Feasting season, with fire

April 30, 2019 at 10:46 pm (Uncategorized) (, , , , , , )

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My beautiful snake familiar, Elva

It’s Hallowe’en tonight in the Southern Hemisphere, and I’m feeling it.

Our seasons are reversed from the Northern Hemisphere, so our Sabbats are too. Winter is almost here. Melbourne is chilly, with the sky dark before I even put my key in the lock after work. I cooked a gorgeous wintry meal for my man and stepson, fed and scratched my rotund and irascible punk rock cat, and am sitting here with a glass of pinot noir, working on a submission for a short story anthology.

This month has been extraordinarily busy in ink-spilling scope. I’ve been poring over the suggested edits by my agent for my novel manuscript, researching Icelandic sagas and skalds and taxidermy techniques to put within its pages. I applied for a UNESCO Cities of Literature writing residency in downtown Reykjavik, for which I had to update my CV. It took a lot longer than I expected and resulted in me staring at newly added publications and festival appearances, podcasts and prizes, with my hand on my throat and an odd little murmur of pleasure. I entered a contest run by a feminist literary magazine, and another by a prestigious Australian publication. I recorded several short stories for All The Best Radio about ‘Feasts’, set in Brussels, Melbourne, New York and Darwin. And I loved the mail telling me a monologue of mine is going to be performed as a theatre piece next month in Sydney.

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Recording for All The Best Radio, on the topic of ‘Feasts’

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One of my favourite places to write; in my friends’ studio in Moyston, Victoria

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For when you need to step out of the books and back into the body: Sunday afternoon archery sessions

So forgive my absence, but the pen is always in my hand. I also don’t think I’ve ever read as much as I have this past year, sometimes several books a week. They’ve moved, infuriated and impressed me, and on quite a few occasions made me thump the table in heated discussion with loved ones.

Those are always good nights, hey?

Winter is just around the corner. Here in Melbourne it seems to have already arrived, but just between us, I love it. I want open fires and mulled wine, snuggling and snow. I’m getting married on the Winter Solstice in the mountains yet still stubbornly insist I’m going to do it in bare feet, winter witch that I am. Let’s see how that goes, shall we?

This is just a little wave to say I’m still here, and still writing.

Happy Hallowe’en to you and yours.

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Ink and inspiration

December 27, 2018 at 1:48 pm (Uncategorized) (, , , , )

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Kalorama, Victoria

I didn’t use to love this forest.

Growing up in the Dandenong mountain range, surrounded by towering mountain ash trees and the song of lyrebirds, I dreamed instead of big cities and punk clubs. I fled when I was seventeen, straight to Europe and an exchange year studying languages. It’s only now, decades later that I’ve come to not just appreciate the regenerative power of the rainforest, but to need it.

I’ve just come back from a solo writing retreat on the top of Mount Dandenong, about 30 kilometres outside Melbourne. I had a cosy cabin and a novel to work on whose protagonist, now living in Iceland, grew up in the hills as I did. My retreat was amazing: a thunderstorm brewed as I wrote, admired the mist, sang to Big Mama Thornton and fed kookaburras and cockatoos. The lovely email I got there from a literary agent keen to read my finished draft was pure inspiration, and kept the pen in my hand.

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Kalorama cabin

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Morning mist and cockatoos

This is not the only getaway to be featured in my December round up. This year I was fortunate enough to write in Sydney, Walhalla, Albury, Moyston, on the Gold Coast, and tomorrow, Tasmania. Road trips, then: seven.

2018 saw me perform at four literary festivals, both here and interstate. I had multiple new Stereo Stories published, and recorded new audio that was featured on All The Best Radio, Memoria podcast and played on the Melbourne Star Observation Wheel at Docklands.

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Recording ‘The Eyes of a Bird‘ for Memoria podcast

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‘Rapunzel, Rapunzel’ at Memoria podcast

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Recording for All The Best radio – story here

I was interviewed for a film documentary on my love of the West Gate Bridge, also the subject of a story for the Readings Victoria project celebrating Melbourne’s tenth anniversary of being designated a UNESCO City of Literature. Add that to two stories published in the Big Issue, and you get two kickarse Christmas parties for both the Big Issue and our City of Literature office, right down to a dancefloor of writers doing the Nutbush.

I had a dozen rehearsals and meetings with my fabulous Stereo Stories collective, and wrote about the joys of collaborating for the Writers Vic magazine.

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Deep Red Bells‘ at Stereo Stories (photo by Eric Algra)

Being accepted into the prestigious Hard Copy manuscript development program gave me immeasurable knowledge, inspiration and contacts, with my Digital crew being such a wonderful group of supportive and talented writers.

There were tens of thousands of words on my novel, multiple Icelandic spells and taxidermy techniques as research, and a rapidly approaching finish line. Uncountable new books read, red shoes bought, archery sessions, date night with The Wolf, writing sessions at State Library, snake skins collected and students corrected.

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Beautiful engagement present

And one engagement, to a beautiful hirsute fellow writer I want to spend my life with.

2018 has been, as always, full of ink and inspiration. Hope yours has been likewise fulfilling…see you in 2019!

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Closing out 2018 in stylish surrounds

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Rapunzel, Rapunzel

July 31, 2018 at 2:55 pm (Uncategorized) (, , , , , , , )

I read about Rapunzel syndrome, where sufferers ate the hair they wrenched free. The strands knotted inside them, plump and dark, deep within their belly like a swallowed secret.

‘Rapunzel, Rapunzel’ by Rijn Collins

Of all my ink, my Medusa tattoo is my favourite. She stands proudly on my left arm, hands on hips, draped in a long flowing skirt. Thirteen blue, black and silver snakes writhe in front of her bare breasts, wrap themselves around her pointed feet, or curl out from her beautiful face, almost feline in its angularity.

Matt Burke Medusa

Matt Burke Photography

My skin tells other stories too; a trio of cauldrons, glossy red holly berries, words from an Irish spell, a scarlet and black swirling triskele, and my most noticeable – and colourful – tattoo, nine blood red trumpet lilies wrapped around my right arm and curling over my shoulder, behind which snakes charcoal Art Nouveau ivy tendrils.

Again with the snakes, hey?

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Belladonna trumpet lilies

My Medusa tattoo features in my latest story, ‘Rapunzel, Rapunzel’ up now at Memoria. This wonderful podcast focuses on short memoir extracts, ‘micro-stories about the moments that shape us, and how memories change over time.’ I narrate my tale of obsession, regeneration and yes, more snakes, all beautifully produced in a little slice of audio lasting 5 minutes and 32 seconds. So settle back with a glass of red and let me read you a story…and take a wander through the other stories on the site while you’re there.

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Illustration by Peta Manning – click here for story

I ran a hand through my hair, falling in deep red waves to my waist. I imagined my snakes as they writhed, glowing in the late afternoon sunshine. It’s all I could do not to reach up and pat them.

‘Rapunzel, Rapunzel’ by Rijn Collins

If you think I’ve finished with the serpent stories, you’re wrong. My lovely Wolf has decided to buy me a snake for my birthday, and we’ve been searching. We have the tank (and a rather alarmed cat, sniffing the scales of the previous tank tenant), and are fitting it out with a thermostat and hide. In Australia you need a licence to acquire one, just in case you were tempted to go out and catch yourself a wild one. My licence arrived on the same day that my Medusa story came online, which also happened to be World Snake Day. Little bit witchy, me.

In other writing news, I headed to rural Victoria for some red dirt, kangaroos, a bonfire, and a studio to pour out chapters of my novel. There was also the wonder of my Wolf chopping wood, and the opportunity to mix whiskey with toasted marshmallows, and feel this little cutie snuggle into my mane.

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Moyston, Victoria

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Moyston, Victoria

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Moyston, Victoria

I’m also delighted to be part of the Melbourne Writers Festival this year, where sections of my recent Reading Victoria piece on the West Gate Bridge will be adapted for audio, mixed with six other writers’ tales of our home suburbs, and played on the Melbourne Star Observation Wheel in August. To hear the story in its entirety, go to All The Best Radio and listen to their wonderfully produced audio version.

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My West Gate story on All The Best Radio – link here

Pair that with two more Stereo Stories performances lined up in September, and an invitation to be a panellist at the Write Around the Murray festival in New South Wales, and as always, I’m never short of reasons to pick up a pen.

Look at that…I managed to finish this without more references to snakes.

Almost.

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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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