5 POWERFUL WRITING FUNDAMENTALS AND TRAVELLING WITH A TODDLER

The keys to a smooth overseas trip with a toddler are a lot like those for tackling a writing project, according to Kendall Richmond.

As I boarded an international flight with my one-year-old, I knew it would be different from our first overseas trip together. For one thing, my son was no longer an infant who was content to sit and play in my lap. He was now an enthusiastic walker and climber, always in motion. Plus, this time I didn’t have a pair of extra hands.

But I decided to approach the trip as an adventure and a learning opportunity (for both of us). Sure enough, the principles that helped me get through a long-haul flight with a wriggly bubba apply equally well to tackling a writing project.

So, here are five writing lessons I learned while traversing the Pacific with my one-year-old:

  1. Have a plan – Long before arriving at the airport, I’d set a plan for the ‘day’ on the plane. I packed a few select toys and books, old and new, and plenty of snacks. Likewise, starting a writing assignment requires a plan. Account for researching, drafting, interacting with stakeholders and revising. Always build in some extra time for the unexpected too. (That’s what my new toys were for!)
  2. Be adaptable – Follow the first guideline, but be flexible. There’s nothing like being in a confined area for hours on end to make even the most consistent kid throw a few curveballs. Similarly, writing assignments are likely to change in terms of scope, goals, direction and creative preferences. Expect to make some adjustments (revising is often the bulk of writing after all).
  3. Forget about judgment – While flying with my son, I found most people were incredibly kind and super helpful. But there were moments where I’m sure other passengers questioned my sanity. Instead of thinking about what they thought, I stayed focused on my kid. The same goes for writing. Focus on the end goal. If you worry too much about judgment, you’ll never take any chances.
  4. Accept help – There are inevitable moments of awkwardness flying alone with a kid. You’re often juggling bags, half-eaten snacks and a squirmy little one at the same time. So, accept help when it’s offered – with a smile of-course. As reluctant as I was initially to ask for a hand, I learned to say yes when someone offered to grab my overhead bags or to retrieve a toy that was thrown down the aisle. The same applies to your writing. If there’s an opportunity to team up with someone to get research done or a chance to get some constructive feedback, take it.
  5. Take it one hour at a time – I resisted looking at the real-time flight tracker on the screen at my seat – even though it was soooo tempting – and approached the flight in small increments instead. By breaking it up into activities for my son (walking the aisles, reading a book, having a snack, changing for bedtime) I found time went more quickly. When it comes to writing, set out stepping stones in the same way. Think of small, achievable milestones. Plan what you want to achieve in an hour or a day of work. Then set the next goal.

Admittedly, I was exhausted when my son and I landed. But I was also amazed at how resilient and adventurous my little guy is – and I was inspired. If he can happily venture across the world at such a young age, surely I can handle any writing task.

And you can too.

If you are a writer and a parent who loves to travel too, check out the site babieswhotravel.com – it’s loaded with tips.

Yom Kippur is the Day of Atonement, the holiest day of the year in Judaism, the tenth day of the seventh month of the Jewish calendar. We fast and pray, atone and repent. For many Jewish people it is the one day of the year when we actually do take part in a religious ritual.

We reaffirm being Jewish by attending synagogue, irrespective of our depth of religious adherence and regardless of our level of commitment to actual fasting or atonement. It is a day when one does think about being Jewish and about being part of a wider community with a shared cultural history.

 

As a child, it was a grim and moving day for me. When my parents had died when I was a teenager and otherwise non-observant, the prayers for the dead became something I could do for them – respect, a link.

 

Fasting is from sunset to nightfall the following day: no eating or drinking or smoking or driving unless you are ill or travelling. At least those were the rules in my family – I have since come across other, much stricter, ones.

 

Yitzkor is ‘remember’ in Hebrew and there is a special memorial service on the Day of Atonement, asking God to remember our dead parents, relatives and friends. You leave the synagogue for this and wait outside unless one of your parents is dead.

 

In the evening comes Kol Nidre, which means ‘all vows’ and dates from the Spanish Inquisition. It starts with very lovely music, sung or played, one of the most beautiful versions being by Pablo Casals in 1923.

 

A friend says that when he was young his father thought he should take him to a Yom Kippur service. He found it very boring and kept tugging at his father’s sleeve, hoping to get away and when they finally sneaked out and started walking home, much relieved to be free again, they suddenly saw their bus approaching. His father looked guilty, looked around and said,  “Hop on quickly!” So they rode home instead of walking and never gave it another thought!

 

When I came to live in Southwest France, leaving Hong Kong and the Ohel Leah Synagogue far away, I observed Yom Kippur by fasting, but no more. However, the most heart-warming, soul-stirring Day of Atonement I’ve ever spent was here when Judy Cassab and her younger son, Peter Kampfner, came from Sydney to stay. As well as being one of the greatest portrait painters of the twentieth century, a fine pianist and an important diarist.

Judy, who grew up in Beregszasz with my mother, was the most outstanding, inspirational person I have ever met, full of benevolence, generous common sense and open-mindedness, just the same person in London and Sydney as she was in Budapest and Condom.

It was a joy to drive her around the countryside with her sketchpad, stopping whenever something tugged at her imagination. And, on a more worldly level, she bought lots of sexy underwear and it’s the only time I’ve ever broken the fast with foie gras!

 

But then that is the basis of all the major Jewish holidays – they tried to kill us, we won, let’s eat!

Smartphones are changing the way we do activism. Sites such as Facebook and Twitter have given voice to the masses and a means to publicise messages quickly. But not all online tools are equal. Some social media sites are not safe for those living in fear for their lives or at risk of torture. Others are not available if you live in a country that restricts access to the internet and suppresses freedom of expression.

Here’s a list of some of the best tools to help you mobilise, organise and stay safe online.

  1. A little bit of information can be a powerful thing

CrowdVoice is an open source tool that ‘tracks and contextualises information on social justice movements worldwide’. Get lost for hours in the amazing infographics, video content and insightful articles. If you see a new protest taking shape, book yourself a front row seat by hopping onto one of the live streaming apps mentioned below.

  1. The revolution will not be televised, but it will be recorded

The ability to record and instantly upload footage to the internet has been instrumental in drawing global attention to police brutality and injustice around the world. From the Umbrella Revolution in Hong Kong to the Black Lives Matter protests in the US, the humble smartphone is being used to bear witness and speak truth to power.

Other popular live streaming apps include Ustream and Bambuser.

  1. Burn after reading, best apps to protect your privacy and personal data

Sites such as Facebook and Twitter are great for gaining global attention to a cause but not suitable for those who are concerned about governments spying on us, or corporations stealing your personal data. Encrypted messaging apps such as Telegram, Wickr and Signal allow users to communicate without fear of eavesdropping.  Telegram also includes a ‘Secret Chats’ service where you can send self-destructing messages, photos and videos.

  1. Search the internet in stealth mode

If you’re concerned your activist search history could be made public when you stand for Prime Minister one day, consider using a search engine that does not store your personal data or cookies such as DuckDuckGo. Alternatively, use a proxy or VPN service such as Orbot which uses TOR to encrypt your internet use and hides it by bouncing it through a series of computers around the world (this could also be useful if you’re in a country where the Government limits access to the internet, such as China, Iran or Vietnam).

  1. Alert the ones you love when you are in danger

Amnesty International’s Panic Button app turns your smartphone into a secret alarm and helps those at risk of being kidnapped, arrested or disappeared, tell people they’re in trouble. By rapidly pressing the power button the app will send an SMS and your GPS location to a preselected list of contacts. I’m Getting Arrested is similar and enables anyone, with one click, to broadcast a custom message to SMS numbers in the event they are arrested. It was inspired by a real Occupy Wall Street incident.

Be the change you want to see in the world

If you’re feeling inspired after reading this post, turn your anger into activism by signing an online petition today. Personally I love change.org and New Zealand’s ActionStation, which allows users to create and share petitions based on the idea ‘that many people together performing small actions can lead to big change’.

 

“Once a year, go someplace you’ve never been before.” – Dalai Lama 

Maybe you love travelling so much that those words are already scribbled on a post-it note above your desk, and the reason you’re freelancing is to fit work into your nomadic lifestyle. Or maybe international trips are required of you, whether you like them or not.

Whatever your reasons, freelancing overseas is more than just cocktails on the beach. Just ask anyone who’s spent hours lugging around their laptop in desperate search of WiFi, while baffling kindly locals with botched attempts to ask for directions in the local language. Wander where you may, The Copy Collective lets you work wherever your fancy takes you.

Here are five tried and tested hacks to help you land on your feet – wherever that is.

  1. Invest in some travel essentials

As a freelancer on the road, your office comes with you – which may mean being prepared for long stints away from a power point. Ever pulled out your laptop on the plane only to realise it’s out of power – for the next 22 hours? Not a great feeling. A portable, external battery charger can be a lifesaver. Look for one that can charge your laptop and phone or tablet at the same time.

You’ll also want a good pair of headphones, with a built-in microphone. Noise-cancelling, if you can afford it, will make plane travel and work in noisy spaces that little bit more bearable.

  1. Build your local network

Before you head off, ask friends and colleagues if they have contacts where you’re going. At the very least, you’ll have some potential coffee break companions – which can be very welcome if you’re travelling solo.

And once you’re there, speak to as many locals as you can. Look up people who do the same kind of work as you and ask if they have time to meet. I know an Australian photographer who organised a coffee with a photographer working in a similar area when she travelled to New York – they met, and now work together all the time (and got married!)

  1. Learn the language (or at least a few words)

There are some fantastic apps out there to help you, and many are free. Try and get one that you can download to your phone, so you can use it without chewing up data when you’re away from WiFi, and which speaks words out loud. Try Ultralingua and Wordreference.com. If all else fails – type something into Google Translate, cross your fingers and hope for the best (and get ready for some giggles from the locals).

  1. Find a good place to work

Once you nail this one, half the battle is won. Sure, your hotel might work – but when you find a beautiful old library complete with an atrium (and free WiFi) in Paris where you can work undisturbed for the day, you’ll feel like you’ve won the freelancing overseas lottery – and positivity is great for productivity. Ask locals, or do a search for co-working spaces and check out forums on sites that cater for ‘digital nomads’ such as Nomad List.

  1. Cultivate a micro-routine

Having a mini routine to get you into work mode while you’re on the road is even more important than when you’re at home. Why? Exotic procrastination temptations. Work or gelato from that little piazza I haven’t explored yet? Work or a surfing lesson on the sparkling beach I can see out my window? Work or… you get the drift.

Part of the thinking behind having a routine is reducing the amount of decisions you have to make before you actually start working. President Obama knows decision fatigue is a thing – that’s why he wears only a blue or grey suit every day.

So decide the hours you’re going to work in advance. You may need to be flexible – that’s fine. That’s why your travel routine is micro: it’s small enough to take with you. It might even just be opening your notebook and taking a few minutes to write a to-do list. A friend of mine listens to the same film soundtrack every day when she sits down at her desk. Pick something that helps your mind shift from ‘I’m travelling, I want to explore, maybe I can squeeze in a quick [insert whatever distraction that applies to you here]’ to ‘I am working now.’

And once you do get your work done, shut your laptop. Don’t get bogged down in emails that can wait til you’re back home – wander outside and immerse yourself in your new surroundings. You never know what you might find.

A meal without wine is like a day without sunshine. That saying is attributed to everyone, from French chemist Louis Pasteur to gastronome Brillat-Savarin to Californian winemaker Robert Mondavi.

When I’m staying with friends outside Goulburn the conversation focuses on sheep. While in Umbria, it’s olive oil. Here in Southwest France, it tends to be wine.

I once sat between two grand Bordeaux wine producers, who ignored me completely as they discussed their vintages. I could have been invisible. Then one asked: “Do you have any vines?” I was about to say no, humbly, when I thought of my paltry 3.64 hectares; best for making vinegar. I casually said yes. “Where?” “Outside Condom.” And I became invisible again!

But, at these dinners, one does pick up the most fascinating tit-bits of information! Did you know that vines may not be irrigated in France after August 15 as it is felt this may increase the crop and reduce the quality of the grapes? And that almost all French wines are blended?

Have you observed that roses are still often planted at the end of every row of vines? Originally that was because the rose would catch any disease before the vines, which could be treated quickly. Also, the roses were often different colours so that the illiterate workers could be told to go to the third yellow rose on the right or the fourth pink on the left.

Fashions in wine consumption have frequently been dictated by wine guides or wine writers. The once invincible wine critic Robert Parker’s wine guide has now been somewhat discredited. The great guides are now considered to be Hachette Wine Guide and also Bettane & Desseauve.

Recently, British wine critic Jancis Robinson went to a tasting of 83 new-wave Australian wines and published a list of the 25 she liked best. No one I know has even heard of, let alone tasted, more than four of them! But wine critics don’t know everything. Some 35 years ago English wine personality Gerald Asher said: “I made a mental note to watch which bottle became empty soonest, sometimes a more telling evaluation system than any other.”

The other great influencer of wine consumption, is medals earned in competition. The most important and highly respected competition in France is the annual Concours Général Agricole in Paris, which is funded and organised by the Ministries of Agriculture, Food, Fisheries and Rural Affairs. The Concours is co-owned by the Centre Nationale d’Expositions; Paris’ national exhibition centre, where it is hosted.

More than 15,000 wine samples are submitted by about 4,000 of France’s winemakers. These are examined and rated by almost 3,000 experts, usually divided into juries of five from different regions, which makes it one of the largest tasting panels of any wine competition in the world. They award more than 3,500 medals.

Here in the Gers, a local jury in Eauze will taste all the Gascon wines put forward before they are allowed to compete and this process will eliminate about half of those put forward. About 10 per cent of these local wines that do reach Paris will win gold or silver medals, and those medals help tremendously, especially as far as supermarket sales are concerned.

In France, a major influence on wine buying is the classic French bottle shapes, each rooted in its own region. Winemakers like to change the shape of the bottle to appear original. However, what gains they make in originality they sometimes lose in recognition. As a consumer, one is never quite sure whether a case holds six bottles or 12.

Long before Apple paid such attention to packaging, the winemakers of France created beautiful and often collectible cases for transporting their goods. Those original wooden cases are more valued now and often broken up and sanded down into bread or cheese boards. Interestingly, the cardboard cartons still tend to be a simple off-white here, whereas in the New World they are often bright, eye-catching colours.

From wine critics, to guides, to medals, bottle shapes and packaging – all these things have been used to advantage winemakers in the competition for devotees. Today, wine marketers are developing new techniques.

Have you noticed the glamorous jet set image for Provencal rosés in recent years, cultivated by very impressive marketing strategies? The new bottles and labels and the very pale colour project the whole dazzling lifestyle of the Cote d’Azur. The colour scale is described as gooseberry, peach, grapefruit, cantaloupe, mango and mandarin.

As the 19th-century American poet, Richard Henry Stoddard wrote,

Day and night my thoughts incline

To the blandishments of wine,

Jars were made to drain, I think;

Wine, I know, was made to drink.

 

Can you speak Kiwi?

NewZild. World famous for the haka, hobbits and heroic halfbacks.

Visitors love our Lord of the Rings landscapes, limitless adrenaline adventures and laid-back locals. They don’t always love our laid-back lexicon.

Tourists get confused with the way we crazy Kiwis merge and mispronounce vowels (pegs turn into pigs, packing sounds like pecking) and look bemused when we pepper conversations with strange colloquialisms (“Rattle yer dags”, “Get off the grass!” and “Bust a gut” are some of my favourites).

We also use a lot of Māori words and phrases (Kia Ora cuz, that kai really filled my puku!) and we tend to talk fast. (How are you doing? might sound like hwreding to a non-Kiwi ear).

 

So, if you’re planning on a visit to the land of the long white cloud, it’s a good idea to brush up on your Kiwi-speak.

  1. Cuz

Short for cousin, can refer to anyone vaguely familiar including the bank teller and bus driver. “Hey cuz”, “Cheers cuz!”

  1. Yeah, Nah

A noncommittal response (does it mean yes, does it mean no?) used when we don’t agree with something but feel too polite to say so.

For example, a friend might ask “Do you like my new orange hot pants?” You reply “Yeah, Nah, Yeah” – translation: “they’re hideous!”

  1. Cuppa

Means cup of tea, but could refer to any hot beverage. Often enjoyed on a smoko with a ciggie or a bikkie.

Tip: If you want to specify black tea try asking for Gumboot Tea (don’t worry this is not a drink made of boiled black rubber, just Kiwi for plain black tea).

  1. Kia Ora

Welcome or hello in Māori. It can also be used to say thanks or farewell.

  1. She’ll be right

Means everything is OK, often when it is not. Usually uttered when you’re doing something a bit dangerous or precarious as a hopeful exclamation rather than a statement of fact.

  1. Sweet as

Everything is good. Kiwis may add “as” to anything to add emphasis – “That’s cheap as!” “I’m tired as.” You get the idea.

  1. Togs

Kiwi for swimsuit. And flip-flops are jandals (not thongs – thongs are underwear on our side of the Tasman). Also, trousers are called pants and pants are most definitely not underwear.

  1. “Fush and chups”

Practically our national dish. The best way to tell a Kiwi and an Aussie apart is to get us to say “Fish and Chips.” If it sounds like “Feesh and Cheeps” you’re talking to an Australian, if it comes out more like “Fush and Chups” it’s a Kiwi you’re dealing with.

  1. Bugger/Buggered

Popularised by the   for Toyota, Bugger is now so ubiquitous that even your Nana might use it. It simply means dammit, as in “Bugger, I’ve lost my keys!”

Buggered is also fairly common and refers to something broken or tired.

  1. Onehunga, Whakatane, Te Puke

If you spend more than a day travelling in New Zealand, you’ll come across many Māori place names, which can be bit tricky to pronounce especially if you’ve never seen them before.

 

Make sure you can get from Whangarei to Whangamata without ending up in Whakatane by brushing up on some before you arrive.

Hot tip: “Wh” is generally pronounced “F” in Māori so Whakatane is said Fah-cah-tah-nay.

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