Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Five Things I Learned From Travelling for Two Months

Well, I’ve been there and back again: my two-month travels to Australia are over and I’m back home in Canada. Before leaving, I anticipated that the trip would be some sort of life-altering experience, providing me with all the mental clarity I was lacking in my everyday life. And although I didn’t arrive home full of shaman-wise knowledge about my future, travelling definitely taught me these five things.
1. No one’s going to be happy 24/7: I try my best to be positive and upbeat around others, and at the beginning of our travels, I was definitely of the mind-set that, hey, we’re on vacation in a beautiful country, what have we got to be upset about! But when you’re crammed in a van, spending 24/7 with the same people with absolutely no alone time, you’re going to get cranky. By the end of the trip, I was a snappier, foul-mouthed version of myself, and I saw the same in my travel companions. I learned I couldn’t expect myself, or my friends, to be in a good mood all the time, and those expectations weren’t fair to any of us.
2. Sometimes you need a vacation from vacation: When you’re travelling non-stop, getting up early and going to bed late, on your feet all day, it’s absolutely exhausting. Some of my favourite days on the trip were when we stayed in one place and just chilled out, and I especially loved the few weeks where we had a home-base in Sydney. It’s important to give yourself time to relax and rest when you’re constantly on the go.
3. Buy into stereotypes: What I mean by this is, our most fun experiences were when we were doing things that were classically Australian. For example, experiencing ancient Aboriginal culture at Uluru, led by a real Aussie bushman, or cuddling koalas and kangaroos at Steve Irwin’s zoo. These are things I will only ever be able to do in Australia, and I wanted to make sure I did them all, no matter how outside my comfort zone (such as eating crocodile or scuba diving the Great Barrier Reef!)

4. Treasure the little things: However, amidst all the big stuff like I just mentioned, I learned to treasure those small, quiet moments. Of course, I’ll always look back and remember snorkelling the Great Barrier Reef, but I’ll also remember snuggling up in the van and watching Firefly or eating these tasty biscuits while we drove, or the time a frog jumped in our van and we all panicked. Those small moments are what built our trip and kept us sane between all the highlights.
5. There’s no place like home: As much as I loved Australia, I will admit, I will never tire of touching down in British Columbia. Being away from home always gives me an appreciation for what I have and how lucky I am to be from such a wonderful place.

Thanks for reading! Stay tuned for lots more Australian content on our vlog.

Monday, July 6, 2015

Five Ways to Generate Writing Ideas

If you’ve never had a bout of writer’s block, you haven’t been writing for long enough. Whether you love to outline and don’t know what happens next, or if your plot is lacking some pizazz, you may just need a little helping pumping your author juices. Here are our go-to solutions when we need a little inspiration!

1. Go for a walk with someone: Being co-authors, Leah and I have an advantage by having two minds to brainstorm, but mostly it’s just sprouting ideas back and forth that really gets us the best idea. Having a sounding board, whether it be your mom, best friend, critique partner, or even your dog, is helpful because it gets you spewing out ideas and hearing them out loud. Plus, grabbing some fresh air and getting your blood pumping is great to rejuvenate a foggy brain!

2. Take a nap: Don’t get too excited; you have to stay awake! But one of the most fun ways to work out the plot is to make a playlist of music that inspires you or fits your story and just daydream. If you find yourself replaying the same scenario in your head, you’ll know you have an enticing scene to write. I find this idea also works great in the shower or on a bus, too!

3. Play a game: This is something Leah and I do not only to generate ideas but for fun as well! We write the names of all our characters of our current project and put them in a bowl. Then, we write a bunch of settings, such as “On a bridge” or “In the rain” or “In jail” and put those in a bowl. Finally, we write down a bunch of verbs, such as “Kissing” or “Fighting”, and put those in a bowl. We draw one setting, two verbs and two characters, then put a ten-minute timer on. We both write a random scenario using our drawn cards! Even if this doesn’t generate a plausible plot solution, it’s a great way to get your writing juices flowing, get into character, and practice your voice! Plus, some of the stories come out HILARIOUS.

4. Experiment with a different medium: Sometimes it helps to put your story on a different kind of page; Leah loves to draw scenarios or characters from our current project, and often finds this helps her discover something new about the plot or character. If drawing isn’t for you, modify it. If you like making music, try writing a theme song for your book. Even a vision board on Pinterest helps you visualize your creations and can spark new ideas!

5. Make it history:
One of the absolutely best ways to iron out plot snags or get ideas is to borrow from history. Our world and the people in it are fascinating and history has inspired many epic books. For example, Tolkien is famously inspired by Anglo-Saxon folklore, and George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Fire and Ice is a fantastical take on the War of Roses. Leah’s and my book Jane Unwrapped (Entangled Teen Crave) was so fun and exciting to plot because the Egyptian history of the time was dramatic enough for a book without our help making up new ideas!

If you have any secrets to generating ideas, let me know in the comments!

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Five Things Canadians Miss When They're Abroad

With Canada Day just coming to a close, I thought it would be appropriate to write about five things a travelling Canuck misses when they’re away from home. Of course, these are just my opinion, but I think they hit pretty close to home.

1. The Wilderness: There are plenty of startlingly beautiful places in the world, but I would argue us Canadians are partial to the encompassing evergreen forests, the towering mountains and rugged coastline. When I travel I always appreciate the new sights I see, from the bustling cosmopolitan of a huge American city, to a historical chapel in Italy, to the sprawling Outback in Australia, but I find myself thinking of the beauty at home. For me, nothing compares!

2. Tap water: There’s just something so great about going anywhere in Canada and not having to worry about whether you can drink the tap water or not. And to top it off, it’s delicious!

3. Friendly strangers: Sure, it’s a generalization to say that everyone in Canada is polite and pleasant (I’ve worked in customer service, so I know this is not true!) but I can definitely say there’s a sense of openness surrounding Canadians that you don’t feel anywhere else in the world. Whether it’s asking a bus driver for directions or just grabbing a coffee, you’re more than likely to have a positive encounter with a Canadian.

4. The air: One of the coolest things about traveling is getting off the plane and taking a deep breath, inhaling the new scent. There’s even nuances between Canadian air; I could always tell the difference as soon as I stepped off a plane from Toronto into Victoria. But there’s nothing quite so sweet as being away from home for a long time and stepping off that plane and taking a deep drag of clean, Canadian air.

5. Hockey: Is there anything more exciting than being in a foreign country and seeing someone with a hockey jersey on? It’s like finding an instant friend…or a mortal enemy depending on the jersey! Having to endure other country’s national sports plastered on billboard and TVs just makes me crave coming home to watch the best sport on Earth.

But what’s the number one thing I miss when traveling abroad?

Tim Horton’s!

Do you agree or disagree with my choices? Let me know in the comments!