Speed Dating Demons

Speed date

Speed Dating Demons

I’m about to face my demons

This week I have cut myself off. From everyone and everything not writing related. It’s intense, euphoric and gloriously selfish. A week of me. A week of solid writing. Why? Preparation for today’s speed dating session. Not the romantic kind, but the literary, heart-stopping kind where I will put my passion on the line.

Held by Writers Victoria at the Wheeler Centre in Melbourne, the two hour session is an opportunity to pitch to ten major players. All I will have is a strict, three minute, face to face, opportunity with each publisher, to make them fall in love with my novel. Then I will hold my breath and watch carefully for their reaction.

It’s a confronting idea: I’ve spent the last six years thinking I can write. I’ve spent the last three years actually learning how to write. I’ve spent the last year and half working on my current manuscript and hardly contributing the household finances. Bless my dear husband.

This week I barely sleep. Character dialogue is like endlesss chatter in my mind, flawless chapters seem to develop huge plot holes, and one night I stay up until 6 a.m. writing because my character won’t shut up and she warns her words will disappear if I don’t get them into my computer right now.

One thing keeps running through my head. One frustrating, self-defeating thought: I have no idea what the core of my story is. I have no idea how to verbally encapsulate the essence of it in a one (maximum two) sentence logline. I need twenty sentences. Thirty. Forty. But I’m required to deliver it succinctly, and then give the whole story’s outline in less than fifty seconds. One minute in total. (We will need the other two minutes to answer questions).

I write, rewrite, ditch it all, write again, swap pitches, get and give feedback, and all I’m doing is making minute changes to the same logline and pitch. I know the truth is buried in there somewhere; it just won’t come to me. Don’t they understand there’s more to this novel than can be captured in one freakin’ sentence?

The story has changed form, characters have come and go, storylines have twisted so far I’ve have to rein them back to reality. Where the hell was I heading in the first place? Not where I’ve ended up. And it’s not even finished!

It takes remembering one comment during an earlier hefty discussion with my weekly workshop group (I’m an addict for having my chapters read and torn apart — okay, questioned in intricate detail by other authors like myself and then sulking for a week before I realise they’re right in their assessment) for the light to go on. It’s all so simple and one wonderfully insightful friend has said it already: ‘Lauren blames herself.’

It all falls into place. Thank you. Thank You!

The day is here. And I’m too excited to be nervous. I’ve gone to ridiculous lengths: I’ve learnt my logline and pitch by heart (though in the actual moment I’m so glad to have it on paper in front of me). I have put together awesome packages ready with my CV, pitch, synopsis and first five chapters — just in case.

While I wait in queues to see each publisher, I chat with other wannabes. It’s a great way to not lose my head because everyone here is just as invested as I am. All these (mostly) women have given their moments of stolen time to write. They all want the same thing: my publishing contract.

I take a seat with my first victim. She stops me twenty seconds into my pitch to tell me she needs to know the age of my protagonist up front. Rookie mistake. I thank her and keep ploughing. She says it’s a great plot but her policy is not to look at anything until the novel is complete. She says I should enter their YA competition when it opens early next year. She doesn’t give me her business card. I think I’ve been brushed off.

My next victim says she likes my pitch very much and she will keep it to read over again later. She’ll get back to me if she’s interested. Still no card though I’m feeling a little more hopeful.

My third try strikes gold. The publisher loves it. She wants to read me. I leave her table feeling like I have a golden ticket in my hand (it’s not, it’s her regular business card).

Fourth victim: I can’t really remember; I’m too high from the success of last one. I think this publisher liked it, she sounded interested. Told me to enter their YA competition. Wait. Was that another brush off? I wasn’t really listening. Did I say I was still high?

Fifth victim: ‘That’s an excellent pitch. I’m going to hand it over to our YA department.’

And bang! Time is up. Another four publishers and one agent sits untapped, probably as exhausted as the rest of us hopefuls. Now it’s the waiting game: waiting for the response from the big one, waiting for the other two possibilities to follow through (if they ever do), waiting for my protagonist to tell me if she wants to change her ending again: happy, heartbroken, or independently triumphant.

I’ve put my heart out there. It might come back chewed up and spat out, it might come back glowing with possibility. And if it does, the next round of waiting and hoping begins. Baby steps of agonised hope. There’s nothing to do now but keep writing.


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Geraldine

My approach to beta reading: To ask—does the book achieve what it has set out to do? Does it speak to its target reader? Are there any loopholes/developmental issues that will cause the reader to not suspend their disbelief? Are the characters rich and layered—and real? Does the prose flow, does it show and not tell?
Formal Qualifications: BA (Hons) English Literature with minor in Creative Writing; MA Publishing and Communications.
Favourite Genres: YA, literary fiction, crime fiction, true crime, academic non-fiction (literature, history, art).
Genres I’m also happy to read: N/A.
Genres/material I won’t read: Military history.
Favorite authors: Jane Austen, Neil Gaiman, Alice Munro, Haruki Murakami, Milan Kundera.
Am I an author? Yes.
Hobbies: Painting, Writing (poetry, short stories, plays), Soccer, Music, Yoga, Hiking.

Jacalyn

My approach to beta reading: Most of my working life has been training or assisting writers with their work. So I believe it’s so important to give feedback and guidance that encourages growth, not causes them to doubt their abilities. I don’t so much focus on rules; I focus on how writing makes me feel.

Formal Qualifications: Bachelor of Arts (Professional Writing), Bachelor of Creative Arts (Hons).

Favourite genres: General fiction, YA, sci-fi, drama, thriller/suspense.

Genres I’m also happy to read: Historical fiction, fantasy, chick lit.

Genres/material I won’t beta read: Child abuse, sexual violence.

Favorite authors: Please don’t make me choose!

Am I an author?: I write short stories but I haven’t been published.

Hobbies: Reading, painting and watching my stories.

Anne-Marie

My approach to beta reading:

I’ve worked with many first-time authors, so I know that trusting a stranger to read your work can be daunting. But the aim of beta reading is to nudge your book a little bit closer to publishable, and hopefully that is what I will do. I will highlight what works with your book, as well as what doesn’t work.

Formal Qualifications: Proofreading modules 1 and 2 (Society for Editors and Proofreaders), copyediting modules 1 and 2 (Editorial Freelancers’ Association), Diploma in Editing and Proofreading (New Zealand Institute of Business Studies), Postgraduate Diploma in Journalism (Massey University), Bachelor of Arts majoring in social anthropology and religious studies (Massey University).

Favourite genres:  Religious/spiritual, self-help, philosophy, memoir, creative non-fiction.

Genres I’m also happy to read:  Politics, history, finance/business, art, travel.

Genres/material I won’t read: Fiction.

Favorite authors: I tend to read by genre rather than author, but some I’ve enjoyed are Nimue Brown, Emma Restall-Orr, Bill Bryson, Brene Brown.

Am I an author?: As a former journalist I’ve had my work published many times.

Hobbies: Reading, swimming, cooking, gardening, Scrabble, pub quiz.

Fiona

My approach to beta reading: I go with my first instinctive response. I think about what’s working and keeping me there, and what can be improved. Then I think about the most useful way to convey this to the author.

Formal Qualifications or Training: MPhil (Creative Writing), MA (Writing, Editing and Publishing), BA (English)

Favourite Genres: Literary fiction, crime, thriller, YA

Genres I’m also happy to read: Memoir

Genres/material I won’t read: Horror, MRA

Favourite authors: Randolph Stow, Ursula Le Guin, Tom Franklin

Am I an author? Yes. Short fiction and creative non-fiction.

Hobbies: Bushwalking, reading, cinema, amateur field naturalism

Margaret

I read widely and constantly. I would read manuscripts with an eye for originality of voice and approach, and an ear for a delight in language the writer wants to share.

Formal qualifications: Diploma of Social Science in Librarianship and RMIT Associate Degree in Professional Writing and Editing

Favourite genres: Literary fiction, short stories, murder mysteries, creative non-fiction, books for children from birth to twelve.

Genres I’m also happy to read: Romance

Genres/material I won’t read: For adults: None. For children: Gross out humour (poos, wees and falling down)

Favorite authors: Mohsin Hamid, Penelope Fitzgerald, Margo Lanagan, Rebecca Stead

Are you an author? Yes. I’ve co-written three books for babies, and I write about books for literary journals.

Hobbies: Patchwork and crane-watching

 

Melanie

I value transparency and will offer my thoughts honestly but with optimism. Character development, authenticity of voice and motivations behind character action interest me, and I’m always looking for solid storylines and fresh perspectives and style. Genre matters little when a story is told well by engaging characters.

Formal qualifications: Graduate RMIT Professional Writing and Editing.

Favourite genres: Literary, Paranormal, supernatural, YA and general fiction.

Genres I’m also happy to read: Thriller.

Genres/material I won’t read: Historical fiction, self-help, religious.

Favorite authors: Christos Tsiolkas, Maxine Benebe Clarke, Glen Duncan, Markus Zusak, Hugh Howey, Laurell K Hamilton.

Are you an author? Yes. YA, literary, paranormal, poetry.

Hobbies: Writing, reading, movies.

Robyn

My approach to beta reading: Growing up, I was known as the girl who was always reading. I recall walking to the local library on my own at five years of age. I love a good story, be it true or fiction, especially when it resonates in some way.  But more than that, I love coaching/guiding an author to make their story something special.

Formal Qualifications or Training: Cert IV Training and Assessment, B Ed (Upper Primary/Lower Secondary), Grad Dip (Ed Counselling), Post Grad Cert Editing and Electronic Publishing.

Favourite genres: Creative nonfiction and science fiction.

Genres I’m also happy to read: Autobiography , memoir.

Genres/material I won’t beta read: Pretty open to considering all genres.

Favorite authors: Thea Astley, Andrew Miller, Geraldine Brooks, Richard Flanagan, Tim Winton.

Am I an author? Yes

Hobbies: Writing children’s stories, learning Spanish, travelling, enjoying time with family and friends.

Merridy

My approach to beta reading: English literature studies gave me an excellent grounding in book structure, language use, tone and genre. A lifetime of incessant reading means I quickly gain a feel for a work, its characters, plot pacing and integrity. It’s a pleasure to use these skills to help other writers develop their books.

Formal Qualifications: BA Hons (English Literature), Dip Ed, Grad Dip Psych Studies.

Favourite genres: General fiction, children’s and YA, fantasy, humour, creative non-fiction, poetry.

Genres/material I won’t beta read: Violence, forensics, gore, horror.

Favorite authors: Ursula Le Guin, Alexander McCall Smith, Alain de Botton, Michael Bond, Lian Tanner, Jandy Nelson, TS Eliot, AA Milne.

Am I an author? Yes. I write and publish humorous novels about guinea pigs.

Hobbies: Books, yoga, upcycling, travel, swimming, photography, guinea pigs.

Mary

My approach to beta reading: Each author is different – each manuscript, therefore, can’t be compared with another. However, the character development, the ‘page-turning’ effect of the narrative, the prose, dialogue and descriptions should all, in turn, keep the reader satisfied and this is what I’ll be looking for. I enjoy reading new authors and particularly debut authors; currently, I’ve read three this month.

Formal Qualifications: HBD Nursing, BN, BA Hons, Diploma of Editing and Proofreading (ECU).

Favourite genres: History, memoirs, non-fiction, crime, adventure.

Genres I’m also happy to read: YA.

Genres/material I won’t beta read: sci-fi, alt history, fantasy, porn.

Favorite authors: Tolkein, Hillary Mantell, Stieg Larsson, Peter Fitzsimon, Paul Ham.

Am I an author? Yes. Non-fiction and academic writing, currently compiling.

Hobbies: reading, knitting, gardening, walking, glamping, birdwatching, history and writing an oral history project for Bridgetown’s 150th anniversary of its gazettal.

Margie

My approach to beta reading: As a writer I know feedback is invaluable. It should, though, be couched in a supportive, constructive manner. Writers’ egos are usually fragile and writing is a very personal business; we bare our souls. I’ve learnt a great deal from having others read and comment on my own work.

Formal Qualifications: TAFE editing. Numerous editing and writing workshops.

Favourite genres: Literary fiction, memoirs, autobiographies, some chick lit, the classics.

Genres I’m also happy to read: Sci-fi, poetry.

Favorite authors: Sebastian Faulks, Ian McEwan, William Dalrymple, Donna Tartt, Tim Winton, Amitav Ghosh, Kate Grenville, Geraldine Brooks, Liz Byrski, Hanya Yanagihara, Jane Harper.

Genres/material you won’t beta read: None.

Am I an author? Yes.

Hobbies: Reading, yoga, walking with my dog, films, talking.

Lainie

My approach to beta reading:  I always keep a notebook beside me, day and night, so I can jot notes on queries or thoughts that come to me as I read. I’m passionate about books and stories and I’ve never failed to finish reading a book I’ve begun!

Formal Qualifications or Training: Bachelor of Science (Australian Environmental Studies), Postgraduate Diploma in Geographic Information Systems and Graduate Certificate in Environment (specialising in Education for Sustainability). Short courses in writing, editing, etc.

Favourite genres:

Genres I’m also happy to beta read:  Medical reference.

Genres/material I won’t beta read: Erotica, overly religious or spiritual self-help, horror.

Favourite authors: Rachael Treasure, Rachael Johns, Kate Morton, Fleur McDonald, Fiona McIntosh, Di Morrissey, Monica McInerney, Freda Lightfoot, Nick Earls, Nikki Gemmell.

Are you an author? No, but I write, edit and produce newsletters, etc.

Hobbies: Reading, recycling/repurposing, arts and crafts (painting, papercrafts), photography, producing goods and information for others.

Kelsey

My approach to beta reading: I like to give honest but sensitive feedback on how events and characters made me react, focusing strongly on believability and offering suggestions that may have come to mind during reading.

Formal Qualifications: BA Hons (English and Linguistics); Subbing and Indesign course w/ Alliance/Walkley Foundation Training for Journalists; Professional Editing and Proofreading Course w/The Sackville Academy.

Favourite genres: Fantasy, science fiction, paranormal erotica, YA

Genres I’m also happy to beta read:  Traditional romance, chick lit, literary fiction

Genres/material you won’t beta read: Crime, horror, biographies, non-fiction.

Favorite authors: Robin Hobb, Terry Goodkind, Gena Showalter, Nalini Singh, JR Ward, Paullina Simons.

Hobbies: Reading, fitness, yoga, writing.

Are you an author? Journalist.

Kat

My approach to beta reading: My job as a beta reader is to give authors an overview of what is working in their manuscript and what is not. I am friendly, honest and constructive in my responses, helping authors to look at their manuscript in depth and improve it.

Formal Qualifications or Training: Diploma of Professional Writing and Editing, Bachelor of Professional Writing and Editing.

Favourite genres you are solidly familiar with:

Genres I’m also happy to beta read:  Women’s fiction, literary fiction, spirituality, new age.

Favourite authors: Louise Cooper, Robin Hobb, Raymond E. Feist.

Genres/material I won’t beta read: Evangelistic manuscripts.

Are you an author? No.

Hobbies: Learning (anything I can!), reading, writing, cooking.

Imelda

My approach to beta reading: I aim to give the author genuine feedback, including any emotive response, in a nurturing, supportive fashion. I like to note areas of brilliance as well as the disparities and areas for improvement. These can be in relation to plot, character, setting, pace, point of view and authenticity of voice.

Formal Qualifications: Assoc Degree Professional Writing and Editing, Dip Mgmt, Dip Bus Admin, Cert IV TAE, Cert III Small Bus Mgmt.

Favourite Genres:

Genres I’m also happy to beta read:  science, agriculture, travel.

Genres/material I won’t beta read:  Erotica, medical, self-help, abuse.

Favorite authors: Jackie French, Markus Zusak, Miles Franklin, David Metzenthen, Jane Austen, Le Ly Hayslip, Thomas Keneally, Tom Clancy.

Are you an author? Yes.

Hobbies: Bushwalking, photography, reading, films, art, genealogy.

Alix

My approach to beta reading: I’m honest and communicate the manuscript’s positives as well as its drawbacks. I try to articulate how I felt as I read the manuscript, how I wish I’d felt and whether the two align.

Formal Qualifications or Training: Ba App Sci (HMS), Ba Bus (Accy), MTax, CPA, CTA, MArts (completion Nov 2018).

Favourite genres: Romantic comedy, cosy mystery, young adult, science fiction, action, easy reading in general.

Genres I’m also happy to read: Memoir, biography, technical.

Genres/material I won’t beta read: Erotica, horror.

Favorite authors: LM Montgomery, Ursula leGuin, Tim Stevens, Denise Grover Swank.

Are you an author? No.

Hobbies: Reading, running, baking, crochet.

Beth

My approach to beta reading: Because there’s vulnerability in letting others comment on your work, I look for things to praise as well as to query. I consider the pace of the story and its context. I also ask whether a particular action feels authentic for a character — would they really act as described?

Formal Qualifications: (Hons) in Political Studies, Diploma of Professional Writing and Editing (in progress at RMIT), short courses by Editors Victoria including structural editing. Member of the Institute of Professional Editors and the Australasian Medical Writers Association.

Favourite Genres: Historical fiction, women’s stories, mysteries, drama.

Genres I’m also happy to read: Young adult, memoir.

Genres/material I won’t beta read: Sci-fi, horror, erotica.

Favorite authors: Diana Gabaldon, Liane Moriarty, Paullina Simons, PG Wodehouse, Jane Austen, Lian Hearn, Kate Grenville, Julian Fellowes, Julian Barnes.

Are you an author? Yes. I write reports, grant applications and web content. Most of this is in the health field. I particularly enjoy translating complex medical information into plain English. Why refer to ‘unanticipated mortality events’ when you mean ‘sudden deaths’?

Hobbies: Reading, swimming, kayaking, bushwalking

Evelyn – 20

My approach to beta reading: I like to fully immerse myself in the narrative and try to constructively identify details that hinder that experience, in the most encouraging way I can.

Formal Qualifications: Currently a university student. Year 12 Certificate.

Favourite genres: Memoirs/biographies, YA fiction, romance, drama.

Favorite authors: C.S. Lewis, Agatha Christie, Nicholas Sparks, Dale Carnegie, Jodi Picoult.

Genres/material I won’t beta read: Horror, Fantasy, Erotica.

Am I an author? No.

Hobbies: Reading, cooking, sewing, going to the gym.

Chloe – 14

My approach to beta reading: My approach is to be open to what the author is trying to create with their writing and to assist them in finding the best version of their work they can. I believe that listening to feedback is a crucial stage in producing something with potential.

Formal Qualifications: Year 6 English Award, distinctions in English (Years 7 and 8)

Favourite genres: YA, dystopia, action and adventure, romance.

Genres I am also happy to read: Science fiction, mystery, fantasy, drama.

Favorite authors: Scott Westerfield, John Green, Veronica Roth, Melina Marchetta.

Genres/material I won’t beta read: Erotica.

Hobbies: Photography, netball, reading, makeup.

Millie – 18

My approach to beta reading: I believe beta readers should be honest and give true opinions of the book, though they should also be mindful of the fact that they may not be the intended readership and that there are multiple ways to interact with the text.

Favourite genres: Literary fiction, YA.

Favorite authors: Alice Pung, Helen Garner, Dodie Smith, Virginia Woolf.

Genres/material I won’t beta read: erotica.

Are you an author? No.

Hobbies: reading, playing guitar, riding.

Ari – 19

My approach to beta reading: I give authors honest feedback. I like to help authors who are planning to publish by giving my opinions on what worked for me and what didn’t, in their work. I enjoy such a broad spectrum of fiction and have read many styles of writing. I can always find feedback to give.

Formal Qualifications: Currently studying graphic design.

Age range: 18

Favourite genres: anything LGBT, young adult, literary fiction, poetry, thriller, and speculative fiction (incl. science fiction, fantasy, etc).

Genres I’m also happy to read:  Horror.

Genres/material you won’t beta read: Graphic sexual abuse (especially children), blatant homophobic or transphobic material.

Favorite authors: Donna Tartt, Margaret Atwood, Megan Abbott, Benjamin Saenz, Gillian Flynn, Cassandra Clare, Elliot Wake.

Are you an author? Yes but mostly unpublished (except for some poetry).

Hobbies: Reading, creating art and graphic design, playing video games, watching films, music.

Carly

My approach to beta reading: I feel it’s important to leave any personal agenda at the door and figure out what the author’s own vision is. I use a combination of general impressions, assessments of the strengths and weaknesses and suggestions for improvement to form an honest evaluation of the story.

Formal qualifications: Graduate certificate editing and electronic publishing; Graduate certificate food writing; Certificate professional editing and proofreading; Structural (fiction) editing for editors.

Favourite genres: General and literary fiction, memoir, comedy, historical fiction, YA, dystopian.

Genres I’m also happy to read: Science fiction.

Genres/material I won’t beta read: Nothing.

Favourite authors: Jeffrey Eugenides, Tim Winton, Elizabeth Gilbert, Liane Moriarty.

Am I an author: No.

Hobbies: reading, writing, weaving, embroidery, gardening

Lauren

My approach to beta reading: is to provide clear, considered and constructive feedback that will give the author an insight into the reader’s experience and help them to achieve their writing aims.

Formal qualifications or training: Graduate Certificate in Editing and Electronic Publishing (Macquarie University, 2016, won course prize for outstanding achievement), Bachelor of Laws with Honours (University of Adelaide, 2011).

Favourite genres: Adult fiction, literary fiction, historical fiction, non-fiction history, biographies and memoirs, crime and mystery.

Genres I’m also happy to read: Fantasy, science-fiction, YA, true crime, self-development, educational.

Favorite authors: Graeme Simsion (and Anne Buist), Anthony Horowitz, Lemony Snicket (Daniel Handler), Alan Bradley, Jane Austen, C.S. Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkien, Richard Fidler, Alexandre Dumas.

Genres/material I won’t beta read: Horror, erotica, romance.

Are you an author? No

Hobbies: Cooking, reading, dancing and watching classical ballet, listening to classical music, visiting art galleries and museums.

Kellie

My approach to beta reading:  It’s not about my preferences, but about how the book will play with target readers. A writer myself, I try to give feedback that covers aspects of writing craft, which can affect the reader’s experience, while remaining constructive, encouraging and kind.

Formal Qualifications: I am in my final year of studies for a Certificate IV in Professional Writing and Editing at Victoria Polytechnic. My Diploma in PWE is also underway.

Favourite genres:

Genres I’m also happy to read: relationship-based or character-driven fiction, young adult, memoir.

Favorite authors: Kate Canterbary, Eve Dangerfield, Penny Reid, Kylie Scott, Barbara Kingsolver, Tim Winton, Vikram Seth, Kerry Greenwood, James S A Corey.

Genres/material I won’t beta read: horror, violence, child abuse.

Are you an author? Yes, I’m a writer and online-published fan fiction author. I’m yet to publish original fiction.

Hobbies: writing, sewing, reading.

Connie

My approach to beta reading: I love to offer insights and productive feedback to authors. I’m not a critical person by nature and will always see the best in someone’s work whilst making honest suggestions for improvement. I know the struggle authors face and the considerable contribution constructive feedback can make.

Formal Qualifications: Diploma of Professional Writing and Editing (RMIT), Bachelor of Social Work (Monash University).

Favourite genres:

Favourite authors: Melina Marchetta, Jane Harper, Alex Miller, Ellie Marney, Jane Austen, John Green, Jennifer Donnelly, Cath Crowley, Maggie Stiefvater, Louisa May Alcott, Jandy Nelson, Harper Lee, Liane Moriarty.

Genres/material I won’t beta read: Extreme graphic violence, paedophilia.

Are you an author? Yes. Emerging author.

Hobbies: Reading, keeping fit, paddle boarding, eating chips and watching Netflix.

Jo

My approach to beta reading: I love snuggling down to enjoy the luxury of being a reader. I note anything that strikes me – what’s absolute gold and compels me to keep reading or what jars me from the story.  I then put the manuscript aside to allow the narrative settle in my bones before writing my report with deep respect for all that the author has achieved. I’m passionate about story in all its forms and love to support fellow writers as they create their unique brand of narrative.

Formal Qualifications: Assoc. Degree Professional Writing and Editing, RMIT.

Favorite genres:

Genres/material I won’t beta read: Gratuitous violence, horror, sexual abuse.

Favorite authors: Margo Lanagan, Ellie Marney, John Green, Cally Black, Lian Tanner, Kate DiCamillo, Tamora Pierce, Katherine Paterson, Martine Murray, Linda Sue Park, Moya Simons, Jen Storer, Mo Willems, Bob Graham, Maxine Beneba Clarke.

Are you an author? Yes. Currently represented by Jacinta di Mase Management. I have two manuscripts under submission – a memoir and a picture book.

Hobbies: reviewing children’s literature and interviewing authors for KBR, curating SCWBI newsletter, reading, writing, editing, walking and swimming.