FETISH FRIDAY: JAMES FOLEY

I’m running a new series of guest posts throughout 2015: Fetish Friday. Don’t get all sweaty in the pants—I’m going back to an older definition of the word, and asking artists to show us something that helps them with the ritual of creation, some part of their surroundings—physical or mental—that eases the path into the creative state, whether it be a location, a piece of music, person, picture, a doohickey, whatnot, curio or ornament without which the creative process would be a whole lot more difficult.


Maintaining BOC, or ‘bum-on-chair’, is the hardest thing for many creatives I know. It’s difficult in the morning to get started on your work and keep at it, particularly if you work from home; it’s so easy to say “Oh I’ll just make another cup of tea” or “I’ll just put this load of washing on” or “I’ll just give myself a break and play a level or three of Lego Batman”. I find my mornings are most productive when I’ve spent the evening before cleaning my desk, tying up loose ends and writing a list of tasks for the next day. Then when morning comes I sit down at the desk at an earlyish time (somewhere between 7 and 9am) and do a stretch of 60-90min focusing just on the first task on the list. I don’t check my email, I don’t check Facebook, I just keep BOC-ing. Then when I’ve worked for a stretch I can take a break, get another cup of tea, put some washing on or whatever else I wanted to distract myself with, and I won’t feel so anxious because I know I’ve already gotten started on the task. And it’s much easier to get back to the task when you know you’ve already started.  
Having said all that, those productive days are few and far between. It’s much easier to have a fidgety, unfocused day than it is to have a calm, creative one, particularly if there are several deadlines looming. But if I can keep those simple behaviours in mind – clear my desk in the evening, make a plan of attack for the next day, make an early start at the biggest scariest task the next morning, and refrain from checking email or Facebook until at least morning tea – then I find the day goes smoother and I stay in the flow. 
Music is another big help. From December 2013 – January 2014 I was working full time on the illustrations for The Last Viking Returns; I worked 6 days a week for 6 weeks, from 9am to 5pm and usually later. I had a studio in Northbridge at the time and when arrived in the morning I would start up the computer, open up iTunes and listen to the same playlist. 
I picked songs that had high energy and strong beats; I wanted songs that would keep me BOC-ing and help me focus. And it worked. You can see from the number of plays of each song that I sometimes listened to it several times a day, and I still listen to it regularly. 
These upbeat songs aren’t always appropriate though; often by the time 3:30pm rolls around I’m flagging and I want something softer and more easy on the ears. I’ve got a bunch of albums saved as playlists on the left in my iTunes so I can pull up whatever compliments my mood at the time. 
Having a studio outside of home really helped too. My studio used to be on William St in Northbridge, right up near the intersection with Brisbane St, so it was far enough from the centre of Northbridge to be quiet, but close enough that I could walk down and get lunch. It got me out of the house every day; it’s easy to feel lonely when you work from home. I would park my car on the northern edge of Hyde Park every morning and walk around the lake on my way to the studio, then back again in the afternoon or evening, so I was getting a bit of exercise and a hit of nature too. All those things helped.
Now I work from a home studio, and I miss the morning and evening walks in Hyde Park, but there are good points: I have the dog for company, I can set things up however I want, and I don’t have to pay rent to a landlord for a studio that I don’t always have time to use.  
My desk is covered in figurines and inspirational quotes; I don’t always notice them, but I’ve got them there as a reminder anyway.
I remember exactly where I scored these little ninjas. It was school holidays, I was about 8, and Mum took my brother and sister and I on the train for the first time. I don’t remember what we did at our destination apart from being at the shops, and these little ninja dudes were there on a shelf. I had pocket money to spend, I bought them and I’ve had them ever since. They’ve always been on display somewhere. At one point I was even carrying around the central leader in my pocket everywhere to try and remind myself to be brave … bit daggy but it helped. Now they live on top of my monitor.
The two quotes on the monitor are from two writers – the one on the left is from Michael Wagner (who has it stuck to his monitor too), and the one on the right is from Stephen King. 
This is my favourite Calvin and Hobbes strip ever, because it’s so perfectly me when I’m not working my best. 
Asterix and Obelix are two more warrior totems, reminding me of my favourite comics by Goscinny and Uderzo. 
The viking warrior was a gift from Kris Williams at the launch of The Last Viking in 2011. 
The owl was supposedly made in India, and I bought it in an overpriced Cottesloe gift shop many years ago because I loved it. 
The plasticine figure is a gift from a super-talented boy I taught last year at Mount Hawthorn Primary. 
Another quote, and a perfect cartoon from The Big Issue’s Andrew Weldon – don’t wait for inspiration, just get on with it. 
Prints from Gavin Aung Tan, cartoonist at www.zenpencils.com. If you like these, sign up to his email list and he’ll send you them for free. 
More quotes. I love the Confucius one on the left; whether it was really him or not doesn’t matter, it’s got wit and truth about it.
More quotes. 
I bought the print at a little exhibition about 10 years ago and I don’t know who made it. I keep it there to remind me to try and have fun with my work. 

James Foley is a children’s author and illustrator. His books include In The Lion (Walker Books, 2012), The Amity Kids Adventures (2013), The Last Viking (Fremantle Press, 2011) and The Last Viking Returns (Fremantle Press, 2014).

In The Lion was selected for the International Youth Library’s White Raven list in 2013. The Last Viking won the 2012 Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators’ Crystal Kite Award, the 2012 WA Young Readers’ Hoffman Award, and a 2012 Children’s Book Council of Australia Junior Judges Award. It was shortlisted for a further four awards.

James is an ambassador for Books In Homes and Room To Read Australia, and is the current Illustrator Coordinator for SCBWI Australia West. His interests include comics, film, psychology, science, history (anything nerdy really), as well as yoga and social justice.
He has far too many books in his bedside reading pile.



Are you a creative artist? Fancy joining in and letting us know about that special item, object, location or cosmic state of being at the heart of your creative process? There’s always room for another lunatic in the asylum: email me and make your most excited Horshack noise. 

10 YEARS

10 years ago today I got lucky. Very, very lucky.

If not for Luscious, I don’t know where I would be right now. She is my light, my direction, and my guide. She is my everything, and without her I would be lost.

I love you, my darling.

THIS MAY BE THE LAST THING I EVER WRITE, SO I BETTER MAKE IT A GOOD ONE

Holy Meatballs Mother of Brian, do I ever need this break.

You don’t need to have read too much of this blog in 2015– indeed, there hasn’t been very much of it to read– to know that I’ve felt under the hammer, and pretty much squashed by the hammer, for most of the year to date. Things just haven’t let up for the last 3 months, and between work, editing, family life, moving into a new house, and all the other million and one bits and bobs that strike you in the face as you walk through the days, I’ve become increasingly stressed, and increasingly fragile. Thankfully, I’m beginning to emerge from it, but there are still a few lingering weights, and I need some time out from underneath them.

Edits of Magrit are progressing at what might kindly be called Hella pace: I’ve been over the manuscript 3 times in the last 2 months at the behest of my editor, and I’m reliably informed that there’s only one more before the book will be ready to go to the typesetter. It’s due to be published in early 2016: come to the launch and I’ll happily underline for you the one line remaining from the original manuscript…..

Yeah, it’s a much better book, but we both know you only come here for the comedy kvetching.

I’ve also, out of the insanity of my heart, committed to a new artistic enterprise: namely, building an enormous diorama for a public Lego display in October called, wait for it, Bricktober! The concept is fabulous, if I do say so myself– a shuttle dropping crowds off on a moon surface to visit a shrine to the Unknown Spaceman. Only downside is, the shuttle itself is approximately 4 times bigger than anything I’ve ever built before, never mind the actual shrine. It’s going to look great…… assuming I finish it…… assuming I have the skills…… assuming I haven’t bitten off way more than I can chew……

Yeah, I’m not afraid to admit it: I may have been the
teeeeeeeeensiest bit over-ambitious……

This isn’t even mentioning work, which is, you know, work.

Which is why the next six days are necessary. Because tomorrow, we fly out to Bali for the first time, armed with instructions on how to navigate the Waterbom water park, and which shops in Discovery Mall are best for teenage girl clothes shopping, and when best to take the Night Safari (hint: at night), and me insisting all the while that I want to go to the Archaeology Museum, dammit! and sketchbooks and notepads, and camera, and damned if I don’t intend to come back sun-browned, exhausted, refreshed, recharged, and with enough material to get me writing again and not stopping until the Christmas holidays because fuck it, I’m sick of where I am and who I’ve become and it’s time to get back to getting on with it.

Also, Luscious has never flown overseas, Master 10 was Master 3 Months the last time we flew anywhere for a family holiday, and it’s bloody well time.

I’ve got a Thumbnail Thursday and Fetish Friday posts booked in the interim, but as far as live words go, this is me over and out for the interim. I shall return, with photos, in April.

FETISH FRIDAY: ANDREW J. MCKIERNAN

I’m running a new series of guest posts throughout 2015: Fetish Friday. Don’t get all sweaty in the pants—I’m going back to an older definition of the word, and asking artists to show us something that helps them with the ritual of creation, some part of their surroundings—physical or mental—that eases the path into the creative state, whether it be a location, a piece of music, person, picture, a doohickey, whatnot, curio or ornament without which the creative process would be a whole lot more difficult.

First up, a big thank you to Lee for inviting me to expose my fetish here on his blog. It’s not everyday you get that opportunity without the threat of being arrested.

Like Lee, and I suspect a large majority of writers, I find a lot of contemplative solace in a good shower. It’s one of those places where the mind becomes free, unencumbered, and some of my best ideas and lines have originated there.

I also have a few other places that have the same effect for me so, unlike Lee, I don’t have to spend all day having half-a-dozen showers to avoid blocks or keep the ideas flowing. Being a home-dad, I also find meditative writing solace in: putting washing on the line; chopping vegetables for dinner; vacuuming the swimming pool; mowing the lawns; and scrubbing the shower; driving the kids to school. They’re all mindless, repetitive tasks that I do on a regular basis. They allow me to switch into auto-pilot mode wherein, somewhere in the background of my mind, my subconscious can solve those pesky plot and character problems without interference from me. These things, they’re all catalysts that prepare me for getting words on the page.

But, once I’m in my chair and working, what is it that keeps me going? What (or who) encourages me, congratulates me, and cheers me on from the sidelines?
Well, let me introduce you…







Hi name is Jeff Lebowski, but he’s more commonly known as The Dude, or, uh, His Dudeness, or, Duder, or El Duderino if you’re not into the whole brevity thing. He sits right beside my monitor, always just in my field of vision, and he’s never less than excited about the work I produce.

Yes, ‘The Big Lebowski’ is one of my favourite films, and friends and family have noticed similarities to my own lifestyle and demeanour on more than one occasion. He was a gift, from my wife, and I know by that she meant it as a kind of in-joke about myself. 

I loved the gift, I really did, but at first I saw only ‘The Dude’, happy with himself for having bowled a strike. He joined my other bobble-heads and collectible figures – Pinhead, Robocop, Gumby, Boba Fett, Ren & Stimpy – on the shelf and sat there a while. It wasn’t until I bought a new desk and reconfigured my writing space that he ended up in his current position. I don’t think I ever intended him to stay there. It was just temporary. A place to put him out of the way until I determined where everything would go.


A year later, and he’s still there.
Why? Because, just look at that face! The smile and the excitement. His arms raised, as if fist-pumping yet another victory. And, as I type, the desk moves just enough that his head wobbles, constantly, in an ever encouraging nod. 

“Those words are crazy,” he’s saying. “Keep going! What you’re writing is the most awesome thing ever… but, you know, that’s just like, my opinion, man.”

So, there you go. The Dude abides…right beside my desk, cheering me on with nods and smiles and triumphant fists.

I don’t know about you but I take comfort in that.






Andrew J McKiernan is an author and illustrator living and working on the Central Coast of New South Wales. First published in 2007, his stories have since been short-listed for multiple Aurealis, Ditmar and Australian Shadows awards and reprinted in a number of Year’s Best anthologies. He was Art Director for Aurealis magazine for 8 years and his illustrations have graced the covers and internals of a number of books and magazines. “Last Year, When We Were Young” a collection of his short stories was released in 2014 by Satalyte Publishing. http://www.andrewmckiernan.com


Are you a creative artist? Fancy joining in and letting us know about that special item, object, location or cosmic state of being at the heart of your creative process? There’s always room for another lunatic in the asylum: email me and make your most excited Horshack noise.