John Sutherland’s “How to Read a Novel: A user’s guide” – Book review

Speaking of misleading titles (okay, I’m not yet, but I’m about to), I just want to point out to anyone who’s reading this and grew up with me that the book I’m about to review was not written by our childhood friend John Sutherland, but by some old British guy.

How to Read a NovelHow to Read a Novel by John Sutherland
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

The only reason this book gets two stars (instead of one) is that I didn’t actively dislike it. It was easy to read and mildly interesting. I wanted to keep reading. I kept hoping to actually learn “How to Read a Novel.”

The book, or rather the title, is a brilliant example of marketing. As an avid reader, a lover of novels and an English teacher of 21st century teenagers, how could I NOT pick up a book that promises to teach us “how novels work, what they’re about, what makes them good or bad, and how to talk about them with kindred spirits.” Unfortunately, the blurb is pure fabrication. It has nothing at all to do with the book it’s printed on.

How to Read a Novel is a largely useless book wrapped in the most amazingly nerdalicious wrapping in the world. If ever a book is published that actually delivers what the title and blurb claim, I will be “all upons” (to quote Strongbad, which is something everyone should do at least once in their life). John Sutherland‘s book would be more aptly titled, “How to pick a novel” and subtitled, “A book that lists a number of approaches to chosing reading material, but doesn’t give you any practical advice at all”. Of course, I don’t know a single person who would actually pick that book up, let alone get excited about reading it. Whoever thought of the title of this book is a genius is commercial terms. Whoever wrote the blurb (likely Sutherland himself, as he explains in chapter 7 “that they are often written by the authors themselves”) is an outright liar.

Maybe Sutherland had every intention of writing an actual useful book that does everything promised in the cover copy, but he didn’t. He’s not a bad writer. He’s knowledgeable. He has experience in reading and judging books. But he did not write a book that deserves the title, “How to Read a Novel. A User’s Guide.” Incedentally, he is also rather self-important and likes to boast about the books he’s read. I can’t really blame him for that though. I’m the same.

In one word: Disappointing.

View all my reviews

More thoughts:

So that was my review on Goodreads, but there’s more that this book made me think about. As anyone who reads my blog knows, I can go on and on and on and I’m not very concise or always logical in my ramblings. I tried to keep the actual review to a minimum. What follows is more of a response.

  • The book made me think about reading curricula. If anyone ever had control over what books were assigned for children to read each year in schools, over their entire school journey, what would this reading list look like? At it’s core, the concept is repulsive – it would turn even more children off reading than already hate it. But it’s tempting to think about what such a reading list would look like. The author says at age 9, he was assigned a Victorian era children’s book, Masterman Ready by Frederick Marryat, and it led him to a love of Thackeray, especially Vanity Fair. That was in England during WWII. How would it go down in modern day New Zealand? Not well, I think, though I have a notion that it would be lovely to be setting higher expectations for kids who already like reading, so that we don’t end up with ‘top scholars’ who grew up on Goosebumps, Twilight and John Green*.
  • *I’m not saying R.L Stine, Stephenie Meyer and John Green are all bad, or all on the same level, or anything like that, I’m just saying that people who love reading should read more than popular fiction.
  • Sutherland’s section on “The future of fiction” is kind of hilarious. It’s been eleven years since he wrote it. I love books. Like, really really love them. I love physical books. But I do most of my reading on a screen. It hurts my eyes and decreases the quality of my sleep, but I do it anyway. It’s a fact of life. I have no idea what “iCue” is. In another eleven years, it’s likely not many people will know what “Wattpad” is. Or maybe even WordPress. The only accurate prediction one can make about the future of technology is that it will keep changing. Likely faster than ever.
  • I have heard about a book called “How to read literature like a professor.” After the massive let-down that is “How to Read a Novel,” I’m not getting my hopes up, but I’m still going to keep an eye out for it.
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How do you do that?

I had a question from a student.
“How did you learn to like reading?”
I thought for a moment.
“I don’t remember not liking it.”
His face fell.

Here is a student who wants to learn. This is the thing all teachers dream of. We think our jobs, nay, our lives would be so much better (unicorns and rainbows!) if only all students would feel this way. It’s a lot to ask. Teenagers are not well known for thinking logically, taking responsibility or making good decisions. Wanting to learn, and figuring out how to learn, are not easy things to do.

To get to this stage, I figure this student has already achieved a number of impressive feats.

First, he has discovered that the world and everything in it does not exist for the sole purpose of ensuring his comfort, happiness and awesomeness.
This is big. A friend of mine recently posted the following on Facebook: “Students with a 22 percent attendance are angry about failing grades.” Unfortunately, this is becoming more and more common. Yet my Questioning Student has not fallen into this trap.
Yes, he exists, which, when you think about it, is pretty damn impressive.
Yes, he shows up to school.
Yes, he mostly pays attention.
He even does his assignments!
In spite of all this, I do not plaster his work with that sought-after grade: Excellence.
And instead of blaming me, school in general, his parents, or just pretending not to care like most of his peers, he has decided to take responsibility for this himself. Winning!

Secondly, he recognises that this state of non-excellence is not permanent. “What?” I hear the horrified cries. “But I thought people were either smart or stupid!” “What about the notion of a ‘straight-A student’?” “How dare you challenge my tidy world of absolutes and suggest a Growth mindset?!”
He knows he can improve his grades, and to do this he has to learn things, do things differently and ask questions. Gold star right there!

Thirdly, he has made a connection between enjoyment and success. He’s figured out that, in order to do well in English, he needs to find a way to enjoy reading. Just as those who do well in maths enjoy the satisfaction of a problem neatly solved, and those who do well in technology enjoy creating something physical, those who do well in English enjoy words and language.

Sometimes I wish I could give a student an Excellence for this kind of learning. It’s the reason I got into teaching in the first place: to teach students how to learn. Unfortunately, there are no Excellences for those who learn the implicit curriculum, and the explicit curriculum requires the boy to actually read a couple of books.

So how do I teach him to learn to like reading? My own love for books is already clear in my classroom – if it wasn’t, he wouldn’t have thought I’d be able to answer him, would he? So leading by example clearly isn’t enough.

I can only teach what I know. So I must inspect my own relationship with reading.

I’ve been told that on my third birthday, I said to dad, “I get three stories now, because I’m three” when he tried to get away with reading me my regular two bedtime stories (the nerve!). I was reading at the age of four. I actually don’t remember not being able to read, not enjoying reading, or or not wanting to read more. In Form 1, my teacher had to adapt certificates from the Read In Bed – It’s Terrific! (RIB-IT!) programme after I passed the 20 books read! and 30 books read! marks, and just kept going until I hit 90 and more.

In Fourth Form – that dreaded year now known as Year 10, when even ‘good’ students like me rebelled and broke rules and tortured teachers and unleashed bad attitude on the world – I stood in the library during an English lesson and complained to my English teacher: “There’s nothing to read!” with the arrogance only a fourteen year old can truly convey. Mr Bathgate tried not to cringe. He tried not to show how hurt he was, but I saw it and tried to hide my victorious smirk (fourteen year olds are too cool to show emotion, even when they think they’ve finally broken a teacher). His pain only lasted a moment before he accepted the challenge, though. Within half an hour he had me hooked on Bryce Courtenay’s The Potato Factory. Even in my rebellion I couldn’t resist a good book. And, I’ll be honest, I was embarrassed when he pointed out how stupid it was to make such a claim in the middle of a library. No matter how much I pretended no to care, I hated the thought that a teacher might think I wasn’t intelligent. I have certainly suffered from a Fixed Mindset most of my life. (And no, he didn’t actually use the word ‘stupid,’ he was a good teacher. I credit him with re-igniting my passion for reading, though with a combination of right book, right time, I guess it would have happened eventually anyway.)

So what do I love about reading?
I love getting wrapped up in events that I could never physically experience.
I love meeting new people (characters), who make me see things differently.
I love the way words fit together in so many different ways, and how each time you change the way they go together, you change the meaning. I love the tiny changes and the drastic ones.
I love the sense of accomplishment that comes with finishing a book – and the sense of gaining something for having read it, along with the sense of losing something for having finished it.
I love that I can spend time with individual words and sentences, rolling them around and trying them out in my mind. I love how I can go back and re-read parts. I love how I can skip a paragraph or a page if I don’t want to read it. To me, it’s easier than re-watching or fast-forwarding a film, or replaying or skipping a song, and it’s certainly preferable to real life, which has no such convenient functions.
I love how the physical act of reading calms me down and helps me sleep.
The main thing that makes a book better than a film is that I have more control over how things and people look. In John Green’s The Fault In Our Stars, my Hazel is short and lumpy, not at all like Shailene Woodley in the film. In Yann Martel’s The Life of Pi, my Pi looks like a boy I knew when I was ten – the first boy of Indian descent I’d ever seen in real life, and the second boy I ever had a crush on. And Richard Parker sat on the floor watching me as I read. In Rowling’s Harry Potter series, there were far more pointy hats in my version than the film versions, and the school uniforms weren’t quite so… school uniform-y.
The other advantage to a book over a film is the amount of time you spend with the characters, or in a place. You get to know the characters more, simply because it takes longer to read a book than it does to watch a film. You become more intimate with them. When you close the pages for the night, you think about them as you drift off to sleep, and you wonder about them while you’re at school the next day, and by the time you get back to actually opening the book again, you’ve spent a whole day or a whole lifetime with them, and you understand them that much more, and you feel what they feel that much more.

Reading is an exercise of my imagination. It helps me organise my thoughts. It helps me try new ways of thinking.

But that still doesn’t answer the question: How do you learn to like reading?
I can only guess at things that might work.

  1. Tell yourself you like it. If you make yourself smile every time you wash the dishes, you eventually start to think that washing the dishes makes you smile. The power of positive thinking cannot be overstated.
  2. If you start reading something and you hate it, you don’t have to finish it. There’s a lot to be said for perseverance, and I encourage seasoned readers to read things they think they wouldn’t like, but for reluctant readers, I think the trick is to keep trying different things until you find something you like. It doesn’t have to be just books: magazines, the newspaper, websites, the narrative of games, I even encourage the reading of Facebook – if you’re reading and you’re enjoying it, keep it up.
  3. Try to associate reading with other positives, and avoid negatives. If the only time you ever read is for homework, of course you won’t like it. You’ve been conditioned to hate homework. Read in a place that you’re comfortable, when you have time to really get into it. Consciously make it a pleasant experience.

Of course, if your awful English teacher has assigned you a book that you have to read by the end of the term or else, and you hate every single word, and each paragraph is a struggle, and pages seem to last for hours, there’s not much you can do about it (except maybe the first one – though if you already believe you hate it, it can be hard to turn your thinking around). I’ve been there. William Golding. Lord of The Flies. Sixth Form English with Mrs Cameron (who happened to be one of my favourite teachers). It felt to me like a physical ache. The reading of it was so bad that I’ve repressed any memories I might have of writing about it. And yet, now that I think about it, I enjoy exploring the ideas it raises. But Golding’s name still makes me sieze up in dread. Chalk it down to one of those character-building, life-scarring things that you have to do to make it through high school and come out human on the other side.


Categories: Books, Learning, Teaching | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

I figured out why I don’t like it

I first saw the image on a flag wielded by a Black Caps supporter on the news yesterday afternoon.


I managed to hide my initial reaction – to recoil in disgust – because my flatmate chuckled at it. But I had to say something.

“That’s not a suitable flag.” I meant to show on the news, but I also meant in general.

“It’s something you pass around between your mates, but it’s not a flag,” she replied.

I agreed, because I couldn’t put into words my discomfort.


I often feel that way. I don’t speak out because I don’t have the right words.


But I’ve now had 20 hours or so to think about it. I read a book; I did some cryptic crossword puzzles. I caught up on some emails, paid my insurance premium online and slept (big Saturday night at my house). The image kept playing on my mind and I still couldn’t decide why I felt so upset by it. Am I just a prude? Do I have no sense of humour? Have I read so many feminist blogs that I can no longer function in the mundane world of sports fans and friendly across-the-ditch rivalry? (Actually, was there ever a time that I understood sports fans?)


You’ve probably seen it. It’s done the rounds on social media. A kiwi and a kangaroo (not even a little bit to scale) depicted in a sexual act. The kiwi is ‘taking’ the kangaroo from behind. Whether it’s supposed to be anal sex or doggie style is of no importance. The inter-species mating doesn’t bother me: I understand the intended implications of the anthropomorphism. I don’t think that sex should be a taboo subject, even on the 6 o’clock news (though I do respond unfavourably to sports news featuring before 6.30, and I am often upset at the sensationalist way sex is used to attract viewers to the “news” items that feature it). So what has me so upset that I am willing to spend a good portion of my Sunday afternoon writing about a silhouette of a couple of stylised animals going at it?


Images like this normalise sexual violence.


I have written before about my decision to eliminate phrases like “fuck that shit” and “screw you” from my vocabulary. Not that I’m much of a cusser anyway, but I occasionally get riled up enough to say such things (when John Key talks; when my students claim they ‘can’t’ do something; when people make jokes about fat people being lazy, greedy or stupid; when girls with leadership skills are described as ‘bossy;’ or when people make rape jokes). When I disagree with something, I feel I should be able to express my oppositional stance without resorting to over-used (read: lazy) sentiments of violence. Given the generally accepted meaning of the word fuck, what are we saying when we say “fuck you?” At the very least, when we uses this phrase, we mean “I don’t value you and I don’t want you (or your opinion) around,” or “I want to intimidate you with socially inappropriate words.” But at the heart of it, we’re saying “I want you to be the subject of sexual assault.” Even when we say “I’m fucked” (maybe because we haven’t studied and the exam is tomorrow), we’re likening our situation to being on the receiving end of violent or unwanted sex.


So I make an effort, when I’m angry, to be careful about the words I choose, because I don’t want to be part of a language shift that normalises sexual violence.


In the interest of full disclosure, I don’t swear much, and I often flinch inwardly when I hear my students, or even other adults swear. I am alarmed at how much a part of our everyday language swear words have become, even though I am all for accepting socially driven changes in language. But that’s not what this is about. I may not welcome the word “lol” with open arms but I’m not going to write pages about how upset it makes me. “Fuck off” and “fuckin A” are terms I would rather not hear, but honestly, I don’t see the point in trying to stop people from saying them in informal situations. “Fuck you” is different, and I will speak up when I hear it.


I feel that the kiwi-kangaroo image is an extension of that. It suggests that the New Zealand Black Caps will screw the Australian cricket team. I can’t imagine many circumstances where the Ozzies would appreciate that, let alone give consent. So it’s rape. And we laugh.


This doesn’t just normalise sexual violence, it normalises joking about sexual violence. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. Rape jokes are not okay.


What is it about a picture of our national animal having sex with Australia’s national animal that makes people laugh? This is where the feminism comes in. There’s this socially accepted discourse that says a person who penetrates someone in sexual intercourse is dominant while the person who is penetrated is inferior. This is offensive to me as a woman. I enjoy penetrative sex. That’s NATURAL and BEAUTIFUL and HUMAN! It’s not funny. It doesn’t make me weak or inferior or incapable of playing sports well. Many people: men, women, and people who don’t live within the gender binary enjoy penetrative sex both as the penetrator and the penetrated. Those who choose to penetrate are not all trying to assert their dominance or belittle the person they are having sex with. Those who choose to be penetrated are not lesser, in any way, to those who penetrate them.


This image is repulsive to me because it promotes the idea that sex is a power battle. It suggests the sexual position a person takes is an indicator of that person’s worth. It says “we’ll fuck them, with or without their consent, and that’s funny.” I say it’s not funny.


I say that images like this, and the unthinking acceptance of the social discourse it perpetuates, are the reason sexual violence is not taken seriously by many. How can we laugh at that, then wonder how teenage boys can think it’s okay to threaten to rape girls who insult their pride? We taught them that. It’s time to stop shaking our heads in disbelief and placing blame elsewhere. Yes, there are some psychopaths out there who, due to chemical imbalance or I-don’t-know-what, will commit heinous crimes whether I yell “fuck you” at the loser who’s revving his engine loudly across the street at 3am or not. But there are also many people who are growing up with a skewed sense of what it means to be strong or funny, thanks to the language we all use, and the things we all laugh at. I say we are all responsible for teaching the next generation what respect is.

I also say, if you laughed at it, don’t be offended by what I have written. I’m not saying I think you condone rape. You’ve been conditioned to believe it’s funny, because hey, Australians are pussies who love to take it up the bum, amirite? Instead, think about it. Decide if what I’ve said is something you care about. Maybe you will decide the image is not that bad, and you’ll still share it with your mates, and if it looks like NZ is going to lose today, you’ll say, “We’re buggered.” And if we win, you’ll say, “We gave it to them good.” Maybe that’s okay in your books. But I’m just saying: it’s not okay in mine.

Categories: Language, Saving the World | Tags: , , , , , | Leave a comment

Word Crimes

Word Crimes. I love the general response to this song. For a long time, I’ve been that person who corrects everyone else’s spelling and grammar, both online and in person. Some of you may remember passing me notes in lectures only to have them returned with proofreading marks all over them. I would like it to be known that I never intended to be hurtful or imply stupidity when doing this (although it’s always tempting to write, “You can’t even [spell, use apostrophes, capitalise],” when dealing with people I don’t agree with online), but I realise now that sometimes people are offended and I come off as condescending and/or cruel. As someone who has always loved the sometimes seemingly arbitrary rules of the English language, it has taken me a long time to understand that some people just don’t get it, and just don’t care.

I’ve been interested for a while now in the social aspects of ‘correct grammar’ and what it means for different people. This has coincided with my increased interest in feminism.

As a teacher, I feel responsible for critically examining why I teach certain things as well as how, and I want to be prepared for questions like:

  • “Who cares?” (about grammar, spelling, syntax, etc)
  • “Why?”(do we have to do it this way, do you insist on this, does it matter)
  • “Shouldn’t you be encouraging my efforts instead of tearing them down?”
  • “Why can’t I use language my own way as a subversion of cultural norms, or to make a point, or to express my creativity and independence?”

Okay, I’ve never been asked the second two, but I wish students would ask them more often than the first two, and they are the questions I tend to ask myself.

Basically, what I have become uncomfortable with is the shaming of people over the language they use. Those of us for whom ‘correct’ language requires very little thought need to consider why. We need to acknowledge the privilege that comes with living in a society that values the way we speak and write over the way others speak and write.

The first argument that comes to my mind when people ask “y dey kant rite da way dey want” is, “because you sound like an idiot.” I made a short (25 second) video designed to get students thinking about language, where I use that argument. As I’ve come to understand the way we, as a society, use language to shame fat people and lgbtq+ people and people of colour and women and so on and so forth, I’ve decided that it’s not okay to use language to shame people who don’t use language the way we want them to, just as it’s not okay to shame people who don’t look  or act or love the way we want them to . People use ‘txt’ language all the time. People say “them lot” and “yous.” People write “apple’s 99c” and “are friends r going too there house.” We understand them. Seeing and hearing these things make me cringe. I know they’re ‘wrong.’ But what right do I have to say that those people are inferior for writing or speaking that way? They are communicating; it’s what we do. Language evolves and those ways of speaking and writing are no less valid than mine or anyone else’s. 

In Shakespeare’s time, spelling was not standardised. Even now, that word, “standardised,” has two acceptable spellings. Here in New Zealand, we officially use the British “-ise,” but in schools, the American “-ize” is also acceptable, as long as the student is consistent (i.e. not using -ise and -ize interchangeably, but using one or the other in all work). And let’s be honest, English is confusing: we always use an apostrophe to show possession (Emma’s cat, the cat’s tail) unless it’s the word ‘its’ (its tail, not it’s tail). We write connection but complexion. Bow and bow do not rhyme, but gruff and tough do, and bough rhymes with bow but not bow. Or tough. Also, all of these poems exist.

Anyway, back to “Weird Al” Yankovich’s Word Crimes.

First of all, isn’t it interesting that the word ‘crime’ is used here to describe what is simply a departure-from-the-generally-accepted, yet so many people still make excuses for rape, just like Robin Thicke in the song that Word Crimes parodies?

Okay, now I love the song up until the first insult, at about 1.03 – if you don’t know when to use ‘less’ or ‘fewer,’ you were raised in a sewer. ( A sewer as in effluent system, not someone who sews). As a self-professed lover of language since childhood (in the early 90s) and someone who has been teaching English since 2008, I was quite embarrassed to discover I’d been using the word ‘less’ when I meant ‘fewer’ in 2011. But no-one had ever taught me that, so why should I be embarrassed? By that stage I’d been through kindergarten, primary school, intermediate school, high school and undergraduate study at two different universities, and read thousands of books of all kinds, from picture books to fantasy to literary classics to academic textbooks and everything in between, and I’d never picked that up. Just because you don’t know something doesn’t mean you weren’t ‘raised right.’ In addition, this insult implies that homeless people are inherently stupid. Now that’s stupid. (I originally wrote ‘fuck that shit,’ but after reading this article, I’ve decided I will no longer suggest raping things I don’t agree with.)

I love the next few seconds (explaining that “I could care less” means it’s possible to care less, so therefore you do care somewhat), but then the name-calling starts. “Don’t be a moron.” “Show the world you’re no clown.” “You dumb mouth-breather.” “You write like a spastic.”

“You’re a lost cause.” Wow. What I hear when he says that: You don’t use language the way I think you should, so you have no value as a human being.

Then there’s more shaming based on ‘how educated you are.’ It’s only acceptable to write words using numbers if you are seven. Not five, or six, or eight. Just seven. You, as a person, are unacceptable if you write “n00b” or “b4” and you are not seven years old (or your name is Prince, because, you know, celebrities live outside of the real world and have a free pass to do whatever they want). If you finished second grade you must know everything. Everything you will ever need to know about language should be in your head by the time you are about eight years old, depending on what country you live in (Year 2 students in New Zealand are generally 6-7 years old). Oh, by the way, if you didn’t finish second grade, it’s okay, you’re allowed to be stupid (because I get to say who’s allowed to live a certain way and who isn’t.)

“Go back to preschool. Get out of the gene pool. Try your best to not drool.” Have you ever critically evaluated these statements? You are not educated enough to be around me. I don’t want more people like you in the world, so you shouldn’t reproduce. Anyone who can’t grasp the complexities of a confusing language must have problems with basic physical functioning, and people who have problems with basic physical functions are all imbeciles. What? Your logic hurts.

Side note re: Violence (“that makes me literally want to smack a crowbar through your stupid head”). Now the words here are actually okay. When we see and hear things we don’t like, it often makes us feel frustrated to the point that we want to lash out. And the song describes that: “…makes me […] want to…” It doesn’t actually promote violence against people who aren’t speaking (or acting, or living) in a way we agree with. I just wanted to bring up the point that the violence described is not appropriate in any circumstance, and especially not over the misuse of the word literally. Violence as a solution is over-represented in media, language and in our lives. I just want it to stop and thought it was worth bringing up here.

I love language. Language is an indicator of culture (and by that, I don’t mean “Golly, you misspelled ‘definite;’ you are so uncultured,” I mean that the language we use, especially when we’re not thinking about it, says a lot about the way we, as a culture, think, and what we value, and how we define ourselves and others). I value effective communication and I think that educating people about language and metalanguage is awesome, but I think we can do it without resorting to insults and devaluing people.

Now, I appreciate Yankovich’s parodies. He’s a clever man. He interacts critically with pop culture in a way that highlights the ridiculous, which I’m a fan of. I don’t like all his work, but nor do I disapprove of it. Just like everybody else, he uses language his own way. We all need to be more aware of how the language we use can shame or objectify others. 


Categories: Language, Teaching | Tags: , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Yoga makes me angry

Maybe I’m doing it wrong. I went to a yoga class yesterday for the first time in 3 years. Three years ago, it made me angry. Yesterday, it made me angry. I just don’t get it. I love stretching, I’m quite committed to breathing, and I’m pretty open to the whole getting-in-touch-with-yourself thing. Continue reading

Categories: Day-to-day | Tags: , , , | 3 Comments

2013 in review

The stats helper monkeys prepared a 2013 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

A San Francisco cable car holds 60 people. This blog was viewed about 1,300 times in 2013. If it were a cable car, it would take about 22 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.

Categories: Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Summer is early (and I like it)

Apart from the intermittent downpours on Monday, this past week has been a gorgeous foreshadowing of the pure joy that will be summer.

I’ve been to the gym four times (one of those times happened to be Monday for an outdoor crossfit session – we were sodden within 2 minutes!), joined the Tauranga Writers Group, been on a date that went wonderfully (there were real life fireworks), and loved working with the students who came in for extra school holiday lessons at work.

I’m currently drawing pictures of mermaids to get an idea of what the characters in my soon-to-be-written novel will look like (mermaids are totally the new vampires, which make me happy because mermaids are awesome and everyone should love them, but also makes me a little bit sad because now they will become over-commercialised and everyone will be writing novels and making movies about them and the ones in my imagination will no longer be special).

Things for NaNoWriMo are gearing up – including a new layout of the website, which is way better than the way it was, and I’ve officially entered the details for my novel. Working title Undercurrents – still not sure about that, but we’ll see how things turn out.

Guess what, guess what?

Here’s the picture from last week’s (or was it the week before?) Guess What It Is?



And a new picture for this week:

Hmmm... what is it?

Hmmm… what is it?


Hope everyone is having as awesome a week as I am🙂



Categories: Day-to-day, Guess what it is! | Tags: , , | 2 Comments

Please look after this bear.

If anyone knows of a good place for bodies, I’m looking to trade-up. My one’s broken.

From six weeks of influenza to excruciating back pain and all the meibomian cysts and nasty cramps in between, I’ve come to realise my body is probably trying to tell me something. I’m guessing it’s something along the lines of “I need more love. Please look after me.”

I signed up for the six week challenge at my gym. It starts today. My aim is to improve my flexibility and stamina. There are many other goals to work towards, but let’s keep things simple.

Now that the emotional pain of it is wearing off, I’m ready to announce to the world that I have withdrawn from my teaching course. I do intend to finish it one day, maybe even next year, but for now it’s just not what I’m meant to be doing. For now I need to look after me. Not finishing my course this year does not make me a failure. Acknowledging my need for help does not make me weak. I recently discovered Boggle the owl, who is a wonderful friend to have. You should check him out. In addition, I’ve decided I should perhaps get a luggage tag like Paddington’s made.

Please look after this bear. Thank you.

Guess What It Is?

Time for a new Guess What It Is? (see here for details)



Last Week’s Guess What It Is:

Cutie Cutie Baby Otter


Finally, in other news, Saturday was the UN Day of Peace (check out Peace One Day in my “I support” list to the right), and coming up on the 2nd of October is the International Day of Non-Violence (Gandhi’s birthday). If you happen to be in or near Hiroshima, japan, do go down to the Peace Memorial. I don’t know if they do it every year, but when I was there in 2008 there was a beautiful gathering of people celebrating with music and cake. Between these two dates, young leaders of GirlGuiding all over New Zealand are organising Take Back the Night marches, rallies and gatherings. The Bay of Plenty gathering is this Friday.


Categories: Guess what it is!, Saving the World | Tags: , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Oh, I have a blog?

I do tend to forget about this old thing I set up years ago called a blog (short for weblog, did you know? I still remember the first time I heard about this new form of journaling). Sure, blogging is mostly just glamorised navel-gazing, but I do enjoy it and I like to think that someone else, somewhere in the world occasionally enjoys reading the words I’ve pieced together.

September, apparently, is #nanoprep month. I feel it has to be written with a hashtag because the only place I ever see this term used is on twitter. NaNoWriMo 2013 is fast approaching and I have a vague chance of winning this year. More of a chance than any other year I’ve attempted it, at least.

And now for a quick round of ‘guess what it is’ – where I post a tiny portion of a photo that was too small to begin with and you try and guess what it is.

What is it?

What is it?



Categories: Guess what it is!, Writing | Tags: , | 6 Comments

At the coming up of the sun

They shall not grow old, as we that are left grow old:
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning,
We will remember them.

The Ode of Remembrance” is the fourth stanza of Laurence Binyon‘s 1914 poem “For the Fallen.”

I woke before dawn this morning. I dressed quickly, attached my new head and taillights to my bicycle, and I rode down to the Greerton RSA Hall.

It’s the fourth Dawn Parade I have attended (in commemoration of those who have served New Zealand in the armed forces over the years). There is something especially moving about attending the Dawn service as opposed to Continue reading

Categories: Day-to-day, Flashback, New Zealand, Photos | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

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