Tag Archives: freelance

Save The Madonna – Update

A promotional graphic showing the cover of a recent Madonna magazine and text “Love Madonna? Share it with others”

 

Good news! The Madonna has been saved – for now at least. Thank you so much, especially to those of you who subscribed to the magazine. The magazine is still in need of subscriptions, so if you’ve been meaning to subscribe, but haven’t got around to it yet, can I ask you a huge favour? Please tell them I sent you! I’d like to get some more gigs with this magazine, so it would be great if they knew that my writing is worth it. Also, I have an enormous ego that needs feeding.

For those of you who missed it on the socials, I’ve finished the first draft of my novel! Watch this space!

And now, here’s another taste of the sort of writing I do for Madonna magazine. This piece was first published in their Autumn edition, 2017.

 

First Steps


“So, children, today’s Gospel is about prayer. When do you pray to Jesus?”
“When we say Grace?”
“Very good, Therese! What’s another time we pray?”
“My Daddy has a shed and it has a lawnmower in it.”
“That’s interesting, Patrick, but we’re talking about…”
“We have a lawnmower in our garage!”
“Thank you, Annie. Now, back to…”
“On TV, there’s a lawnmower and his name is Larry.”
“OK, thanks Harry. Can anybody tell me when they pray?”
“Yes,”
“Harry, is this about lawnmowers?”
“No”
“Is this about prayer?”
“Yes: you can pray on the TOILET!”

I’m on Children’s Liturgy today. Twice a term, I take a group of kids to the church gathering area and try to teach them about God. It’s a fearsome task. The deepest desire of my heart is for my children to carry their faith into their adult lives. But at the moment, it’s hard just to get them to Mass on Sunday.

I would love to just sail into church with four children and two babies all clean and combed and beautifully turned out in their Sunday bests. Most of the time, I seem to turn up late with a rag-tag posse of tangle-haired urchins, some still wearing articles of sleepwear and others with evidence of breakfast on their faces. I do my best, quickly fashioning a messy ‘up do’ for my daughter with a hair-tie I found on the car floor, or buttoning a clean coat over pyjamas. One Sunday, I managed to corner my youngest son halfway through Mass and surreptitiously cleaned his face. Accordingly, the quiet solemnity of the Eucharist was punctuated by a loud shout: “No! That’s MY VEGEMITE, Mummy!”

There are times when I draw on all the power of my teachers’ college theology. Once I took it upon myself to explain the nature of the Easter Triduum to my then-five-year-old daughter, Matilda.

“So Good Friday is not a Mass, you see, even though we have Communion, because there is no Consecration. The Communion we have on Good Friday was consecrated at Holy Thursday Mass.”

I raise my eyebrows impressively at my daughter. I used to get ‘A’s in theology. Matilda wrinkles her small forehead.

“So you’re getting leftovers?”

Still, there are times when you know you’re doing something right. When my eldest boy Christopher was a toddler, he was fascinated with our church’s statue of the Sacred Heart of Jesus. The statue itself is fairly standard-issue. Plaster Jesus stands in floor-length robes looking glum with his hands outstretched. Christopher pointed at Jesus’ arms. “Jesus wants a cuddle, Mummy?”

On another occasion, my mum mentioned that the wooden baby Jesus was missing from their nativity set. Indeed, the young Messiah went AWOL directly after our last visit and Christopher had been playing with the figurines. You can do without a shepherd, perhaps, but a nativity scene really doesn’t work without Jesus. He is one of the key players. Perhaps Christopher might know of his whereabouts?

Accordingly, after Christopher came in from playing in the backyard, Grandma asks “Christopher, do you know where baby Jesus is?”
Christopher says “yes” tremulously. Everyone catches their breath.
“Where’s Jesus, Christopher?”
Christopher pats his breast solemnly, “In my heart, Grandma”

Christopher and Matilda are older now. Both have made their First Communion and are proud altar servers. Once a month, I take them individually to an early weekday Mass (6:45am!) and then we have a cafe breakfast together. It’s a bit sneaky really. I want them to associate warm feelings and special attention from Mum with going to Mass. Isn’t that some form of classical conditioning? But surely nothing but goodness can come from bacon.

It’s time for my Children’s Liturgy group to form the Offertory Procession. There’s whispered squabbling at the back of the church over who gets to carry the cruets and then we’re off. I follow like a mother hen as the children traipse down the aisle, the choir sings “Hosea”, and the children deliver gifts to Father. It is as they are bowing to the altar (one sideways, one backwards and one of them fell over), that it struck me: this is what it’s all about.

In the end, for all my strategies and theologising and indoctrination by bacon, I don’t have the power to bestow faith on these children. That’s not my job. I am but walking beside them at the beginning of their faith life. All I can do is guide them to the altar and try not to get in the way as they meet Jesus. The rest is His job. And perhaps if I am humble enough, I might learn something. After all, someone very wise once taught me, Jesus is waiting for a hug.

We all just need to learn to hug back.

Pitch Fail

Monkey (well, technically a chimp) on a typewriter

You’ll never guess what just happened.

So I’ve been trying to drum up a bit more business writing freelance.  I feel like I could probably take on one more monthly gig while still managing to keep track of which of my children is which (the non-identical ones, at least).  And then the Archdiocese of Melbourne went and got itself a new Archbishop, which meant a special edition for the magazine I write for, which meant they wouldn’t be needing ME to write for them this month, which left me feeling a little bereft and unwanted and resentful of the Archbishop elect (how DARE he?), especially when an extra bill came in for exactly the amount I would have been paid if it had been business as usual.

So, I had some time to sell myself to editors.  But I didn’t really know how to go about it.  I hunted around on websites, but couldn’t find any email addresses.  Then I made myself a profile on LinkedIn, but it seemed all the editors had private accounts.  When I told people about my hunt, they invariably would tell me about a newsletter of magazine they knew about that was “always looking for writers”, but which only offered the joy of seeing your name in print as payment.  Thank you: no thank you.

Lovely M had some contacts, so I armed her with some material to chase them up with.  But I haven’t heard back, and I didn’t want to bug her.  Plus I didn’t want to face up to the idea that my writing was NO GOOD and not worth a second look.   I’m going to my high-school reunion in a month and all of the publications I write for have the word ‘Catholic’ in the title somewhere.  This needs to change.  So I pressed on.

Then, as I was digging about on LinkedIn (“you have almost reached your browsing limit”), I found the details of the editor of the Woman’s Weekly!  Perfect!

So I spent a whole day crafting a breezy-chatty-yet-professional introductory letter and chose three of my best pieces to share.  I wrote about how I’d grown up reading the Weekly and how it’s still close to my heart.  I showed it to my family and asked their advice.  I pitched ideas for future articles that I said I was already working on.  I fantasised about being Pat McDermott’s understudy (she writes “Patter” – perhaps I could write “Scatter”?).  And then I waited.

Here was my plan:  I figured the editor would most likely begin her day by going through her emails.  She would start early – Maybe 8? Maybe 8:30? – because she might have a meeting at 9.  So if I sent my masterpiece at, say, 8:45am, it would come floating in to the top of the pile right when she’s in email-reading mode.  I was all set.  The PDFs were attached and all of the publications I mentioned were also hyperlinks to articles I had written for said publications.  Any minute now and I would press send.

But that’s not really a true picture of events.  It wasn’t like I was sitting there with my finger hovering over the send button, watching the clock.  I had set the laptop open with everything cued up on the kitchen table, that is true.  And I got in perhaps thirty seconds worth of finger-hovering.  But then Annie needed help making porridge and Poppy wanted milk poured and Christopher needed me to shout at him to stop teasing Harry, and Daisy wanted me to find the Thomas the Tank Engine spoon.  And then the doorbell rang and it was my mum and I hadn’t seen her in WEEKS and she’d brought food over and we needed to talk lots as we reorganised the fridge to fit it.

Mum looked across to the kitchen table.  “Uh-oh.  Daisy’s on your laptop.”

“Oh, isn’t that cute!”  I said.  It was cute.  Daisy was working away with the same intensity she must have seen her mother display countless times before.  Then I froze.  “Get off Mummy’s laptop, Daisy!”  I exclaimed, and rushed to the table.  My email page was open, as it had been before.  Now, however, a line of bold text ran across the top of the screen “Your email has been sent”.  Wait: what?

But surely this wasn’t such a bad thing.  I was going to send the email anyway – maybe Daisy had done me a favour dispatching it in such a timely manner?  It was like she was my adorable little personal assistant.  I frantically scanned the sent message.  It was such a bad thing.

There, in the middle of one the opening sentences, Daisy had added her own input: a string of random letters and punctuation marks.  In a mad panic, I dashed off the following message:

“Oh my goodness!

With regards to my previous email, my two-year-old jumped on my laptop as I was answering the door.  She made her own amendments and sent the email off before I was ready!  With the exception of “wor/.,.,,,,,,,mbfczsk”, the email is what I meant to send. Please excuse young Daisy’s input and be assured that I am usually a scrupulous proofreader and never short of anecdotal material!

If you’ll excuse me, I’ll go crawl into a nice dark hole now…

Regards,

Kate”

Except I used Daisy’s actual name, not her blog pseudonym, because I figured I should be honest and it’s a nice name, which shows good judgement on my part.

So that was yesterday.  The time in between has been spent clicking the ‘refresh’ button on my email and jumping at loud noises.  But she hasn’t written back.  She hasn’t written back AT ALL.  I’ve taken to wringing my hands together and muttering at strangers.

I blame the new Archbishop.

 

PS.  I just went back to look at the email I sent and discovered, on top of everything else, I wrote the name of the magazine wrong.  I wrote “Women’s Weekly” – not “Woman’s Weekly”.  And I did it MORE THAN ONCE.  What is WRONG with me??  No wonder she hasn’t written back!  She probably didn’t even read as far as “wor/.,.,,,,,,,mbfczsk”, she probably threw her computer aside in disgust when she saw I didn’t even bother getting the name of her publication right.

I need to go mutter at some strangers (“Comensoli…ComenSOLI!”)

Ripping off CS Lewis

Illustration of Demon

 

Have a look at my latest article. If you turn to page thirty of the May edition, you can see my modern take on The Screwtape Letters.  Then, flip to page 42 to see an excellent article written by my very talented sister.  While you’re there, have a look at page 24 of the April edition, you can see my article on the Welcome to Eltham movement, which my twins tried so earnestly to sabotage.

I’m really happy with the Screwtape article, though, so read that one first!

Bliss

Meme: picture of oddly smiling Mr Bean with caption "This is my excited face"

Oh! I am so excited! Please be patient with me while I have a little gush.

A couple of weeks ago, I sent an email to Australian Catholics magazine.  I’d been meaning to do so for a while now.  I kind of hoped they might take me on to write something for them and I gave them links to some of my posts (OK, six posts.  I may have gone a little overboard).  For those of you who didn’t go to Catholic school here and didn’t receive a copy of this glossy quarterly with your Friday newsletter, Australian Catholics is an entertaining and accessible magazine which also seeks to address the deeper questions of what it means to be a Catholic in today’s world.  As far as church-based colour publications go, it’s kind of a big deal.

Of course, it’s worth mentioning that the reason I had the mental clarity to compose this email was because my heroic husband had taken all of my offspring (well, not the ones in utero…) on a camping trip, leaving me to wallow in the luxury of a quiet house with nobody to please but myself (I tidied the kitchen bench and it stayed tidy!)

Anyway, the thing is they wrote back!  And they said they would be Definitely Very Interested in me writing an article for them!  And then, after an exchange of emails (my response email had something in it about how their response made me do little squealy noises in my chair.  Not sure why I felt the need to share that.  Probably should have pretended that I’m such an in-demand writer that this sort of thing is totally commonplace but I think I was high on the fumes of the spray-n-wipe on the kitchen bench which was still clear and shiny), and also a phone call (do you remember what we were talking about?  That was a long tangent I went on in the middle.  You might need to go back to the start of the sentence.  Sorry about that.), I agreed to write a 550 word article for them which would tie into the theme of their upcoming issue.

And they would totally pay me for it.

It was after about half-an-hour of dancing around the house that the panic set in.  Wait a minute: this isn’t like my blog where I bang on for as long as I like on a topic that interests me.  This is a professional article with a set topic.  I don’t think I have anything of use to say on this subject.  And I have to be funny.  I can’t be funny on purpose.  What am I going to do?

Plus, by now the children were all back home and I was feeling far less sure of myself and my writing abilities than I had been in my super-confident child-free bubble.  But, after talking my husband, family and Lovely M to death on the topic, I somehow managed to tease out a few ideas without having to invent a fake ‘fail’ story (my sister’s suggestion: I don’t think I could have pulled it off).

I didn’t have much time to write the article, which I think was a good thing.  It stopped me from procrastinating and agonizing over my lack of things to say.  In the end, I got down to work and scribbled down something that was far from brilliant, but still workable.

And about twice as long as it needed to be.

I think it’s a good discipline for me to put my writing on a diet sometimes.  I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but brevity isn’t exactly my strong suit.  The first few hundred words I culled made everything sharper and snappier and gave the article a good pace.  But I still had to lose 180 more words and I was down to muscle and bone!

In desperation, I emailed the draft around to my family and they gently coaxed me to scrap and condense, without neglecting to stroke my ego (“this section reads really well.  You did a great job, Kate.   Now, get rid of it.”)

Some friends asked me “how do you find the time to write?”, then they visited my house and stopped asking that question.  As I spent my days furiously tapping at the keyboard or wandering about vaguely, churning ideas in my head, the entire house quietly and promptly fell into disrepair all around me.  Let’s just say, the kitchen bench had long lost its sparkle.

The final, rather emaciated draft, was chock-full of apostrophised contractions and was sometimes so word-frugal that it didn’t make sense.  Even then, it was 34 words over.  But my editor (“my editor”: doesn’t that sound nice?) very kindly said they could work with that, and so, in a fortnight or so, my article is going to print (!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!)

Thank you so much for making to the end of this post.  It was such an indulgent one – bloated and well over the word limit, long past deadline (I started writing this weeks ago), and with no real point to it.  But that’s the best thing about having a blog, I guess – every now and then I can get away with indulgent and boasty writing.  Maybe my next post will have some sense in it.

I guess there’s a first time for everything.