Why I Write – A Featured Post

Today sees an article I wrote feature at The Good Men Project site. It is an exploration of why I write, a summary and manifesto to explain the reasons for my choice to use words to communicate.

What's Your Story

What’s Your Story?

You can read the full article here.

Remixing Is The New Creating

if:books Australia is running a remix challenge, Future of the Book.

Each week, 4 or 5 very short pieces (all sub-200 words) are posted and you get to use a paragraph or line or word and remix it in whatever way you choose.

You can write a poem, submit a drawing or photograph or write a short piece of fiction.

This week, one of my pieces is up for a remix.

Here’s the link:  Future of the Book

Have at it!

Do You Want Story Time?

My collaborative writing partner, Jodi Cleghorn (with whom I wrote Post Marked: Piper’s Reach) has just released a new collaboration with Claire Jansen.

She explains the process here.

Let me give you the blurb.

Three days before Christmas Amber lands in Australia to celebrate the festive season with Ben. But he’s not expecting her or the news she brings. Her presence sends radial fractures into Ben’s life and those close to him, from his sister to his lover and beyond.

Told across a single day, through the eyes of five characters, ’24’, delves into the complexities of the relationships closest to our hearts.

This is not a long read, 12 episodes of approximately 500 words each, criss-crossing between blogs. What hooked me was the multiple narrative points of view telling different aspects of the story, but more than that, in such a concise word limit and narrative time frame, the characters are wonderfully fleshed out.

I can see the possibilities of this being developed further into a longer short story, even a collaborative novel. Dare I say it, a TV miniseries. 

This is a great read and well worth your time with a cup of tea or coffee and your favourite biscuit.

The first instalment of your reading journey starts here with “24” – 06:00.

Is There A Right Time To Read A Book?

Is there a right time to read a book?

No, it’s not a rhetorical question because it’s always the right time to read a book.

What I am asking is do some books resonate with you at a certain age? Can you miss that opportunity and not have the book make the same impact as those who read it at the “appropriate age”?

For example, some years ago, a student of mine was reading J. D. Salinger’s Catcher in the Rye for her English Extension 2 Major Work, comparing the protagonist Holden Caulfield with the modern equivalent of the bad boy, Bart Simpson.

I read the novel to understand her thesis and I knew it was a celebrated text but it left me cold and unengaged. Since then I’ve tried to work out why. Perhaps I simply missed the phase during my adolescence when it would have taken on greater resonance.

In a similar way, I recently read Kurt Vonnegut’s Slaughterhouse Five and Cat’s Cradle and I learned much about writing from them, but they didn’t have the “wow factor” for me. Would I have gained more if I was younger? Had a different mindset?

In comparison, reading Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness in high school blew my mind, while Mark Twain’s Huckleberry Finn left me cold. Don’t even get me started on Dickens’ Great Expectations.

I’m in the middle of Paul Coelho’s The Alchemist and again, it is touted as “one of the best books of all time” according to the sticker on the front cover. I am liking it as a fable but I am not “getting it.”

I’m not referring to the style or language of a text, but its engagement with a culture or generation. Context may play a significant part in a understanding a text’s reception and its reimagining in later eras through its thematic concerns keeps it relevant. Think Shakespeare and the various recreations of his texts.

But there are books, and plays, that I love. Sometimes a book speaks to right where you are, at a specific time in your life, addressing a particular issue or providing a revelation.

I love Shakespeare, ancient Greek tragedies, Homer’s epic poems, Milton’s Paradise Lost, anything by Tim Winton and Markus Zusak, Enid Blyton and Judy Blume when I was growing up, Tolkien in my teenage years (and more so now I’m older). Even the classics: Frankenstein, Jane Eyre, but not Wuthering Heights.

What books have you read that hit the right spot at the right time for you?
What books have you read that you felt were not the right time for you?

Throw Out Thursday – Changing Form

During the week I was sifting through old poems on my hard drive looking for possible works to submit to an anthology a friend worded me up to (didn’t find anything of note although I did find a younger version of me writing complete tripe).

I came across two half-finished pieces and combined some stanzas to make a relatively cohesive whole.

The starry satellites stand sentinel
over silent musings while an observer
of a different reality speculates on the starry host
these pinpoints of silver across the velvety blanket
blink without recognisance
Looking towards the blanket of the night sky
He sees a thousand times a thousand times a thousand
pinpoints of light and asks
“Does God shine a torch at night through the little holes?”

Posting it to my crit group for giggles brought one of the group to suggest it would work as a tanka. No, not a tank top.

What is tanka? Think of it as an extended haiku.

It has a 5-7-5-7-7 syllable count, as per the Japanese guidelines (not necessarily the same in English when translated but English writers use this basic format when starting out).

Go here for an introduction: http://www.ahapoetry.com/Bare%20Bones/wfftocintro.html (with thanks to my crit member, Sean for the link. There are some wonderful examples to read.)

A quick check with my copy of Stephen Fry’s ‘The Ode Less Travelled’ and the link above, I had a grasp of the basics of tanka. And by grip I mean a loose hold. And by loose, barely touching.

And this is what I came up with:

pinpoints of silver
against the velvety black
a blanket of stars
“Does God shine a torch at night
through the little holes?” he asks

I now have a new understanding of how form can affect and benefit a piece of writing. Changing form, in this case, forced me to focus on what were the significant images I wanted to convey in the poem, leading to the final line. Sometimes it could be as simple as breaking the line or stanza arrangement. Sometimes less is more.

But changes to a piece could be in the form of changing point of view, turning a story into a poem or a poem into a short story.

Has changing form helped you with a piece of writing?

The A-Z of Suggestions for Creative People

To misquote Captain Barbossa says, “They’re not so much rules, as guidelines.”

There are multiple permutations of a creative alphabet; your ideas will probably be better than mine. But that’s kinda the point. Listen to the advice, apply it to your work and do it better. Then teach someone else to do it. Pass the knowledge on.

Appreciate new ideas.

Build a body of work.

Collaborate. Cooperate. Coordinate. Critique. Vanilla Ice has wise words when he says, “Stop, collaborate and listen.”

Define your goals as a creative person. Revisit them weekly, monthly, yearly.

Explore what you’re passionate about. And maybe what scares you. You know, for balance.

Foster creative relationships for collaboration, networking and developing the next generation of new artists.

Grow as an artist. Stagnation is for ponds and mosquitoes.

Hunger for the development of your craft and the improvement of your skills.

Inspire others to create because the world needs useless beauty; it is there because it is, and it exists and it is uniquely you.

Jump into new opportunities. But check the depth first.

Kill what distracts you: procrastination, doubt, fear, comparison, jealousy.

Listen at every opportunity. Gather wise counsel and feed your soul.

Meditate on your work, why you do it and write a manifesto.

Network because it’s dangerous to go alone.

Occupy a creative space and protect it.

Publish your work. Whether it’s through your blog when you’re starting out or selling it via Etsy, Ebay or e-commerce.

Query why you are creating. Have you lost sight of your purpose?

Rush a new piece of work and enjoy the frenzy of ideas splashed down like a sudden summer storm.

Spend your time wisely.

Trust in your teachers and mentors.

Understand you are not your creative project; it is an expression of how you see and understand the world.

Vanquish your fears and validate how you feel about what you create.

Welcome feedback, critique, commentary that will help you grow as a creative person.

Xerox another artist’s work to learn how it is created. But show no one else. Learn how to apply it to your own work.

Yoke yourself to an artist further along the road than you. Learn from their guidance that one day you may be yoked to a new artist to teach them.

Zealously demand your need to create; creativity is oxygen to you. Without it you would suffocate.

What would your alphabet of suggestions for creative people be? Write a list, post it to your blog and link back here for everyone to read.

I Found More Poetry Under The Lounge

 I find poetry in all kinds of places, often under the lounge and I found some more there recently.

Right now the end of winter is approaching here in the southern hemisphere (not that we had much of a winter where I live – what happened to those good old fashioned frosts we had as kids?) and with it the promise of hay fever, runny noses, itchy eyes and a cursing of all things frolicking. The first and last poems assembled here, Magnolias and Windy Days, are inspired by the wintery season.

Magnolias

As I drive past
The magnolia blooms
A thousand sunrises
Of pink to white and
A thousand sunsets
Of white to pink
Simultaneously

Standing By

I stand in the longest corridor
possible, pretending I’m Red 5
barrelling down the trench
avoiding laser blasts
to my office door

The Last Page

When you close a book
Do you think it will be
The final time?
Never to peer
Between the pages and
Read the tongues of men
Again

My Companion

I walked in darkness
But was never afraid
For I felt your hand
In mine, or around
my waist, looped over
my shoulder as my light

Generations

She watches
grandmother’s knitting
learns the art of rhythm
the pulse of long thin bones
curses the dropped stitch
like her grandmother

Windy Days

I imagine with each 
breath of wind
the trees ask
for our silence
a gentle ‘Shhhh’
simply to listen
to our own
heartbeat
Which poem resonates with you?