Thursday, 9 December 2010

Launch photos

I'm a little slow with actually doing anything lately, except when it comes to packing boxes. Although really, I could probably be more efficient there too. But I'm not here to talk about what'll be happening after 5 more sleeps. Partly because I think you already know, and partly because I know you'd prefer to see a photo or two from the recent launch of First taste.
Which I have thanks to Vicki who, as well as sharing all her pics with me, wrote a bit of a thing after the launch here. It was a lovely afternoon, a chance to see so many friendly faces for what might be the last time, at least for a while. Unfortunately Emilie Zoey Baker was stuck at home in bed, but Marian Spires put on her launching hat and helped me send First taste into the
world in style.

Here is one of my biggest fans.

Marian Spires and my mum.

A couple of friends enjoying themselves.
Koraly and Vicki.

And a family shot to end the afternoon.

Thanks to everyone who came along, those who couldn't but wanted to, Marian for doing a fab job with short notice, Vicki for the photos, and all my friends and the poets of Melbourne, who I will dearly miss.

Copies of First taste are available from Collected Works, Readings (St Kilda store) or direct, via paypal, here.

Tuesday, 30 November 2010


I’m a winner. Again. For two years running, I am a National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) winner. And yes, it feels good.

In some ways, it feels a little better than last year. Not in that adrenalin rush kind of way. Last year definitely takes that crown, but this year I feel good knowing that some of the things I wrote are actually worthwhile.

Not that what I wrote last year wasn’t. I mean, I learned a lot about myself, including that I can quickly lose interest in an idea I’d been passionate about for years. And while I have no intention of ever writing an actual end to last year’s story, or rewriting it, or anything so ambitious, I do still have an idea of using the original idea for some other, shorter, piece.

But this year. As you know, I didn’t write a novel. Instead I wrote what I called ‘Bitsa’. Bitsa fiction, bitsa poetry and bitsa whatever else I felt like writing, including blog posts (though I won before starting to write this one).

I’m not going to go into much now except to share a few stats. Because I like stats, and numbers in general.

I wrote ten blog posts, including some I’ll post in December and some I’ll never post. Or will maybe post.

I started seven short stories, finished five of them and will probably pursue four of them. One has already been workshopped in my writing group and seems not to need a lot of rewriting. Yay.

I wrote thirty poems. Thirteen are more for my own memory of our recent family camping trip, but maybe one or two of those might be worth sharing. Of the others, I've read some on stage already, which always helps me know if I should rework or dump. But mostly, I’m not sure yet how many will rest in peace and how many shall be revived. Though there are definitely some to keep.

I wrote twenty non-fiction pieces (not including blog posts). Of those, I like less than half, and will pursue less than half. At best there are nine worth revisiting, although it’s possible when that happens I’ll change my mind.

And, finally, I wrote three other things that I won’t disclose, except to say one was a letter.
I did not count my tweets, emails or facebook updates, although admit that during the third week I half-wished I had.

But anyway, it’s over and I feel good. My first instinct is to say I don’t know whether I’ll do it again next year and will take some time to think this through. But I’m also well aware that I would probably not have done it this year if I hadn’t so publicly and enthusiastically said it was my one big goal for the year (all those months ago). And I’m definitely glad I persisted.
So I’ll think on it a while and maybe by the time I announce some 2011 goals, I might be ready to say either way.

Oh, I almost forgot, I attempted eight of those crazy ten ideas suggested by others. I was going to press myself to write all ten, but its not like I wrote about everything n my list full stop. I didn't write about acrobatic walruses or ghosts, and of the others, two were short stories I failed to finish. But I had a go, eh?

Thursday, 25 November 2010

A First taste taste

First taste

He pierced my heart
with butterscotch sauce
a double quantity
over the warm cake full
of brown sugar and dates

he baked a delicious sponge
wet with citrus tang
but heavy after being prepped
with walnut and greens

the triple chocolate cheesecake
and rhubarb crumble
secured the deal
we celebrated
with premium ice-cream
swimming in chilled muscat

we discovered the delights
of orange almond syrup
chocolate mousse meringue
and chocolate raspberry pudding
with decisions over
chocolate or caramel
docked dry fruit in port
for months
before baking the proverbial

he makes anzacs
in double batches
I bake muffins
with blueberry patches
and mull over stained pages
of cookbooks

last birthday
I made my own sticky date
shared it with friends
and recalled
my first taste
of butterscotch sauce.

First taste will be launched by Emilie Zoey Baker at Caffe Sospeso, 428 Burwood Road, hawthorn this Sunday, 28th November, 2010, from 3pm.

Come help celebrate Tiggy's debut poetry collection, to listen to some poems, including one she wrote in year 9 (that, thankfully, is not in the book), and see her one last time before she heads on outta Melbourne. She might even cry, and that's not something you see every day.

If you want to know a little more about First taste, check out this review, or this one. And if you can't make it to Hawthorn on Sunday, go here to order your copy via Paypal.

Tuesday, 16 November 2010

Packing and a little launch

Our first shipping container arrived yesterday. Yes, that’s right. Shipping container. And first. Initially we thought we’d use the bigger container, but it turns out it wouldn’t fit in the driveway, so we’re using two small ones. But that’s worked out well. With one coming at a time, we have twice as long to pack.

The down side is that it’s hard to stay in denial when there’s a huge container in the middle of the driveway.

We’ve started packing it already. By that I mean Bryden has started packing it already. He started with all the couches bar one. I know that sounds odd, but yes, while I’m finding it difficult to throw out old uni stuff I know I don’t need any more (and I will throw it out, I promise), Bryden kind of collects couches. In other words, please NEVER tell him you have a couch you don’t need any more. Please.

He’s also packed most of our books. And while he seems to be doing most of the packing thus far, I have done some. Though mostly I’m trying to stay on top of the normal day-to-day stuff. It’s better for everyone if I can stay in normal mode (denial) as long as possible though. Because once I engage with the reality of the big move, I’m probably going to freak right out.

So I’m keeping up with National Novel Writing Month. Well, I’m almost keeping up. I’m a little behind in my word count but not enough that I won’t be able to catch up.

And with the launch of page seventeen issue 8 behind me, that I’ll write a bit about somewhere else soon, I need another time-sapping project.

I’m thinking about the upcoming launch of my debut poetry collection, First taste. I’ve finally booked it all in, and as well as being a launch, it’s also a bit of a going away party, as it’ll be my last big Melbourne outing before we head off. So, if you’d like to come along to see my first poetry book fly into the world, come along. If you’d like to see me before I fly into a warmer part of the world, come along.

We’ll kick off at 3pm, on Sunday 28th November, at CaffĂ© Sospeso, 428 Burwood Rd, Hawthorn, with Emilie Zoey Baker doing the launching honours. I’ll be hanging around afterwards to make sure I have a chance to catch up with as many people as I can. And to eat. Eating is good. It’s a short walk from Glenferrie Station, or if you’re driving, there’s a huge car park in Kent St that I’m pretty sure is all day parking at weekends.

Meanwhile, if you want a small taste of First taste, a few of the poems can be found online, including here, here, here and if you go here, you can scroll down to the June 10 issue and download the pdf to find another. I’m thinking about posting one here, to this blog, next week too, so feel free to let me know which one you think it should be.

Monday, 8 November 2010

On the move

My NaNoWriMo progress is going reasonably well, though aside from letting you know that by the end of yesterday I was a little above the word count goal, I’m going to save it all for another day, another time and another place. I am talking about my progress on this crazy adventure that is writing 50,000 words this month over at the SPUNC blog, Splog. My first post can be found here and I’ll be reporting back in the middle and at the end of the month.

It is somewhat unfortunate that life doesn’t just stop during November so that those of us who want to spend it writing all those words can just get on with it, but as life does indeed go on, it means there are other interesting (sure, that’s subjective) things to share.

Like that we bought a house. Yes, we are definitely on the move now that we’ve sold at this end and bought at the other. Our new house is in Jimboomba, south of Brisbane, on half an acre, with a kitchen to die for. And while it terrifies me to say this, we are moving next month. We will be in our new house before Christmas. But I’m not quite ready to think about that.

We have started packing and generally getting organised though. This can be done one task at a time, which is definitely a lot more manageable than thinking ‘big move: one month’.

Actually, buying the house was possibly the most stressful experience I’ve had in a long time. Both selling and buying definitely add up to the most stressful life experience ever. Yes, definitely. Ever.

Last Thursday, Bryden flew to Brisbane for the day to check out 9 houses. On Friday morning we decided on the most practical, sensible one, which was actually the one we’d thought we’d end up wanting based on the internet photos. The one we ended up with, at that point, was probably just a touch out of reach. Like quite a few thousand out of reach. We called the agent handling the practical, sensible house. She was showing someone a house and said she’d call back in less than an hour when she was back at the office.

An hour later she hadn’t called. Another hour later, she still hadn’t called. An hour after that, the agent of the dreamy house with the fabulous kitchen called and said the owners were after a quick buy and that if we made an offer about $20K below the listed price, we might be lucky.

We spent the next two hours agonising about which house we should buy. They are almost completely opposite to each other. The dreamy house, while fabulous on the inside, needs some attention outside. Not the normal kind of maintenance stuff, but it’s on a fair slope, has no shed (for Bryden to play in) and currently has no real covered area. The practical, sensible house was fabulous outdoors. It is probably the one we should have chosen, as we could really have just moved in, unpacked and settled in. But as practical and sensible as it was, it wasn’t dreamy. Even though it has a pool.

We made an offer for $20K below the listed price on the dreamy house and with a few minor negotiations, we’d bought a house. As easy as that.

Hopefully the next part will be just as easy. I even think I’m ready to throw out all my old uni stuff. But as the recycling bin is already full until Thursday morning, I guess I’ll have to wait a few days to really find out.

Tuesday, 2 November 2010

The NaNo start

You know, I kind of liked that list thing I did a couple of weeks ago, so I think I might go with it again.

- I am off to a good start in NaNoWriMo, having met the daily word count so far on both days.

- I’m going to have to hold on to just scraping through close to the 1667 words required for another day, by writing in the evening, as Thursday will be my first actual writing day. Then, I’ll hope to get ahead. Even if just a little.

- I spent yesterday baking for Claudia’s 5th birthday party today. Both the baking and the party were fun and yes, I have plenty of cake/NaNo fuel left over.

- We sold our house.

- We’re probably leaving Melbourne before Christmas. By that I mean before the middle of December.

- I’ll be at Passionate Tongues at the Brunswick Hotel next Monday, 8th, co-featuring alongside Graham Nunn, and I’d love to see you there.

- I’m trying to write a new poem every day this month and I’ll share some with you if you come to Passionate Tongues next Monday, 8th.

- I’m definitely planning to make the First taste launch extend into a going away kind of do, though I’m not sure I’ll be able to have both at the same venue.

- If you have an idea where I might have either of the above events, feel free to share your wisdom. Soon.

- I’ve decided I disagree with one point in Derek Motion’s review of First taste: there is embarrassment. Although not necessarily over the things one might expect.

- The abovementioned embarrassment is ten-fold when the one line in the entire book that I find embarrassing is quoted on the internet (although I am almost over this already). This is probably much less embarrassing if it doesn’t come up in certain google searches.

- Don’t bother asking which line I’m talking about, because telling you would just cause further embarrassment. But if you come to Passionate Tongues next Monday, 8th, it’s possible you’ll find out.

- I read and loved Marchetta's On the Jellicoe Road.

- It was really nice to not have an Open Inspection last Saturday.

Monday, 25 October 2010

NaNoWriMo? Count me in!

I mentioned in the last post that I've decided to do NaNoWriMo again. For those of you that don't know, it stands for National Novel Writing Month, and means writing a novel, or at least 50,000 words towards a new one, is completed during the month of November.

I did it last year, won (which means I wrote at least 50,000 words towards a new novel) and can't resist having another go, even though I don't really have enough time to write half that many words.

But I'm going into it a little differently this year. Well, a lot differently I suppose. I'm going to be a rebel. Which means I don't plan to write 50,000 words towards a new novel. Instead, I plan to write 50,000 words towards anything. Short stories, articles, poems and I'll probably even count my blog posts, as I expect I'll be that desperate. (I'd consider adding the to-do and shopping lists, but that seems a bit dramatic/ridiculous.)

I really don't think I'm going to win this year. But that's okay. Since I've been back from the big trip, my writing habits have been awful and I expect NaNoWriMo to pull me back in line. Let's face it, if I can write 25,000 words towards new stories etc, that would be excellent, even 10,000 new words would be great. So there's nothing to lose. Except a little sanity and a lot of sleep.

If you plan to sign up and give it a go yourself, I even have a tip to share.

Start strong!

The buzz of participating is huge and if you stay on top of the word count early, it could be enough to pull you through, especially on those days you really can't be bothered. I imagine if you're not up on your word count in the early days when there's so much online chatter and everyone else seems to be, it would seem impossible to catch up. So, schedule in some writing time next Monday and Tuesday and as your excitement levels will be high then, instead of aiming to write the daily 1,667 words required, go for two thousand, three thousand, maybe even four so you can breathe a little easy the next few days.

If you have a tip for me on how I might manage that myself when we're having a fifth birthday party in our house on the 2nd, well, that would be very welcome.

Thursday, 14 October 2010

Thoughts for the week

My mind is in a strange place at the moment. I'm not sure I could write a coherent piece if I tried, so I thought I'd go with a kind of list. It might give you an idea of where I'm at.

* I am really sick of sweeping the bathroom floor.

* On Tuesday, I sat at my 'writing space' for the first time since I got back. I wrote more than 1000 words and it felt fantastic.

* I looked at the poems I wrote while I was away or soon after I got home, and they aren't as bad as I originally thought, especially after a few tweaks.

* Derek Motion wrote a review of my poetry collection, First taste, at Literary Minded. It is awesome I don't know what to say. Except, go read it and buy the book.

* I'm planning to launch the above-mentioned book on Sunday November 28th. Not sure where yet, though I think it'll be called a Going Away Launch Party.

* I've decided to do NaNoWriMo again (more on this in a later post). Well, sort of. I'm going to be a rebel and write (hopefully) 50,000 words that aren't going to form a novel.

* I am pleased that my hardline approach of closing the door and ignoring my 2 year-old's tantrums seems to be working already. I guess he's not as similar to his older brother as I thought.

* My 8 year-old is starting to see how ridiculous someone who's having a tantrum looks and might start to modify his own behaviour. (I realise I'm being mighty hopeful a I say this and assure you I am not holding my breath for any actual change.)

* I realise my daughter might think all boys act like two year-olds when they don't get what they want.

* I am the feature poet this Saturday at Stopping all Stations in Nunawading. I plan to read from my book as well as to share some new stuff.

* I love it when my computer automatically shuts down when I'm in the middle of something, like typing this blog post (this is actually not true).

* The steamed banana pudding I made on Monday was so delicious I plan to make another one tomorrow.

* I am looking forward to driving around Brisbane's southern suburbs on Monday looking at the houses on our (long) shortlist. It feels weird to think that I will probably visit the house we'll move into next year.

* I really hope we don't have a huntsman inside on Saturday for our Open Inspection.

* page seventeen issue 8 is almost ready to go to the printer.

Tuesday, 5 October 2010

Time for a change

I got caught up again. Obviously.

I could blame it on school holidays, and partly at least, that might be true.

I could blame it on getting page seventeen Issue 8 ready, and partly, that might also be true.

But the real blame lies in all the house cleaning I've been doing. It's not just some spring clean. More of a get-the-house-ready-to-sell clean. I've been washing walls, painting walls, dusting, scrubbing floors, pulling out weeds, donating stuff to the local op-shop, filling a skip and probably a heap more that doesn't come to mind right now. And while I am exhausted (and wish someone could take in the kids until the house is sold) it seems to be worth it.

The house went on the market last week, and the photos came out superb. Even if the agent, who'd been here the day before the photographer came, said 'It came up great, did you stay up all night?' like it had been that bad beforehand.

Since it went online, we've had at least one private inspection every day, except Sunday. And the woman that came yesterday liked it enough to tell the agent before she'd left that she wanted a second inspection, with her husband. So, fingers crossed we might have an offer by the end of the week, and I'll no longer have to hide kitchen things away, make the kids' beds twice a day or vacuum and sweep the floors so bloody often! Especially good if there's an offer before Saturday's Open Inspection, so someone might feel compelled to put in a quick, higher, offer.

Where do we plan to go once we've sold?


Wednesday, 15 September 2010

I'm home

It turns out blogging while on a camping holiday is too hard. For me anyway.

But I'm back!

Physically anyway. It's going to take me some time to get back into the swing of things, especially given this lovely spring weather feels sooo cold after my northern winter.

I plan to hide out to some extent until Issue 8 of page seventeen is ready to go to the proofreaders/printer.

But while you wait for my next post, here's a little something from the trip.

Wednesday, 4 August 2010

Holiday photo dump

It has become apparent that I am not so good at updating the blog while away, especially when it comes to posting photos, but...

Bryden made an online album today, not that the pics are in a sensible order, but that doesn't matter. There are a couple of funny ones too, one of Hamish with aliens in Wycliffe Well and another of Dylan that Bryden has titled 'aquatic children' taken at Townville's Reef HQ Aquarium.

Anyway, they should give you an idea of some of the fun we've been having. Though I should point out that the water park in Townsville (there's a photo of me with Hamish) was so excellent we went there three times!

We're currently in Bowen, where we'll get a new set of tyres if we realise Friday is Friday at the right time, and then in Airlie Beach on Monday, we're booked to get a new windscreen. Meanwhile, tomorrow is scheduled for strawberry picking and more time at the beach, or the excellent pool at the caravan park we're staying in.

Here's the link to the photos. Enjoy.

Friday, 30 July 2010

... and sea turtles say...

One of the best things about being away is seeing how the kids respond to different things. Before we left, all animals barked, according to Dylan, yet he now understands that some might baaa and has learnt new words like 'cow' 'sheep' 'bird and 'fish'.
He is also quite fond of the many walks we've been on, and has even climbed up one of Australia's deepest gorges, Porcupine Gorge (though insisted Daddy carry him down).

But the last couple of days have proved to offer some of his better entertainment. Yesterday we went to Townsville's water park on The Strand and he had a great time. It took him a little while to get into it, but once he was completely wet, there was no stopping him. Especially on the slide, which was my fave. He'd come spiralling down and at the bottom, he'd fly off, float in the air a second and then thump onto the (rubber) ground. He'd be straight back up to the top and by the end wasn't bothered at all when he happened to get caught under various dumps or sprays of water. A while later, we even passed a couple who told us they'd had the most entretaining half hour just watching him play.

Today, we went to the aquarium and while he was rather amusing watching the fish, squealing with delight and running about, I was most impressed when, during a short presentation about sea turtles, he drowned out the guide's voice as he enthusiastically pointed at the screen and proceeded to bark.

Sunday, 18 July 2010

One cold morning

After setting off with just this

we drove past lots of this

and finally, got to wake and dress early enough to have this taken during sunrise last Wednesday, before the ice melted off the windscreen and we changed into shorts and t-shirts.

Sunday, 11 July 2010

Outback update

A week in and we've covered a few kilometres, lazed in the sun, blinked red dust out of our eyes, watched the sun set and rise, celebrated an eighth birthday and even copped a little sunburn.

Of the things we haven't done, the one you probably care most about is that we haven't yet downloaded any photos onto the laptop, but trust me, Hamish has taken enough that he won't fit many more on his camera if we don't download them soon.

So I'll share one or two soon. Meanwhile, we're heading out of Coober Pedy in the morning and hope to make it to Erldunda sometime in the afternoon, ideally without strangling any of the short ones.

Saturday, 3 July 2010

So long, Melbourne winter

It's been the craziest kind of week I've ever had, I think. Good crazy though, so long as I'll be able to find all the important things over the next few weeks I intended to take.

After a few final Melbourne outings for a while, including the pre-launch celebration of First taste at Sospeso Readings last night, which was awesome, and then the last minute packing today that we fitted in around a very informal and one week early birthday celebration for Hamish, we may actually be almost ready to go.

There were heaps of things I wanted to say and I'm a little afraid to check my to-do list as I'm not sure I want to realise which things I actually never got around to doing, but I'm very close to letting all that go.

We will have internet access every now and then while we're on the road, so no doubt I'll find time to post a glorious picture or two and to let you know how warm where we are might be. After the super-cold of this last week, I'm very much looking forward to warmth. I know I won't find it in Adelaide, where I'm featuring at Friendly Street Poets on Tuesday (although I'm sure THAT will be warm), but in a week from now we'll probably be in Coober Pedy, or further north, so double figured temperatures are definitely on the cards.

Friday, 25 June 2010

How excitement

I was going to review my goals, given I said I would at the end of March, but something arrived today that makes constructing sentences and actually using certain parts of my brain too damn hard. So, instead, I'm just going to share this.


Tuesday, 22 June 2010

You asked for it!

You wanted a sneak peek of First taste before I leave for warmer pastures? Wanted to get your hands on a special pre-launch copy... for just $10? Want to find out what all the butterscotch sauce is about? Just want to see my face one more time before I go?

Well, because you asked, I'm going to deliver.

I will be reading from the new book during my feature at Sospeso Readings on Friday 2nd July, merely hours before we head off. So come along and share in the celebration, or risk waiting until November. It's happening at 428 Burwood Road, Hawthorn, from 7pm. Free entry, open mic, co-feature Anna Fern, the very last Sospeso Readings, it's a night not to be missed!

But if you really can't come along, you might catch me at one of these places.
Thursday 1st July: Featured reader at Storytelling at Dog's Bar, 54 Acland St, St Kilda, 8pm.
Friday 25th June: Attending 'hanging from the Props' featuring Emilie Zoey Baker and Eddy Burger, presented by the MPU, details here.
And I'm still considering finding my way to the Short & Twisted launch this coming Sunday.
And if you really can't make it to anything but have to have a copy of First taste NOW, just send $12/copy (inc P&P) to me at PO Box 566, Cockatoo, 3781, and if it arrives by Fri 2nd July, I can even sign it to whoever you like.

But really, come to Sospeso! I'd love to see you there.

Friday, 18 June 2010

First taste - poetry

I mentioned in my last post that I'm releasing a poetry collection soon and at first I was going to make you wait until next week to find out more, but I thought I'd be nice and share some details today. Woot!

I guess the best thing to share first is the cover.

Before you ask, yes, it is a photograph of me. It's actually one my dad took, and I'm pleased to have been able to include him in some way. I just know he'd love it.

Jenny Chapman designed the superb cover. Ashley Capes was nothing short of fabulous as my editor and helped me learn heaps. And I'm sure you'd like to know what people are saying about 'First taste' already, and who am I to withhold such information?

First Taste is brimming with domestic luminosity. These poems explore the terrain of love and desire, parent and child, ecstasy and death and reveal the depth of Johnson's voice. Her poems teach us not only to accept, but to feel blessed by the complexity of humanity, the terrible mysteries of life. You will not forget 'The facts' nor that 'first taste of butterscotch sauce'. Johnson renders her secrets in language vivid and strong. Graham Nunn

Tiggy has pierced my heart, with butterscotch sauce... her poems are both earthy and ravishing. Uplifting, voracious words with a side of suburban voltage. Love it. Alicia Sometimes

With a heart pierced by butterscotch sauce, Tiggy Johnson introduces us to the joys and perils of daily life—what it means to be a woman, partner and parent amid birth and death, memory and loss, coffee and cake with citrus tang. And in considering the bitter-sweet, it’s as if this, her first collection, still comes out wearing its own Life-Be-In-It t-shirt. She is a straight-talking emerging poet with a vision all her own. Nathan Curnow

Copies of First taste will be in my hot little hands before I leave for the big trip, although I won't have a proper launch until later in the year, probably November. If you don't want to wait that long, drop me an email and I'll let you know how you can get a copy. You can email me at 'tiggy' at 'pageseventeen' dot 'com' dot 'au'. So, if you just have to find about the butterscotch sauce, you know what to do.

For those of you in Adelaide, I'll bring copies to Friendly Street on Tuesday 6th July, when I'll be the featured poet.

If you're lucky enough to be going to the Queensland Poetry Festival in August (the program will be released next week), you can grab a copy then, or the following week at SpeedPoets.

Meanwhile, please join me in a virtual celebratory drink tonight, or whenever you read this, knowing that I'll be having White Frontignac and/or a sip (cough) of Tokay.

Monday, 14 June 2010

preparing for the big trip

With less than three weeks to go before the big trip, and a growing list of things to do beforehand, it's fair to say I've felt flustered lately, which means things don't happen the way they should.

But mostly it's an exciting time. We helped Hamish start a blog so he can record his experience of the trip. He's super excited and keen to take photos and keep a written diary as well as do the maths work he says his teacher wants him to do. I don't think he's even mentioned his eighth birthday, which happens a week after we leave. If you check out his blog, you can see where we plan to go, although we will make it up as we go. And please ignore his spelling errors if you go there before I've had a chance to fix them (I'm not at home right now and have to wait until I am).

As far as all the things to do before we leave, well, I'll be telling you about a few of them as they arise. You already know about the page seventeen team (who are super-keen to read your submissions that you have until June 30 to get to us).

But I can tell you a little bit about another of the big ones now: I'm releasing my first poetry collection before we leave. I'll show you the cover and give you a sneak peek soon.

And if you want one last chance to see me before waiting until September/October, come to Storytelling at the Dog's Bar, 54 Acland St, St Kilda, from 8pm, on Thursday 1st July. It's free, and I'll be reading a couple of stories alongside co-feature Luke Stickels.

Thursday, 3 June 2010

Another EWF over

It's a little late but I thought I might share a few highlights of the Emerging Writers' Festival. The town hall program in particular. Although I didn't take any notes during any of the sessions I attended, so perhaps this is more of a memory game, though I'd like to think the bits I recall must have meant more to me than some of the others.

It would be wrong not to start with the Artist's party that was held on Friday night at the Wheeler Centre. Though if you follow Angela's blog, you'll know already that I had myself a good time. And why not. I didn't have to fulfil my hosting duties until Sunday morning, so the least I could do was assist the organisers by taking some of that wine off their hands, right?

Aside from the alcoholic pleasures, the party was an excellent opportunity to chat with other writers and I particularly enjoyed meeting Chris Downes, who spoke on the panel A short note on process that I hosted, and Jeremy Balius from Black Rider Press.

It's not often I get the opportunity to drink, either because I have to wake to to the call of 'mum-mum' that comes too early every morning, or because, well, put simply, Cockatoo is not within walking distance to anywhere. So staying in the city was an excellent plan and having a roomie made it even better, as we got to spill our showbags together and share excitement over the smallest tidbits of festival news.

Saturday offered a pretty full on program which began with Seven Enviable Lines, where the festival ambassadors shared seven secrets they wish they'd known when they started out. This event has been reviewed here and here, so all I'm going to add is that Sean Riley was my favourite, even though I've never even tried to write a play. Even as I listened to him I couldn't help but wonder if some of the newer writers at the festival realise that the advice doesn't apply just to plays but to any and all forms of writing, or if some took him (and others) literally.

I weaved in and out of various sessions throughout the afternoon, and landed at the festival club afterwards, although I had just water given someone had the foresight to schedule me to be articulate and presentable by 10am on a Sunday!

Our session A short note on process went well, although I can't say I expected to take away this advice from a writers' festival: don't take drugs. Chris Downes wowed the audience by acting out illustrations from his comics. Mischa Merz took us to the shrink's couch. Myke Bartlett struck a personal chord as he spoke of never writing anything until close to the deadline (thankfully I've learned to treat my pretend ones at least semi-seriously) and Steph Bowe was so amazing she perhaps impressed the not-so-new writers while possibly making some of the newer ones feel inadequate because they hadn't achieved half as much as her despite several extra years. You can read her presentation here.

I'm with Irma Gold as far as highlights go. My favourite panel was You want me to do WHAT? a discussion on promoting, or prostituting, yourself. All panellists were entertaining, although I particularly enjoyed Sean M Whelan's advice of what not to do when speaking/performing in public. Because there's always been someone (or two) who does one or all of these things at every poetry reading I've been to. For specifics, see Thuy Linh Nguyen's write-up.

Although now that I've said that, I hope none of those types of poets happen to be at Sospeso Readings on 4th June (tomorrow/today), where I'm reading as part of a feature organised by Geoff Fox. The theme is Motherhood and Vicki Thornton, Amy Bodossian, Geoff Fox, Koraly Dimitriades, Di Cousens and myself are combining forces for the feature, with an open mic that offers an excellent prize for the poem deemed to be a particular person's favourite on the night. It's happening from 7pm at Sospeso Caffe, 428 Burwood Rd, Hawthorn.

Thursday, 27 May 2010

TwitterFEST and well, Twitter.

As suggested, I waited until 1.59pm yesterday before giving the kids the one hour of TV I limit them to when we're home. Then I grabbed my coffee and parked in front of the monitor for some serious tweeting.

The topic was how is Twitter helping writers? and I have a lot to say.

You see, I was tentative when I first signed up (it's my Twitter-birthday on Tuesday, woot). I'm not generally too tech-savvy and always worry I won't be able to figure things out. Including (read especially) the simple things. Being married to a computer-nerd has done nothing to help in this regard either, as when something goes wrong, I call out and he fixes it (because men like to fix things).

I recall a conversation I had with a friend ages before I signed up, where she insisted Twitter was the new facebook, or even better than facebook. Twitter was going to make facebook obsolete. Redundant. She couldn't understand why anyone would not want to be on there. Her feelings haven't changed much, as she's responsible for the inclusion of TwitterFEST in this year's EWF program.

Joining in a TwitterFEST discussion can feel awkward. I mean, what do you say first? Something of your own, reply to something someone else said, answer a question, maybe even retweet? Tweeps were doing any and all of these things, and my opener was to share something a friend (who I meet through Twitter, but is now also an IRL friend) once said to me. She likes Twitter because, by laughing with editors and publishers about things like what damage their cats had caused while home alone for five minutes, she was able to take them off their pedestals and imagine them as real people. It made them approachable and gave her confidence to take the next steps as a writer she needed to take (of course I said all this in just 140 characters yesterday).

Others agreed. A lot of tweeps also like the way Twitter encourages them to write in new ways, new styles that suit the medium. Like Twitter novels and Twitterfiction (which will be covered in an NMIT Professional Writing and Editing unit next semester). Some tweeps talked about works that were the result of collaborations formed through Twitter, some no doubt with tweeps who've not met IRL. And of course many like the way writing to a 140 character limit helped them refine their own writing.

Of course Twitter is a great platform for networking and hence, developing a potential audience. Although many writers don't seem to 'get' how this works (not the ones in yesterday's TwitterFEST). To use Twitter like this, you can't just log on and tweet details of your latest blog post, upcoming events/appearances/performances and/or the next title you're about to release. Sure, friends and family members who'll be interested in these things are going to take note. But no-one else. If you want other followers to care, you'll have to engage with them. In discussion. In conversation. In reports of what their cat did to the shower curtain while they ducked out for a litre of milk. Whatever. It doesn't matter what you engage in, and once the initial excitement of the 24/7 party that is Twitter has died off a little, be sure to set yourself some limits if you don't want it to eat away all your spare time. And make sure every update isn't a whinge.

But Twitter has meant more to me than any or even all of these things in the time I've been here. By this time last year, I'd spent five or so years trying to talk myself into writing non-fiction. I'd had a reasonable number of short stories published in various journals and my own collection released, I'd taken on poetry, I'd taught creative writing in a TAFE environment and after enough essays to earn me two degrees, you'd think I'd be able to do it in my sleep.

And so I'd try to convince myself every few months when it bugged me that it wasn't something I did. It bugged me that I lacked confidence and unlike my efforts when I sit to write fiction, every time I'd start something, I'd slam it down within half an hour, go make another cup of coffee and hide my 'effort' where it wouldn't remind me of my failings while I got on with something else.

But thanks to Twitter, I'm over it. Twitter helped in several ways.

For one, I use Twitter (and this blog at times) to keep me accountable. With Twitter, it can all happen so quickly. I can tweet that I'm going to write something before my brain works out what I'm saying and then I'm committed. I have to write it. Often this happens in an informal way, like I might say I'm going to spend 2 hours in the library writing. But once, maybe more, but once was enough, I told an editor of a parenting magazine that I was going to write a piece for her magazine.

A few weeks went by before I felt enough pressure to actually do it, but eventually I knew I had to write something. So I did.

When I sent it to her, she loved it so much she asked if she could forward it to the national publication. Who pay. To cut a long story short, they accepted it and the next morning I wrote another piece and now there'll be no stopping me. Sure, by this time I'd also been writing a few other bits of non-fiction with some success, but Twitter definitely played a major role.

There are other ways I find Twitter to be helpful for my writing too. It can help me work out what I should focus my writing on at various times, give me feedback on what parenting issues might be worth an article, and I'm part of a new writing group that formed through Twitter. Which was exactly what I needed to make me write more fiction, after non-fiction started to take up my few writing moments.

How has Twitter helped you?
What's stopping you signing up?

Monday, 24 May 2010

TwitterFEST and the 'Australian' novel

With the Emerging Writers' Festival introducing an online program this year, you don't necessarily have to be in Melbourne to take part (although I do recommend going to live events if at all possible, have been to two so far and have loved two so far).

Though it does help if you're on Twitter (which is easy).

This afternoon, while Dylan slept, I jumped into TwitterFEST to join the discussion "What is an 'Australian' novel?" I'm not sure I have an answer to this (do you?), although if I use their list of suggestions, I'm inclined to think an Australian novel is one written by an Australian.

There were certainly some interesting ideas presented, including whether novels are 'Australian' due to setting, theme/s, style and voice. Not to mention categorisation for awards where a requirement is that the story 'is Australian', but I'm not going there.

At some point the discussion veered towards diversity in voices of 'Australian' writing, and writers and I was asked to comment on my thoughts about same, given I'm reading novels by Aussie women only this year. Now, I'm not sure I'm qualified to say much given I'm only reading about 2 novels a month, and perhaps it has more to do with me trying to read them for pleasure than to pick them apart, but I'd say there is definitely variety in what I've been reading. I think this because I'm sure I'd put the next book down if it sounded or felt too similar to the last or another recent read.

As for short fiction, I feel confident to say there's plenty of diversity.

Though it occurred to me later that this is perhaps a reader's response and part of the reason the question caused so much confusion for me. Especially as compared to when I came to it as a writer.

As a writer, it all seems somewhat pointless as I'm going to write what I'm going to write in the style and voice that I write it in. It's going to be hard enough to score a publishing contract trying to do the very best writing that I can without introducing concepts that might make me think I should be writing according to a certain constraint, whatever that might be.

And despite the various awards scattered around the place, I find it hard to imagine that writers would really write with award criteria in mind.

Though please do let me know if you disagree. And share what your idea of an Australian novel is.

Tuesday, 18 May 2010

bending the rules for brilliance

I was surprised by some of what I found out last year when I surveyed various journal editors and competition administrators (for this article). Including how lenient some editors actually are (though I'm not going to tell you which ones).

But the thing that surprised me the most was how many competition administrators or editors actually read a submission/entry that does not meet the guidelines before deciding whether to disqualify it. Except in the case where a piece might exceed the word limit, surely this decision should be made on the guidelines themselves rather than on the quality of the work?

I completely understand those who didn't feel they receive enough submissions to shortlist according to who followed the rules. But this is a blanket decision, everyone is treated the same. Not so for editors who admit to bending the rules 'if a piece is brilliant', and while it was certainly not the case for the majority of those I surveyed, there were enough similar responses to shock.

So I put it to you, as I seem to every year when page seventeen's submissions are open, what do you think? Do you expect editors/administrators to follow their own guidelines?

And, have you or anyone you know ever had a piece accepted when you know you failed to meet guidelines?

Thursday, 13 May 2010

the annual fight

It's that time of year when Bryden and I have our annual instalment of a long-standing argument. With evening temperatures way down in the single figures, I believe it's time to get out the winter doona.

Even with the winter doona on the bed, I'd need an extra layer on top, and then on the super-cold nights would carefully lie my dressing gown over the top before sliding between the sheets.

But Bryden insists we leave the summer doona on. He reckons with any more warmth than that, he gets too hot and dehydrated. He argues that I can easily use layers and my hot water bottle (or him) to keep warm, yet he can't shed one layer if he's overheated.

The sad thing is that I know he's right. Not least of all because I tried enforcing the winter doona one year. So this year I might avoid starting the argument. I am pleased he hasn't complained about the flannellette sheets I snuck on last week, though I wonder what I might add to my current stack of layers.

It certainly helps make the idea of separate beds seem appealing. Although I suspect that as Dylan still sleeps in our walk-in-robe at 20 months, we wouldn't have space for another bed. Shame :)

Monday, 10 May 2010

my mother's day haul

I had a lovely Mother's Day yesterday. It began with a sleep-in and then the kids racing to give me cuddles and kisses before going to help Daddy make French toast.
While that cooked, they delighted in handing over their presents, pictured. One of the things I so love about creche is that even the littlies get to make something special for Mum. You can't see the yellow 'hands' on the edge of the card Dylan made in this picture, that helps explain how much he loves me. Nor the blue footprints on the back that I'm sure he loved making.
Claudia painted the cup at kinder, which says 'Mum's cup' as well as making the glittery card with all those tall, thin people, of which I am apparently the tallest (win). She also gave me the voucher book and I most look forward to cashing in on the one that says 'I promise to put my toys away.'
Hamish bought the notebook (and hand cream) at the school Mother's Day market and proudly told me it is for my poetry.
I feel so fortunate to have such thoughtful and kind children, especially when I think of the way their faces lit up as they watched me open the special things they'd made/chosen for me.
The rest of the day was great too, even though we spent it at home, as the tone from the morning's gift giving and cuddling hung around all day. I hope your day was as lovely as mine, whether because you were the spoiled mum or because you got to spoil a special mum in your life.

Thursday, 6 May 2010

a little May-hem

As a stay-at-home Mum I usually try to find a fair balance for parenting and my writer/editor needs and desires. This means I don't tend to write while the kids are in my care as well as guiding my selection of what events I will actually trek out for, particularly in making sure I don't go to too many all at once.

But in May, none of that counts. Much. May is the month I wait for, the month the family are given fair warning that they'll just have to take a back seat. And for good reason.

The Emerging Writers' Festival is on.

This has been my favoutite literary event since the year it began and I escaped responsibility for two amazing days of festival. In fact, in those early years it was relatively simple to go to almost all of the thing, as it lasted just one weekend. Now though, the festival lasts an amazing ten days and while this is fabulous in all the obvious ways, I have no hope of going to everything and have to go through the stress of choosing some events over others.

But I will definitely be hanging around the Melbourne Town Hall during the last week of May. Not least of all because I'll be hosting a panel on the Sunday at 10am called 'A short note on process' where panellists Myke Bartlett, Steph Bowe, Chris Downes and Mischa Merz will discuss Early mornings Vs late nights Vs quit your day job and just go at it. Are post it notes essential, should first drafts be longhand, and must a writer write daily? These writers talk about their creative processes: how and when they write, and what routines they have in place for working.

I'll also be at The Page Parlour at Federation Square on Sunday 23rd, 12-5pm where we get the bonus of being Stuck in a lift with Paddy O'Reilly and Mandy Ord. This is free and a great opportunity to check out different publications, so come by and say hello.

I also hope to get to a heap of other events too, including Peter Farrar's 15 Minutes of Fame on Tuesday 25th, Wordstock: AC/DC on Thursday 27th and The First Word on Friday 21st.

But there are a few other things going on in May too.

On May 15th, after Stopping all Stations in Nunawading to see Kristin Henry and open mikers perform, I'll be going to the Brunswick Street Gallery for a bridge for short attention spans, where 30 writers read in 30 minutes, from 7pm.

But before all this, I'm looking forward to this Mothers' Day weekend. We're taking my mum out for lunch on Saturday and I have no idea what's planned for me on Sunday, although I suspect sticky-date pudding might be involved. I certainly hope so.

Friday, 30 April 2010

teaching the kids patience

I have no intention of admitting how long ago it was I started these, but I like that me making nice things for the kids is an excellent lesson in patience for them. And Claudia is
most happy with her two new skirts.

Although, in some ways, they are four skirts, as they're reversible. Perfect for when you're four and spill something down the front, you can just duck off to the bathroom and turn it inside out.

Having finished two sewing projects, it's tempting to start something new, but a quick glance at my works in progress suggests this is not the best move. Hmm, decisions.

Thursday, 22 April 2010

page seventeen has a blog

Yes, page seventeen has a blog, and right now it's highlighting a heap of exciting things happening with this year's issue. To find out what, you'll have to go and check it out.


You know what to do once you're there: bookmark, subscribe, tell all your friends. And of course, enjoy.

Tuesday, 20 April 2010

sobbing like a sooky-la-la

I'm doing well with my quest to read novels only from Australian women this year. I'm discovering authors I hadn't ever thought to read before as well as new ways to choose books.

For instance, I'm currently choosing books from the Children's Book Council of Australia shortlist for Book of the Year. Before getting to this list my favourite was still the first book I read for the year, Sonya Hartnett's The Ghost's Child, although Joan London's The Good Parents had offered worthy competition. I read Hartnett's Butterfly, at Carole's suggestion, and while I enjoyed it, I preferred The Ghost's Child.

But last night I finished Judith Clarke's The Winds of Heaven. It was amazing and left me sobbing like a sooky-la-la. In fact it took ages to read the final chapter because I could hardly see through tears and was glad Bryden had already gone to bed by the time I got up to that bit :)

Usually when I finish something that's had such an effect on me, I tend to put off starting anything else for at least a few days, probably longer. But I'm not sure I can.

When the shortlist was announced, I went and put the ones I wanted to read on hold at the library. Of course I hoped they wouldn't all become available at once, but I have until Thursday to collect two before they're passed on to the next person in the hold queue. And there will be a hold queue. I'm also the next person in the queue for a third book.

Part of me thinks perhaps I should let the library pass one on to the next person and go to the back of the queue, but I'm not sure I'll do this.

I am sure, however, that the next book I'll read will be Penny Tangey's Loving Richard Feynman. As a tragic science geek who has a soft spot of her own for the late Feynman, how could I not?

What are you reading right now, and what made you choose it?

Thursday, 15 April 2010

5 people stuck in a tent for 11 weeks

Now that you know about the talented team that are dedicated to making page seventeen Issue 8 at least as fabulous as issue 7, I can share some other exciting news. The reason I need a team in place to do absolutely everything.

I won't be here.

Bryden's taking his long service leave and we'll be packing up the camper trailer in early-July in search of warmer weather (although that may have to wait until we've finished in Adelaide). On Tuesday 6th July, I'll be the feature poet at The Friendly Street Poets' Monthly Reading in Adelaide, which is sure to keep me warm for at least one winter evening.

Then we'll head north and spend some time in Central Australia before needing to find enough space in the tent for all our stuff as well as enough food to last the five of us a week or more without shops. And in case you didn't know, even though the kids are little, they certainly eat a lot (even compared to adults).

We're not entirely sure which way we'll go to get there, or how long we might stay in any one place, but by the end of August, we'll have made our way to Brisbane. I'm very excited to have been selected for inclusion in the Queensland Poetry Festival's program (even though it isn't available yet: check late-June) and look forward to living it up for the whole weekend while the kids enjoy some quality time with their dad.

The following weekend, on Sunday 5th September, I'll be at Brisbane's SpeedPoets, and then, because the good Brisbane folk would surely have had enough of me by then, we'll start making our way home. I'm not sure when we'll be back, but I'm guessing about September 20. Just in time for my birthday :)

Bryden's been looking forward to doing this kind of trip since before he had a proper job to take leave from and has been preparing me for years (mostly by making me go camping, including a 2 week stint to Adelaide 2+ years ago).

As well as the obvious excitement about poetry events slotted in in advance, they will definitely help me avoid thinking of the trip as just '5 people stuck in a tent together for 11 weeks'.

Seriously though, I'm just as excited as the others. It's hard not to be with the energy of constant discussions and associated google searches. Also, with the exception of one trip to Perth, I haven't been beyond Port Augusta in that direction, and of all our other potential stops, I've been only to Brisbane before.

Meanwhile, if you have any tips on staying sane when you're one of 5 people stuck in a tent for 11 weeks, you know what to do...

Tuesday, 13 April 2010

Aftermath of the big March detox

I've been well aware that I haven't yet updated you about my March detox, and it's almost halfway through April. While a small part of me was probably putting it off, most of my life is at least that far behind at the moment anyway.

Well, the detox. On one hand, a great success. On another, not so much.

The successful part was that I had zero problems, with one exception, in sticking to it. That is, not consuming any alcohol, dairy, sugar or wheat for the whole of March. The one exception was when I accidentally ate potato chips that were not the plain ones I thought they were when I bought them (I'm going to lash right out here and say it's because the packaging is almost identical and I didn't have my glasses). Anyway, it was just once and during the final week.

The not so successful part is that I ended up feeling worse than I'd felt pre-March. This has never happened before when I've done the detox. Usually I might feel crap for the first week but then I'm supposed to feel excellent; heaps of energy, clear head, blah blah, you get the idea.

Rather, I feel much like I did during my last pregnancy, when I needed help with everything from school pick-ups to preparing simple meals and spent the last few months almost exclusively at home. Although it's not as severe now as then. And before you ask, I am 100% absolutely certainly definitely not pregnant. Promise.

I made myself an appointment to see the doctor (I only had to wait a week). Now, I get to go through all the fun associated with a million tests and trialling medications. It's (probably) something minor, so yay to that, not that I expected otherwise.

Meanwhile, I'll try to stick to at least some of the changes I made last month, although I'm not sure whether to stick to the lower caffeine levels or to amp them up a little. A girl's gotta have one treat.

Thursday, 8 April 2010

Miscellaneous Voices 1, Sketch 2

It's always nice to receive books in the mail, and even better when they include something of your own. Both of these books arrived in the last couple of weeks for that very reason.
Particularly exciting is Miscellaneous Voices: Australian Blog Writing. An anthology of blog posts from Australian writers, it is the first book of its kind (in Australia). I look forward to seeing how well it is received in the community and I'm looking forward to its official launch next week.

It will be launched by Laurie Steed, page seventeen's 2010 Fiction Editor, at Readings, Carlton, on Wednesday 14th April from 6pm. Maybe I'll see you there.

Sketch is an exciting publication too, with each (annual) issue containing 'an eclectic mix of art, digital design, fiction, non-fiction, poetry and more'. This is issue 2, which (I've heard) sold out at the launch and went for reprint. It's an honour to share pages with Amelia Walker, Ashley Capes and Anne M Carson, to name just a few, although my favourite piece (so far) is the poem 'Jade and Porcelain' by Jeff Klooger.

I was really pleased when my story 'Old Rock' was accepted for Sketch Issue 2. Sure, it's always good to receive an acceptance, but this one was a little better than usual. Old Rock is one of the pieces I tracked my progess of in the piece I wrote for the The Reader, produced by the Emerging Writers' Festival last year. In case you've read my piece in The Reader, 'The Red Haze', it's the one inspired by my next door neighbours. In case you haven't, I stood on the toilet lid (while my kids ate toast in the kitchen and) listened to my neighbour tell the cops about his son punching him the night before in a drunken stupour while his (equally drunk) friend raced off (in his car) to avoid the same fate.

Wednesday, 31 March 2010

2010 page seventeen team and Free Issues

It's difficult to believe April is merely hours away, and with April comes the beginning of the submission period for page seventeen. You'd think with all those months off I'd be ready, but, ahem, maybe not (quite) so.

Because... I haven't told you who the 2010 team is yet. So, that's what I'm going to do now!

Firstly, I'm taking a massive side-step this year, so I need an Acting Editor. Welcome Vicki Thornton. Vicki will handle a huge chunk of the admin, oversee the selection process and be part of the reading team for our short stories. Not to mention all the little fiddly bits that won't be mentioned here.

For the first time, we have a Poetry Editor and a Short Story Editor. I am very excited to let you know that Ashley Capes is taking on the Poetry Editor position and Laurie Steed the Short Story Editor position. Ashley will handle all the general submission poetry, including the short form pieces, while Laurie will share the reading load with Peter Farrar and Vicki.

Of course we are running the popular Page Seventeen Poetry and Short Story Competition again and this year's judges are Graham Nunn (poetry) and Amanda le Bas de Plumetot (short story).

I am so excited I'm almost certain I've forgotten someone or something, so feel free to let me know if that seems to be the case.

Meanwhile, get over here to download everything you need to submit and/or enter the competition.

Oh, and I almost forgot, we're having a little special during April. We're giving away copies. All you have to do is purchase a copy of page seventeen (direct, this won't apply at bookstores). We'll send out a 2nd copy of the same issue, or a previous (in-stock) issue of your choice.

What's the catch? Well, there's only one: we'll be sending both copies together, you can't split them.

But it's just for April, so get moving.

Monday, 29 March 2010

music for the generations

Despite our birth dates both sitting neatly within the band that defines us as part of Generation X, my husband recently explained that we are certainly not of the same generation.

Of course he was implying that I am from a more ancient one.

My first reaction was to remind him that I am only three years older because I figured his motivation was merely a new way of saying so. (Past methods of reminder include asking what colour zimmerframe I might like for my birthday, trying to credit my less-grey-hair-than-him on the dye I used (seven years ago) and the delight he took in me being thirty-something while he still had a 2 at the beginning of his age.)

But no, this isn't what he meant.

It was all about music.

Confused? Yep, so was I (which, I believe forms part of the said generation gap) and to be honest, still am. Essentially, what he was saying was that he has superior taste in music.

Now, I'm not going to go and pretend I'm any kind of music ace and the truth is that when we moved in together and pooled our CDs, the only double we had was, and I cringe in shame as I share this, Frente's Marvin The Album. Not that I've listened to it since. Partly because I don't spend much time playing CDs, preferring the (rare) quiet or the background noise of the radio (especially a station he wouldn't choose).

When I do tend to play CDs while writing (or studying), I get out some faves, including (but not limited to) Chris Isaak, Mental as Anything, Smashmouth or some trashy 80s hits. The latter, it seems, is where the problem lies. Of course, Bryden isn't a fan of 80s music and continued with a list that any younger-generation-xer would surely own. I don't remember most, but if you're a fan of the Red Hot Chili Peppers, Nirvana or the Foo Fighters, chances are you're younger than I am. A few examples of friends who like both 80s music and say, the Foo Fighters, confirmed that such types definitely fit within his generation, the younger set of Generation X.

Owning a Jet CD and loving a particular JJJ compilation is apparently not enough to save me. Thank goodness I have other redeeming qualities. Or at least I assume I did ten years ago, before we married.

What's your favourite CD and would your partner hang around while it's on?

Wednesday, 17 March 2010

bag the routine

Lately there have been so many things going on that I don't really know what's happening.

In good news, I've been putting together a team for Issue 8 of page seventeen, which I will announce in a couple of weeks. As well as share some other exciting news.

In writing news, well, I'm not sure. There have been some good days and some not so good days and I'm not about to go boasting about productivity. Instead I suspect I'm struggling to find a new routine and seem to be getting words out only when there's a looming deadline. Another thing I'm not so sure about.

Speaking of routines, and this may have something to do with my difficulty in settling down to one, Bryden's office moved to the city which has turned us all upside down, with changes in everything from kid drop-offs and pick-ups to grocery shopping. Hopefully we'll get used to it quickly, although something tells me it's not going to be the case.

We've had a few kiddy dramas over the last week or so too. Last Friday Hamish had a fall at school and suffered a mild concussion. He is fully recovered now, with the exception of a small graze on his elbow, and really was as good as new on Saturday morning. Since then, Dylan has been barking like a pup with an occasional mild temperature, meaning no childcare. But I've looked on the bright side of losing a writing day: I caught up on washing.

I also managed to fit in a touch of sewing and today finished these two bags, one for me and one for the gift-cupboard. I should probably finish another project before starting on the new bag pattern and fabric that arrived yesterday, but...

Saturday, 6 March 2010

just a little update

While I've probably already read more novels this year than for the whole of last, I would like to be able to say I read more than one and a half novels last month. Even if just by half a book.

This whole reading challenge has got me talking more about my reading habits, if I could call them that, and I must admit I did feel better after learning (at playgroup) that out of my 'reading' mum-friends, one and a half books a month is not too bad. Even so, I'll see if I can't get over the two book line this month. Give or take a chapter here and there, as I'm not the type to necessarily be reading only one book at a time. But sticking to just Australian women has not been a problem. I guess it won't be at one and a half books a month.

As far as my writing plans, I'm generally going okay. I've managed to leave the house to write as much as I hoped to, although perhaps only just, and that time has certainly been some of my most productive. I am finding though, that by the time I've met non-fiction commitments and then written poems as they demand to be written, I haven't found any time for fiction. Perhaps this is something that was going to happen as I settled into a new way of working and it will sort itself out. I hope so, although I'll definitely revise my goals in another couple of months. The good news is that the amount of writing I've done fits in with my goals.

The name change saga continues. Vic Roads turned out not to be nearly as difficult as the phone dicussion with them suggested, and I have so far changed my name with most of the more important places. Mostly because I sacrificed a work day with no kids to get it done. Including booking a lunch date with Bryden to make sure the day wasn't all about sitting in waiting areas.

I wasn't sure how easy eating out was going to be on the detox, but it proved to be no problem as we found ourselves eating fancy Chinese, although I'm sure any Asian cuisine would cater easily. As well as for my taste buds. I actually have been out for two other meals this week, which I thought were going to be more difficult because the venues were pre-set. One was in a pub and I was sure I'd have to resort to a bowl of chips (which wouldn't necessarily be a bad thing), but it didn't come to that. Nor did the second occasion and I'm not sure whether I'm not just a little disappointed.

The study? Well, I'm not convinced I want to share an update on that. Let alone consider that Bryden might need to work in there as soon as next week!

Sunday, 28 February 2010

the big March detox

I like cake. Well, according to my reputation, I luuurrve cake. But truthfully, I'm not sure whether it's about cake itself or about catching up with friends for cake and coffee or because I love to bake.

Whatever, the fact remains I eat too much of it. Especially when it's something I don't like the kids to have often. I mean, just last week I went to an event where I brought home leftovers equivalent to approximately half a fruit cake. Not to mention the two kiddy parties I went to, and another three occasions where cake or other sweet treats were provided. On top of that, I baked apple cinnamon muffins this afternoon. Not that I necessarily ate something evil at everything I attended.

I'm at that stage where I don't even like it anymore. The fruit cake I brought home, sure, that was great, and the stuff I bake myself, of course. But I'm getting over the whole cake thing. Maybe because it often tastes mass-produced or like it's been sitting around half a day too long, or because I wouldn't dream of letting the kids eat even half as much, or maybe because I've just been feeling crap for too long.

The cake is going to stop.

Now, I'm not very good at cutting out one thing and being tempted by others, then reasoning to myself that just this or that or whatever will be okay... so I'm going to cut out a whole heap of things for March. I've done it before and it's a guaranteed way of feeling great, and it's healthy. None of this starving rubbish. That is something I could never do. Forunately I never wanted to be a model anyway.

My little detox (probably not technically a detox but that's what I'm going to call it) has no restrictions on how much I can eat, which suits me very well. Because I definitely like to eat. There's just a whole bunch of stuff I won't be eating. And I'm pretty sure that after a month, I won't even be interested in cake (I'm sure too, that will build back up slowly after a while).

So, during March, there will be no:
Tokay or other alcohol. This will be easy.
Dairy produce. This will also be easy as I'm lactose intolerant and don't eat much anyway.
Sugar. You'd think with my love for cake, this would be tough, but it's not really.
Wheat. This is the hard part.

Wheat is hard to cut out completely because it's everywhere, and while there are plenty of substitutes, the other four people living here don't necessarily want a substitute. Not all the time anyway. I won't even be able to use soy sauce in my fried rice!

But really, it's okay. As I said, I've done it before, so I have a long list of alternatives to make sure I don't go crazy, and I figure the trick is to avoid getting so hungry I just want to grab the closest thing. Well, the first time that seemed to be the key, but I haven't really noticed it any of the other (three) times. One of the other things I learned the first time was how many packaged foods, especially cans, contain sugar. For example, for one type of canned vegetable, there might be three or four brands. Two or three probably contain sugar, yet one or maybe two don't. And they're pretty much the same price.

Anyway, I'm all stocked up, although most of the foods I'll be eating are things I generally eat anyway. Porridge or (Carman's) muesli for breakfast, although there is a rye sourdough bread from Alex's Wuppertaler & Rye Bakery that's acceptable, so maybe eggs on toast some mornings. There's plenty of rice and rice/corn pasta, corn thins, plain rice crackers (the sugarless brand) and when I'm out and get stuck, hot chips work. I drink black coffee, so I don't have to miss out on my caffeine fix(es). Dinners will mostly be curries/tagines, (corn/rice) pasta or something that's mostly veggies. Not that that's any different to our usual fare.

Anyway, I wonder if anyone's interested in joining in. You may not want to cut out so many things; maybe just one thing, or change something, or whatever. So far, there's one other person onboard, who's cutting back on all the same things as I am, and maybe another person, who might be turning vegetarian (waiting to hear back).

If you don't want to join in, feel free to have one extra slice of cake, for me.

Tuesday, 23 February 2010

one minor breakthrough

Since wondering aloud whether to remarry or find another way around the maiden/married name passport shemozzle back here, I decided the best solution was to revert to my maiden name. Which, in case you're wondering, is the name you know me by: Johnson.

I started by making a list of all the places I'd have to change my name and tried to ignore nagging thoughts of how much effort this was actually going to take, then figured the most sensible place to start would be with Vic Roads and my driver's licence. After all, everyone wants photo ID.

Having some experience with the reality of their waiting room, I called to find out exactly what documentation I'd need to take, because their website suggests I should get divorced first and hence, doesn't offer the most appropriate advice. After half a day of sporadic dialling, I got through to a customer service person who seemed to actually offer what was promised in his title: customer service.

Even so, I wasn't thrilled with his answer. According to their guidelines, I'd need a birth certificate and one form of photo ID. I offered my 18-months-expired passport, and after he said no, asked why the marriage certificate they'd used to change it in the first place, combined with whatever other ID I had in my married name wouldn't do the trick. I also suggested my licence used to be in my maiden name, and after he confirmed that, agreed that their guidelines were a little odd. His eventual advice was to take everything to a branch and try my luck, no promises, although I had the feeling that if I got someone like him, I would get lucky. He also said I'd have more chance if I could get something else changed first, like a credit card.

As our bank prides itself on being old-fashioned in the ways of customer service and knowing that my account has a note on it to state what my maiden name is so they'll accept cheques in that name (for the thousands I make from my writing), I figured the bank was a sure bet. I dropped in this afternoon, just to ask what I'd need.

But guess what? They wanted a divorce certificate.

At home, I called the Department of Births, Deaths and Marriages for advice. The lovely man thought Vic Roads and the bank were being ridiculous and told me what I already knew: I have the right to choose to use either my maiden name, my married name, or a combination of both. Unfortunately they don't have an actual document or web page that states this clearly, so I just had to keep trying. I did confirm that if worse came to worst, I could do a Change of Name from my maiden name to my maiden name, which seems even more ridiculous.

Because I have nothing better to do with my time, I called the bank, spoke to a supervisor, and repeated what the Births, Deaths and Marriages guy said as well as to suggest that their guidelines are probably put in place for events that happen frequently rather than for one-off situations. I pointed out too, that everyone had the same guidelines and someone had to go first.

I'm not sure she understood what I meant by that, but when I went in, she agreed I had enough documentation to make the change. Hurray.

There is a downside though, something (obvious) I hadn't thought about. She took my credit and cash cards so I'll have to avoid shopping until my new cards arrive. And when they do, I can treat myself to a visit to the Vic Roads waiting room.

Sunday, 21 February 2010

sticky dates

It's almost as if this past week never existed and, once tomorrow hits, maybe that's what I'm going to believe.

It's been that time (of hopefully the year) when the five of us share a crappy bug that we seem to make sure we all suffer on a different day. As far as doing any work goes, well, I'm back at square one really, which reminds me of all the people who think I might be doing too much.

But I'm not going to beat myself up about how much writing I may or may not get done in a set period, specifically a short one like, say, a week. Maybe once all the kids are at school (in 2014: sigh) I might push myself a little harder, but for now it just wouldn't be worth it. Instead, when family commitments keep me back, I think about a writing friend who's told me often that when her kids were little, she didn't do any writing. At all.

Anyway, the week wasn't a complete disaster. We bought a fancy new tagine and have already cooked with it, and Bryden made a belated Valentine's sticky date pudding (once we'd recovered from the tummy bug).

We don't celebrate Valentine's Day in the popular way (was going to say traditional, but is it?), but every year, Bryden does make a sticky date pudding. It's a reminder of our previous lives when we used to spend days cooking together (instead of going to movies, dinner, whatever couples do) and also because he makes the best sticky date pudding in the world.

Thursday, 11 February 2010

Guidelines schmidelines

You’ve heard it so often your eyes roll automatically when you hear it again: make sure you read and follow the guidelines before submitting. You know about guidelines, you follow guidelines, and you wish everyone would just shut up already. I mean, that’s the easy bit, right? Times New Roman, check; 12 point, check; double space, check. Why can’t they spend those precious minutes telling you about something useful, that pearl of wisdom that’s going to make the ideas write themselves?

It’s because many writers still don’t seem to get it. Sure, we all make mistakes and where editors are rejecting no more than 1% of submissions, perhaps this is the case: writers simply make mistakes.

But what about the editor who rejected 10% of submissions because they didn’t comply with the guidelines? And do we really believe that they are all mistakes when 11 journal editors reported that 2% of submissions don’t follow guidelines? When you consider that literary magazine editors receive anything from 90 to 1000+ submissions, 2% might be quite a lot.
The good news is that most writers do follow the guidelines. On average, 98%. But, even if you’re one of them, you might occasionally make a mistake. And when that happens, what are the chances your submission might be considered anyway?

It depends on the mistake.

If you fail to meet the deadline, forget it. You’re also wasting your time if you email a submission when it's supposed to be in hardcopy, or vice versa.

There’s a slim chance a submission that’s over the word limit might be read.

If you send more than three (or other maximum number of) pieces, you risk the editors reading just the first three or discarding the entire submission. If it’s a newer magazine, they might read all the pieces, but they’ll also remember your name and be wary of your future submissions.

If you’re lucky (and you sent it long before the deadline), the editor may even give you an opportunity to resubmit correctly. But don’t hold your breath. While some editors might try to nurture new writers in this way, most believe that "if you’re serious about being a writer, deadlines, styles, word counts and restrictions are things you’re going to have to get comfy with."

It is less common for editors to be strict about the font used, and several publications don’t include a specific font in their guidelines. For those that do, some will automatically reject and some won’t. But it was noted that these pieces "don’t generally get accepted, more as a result of poor quality writing".

Here are some of the things that editors believe/say:
• People who write well present well
• Most editors prioritise "painless" manuscripts (ie those that are well written and edited)
• Most editors are well read, so multiple submissions are at your own risk: if your submission is published, an editor could well see it in another journal
• If you can’t wait, only send your work to journals that allow multiple submissions
• It’s worth remembering that if your piece is published, it will be published in the style and font of the journal.

One editor said, "If something is poorly edited, I assume:
 the author is a hobbyist who doesn’t care about their work or
 the author is an idiot who couldn’t tidy it or
 the author has delusions of grandeur and thinks they’re above the rules and hence, that
 the author will be difficult to deal with."

One editor made a suggestion that other editors might like to try. Provide a sample document on your website to show writers what you expect.

Some editors who were less strict about general submissions felt the reason might be because money wasn’t involved. Yet, when it comes to competitions, and the introduction of money, administrators are tough.

If you’re thinking of entering your story/poem in a competition, it’s even more important to follow the guidelines/conditions/rules.

If you forget to include the entry fee, mistakenly send work with your name on it, or your entry is late, you’ll be automatically disqualified. There are exceptions. A few administrators might offer you an opportunity to resubmit correctly. One administrator noted that they re-photocopy entries without names before passing them on to the judge(s).

But most administrators don’t go to the trouble. Particularly as many are volunteering their time.

Competition administrators generally agree that most writers follow the rules. Most I spoke to don’t keep statistical records, but of the few who do, they disqualified 0%, 4%, 6% and 14% of entries in their most recent competition, due to incorrect formatting (font type and size, spacing), a name on the piece, theme requirement not being met or due to the piece exceeding the word/line length. This means they weren’t read by anybody.

The administrator who didn’t disqualify any claimed to have been strict in regards to limits and spacing and that all entries received were okay.

One administrator welcomed entries that failed to meet the guidelines as an easy first step in their shortlisting process.

In a competition, the main concern is for the quality of writing and it was noted that "entries that have numerous spelling, punctuation or grammatical errors don’t generally win".

In case you’re still not sure, I’ll leave you with the advice of one competition administrator. "Imagine your entries will be processed by everyone’s idea of an old fashioned, 'stickler for the rules’ bureaucrat. Published rules have to be enforced to give procedural fairness to those who go to the effort of conforming to them."

And, good luck.

This article was originally published in the february edition of the Victorian Writer, the Victorian Writers' Centre's member magazine.

Journal submissions
I surveyed, via email, 20 national literary journal editors.
Of those:
- 4 publish poetry only
- 1 publishes fiction only
- 3 are online journals
- 8 had produced less than 10 issues, including 3 that had produced only 1 issue.

Literary competition administrators
I approached, via email, 15 national competition administrators.
Of those:
- 9 responded
- 4 are poetry-only competitions
- 2 are fiction-only competitions
- 3 are poetry and fiction competitions