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Off-Grid Newsletter

JENNI'S OFF-GRID NEWSLETTER, NO. 32 (FEBRUARY, 2018)

February 10, 2018

Jenni's Lookout without Jenni
Moving On

I think I have a form of school phobia. This can happen, apparently, to some kids following the long indulgent summer break, when they have to return to school. New teacher, new more difficult class, having to actually get out of bed by 7.30am every morning and put on the same boring old school uniform, eat the same boring peanut butter sandwiches for lunch—on white bread with crusts cut off if made by the kids and brown bread, crusts left on if made by Mum or Dad.

None of these gloomy scenarios apply to me of course, but in some strange way after a few weeks of no expectations on myself other than enjoying the numerous dinner parties we participated in (and still are—another tonight), whether as guests or hosts, lying about on the beach reading other people’s novels, swimming in the warmest clearest sea that records have recorded in NZ’s history (or something like that) and enjoying the jolliness of family and friends staying with us, and them not me doing most of the cooking, as well as the washing up (bonus to have a chef son in the family). So returning to the tiny tasks of writing a monthly Psychology Today blog and a monthly newsletter seem decidedly too much to cope with. Ridiculous I tell myself, as I download three more novels to my Kindle and cut a lime slice for another G & T.

But hey, I was once a psychologist and I can do something about this. I can decide, all by myself, to have a break from writing Psychology Today blog posts; perhaps a three month break. I could say it was an experiment to see if when I begin again anyone mentions they even noticed my hiatus, or perhaps it will give my posts a whole new audience (the way Psych Today posts are “shared” by the giant Psychology Today organisation is a mystery. They definitely push the posts of new bloggers, so perhaps they’ll semi-push the posts of relapsed and reformed bloggers). Whatever, making this world-shattering decision removed one little niggle that sits on my shoulder and worrits at me about what the hell I can write about next that isn’t a re-run of millions of other blog posts. (But of course always a re-run of a few hundred written by someone, somewhere, some time. )

The newsletter is a different beast altogether as it is actually mine and for people who have actually kindly signed up to get it, and I actually quite like having a rave once a month. I woud have written this at the end of January but delayed it on purpose as goodness gracious me, our house had an offer on it which looked very positive (especially as it had been on the market a mere month; almost a record for the very small, specialist and slow market on Great Barrier Island). I thought if I waited a few more days , then perhaps I could announce that it had been sold. And indeed this proved to be the case, but that added even more social occasions to our lives, including champagne on Jenni’s Lookout (as our dear friend Diana said, ‘This will always be yours, here, at Awana.”) Some of the photos are still on the real estate site (url below) although the fabulous drone video along the beach and around our property is no longer available. http://rwwaiheke.co.nz/properties/sold-residential/great-barrier-island/great-barrier-island-0991/house/1801072

And then at the same time I was engrossed in all the stuff that goes into building a whole new house from scratch on the bay down the road. Did I mention we have decided to inport the makings of a gorgeous Australian Federation-style farmhouse/Queenslander (with wide, bull-nosed verandahs, a style of house/verandah I have always dreamed of living in and under) from, of course, you guessed it, Australia. As the Kitset home business that we are purchasing this from has never imported one to NZ before, this is quite a ride. Luckily the main person I have been working with on the modifications etc is awesome, a Kiwi (although clearly well-settled in Oz now) and passionate about this working out (he reckons that once people see it finished every NZer will want one). The standard design has been modified and modified and modified again by us so that it is going to suit us perfectly, comply with the NZ building code (which is much more stringent than the Australian code) and when it is all just so, it will be manufactured, packed into three containers and sea freighted to NZ. There it has to get through customs and biosecurity; be checked and sprayed for snakes and nasty poisonous creatures and seeds that abound in Oz, and then off again, across the sea to Great Barrier Island.

So the monthly newsletter got left behind. But here I am, back on the horse.

Returning to Whare Kotare—of course bitter-sweet selling our deeply-loved home of 28 years, but it is overall a good feeling as we can now plan sensibly for the new build, and all the other things we want to do (return to Australia for a few months in winter perhaps, before the new build begins) and so on. The new owners-to-be will be great Awana people, conservationists, outdoor-loving folk, are excited about living off-grid, and have small grandchildren who will totally love Awana and who knows may end up world champion surfers? For a few years at least it will be their holiday place, but my guess is down the track they will retire here, or at least semi-retire here. It makes a massive difference to us that the new inhabitants are just right for it. Although as our daughter commented; “Of coure they’ll love it silly, they wouldn’t buy it otherwise.” And they have generously said we can rent it back from them until mid-December, when they’ll come for their first Whare Kotare summer holiday. So wise daughter and her siblings can expect the two oldies showing up for an extended summer break! I can only recall two Christmas/New Year in the past 28 years that we didn’t spend the summer here, so I am rather looking forward to it, and spending lots of Bananagram nights (a scrabble –like game that the granddaughters invariably win) and energetic beach and bush days at the homes and holiday homes of our children and grandchildren. What we’ll do (ie: where we’ll live) from Feb 2019 until our house is finished, is still a mystery. Camping perhaps on our section next to the build?

Yesterday I downloaded to my iPad seven interior decorating magazines!!

So expect the next few newsletters to be about colour choices rather than literary fiction.

Writing
Plans to put pen to paper or fingers to keyboard have also been on hiatus for above same reasons. But psychologically this, I truly believe, is a good thing. Writing is a jolly hard job, and like any other, one needs a total break from it every so often. But to get me going again, I suppose a sort of New Year resolution, I have sent not one, but three complete fiction manuscripts off to three different editors in the UK. Their job is to do a full, tough-love manuscript assessment (it is goodish/has potential/ what needs to be done to make it truly shine in the tough world of publishing/or should it be patted on the head and thought of as a practice run, best left in bottom drawer.) Once I get their assessments back then I’ll decide what to do from there. Two of the manuscripts have been resting in the bottom drawer (the drawer in the computer) for years; these were my first attempts at fiction and both have in the past been edited, revised etc etc, and then abandoned by me as agents nearly but not quite decided to take them on and as I became engrossed in the next, better one. The third sent off is my current completed novel which is the one I really care about and which hasn’t yet seen the eagle eye of an editor. The head editor of the UK Writer’s Workshop where I sent these three manuscripts thought it rather unusual for a writer to want three assessments done simultaneously: (“One is tough to deal with, perhaps deal with that first and then get the next?” they suggested.) That, I thought, was all very well for someone of thirty… The downside is that three damning assessments might lurch even me into a deep depression, but from an optimistic viewpoint, I have three chances of one of them being OK (with more rounds of intensive revision of course) and balancing the depressed mood I should sink into from the other less positive assessments. If when I began being a therapist, the movement called ‘Positive Psychology’ had been spawned, I would have been a part of it.

So, in good scientific fashion, fingers, toes and eyes crossed. And on a Positive Psychology note, ‘A Drop in the Ocean’ has sold 180 print copies on Great Barrier Island which has a population of 800! In many ways more special to me than the 7000+ copies it has sold in US/Australia/NZ, and 8000 copies in Bulgaria…athough that is quite amusing.)

My latest Psychology Today blog post
Cancelled! (or postponed at least until perhaps April??) Yippee!

Book Review

The Promise Between Us by Barbara Claypole White.
Barbara is a friend of mine and the best sort of author friend one could possibly have. I have so many incredible author friends now, and that alone has made all the hard work worthwhile.

This novel, I think, is Barbara 's best novel so far, and that is saying something as all her novels are excellent. The mental disorders she empathetically and realistically gives voice to in this story are Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, High Anxiety Disorder Panic Attacks, and Depression. The unusual form of OCD, that of obsessive thoughts following the birth of her child that haunt the protagonist, Katie Mack, to the extent she runs away, 'deserting' her child, is emotionally powerful, and the reader is taken along with Katie as she experiences her disorders from the inside. Again, here is a novel that should be read by therapists and psychologists who work with OCD clients, as well as by family and friends of people with OCD and other anxiety disorders. The characters are immensely likeable and Katie has a fascinating career to add to the fascination of the story. Definitely a thought-provoking and gripping novel to read, discuss and share.

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Contact me: jenniogdenauthor@gmail.com