Posted in Editing and Proofreading, Kees2Create, The Craft of Writing

Author on Probation

I’ve been teaching my youngest to drive. We’ve had fifty hours of driving together without a single drop of blood shed. It’s a miracle 🙂 . Luckily, he’s a calm driver who remains unfazed on the road.

Driving with a newbie got me thinking about a lot of things, especially in the face of impatience from road users who’d forgotten they too were learners once. What it got me thinking about most though, was writing.

I spent a good portion of my working life as a retail standards coordinator in Quality Assurance, although it seems like a lifetime ago now. In the business world, our work is measured by the four levels of competence – unconscious incompetence (wrong intuition, L-plates), conscious incompetence (wrong analysis – red P’s), conscious competence (right analysis – green P’s) and unconscious competence (right intuition – licensed driver).

Like any job, there are varying levels of progress in the writing world too and this is how I’ve come to think of them: aspiring (learner), emerging (red P’s) and established (green P’s).

So why only green P’s when I should be at the top of the pyramid? After all the books I’ve written and had published, haven’t I earned my pretty blue pen licence? The answer is that even an established writer  should never give up learning, never take unconscious competence for granted.  We still need that scheduled PDA (Practical Driving Assessment) test we call edits, beta reading and critiquing, no matter how good we think we are.

An editor, proofreader and critique partner are valuable in the writing world. Like a driving instructor or test inspector, they find the mistakes a writer can’t always see because we’re too close to our plot and characters. They stop us from falling back on bad driving habits that may creep in as we head down the road to publication. We might not always appreciate or agree with their instruction or feedback, but it’s important we remove the emotion and reaction to analyze  and learn from their advice. Be proactive not reactive, a skill in itself.

There is a lesser known fifth stage to competency it would do us all good to remember as we climb that ladder to success, no matter what the job is we’re doing. The stage licenced drivers often forget out on the road – empathy.

The Fifth Stage of Competency
If you cultivate an attitude of empathy around competency, you can unlock a fifth stage of competency: empathetic competence. Empathetic competency means understanding that competency isn’t a checkbox or goal marker that we achieve and leave behind. It’s about assessing yourself and your abilities against your potential, rather than the abilities and potential of another person. Ultimately, it’s about being mindful of the skills and abilities of others, meeting them where they are, and supporting them along their journey to growth and success. ~ Zac Ryland (Tier 1 Performance Solutions)

That’s why I’m putting myself on probation, stepping back down to my red P’s, assessing where I’ve been and where I’m going, how I can do things differently to stay fresh, motivated and inspired.

The takeaway message – be kind, be patient, be empathetic, be supportive. No matter how good we get, we were all learner drivers once.


Posted in Between the Pages, Kees2Create, Meet an Author

A Most Romantic Place

Today, I welcome travel blogger, Jen Peyton. Jen is a keen reader with a big TBR list who loves to travel. Today she takes us to the most romantic destination in the world … France.  Welcome, Jen!

About Me

I’m Jen and I run the Eating, Reading and Traveling Blog;

My passions are enjoying food, books and travel…and then writing about them! I am relatively new to the Romance genre; my other favourites include historical fiction, crime, thriller and mystery. However I recently started reading the occasional romance novel, and now I’m hooked! I really love being a part of the Book Blogging Community, which I only discovered last year, as it has such an amazing community feel with some of the most passionate and wonderful people I’ve ever met. I’ve made several friends through my Bookstagram account (for those unaccustomed, that’s Book-Instagram!), and have discovered countless new authors through these platforms. Bloggers are some of the most supportive people ever, and I love talking with like-minded people about characters that I love and even that I hate, and which books I think everyone should read.

The Most Romantic Place I’ve Ever Visited…

When I visited parts of rural France, including the French countryside a few years ago, I fell head over heels in love with the luscious countryside, the views, (the wine), the people, the markets and the little typical French cottages that seemed to be everywhere.

I couldn’t help but be brought back into one of my favourite books of all time, All The Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr. I find stories set in World War Two have some of the most romantic storylines you could imagine. The relationships between the characters are intensified because of the looming threat that everything could be lost at any moment. This book follows the story of two youngsters, a blind French girl and a German boy, as they try to survive in war-torn Europe. Throughout the book they slowly make their way through increasingly dangerous scenarios unintentionally towards each other. When they eventually meet towards the end of the book it is one of the most emotionally bitter-sweet moments I’ve ever read.

Despite the horrors present in the region during this time, I found this book to inject a certain romance into the characters’ stories and the setting, much of which takes place in rural France. The entire time I was exploring France, I could not help but make close comparisons to the book, and the story of the two main characters as they made their way through the war unintentionally towards each other. The journeys the two characters made, and the horrific challenges they overcame really hit me when I was walking through some of the locations from the book, 70 years since the end of the war. Many of the sites had recovered, but reminders of the pain and suffering of war were everywhere.

This isn’t any typical romance novel. But the romance is there to be found if the reader is willing to look for it. Romance can be found in the lyrical way the author describes the feelings of the characters, the inexplicable draw that slowly brings the two characters closer and closer together from locations across Europe, and even the overall message that love and light can always be found in a situation, one just has to look for it.

Visiting the French countryside was so special to me. You couldn’t visit there and not soak up the beautifully romantic atmosphere. I don’t know whether it’s the obligatory wine and cheese picnic that you absolutely have to do, whether it’s the bike ride you embark on through the wineries, or if it’s the quaint little French villages with market stalls selling fresh vegetables that are just like something out of an old movie. Perhaps it’s all these things together that are the key to the romance that inevitably washes over you from the moment you arrive. I have never seen or experienced anything like it in my life.

The region felt like it was frozen in time, and that I very well could have been there back in the days of war, far enough removed to avoid any of the major destruction, but close enough to maintain the old fashioned, simple, technology free feel of war-torn France. Reminders of the horrors of the past are easily found, in the forms of memorials, cemeteries and war-damaged buildings. These mementos placed against the backdrop of such a beautiful place reminded me of the parallels in the book that were drawn between love and romance and war and hate. It was such a powerful feeling to experience while exploring this amazing place, but it further cemented what I’d suspected all along. Love and romance will win every time.

The connection I felt with France, in particular, the French countryside had such a profound effect on me that I’m already planning my next visit as soon as possible. I hope to return this time with my partner, so that we can experience the romance of walking through a quaint French village market together, while enjoying the parallels we see between the towns and some of our favourite books.

Follow Me 


Instragram: @eatreadtravel_

Facebook: @eatreadtravel12