If your life is burning well

February 28, 2017 at 9:56 pm (Uncategorized) (, , , , , , , , , )

They say that on a list of fears, public speaking would rate highly for most people.

Here’s the thing: I love it.

Seeing audience seats fill is a beautiful sight. The butterflies generally kick in at this point, watching just off stage. But they’re the joyous, I-can’t-believe-I-get-paid-for-doing-something-I-adore flutters of excitement that make me reach happily for the microphone.

No, my list of fears is markedly different from most. It includes, just so you know, an absolute horror of people who walk on stilts, and a case of trypophobia that renders me mute in the face of crumpets.

But that’s another story entirely.

Noir Exhibition

Performing ‘The Old Man with Birds for Hands’ with Michael Madden on cello

I hit the road again last weekend as part of the wonderful Stereo Stories. I perform regularly with this talented and dedicated troupe of writers, singers and musicians, and love every moment. We tell the tales of why a song resonates for us; whether it reminds us of our first lover or our last birthday, the people who’ve bruised us or the places that have nestled under our skin. On stage we have a full band performing the songs as we read, or sometimes a lone singer/guitarist. This combination elicits heartfelt responses from the audience, with many appreciating the songs with a fresh perspective, or even hearing them for the first time.

And when they approach me after a performance, I often ask them ‘What songs would you write about?’

My own writing pieces on the Stereo Stories website cross genres, ages and moods. I’ve written about wanting to see Babes in Toyland in concert in my feminist punk obsessed 20’s, yet being held prisoner by my agoraphobia. I wrote about sitting in a karaoke bar near my artists’ residency in a tiny rural village 200 km from Helsinki, listening to a poignant Finnish version of Kris Kristofferson’s ‘Sunday Morning Coming Down.’

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The Pitkospuupolku through the forest, Joutsa, Finland

There’s a tale of mine about narrowly escaping sexual assault my first night living alone while listening to Ike and Tina Turner, and another about dragging my suitcase along a U-Bahn platform blissfully humming my time honoured return-to-Berlin song by Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds.

I once ended up in Jackson, Mississippi only to realise I was there purely for the Johnny Cash song. And I had the unique experience of watching a character of mine come to life in an ABC recording studio, in the shape of a surly taxidermy flamingo singing a gravelly Tom Waits songs.

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Berlin Wall

Flamingo

My latest addition to my flamingo collection

My most personal story on the website, however, is a tribute to both Leonard Cohen and the man who’s changed the course of my life with his gentle yet wolfish ways: my partner and fellow writer, Chris. It was at times daunting in its intimacy, but what are songs if not conveyors of human emotion and experience? Listening to ‘Undertow’ by Leonard Cohen in our first flush of love is a gorgeous memory, even more so now that Cohen has left us.

For all my Stereo Stories, click here.

On this latest road trip for Stereo Stories, Chris and I hit the road with the Rolling Stones on the stereo, bad petrol station coffee, and excited thigh squeezes. Australia is made for jaunts like this with its wide open roads and sun bleached landscape. We passed kangaroo and koala road signs as we drove 250 km north, before hitting Wangaratta and our motel.

Rehearsals gave way to quick pizza and beer refreshment before the stage lights lifted. And it was, as always with Stereo Stories, a joyful experience. The Wangaratta crowd was warm and welcoming, the band and readers hit their stride beautifully, and then there were long and lovely chats back at our motel well into the night, discussing life, love and everything in between, with glasses of shiraz and shared slots on the stereo.

Stereo Stories (Tony Proudfoot Photography)

And there you have it. Be it Williamstown Literary Festival, Newstead Short Story Tattoo, the Emerging Writers Festival, Brimbank Readers and Writers Festival, Newport Folk Festival, Write Around the Murray Festival or any future adventure, it’s always a joy to climb on stage and reach for the microphone.

So in closing, let me ask you…what songs would you write about?

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Swings & roundabouts

July 18, 2013 at 9:49 pm (Uncategorized) (, , , , )

I dance a lot.

Just so you know.

You probably wouldn’t think so, to look at me. I’m not a perky person; in fact, my fingers didn’t like even typing that word. I’m quiet, but with a redhead’s temper, and extremely high heels that make dancing wildly impractical.

But just between us…I LOVE it.

I do several classes of partnered swing dancing a week. We listen to music from the 30s, 40s and 50s, and my wardrobe is showing the influence. We whirl around the dance floor doing the lindy hop and the shag, throwing down Johnny Drops and Tacky Annies like you wouldn’t believe.

I didn’t make those moves up, I swear.

I’m building myself up for aerials; being thrown over the man’s shoulders in true jitterbug style. And I cannot wait.Swingandthecity05

 

The man decides which moves to do, and the woman follows. This is not in my nature. The unpredictability of it –stepping onto the dance floor and giving up all control – used to make me sick. I’m the kind of person who needs to know what’s coming next, in class and in life. But being spun around to dirty, swampy blues, not knowing which move will follow and just giving in to the joyous freedom of it, is absolutely intoxicating.

I also tend to drink champagne during class. I should probably mention that.

swing-dancing

When I finish a story and prepare to submit it, I do everything I can to make it ready for the world. But I have to accept that once I send it, I have absolutely no control over how it’s received. Hitting send is like stepping onto the dance floor, holding your breath and nodding and saying, Ok, I have to trust this will work.

There have been several ouchy rejections this month, and more than a few frowns. But then the emails come through saying Yes, yes, we want this, and you feel as though you’ve just done five swing outs in a row to Big Mama Thornton with your eyes closed, laughing.

So here we go:

Stereo Stories is a wonderful new Melbourne online magazine specialising in the personal tales behind songs. They’ve just published my story about the Babes In Toyland song ‘Bruise Violet,’ and accepted another about Johnny Cash’s ‘Jackson,’  coming soon. They’re looking for more authors, if you’re interested, so go ahead and click on the image.

stereo stories

A very short story has just come online in literary journal Carnival, full of all manner of gems…you can read ‘Jawbreaker’ here.

Another story, ‘Falling Under the Rabbit,’ has been selected for an American anthology, and my ‘Street of the Candlesticks’ audio story has been chosen for a festival in Chicago.

To top off this wondrous month, I did a spoken word version of ‘The Old Man with Birds for Hands’ at a Melbourne exhibition opening last week, accompanied by my lovely friend Mikey Madden on cello. I also exhibited artwork based on my story, which took me totally outside of my comfort zone.

But that seems to be what 2013 is for, and though it doesn’t always work out, lord does it feel SO damn fine when it does.

Noir Exhibition

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