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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Three little splashes of ink

September 13, 2011 at 9:28 pm (Uncategorized) (, , , , )

German keyboards are crazy. In Berlin I’d head to my favourite internet cafe on Kastanienallee, make small talk with the owner in my less than shiny German, and head into the back room with a tiny bottle of Rotkäppchen champagne to check my email.

Little Red Riding Hood champers…sometimes, I know I only try things because the words sound good.

Damn writers.

Halfway through my month in Europe I worked my way around the rearranged letters on the German keyboard to find that three splashes of my ink had landed in lovely places while I was away.

The wonderful people at Lowestoft Chronicle have just released issue #7, and have included my story ‘I like your deer’s moustache, and other Lithuanian tales.’  If that title in any way intrigues you (I swear, sometimes the things that fall out of my pen surprise even me), head on over and check out the stellar work in this edition.

Metazen is a fabulous journal that publishes new writing every day; you can look through their archives for hours and still be entranced. They’ve published my story ‘The fig seed fountain’, so go take a peek if you have a few minutes.

Thirdly, a mix engineer in New York contacted me about my ‘Street of the Candlesticks’ piece, performed as part of the City Nights project on Radio National here in Australia. He’s working on a collaboration between musicians and writers, and asked for permission to incorporate text from my story with music and sound effects.

I had a shy little smile when I stepped back into the Berlin sun after that.

And I had plenty of Red Riding Hood to celebrate, believe me.

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Have you heard the one about the Lithuanian mermaid?

May 2, 2011 at 11:04 pm (Uncategorized) (, , , , )

My cave was beckoning.

I had an idyllic weekend, the kind of nourishing, indulgent treat this time of year calls for. It was the southern hemisphere’s Hallowe’en on Saturday, and the chill in the air tells me that winter and its darkness is coming. I nestled inside my cave with fresh paper, a bottle of sparkling shiraz (hey, don’t you make that face at me!), some Supersuckers on the stereo, a boisterous kitty nipping at my feet, and time to myself.

And I wrote.

I submitted four stories to different publishers, and though my fingers might have trembled when I hit send, send, send, I did it anyway. And already, barely days later, I’ve just received an email from the lovely folk at Lowestoft Chronicle telling me they enjoyed my story and would love to publish it in their summer edition. The bliss each time I read those words is pure magic, and never fails to make my eyes close, my breath catch, and my smile just about leap off my face.

This story was written with them in mind, though I have no idea where the idea came from: a tale of sitting in a bar in Vilnius and being mistaken for a member of Lithuanian ‘Big Brother.’ Sometimes even my eyebrows arch at what ends up on my page, but when the muse calls I know to grab her by her tail and shake every last drop of ink out of her.

Strange…my muse appears to be  some kind of  mermaid. Never knew that before.

I decided to reward myself with a strut up Northcote’s main drag. The autumn colours lining my street are astounding, a riot of amber and lime, and my army boots crunched as I strode. I was wearing a red coat that’s been my trusty winter wear since I was nineteen – kept me warm even during a snowstorm in Iceland –  and I started to wonder if I should put some money aside for a new one. That thought was knocked out of my head by the blackboard advertising one of many secondhand bookstores on the main strip, with its chalky quote:

Wear the old coat and buy the new book.

Austin Phelps

Sure thing, Austin old bean. If you say so…I headed into Brown and Bunting, truly Northcote’s most wonderful bookstore, and got caught up in a collection of Somerset Maugham’s short stories, but decided on a biography of Kafka by Pietro Citati.

While on the subject of literary quotes, another one has slid into my notebook lately. I’m knee deep in plans for a trip to Finland, Estonia, Poland, a few weeks in my second home of Berlin, and a few days in Hong Kong on the way back. Dipping into these glorious languages and cultures, learning about Baltic mythology and Finnish linguistics and Hong Kong temples, makes me shine…I’m rarely happier than when my passport is ready on my bed.

The World is a book, and those who do not travel read only a page.

Saint Augustine

But one last quote has been causing me mirth lately…see if your sense of humour mirrors mine.

Outside of a dog, a book is man’s best friend. Inside of a dog, it’s too dark to read.

Groucho Marx

And if that doesn’t make you snort sparkling shiraz out your nose, well, I just don’t know what will.

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