Saturday, December 12, 2009

My New Side Project

Well I'm back from New York and Ottawa and I tell you, what a trip! The Australian High Commissioner was a blast (he gave me some wise advice on my career - bodice rippers are the way to go as far as money earners. But don't put vampires in because they are passe and werewolves will never be sexy).

Yay, now I'm an official Aussie and I loved New York. I learnt something everyday. Example: Two young men sitting next to me on the subway were discussing how their friend just received a year in jail and how they were going to mess up the lawyer when a gaggle of young women boarded the train carriage. The guys then proceeded discussing 'taco butt', which is, by their standards, slang for a narrow butt. I do not suffer from taco butt, but ever the optimist I put it down to an addition to my street cred.

Since I'm back and the novel revision is coming along in strides, I've decided this is a great time to start up my side project. Take a gander here to investigate the matter further:

Above is a photo I took passing the the Lady of Liberty on the Staten Island Ferry. Below are a few other New York photos I took on the whirlwind tour.


The Brooklyn Bridge.

Crossing the Canadian border into New York. Yes, their was drugs on our train carriage and we sat there for two hours.

Times Square.

A Christmas tree on Wall Street.

Our ride in Central Park.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

What Tom Hanks and I Have In Common

Think Tom Hanks, and the generation Y of us think Turner and Hooch. At least I do. Or Big. His acting skills aside, turns out ol' Tommy has a quirk or two up his sleeve. He was interviewed earlier this year, by I forget who, and spoke of his collection - typewriters. Apparently he has stored up over 150 of these marvellous machines. Portables, Manuals, Remington to Hermes to Czechoslovakian wonders. Until then I was naive enough to believe typewriters were all dull like the electrical late 80s Corona machine my cheap ass father bought me when I asked for a computer in the mid 90s. The thing barely printed, had none of the character of its predecessors, and looked like the front end of a '81 Audi. My father seemed to worry about the use of computer technology, and thought I'd spend my days chatting online to people across the world. Turns out he was right in the end.

Back to the beautiful beasts. Yes, folks typewriters come in mint green to grapefruit, small or large. Who would've guessed vintage typewriters are good for more than their glass keys, used to make those 'bracelets' hanging in the accessory store windows. Being the sort I am, dabbling in words here and there, I was, er, am enamoured. I needed to source a gold mine and naturally hit up search engines before finally settling on a beautiful Remington Model 5 Portable from Ebay. It cost more than I had anticipated (around $200) but it is in decent nick and it came from Australia (very important to me). So now my collection is under way.

The last collection I had was the peanut butter jar of erasers. I ate them all, which might explain why my digestive system completely hates me. Wait I told a lie. The last collection I had was letters from pen pals, who I'd find in the back of old Horse and Rider magazines. I kept the letters in an old cream and gold suitcase and opened them with a gold letter opener with a rose on it. I suppose you're meant to write back to pen pals, which could explain why I the collection never flourished. Hopefully this collection is more successful.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Australian Citizenship, Canada, And New York City

I’m off to New York Citeee, folks! That’s right, land of theatre, shopping, history and literature. I couldn’t be happier. Well, yes, I could, but that would be greedy. Besides I haven’t been too happy of late and this unexpected trip has me excited. Australia hangs over my life here in Canada and some days it’s hard to see the sun. But in seven mere sleeps I will be an official Australian Citizen! (Oh so many exclamation marks in this paragraph, apologies.)

I’m heading to Ottawa to complete the final leg of my Australian Citizen journey, after nearly nine years, and Canada is making it extra special. Apparently the Australian High Embassador will be hosting the ceremony at his official residence because the rare, upcoming pomp and circumstance is the largest Australian Citizen shindig Canada has seen. To celebrate all this multiculturalism I’m popping across the border to celebrate in New York City.

This will be my first visit, and with only a five days scheduled the clichéd Big Apple, I am frantically googling, querying friends on hot spots, and scanning Lonely Planet’s New York Encounter for anything ‘not-to-miss’ (A highly recommended publication – saved my life in Paris). Since my younger sister is accompanying me, and we were both raised by a mother who displays her Christmas spirit by leaving all the decorations up year round, we can’t wait to skate beneath the lit tree at Rockefeller Center and stroll along the streets gazing at Macy’s store-front windows.

Now, with the writing studio finished, I just have to complete my novel’s revision and pick out a book for the plane. Me thinks I’ll chose Robert Bolano’s 2666 or Meg Rosoff’s new novel The Bride’s Farewell.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Writing Studio Vs Writer

Ahh, let this be a lesson to all the fellow stationary-living writers out there: you are more than likely unfit. Do not attempt to build a writing studio out of straw unless you train beforehand. Possible exercises include: 25 squats a day for two months, 50 pushups a day for two months and vast cardiovascular training. Also do not plan on writing during the build. Deadlines will be forfeited.

Okay, warnings aside, I'm really happy about how the straw studio is progressing.

At the time this photo was taken it was September. Hot days lifting bales, but I loved it. Tying the bales was laborious and my muscles ached more than having H1N1 (I know, I have it). The floor was environmentally friendly, made of washed sand, poly, sleepers and rigid insulation. No heat escaping here!

Then Pa and Brady put their man muscles to use and helped raise the window bucks (notice the budding building lingo) and door thingy (note the lack of building lingo).

By the time we started raising the walls until we finished was about four days with two of us working until we couldn't lift a glass of water to our lips. But just look at how cute it is. And just imagine all the writing I'm going to complete in wonderful insolation. (At this point I thought the hard work was mostly over, oh the naivety!)

Then came the rain. Poly tarpage to the rescue.

Then disaster struck. My Morgan mare of 18 years, and my first horse, passed away due to colic that lasted 5 horrible days. Two weeks later our Thoroughbred mare erupted into hives. The culprit is believed to have grown in our upper paddock this spring.

The wire mesh goes on. Oh. My. God. This was hard work, and definitely a formidable foe. At this point it is October and we've had record-breaking cold temperatures, which meant the stucco had to be done asap, before it snowed. Also I do not recommend weed-whacking the inside walls (even with a mask) for asthmatics.

Inside is scratch-coated.

Other than some paint on the boards, the outside it done, and by golly it feels great.

The inside walls are in the process of being painted white (yeah, this is where the H1N1 hit). The black ceiling is yet to be tacked up and the floorboards still need to be laid. Then think of the finished bliss. Watching the snow peter down from the sky, settling on the pine branches, sipping hot cocoa with a cozy blanket, tapping on the ol' typewriter. Bliss indeed. More to come.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Curse Of The Second Novel

So in 2004 I made a pledge with myself. "I shall raise good karma by purchasing and reading books that receive bad reviews". Sounds like a bad plan, right? I'm setting myself up for more than a few boring reads? Yes, but mostly no. In 2005 I saw John Banville speak in a basement bookshop in Melbourne. He said he'd only review the books he deemed worthy of promotion, not ever publishing a bad review of a book. I agreed with the theory. Then came poor Matthew Skelton and his children's novel Cirrus Flux.

First off let me begin by saying one of those critical despised books was Matthew Skelton's debut novel Endymion Spring. The review was published in The Age, declared the book to be too derivitive of Harry Potter, an all-together easy out for a reviewers these days not familiar with a multitude of fantasy books written for children and young adults. Yes, believe it or not, not all fantasy was written after JK Rowling's famous series. Yes, some books contain magic. It's not necessarily automatically derivative of the boy wizard. Anyhoo. After reading the synopsis of Endymion Spring and not understanding in the slightest how it deserved the bad review I purchased it and was moderately pleased when I read it. It wasn't like HP at all, just as I suspected. I liked it enough to buy Skelton's second novel which came out July 2009, Cirrus Flux. That's where my good karma comes undone.

As soon as one makes the shift from reader to writer, the reading experience changes. I have become more distanced from the story, admittingly, and more observant of craft. Unfortunately that's where Matthew Skelton falls short of skill with his second novel. Tauted as the Dan Brown of children's literature, he likes to mingle historical facts with fiction. I admit the facts he uses are interesting, but in the case of Cirrus Flux, they feel malaligned with the rest of the narrative. It feels as though he's spent more time with his historical research than imagining his two protagonists, Cirrus Flux and Pandora.

Cirrus and Pandora are two orphans who live in an okay orphanage until Pandora is swept away by the overtly evil Madam O who is after the sphere Cirrus Flux's father left him, which is believed to contain the Breath of God. Why? What does the Breath of God do? We never know, nor are we given any clues. So how does the reader know what is at stake? Why would the world crumble if she were to have the sphere? Cirrus doesn't give it much thought but goes to great lengths to keep it from her anyway. Pandora puts her life on the line to save a sphere she knows nothing about. The story would've benefited from a more character driven plot, like all decent stories, instead of feeling like the plot was predetermined and the characters just slotted into the outline, stuffed between crags of historical fact.

We are led through this story, sifting through massive amounts of Pullman's His Dark Materials. There is a difference between inspiration and imitation and Skelton walks a pretty dangerous line with this book. The line by line writing seems less sophisticated than its predecessor. The only character I was interested was Madam O's loyal servant, who even in the end chooses to stay by her side, albeit blindly. Even the setting (Oxford) wasn't fully imagined, and could've been richly developed to create more atmosphere.

Perhaps Skelton was working to a deadline. Maybe he didn't feel as compelled by his second novel. Whatever failed this book let Skelton's burgeoning fanbase dwindle in anticipation for his third novel.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Virginia Woolf and The Country Writing Studio

Alright, so I've been extremely slack with the bloggin (notice the dropped 'g', I'm trying to be more Canadian). Truth is I've been slack in the writing department all around. This move to Canada was extremely upsetting to the creative mojo. While family is great they come with drama (whose doesn't?). And there's been plenty of drama, let me assure you!

Returning home for a tentative year to live with my parents in their country town (yes, I did just turn 28 thank you for noticing) and driving my mother's old '91 Topaz is distructive to the ego, even if it's just a launching pad for me to build my own house. I've already had a few 'The Hours' re-enactions of Nicole Kidman's famous Virginia Woolf scene 'I'm dying in this town'. Except I furthered my scene by adding 'I want to go home to Melbourne' and my nose wasn't nearly so large. I think we've settled on splitting our time between Canada and Australia evenly, we've just yet to figure out how to do that on one wage.

But I haven't died yet...yet. And conjunctions aside, the straw bale writing studio is underway! That's right doubters, the stone foundation is layed. These keyboard-typing fingers of mine are capable of astonishing feats!

Here's a photo journal of the process.

1. Luckily my Pa is handy with a backhoe and familiar with trees. This one was guilty of a falling branch last winter, causing the imminent demise of the horse shelter. More importantly we have firewood forever and no one was killed during the process.

2. Okay so I like design and love when things look good, so after a lengthy discussion with Pa, I refused his advice on pouring a solid concrete foundation and went with the infinetly more asthetically pleasing stone foundation. And more environmentally friendly. Sure, I fainted on the first row but I surived. **Please note the structure in the background has nothing to do with my project. It's horse shelter the II. Also my Pa has a habit of copying me, the old bugger. Look at him in his green shirt with his bobcat, thinking he rules the mountain.

3. The supervisor is on sight. Some of you might remember my chihuahua on the 'Yawn Factor' post eariler this year. He's now found his calling. Also the ground has been smoothed and I've learnt how to mix mortar, use a level and rebar stakes. Oh and how to make things 'pretty' much square. This is only the outside wall, I had to still make the inside wall then fill in the center with found rocks and concrete.

Meanwhile this was the view from our house. Yes, it's a 8500 hectacre bush fire called the Terrace Mountain fire in the Okangan, British Columbia.

4. We leveled out the interior of the studio with wet sand first. Okay, Pa built me a simple inside form. I was all about the concrete after the physical demands of the outside stone wall. To rid any guilt I had about the environment I used a lot of rocks too. It was blasted hot so we layed down poly to keep the cement from drying too fast.

This is where this post ends my friends. You see, my poor studio has been awaiting the harvest of local straw. In just a few days I shall be the owner of 110 straw bales, ordered from an enthusiastic farming lady who uses far too many smiley faces in her emails. I love her though, secretly.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Recent Publications

Over the past month or so, I've had a few more pieces accepted for publication. Woo Who?

JAAM (Just Another Art Movement)

This New Zealand annual, out of Wellington, has published a short story of mine. This is my first New Zealand publication and it means a great deal because my partner is a Kiwi and so I hold a soft spot for the land of rolling hills and pinky bars. The 2009 edition is edited by Ingrid Horrocks and will be out this September. Bookmark it.

Toward The Light: Journal of Reflective Word & Image

I'm happy about publishing my short story in this Canadian biannual considering they have previously published a favourite author of mine, Susan Musgrave of Cargo of Orchids fame. You haven't read it? Read it. There's drugs, murder and love. It's what I imagine a South American soap opera to be, but with three dimensional characters.


BLOCK is a biannual out of Canberra. They have kindly accepted my poem Attachment. Issue 8 is being launched June 4th!

[untitled] A Melbourne Writers Magazine

Shrouded in mystery and veiled in a facebook homepage, this brand new writing shindig have published my poem To My Music Man, a little diddy ode to my main Kiwi squeeze and our mutual love for the musical genius of Bon Iver.


A quarterly out of Canada, have published my poem 'Acquiring A Strange Thing' in the 82 edition. Side note: any one entering POP Montreal this year?

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Plethora of Literary Wonderments and Ramblings

Those of you curious cats who find your way to my rant will know about the impending shift of countries (mine not the countries'). I'm ultra pleased to announce the Bookshelf Doomsday over! All are coming with me. To ensure this happens they are all packed in tidy boxes and situated in a prominent location next to the front door. To celebrate this triumph appropriately I bought more books.

Having said that I have a reading stack to devour that would make the Eiffel Tower blush, I should know, I've seen such wonders. These are books lent to me, given to me and lovingly brought back as gifts from Swine Flu land, ol' Me-hi-co itself. The list: The Collected novels of McCullers, Salt by Maurice Gee, Ghoul by Maurice Gee, The Brief Wonderous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz, and Winds of Heaven (yeah, not the best title) by Judith Clarke. To top it all off the most recent edition of The Paris Review has landed!

I started reading Salt before bed. It's a fantasy novel about a boy who searches for his enslaved father in the deep salt mines run by Company (political and social philosophy abound, which Text Publishing seem to encourage, after publishing the likes of Genesis by Bernard Beckett). There's a dash of mind reading, mixed with the adventure of crossing the mysterious terrain with a Dweller woman and a Company girl who has fled a forced marriage. The writing is clean and acute, but the first night after reading I had nightmares about ravenous wild dogs. In the story they eat the boy's old man friend because the boy sends them too. Not to worry, the old man is hopefully dead first. The second time I read this before bed - nightmare town. A coincidence? By the third round of reading Salt before bed and having subsequent nightmares, I've labelled it day time reading only. Not sure if Ghoul will have such dark undertones but I'm guestimating it will. Hell, at least there's no wizards or dragons, which seem to dominate children's and YA fantasy at the moment.

So now I read The Heart Is A Lonely Hunter, and dream of Mick, the prom party-hosting, smoking kid from the south (dang, I could've had a whole novel of just her). It's amazing isn't it that the American Southern writers have such distinct voices? McCullers work reminds me of Faulkner, whom I love, not just for the structure and multiple narrator point of view, but tone and mood.

But I couldn't leave the recent issue of The Paris Review in its wrapping. And I'm so glad I didn't. The first short story by James Lasdun The Hollow felt like home so much it almost made me homesick, until I realized I'd soon be up in the mountains, meeting my neighbours on horseback and hearing the local gossip, which my mother all ready fills me in on: the teenager living across the street had a baby, the bed and breakfast pricks next door sold to a young English couple who don't get along with the previous owner still living on the property, the gay couple behind our house are still probably growing drugs in their field (but no one really knows) and the hillside is looking pretty bare because the pine beetle have eaten all the pines. There now you're up to speed too.

The best news is that I've been granted permission to build a straw bale studio on my parents' property, using all reclaimed materials for an environmentally friendly space. I've already got a professional photographer on the books to document the raising of the 'Writing Shed'. No one seems to think I can build it. My mother says I have no muscles (OK, I admit it, I thought the new Melbourne train seats were broken for a week until I realised they were not - I just didn't have the strength to fold them down). We'll see. I anticipate sweat, and a certain level of disaster. This blog will host it all, starting this July.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

The Book Shelf Doomsday

Not to sound selfish but if I lend you a book I want it back. I've lost so many books I've loved (for those are the only ones worth lending out) to friends who simply pass them on, keep them or let them loose into the ether. But I like my books. I love lending them out to other people. I love referencing them. I love looking at their spines and remembering their tales, since, let's face it, my memory is nearly non-existent. And I like the whole look of it. My two mighty Ikea bookshelves remind me I'm a writer, but also foremost a reader. But now my bookshelves face another blow. This time it is not a book-friendemy. It's me.

Since I originally hail from Canada there's always been speculation about heading back there, away from my cozy apartment here in St Kilda. I do not especially want to move. I've gotten to know a tad about Australia's publishing industry and love the independent publishers who serve the literary community well. Oh and those friends who buy me drinks and let me ramble on about whatever obsession tends to occupy my fancy that day, yes, I'll miss them dearly too. Alas, being in a relationship for nearly nine years requires sacrifice and my partner is pleading we move.

I've queried many shipping movers, requesting quotes to shift my belongings. I've already decided to sell everything but my art, 1/2 of my clothes, 1/4 of my linen, some momentos and my red mixing bowls. But my books? I don't think so, buster. Then another financial reality of being a full time writer struck - I'll have to, somehow someway, whittle my collection down to a mere box!

What do I get rid of? Classics is my main guess. They are easily replaceable, but even then I still doubt my capacity to contain my book collection to a solitary box. These are sad days ahead, my friends. It's like the Sophie's Choice of books. On the bright side, perhaps I'll convince Braden to stay here in melanoma land (so he has freckles and pale skin - slip, slop, slap, solved) or at the very least keep some of my lovelies here, stored up and dusty, so that when I come back (and indeed I will come back, family and everything) it will be like saying hello to a long lost friend, one who isn't on Facebook and doesn't keep in touch.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Oh the guilt

Lately the guilt of not writing a short story, or finishing the final *unpublished draft of my novel, or update this blog has taken me to Blue Town. That place writers know all too well. I often go through slumps where thoughts gather in my head but rarely make it on to paper. It's times like these I feel as though I'm that person at the party who say they 'want' to write a novel, well after they manage to find the time.

Although, I must say I have a barrel of excuses. I've been ill. Four lumbar punctures and a two day road trip to Queensland where my partner's mother is donating an unmatched kidney to her husband, has left me little energy, physical or creative. It's only the fourth such transplant done in Queensland. Fortunately all went well, except my aching, painful back, and for two weeks we had to devote our time to looking after his parents after they got out of hospital.

I haven't had time to read either! Oh my good intentions. I did read a quarter of Dave Eggers What is the What. And boy oh boy did the story, while at times repetitious, made the long drive and pale paddocks fly by. The story of Valentino Achak Deng combines nicely with Eggers writing. At times, as a writer, I often wondered what their process was, how all the detail was brought to life. It is obvious from the forward, some of the conversations and smaller points of 'the story' were embellished and thus meant publication as fiction. The larger, more important, facets of the story make it without a doubt some of the most compelling, humbling, honest, reading I have stumbled upon for a while. By the end of each chapter, all we wanted to do was read the next. We can't wait for the drive home.

Next, I will blog on one of my favourite humorous reads ever, Fanny Flagg's Daisy May and The Miracle Man.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Oh, The Woes Of Authorhood

A few times a week I set aside time to check my email and search out markets for my work. I trawl the internet and the monthly Writers' Centre newsletters hoping to find the elusive beast. It has these features:

-it publishes exciting or/and well crafted fiction and/or poetry
-it has an email address for submissions!
-it does not require any sort of fee.

Of course, there is a King Beast. He is extremely rare and facing extinction. Authors hear rumors of the beast at launches or from a drunk who boasts of his catch. You'll recognize the King by the distinctions that set him apart from his contemporaries:

-it pays money and/or contributer copies
-it has a national or international distribution
-it throws great launches.

Extended metaphors aside, the reality of placing creative work is daunting. You want it to be read and presented in a respectful way. You don't want to kill trees and fill landfills with ink cartridges to print off your work to send off. Sure publishers, this means you'll get more work to sort through because it makes submission more accessible. Perhaps you can hire an undergraduate intern. Maybe throw a saltine his or her way as they wade through the unsolicited inbox.

Don't get me started on contests! I haven't entered any writing contest (aka lottery) for several reasons. First, the submission fee. Australia isn't as bad as Canada. I've seen $25-$30 submission fees with a first prize of $100. Ridiculous. Secondly, the judges. Some contests state upfront who is judging, and pay a local author to adjudicate. But others? Well! Lastly, writing is a profession. Some 'contests' are nice to have on a resume and are genuine platforms for writers (most of these do not require a fee). But others are fundraising tools. It's degrading. What other professions have contests? Imagine an annual builders' contest (picture Jenga on a large scale). The only professions outside the Arts that I can think of that have contests are cat breeders and hairdressers.

And publications with reading fees really get my goat. I realize funding is thin. But imagine working days, maybe even months, at your job only to be told you have to pay the boss.

Friday, February 27, 2009

New Authors. An Admission. (No Stones Please)

I admit, shamefully, I am shallow when it comes to introducing myself to new authors' work in a bookstore. I'm not talking about word-of-mouth books, or the book reviews we all read and think I must read that author. I'm talking about wandering into a bookstore with no book in mind, stumbling onto a narrow spine which has never had its cover turned toward the aisle, or a little 'Recommended Reading' note inserted under its base. For this purpose I have devised a system, albeit a shallow system, of adjudication.

First. Covers. Recently at a party a friend leaned over the table, wine on her breath, and whispered a dirty little secret. She bought and read books based on their covers, wasn't she horrible! Well, no, I told her. I did too. Is the cover shiny? Yes? Then no, I won't read it. Is it a rip-off of J.S Foer's covers? Oh that glorious freehand anti-font. Oui? Then no, I won't pick it up. Does it feature pastel flowers or a photograph of a troubled teenager? Again, not a book I like touching my precious fingers.

Second. The blurb. Either it sounds interesting or it doesn't. If the blurb is only praise and quotes from reviewers or other authors in their publisher's stable, count me out. I don't need someone to tell me I should read a book because they liked it. I flip that book over to see if it might appeal to me.

Last but not least, it must pass the random flick test. The writing must be up to scratch. Not just the first page or the first overly-written three chapters. Come on writers, we're all guilty of slacking off immediately after the words Chapter Four. If it is well written, and it is under $30, it is likely I'll buy it.

Which brings me to Susan Hubbard's The Society of S. Despite the Zorro-esque cover of the golden S and featuring Society in its title, I let slide my first rule. Afterall it was matt black, a colour (or non-colour) I respect. Onto rule two. The blurb sounded familiar to my novel, so of course I was both impressed and nervously curious. Rule number three passed when I read a page 2/3s in and it wasn't blooming adjectives and it was written in convincing first person.

I was ultimately deceived. My formula wasn't fail proof. Gasp! Clutch my heart! The novel I thought was about a thirteen-year-old girl and her mysterious scientist father, was in fact about vampires. Since Stephanie Meyer's onslaught of everything vampire I shuddered, and admit thinking I'll finish this but I'm not going to tell a soul. Thankfully commonsense prevailed and I no longer care if people know I've read one of those books. After all Dracula remains one of my favourite books in terms of atmosphere and style. Far from cliche-land, this novel is shaping up to be one of the best YA books, realist or fantastical, that I've read since Meg Rosoff's How I Live Now. So, perhaps my system does work. It just allows for hidden surprises.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

The Yawn Factor

Isn't it awkward when the friend, who is oh so generous, gives you a 'you-have-to-read-this' book? Undoubtably it will be a novel of somewhat questionable writing and most likely filled with a wandering plot that makes you question the publishing industry and characters drawn so thin so can see through them and their families three generations back. Alas, you feign a smile and politely say, 'Oh...thank you' and before you know it you've laid the brickwork for a series of long nights, struggling to finish a few pages before delving into the book you picked out, the one you enjoy, the one taunting you on the bed-side table.

I have recently received such a novel. This time from a friend who usually recommends great books. He introduced me to A House For Mr Biswas, which is now a favourite of mine, so I had every intention of reading the dull, water-warped pages of this 'have-to-read- book', which shall remain nameless for the time being. He had scanned his shelf before our meeting in the city, and thought 'Yes, I bought that years ago when I was in Ireland. It is one of my favourite books. I just forget what it is about' then later told me this as he passed it to me.

I wasn't going to let the one Euro sticker on the cover deter me. Some people just don't have taste. However, the first page was traumatic. Adjective and adverb city! And not just the good old JK Rowling romp through adjective town either. To top it off, it was written in that ever so annoying Old English style (yes, I wrote that on purpose) that leads you to think for the first thirty pages it is set in the 1800s until the protagonist mentions Nixon. Why do authors do this? People from the 1800s aren't reading your book, we are...hopefully.

Tonight marks the fourteenth night of those horrible words and the plot is wandering on one foot, drunk on too much of its own ale, blinded by the umpteenth adjective, searching for a place to lay down and die. I highly suspect this will take place soon, if not, I'll have to shoot it.

Of course there are exceptions to the 'you-have-to-read-this' book lend, but they are exceptions.

Saturday, January 31, 2009

The Paris Review 187

While the mercury here in Melbourne reached a hard-to-breath 45 degrees, I was greeted by the latest edition of the Paris Review in my mailbox. Any day this publication reaches my hands is a perfect day, at least for a few hours, and yesterday was no different. A tall glass of homemade lemonade, a fan, the journal and I was was set to beat the heat.

For those not familiar with this publication, hop over to the website to find out how to subscribe and treat yourself to a hearty meal of literature. Those of you short of funds (who isn't these days?) can spend hours sifting through the substantial archives, consisting of award-winning fiction, poetry and interviews.

With an Issue number of 187 (famous for being associated with homicide) who could expect what lay inside its covers to be normal?

The first short story was The Lover by Damon Galgut, a South African writer whose novel The Good Doctor was short-listed for the 2003 Man Booker Prize. The Lover was the best crafted story I have read in a long time. It is a story where it could be argued nothing much happens, except it does. The main character, Damon, a perpetual traveller, travels through Africa crossing borders that lay inside himself as well as on a geographical map, as he puts it. Familiar themes of political unrest and racism are evident but take a backseat to a less didactic story of falling in love.

Without knowing Gulgat's personal history, he does leave you wondering if this story is one in a growing trend of autobiographical fiction, especially since the author and protagonist share the same first name. Those of you familiar with Nam Le's short story collection, The Boat, which won the Dylan Thomas Prize, will recall the story Love and Honour and Pity and Pride and Compassion and Sacrifice. Or Helen Garner's latest novel The Spare Room. Who can argue with this trend when what is produced is intimate and moving and somewhat brave on the writer's behalf. Gulgut's writing is clear and concise, giving it a beautiful rhythm. Not one word seems superfluous.

Among poetry, the interview with Poet Laureate Kay Ryan, the Northern fishing photographs by Corey Arnold, and other fiction in this issue, was another gem. Document contained a series of letters written in verse from Ezra Pound to Marcella Spann, a young woman who visited Pound in St Elizabeth's Hospital for the insane. It also includes one of his unpublished poems.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

My Poetry

The Writing Partner

You remember things
like titles, directors and writers
while I sit dumb and collapsed
empty of remember

You show me scars
round cherries ash burnt
and I show you my remember
wishing it were empty

You talk of directors
and I think about cherries
burnt and ash pink
but your remember is empty

of those things collapsed.

(Originally published in Sketch Literary and Design Journal November 2008)

Monday, January 26, 2009

Launch Time Again!

Well, it's that time I love again, as long as I'm not reading my work. Actually, I don't mind reading as long as I limit the people I know in the audience. I used to have to sneak out of the house in full Shakespearean costume back in my acting days. I would often hear my mother shouting, 'Where are you going?' and I'd answer, 'Out for coffee'. They must've thought I was madder than crazy.

I actually love reading poetry. Call me old fashioned (cliche for the day-tick), but I wish poetry could go back to being about words and content rather than based on how well a writer can perform. I've recently seen some poets whose poetry ranges from mediocre to great but people don't take in the words during a reading, they focus on the poet's performance, much like listening to music and not the lyrics. Brilliant poets might get lost this way. Hopefully not. Perhaps it is simply about adjusting to our time and the evolution of writing/promotion/publishing.

Vignette Press is launching the Death Mook, which I'm grateful to be included, in late February. I can't wait to read the finished product. At least one other author I know, Angela Myer over at Literary Minded, is also represented in the Mook. The launch is taking place Upstairs at Dantes (150 Gertrude Street, Fitzroy) Thursday February 26th and starts at 7pm.

To purchase copies contact Vignette Press for a stock list.

Currently Reading...

Try as I might to support independent book stores, my cinema is next to Borders and inevitably I do the 'I want a new book now! search'. Borders has a greater selection of books at cheaper prices, which is important to me because I am not rich. However, of late, I've been disappointed to see that they have none of the books I want to read, which are:

Borges and the Eternal Orangutans by Luis Fernando Verissimo
I Haven't Dreamed Of Flying For A While by Taichi Yamada
2666 by Roberto Bolano

In fact no shop has these books in Australia (Ahem, well Readings has 2666 but it is $59.00). So instead of spending $36.99 for a book that didn't really seem to be 'mykindabook' I went to my secret bookshelf at a nearby op shop and picked up four novels: Watership Down (which I started to read but it smelt like poo! so I'll have to get another copy if I can get over the whole talking animal thing), Bridges of Madison County (hated it but finished the novella), Briefing For A Descent Into Hell by Doris Lessing (I'll do a seperate review of this) and Sol Stein's The Husband (proving to be good in a theatrical and thematical kind of way).


A bit about moi.

The facts:

I am 27,
spent fifth grade with an English accent,
ate my entire eraser collection when I was six,
told everyone in grade one and two I was born in San Francisco,
have been to Paris,
spent nineteen years living in British Columbia, Canada,
made my younger sister cry by telling her that her bike was a dead horse,
have a Cornish Rex and a hell of a mean chihuahua/mutt,
have a phobia of drowning,
will eat cereal with a salad spoon before doing the dishes,
and miss the northern lights.

Other less interesting facts:

I am a full time writer currently living in Melbourne, Australia. I am working on my second novel entitled The Woods Between. In 2005 I completed RMIT's Diploma of Art (Professional Writing and Editing). 2006 made me a finalist for the SOYA (Spirit of Youth Australia) Awards in the Words Category for my short stories Kinship and The Mare and my poem Talk, judged by Allen and Unwin publisher Jude McGee. In 2007, I was long-listed for the HarperCollins/Varuna Manuscript Award and received the Varuna Pathways to Publication Masterclass residency. I also was a finalist for Young Writer of the Year by Australia's Sunshine Coast Literary Association for my novel The Islands.

My short fiction and poetry have appeared in Switchback, Visible Ink's Contemporary Soul anthology, Vignetts Press's The Death Mook, Sketch Literary and Design Journal, Harvest Literary Magazine, Paroxysm Press's anthology Ten Years of Things that Didn't Kill Us, Voiceworks, Noise, and Red Leaves Bi-lingual Literary Journal.