Category: Writing

Day 6 – Work Journals

Sunday, 6th November 2016

Day 6:

I need to be working on an article for Zendesk right now. Deadline is tomorrow (though, it’s actually in two days, because of US deadlines vs Australia deadlines). But, still. It’s due, and soon. 

This is a section from my 331 words today, mostly journalling (with some book reflections thrown in there): “I should be working on the Danielle Di Masi article to submit to Sarah Reed tomorrow. I’ll just have to edit it on breaks at work, and during lunch. Work will be hard for two days straight (with an info night in between for Annie Get Your Gun). And then, I’ll be out at the airport, and on a flight, and actually with quite a lot of time on my hands to write and reflect, and keep the momentum rolling.

Maybe that’s what most of life is: recognising the cycles and patterns of habits, time, circumstance. What we feel we can do, when, and how. Why we feel pulled out of sync. What happens to bring us back into resonance.”

Day 4

Friday, 4th November 2016

Day 4:

306 words today. I’m tired, overwhelmed with work. There’s so much I need to get done before heading to SF next week. Writing, on top of everything, feels like a challenge. A rich, rich challenge. Went to bed at 8pm today, and slept for 9 hours.

Day 3 – Work Journals

Thursday 3rd November 2016

Day 3:

Reflection as of 11am. I’m nervous that this day will run away from me, and I won’t write anything more than this meta-reflection in our NaNoWriMo document. I have a cocktail event after work tonight, and then a trivia night this evening with friends. I’m going to aim to write a few thoughts down at lunch, and leave my phone as the late-evening commute-home last-minute solution.

As of 3pm: I wrote 747 words over lunch. Sat outside in the sunshine, reflected on a conversation I had with my brother-in-law yesterday about why we like working with/for certain kinds of people. Started loosely discussing workplace strengths. I’m realising how many insights live in these casual conversations, just waiting to be mined, reflected on, and expanded upon. Jumping-off points, for sure.

By later in the evening, I ended up writing 1626 words in total! I think I’m getting the hang of this getting-reflections-down-wherever-and-whenever-they-happen thing.

Day 2 – Work Journals

Wednesday, 2nd November 2016

Day 2:

I wrote 250 words responding to a Prince Ea video about “Do you live to work, or work to live?” Made me think: if I can articulate the premise of my book concisely and clearly enough, maybe I should write to Prince Ea via his business site and ask if I can interview him.

(One of my writing partners responded: I’m all for getting it articulated well, but if it’s not, don’t let that stop you from contacting him!”)

November is for writing: NaNoWriMo

Tuesday, 1st November

Last year, I finally found a copy of John Steinbeck’s writing journals during The Grapes of Wrath. It’s a book called “Working Days.” I was in Davis, California at a used bookstore when I finally found it, just sitting innocuously on the shelves — seemingly unaware I had been searching for a way to buy it for months.

Oh, the complex nature of relatively obscure books and international shipping fees.

Working Days is a complex journal of how the days passed for Steinbeck while he wrote one of the most influential books of his repertoire. Of course, there’s no way he could have known that at the time, but I find it incredibly therapeutic to see what he was thinking of when he sat down to write. Most days, he was thinking of everything but writing. Most days, he was focused mainly on how to get himself to show up.

Quite a few of the entries are unfinished, like he lost his train of thought in the middle of the actions of the day.

For the next month, while doing National Novel Writing Month (or, NaNoWriMo for short), I’m going to share my Working Days. My daily reflections. Not the writing, just the observer of the work.

First, here’s my favourite Steinbeck entry. Then, away we go!

June 8 [1938] – 10:45 [Wednesday]

This is the longest diary I have ever kept. Not a diary of course but an attempt to map the actual working days and hours of a novel. If a day is skipped it will show glaringly on this record and there will be some reason given for the slip. Yesterday the general and now back to the particular. I find I am not satisfied with the numbering of these chapters. It may be that they will simply be numbered with large numerals for the general and small for the particular. The reason is that I want the reader to be able to keep them separate in his mind. Today Joad and Casy come home and find the house deserted. They meet Muley Graves and he tells them where Joad’s parents are. They sleep in Muley’s deserted house. Background for the moving comes in here. This is followed by the general [Ed. — Chapter 7] of the old cars, of the equipment, of the moving technique, and then the Joad family enters and the book really gets moving. Well, that’s done but only a little into this chapter. I think maybe two or three more days on this chapter [Ed. — Chapter 6] I think. And tomorrow will be

– from Working Days by John Steinbeck


What does success look like for NaNoWriMo?

  • I have no daily minimum word count. Well, I guess I do. Let’s say a 10-word daily minimum word count. 
  • November seems like a contemplative month ahead:
  • I’m travelling a lot, which brings out a lot of thoughts
  • I’ve got a new iPad, so I can write on the go
  • Systems and routines help to ground me, so I’m looking forward to being consistent in writing daily
  • I’m meeting a lot of new, amazing people, and having a lot of deep discussions. Which feels like fuel for the writing fire.
  • I have 3-4 editorial deadlines coming up, and all of the topics are applicable to my book.
  • I want to solidify my daily writing routine
  • I want to get some really interesting thoughts down on paper, and get some research done, before I leave for the writing retreat in Thailand

Day 1

Wrote 1393 words for an article for Zendesk about the value of showing up to work as a full human being. What does it look like? What are the symptoms and negative effects of continued segmentation of our lives/interests/passions?

Debut poetry collection: What Slight Gaps Remain

What Slight Gaps Remain by Emma Sedlak

What Slight Gaps Remain by Emma Sedlak


Monday, 24th October 2016

I’m excited to announce that my poetry collection What Slight Gaps Remain has been published by Blue Hour Press!

The collection is a combination of poems selected from my PhD portfolio (titled The Origin Stories), poems from my Masters’ degree collection (titled Of Water and Light), and new writing.

What Slight Gaps Remain by Emma Sedlak

This is a real book. How crazy is that?

I haven’t gotten my hands on a physical copy yet, but my editor sent me photos. I’m taking them as real-life evidence that my words tangibly exist, sewn together and bound, in the world. I’ll pick up a bulk-order during my upcoming trip to San Francisco to bring back to Sydney. Until then, the book is still only present on my computer screen.

It’s a strange feeling to know this can exist on bookshelves. I’m not unfamiliar with my words being read (30 poems from this collection have been previously published online and in literary magazines). But I send them off into the world, they get adopted (or returned, returned, returned, and eventually adopted), and when they’ve found their new forever home, I let them be. I don’t really return to them, unless to refer someone to a line or snippet that might help to describe an experience they’re going through.

This is a collection. Here, things are collected and kept. That feels so different.

I was very lucky to have three wonderful early reviewers, consisting of Alan Gillis, Jane McKie, and Kirsten Kaschock. Enjoy their reviews below, and pick up a copy. (Expert tip: reading poetry in public is making a comeback. I’m sure of it.)


Reviews of What Slight Gaps Remain:

Alan Gillis, author of “Scapegoat” and “Here Comes the Night”:

“These are poems that address the heart of the matter – what it means to live, to love, to want to do good; and which also probe beyond the periphery of things and of thoughts. With wit, intelligence and dazzling linguistic prowess, this book examines what we hold before us, and what slips between the gaps. Scrutinizing places and relationships, memories and happenings, fictions and myths, the collection is marked by its copiousness and range. From high lyricism to chatty intimacy, objective imagism to fluid yet surreal streams of consciousness, Sedlak’s curiosity and talent recognise few limits. This is a trailblazing first collection.”



Kirsten Kaschock, author of “Sleight” and “The Dottery”:

“Emma Sedlak’s debut book of poetry is a hymnal to the impossible work in front of us—to be open to this world and to one another while reaching for something beyond it. Throughout this remarkable collection, she moves in and out of a broken story—Icarus’—and rewrites the wound, stitching with words a path towards wholeness. Sea and stars always unmoor us, but in Sedlak’s poems, they also provide the expanse that, as Rilke writes, allows us “each to see the other whole against the sky.” The poet trusts readers to lay their lives upon this map in palimpsest, to seek, among strands of love and pain, the golden thread—a middle way. This book vibrates. Its resonance thrums deep because Sedlak moves forward “… [as] though any of these difficulties could be told.” This is the good work, the core work, the necessary work. Enter into it alongside of her. As you dip in and out of its depths—note how the sun warms your shoulder-blades, how the wind sustains you.”



Jane McKie, author of “When the Sun Turns Green”:

“What Slight Gaps Remain, Emma Sedlak’s debut collection feels imbued with earth and air: it skillfully marries a humane concern with the fabric of our lives with a questing and philosophical acuity. Icarus is here, testing the elements, but work is here too in a pervasive lyric attention to community and ordinary labour that feels suffused with love. Like the foetus visible through the skin of a mother’s stomach that she describes, delightfully, as a ‘lima bean’ steadily taking form, the light in this collection unfolds in the mind long after setting it down.”



Shipping costs within the US will be $5, and international shipping is $12. For orders within Australia, please email

Building a Creative Hive


Thursday, 30th July 2016

After posting to the FB hive-mind this morning about a remote job opportunity that came through my inbox, I realised: there is an untapped and potentially disconnected community of creative people, who are maybe looking for jobs, maybe looking for work, maybe looking for fulfilment, support, encouragement, collaboration.

I can’t offer solutions to everything, and the new proposal I’m developing may not work for everyone. But my suspicion is: we need a new way to stay connected, to share information, and to hoist each other up.


Since April 2015, I’ve finished my PhD, gone full-time in a remote content development job, moved countries, moved apartments, relocated a cat (no mean feat!), left the job, gone to ten auditions, performed in two musicals and one opera, taught fifteen poetry/writing workshops, submitted (countless) poems, worked with five freelance clients, and tutored six students.

And, in amongst all of this, I’ve applied for twenty-five new jobs.

Juggling all of this is above and beyond my organisational abilities. I’ve had to create new systems for myself, and one of the largest ones is keeping track of applications (poems, employment, or otherwise). When did I apply? What was the company? What was the role? When should I hope to hear back?

Rejection is hard. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. It wears down even the most resiliently optimistic of us. I’ve spent quite a few years wading through rejection: of poems, of grad programs, of jobs, of apartments — and in amongst all of this, I’ve been trying to find a way to strengthen my resolve, my resiliency, and my reserve.

Spread-sheeting all the details has turned the process into a game.

When in doubt, the gamification of difficult experiences is a great way to make rejection easier. But there’s more to resiliency than just having a good stomach for rejection.

What are we talking about?

In hunting for jobs for 8 months in Australia, I’ve become well-versed at finding leads and connections toward things that relate to a specific cross-section of interests:

Remote work. I enjoy remote work. It has been necessary for the past few years with all of my moving around. There are lots of good reasons to seek out a remote job, and the opportunities are growing.

– Editing. With lots of freelance clients, I’ve gotten good at finding work, determining fair rates, process work-flow, procedures, contracts, you name it.

– Teaching. I’m not talking about 9-5 teaching, here. I’m talking about running workshops, giving talks, presenting frameworks, developing strategies to pitch to educational institutions of all kinds.

– Writing. Day-to-day writing. Submissions. Contests. Copy-writing jobs. Freelance. Creativity. Blogging. All things words.

– Developing ideas. I wanted to make a website. I had no idea how to build it on my own. My friend Brian called me from Amsterdam and walked me through setting it up. Other friends supported me by asking me to clarify my ideas. It’s made me think: what else do I need a sounding board for? What other ideas do I have that I’d like to share and get feedback on?

– Networking. I’ve moved from Scotland, to the US, to Amsterdam, to Scotland, to Australia. We’ve needed to build and rebuild communities. Professional networks, friends, people who can take us under their wing and just give us some space, and support, and clarity.

– And more…

When I recently found two new jobs and “went off the job-hunting market” as it were, I’m still finding opportunities crossing my path. More opportunities than when I was still searching, when I still had space and time in my schedule. And more opportunities than I could possibly have taken advantage of alone.

I’m also finding connections between people. New friends I’m making, Uber drivers, people I meet on the street: almost everyone links back somehow to one or more of these areas.

This seems to be a rich space for opportunities.

Where do the opportunities come from?

I’ve had innumerable freelance and small-scale jobs throughout my life, but when I think of my most influential and growth-inducing jobs I can safely say that I’ve had four. So far.

In 2010, I was finishing my masters’ degree in Creative Writing, and I wanted to branch out into running community programs. My friend’s husband worked at Merchiston Academy in Edinburgh. He introduced me to the librarian. I ran three programs there.

In 2011, a fellow poet referred me to a remote writing tutoring gig. I kept it for almost 4 years.

In 2013, I took an online course called Grace and Gratitude hosted by Sarah Kathleen Peck. I gifted one to my friend (same friend whose husband connected me to Merchiston). In 2014, she alerted me to Sarah’s email asking for a Teaching Assistant to help her deliver a new course “Content Strategy for Thought Leaders.”

I wrote an email to SKP titled: Applying for the TA position. AKA I want to work with you. 

I closed it with complete honesty: More than anything, I am committed to supporting what you do. I believe in your talent for sharing these skills and values with the world, on a personal level.

I will keep this brief, because I know you are probably working through a lot of emails. But if you have any questions or need any more information, please, please let me know.

We worked together for a few months. Now, we’re friends; and I feel like we’re collaborating on something life-, work-, human- related on a daily basis.

In late 2014, SKP connected me to Michael Margolis and Get Storied. She was just about to finish working with them, and knew they would be looking for some style of her replacement. I did amazingly fulfilling work with them from December 2014 – November 2015.

What’s the connection between the opportunities?

I think a better way to phrase this is to look at the connections that led to the opportunities.

I’ve almost never networked with someone from a company who then proceeded to give me a job. Instead, the connections that led to the job came from a friend throwing it across my bow.

Friends who have had too many freelance clients, and wanted to share the load. I can’t take this job right now; is it something you might want to work on?

Friends who see an advertisement I didn’t: Hey, do you want to check out this job posting? It looks right up your alley.

Friends who just passively post amazing things on Facebook! Here’s a list of open writing submissions for February. (True story: that’s how I’m getting my poetry collection published. SKP again for the win.)

Friends who have worked in previous jobs in my field.

Friends who were recently on the job-hunt market, and have an overload of new leads that they don’t need.

Friends who are submitting for a contest and know it’s also something I might be interested in. Yes, people who are in direct competition with me are feeding me information they know might hopefully benefit at least one of us. I’m applying for this. You should too. Want to throw in an application together?

What am I proposing?

I’m proposing a beta-test of connecting people together. Of taking this off Facebook, and making The Creative Hive. This Slack community team is going to be a place to network, to share resources and ideas, or just a central place to find creative people we can send new opportunities to.

So, the relevant questions:

– Are you looking for remote work?

– Are you a writer, working on submissions, or a project, or freelancing, or getting a new idea off the ground?

– Are you a freelance copywriter/editor?

– Are you interested in teaching, creating workshops, giving talks, or widening your professional reach?

– Are you looking for some new reading, resources, ideas, or philosophical chats?

– Are you needing some more inspiration or like-mindedness in your life?

– Are you a grass-roots movement kind of person?

If you’ve answered yes to any of these, hop on over to this Google Form and fill out your details:

Let’s get the creative minds working!

Love is Love and the Unmaking of Joy

Love is love is love is love - Lin Manuel Miranda

Love is love is love is love – Lin Manuel Miranda

Thursday, 26th June 2016

When I heard the news about the mass shooting at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, I cried for three days straight.

To say that this is difficult to talk about — to explain, in words, how some tragedies are beyond language — is really a pointless effort.

And yet, poetry gets to the heart of the matter. Poetry uses words, takes possession of emotion through language, and distills it down to the most essential parts. As a poet, words are my currency. As a poet, wordless emotions are my constant impossible task.

I couldn’t write anything for a while: because I didn’t know what to say. Because there really isn’t anything to say that will make it better. Because it’s hard to speak through crying, even on paper. Because I couldn’t grasp why I was so emotionally wrecked by something that happened on the other side of the world, to people I had never met, didn’t know, with whom I wasn’t connected through any relevant degrees of separation. Because I questioned why I was feeling this way at all.

Say what we will about social media: it holds power. A friend of mine shared a Buzzfeed article about how many young people were moving forward from the Orlando massacre by using the momentum and emotions to share their LGBTQ identities with their loved ones. Coming out during the shock of this tragedy, coming out of the fear, horror, and hatred — moving toward something empowering. A way to give a second life to the wonderful souls who had just lost theirs.

Lin-Manuel Miranda wrote and recited an amazingly impassioned sonnet during his Tony Awards acceptance speech. Leaning to the same impulse to put words to immutable, inexplicable sadness.

My wife’s the reason anything gets done.
She nudges me towards promise by degrees.
She is a perfect symphony of one.
Our son is her most beautiful reprise.

We chase the melodies that seem to find us
Until they’re finished songs and start to play.
When senseless acts of tragedy remind us
That nothing here is promised, not one day.

This show is proof that history remembers.
We live through times when hate and fear seem stronger.
We rise and fall, and light from dying embers
Remembrances that hope and love last longer.

And love is love is love is love is love is love is love is love;
Cannot be killed or swept aside.

I sing Vanessa’s symphony; Eliza tells her story.
Now fill the world with music, love, and pride.

Lin-Manuel Miranda

I’m not LMM, and I’m not accepting any awards. But I took the opportunity to come out to my friends and family, to my wider circle of friends and acquaintances, and to share another light on the many lives we are born into.



On Orlando: The Unmaking of Joy

by Emma Sedlak

It’s virtually impossible to find the right words in the face of mass tragedies like the shooting in Orlando. In fact, it’s virtually impossible to find any words at all.

The poet Donte Collins writes: “I don’t have language. I don’t have language. I throw up my hands. I weep.”

I read Donte’s writing, where he talks about his journey: “I think of national coming out day. Of pride. I think of sweat seeping back into the body. The unmaking of joy. I think of 16-year-old Donte afraid to cross his legs.”

I think of my heart, and how it hurts right now. My heart is with anyone whose heart has been broken. Any hearts that have stopped beating. Any hearts who wish they could have.

Any beautiful humans who have left us, and any lives that have come to their untimely, impossible conclusion.

These are moments that are excruciating to share through words, but I offer up these ones because the shootings at Pulse are a tragedy that has shaken the safe spaces of belonging. These spaces are difficult for many of us to carve out, and so they should be sacred. And the hard act of carving them should be shared and celebrated.

Some of us are born into our lives already feeling like we don’t exactly fit the mould. We’re shaped into the world as we grow, and only later discover that the world often needs reshaping around us in order to feel like we fully belong. It’s not an easy process to articulate. It’s a chrysalis of un-belonging before our worlds can be remade.

Sometimes this is love. Sometimes this is a life calling. Sometimes this is part of our identity. Whatever it is, it is a skin that no longer fits, until we shed it and find that we now have wings where our scars once were.



“The two most important days in your life are the day you are born, and the day you find out why.” – Mark Twain

We’re born twice, and sometimes more if we’re lucky. First: coming up for air, eyes coloured by the foreign entering of light. First, we cannot hold up our heads, cannot control our mouths yet. There’s so much we cannot translate. So much effort goes into just living. The breathing, the eating, the sleeping, the interdependence.

We’re built upon villages and cities of people: the ones who feed us, the ones who raise us, the ones who keep us safe—or do none of the above, but are supposed to. We stand up as we grow, or as we raise ourselves.

Time shapes us into the humans we have always been becoming. Life forms around us in the wake of the shape we begin to make, an impression upon the world.

And then one day, we might be born again. We feel it: the pulse. The pull of something new, another foreign light, what was unknown is crossing our horizon and feels so much like home. It’s a person, a love, a new perspective, a new skin and identity. It’s what calls us, what has always been calling us. And now we have the ears to hear how the world has been speaking to us all along.

I have always been afraid I’m the only one who holds this language. Do you recognize the phrase, the handshake, or the head shake? In our second lives, we start out even lonelier than our first birth. This time, we venture out into a strange land among all the old familiars. We have to find the room in our old lives to hold space for all the new things being born. How can I be your daughter and form this new identity? How will this go, if so much of my journey depends on how graciously you can let me go?

How can I teach you my new language when I’m not fluent yet?

This second life runs the risk of making us smaller. On the precipice before we can throw a birthday party for what has woken up our lives, the impulse is to duck and hide. To take care of all our transformation in a cocoon, until we can introduce you to the finished person. Don’t look at me while I’m still being born.

We cannot hold up our heads. We cannot control our mouths yet. We don’t have the language for being in the middle of translation. So much effort goes into just living. The forming of who we are, and how the world might come to meet us, how it will reshape around us this time.

New people speak your language, and there are ways to translate it back to our old lives. The beauty is in shedding skin, and having wings—and we don’t need to be finished before we can be visible.

Life has called you. Resist the urge to turn away, feeling nervous at not having all the words yet. Don’t make yourself small, or make yourself silent. The unmaking of joy is just to make it new again, and stronger.


Originally published on The Mindful Word, June 2016


ON ORLANDO: The Unmaking of Joy

Where You Are: Everywhere



Tuesday, 14th June 2016

There are some things we just shouldn’t have words for. Language is inadequate. Touch, love, and empathy is better.

But where there can be words, Mark Doty is better.


I thought I’d lost you. But you said I’m imbued

in the fabric of things, the way
that wax lost from batik shapes
the pattern where the dye won’t take.
I make the space around you,

and so allow you shape. And always
you’ll feel the traces of that wax
soaked far into the weave:
the air around your gestures,

the silence after you speak. 
That’s me, that slight wind between
your hand and what you’re reaching for;
chair and paper, book or cup:

that close, where I am: between
where breath ends, air starts.


by Mark Doty, from Where You Are