That backslidden boy

August 8, 2014 at 12:07 pm (Uncategorized) (, )

Last month I was standing onstage at a festival, story in hand, as I was introduced to the audience. I had a bright red dress, a straight spine, and a handful of butterflies circling my belly as I looked out at the crowd.

I love public speaking. Truth be told, I feel the adrenalin and worry about tripping over a microphone cord, but I know that stepping out of my comfort zone can only make me a better writer in the end.

My hands may shake, but my voice doesn’t.

I listened to the announcer chat about my publications and performances. I was busy wondering if my lipstick was still red, and whether I should swill some water before my turn came. He reached the final line of my biography, and I heard laughter ripple out from the audience.

Rijn is currently working on a novel, and trying not to include Elvis in it.

And I had no choice but to lean into the microphone, and with a straight face tell them “I didn’t manage it, I’m afraid…he just sneaked into chapter thirteen.’

Stereo Stories

Stereo Stories  performance at the Newport Folk Festival

I can’t listen to music as I write. I do while I’m researching, or redrafting…a little Howlin’ Wolf can never go astray, after all. But while my muse is sitting on my shoulder (she’s a tiny little redhead with slightly crossed eyes and a passion for karaoke, in case you’re wondering) and I’m pouring out the words, I need lotus legs, black coffee, and silence.

But Elvis…lord, that man slays me, every time. At one point I realised that three of my previous eight stories had the characters listening to Elvis, a fact that escaped me when writing. And yes, yes, when I pull out the notes for my novel a fair few sequins spill out now, with the man himself nestled happily between chapters, just as we both knew he would.

So why not put him deliberately into a story, find a fitting home, and send him off with a smile?

The result, ‘Elvis Would So,’ has just come online in Vending Machine Press. You can click on the link to read it, and also to listen to me recite it. I was recently in the ABC studios recording my newest story, so a little practice in audio work  is always welcome.

vending machine press

And if you have strong views on Blue Hawaii versus Black Leather Elvis – and who doesn’t?! – feel free to discuss.

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Falling under the rabbit

May 4, 2013 at 9:44 pm (Uncategorized) (, , , , )

I never made a pillow fort as a child.

Oh, I made things – countless trays of luridly pink coconut ice, lovingly decorated letters to Duran Duran, and fake cocktails with bathwater that I tried to pass off to my sister as brandy, lime and dry.

She never fell for it.

But when my friends reminisced recently about the joys of building a pillow fort out of furniture piled on beds, draped with sheets, I had to shake my head. They very kindly re-enacted it one lazy afternoon, filled it with taxidermy animals and tea stained paperbacks, and with a soundtrack of Elvis and Tom Waits, we all took turns climbing in.

pillow fort

If you can think of a cozier way to spend a Sunday, I’d like to hear about it.

Like many random afternoons with friends, it ended with my head in my notebook, sketching out a story. The result, ‘Falling Under the Rabbit,’ has just come out in lovely literary magazine Crack the Spine. If you can spare some time, take a look at the wonderful stories they’ve put together, and then stop by page 32 for mine. Which is, I have to stress, fiction.

Rich as my life is, I can’t say it’s ever involved an afternoon with Marianne Faithfull, salted caramel pudding, and a talking rabbit.

But you never know…there’s still time.

crack the spine

 

 

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Fingers & thumbs

December 23, 2012 at 12:56 pm (Uncategorized) (, , , , , , )

I’m appallingly nostalgic.

A Boy George barbie doll slumbers in my bedside drawer, and a dark ball of fur from my first cat is still on my windowsill, nestled in a tiny china cup. I have every love letter ever written to me even though I can’t quite recall the faces of the men who wrote them, and the front door key of a five hundred year old house in Brussels that’s still strung along a red ribbon necklace, even though I know I’ll never slide it into the lock again.

I remember things.

God damn writers, hey?

So December is such a lovely, indulgent, bittersweet time, a month to pull out the notebooks, pour the whiskey, and put some Bessie Smith on the stereo as I climb down the tail of a Y or the curve of an S, and slide back into my memories.

Some of the pearls I got to polish this year: twenty-seven stories submitted to editors, with twelve accepted, four recorded for the ABC, and five still pending. Brand spanking new website to throw my ink all over: one. Deep breaths before I made it live: you don’t want to know.

poison berries

Thirty-eight swing dance classes, three social balls, countless new cocktail frocks to keep up with them all, and so many amazing new friends to swirl around the dance floor with that I’ve well and truly run out of fingers to count them.

Cowboys to write about: too many for my own good, and yet, strangely, never quite enough.

One hundred and eleven quotes in my little red notebook.

Nine U.S. states visited, one approaching hurricane, forty-six degrees in the Mojave Desert, dozens of tears in Graceland, countless lurid purple daiquiris in New Orleans, two voodoo charms, four Louisiana gators, and one slice of coconut cream pie so luscious and divine I can almost still taste it.

Poems written for me in Bourbon Street, outside Tennessee Williams’ favourite bar: one.

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Things to do in Jackson, Mississippi: about…oh, three. And they don’t take long.

Pierogi in the Polish section of Brooklyn, smothered in butter and salt: a dozen or so. Smiles from the waitress: none. Minutes it took until Lisa made us flee the freak show at Coney Island with her head in her hands: eleven. Nightmares she had afterward: unknown.

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Nine paper letters written to penpals around the world, three Kafka books bought, too many pairs of red stilettos added to the collection snaking around my bedroom walls. Times I listened to Elmore James’ ‘My bleedin’ heart’, blues dancing in my head: about 1300.

Times I spoke, wrote or dreamt about serpents, cowboys, moustaches or German: do I really have to answer that?

New red notebook to record 2013 and all its jewels: one.

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To the year of the cat

December 27, 2011 at 12:07 pm (Uncategorized) (, , , , , , , , , , , )

As someone who’s kept a diary since they were seven years old, I look at the closing of a year with the same reverence that others reserve for finding truffles or unreleased Nirvana tracks. So here is what’s come to my attention in 2011.

My research for stories can lead me to literally eat paper ripped from my notebook, investigate the fine art of taxidermy,  the last days of Kafka, and the marketing of 80’s lollies, learn Finnish terms of endearment, and spend far too long doing online personality tests, where I was told ‘You are reclusive to the point of being sociopathic.’ Indeed.

I feel so much better now that my friends and I have an apocalypse plan. I can’t reveal all the details, but it involves martinis, pool ponies, and cyanide teeth.

Old school rockabilly ruled my i-pod this year: Wanda Jackson, Gene Vincent, Johnny Burnette, early Elvis…the hardcore punk took a step into the background, and hell, did it scowl about it.

The moment I speared a chopstick into a dumpling at my first yum cha, I couldn’t believe I’d lived without it for so long.

Having your words raked over the coals at a writers’ workshop makes the spine straight, but the stories so much richer. I resolve to organise more in 2012; hold me to it, ok?

I can never read too many Rainer Maria Rilke poems, or Vladimir Nabokov short stories.

Being brought a glass of Moet et Chandon champagne in the spa, and then handfed caviar from the outstretched fingers of one of my closest friends, Jessica Tremp, as we readied ourselves for our French dinner party whilst singing to Serge Gainsbourg, is truly one of life’s finest moments.

The Finnish language is inexpressibly beautiful, impossibly complicated, and utterly unforgettable. How could you live without a language that has a word for ‘bouncy cushion satisfaction’ – Hyppytyynytyydytys?

Every single time I head back to Berlin, there’s a flat in Cotheniusstrasse in Prenzlauer Berg waiting for me with lobster coloured walls, a balcony to write on overlooking the cobblestones, and every ‘Mad Max’ movie dubbed into German: Seine Frau haben sie fast umgebracht. Seinen besten Freund getötet. Seine einzige Waffe ist sein 600 PS starker Turbo-Wagen!

I am capable of producing characters who train cats for flash mob performances, indulge in trichotillomania, cheat at card games during a thunderstorm in Estonia, point their rifle at their wife while kangaroo hunting, get paid to seductively lift their petticoat in alleyways by their university professor, hang by their tails from the treetops in Berlin whilst philosophising, think they can control traffic lights, and drink martinis at the Lithuanian Redhead Appreciation Society. And this year, only once did I write a story with Elvis in it. I’m getting better, I think.

It’s never too early for a Bloody Mary breakfast.

Spontaneity is not my strong point. Waking up one morning in Berlin, however, and turning to the glorious Gretchen Cello to ask ‘Babe, do you want to go to Poland today?’, unearthed all manner of richness. Returning after sunset with a smattering of Polish words, a damn fine pair of red polka dot high heels, a plan to visit Krakow next time I’m in Europe, and bellies full of pierogi ruski smothered in sour cream and salt, made it a day to remember.

Lastly, I sent numerous stories out into the world, and my acceptance rate is still outweighing my rejections. With writing accepted by Metazen, Necessary Fiction, Lowestoft Chronicle, Defenestration, Paroxysm Press, No Printer Zone, Untitled, and recorded by the Australian Broadcasting Corporation and My Audio Universe in the United States, I can rest my pen in the spine of my little red notebook with a smile.

To 2012…may it be full of ink to spill, rockabilly to dance to, and more than one dirty martini raised in celebration.

And probably at least one Elvis story. I’m trying, people…I really am.

 

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