Looking back on 2013

Since my foray into the blogging world in 2009, each year (except for last year) I have posted about my previous year’s achievements (as many bloggers do).  I think it is important to reflect and be grateful (regardless of your religious or spiritual leanings) for the wonderful moments and milestones in your life (no matter how small or large).  As days tick by, and months tumble past (much like being on a train watching the landscape and towns flash by), it is easy to forget the good and the little things that touch our heart, leaving an imprint for a lifetime.  Generally our lives are much richer than we realise. When I moan about the bills, my husband will quickly remind me of where we have come from, and what we have. And somehow the bills get paid. Yes, I should be grateful.

Also, reflecting (albeit quickly) on the not-so-proud or those cringe-worthy moments are also opportunities to reflect, learn and grow. Then, hopefully, move on. It is all part of life.

Last February, when reflecting on 2012, I  decided not to outline my achievements in terms of what projects or activities I completed. Instead I reflected on what I was grateful for, and what I had learnt. This was brought home by the passing of my dear mother in mid 2012 (at 89 ½ years young).

So this year, will be a combination of some of my writing milestones and fondest family memories (holidays, family births, etc.).

Don’t focus on what didn’t happen (that elusive contract, the unfinished manuscript, the holiday that didn’t happen, etc. Yes, the list could go on.) but on the good that happened and the wonderful things and people that are in your life at this current time.

Maybe you didn’t get that book contract. If not, maybe 2014 is the year. At least you have found your passion, and you are doing something you love. Some people don’t ever find theirs, or make excuses for not doing so.  We should  be grateful that we have found something we love to do. It is at least a wonderful start to achieving any dreams we may have.

Anyway,  here’s some (in other words – what I can remember) of my most fondest memories, and milestones (regardless of the degree).


  • Invited to conduct school writing workshops – all grade levels: 1-6


  • Signed a contract with a UK publisher to have one of my children’s picture book manuscripts published as an interactive reader. Yay!  Alas, I haven’t heard anything since then. Will have to follow this up.
  • On  10 February, I joined nine other poets in a wonderful ginko (haiku walk), hosted by the talented poet, Graham Nunn. It was a lovely way to spend  some time and just ‘be’ with the surrounds of Karawatha State Forest (Brisbane).
  • Some of the haiku composed as a result of our walking, contemplation, and sharing of our experiences, are still available on Graham’s blog:


Then from that time till mid April the group worked on a renga (collaborative poem) using the following form: [SU = summer; A = autumn; W = winter; SP = spring; Misc. = non-seasonal references — usually about people or feelings or places; Love]

It was a great experience working with these talented poets with a diversity of voices. It certainly unearthed me from my comfort zone of writing humorous poetry for children. It helped stretch me as a poet of haiku (I’m still very much a novice) and Graham’s advice was always invaluable. I learnt so much from this experience.

Links below – posted on Graham’s blog, Another Lost Shark.

Part 1:

Part 2:

Part 3:

Part 4

As I was in Japan at the time that we were working on the final quarter (April) you will notice my Japanese inspired contribution (couldn’t help but be inspired by the beautiful cherry blossoms).

Inspired by the Cherry blossoms: Taken in Nara, Japan.



APRIL – SEOUL/JAPAN/SEOUL – 2 weeks in Japan (Osaka, Nara, Kyoto, Tokyo). 4 days in Seoul (1 night on way to Japan and 3 on way back to Australia).

  • My husband and I celebrated our 19th wedding anniversary on 4 April in Japan.
  • My huband’s eldest son married his lovely Japanese bride in a Shinto temple in Nara, Japan (on 6 April). It  was a traditional ceremony – just beautiful. Unfortunately we were not able to take photos in the temple.


Cutting the cake:

IMG_4880 Cutting cake at reception

Unfortunately I haven’t as yet blogged about this holiday but hopefully I will make time  to do so this year.  However, I will add that we loved Japan. The people are just beautiful. But that doesn’t mean to say we didn’t enjoy Seoul (we did).

  • Received a ‘surprise’ email –  Independent Education Union of Australia invited me (yes, it was a shock to me also) to be their guest presenter at their 2013 Literary awards ceremony (Brisbane) on 16 October.  This was to involve a ten minute speech and handing out of certificates to the winning students in a number of categories. And payment. Yay!

Of course I said ‘YES’.  Was I nervous thinking about it? – YES.  Was I shocked to be asked?  Of course.


  • In May/June I returned to casual ESL teaching – to a teaching  Institute that I hadn’t worked at before  (humbug). It was actually a moment of desperation (oh the bills!). Though this wasn’t the most pleasant of experiences (nothing to do with the students) I think I had to do it (lasted six weeks through my choice) for me to realise that my ESL (teaching English as a second language to adults) days were well behind me. After 17 years of tertiary teaching it was now time to be brave, and start my own business (conducting school writing and poetry workshops) which I have been wanting to do for some time.  Now, how do I do this?
  • So I researched and  applied for a Government grant (similar to a small business grant) to commence and operate my own business.  Completed a very detailed application form. Yikes! Fingers, toes and eyes were crossed!
  • Wrote a post based on a quote by Henri Matisse – Creativity takes courage.  This post received a lot of views and was actually my first post to be reblogged – EVER! (reblogged later on in the year – thanks Bea).

Link at:



  • Once again I facilitated at the ASA’s (Australian Society of Authors.) Brisbane’s OWOD (One Word One Day) event.  This time it was held at The Edge, State Library Queensland on Wednesday 26 June – with two Queensland groups participating on the day: Brisbane and Cairns.

Write up and pics at: https://misshelenwrites.wordpress.com/2013/07/09/owod-illustrator-event-brisbane/


  • I completed my four year term as a RADF (Regional Arts Development Fund) committee member for the Logan City Council, representing the portfolio of writing. I was appointed in September of 2009.

Link at: https://misshelenwrites.wordpress.com/2013/07/09/end-of-a-radf-chapter/

Includes pics of my lovely gift.

  • My co-authored picture book A Christmas Tail  (co-authored by Victorian children’s writer, Donna Smith) was pre-launched to coincide  with Christmas In July celebrations. Illustrations by the talented Aaron Pocock.

Link at: https://misshelenwrites.wordpress.com/2013/07/09/celebrate-christmas-in-july-with-peter-mouse/

Crosley, the ‘star’ of Sands Hetherington’s award winning Night Buddies Adventure series, held a wacky words competition to seek some wacky new words to add t’ his wacky vocabulary. Entrants had to come up with a new word and say what it means.

Well, I came second. Yay! And as second place winner I was to receive both titles signed by the author, Sands Hetherington.  I actually didn’t receive both titles: only one unsigned copy.  But this will be addressed in a future blog post (coming soon).

To see my word, and that of the other winners, please click the link here: http://familiesmatter2us.blogspot.com.au/2013/07/winners-of-wacky-words-contest.html

  • Received Government funding to commence my own business.  Yes, received a phone call (weeks after sending in the application) saying I was successful.  I had actually forgotten all about it. Acceptance involved completion of a Certificate IV in Small Business Management and  subsequent year’s funding (for set up and marketing purposes) and mentoring.  Yippee yi ay!
  • Death of my only living Uncle (my late dad’s brother – passed away at 83 year’s young). Thankfully we had kept in contact with each other since my mum’s death.
  • Commencement of Certificate IV Small Business Management to begin early July. Yay!


  • Going to Italy was really a spur of the moment idea.  I just had the urge to travel at this time (my husband has passport, so will travel). Sam (Samantha), our lovely travel agent came up with a wonderful holiday idea based on our preferences. My husband and I had planned to return to Japan in January 2014 and I had  tucked away money from my previous year’s tax return.  We used this to go to Italy. And just as well.  You’ll find out why under SEPTEMBER.  This holiday was organised a couple of weeks before finding out that I had received Government  funding.
  • Italy here we come!

What a fabulous time we had – five nights in Rome, three nights in Florence and four nights (pay for three) in Venice – plus a good airfare deal thrown in the mix. It was meraviglioso –“wonderful” in Italian.

Sightseeing in Rome

Links to posts and pics at:





As I hit the pavement running (so to speak) upon my return to Brisbane I haven’t as yet got around to writing up our adventures in Florence and Venice.  On the 2014 ‘TO DO’ list.

  • Upon return to Brisbane I resumed study in Cert IV Small Business management.


  • 20 September – I am a step-grandmother again. Little Kichi was born on 20 September. A very healthy boy (was a bit of a whopper from all accounts). (Ki Chi: Good luck in Japanese).
  • Completed Certificate IV Small Business Management (part of my Government grant). Yay! I was given about 12 weeks to complete but completed in about 5 weeks. Worked like a dog but wanted to get most of it out of the way before going to Italy. Completed a very detailed Business Plan.

After signing the contract to start my business, I found out that I can’t leave Australia (unless it is part of my business) for 12 months, in view of receiving Government funding.  Fair enough.  Just as well we holidayed in Italy (and had a holiday to Japan).


  • Our picture book, A Christmas Tail was featured in Creative Kids Tales October Pitch—Ya-Book.

Link at:


  • Attended the awards ceremony where I was guest speaker and award presenter. The annual competition is open to students from Year 6 through to Year 12, and teachers, and is judged by members of the English Teachers’ Association of Queensland.  I was gobsmacked by the talent. Yes, I was nervous but all went without a hitch.  Got a little chuffed when a mother and her daughter sought me out for a photograph after the ceremony; saying that my speech was inspirational.  I was touched.
  • From October – December, A Christmas Tail  received wonderful book reviews. Can be found at Spider Ink’s Website: http://spiderinkpress.com/book-reviews/
  • On 10 October, officially began my business.
  • Conducted workshops in Melbourne and Canberra.

As I hadn’t been to Canberra (Australia’s capital) my husband and I thought we’d make a short holiday out of it, and drive down. Enjoyed it immensely.  Visited the Australian War Memorial. And the Boutique Hotel we stayed at (literally 500 yards from the school that I was conducting workshops) was just gorgeous.


  • Registered for another year (month of November) for PiBoldMo (Picture Book Idea Month).  Founded by children’s author, Tara Lazar, November’s challenge was to create 30 picture book concepts in 30 days.  It didn’t have to be a manuscript or potential best-seller ideas. Just ideas to build upon, or spark other ideas for potential stories. Information at: http://taralazar.com/piboidmo/

Yay, I created 35 picture book ideas for November’s PiBoldMo (picture book idea month).

  • Celebrated another November birthday.
  • Due to a referral and  wonderful feedback from the Canberra workshops I presented, an event agent for school holiday programs contacted me to see if I would ‘join’ her books. Saves me doing the hunting for work during holiday time so I said ‘Yes’.  Will see what 2014 brings.


  • From October – December, A Christmas Tail  received wonderful book reviews. Can be found at Spider Ink Website: http://spiderinkpress.com/book-reviews/
  • A Christmas Tail officially launched.  Link at:


  • Visited Melbourne – Opportunity to play the doting grandmother to Kichi, and deliver Christmas presents.  He is just adorable. Couldn’t stop cuddling him.

Well, that’s it. Or what the memory allows.

Feel free to give me  your link to your 2013 in review (just add in the comment section). Happy to pop over and see what you got up to.

Wishing you all a wonderful 2014.


About Helen Ross

Welcome to my creative world. I have many passions; some of which I write about in my blog posts. I have a quirky sense of humour, and dance to the beat of my own drum. Thanks for dropping by and hope you visit again soon. I always have tea, coffee, wine and cake.
This entry was posted in All my posts, Best job in the world, Helen Ross, Helen Ross author, Helen Ross nee McKenzie, Helen Ross writes, Life, Life's moments, Writing and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to Looking back on 2013

  1. wow, you have been busy and productive 😀 good on you Helen – onwards and upwards as they say!

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