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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March’s muse

March 30, 2018 at 11:58 am (Uncategorized) (, , , , , )

I have the kind of bone weary, heart proud tiredness that comes from putting everything else aside in a push of solid dedication to my writing. Feb and March have seen applications for a fellowship, scholarship and travel grant, preparations and rehearsals for two literary festivals, expressions of interest for two more, recording arrangements for two podcast stories, a submission for a theatre monologue, thrilling talks about casting and location for a short film of one of my stories, three rejections (alas), a story in The Big Issue, another one coming soon, yet another for the Writers Vic newsletter, and always, always, the snow and solitude of my novel and its Icelandic setting. I am exhausted, I am ebullient, and I am SO ready for more.

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Happy to be sharing space in The Big Issue with Tom Morello and Ai Weiwei

Big Issue illustration by Danny Snell

Beautiful illustration from Danny Snell accompanying my story in The Big Issue

In between deadlines I hit the skies and headed for Queensland. A snow worshipper at heart, only one thing would beckon me to the land of surfers and sunburn, and her name is Helen.

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With Helen on my last visit to QLD (2013)

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Helen, Surfers Paradise, 2018

We met a decade ago as writers in an online artists’ collective, and have since enjoyed shenanigans as far afield as Melbourne, Los Angeles and New York. She knows me well, she loves me anyway, and her wry wisdom comes accompanied by Elvis singalongs, vodka and such a stylish home I wander in wonder.

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Helen’s house

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Helen’s house

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Helen’s house

Flying home to Melbourne, I scribbled on napkins and nibbled on cashews, thinking of all the vistas I’ve been fortunate to view in my wanderlust. My mid-flight routine is always the same: gospel music and gratitude, for the supreme privilege of gazing down at my world, and all those I love upon it.

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Tomorrow I head to the headquarters of Memoria, a wonderful podcast of micro radio dramas adapted from short memoirs. I’ll be narrating and recording two of my stories, and cannot wait to delve back into audio storytelling. Next week, my story on writing collaborations comes out in the Victorian Writers magazine, soon to be followed by my next story in the Big Issue.

And the meetings I’ve been having with a director and producer about adapting one of my stories, ‘Snowblind’, into a short film, are the cherry on top of this extraordinarily productive time.

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To read ‘Snowblind’ in Wigleaf literary magazine, click here 

For now, though, it’s back to my writing studio to curl up at the keyboard with some vinyl on the turntable and a plump black cat by my side …one of my favourite places to be.

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My writing studio

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Anthem

July 31, 2017 at 8:37 pm (Uncategorized) (, , , , , , )

I’ve been thinking about beautiful things lately.

One of my stories, ‘Akathisia’, has just been published in the Beautiful Things column of River Teeth. This gorgeous literary journal of non-fiction narrative is one I’ve long admired, and this column is a perfect example why. It celebrates the golden moments in life: ‘the glimmers, reflections, river shimmers, keyholes, and cracks where the light gets in.’ I’m so honoured to have my work published by them, and recommend you go take a peek through some of their stories.

The column has inspired me to reflect on the beautiful moments in my life…and lord, there are so many.

  • Watching winter light pass through my writing room, and the gaze (and occasionally, the gentle snores) of my cat as she accompanies me.
  • Listening to the glorious voice of Mahalia Jackson in those moments I feel my balance faltering. For a punk little pagan, I sure do love my gospel music.
  • That email from an editor saying ‘Yes, yes, we love your work: we want to publish it.’ Nothing. Like. That. Feeling. In. The.World.
  • Walking in the forest behind my Wolf and his Cub, watching their animated conversation in the most gorgeous light, and feeling so privileged to be part of their journey.
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Ms Marlow, familiar and judge of procrastinating dance outbursts 

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Mount Macedon majesty

  • Standing knee deep in snow again outside my first writing residency, up near the Arctic Circle in Iceland, that most treasured of sacred spaces for me.
  • Workshopping my novel with the Wolf, also a writer, with a scarlet sunset outside, a jug of creamy stout on the table between us, and his hand on my thigh.
  • Seeing the joy on my nephews’ faces as they run towards me, calling my name.
  • The industrial edge of my new home in the west of Melbourne, and the enormous bridge at the end of my street that I always stop and smile at.
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Siglufjörður, far northern Iceland

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Spotswood sunset for scribes

  • The fur, feathers, skulls and skins in my writing studio, tracing the journey of the protagonist in my novel, and by extension, expanding my collection.
  • Watching my beloved best friend’s dimples flash on a cliff top in Italy in April, glass of sweet wine in hand, plate of lemon peel pasta in front of me, and the most extraordinary of ocean views before us.
  • Reuniting this week with an old pen pal from twenty years ago, who once took me in and showed me around Hollywood, and whom I’d always rued losing touch with. Bless the internet! The Pagan Profiles website introduced us all those years ago, and filling in the blanks of each other’s lives since will be a joyous journey. I already have an invitation back to LA, and I just might take it. The power of letters cannot be underestimated.
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Studio snake skins and skull

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The Amalfi Coast, shared with my beloved and her dimples

The story of mine just published in the Beautiful Things column is my 101st published, performed or produced story. There are always days where rejection letters hit the heart, where the pen falters and pages remain blank, or criss-crossed with the red lines that say ‘I doubt this, I doubt that, and I doubt myself.’ But when I read River Teeth’s description of the stories they publish in the column, I’m reminded of Leonard Cohen, and his wise words.

Even his pen must have faltered sometimes, but he still knew to pick it back up again.

Ring the bells that still can ring
Forget your perfect offering
There is a crack in everything
That’s how the light gets in

Leonard Cohen – ‘Anthem’

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Bird spit not included

April 25, 2015 at 11:50 pm (Uncategorized) (, , , )

‘What if the cockroaches weren’t the only ones bringing her snow?’

I paused, my pen raised.

‘Keep talking…’

‘Well, the cockroaches close her mouth while she sleeps so the bird can’t spit in it, right? But are there really enough of them to quench her when she catches fire, considering how small they are? I mean, how much snow could a cockroach feasibly carry?’

I nodded, frowning. He made a good point.

‘Are you suggesting the ten other birds, the ones that flew off towards Reykjavik, carry snow in their mouths and drop it on her bed too?’

Michael nodded, fingers busy sketching. Then again, Michael’s fingers are always busy sketching.

Adrian gave a short exclamation, and held his phone aloft.

‘Found it!’ he told us, triumph – and whiskey – making him beam. ‘There’s a giant in Norse mythology called Hraesvelgr, who turns into an eagle. In Old Norse his name means ‘Corpse Swallower.’

Michael and I leaned forward and murmured approvingly.

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‘They say,’ Adrian continued, scrolling through his phone, ‘that he sits at the end of the world and causes the wind to blow across the lands whenever he beats his wings. Could you use that?’

I sat back, and scribbled Hraesvelgr in my notebook.

‘Hell yeah…does it mention what colour he is? Because I need one with red feathers.’

And reaching for another slice of pizza, we all went back to our research, heads bowed and mouths full of anchovies.

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It’s not every Friday evening that we dip into Viking Sagas over whiskey, but truth be told, it’s not uncommon. When I’m snagged on a story line and can’t shake myself free, my artistic coven are always to the rescue, usually amidst sketchbooks, cameras and much laughter.

Wouldn’t have it any other way.

I am knee deep in my ink, splashing around in glee. I’m making major structural changes to my novel, and am more enthused about it than I know how to say. Tonight I’ve submitted a story to a Penguin Publishing competition, put the finishing touches to another, and made the final edits to one I’m going to be brave enough to send to – deep breath – The New York Times.

I’m delighted this week to have had a story accepted for publication by THIS magazine – details soon – and to be performing at the Newstead Short Story Tattoo this coming Saturday. I’ll be part of the wonderful crew of Stereo Stories, telling tales of songs and the reasons we love them, live on stage with musical accompaniment.

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If you’re in or around Melbourne, take a peek at the website and grab a ticket to Fire Stories…an open bonfire, guitars, storytellers and an audience.

The perfect way to beckon in winter.

(Bird spit not included)

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