Out of the Blue

November 25, 2018 at 3:49 pm (Uncategorized) (, , , )

My parents have both begun writing down their lives. Stories are being sent around our family of childhood shenanigans and teen dreams, vintage cars and 21st birthdays.  As someone who’s kept a diary since the age of seven, I applaud this. How people cope without writing down their days is, frankly, beyond me.

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My parents

The above pic is from their engagement party. She was 19, and he was 21. They still look at each other this way, even after what will next year be half a century of marriage. Mum recently wrote that in their first house together they were broke but joyous; Dad was a bricklayer and used his trowel to slather butter on their toast. They were overjoyed to be free of their parents’ rules and used this independence to delight in eating chocolate pudding for breakfast. We can still hear them laughing like naughty kids at some in-joke during family celebrations, hand in hand, heads bent together.

Our latest celebration belonged to myself, and my Wolf. We threw an engagement party recently. We booked a room at our local pub and ordered blue cheese platters and tiny vanilla slices. I bought a 50’s pin up dress with Sophia Loren wrap around top, and hot air balloons and snakes around the hem. I then slid under it a petticoat so full that I had to bat it down to fit through doors. My shoes held big red roses that matched the red lilies tattooed down my arm. Half an hour before the party began we had to lie in bed together, hand in hand, and feed each other Valium to calm us down.

But it was wonderful; beyond wonderful, in fact. How can you not love being surrounded by people who can’t stop hugging you and wishing you well? Even though more than a few squeezed my arm and exclaimed ‘You? Getting married? YOU?’

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In Berlin, where this enigmatic city struck a chord in him the same way it has in me for thirty years

I understand their incredulity. I have, in fact, done a lot over the years to foster it, with my cynicism and independence, my polyamoury and adoration of solitude. So many of my stories have explored not the desire for intimacy, but rather the desire to shy away from it, a topic of much fascination for me, and my characters.

But quite quickly in our courtship, Chris and I bonded over the plague. And I thought, well, here is someone as macabre and melancholy as me: let’s see where this goes. His novel is set in Sweden; mine, Iceland…another good sign. We both have a shitlist that is horribly easy to be placed on, with our spiky tempers and long memories. He bought me a taxidermy workshop for Christmas, while I got him books on religious doomsday cults.

See what I mean?

 

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A plague doctor pillow and rogue flamingo…just your average living room

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Combined interests – witchcraft, the Black Death and apocalyptic painters

I make him spiced cakes for witchcraft sabbats and he gingerly moves my book collection to make room for our new snake tank. We both honour the solstices. My hundredth published story was about him. I’ve now stood on stage at literary festivals and told of our treacherous and terrifying drive across Iceland in sleet and snow, where only his soothing reassurances and Etta James’ sensual songs calmed my heartbeat.

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‘Gold’, my 100th published story – read here 

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‘Crawling King Snake’ at Stereo Stories – my tale of Iceland and intimacy

He’s the first writer I’ve fallen in love with. It changes the dynamic in heavenly ways, let me tell you. When we write side by side for hours, with only a forehead kiss or hand squeeze between us, no-one tells me I’m being selfish for communicating with my pen instead of my mouth. And that’s a blessing of the highest order, believe me.

My pen also threw out this little story for The Big Issue last month, ‘Out of the Blue.’ It details my emergence from the agoraphobia of my early twenties, and the role my pen pals played in that. The road in front of me used to look so narrow; completely lacking in freedom or potential, just a tiny slice of blue sky above factory chimneys. When I could control the panic long enough to creep to the window, that is.

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Read my story for The Big Issue – ‘Out of the Blue’

The road looks pretty damn different now. I never would have guessed it’d involve an engagement party, a snake dress and Valium.

Just between us though, I always hoped the publications would be in there somewhere.

 

 

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Count to ninety, and leap

June 30, 2018 at 10:37 pm (Uncategorized) (, , , , , , , )

Ninety seconds is not a lot of time.

In ninety seconds I could read some flash fiction, mix a martini or translate one of my Icelandic fortune cards. But is it enough time to sit in front of a waiting publisher or literary agent to pitch my novel?

I’m possibly making it more dramatic than it was (which is my job, after all). To be specific we had three minutes in front of each person, half of which was recommended to talk about our publishing achievements and pitch our project, with the other ninety seconds left free for any questions they had. With a roomful of other writers waiting in queues behind me, and a loud timer ringing constantly, there was no room for timidity. I had a straight spine, a handful of business cards, a blood red dress that stood out in a sea of Melbourne black, and a sold out performance at the Williamstown Literary Festival to head straight to afterwards.

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My business card

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Rehearsals for the Williamstown Literary Festival – photo by Eric Algra

A big day, then.

And a rather spectacular one. I apparently managed to make a novel about a taxidermist with an obsessive compulsive disorder in the snow and solitude of Iceland sound ‘odd and beautiful’, and walked out of there with three invitations to send in my manuscript when it’s finished. The advice I received was invaluable, as was the professionalism and expertise of those who donated their time; if you ever get the chance to attend a ‘literary speed dating’ event, jump at it. I am even more enthused to KEEP WRITING, stick to my schedule, and focus on the story that has had me enthralled for some time now.

My participation in the Hard Copy manuscript development program from the ACT Writers Centre has also been astonishingly inspiring. Designed to nurture ‘the next wave of exciting Australian novelists’, the first round involved three 9am-5pm sessions of lectures and workshops from the National Library in Canberra. As a member of their inaugural digital program, I accessed these from my writing studio via live streaming, with a constant supply of coffee, a loving partner bringing me snacks, a curious cat intruding into microphone range, and some very stiff neck muscles.

Point of view, present or past tense, interior struggle versus exterior atmosphere, titles and word count, with chats in the side bar and moving camera angles. My pen flew, and my fingers on the keyboard also. So many of us put value on talismans that helped our ink flow; my ring holding a chunk of Icelandic lava, my fortune telling cards bought from the Kolaportið flea market in Reykjavik, and my framed chart of the skeletal system of a small finch above my antique writing desk, to guide my protagonist’s hands through the taxidermy that opens my first chapter. Knowing this is a peculiarity of many writers felt like a blessing.

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‘Let Go Of It’

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Bird bones in my writing studio

Sharing the digital program with five other inspired and inspiring women from all around Australia was a dream come true, and we’re already talking about flying in to meet each other for a group whiskey weekend.

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My writing studio

As the Luddite of the group, I fared remarkably well. Given that the following is the opening paragraph of my recent article in the Victorian Writer magazine, I think everyone breathed a sigh of relief that my participation in the Hard Copy Digital stream was so seamless.

The first time I used the Internet, I was reluctant. So I could just type in any subject, and articles or photos would magically appear? A technophobe at heart, I hid my intimidation behind scorn. ‘Who would want that?’ I remember asking. ‘It won’t last.’

Round Two of Hard Copy begins in September, a week before I’m booked to appear at the Write Around the Murray literary festival in Albury, NSW. Last night I performed with Stereo Stories at the Glen Eira Story Telling festival, and two weeks before that there was the sold out show at the Williamstown Literary Festival. In between I recorded my love story to the West Gate Bridge at RRR studios for All The Best Radio, a piece that was first published in the Readings Victoria project to commemorate the tenth anniversary of Melbourne’s designation as a UNESCO City of Literature. Also due soon is my contribution, ‘Rapunzel, Rapunzel’ to the wonderful Memoria podcast, airing on July 16.

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At the RRR studios for All The Best Radio

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Stereo Stories at the Willi Lit Festival – photo by Eric Algra

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Just a woman and her giraffe dress – Williamstown Literary Festival

As if I needed more reason to spill ink, last week saw my birthday and the winter solstice, and a lovely, loving group of friends in a haunted house with open fire, Nancy Sinatra singalong and full heart.

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Walhalla, Victoria

 

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Walhalla Cemetery, Victora

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Walhalla, Victoria

Let’s see what inky wonders July brings, hey?

 

 

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Artemis April

April 30, 2018 at 10:05 pm (Uncategorized) (, , , , , , )

Full moon, black cat, snake skins and open notebook…that’s how I see this cycle in.

My March entry had me sending so many of my words out into the world, and I’m happy to say that many of them returned rosy-cheeked and full of joy. Here’s a little roundup of what’s happened over the last month…

  • I recorded two stories with the wonderful Nat for Memoria Podcast, and loved every moment. Writing for audio requires a different approach to words, an awareness of how they sound instead of look. This makes me step outside my comfort zone and look at my writing from a fresh perspective, something I always love. Stay tuned for release dates on both stories.
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Memoria recording

 

  • I’ve just been asked to speak on a panel at the Write Around the Murray literary festival up in Albury, New South Wales in August. This is one of my absolute favourite lit fests, set in a gorgeous town scattered with Art Deco architecture and run by some of the most passionate arts folk I’ve met. I’m looking forward to it greatly.
  • The current Victorian Writer magazine holds one of my stories on their collaboration theme. I wrote about my work with musicians, painters, photographers, producers and other writers, including my performances with Stereo Stories, and the magic such collaborations can produce.
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The Victorian Writer collaboration issue

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My story in The Victorian Writer

  • Speaking of which, rehearsals are currently underway with my Stereo Stories crew for our next performances: we’ll be at the Williamstown Literary Festival and the Glen Eira Storytelling Festival, both in June. Line up and ticket details coming soon!
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Rehearsing with Stereo Stories for the Williamstown Literary Festival in June

  • There’s been a production meeting for the film being made from my short story, ‘Snowblind.’ This is entirely new territory for me, but talks of screenplay, cast, set, location and music are immensely exciting. What was I saying again about taking me out of my comfort zone, and looking at words from another angle?
  • Finally, an email that made me beam: I’ve been accepted into the HARDCOPY manuscript development program, which aims to develop writers who will have ‘longevity in the Australian publishing industry.’ This amazing opportunity helps writers hone their manuscript and have their work seen by high-profile agents and publishers. Little bit exciting, that.

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So that’s why my monthly roundups have been coming at the last day possible – because I’m so busy writing, editing, recording, applying, rehearsing and rewriting that I can barely put the pen down.

But when I do need to step outside the page and clear my head, to focus on my body instead of the books, this is how I do it. Sometimes I channel Anne Sexton, sometimes Artemis.

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April, you’ve been gold, you have.

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