Friday, 30 July 2010

The End of JulNoWriMo

With a superhuman burst of strength, the final 6000 words have been written. (I am referring to the last 6000 words of my JulNoWriMo quota though, and not of the novel itself.) I think I will be very happy to have my life back... although now I think about it I believe I have had more of a life these last two months than ever before. How odd.

In case anyone was wondering, I am almost three quarters of the way done with this draft. Things currently stand at 101 pages (sadly not dalmations. That was for you, Lauren.) and 50 144 words, although I think that counts the fake jacket review I put on the cover page I made that says "More fun than a barrel of Monkeys- E.P." I have also made a few changes layout- wise, including splitting the whole book into not two but four sections and trying to make each section a fully realised mini journey. I am getting encouraging reviews from my friends.

As I have met this month's goal, tomorrow night I will celebrate my progress by dressing as a little sailor girl and partying with some friends.

I think my goal for next month shall be to finish reading up about World War Two era Japanese occupied Singapore. It's really quite a fascinating subject; heartbreaking, inspiring... these are the first hand accounts by the way.

I am also going to make it my goal to stay very positive about the endeavour. Or maybe about things in general might help.

Uni starts again for me on Tuesday... (I don't go Mondays this semester).


Friday, 23 July 2010

Writer’s Retreat

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What do you get if you lock five people all interested in Literature(or six depending on the day of the week) in a house by a beach and tell them to write?

(In case you were wondering the answer is bad amateur photography.)

In all seriousness, I think that the little break from the norm was exactly what I needed.  I would (and frequently do) describe myself as a somewhat uptight person.  I live by the mantra of “What Would Mum and Dad think?” and when I usually go away to my Grandparent’s beach house the week can have the effect of turning me into Scary Prison Guard Dragon Lady.  But so far, every time I have taken people with me down there without parents, I have managed to become a little more laid back and enjoy myself a little more. 

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Every night this week, The Writers did some cooking.  (This was a nice break from consuming a lot of raw cookie dough/ chips/ chocolate and in some cases wine.)  Every day, there was much lying on blankets on the lawn in the blissful sunshine, enjoying the fact that Mandurah refuses to recognise the concept of Winter.  I think I must have gone for about fifteen walks, including one night time one.  I also tried to finish Eat Pray Love, but I didn’t quite manage, what with all the beautiful nature and inspiration.  (But I did spend the whole week spouting cosmic wisdom and saying things like zen and chakra.)  At times, with all four of us curled up over our laptops at the table it did tend to look a little bit like a LAN party or a hacking operation.

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I climbed a tree, also.  It may or may not have had footholds nailed to it… (but any small victory over vertigo is one I will take.)

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There were even some silly boys going body surfing at one point, that’s how nice the weather was. 

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We discovered this architectural gem on one of our walks.  It’s practically inviting you in! (The second time we looked for it, I swear it was GONE.  And then I found it again, so I took a picture… ghost shed?)

Being back in Perth is much less inspiring but I will soldier on.

How bummed am I that Uni is starting again in a week???

Sunday, 18 July 2010

Blank Pages

writing 006 Is this not just the most beautiful sight you have ever seen?

Okay, well maybe that’s just me then. 

New notebooks have always felt like new chapters in my life.  When I start a new notebook, I feel like maybe I am not tied down by what I wrote in the old one.  All the whinging and pining and the rants (my gosh, the rants!) are closed up. They are over.  They are stuffed into a pile of old notebooks. 

I actually have a lot of notebooks.  Waiting.  Waiting to be used.  People give them to me for birthdays and stuff like that, and I’m rather behind on using them.  I really miss being able to just buy a fifty cent composition book and cover it with pictures as I go on, but I understand that buying me notebooks is how the people around me try to say that they “get me.”

writing 004 Front view.  Do you like my funky calculator? 

writing 005 Back view.  When you put them together they actually say Know Your Rights.  And the words are the Declaration of Human Rights, if you are wondering.  My friend Jess got it for me to go with my 18th birthday present.  (Yeah, it took me a year and four months to get to the notebook!?)

So I’m going to take it with me everywhere for a while and break it in.  Because notebooks are a little bit like shoes in that way.  You reach into your bag looking for your old notebook and come up with the new one.  “Oh yeah!” you say, remembering that the old one is gone.

writing 002 Now if only I could find some space in my bag…

Monday, 12 July 2010

Reading James Joyce's Ulysses for the First Time

June 16. Its a date that won't ring true to many of you, unless its your birthday or the birthday of someone close to you. But I want to introduce the concept of Bloomsday to you all.

James Joyce's Ulysses, a modernist novel spanning a whopping 600+ pages of train-of-thought, takes place over the course of a single day, June 16. And Joyce fans everywhere like to celebrate this special day by reading it over the course of Bloomsday. Or at least starting it.

I'm pretty sure I came across the idea of Bloomsday in a column by Danny Katz once. Of course, back then, Ulysses was just a really thick, scary book.

So how, you may ask, did I come to read it?

Well, first of all, read it is being used relatively here, because I actually didn't finish it. I got through 150 pages, which is pretty impressive because a lot of sources say that if you're going to give up on a book you need to at least give it 50 pages. And I gave it three times that. I gave it a week and a bit of my life. And then something shiny came along and I got distracted...

But like a lot of things in my life, reading Ulysses was about the glory of being able to say "Oh yes, I picked up Ulysses once, tried to read it one winter." A friend of mine sent me an article about those Kindle things... which are a terrible idea by the way... and it was about how when they make the e-Book of Ulysses they have to take the sexy bits out, remove the illustrations and whatnot. (How disappointed was I to discover that my version didn't have illustrations anyway?) And I started thinking about Ulysses. About the kind of people who sat down and tried to read it.

I mean just look at Marilyn Munroe! Image Respectfully Pilfered From: Ordinary Finds

I wondered how many people in the world had read it all the way through. I wondered how many people in the world had understood it. I wondered where the government had hidden these people to make the rest of us look smart. And I realised there was only one way to find out. I had to BECOME one of those people.

Now it just so happens that I vocalise (or raise the subject via online conversation) nearly every thought I have. And someone that I was talking to happened to reply with a statement along the lines of "it's funny you should ask me if I have read it because it's sitting on the pile of books I have yet to read." We decided to have a race.

My intention was that we would read it, and then join that elite club of Joyce readers, and sit in coffee shops wearing berets and tinted glasses, drinking coffee blacker than our skivvies and talking about the magic of Joyce, all the while being extremely pretentious.

Well. You know what they say about the best laid plans.

My grandpa's reaction when I told him that I was trying read it was something along the lines of "People who start that book rarely finish it." I know he's read it. I know that he's read some other Joyce too. And I know that he probably understood them because my grandparents are without a doubt the smartest people I know. And I'm not just saying that because they're reading this. Grandpa probably knows what island the government are hiding the Joyce lovers on. And I, poor fool, said to him "I intend to finish."

I said this to him knowing that the book had sat on my desk for five consecutive days without being picked up. I said this to him knowing that I had no idea what was going on. I said this to him, and even as the words came out, I knew that it would not be true at this point in time.

Saturday night officially marked the end of the reading race. Ironically, it was a draw. Both of us made it to page 150. I think that's 8 chapters.

This quote from Ulysses is ironically appropriate to my efforts this first time around.

" We were always loyal to lost causes, the professor said. Success for us is the death of the intellect and of the imagination. We were never loyal to the successful. We serve them." page 110

Aw now look how sad I've made poor James Joyce! I'm guilt ridden! I vow to try again one day in the future, fear not Mr. Joyce. And maybe I'll even read some of your other work too.

Image Respectfully Pilfered from: The Mad Aardvark (You can read about their attempts to celebrate Bloomsday there too.)

Yours Faithfully,


P.S. I am digging the eyepatch. Very Captain Hook.

Friday, 9 July 2010

Review: Kill Your Darlings Issue 2

The powers that be tell us never to judge a book by its cover.

But that is exactly where I am going to start. Jeremy Ley is responsible for both the cover illustrations so far, and I have to say that the cover is what attracted me to the journal in the first place. There is something about the noir look, the cloak and dagger, the stunning girls in trench coats, that makes reading this journal seem impossibly sexy.
I first stumbled across Kill Your Darlings when it was reviewed in the West Australian Newspaper. I can't remember exactly what the review said, but I do remember that I was intrigued. I am always on the look out for places to send my work, and the feel of KYD just screamed at me. It was exactly the kind of publication that I would want my work in.
Issue One was fantastic. I had high expectations for Issue Two, and living in W.A. made things particularly cumbersome, as I had to wait an extra weekend to get mine. But on Monday... a day which was anything but jolly, I may add... it arrived, in all its brown, padded envelope glory.
It was worth sidelining Ulysses, I tell you that much.
It's taken me five days to get through all of it, and that's including stopping to watch Gilmore Girls season five and write for JulNoWriMo. I also took a break to go ice skating. Hilarity ensued.
To date, Kill Your Darlings is the only Journal which has made me want to read everything in it. The fiction especially, but I also really love the reviews and essays. More so in issue one because of the novelty factor I suppose, but issue two was also extremely informative. I have found that if I let them, a good writer can not only make me think about things outside my comfort zone, they can also make me enjoy it.
This issue began with Monica Dux's essay "The Temple of The Female Eunuch." Now, I'm not a feminist, although in the past I have been labelled one... (outrageous) but I know a lot of people who are. This essay raised a lot of very valid points about Greer and about her relationship with the feminist movement she has been associated with. She is, if you will a metonym for feminism. The first article or story in any journal sets the tone for the rest of the piece, and I'm just not sure if I really connected with this one. I would have liked to have seen "Lunch in Mayfair" by Ruth Starke kick off the commentary section. From a writer's perspective, this article was both funny and helpful, and if you happen to NOT be a feminist, doesn't make you feel a little left out when the writer begins talking about famous people you've never heard of. Don't get me wrong, I really liked the Dux essay. I loved that she made the point of Greer's main crime being that she allowed herself to age. But I did not connect with it on the level the writer intended. It was for a target market that I do not fit.
The fiction section this time around appeared to have a theme. Each and every story involved identity fraud on some level. I don't know whether this was pure coincidence or whether the editors at KYD just decided to be whimsical, but I really did like this unexpected theme. The first story was by Pierz Newton-John and it was called Shock. I read it on Wednesday before Ice Skating and talked about it in the car the whole way there. Of the other stories, I also liked Comfort Inn by Samuel Rutter. The other two stories, while very good, where somewhat confusing. In A Terror Story by Leanne Hall, I was neither terrified, nor did I know whether the narrator was a woman or a man. That's all well and good if you don't subscribe to gender, but it did leave me somewhat undecided on the tone of the piece. Was I reading a story about a beautiful lesbian black widow who captured our narrator in a green house? Or was she a nutter who lured old men back to her apartment for kicks? I don't like not being sure. Friction by Virginia Peters was actually quite well done once I finished it and thought over what I had read. But the formatting of the story, the constant switching between 'Fiction' and 'Non-Fiction' and the not so obvious time difference between the two threads had me scratching my head for a while.
Hannah Kent's interview with Phillip Pullman was an interesting study of the writer in a post-religious world. It prompted a conversation with my sister yesterday morning about where the public evil in religion truly lies. These sorts of conversations are most infrequent; a true testament to the intrigue contained in that interview.
Finally, the reviews. There were more of these than last time. I skim read most, but my final verdict is that I now want to a) read some Barbara Trapido, and b) watch Love My Way.
So there you have it. That's my breakdown of Issue Two. Next issue I would love to see way more fiction.
Ta Ta For Now, TTFN

Wednesday, 7 July 2010

Marathon Month

T.S. Eliot said, "April is the cruelest month."

If April is the month for cruelty, then July should be the month of marathons.

While I am all for doing things to excess, July is really the only month that this is a possibility, because Uni is over for the whole month, unlike June where I have exams for part of it. Things that I finally have time to do include writing, reading and watching far too much Television.

So far, this holidays I have watched 4 and a half seasons of Gilmore Girls, read 8 chapters of Ulysses (and finished numerous other books but reading Ulysses was for a race... one I think I might be losing) and written 10 012 words on the new and improved "The Compound."

This morning, I took in a Write-In at Il Cibo cafe on Market St in Fremantle. If you ever get there, have their coconut bread. It is to die for. My friend L and I grabbed their biggest table, which was was fortunate because there were five of us there by the end... more might even have showed up after I left. What I have discovered about myself is that I am strictly a desk writer. I must have no distractions, and people count as a distraction. So does creepy piped in music.

By midnight I need to have come up to 11 669 words. But I'm not going to push it too hard.

There is no better feeling in the world than fetting exactly what you want. But if it happened all the time, it wouldn't be anywhere near as big a deal.

Stay tuned for my review of Kill Your Darlings Issue 2.

Friday, 2 July 2010

Letter to a Future Law Student

I use to love talking on the phone with you. Back then, it didn't have to mean anything. I remember the time that you were cooking bacon, holding the phone to your ear with your shoulder and grease kept flicking out and burning you, so you put your older sister on the phone. She wanted to know if I was your girlfriend. I wasn't. I don't even think I wished I was yet. I just liked talking to you. You were the smartest person I'd ever met who wasn't grown up.

I must have liked you at some point though because I remember a girl in our Japanese class telling me you used to have a crush on me in Year 8. I felt stupid at the time because I'd liked you too, and I'd moved on. It was like we'd missed a turn off on the freeway and now we were driving around in different parts of the city from each other. Things might have been different if we'd been able to talk about something other than school that first year. But I was twelve. I was twelve and you were thirteen.

Another time, I had an older girl over at my house, a friend of the family, and you rang. I think I was mad at you at the time. I wanted you to think that my friend was a model. I told you her name was Courtney Bean and we cut out a picture from Girlfriend magazine of a girl in a bikini with her back to the camera for her to sign for you. I don't think you ever fell for it though, so I think I might smile too much when I lie or something.

Sometimes I wonder if it hurt you that I went out with your friend from the debating team. You two were hardly Fred Flinstone and Barney Rubble, but you did eat lunch together. Didn't you have an imaginary girlfriend or something? Was her name Courtney too? Is that how the model joke started? Oh I don't know. The past is fragmented. I only knew you for three years and you've split into a kaleidoscope of different colours and dispersed, just like you left our school and went to a private one for year 11 and 12. The you that I am writing to now could hardly be the same version who my best friend wanted to date in year 9. That boy told her that he wouldn't spoil their friendship by dating her. And he couldn't possibly be the same person as the boy I was surprised to meet at a party, who went around back with a girl he'd only just met, only a year after you left school.

There's a version of you that I will never stop hating. I sometimes take that memory out and dust it off, replay it on the warped gramophone of my memory and it sounds a little distorted. But I cried, I want you to know that. The day you left, you told me that you couldn't talk to me any more because I am too opinionated. I want to think that you did that because you didn't want me to miss you.

That was the first time I realised that you didn't belong on the pedestal I had reserved for you. You weren't as smart as I thought.

It still sits wrong with me that we don't talk anymore.