is  nothing else calling to me to do.

Tomorrow will be different I know: there are deadlines to meet, errands to run,  maybe even a visit to the doctor for Mma (the dermatitis is back, and I'm halfway convinced it's an allergy to something). But for today, Mma is nice and warm, watching TV a few feet from me and I can just sit here and listen to my characters tell their stories.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

3 Things I Liked About Contraband By J.L Campbell

Congratulations to Michelle Gibson, Roche Rivera and Student Mommy (Jen) for winning prizes in my  A-Z Blogging Challenge Give-Away.

Your copies of How To Get Quoted In The Media and Amazon gift cards have been emailed to you. I hope you find both useful for you and/your businesses.

Monday, February 24, 2014

H Is For Home Office

My new home office (Black blob on the floor is my bag:-)
One of the most difficult lessons I've had to learn since I moved to Phokeng is that the space where you work matters and it's difficult to focus on the work at hand when your work station is unsettled.

Initially I worked where I could, when I could. I had a big table with my computers, printer and laptop in  my bedroom, but it didn't feel like a proper place to work. So I roamed about in the house, telling myself it was nice to be so mobile. And it sounds very nicely creative. However, the situation was not working as it should.

Here are some of the benefits of having a home office, whether it's an outside cottage, a room separate from the rest of your house or a corner in one of the family rooms:

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Ubuntu: We Are Who We Are Because Of The People In Our Lives

The post is part of Michelle's Ubuntu blog hop, to celebrate her blog's third anniversary. Happy bloganniversary, Michelle!

Anyhoo, one of the lessons I learnt growing up was that Motho ke motho ka batho ba bangwe [A human is human because of other people]

This meant that I was part of a community and that I would do better in the world when supported by my family and my community. Without them, I was nothing, even if on the surface I seem succesful.