Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Leaving facebook- harder than you'd think

I’ve done something so unbelievable for me, that I have shocked even myself. No I have not got a job in an office, I have suspended my personal facebook account.

For those of you who can’t even remember their log in, this will seem an odd revelation. But for those of you who, like me, got sucked into the vortex and loved every minute of it, you’ll be reaching for your device and checking, just to make sure that I’m not just attention seeking by saying something outrageous. Because I am, as Tommy Honey once said, and I quote: A promosexual. Someone who seeks every opportunity to say ‘Look at me!’ and facebook is perfect for that. And I LOVE it. I can exercise my wit, and have my opinion noted, which as I realise, in the famous words of Harry Callahan in Dead Pool (1988) ‘Opinions are like assholes. Everybody has one.’ 
So skip forward a few years to now, and why the change of heart? 
Well, it’s not just because of Black Mirror Season 3’s ‘Nose Dive.’ (watch that and you'll put down your phone...)

It started out innocently enough. It always does- reluctantly joining, getting the kids to show you how, just 9 friends for a long time including my family… then 5 years later, ending up with over 300 fb friends, not because I’m wildly popular, but because I meet people I want to follow and they don’t have a separate public page for their work, so I friend them and (uncomfortably) they just post their work and links to events, but are party to my political opinions, family moments, and occasional rants, most of which are written to amuse my actual friends and family, you know, the ones you hang out with.

But last week, I had an issue that I’d been simmering about. I vented on facebook, to my friends (I never go public on the settings) and to cut a long story short, social media bit me in the ass, after I had willingly bared it. Waved it even. I won’t go into details, because I’m STILL RIGHT. You know? But it had repercussions that I was uncomfortable with and made me feel bad about myself in the world. 

Note to self: just because people aren’t liking or commenting, doesn’t mean they aren’t noting everything you say and sharing it well beyond your internet walls.


When I took down the somewhat out of hand thread, I considered all the time I spend on facebook. I reach for it first thing in the morning, before I pee (TMI I know, sorry). It’s at the breakfast table with me on my tablet (this outrage with poor grammar was in The Herald, share), and in the traffic jams on my smartphone (just as well I have this great coffee from Raglan Roast! share). When I’m working, it’s there on my desktop (I have this major deadline, share) and with me again whilst cooking dinner (My Food Bag, facebooked plated deliciousness, share), binge watching TV drama (can you believe how ridiculous the plot is for TheKettering Incident? share) and the last thing I see before I sleep (I’ve got this great book, click, share). Not much of a compliment to my husband… (he’s snoring, share).

I’m a writer but I barely read anymore. That little red notification icon is like crack. I can’t ignore it, it draws me in. Distracting me. The FOMO is unbearable.

It’s ridiculous.

So I decided to commit facebookicide. I warned all friends who cared to notice that I was shutting down my account and would be offline by 9pm. They could get hold of me the usual way, by email and phone, and bumping into me at cafes. Then I went about the deactivation process.

Hah! It’s not as easy as you think. Facebook asks you every step of the way, Why? Are you sure about this? Would you like to speak to someone? Would you like to leave your estate to someone you care about? Download your digital life for posterity. Don’t go, it pleads, don’t LEAVE US!
In the end I opted for suspending it, for a time. It was such an ordeal to leave, I figured it would be the same to log back in. Phew, safe from myself. Then I had a sudden panicked thought ‘My public pages! My hard won 1000 plus followers. MY WORK!’ I had literally made myself redundant by shutting down my facebook account which had several pages linked to it.

I rushed to my husband’s computer and looked at his facebook page, luckily logged on and searched for myself. As his wife and friend I was gone- no trace of me. He could start afresh if he wanted to. With a new wife. My children were motherless; I was invisible to myself and the world. But Fifi Colston Creative, the public woman of no political persuasion, just fun art, what of her? I logged into my pages manager on my tablet. Well helloooo from facebook. You're back! (no I'm not!) She was there- thank the gods! But untouchable unless I was me. I couldn’t post on my own page. I was like a memory of myself, before I ruined my life by opening my big mouth.

I considered the options and considered appointing the husband as an administrator. But that was clearly not going to work, as it meant logging into his account and whilst we share pretty much everything, he still won’t tell me his password (I think in truth he’s forgotten it.) The only solution I could come up with in the end was to create another personal page as a fictitious persona, then log back into my own account, friend ‘myself’ and grant the new ‘me’ admin status. 

I made my new self 20 years younger and with a much more interesting degree.

I logged back in to my old personal account, hating myself for doing it, waiting to answer the trillion fb questions about why I was back so I could access myself. Pressed enter and… welcome back Fi! 
Like I’d never been away. The red notifications beacon told me 97 important things had happened since I’d been away for a day. I nearly looked at them, but pulled myself back and kept on with what I was there for. Get in quick, do the business and out again, leaving no footprints.

I’ve been 6 days without facebook now. That’s a lie of course, I have my new account with 4 trusted friends who know the ins and outs of why I left. I have only liked one public page- my own. The friends friends have already tried to friend me (why? I’m not actually real) but I remain aloof and unfriendable, all my controls locked down to ‘only me.’ I don’t post (except for my public page). I have got on with work deadlines, I might even read a book, and finish that novel I’ve been writing. It’s liberating as hell. I might never go back.

And anyway, there’s always Instagram.

the cat

Saturday, September 24, 2016

My WOW 2016

The World of WearableArt 2016 season is upon us- and what a spectacular show, once again.
The award night was last night and whilst I didn't win anything, I was honoured to be in such a stellar line up of creations- plus I got to hug the totally gorgeous, terrifically talented and sweet Reuben Paterson on whose work, the show's aesthetic has been based. He said he liked my manaia and that I will hug to my creative heart :)

So here it is, my creation and how it came about.

Poutini's Mother Lode

Poutini the taniwha captured beautiful Waitaiki, laid her down in the bed of the Arahura River and turned her into pounamu before fleeing to the sea.

I was intolerably homesick when we lived in Britain for a while.
A New Zealand friend came to visit and bought with her a piece of Ngāi Tahu pounamu. I wore it every day until we returned; it is my own taonga.
I wondered at the Maori mythology behind the West Coast greenstone and found an intriguing tale of misplaced love and abduction; how Waitaiki became the mother lode of all pounamu in the Arahura River.
I wanted to animate the story and create a manaia inspired by Maori bone carvings, that moved and swayed and held his captive tight.
This is essentially a giant puppet- with the models real arms in the head and the arm of the taniwha.

You can see how I made it on my facebook page here and if you like it, you can also vote for it here  at The Breeze and be in to win something too! They say you just need 1000 true fans to make it in the creative world- I'm currently sitting at about 999. You could make all the difference in the my world ;)

xxx Fifi

Thursday, July 28, 2016

Last Post

Hi all,

I’ve written a lot of blog posts here over the years, pouring put my thoughts and feelings, sweating over my grammar and writing style. I think I probably always secretly hoped that it would be picked up and I would get a regular column/following. It didn't! But I average 4000 post views a month- mostly for free templates I've put up.

Blogging was fantastic in its day, and there are many I still follow. Maureen Crisp’s Craic-er excellent links on writing, Melinda Syzmanik’s I Should be Writing, for when I need a fellow author to articulate how tough this children’s book industry is and feel not so alone, Jane Bloomfield’s Truth is Stranger Than Fiction  which is funny, irreverent and really should be more widely circulated, and of course Emily Writes Mama Said , she is the Chuck Wendig of motherhood- everything I wanted to say and was too afraid to... and I am not easily terrified. She makes me lol, which apparently is such an old hat expression, I am showing my age.
There are many more besides that I read and get a laugh/information/inspiration from, but the blogosphere has changed for me as a medium.

When I first started, it was all about being able to have a say, somewhere people might ‘hear’it. It's so hard to get published and it was such an instant medium, I was instantly gratified. I think that was true for a long time. But as Facebook, Instagram and twitter have taken over, so have my means of self-expression. I adore Facebook- I post on my personal page (no sorry you can’t join me there unless I know you very well) on everything from the weather, our cat’s antics and my horror at various international politics.

But I do I post on my public page  about my art, useful links to things I like and events I’m involved with (yes, please like me there!). I am getting to grips with Instagram.  I tweet because you are supposed to as an author, but really just go there to get breaking news. I have a LinkedIn profile, but rarely go there- it’s a bit dry for me and it keep suggesting jobs for me like CEO of manufacturing companies (how can their algorithms be so out?) Pinterest is a fantastic resource and I put some of my wearable art and various crafts up there. I also have many secret boards for inspiration. I am, at heart, a squirrel. 

So I have a few bases covered.

So, this blog, as a means for my news, opinions and brags, is kind of redundant. In the spring I’ll revamp it so it becomes a dedicated website for seeing my portfolio and services. You will still be able to access my old blog posts. I think I’ve grown as a writer since my first post 11 years ago. 
Certainly, now I have glasses.

See you in other media J

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Cards on the Table- or 'I finished that sucker!'

my MA thesis submission cover- I got my daughter to pose!

I've recently been shortlisted for the Tessa Duder Award for YA Fiction; here's a bit about it and the shortlisted titles. My manuscript is one of 4 to make the cut and whilst I am confident that one of them is the winner and it isn't me, I am also over the moon that I got this far with my first draft. I also know that I have a lot of work to do on a second draft before I submit it to another publisher, but with the fantastic report and feedback of editor Anna Golden (sorry I can't link her anywhere but she's in Wellington and is just brilliant, thank you Makaro Press) I have definite things to go to work on to make my novel a piece of work that not only grips the reader but also makes sense!

So, can I tell you a bit about it? Not the plot and story- you'll have to wait for that, but how I came to write it. Just in case you think this is a flick of the wrist thing I just knocked off in my spare time. Like everyone, I have no spare time.

Wild Cards started as my Masters thesis project for the Scriptwriting MA I did at The International Institute of Modern Letters in 2003. This was a year I took out from freelance work to immerse myself in writing. That year I launched my first junior fiction novel 'Verity's Truth' (which had a contract before I started my studies) published by Scholastic. I also wrote 'Janie Olive- a Recipe for Disaster' that year in my uni break, as a holiday from writing. It was also subsequently published by Scholastic, and followed by 'Glory' a couple of years later. 

But Wild Cards, my thesis doc, the kids TV drama series with young teen protagonists sat with it's meritous grade, getting dusty on the shelf; my characters trapped inside in their world, mid dialogue, falling down plot holes.

I had a brilliant idea; why not write it as a novel? I addressed this in a post in 2008 here called A Novel in a Week which outlines my attack method. So given that was 8 years ago, what happened and why did it take so long? (I love this clip from Family Guy- Stewie on Brian's novel which best describes a writer's progress).

I started all fluff and feathers, full of squawk and thought I'd nail it for the Text Prize. That yearly deadline came and went. Several times. I thought that being a published novelist, I'd be in line for a Creative New Zealand grant or a funded residency to finish it. After unsuccessfully applying for several of these, and getting all bitter and twisted in the process, I gave up. The novel lay fallow, Jono, Becka and Evie once again in suspended animation. I'd pick it up every so often, write another chapter and get distracted. Wonderful author and friend, Melinda Szymanik cracked the whip every so often and I reported back with word counts. I gave my WIP to too many people to read and they all gave me different feedback. Then I felt like I had shown everyone my ratty undies and felt a bit embarrassed about it all. I had, as Stephen King says in his excellent memoir 'On Writing', let the steam out. It was all limp and soggy.

Then last year, at the Margaret Mahy Day where I received a a Storylines Notable Book Award for  my non fiction book, Ghoulish Get Ups (just thought I'd slip that in, still proud!), it was announced that the Tessa Duder Award would now be open to previously published authors. That's it, I said to all around me, I have a reason to finish that flippin' novel! I need crazy deadlines in my life - this is why I am not a fine artist, a result of my design school training in commercial art back in the day.

I had it all mapped out; I was going to finish my Wearable Art entries, do the Storylines author tour, and then get stuck into it. Except suddenly all my work came at once; a puppet for Maori Television, two more for a Corporate video, a huge commission for the new Waitangi Museum and craft items ongoingly for The WotWot's Pinterest page, not to mention a myriad of little illustration jobs and a picture book contract. I had a window of less than 8 days to get it done and submitted, if I worked really, really hard. It seemed highly unlikely- not the working hard, I'm good at that, but the time frame. However, I am nothing if not bloody minded.

So I did, but not alone. I asked my dear friend and highly successful author Tania Roxborogh, in the midst of her getting the family house ready to sell and move cities, (good god I owe her one) to read through my chapters as I wrote them, look for typos and inconsistencies, track changes and rough edit. I got up and was at the keyboard at 6am every morning (unheard of for me, being awake at that early hour). I wrote all day until midnight, every day. Tania my angel, sent through the edits, I'd make changes and get onto the next chapter. I wrote up to 8,000 words a day. In one particularly caffeine fuelled session I wrote 10,000. I was on fire. Nobody got fed and the house was a tip. I didn't go out, I lived in a tee shirt and jeans (I do not believe in pyjamas for writing and I have none, so there) and the cat took up residence in a filing tray beside my computer. 

And I finished it. I got it printed out and sent. The feeling of achievement was immense; like getting my wearable art creations in a box and off to Mainfreight for judging in Nelson. And I felt like I had released my characters into the wild, fulfilling their destinies and living their dreams. And in that process, done the same for myself.

To coin a few well worn slogans and phrases.

Nothing ventured, nothing gained, don't die wondering. Just do it. 

Saturday, February 27, 2016

A Student's Guide to Grocery Shopping

The students are in town, clogging up the supermarkets in confused packs. First years who didn't get into a hostel due to lack of foresight, money or a general cock up at the Uni end of things, or second years flatting for the first time since vowing never to stay in halls again because the food was so bad (you left My Food Bag at home with your blankie).

So here it is (having nutured 2 kids through tertiary education and flats):

The Student's Shopping Guide

Before you go to the supermarket, sit down with your other 5 flatmates and decide what you are going to buy. This is essential to the sanity of everyone else at New World who can't get past all 6 of you having a group think in the cereal aisle. Be especially wary of middle aged women trying to get past you; they have a tendency to let the trolley run over the back of your jandals, and pause whilst leaning heavily on the handle, inspecting the coffee specials. Or pretending to.

Whilst you are about it, catch a bus to Pak n Save in the burbs. You can't afford New World Metro right now; not until you are a law grad interning at Bell Gully. You will also change your career option 15 times over before you finish uni. So just get on that bus now and learn to love the stick man.

Back to the cereal aisle. Froot Loops are not cereal, neither are Coco Pops. They are fabulous for eight year olds birthday treats, and the munchies, but as you are 18 and don't know where to get weed in your new uni city, you will have to find something else. That gluten free cereal at $8 a box your family indulged you with is not a goer, so ditch the faddiness and buy porridge oats. Cheap as. Fills you up. Be Scottish. Macbeth wasn't gluten intolerant. He was never angry and bloated. Well, maybe, just a bit.

In your first flat, you will have a shelf each in both the fridge and the pantry. Your flatties will steal your favorite foods and leave you with yellowing broccoli and an empty marmite jar. If there is one thing you should buy over and above your budget, it's laxatives and Fix and Fogg chocolate peanut butter. Mix the two and leave on your shelf. This will out the thieves. Also buy extra toilet paper, but not the 3 ply awesome, silken- to- the- touch stuff at home. Get the budget stuff. They need to suffer.

You will probably buy huge packs of noodles, cheese and corn chips. This is standard fare for students. You will put on the Fresher Five kgs within days of flatting and it-will-never-go-away. Ever. Work out if you like the look and shop accordingly; you might well look better with it. In which case, Trident and Dorito and Rolling Meadow are your friends. Embrace them, and get bigger pants. Your mother WILL mention it when you go home for midterm break but it will be cloaked in solicitous terms of 'Are you eating properly?' whilst making you a salad.

Alcohol: forget craft beers, even if you are mature enough to grow a lumberjack beard. Ranfurly is within your budget. Student years are no time for snobbery, unless you ditch your arts degree and go brewing instead. Excellent choice by the way. 

Vegetables. Yes, those things you avoided for years and your mother spent countless wasted hours making smiley faces with, in the fruitless hope that you wouldn't get scurvy. You will think that potatoes are vegetable. They are. They are also best served deep fried with grated cheese (refer fresher five). Try some green things. Bottles of Mountain Dew don't count.

And whilst we are at it, fruit. Any is good. If you have a predilection for blueberries, you can have 2. That will deal to the entire grocery budget for the week.

Let's get personal now. Shampoo, conditioner and soap; use them. It will improve your chances of coupling at a dimly lit party. If you throw in a plastic bottle of Boysencider, you are quids in, with anyone. Unless they have their period, in which case give them tampons. They are so expensive; she will love you forever. Better than flowers or Michael Hill zircons. Anything is better than Michael Hill jewellery, to be fair. And before any guys here say 'But I need money for condoms!' let's get real here. They will go crusty in your warehouse stationery computer work station well before honours year, when if you very lucky, someone might give you the opportunity you've been waiting for. It probably won't involve prophylactics, but if you've kept your Python in check, you might just turn your deep dream into reality. In the meantime, hand over your share of the 'intimates' grocery budget to your female flatmates. It's a bitch running out.

Cleaning materials. I'm not going to spend any time here; you will not clean the toilet ever, the shower will grow species of mould you never knew existed, not even in Micro 101, and your sheets will crust over. You will hope pointlessly, that having a roster for chores means that your flatmates will stick to it. Especially if you used Comic Sans. That you used Comic Sans, in a flat full of design students, is the biggest reason your roster will be laughed at. You may as well pack up and find a bedsit now. Same goes for Lucida Handwriting.

I think that about covers it. You will at some point run out of food. Here are a couple of recipes my fellow students ate to get by, back in the day when faced with the same.

Cabbage Sammies:  a large raw cabbage leaf between two slices of budget white bread. Or vice versa if the bread is in short supply because your flatmate made toast with remainder whilst stealing your Fix and Fogg chocolate spread.

Swotting Stew: hot water with a pinch of mixed dried herbs, salt and pepper. 
And bam, the fresher five melts away, just-like-that!

Enjoy your first year of fending for yourselves. Next year, you'll have it sussed. Or sautéed.

Love, your Mum x

Thursday, January 14, 2016


I've been doing my annual studio clean up - this most often in results a new location and this year- a wall ripped out between 2 rooms of the house to create my ideal space. It won't ever be perfect of course, because my needs are small when it comes to fancy cars and luxurious holidays, but vast when it comes to accommodating hoarded inspirations and materials. I think the average creative person could live quite happily in a huge warehouse with one small bed in the corner, a couch and a rudimentary bench for cooking purposes, with the rest given over the work tables, drawing boards, computer gear, spray booths and a lot of book shelves.

I was cleaning out said shelves a couple of days ago- being ruthless with my collections of art, fashion, design and vintage books, managing only to get rid of a small box of things others have given me and I was not much attached to, when I found this. 

I have kept it for 37 years, my memento of the first rock concert ever I travelled to outside of Wellington, on a road trip. My buddies, Carla, Jo and me, all dolled up our New Wave best.
We were design students at the end of our first year at Wellington Polytech. We bought tickets; they may have been $22 each. When you could rent a room in a flat for that including expenses, that was a big investment. There was no thought about how we would travel, where we would stay and what we would eat. Bowie was the thing and all else, minor detail.

A few days out, Jo came up with a way of getting there, a lift there and back for 3 girls with a radio disc jockey ( she knew everyone). Sounded good, exciting even, so we rocked up to the ferry to meet him on the appointed day. I can't remember his name but to say he had a face for radio was entirely accurate. I won't go into finer detail, but his obvious expectations of a three, or was that four way? romp in Kaikoura on his expense account with nubile groupies, were dashed at the first offer of drinks in the ship's bar. Ewwww...we thought him ancient; he was probably only 30. We were saving ourselves for Bowie, metaphorically you understand.

The DJ dropped us on an early Canterbury evening (somewhat grumpily) in The Square. We had no idea where we would doss down for the night; the nearest camping ground was miles away and besides, we hadn't bought tents. The Christchurch Square, back in 1978 was an intimidating place with The Doghouse Burger joint being the main attraction. We feared we three gals in a phone box might become the New Objects of Desire if we didn't come up with a plan soon. We scratched our heads and thought. All we could come up with was Golden Years.  Then Jo had a golden moment of clarity:
'We could call my aunty...'
'You have family here?!'
'Well yes, but mum said I was only to call her if we were desperate.'

Carla and I looked around at the inhabitants of the Square. We couldn't imagine a more desperate situation. Aunty was called and in no time at all, a BMW arrived with Jo's cousin waving out 'Hoorah!' and we were transported to the poshest of houses in the swankiest of burbs and made welcome within an inch of our student lives. Whilst Jo was interrogated by her aunt for family news, Carla and I fell to our knees in grateful thanks at the altar of hot showers and fluffy duvets.
D day dawned- David! We'd see him, in the flesh, the Man Who Fell to the Antipodes.

Jo's cousin drove us to Queen Elizabeth II Park. Incongruous, stepping out of that beamer in our carefully ripped tights. We were in our finest semi punk arty attire. I wore a pair of green lurex leggings, a tiny tee, a black dinner jacket festooned with badges and vintage brooches and op shop stilletos from the 1950's. I was all set for a day and night on the stadium turf. We found our tribe; the others from our design school year and settled in for an afternoon of waiting for the coolest man (possibly alien) on earth to make his appearance. Jo was hopeful of a backstage pass.

The concert, when it happened, was a blur in some ways. Ask me to remember exactly the order in which anything was played and I couldn't tell you. Bowie was dressed in a jumpsuit and there were banks of lights and at one stage he was annoyed with people- something to do with waving fists. I didn't understand; I thought we were all being nice. I had yet to learn the word Fascist. I think I blacked out for a bit at some stage- blame the hours waiting in the sun doing what young people do to pass the time (Scrabble, Monopoly...) I was held up by the crowd, Station to Station chugging backwards and forwards through my whole body. I couldn't see much and some kind biker guy gave me his helmet to stand on. No mean feat to balance on one in stiletto heels. He was very chivalrous- I surely must have left dents in it.

When the show was done, we tottered off, happy and filled up with the joy of seeing our hero live on stage (which is whole lot better than being dead on it). We were all art students and he was an artist, and in our wildest fantasies, we could be him, because he was all of us. Girl, boy, actor, writer, performer, comedian, visionary and sexy, oh so sexy! Nothing at all like a Wellington DJ in his beat up Citroen. We could all be heroes one day; the world at our feet, for ever and ever.

I got home to the Fendalton pad that night to find almost all of my badges and glittery things had fallen off into the grass at the concert. Trodden into the ground, maybe even embedded in that motorcycle helmet? 'Disco Sucks' underpinned with a Diamante dog. I like to think that they are still there, buried in the soil, swallowed by the earthquakes, waiting for an archaeological dig. Little offerings from my pilgrimage to the first rock god I truly adored.

Post script- we know what happened to David, I was shocked when my daughter broke the news to me in a gentle phone call, before I saw my news feed. But what happened to us, the fans of '78?

Well two of us are working artists, me doing what I do, and Carla is a brilliant illustrator as well as choreographer- here is her website http://www.scruff.co.nz/

Jo, the beautiful well connected girl who looked like Nastassja Kinski, travelled the world, was a gifted photographer but sadly passed away from breast cancer not so long ago. I like to think that she finally meets Bowie in another dimension, when the line of fans clear and he is standing by the wall.