Eventful People

Make time or it won't happen

Louise Inglis - wife, busy mother to two boys and a flute teacher will launched her first book on 2 April 2012. 

When she started writing she could spare only two hours per month.  So, how did she do it?

Louise began a journal seven years ago when faced with uncertainly over the health of her youngest son, Kevin. His was a difficult birth and soon after, Louise and husband Michael felt that Kevin was very different to his older brother, Matthew, when he was the same age. Some difference between siblings is not unusual, but Kevin was different to most other babies, too.

During the long search for answers, the nights were often the worst - Louise and Michael would be restless, worried and uncertain where to turn.

Louise remembers, "I would lie awake for hours, but if I got up and wrote for an hour, I could go back to bed and sleep soundly. Writing helped me deal with all the questions in my head; it gave me clarity on what to do next.  When I was speaking to medical people I would know what to ask.  I arrived at one appointment with two pages of questions for the specialist."

At 13-months Kevin was diagnosed with autism. But, that was just the start. Over the next five years there were additional diagnoses, including epilepsy and that Kevin would be unable to speak. Louise and her family were determined to face this challenge together, even though it meant their lives would be very different to what they'd ever envisaged.

Throughout the years that followed, Louise kept her journal going, often during particularly dark and sleepless nights. She said, "I continued to find the writing helpful.  It was almost as good as the counselling and it cleared my mind." 

Louise was asked to include an extract of her journal in her church's family newsletter to increase awareness and understanding of autism. The feedback was overwhelming and several readers encouraged her to write a book.

Time was tight and she felt she couldn't do anything about completing a book. However, the journal continued to grow.

Just after Kevin started school Louise spotted a flyer in her local library promoting the First Chapters writing programme (run by Jocelyn Watkin), which offered free workshops and one-on-one coaching for new writers. She remembers, "I didn't have to have a recognised standard, qualification or published book to apply. They were prepared to take anyone who wanted to write."

Louise credits the programme as pivotal to her progress, "I doubt whether I'd have the book without the First Chapters programme. We had to write on the spot during the workshops, not just listen. Then we had the opportunity to read aloud and get feedback from the course facilitator and the other participants. The one-on-one time was invaluable. So helpful.  I got feedback just for me in a confidential setting.  The programme took me from having several folders of writing and showed me it was possible to turn them into a book.  I felt encouraged and equipped."

Shortly after the First Chapters programme finished Kevin was old enough to go to a respite home for a couple of nights per month.  This provided a small window of writing time for Louise. She said, "I gave myself one hour, twice per month to write.  It much wasn't much but it was all I had to make a start on the book project. I had to be quite precious about those times as I could so easily fill them with other things."

Over time, Louise could see the book developing and she started to crave longer periods to work on it. She recalls the time she got a precious weekend alone in her parents' beach house, "When I arrived I didn't unpack my suitcase. I just got out my lap top and wrote for hours. I wrote feverishly, pausing only to eat or take short walks on the beach to clear my head.  I got up several times in the night to keep writing."

After what seemed to be endless rewrites, the first full draft was finally finished and Louise had her manuscript professionally assessed. After that, there were several more re-writes according to the helpful suggestions from the assessor.

At last it was time to think about publishing her book.

During the First Chapters programme, Louise had been introduced to the concept of 'Indie' Publishing (self-publishing) and this seed had taken root in her mind. She said:

"I liked the fact that [with Indie publishing] I could be involved with every step of the process.  I didn't want my manuscript sent away to be in a place with people I didn't know, who might 'doctor' with it, especially if I had no involvement.  I also wanted the themes in my book and the title to reflect what I had in mind for the purpose of my book.

 I liked the thought that I wouldn't have to contact numerous publishers asking if they were interested and potentially getting rejection letters and wasting months of time.  I didn't have too much time so I thought I might as well do it myself.  Indie publishing sounded the surest way of getting my book published.

But I didn't know anything about how to publish. I needed more than the brief introduction that I'd had in the First Chapters programme. I attended an Indie publishing workshop with The Story Bridge and it was such a useful course. I came home knowing what to do to get my book published."

Early in 2012 Louise decided to launch her book in April. Three months would be tight timing but she had a good reason - it would be World Autism Awareness Day on 2 April, which offered a perfect connection with her book's themes and the potential for joint-promotion opportunities.  With the deadline looming Louise turned to the professionals - editors, formatters and printers. She got quotes and talked to a number of companies before making her selection.

She says, "The speed of Indie Publishing means you can meet tight deadlines, but you need people who can work like this too. My professionals spelled out a timetable that would have to be adhered to. In those three months, I dedicated every spare moment to the book and other things had to be put on the back burner. It was very intense but worth it. " 

Happiness in his Eyes - a story of love and disability launched on 2 April.

Thanks to husband Michael's technical expertise, anyone can buy Louise's book via the website www.louiseinglis.com  Michael also shot the promotional video, which Louise, Kevin and Matthew all star in and which can be viewed on this site.

When asked what advice she had for other writers wanting to complete a book, Louise suggests:
  • Just write, don't wait until some magic time of 'when you have time'.
  • Keep going, capture your thoughts now. Don't wait to do this by looking back later. It would have been so hard trying to write without my journals to refer to. There's probably not one paragraph in the book that hadn't previously been written about in my journal.
  • Sometimes you can get lucky (like seeing the flyer for the First Chapters programme) but luck isn't enough. You need to grab any opportunity and commit to it.
  • Make time to write.  It won't magically happen without scheduling it. Treat writing the same as you would any other appointment.
  • Be ruthless with the time you have allocated for writing. Don't let it be squandered.
  • Have a deadline like I did with World Autism Awareness Day.
  • Start with a time allowance you can manage.  Initially I only had one hour twice per month but that was the beginning for me. Accept that you may have to increase this time to complete a project as you get closer to your deadline.
  • Be open to new ideas/concepts that might help you.
  • Get professional advice when you need it.
  • Get quotes for all things you pay for and get them in writing.  Emails make this process so easy.
  • Back up your computer to avoid losing your precious manuscript.
  • Be thankful and appreciative of all support you receive. 

Congratulations to Louise Inglis and her family on the launch of her remarkable book, Happiness in his Eyes - a story of love and disability.

Find out more:


Wolfgang Peschke: The art of living a happy life

Interviewed by Eventful Woman in his home and African art gallery in Hachenburg, Germany

October 2011

Wolfgang in his home
It's too simplistic to say Wolfgang's philosophy is "Don't worry, be happy.”  But, that's a good place to start.

After 45 years working in different African countries, Wolfgang is a fusion of European and African thinking. He's encountered great poverty and illness amongst the people he's worked with in Africa, but he's seen a lot of happiness too. On his frequent visits home to more affluent Germany, he's surprised that so many are unhappy there when, in comparison to life in some of Africa's countries, they actually have a lot to be thankful for.

He feels that people in 'First World' countries worry so much about what might (or might not) happen in the future that they forget to live for today.

He says that many poorer Africans don't have a word or words for 'in the future'. Their lives can be tough and often short-lived, so people think about what they can do TODAY and how they can be happy for that day.

These differences in thinking also extend to art, which is Wolfgang's passion.  He says that when Europeans speak about art they mention artists like Picasso. They know the name of the artist, they know his work and they appreciate art for art's sake.  In Africa it is different - people make masks, figures or paintings, but it's not for art. It's for a better or happier life. In Africa they don't talk about art as something nebulous.  Instead they might say, "This mask is of my grandfather - he is living in the art. Or this figurine represents my son."

Wolfgang has opened an African art gallery (called Galerie Peschke) in his home in Hachenburg, in the Westerwald area of Germany.  This gallery is not just to sell art but to help inform and educate others about Africa. He says there is a lot of misunderstanding between peoples of different cultures and this can lead to conflict.  So, his African art gallery is a way he can explain how differences between countries and cultures should be celebrated, not feared, and that we can all learn from each other.

Wolfgang's house built in 1610
Wolfgang's home is not your typical "look and don't touch" gallery with sterile, plain walls.  His 400-year old home in historic Hachenburg is, to someone like me from New Zealand, a museum piece in itself. If his house was in England, I would describe it as half-timbered in the Elizabethan style.  

Front window of Wolfgang's home
His African pieces, collected over many years, are displayed on tables and cabinets or stand in warmly-lit alcoves cut into the 1/2 metre thick walls. These walls, along with the soft rugs on the floor and the cushions on the sofa, create a quiet and cosy living area that is a world away from the hordes of tourists gawking at the street of Elizabethan architecture outside.

His gallery is not open to the public and does not have regular opening hours. A buyer must ring first to make an appointment. When he meets with a prospective buyer, Wolfgang says that they will talk, drink coffee, maybe have wine or beer also, and the discussion will continue for 3 - 5 hours.  He will find out want the buyer wants and why. If he has already has a piece that could be a good match he will talk at length about it and its history. He wants the purchase to be right for the person and for them to understand the heritage of the piece they will own.

He is willing to spend time with those who are only just beginning to collect African art and he is also keen to talk to young people about to set up their first home. He explains, "When younger people decorate their own home they often buy a copy of a painting for their walls. But, it's not the 'real thing'.  For the same price they can purchase a piece of real art from me.  I can tell them where the piece is from and why the African artist created it.  I can give them art with a heart."

Wolfgang has wanted to open a gallery for some time but has only fulfilled his dream in the last few months, when he retired. He says, "I am now 65 and when you are older there are two possibilities - to do nothing or to do something. To do nothing makes you unhappy. You have to do something but you must consider the options carefully. You could start collecting coins, money, gold or diamonds and maybe that will make you happy. But, maybe it won't, either. You have to do something for your heart, not for your mind.  You've got to make the most of life by doing what is important today."

Wolfgang points to a carved, wooden African figure saying, "This shows all the important things I've learned from the African people.  The figure has:
  • A big navel to remind us that we are born into a family, that being part of a family is important.
  • Short legs to remind us that we can't run away from Schicksal (destiny or fate). 
  • A big hat, to remind us to keep only important things on our minds. Only then can you live up to the saying about old age: When an old man dies it's like a fire in the Bibliothek (library)."

Wolfgang's advice to anyone wanting to live their dreams is:
  •  Do what you love and what is important to you. It's not about having money.
  •  You sometimes need to seek out opportunities, rather than just wait for them to happen.
  • Make the most of whatever time you have today. Remember the saying: Tomorrow is the first day of the rest of your life. . Life ends at some point. If you wait until you're 90 you might not get there.
  • Be happy for all of the good things in life you have.

Click here to check out Wolfgang's gallery and website.

Eventful Woman: From Dreams to Reality
Interviewed by Linda Grigg, September 2011

Linda (left) and Eventful Woman after lunch
It is normally me at the asking end of the mic.  

However, it was an unexpected pleasure to be interviewed by Linda Grigg recently about my proposed writer-in-residency in Germany in October.

You might recall that Linda won the "splendid lunch with Eventful Woman" in September.  I hadn't met Linda before the lunch and had mentally noted some 'good hostess' type questions I could ask her over our meal so I could help 'break the ice'.  However, Linda was a terrific guest - friendly, chatty and very intelligent. She had done some thinking before hand, too. 

We had a lovely conversation and she also quizzed me about my background and what it took to get to where I am today. Linda has developed her own website to celebrate those who have positive stories to tell, so we had a number of goals in common.

Check out my story in "From dreams to Reality"... read on

Terry Carson: Lose your Job and Gain a Life
Interviewed by Eventful Woman, August 2011

Do you dream of leaving your job? Terry Carson stopped dreaming and made it happen.

Now in his early 60s, he's written an e-book: Escape your Profession and Save your Life.

Terry left his job as a lawyer seven years ago and I asked if this had saved his life.

He replied, "If I had stayed working, I may have been OK.  However, most of my working friends and colleagues of the same age now have health problems. They can't believe I'm not on any medication"

Terry was 40 when he noticed something was amiss. He'd been a lawyer for around 20 years and, while he enjoyed marriage and family life, he thought he'd also feel professionally fulfilled with his busy and profitable legal practice. This is what he'd dreamed of ever since law school, so why wasn't he contented with his success? When he considered others in the legal fraternity that he met at conferences he said, "They all seemed totally miserable. While most were very intelligent and capable, all had convinced themselves they couldn't do anything else."

One of Terry's books
However, Terry thought there must be an alternative. Since he was about 10 years old he wanted to be a writer. He briefly flirted with the idea of becoming a journalist when he left school, but eventually chose law as it sounded just as interesting.

Terry still had dependent children in his forties and, at that time, he felt there were no immediate options except to continue what he was doing. However, he joined a local writing group as a hobby, which later proved to be a vital step.

By his mid-fifties he realised he'd have to get out his job, "I felt bored and trapped and I dreaded going to work. I needed to be in control of my life rather than work controlling me."

Terry describes how he made his escape, "While I wanted out, I was still psychologically coming to terms with leaving my profession of 30 years. So, I sold my practice but stayed on for a couple of days per week with the firm that bought it. This was a sort of 'half way house' for a two-year period, providing me with a regular, if smaller income."

Terry Carson
Working shorter hours gave Terry time to develop his writing and other interests. "I couldn't just sit at home eight hours per day and write. I needed variety and more stimulation. I did some university papers in subjects that I'd always wanted to study - New Zealand History and English Literature. I joined a few organisations, volunteered at the local museum and also became an adult literacy tutor. I now have the flexibility to pursue many interests, write, go on holiday and have time with my family."

Terry started Alibi Press to publish and market his books. Since 2003, he has written and published four books, and also published another written by his 97-year-old uncle:

Terry said, "When I first stopped being a lawyer I Initially felt out-of-step with others. Each time I left the house I thought I had to dress up and look respectable. I almost felt guilty that I was so much happier when, in comparison others were still stuck in their jobs. I wrote Escape your profession and save your life because I was often asked how I'd broken free."

Escape your profession and save your life provides advice and inspiration for anyone who is unhappy, stressed out and needing to:
  • escape their current professional lives
  • reinvent themselves
  • find a new and more satisfying work/life balance.
Terry says, "If you wake up in the morning already feeling stressed about the day ahead and think that there has to be a better way to live then Escape your profession and save your life is for you. The life you save could be your own."

Click here to download a free sample

As well as the advice in the book, Terry has summed up his Top Five tips for Eventful Woman readers who want to lose their job and gain a life:

  1. Accept that it is possible. Convince yourself you can do this, even if it seems scary and impossible.
  2.  Realise there are opportunities. Follow your passion, research options and look at websites that show new trends in employment. Look back at activities and hobbies you enjoyed early in your life, which you'd like to do again. Take the first step, even if this is just a hobby to begin with.
  3. Start planning to make it happen. Negotiate part-time work as a transition either with your regular job or find a new part-time job. Consider your finances and what you spend money on. Are you just spending money to compensate for doing work you hate? Could you live on less if you actually liked your life?  Get rid of debt and build up an emergency fund.
  4. Talk over your plans and ideas with people who have a positive outlook, such as entrepreneurs, mentors, others who seem to enjoy life and work, rather than people you normally associate with. The people closest to you may concentrate on pitfalls instead of the opportunities.
  5. Consider voluntary work in the community, particularly for a cause that you really care about and want to learn more about. It will open your horizons, provide social contacts and you'll meet new and interesting people.
Terry shows no signs of slowing down. He says of his plans for the next five years, "I'm currently writing "History of North Island Courthouses" and I want to write more about career change as well as historical topics."

Terry's favourite quote is: Plan as though you'll live forever but live every day as if it was your last.

Eventful Woman © 2011

Note: This article is of a general nature and no substitute for personalised financial advice. For those wanting advice on their own financial situation, Eventful Woman strongly recommends you seek the help of a professional financial adviser.

Alex Garden - In the swim of it
Interviewed by Eventful Woman, March 2011

What makes someone who confesses to be 'uncomfortable in the water' take on a 1000-metre swim in the ocean?

Alex Garden, who owns his own web design company NetInSites, told Eventful Woman, "At 40, I did a marathon but I wanted a new challenge for my 50th year. The first time I went swimming in a 25-metre pool I was just gasping after one length. So, I knew that swimming would be the right challenge."

On 16 April, Alex will take part in the King of the Bays 1000-metre Ocean Swim at Takapuna in Auckland.

I asked him why he didn't just pick something easier.

He replied that he loved having a deadline and just going for it.  "Once you've started", he said, "It's not as hard as you think."

Alex has more than swimming on his mind. As well as running his business, he's a family man with three children, two of which are still at school. He's had to make time in his busy day to work towards his Ocean Swim goal in April and he confesses to "sometimes running at 10pm or in the rain to build up my fitness."

As well as enjoying the challenge, Alex has a bigger reason to stay focussed, "My father died when he was 59 and, at my age now, he started having heart attacks. My doctor says that if I stay fit I will increase my chances of survival."

Alex felt that he was already pretty fit before he starting swimming, "I was running a couple of times a week, and going to the gym for four. However since taking up swim training I see that I was perhaps cruising a little, as my fitness levels have now gone up appreciably. It may be because I find swimming so hard that it has had this effect - whenever I do any cardiovascular-based exercise I break all previous fitness records."

So, how did he make a start?

"I took swimming lessons and I got help from my 11-year old daughter. She's quite sporty and can swim several lengths. She came with me to the pool and I'd try to keep up with her. I'd be 10 lengths behind by the time she'd done 20. She was my motivation."

"Wouldn't being lapped by an 11-year old be de-motivating?"

"Part of motivation is mental. I don't feel comfortable in the water and once I get tired, that scary I-can't-do-it-feeling gets amplified. Running is so much easier. But, I knew from running that I had to push my boundaries to get better. Experience [from another sport] shows you that."

Alex likes sport but accepts not everyone is into it. I asked him what advice he'd give to someone wanting to take on a personal challenge. Here are his seven top tips for any challenge, not just sport:
  1. Do something you like or want or are interested in.
  2. Set a target date, have a deadline to focus on.
  3. Take small steps to make a start on working your way up towards a big goal. Prioritise your time to keep going.
  4. Let other people know about your goals. Alex said that by telling his family and friends about his swimming challenge he felt committed and wouldn't want to back out. He added that people can also be very supportive and that helped him, too.
  5. Talk to someone who has done what you would like to do as they will have helpful ideas and get some expert assistance. (E.g. Alex took swimming lessons).
  6. Learn to accept positive criticism from these experts and you will improve.
  7. Set a new challenge once you've knocked off your goal.

I asked Alex if he already thinking about his next challenge after the Ocean Swim.  He said he'd like to try off-road running, sea kayaking or maybe the Coast-to-Coast race.  He added, "Now I've got this extra fitness I want to keep it up. If I do something regularly I'm not starting from scratch each time I have a new goal."

Postscript: Despite the rain, wind and a big swell, Alex successfully completed the Takapuna King of the Bays 1000-metre Ocean Swim on Saturday 16 April. Congratulations to you Alex!


Eventful Woman will be regularly interviewing people with eventful, meaningful or interesting lives and telling their stories.

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