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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Vogelsong

July 4, 2014 at 2:11 pm (Uncategorized) (, , , , )

I was trying to go to bed when I heard it. I was sitting on the heater – literally – and listening to rain lash the lounge room window behind me. I was warmed as much by the heater as the whiskey which friends had given me for my birthday last week, and did not like the prospect of my unheated bedroom. I had the TV on low and was daydreaming, but when I heard the word it cut through the sound of the rain.

Vogelsong.

It was a character’s name on some late night crime show. I didn’t pay much attention after that. I didn’t need to: I knew I’d get a short story from that one name alone. Birdsong, sliced in half, part German, part English, and to my midnight ears, utterly beautiful.

But here’s the thing: I couldn’t see a pen to write it down. All writers know the promise ‘I’ll remember it in the morning’ is tragically and patently untrue, but I couldn’t quite lift myself from the heater to rummage through my writing desk. So I did the next best thing. I reached over to the top of my desk, and took hold of a container of snake skins.

I am serpent obsessed. I have snake skins all over my house, and rubber snakes on my windowsills to hiss their protection around my home. I have thirteen of them tattooed down my left arm in blue, black and grey ink, writhing around my Medusa with her hands on her hips and a stare of defiance. I admire the regenerative nature of their skin shedding, and their symbolism often works its way into my writing.

I love my snakes, oh yes.

Matt Burke Photography

Matt Burke Photography

I opened one of my containers and took out a coil of skin, shed by a coastal python. And I placed that carefully in the middle of my lounge room floor. That, so my midnight whiskey logic went, will remind me of the word Vogelsong when I wake tomorrow.

And it did. I stumbled out in search of coffee, saw the skin, and immediately said to my cat ‘Vogelsong!’ I think she was just as surprised as I was. I nodded, started imagining what kind of character could carry that name, and turned the kettle on.

I did not, however, pick up the snake skin.

Later that night I came home from dinner with friends, red riding hood up against the hail that left my umbrella in shreds. I tumbled in the front door, and the first thing I saw was the snake skin, glowing in the light from the street. And I said, so softly this time, ‘Vogelsong.’

It still felt beautiful on my tongue.

The skin has been there for five days now. I’m learning to step around it. I don’t think I’m ready to stop saying ‘Vogelsong’ just yet. The story is still brewing; my focus these last two months has been my novel, so to take up a pen and give birth to an entirely new character, in an entirely new life, is just intoxicating.

I will keep you informed.

In the meantime, here’s one that is ready: ‘They broke my name in half’ has just been published in 21D, and is available on Smashwords through the link below.

21D

I’ll also be performing at the Newport Folk Festival this weekend. Stereo Stories is a wonderful website that celebrates the stories behind songs, and I’ll be reading about my trip to Jackson, Mississippi in honour of Johnny Cash. The songs will be performed by local musicians alongside the readings, so something for everyone. Head on in, and I’ll do my best to do a southern accent as I read.

stereo stories

 

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