Thursday, 21 July 2016

Farewell and bless

Oh my goodness, dear reader, you might have noticed that Baxter Street has been looking a bit shabby of late. The dead leaves are mounting up, the gutters are sprouting moss and there's parsley self-seeding in the rose beds.

You know how much I've loved this little corner of the world. And it's all been because of YOU. You have made it worthwhile. You've been so gracious. So warm. We've shared countless giggles, ENDLESS cups of tea and, of course, spent hours nattering about...nonsense.

But these days the old house is creaking on its stumps and I fear the roof's about to cave in. It's not safe anymore, dear reader. Not at all!

In a flurry of activity I've starched the tablecloths, ironed the tea-towels and aired the blankets. Have you noticed how a surge of energy often follows a difficult decision? The place is immaculate! I almost don't want to leave. But I must. I made a promise to myself and I must see it through. There are new adventures to be had, new worlds to explore. 

All that's left is to pack the bottling set, snap the locks on my Everlites and close the front door once and for all.

Farewell, dear reader, and bless you. I know we'll meet again.

Until then
Keep the home fires burning
Sending love always
Jen xx

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Sunday, 3 July 2016

Art, words, books, Kate Bush, everything!

Hooray hoorah, dear reader. June. How about it? Phew! 

Here's a Baxter Street debrief.

Filling my Girls' Own Annual with art.

Finished: Writing Truly Tan: Trapped! Book six.

Started: Planning a holiday.

Learned to: Make green smoothies.

Wrote: Another picture book about Clarrie. This one features Mrs Winterbottom...

Peeked at: Final cover for Danny Best: Never Wrong

Revelled in: Making word art with Lynn Whipple.

Read: We Were All Completely Beside Ourselves by Karen Joy Fowler.

Interviewed: On Morning Fog. A Kate Bush fan site in Germany. I got to chat about Kate and gothic themes and Wuthering Heights and my novel Tensy Farlow and the Home for Mislaid Children...  

Explored: The teachings of Jeddah Mali.

Stewed over: My author website. Urgh. I have to fix it. I have website shame.

Experienced: My first astrological chart reading. An entire hour with Tali from AstroStyle. She was in Seattle and I was in Melbourne and I heart Skype.

Cobbled together: More Q and Q videos (questions and quacks) for girl and duck. That's about fifteen so far. 

Bought: A sweet sweet print by Tasmanian artist, Sarah Millicent Elliott.

Appeared: On an author panel with Gabrielle Wang, Terry Denton and Erin Wamala. Gorgeous people.

Farewelled: My darling mother-in-law. Vale Brenda. Clever, mischievous, endlessly curious. We loved her dearly. And still do.

The dress was hot pink. Naturally. ;-)

Sending love, dear reader, wherever you may be.

Jen xo

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Wednesday, 18 May 2016

Problem solving in the wee hours

I'm having trouble walking today, dear reader. The instructor at my girls only gym (no make-up, no mirrors, no men) made us do these abominable 'squeezy squats' yesterday as part of our circuit. Most inelegant. I haven't done anything like it since perinatal classes twenty-three years ago. 

And now, as a reward for all my efforts, I'm walking like a crab. Literally scuttling sideways through the house.

Totally unrelated illustration

What else? 

I'm also knackered. And you will roll your eyes at this. 

Just yesterday I recorded a Q & Q video (questions and quacks) for my beloved girl & duck subscribers. Are you a g&d subscriber, dear reader? I do hope so. We have a lot of fun over at the pond.

At any rate, in that Q & Q I was puffing out my chest, spouting off about how good I am at controlling inspiration. How I rarely get woken up in the middle of the night and know how to shut off the whispers from those pesky Creative Writing Angels. 


Blah blah blah. Talk about put the mozz on me. 

Upshot. Last night I was forced to rise at 3am and write for two solid hours. 

What the feck were you thinking, Jen? I hear you ask. 

Well, it wasn't 'creative writing' in the pure sense. But you see, I've been in such a tangle in my new Truly Tan book that I could not sleep one more night without getting it sorted. 

This is actually an illo from The Fourteenth Summer of Angus Jack. Thanks, Lucinda Gifford. You've nailed it. This is exactly how it feels inside my head when a book's not working...

So when the terror hit at 3am (and it is terror, dear reader) I got up, made tea and rolled up my sleeves. I mean to say, I was 20,000 words into a 45,000 word book and I still didn't have a clue what was going on. Now, lord knows I'm no Einstein. But 20,000 is about halfway, right? 

I'm an official AUTHOR. I should have things sorted by that stage. Surely? 

But I didn't. Not until 3am this morning. Well, 5 am to be precise. That's when I tossed the pen and flopped back into bed.

So now I'm knackered. 
Random flower. It's important to end on something pretty.
But hallelujah I see the way forward. I see the light at the end of that bleak and harrowing writing tunnel. I've spent the day rewriting the first 20,OOO AND rewriting the notes I scribbled in the wee hours. Things are makin' sense. The terror is at bay. Next time I write to you I promise to have more spring my step. Spring in my pen. Spring in my fingers.

But for now I sleep.

Thank you for being a shoulder to lean on, dear reader. I treasure your patience, I really do.

Until next time
I remain
Yours with the sore legs and camomile tea.
Jen xo

Tis a glamorous life indeed.

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Sunday, 1 May 2016

making art, writing books, buying dressing gowns...

Hello dear sweet reader. I've missed you!

Are you well? Or like me have you scoffed too many butter shortbreads and lost your equilibrium?

I know a blog post should have a theme. Alas I can't offer you one today. Just ramblings I'm afraid.

Study update: I've almost finished the business course. 
Exhibit A. I call it, What I Drew While I Was Learning Important Stuff...

Many of you know I have another site called girl and duck. Well, I have exciting plans for that site and that's why I've been head down, tail up studying business. 

I'll soon be opening a 'lemonade stand' over at the duck pond. I'll have all sorts of lovely stuff for visitors to throw coins at. 

Plus, I'm writing a book just for the duckettes. I promise to keep you updated. I can tell you now though, I'm beside myself with excitement over this Very Special Book. Every time I work on it I swoon. It's such delicious fun and if all goes according to schedule it should be ready by the end of the year. 

I'm telling you this now because I'm trying to scare myself into working harder. In business speak this is called 'social accountability'. In other words, shoot your mouth off to people you love and respect (ie YOU, my lovely). Then there's no turning back. You simply have to see your project through or risk public humiliation.


Oh. By the way. If you're an emerging author or illustrator don't forget to subscribe to girl and duck. That way you'll get the private link to Q&Q Friday (questions and quacks). That's the girl and duck Youtube channel where I talk about industry stuff and answer reader questions. 

I adore sharing knowledge via video. And just a heads up, some sweet people have confused following the g&d blog with subscribing. They're two different things, dear reader.

In other news, I went to Myer in the city and bought a new dressing gown. Heaven on a stick. Honestly, don't you love buying new 'leisure wear'? Nothing feels quite so luxurious to me. Even socks. Socks send me into a spin.

While there I found a small forsaken window snuggled in behind the SoHO and Givoni. 

Here's the view. Isn't it spectacular? The dirty glass makes it look ye olde worlde, oil painting. (Myer need some metho and a bucket of hot water, yeah?)

I made a poster for The Footpath Library. I'm a 2016 Melbourne ambassador for this awesome charity, dear reader. It's such an honour. 

Here's the poster, blue-tacked to the wall in my studio:

progress shot
It's mixed media. Collage, acrylic paint, ink. The boat's made of cardboard. The man and the cat are made of old water colour 'paintings' that I made in art class - and chopped up. 

I texturised the sea by laying a Chux cleaning cloth over the wet paint then peeling it off before the paint was dry. 

The brief was for a poster that would appeal to kids all ages. 

The brief also said:  Friendships at their best sustain us and can provide a buffer when things at home aren’t great. Indeed friendship may not even be with another human being but a favourite pet or with a group that allows us to escape ourselves or our lives.  

So you can see, dear reader, all this was in my mind when I came up with the concept. 

If you'd like to download the poster for your school or if you'd like to know more about The Footpath Library clickety click here. I'm one of the judges for the short story competition.

Truly Tan: Hoodwinked! was released last week! Although, I must say I haven't been near a bookshop or spotted it in the wild yet. If you've seen it let me know! 

We're planning a launch later this month at The Little Bookroom

I had a letter from a Tan reader just this week. She was sad because she thought book four was it. Done and dusted. 

It was so cool to write back and tell her she's wrong. Book five is out now! And I'm halfway through writing book six. And so on into infinity (ahem).

That's the end of my Sunday morning ramblings. 

I could keep you here for ages. Pour more tea. Put on an Edith Piaf record and get out the sherry perhaps. 

But you have a busy life and I'm loath to detain you further. 

So, away away. 

Until next time
I remain
Yours under a brand new, 100% polyester dressing gown.
Jen xx

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Sunday, 3 April 2016

a beautiful discipline

Today I said to Himself, 'Himself, I feel like writing a blog post. But I've got nothing to say.' 
Himself said, 'You've never let that stop you before.'

This got me thinking, dear reader. Why do I plug on with Baxter Street? What's it all about? I mean, really

A friend recently pointed out that I have too many plates spinning. What with the book writin' and the teachin' and the girl and duck and the business course and the mixed media projects etc. 
But when I agreed with her and said I was thinking of closing Baxter Street she was appalled. 
'No!' she said. 'I didn't mean you should do that. I love Baxter Street!' 
And I thought, Yeah. So do I.
But why?  
Why do I love this blog? 

It's not a money making venture. Never has been. It's unorganised and lacks focus, too. Could do with a good edit most times. It's not even regular. Do you have a clue when it's going to pop up? I don't. 
It's not at all snazzy or edgy like all those other blogs out there. They're all so slick and 'down with the kids', they make Baxter Street look like a Girls Own Annual. A bad one.

I rarely get comments either, so it's not about popularity. Or competing for the prestigious Bloggart of the Year. (Is there such a competition?)Possibly at Hogwarts.

I've been reflecting.

I recently read a tip from a super duper accomplished blogger (who I really like and admire). She's so good at what she does, she's now a Public Figure. Her blog doesn't even have a spot for comments. Zippo. Imagine!

Her number one tip was — make your reader cry
According to her stats, the  most successful posts are the soppy ones. 

Holy cow, I thought. You mean, I have to make my poor dear reader bite her lip and snivel? Moi? Make you miserable, dear one? Just so that my stats will go up? 

Well,  it's not as if material to break the heart and crush the spirit does not abound. I suppose I could pull out my Irish linen hankies and start penning a weepy; something with a whiff of the mawkish. 

But then I realised that my audience and her audience are as different as Cherry Ripes and frozen peas. I might not know you personally, dear reader, but I'm fairly certain you don't come to Baxter Street to 'get weepy'. You come here, I suspect, to be uplifted. To see something pretty. Possibly something frivolous. Maybe you pop by to get a small dose of inspiration. 

I will not therefore betray you by cobbling together some gloomy sob story. No siree. That would defeat the whole purpose of Baxter Street. 

And with that thought I have attained clarity. I know why I persevere with this blog. 

Because it's as uplifting to me as it is to you, dear reader. It is a joy to write. It is a beautiful discipline to look around me and home in on all that is good and positive. The blessings. Even if it's a small vista that I pull together just for you. Or a mountain of pretty clutter that has somehow fallen in sync on the dining-room table. 

Beauty is where you find it. I find it here at Baxter Street. I hope you do too, dear reader, and I hope that it gladdens your heart. 

Until next time, when once again I have nothing to say,
I remain
Yours sweeping the path to The Street
Jen xo
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Thursday, 24 March 2016

easter eggs and a brand new project

Happy Easter, dear reader! 

Whether or not you recognise the festival I do hope you enjoy a relaxing weekend with your family and friends. 
Here at Baxter Street I will be catching up with girlfriends, and dining with my divine family in a rather posh restaurant here in Melbourne. Aside from that, I plan to delve more deeply into the nuts and bolts of my Author Business. Yes, I am finally embracing the fact that authors are business people as well as 'romantic' creators. This has been a revelation to me (it took a while, yes?). I have thrown myself into it with gusto and already I've learned oodles of fascinating stuff. I never thought it could be so much fun! Honestly. My brain is bubbling. I've been reading Seth Godin, James Altucher, Arianna Huffington. I've been studying an astonishing business course online, making schedules, developing more teaching materials and generally enjoying an explosion of ideas about how I can enrich people's lives not just through my books but through my knowledge and experience. I also bought Leonie Dawson's Shining Biz workbook. It's so joyful and quirky, just like its creator. I don't mind 'doing my numbers' when the accounting book is so colourful and eccentric.  That girl is a ray of sunshine, I'm certain of it. 

I am also busy making Q and Q videos for my girl & duck subscribers. What are Q and Q videos, you may well ask? Questions and Quacks, of course! Ha! I recently put out the call to my writer/illustrator buddies and my lovely students asking them for questions. I wanted anything about creative writing, the creative life in general, the publishing world, art and illustration; really anything to do with developing our creativity. I've had loads of fantastic (and sometimes very funny) questions. So, I've got plenty to quack about! In response, I'm making a series of videos to post on girl and duck. Every single Friday for the rest of the year will be Q&Q Friday. The first video goes live April 1st. Yes! Trust me to launch such an ambitious project on April Fools Day. 

Wish me luck, dear reader. And of course, if you'd like to join us, please do. Come over to girl & duck, sign up (it's free), and declare yourself IN. Oh, and if you have a question you can leave it here in the Baxter Street comments or you can email it to me at girlandduck@gmaildotcom. I'd LOVE to answer your questions!

Stay glorious, dear reader.
As always 
I remain
Yours under an Easter egg.
Jen xx

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Saturday, 19 March 2016

this writing life (and other random stuff)

Hello, dear reader! News for the Baxter Street studio. A round-up, so to speak.

Having announced that this post is all about writing let me start with art. That's just the kind of crazy rebel I am.

I'm currently working on a little mixed media collage (a commission, no less!). The collage tells a story (of sorts) and sadly there was only room for one cat. But as it turned out I had to make several before I hit on the right expression. When I was done I didn't have the heart to throw out the duds. So they now decorate the pin-board in my studio. Crazy cat lady? This is as close as it gets. I'm fond of cats. They're pretty and all. But I'm also scared of them. They put me on edge. The way they creep about. The way they hiss. The way they attach themselves to one's ankles. Plus you never know what they're thinking. You just can't trust 'em, can you? Dogs, by comparison, always wear their heart on their sleeve. Perhaps that's why I relate better to them?
The Baxter Street Cats. Sounds like a dodgy jazz band.
I'm currently well into writing the sixth Truly Tan book. Ages ago a little girl at a school visit, slipped me a scrap of paper. A secret note! LOVE! 'Here is the title for your next book, Jen Storer,' she whispered. (All children's authors will tell you that kids always, ALWAYS, address us by our full names. It's adorable). Anyway, I opened the rumpled dispatch and there was the title, scrawled in grey lead pencil. What could I do? I had to write the story. It's called, Truly Tan: Trapped! Scary, hey? I'm having fun too, especially as the weather in Peppercorn Valley has finally turned cooler. So far it's always been summer. Every book. Blue sky and sunshine. A world where time stands still, no one ever gets older and it's always daylight savings. But this is book six! It's time for the weather to change. How curious that such a small detail makes me all the more enthusiastic about writing the story. I've already got Tan in a fabulous new cardi. I'm sure Claire Robertson will love drawing it. (I always have my illustrators in mind when I'm writing. It's important that we all have fun. That way the books are guaranteed to have a happy vibe. Now that's a tip you might not read elsewhere. Is it woo woo? Possibly. But I'm a great believer in woo woo).
The boys at Harry Hartogs Bookstore in Canberra. Total dolls! And that's Mr Potpan, my teddy bear, far left. We had to bring our favourite stuffed toy to the launch.
Meantime, I zipped up to Canberra to help my dear friend, Tania McCartney, launch her sweetest picture book yet, Smile Cry. Tania is so tireless and endlessly creative. Her attention to detail leaves me reeling and the launch was a joy. Tania and I had been virtual (and let's get on the phone and gasbag) friends for ages. But we had never physically met. So when Smile Cry came out, I said, 'Put the kettle on, I'm comin' up'. Then I made like a public servant and got on a plane bound for the nation's capital (I hadn't been to Canberra since 1978. That was a school trip. We had a ball. In fact, we had SUCH A BALL that Canberra trips we banned FOREVER after that. I do apologise to subsequent generations). But back to Tania and moi. Our first meeting was like a first date. Honestly! We were both terrified. What if when we finally met we didn't hit it off? What if the chemistry wasn't actually there? Women's friendships are so intense, aren't they? And there are so many subtleties. Suffice to say Tania and I fell into step instantly (and we hardly drew breath for the entire weekend — except for after the launch when Tania went home to collapse and I went to the pool and tried to swim off the banana cake I'd been scoffing).
Behind the scenes glamour. Note the divine hatbox above my head. Who did it belong to? I guess we'll never know.
Smile Cry is about the subtleties of human emotion. Not just your average ho-hum 'opposites' book, Smile Cry introduces kids to the complexities of our emotions. During the launch Tania asked kids to join in and share their more complex feelings as per the book. (For example, a cosy under the blanket smile. Or, an ice-cream plopping down cry). One little girl (pre-schooler) said she had a sunshine smile — meaning a special smile for when the sun shines. Then, a small boy put up his hand. 'I go to school now,' he said. 'And sometimes I ask someone to play with me and they say, NO. And that's when I have a I am lonely cry.' Oh! Everyone in the bookshop nearly dissolved. These littlies were so across what Tania is exploring so gently in this book. It was incredibly moving to listen to them and their sweet, clever anecdotes. When I got home to Melbourne, Himself said, 'So, did you have a Saying goodbye to Tania cry?' He knows me TOO WELL, that man. It was a weekend I will always treasure.
Smile Cry by Tania McCartney. Illustrated by Jess Racklyeft. I hope Tania and Jess do more books together. There is such   bubbly synergy between them.
And lastly before I flick off the nightlight and shuffle off to bed (I have new slippers by the way. NEW SLIPPERS. Don't you love new slippers? New socks. New undies. Any of that kind of stuff. I feel like a Princess. Honestly). But where was I? Oh, yes! My first girl & duck creative writing course is done and dusted. What a wonderful and whirlwind six weeks it was. Here are some pics of my lovely students. Creative work makes people bond so quickly, doesn't it? I love it so much.
I'll be running another course very soon. Keep an eye on the website for more details.
Bye for now, dear reader. 
Until next time, I remain
Yours under the hatbox
Jen xx
Oh! Someone down the end looks like she just failed her exams. It did not happen! Maybe we had just run out of cake.

Yes, Miss. We're workin' HARD!

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Sunday, 14 February 2016

my new mantra

I stumbled across this while listening to an interview the other day. It really resonated with me. Don't wait to create. I love this, dear reader! I have made it my new mantra. I even made a little prompt using a page from my journal. Of course, 'don't wait to create' has meant that my life is a tad more chaotic. And I feel somewhat vulnerable. (More so than usual). But so be it. I'm always reminding myself that it takes courage to be creative. Hey, that's another mantra. Man! I've got thousands! Maybe I should make mantras a regular feature here at Baxter Street? I'll flag that... 

Dear reader, I hope you're well and remembering to skip now and then. It's a good way to honour your inner artist. I will write a more lengthy, wordy, let's-REALLY-catch-up, post soon. In the meantime you can read more about what I've been up to (and get some HOT TIPS on creative writing) over at girl and duck. You can also download this pic and print it out if you like. In this modern world it's the closest I can get to leaving you a hidden note in a secret tree... You could tape this mantra to the wall above your computer. Or stick it in your journal. On the fridge. In your diary. Has your diary got one of those paper pockets at the back? Don't you just LOVE them?! Mine is already STUFFED with nonsense. Sorry. I mean, INSPIRATION.
All right. I should probably go.
Until next time
I remain
Yours with a pocketful of mantras
Jen xx 

Download Jen's Creativity Mantra. It's free. Yay!
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Friday, 15 January 2016

a few lines from January

Hello, dear reader! I've missed talking to you. I hope you're well and happy and all fired up, determined to have a smashing time in 2016. 
I bought a Frankie diary for this year. Lord knows how I'll keep it clean. The cover is pale lemon. Fabric! 

I still use paper diaries. Does that make me old fashioned? Who knows. At any rate, I'm busting to write in the Frankie diary but I made myself a promise that I would only write in it with my Jane Davenport fountain pen which I ordered online from the Institute of Cute just before the end of last year and the parcel got lost by Australia Post but this morning I got a phone call from the Post Mistress to tell me, 'Great Jubilations, Miss Jen, your little parcel has been located.' I think you can tell by that last galloping sentence that I am wound up like a two bob watch. I cannot wait to hotfoot it down to the PO to GET MY PEN! But first I must write to you.
See what I mean? My poor, sweet diary belongs to no one. No one!

What else have I been doing?

I saw Star Wars. And loved it. 

I finished an online art course with Jane Davenport. Hence the pen. The course is called Supplies Me and it's all about art supplies and how to use 'em. You think I wasn't in heaven for those few weeks? On Jane's advice I bought a 'mermaid cart' to organise my stash. It's a beautiful thing. I love that it's mobile. I even have it beside me in the evenings if we're watching telly. That way I can keep drawing, dipping in and out of the trolley as the mood takes me. I don't lose as many pencils now, either. That has to be a blessing, right?

What else?

I started another online course with Jane Davenport (she is a superb teacher). This time, I Heart Drawing. Loving! I'm learning to draw fashion faces. And fashion figures. Hands and feet, too. Which are useful... If you haven't heard of Jane, hit the links, hop over and check out all she has to offer. It's a smorgasbord of scrumptiousness. I'm hooked on her energy, her exuberant art and her business acumen. 

I flagged another course I want to do asap. It's with Carla Sonheim. Year of the Fairy Tale. Need I say more? FAIRY TALE. I am breathless at the prospect.

I started painting my first canvas! I can't stop looking at it. Not because it's good. Because it EXISTS. I'd sleep with it if there were room in the bed. I have committed to doing 100 bad paintings. You know? Here's Lynn Whipple on the topic. Funny, kooky, enormously talented sweetie she is. As you probably know, I studied with Lynn last year in 2015 Year of the Spark.

I've had endless chats and coffees with my friend and colleague Lucinda Gifford. We are cooking up something super snazzy. But I have to zip it for now. I'll share with you as soon as I'm allowed. If I prattle now, Lucinda is likely to box my ears.
random New Year selfie

I've been back at work since the 4th. I'm writing Truly Tan 6. Supposedly. Heavens it's hard to focus on ANYTHING substantial in January. Don't you agree? Especially here in the Southern Hem, where it's summer all day every day and even the snails are moving at holiday pace.

Speaking of substantial, I have also been organising my thoughts (no mean feat) and my course materials in preparation for my creative writing course. I'm so excited to be teaching again. Sometimes I think I enjoy it more than writing. But don't tell anyone I said that...

Right. I best pull on my Mary Janes and skip down to the post office before they close. My glorious new fountain pen (it's Japanese!) awaits.

Until next time, dear reader,
I remain
Yours in a flurry of fashion faces and carbon ink,
Jen xx
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Monday, 4 January 2016

mirror, mirror

I've been doing lots of drawing over the break. Thinking about concepts of beauty. Playing with face 'math'. I will blog properly soon. Happy New Year, dear reader. xx

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