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Showing posts from 2011

THE YEAR THAT WAS....

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It seems you blink and the year is nearly over. I really don't know where most of it has gone. There are weeks that have simply vanished, I don't remember them at all. Perhaps there is a vortex that snaps up days and weeks and takes them away? Or perhaps as my children suggest, I'm merely getting older?

Whatever the case, 2011 is nearly done and dusted.
Looking back over it, it was pretty damned good. At work we moved a library, yes moved...from temporary premises comprising of two portables to a brand new architecturally designed large and airy building. I'm hoping to never have to move a library again...simply put, books are heavy!

On a personal note, we painted and tiled the bathroom (almost finished), got the spare room (daughters old room) ready for it's next occupation, well almost, we survived the saga of the tree-through-the-water-tank-and-getting-new-one-up-the-drive, cut down trees only to plant more trees (fruit trees) and we went to Western Australia …

IT'S BEGINNING TO LOOK A LOT LIKE CHRISTMAS....

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Suddenly without notice, it's that time of the year again.


Yep, Christmas. And if you are anything like me, you're beginning to be a tad frazzled.
There's the planning, the shopping, more planning, more shopping, wrapping, cooking, cleaning and trying to visit everyone (last year we saw my brother and his children in February...a combination of no time and them going away). I hope to do better this year!

There's also the decorating (which I do tend to enjoy- this is our front door )

And of course I'm making a list. Not of who is being naughty or nice ( I'll leave that to the guy in the red suit)- my list is more of comments I've overhead, ideas for stories and poems, even for a non-fiction article.

A lot of these are positive, comments from little ones about how many sleeps till Santa comes, the excitement when a child sees a lit up tree, well wishes from virtual strangers (wearing a Santa hat does help).

But unfortunately Christmas is not all sunshin…

DEADLINES....

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I do have the best intentions (sure there is a proverb about this and the way to Hell) but I do. I get my copy of The Victorian Writer .I browse through the articles and then I begin to read the opportunities and competitions page.

I ponder, circle a few that I feel are relevant, put a star against ones that I know I have a suitable piece just waiting. If needed, I go to the necessary website, check out submission details or entry forms, find out more requirements.


In an ideal world this is then placed on my list. Yes I'm a list girl...it seems the only way to make any sense of what I hope to get done in a day/week/month. And I do love that feeling when something is crossed off my list. A sense of achievement, accomplishment. Knowledge that I have not wasted my day.

Yet this year in particular I have missed so many deadlines. Firstly - because my list cleverly avoided many of these deadlines. Freudian perhaps? Secondly - I became very good this year at heading off on tangents.

Oh …

STRUGGLING WITH A SYNOPSIS....

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Yep, writing a synopsis is right up there on my list of favourite things to do, right next to visiting the dentist and doing my tax.

So why do I find this so hard? (and I'm not alone in this). It's one thing to write a novel, to edit it, to redraft and rewrite, edit once more, rewrite yet again. And after about six versions of the novel a presentable product is produced...and now I have to summarise it.


Not only summarise it but make it exciting, make it sound like the editor/publisher has no choice but pick it up and publish it.

Everyone of course has advice to offer. But basically a synopsis has to cover all major characters and major plots. Add some emotional detail, not forgetting the all important hook.
Why is this novel astounding?
Why should it be published?
What is different about this novel?

This is the part I hate...

Finding the right words, and making each of those words count, is hard work. It takes time, it takes editing and drafting. It takes a belief in …

FIRST DRAFT....

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Well I surprised myself. I actually finished NANOWRIMO.... And yes at the end of the month I had over 50, 000 words. Not brilliant words, not even particularly good words, but words that when put together do have at their crux...and idea.

It was an interesting experience. I'm not going to say it was fun. It wasn't.

I found it challenging, frustrating, at times damned annoying and lots of hard work. Which is why I attempted it in the first place. I wanted the challenge. I wanted to dare myself.

I had the 'idea' the night before I began. So when I did begin to write, I had no character sketches, no names, no plot details. It was writing into the darkness. Not really knowing what to say until I sat at the computer, and then going where the story was taking me. I didn't stop to edit, did't try to second guess myself.

First week went okay. I was getting excited about a new piece of work.

Second week...yuck.

But I kept on. Giving up is too damned easy, I've do…

THINGS MY MOTHER NEVER TOLD ME....

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My mother was a tall dark haired woman who loved black jellybeans, cacti and Johnny Cash. She was also very artistic with a talent for sketching and painting.

So when Dad visited the other week with a bag of 'bits and pieces' there was much laughter as we discovered -
# Whitcombes storybook of Hiawatha for 6d (sixpence)
# Bible she received from her parents for her 13th birthday
# Assorted jewellery including clip on earrings (she was too scared to get her ears pierced)
# Plastic doll wearing Carlton colours
# and a Diploma of Proficiency from the Art Training Institute, Swanston Street Melbourne- listed as 'Australia's Foremost School of Commercial Art' dated March 1957

There were also some pieces of her artwork



We also discovered an old exercise book. She had copied out poems by Keats and Wordsworth, even a Shakespeare sonnet or two. But we also discovered two poems----The Wild Dogs and The Bushland---that were written by her.


None of us knew that she'd wr…

SLICING AND DICING....

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I've been busy cutting words. I don't mean editing, which in its own way is a scary ride...this was actually cutting out words. Removing them. Deleting them.

Not forever. In fact I do know several writers that keep folders with 'bits and bobs' in it. Those deleted sentences and phrases, even chapters, that no longer fit the work they are doing, but words they are unable to give up. Kill your darlings to them, means just move them to another home.


I don't keep such a folder but I did keep a copy of the original story.

I've been working on a junior young adult novel I wrote years ago. One that I really like. One that others have told me is good. I've sent it out a few times, Okay, going back over my records, I've found I've sent it out four times. And with my track record that is pretty damned good.

One publisher asked for all of it and kept it for months and months, eventually over a year before the 'sorry it's not for us' email arrived.

TAKING THINGS FOR GRANTED....

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Hands up if you take things for granted? My hand is up, waving high. We humans are quite notorious for this. We take for granted that we have a roof over our heads, that we have family and friends that love us, that we have enough money to pay the necessary bills each month, that we are able to walk and move without constant pain.

These are the basics we take for granted. I'm just beginning to learn what not to take for granted.
My drive home from work....

It's through farmland and forest. And yes in the depths of winter with sleet and fog and falling branches, it can be tedious and dangerous. But every season, every day offers up something new to see. It's a beautiful drive home.

I did take for granted my job. I thought everyone could do what I do. Serving hundreds of people every day, answering their questions, and of course the youth services part, entertaining up to 50 children at one time....

But not everyone can, or more importantly wants to. If you don't have t…

NANOWRIMO.....

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I have a friend, Tiggy Johnson, who for a few years now urged me each November to have a go at Nanowrimo.


Each year I said 'no way.'

Which explains of course why Monday morning about 7.30 am before heading off to work I decided, spur of the moment, to sign up.

Now of course it's panic time. Why on earth did I decide to say that yes I would write a novel, 50,000 words in the month of November? Why?

I do like a challenge, and this is a big one, but where to begin?


Especially as I had no idea what I wanted to write. Looking at a few forums I discovered that a lot of people have actual plans. Yes plans. Complete with character sketches, plot outlines, themes and carefully planned metaphors to sprinkle throughout this work, even a title.

Hmmm- did I say I liked a challenge?

People have offered up advice.
A- You must write every day.
B- Try and stay ahead of the word count.
C- Include anything you write in the body, your blog, your poetry....
D- Don't care what comes out…

WRITING FOR YOUNG ADULTS...

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Once a year my writing group, The Lazy River Writers with help from the Victorian Writers Centre, hosts a writing workshop.

This year we featured writing for young adults with author Penni Russon.

Penni has over 9 novels published and teaches at Melbourne University (not to mention juggling the jobs of wife and mother to three young children). She had a wealth of experience to share, and share she did.

It was a great afternoon. Penni offered not only good advice and some great ideas to use as jumping off points for our writing - but she gave us writing exercises.

The one that most intrigued me was putting an experience - and for this exercise we used a 'first time' experience - into a haiku.

Yes a haiku.

There were no words to hide behind, no waffling, it had to be condensed and concise. A very interesting exercise and one I totally recommend.

I think what I got most from this workshop was confidence. That yes there are mountains of books out there...

-and working in a li…

HAPPY BIRTHDAY .....

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to the blog.
Yes it's one year since I began to ramble on this site. Hard to believe in so many ways. But heh before we go any further....


And looking back what on earth have I talked about?
Some of the great venues I've been to, the poets I've heard. How they inspire and motivate, urge me to try things I never would have thought myself capable of. And how I've come to the realisation there is no WRONG way to write a poem. It is so subjective, so personal.

I've talked about writing groups and how they can be a great motivator. How they can support and comfort (after too many rejections)- how they can encourage and force yourself onwards.

I've talked about writing goals, books to read, books I've read, writing styles, genres, writing spaces, libraries, more books... but mostly it's been about words.


Words are powerful. How many of us keep words thrown at us during an argument close to our chest? Words can hurt, they can empower, they can tear to shre…

THE CHILD WITHIN....

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I'm the first to admit that I'm quite child like. I get excited by the idea of finger painting, the knowledge that colouring within the lines is purely optional and that penguins can be any colour I want.

I bought some grape hyacinths last year. They reminded me of my Nan's tangled garden.

At the moment I'm struggling not to place my fingers on the stem and run them up and down, pulling all the flowers off. It's what I used to do in Nan's garden. I'm trying to prove that I've grown up.

Trying.

Because in reality I can't go past one of these....


without having a go. I tend to skip along streets, hop over lines on the pavement and attempt to jump a lot of things. Even if someone is watching. I sing in the supermarket to that bad 80's pop music they have (is it meant to make us buy more?) and I talk to myself. A lot.

My grandparents lived in northern NSW and they had the most amazing mulberry tree. Visiting them meant, among other things, eating t…

POETRY AND TECHNOLOGY....

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I must admit to being a bit old fashioned in the poetry department. Not that I write in iambic meter or put together a pantoum or two - I so have trouble rhyming and my rhythm is all over the place - but my work is plain. There is no extra dimension.


I'm always intrigued, amazed and wowed by what poets are doing with their work. How they are presenting it to an audience that, can at times we must admit be a tad jaded. So many poets are doing so many exciting, and to my eyes, new things. Some like Sean Whelan - who uses music as another expression of his work. He weaves it so effortlessly- it's not a 'poetry and some music' it becomes a whole. Becomes more than just poetry. Always great to experience.


And it's not just music that is being incorporated. Koraly Dimitriades - has filmed some of her poetry. Allowing the audience to not only hear her work but see as well. Another dimension, offers more depth, perhaps more of an insight into her work.

Magazines such as…

UNRELIABLE NARRATORS....

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I'm sure I've mentioned the fact that I live in a log cabin on an acre of lush greenery up in the Dandenong Ranges. The lawn slopes softly, paths meander around well tended garden beds.

We wake to the gentle call of birdsong and a gentle breeze.


Well that's the idea, the concept I aim for. Not the continual battle with weeds and grass (so NOT a lawn) and I WISH our lawn sloped gently. It would make mowing so much easier.




I love the unreliable narrator. Writers ( think Edgar Allan Poe - The Tell Tale Heart) who tell a tale from the POV of a narrator that we, the reader, come to doubt. At the beginning we are taken along for the ride, we believe what we are being told, we have no choice. Then we realise that things are all not what they appear to be.

Agatha Christie did it with The Murder of Roger Ackroyd (to shouts of UNFAIR), she then did it again with Endless Night (one of my personal favourites- thanks Mum)

And I must admit one of my all time favourite movies is The …

A FUNNY THING HAPPENED ON THE WAY TO THE OPEN MIC....

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Knock Knock.
Who's there?
Boo.
Boo who?
There there don't cry.

Humour...it's one of those genres that scare a majority of writers. Some people can write it so well (Timothy Train and his blog comes to mind...always makes me chuckle). Tim makes it appear effortless. Almost a stream of subconscious...that happens to be very ludicrous and funny.

Then there are those writers that THINK they can write humour when in reality the end product makes you cringe and try to avoid eye contact with them. And of course, you have the writers that aren't even game to give it a go. In case they make a total ass of themselves (yes ass not arse)


Writing humour is difficult. Not only do you have to be funny (and appeal to the majority) but when you read a humorous poem, anecdote or short story, the timing has to be exact. No one wants to wait....and wait....and wait for the punchline. Especially if you can see it coming.

I can't do humour. I try, must admit that, I do give it a go ev…

EENY, MEENY, MINY, MO....

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Deciding what to read at a venue that offers open mic...is a minefield. Is it a case of shutting your eyes and choosing the first few poems that you point at?

I feel comfortable enough at a few venues (Word Tree ...and Poetry in the Hut) that I bravely venture with new work. Test the water (cliche I know) so to speak. Difficult to let new work fly....often I'm editing minutes before I get on stage ....often I'm editing as I read.

And there are regulars that will tell me what they 'really' think- will offer up 'that was too long...you repeated yourself in the last stanza....or even...you had them.'

But what to read at a venue that you have only visited a few times? How do you know what sort of audience you will have?


Plan A is to always bring more poems than you intend to read. There is nothing worse than knowing you have time to read 3 poems, bring 3 poems then notice that the audience is not getting into any of them. Honestly, those are the times when you f…