Tag Archives: travel

Coming to America! (With a Little Help from my Friends)

Yes, that’s right my friends, I’m coming to America. Just like this guy:


Okay, maybe not exactly like Prince Akeem, but very close. And I’ll take with me all the lessons I learned from watching the movie.

  1. If you want to meet a future Queen, you go to Queens. (duh!)
  2. New Yorkers are ready to steal everything you own at every moment. Unless you’re in a barber shop. Barber shops are super friendly.
  3. Eddie Murphy’s smile is bigger than his face.

But enough of that.

So, I’m coming to America. To be more specific, I’m coming to Salem, Massachusetts. To be even more specific, I’m coming to Salem, Massachusetts to attend the Writer Unboxed Un-Conference from Monday November 3rd to Friday November 7th.

Now, I’ve talked about Writer Unboxed here before. I’ve mentioned the blog (Look, it’s right over there => on the blogroll!), and I’ve talked about the Facebook group. Both of which are awesome. I’ve been an active member of the FB group for a few years now, and an active participant on the blog, and so when I heard about the Un-Conference, I decided there was nothing more important in the world than for me to attend this not-a-conference-conference.

And then, you know, my life imploded and changed significantly, and I found myself a single mother, living in a caravan with two small boys, with little to no income. And I had to regretfully admit that I just couldn’t afford to goto the Salem this November. With flights, insurance, accommodation, meals, conference fees, childcare arrangements, and the need to eat actual food (rather than just dine on the writerly ambience), the price was going to run to thousands of dollars.

But put away those violins.violin

No, seriously, put them away. Because just at the point where I was feeling a bit like having a wallow in my own misery — and bemoaning the fact I live in FutureLand, rather than downtown Salem — a team of Superheroes came to the rescue.

A group of online friends — all of them women writers — decided to take matters into their own hands and do whatever it took to get me to that conference. And not just me. There were five of us in all. Five of us who desperately wanted to attend, but just couldn’t get there for financial reasons. And we all have a few things in common.

  • We’re all writers. (Obviously.)
  • We’re all women.
  • We all have small children.
  • We are all passionately involved in helping and supporting our fellow writers.
  • We all have the bestest friends in the whole entire universe.

And thus, the WriterMamas fundraiser was born.

And this is where you come in, my dear friends. You see, at the time of writing this, we’re about halfway to our fundraising goal. Halfway. Which means that, at the moment, when I board that plane in November, I’ll be thrown out in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. And I’m not much of a swimmer.

If I’m lucky, I’ll find an island nearby. A few days later, I’ll look like this:


Yes, beard and all. What happens on the island, stays on the island.

So if you’d like to prevent me from turning into a grizzled, mostly-naked man with nothing but a volleyball and my own psychosis for company, please jump on board the WriterMamas fundraiser.

There are four ways you can help.

1. Make a Donation

It’s pretty simple. Pop on over to the WriterMamas GiveForward page and make a donation. Even if all you can spare is $5, we would all appreciate it. I would appreciate it. I really don’t want to be stuck on a remote island, slowly turning into Tom Hanks…

Of course, you’re welcome to donate more than $5. Any and all donations are gratefully accepted.

2. Buy The Successful Author’s Toolkit

Okay, this is an absolutely awesome parcel of writer’s resources for a fantastic price. All of these products have been donated to the WriterMamas fundraiser by the authors, so 100% of the price you pay goes straight towards helping me avoid a long and lonely swim in the Pacific Ocean. The Toolkit includes:

  • “Got High Concept?” by Lori Wilde
  • “Writing Active Setting” boxed set by Mary Buckham
  • “Rock Your Writing” complete set by Cathy Yardley (including her never-before-released marketing course)
  • “Write. Publish. Repeat” by Sean Platt and Johnny Truant
  • “A Writer’s Guide to Blogging” by Dan Blank
  • “Your First 1000 Copies” by Tim Grahl (including a usually not-for-sale bonus podcast)
  • “Prowriter: Secrets of an Author Entrepreneur” course by CJ Lyons and Joanna Penn
  • “The Career Novelist” by Donald Maass
  • BONUS: 50% off Cathy Yardley’s amazing editing service on a single project
  • BONUS: Live chat or phone call with Shelley Souza, an experienced editor, to discuss the first five pages of your manuscript.

The whole package retails at well over $200 — and that’s not even taking into account the bonus offers — but it’s available as part of this fundraiser for $100. Go and read more about each of the resources here. And then buy the toolkit, either for yourself or for a deserving writer friend.

3. Buy cool Writer Unboxed merchandise

This fundraiser has inspired some of the most amazing people to dive in and help. And so you can buy cool caps and t-shirts, and all the profit goes back to making sure I don’t have to spend the next two months practicing my breaststroke.

Check out these great baseball caps, available for a limited time for $30.

Or, if you’re not into baseball caps, you can pick up a limited edition Writer Unboxed t-shirt for only $23. Don’t they look amazing?

 4. Spread the Word

Seriously, tell everyone. Share this blog post. Share the individual links. Tweet them, FB them, G+ them, Pinterest them, scrawl them on bathroom walls, do whatever the cool kids are doing with links these days. Go crazy and tell your friends in person. Sky-write it. Shout it from the rooftops.

If you’re not interested in writing books or merchandise, and you can’t or don’t want to donate, that’s okay. You can still help just by clicking a few buttons. Spread the word.

Any other ideas?

And if you’ve got any other fundraising ideas, hit me up in the comments.

I am ever so grateful to the original organisers of the WriterMamas fundraiser, to all the other people who’ve come on board in the last few weeks and turned this dream into an almost-reality, and to everyone who has already donated, purchased, and shared the love. Without friends like you, the world would be a darker place.

And with that little piece of nostalgia, how can you do anything else but help?

I assure you, you’ll make me smile even bigger than Eddie Murphy. And that’s no small task.

eddie murphy


Filed under Random Stuff, Writing

Why You Should Come to Australia

Have you ever wondered why you should drop everything and come visit Australia? Well, never fear. My five-year-old son is here to enlighten you with his very own tourism video.

Disclaimer: I had no influence over the content of this video. All words, ideas and actions are entirely the creation of Big Brother.


Filed under Life With Kids, Random Stuff

Entertaining Kids in the Car

Long distance car trips are something I grew up with. When I was very young, our family would drive from Melbourne, Victoria all the way to Toowoomba, Queensland for the Christmas holidays. That’s a car trip just short of 1600km (or 1000 miles) long. I have vivid memories of being three and four years old and being woken up in the middle of the night to drive to Nana and Grandad’s house. I’d stay awake for the whole trip, pointing out kangaroos near the road, singing little songs I’d made up, and counting cars and trees and sheep and anything else that took my fancy. We’d stop every few hours and have “car food”. Hot chips, or donuts, or sausage rolls — the type of food we never had at home. Sometimes, we’d even stop for a hot chocolate or an ice cream.

When I was a bit older, car trips were full of games. I Spy, Trivia, counting games, rhyming games, and home-made Bingo Cards full of things like cows and postboxes and Ambulances. The first one to see them all wins!

When I was a teenager, I got my first Walkman. I’d happily bliss out to my music for a while, but before long I’d be bored and playing Guess Who? with my sister (we memorised all the people so we didn’t need to use a board) or challenging my siblings to The Alphabet Game.

Car trips were fun, family events when I was a kid. And now that I’m a parent, I endeavour to make them fun for my boys as well. Even driving five-year-old Big Brother to school involves games, made up stories and rhymes. And a traffic jam is a perfect opportunity for I Spy.  
There’s an interesting Facebook page that I occasionally visit called Brisbane Kids. They regularly post questions that have been emailed in to them by concerned, curious, or interested parents. I happened to come across this question last week:

My 15 month old is a shocking car traveller and has been for quite some time now, even on very short trips (less than 10 mins). I think he gets frustrated with being restrained, as he is usually so active. I now avoid driving places which is becoming pretty restrictive. Any suggestions as to how to improve the situation? We have tried singing, kids CDs, food (car is now a bomb site), box of toys next to seat etc.

Well, I know a thing or two about entertaining kids in the car. Plus,  I’ve been in this situation with both my boys in the past. Big Brother hated the car between the ages of 6 weeks and 13 months. Little Brother wasn’t quite so difficult (possibly because he was excited about being in the car with his brother), but still went through a stage when he was about a year old where he hated the car for a month or so. And in both cases, I did exactly what I would recommend to anyone else: I persevered.

This question sounds like it’s from a mother who has, and is, trying to persevere. She’s tried everything she can think of, and now she’s reaching out for advice, suggestions, and possibly even a simple reminder that it does get better. Good on her, really. It’s not easy to ask for help when you’ve got a small child, and I have a lot of respect for people who can bypass their pride in favour of doing what’s best for themselves and their children. But before I shared my thoughts with her, I decided to read the other 43 comments. Just to make sure I wasn’t repeating anyone else.

But what I found shocked me.

There were some good suggestions. Try moving the car seat to a different position. Make sure the car seat is comfortable. Use toys that are only available in the car. Sing songs. Wait it out. Persevere.

All good advice.

But twenty-three different people had a different answer. Twenty-three people suggested the mother invest in a portable DVD player for the car. Twenty-three people said some version of the following statements:

  • There’s only one way to keep kids entertained in the car and that’s a portable DVD player.
  • My child used to cry in the car, so I put in a portable DVD player and now she’s always quiet.
  • Just put children’s programming on a portable DVD player and all your problems will be solved.

I was really stunned by this response. Perhaps I should have seen it coming. Perhaps the fact that I didn’t see it coming is a sign that I’m not really in tune with modern society. Either way, as I read the comment I found my mood vacillating between outrage and despair.

I don’t believe that all twenty-three of those people are bad parents, but I do worry about the over-reliance on electronic devices to entertain children. Even disregarding the American Academy of Pediatrics recommendation that children under the age of two  shouldn’t watch any television at all, I have a number of concerns:

  1. Are the parents who suggested DVD players aware that there is scientific evidence that children of that age can be negatively impacted by watching TV? If not, what does that say about the way the message is being spread?
  2. If the first reaction of parents is to stun a 15 month old boy into silence through use of a DVD Player, what do they do at home when their kids are noisy or argumentative or upset or tired or loud?
  3.  If the only way you have to cope with upset children is to put them in front of a screen, what do you do when there are no TVs, DVDs or computers available?

Keeping a toddler quiet by putting him in front of a TV screen might seem like the easiest option, but is it the best one? At the end of the day, the only person who can make that decision is you. But remember this:

It’s cute when a two-year-old goes from shrieking to silent with the careful push of a button on a portable DVD player.

It’s not so cute when a twenty-year-old man has no ability to entertain himself for five minutes without a screen in front of him.

Instead of reaching for the ‘on’ button next car trip, try challenging your children to be the first one to spot a man walking a dog. Tell as many terrible knock-knock jokes as you can make up on the spot. Sing songs from your childhood. Take it in turns to sing a line of a made-up song. Try something different. See how it goes. Maybe you’ll discover the same thing I did, all those years ago: Being trapped in a car for 20 hours at a time isn’t a chore, it’s a fun-filled adventure that comes with its own captive audience.

Did you play games in the car when you were a child? What about now? Do you own a portable DVD player? Do/Would you let your children watch it?


Filed under Life With Kids, Opinion