This is not okay

I discovered an e-course today that has used parts of my Unravelling course description in its own – some sentences have been changed to fit with the theme of the course, but other sections has been copied word-for-word. Full sentences of mine have been lifted. I have emailed the creator of the course and am hopeful we can get this resolved – I asked that this person rewrite their text to remove the Unravelling parts.

Here’s the thing: all this has made me really sad today because this isn’t the first time it has happened. I’ve seen my uncredited images all over the place and just let that go, but when it comes to the courses I feel I need to take action. Each time I have had to check in with myself to make sure I wasn’t being over-sensitive, but when whole chunks of my work are taken and used by another it really gets me down. I actually don’t think this particular instance was done with any bad intentions – just unthinking – but i am still disappointed.

I know what it’s like – you’re creating a course and you look to others’ work to help in the brainstorming of your own idea. When I was changing my real-life evening class into an online format I knew of only one other online class at that time; i didn’t take the class but I did check out the website and made sure that the words i used on my own site were markedly different. Because I wanted my course to be MINE, and not a watered-down version of someone else’s work. Authenticity and integrity are extremely important to me. I understand how easy it is to cut’n’paste a chunk of text from a website, change a few words et voila! A page of text is written. But it hasn’t come from your heart – it came from mine.

Finding our own voice and creative path takes time. It’s taken me YEARS; a lifetime, really. As I work on my book I’m making a point of not reading any books about creativity/memoir/inspiration because i don’t want the rhythm of my words to mimic someone else’s. I’m trying to keep my head as clear as possible to ensure my words have room to breathe and be themselves, keeping my ear tuned to my story and not another’s. At times this is frustrating as there are some new books I’m dying to read! But for now I’m sticking with poetry and business books (how’s that for a combination?)

Marisa and I are looking forward to finally starting work on our guide next week, and I really hope that the info we share will be useful to anyone who’s putting a course together. We have so much we want to talk about, and I know that authenticity and honouring our own voice will be one of the key topics we’ll tackle. I’m also pushing forward with the series of Blogging Beautifully workshops I mentioned a while back – photography and writing will be covered and I’m hoping this is another way I can give back to the blogosphere. Stringing words together isn’t always easy, so i’m going to share my best tips and ideas – I reckon they’ll be useful for writing e-course descriptions too :)

* UPDATE: I received an emailed apology and the text has been changed, so everything is okay now. Thanks for all your support, loves x

Open heart surgery

I made videos for my Unravellers today, and when i briefly mentioned my nephew I could feel myself getting emotional; at the moment I just have to look at a photograph of him and my eyes mist over. Talking to my sister the other day she confirmed that ever since my bereavement I’ve seemed able to cry more easily than I ever did before. And she’s right. I don’t remember being particularly UNemotional before he died, but the more i consider this the more I can see the truth of how I am now – grief took off my skin, and what has grown back seems more permeable and tender. I’ll admit to pushing a lot down too – the uncomfortable stuff, like the secret yearning to be held in the middle of the night, or feeling wistful when yet another friend gets engaged. These feelings get pushed down because it’s so much easier that way; to be living constantly on the edge of our emotions is exhausting. Truly feeling our emotions heals them, absolutely, but it also requires much sitting-on-the-sofa-with-chocolate, and I seem to have less time to do that these days. And then Noah enters the room, two months ago today. I saw his little face come out, and the slippery smallness of his body carried up and over into my sister’s arms. And I didn’t know it at the time, but my heart opened right then in preparation for what was to come; if I’d listened closely I would have heard the rip as the bandages came off. And now I watch an old episode of House and I’m in floods of tears at the end; my empathy levels are suddenly off the charts.

In last Thursday’s post Grete asked me a question in the comments: ‘When did you feel spiritually, mentally and emotionally mature enough to teach? This is a personal question, as I’m about to do just that… The best advice I’ve come across so far is Neale Donald Walsch saying – A spiritual leader does not say “Follow me”. A spiritual leader says, “I’ll go first”. ‘

I wanted to answer this here as my immediate thought was: I don’t think i will ever feel spiritually, mentally or emotionally mature enough to teach. All i can do is share what has worked for me. What I’ve seen. What I’ve felt. I’ve discovered I’m good at bringing people together – making tribes – so i’ll keep doing that and just share what i know.

I’m not a teacher, I’m a reporter. I report back to the troops. I’m a compulsive bean-spiller, too. But for some reason the word teach scares the crap out of me.

I was hit with the Fear Stick today, the bone-chilling panic that I am not qualified to write the book I’ve been asked to write. A wise and helpful book. I can’t do that, it feels too big and responsible. So i’ve scooped up all my expectations and locked them in a drawer; instead I’m going to just share what I know. It’s all I’ve got, really. I will tell you my story in words and pictures and if some of it shines a ray of light so you can see your way better then that will be enough for me. I’m not an expert in anything other than how i glued myself back together after a grenade went off in my life.

And how much I love my nephew.

A very special announcement

Here’s some proof that if you put a dream into words – and put it out there – the planets will align to help make it happen.  Last year I shared on my blog that I wanted to write an Unravelling book; a few weeks later I received a quick email from Nikki Hardin, founder & publisher of skirt! magazine, saying if i ever put a proposal together she’d love to read it. Between that very first contact and the beginning of this week there’s been a proposal, a sample chapter, many phones calls, the finding of my agent*, Laura Nolan at DiFiore & Company, and my editor**, Mary Norris at Globe Pequot Press, and now the virtual handshake that says YES! This book is happening!

I’m thrilled to announce that in spring 2012 you’ll be able to walk into a bookstore and buy a book written (and photographed) by me; it will be a book you can keep in your bag, a companion for your journey. It will be filled with everything I know about healing, creativity, truth-telling and some magic too; in my head it looks like an elegant journal with Polaroids slipped between the pages. My e-courses were the starting point for the book, and the idea has grown and blossomed into something truly delicious. I’ve been dying to tell you what’s been happening behind the scenes, and I hope to chronicle a little bit of the process here on the blog.

So while Laura, Mary and I tend to this book like literary midwives, I wanted to ask you something: If you’ve been reading this blog for a while you’ll know the ups and downs of the last five years – are there parts of the journey you’d like to know more about? I’m going to be spilling every useful bean I have in my bag, and it would be great to have an idea of what you are curious about. As I craft the rest of the story between now and my manuscript deadline (first week of March!), I’ll be weaving in as much honesty, inspiration and juice as I can… when you open the pages what would you hope to find? What would support and inspire you the most?

I promise to make it the best it can be… this a gift from me to YOU.

So that’s my big news! Apparently you wait your whole life for a publishing opportunity and then two come along at once. It’s a crazy amazing world.

* My agent! A big thank you to Marianne for introducing us
** My editor! I love saying that

Pencils & Polaroids

I have some thrillingly good news to share! I’ve been working on a secret project with my Polaroid-shooting sisters, Jenifer Altman and Amanda Gilligan, and can finally announce that we’ve accepted a contract with Chronicle Books to write & shoot a how-to book about instant photography. It’s been a few months in the making, and now we have the green light we’re going to get cracking! We’re all beyond excited about it and can’t wait to share it with you; it won’t be out till Spring 2012, which feels aaaages away but I know it’ll be fun to share some of the journey as we create a book I hope you’ll love. It’s going to be beautiful – I’m mean, have you SEEN the photos these girls take? So honoured to be embarking on this project with them, and with a Brit, Aussie and American in the mix I think we’ve got all angles covered ;)