Friday, 30 January 2015

The Angels of Abbey Creek: Leaving Us Hungry for More

My children's novel The Angels of Abbey Creek has a couple of reviews on Amazon

When I heard my book had been reviewed, I headed straight over to Amazon. What had the reviewers written? I was eager to find out, but a little apprehensive at the same time. What if they hadn't liked my story?

I needn't have worried. Both Patrice and Charliene have been very kind. They like my novel!

Here's Charliene's review:

Leaving Us Hungry for More!
My daughter (age 6) and I enjoyed The Angels of Abbey Creek immensely! The moment it ended, she begged to begin it again. We giggled our way through many chapters. Through some, we sighed in empathy and cuddled closer. Through all, we related to the delightful characters, our new friends, each brimming with personality, and the wonderful and humorously familiar circumstances they find themselves in. Often my daughter would say, "Just like our family!" or we exchanged glances and sighs when a character did precisely what someone in our own family does, all the while delighting in the romantic unfamiliarity of Australian life! Each day as we sat down to read, this is the story my daughter chose and inevitably pleaded for "just one more chapter". This will be one we'll read over and over. I love it, love it, love it, and I can't wait for Sue Elvis to write more so we can “visit” our new friends again! 
A must-have for children ages 5 to 12. Authentically broaden your family’s cultural and religious horizons by feeling like you’ve met new friends, or relate with all the uniqueness and love that epitomizes living the Catholic family life – or both!
My daughter wanted to write a review too. Here it is:
 The book was great. And it felt like we were actually there. I laughed and smiled and said, “Oh, that’s so much like our family!” a lot. And we had fun reading it. And when we were done with it I asked for my mom to read me the book again, or at least a certain chapter.

Thank you so much Charliene for your review.

Hungry for more? I am encouraged to continue working on the sequels: The Angels of Gum Tree Road and The Angels of Convict Way.

In the meantime, I hope you'll take a look at The Angels of Abbey Creek!

Saturday, 24 January 2015

The Southern Cross Catholic Digital Media Awards

Not so long ago, I was writing about discouraged bloggers. I was one of them. A lot of my readers disappeared and I thought, "What am I doing wrong? Aren't my stories interesting any more? Perhaps I have no ability to write." And so I stopped writing.

But today I'm not feeling discouraged at all. I'm smiling. You see, my blog has been nominated for a Restless Press Southern Cross Digital Media Award. I just hopped over to their website. Yes, my blog is listed there in the 'Most Inspiring' category! Isn't that encouraging? 

So here I am writing a rare blog post. I want to thank the kind person who nominated my blog. I want to encourage you all to have a look at the other nominees. I'm sure you'll discover some great blogs, websites and podcasts if you do. Have a look at what else Restless Press has to offer too:
Restless Press aims to be a magazine style site, with great content from contributors around Australia, New Zealand and the Pacific who are passionate about what they write and talk about.
And if you would like to vote for my blog, please do!

Now what shall I do next? I could do a bit of rearranging around here. Maybe I will change the posts in my side bar. (I haven't done that for a long time.) I should get things organised, just in case I get a few unexpected visitors. A few unexpected visitors? Now wouldn't that be nice?

And perhaps I should do some encouraging of my own. Encouragement can make all the difference.

Thank you again to Chelsea and Restless Press,

from a very encouraged Sue

Friday, 2 January 2015

When a Wise Man Jumps Off a Table

Once upon a time there were Three Wise Men. Every year they stood with their gifts, gazing down upon baby Jesus. They seemed quite happy, content with their job. Until this morning. A few hours ago, one of the Wise Men leapt off the table. Yes, he jumped. Down, down he went. Smash! Gone.

“Are you sure that’s how it happened?” asks my husband Andy. “Is that all there is to the story?”

I nod my head. “Yes, I saw everything. I was at the scene. An eye-witness. I was right there. I was polishing the table at the time.”

What are we going to do? When we unpack the nativity set next year, one person will be missing. How can we have only Two Wise Men? It will feel all wrong. That’s not how the story goes.

“Perhaps we need a new nativity set,” I say.

I take a trip into town with a couple of daughters and we head into one of those card and gift shops which also sells Christmas decorations. I’m hoping to find a nativity set half-price in the New Year sale. And I do find one.

“Wow! Look at this, girls!” I shout. I have never seen anything quite so magnificent. Jesus is tenderly enfolded within Mary’s arms. Joseph’s protecting arm enfolds Mary. There is a donkey. A stable…

I look and look… while I think. Where could I put this nativity set? On top of the piano? On the table by the front door? Maybe on the family altar? I am sure I can find the perfect spot to display it. It will become a family heirloom. People will say, “Where did you get such an exquisite nativity set from?” They will wish they had one just like it.

“It’s half-price,” I say to the girls. “If we bought it we’d save $300. What a bargain! We stand in silence for a moment and then I add, “What do you think Dad will say if I spend $300 on a nativity set?”

The girls don’t have to say a word. The answer is written on their faces. I take one more yearning look at Mary, Joseph and Jesus, and then we head out of the shop.

But as we walk back towards the car, I wonder: Perhaps the girls are wrong. There's still hope. Maybe Andy will like the sound of the nativity set. 

When I get home, I’ll say, “Andy, I saw such a beautiful nativity set. It was half-price.” I’ll describe every magnificent detail. Andy will say, “That sounds like a fantastic half-price bargain. Do you think it’ll still be there? You should go back and buy it.”

We arrive home. I say, “Andy, I saw such a beautiful nativity set. It was half-price.” I describe every magnificent detail. My husband says, “Would you like some coffee?”

I sigh.

I’m going to have to live without that magnificent nativity set. I guess I’ll survive. It’s not as if we don’t have another set. We’ve still got the one made from cornflake box cardboard and felt. Unlike our china set, this one still has its full complement of characters. Yes, all three of the Wise Men look perfectly healthy, which is rather surprising, considering their adventurous life. For the past 20 years, they have found themselves in some very perilous situations as they've journeyed to Bethlehem.

Our Three Wise Men have balanced precariously on ceiling fans. They’ve trekked into the darkness of behind-the-TV. They've hiked to the top of numerous bookshelves. They've been squashed inside drawers and hidden under cushions. They’ve spent a night in a saucepan and found themselves inside mugs. They’ve huddled together on top of the fridge, and one year, they even had to endure a frosty night inside with the milk. Yes, our Three Wise Men have been all over the place.

So where are the Three Wise Men right now? What are they doing? Actually, at this moment, they're doing nothing much at all. They are just hanging around… waiting to be discovered.

Have you been playing the Three Wise Men game? If so, where have your Kings been hanging out? Anywhere precarious?

I sometimes hang around my Sue Elvis Writes Facebook page. Please feel welcome to hang around with me!

And did you know the Three Wise Men game features in one of the stories in my children's novel, The Angels of Abbey Creek?

Saturday, 27 December 2014

Abandoned Blogs and Discouraged Bloggers

bruno_dog_sad by Dominik QN(CC BY 2.0

I am a follower of abandoned blogs. A lot of them. Except, being abandoned, there’s nothing to follow.

I’m also a writer of an abandoned blog. Or should that be an ex-writer? Except I’m writing this post. Maybe this blog isn’t abandoned after all. Perhaps there is still something to follow.

I do still have some followers here. They haven’t abandoned my abandoned blog. Not yet. I guess they might. It’s been a long time since I last wrote a post. Why?

I got a bit discouraged with this blog. One day, without intending to, I caught sight of the number of subscribers this blog has. Oh my! That number had halved since the last time I looked. My readers had disappeared. I was discouraged. I decided to disappear too.

It’s hard finding out many readers are no longer interested in reading my posts. I imagine everyone reaching for their mice (or is that mouses?) and then clicking the ‘unsubscribe’ button. And I feel sad. Oh well. It’s all part of this blogging life. Things change. And maybe it was time to move on anyway.

I moved onto my Stories of an Unschooling Family blog. Do I still have subscribers there? I don’t really know. I’ve learnt my lesson. It’s not always good to check stats. Sometimes it’s better to just write and not worry about the facts and figures. Kind friends stop by and we enjoy some great conversations and that’s good. That’s all that really matters.

People who want to know more about unschooling read the posts on my other blog. But I also seem to have readers who don’t even homeschool, let alone unschool. This surprises me. I guess that’s because unschooling is about life. Life is interesting.

Are my stories interesting? Are they worth reading? I don’t know. But feel welcome to hop over and find out.

Is my Sue Elvis Writes blog really abandoned? I don’t know the answer to that question either. As I said, things do change. Sometimes we want to go back and pick up where we left off. Regardless of subscribers. Regardless of followers. Sometimes we find we have something to say after all, despite the lack of readers. 

Sometimes I just want to write, regardless of anything. That's what I felt like doing today. I wonder if you felt like reading. If you did...

Happy Christmas!

You can still find me on my Sue Elvis Writes Facebook page. I tried to abandon that page too but for some reason I keep posting there. I guess it just doesn't want to be abandoned!

Thursday, 28 August 2014

What the Archbishop Was Doing While I Was Speaking

At the recent Catholic Digital Media Conference, Laura and I were asked to present a workshop on blogging.

We arrived early (at the D'Arcy Room!) so we could compare notes before speaking. The minutes ticked by quickly and soon our audience was filing through the door. While everyone found seats, I took one last glance at my notes before looking up. And there was Archbishop Julian Porteous.

I’d already met Archbishop Porteous. He confirmed Sophie several years ago. More recently, he'd sat almost next to me in the auditorium earlier that day. Yes, I’d tucked my feet under my seat so he could shuffle past me to an empty seat on the other side of my neighbour.

And now Archbishop Porteous was sitting in the centre of the D’Arcy Room, a smile on his face, his eyes twinkling. Leaning towards us, he looked like a man who couldn’t wait to hear all about our experiences of blogging. Blogging was important. We were important. For the duration of the workshop, the archbishop gave us his full attention. I don’t think he looked away even once while we were speaking.

Laura and I spoke. The words flowed. We answered questions. We smiled. We even laughed. And everyone laughed with us. I really enjoyed the session. I hope our audience did too.

And do you know what I attribute the good feeling of the workshop to? I can’t speak for Laura, but when it was my turn to speak, it was the archbishop who made a difference to my words.

I once read about an experiment which involved a professor who was known for his dull lectures. His students had given up. They barely listened while the professor droned on and on.Then one day, it was suggested the students model good listening. They sat forward on their seats, looking as if they were eager to catch every word. They made eye contact with the professor. They didn’t fidget or look bored. And do you know what happened? The professor came alive. He started to believe that what he was saying was indeed interesting. A wave of energy passed through the room and his words started flowing with passion. After a while the students stopped pretending to be interested. They really were engrossed in the lecture.

I don't know if our audience learnt anything useful from my part of the presentation, but I learnt something: The speaker may seem to be important, and indeed it’s a great honour to be asked to present a session, but really, she doesn't work on her own. The audience contributes to a speaker's success. Without Archbishop Porteous and a room full of kind people, who were obviously prepared to listen, I never would have been able to speak. My words would have lacked passion. They would have gradually died away, and I’d have returned home convinced I was the most boring speaker on earth.

After our workshop, I had books and notes to gather before heading to the auditorium to hear the next speaker on the program. Most of the delegates were already seated. As I crept up the stairs, looking for an empty seat, I noticed Archbishop Porteous sitting at the end of a row. As I passed by, he reached out and grasped my arm. He looked me in the eye and whispered, “Thank you!” There was real warmth and gratitude in those words.

But it's me who should be doing the thanking:

Archbishop Julian Porteous, you made me feel as if every word I spoke was of great importance. That was so encouraging. Thank you!

Please feel welcome to join me on my Sue Elvis Writes Facebook page. We've been chatting about books and beautiful pictures!

Tuesday, 26 August 2014

The Problem of Talking Too Much

talking by Len Matthews,  (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

I have a runaway tongue. There is no doubt, that given the opportunity, I know how to talk. Just introduce one of my favourite subjects and I am unstoppable.

Many years ago when I was much younger, whenever I came home from a social function, I’d replay all that evening’s conversations in my head. Round and round they’d go like an ever-revolving record. I said this, and then I said that… I always ended up wishing I’d said less. If I hadn’t said so much, I wouldn’t be wondering: “What is everyone thinking about me?” They were probably not thinking about me at all, but my young insecure self didn’t consider that.

 Of course I always vowed not to talk as much next time I got together with friends. Yes, I’d leave the speaking to others. I planned to listen carefully, nod my head in agreement, smile and generally keep quiet. That way I wouldn’t dominate the conversation. I wouldn’t say anything foolish and wonder what everyone was saying about me later. Of course I always failed.

Those days are long gone but I’m still talking. Sometimes I have a good excuse to open my mouth. Recently, I was invited to speak at the Catholic Digital Media Conference in Sydney. I co-presented a blogging workshop. My fellow speaker was Laura from the blog Catholic Cravings.

Laura is different from me in nearly every way. She is tall and I am short. She is young and pretty and I am much older. She is a single student, aware of all the latest news about Catholic issues, and I am a stay-at-home mother who often doesn’t know what’s going on in the bigger world. And our blogs and writing styles are very different as well. And I like that. I think our workshop was potentially richer because of these differences. They show we don’t all have to be the same. There is room for everyone in the blogosphere. We all have our unique way of sharing our Catholic faith.

The time for our workshop arrived. Laura very capably opened the session, and then handed over to me. Now I did remember to pass the baton back to my co-presenter every now and then, but I fear I always took far too long. You see, there was so much to say and I forgot to look at the clock, and dear Laura must have been wondering if she’d ever get a word in.

And so I came home thinking about how I’d talked too much. But unlike my more youthful self, I didn’t keep replaying the session in my head, cringing at my every word. I know I only spoke because I was passionate about the subject. I don’t regret my actual words. I didn’t beat myself up over it. I have learnt that doesn’t really help. But I do feel I should have stepped back and given more time to Laura.

Why do we think what we have to say is so important? Why do we feel we have to say it? I’ve been mulling these thoughts over. Sometimes other people have even better things to say than us, and it’s good to remember that.

When the conference came to a close, Laura gave me a big hug as we said goodbye. And I left Mary MacKillop Place feeling I’d known her forever, instead of only a few hours. She said it was good to meet me. It was great to work together. Yes, she is a very gracious woman.

Laura has written her own post about the CDMC. It’s totally different to mine. And that’s good. I’ve just filled a post talking about myself again. Laura didn’t do that. She actually wrote something interesting.

I’m going to stop talking now. I’m going to let you go. Please hop over to Laura’s blog and listen to her instead.

You can also find me on my Sue Elvis Writes Facebook page. You could stop by and say hello. I'd like that!

Saturday, 23 August 2014

Discoveries: Collaborating with Other Bloggers

MOD Police Search Dog by UK Ministry of Defence, (CC BY-NC 2.0)

A few weeks ago, I discovered an unexpected message in my inbox. I read it a few times before saying, “Hey girls, I’ve been invited to the Catholic Digital Media Conference. And I’ve been asked to speak about blogging!”

My daughters looked up from their computers and grinned. I grinned too.

I wasn’t altogether sure the message hadn’t been sent to the wrong person. Why me? Did I actually have anything worth saying? And how did the conference organiser find my blog?

A few exchanged emails later, I began to believe I was actually going to speak at a conference. No, a mistake hadn’t been made. I was off to the CDMC.

“Do you want to come with me?” I asked my daughter Imogen. “You’re a blogger too. You might enjoy it. We could have a couple of days away together.”

Imogen thought this was a great idea, and soon we were searching online for suitable accommodation.

“North Sydney… I‘m sure that’s where Mary MacKillop Place is,” I said, as I opened my computer. “Perhaps we could stay there.” A few minutes later, I discovered there were exactly two available rooms left for the required night. “Shall I book them?” Imogen nodded.

So I clicked the booking button and entered all our details. Then I said, “Perhaps I should have checked exactly where the conference is before reserving our rooms. Oh well, I don’t suppose it can be too far away. They are both in North Sydney.”

Maybe you know what I’m about to say next. I did discover the CDMC wasn’t very far from Mary MacKillop Place. In fact it was absolutely no distance away at all. It was at Mary MacKillop Place! Some discoveries are unexpectedly perfect.

So Imogen and I went to the conference and I met the organiser who’d invited me to come along.

“How did you find me and my blog?” I asked.

“I did some googling,” he replied, “and I found a Catholic blog roll. I scrolled through it looking for Aussie blogs and discovered yours.”

I suppose he visited my blog and checked it out before issuing the invitation. Actually I know he read some of my posts. He mentioned one from three years ago.

I joined that Catholic blog roll a few years ago when I was a brand new blogger. I’d created my blog and written a few posts (after realising that’s what bloggers are supposed to do!) Then I sat back and shouted, “Here I am world! Come and read my posts!” But of course, no one came. Why would they? No one knew my blog existed.

What I needed was Bob Blogosphere. He could have interviewed me and then written a wonderful article about my blog for the Blogosphere News. People would have flocked to Sue Elvis Writes, I’m sure. But as that was never going to happen, I had to find another way to announce to the world that my blog had arrived. So I joined a few blog rolls instead.

What is a blog roll? It’s a list of blogs, together with their web addresses. Some blog rolls invite bloggers to add their links to it. As long you fulfil a basic requirement, you can belong. Of course, you have to have a Catholic blog if you want to be added to a Catholic blog roll. And there’s not much point putting your blog on a homeschooling roll if you don’t homeschool. 

Do you have a new blog? Would you like to be discovered? Then connect with other bloggers by joining a blog roll. You never know where it might lead. It could take you all the way to a Catholic Digital Media Conference. You too could be thinking, “Has he made a mistake? Does he really want ME to speak? How does he even know my blog exists?”

But as exciting as being asked to speak sounds, I discovered that wasn’t the most important thing about being invited to the conference. I soon found out that I didn’t have nearly as much to offer other people, as they had to offer me. I came back from a very inspiring conference with my head buzzing with ideas.

On the first day of the CDMC we heard the word collaboration. I discovered we can do good things by ourselves, but we can do great things when we collaborate with others, sharing our talents and learning from each other.

What do you think? Do you collaborate? Have you been given the opportunity to be involved with amazing things all because of other people? I'd love to hear your stories!

You can also find me on my Sue Elvis Writes Facebook Page. I'd love to see you there!

Image: I wonder what this police dog has just discovered.