Smiling like a honey cake horse

December 30, 2013 at 4:28 pm (Uncategorized) (, , , , , , )

Grinsen wie ein Honigkuchenpferd – To grin like a honey cake horse (German idiom)

I love placing my boot against the wheel, and kicking the new cycle into being: December is my favourite month. When else can I indulge my taste for nostalgia, and review a whole year’s worth of diaries without flinching?

2013 held six days in Russia, three meals in the Literary Cafe with bowls of violet borsch washed down with vodka, and a fair few tears shed in the library where Pushkin died. Visit to Berlin: my ninth. Hours spent on the balcony of my apartment in the old East Berlin imagining moving my life there: inestimable.

Berlin balcony 2

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Year since I first lived in Brussels: twenty-four. Years since I last lived there: seven. Number of hand-on-heart-moments walking down my old street there, Rue des Chandeliers: five or six. Number of penpals filling our Prague apartment with red lipstick, punk music and bottles of Bohemian Sekt champagne: four.  Our amazing holiday then concluded with visits to three of Kafka’s old houses, eleven  potential band names, and six seconds of twerking in front of the astronomical clock in Prague’s Old Town Square.

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The year also held nine hours of tattooing, countless swear words, and three blood red Louisiana swamp flowers curling around my right arm. New pieces of taxidermy acquired: one.  German classes: twelve. Number of awkward banjoed up German country songs I sang in class: one, and that was more than enough, believe me. Gigs in Melbourne watching stellar blues bands: thirteen. A blues dancing workshop of eight hours left me with a multitude of new dance moves and many aching muscles. New dances attempted: two, Balboa and Shag. Beats per minute of the latter: 190. Number of bras needed whilst dancing it: two. New cocktail frocks to dance it in: three. Ok, four. Current count of high heels now snaking in a line around my bedroom: 31. And climbing.

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The Year of the Snake has also been deeply, richly rewarding for my ink. There were twenty-eight stories submitted, with eight accepted, seven still pending and five emails from editors with personalised feedback. My work was included in two exhibitions in Melbourne, as well as one festival in Chicago. Number of mulled wines before I was ready to climb onto the stage with a cello accompaniment and read my story: three. Placements in short story competitions: two, for the ABC and the University of New Orleans. Mail from a literary agent in the US complimenting my work: one. Exclamations when I opened and read it: uncountable. Number of short stories written and in consideration for a collection of my work: over one hundred.

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Excitement at stepping into 2014 and all the stories it’ll contain: inexpressible.

But lord knows, I’m going to try and express it anyway…it’s my job, after all.

May you step into the new year with a straight spine, warm heart, and ink on your fingertips.

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Swings & roundabouts

July 18, 2013 at 9:49 pm (Uncategorized) (, , , , )

I dance a lot.

Just so you know.

You probably wouldn’t think so, to look at me. I’m not a perky person; in fact, my fingers didn’t like even typing that word. I’m quiet, but with a redhead’s temper, and extremely high heels that make dancing wildly impractical.

But just between us…I LOVE it.

I do several classes of partnered swing dancing a week. We listen to music from the 30s, 40s and 50s, and my wardrobe is showing the influence. We whirl around the dance floor doing the lindy hop and the shag, throwing down Johnny Drops and Tacky Annies like you wouldn’t believe.

I didn’t make those moves up, I swear.

I’m building myself up for aerials; being thrown over the man’s shoulders in true jitterbug style. And I cannot wait.Swingandthecity05

 

The man decides which moves to do, and the woman follows. This is not in my nature. The unpredictability of it –stepping onto the dance floor and giving up all control – used to make me sick. I’m the kind of person who needs to know what’s coming next, in class and in life. But being spun around to dirty, swampy blues, not knowing which move will follow and just giving in to the joyous freedom of it, is absolutely intoxicating.

I also tend to drink champagne during class. I should probably mention that.

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When I finish a story and prepare to submit it, I do everything I can to make it ready for the world. But I have to accept that once I send it, I have absolutely no control over how it’s received. Hitting send is like stepping onto the dance floor, holding your breath and nodding and saying, Ok, I have to trust this will work.

There have been several ouchy rejections this month, and more than a few frowns. But then the emails come through saying Yes, yes, we want this, and you feel as though you’ve just done five swing outs in a row to Big Mama Thornton with your eyes closed, laughing.

So here we go:

Stereo Stories is a wonderful new Melbourne online magazine specialising in the personal tales behind songs. They’ve just published my story about the Babes In Toyland song ‘Bruise Violet,’ and accepted another about Johnny Cash’s ‘Jackson,’  coming soon. They’re looking for more authors, if you’re interested, so go ahead and click on the image.

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A very short story has just come online in literary journal Carnival, full of all manner of gems…you can read ‘Jawbreaker’ here.

Another story, ‘Falling Under the Rabbit,’ has been selected for an American anthology, and my ‘Street of the Candlesticks’ audio story has been chosen for a festival in Chicago.

To top off this wondrous month, I did a spoken word version of ‘The Old Man with Birds for Hands’ at a Melbourne exhibition opening last week, accompanied by my lovely friend Mikey Madden on cello. I also exhibited artwork based on my story, which took me totally outside of my comfort zone.

But that seems to be what 2013 is for, and though it doesn’t always work out, lord does it feel SO damn fine when it does.

Noir Exhibition

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Fingers & thumbs

December 23, 2012 at 12:56 pm (Uncategorized) (, , , , , , )

I’m appallingly nostalgic.

A Boy George barbie doll slumbers in my bedside drawer, and a dark ball of fur from my first cat is still on my windowsill, nestled in a tiny china cup. I have every love letter ever written to me even though I can’t quite recall the faces of the men who wrote them, and the front door key of a five hundred year old house in Brussels that’s still strung along a red ribbon necklace, even though I know I’ll never slide it into the lock again.

I remember things.

God damn writers, hey?

So December is such a lovely, indulgent, bittersweet time, a month to pull out the notebooks, pour the whiskey, and put some Bessie Smith on the stereo as I climb down the tail of a Y or the curve of an S, and slide back into my memories.

Some of the pearls I got to polish this year: twenty-seven stories submitted to editors, with twelve accepted, four recorded for the ABC, and five still pending. Brand spanking new website to throw my ink all over: one. Deep breaths before I made it live: you don’t want to know.

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Thirty-eight swing dance classes, three social balls, countless new cocktail frocks to keep up with them all, and so many amazing new friends to swirl around the dance floor with that I’ve well and truly run out of fingers to count them.

Cowboys to write about: too many for my own good, and yet, strangely, never quite enough.

One hundred and eleven quotes in my little red notebook.

Nine U.S. states visited, one approaching hurricane, forty-six degrees in the Mojave Desert, dozens of tears in Graceland, countless lurid purple daiquiris in New Orleans, two voodoo charms, four Louisiana gators, and one slice of coconut cream pie so luscious and divine I can almost still taste it.

Poems written for me in Bourbon Street, outside Tennessee Williams’ favourite bar: one.

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Things to do in Jackson, Mississippi: about…oh, three. And they don’t take long.

Pierogi in the Polish section of Brooklyn, smothered in butter and salt: a dozen or so. Smiles from the waitress: none. Minutes it took until Lisa made us flee the freak show at Coney Island with her head in her hands: eleven. Nightmares she had afterward: unknown.

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Nine paper letters written to penpals around the world, three Kafka books bought, too many pairs of red stilettos added to the collection snaking around my bedroom walls. Times I listened to Elmore James’ ‘My bleedin’ heart’, blues dancing in my head: about 1300.

Times I spoke, wrote or dreamt about serpents, cowboys, moustaches or German: do I really have to answer that?

New red notebook to record 2013 and all its jewels: one.

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