Filtering by Tag: Striking Out

Interview with Curling Up With A Good Book

What gave you the inspiration to write Striking Out?

I’ve always loved Australian vernacular and I was inspired to try and capture its charm. Australians are the masters of understatement and irony, and everyday Australian language has a unique and interesting flavour that’s tongue in cheek, funny, and used very cleverly, particularly by less scholarly types who tend to have a colourful way with words. An awful night out, for example, might be described as ‘a bit ordinary’, with a raise of the eyebrows and a pointed glance that tells the rest of the story in an amusing way. An Australian commenting on an argument that ended very badly would quite likely say, ‘that went well’, to make people laugh (or provoke the situation further) and restore a fragile sense of harmony. Curse words are used routinely to add colour and interest to otherwise mundane remarks – vulgarity is often used to express a certain cleverness and humour. I’ve been pleased to find, since my novel was released, that readers from all around the globe ‘get’ the way Australians use language and enjoy it too. That’s just wonderful.

Who is your favourite character in the book?

Readers may find this hard to believe, but my favourite character in the book is Des. He’s a creepy, misogynistic, ego-maniac with a soft side that almost redeems him by the end of the novel. And he’s my favourite because I have so much fun at his expense. Creating problems for Des is one of my greatest joys (I’ve made his life even more difficult in the sequel and, truly, it couldn’t happen to a nicer bloke).

Which came first, the novel or the title?

The novel came first and then I agonised and annoyed everyone around me for weeks trying to come up with the right title. I finally settled on ‘Striking Out’ (my daughter’s suggestion) because it so eloquently captured my heroine’s reinvention of herself and, also, because it was a nice play on words for her physical prowess and the fights she gets involved in.

What scene in the book are you most proud of and why?

The scenes in the book I’m most proud of are the sex scenes at the end, largely because it’s not the kind of writing that comes easily to me. My novel tackles a lot of difficult moments head-on, and I felt I had to be brave with the sex scenes too, to do the story justice, even though I wanted to run away from the challenge. It’s not easy to get the balance right when you’re writing sex scenes, but I’m really happy with how they turned out. They’re explicit but not smutty, and readers will hopefully see them as fitting vehicles for the emotions I was trying to express.

Thinking way back to the beginning, what's the most important thing you've learned as writer from then to now?

I’m less anxious as a writer, now that I’ve finished my first book. I no longer hope I can find my way through the difficult parts of the process, I know it, and that makes such a difference to my confidence. I’ve also learnt not to worry when I feel like I need to step away for a while. The breaks I took when I was writing Striking Out turned out to be helpful gestation periods. I see them as a normal, meaningful part of the process now. I guess, overall, the experience of having seen a book through to completion has bolstered my confidence in my ability to write the next one.

What do you like most about the cover of the book?

I really like the texture on the cover of the book. It looks good online, but great in print, where you can see every detail. It’s more complex than it looks at first glance, and I like the textural layers that reveal themselves over time. I really like the font too.

What new release book are you most looking forward to in 2015?

When the 2015 New Year rolled around, I was eagerly awaiting the release of David Baldacci’s Memory Man because the promo material about a lead character with synaesthesia really captured my interest – imagine a crime-fighting hero who starts seeing colours and numbers in highly charged moments as the result of a brain injury. The book didn’t disappoint. I loved it, and it really got me thinking about the creative possibilities arising from different sensory processing. I even wrote an article about it for my Psychology for Writers program.

What was your favourite book in 2014?

My favourite book in 2014 was J.K. Rowling’s (writing as Robert Galbraith) The Cuckoo’s Calling. I love crime fiction, but I’m not keen on graphic violence and I can only take so much suspense. The Cuckoo’s Calling had everything I love in a crime fiction book, without the bits I don’t like – a fabulous (flawed) lead character, a beautifully written story, great plot developments, and a really satisfying ending. I’ve read the whole series now and I can’t wait for the next book to come out.

What's up next for you?

I’m more than half way through the sequel to Striking Out, and I’m within a few months of finishing the first draft of a crime fiction novel with a heroine who’s a forensic psychologist. It’s the first book in a series and it’s much bleaker than the Sharon Jackson (Striking Out) series. I’m really enjoying writing it, and I love being able to jump between the two, very different books.

Interview with I Read Indie

Talking today with Mandy from I Read Indie about books and writing. Here's what I had to say.

What would you be doing right now if you were not an author?

I need creative endeavours in my life in order to maintain my inner balance. I like to write, whether my work gets published or not, because words are my favourite creative medium and I feel more myself when I do. So it’s hard to imagine not writing – I’ve always done it. Having said that, I also design and make my own jewellery using sterling silver and semi-precious gemstones (I’ve got a photo gallery of my creations on my website), and I enjoy that too – it’s much more physical than writing and it’s good to be physically active when you’ve been sitting in front of a computer screen for hours.

I combine writing with occupational psychology work and I’m passionate about helping people (especially other creative people) to survive the professional challenges and achieve their career goals. I love this work and I’m grateful to be able to support other writers, no matter where in the world they reside. Technology is fabulous!

Scarlet Bennett on writing

5 years ago: what were you doing?

I was doing the same kind of work I do now – writing in every spare moment and doing occupational psychology work with individuals, groups, and within organisations. I was mostly writing short stories then, although I’d written an almost complete first novel that I abandoned because I wasn’t happy with it. That particular work will never see the light of day, but I’m glad I wrote it because I developed a lot as a writer through that aborted first effort.

Do you have a certain writing ritual?

I’m very busy, so I made a conscious decision early on to keep my writing routine as flexible as possible. I prefer to write on my laptop, but I carry a notebook with me everywhere I go so I can work on my story if I have a few unexpected spare moments. And I do use the notebook even though I prefer to type than write by hand – I refuse to get wedded to any particular method. I’m the same with time of day. I have no set routine because my day-to-day working life is highly variable. Sometimes I get up early to write, sometimes I tuck into bed with my laptop and write before I go to sleep. My philosophy is that the story is inside me, therefore the external circumstances shouldn’t matter.

My only fixed ritual is that I always start each writing session with a review of the chapter I’ve been working on previously. Editing is a pleasant way to get my mind into gear – less demanding than staring at a blank page – and by the time I’ve edited the previous day’s work, I’m ready to go.

What has been the toughest criticism given to you as an author?

It’s hard to put my finger on the toughest criticism I’ve received as an author, because sometimes it’s the little things that sting the most, and that’s usually more about the way the criticism is delivered, rather than the criticism itself.

I was sensitive to criticism in my teens and twenties, but I’m much less so now. That’s partly down to maturity, but it’s also because I know how to deal with it now.

I think it’s important for writers to be emotionally robust. Firstly, it makes life a lot more pleasant (no tears!) and, secondly, it frees you to write with courage, to risk causing offence in the service of your story.

Ever fangirled over another author? Who was it?

I’m afraid I reserve my fangirling for singers and guitarists. I fangirl a bit over Australian author Tim Winton – largely because he’s intelligent, thoughtful and sensitive and that’s very appealing – but I’m mostly a sucker for a handsome singer with a voice that combines raunch with vulnerability, and if he happens to be carrying a guitar, all the better. I also fangirl over Colin Firth, particularly when he comes as Mr Darcy, but that’s only sensible, isn’t it?

Is there an author you'd like to meet?

I’d quite like to meet Tim Winton – in my dreams, at least. If it actually ever happened, I’d probably be too apprehensive to enjoy it. Circumstances like that usually pass much more successfully in my imagination than in my life. I’m the sort of person who would walk away afterwards thinking… ‘I should have said this… ‘I shouldn’t have said that’… ‘Why didn’t I think to ask him about…?’ It’s agony.

Biggest writing pet peeve?

Characters, for me, succeed or fail on two criteria: dialogue and action. If the dialogue’s clumsy or inauthentic, all I can see is the writer and the mechanics. The writing becomes a barrier that keeps me out of the story. If the dialogue is real, the writer disappears and the character becomes a person to me – someone I care about and want to get to know better.

The same is true of action, but I think the stakes are possibly even higher here. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve tossed a book aside – disappointed at the wasted investment in reading to that point – because a character has been thrown into some kind of action that’s completely out of sync with the psychological profile the author has created. Once again, that takes me out of the story and into the mechanics (in a way that I find difficult to forgive). Action, in real life, emerges from the intersection of person, place and situation. How we behave is influenced by the time and place we find ourselves in, the social and environmental pressures we face, and who we are as people. Credible characters take themselves with them wherever they go – they don’t suddenly undergo a personality bypass in order to help a writer out with a difficult plot point. Not on my reading list, anyway.

Do you read other's reviews of your books?

Absolutely! I’m always curious to know what other people think and I’m grateful for the time and trouble they’ve taken to review my work.

Interview with The Bookdragon

Talking with Mary Jane at The Bookdragon about writing and books...

When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer?

I write because it makes me feel better and I’ve just always done it. I like playing with stories and I get the same kind of escapist pleasure from writing a story as I do from reading one. More, in fact. When the story is your own, you can live with it for longer and explore its dimensions and variations in more detail. The world is a hard place to live in sometimes, and writing makes it easier. I can’t say that I ever actually decided to become a writer – I certainly never set out to achieve anything in particular. I’ve always felt a need to express myself creatively, and words are my medium.

Becoming a writer

Can you describe your writing process?

I work best with a blank page in front of me. I know a lot of people prefer to map things out in advance, but my best writing is always unplanned and spontaneous. When I write to a plan, it always falls flat somehow. When I sit in front of a blank page, hoping something will show up, I quite often get a happy surprise. I have difficult days, of course, and I do tend to have ideas about how the next few scenes could develop (if the mood strikes me that way on the day), but I like to let the stories emerge in their own way. The plot developments I like the most in Striking Out grew, without exception, out of that intangible ether of uncertainty and in-the-moment imagination.

My usual process is to start the day by re-reading (and editing) what I wrote the previous day – this helps to get me back in the story – then I find the new content flows quite naturally.

How long does it take you to write a book?

It takes me a year to write a draft of a book, but I can work on more than one book during that period. This year, for instance, I’ll draft two and a half books in the year (and I’m working hard – this is definitely my upper limit). I need a certain amount of writing time, but it’s the thinking time that sets the time frame for me. I need to live with a story for a while, play with it and ponder my plot options, and I’ve found that takes me a year. I wouldn’t like to rush that process.

What do you do when you're not writing?

My day job is in occupational psychology, so I work with people to help them achieve their career goals. There’s huge diversity in my day-to-day work, and I facilitate workshops on a range of different topics, working with organisations and teams in addition to coaching individuals. I’ve recently launched a range on online courses for writers and performers to extend my reach beyond my local area. I still run lots of live workshops, of course, but technology makes it possible for me to work with people from all around the globe, and I love that. I’ve got a Psychology for Writers program that’s proving to be popular, and there’s high demand for my Goodbye Stage Fright program too. You can find out more here if you’re interested http://www.scarletbennett.com.au/online-courses/

In my personal life, I design and make jewellery using sterling silver and semi-precious gemstones in my spare time, and I have a photo gallery on my website.

I read a lot, too, and I’m a particular fan of crime fiction so long as it’s not too violent.

What was one of the most surprising things you learned in creating your books?

I learn so many things from writing that it’s hard to know where to start, but I’ll go with this one because it might help other people who are struggling their way through the writing process.

One of the most surprising things I’ve learned is how easy it is to craft good writing from a first draft. The first draft stage is hard. Some days, I’m happy with my first pass at an idea. Other days, I look back on what I’ve done and feel quite dejected – I haven’t hit the mark and I know it.

I think this is one of the things that blocks people’s progress when they’re writing. It’s easy to feel stuck at this point, and to doubt whether your work has any merit.

But the re-drafting process is a whole new phase, and there’s real value in having something on the page to work with, even if the first draft of an idea isn’t very good. I find that once I have the ideas on the page, I can craft them into something I like much more easily than I expect. So I’m a great believer in the value of getting your ideas out. You can always come back and refine them later. Writing is an organic process – it never really ends – and I’ve learned to trust that my story will evolve over time into something I like.

What's next for you?

My second novel will be published next year. It’s the first in a series, this time in the crime fiction genre, and it features a heroine who works as a forensic psychologist, using her professional skills to unveil the secrets that people will kill to keep hidden. It’s much darker than Striking Out, bleaker and more cynical, and I’m really enjoying the change of mood.

I’m working on the sequel to Striking Out as well, and I’m grateful to be able to switch between this lighter, humorous work, and the darker piece that takes more out of me emotionally. It’s wonderful to be able to further develop my Striking Out characters – I’ve made Des’s life very difficult in the sequel. Des is a misogynistic, sleazy ego-maniac and making his life a misery gives me a lot of pleasure.

I have a non-fiction book close to completion, too, and I’m hoping to have that ready for submission in the next six months or so. It’s a book on psychological profiling for writers, to help writers create psychologically credible personality structures for their characters.

Interview with WS Momma Readers Nook

Talking to Erika Messer at WS Momma Readers Nook about writing...

Do you have any advice for other writers?

Write! Seriously. There’s no substitute for sitting down in front of a blank page and doing the hard yards. Be the person who does it, rather than the person who talks or dreams about it.

Be kind to yourself. No one’s first draft is a masterpiece (well, maybe someone’s might be, but certainly no one I know!). Just keep going with your writing, even if you think what you’ve written is flawed. You’ll fix the flaws when you redraft, so keep moving. New ideas might arise as you progress with your work that would require a different ‘fix’ than the one you might choose early, in any case.

Find your own style. Some people plot everything out in advance. Others make things up as they go along. And plenty of people sit somewhere in the middle. There are pros and cons to every approach, so don’t let anyone tell you there’s only one right way. The right way is the way that works for you.

Finally, write what you’d like to read, not what you think might sell or impress. That way the process will be intrinsically rewarding, and that makes all the difference when the going gets tough – and the going always gets tough somewhere on the journey.

Just write

 

What was the hardest part of writing your book?

The hardest part for me is always the redrafting process. I have more ideas than time, and I get real pleasure from sitting down in front of a blank page when I’m writing the first draft. It gives me an opportunity to play with some of the ideas I’ve been entertaining in my head, and I enjoy that process more than I can say. I particularly love it when I’m surprised by what shows up.

I find the redrafting process more tedious. There are a few key reasons for this. Firstly, by some quirk of fate (rather than some virtue I’m claiming credit for), I have a very good memory. This means that I quickly memorise the flow of words and that makes it hard for me to see new opportunities and improvements once I have a specific sequence in my head. I also enjoy big picture thinking much more than detail, so scrabbling around in the minutiae is never the fun part for me. The final challenge for me is that I’m easily bored. I like playing with new ideas, not tinkering endlessly with old ones that don’t seem so shiny anymore. I remind myself that my job is to maximise the shine for my readers, and that motivates me – until I start thinking about chocolate, and then I find myself all too easily distracted. I always gain weight when I’m revising!

 

Do you have a specific writing style?

I do have a specific writing style, but the guidelines I follow aren’t easy to explain. I don’t enjoy pretentious writing. It gets between me and the story, and I’m not interested in reading a book just so someone can admire themselves in the mirror and say ‘look how clever I am’. So one of my key rules is to make my style as invisible as possible. My writing is a vehicle for the story and I try to keep myself as far out of the way as I can. That means using the right words rather than the most impressive words I know. It means making sure that particular words don’t jump out, because they’re not quite right for some reason. It means ensuring that the flow of words is smooth and fluent so the reader is not pulled out of the story by a clumsy rhythm. I try to wear a cloak of invisibility, and if people say my novel is an ‘easy read’ (as a number of reviewers have), then I feel I’ve done my job.

On Writing


While you were writing, did you ever feel as if you were one of the characters?

No. And that’s a good thing. There were some unsavoury types in Striking Out! I did feel, though, as if my characters were real people. For me, they have to be alive in my head before I can do them justice on the page. I need to know what they look like, how they talk, how they move, how they think, what they wear. This is not so I can describe them to my readers, although it certainly helps with that, but because I only know what they’re going to do and say next once I can actually see them in my head. Scenes run through my mind like movies, and when I’m not sure what should happen next, I close my eyes and run the scene from the start. Once a mental movie is rolling, the flow is usually smooth and easy. Funnily enough, once the movie has revealed the answer, there’s a strange sense of inevitability about it – ‘of course, that’s what should happen!’ Why didn’t I think of that?


Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?

I like to draw my own messages from novels – which may or may not be the ones the author intended – and I assume my readers like to do the same, so I never write with an agenda. I’m happy for people to take what they want from my work, and grateful that they’ve taken the time to do so. Having said that, there’s enough darkness in the world without me adding to it, so I try not to depress anybody. Life can be incredibly hard at times. I like books that offer some respite.

Aussie Humour

I was asked by an online interviewer to explain Australian humour to her American audience. Here's my response. Find the Mythical Books article here.

Australian Humour

Life is better when you're smiling

When people from around the world think of Australia, they typically think of magnificent beaches, warm weather, broad accents, venomous spiders and snakes, the Great Barrier Reef, the Sydney Opera House and, if they’re up to speed with current international politics, an embarrassing Prime Minister at the helm of a depressingly right wing government.

Australia has all of these things, it’s true. But none of them capture the unique cultural essence that, in my view, is Australia’s greatest charm. To understand Australia’s real character, you have to understand the distinctive use of language and humour – and that was what I tried to showcase in Striking Out.

Australians are the masters of understatement. A disastrous night out – a relationship break-up, followed by a trip to the emergency ward with food poisoning, and a long walk home in the pouring rain, for instance – might be later discussed like this:

‘How was your night out, mate?’

‘Oh. It was a bit ordinary.’  A raise of the eyebrows and a knowing nod would convey the rest.

And the thing is, Australians would get the subtext and laugh. Australians use humour and understatement to deal with misery.

Australians also employ irony as part of their distinctive interactional style:

You can assume in this example that the person asking the question already knows how the story ended and is just trying to open the door to a conversation about it.

‘How was your night out, mate?’

Your average Australian might reply. ‘Couldn’t have been better.’

Which means, of course, that it couldn’t have been worse.

Again, everyone would laugh and then – once the laughter had cleared the air and relieved the awkwardness around the issue – a more meaningful conversation would follow.

If you’ve ever been to Australia, you’ll know that Australians swear quite a lot. In all but the most conservative Australian circles, that’s not considered particularly offensive. It’s a way of introducing colour and drama to a conversation. Sexual humour is very much the same. Australians like to stretch social boundaries. On the surface, this might appear vulgar, but it actually has pro-social dimensions. It’s a way of reducing the tension around things that people don’t feel they can say.

Here’s an example of what I mean, taken from my novel, Striking Out. My heroine, Shazza, gets a phone call from a new friend, Jillian. The “elephant in the room” between them is that Jillian’s partner, Des, has been making a play for Shazza.  (By the way, Shazza’s name itself is representative of Australian humour. Sharon gets stuck with ‘Shazza’, whether she likes it or not. The country is full of ‘Barry’s’ who’ve spent their lives being called Bazza. Warren becomes Wazza. Australian nicknames are often ridiculous and they’re used to discourage people from taking themselves too seriously.) Here’s how Shazza deals with the Des issue in my story, letting Jillian know that she’s no threat. Jillian, by the way, has been having a very public affair with a guitarist.

“I was woken by an incessant ringing soon after nine the next morning, having only fallen asleep some time after four. I felt tired and flat and murderously grumpy.

‘What?’ I shouted into the phone.

I heard a girly giggle. ‘Who’s in a bad mood, then?’ Jillian said. ‘Desperate for a shag, are we?’

I groaned. ‘That’s your bag, Jillian. All I want is a good night’s sleep.’

‘That’s where the shag comes in,’ she said. ‘It’s relaxing.’

‘That depends on who you shag. And since I know you’ve had a baby with Des, that’s really too much information. You’re making me feel sick.’

She giggled. ‘I could tell you some very interesting things about sex with Des.’

‘That’s what I mean,’ I sat up in bed and propped my pillows behind me. ‘Not on an empty stomach.’”

Shazza has used humour to convey her lack of interest in Des. And they’ve both used sexual humour to overcome the social awkwardness inherent in their situation.

There are hidden nuances in the way Australians use humour and bad language, and it’s this subtlety that captures Australia’s real charm. If you happen to like great beaches and warm weather as well, all the better. Why don’t you sample Australia (and Australian stories) for yourself? You’ll be in for an interesting ride and they just might win your heart.

Week 44: Creative Challenge 52

Author Scarlet Bennett

I don't often lead with my own stuff, but since so much of my creative output over the past couple of years has come to fruition this week, I thought I'd take a moment to celebrate it - because it's back to work in a serious way tomorrow. Striking Out was released on Tuesday and now the pressure is on for the sequel.

As befits a published author (skip the snippy messages - it's a joke), I even have a black and white publicity photo these day. Crikey! I could almost pass for someone literary. But don't be fooled. My writing contains bad language, earthy humour, and sex. What's not to like about that?

Striking Out is available from all major online retailers in print and e-book, and direct from the publisher (print only). Check out the customer reviews that are coming in on Amazon. Happy to see these!

Striking Out by Scarlet Bennett

I released a suite of online courses for writers and performers on Tuesday. Please check these out and share with people you think might be interested.

Sincere thanks to Lucy Bennett for the awesome banners she made for each course. Lucy has just completed a Masters of Publishing degree at Sydney University, and she's in her final week of an internship at Allen & Unwin. Message me if you need banners, copywriting or professional editing, as Lucy is now accepting free lance work and she does brilliant work.

The video we made to promote my Goodbye Stage Fright course is my contribution for this week. I can't say I'm über-thrilled with my performance on it, but it's the best I can do at this point in time. I've got more videos to make yet, so I'm sure I'll get better as I go. In the meantime, at least I'm wearing awesome jewellery.

Keryn Clark

South African born writer, florist and cake whizz, Keryn Clark, is making a return guest appearance this week.

Things were quiet at the centre where she and Remy have their florist shop last week, so she went looking for some happiness. She found two budgies in a small cage of the back of a pet shop, squeezed between the fish tanks and the fridge, with only a single neon strip for lighting. She didn't go looking for birds. She just wanted to look at fish, pets - anything but the empty courtyard at the Emporium.

These were the only birds in the shop and because Keryn has a general aversion to birds in cages, it took her another three trips to the shop that afternoon to decide that she could give them a better life and at least surround them with flowers.  Once they were installed at the shop in their temporary quarters, a normal birdcage, Keryn went looking for something bigger.  She found this old cage on Gumtree. It's at least 4 times bigger than their temporary home, and she and Remy spent the week turning it into a Parisienne apartment. Ooh la la!

Keryn's bird cage

The birds are loving their new home in the sunshine. Keryn wheels them into the shop every night, where they settle down quite happily. They love their new life, and if the kissing is anything to go by, they love each other too. In fact, Keryn has been told by enthralled passers by that she needs to get a nesting box. Keryn loves listening to them chirp and fly around their new home, and these lovely new friends have outperformed expectations on the 'bestowing happiness' measure.

Keryn's budgies

Telena Routh

Classical oboist and textile designer, Telena Routh, is back teaching again, with student exams looming, so she's had less time to play around in her studio this past week. Nevertheless, she altered the pattern for her hanging nest and felted one using a wool batt. These are similar to the batts used to insulate ceilings, except they're made of fleece. The wool fibres are coarse and coloured, so they don't need dyeing. Telena laid two layers out at right angles to each other around the resist, then felted strongly to create a dense felt. She likes the way it turned out, but thinks she'll make further modifications next time.

Telena's felt bird's nest

Telena also undertook the tough job, this week, of further culling her wool collection, as she thinks she has enough for two lifetimes. She's had real trouble with this and she thinks a trip to woolaholics anonymous may be in order. On the plus side, she was able to give some wool to her mum, who was delighted. Telena did a fun arrangement on her dining table to commemorate this poignant parting of ways.

Telena's wool collection

Kanen Breen

Opera singer and Strange Bedfellow, Kanen Breen, has a stylised, gothic makeover and an opening night to contribute this week.

It was the opening of Sweeney Todd last night, and Kanen delivered 'a scene stealing act as the Beadle' - check out today's review in the Sydney Morning Herald (sorry, Kanen, when I stumble across a review like this, of course I'm going to share).

Kanen says he was as anxious, terrified and self-doubting as he's ever been, but he managed to pull himself together, breathe deeply and apply the brakes on rapidly approaching hysteria, which was an incredibly creative act in itself.

Kanen did his own make-up for this show, and even in this photo you can see that he nailed it. He says he'll have some close-up photos to show us next week. Bring it on.

Kanen Breen as the Beadle

Trish Urquhart

Trish Urquhart, who runs Allaboutwriting, works as a documentary producer for Left-Eye Productions, and tries her best to live up to the title chef extraordinaire, has been producing delicacies left, right and centre this week and, even better, she's sharing some of her recipes. Trish made togarashi peaches and cherry jam, and now you, too, can share the joy.

Trish's Togarashi Peaches

Take four peaches, halve and stone them. Place in a baking pan. Mix together a teaspoon of togarashi seasoning, a teaspoon of vanilla paste and a tablespoon or two of honey. Drizzle this over the peaches. Sprinkle with a handful of chopped Brazil nuts. Add a splash of water to the pan and bake at a high temperature until nicely browned, adding a little more water if needed. You want some sauce to form in the pan. Serve with Greek yoghurt.

Trish's togarashi peaches

Trish's Cherry Jam

Trish's cherry jam

Weigh the cherries and add 1/3 of their weight in sugar. Add 2 tablespoons of lemon juice, 2 tablespoons of whisky and 2 teaspoons of vanilla extract.

Cook in a frying pan until the cherries are thick and jammy, and then pour them into a sterilised jar.

Cherry jam is delicious with cheese on oatcakes, on oat porridge, and with fried haloumi.

Trish's cherry jam

Check out Trish's fabulous food blog to see more of her wonderful food adventures.

Stephen Bennett

Stephen Bennett decided to spruce up his music computer area with a custom made rack for various electronic items this week.

He can now organize his toys in a more compact and functional manner, and he's quite chuffed with the result. See the before and after shots.

Also, he did it all for nothing. All the bits he used had been previously clogging up the garage.

You've gotta love a good salvage operation.


Week 25: Creative Challenge 52

Opera singer and Strange Bedfellow, Kanen Breen, is in a crisis of rare indecision. He's painted the lapels on this jacket gold gold and sewn the ubiquitous sequins on, but it's not enough. Or is it?

Kanen Breens Jacket

'Please, people,' he says. 'Help!'

He's submitted this unfinished symphony in a welter of flamboyant artistic inertia on this Mardi Gras weekend, and he's appealing for creative input. To embellish or not to embellish? Check out these options and cast your vote.

Kanens Jacket
Kanens Jacket

Keryn Clark

Keryns Baking

South African born writer, florist and cake whizz, Keryn Clark, started her baking journey at the age of 9 with a batch of scones and strawberry jam. Today she returned to her roots.

She was given a baking book by her lovely Perth neighbour, Yvette Walker of Letters to the End of Love fame, who sampled Keryn's cakes and looked after her cats when Keryn was in Africa.

The scones didn't rise as Keryn had hoped, but she took them to the shop for a bunnies' picnic anyway.

Bunny picnic

Keryn's greatest satisfaction comes from small things and this tiny bowl and saucer is a case in point. The set was given to her by a friend as a farewell gift when she left Perth so the bowl is loaded with significance - and a single spray of roses. In the shop, Keryn's business partner, Remy, loves doing all the show stopping 'big' corporate work, but these small arrangements are turning into Keryn's signature style. Lovely!

Keryns bunny picnic

Telena Routh

Classical oboist and textile designer, Telena Routh, has been planning to make some felted wraps to match the bridesmaids' dresses for her daughter Rachel's rapidly approaching wedding. To that end, she's felted two wraps this week.

Telena is very pleased with the teal green wrap, which she says drapes very well, but she's less pleased with the dark purple wrap. She dyed it a darker shade, but it felted even further in the hot water stage, and has ended up with uneven colour that isn't what Telena was aiming for. She's going to make it again in a lighter shade in the hope that it will turn out more to her liking.

Telenas Felt Wraps

In other news, Telena's quintet concert yesterday was very successful. The group - Windfall - played well and the audience enjoyed the varied program. So, overall a highly successful creative week.

Trish Urquhart

Trish Urquhart, who runs Allaboutwriting, works as a documentary producer for Left-Eye Productions, and tries her best to live up to the title chef extraordinaire, has been focusing on her food photography this week using produce from her garden. Today's masterpieces feature home-grown potatoes, and she's got no time to chat because she has a lot of cut potatoes to cook! Ah, the sacrifices we make for our art.

Trishs Potatoes

Stephen, Scarlet & Georgia Bennett

Our creative challenge this week has involved the filming of a series of marketing videos for my novel, Striking Out. We've been at it all weekend and we've captured some awesome footage. Here's a hint of what's to come...