A rulling landscape of scrub, with mountains in the distance and a stream flowing over rapids in the foreground

Clearing out the mental clutter (without going on a four-day hike)

I recently returned from a four-day hiking trip. Hiking is an activity I don’t undertake often – it usually takes a year or so for the memory of the aches and pains, poor sleep, and lack of refrigerated food to wear off to the point where I start yearning for the positive aspects of a long hike.

Besides the beautiful scenery, one of the elements that keeps bringing me back is the amazing sense of mental clarity hiking produces in me.

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A mess of straw

The horror of small habits: handling habit overload

Some years ago, I went to see a physio about recurring headaches brought on by neck tension. When he was done poking and prodding me, he taught me a set of neck stretches. “Do these for five minutes every day,” he told me, “and you shouldn’t have to come back here.”

Years later, I still do those stretches religiously as part of my morning routine and my neck is much happier. In theory, it would be brilliant if all my problems could be solved this way: take up some small, daily habit and never have to worry about mess, stress, health or happiness ever again.

And yet.

Recently I went back to the physio with lower back problems. But this time, when he finished up with, “Let’s look at some simple preventative exercises…”, my heart sank. The very thought made me want to execute a hard reverse out the door.

So what’s changed? Simple: I’ve hit habit overload.

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Five snails lined up in a row

This week I learned: the snail telegraph

One of my favourite podcasts is The Futility Closet, source of weird and wonderful historical minutiae. An episode I caught recently put me on the trail of a truly fantastic, if short-lived chapter in the development of long-distance communications: the 19th Century pasilalinic-sympathetic compass, otherwise known as the snail telegraph.

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‘Two Monsters Down in the Dark’ to be published in Luna Station Quarterly!

Super chuffed to announce my next bit of publication news: my story ‘Two Monsters Down in the Dark’ is being published in the March edition of Luna Station Quarterly!
 
This is a story that has been through an awful lot of editing and redrafting since my first attempt at it. In the process, I have learned a lot about story structure, and the story itself has changed a great deal as I came to understand its themes and characters better. It’s probably still far from perfect, but I’m so glad Ellie and Benji are finally getting their moment in the sun.
 
The edition containing ‘Two Monsters’ will be online for free for a week from 1st March, after which you can read it and other stories by emerging authors “on the woman end of the gender spectrum” by buying the March 2019 issue of Luna Station Quarterly.
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Empty furniture and full moving boxes

No blog post this week, I’m afraid. Yesterday and today saw us moving our entire lives and ourselves out of our home of 8 years, the culmination of a hectic month of packing; I fully intended to keep blogging throughout, but my backlog has run dry.

Thankfully that ordeal is over now – I’ll be back with something more interesting (probably involving snails) next week.

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Huge stacks of paper

Improve your writing – become a slush reader

For the last few years, I’ve been a slush reader for Aurealis speculative fiction magazine, and it’s done wonders for me as a writer.

What is a slush reader, you ask? Simply put, open-submission publications like Aurealis receive hundreds, possibly thousands, of submissions every year – far too many for their editors to read through every one when choosing what to publish. So they rely on (usually) volunteers to sift through this virtual mound of unsolicited fiction – the slush pile – and figure out which stories are of high enough quality to pass on up the chain.

I joined the team at Aurealis on a whim, but haven’t regretted the decision for a minute. In fact, slush reading been integral to improving my abilities and confidence as a writer.

Here’s why:

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Male and female mannequins, naked but wrapped in banners that say "Sale"

Sex is everywhere, sex is nowhere; observations from an ace perspective

Something I’ve become really aware of, as an asexual person in Western culture, is the weird way that sex is both hyper-visible and constantly hidden away.

I’m hardly the first to comment on this unhealthy dichotomy in our society. But it takes on a different (though equally damaging) significance from the point of view of someone who’s completely uninterested in sexytimes.

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A mess of jigsaw puzzle pieces

How to get things done when you’re struggling: start with the easy parts

This isn’t the blog post I thought I was going to write today.

I have a whole thing started about asexuality and the simultaneous prevalence and absence of sex in Western society that I though I was going to finish. But when I woke up this morning, I knew it was going to be one of those days: my gut hurt (something bad I ate yesterday? Or just my old friend, referred stress?), and I had a long list of things I needed to get done hanging Damocles-style over my head.

I didn’t even want to get out of bed, let alone write something pithy and thought-provoking about how our society treats sex.

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Fireworks

New year’s reflections 2018-19

And I’m back!

I hope your Christmas season (if you celebrate) was a happy one or, if your circumstances mean that’s a hard ask, a resilient one.

Christmas for me is bittersweet, for reasons I might write about some other time, but the new year is a good time to stop and reflect on where the old year has taken me. I’m not a fan of new year’s resolutions – I’m always working towards goals and trying out new strategies for achieving them, regardless of the time of year – so here instead are my new year’s reflections:

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Two figures in the dark cover each other's faces with their hands

Mental illness: stigma and silence

A quick note before I start: Folks, for a number of reasons December is always the busiest and hardest of months for me. So in the name of self-care – and, hopefully, of finishing another story before Christmas – I will be taking a break from blogging until the new year (barring any writing-related announcements). It’s been great to have you with me for website year one; I hope the end of the year is kind to you, and I’ll see you in January.

 

CW: suicidal thoughts

Yesterday I had a conversation that broke my heart.

I was asked to have a chat with an eighteen-year-old first-year university student whose doctor had prescribed antidepressants, but who was hesitant to take them. I’m not a doctor, nor a mental health practitioner, but I did my best as a user of antidepressants to answer questions about my own experience and based on that experience, to give advice that would help them understand the positives and negatives of the medication when making their decision.

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