Thursday, 24 December 2009

2009 in words

I set writing goals every year and while I usually go crazy about now trying to find them, I won't bother this year. I don't remember exactly what they were, but I remember the general gist and know I did not achieve them. Not exactly, and for that, I am celebrating. Kind of.

Not celebrating because I didn't achieve them, but because I took off in different directions. Directions I might not have had the foresight to plan so far in advance. And hence never set goals for.

This year, I achieved so much more than whatever that list of goals might suggest I'd aimed for.

I had pieces in the publications pictured, as well as other journals, including of course, my first audio poem 'Solitaire' in the recent Cordite 31.0: EPIC.

On the topic of firsts, my pieces in The Reader and an earlier issue of Victorian Writer were sort of my first non-fiction pieces. (This is not technically
true, but as far as intentions go, first.) I'd always been too afraid to set goals for writing non-fiction, so this is one major achievement, and I hope to continue. Actually, I have another non-fiction piece coming out in a February publication. It's fair to say that old fear has found a new home.

Another first was as a feature poet, at the fortnightly Passionate Tongues gig in Brunswick. Special thanks to convenor, Michael Reynolds for inviting me. This, as well as a decision to get to more poetry nights, helped spark an interest in writing for the stage. I attended several regular gigs for the first time, generally performing in the open section, and ended up recording my poems for the first time. I slammed for the first time, and recited/performed without paper for the first time. I have three feature spots lines up for 2010, and will be sure to let you know more about them closer to the time.

I was involved in a few festivals, including the Newstead Short Story Tattoo, the Emerging Writers' Festival, and spoke about page seventeen at the Melbourne Writers' Festival as part of the SPUNC Spectacular. I attended other festivals and came away inspired. I also went to author talks at local libraries, and too many book launches to count.

I wrote 50,000 words of a novel during National Novel Writing Month and met new writers at an organised write-in.

I wrote a couple of guest posts for the SPUNC blog, SPLOG. I also wrote my first blurb, for a book due in early 2010.

I may have done more, that I can't recall right now. Not all of these things were firsts, but there are quite a few. And this is why I'm not interested in finding that list of 2009 goals. Many of these achievements were not planned for, but I went with the flow. If I find that list, it will be hard to not focus on the things I didn't achieve, and Blind Freddy could see I've had a year to be proud of. And I am.

I'm also a little tentative about setting my 2010 goals, as it's impossible to imagine at this stage that I could top this year as far as writing achievements go. Not that I'll let myself get caught up in worrying about that. One thing I do know about goal-setting for 2010 though, is that I'm not going to make one long list of goals for the 12 month period. Too much can change in that time. Instead, I'll be making a 6 month list, or maybe a 3 month list, or maybe, being a list person, a list that's a combination of all of the above.

I'll let even that idea stew in the back of my brain until it's time to actually make said list, sometime in the first days of January.

I'd love to hear about your 2009 successes and hope you can focus on those instead of the things you might not have done. And, of course,
I hope you have a lovely Christmas.

Friday, 18 December 2009

Publishing NaNoWriMo novels

I'm talking about the possibility of publishers taking on NaNoWriMo novels over at the SPUNC blog, SPLOG, so go and check it out and add your two bits.

Doing NaNo this year, I found there was an eclectic mix of people making the commitment, including people who never wanted more from their novel than the satisfaction of having achieved a goal, as well as established writers, and everyone in between. Regardless of where everyone was at though, I definitely found it to be a supportive and encouraging community. Not to mention friendly.

Anyway, while I'm here, I thought I'd share a few of the things I learnt about myself.

1. If I'm going to write a sex scene, I should play a Chris Isaak CD.
2. I write in chunks of one scene at a time.
3. Using cake to motivate me to achieve small goals doesn't work so well.
4. If Chris Issak is playing, I should expect unexpected sex scenes.
5. I can regularly write about 1200 words an hour.
6. Setting goals in hourly chunks works well.
7. The most I can write in one hour is about 1600 words, which is probably equivalent to my typing ability in consideration of the next point.
8. I cannot go longer than one paragraph without correcting typos.
9. It is worth continuing even when I no longer feel the 'need' to write the story. This feeling comes back.
And, although it isn't really something I didn't already know
10. Once I write a sentence, any sentence, words keep coming, whether I knew what I was going to write or not.

Monday, 14 December 2009

What about the baby?

When it comes to shopping, I don't even come close to being a stereotypical woman. Most of the time the only thing I find enjoyable about shopping is that I usually meet a friend, which means I not only have good company, but an excuse to eat cake.

Last Friday I did all of these things. I dropped Hamish at school and headed straight to the shopping centre. I didn't get home until 4pm, and there were more positives than just the company and cake (which was lemon meringue in case you need to know).

Christmas shopping offers the bonus of ticking things off a list, and I actually did this at each register as I waited for the credit card receipt to print. While there were many such receipts that I have no intention of adding, I was glad to have just three things left on the list, all of which I can, and prefer, to buy locally. So all up, it was a good day.

But... as is also usual for this time of the year, it turns out I didn't have as comprehensive a list as I thought, and there are more things to get. Most of which will cause no major problem.

The real problem is what to get the baby (if I should even be calling him that at 15 months). So far, I've organised a present for him from his siblings (a book), one from my family, who all put in and leave me to get the gift (with the favour returned for their kids) (another truck, this time a fire engine), and I'm sure Santa will help out with cars, a ball and clothes, as per the list/letter Hamish generously helped him write. But that still leaves him without a present from us.

I'm not sure if it's his age that makes it hard or just the fact that he's a third child in a house of plenty. But, I'm definitely open to suggestions, hint hint.

Meanwhile, I hope your shopping is going to plan (and not breaking the budget).

Monday, 7 December 2009

Anthology of blog writing

Now that December is upon us, there's not much time left to submit to Miscellaneous Voices: Australian Blog Writing 2009.

This will be the first issue of the anthology by Miscellaneous Press, which aims to prove that good blog writers come from all walks of life and that 'blogging produces strong and dynamic talent'.

Submit up to three blog posts you made between January 1st and December 31st, although I warn against waiting until the last minute to submit. I have missed many closing dates that way. Too many. And December would have to be the easiest month to temporarily forget something like that so, you know what to do.

Good luck.

PS. You have to be an Aussie.

Saturday, 5 December 2009

not quite the car mechanic

I find it odd that a funeral can offer such a variety of experiences and emotions, not that I'm an expert with just three under my belt. Dad's funeral was last Thursday, and aside from the obvious emotions, it was really nice to see so many people, both the friends and family I keep in touch with regularly, and those I may not see so often or have not seen in many years. Including some of his friends I have probably not seen since I was a teenager.

We knew in advance the chapel would seat 70 people, and while we expected there to be quite a few more standing, I think we were all blown away with the number that actually came. People were crammed up the back, and then into the foyer where they could see and hear what was going on inside, via two large screens. There must have been more than 200 people.

Anyway, I wanted to share what I wrote for him and read on the day. Not an example of my finest writing, but I'm sure it says what I want it to.

I may never know whether I would have developed an interest in car mechanics if it hadn’t been for Dad nagging me when I was a teenager. It’s true we didn’t get along so well back then, but I’m not sure this is any different to the majority of teenagers, and it certainly didn’t seem like a big deal at the time.

I only saw him once a week, so when he’d say ‘You should learn how to do an oil change,’ or ‘I’ll show you what this part does’ again, I’d shake my head and wish he’d want to do something that I wanted to do. I didn’t even have my learners permit.

But he did show an interest in something I wanted to do. In fact, he showed an interest most weeks as he came to swim meets, cheered us on, entered parent/child races, joined committees, took on one or more of the roles shared amongst the parents at the swimming club.

And still managed to make sure we got to know our nana, aunties, uncles and cousins through frequent trips. Sure, he spent much of this time resting on the couch, but let’s just pretend that was so we could get to know everyone else.

Perhaps he accepted I wasn’t cut out for motor mechanics, or perhaps it was just that he had a new interest and thought I should learn to use his fancy new camera. Or be on the other side as he tested lighting, angles and how long it took for me to lose my patience before he’d just take the damn shot.

I could tell you about the way he demanded I move in with him after I moved out of Mum’s. How he tracked me down at a friend’s grandparent’s house on the other side of town because he couldn’t wait until the next day.

I could tell you about my weekly visits to friends’ houses and Mum’s for nutritious meals, because he gave me $50 a week to get enough food for the dog, the cat, his pasta-bowl breakfasts and all his other favourite items. And still wanted change.

I could tell you about the fight we had over how to cook plain rice.

Or I could tell you that I still take crap photos. With the easy-to-use camera.

Maybe you’d like to hear about the many conversations we had about the Big Bang and the first moments in time.

As I grew older and set about finding myself as a writer, I started to develop a new relationship with Dad. He was supportive from the outset, and while everyone else was too, Dad’s support was different. He got it, even though he wasn’t a writer himself. But as a photographer and a musician, I guess, he knew that for me, writing is something I just have to do. I can’t not write.
From the very first acceptance all those years ago, Dad was someone I could share my writerly news with. Including when I had urges to try new forms, new styles.

Most recently, after practicing my poems at regular gigs and open mic nights, I thought I’d like to try recording a few to see how they’d fare in the big wide audio-poetry world. But I don’t know the first thing about music, let alone recording. So, I called Dad.

He agreed, half heartedly, although I later realised that was more about him not quite understanding what I had in mind.

The first time we met to record my poems, we spent the first few hours finding our feet, and by the end of the day, we’d recorded four tracks and although they were drafts, we knew what to do and we’d had a blast. We met again to record final versions a few weeks later, in time for me to submit them to a journal, and when one was accepted, Dad was the first person I called.
I’m not sure right now if I’ll pursue audio poetry or even where I’d begin to start on the learning journey ahead of me if I do. But I do know that regardless of my decision, it will be something we had together and I’ll take that with me on my journey. And I’m sure too, that it’s got to be easier than learning how to tune the car.

Tuesday, 1 December 2009

one new beginning

I knew it would happen early in December, but not that it would happen on the first, within the first hour even.

Yes, Cordite has gone live with their EPIC issue, and my audio poem 'Solitaire' is ready for your listening pleasure. What a thrill to share space with two of my favourite spoken wordsters, Sean M Whelan and Maxine Clarke.

But this is a first that is special for reasons that go well beyond who may or may not also be included in the issue. When I first decided I wanted to have a go at recording poetry, I called Dad, and we fumbled our way through it together until we worked out what we were doing. So, Dad, this one's for you.

Although I hope you all enjoy it.

Monday, 30 November 2009


Winning NaNoWriMo was an emotional experience, although probably not for the reasons I'd have thought at the beginning of the month.

Yes, I won NaNoWriMo. I stopped at 50,390 words, although the story has not ended. I'm happy to avoid thinking about it for a while and might come back to it in the new year. I finished on Thursday last week which, coincidentally was the day I'd initially 'scheduled' to finish, but was also the day that, with one week to go, seemed to be the one that fitted best with the writing habits I'd maintained for the month. Not that habits is really the best word for such a short time span, but you know what I mean.

At the beginning of the day, I had about 3,000 words to go. I've been writing one scene in one sitting, and by early-mid afternoon I had only about 400 words to go. Then the phone started.

The first call was from my sister-in-law saying that if I wanted to see Dad one last time time, I'd better leave straight away. We'd taken the kids on Tuesday, with home-made birthday cards, and the hospital is a little over an hour's drive. I was home alone. There was no way I could do that drive. I decided I wasn't going and, as I'd seen him the Friday before on one of his best days, I was happy with that. And I knew others were on their way.

The next call was my other sister-in-law, returning an earlier call. I gave her the update and together we cried. She convinced me to call him, so I did my best to 'get it all together' and call, hoping to tell him I'd finished the 50,ooo words, certain this kind of lie was okay. But it was too late. I missed him by minutes.

I made a couple of other calls, then sat on the decking and let the storm surround me. I'm at peace with his passing, knowing that we were fortunate to have had him for the last 23 years at all and that his last few weeks, perhaps months, had been difficult. It seems this was the right time, if there can ever really be such a thing.

I thought about putting off the 400 words for a day, thinking it wouldn't be right to finish now, but then I changed my mind. Dad was always supportive of my writing and was one of the few people who truly 'get it', and he'd believed from the outset that I could win NaNo.

So, before the others got home, I belted out one more scene and submitted it for validation, then stared at the fireworks on my screen, totally unsure about how I felt. Other than knowing I will definitely do NaNo again.

Monday, 23 November 2009

concentrating on just the words

I began a poem in my head last night and while their meaning would have kept me awake forever, concentrating on just the words helped me sleep. Eventually.

It's a poem I won't look forward to writing, as it will be difficult, probably more so than anything I've ever written. But I also know that I will write the rest, although I won't be able to even try until after I visit my father in hospital tomorrow, one day before his sixty-fifth birthday. Anyway, here is the start of the poem:

I imagine walking through the doorway
will be like visiting
my stillborn niece
only you
are still alive
and lucid

I'm sure you get the gist, so now is where I add that I may or may not be posting here much in the next little while, and I know you understand.

It's a strange feeling actually, very mixed. In some ways, he's been really unwell for years, you could even say for 23, after he suffered the kind of heart attack that would have been fatal if not for him being able to call a mate for help. Since then, the Austin has kind of become a second home. But that doesn't make anything easier.

Meanwhile, I suspect I'll be writing, because this will be the only way to escape my thoughts. Last night I wrote until after 1am, when my NaNoWriMo word count hit 45K. I know I'll make it to 50K, and while I thought I'd stop as soon as I did, even though the story would not be finished, I'll probably just keep going. You can go here for live progress on my word count, in case I don't report back soon.

And if I don't keep going, or if I write the last sentence, then I suspect I'll jump into the two articles I otherwise need to write, and then make more up along the way. I will just keep writing.

Thursday, 19 November 2009

First draft, now what?

It's a little hard to think about 2010 already, but if I let myself for just a second, I know that January 12 is not far away. But before I soak back into November, I just want to let you know that I'm running a workshop on Tuesday January 12 at the Victorian Writers' Centre called 'First draft, now what?'

It's a redrafting workshop for 'introductory and intermediate' writers, and if you're interested in knowing more, follow the link above.

One lucky workshop participant will have the opportunity to be published in Issue 8 of page seventeen, due in November 2010. If you're thinking of coming along, don't overstress about the piece you bring on the day to share though, because this won't be the basis of my decision as to whose work we publish. But it is exciting, and just one more way we can find new writers whose work we can feature.

Friday, 13 November 2009

audio poem for Cordite

A while ago I talked about recording poetry for the first time, and while I never returned to tell you I submitted some of these recordings to Cordite for their EPIC issue, I did.

And this morning, in my inbox, I discovered one of those fabulous emails we all like to receive from editors. Yes, Cordite are publishing (that word doesn't seem quite right, somehow) a piece called 'Solitaire'. It's a piece I wrote after my grandmother passed away and is one of my favourite poems because I think I captured her well. It seems to have gone down well at gigs when I've perform it too, which also helps.

Naturally, I've been doing a happy dance since reading the email. Which I admit I did the other times Cordite published my work too, but this time is different. This is the first time I've made an audio submission. Ever. To anyone. I'd actually felt an accomplishment in just having submitted them. I mean, there's always something encouraging about having a go at something new. But being accepted is just fab. Of course. And also a little scary, although perhaps that's just becasue I have to now send them a mug shot to accompany the piece.

Cordite: EPIC is due to go live next month, and I'll be sure to let you know when it does.

NaNo update: current word count is 26,022.

Wednesday, 11 November 2009

Launch & NaNoWriMo update: 20K words in

Since my last post, the other two kids were banished from society for a day (Friday) with a dreaded tummy bug that they then shared with their father, who was out of action for longer than the three of them combined. (Thankfully he returned to 'normal' life today.) So, other than look after them (why is it the baby chooses these days to start waking at 5.30am?), I haven't done much, except to knuckle down on my NaNoWriMo novel and post copies of page seventeen. Oh, and host a launch.

The launch for page seventeen Issue 7 was last Saturday, and everything turned out fabulously well. It's the first time we've held the launch at Burrinja cafe, and going by feedback from attendees, it will not be the last. We might have to do something about ferrying people from the train station next year though.

We had fifteen contributors read, including three who'd travelled from interstate (SA, NSW & Qld), and Vicki Thornton did a fabulous job as MC. As always, it was wonderful to meet new supporters, although there is never enough time to chat to any for long enough. With seventeen new voices in this issue, you'd better brace yourselves to hear more from at least some of them in the not too distant future.

If you'd like to know a bit more, Alec Patric has posted some thoughts on the Overland blog as well as on his personal blog.

As for the novel, well, it's coming along. I need to get ahead this week, with the littlies in creche for a special all-week treat, and so far, so good. I broke the 20K mark last night and am now sitting just below 22K. I'm amazed at some of the things I've learnt about my writing process, and was impressd on Monday morning to get 1478 words down in a single hour (this is quite possibly the extent of my typing ability).

Today though, I have a new problem to overcome. Which, to be honest, I'm not all that sure how to go about solving. Yesterday there was a moment when I realised I didn't feel the same need to tell this story that has sat with me for the last however-many months/years. Quite a rude shock really, when the first time I ventured into the topic was in 2004.

Even before turning the laptop on this morning, I decided it didn't matter, that I would just keep going as planned, as that's what I signed up for. I want to come out of this knowing that I can do it. Not to mention that perhaps it's too soon to tell if I really have lost the drive to tell this story, or maybe yesterday just wasn't such a great day. Or that 20K words isn't quite enough to tell.

Then this morning, 1K words in, it seemed the story took a wrong turn about 5K words ago. I imagine this wouldn't be a problem any other time. I'd just ditch the 5K words and get on with it. But I'm reluctant to dump 5K words from my word count. I think I'll probably just ignore that part of the story and get on with it, leaving the words there. Kind of like an extended flashback (or something). And assume I'll know one way or another by 50K words whether this story has a life (hoping to hell I can at least trick myself into pretending it might until I get there).

Thursday, 5 November 2009

Being my character when I'm not: NaNoWriMo update

Halfway through day 5 and 10,755 words into the novel, I'm exhausted. And that's after a day off yesterday.

Sure, there are a million things going on as well as writing a novel in one month (like launching a new issue of an annual journal and preparing for a poetry feature this Sunday, not to mention normal life). It would be easy to blame any one, or all, of those other things, but I'm sure it's not the other things (even if I still don't have the books from the printer). It's definitely NaNo. And I think I know why.

Firstly, writing a novel in one month equals serious lack of sleep. And not for the obvious reason. I'm sure many people choose to stay up later than normal to write. But that's not me. You see, I know I get grumpy when I don't get enough sleep (thanks Mum for so many reminders), and being grumpy and looking after kids all day is not a good mix. So far, I've gone to bed at a normal-for-me time every night bar one, and even I can cope with one late night.

No, it's not writing into the night that's the problem. It's the excitement of being part of NaNo, the excitement of progress, the excitement of believing you can do it. It's the mind refusing to switch off with the laptop. It's the damn novel wanting to be written at every bloody hour on the clock. It's a while since this has happened, especially for consecutive nights, and it's much worse now that I can see those bloody digits on the alarm clock!

The novel itself is going okay. There have been a couple of uninspiring scenes, but as I insist on starting at scene one and writing in order, I've decided to just get through the crap scenes quickly so I can move on to the next ones. This isn't a difficult decision, as I'm quite prepared to write crap, and I have no delusions about what a first draft should be. So, for a first draft, it's fine really.

Instead of considering whether the actual writing is good, I'm trying to think about whether each scene is the kind of scene I want. You know, whether I'm showing things I want to show, whether the reader will identify with my protagonist, whether the scene progresses the story. And if it isn't, well, I'll probably leave it there until some other month anyway. But so far, so good.

It's not just the lack of sleep that's exhausting me. It's the novel itself, although I did at least expect this. Writing a novel means immersing yourself into the world of the novel. Immersing yourself into your character's world, and as I'm using first person, I'm really trying to get into her (Catherine's) headspace. Which is a killer. Not so much because she's not me, because this is one of the things I find relatively simple about writing fiction: I seem to be able to morph into my characters as I click away at the keyboard. (I prefer to write alone so I'm not constantly asked what I'm saying.)

It's not that. It's because 'being' her, thinking like her is mentally exhausting. She's not in a good headspace. In fact, she isn't really in the kind of headspace I want to go, other than fictionally (of course).

She's depressed. Not that she knows it.

But I think that to do a good job, I have to go with her. At least part of the way. And, understandably, there's some reluctance on my part.

Although, now that I think about it, I never turned into a man, let alone a burglar or the... (nah, that would give it away) to write the story coming out in Torpedo 7, or the moronic drink-driving protagonist of the story coming out in Sketch 2. As for my story in fourW, all I can say is, I wish. On second thoughts, perhaps not.

So, maybe NaNoWriMo is here to help me work out whether it's different for a novel. Whether I really do have to go with her to do her story justice. Maybe that's my new NaNo goal?

That, and more sleep.

Monday, 2 November 2009

NaNoWriMo update day 2

Just taking five minutes out to let you know how I'm going with this November craziness.

Well, as I wrote my schedule when I thought I'd be off on a family camping trip, I'd planned to write only 1000 words by the end of today, and I did more than twice that just yesterday.

Actually, signed off last night with a total of 2210 and hit the 5.5K mark a couple of hours ago. Since then had to pick up 7yo from school (who has been feeling much better thanks) although came home alone as he's off to a friend's. So, I have one hour to write then to go pick him up, which will take a while as it turned into a dinner invitation for both of us.

I'll try to hit 6K before then.

When we get home, I'll see if I can't add another 1000 as I enjoy another bottle of Auslese Tokay before packing it in for the day.

If you're NaNo'ing, I hope you're on track (or better) too.

But before I go, must mention that I'm doing a feature at WestWord Poetry this Sunday, so, if you need to get out for some inspiration, pop on down to the Dancing Dog cafe, 42A Albert Street, Footscray for a 5pm start. $2 (I think).

Sunday, 1 November 2009

page seventeen launch: Nov 7

Okay, in case it's a little small, err, tiny, that's 1pm on Sat 7 November at Burrinja cafe, 351 Glenfern Rd, Upwey (cnr Matson Dve). The launch will be followed by regular poetry gig, The Word Tree with Sean M Whelan as feature.
If you can't come, you can pre-order (up until Sat) at the special price of $15 by paypal here, which includes postage in Australia.

Saturday, 31 October 2009

first or third?

A few days ago I tweeted something like this: aaarrrrrrgggh, first or third person? Coin suggests... first.

Of course I was talking about the novel I plan to write during NaNoWriMo. Usually it would have been a no-brainer as I would have assumed first person without a second thought. But I toyed with the idea of using several of the character's points of view and being me, had difficulty making the decision.

I went with first, as the tweet suggested, and even though the decision was made, I was surprised with the response, as if first person is writer-suicide. And I just don't get it.

To me, writing in third person is tough. Particularly in the way I suggested in this case, but even if limited to the main character. In fact, I'm not sure I've ever used third person without a good reason. But feedback suggested one should only choose first if there's a good reason.

Now this fascinates me. Sure, I know all the arguments for and against each case, but I've always felt that in general, first is the best choice. For me anyway.

What about you? Do you prefer first or third? Anyone else toss a coin to help them decide?

In other news, I know I'm supposed to be tucked away by the Murray somewhere, but plans are meant to be broken, right? The time I actually look forward to going camping, disaster approaches and... just when it's time to grab those last things and head off, one child starts to vomit.

But, all is not lost, as hubby took the other two, and while he's sure to do an adequate job of restocking the tokay shelf, I should get off to an excellent NaNo start. Win-Win really. Especially as Hamish has managed to keep an afternoon snack (of plain toast) and a bowl of (plain) pasta where it belongs.

Tuesday, 27 October 2009

What was I thinking?

I've been interested in having a go at it for years. Can't recall how many exactly, but last year it would have been insane to try with a two month old baby and the year before was crazy enough with the million things I was doing anyway (like finishing 2nd degree, teaching at TAFE, producing magazine, preparing for 2 week camping trip).

So, now I've finally plunged into the acceptance and enrolment stage of NaNoWriMo, I'm not really sure why I'm suddenly starting to have that WTF was I thinking feeling?

Perhaps it's that November begins in just 4 days. Perhaps it's because I feel like I haven't done enough planning and my head isn't in the right space (yet). Perhaps it's because I haven't even made a schedule for when I'll sit down to write. Perhaps it's just because so many other writers seem to be so far ahead, much more prepared, or perhaps it's just because it's the kind of thing that's bound to produce a bit (or a lot) of anxiety.

I mean, 50,000 words is a lot of words. 30 days ain't so many days. And it's so like me to make a decision like this without necessarily thinking it through. That is, after all, the way page seventeen started.

Yet I did kind of feel like I had thought this one through. Before I signed up, I asked myself how I'd feel if I failed to complete, or win, the challenge. I decided that rather than think of it has having failed, I'd come away feeling good about what I did manage to achieve. Assuming I gave it a fair effort, of course. And it seemed like that was all that had to be decided.

Other than making a schedule of when I'd write, because I just wouldn't be me if I didn't do something as anally retentive as that. Because of course, I won't be writing when the kids are in my care. Which is my life for a large portion of NaNo time (just like every other month). As a general rule, that leaves me with writing time during school hours on Thursdays and Fridays. Which, especially given the first week will mostly be spent preparing for the launch of page seventeen Issue 7, doesn't seem like nearly enough time.

Sure, there will be evenings, and some weekend time, but I don't like the uncertainty of relying on being awake enough to write late (particularly if Dylan continues to wake at 5.30am), or for the Nano experience to eat into family time (or to reneg on attending so many fab book launches).

Which kind of brings me to another aspect of NaNo that I've noticed so many people doing. Setting personal guidelines.

For instance, I'm happy to sacrifice TV time, but not family/husband time, I'll head for the library/cafe if home offers too many distractions, an extra double espresso on writing days will be fine, I'll sacrifice any household chores that aren't absolutely necessary (which may not sound like anything different), etc. I'm not trying to suggest these are my guidelines, as I haven't got as far as making some, but these are examples of what mine might be like. With the exception that the housework one will be a definite priority. Writing must come before the vacuum cleaner.

There are two things I have decided on though. They both involve the kids.

One is that the littlies can have one full time week at creche, which they will absolutely love, and the other is to organise schoolboy to go home with a friend for each of the Fridays, which will give me an extra two hours a week. (I will probably swap the favour for another day that I don't expect to be writing.)

As for the preparation, I've been trying to tell myself it doesn't matter. That I'll be in my character's head in no time, because that's how it usually works. That even though I don't feel like I'm in the right space, I did enough work months ago to feel secure that it's all there. That I've done fine in the past without necessarily knowing where a story's going, what's going to happen next.

Oh, and I've decided too that I'll use first person. Because I love first person. It fits well within my comfort zone. And is probably the best choice for the story anyway. Even though so many people have suggested third (I may ponder this further sometime.)

Anyway, get your purple pom-poms ready, because I know I'm going to need a few cheers every now and then. But not until I get back from camping on the 3rd (with at least a few thousand words down... right?)... or maybe even before November begins. Eeek.

Friday, 23 October 2009

Guest post on SPLOG: the SPUNC blog

Now, don't go getting used to me posting three days in a row, because it isn't likely to happen too often. But thought you might want to know I've written a guest post for the SPUNC blog, SPLOG.

It's called 'A Way to Work with Everyone: The Page Seventeen Editorial Process' and you can check it out by clicking the title.

Meanwhile, this afternoon's plan is to get my head back into the space it needs to be by November 1, and to find out where the pens keep going.

Thursday, 22 October 2009

I will NOT relent!

I'm sick of people judging me for my parenting when it comes to being strict about TV time (and sugar intake, but that's another matter entirely).

I know most kids have more TV time than mine, and so long as the parents of those kids are happy with it, great. I'm happy to be quizzed when it comes to the way I do things as, like anything, people are interested in learning, whether just for their own curiosity or in case they might want to take anything on board.

But I don't expect my 7 year-old's teacher to open her eyes wide and say 'Really?' when I suggest he rarely watches TV. Let alone to add that I will relent as he grows older and makes more demands about preferences. Because she has kids, and she did.

Firstly, being a TV-Nazi isn't something I 'fell into' one day when I just couldn't be bothered, but something I struggled to maintain for years because it's something I feel strongly about and something which was damn hard to persist with. Secondly, said 7yo is already more demanding than his two siblings combined with their father, so I can't imagine caving in. After 7 years, I'm past the hard bit. Saying 'no' comes much more easily now.

This morning I dropped in to see 7yo's teacher. During this term, Show & Tell has a different theme for each week. In general, I think this is great. But this week's theme is 'Favourite TV show or movie.' This happened last year too, and I remember feeling conscious about what he might choose.

By then, he'd really only watched Play School, Hi-5, the Wiggles and Bob the Builder, and I had concerns about the social implications of him declaring his love for any of these publicly (although I may have steered him towards Bob after noticing several of his peers had Bob school bags). In the end, he chose Spiderman, after remembering a ten minute 'movie' he'd seen once a few months earlier. Fine.

By now, he watches even less TV than he did in the past. In fact, almost-4yo daughter watches the most out of all three kids, with a maximum of three hours per week. Yes, WEEK. One hour on Tuesday, one on Wednesday and one at the weekend. If we're home. She predictably chooses either two episodes of Play School or one PS and one Hi-5.

Actually, 7yo quite possibly watches less than one hour of actual TV each month, given he chooses to use his limited time to play a Wii game instead. And for him, it's usually only 1 hour a week, after school on Friday. I used to let him play on Thursday too, but wasn't impressed with the display when his time was up (that lasted beyond bedtime). You can probably guess there are no violent games in our house, which means he chooses one of two sport games or a children's one where you wander a school yard and collect stickers for competing in different (sporty) activities.

Over breakfast, I talked to him about his Show & Tell and responded to his blank expression by suggesting he talk about Wii Sport. This wasn't going to get him laughed at, and is more true to who he is anyway. I figured I'd let his teacher know, so she didn't try to stop him and ask him to choose an actual TV program. Show & Tell is, after all, about kids developing confidence.

So I opened with a reminder that today is his S&T day and saying he hardly watches any TV, and her response was the wide-eyed 'Really?' I think she followed with a few 'Not even...?'s but I hadn't quite recovered enough to listen properly. It took a few efforts to proudly announce that he's never seen a movie at the cinema, although I'm not sure if I mentioned it to help with context or to see if she could be more... let's say... shocked.

After she blinked, her head swayed back and forth a few times as she advised I would relent, which she repeated as I left. As a trained teacher myself, I'm pretty sure it's not a good idea to make parents feel inadequate for trying to limit their kids' TV habits, or anything in fact, that is purely parental choice related to a family's values. Society does a good enough job of that already.

It's bloody hard to make tough parenting decisions and to stick with them against the grain of society (hmmm, a topic I could go on about...). You'd think you'd have the support of teachers.

I wonder if she'd have said anything dsifferent if she knew I was more inclined to get stricter the more demanding he became rather than to give in.

Of course, none of this will apply this weekend, as the kids go to Nana's while Bryden and I head off to my cousin's wedding.

Wednesday, 21 October 2009

Scrivener or... ?

It seems like everyone is talking about how fabulous Scrivener is, including Lisa Dempster, who reckons she'd still be writing the recently released Neon Pilgrim if she'd used Word. Well, maybe not everyone so much as everyone with a Mac. And as I don't have a Mac, it seems I won't ever get to talk about how good it is or isn't. Which, in my case, it isn't if I can't try it out on my PC.

Now, with just days (don't want to remind myself exactly how many) until NaNoWriMo begins and me having done, oh, zero prepaption thus far (if I don't go back as far as May), I'd be keen to trust software reviews of others. Like you. Or else use Word as I'd planned. Well, maybe not planned so much as just not thought otherwise. And from I hear, using Word is insane (which could mean it will suit me perfectly well).

You'd think that as I married a geeky computer nerd (hiya honey), I'd maybe know something about software options without having to resort to google and/or other means (although perhaps this is why I remain clueless when it comes to this kind of thing).

It seems I need help. The recently released Reader from EWF (have you got a copy yet?) includes a review of such software, courtesy of Cameron White. In his review, Scrivener comes out on top, with another Mac-only option in second place. As far as PCs go, he mentions Open Office and yWriter and, while the good news is that they're both free, I'm not convinced that either of them seems like the right option.

Unless you convince me otherwise.

Anyone used either of these, or maybe something else entirely? Please talk me into using something other than Word. And with just days of October left, please convince me soon. Did I say please? Please.

Wednesday, 14 October 2009

The Reader launch

The launch of The Reader on Monday was a heap of fun and even inspired a discussion of bowl licking. You see, the chocolate mousse was served in shot glasses in which the bottom could not be reached with the spoon. Used the correct way, anyway. Thankfully a friend and I problem-solved our way out of this without the need for (totally) inappropriate behaviour.

And it wasn't just the mousse that was fabulous.

If you haven't seen the book yet, you need to get yourself a copy. Here. It has an absolutely stellar line-up, and I don't say that just because I have a piece included (although mine is certainly excellent). And because they have summed it up better than I could, here's a bit of what EWF say about it themselves:

The Reader is a peek behind the curtain at what goes on in the offices, workshops, garrets and studios of Australian writers. It contains everything from practical, how-to advice on surviving as a freelancer or improving your grammar, to thoughtful, critical and hilarious reflections on coping with rejection, balancing writing and parenthood, and how to cultivate the ultimate author profile shot.

It includes (but is not limited to) sections about the craft, the story, the process, the industry, the writer, the mentor and the circuit. It is a must for any writer.

And I recommend reading it with a serve of chocolate mousse. Although you will have to supply your own.

Monday, 12 October 2009


We're planning another camping trip and this time I'm part of the plan. My usual technique for such occasions is to remain in denial until it's time to pack.

Although negotiating location and potential activities can help me actually look forward to going, and this might be one of those times. We've booked Corowa, which means I'll be just twenty minutes away from reinstating my tokay supply from my favourite wine region, Rutherglen. I've been without tokay for over a week, but thanks to a barrel and bottle or two of muscat, I'll probably cope until camping time.

The kids just love that I'll be going too. (I wonder if they love it so much they'll actually sleep at bedtime once we're there?)

I'm determined to believe too that the timing won't cause problems. Melbourne Cup weekend. One weekend before the page seventeen Issue 7 launch as well as the beginning of NanoWriMo (although I figured the first week of the latter would be a slow start due to the former, so that will probably work out fine). Now all I need to do is work out what hubby meant when he wrote this in my diary: till Tuesday. Friday?? Eeek.

Tuesday, 6 October 2009

EWF Reader

The launch for the Emerging Writers' Festival Reader is next Monday, 12th. Details here, including a list of contributors. After writing a piece for it about balancing parenting and writing, I thought I wasn't going to be able to balance life so that I could go. My husband thought this was the balance, but his plans have changed and it seems I will be able to go. Hurrah!

Maybe I'll see you there.

Friday, 2 October 2009

Have I forgotten the... ?

It's the time of year I simultaneously love and hate putting together a magazine. Mostly I love it, but what I hate is that there are some things I just have to do almost all at once, whether I like it or not. Whether I can or not. And at least for some of them, I can't.

In fact, it's the time of the year when one or two people learn first hand that being a writer, editor, publisher and mother of three is something that I actually can't do all at once. Some discover that I am indeed human.

Perhaps I shouldn't have scheduled the last week of getting the next issue of page seventeen ready for the proofreaders during school holidays. Although I'm sure something else would have come up to slow me down.

On the bright side, I took the kids to the zoo on Tuesday and spent yesterday at the Melbourne Museum with Hamish to see the 'A Day in Pompeii' exhibition. And the dinosaur section. Of course. The zoo highlight for Hamish and Claudia was patting an alligator, and for Dylan, well, digging in chipbark is generally underrated.

On the not so bright side, I had to wait until today to get back into the layout, and the proofreaders are expecting parcels on Monday at the latest, so all had/has to fall into place. Mostly though, I am done. What is left is mostly just fiddly bits and pieces, and trying to somehow rid that lurking feeling of... what the F have I forgotten?

But really, by issue 7, I'm pretty sure that feeling is just part of the deal. By tonight I will be finished, and I assure you, there will be tokay.

Sunday, 27 September 2009


With the end in sight for the page seventeen workload for another year, I can almost imagine some time freeing up. Except that perhaps I've already booked it.

Earlier in the year I started thinking about and doing some research for a novel, then, when things got too busy and I wasn't really making progress in the odd one-hours I'd find to myself (life with zero-year-old), I put it off. I think I always suspected November was the time to get back to it, and I've been getting a little antsy about the idea of getting struck into it properly come November.

To take advantage of this energy and good inentions, I have signed up for NaNoWriMo. In case you don't know what that means, I've committed to writing a 50,000 word novel, or that many words of one, during the thirty days that are November.

Care to join me?

Tuesday, 22 September 2009

Australian Poetry Slam controversy - What do you think?

There was a pretty impressive turnout for last night's Ferntree Gully heat of the Australian Poetry Slam '09, with 28 poets arriving to strut their stuff. Ezra Bix took out first place with Bec Alice Graham the runner-up. Both move into the State final, which will be at the State Library on Thursday 12 Nov. And while both were very deserving of their prizes, the evening was filled with controversy.

Which was perhaps bound to happen anyway with 28 people showing up for just 20 competetition places. But it was more about people claiming to not have been aware of there only being 20. Once registrations opened, the first 15 were automatically included, then the next 5 were drawn from the rest. Organisers insisted this was/is the international rule and that those rules can be found on the website.

I somehow knew there were only 20 spots available beforehand, but now that I'm searching the sites, I wonder how I actually knew. Maybe because I'm a stickler for rules, I might have asked questions of the right people at some earlier meeting? I was in the first 15, so competed, and if you're interested, I scored reasonably well, with mostly 8.somethings, compared to the winner, who scored a 10 from one judge and 9.high-somethings from the others.

While I enjoyed the night and was really pleased that a poetry event was happening out our way (even though I'm another 30 minute drive out), I can't help but wonder if the heatedness of the night didn't do more to deter poetry newcomers rather than interest them in becoming more involved?

I'm going to let you judge this one. The postcard/flyer for the event sends you to the State Library website, (where you can also get details of the other heats and the state final), and here are the rules from the Australian Poetry Slam. Here's the Facebook page too.

What do you think? Did they do the right thing, or should all 28 poets have been allowed to enter?

Monday, 21 September 2009

editing v camping

Having a quiet week at home alone as the family have gone camping. I was originally going to catch up with them by train tomorrow or Wednesday, but instead I've been allowed to stay here and finish the editing and layout for issue 7. Either that or hubby felt for me when I said: What if I wanted for my birthday to not go camping?

Have spent most of today trying to get through the last of the editing, mostly just simple stuff at this stage, formatting, house style, the odd missing/extra full stop still hanging around. I'd like to say I'll finish it today, but it's driving me nuts and I wonder if perhaps I should start on the layout instead.

I've bargained with myself that I'll finish it all before even looking at my own writing. Other than preparing for the second Victorian heat of the National Slam, which is at the Ferntree Gully library tonight. Although I know what piece I'm going to use. Wish me luck.

Friday, 18 September 2009

where do they go?

Early last month I had one of those Midas weeks where everything I touched turned to gold. I wrote about it here, and now I'm ready to tell more.

In my two non-kid school-hour days and just one extra evening, I wrote a heap of new stuff and edited a piece I'd been commissioned to write and had submitted a week or two before.

The piece I did the edit on is called 'The Red Haze' and is a personal essay about balancing writing and parenting, although I tried to make it familar to anyone with commitments that get in the way of their writing. Also, it's really more about process, with a sneak of where (some of) my ideas come from. It will be in the EWF Reader, which will be launched next month (details not yet confirmed). It's going to be one fabulous production.

The shorter, non-fiction piece I wrote appeared in the September issue of the VWC newsletter, Victorian Writer. It's part of the regional round-up and considers how last summer's bushfires affected local writers. Well, their writing, really.

The poem I wrote that was accepted on the same day, will appear in the Northern Stories Anthology, produced by Clouds of Magellan, along with another poem that had been submitted earlier. The launch for the anthology is on Saturday November 21, at the Northcote Town Hall, from 1pm.

That leaves just the short story I wrote. The 'theme' was to write a story that would make the reader feel physically uncomfortable, enough so they'd shift in their seat, cringe, whatever. The brief news item that inspired the piece was a five second report of the Hot Chocolate Rapist having had his day in court. I can't even remember the outcome, but I had an idea straight away. I wrote the story in third person from the perspective of a twenty-somethng male, and I'll leave it to you to get a copy of Torpedo 7 in (late) November to find out more.

With everything I wrote that week being accepted for publication, I'm thinking I should plan a few weeks like that every year. I wonder if one per month is too much to ask?

As an aside though, amongst all this I also had a story accepted for fourW, which is produced by the Booranga Writers' Centre who, for their twentieth issue are launching in Wagga, Sydney and Melbourne. The Melbourne launch is at La Mama Courthouse, Sunday 22nd November, from 2.30pm. Come along and support them, so they'll have to launch in Melbourne every year.

Now that all bar one of my stories have been picked up, I've been feeling a little pressured to write some more. This morning, I picked out one that I couldn't quite get right last time I looked at it in January, and I fiddled with it, fiddled some more and have sent it off too.

Now though, I'm off to write a poem. Challenged myself to write a poem a day for a week (starting today), to see if it'll motivate me for something I'll tell you about shortly.

Tuesday, 15 September 2009

sounds like poetry

Seems like I haven't been here in ages, and I suppose a week can seem like that sometimes.

I'm going to go right ahead and suggest it's all due to being busy attending a few Overload events last week. I'm not going to go into the details, but everything I went to was superb. The Overload team did a smashing job in putting the festival together, and I hope they're patting themselves on the back now, if they're not curled up in some cosy sleep-pose.

I'd like to suggest which event might have been the highlight, but even that's a bit difficult. Arm-twisted to commit, I'd have to say it was Poetic Riffs, which featured tap-dancing SA poet, Jenny Toune, followed by Queensland duo Graham Nunn and Sheish Money, with Sean M Whelan and the Interim Lovers ending the night.

It was over a week ago, so I won't try to recall details, but the night was definitely inspirational. Sean M Whelan amazes me every time I see him perform, and the Queenslanders were deserving of the encore the audience insisted on. It was a pleasure too, to be able to get a copy of their new CD The Stillest Hour (before they officially launch/ed it back home), which is a great listen.

In fact, I was so inspired after this event that I organised a day with my (musician) father to have a go at recoding some of my poems to music. Which I did last Thursday, and had a ball. I will definitely have another go at it, and confess that on the first listen back in the car I heard so many things I just had to change. Meaning none of the tracks we recorded are ready...yet.

Think I might have to dig out my old dictaphone and use it to record myself as a standard editing tool, or maybe, just maybe I'll get with the times and learn how to use the microphone and associated software on my new toy, and early birthday present, one of these.

Tuesday, 8 September 2009

sewing, yes, photography, no

I spent last week making these gorgeous little bags, while Claudia watched and 'played' sewing with the offcuts. The one hanging went to her friend for her birthday and the one Claudia is wearing is hers. She was pretty chuffed she didn't have to wait for her birthday for it. And yes, I know my photography skills leave a lot to be desired. Speaking of which, I totally forgot to snap the chocolate mousse meringue cake, although we are having another party here this weekend, for Bryden's birthday, so perhaps there shall be another one. He certainly hopes so.

Monday, 7 September 2009


Dylan's first birthday cake. The face is a bit freaky, but the kids liked it. Today is the last day my baby is zero. Mixed emotions.

Wednesday, 2 September 2009


With MWF over I'm hoping to catch up on some much needed rest, although it doesn't look too promising with the Overload Poetry Festival just days away. Other than the tiredness, I'm really looking forward to the festival, particularly this Saturday night.

At 6pm, at Dante's, there's the launch of Maurice McNamara's poetry collection: Half Hour Country (free), and afterwards I'll be going to Trades Hall for Poetic Riffs, which I expect is the highlight of the festival. Another late night though, hmmm.

On Sunday I can't get to anything, because we're having a party here for Dylan, who turns one next Tuesday. Hard to believe his birthday is so close, but I know I will have fun baking. Haven't fully decided what to make, but so far there is a caterpillar birthday cake and a chocolate mousse meringue cake on the list. Bryden claims to be making a cheesecake. Will try to remember to take some pics before the knife gets stuck into it all.

Once the party's over, I'm aiming for the Spinning Room on Tuesday, and then the Overload Slam final. Not planning anything else at this stage as I'm sure I'll need sleep at some stage and also because I need to catch up on the editing and layout of page seventeen Issue 7. Way behind.

Friday, 28 August 2009

buzz buzz

In my last post I was so muddled I forgot to mention I was going to Liner Notes: Michael Jackson's Thriller at MWF last night. I was never a fan of MJ, ever. Particularly during high school when everyone else was. Everyone. In fact some would say I have awful taste in music, and when Bryden and I collated our CD collections it is true that the only double we had was Frente. Even I recognise the inherent sadness in that.

Anyway, Liner Notes. I've wanted to go to one of these for ages, and so even without the MJ interest, I was keen to go. And, I'm so glad I did, as it was fabulous. Utterly. I will definitely go to another. The line up was first class, and I confess it was the first time I've ever seen Yana Alana perform, but without doubt, she was my fave for the night, so I will keep an eye out for her.

After the long trek home, it was a rather late night, but even after the schoolrush morning, I'm finding it difficult to get stuck into work because I'm still buzzing. So far, I've wasted almost one hour, and I have only two left before jumping back on the train for more MWF. Focus!

Wednesday, 26 August 2009

shopping fun-o-metre

Since Sunday's poetry workshop with Emily Ballou, which was fantastic, I've been caught up in parental life. It even took until today before I made my to-do list for the week. Which is tragically long, particularly given I have an appointment in the city tomorrow and then will be at MWF again on Friday. The better part of my two working days, lost. I will have to forego sleep if I am to complete even half of what's on the list. And after the foregone sleep I've already incurred this week, prior to the teeth that literally cut and made the baby bleed appeared, I am somewhat reluctant. Instead I'll accept that I'm behind and will be for the next while. So be it.

I have taken the children shopping twice this week already. Shopping with more than one child at a time is not my idea of fun, and therefore something I rarely do, so yesterday's expedition of two major stops with two kids was particularly impressive. Actually, shopping with even one child doesn't usually register on my fun-o-metre. Today I took just Claudia for a one and a half hour trip to collect as many birthday presents as we could before the second of our annual family birthday season begins next week. I was definitely impressed with her behaviour, although I can't see myself rushing to go again. Is it just me?

What was fun was baking double chocolate chip cookies with Hamish. Except it means I'll probably have to let him eat some too. Next week will be a full-on bake-a-thon, in preparation for my baby's first birthday. Can't believe it's true. But he seems pleased about it (and he hasn't even seen the cake yet).

Saturday, 22 August 2009

Award Winning Australian Fiction Launch

Really enjoyed the launch of Melbourne Books' Award Winning Australian Fiction 2009 yesterday at MWF. Was nice to meet Eleanor Marney again, who I met at the Newstead Short Story Tattoo back in May, and to listen to her read again. Also nice to have a cuppa with a friend afterwards.

This year's volume is bigger than the first, with thirty-nine pieces instead of about twenty-seven. And we got to hear from twelve of them. All the readings were great and demonstrated the diversity of styles, voices etc the book has to offer, although Colin Driscoll, the final reader, stole the show with his bush poem 'Memoirs of a Sheep'.

I still remember receiving the first email from Melbourne Books, when I was asked to submit the prize winning story from our 2008 competition. I loved the idea of such a book, and was chuffed for Hayley Katzen, a new writer (then) whose story 'Not Cricket' had been a standout winner in the 2008 comp. Of course, it was included in AWAF 2008, and Hayley has another in this year.

This book is exciting for so many reasons. As a competition organiser and publisher because, among other things, the fact that it celebrates the short story and provides writers additional exposure, particularly for winners of smaller competitions. For writers, it provides not only a list of competitions they may not already know about, but an opportunity to analyse what makes a prize-winning story. And it's a fine read too.

I started on the way home. I was pretty stoked too, that in Arnold Zable's Foreword, right after saying he wouldn't single out any stories, he singled out (to praise, of course) Jennifer Mills's 'The capital of missing persons', from our competition. She is actually one of just two or three writers with two pieces in the anthology.

The train ride saw me through five of the stories (yeah, I'm slow), and I look forward to sitting down with some more really soon.

Friday, 21 August 2009

award winning launch

After such a slow week, I decided to get in three hours work this morning before I jump on the Belgrave train to the launch of Melbourne Books' Award Winning Australian Fiction at MWF. Jennifer Mills' story 'The capital of missing persons', that won our 2008 Short Story competition, is included in this lovely volume, and Jen even rates a mention on the blurb. Ya gotta love that.

I wonder how our first placed 2009 story might go next year, although of course, you don't know which of the ten shortlisted stories it might be. Yes, our 2009 shortlist has been updated to the website, here, so you can check that out. Big congrats to the ten shortlisted story writers, eleven shortlisted poets, and Vicki Grieves, whose image 'Deep Stillness' will be gracing the cover of Issue 7. (Winners will be announced at the launch, Nov 7, which I'll talk more about later.)

On Sunday I'm off to an all-day poetry workshop with Emily Ballou. Which means that tomorrow, I will be part of the family plant shopping expedition, so we can turn this

into a smorgasbord of tasty treats that the kids are sure to devour in time to be full by dinner. But, hey, it'll all be healthy, so it probably won't matter, so long as they don't eat only strawberries and raspberries. Somehow I'm not so confident.

Tuesday, 18 August 2009

heroes and prizes

If I didn’t know better, I’d say my body decided to punish me for overdoing it. But I’m sure that’s not really what happened. I’ve spent the better half of the last two days in bed and am now getting back to things, in slow motion. I’ll spare you the rest of the details, and apologise profusely if I passed it to anyone.

So, it is a somewhat delayed report on my weekend adventures. Which means, you may already have noticed that others, like Angela and Genevieve, have reported on the excellent launch of Nathan Curnow’s The Ghost Poetry Project. Go check ‘em out. I always find a book launch exciting, but this was perhaps a little more special. Not just because of the location. I’ve mentioned that Nathan is one of my heroes and, while it’s true, I enjoy his poetry, it isn’t about that.

It’s about knowing something of what he’s been through to get to where he is. Knowing that every time he goes to a poetry or launch event or haunted site, he’s leaving his young family behind. And given that this book sent him all over the country and he keeps popping up at festivals, it’s fair to say they get to do it without him for reasonable chunks of time.

So, it was a privilege to meet Kerryn, the champion in the background, and to see the smiles on his daughters’ faces as they watched their daddy’s book come to life. Truly inspirational.

That was Friday. Saturday had me all over town again, with the highlight being the Doris Leadbetter Melbourne Poetry Cup. It was a great night with almost forty poets strutting their stuff (one of two disappointments for the night was that not all forty spots were filled…the other was that one could not buy a meal). One of the great things about the night was the range of voices it attracted, including new and not-so-new.

With less than the maximum number of entrants, the final comprised eight poets, with the $2000 first prize going to Jillian Pattinson and the $300 runners up cheque to Matt Bennetts. The two $100 encouragement prizes were awarded to Vicki Thornton (yay, go Vicki) and Eleanor Jackson (who I secretly hoped would win, because I thought she was great).

Thursday, 13 August 2009

low tech

I am not a fan of the scanner and every year I dread having to scan the snail mail stories and those shortlisted in the competition. Even if they were all printed nice and clearly and would transfer into text documents straight up, I think I would still not like it. I dislike it so much that when I started this morning, I quickly had a fight with the scanner and left it until about 8pm. Now, two hours later, I have scanned and 'fixed' only two stories.

Perhaps it's really about technology. Perhaps I am just not a fan of technology. Although this week, that would be fair enough.

In the last week, my coffee machine has died (and been reincarnated thanks to a $6 part), we've had a black-out for half a (working) day, my internet connection has been temperamental, and tomorrow, the power company will be switching us off until mid afternoon.

At least I won't have to befriend the scanner all over again...just yet.

Wednesday, 12 August 2009

ready for the weekend

With various lurgies loitering in our house, it's too easy to think about the weekend ahead. It's a busy one.

Friday is the launch of Nathan Curnow's The Ghost Poetry Project at the Old Melbourne Gaol.

Saturday, heat 2 of the Overload Slam in Frankston, followed by The Doris Leadbetter Melbourne Poetry Cup, to spectate.

Despite that I haven't mentioned anything for a while, I've been busy with page seventeen stuff too. It won't be long before contributors start hearing from us and competition shortlists will be available online.

One thing I can tell you already is that I have booked the launch. It'll be at Burrinja cafe in Upwey, from 1pm on Saturday November 7. This is home of The Word Tree, which will also be on that afternoon, starting at 3pm and featuring the fabulous Sean M Whelan. What an afternoon!

Sunday, 9 August 2009

winding down

It's been an incredible week. I don't remember the last time I got so much done.

The poem I wrote on Thursday morning, which was something that had been in my mind for months, was accepted on the same day. That is a first and I wish it could only be so easy all the time. I was pretty lucky that not only was it something I'd been thinking about, but was for a very themed publication.

The short article was sent off (thankfully before we had a power-out for half of Friday), I completed two edits for my EWF Reader piece and have now finished, and I wrote the short story that I had outlined in the library.

I actually enjoyed writing the story this way, and will have to incoroporate this process into my repertoire. In particular, I found that because I knew almost exactly what was coming later, I was able to put the kind of details in that I usually have to come back to include. Essentially, the outline served as a first draft. I've sent it to one of my writer friends for some harsh feedback, and will hopefully work on it again in another week. Then, I can send it off in time. There is more about this story idea that was new to me than the writing process though.

A few months ago, I met the editor to whom I am going to send it, and he mentioned an upcoming theme. I decided to take on the challenge, as I thought it was something I wouldn't normally do in my writing. I had two okay ideas straight away, although when I tried to write them, they turned out to be not so great. Then, one night in the car, there was a report in the news that struck me as perfect. But that's all I'm going to say (for now).

Friday night I went to the Overload Program Launch & Slam Heat No 1, which was a fabulous night. I don't think I've ever laughed so much at a poetry event, and I'm looking forward to the second heat in Frankston this coming Saturday.

After an intensive few days of writing, I've been spending the weekend at home with family and the sewing machine. To justify starting a new project, I even did a mend that's been waiting months and finished these guys, which I started oh so long ago. The kids knew I was making them for them, and I am sure that sewing is how I teach them patience.

Now to go and sew a button back onto a pair of jeans I haven't worn since it fell off, in summer.

Thursday, 6 August 2009


The other night I made it down to the Narre Warren library, which is a fifty minute round trip and open until 9pm. I'm glad I told you I'd go, because it was the kind of night that tempts one to stay home near the fire in pyjamas. With a good supply of tokay nearby.

I took only the two things I said I would. I started on the first, short one that should have been easier. After forty-five minutes and two very different beginnings, I gave up, drew an asterisk beside the one I thought was probably better and decided to leave it until today, assuming the thoughts would have had time to settle.

Then I started on the story. I was too tired to write an actual story, so I tried something a little different, and wrote a story outline. So not my usual thing, although neither is the way this story came to me. I spent a little over an hour making the outline, seven scenes, and let myself write anything that seemed relevant, even the tiniest detail. I felt it all coming together, the kind of feeling I might have when I'm working on pieces that I know are worth pursuing. I think (hope) I wrote enough that it'll be easy when I write the actual thing.

On the way home I got to test my new night sight when my headlights lit up a wombat in the middle of my lane. In the 100km zone. All turned out well.

Today, the plan was to properly attack the two pieces from Tuesday night. So far, I have written a poem, completely separate, written the piece due tomorrow, using the version I asterisked, completed and returned the second (and final) edit for my EWF Reader piece, and if it wasn't time to think about lunch, I'd make a start on the seven-scene story. I couldn't possibly write while hungry.

Oh, and I changed my mind about no events this weekend – heading to this tomorrow.

Tuesday, 4 August 2009

scheduled time

I've organised with hubby to escape the house this evening to make a solid dent in some of those writing projects awaiting my attention.

As you know, writing at a pre-arranged time isn't my usual thing, but I am confident all will go well. If I can find somewhere sensible to go. One of the drawbacks of living way out in the sticks is that there's nowehere to go to write after about 5pm. The closest library closes at 6pm and other than a restaurant or the pub, everything else will be closed. The decision where to go will be more stressful than what to take with me.

I have a short piece with a Friday deadline. Priority one.

Priority two is to make some serious moves on a short story I started weeks ago but hasn't had another look-in thanks to other commitments. Although ideas have been circling my mind, which is definitely a good sign.

Two things will be plenty. Depending where I go (and what time I make that escape), I will have as long as three hours. Yay.

Sunday, 2 August 2009

idols and ghosts

After somehow managing to finish reading the shortlisted general submissions before bedtime on Friday, I thought I should treat myself to getting out, so went to the last heat of Poetry Idol at Box Hill library on Saturday. It was a fun day and I was talked into competing once I arrived (if you flick through the pics, you'll find me in my (el cheapo) granny glasses that I can now not live without). Despite being the seventeenth reader and some participants thinking this had a certain meaning, I didn't make it to the final.

Aside from just being there and enjoying the afternoon, the prize for me, I guess, was a comment from one man in particular. Several people did say something about my poem to me afterwards (which tends to happen when you write openly about being in labour), but one man approached me during the break, gently tapped my arm and said 'Thank you. I was at the birth of my child, and I will never forget.' From his expression, I could tell he was touched and that my piece was meaningful to him, and for me, that's what it's about.

One of the things I loved about the afternoon was the diversity of people in the room: nationalities, ages, and various levels and experiences with poetry. Everyone mingling and chatting, with people they already knew and people they didn't.

As far as getting out goes, I think that's it until Friday 14th August when I trek into the Old Melbourne Gaol for the launch of Nathan Curnow's The Ghost Poetry Project. Nathan is one of my heroes (which I may explain one day), so this is one launch I've been looking forward to.

Thursday, 30 July 2009

spotty poems and Murphy's Law

It was bound to happen, and some may even suggest I should have expected it to happen during one of the busiest page seventeen weeks I have throughout the cycle. Yes, a child is sick.

The good news is that it is a minor ailment that will have no lasting impact on his health. The not so good news, other than the obvious incovenience, is that it involves spots and is highly contagious, so he must be temporarily banished from society.

That means I lose the entire twelve hours for this week I have to write and/or do magazine stuff. Yes, I have only twelve hours weekly, less if I have apointments or other errands, and almost none during school holidays. And what a week for it to happen, with the selection meeting this Sunday.

Of course I have not finished reading the submissions I need to before then, let alone begun determining how many pages each piece might take so we fill the correct amount of space. And if I check my list, I'm sure there are a few other things that need doing by then too. But I trust they will all happen in time, somehow. The writing however, will have to wait.

A while back I mentioned something new and exciting for this year's page seventeen without saying what it was. Well, now I'm ready to share. This year we selected two poems before submissions even closed. One is a piece by Bec Graham that Vicki Thornton (from our editorial committee) selected at a heat of the Melbourne Believer Slam. The second is a piece by Jonathan Hadwen that he performed at SpeedPoets (Brisbane), selected by Graham Nunn on our behalf. Huge thanks to both Vicki and Graham.

From the feedback I've had so far, choosing a poem at each of these events has been well received, although I am always interested in more feedback. At this stage, I suspect I will look to do it again next year, although will hopefully organise pieces from other states too. Let me know what you think.

Meanwhile, I might go and count some pages while the baby sleeps his spots away.

Monday, 27 July 2009

trains, poetry and birthdays

It's been a crazy few days and there are too many birthdays in July.

After a productive Thursday, I treated myself on Friday by going to the Quilt and Craft Fair at Jeff's Shed. A free ticket tempted me to spend dollars on the train, lunch, coffee, the odd pattern or three and a smidge of fabric. Although maybe the main motivation was knowing that, stuck on a train for longer than two hours in total, I would make a good dent in the page seventeen story submissions I need to read.

On Saturday, I spent almost two more hours on trains to get to the Eltham new voices festival, and I still have stories to read.

But the festival was great. I caught up with a friend for lunch (although I was unable to hang around to see her presented with her poetry prize) and attended two sessions, the second being a poetry panel featuring Friendly Street Poets from SA and an open mic section. I grabbed a copy of Friendly Street New Poets 14, and then, given my kids had been screaming 'mummy' through the window for the last ten minutes of the session, rushed off with my family to my brother's 40th. Although we left his present at home :(

After yet another birthday yesterday, I'm hoping for a quiet few days to start the week. And good naps by the baby.

Thursday, 23 July 2009

new voices

Almost forgot to mention I'll be dropping by the new voices festival in Eltham this Saturday. Right before I go to my brother's's that for dedication?

new work

I've been asked to write another article. This is excellent, although it means there's no chance I'm going to have a break from writing while I go through the busy page seventeen period. But, as long as I come out at the other end in one piece, this will also be a good thing.

This new piece, while brief, actually requires research, so I have started on it straight away. I am not accustomed to doing research, other than in my past uni-lives, so hope that collating information for a week will be long enough. I have a fairly tight deadline. I also started doing research for another article I'd like to write, although with no placement, there's no deadline. Even so, I don't want to put it off too long.

Today I redrafted my EWF Reader piece and have sent it off to the editor. This is amazing for me, given I am definitely one of those writers who either sends things off with a day or so to go or misses the deadline altogether. And without having an exact statistic, editorial experience suggests about half of us do this.

Now, with less than an hour before school pick-up, I find it hard to decide what to do next. I could start reading the stories from the general submission that are still under consideration, or I could work on a story. There's one I've been working on that I'd like to get back to (and finish before an end of August deadline), but I may need to let it stir through the back of my mind for a while longer first. I guess there's one way to find out for sure.

Tuesday, 21 July 2009

yum mum

Today was a mum kind of day, like all Tuesdays, so not a lot happened in my writing world. I did book a ticket for a poetry workshop and for Liner Notes at the MWF, so I guess that's something.

In mum kind of news though, I thought I'd share this pic. My darling Claudia (3yo) painted the pot at creche, planted a miniature daffodil bulb, and presented it to me on Mother's Day. Hope you've had a bright day too.

PS. I also baked a choc mud cake for the playgroup mums/dads to eat tomorrow (while the kids eat fruit).

Sunday, 19 July 2009

purple pens and raging fires

One of the things I couldn't mention sooner is that I have been commissioned to write a piece for the upcoming Emerging Writers' Festival Reader, which will be launched in October. Needless to say, I've been rather excited about this, and began writing it almost as soon as I found out, even writing the second half during the week I could barely see anything within two metres.

I found it refreshing to write by hand too, although that wasn't a creative decision, but a decision to stay near the raging fire I'd built that night. The creative decision was to use a purple pen. While I don't want to say too much about the piece itself yet, I can tell you it is a personal essay: one of my first non-uni-assignment non-fiction pieces, which is exciting in itself.

Typing it up was a little strange. Great to engage with it again and to redraft as I went, but since my op, I seem to need a different magnification in specs for computer work than I do for reading, so neither pair seemed just right. (Please somebody, tell me I WILL get used to this.) I emailed it to a couple of writing friends for feedback on Friday and I plan to attack it again this week before sending it to the Reader's Editor, Dion Kagan, who also edited Vignette Press's The Death Mook.

Friday, 17 July 2009


I love structure. All kinds of structure. I've always loved numbers and mathematics, science, I make lists, I like order and rules, instructions, and I only choose symmetrical patterns when I'm going to make a new quilt. So, you'd think I'd be one of those writers who routinely writes 1000, or even 500, words every day. Or at least during a few specified timeslots every week.

But I'm not that writer.

Sure, I do schedule in writing time every week, and now that my baby is almost one, I mostly stick to it. But most of my writing, especially over the last eighteen months, has been done when I've been inspired, which is what I spoke about at the recent Emerging Writers' Festival. Certainly that's when I do my best writing.

Maybe the idea of writing when I'm inspired is crazy, but it's true that I rely to a fair degree on writing when I'm inspired (and perhaps also that I am a little husband certainly thinks so). I've been thinking about my processes and habits over the last year or so, and have found that writing when I'm inspired seems to work for me. Although there is a catch.

There's always a catch, huh. This time, though, the catch is good. The catch is fun.

The catch is that I make sure I'm inspired. I treat is as my job to be inspired. I constantly do things to catch that inspiration. Things I have learnt over the years that work, for me.

Events are the most inspiring. Festivals, author talks, poetry gigs, launches, seminars and workshops. Particularly workshops. It probably helps that I'm generally wide awake when I get home, no matter the time, because it's an hour or longer in the car. So I often write straight away, even if it's just notes. I often write notes at the event too (although I expect more than just notes from a workshop). Being a mum of three, my youngest not yet one, it's often difficult to get out, and maybe this is where the structure comes in...organising home life such that I CAN go. Planning ahead.

It's not always practical to go to an event. So, I also use 'how-to' writing books for inspiration. There are many in my bookshelves and I doubt I've ever read any of them from cover to cover. But reading a chapter, a section, maybe even just one page, can offer inspiration. And sometimes I go straight to the writing activities, not that all the books offer them. Even if the writing task doesn't offer me a new idea or help me learn something about a character/story I'm already working on, I find it useful to kick my brain into the right frame. I don't always even DO the writing activity, instead letting my mind soak it up, perhaps in images. My thoughts at the time guide me towards which writing project I should tackle.

I also take opportunities to notice what's going on around me. Characters often appear on the train, in cafes, anywhere in public. Add imagination and there's a story/poem right there.

Of course I didn't know this about myself when I started writing years ago. And perhaps this is the other catch. To get to now, I needed to trust myself, needed to be open to trying new things, to accept that sometimes I would fail, sometimes, maybe often, I would write crap, and that writing crap would be good for me. Writing crap could serve as a writing task in itself, give me practice, help me identify when something could be salvaged and when something should be abandoned. And of course, I had to be patient, to be open to getting to know myself as a writer, to learn what works for me and what helps me kick-start when I need it. To believe that I am capable. To choose to be confident.

This is where the structure comes in. In making the decisions. Writing the lists. Setting the goals, and the self-imposed deadlines.

Tuesday, 14 July 2009


Things are almost back to normal now that I have had both eyes done and the patch came off the second one this morning. I am still suffering a little shock every time I look into the distance and can actually see things properly. If I'd known how much difference it would have made, I might have done it sooner. Although I did have to wait until I stopped breastfeeding. I wonder how many others can say that of cataract surgery. Hmm.

Anyway, I did manage to get to a workshop at the weekend with children's writer and illustrator Alison Lester. The workshop was organised by a local (ie Belgrave) writer's group, the Lazy River Writers, who have a different workshop every year, although usually in October. I have been lucky enough to score an invite to the past few.

The workshop had a different format to what I'd expected, but I think I came away with what I'd hoped to.

As a writer, I've found that, since having kids, people often tell me I'll become interested in writing for children once mine are old enough to really appreciate books. My eldest turned seven last week and both he and my three year old love books. In fact, we often encourage Claudia to take a book on longer drives because she'll be so absorbed in it she'll ignore her brother's taunts. But the interest hasn't really come my way (yet).

I am ready, however, to start thinking about whether I might like to have a go at it. So, perhaps, over the next few months, I might keep an open mind, actively think about it and maybe even make some suitable journal notes. All this while I venture into a bit of non-fiction, which, other than university essays, is new to me. I'm sure I'm not alone in admitting that having a go at a new genre/style/form can be a little scary. So I'll stick to one at a time.

Thursday, 9 July 2009

new eyes

I’m typing in Word with the font size set to 24 and I am still straining to see the letters because I’m using only one eye. The new one.

Technically, of course, it isn’t a new eye, although I do have a brand spanking new intraocular lens in my left eye. I began the process of cataract surgery on Monday and while I am pleased with the result in all the ways that really matter, I have been having a tough time seeing since.

My left eye seems to work well. In fact, I think I can already see from it better than I remember seeing ever before. The right eye, with contact lens, can see just as well as it has been able to for months, perhaps years. But, the two are not cooperating. My brain hasn’t worked out how to combine images from each eye into one nice one. Result = weirdness. I can’t really explain what it’s like, other than weird. Close up is easy to describe…everything’s pretty much double, unless I use only one eye, which of course results in strain and then, when I look in the distance afterwards, an almost dizzy sensation. Hence, I’ve been quiet online, and in fact, will probably not post again until after my other eye has been done and they have settled to some level of cooperation. My right eye gets operated on next Monday, 13th, and the patch comes off the next day. I hope I will be back to normal soon afterwards, but I’m not going to get my hopes up too high.

As for looking into the distance, things are clear but it’s like my right eye switches off at some point and I end up using just the new one. My depth perception is lacking, which means there is no driving and in fact, I have no idea when I will be able to drive again.

So, without being able to read, write, sew, drive or even watch TV comfortably, I have been going a little crazy. Being school holidays has perhaps helped, although the biggest distraction has come by way of tomorrow being my son’s seventh birthday. I have been baking, closing one eye every time I need to read a new line in the cookbook/s. I have not been brave enough to use the sharp knives. I am glad I made him a new apron before surgery.

I am making everything in one person serves (ie. muffin sized). So far, we have caramel mud muffins, lemon cheesecakes, lemon cream-cheese cakes and plum jam swirl cakes, and the mix for the snickerdoodles is having its half hour in the fridge before being rolled into small balls in cinnamon sugar and going in the oven. I am yet to decide what else to make.

Saturday, 4 July 2009

hiatus from hiatus

So much for my hiatus. I am not sure how long it lasted, but it wasn't long. Maybe a week.

I'm not sure whether it was the spinning room, the overload poetry festival programme becoming available, the submissions and entries being farmed out to others to read, or the fact that I've been home alone. Or something entirely different. Whatever, I have been writing.

Mostly I've been working on a story that you'll have to wait to hear more about. I even wrote the old fashioned way, with pen and paper, although this was mainly to be in the room with the kick-arse fire I built. It's hard to know how many words I've written, but I'd guess about 1400. I'm aiming for 1800, so when I write the other two sections I have in mind and then edit, it should be just right.

I've also been tinkering with the two new performance pieces. This was minor, until this morning. Even before I got out of bed, I had a breakthrough with the piece I wasn't sure about, and now it has gone from being a tad over three minutes to being a one minute poem. I might even perform it for the one minute round of the Slam final I'm competing in on Tuesday 4th August at the Spinning Room. Meanwhile, I'll try it out this afternoon at The Word Tree at Burrinja.

I have also written two propsals, but that is not so exciting.

While I was in the depths of this creative energy, I also went and registered for the Overload Slam. Maybe I'm a little crazy, but I think it's going to be fun.

Wednesday, 1 July 2009

spinning room

Trudged through stormy weather and the backroads of Menzies Creek last night to get to the Spinning Room to see Yvette Stubbs feature alongside two of her talented singer-songwriter sisters. Was a great night, as it has been on past occasions. I even won one of the raffle prizes, a copy of The Penguin Book of Limericks. And Eric Beach was kind enough to gift me a copy of his chapbook red heart my country.

It was my first opportunity to try out one of the new pieces I mentioned a while ago. So I did. It's a piece called 'Focussing', which was inspired after attending a performance poetry workshop led by Nathan Curnow in May (as well as the luck of the perfect 'subject' hopping onto my train afterwards).

I wasn't all that happy with my actual performance, although it seemed to be well received. Maybe more well received than I realised at the time, as I was invited back at the end of the night for an encore performance. Lately I've been trying to be organised and have been carrying my performance pieces in a plastic folder, but of course last night I'd chosen to leave this in the car.

Fortunately I had one other piece in my bag (because there's only one thing I've ever written that I can recite), so I performed that. It's called 'The Facts' (with the silent subtitle 'Childbirth'). It's a fairly new piece, although I have performed it a few times already and had positive feedback. Well, last night I had to pause at the end of one stanza long enough for everyone to stop laughing. That, I decided, was excellent feedback.

The only (possible) negative of the night was that Yvette didn't perform her piece about having (or dreaming of having) sex with Anthony (co-convenor), despite the repeated request of an eager audience member. Will have to bribe her for a performance another time.

Meanwhile, maybe I'll try out the other new piece at the Word Tree this Saturday (feature is Kristen Henry).