Tag Archives: make the right mark

A Case of Dual Identity

This has been in the pipeline for a while now, but it’s finally happened. I’ve split up with myself!

Up till now, I’ve been keeping all my author and editor eggs in one digital basket, and, through dividing up my piece of the internet, I’m hoping to make it easier for people to find what they’re after. People who are looking for an editor will find me here, and people who are looking for an author will find me elsewhere. Namely: www.saralitchfield.com.

Here will remain the happy home of Right Ink On The Wall and all things editorish. This blog will stay here for now (dusty as it is – I’m sorry we haven’t spoken in a while!), but I’m hoping that any of you who want to keep up with my authorly endeavours will head over to www.saralitchfield.com to receive news about existing books and upcoming releases.

So please pop by my new home, take a look around, borrow a cup of sugar, and I’ll see you there!

The Wishing Tree


It’s that time of year again. The new time of year. We look back, we look forward, and we look at where we are. We start sentences with, ‘This time last year…’ and see how far we’ve come.

I stumbled across a wishing tree soon after moving to Vancouver, and it stopped me in my tracks. It was fascinating and often heart-rending to look at the hopes people had hung there for anyone to read. In a way, when we look forward to a new year, it’s like decorating a fresh wishing tree with longing for the fruit we’d like it to bear. We reflect on our lives and revise our plans. We dream. But for our trees to flourish and our dreams to come to fruition, we need to do more than plant them, more than just write them down. We need to nurture them. We need to give them life, light and room to grow.

When I look back on last year, I came a pretty long way in terms of distance, but not in terms of dreams. While business smiled upon me and adventures were around every corner, I didn’t write as much as I wanted. And that was no one’s fault but my own. However, I have to let that go now. That’s last year’s tree. I didn’t water it enough. But I can change that this year.

And it’s not like I have lost anything. The time wasn’t wasted. I lived so much life last year, saw so many new places, experienced so many incredible things. Took so many pictures. I’ve heard those actually say a thousand words, and if that’s the case, perhaps I can claim I actually wrote a hell of a lot, just not in the way I envisioned.

But, like I said, that’s last year. Let’s look at where I am. Am I happy? Yes. Am I further than I was? Yes. Am I free to move forward? Yes. So that’s a start.

What of the year to come? I want to continue to immerse myself in beautiful places, in discovery, adventure and nature, but I need to find more words to go with the pictures. I need to find my voice again. I want my writing to thrive, wherever I’m living, whatever I’m doing.

I’ll keep snapping, appreciating every remarkable moment in time, but I want to move on with things as well as around places. I want to leave more of myself for someone to pick up and read. My published works consist of an only child at the moment, and that was never the plan. So this is the year I pull my trilogy together and climb my wishing tree, reaching the hopes and dreams hanging from its branches. Because I bet the view from the top is spectacular.

What are your resolutions? Can you let go of last year and nurture your dreams?

NaNoWriMo Prep Rally!


It’s that time again folks. National Novel Writing Month, or NaNoWriMo as it is affectionately known, is around the corner, peeping back at us from beyond the weekend. 50,000 words of first draft in 30 fun-filled days.

It can be a time of wild desperation for some, unbridled imagination for others. For me, it’s a bit of both.

People have been planning, strategising, outlining – some plot every single step of the way. Others don’t. But everyone preps in some fashion, even if it’s only in stolen thoughts of the month to come, thinking, Wow, I should have done more prep by now…

Either way, when the flag falls, I’ll be there. I’ve finished (and therefore won!) three years in a row. This will be my fourth endeavour.

It’s such a good time for me creatively. Watching a graph of your word count take on the ideal diagonal line is a statistical carrot on a stick (/whip) that drives me to succeed. It makes me prioritise my writing and rally with other authors doing the same. Everyone’s on the same side with a common goal, cheering one another on. No one wants anyone else to fail and you don’t win over the fallen carcasses of your foes, so it’s a special kind of competition with a special place in my heart. Like craps.

Publishing The Night Butterflies came out of my first NaNo skirmish, and this year I’m going to complete the first draft of the final book in my fantasy trilogy in progress, The Luminosa. There is so much work to do when the month is done, but that month is so important. It’s a battle cry that echoes through infinite fictional worlds as well as this one, and sets the intent for success.

So wish me luck! And good luck to you if you have a book of your own to bring home this November – be bold! I’ll see you on the battlefield…

Worlds Gone Wrong


This week, Vancouver is holding its Writers Fest on funky Granville Island. When I looked at the schedule, I was so excited to see dystopia with a starring role, despite it meaning I was now compelled to drive across the city to attend (I haven’t shared much about moving to the city yet, but safe to say driving in it is one of the downsides!).

It was fascinating. I wasn’t previously acquainted with all the speakers, though it was brilliant to see a New Zealand author there – Anna Smaill, whose book The Chimes was long-listed for the Man Booker last year. Passionate Charlotte Wood, droll MG Vassanji, and the astute Michael Helm made up the panel, with Claudia Casper hosting.

I’ve talked and written about dystopia so much – with students and lecturers at Cambridge, with other readers since, with other writers more recently, but just as it is with the plethora of books that keep coming out in the genre, while similar themes abounded, the conversation was unique. The discussion ranged around a world of issues and the issues of writing different worlds – worlds gone wrong. The speakers were engaging, their excerpts intriguing and they lit a fire under me to do more with my writing.

The tagline of the Vancouver Writers Fest is: Reimagine Your World. I can’t think of anything more fitting for a writer of dystopia, or for anyone at the moment. The world is full of upheaval. Social arenas online and off are full of politics and vitriol. And so many people are struggling, with personal and public battles.

These writers have reached into a troubled collective psyche and brought nightmare worlds to life. Nightmares that don’t seem as far away as they should; nightmares that are, in a sense, already here.

But it’s important to recognise that the opposite also holds true. So long as we can imagine, we can imagine something better. We can imagine a solution. We can escape.

Whatever your challenges and concerns right now, take a moment and reimagine your world. Imagine a better one. Believe it’s possible. And work towards it.

Turangawaewae And The Currency Of Social Media

St Nicholas Station

Yesterday, I attended the Queenstown Winterfest World Social Media Day Bonfire and BBQ Instameet. I made my way to the wharf to be transported to Mt Nicholas Station by Southern Discoveries, knowing I’d see many familiar faces – not just the speakers, whom I’ve long admired on Instagram, but those local snappers and social media mavens I’ve connected with in a spirit of la belle vie over my time here in New Zealand. I’ve met with these characters frequently to celebrate our craft (for me, creative writing and phone photography), and spied them at other inspiring events, always with the same light in their eyes.

It’s a bizarre yet beautiful thing to sit in the presence of people whose lives you follow – whose images capture moments in time in indescribable places and let you dwell there with them, soaking up the excitement, the surroundings, the sheer feeling, and imagine you’re there too… People who make their living from the pursuits which give you most pleasure.

Bare Kiwi Kyle Mulinder was there – someone whose palpable passion and excitement for his own country zings across the room with every movement. He spoke of the concept of Turangawaewae – in Maori, ‘the place where I stand’. He’s found many places to stand and share, now not just in New Zealand, but the rest of the world. It’s about the connection to the place – the place you can call home – something I understand, having searched across the world to find the feeling the South Island gives me.

We heard from Jason Charles Hill, who had visited seventeen countries in the last nine months, and Emilie Ristevski, whom I’ve followed for many months, in many hats, without seeing a shot of her face. Incidentally, the two are together and get to work on many of the same campaigns. I can’t imagine anything more romantic than a shared passion and the joy of travelling to beautiful places with the person you love. They talked about how to capture that original shot, that unique angle. They answered questions about how they’d come to be where they are, and how they’ve stood out.

There is no secret recipe to success. Why are some people’s talents lost to the world, seemingly unappreciated, when others’ toast and tea for breakfast is celebrity magazine fodder? Why do some people become living legends, and others have their names forgotten?

Social media is saturated with images, with memes, with messages. Sometimes, you might feel your voice is lost in the muddle, but sift through it and you find the people who speak to you – and find that you can speak back. What I loved about these speakers was their message. They haven’t set themselves up as an elite. They acknowledge an element of luck along with the passion, energy, enthusiasm and appreciation it takes to become big doing what they do.

There’s nothing like being inspired by a lovely landscape. There’s also nothing like being inspired by the people who appreciate the same magnificent things – who have the same lust for life and the places within it that drive my journey – and so many other people’s journeys. People who appreciate the sheer beauty of the world around us. ‘There is no ugly cloud,’ said Trey Ratcliff, of Stuck in Customs. ‘There is no ugly tree… Everything is beautiful.’

They all said, ‘Anyone can do this.’ There was almost, at times, a disbelief in their eyes that this is their life. That they’re funding their dream on the back of sharing their joy with the world. And you know what? It was, in part, this true appreciation for the whirlwind their lives have become, and, in part, their open and honest articulation to the crowd of how they might do the same, that brought home to me how much they deserve it.

On a smaller scale, I understand how they feel. Everything I’ve done in the last five years has broken me free of a corporate past, of being chained to a chair, even to a certain country. I still work hard – but I’ve changed the boundaries; I’ve changed the work itself. And I’ve made my life a process of creation, punctuated by adventures. The pictures I share when I climb to a lookout, kayak a fiord, snowboard a mountain, ride horses through a countryside, walk to a river… even just look out of a window – that’s my life, and I’m in love with it. I’m not sponsored in the same way, but I’m brought into contact with the most stunning places and fascinating people in the same way. And it’s a wonder worth sharing.

This was not a space for envy, but one for understanding and communication. Social media doesn’t even exist, Trey told us. A lot like money. We’ve turned it into a currency. As a society, we’ve ascribed it worth. We’ve imposed value upon it. But don’t worry about the numbers. The likes. The plaudits. He told us a story of Sir Patrick Stewart performing his heart out for an audience of three, Trey included. He didn’t do it because he loved the attention – he did it because he loved the art form. He loved what he had chosen to do with that performance, with that day – with his life – regardless of who was paying attention and receiving the gift. When we love something so much, it can only spill over and have to be shared with the world.

Share your shots – your self – because it engages you with what makes your soul soar. Do it because it brings you into contact with others singing the same song. Do it because it makes you blossom with the comprehension of the meaning life can have.

Do what you love; love what you do. Do it in the cracks between making a living, if that’s all the time you can muster. But give your everything into those cracks. And, who knows, life might burst open and become nothing but those moments of sheer delight – a series of adventures in your chosen art – a success story beyond your wildest imaginings. It might become everything you ever dreamed.


My Theory Of Relativity

That Wanaka Tree 2

That Wanaka Tree

I was in Wanaka last weekend, having a lovely time with some lovely people, and also parting ways with Cecil the wondervan – for we have different adventures to pursue, and mine lie across the seas in Canada.

Trying on my new-found pedestrianism, I went for a walk. No local Instagrammer’s trip in these parts is complete without a visit to That Wanaka Tree, so I headed in that direction for another snap.

But the route continued beyond the famous landmark, so I decided to explore farther. On a peaceful path, trees on one side, the lake on the other, I lost track of time and wound my way around the shore to find myself on the Te Araroa trail, which journeys 3000km from Cape Reinga at the very top of New Zealand to Bluff at the very base.

I found myself admiring Ruby Island as the track took me closer and then higher to better vantage points, around Roys Bay and up past Waterfall Creek.

Ruby Island

Ruby Island

Ruby Island is a photogenic specimen itself, and I know for a fact that not everyone rates the plaudits That Attention-Seeking Tree garners, nor understands why photographers flock there for the money-shot. In the same way, while Queenstown is often regarded as the Prom Queen of the country, Wanaka has a more understated but equally fervent following of people who’d prefer to make their home there.

It’s apples and pears. I think that what’s important, in this age of unrest, scaremongering and misunderstanding, is to appreciate other people’s opinions, their entitlement to those opinions, and even the reasoning behind the opinions themselves, when they don’t align with yours.

Not being the same makes different places and different people exciting and colourful and beautiful. There is a length and breadth of life to experience, a whole world to explore, and certain whos and whats and wheres within it that will make your soul sing, if it’s open to seeing from more than one perspective.

Let’s not only acknowledge our differences but celebrate them as well.

This is going to be my last post for a while from beautiful Aotearoa, home of my soul, and the place where Right Ink On The Wall began. I’ll be back… But I’ve new horizons to explore, and only hope that I meet with people as welcoming and wonderful. Regardless of where I am, I’ll be trying to see things from other positions, different points of view – and hoping we can all, with all our differences, find a way not only to coexist, not only to accept, but to embrace each other.

That Wanaka Tree 1

That Wanaka Tree… Again

Good Things Come

Kapiti Island

The kaka – king of Kapiti Island

I declared it The Year Of Resolve, but I could as easily have dubbed it the year of… Surprise!

Not such a surprise, some resolutions fell early by the wayside. But they didn’t all fall miserably – it just transpired that my plans required more perspective.

After my return from Christmas in the UK, I mapped out my attack. It involved sailing Cecil the van back down to the South Island and deciding where to spend the rest of the summer, knuckling down to more work and perhaps abandoning play for a while.

The first of the year’s surprises began with Go Travel New Zealand sending me on assignment to see sights that weren’t originally on my route. Whales and dolphins in Auckland, barely out of the city centre harbour, an abandoned railway, stories intertwined along its tracks, and an island, standing in plain view of Paraparaumu but hiding all kinds of treasure.

Next came The Pioneer, a mountain bike stage race running from Christchurch to Queenstown, and so much more than a route back home via out-of-the-way places.

And then I arrived back in Otago. And I was tired. Quite attracted to the idea of sitting still, I didn’t have any more plan. Or a home for that matter. Just quite a bit of work on my hands and a question on my mind – what now?

The answer surprised me. People surprised me. And I ended up in Milford, as many of you may know if you’ve seen me peppering social media with an endless ecstasy of soul-lifting sights.

I was lost to the world for a little while there, but I found all sorts of things – new friends, bottlenose dolphins, extortionate WiFi… some direction, fresh dreams, a bit more of myself. And all in the knowledge that the Holy Grail had found me – and not where I expected.

Kapiti Island is a gem. Entirely pest-free, it allows abundant, endangered birdlife and flora to flourish, including the elusive kiwi. There are melodious bush walks, paua decorated beaches, dramatic views, and a healthy supply of entertainment from the resident kaka, the kea’s michevious cousin. There overnight to go kiwi hunting, I didn’t hold high expectations. I was resigned to it being a longer road to seeing the critter than I’d gambled for in Okarito, my last hunting ground.

But imagine my surprise, ten minutes into our forage, when we were faced with the unmistakable sounds of an argument in the bush right beside us. We’d stumbled upon a territory altercation that ended with one shadow in the bush emerging triumphant. His disgruntled challenger fled the scene, but not before he’d paused, right in our path, and given me a nod of acknowledgement. Thrilled, we continued on our way just for the fun of it, only to find a female foraging not too far away. Can we count that as two-and-a-half kiwi?! And I wasn’t even meant to go to the island looking!

The year before, leaving Okarito, I observed that sometimes we can be a bit blinkered, minds on a mission, unobservant of the small pieces of happiness we could capture if we only glanced around. And it turns out, sometimes, we’re not even looking in the right places for the ‘main event’ we’re so focused on. We don’t even know, at the time, that they’re there.

Being found can be just as magical as finding what you’re looking for, if not even more so. Being found by a solution, a place… a person. Perhaps somewhere or someone that we had written off, or not even considered as a possibility. It’s nice to know that if you’re in a state of thinking inside the box, outside the box can break in and grab you when you’re not looking.

The months continued in the same vein, endless adventures in magical Milford broken up by a trip to Melbourne to witness a wonderful wedding in a rose garden. And in Melbourne, the bride made me an offer as unexpected as it was enviable. In a friendly takeover, it transpires I’ll now be working as an editor under Jacqui Pretty at Grammar Factory when it comes to engaging with entrepreneurs writing business books, which is brilliantly exciting. Fiction and literary nonfiction will still have their place here, at Right Ink On The Wall, and with updates in the pipeline, this website marrying my books, business and desire to make the world a brighter place might begin to make a bit more sense!

All that was left to make April the polar opposite of last year was my passport arriving back in the post with a visa saying: Permanent Resident. I may lay my head in many different places and have a whole lot of world left to explore… But the majestical home of the mythical kiwi is now my forever home too.

You would only have to read backward in time in this blog to see that hope & happiness were clouded over for a wee while, despite attempts to pin down the silver linings. Dark weather can swoop in and affect us all, and I’m sorry for the questionable poetry that hit your inboxes when that happened here… But just look at how things can turn around. And trust. Trust that good things come. They do. They will. Even if, when they find you, it’s a big surprise.

Love Does Not Need Pockets


I’ve been absent… again! Despite promises made to myself, resolutions have been falling by the wayside like summer rain… But I’ve been consumed by life and work, and I’m working on something important, something challenging and life-changing, and incidentally longer than War & Peace. A beautiful line in that work stopped me in my tracks yesterday: ‘Love, though, does not need pockets.’ It was in the context of a discussion on the hunt for happiness and meaning, which so resonated with the philosophy here of making the right mark on the wall of the world that it sparked the poet within. So this is just a wee call out from the darkness to let you know that I’m still here, and soon I’ll be back in force. But here’s the piece of poetry in the meantime…


Love does not need pockets

A man of wisdom said

When you’re in your burial shroud

You may think you are dead

But what is it you’ve left behind?

Have you made a mark?

Your holidays and fancy cars

They were just a lark

But love you gave and love you sowed

That won’t ever stale

And love you received in return

Goes with you through the veil

(c) 2016 Sara Litchfield

The Year Of Resolve & The Hunt For The Holy Grail


My hard-fought shot of the elusive Okarito Kiwi

Out on the wild west coast of New Zealand’s South Island, there’s a wee place at the edge called Okarito. It is beautiful, mostly beach and bush, and it hides the Holy Grail – its own species of brown kiwi (smaller than a unicorn but larger than a dragon’s egg), along with a guide who’s actually sanctioned by DOC to help people catch sight of the elusive critter. I was there only a couple of magic days and mysterious nights, but it pretty much summed up the year for me: I was on a mission.

The guided tour to see the country’s most famous resident was fully booked, but never one to say never, I took myself out into the bush in the middle of the night to find one for myself. The maiden voyage saw me venturing out with an elite team of highly-trained explorers (a pair of likeminded souls who fancied the thrill of the mythical chase, highly skilled in the art of Googling a kiwi’s call before braving the dark). The second night, I went solo. It was same, same, but different. Same – in that the kiwi avoided me, not even so much as calling out to tease at it had on the first expedition. Different – in that I’d forgotten I was terrified of possums and had no one to giggle with nervously in the pitch black when they swooped out of the forest to eat me alive (wait, that was the sandflies; the possums stood there and tried to put the evil eye on me. Sneakier than direct attack.)

I’d driven past the sign to Okarito more than once, distracted by the monumental glaciers to its right. But I was so glad I finally found it and its beautiful beach house. During the days, I filled the wait for kiwi O’clock with other things. Like cycling Enid along the empty roads, visiting Andris Apse’s home to see his beautiful gallery and learn his incredible story, climbing the Trig, walking on the beach to watch the sun set behind the headland, and sailing the lagoon.

There were other things to see. Life went on. Life turned up. In the dark, I didn’t just dodge the perilous possums, I saw glowworms blinking in the black, and I could only see them because the lights were out. On the lagoon, I saw the kind of mirrored reflections I thought could only exist in paintings. I took a boat tour with Franz Josef Glacier, Mt Cook and Mt Tasman as a backdrop, and though I didn’t see a kiwi in Okarito, a startling array of other birdlife popped by to say hello, including tui, oyster catchers, black swans & their cygnets, a great white heron and a bunch of bar-tailed godwits. These guys fly about ten days straight from Alaska without stopping or eating just to hang out there – the least I could do was be happy to see them.

And, while I didn’t sight the Holy Grail of mythical creatures, hearing the kiwi call gave me hope. They are out there – fighting outrageous odds, given the invasion of their lands by forces of evil committed to their extinction (that’d be those possums again). Now I know where the sign is. And the guide (whose services I’d recommend, having cornered him in his own home to demand photographic evidence, ending up discussing my quest at length while his cup of tea got cold). I’ll be back.

This time last year, I was down. But I wasn’t out. I’d lost something precious. But I was on a mission. A mission to hunt happiness – that elusive Holy Grail that life’s possums are always trying to do away with. So I didn’t indulge too far my sorrow for that which was gone. I didn’t turn my face only backward to mourn or only forward to search for a distant date when I would feel better and could begin to have a ball again (it was something like May 7th). I turned my face from side to side and looked all around. And even though Happiness didn’t magically, immediately appear, I saw beauty in the moments I did so. Life went on. I went out and lapped it up. I laughed. I faked it for a time, sure. But this year just gone, I fell in love again. I fell in love with the life all around me – and my own life just as it is, looking to no one else to make it amazing except myself. (It helped that the mountains saw snow the likes of which hadn’t been boarded in several seasons.)

This year I have seen lambs genuinely frolicking – hopping and skipping like bizarre ballet dancers. Fish jumping, like funny jack-in-the-boxes. Baby seals paddling, a waterfall their playpen. I have heard tui warbling and kiwi calling, waves lapping and wind howling. I’ve smelt the smoke of campfires and courageous cooking. I’ve tasted salt in the sea breeze and touched sand and snow, rock and rain.

Are you a new year’s resolutions kind of person? I am. And I usually win at them. But last year, I had to start below scratch and resolve just to find some resolve. It’s there if you want to hunt it down – just dig deep.

It’s a new year. A lot of us are looking at fresh starts (whether we wanted them or not). Find your resolve. Be kind to yourself. Be kind to others. And don’t just look back or forward – look around you. Appreciate what you see. And see the signs. Take the turns. Hope will be there. And magic might happen.

A moment of reflection in Okarito

A moment of reflection in Okarito

A Roam With A View


Giant’s Gate Falls, Milford Sound

I’m all over the place at the moment – up hill, round coast, down dale – hitting highlights of the south island of NZ before heading to the north, and thence home to the UK for Christmas (if anyone missed the memo back there – Hey! I’m coming home for Christmas!).

Working on the road comes with its unique set of challenges – locating pockets of signal and persuading my phone to tether to pick up email the most perfidious. Often the most beautiful spots are the most out of touch, and while it’s wonderful to be lost, I can’t be too free-range or I won’t be able to afford the road user charges. Which don’t half rack up.

But despite any drawbacks, it’s a delight to embark on a life that reminds me how much joy there is to be found in the simplest of pleasures. A year ago, I couldn’t have contemplated too much time solo, but after a winter season of unsurpassable social activity, through ice hockey, snowboarding, and playing with the best pals Queenstown has to offer, I’m due a hiatus – a pause to get back to the more creative side of life and get more writing out in the world.

I love waking up smelling of campfire and dreams, and I love seeing friends after a spell in only my own company. I love exploring new horizons and witnessing the wildlife there. And I love being free. But I also love to create something out of nothing, and that’s what I’ll be doing this November.

‘Tis the week before NaNo, and all through the house….not a writer ain’t prepping and using their nouse.

For the uninitiated, National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) involves writing a 50,000 novel in 30 days. My debut NaNo led to the publication of my debut novel, The Night Butterflies. Usually, my prep involves wishing I’d done more prep. But this year I’m writing the sequel to last year’s manuscript, Luminosa, half of which blew out the window of the van in a gale, but which I’ve still managed to look over this month (life on the road eh, you can’t make it up).

I’m a pantser not a plotter, in all walks of life. But I’m planning to succeed. And I’m looking forward to taking the next step in this story, the next step in my writer’s wanderings, and seeing what lies over the waterfall.

Are you gearing up for NaNo or just readying for the next step in your journey? What lies over the waterfall for you?