Medusa knows best

May 30, 2017 at 10:55 pm (Uncategorized) (, , , , )

My friends are particularly adept at selecting stellar gifts for me. These range from a taxidermy workshop to Culture Club concert tickets, a bat skeleton to a tattoo design. An artist friend drew me an astounding Medusa for my thirtieth birthday; she decorates my left arm with her mesmerising stare and defiant pose, reminding me whenever I need it most how to straighten my own spine.

Medusa

Icelandic fortune cards found at a Reykjavik flea market: ‘Let go of it.’

This present, however, was not on my birthday but as a random I-love-you-and-I-thought-this-would-make-you-happy gift.

The Wolf bought me a DNA test.

I’ve always known my heritage to be Celtic. My grandfather was from Belfast, and passed on to me both an adoration of books, and an Irish passport, in addition to my Australian one. I overdosed on the Pogues and Van Morrison by working in an Irish pub for almost a decade, and studied Gaelic for years (although it’s so challenging that all I can do now is order a Guinness, and tell someone to fuck off – a heady combination).

But while I’m deeply grateful to be able to travel so easily through Europe, it’s not Ireland or the UK that I’m drawn to.

I head for the fjords, every time.

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Ólafsfjörður, northern Iceland

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Siglufjörður, northern Iceland

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Akureyri, northern Iceland

I’m so smitten by the snowy lands; always have been. Last month I returned from my beloved Iceland, with my Wolf and best friend Lisa in tow. We drove from one side of the country to the other on ice slicked roads in gale force winds, Lisa and I sharing capfuls of duty free vodka to stem the nerves. I showed them the tiny fishing village up near the Arctic Circle where I did my first writing residency, and where my novel ends (or will, when I finish it, all muses considered). I walked around Siglufjörður and Ólafsfjörður in my army boots and red riding hood, tracing where my protagonist eats, drinks and dreams, and then headed to Reykjavik to consider her stomping ground down south.

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The street in Reykjavik where Elva lives, the protagonist in my novel

It was my fifth time in Reykjavik. The city – and country – spellbinds me. The bright primary colours of the buildings, the veneration of literature and language, the crunch of boots on snow, the glorious northern light, the stench of sulphur water when you turn on the shower….wait, that last one was kind of hard to cope with, actually. But the magic worked again, as I suspect it always will in that otherworldly land. I’ve returned to Melbourne even more full of a desire to head there again and again, and importantly, to pour out more of my novel as often as I can.

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Downtown Reykjavik

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Blues gig poster, Reykjavik

My muse works well in sub-zero temperatures, as writing residencies in Iceland and Finland have shown me. She’s standing over me with a bowl full of Skyr and a snow boot tapping impatiently, reminding me to WRITE WRITE WRITE.

My DNA test results came back. When I saw the circles drawn on a map of Europe, showing me my ancestry origins, the 36% Irish surprised no-one. There were tiny traces of the Iberian Peninsula, Central Asia and Jewish heritage, which fascinated me. But damn, the intake of breath when I saw the second biggest area of ancestry, a circle drawn around the northern countries I adore.

Nordic: 35%.

The Wolf was right: happiness guaranteed.

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Siglufjörður snow in day

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Hex signs at midnight

December 27, 2016 at 6:23 pm (Uncategorized) (, , , , , , , , )

I may be alone in this sentiment, but for me, 2016 managed to sneak in great gold.

I’ve been hearing laments about the darkness of this past year, especially in regard to the slew of writers and artists we’ve lost. For a child of the 80s, as I am, this has been particularly striking. Don’t get me started on politics this year either. But what’s writing if not stepping stones out of the bleakness and into the gold? So here is my personal round up of a year that has been, to be honest, pretty damn rewarding.

2016 held performances at five literary festivals, three visits to the ABC studios, more writing paycheques than ever before, one gig as a short story competition judge, one interview feature with the Wheeler Centre for Books, Writing and Ideas here in Melbourne, and several emails of interest about my novel from a publisher. There were fourteen stories performed, recorded or published, and one exciting literary award that had me throwing a cocktail frock, notebook and passport into a bag, and jumping on a last minute flight to New York for the ceremony.

And we won first prize.

With the wonderful Lea Redfern, producer extraordinaire

With the wonderful Lea Redfern, producer extraordinaire

The link to the New York Times article

The link to the New York Times article

Winning the Sarah Awards for Audio Fiction remains one of my proudest professional achievements as a writer. Photos of me in the New York Times: one. Congratulatory messages from friends, family, editors, publishers and producers: about fifty. Dirty martinis in celebration: you don’t want to know! ABC producer by my side and in my heart: one lovely Lea. Two amazing friends to put me up, one in New York and one in Philadelphia. One extravagant lunch at the Waldorf Astoria with lobster, caviar and champagne held high. Years spent writing to my Philly penpal: about seventeen. Number of tattoos she’s got in that time: pretty much uncountable. One trip to Amish country, and numerous slices of divine Shoo Fly pie. Distelfinks on walls: two. Ribs cracked upon hugging both my US loves goodbye: at least three. What a joyful, ebullient, unexpected trip!

Manhattan martinis

Manhattan martinis

Amish country, Pennsylvania

Amish country, Pennsylvania

Amish county with Erica

Amish county with Erica

Distelfink hex sign in Philly

Distelfink hex sign in Philly

Flamingos sent my way to honour the story, ‘Almost Flamboyant’: about ten.

My latest addition

My latest addition

Four blood red trumpet lilies tattooed down my arm in long, painful sessions, to join the three already there. Delight at finding a trumpet lily tree outside my new house: immeasurable.

In progress...

In progress…

Completed...for now.

Completed…for now.

Bella donna trumpet lilies

Bella donna trumpet lilies

A move to the west of Melbourne, after 25 years lived north. One reason for this: my beautiful Wolf. Two arches of the iconic West Gate Bridge beckoning me home, seven bookshelves in our new house, and one writing studio. After a tiny kitchenette with only two burners for a decade, a new kitchen with huge stove allowing me to cook Jewish feasts of slow cooked Tzimmes, root vegies in a glaze of cider, cinnamon and golden syrup, til our house smelled divine and our bellies and hearts were full. One wary cat, still hesitant to explore her new home. Hours already spent on the sun deck, welcoming summer: dozens.

Back yard bliss.

Back yard bliss.

2016 saw many trips out of town, from the canola fields of Ninety Mile Beach to the sun bleached bones of rural Moyston. One trip brewing for next year…Iceland, I’m coming back!

Moyston, rural Victoria

Moyston, rural Victoria

The Wolf in Moyston, rural Victoria

The Wolf in Moyston, rural Victoria

One taxidermy workshop, nine meticulous hours of skinning and stitching, and a TV crew to film it. Uncountable headshakes from my man when I suggested our new home contain a tank of flesh eating dermestid beetles. Next year, perhaps?

Scalpel and shiraz at taxidermy class

Scalpel and shiraz at taxidermy class

Here’s to the joy and promise of 2017…may it bring you indulgent nights with friends, steps on welcoming soil, and always, always, words spilling from your fingertips.

To 2017, and all its stories.

To 2017, and all its stories.

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Like all good westerns

November 28, 2016 at 12:34 pm (Uncategorized) (, , , , )

Let me get this straight: I didn’t much like it at first.

I’d asked a friend who worked out west what the area was like and she’d told me ‘Well, it’s a bit stabby.’

A bit stabby. Oh, good. Northcote, my home of 25 years, had been that way when I first moved in, but was now resplendent with cocktail bars, vintage clothing stores, and tattoo parlours. It was known as being home to more musicians and lesbians than any other area of Melbourne, a fact which pleased me greatly.

The west, in comparison, was gritty and industrial, houses dwarfed by enormous petrochemical vats and factories, right at the base of the gigantic West Gate Bridge.

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There was only one thing that could get me to make weekly visits out there.

His name was Chris.

Most of the men and women I’d dated were from my inner northern enclave of dirty martinis and bluegrass beer gardens. Chris lived in Sunshine, a suburb out west that I didn’t find quite as lovely as its name. Each Wednesday I took the train out there and waited at the station for him to pick me up. More often than not I would have a slew of essays to correct in my bag, a bottle of red wine, and a spring in my step that meant I would be seeing my lovely British wolf. And then a flash of blue, a door swung open, and a cheeky ‘’Ello darlin’!’ as I climbed into the car, and my new adventure.

I’d never dated a writer before. On our first meeting we spoke of the blissful solitude of snowy lands, with my novel set in Iceland, and his in Sweden. It wasn’t long before we were trading drafts, delighting in each other’s ink and talking long into the night about point of view, tense and setting. He shared my love of research, and we happily traded stories of pagan solstices, the sinister beaks medieval doctors wore when tending to plague patients, and ancient cartographer symbols.

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I’m not sure when it happened. Week after week I would listen to the blues as I watched Melbourne’s city streets give way to the west, on my way out to Chris. Sometimes I’d meet him at his studio, which he shared with laughing and lovely dressmakers from the Ivory Coast. I got to know the African shops near by, and the best place to buy fresh Vietnamese rolls. And then one day I found myself leaning forward in my train seat, eagerly waiting for the first glimpse of the West Gate Bridge. When it came into view I felt a surge of familiarity and joy; an actual rush of pleasure. The bridge, and the red-ringed stack of the Newport Power Station below it meant I would soon see Chris.

These symbols of the west used to feel so alien to me after 25 years on the other side of the city. Somehow, at some point, they had become beacons of comfort, landmarks of an area that was no longer ugly and industrial, but edgy and exciting. Slowly, they’d come to feel like home.

And now they are.

View of the West Gate Bridge from the end of our street

View of the West Gate Bridge from the end of our street

I thought I’d feel the melancholy swirl in packing up my Northcote flat after ten years of living there, but it was mercifully absent. Once the bookshelves were empty, I knew I’d already moved. I did stand on Northcote hill with my favourite view of Melbourne to smile goodbye, but I didn’t linger.

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We’ve been living in our new house out west for two weeks. There are still a few boxes in the garage, but my antique writing desk is set up, my taxidermy laid out, and my cat has finally come out from under the bed. After ten years with a tiny kitchenette, I’m loving cooking for my man and his son in our huge kitchen: tonight it’s a three hour slow cooked Jewish feast. I work on my deadlines while the boys fight with foam swords. We walk to the Stony Creek Backwash, an old bluestone quarry right under the bridge that’s now a wetlands sanctuary. And though it still surprises me, the industry and sheer scale of things out west brings me comfort and joy.

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Reading nook one.

Reading nook one.

Reading nook two.

Reading nook two.

Chris just told me that from our lounge room window, we can see the Australian flag on the top of the West Gate Bridge. I had to stand on a chair to see it (his six foot frame greatly exceeds mine), but I’m going to take it as a sign anyway.

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The Honeysuckles

August 30, 2016 at 11:59 am (Uncategorized) ()

I sat with Lisa, an open atlas, and a glass of wine.

We were planning our trip to the US at the time, which has since swirled by in a glorious haze of blues music, swamplands, jambalaya and voodoo tombs. We gazed at the map of the Deep South and discussed the possibility of Tuscaloosa, Alabama. A few more sips of wine and the realisation dawned: we could identify no real reason to visit, other than the evocative name. It’s the same impetus for setting my stories in Cunnamulla or Manangatang, for living in Street of the Candlesticks in Brussels, and last week, booking a holiday house in a tiny beachside town called The Honeysuckles.

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The nautical theme knew no limits

The nautical theme knew no limits

Blessed with the luxury of two weeks off my teaching job, I headed for the waves. Yes, there were Elvis tunes on the radio, country opp shops to delve into, and a bottle of cinnamon whiskey in the car boot, but the pen was never far from my hand.

Canola fields in Seaspray, on the 90 Mile Beach

Canola fields in Seaspray, on the 90 Mile Beach

I’m applying for another writing residency, again in Iceland, where I plan to edit my (hopefully finished) novel, set in the snow up near the Arctic Circle. To my delight I’ve received some publisher interest, and am so enthused to keep pouring out ink. I’m booked into the ABC studios next week to record three more of my stories, working with the brilliant producer Lea Redfern, who shared the Sarah Awards first place prize with me in New York in April. And in early September I perform at my first interstate literary festival, heading over the border into New South Wales for the Write Around the Murray festival.

Our Sarah Awards feature

Our Sarah Awards feature

Tickets to our Stereo Stories show

Tickets to our Stereo Stories show

This year has been monumental for my ink, and I’m still smiling. I’m also, it has to be said, the proud owner of a growing collection of flamingos, despite my lifelong hatred of the colour pink.

My latest addition

My latest addition

My time in the Honeysuckles with my close friends and beautiful man was so regenerative. An open fire, crashing waves, rib cracking laughter, and dozens of ornamental fish…all well worth the drive.

I’m starting to think we should reconsider Tuscaloosa, after all.

Seaspray swamplands

Seaspray swamplands

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The location of the library

January 26, 2016 at 11:39 am (Uncategorized) (, , , , )

The only thing that you absolutely have to know is the location of the library
– Albert Einstein

I spent Sunday rehearsing at the Geelong Library and Heritage Centre, a multi-million dollar domed building that resembles an enormous golf ball. I was there preparing for a gig with Stereo Stories, a wonderful collective of writers and musicians telling our stories behind the songs we love. I’ve been fortunate enough to perform with them at literary festivals such as the Newstead Short Story Tattoo, Williamstown Literary Festival, and the Brimbank Readers and Writers Festival, with several more booked for 2016.

I know I’m supposed to be wary of public speaking, but just between us…I love it. Give me a stage and the opportunity to discuss my ink, and watch me strut! Just last week I spoke at a Scribble Salon event where I relished telling of my love for Babes in Toyland’s beautiful feminist punk, and snarling ‘Liar! Liar!’ into the microphone in emulation of Kat, the singer.

So the two hour show next Sunday, Feb 7th, is something I’m really looking forward to (bookings available on the link below). The performance space is extraordinary too – a real indication of how libraries have changed since I first set foot in one.

Geelong Library  (book tickets here)

Geelong Library
(book tickets here)

Performance space,  Geelong Library

Performance space,
Geelong Library

Like most writers, libraries have always been a sacred space for me. I can still recall the nook I’d curl up in at my high school library, nestling Erica Jong’s ‘Witches’ or ‘Go Ask Alice’ on my knee. Well, once I’d graduated past the Sweet Valley High series and its, to me, exotic American take on teenage life.

Then there was the tiny library on Rue de L’ecuyer in Brussels, where I spent my seventeenth year – in that city, not the library, although both would almost be true. It was one of the few places I could find English books when the burden of French became too heavy, and it was the place where I found one that irrevocably hooked me: ‘The Journals of Sylvia Plath.’ I fell into them so deeply it took years for me to re-emerge, and I was not the same person afterwards. It was the first time I was ever tempted to commit the ultimate library sin and consider not returning the book, ever. In the end I bought a series of red brocade journals and, ashing my Gauloise cigarettes away from my Doc Marten boots, wrote out dozens of pages by hand, not wanting to spill a single word.

The Journals of Sylvia Plath

The Journals of Sylvia Plath

In my twenties I almost lived at my local library here in Melbourne, at the Northcote branch. This new thing called the internet had arrived, and in the days before dial up modems were affordable, I’d book into their computer room to print out my emails, and take my precious clutch of pen pal messages home. I was addicted to pagan and punk message boards, loving being able to connect with like-minded people all over the world, many of whom I’m still in touch with.

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My favourite library, however, is one that still takes my breath away – the Klementinum, the sprawling National Library of the Czech Republic, in stunning Prague. I went there in search of one of my characters, named Clementine after the building itself, and joined a tour of the amazing Baroque Library room. Clementine had an obsession with Kafka, and so I asked the guide, excitement making the pitch of my voice waver, ‘Are there any Kafka books here?’ Her curt, efficient and utterly charming ‘Exactly no’ made my shoulders droop at the time, but now gives me much mirth.

National Library, Prague

National Library, Prague

And so next Sunday I’ll take the lift up to the performance space of the swanky new Geelong Library and Heritage Centre, past ‘The Great Wall of Stories’ and the enormous balcony looking out over the water. I’ll spread out my writing on the lectern, straighten my pencil skirt, push my glasses back up to the bridge of my nose, and attempt to tame my unruly mane.

Photography by  Adrian Carmody

Photography by Adrian Carmody

Before I begin to read, I’ll take a deep breath to inhale the presence of all the pages of ink around me, beneath me, beside me, thinking of the day when my name will be written down a spine on those very shelves.

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Belladonna and black cherries

December 28, 2015 at 9:39 pm (Uncategorized) (, , , , , , , , , )

When I was a child I used to count.

The shadows on my bedroom wall, the spines on my beloved books, the whiskers of my cat and the folds in the fabric of my flannelette Fraggles pyjamas. It was a ritual that never failed to comfort me.

I don’t count so much anymore. When I need solace there are adult solutions: deep breaths, basking under a ripe moon, pen strokes across thick parchment, phone calls to friends and occasionally, straight whiskey.

Adult solutions, like I said.

A frowny little fraggle

A frowny little fraggle

But at this time of year I pull out the abacus and string my days along it, and let me tell you, my smile is wide.

2015 saw half a dozen published stories, four more recorded at the ABC studios, one Hollywood actor reciting my lines in front of my wide eyes, one invitation to submit my work to the Australian Writers Guild Awards, performances at five literary festivals, two competition wins and one writing residency deep in a Finnish forest. Add to that one leap of faith in submitting a story to the New York Times (rejected, as perhaps expected, but so exciting to hit ‘send’ on that one), six collaborations with musicians and photographers, four applications for fellowships, one invitation to write and narrate a half hour radio show, and one nascent Instagram account to display all of the above.

That’s one lovely paragraph, I think.

Instagram photo - that first sip of Belgian cherry beer

Instagram photo – that first sip of Belgian cherry beer

Instagram photo

Instagram photo

Instagram photo - Porto, Portugal

Instagram photo – Porto, Portugal

2015 also welcomed in two taxidermy workshops as research for my novel, a deer skull with antlers, one bell jar for my many snake skins, one tiny kingfisher skull in a case on my bookshelf, and several porcupine quills to hold together my snaking red curls.

Books read: couldn’t even begin to count.

How I wish I looked while writing...

How I wish I looked while writing…

Friday afternoons spent with my coven of artists, discussing love, life, lust and art over wine and laughter, red notebooks dotting the tabletop among sketch pads and cameras: about thirty.

New tattoos: for once, none, but one request to extend my red swamp lilies down my right arm. So 2015 sees me with only three inky flowers, three cauldrons, three spirals, and thirteen black and blue snakes, their tiny heads writing across my skin.

Belladonna swamp lilies and snaky tresses

Belladonna swamp lilies and snaky tresses

This year there was one Finnish residency hosting four artists, five studios, three house cats, one sighting of the northern lights, six invitations to the sauna, three village pubs (Huutula!), countless meals of reindeer and bottles of cloudberry wine, and one protective wolf outside my window.

Squirrels sighted: only one, damn it.

Photo by AmyMAndersonArt

Photo by AmyMAndersonArt

Kiitos, Haihatus!

Kiitos, Haihatus!

Three jaunts to Helsinki, one zebra patterned bachelor pad, seven vintage clothing stores, one tiny chihuahua in a diamante collar stroked by a Russian man with unbelievably luxuriant dyed black hair, and one rockabilly bar with Soviet hot rod tractors, flames painted on the sides.

AmyMAndersonArt

AmyMAndersonArt

With the sassy southern Amy, at AmyMAndersonArt

With the sassy southern Amy, at AmyMAndersonArt

Ten days in Portugal saw one amazing motorcycle ride, five enormous glasses in a single port tasting session, one cable car ride over fractured red rooftops, dozens of serpentine streets running with scores of tough little alley cats, nine wrought iron balconies in the three apartments we rented, seven black and white photos in a Lisbon flea market, six sunsets over the River of Gold, several fado CDs, one nervous poodle peering over a balcony, and so many Portuguese custard tarts that I blush to even think of it.

My new house - I wish, I wish - in Porto, on the River of Gold

My new house – I wish, I wish – in Porto, on the River of Gold

Overlooking the River Douro, Porto

Overlooking the River Douro, Porto

Vila Nova de Gaia, Porto

Vila Nova de Gaia, Porto

Amsterdam gifted me with at least a dozen bridges stretching over sparkling autumnal canals, countless vintage stores, one big red rockabilly flower for my hair, one traditional Dutch fishing village, two men on bicycles wearing clogs, far too many plump salty bitterballen to dig toothpicks into, and many Irish coffees under Hallowe’en decorations. Rotterdam gave me one beautiful friend and her new baby, fifteen years of amazing friendship, ten Korean pancakes and so much laughter my ribs hurt.

Terugkomen is niet hetzelfde als blijven...Amsterdam

Terugkomen is niet hetzelfde als blijven…Amsterdam

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And Melbourne? One small flat filled with dictionaries and red high heels, a rotund black cat to watch over it all, one novel to dig deep into, two more residencies to consider for next year, an abundance of story ideas and a pile of little red notebooks to spill them into as the cycle turns and 2016 comes into view.

I couldn’t ask for more, really.

Rilke

Here’s to 2016…may it bring us all belly laughter, a wealth of friends to share it with, and as always, inky fingertips to splash across the page.

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Kiitos

November 30, 2015 at 9:55 pm (Uncategorized) (, , , , , , , )

I woke this morning and for a moment, thought I was back in the forest.

There was no music coming from the ground floor studios though, and no purring Finnish kitties curled up on my bed. I would not be mashing up boiled eggs to fold over the top of delicious rye karjalanpiirakoita for breakfast, or pouring black coffee into the soup mug I’d bought my first day at a flea market, covered in the blueberries that were my first Finnish word on my 2011 visit; mustikka.

Melbourne is beautiful on the last day of spring, but my head is still in the forest.

I spent the whole of October at a writing residency in Joutsa, a rural town in the midst of Finland’s Lake District. I arrived after a week of ruby port and decadent pastéis de nata pastries in Portugal with my beloved Lisa. As soon as I hit Helsinki the temperature dropped, the prices doubled, and the hood of my red riding coat was up for the first time since my previous residency in Iceland, this time last year.

Back to the wild northern lands I love, with my whole heart.

Haihatus residency, Finland

Haihatus residency, Finland

Haihatus residency, Finland

Haihatus residency, Finland

No snow for me this time; Finland was in her full autumnal glory, and she’d never been more bewitching. The colours of the forest, people! The colours of the forest. I wandered every evening at dusk, and found myself in tears of awe on more than one occasion. The light was like nothing I’d ever seen before, and the trees looked as though they’d been dipped in gold. For a woman whose feet are utterly at home in stilettos on city footpaths, my writing residencies in remote rural places steal my heart in ways I’m still processing.

Joutsa forest, Finland

Joutsa forest, Finland

Joutsa forest, Finland

Joutsa forest, Finland

The residency was huge, with buildings scattered around the grounds that were a delight to explore; a gallery space here, a lookout on stilts there. On my third night the call went out – to the sculpture garden, quick! I grabbed my red riding hood and raced after the other artists. I didn’t even know we had a sculpture garden (oh, you Finns) but found myself standing with head back, mouth open, as the northern lights danced above our heads. Indescribable. How lucky am I that I saw them last year in Iceland, and now here? Pen in hand, heart in throat, it was a gold star moment of the most wondrous kind.

Sculpture garden, Haihatus, Finland

Sculpture garden, Haihatus, Finland

Cheerful Lobster in the sculpture garden

Cheerful Lobster in the sculpture garden

Protective wolf outside my bedroom forest

Protective wolf outside my bedroom forest

My favourite place was the Pitkospuupolku, a narrow wooden path through the forest that the Joutsa guidebook had described with the line ‘In the Joutsa forest you can walk all alone, feeling like it almost kindly swallows you.’ Bliss of the best kind, breathing in the silence and solitude, watching sunshine sparkle on the water as I wrote, snacking on smoked salmon and rye bread, washed down with cloudberry cider on a full heart.

The Pitkospuupolku through the forest, Joutsa, Finland

The Pitkospuupolku through the forest, Joutsa, Finland

My favourite image of my trip

My favourite image of my trip

And I wrote, Damn, did I write. The joys of a residency, where writing is not an indulgence, or anti-social, but understood, and welcomed! In a studio filled with turpentine and taxidermy, I spilled ink until my fingers ached. Then stretched, scratched one of the house kittes, Purhonen, Korhonen and Räisanen, and wrote some more.

My studio

My studio

My studio in the gorgeous afternoon light

My studio in the gorgeous afternoon light

Korhonen and my taxidermy muse

Korhonen and my taxidermy muse

I took a mid-month jaunt into Helsinki with Amy and Joao, artists from the U.S. and Brazil. I knew Amy was kindred when we turned up for a walk to the local Joutsa pub wearing matching animal print ear muffs, and I wasn’t wrong. I took them to my favourite Helsinki restaurant, Zetor, the setting for a previous ABC story of mine called ‘Every Good Day Deserves Gingham.’ We ate reindeer and lingonberries around Soviet era hot rod tractors, sang to AC/DC in punk bars, and revelled in the exuberant joy that comes with sharing a city you love.

Animal print and cocktails...Amy, let's go to HUUTula!

Animal print and cocktails…Amy, let’s go to HUUTula!

With Joao at Zetor, my favourite rockabilly bar in Helsinki

With Joao at Zetor, my favourite rockabilly bar in Helsinki

And then my suitcase came out again.

The rest doesn’t need to be told: the last reindeer steak, the last walk through the forest, the last time I turned the lights off in my studio. I know I’ll be back, to both Finland and Haihatus, the residency…at least, I have to keep telling myself that, or I never would have left.

A hammock in my final Helsinki apartment..yes, yes, a hammock.

A hammock in my final Helsinki apartment..yes, yes, a hammock.

Loving and leaving Haihatus residency, Joutsa, Finland

Loving and leaving Haihatus residency, Joutsa, Finland

Kiitos, Finland, and all I met there…thank you, for a month full of gold stars, and golden light.

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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.

Photo: Hedegehog 83

‘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.

viking book covers

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.

newstead

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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Red Riding Hood strikes again

January 31, 2015 at 11:46 pm (Uncategorized) (, , , , )

‘Just sign in at reception, they’ll be expecting you – you know the routine.’

To my delight, I did. I was smiling before the doors had even swung open. I had on a black pencil skirt, a fire engine red blouse tied with a pussy bow, and matching red lipstick. Although no-one could see me on radio, it was my version of armour, and it made my spine just that much straighter as I strode up to the ABC reception desk.

‘Rijn Collins, here to record for Radio National.’

It was a damn good day. The whole process is extraordinary, from sitting in the booth with headphones and enormous microphones, to the gentle guidance from the wonderful producers as they coax my stories from the page and out of my mouth.

Last week I recorded two of my stories for Australia’s national radio station, and loved every minute. One was set in a Paris metro station, reuniting with a beloved pen pal to a soundtrack of Bikini Kill. The other was set on a bus as I headed north from Reykjavik up to the tiny Icelandic fishing village that was to be my home for the next month.

To my amazement, the latter was my ninth story recorded at the ABC, and my 70th story acceptance.

To add to my joy, I’ve just been accepted for another writing residency, this time in rural Finland. In October I’ll head off to the forest, reach for my leopard print earmuffs again, and wait with my hand outstretched for snow.

Until then, this is a story I recorded for the ABC about my last trip to Finland, where the lure of that quirky, glorious country first took hold of me. I can’t wait to get back to this rockabilly restaurant, sit at the hot rod tractor, and order a glass of cloudberry liqueur.

I promise to bring you back stories, ok?

s7301884

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Telja

December 31, 2014 at 3:18 pm (Uncategorized) (, , , , , )


Margir eru marlíðendr.

Many kinds of people sail across the sea. Read the rest of this entry »

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