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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Thursday, 24 December 2015

best wishes and holidays kisses

Hello, dear reader! Here at Baxter Street we are up to our oxters in Christmas preparations. The family is coming tonight (Christmas Eve) and Himself and I are madly trying to pull together some posh nosh. We are also falling over each another as we search for the crystal and polish the silver and freak out because we don't have enough dessert bowls and OMG we have RUN OUT OF RASPBERRIES! However, despite the nonsense, I just had to slip away to wish you all the very best for the festive season and the coming new year. Seasons blessings to you and all those you love, dear reader. Thank you for your friendship and loyalty and may your world always be a good world.
Until next time
I remain
Yours under the icing sugar 
Jen xx
Our 'tree' this year. Agapanthus blooms, twisted willow branches and that green spiky stuff from the garden. You know, the stuff that looks like a real Christmas tree but gives you a rash when you brush up against it...

This is Nigella Lawson's sticky gingerbread. Here's a link to the recipe. The house smells like heaven when this is baking and really puts one in the festive spirit. You know, you could actually serve this  as a dessert. With raspberry coulis and double cream. Trust me. Front up at anyone's house with this in your Tupperware container and you will win Friend of the Year, hands down. Here's a tiny tip though, only dust with icing sugar just before serving. If you dust it too soon (as I did with my first batch) the icing sugar sinks into the gingerbread and that's that. 

My potato-stamped paper came up a treat. Especially with this nice red hemp string. 
Brown paper packages tied up with... hemp. 

Cherries always say Christmas to me. 

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Tuesday, 8 December 2015

handmade love

Learning nifty collage techniques. This is my Sea Angel...
Inspired by Lynn Whipple in Year of the Spark, I've been making Christmas paper with a humble potato and a dab of acrylic paint (some with gold glitter!). I can't draw stars, dear reader. So I poked a cookie cutter into a spud and carved around the imprint.

Still drawing girls and rabbits in my journal. I need to move on!

Inspired by Asphyxia I made a handmade book ( a gift for my writing students). Are you familiar with Asphyxia, dear reader? If not you are in for a Major Treat. Do pop over. I bought three darling little zines from her Etsy site, Fixie's Shelf. I've been carting them around as if they were a collective talisman. Asphyxia lives around the corner from me. And that, as they say, is my claim to fame. 
My book also owes its existence to Carla Sonheim whose online course first taught me how to make little eight-pagers. 
Practising drawing spheres in my journal. I do this while watching TV. Have you caught up with The Leftovers, dear reader? OMG. It scares me WITLESS but I cannot drag myself away.
Making handmade envelopes. Ironically the tape that says, Handmade With Love, is store bought...

And (in case you missed it!) last but not least, with loads of help from Himself, I made a website for my creative writing coursegirl and duck. Himself also helped me make a video/vlog. It's over on the new site, too, dear reader.

Until next time, 
I remain
Yours in a Potato Patch
Jen xx

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Monday, 30 November 2015

girl and duck

Today is Lucy Maud Montgomery's birthday. What an auspicious day! And the perfect time to think about writing books for children and all that this entails. If you are my friend on Facebook you probably know I will be teaching a course at Northcote Library next year. I have been working on the course content and the website and hope to have all details available by the end of this week. Yay! Thank you for your patience, dear reader, and your enquiries. I am so looking forward to this course! For those of you who would love to join us but can't suddenly materialise in Northcote, I have other material I will share with you online. In the meantime, here's a little promo poster. The story behind the image (and there's always a story, isn't there?) also Coming Soon. xx

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Sunday, 22 November 2015

unfinished trifles

I have several little side projects going at the moment, dear reader. It's great fun but I'm feeling frustrated. I can't seem to finish ANYTHING. Is it the time of year, the stars, my hormones? It's like my brain is zigzagging through a lolly shop, pointing in all directions, yelling, 'Here! here! here!' Strange metaphor. See what I mean? I can't get anything straight at the moment.
I supposedly finished book two of Danny Best last week. On time and all gorgeous. My publisher was delighted with it and it went straight to Mitch (illustrator) and Steph (designer) and Eve (editor). However. After chewing my nails for several days I decided, no, the balance in that book is not right (the Danny books are made up of short stories). I want it back! So I have retrieved the manuscript and I'm writing another story and shoving one of the 'finished' ones aside (it can go in book three, it won't be wasted). I get irritable when projects are not checked off within a reasonable timeframe and tied up neatly in a satin bow. Schedules mean a lot to me. I don't enjoy feeling scattered. But I must take heart. I remember reading about the Coen brothers. Apparently they have half-written projects and undeveloped ideas languishing All Over The Joint. They pick up and put down and chop and change. Clearly they do get some things finished, so that's a comfort. I do think, too, that this 'magpie phase' is part of the creative process. I've been here before. Pecking about randomly. Hopping from leg to leg. Picking up bits of glass, diamond rings...and dead bugs. 
Meanwhile, I've been painting food (for one of my unfinished projects). Here are some Maira Kalman inspired cakes. And a trifle. My mother used to use homemade Swiss rolls (soaked in sherry) at the base of her trifles. SO DIVINE! She would also sprinkle the top layer of cream (and crushed jelly) with chopped walnuts. I can't draw chopped walnuts. They end up looking like dirt. So I popped a couple of strawberries on my trifle. And a sweet wafer, for dipping in the custard and cream... 
Until next time
I remain
Yours with a glass of sherry (which I will DEFINITELY finish).
Jen xx

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Monday, 9 November 2015

I want to create but I'm scared!

Today from Baxter Street, two of my Favourite Gals, Marie Forleo and Elizabeth Gilbert, yak about creativity and fear and shit sandwiches (ha!) and writing and getting published and loads of other stuff. You must watch this, dear reader. You must! A warning though, it's long. You might have to flag it for later when your minions are snoring. Make a secret date. Delicious!  Oh, and if you haven't seen Ms Gilbert's TED talk, do get on it. When I was teaching creative writing to women I had all my students watch it. It's that good. xx

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Friday, 30 October 2015

words and pictures. and cakes.

Hello, dear reader! Are you good? I hope so! I'm trying to write really fast because I have put on SEVEN kilos and I need the exercise. Otherwise I will have to cut up the bedsheets to make new frocks. So this is a speedy entry. Fingers flying, pulse racing, calories burning. Yes indeedy. All thoughts of warm banana cake and buttery cinnamon toast and vanilla ice cream with chocolate crepes are fervently dismissed. 

Now. Where was I?

As a warm-up exercise in Year of the Spark we have been doing thumbnails of the masters. Herein you might recognise Van Gogh's, Haystacks? Or perhaps Van Gogh's, Daleks.

Either way this is a terrific exercise that really teaches you to LOOK and think about composition, tone, all sorts of stuff.  I adore doing these classes with Lynn Whipple and Carla Sonheim. These amazing women have truly made my year. 

Meanwhile, I'm still nuts for Mindy Lacefield. Her videos are sweet and inspiring and she's so talented and generous. Lately I've been drawing along with this video and generally sploshing about. (In so doing I've also fallen head over heels for Kate Mann. Am I the last to discover her music? Probably. Sigh).

You might ask, why are you so obsessed with bloody rabbits, Jen? Who knows? But I've learned to follow obsessions. You might remember a while back when I kept drawing eggs and cupcakes? (I don't really expect you to remember, I know you're busy. Sheesh, ask a silly question.) Anyway, that little obsession went on and on until VOILA I had an idea for a picture book. Now looky look! Here's the final cover!

I'm over the moon about this book. Sue deGennaro's artwork is tender and funny and utterly enchanting. I can't wait to share Clarrie's story with you, dear reader, but it won't be out until February 2016 so I will have to zip it for a little while longer... 

We have a fractured long weekend here in Melbourne this week. Meaning, Tuesday is a public holiday but not Monday. Still, I have caught up on my writing commitments so I intend on doing lots of gardening and drawing. I will also be working on the website for my Writing Books for Children course. I'll be teaching that next year. I'll get in your ear about it later.

Bye for now, dear reader. I hope you have a charming weekend. Eat a scone for me, won't you?
Until next time
I remain 
Yours with my nose pressed against the cake shop window
Jen xx
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Tuesday, 20 October 2015

domestic ramblings

Spring is fluttering by here in Melbourne, dear reader. We've had a few hot days, a few muggy days and a few PERFECT, made-to-order, sunshiny, lollipop days. I've noticed the occasional blowfly blundering through the house, too. Those dozy heralds of summer always remind me to dig out my sunscreen and Birkenstocks.

I went to Castlemaine. Do you dream of escaping to the country, dear reader? I miss the big skies and often crave the slower pace and the ease with which the locals relate to one another. I dream of buying a big old place with some kind of outbuilding that I could convert to a studio/writing school. I remember one time, the local Sunday school was for sale. I was tempted. Indeed I was. 

Don't you adore shops in higgledy-piggledy cottages? The owner of this one and I had a lovely chinwag. I bought a parasol and some divine Christmas cards.
I wrote a story called Servery Goes to Hollywood. It's about a severed arm who tries his luck in the motion picture industry. He gets lots of parts especially in horror films. But things don't go according to plan and it turns out the high life is not all it's cracked up to be. Severy is a minor character in the first Danny Best book. Actually, he's not much more than a doodle in that book. But in book two he gets his fifteen minutes. The manuscript for Danny Best book two is due to the publisher November 2. I'm on track. Praise be.
Severy is a stickler for nice manners.
Severy got his first big break playing himself in Danny Best: Full On.
We launched Danny Best: Full On at the Little Bookroom, Carlton, on Saturday October 10. It was a gorgeous afternoon brimming with laughter and high jinx. Left to right: Heidi Arena (launcher), Mitch Vane (illustrator), Lisa Berryman (publisher HarperCollins), Jen Storer (author), Steph Spartels (designer).

Mitch made dog poo brownies. So inspired! Apparently they were delicious, too...

I bought a Sandra Eterovic print from a shop in Smith Street, Collingwood. Himself and I are in search of a new dining table. We have a formal dining room in our new house and space to seat hundreds! Well, perhaps not that many. But we are overjoyed about this turn of events and planning a big Christmas Eve sit down dinner. Our current table seats four so you appreciate the urgency... Alas, no table but instead this gorgeous print. I haven't had it framed yet so it is sitting on the piano among the baby photos and vintage china. She looks right at home, don't you think? I've been following Sandra's blog for many years. Sandra recently provided sumptuous cover art and illustrations for a children's nonfiction title, too. See below. So, so lovely.


I designed a new website for my Writing Books for Children course. The website (and the 'school') will be launched shortly. I'm very excited about this project. It's taken me AGES to pull it all together and now it's here I can scarcely believe it. I will send you a link to the new site the moment it Goes Live. Gosh!

Bye for now, dear reader. Don't be a stranger. Do leave a comment if you feel so inclined. I'd love to know you are really there and not just a 'stat'.  
Until then
I remain
Yours in a pretty tea cup 
Jen xx

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Thursday, 15 October 2015

day by day

Short and sweet today, dear reader (hallelujah, you're probably thinking). I just wanted to tell you about this little book - which I haven't read yet but I am going to because I know it's fabulous! As part of our warm-up for this month's art lesson in Year of the Spark, we were asked to write 300 words describing our daily rituals. For some of us no day is the same. But for artists and writers there is generally some kind of pattern. I am sorry to say I wrote 338 words, dear reader. I exceeded the word limit to include my little dog at the end. How could I edit her out? How? 
Do you have any daily rituals? This is a lovely writing exercise in and of itself and my instincts tell me you would enjoy doing it. It also prompts us look more closely at how we are spending our time and where we could squeeze in more creativity.
PS I know that last time I promised you an 'experimental post'. Suffice to say that post is still in the Baxter Street Laboratory. But it's coming! 
Until then
I remain 
Yours with a cup of Lady Grey
Jen xx

My life is solitary with flashes of frantic activity. I always start the day with a cup of Lady Grey. If I’m in the thick of a book I will go straight to my desk at 7.30 am and write in my pyjamas. If I’m troubled, if the writing is not working, I will tap dance around, filling my day with errands and lots of self-doubt. When I am scared enough (ie I can’t avoid the deadline any longer) I go for long walks. That’s when I get truly immersed and start to solve problems. When I’m working on a book, I write 500 words a day Monday to Friday. Often I write more but 500 is my happy point. (Each book in my Truly Tan series is 45,000 words, my standalone novels are around 70,000). Because I have several books on the go at once, I’m often caught up in design and editorial meetings, either online or face-to-face. Between times I do loads of admin, a sprinkling of school visits, plus book signings, blogging and promo trips. I never write a word when I’m on the road. I need long stretches of solitude to achieve anything storywise. However, I do some kind of visual art whenever I can. Even if it’s in bed at night. I have a bottle of ink and a pen by my bed. One day I know I’ll spill ink all over the white doona. But I’m a risk taker! I often sleep with my manuscript, too. My partner does most of the cooking so long as I do the hunting and gathering. This works brilliantly for us. My adult son and his girlfriend float through the house regularly, grazing on whatever they can find, studying for exams etc. They like coming here to work as their flat is tiny. And we have more food. In the evenings I walk my little dog. Although mostly I carry her. She’s seventeen and blind. But she still enjoys getting out and having a sniff around.

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