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Happy New Year!

This holiday season has looked very different to any that have gone before, and was very different for everyone depending on where they were in the world. Wherever you are, whatever degree of restrictions you are currently subject to, I hope that your holiday period was as enjoyable as humanly possible.

I was very quiet on the blog front for the second half of last year, as I was deep in the writing and publishing process of two brand new supernatural short stories, Bedouin Boy and Grave Bargains. My blogging efforts have been inconsistent at best in recent times, so I have set myself a blogging goal for 2021 which I feel will be more achievable.

I post much more regularly on my socials, so if you would like a daily injection of writing, reading and general inspiration (and beach sunset photos), be sure to follow @katekelsenauthor and like my Facebook author page.

On New Year’s Day, I made myself a pot of my favourite black tea and sat on my balcony with my new diary and brainstormed a masterplan for 2021, including absolutely everything I wanted to do this year. This plan includes study goals, writing, publishing and marketing goals, and also some personal and spiritual goals for good measure.

I divided my year up into four quarters of 90-day periods, and made plans for what I want to achieve in those periods. I am going to start off each of these 90 day periods with a blog post to share with you what I am up to, including my progress from the previous three months and what I have planned for the following three months. If time permits, I will try and post an update on here once a month. I intend to eventually turn these updates into a newsletter, when I get around to setting up my author newsletter. For now, I will work with what I have, which is this blog. If you’d like to see more frequent updates on what I’m up to, and receive more regular injections of inspiration, be sure to follow me on Facebook and Instagram.

My publishing theme for 2021, at least for the first half of the year, is ‘Nothing New’.

This year is very much going to be about the completion of projects that have been in the works over the past 12-24 months. Most of my previously published titles are now available as eBooks, and in 2021 I will be focusing on completing my book distribution with the print versions. By January 2021, I want all of my previously published books to be available in both print and eBook, so that in the New Year I can shift my focus completely to new writing and publishing projects.

2021 marks ten years since the publishing of my first book, The Wilted Rose. I am aiming to re-release the print version of The Wilted Rose in March, and publish the long-awaited sequel in October in time for Mental Health Week. I have some exciting plans to celebrate this ten-year anniversary and the new release in the coming months- watch this space!

I will also be diving back into book marketing and promotion, something that has been basically non-existent for me and my books in 2020. Last year, everyone was extremely distracted, and for the most part book marketing and promotion felt like a bit if a waste of time. In order to deal with what was going on, I focused on reconnecting with the pure joy of writing, which was the fuel I needed to face the challenges of the pandemic, and a much-needed escape and distraction. In 2021, I aim to get my head back into this marketing and promotion space, and hopefully start selling some books! Make sure you keep an eye on this blog and my socials for book promotions and giveaways.

As for writing, for NaNoWriMo 2020, I started the first draft for the sequel to The Wilted Rose, which I am continuing to work on in these early months of 2021. I am hoping to have this first draft completed by the end of March, and well on the way to completion by June.

I am also continuing to collect stories for Wander Woman, my upcoming collection of women’s travel stories, and start a travel blog to which this book will be connected, and where I will also share my past travel experiences. If you are a woman with a unique travel experience, please get in touch. I am not looking for trips to Bali with the girls- I am looking for stories from women who have traveled off the beaten track, or who have overcome some adversity in order to travel, e.g. disability or hardship. If you know someone who has a story that might be suitable, please pass this information onto them. I have already received some incredibly inspiring stories, which I cannot wait to share in this book.

My professional study goals include finishing my Certificate 3 in Business, and start my Certificate 3 in Fitness. My personal study goals include completing The Artist’s Way.

Last year was so full of fear. Fear of uncertainty, of the unknown. Last year I gave away so much of my time, energy and mental space to the fear. In 2021, I am giving COVID the absolute bare minimum attention required. I will be sensible and safe of course. I am not in denial of reality. But this year, my blinkers are on, and I am focusing on my goals. I hope you will join me on this journey, and that my example can be of inspiration to you. I love communicating with my community, so if you would like to reach out, please do. If I can be of any assistance to your creative journey in 2021, please let me know.

Your creativity is a source of strength during these challenging times, and I implore you to draw on it in 2021. When times are tough it can be hard to motivate yourself and find the mental, emotional and physical energy to be creative. But creativity is a source of energy in itself, and sometimes we have to put the proverbial horse before the cart and be creative in order to replenish our energy levels. Sometimes we just need to show up, for ourselves and our creative endeavours, and do the thing even when we don’t feel like it, and we will be delighted to discover how inspired we feel as a result. And, of course, let ourselves rest when we need to.

We all knew that January 1st, 2021 wasn’t going to be the magical day when everything went back to ‘normal’. To the contrary, this year is already presenting new, unique challenges. But if we can take this New Year off its pedestal of expectations, and let it be what it will be, we will be much more content as a result. This can be a great year, if we choose to make it so.

Let’s do this!

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Writing What My Soul Needs Right Now

I admit I had a bit of a meltdown last night.

I live in Tweed Heads, in the Norther Rivers region on the Far North Coast of New South Wales in Australia. Tweed Heads is right on the border with Queensland. The suburb of Coolangatta is on the Queensland side, and our two suburbs are known as the ‘twin towns’. Before COVID, our communities were virtually one and the same, as many people live and work either side of the border. I cross over into Queensland every day on my afternoon walk.

In late March, The Queensland Premier (the head of state)  shut the state’s borders to interstate travellers. Only ‘border residents’ were allowed to cross over into Queensland and for essential purposes only (work, exercise, medical appointments, caring for someone etc) , and were required to display a special pass on the windscreen of their car when they passed through the checkpoint. This checkpoint is manned by police, army personnel as well as the SES (State Emergency Services) volunteers. This checkpoint turned the relatively quiet main street of Tweed Heads into a car park, with major traffic jams during morning and afternoon peak hour, and other random times of the day.

The Queensland Premier opened the border a few weeks ago just before school holidays, yet excluded travellers coming from the southern state of Victoria, which has had a major recent outbreak. More and more ‘hotspots’ have since been declared in New South Wales, and people coming from those places have also been banned.

At first I was rejoicing at the news that the Queensland border would be re-opening, but when I learned about the new restrictions, I had my doubts that anything would change. In fact, things got worse. Checkpoint personnel were checking every car with a Victoria or New South Wales number plate, and the traffic delays were horrendous.

The school holidays are over now, and the traffic has reduced significantly, but due to recent outbreaks in Queensland there is serious talk about closing the border again.

Across the street from where I live, there is a COVID testing clinic. I can see it from my kitchen window. The waiting area is outside in the open air; sometimes there are two or three people waiting to be tested, sometimes there are twenty. It is a very confronting thing to see every day while I’m making my breakfast.

Every day on my afternoon walk, I pass by the traffic signs warning of the checkpoint ahead, and see the cars queuing to cross the border.

Which brings me to my meltdown last night.

Up until now I’ve coped fairly well mentally and emotionally with the pandemic. I’ve had my moments; all of my family live in Queensland and at least an hour’s drive away. It was hard, and I felt very alone over here in New South Wales. But I kept busy studying and writing, and I have had the opportunity to see friends and family while the border has been open. However, the uncertainty resulting from the recent outbreaks has been really wearing me down.

Living in Yeppoon last year, I missed my home on the Gold Coast , and was so excited when the opportunity arose to move back earlier this year. Yet recently I’ve had serious doubts as to whether moving back was the best idea. Having the uncertainty around the border, seeing the checkpoint every day, and the testing clinic across the street. I waited so long and worked hard to get back here, and it breaks my heart because I love this area so much. But as they say in The Handmaid’s Tale: Don’t let the bastards grind you down. In this case, the bastard is COVID.

Earlier this week I sent my latest short story, Bedouin Boy, off for editing, and tomorrow on Writing Friday I will start typing the sequel, Grave Bargains. Between working on these two projects, I have decided to dive back into my Irish psychological fiction novellas.

I had put these novellas on hold for this year, to focus on getting my five previously published books back into distribution, and to publish Bedouin Boy and Grave Bargains. But I’m feeling like my soul needs to be working on my Irish novels right now. They are my passion project, my life’s work. I derive a certain type of joy from working on these particular stories that no other story I have worked on before has given me. I’ve decided to use this as my ‘dabble’ project, just something to tap into on the weekends and in my spare time. No deadlines, no pressure. Just pure creativity. That is what my soul needs right now.

This year, I have learned how to return to the pure joy of writing. I have remembered how to write just for me. To distract me, to lift my spirits. And if you too are struggling, I encourage you to seek out what you love, what sets your soul on fire, and do more of that.

This picture was taken on my first trip to Ireland in 2012. It is at Dún Aonghasa on Inishmore, one of the three Aran Islands, off the coast of Galway.

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For a minute there, I lost myself.

To quote the Radiohead song ‘Karma Police’.

Last night, I was sitting up past midnight writing this blog post, having just surfaced from an episode of seriously ugly crying. Its the pandemic. Its the hate crime. It all hit me all at once, and not for the first time.

Since the 2020 shit show began, I have tried so hard to stay positive, to keep creating if for no other reason than to keep my own spirits up. Even if nobody cared what I was doing. Even if the news I shared with my followers about my writing and publishing progress was drowned out by world events. I wrote to cling to some sense of normality and purpose. Last night, I felt hopeless, and briefly lost sight of why I was writing.

I gave into the feelings that trying to pursue these creative goals was pointless. I’m smashing my goals, and I’m getting my books back into distribution. But the whole world is so distracted that doing these things sometimes feels like an act of ignorance. That by trying to continue to strive to reach my creative goals, I’m somehow in denial about the state of the world. That I shouldn’t be trying to draw people’s attention away from the current social issues we face by sharing my personal successes and progress.

Like so many other creatives (lets face it, all creatives) I have struggled with a sense that my creations are pointless right now. From pandemics to hate crimes, there so much uncertainty. People are distracted, mentally and emotionally exhausted, myself included. I’d like to think my stories provide people with an escape from reality, but do they really want the escape that I want to provide? Do they feel as guilty about escaping reality through reading as much as I feel guilty about enabling their escapism through my writing?

After writing all this down, my tears had calmed and my eyes were heavy and tired. It was nearly 1am, and I realized something again that I realized at the start of the pandemic. Something I monetarily forgot in the overwhelming sense of hopelessness. And what I realized is this.

At the core, my writing is for me. The simple act of writing lifts my spirits even when publishing feels pointless. So I will keep writing, no matter what. Whether the world pays attention or not.