Let Me Digress

Kathryn Hore - Writer

Category: Up to Stuff (page 1 of 6)

Off to a cabin in the woods again

So last weekend I headed off with a like-minded writer type to a cabin in the woods to get some serious writing done.

Here’s a glimpse of what that looked like:

Yes, there was some wine involved. I won’t deny it. It’s not a prerequisite for such weekends, but somehow always seems to be there, hmmm…

In the last few years I’ve started going off on a few of these weekend retreats – now the kids are just old enough for me to steal the occasional weekend for myself – and they are brilliant for getting writing work done. Sometimes I go with a group or on formal retreats – the Vic chapter Australasian Horror Writers Association retreats are amazing – and sometimes it’s just a couple of writing friends organising stuff ourselves.

Here’s all you need to know about retreats: plan what you’re going to work on before the time. I learnt this trick early. First retreat I ever went on, I didn’t have much of a work plan, and I faffed around between projects and didn’t achieve much of substance. Had find, mind. Didn’t regret a minute. But didn’t get a lot of serious writing done.

These days, I’m an old hand. I make sure I know what project is the priority project of the day, and that I focus on.

For this retreat I worked on revising a first draft fantasy romance, a fairytale if you will, with imprisoned princesses and a king of thieves and a hint of magic. And also, because it’s me, dark political intrigue, cynical pragmatism, complex revolutionary plots and lot of blood spilt. I do like a bit of politics in my fantasy romances.

Anyway, whether you go on your own, or set off with a group, or find a formal established retreat to attend, it’s a valuable experience I’d recommend to any and every writer. Seriously, writing with this view is pretty divine:

The only other tip I’d give is don’t drink too much of this stuff, or you’ll curse yourself when it comes to revision time…. ūüėČ


A Cabin In The Woods

So a bunch of writers from the Victorian chapter of the Australasian Horror Writers Association went off on a writing retreat last weekend, and because we’re all horror writers (at least in part), where else would we go to if not a cabin in the woods?

Here, have a look at where we went to:

Yes, okay, somewhat more picaresque Dandenong Ranges tree ferns and parrots, and somewhat less smartarse cool Joss Wheddon flick, but we’re horror *writers*, not horror victims. We all know the tropes way too well to get caught in them ourselves, thank you very much. We’re the ones who inflict that shit on our fictional creations, not the other way around.

Anyway, off we all went for the first of a couple writers retreats scheduled for 2018, this one at the wonderful Fernglen Forest Retreats, and organised by the amazingly talented and editor extraordinaire Louise Zedda-Sampson of Novel Solutions. There was myself, Louise, Rebecca Fraser, Isabelle Rowan, Noel and Dominque. Here we all are (minus Isabelle, who joined us the next day) at the first night retreat dinner РChristmas in July at the Pig & Whistle Tavern in Olinda:

As you can see, we horror writers are a pretty scary looking bunch (especially after multiple bottles of sparkling white). That’s me in the middle, in case you didn’t recognise.

Friday night I got to the dinner a tad late, coming as I was from the day job which that day had been located down in Geelong – so I had a good three hour commute getting to the retreat, but totally worth it – which left me just enough time to eat dinner, drink champagne and stumble into bed. Not a lot of writing done Friday night on my part, I’ll admit.

Oh, before I forget, here is the delectable yorkshire pudding that came with dinner:

Absolutely nothing hilarious about that, as you can see, and we were not at all drunk and giggling like high schoolers at it at any point, I promise ūüėÄ

Anyway, a wine-staggered-walk back to the retreat venue through the dark streets followed, in which we loudly lamented the fact that the previous weekend had been Friday the 13th, so we’d entirely missed the opportunity to have a horror writers retreat in a cabin in the woods on Friday the 13th by a whole week. Which just seemed a shame, really. But we did all agree to make up for it with a gusto this weekend. And so we did.

Saturday morning I roused myself at some vaguely reasonable hour to this view out the window:

So, you know, that was rather nice.

After a bit of writing, a bit of breakfast, and a bit more writing Рyes actual new words down on the page, thank you very much Рthe awesome Deb Sheldon popped by for a Q&A session and all round excellent discussion on the writers craft.

Pies from the Olinda pie shop, Pie In The Sky followed for lunch, then a walk, then more writing. Yay for writers retreats.

At some point the wine came out again. And there was workshopping. At which I chose to workshop a very early draft of the first scene from a new a fantasy novel I’m working on, one set in a highly moralistic, class and gender segregated society, that also opens in a fetish brothel complete with a few detailed scene setting descriptions, so you know, the wine must’ve been out by that stage. I don’t usually drag out first drafts of potentially confronting material in a room full of people I admire without at least some liquid courage under the belt.

Here’s us getting into serious writing business:

At some point after the workshopping, the writing stopped and the spa began. Don’t ask me how. But somehow a few of us could be found drinking red wine in the spa at midnight. Don’t forget, July is the middle of winter in Melbourne town, but that wasn’t about to stop us.

I won’t post the pic I do happen to have of three of us drunk and talking crap in the spa, because I’m not sure my compatriots would thank me for making that public, but here’s a very staid pic from the next day of what the spa looks like, sans drunken writers:

Just picture it at night, in a freezing mid-winder July, with red wine and horror writers right in the middle. ūüėÄ

So what else? There was the most delightful open fireplace, which I spent most of my time writing in front of, or poking a fire-poker at:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

There was a cat, of course, because what writing retreat is complete without a nosey cat who presumes its a lion and knows it rules the space?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And to top it all off, the wonderful writer Isabelle Rowan put together Retreat Showbags for us all, complete with spooky shortbread, ‘dark and bloody thoughts’ chocolate buttons, ‘cthulu’ lolly octopuses, and a horror stirring spoon!

Look, jokes about the amount of wine consumed aside – of the six of us, two were non (or very light) drinkers, and the rest of us were there to write not drink as the priority activity, so I may be indulging in a wee bit of hyperbole when I recant tales about the wine – we all got some serious writing done and had a wonderful time.

I cannot recommend writers retreats enough. Whether you book into a commercial one, or organise one with a bunch of friends, or just take yourself off solo for a weekend, it’s valuable time very well spent.

We had a ball. And the best part? There’s still at least two retreats in my 2018 calendar yet to come!

Till next folks…

My other career is all buzzwords

So it says on the front page of this site that, as well as being a writer, I’m also a GLAMR-slash-Information Governance professional. Because a girl’s got to pay the bills somehow and I happen to be a weird sort who gets off on the intricacies of managing and organising information. Look, someone’s got to do it. If phrases like “records management” make your eyes glaze over, just be glad there are freaks like me out there who are more than willing to head unto that breach for you.

Wait – do I need to explain the GLAMR thing? Like, nobody would bother continue to read a post that uses that acronym in the second sentence if they weren’t already interested in the field and therefore already knew what it meant, right?

Right?

Hmmm. Galleries, Libraries, Archives, Museums, Records. Just in case you’re not actually in the know.

Actually, like much about me, my career is just a little left-of-centre of this, with a big focus on data, information & knowledge management, and not so much Museums or Galleries. So it’s kind of ILARKDM. Or something. Look, acronyms, like metaphors, should never be examined too closely. They’ll only end up disappointing you.

Because I was a bookish type growing up (bet that comes as a surprise, huh?), libraries seemed a good choice back when I was studying and choosing future career paths. So graduate degree library school it was. While there I also did a dual stream in records and archives, because it never hurts to diversify the skills a bit, and I’m one of nature’s jack-of-all-trades, really. (Which is a nicer way of saying I get bored easily and like to jump about into new things.)

So armed with all these new library skills, I came out of library school and went straight into…

Knowledge Management.

Look, it was the late 90s. Knowledge Management was just what we did then. Along with studying postmodernism, listening to Grunge and wearing Doc Martens. (Or was that just me? I’m still wearing Docs, by the way.) Anyway, there I was, building a network of databases, highlighting subject matter experts, sharing knowledge, creating communities of practice, and working in a field defined by the latest management buzzword. Seriously, Harvard Business Review did a whole book on it, that’s how management-speak it was.

Shift forward twenty years and now I’m heading up large-scale Digital Transformation projects. Yes, I’m still at the¬†buzzword zeitgeist.

Don’t get me wrong, I love my career and I don’t stay in a job if I don’t believe its creating something of value or doing meaningful work. I’ve travelled from KM to Business Research and Analysis, through Information Management, through Archives and Records, to Research Data Management and now into Digital Transformation and Information Governance. I’ve even actually been a true-blue Librarian for a few years there, doing reference desk shifts and all.

(On which note, I’d like to apologise to everyone to whom I ever gave APA6 style referencing advice. Seriously, I was just as bamboozled as you.)

Still, valid jobs and meaningful work aside, there is no escaping the fact that, without meaning to, my entire career is really a string of management buzzwords. I mean, even when I was running an unambiguous, journals-and-books special library, my job title was “Knowledge Management Officer”. True story. And did you all catch that recent Digital Transformation episode of Utopia? You should, it’s hilarious, and I couldn’t stop laughing. All the while thinking, oh gods, but I’m *that* guy, aren’t I? I’m the one the sharp corporate satire is making fun of.

And I’m totally cool with it.

You see, despite all the fun and games, there’s something at the heart of what I do which I happen to believe is of genuine importance in this day and age.

We live in an era where buzzwords are used seriously by the powerful, and I’m not just talking bollocksy management speak that calls a Librarian a Knowledge Management Officer. I’m talking phrases like “fake news”, “alternative facts” and a whole string of disingenuous phrases that equate to outright science denial. So in an era like this one, the importance of having a solid, reliable, verifiable, authentic, reviewed and referenced information base is more important than ever.

Information Governance, records management, information management, digital information transformation, data management, it’s the concepts coming out of these fields that grapple with what to keep and how to keep it, how to ensure the sheer, provable validity of evidentiary records. You want to worry about world leaders with private email servers, go talk to your records managers, your information governance leaders, for solutions. You’re concerned about the meaning of large datasets and how to secure, access, or ensure their privacy, while also maximising the value for the public good. Go talk to your data managers, your digital information specialists, your information management people.

Information has both value and risk. Those working in Information Governance understand both and weigh up value against risk and advise accordingly.

So¬†I never mind if someone’s eyes glaze over when I say “records management”, or if they snort when I say “digital transformation projects” or just look confused and blank when I say “knowledge management”, or maybe even respond with “is that still even a thing?” Because beyond the buzzwords, there’s actual stuff going on and some of it is essential to being able to keep the powerful to account.

Anyway, this is what I do when I’m not writing. It pays better than words. And it’s almost as fun.

Almost.

But not quite.

 

Here, have a spider

Spider-11

Headshot

So I bit the bullet and asked Darling¬†Beloved to take a new headshot for me, seeing as the¬†author pic I was¬†using¬†was ‘getting close to’ (read: had long¬†bypassed)¬†a decade old¬†and I’d been asked for a pic by a couple of short-fiction publishers in the last year and it was clearly time to update.

You’d think it’d be a quick and easy thing, especially for the likes of me, what with being life-partnered to a professional photographer and all. The man makes a living by ensuring¬†Brides take¬†beautiful photos,¬†so I knew he could manage something of¬†me well enough. But because I’ve lived with him for more than a decade,¬†I also knew what it would entail.

Now, it’s a truth not-quite-so-universally acknowledged¬†that you don’t just ask a¬†writer-friend to¬†quickly write you up¬†a few paragraphs of whatever because “you’re a writer, it’ll only take you twenty minutes or so, right?” ¬†No.¬†I’m a Writer. It’ll take me several¬†days to get¬†those paragraphs¬†right, and if you ask without¬†appreciation for that fact, I’ll curse you the entire time I’m doing it. But I’ll still do it and you can be sure¬†your complaints letter or whatever the hell it is¬†will be freakin’ poetry by the time I’m done.

Asking for photography-favours works along the same lines. “Just a quick headshot” is not the same as whipping out the smartphone for a selfie in the bathroom mirror, I’ll have you know.

So after he¬†spent maybe an hour setting up the studio for¬†portraits,¬†selecting and testing equipment, metering and flashing and finally declaring¬†all was ready, I got in front of the camera for oh, about five minutes maybe. Well, let’s round it up to ten, if you include the test shots to get the white balance right.

Then it was cameras down, whip¬†out the storage cards, load them up on the editing machine. Flagging¬†a shortlist, colour-coding¬†an even¬†shorter short-list, selecting¬†the top three, on which Darling Beloved actually went to work, ‘shopping as necessary. You know how for those who are into makeup,¬†the ‘natural’ makeup look requires about two dozen¬†separate bits of makeup kit? Photoshopping is something similar. A ‘natural’ photo requires more photoshop finesse than any other.

All to produce the following:

Kathryn Hore Photo 2015

 

So there it is. Something a bit more up to date. Kudos to the photographer.

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