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.