Blogiloliday

April 29, 2015 § 3 Comments

Dear Loyal Readers

Since I decreed Wednesday to be blogging day on 1 September 2013, I have blogged faithfully every week, including on my birthday, Christmas Day and New Year’s Day.

Tonight I find myself too exhausted to pen anything worth reading, so I hope you will forgive me for taking a small blogiloliday. (It’s a thing I just made up.)

Normal service should resume next week, all things being equal. Either way, I’ll be back soon.

Much love,

Mandy

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Magic words

April 22, 2015 § 7 Comments

Words. The currency of communication, and the tools of my trade.

They’re relentlessly regimented, yet random collections of sound that I never tire of. I love their plasticity, their malleability, the seemingly endless combinations of meaning they can form.

Linguists tell us there are about 6 500 languages spoken in the world. Like an astronomer contemplating the stars in the Milky Way, that number makes me gasp. Imagine the creativity of a world that can form 6 500 different languages! And that’s without contemplating all of its variations: the dialects and creoles and slang, the whispered secret codes of seven-year-olds in schoolyards.

Words are spoken, written, sung and signed. They are shouted and swallowed, performed and preached. They are heard, misheard, not heard.

They swirl and change; they ebb and flow. They are borrowed and bulldozed and bent to people’s will.

They influence our behaviour; our behaviour influences them. We use them to burn bridges, to blur boundaries, to break down some walls and build others.

And we never seem to run out. There’s always someone with something to say about this, about that, about anything and everything. And someone to correct or chastise, coddle or criticise.

What’s not to love? Words are pure magic.

This is the last in a series of tandem blogs with Dave, Cath, Scott, Nick and Brett. See what they wrote on this topic by clicking on their names.

Revelations at dawn

April 15, 2015 § 11 Comments

Something happens to my brain at night.

During the day I can rein it in. I can still the questions, the wondering, the perseverating on things not yet seen. But as I click off the lamp and allow the darkness to blanket my bed, my mind runs free, unchained, a hamster on a squeaky wheel that goes nowhere.

At night the future seems even more uncertain.

Perhaps it’s fatigue. Perhaps it’s the quiet or the darkness, or the lack of activities and deadlines and phone calls and school lifts. But I’m more likely to dwell on the negatives, on the worst case scenarios, on the what-ifs, the what-will-I-do’s and the what-if-I-can’ts…

Round and round I go, imagining terrible scenarios and crafting alternate plans – if this, then that. If that doesn’t work, then something else. And so on and so forth till I think I’m going mad.

Speeches are mentally written and discarded, emails drafted and trashed. Solutions evade me, words fail me. I thrash around till the sheets are twisted and hot, and a tear slowly leaks over my cheek.

Finally, fitfully, I fall asleep, and hours later I wake. A sliver of sun slides between the curtains, and suddenly everything seems clearer.

And I’m reminded again of my favourite line in the film adaptation of Michael Ondaatje’s The English Patient, uttered by the film’s most uncomfortable character, Caravaggio.

“You get to the morning and the poison leaks away, doesn’t it?”

This week there are six of us writing on this topic, in a simultaneous blogging exercise that Dave Luis has dubbed Tandemonium! We don’t see each other’s posts, and we all publish at the same time. You can read what Dave, Cath, Scott, Nick and Brett wrote by clicking on their names.

Reference letter

April 13, 2015 § 16 Comments

Dear Prospective Employer

We live in a world that does things differently, where change is constant and fast, where people are required to think creatively. So, in that spirit, I’ve decided to write my own reference letter. Of course, I could send you to a bunch of people who will say nice things about me, but I’d like you to hear it from the horse’s mouth.

I know when you look at me, there’s a good chance you’re thinking: “She’s been freelancing for 16 years and she’s in the process of getting divorced. She’s probably a bit desperate and there are things we’ll have to teach her. She’ll probably take anything she can lay her hands on. I don’t know if she’ll really be good value for money…”

I beg to differ. Here’s what you’ll get if you hire me:

  1. Someone with excellent written communication skills. If you need something written, I can write it for you – clearly, succinctly and with your strategic goals in mind.
  2. Someone who knows how to provide content that is varied, entertaining and interesting. I used to be a features editor; I approach my own social media feeds and blogs in the same way. And if I want work, I am required to produce a dozen new ideas at a time in the hope that a few will be chosen and commissioned as stories. (For a small selection of my published work, see Reference Links below.)
  3. Someone who can produce longer works of writing with ease – I am a published author of several books and have ghostwritten several others.
  4. Someone who can juggle multiple roles with creativity and flair. On any given day I am called to be a writer, editor, social media expert, strategist, content curator, client liaison, reputation manager, driver, counsellor, logistics planner, teacher, mentor and manager. And that’s just before lunch.
  5. Someone who probably defines that term so beloved of employment-ad writers: ‘self-starter’. For 16 years I have motivated myself to get up every morning and work a full day without a boss standing over me. I have not spent all day lying on the couch in my pyjamas, or swanned off to the movies (except for that one time). I get up every day and I work. I work hard. And I work until the job is done.
  6. Someone who is creative, yet practical, and who knows how to streamline all of the boring stuff so that there’s more time to make the work itself great.
  7. Someone who knows how to keep clients happy. My work is deadline and delivery driven, and if I don’t deliver, and deliver on time, I don’t get paid. It’s that simple. Keeping clients happy is my biggest task.
  8. Having said that, I also know how to distinguish the urgent from the important. And there have been times when I have missed a deadline where necessary to ensure the job is done properly. Sometimes those calls have to be made. And that means that I’m someone who delivers a consistently high standard of work. Because I will not put my name – and my reputation – to anything that I consider to be sub-standard.
  9. Someone who pays attention to detail: I am a proofreader par excellence. I dot all of the ‘i’s and cross all of the ‘t’s – literally and metaphorically.
  10. You even need my parenting experience: because I know that like raising children, growing a team isn’t a popularity contest. It requires that you both push people outside of their comfort zones, and set boundaries for them. And that sometimes they won’t like you for it, but if you do it right, they’ll go to the ends of the earth for you.
  11. Someone with excellent spoken communication skills. I’m not afraid of public speaking, and I express myself well. Here’s a link to a short video where you can see me in action.
  12. Finally, if you hire me, you’ll have someone on your team who is bright, adaptable, a quick thinker, straightforward, down-to-earth, authentic; someone with a sense of humour and incredible resilience. Someone who’s warm and wise, and who loves to grow other people, as well as herself.

I’m a quick study – and I have a lot to offer that doesn’t appear on your job ad. Perhaps we can meet somewhere in the middle.

Reference links:

  1. http://www.bdlive.co.za/national/health/2013/09/06/back-to-basics-to-save-childrens-sight
  2. http://www.bdlive.co.za/life/health/2012/11/19/vital-signs-keeping-his-eye-on-the-ball-of-good-living
  3. http://www.bdlive.co.za/articles/2009/08/12/the-hunger-for-a-slim-body
  4. http://www.bdlive.co.za/life/health/2012/09/19/vital-signs-i-park-issues-in-my-brain-and-then-solve-them-on-my-runs
  5. http://www.livingandloving.co.za/article.aspx?id=63638&h=Your-baby%E2%80%99s-first-medical-visits
  6. http://women.mg.co.za/how-much-is-too-much/
  7. http://women.mg.co.za/lwandle-the-blame-game/
  8. http://women.mg.co.za/soul-city-20-years-later-and-hiv-still-on-the-rise/
  9. http://www.biznews.com/thought-leaders/2013/12/25/best-blogs-2013-mandy-collins-explains-good-grammar-good-business/
  10. http://www.biznews.com/thought-leaders/2014/09/29/quitting-job-go-alone-13-great-money-tips-cracking-piece-mandy-collins/
  11. https://changeexchange.brightrock.co.za/change-moments/starting-a-family/ayn-rand-best-aunt-ever/
  12. https://changeexchange.brightrock.co.za/change-moments/making-a-home/home-heart-soul/
  13. http://www.pfp4sa.org/files/PfP_testimonials_Business_Partner__Oresti_Patricios_EMAIL.pdf
  14. http://www.pfp4sa.org/files/PfP_testimonials_Business_Partner__Joel_Rothman_EMAIL.pdf
  15. http://www.a2magazine.co.za/2013/03/plastic-teens.html

Meeting the queen

April 8, 2015 § 9 Comments

I’ll be honest – I looked at the topic for this week’s blog with Dave Luis, Nick Frost and Brett Fish Anderson, and I despaired. It was 9.37pm when I typed the headline for this post and I had no clue what to write. I was utterly exhausted, and ready to throw in the towel for this week.

But I decided I’d write a little rhyme and see where it went instead. I’ve always been able to spew them out, which used to mean I was assured of a job at Hallmark if journalism didn’t work out.

I thought it would be a children’s story, but it turned out slightly differently. I don’t regard it as poetry, and I’m not even sure it qualifies as writing. But here it is.

Meeting the queen

If I were ever to meet the queen

I’d wear a dress in velvet green

I’d wash my face and do my hair

And take a gift of a golden pear

 

If should meet the queen for tea

I’d place a napkin on my knee

My pinky raised, I’d sip and sup

And toast her royally with my cup

 

If I were ever to meet her, yes

Resplendent in my velvet dress

I’d curtsy first, then raise my eyes

And ask her if she ever cries

 

I’d ask her if she ever wished

To climb a tree or catch a fish

To whirl around till she was dizzy

To have a day that wasn’t busy

 

If I were ever to shake her hand

I’d tell her that I understand

That truths can alter when they’re told

That all that glitters isn’t gold

 

If I were ever to meet the queen

And wear my dress of velvet green

I’d take a peep behind the screen

And hope to glimpse the human being

 

This post is one of four on the same topic, a tandem blogging topic where we all write about the same thing without seeing each other’s work. Click on my fellow writers’ names above to see what they wrote.

Wandering star

April 1, 2015 § 9 Comments

It was 1983. I was 14, in Standard 7 (Grade 9 in new money), and hopelessly in love with my English teacher, Mr Sharman. And then, oh happy day, he announced in Assembly that he was going to produce and direct Paint Your Wagon as the next school play.

I was overjoyed. I may actually have swooned. I was a keen actress in my youth and this was my chance both to begin my certain trajectory towards an Oscar, and have a legitimate excuse to hang around him more often.

I sidled over to the noticeboard and cast an eye at the character list. Hmmm. Not a lot of female roles. This was even better than I thought – I always did prefer hanging out with boys.

And then I saw it: the fine print. Only the seniors were allowed to audition. You had to be in Standard Eight or higher. Terms and conditions apply.

But I was not in the habit of taking ‘no’ for an answer. I was also a bit of a suck-up. After all, Mr Sharman had been very impressed when I read the matric setwork in Standard 6 (okay, I was a big suck-up). Perhaps if I asked very nicely, he’d let me audition.

I sought him out at break time, and begged and pleaded. He was a softie, so it didn’t take much. “Okay,” he said. “I’m not making any promises, but you can audition. Come and show me what you can do and I’ll think about it.”

I didn’t get the lead part, but I got a part: none of that chorus girl stuff for me, oh no! Fortune – and the handsome Mr Sharman – had smiled on me, and I was cast as one of two wives to Jacob Woodling, the Mormon. Not the young, pretty wife, though. I was cast as the older, grumpier (and, I suspect, uglier) wife of the two.

And then I discovered that the stars were truly aligning for me. Because not only was my stage husband a matric, and one of those boys that all the girls were in love with, but his best friend – also a hunk – was in the play too. (I was 14, okay? Multiple objects of drooling were permitted.) I was completely in my element, and it was never a hardship to have to go to rehearsals. After all, the scenery (ahem) was always pleasant.

I remember very little about the rest of the play. I do remember blushing furiously when either of those two boys spoke to me, and of course, I hung on Mr Sharman’s every word. Never was an actress so obedient to a director. Never was a Std 7 girl so envied by her friends.

I remember having to sing a song with my stage husband and the other wife in a very funny scene, and how hard it was to keep a straight face, especially when one Mr Havenga, one of the Afrikaans teachers who’d been roped in to playing the guitar for the show, collapsed into guffaws at one of the performances.

I remember learning that baby oil was one of the best ways to remove stubborn mascara when faithful cold cream would not do the trick and you had school the next day.

But most of all I remember how much fun it was, and how my breath caught in my throat each night as the curtain started to rise, and the opening song boomed out in a glorious bass voice that I felt in my sternum: “I… was born… under a wand’rin star…”

 

* And then there were three! Nick Frost has joined Dave Luis and me for this topic. Click on their names to see what they wrote.

 

 

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