Does spring seedlings 2016the weather affect you from day to day? I’d guess that, at the very least, your clothing choice depends on the weather to some extent – and perhaps your choice of transport and activities does as well.

I’m certainly more inclined to get stuck into the garden, walk or use public transport in dry weather – and most enthusiastic about it in spring, once the rain’s gone and before the heat starts to bite.

Weather does seem to act as a happiness barometer for most of us. No matter how satisfied we are initially with the changing seasons, we soon start grumping about the temperature (too hot, too cold, too variable), the humidity, the rain (or lack thereof), the wind, etc. It’s an endless source of meaningless background social noise.

Nevertheless, I find that people are generally chirpier on warm, sunny days than on cold, drizzly ones. Perhaps we’re more inclined interact positively with our surroundings and with other folk on pleasantly sunny days, than when it’s very cold (or hot). If this is so, does the weather also affect our levels of altruism?

In November last year I started planning our epic family Xmas gathering. It takes a fair bit of resource management and people wrangling, so I tend to start early to avoid the last minute panic-factor. Then I came across an article on something called the reverse advent calendar. It made me stop and think: about resources, about good fortune, about family – and about the staggering number of people who have so much less.

I discovered that 1 in 200 people in Australia are homeless and that over two million people are dependent on food donations in order to survive. Considering how relatively affluent Australia is, that rocked me rigid.

Donating one food item per day for the advent period (the four weeks leading up to Xmas) sounded like a great idea. It was something simple, tangible and practical that my family could get behind. So I set up a mini food collection programme and, just before Xmas, DaughterDearest and I delivered our combined advent donations to Foodbank.

We all felt a little glow of achievement, of having done something – however small – for people less fortunate than ourselves. It was a good way to start our Xmas celebrations.

But of course people are hungry and homeless all year round, not just at Xmas. So it seemed like a logical next step to set up a quarterly food drive and invite others to join in. A number of people got involved and we’ve made two deliveries of food donations to Foodbank so far this year.

These deliveries are partly what prompted my question, because I delivered 55kg of food on 31 March (a bright sunny day) and 25kg on 30 June (a cold rainy day).

This does seem indicate that people may be more inclined to be generous in good weather. Perhaps it makes us feel cheerful and encourages a more outward focus? Or could it be that, as a community initiative, the food drive really only worked as a one-of?

Either way, we’ve been gradually filling up some boxes and I’ll be heading back out to Foodbank again at on 30 September to deliver our next quarterly contribution. It doesn’t really matter how much food I take along. Every single item will be appreciated by someone, somewhere.

July-September Foodbank collection

If you’d like to get involved in our food drive – even if all you can donate is a single can of beans – let me know. Join our Facebook group to keep track of what’s happening, if you like.

You’re most welcome to pop past our place to drop your contribution off, just ping me to let me know. Stay for a cuppa if you have time 🙂

food appeal poster

I recently came across a snippet of a quote from Letters to a Young Poet. It struck a chord, so I went looking for the original and found that, in the first of the letters, the author advises his reader to

Find out the reason that commands you to write… ask yourself in the most silent hour of your night: must I write? Dig into yourself for a deep answer. And… if you meet this solemn question with a strong, simple “I must”, then build your life in accordance with this necessity…

I take this to mean that if expressing your thoughts and imagination as the written word is a compulsion that’s with you at all times… then you’re a writer and need to incorporate this fact into your life. Perhaps, like me, you fill up journal after journal with thoughts and observations. Perhaps you write for your own pleasure and self-expression… perhaps you have book contracts to fill (or aspire to). Maybe you’re a freelancer and have targets to achieve or a blogger with weekly blogpost deadlines you’ve committed to. Whatever your style or medium, if you write because, like me, you must – then you’re a writer.journals

There’s another part to the equation, of course, and that’s the reader. Having someone (or many some ones) read your work adds another dimension to it. They provide feedback that, whilst fraught with possible dangers, enriches the writing experience. This requires finding and developing an audience (other than your nearest-and-dearest).

So, for those of us who don’t have a commercial publisher behind us, how do we do this? Two very scary – although hyphenated – words: Self-promotion.

Many writers (including me) find that we stall out at this ‘look at me’ stage, feeling self-conscious at the thought of big-noting ourselves. Certainly, my social/family background impressed upon me that this simply isn’t something that one does. (It’s not nice to boast, dear.)

But, unless there’s a marketing team behind you doing all the hard work, how do you get people to read your blog/book/work if you’re not going to promote it? Short answer: you won’t.

I pondered on this  at great length – both before and after publishing Girdle of Bones – and concluded that blogging is a very useful tool in this arena. It allows for a level of self-promotion that can initially feel almost anonymous. But, as time goes by – and my audience grows, I feel increasingly connected – and surprised.

Anyhow, this is the short list of self-promotion tips I came up with, garnered from a combination of experience and research:

  • If you don’t have a blog, start one. If you do, then provide a social media sharing option to encourage your readers to share. I use the social media feather plugin on WordPress – it’s free and it works well.
  • Write good stuff. Or, more precisely, always strive to write better stuff – ideally, the very best content you can.
  • It’s a good idea to try to get your readers/audience to react to your blogposts – and to be interactive with those who do. Ideally, this generates chatter on a topic, which makes it more visible, which generates chatter, which…
  • Don’t push your barrow to hard – it puts people off. Instead, keep your content interesting and be responsive to reader/audience comments.
  • Social media. Yup, it’s here to stay so just hop on board for the ride. Base your choice of platform/s on your mythical/actual audience. If they’re into Facebook, use that. Choose one or two others (e.g. Twitter and Instagram) and update reasonably frequently – this helps to keep you in the public eye.
  • And then there’s Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) – this is something I’m new to, but it’s doesn’t appear very labour intensive. I’ve installed the All in One SEO Pack to see how that goes.
  • Use a free keyword tool  to see what comes up when you enter key words or phrases relating to your blogpost topics. Some combinations of words get more hits – so try to use variations of those in your posts and title if you can. This will make it easier for a potential reader to hunt you down and join your community – or, as I think of it, my pack 🙂

Simples, right? 😛

It’s the end of #blogjune… Will I miss it? Yes and no – my daily brain strain will enjoy having a little holiday, but the commitment to write something every day has been a very useful exercise. Thank you to all the June-bloggers who posted and who read my posts. It’s been fun 🙂

Actual June also comes to an end today – and with it the third of the food-drives hosted by Menagerie10 (our place). Last December some friends and I decided to collect food to help out those less fortunate than us. Sharing some Christmas cheer by giving, rather than receiving, sounded like a good idea. So we agreed to each set aside one durable food item every day up until 19 December. Then DaughterDearest and I went out to delivered the boxes of food to the Foodbank and were given a little tour of the facility.

We were very impressed with the set up – and with the great work that Foodbank does right around Australia. So much so, that I decided to host four Foodbank food drives this year. I started a Facebook group and invited a few people to join in and commit to fighting hunger in Australia by donating a tin/container of food each week. The result was that I delivered 55kg of assorted comestibles to Foodbank at the end of March.

Foodbank delivery1_2016Today, Cassie-puppy accompanied me back out to Foodbank to deliver the group’s second care package of the year: this time 25kg of food, all most gratefully received and put into stock for distribution. Watching the forklift drive away with the boxes felt good. Good to know that my friends and family are prepared to to care about the homeless and needy – and to do something concrete and practical to help out. So, thanks everyone – I hope you all felt a little warm glow too 🙂

Foodbank deliiver_20160630

We have two more collections this year, one for delivery to Foodbank at the end of September and one just before Christmas. So if there’s anyone out there (in the Perth region) who’d care to donate to the next appeal, please let me know. This poster outlines the sorts of things that are most appropriate – please note: no glass or bottles.

foodbank poster

After years of debate and discussion, changes to the Western Australian Associations and Incorporation Act has just about completed its slow move through parliament. The Dept of Commerce anticipates that the Associations Incorporation Act 2015 will replace the current Associations Act as of 1 July 2016.

The changes to this piece of legislation will affect about 18,000 not-for-profits (NFPs) and incorporated associations operating in WA. These organisations range from the tiniest of social clubs (you need minimum of 6 members to be incorporated) all the way up to large ones, such as the RAC.

Since the last time the Act was changed was back in 1987, it’s not surprising that the Department of Communities has been hosting a number of information evenings for groups over the past few weeks. I opted for the session at the East Fremantle Yacht Club, since I thought that’d be the most convenient venue. What I – and the Department of Commerce (clearly) – did not take into account was parking.

News flash: the yacht club has minimal parking and the car park (such as it is) is at the bottom of a narrow little cul-de-sac. This resulted in epic traffic flow problems to augment the ultra-epic parking issues. Much aaargh all round; also a lot of people cruising around side streets trying to find plausible parking within walking distance.

I finally landed the last spot outside the East Fremantle Cricket Club and hotfooted it over to the venue, arriving out of breath but just in time. The presentation started almost as soon as I got there and took about an hour, including question time. In short, the changes relate largely to good governance and to protection – both for members of associations and for the public with whom they/it may conduct business. As far as the associations I’m involved with, the following points appear to be most significant:

  • there will be a requirement to introduce a dispute resolution process into the rules/constitution of every organisation
  • the Register of Members can now include email addresses instead of postal/physical addresses; the choice will be up to the individual members
  • the range of penalties for non-compliance have increased
  • there will be mandatory annual reporting requirements. Groups will be required to update the following information online on the Department website: change/confirmation of address, confirmation of at least 6 members, the date of the last AGM, and confirmation that the organisation is continuing to meet its financial obligations.

All in all it was definitely worth attending the session, despite the parking debacle – but it’s not a venue I’d frequent again willingly… unless someone was dropping me off. Walking back alone in the dark, past the (now empty) tennis club parking lot and along the deserted side streets, wasn’t an adventure I enjoyed – but at least it didn’t rain on me!

Whilst community association/groups will have three years in which to make relevant alternations, I’d urge anyone involved in at an organisational level to take the time to make themselves aware of the pending changes and to stay up to date with them. As first step, you could watch a video of the presentation online and download a copy of the PowerPoint slides  You can also access the Transition Pack, which covers most of the details of the changes and will be a handy reference tool.

Associations Transition Pack1 cover